Friday, September 26, 2008

The Good, Bad and Corrupt...



"Calvin
: Do you believe in the devil? You know, a supreme evil being dedicated to the temptation, corruption, and destruction of man?
Hobbes: I'm not sure that man needs the help."


With that, I am here again to talk about my second most favorite topic after global warming - and that is... corruption. Well, it came to my notice that there actually was a way to measure corruption. A relative measure of course. A Global Civil society organization called Transparency International had conducted a study and the results probably didn't surprise many. At least it didn't surprise me. Some may have gone into a denial mode, but in such things there can hardly be any argument.

Talking about India in particular, it ranked at the 85th spot. I initially felt extremely happy, because my initial assumption was that we would be leading the list of the most corrupt, at least in the top ten. And now i saw that we were in the 85th...! I thought i owed all the politicians and bureaucrats an apology for my constant criticism. But soon i found out that i had got it all in reverse. The survey ranks them in ascending order of corruption. Which means the most noblest of nations would be on the top. So now the picture was quite clear. We were somewhere in the middle of the list. Apparently we had even slipped 13 places since last year's survey. Neither the worst and not the best either. And also now i didn't owe an apology to anyone. If my earlier assumption was really true, i don't even mind apologizing.

A few things to be taken into note is that most of the countries on the top are really small nations. Smaller population means, better governance and greater accountability. In a country like India, ideals and virtues could very easily get lost in the crowd...! The vast country requires a lot more decentralization and distribution of powers amongst a long hierarchy of functionaries. More the crowd in the party, more the chance of someone involving in something dirty. Fodder scam, stamp paper scam and even the Kargil coffin scam to just name a few. From land, bridges, roads, sports and even to votes, corruption is involved everywhere...! Unfortunately even after knowing all this, we cant do much, because the law is inefficient and even the law enforcers are corrupt...!

And the poor common man...? He gives because he doesn't want to spend months together in the government office for a job that takes hardly five minutes. By doing this even those work, that normally should take a certain amount of months, get cleared up in minutes. By the lure of easy money, those in the seat of responsibility, ask even more, even to those who cant/wont give any. Those who refuse or cant afford it, are tormented to their wits end...!

Some would say that it isn't so bad what we have achieved in spite of all the odds, and feel happy that there are even worse nations. But seriously, whom are we kidding? This is really a sorry picture for an emerging "super power" with thousands of years of a rich cultural heritage. Don't those ancient values hold no bearing in these modern times? Oh well... maybe i am stretching it a bit. Anyway, there should at least be some bare minimum amount of shame involved when someone takes a bribe. Or at least think of the consequences of taking it and doing something wrong. Or taking it and doing something which was actually his job in the first place. I suppose they have enough money to send their conscience on a long trip to Europe...

This survey should not be too much of a surprise for someone who has spent quite some time in the country. We know how rampant corruption is here. And almost everyone has been a part of it, either this side or the other. From a traffic constable to the district collector, from the corporation worker to an MP in the parliament. We all know how well versed they all are in the art of passing the buck. The common man of course has become quite used to this entire affair. Yes a few may still be really honest and virtuous, but they definitely face a lot of resistance in their life. And unlike in a movie, the good guys don't always win, because its the bad guys who write the script.

After seeing wads of 1000 rupees in the parliament, my scant regard for the sincerity of politicians and our entire system, had hit the dirt. And it continues to remain buried there...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Warning: You may be viewing a potentially unsafe site :-(

That is what Kaspersky Anti Virus thinks of my blog. Well. it began just like any another normal day, and i as usual started my online rituals with logging on to Gmail, and Pidgin ( a chat application ). All was fine till a a window pops with the familiar words "Hi da". After an exchange of a few pleasantries with my friend, he informs me that he was not able to access my blog. Holy Saint of Samaypuram...!! Well, this same friend had apparently sounded the warning bell when another fellow blogger's blog had been hacked recently. Fearing the worst i went to my blog and saw that all was well, and that 10 more people had visited my blog since the day before ( A sigh of relief ). All seemed peachy perfect. Nothing out of the blue what so ever...!
So i asked him what was the reason for the alarm, for which he replied that Kaspersky ( his trusted Russian Anti virus program ) had blocked my blog. With a perplexed mind, I ask him what it actually said..? And this is what he copied and pasted on to the chat window...
Kaspersky Internet Security 2009
Access denied

