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News flash: Russia is still corrupt 2010-Jul-05 at 09:33 PST

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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From Russian Mayor Irks Security Agency, and Suffers, by Clifford J. Levy, 3-July-2010

Ms. Kazakova was not a typical bureaucrat. She was one of the most successful businesswomen in this vast region, a real-estate magnate with a blond ponytail who represented a new breed of Russian entrepreneur.

She filed a lawsuit against the resort, and asked the regional prosecutor to open a criminal inquiry.

A criminal inquiry was indeed opened — against Ms. Kazakova.

The resort belongs to the F.S.B., the main successor to the Soviet-era K.G.B., and the F.S.B. arrested her and had her prosecuted.

She is now on trial in a case that has already become a disquieting example of the power of the security agency in today’s Russia.

After her arrest in March 2008, she was held in a cell at Pre-Trial Detention Center No. 1, a jail in the Siberian regional capital of Irkutsk that was once used by Stalin’s secret police. For nearly two and a half years, she was denied all contact with her fiancé, mother and three children, including a 15-year-old daughter who has a neurological disease.

Late on Wednesday night, after The New York Times made repeated inquiries to the F.S.B. about the charges against Ms. Kazakova, the judge in the case reversed previous decisions and agreed to release Ms. Kazakova on bail. The next day, Ms. Kazakova embraced her family for the first time since 2008.

So, in case you had forgotten… Russia is still really, really corrupt.  I know.

But it’s getting better.  Medvedev wants it to go that way.  And if you take the long-term view, you’ll notice that every time there’s been a rising middle-class in a country, at some point they’ve demanded political, economic, and civil rights, and at some point, they’ve gotten those things.  Even in post-WWII history, this rising middle class also moved their nation from a “one-party democracy” to a true multi-party democracy.  Mexico went through this, so did Japan.

So will Russia.  So will China (and we’re seeing the start of it there with these strikes at Honda plants).  Keep hope alive.  It’s coming, and both of these nations will be powerful partners with the United States in safely and confidently dealing with the challenges of the 21st Century.

So… eyes on the prize.  There will be bumps in the road, there will be difficulties, there will be the hangover of old structures of power in transition.  But the long-term trajectory is good… very good.

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The first step is to admit you have a problem 2009-Dec-29 at 13:46 PST

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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Audit Found $35 Billion in Fraud Among Chinese Officials, David Barboza, New York Times, 29-Dec-2009

But analysts say the Communist Party faces significant hurdles in trying to curtail corruption. Every year Beijing announces new anticorruption drives, new laws and new policies aimed at dealing with the problem. But every year the scale of fraud seems enormous, particularly in a country where the average person earns less than $50 a week.

In 2005, for instance, the National Audit Office reported finding about $35 billion worth of government funds misused or embezzled. That was the last year the office gave a national figure covering its audits, according to its Web site.

Experts say the audits revealed one thing: many in government are finding ways to steal public money.

It’s probably not a shock to find out that there’s a lot of corruption, especially as you get farther away from the Eastern power structure there. But here’s why this is a good thing: it means that the Chinese government is starting to take corruption seriously, and that is always an indication in a society that a growing middle class is demanding more rights, and starting to get them.  There was also well-publicized mafia corruption trial a couple of months ago… something fairly unlikely just a few years ago.

All good signs for the future.

But analysts say the Communist Party faces significant hurdles in trying to curtail corruption. Every year Beijing announces new anticorruption drives, new laws and new policies aimed at dealing with the problem. But every year the scale of fraud seems enormous, particularly in a country where the average person earns less than $50 a week.

In 2005, for instance, the National Audit Office reported finding about $35 billion worth of government funds misused or embezzled. That was the last year the office gave a national figure covering its audits, according to its Web site.

Experts say the audits revealed one thing: many in government are finding ways to steal public money.

But analysts say the Communist Party faces significant hurdles in trying to curtail corruption. Every year Beijing announces new anticorruption drives, new laws and new policies aimed at dealing with the problem. But every year the scale of fraud seems enormous, particularly in a country where the average person earns less than $50 a week.

In 2005, for instance, the National Audit Office reported finding about $35 billion worth of government funds misused or embezzled. That was the last year the office gave a national figure covering its audits, according to its Web site.

Experts say the audits revealed one thing: many in government are finding ways to steal public money.