Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans

I have been to New Orleans and have visited many of the areas now under water. I can't believe that about 80% of the city is under. And they say that it could be a month before people will be allowed to return, around a million people. I can't imagine that. Looks like a lot of people are going to have to open up and take some of them in. I hope they do. Nothing seems to makes us as equal as tragedy does.

Looks like all of us are going to need to contribute to help.

Looting by the poor

I was reading through the hurricane coverage, minding my own business when I hit Brian Williams post here---Nightmare in New Orleans - Nightly News with Brian Williams - tripped over this little jewel:

On a clear morning after the hurricane, water started filling up some of the only dry city streets--including the old French Quarter, this city's storied tourist mecca.

Later, in the downtown area, we also saw what can happen when people have nothing. Looting was everywhere and it was flagrant." (Emphasis mine.)

So the poor are responsible for the looting because they just don't have anything. They must be happy about this kind of disaster then because it allows them to loot which is getting something for their nothing. It is, well, obvious that it has to be the poor because they do have nothing and not some bottom feeding parasites taking advantage of people's misery to make a quick little profit for themselves with not much risk and "no money down." No, it can't be that kind of person at all, it has to be the poor. They are crawling out of their little hovels, picking through the flotsam to get a bit to eat.

And it is, well, obvious too that some of these poor will have guns--too many guns in America! is the awful reason-- and will shoot at the police who are trying to apprehend the poor who have nothing. One particular poor man shot a police officer in the head as that officer disturbed him in his foraging. The policeman will survive fortunately but we will have to be forgiving to that particular poor man because he was just trying to find something to eat. Our hearts will go out to him and to those who depend on him for their daily bread in love and charity because we understand him and them and their plight. If America didn't cast up so many of them--oh cursed land!-- there would not be any poor to loot and shoot.

Of course, these people are taking television sets and microwaves, sports jerseys and clothes as well as other non-edible things. No one made any mention of them taking any food. I guess they don't have any of these things--that is what it means to have nothing--and so they go out and take it. Or maybe they will just sell this stuff to get money to eat. They may be poor but that doesn't mean they are not enterprising.

But not everyone thinks this way. The unfeeling members of our society, usually those closest to what is going on, know that any one of these guys would shoot any of us down like dogs if we made it just a little bit more difficult for them to do what they are doing.

Or is it that people left with nothing will loot? That's gotta be worse.

Come on, Brian! That may cause the Brie eating set to swoon at their dinner parties and charity functions, but the rest of us know better. Why not just report the facts and keep the little editorials that fit in with your social class out, huh?

Give me a break.

UPDATE 9/2: People are now looting for food in New Orleans and that is understandable. It is a catastrophe there and getting them help is difficult. Looting for food you can understand, especially now. But taking TV sets, sporting goods, computers, all kinds of other equipment, and stealing cars is not.

My problem with this was that the "they did it because they were hungry" line was pulled out when the winds hadn't even died down yet to explain people packing away TV sets and carrying guns. It's the explanation of choice for a certain segment and, let's admit it, a certain social class. It has been pulled out to explain 9/11 and terrorism generally, even though it is well known that the people doing these things are often middle class or higher. It ain't the poor.

And it's so damned condescending to people. People can't act any differently because they are hungry. Reminds me of the young girl in one of the concentration camps of WWII I read (or heard) about. She had had her meager rations, some liquid concoction they gave the inmates, flung in her face and, though the temptation to do so was strong and for many (including me) probably overwhelming because she and the others were slowly starving to death, she refused to open her mouth to take any of it in that was dribbling over her lips as it coursed down her face. She found some dignity in that. She found it because it was there. And isn't that one of the meanings of being human, of being a real human being?

It has become tiring to hear it and it, frankly, gets in the way of seeing what the real problems are and of making sound policy to confront them. But it plays to the constituency (or class) and that is what it is meant to do. Politics sets the value of everything.

But there is a wickedness in this world that belies economics.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

More expansion commentary

Here's a comment on EU expansion that says including Ukraine is a moral issue--Guardian Unlimited Guardian daily comment We owe them a debt of honour. It is.

I was in Kiev a few weeks ago, talking to journalists. Kiev isn't Istanbul or Ankara. It is stately and tree-lined and well-ordered, with cafe society flourishing along the river bank. Go to the British ambassador's summer party, and the brass band and cucumber sandwiches seem utterly natural.

Of course, out there in peasant country, poverty still hangs heavy - just as it did in Poland 10 years ago. Of course, there are many years of development and sacrifice to go before the EU is accomplished reality.

