Could Internet tools start to break the back of corruption in government? And could this lead to government that actually works around the world?
There's no guarantee. Endemic government corruption, whether it's bribery, extortion, nepotism or fraud, amounts to stealing of the public wealth. It has plagued virtually every nation on earth.
Almost universally, the rich are able to take care of themselves but the poor suffer when funds that should help finance housing, education, public transit, sometimes even clean water and sanitation, are siphoned off by corrupt governments.
Just in the last few weeks the run-up to the elections in India has provided a glimmer of hope for a nation of 1.5 billion long burdened by encrusted, corruption-prone government.
More than 50 percent of Indians report firsthand experience in paying bribes to get a job done in a public office, according to a Transparency International survey. But middle-class Indian youth, who previously blew off voting as a waste of time, have sprung to action. Enraged by the government's cumbersome response to last November's three-day terrorist siege of Mumbai, impatient with compromised bureaucracy, inspired by Barack Obama's election in the United States, they've taken to the Web for political organizing.
Their postings, Washington Post correspondent Emily Wax reports from Mumbai, have included blogs, YouTube channels and such Facebook pages as "Rise Up Mumbai! Rise Up India!"
Causes the youthful protesters are espousing range from anti-terrorism steps to jobs to clean water to improving crumbling schools and roads. And police, who used to harass young Indians if they massed for street demonstrations, are unable to stop youth from Web postings or text messaging in a nation where 385 million people own cell phones.
A parallel Internet-based uprising against corruption and inefficiency is building in China, where there have even been warnings within the ruling Community Party that graft could be its downfall. Internet media storms, Reuters reports, have included exposures of officials enjoying luxury overseas holidays in the name of "study" trips.
China's latest grassroots Web cause is demand for more transparency in the government's $585 billion economic stimulus plans. Don't look for a parallel to the recovery.org site the Obama administration set up to track spending under the U.S. stimulus program. But the Chinese government will be hard put to quash electronic dissent: 3,000 websites are being created daily in China, with over 300 million Internet users nationwide. In the process, official media monopolies get blown to smithereens.
Before the Web, the best hope for reducing corrupt practices worldwide had been training more skilled administrators, inculcated with values of fair service to all, not just the rich or connected.
The idea's still a good one, and could make a special difference in especially poor countries. The highest corruption, Transparency International surveys show, is found in very poor countries with weak civil service–such nations as Haiti, Afghanistan, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan–or Somalia, where there's essentially no government right now.
But the Web can be a powerful tool everywhere–first in making more voices heard, and second as a route to more open governance.
E-government practices, demanded by critics or inaugurated by far-sighted leaders, involve taking the functions of old, paper-based bureaucracies and putting them on accessible Web sites where it's harder for government bureaucrats to skim off a percent for themselves.
One example: digitizing India's massive railway reservations system. Buying a ticket used to be difficult unless one knew someone to bribe. Now, though, the tickets can be bought easily, at face value–online from vending machines at stations.
Or consider a U.S. example of e-government throwing light onto dubious or corrupt private market activities that can have disastrous impacts.
The Securities and Exchange Commission decided last December to open easy Web access to the regular reports it receives from all public corporations and mutual funds. Previously the reports had been technically public, but buried in hard-to-access paper ledgers. Now the companies will have to report in a single "interactive data" format developed by a worldwide consortium of businesses, associations and government agencies. With clear definitions, for example, of what's "company net profit" or "net income."
Announcing the move from "document disclosure to data disclosure," then-SEC Chairman Christopher Cox noted that "the Enron and WorldComm collapses, the subprime mortgage situation, all happened in part" because "false and highly speculative information was hidden in complex documents. False information was to easy to hide."
The bottom line's clear: from the poorest to wealthiest nations, the Web's sanitizing power to end-run bureaucracies, democratize data, shrink corruption, has to be rated one of the most powerful–and welcome–frontiers of the century.
My black face fades, hiding inside the black granite. I said I wouldn't, dammit: No tears. I'm stone. I'm flesh. My clouded reflection eyes me like a bird of prey, the profile of night slanted against morning. I turn this way--the stone lets me go. I turn that way--I'm inside the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light to make a difference. I go down the 58,022 names, half-expecting to find my own in letters like smoke. I touch the name Andrew Johnson; I see the booby trap's white flash. Names shimmer on a woman's blouse but when she walks away the names stay on the wall. Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's wings cutting across my stare. The sky. A plane in the sky. A white vet's image floats closer to me, then his pale eyes look through mine. I'm a window. He's lost his right arm inside the stone. In the black mirror a woman's trying to erase names: No, she's brushing a boy's hair.