The requested URL could not be retrieved

The requested URL:
http://maxpotent.blogspot.com/

Is forbidden by Parental Control

Reason: Heuristic analysis
Generated:
Tue Sep 23 22:14:21 2008
Kaspersky Internet Security 2009

Ahh well... Parental control.. why on earth would parents think my site is offensive to kids? Do I have "such and such" content on my blog...?? I dont think so..!! Or is it because because I keep talking bad stuff about the government and God and all? I suppose young kids shouldn't be hearing negative stuff about these things. Did they rewrite some child protection laws while i was sleeping? Well I dont use abusive words.. other than maybe once in while.. minor offenses. Oh and once i used the term "Sex" in one of the posts. And that is maybe the second time i used that. So..? Or is it some malicious spy ware that is resident on the blog which i am totally unaware off...? If that was the reason, then why didnt Kaspy issue such a warning? 
Oh well.. whatever Kaspersky... good job. I had after all only a handful of visitors. And from now on, either i would lose at least one visitor, or that visitor would soon have to switch to a more blog friendly Anti virus software. Apparently the one who greatly contributed to this post, wont be able to read this, till he uninstalls Kaspersky..!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Economic Gibberish...!!

I was absolutely clueless about what's happening to the world markets, and the economical jargon confused me beyond any hope. But i knew that what was happening could or will in some way affect us, whether we understand it or not. And guess what, i had nothing better to do other than stare at the news on TV. Well... from what i understood, it all began with America's very generous credit policies. Which meant that credit or loans were given to almost anyone, without even ascertaining the fact whether that fellow could pay it back or not. Mostly these loans were provided to purchase houses. As more and more loans started to be given out to buy houses, the land value too skyrocketed. Accordingly, the loan amounts given started to become even bigger. Now coming back to the fellow to whom the loan was given, might not even be eligible for the loan for whatever reason it might be.  

The banks didn't scrutinize much the details about him, and just gave him the loan. Even if he had a previous defaulting history, it didn't mind. Obviously over a period of years, the number of defaulters began to rise. People were not able to repay the loans, and would just hand over the house keys back to the bank. When more and more people begin to hand back the house, the land value would eventually plummet. This means the bank wont get back the money that it had loaned out, let alone any profit out of it.

Upon evaluation, it was suspected that the banks were just full of hot air. They held assets whose value would fall sharply. As the fear of such a situation began to be realized, people became panicky and began to lose faith in these large bank corporations. Eventually their share values dropped as people began to sell off the shares like crazy. Even those companies that had invested or did business with these American banks began to feel the pinch, on the possibility of a closure. Ultimately, leading to the bankruptcy of some, while others had to be rescued by the US government. A situation which was thought to be most unlikely in a capitalist economy, where there is minimum intervention by the government in most business institutions. Now, the government has actually become a major stake holder in some of the biggest American corporations.

Apparently the shocks of such a major fall were received in India as well, along with most markets around the world. But, as far as a similar situation arising in India is concerned, its most unlikely to happen. Though some business directly attached to these banks might be affected a bit. Such as a few IT companies that did their work with Lehman, AIG etc. Anyway... as told to me by someone, the credit policy in Indian Banks are far from being so liberal. Though there are quite a lot of annoying offers through telephone at a time when you are having a nice nap, they are not a representation of their actual willingness to approve your loan. Loans are given only upon reliable estimation of the person's repaying capacity. And from now on, after the US example, the checking will be doubled and tripled, just to be on the safer side. It will be the same regarding the issue of credit cards as well. 

Also in India, there is a concept, upon which most of the West sneer at, called "Saving". People here generally tend to save quite a good amount of money for an emergency or safety. Also a lot of Indians invest directly in Gold. While in US and Europe, they believe in investing all that they have...! Thus in case of any remotely possible signs of turmoil, people there tend to become fearful of becoming paupers overnight...!

Well, that's what i could dust off from my limited economic knowledge, and following up of the news, debates, and grown ups debating. There may be slight ( read as major ) inaccuracies in my analysis, which are begged to be forgiven. :)

Disclaimer : All theories, comments, opinions the sole property of the author and are purely for the purpose of killing some quality time. They should not be literally taken as any reliable advice or suggestions, unless they are confirmed by a suitable authority. Any mismatch or discrepancy is purely unintentional and due to the lack of knowledge about the subject. Any inconvenience, heart attack, tummy aches or nose itch are deeply regretted.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Terrorism Rears its Ugly Head Again

It happened again. This time in the national capital, Delhi. Just when things appear to be a bit calm, things from no where came up and ruined the precious moments of peace. The lives lost are priceless, and the sorrow inconsolable. 