But reality began, only eight months ago, in the orange revolution, when hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians camped out for days in the central square until a corrupt presidency was bundled into history and a tainted election was overturned. Ukraine defined itself on the streets of its major cities as 2005 began. It chose Europe, not more truckling to Mother Russia. It chose its own passionate version of freedom. It looked to Brussels, not Moscow.

And what has Brussels offered in return? Fair words and fair action, a new "neighbourhood policy" with 150 or so tests and reforms that clear the way for
full entry application. These tests go hell for leather after democracy and market economics. They mean reform, expense, pain and some electoral unpopularity - but Kiev is gritting its teeth and ploughing on. It finds faith at the end of this rainbow. With Warsaw's profound encouragement, it has taken Turkey's route to defining national identity...
But old Europe is blocking arguing there is no point to further expansion absent a constitution to guide the EU, a position he calls cynical but which has some logic to it. (I don't know that it does have any except maybe politically.)

He ends:

We helped Turkey's new government put its life in our hands. We said we were there with the orange revolutionaries of Kiev. We owe them both debts of honour. We can't just pack when it begins to rain this autumn. We're leaders, aren't we?

He's right you know.

Some find it hard to see national interests at work asserting themselves in the EU. They seem to see it as an "all for one and one for all" arrangement. But if you look closely enough it is not very hard to see that the EU is appropriate for France, for example, because France has a great deal of power in it. That having to give some of it up might be a reason for some of its intransigence is not something that should be dismissed out of hand.

Friday, August 26, 2005


It's nice to have some astute commenters contributing here. Makes things more interesting.

Ron has stopped back by and has asked about Ukraine and the WTO. Good question. I also don't think much of the WTO for the US but it may not make all that much difference in practice. The US is the 800 pound gorilla and that means people want to sell there and have to sell there. That gives the US a lot of clout which ends up meaning that we tend to negotiate our way around the WTO when there is a problem. (Foreign sales corporations and the EU are one example.) That sounds like much the same result that would occur without it.

For Ukraine though, I think WTO accession would be a good thing. It would open up more markets for Ukrainian goods and allow for more competition here. (If anyone is looking to break the power of the oligarchs, more competition here is the way to do it.)

But it also imposes a kind of discipline on the goverment that it doesn't seem to be able to come up with on its own. To have to liberalize and do it in some sort of time frame self imposed or not has a tendency to give the government, at least parts of it, some focus. They need that.

So I think it a good thing.

Some respond that that accession would leave the Russians with more power here because they are the only ones who can stomach the risk here right now. (We think that overstated though, the risk part.) There is some truth to that but the response is more liberalization. That means more competition. Deals with it the same way as it would in dealing with the oligarchs.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Ukraine marks independence anniversary for the first time without a military parade

This is a significant thing. Kyiv Post. Ukraine marks independence anniversary for the first time without a military parade.

Power and its projection were celebrated in Soviet times and even afterward here. All parades were military parades and they were for domestic as well as for foreing consumption. To cow the citizenry? Maybe there was some of that but a lot of the citizenry identified with the military and remembered the sacrifices made during the Great Patriotic War against fascism. It was more of a unifying theme for the people, something they all could identify with and made them a part of the whole, a Soviet. And that helped the state, of course.

It was said that Stalin couldn't get anyone to fight for the party so he brought back the concept of the Motherland. The citizens were engaged in protecting the Motherland in the fight against Hitler. I guess that means that communists were pragmatists too. (Stalin is even supposed to have brought back Orthodox religious worship and I think even gave back some of the sacred church icons. All to aid in the war effort. Was the Soviet Union all about communist dogma or was it simply a matter of maintaining power? But I digress.)

But that changed yesterday and I think that means the identity has changed too. Maybe it also means a lack of a unifying theme for the country, I don't know. It is all a result of more democracy but many might be a bit nostalgic here in a few years for those good old days when they were all in it together. (Didn't Plato say that a democrat--small "d"-- had so many things he could possibly do that he had a hard time concentrating on any one of them to the exclusion of all the others? Something like that?) If more were put into cultivating it, the Maidan and the Orange Revolution might just be able to take its place.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Independence Day

Today is Independence Day here in Ukraine. It is the day that independence from the Soviet Union was declared back in 1991. It was declared but not much changed in real fact. The real declaration has been the result of the Orange Revolution.

We were treated to a fireworks display about a block away from our apartment. Could see it all from our windows which was nice for the kids. Must not have been official because it happened after 10 p.m. But it was impressive all the same; these were no squibs. Sounded like mortar rounds and they lit up the sky.

Anyway, congratulations to Ukraine. Took a long time to get here.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Atlanta economist to Ukraine

This sounds like it could be good news.
Atlanta Economist to Advise Ukrainian Prime Minister.