Sound of Music | Central Station Antwerp (Belgium)
More than 200 dancers were performing their version of "Do Re Mi", in the Central Station of Antwerp. with just 2 rehearsals they created this amazing stunt! Those 4 fantastic minutes started the 23 of march 2009, 08:00 AM. It is a promotion stunt for a Belgian television program, where they are looking for someone to play the leading role, in the musical of "The Sound of Music".
Creativity isn't something only reserved for the creative department. What about letting those who actually run the businesses have a go at it too? Art From the Unexpected is about challenging 20 of our industry's leaders, who don't typically get to be visually creative in their day-to-day, to create an original art piece. That's not all. They will join us in presenting their one-of-a-kind creation to you. What motivates these leaders to be creative?
Ad Lounge's "Art From the Unexpected" is held in collaboration with SKETCH, a charity that values creativity as much as our industry does. We are honoured to collaborate with them on this gala event. SKETCH is a community arts initiative that creates opportunities for street-involved and homeless youth aged 15-29 by offering them tools to engage in the arts, a safe place to express and create, and opportunities to creatively integrate back into community life.
A few months ago I was contacted by AdLounge, an organization in Toronto, about an event they are hosting on June 16th called "Art from the Unexpected." The idea is to have 20 leaders, not formally known as artists, create pieces to be auctioned for charity. In this case, the charity is SKETCH, an organization that works with homeless and street-involved youth to engage in the arts.
The idea sounded fun and I was happy that I could contribute to a charity event. So, I began work on my "Unexpected Art" piece - something that came to be known as "the art project" here at Common Craft HQ. I had been thinking about a way to take the style of our videos and apply it to something static and came up with a way to use foam board to create depth and texture.
Here's my contribution to the event.
Toronto in Paper
It comes framed in a deep, 3 inch frame and is made from paper and layered foamboard.
I'm so excited to see how the piece does in the auction. If you live in Toronto, or plan to be there on June 16th, I hope that you'll attend the event and take something
How did Jay Bybee breeze through a confirmation hearing for his appointment to the Federal Appeals Court in February 2003? Not a single Democrat questioned Bybee at the session, and the proceedings came to a quick conclusion. The following month he was confirmed by the full Senate.
Just six months prior to the hearing, Jay Bybee had signed legal memos providing cover for CIA agents torturing detainees -- yet Congress voted him to a lifetime on the federal bench. How did this happen? And what will become of Judge Bybee now?
Visualizing huge numbers can be very difficult. People regularly talk about millions of miles, billions of bytes, or trillions of dollars, yet it's still hard to grasp just how much a "billion" really is. The MegaPenny Project aims to help by taking one small everyday item, the U.S. penny, and building on that to answer the question: "What would a billion (or a trillion) pennies look like?"
All the following pages have tables at the bottom, listing things such as the value of the pennies, size of the pile, weight, and area (if laid flat). All weights and measurements are U.S. standards, not metric.
It's best to step through the project starting from the beginning, but if you'd like to just jump in, links are available below.
Every journey begins with a single step. So, to get to big numbers, you have to start small. Lay sixteen pennies in a line and you have one foot, stack them and you have an inch. Okay, so much for the small numbers - let's move up.
49,152 Forty-nine thousand one hundred and fifty-two Pennies [16w x 16h x 192 tall] - one cubic foot.
Three hundred pounds of pennies. Remember the stack of 16 pennies? It was one inch tall. Well, take 12 of those and stack them and you'll have a one-foot-tall stack. The cube above is made up of 256 of those one-foot stacks, making one cubic foot of pennies.
Remember this cube, since it will be the building block for all upcoming penny-structures you see in these pages. Now let's double it.
98,304 Ninety-eight thousand three hundred and four Pennies [ Two cubic feet ]
Doubling our 50,000 pennies to 100,000, we now have two one-foot cubes. Given, this wasn't a big jump, but now we're going to start climbing the numerical ladder by powers of ten. Ever wonder what a million pennies would look like?
1,003,776 One million, three thousand, seven hundred and seventy-six Pennies [ A wall five by four by one feet thick with a 9-inch cube stepstool ]
Say hello to our friend Graham. Now that the pennies have really begun to pile up, he'll be standing in for scale. Graham is about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, and he weighs about 180 pounds, or about 35 times less than the 1 million pennies stacked besidehim. Next step, Ten million.