We are among the several, countries that are living in a constant threat of dastardly intentions from these rogue elements. Those responsible are in no way proving any point. For what they did this is absolutely without any reason or justification. Spilling the blood of innocent people is one of the most easiest, and the only way employed by these COWARDLY SWINES...! I guess its the pleasure obtained from doing such acts, rather than any objective that drive such maniacs to do evil. 

Being in one of the terror hot spots of the world is no easy job. Stepping out everyday is almost the same as going in combat in a war zone. In fact the terrifying remains of Delhi's blast look nothing less than a ravaged battle field. But, we Indians are quite strong. Whether it was Bangalore or Ahmadabad, things got back into gear in a very short time. People began to live their normal lives very soon. I am sure Delhi will too, very quickly.People will soon come out to shop and go to work as if nothing had happened. After all it takes more than these pathetic attempts to shake our morale. So those trying to push through their point of violence have failed miserably. 

To carry out these inhuman crimes in the name of God is even more disgusting. Well, if there is any such thing as God then i guess he/she/it is powerless to control his/her/its biggest mistake -  creation of humans. Its in moments such as these that have made me realize that the presence of a superior being is absent. Because i don't think the so called benevolent being would stand for such atrocities. If God does stand for all this, then I believe he/she/it is not a God at all. God has either got to be this side or the other. If God is not protecting innocent people, then i suppose he/she/it is on the other side. Or maybe protecting people is not on his/her/its nature of duties. May lightening strike me down for saying this... or some similar crap. Anyway, religion which was suppose to civilize man has been cunningly manipulated by him to justify these horrific acts, ultimately leading him to a be ruthless barbarian. 

Not to be too critical of the security services, they do tend to become a bit complacent after a while. But India is a huge country, and shares its borders with many "friendly" nations. Some of the rotten individuals are even home grown. And with readily available Do-it-yourself bomb making lessons online, its difficult to maintain an air tight security. 

Media of course is doing a very "fine" job. Repeatedly showing grief stricken crying relatives, and bloody blast sites. 24 Hours in-your-face coverage, and debates on why it happened as well as occasionally raising some really irrelevant issues ( Like the issue of Sivraj Patil changing clothes 3 times within 3 hours of the blast, being shown on a particular "news" channel) . Well... its their job, and after all its a 24 hour channel. News like this is like extra cream on their cakes...!

The human loss incurred by those around the world, due to hatred and violence, can't be compensated by any means. But time is the best healer and eventually people do move on. Will there ever be a time of eternal peace? Not possible till there is a creature called man.

JAI HIND..!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How Big will the Bang be..??