Ms. Tschinkel, who served as senior vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, has advised Lithuanian, Bulgarian and Uzbekistani governments on implementing economic reform policies since she left the Fed in 1995.

Dealing with debt management, fiscal policy reform and the decentralization of banking systems, Ms. Tschinkel has assisted representatives of the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the World Bank.

While she describes her work as helping to implement economic reforms into the day-to-day framework of a country, she is careful to note that she only takes an advising role when working with local government officials. She facilitates discussions between government officials and representatives from international aid agencies and coaches officials into making their own decisions on economic policy, she said.

"It's their government. [Officials] have to make the decision(s) on their own, and they have to take responsibility for their decisions," she said, adding that most government officials who she had worked with had been extremely motivated to implement economic policy changes but needed guidance in making their decisions.

She's highly qualified and is well recommended. (She was recommended to Tymoshenko by US Ambassador Herbst. Herbst is a competent and effective ambassador.)

Maybe we'll get a coherent economic policy from September (when she assumes her duties) on. Let's hope we do.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

More on Yuschenko's son

More on Yuschenko’s son.

Even if the Orange Revolution has since turned red (As in Soviet red) preserving its nostalgic remembrance means that it requires safeguarding. This, of course, is obviously why the Orange brand was quietly given to the playboy teenage son of President Yushchenko for safekeeping:

"…Local media said the revolutionary slogan 'Tak!' (Yes) and a downward-facing horseshoe symbol were now registered trademarks owned by [Yushchenko's] 19-year-old son, Andriy.

"The President's eldest son, Andriy has been under media scrutiny after the internet newspaper Ukrainska Pravda publicized his high-stepping lifestyle. "Andriy, a university student, says he has a part-time job that enables him to rent a BMW and a spacious Kiev city centre flat, pay for a personal bodyguard and hang out in chic restaurants, nightclubs and casinos."

Kommersant newspaper adds: "…the Orange theme is widely used till now and Orange goods cost pretty [large amount of] money. For example Orange flag with slogan 'Tak!' costs from 5 to 20 UAH ($1-4) – it is 10% of [the] average Ukrainian pension. So, if an old man decides to present ten [of] his old friends with such flags he must spend all his monthly income given by the state…

Then the usual about how much the brands are worth. (Millions of course.) And then

While the analogy is not exactly precise, there is something to be said here. Ukraine has developed the worst characteristics of America – or at least tiny slivers of its elite have. In 2005, Revolution Industry has become so professionalized that nothing is allowed to be forgotten: the anticipated future profits of branding yesterday's uprisings are earmarked for a sort of trust fund, so that the president's teenage son can enjoy a life of luxury far beyond that of the average Ukrainian, while simultaneously proliferating a legacy that never was.

But why should they complain? After all, like the article said, they can enjoy their civic right to patriotic pride, just by paying their meager pension to feel the special joy that only orange revolutionary souvenirs can bring. After all, this was a revolution of the people. I don't know how the fruit mongers are doing, but chances are among all the problems facing Ukrainians, scurvy isn't one.

Very clever that. My take:

Signing over the brands to the son.

This is suspicious. I have posted about it before. But let’s look at this a little differently. What if it had been reported that the President had created a foundation to protect the symbols of the revolution and had put his son in charge of that foundation? This sort of thing happens all the time in the West, family members putting other family members in charge of foundations to take care of some charitable something or other. Would that sound suspicious? It is nepotism but a nepotism that is expected. I just found out the other day, for instance, that the wife of Christopher Reeve is the head of the foundation created to further research into paralysis. It happens all the time and no one blinks at it. Seems even kind of noble, the family member stepping in to further the legacy.

I can hear the loud voice now, “But there is no foundation here. That’s the difference.” And that is true but misunderstands the problems here in Ukraine. Yuschenko signed over the rights to his son and no foundation was involved. But that is just the sort of lack of connecting of the dots that is so frequent here and maddening to those trying to make some sense of it. Formalities are not necessarily the first thing on people’s minds here when they look to do things. One of the big reasons is that the courts haven’t really meant much of anything-- the rule of law argument. (Ever noticed that the judges in Ukraine sit at a desk rather than on the bench? It has been more a bureaucratic job, getting done what the people who have power want done.) The people have had to depend on players in government with power to get things done, in order to get things done. That means graft and bribes and corruption but it also has meant a kind of personalized sort of justice. The point is that personal contacts and relationships have been more important than the legal niceties.

So it is not unreasonable to suspect that Yuschenko signed over these brands to his son personally for him to make sure that the symbols of the revolution were safeguarded by him personally. A father giving his son some responsibility in helping to safeguard what was in part his legacy.

