The U.K. Guardian reported last week (here) that Russian President Medvedev (left) invoked the memory of Martin Luther King when he announced his intention to clean up corruption. “We are not used to saying ‘we have a dream’ in my country . . . but this is my political vision.” He then told the Guardian’s David Hearst and other journalists that corrupt officials are running Russia. “They have the power. Corruption has a systemic nature, deep historic roots. We should squeeze it out. The battle isn’t easy but it has to be fought. I don’t think we can achieve tangible results in one year or two. If I am a realist we could get good results in 15.”
The Guardian noted that Mr. Medvedev hasn’t explained how he’ll tackle corruption. “Calls for reform have been frequently made before and to little effect,” the paper said. “Most commentators seeing the president’s performance were deeply skeptical about his ability to deliver.”
The Guardian is right — the country’s history of reform isn’t encouraging. Eric Hoffer once called Russia “a country that cannot change.” Those are bleak assessments to be sure. Still, we’re not ready to write off Mr. Medvedev and his dream just yet.
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Something’s fishy. Corruption news from Singapore? There isn’t much. The country is among the world’s cleanest, ranking 4th on the Corruption Perception Index (only Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden are ranked higher, all sharing the top spot).
But the Straits Times reported a bribery story that has lots of local flavor:
SINGAPORE, September 16 — Top chefs from several popular Chinese restaurants — including those from five-star hotels here — have been hauled up in connection with an ongoing corruption probe.
The investigations involve whether the chefs were taking kickbacks to buy seafood products such as shark’s fins from a [local] supplier.
Sources told the Straits Times that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) called up more than 20 chefs for interviews earlier this month. . . . Among those called up was one from Four Seasons Hotel. . . .
Industry sources said the supplier at the heart of the investigations . . . deals mainly in abalone and sea cucumber.
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Words we like. From George Orwell’s 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language:
I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:
“I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
Here it is in modern English:
“Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.”
This is a parody, but not a very gross one.