Today, that is on the 10th of September, scientists will be attempting to recreate the "Big Bang" event, at the Swiss-French border. Yes, to recreate the event which gave birth to the entire universe. Atleast, thats the theory. Truly a one of a kind experiment, which would allow the scientists to see never before seen particles, elements and objects such as the black hole and inter dimensional worm holes...! All at a small and manageble scale. Hopefully everything is well contained and in control...! Apparently it has also been speculated that the experiment could even lead to the End of the World..!! Just imagine the whole world getting sucked into a black hole inside out..!! Gasp..!! Ahhh well... 
According to the sources, the experiment is roughly as follows : 
At a purpose-built underground centre near Geneva, the scientists are carrying out limited tests on a multi-million euro machine called the Large Hadron Collider. The ultimate aim is to recreate conditions that existed immediately after the Big Bang.The team hopes to pinpoint dark matter, the name given to unseen particles thought to exist all around us and throughout space.
The experiment, which began this morning, involves smashing protons - one of the building blocks of matter - into each other at velocities only a fraction less than the speed of light.
In the flashes from the collisions, scientists expect to reproduce conditions that existed during the first billionth of a second after the Big Bang at the birth of the universe.
Anyway, this $10 billion experiment, has scientists from across the world on the edge of their seats. Around 2000 scientists are participating in it, of which 200 are from India alone..!! Awesome..! I do hope it goes off well, and that all of us are alive ( and in the same dimension ) to learn from it. Maybe even find solutions to the mysterrious universe and even locate other planterary life. Well... sounds nice.  But is it possible to pull it through..? At least the scientists involved are quite optimistic about the possibilities of the science project. The complete results however will be known only by 2009. Whew...  Till then the process will be going on, and the energy involved in it, will continue to grow. A ticking time bomb..?? On the other hand there are skeptics who have even filed a law suit against going ahead with it, due to the dangers that it is likely to pose. Others just shun it as an expensive scam..!
So.. end of the world, apocolypse, judgement day..call what you want?? Could this be it..? Well... i am hoping not, because there are a lot of things that I still haven't tried out. Like Bungee jumping, sky diving, crocodile wrestling, swimming with the Great white shark etc to name a few, which inadvertantly will lead to my own doom. Well, next time they plan to end the world, i need atleast a year's notice...!! But anyway, if its not this experiment that will end our existence, something else like global warming or nuclear Armageddon will lead us to our doom...!! Atleast in the other cases we have an early warning, and a reasonably good chance to save ourself. Well... maybe. As for this experiment goes, is all about handling the unknown. Oh and all you religious folks can look to the heavens for some support Lets just hope that this ingenious way to kill us, in the end, turns out to be quite harmless...!! Or it will be the biggest mistake in our entire history. Oh...but who will be there to know about this historical blunder..?? Maybe some three eyed aliens from the planet Zook will get a few laughs out of it...!
To read more about this experiment, check out the following link : 

Monday, September 08, 2008

From Shopping Frenzy To Burning Malls


Those living in Chennai would be very familiar with Ranganathan Street and its outrageous shopping crowds. I don't know about the others, but i simply hate those crowds over there...! I have never gone there to buy anything for myself. The only reason i go there is to buy some gift for some one's brother's or sister's wedding...!! Ah well... so its tough to move inch by inch in the swarming crowds, and then occasionally someone will shout in your ear, or step on your foot or brush their sweaty body against you... eeeww. I am always sacred of the possibility of someone sneezing at such close proximity to me..!! And if this wasn't enough, you have to be careful of your wallet, phone and other stuff in your pockets too...! Anyway, when i tell this to people, they say that I am being too snobby and that i should try to go along with the flow...! yeah right... Say what you want, but all this just sickens me..!!

Though i didn't want to raise this, fearing some protests from certain quarters of the society, i believe ( just by mere observation ) that its usually the women-folk who are more keen towards shopping. Well, at least the ads seem to be targeting them more than men. I suppose its the women who are their potential gold mines for them. Apparently men are mostly there for company or to carry the shopping bags and for using their credit cards maybe. Or shopping for the wife, or for the anniversary last week which he forgot. And maybe occasionally shop for a few stuff for himself too. Anyway, I could be wrong too, and being a bit too harsh on women. But this is not what i want to discuss in this post....

As it may seem, with people's increased purchasing capacity, shopping is sort of a ritual. Any festival or occasion is a good excuse to draw in people. Each and every festival is seen as a marketing opportunity. Announcing discounts seems to get their attention and it most certainly drives in huge hordes of people. Excellent Bait..! Oh and the amount of money they spend on the making of the ads is phenomenal too..! A great way to influence simple minds: use small cute kids, good looking models, a few old people, and a reluctant man ( husband ) if required ( who later agrees what a great deal it was ). 

Well then quite obviously the shops have to make room for the horde, to accommodate whom they go on to build multi storied shopping complex which blatantly defy building norms. An approval would be obtained for building 6 floors which will be openly violated by building an additional two floors. No proper safety rules are observed, which are supposed to be mandatory in all public buildings.

These are potential death traps with accidents just waiting to happen. Unfortunately we wake up only after the alarm bells ring ( purely a metaphor, as most of these shops don't have alarms ). The recent incident was just a minor one compared to how big a catastrophe that it could have led to. If the fire had happened during the afternoon or evenings on a weekend, then who knows how much carnage it could have led too. It wouldn't even be the fire which would have killed many, but rather the impending chaos and stampede. Its being told that the shop lacked even basic fire safety mechanisms. And such mechanisms are to be formulated during the approval of the plan itself, and then implemented in the building. That obviously didn't happen. 