Since these cubes are mostly dense metal, their weight is impressive. One hundred million pennies weighs over 300 tons. For comparison, the largest living animal, the Blue Whale, weighs less than 150 tons as an adult.
When you hear talk of "billions" of something (dollars, miles, people, etc), it's hard to visualize. But up next, we have a visual for you - one billion pennies.
One billion, eighteen thousand, one hundred and seventy-six Pennies [ Five school buses. ]
Each of these blocks represents one 9x11x41 foot school bus - as seen below. If you were to stack all these pennies in a single pile, one atop the other, the stack would reach nearly one thousand miles high. For comparison, note that the Space Shuttle typically orbits only 225 miles above the Earth's surface.
Only in North America and the general scientific community is this number (1,000,000,000) called a "billion". Most European countries call this number either "one thousand million" or, in some cases, a "milliard". Enough international confusion, let's move on to ten billion.
Current estimates place the world's population at six billion people. The pile of pennies above would then be nearly enough for two pennies for every person on Earth. The U.S.Mint currently manufactures about this many pennies every year.
In the image above, Graham and his ten billion coins are now standing on a standard U.S. football field (360 x 160 feet) for further scale. Next up, the hundred-billion cube.
Current estimates by the U.S. Mint place the number of pennies in circulation at aroun
140 billion. Others have estimated as many as 200 billion currently circulating. Since the first penny was minted in 1787, until present-day, over 300 billion pennies have been minted in the United States. So that leaves about 100 billion pennies that have been retired by the Mint, lost down sewer drains, stored in jars, smashed by trains, or collected by numismatists in the past 200 years.
Now that we have reached the limits of what actually exists, let's move beyond, and into the Trillions.
One trillion, sixteen thousand six hundred and forty Pennies [ One cube measuring 273 x 273 x 273 feet ]
From right to left (to scale), we have the same old football field, then the Lincoln Memorial (yes, the one pictured on the back of the penny), then the Washington Monument (555 feet tall), then our cube of one trillion pennies, then the Empire State Building (1,250 feet tall), then the Sears Tower (1,450 feet tall).
One trillion, eight hundred eighteen billion, six hundred twenty-four million Pennies
New york's Empire State Building contains 37 million cubic feet of space (minus the antenna structure). Using our cubic foot of pennies (49,152 total), it's just a simple multiplication problem - 37,000,000 x 49,152 = 1,818,624,000,000 pennies.
Now what about America's tallest structure, the Sears Tower?
Two trillion, six hundred twenty-three billion, six hundred eighty-four million six hundred and eight thousand Pennies
Chicago's Sears Tower occupies 53.4 million cubic feet of space. Using our cubic foot of pennies (49,152 total), it's once again just another multiplication problem - 53,379,000 x 49,152 = 2,623,684,608,000 pennies.
Okay, enough with the buildings, let's take a giant leap forward. What would a cube of one quadrillion pennies look like?
1,000,067,088,384,000 One quadrillion, sixty-seven billion, eighty-eight million, three hundred and eighty-four thousand Pennies [ One cube measuring 2,730 x 2,730 x 2,730 feet ]
Here we have the buildings we used for scale back at a trillion, but they're now a bit dwarfed by our new cube of pennies. This is a quadrillion, or a thousand times one trillion. This cube is roughly a half-mile wide and would weigh an astonishing three billion tons.
1,000,067,088,384,000,000 One qullion, sixty-seven trillion, eighty-eight billion, three hundred and eighty-four million Pennies [ One cube measuring 27,300 x 27,300 x 27,300 feet ]
Now we've stepped up another factor of 1,000. One quintillion pennies. This many pennies, if laid out flat like a carpet, would cover the surface of the earth - twice. If you look hard, you can still see the Sears Tower and other buildings at lower right. Another way to see it is to realize that Mt. Everest (29,000 ft.) is only 1,700 feet taller than this 27,300-foot cube.
This is as far as we will go. Three trillion tons of pennies is quite enough. To imagine larger cubes, (stepping by factors of 1,000), just imagine cubes roughly ten times larger than the last one. For instance, one quintillion pennies makes the cube above - about 5 miles on each side. If you step up to one sextillion, imagine a cube about 50 miles wide tall and thick.
Thanks for visiting the MegaPenny Project. You can find further related links and a table of named "very big numbers" on our index page.