Blaming the shop owner for it seems to be most appropriate, but is it? Why not some of the municipal and corporation officials who let the sub standard building come up under their noses, share a part of the blame too. After all it was built in one of the main centres of the city and not in some isolated jungle where no one could see it. Who knows how much money was stuffed into the pocket of an official, or how many silk Saree or jewellery their wives would have got as a "gift".

I guess its the fierce competition amongst so many shop owners that they just see their profits as the lone goal, forgoing issues such as safety and precautions. I do hope that people take the recent incident as a lesson and take steps to prevent any such incidents to reoccur. Umm... well lets all hope this happens soon, because there have been really horrific incidents in public buildings in the past, but very little was done about it later on. Anyway, i bet people have a very good reason for such a frantic shopping exercise.  So safety or no safety, people will still throng to these places and worship them. All it would take is the announcement of an X% sale..!

In a country where there are millions who don't get even one square meal a day, a few people spending thousands or lakhs shopping on just one day, seems a bit too discomforting. Now you might say that by buying the goods they are providing food for the poor artisans. But seriously, if the artisans  get a good margin of the profits then i will be most happy. The reality is that in spite of the huge demand, the artisans continue to be poor because these shop owners keep a good margin of profits for themselves. I know charity is not a natural behaviour, but still its worth a thought, that the price of one silk saree is probably what a poor fellow somewhere may earn in an entire year. So, think about it...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Law of Natural Selection

Natural Selection, as proposed by Darwin, is the process by which nature selects the strongest to carry on their genes to the next generation. Or aptly stated as Survival of the fittest. Man already has reached a point at which physical changes have ceased. Though natural selection still continues.

Nature normally eliminates the weakest or the sick from the pack. In case of man in the modern era there is a third angle to it - Economical fitness. So lets not ponder upon the elimination of the physically weak, as that has been going on ever since the first microbe wriggled on the planet. As for selection based on economic factors, it happens quite obviously, due to the economic disparity. Those weak in this are are naturally selected for elimination by other fellow men and nature as well. Here other than genes that are passed, social status and wealth are passed on too.

Poor people are driven to less comfortable places where they are ravaged frequently by nature itself - like storms, cyclones, floods, earthquakes etc. And how do they end up in these places..?? Through a long process of natural selection that forces them to be in a certain place where the rich think is appropriate for them. Lots of examples to cite : Bihar ( India ) has frequent floods, Louisiana (US) has frequent Hurricane...etc. These are just some examples of how poor people are pushed or kept in areas that are subject to nature's brutality. Yet they remain there because no one cares as much.

Its not always that nature hits the final nail in the coffin. Man sometimes does the final elimination himself too. For instance in the armed forces, its mostly ( not always ) that its the families of the poor who send their kids off to fight. Since those who can afford a better life choose not to do so. In parts Africa, hunger, disease and ethnic clashes has resulted in one of the most pathetic existence of humans, thus marking them for elimination. Most civil societies favour the rich and the powerful, while the poor are neglected. Justice systems are influenced by the rich, while the poor man's voice are forcibly suppressed.

In spite of all this disparity within the species, the so called "weak" ones still manage to survive. That's the determination and strength of the humans. In spite of their toils most are able to pass on their "poor people" genes to future generations. Its probably with their vast numbers that they depend on for their survival. As a matter of fact the superior ones want the weak to survive in order to use ( read as exploit ) them. That's why they ( they refers to a handful who are mostly indifferent to the plight of the poor / some politicians ) occasionally lend a hand to save them, in order to just make use of their service. Quite obviously , their loyalty too sways in the direction of those who show even the slightest bit of compassion towards them, even if its just a farce.

OK... this might not include everyone, but still its a valid point that some of the lowest in the ranks are vital to the survival of the species as a whole. They are the farmers, construction workers, menial laborers etc. They are like the worker ants of a colony. Not as important as the queen or as powerful as the soldier. Yet have a vital role in the survival of the colony. But we cant think of human being as ants, can we...?? We are a lot more complex and have the ability to choose our actions. Being indifferent to others unfortunately comes quite easily, but reaching out sincerely with a helping hand, without any ulterior motive, takes a lot out of a Man. Too bad that such angelic souls are very few and quite hard to find....


*Please Note: Here man refers to mankind as a whole, thus including women as well.