This makes more sense to me because of

The brands problem

He makes a lot here about the worth of the brands and puts it in the millions. I tell people who want my help putting together a business plan that it is easy to add zeros to any figure. The problem is getting those zeros to match what is actually possible.

In the West, those sums would be the real value of the intellectual property rights in those brands. But Ukraine is not the West. That value in the West is really a function of enforcement more than it is anything else. In Ukraine, there is no such enforcement. A couple of years ago, Microsoft made a big announcement that it had reached an agreement with the pirates in Ukraine regarding its software. Microsoft would grant them a license to sell their software at a reduced rate.

Before that announcement, you could buy a copy of Windows for about $2.50. After that announcement, I went to the local pirate bazaar to check to see how much a copy would cost. I found that you could buy a copy of Windows for $2.50. It was the same price; there had been no change. The point is that what Microsoft had done resulted in nothing changing. Pirated copies of Windows were still being sold. Microsoft stopped nothing.

The same thing still holds true today. The penalties for selling pirated software have been increased in Ukraine following all that push for WTO friendly legislation here. Has that stop the pirates from selling? No, sell it they do. I haven’t checked prices yet but I suspect they haven’t changed..

What is the problem? E-N-F-O-R-C-E-M-E-N-T, enforcement. You can have all the laws on the books you want about things but if they won’t be enforced it is all dead letter.

One reason for this is the same problem--rule of law. But what under girds the rule of law problem is a cultural apathy toward intellectual property rights. The feeling tends to be, If I have a copy, everyone can have a copy. And that is about what happens.

I don’t know of any company here that has a department dealing with IP issues or anyone in a company dealing with them, other than Western companies. It’s just not an issue. This means that when a company here looks to use a symbol—in this case a symbol used very publicly and openly as part of a people’s revolt—they are not all that concerned (read: “not concerned at all”) with determining who the rights belong to. Of course, Yuschenko’s son could have found out that a company is using the symbol and made a demand for a royalty payment. That is a possibility. But I don’t think they could have done that without some sort of disagreement about it that would have eventually spilled over into the public domain. So it is possible but I think it unlikely.

So why then is the price so high? Supply and demand. What we are finding now which we didn’t find in the past all that much before the revolution is that there are a lot of tourists here now. They came after the revolution even before the lifting of the visa requirement but they are out in force now. And they want a piece of the revolution. That usually means a souvenir. For them, what is high priced for a Ukrainian is nominal or even cheap by European and American standards. So I think the price reflects the market for sales of the stuff; the tourist market. They are willing and able to pay the price for that stuff.

Which leaves the

The part-time job/jobs

So if the money isn’t coming from royalties, where then is it coming from for Yuschenko’s son to live the luxury life he seems to be living? The part-time job/jobs he has is where I think it is coming from. That he could not get the kind of money he is alleged to be throwing around from any kind of job he might get at 19 is true. And none of us would be naive enough to think that he is not getting the money he is supposed to be getting in spite of his being Yuschenko’s son. I think it would be clear that he is getting it because he is. And suspicious minds would say that he is simply getting paid for what others before him in the same situation could provide: access to people in power. It is that facial similarity with the ways of the past that makes this very suspicious and is the driving force behind it. And I think legitimately so.

But there is another, more innocent possibility. In the US, in a lot of companies, as an attempt to make investors less jittery about a risky investment or to give the company, usually fledgling, some instant credibility, high profile people are often recruited to sit on the boards of directors of the company. This is true for even legitimate enterprises. It happens all the time. And that director is usually paid handsomely, has an office he never visits, is often given a car and other perks, at company expense, all for lending a company his name--that is, for doing not much of anything.

I think something like that may be going on here.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Putin allied with Yanukovich?

If this is right, it just goes to show how idiotic the Kremlin's foreign policy toward Ukraine still remains--The Jamestown Foundation.

Russian President Vladimir's Putin's Unified Russia party has already signed a cooperation agreement with defeated presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych's Regions of Ukraine party. Russia's Rodina party has agreed to cooperate with the Socialist Party of Ukraine, while Russia's and Ukraine's Communists are eternal allies.

But from a Ukrainian perspective, good. All the polls I have seen have shown that if an election were held today, Yanukovych's party would be lucky to poll half of what they did in the (final) election. (About 14% is the figure.) Maybe Putin can hit up the oligarchs again for $300 million to line the pockets of the Mercedes and BMW drivers here once more. Some of it is bound to trickle down to the people on foot, the vast majority, and that's got to improve the economy here. In one stroke, Putin can pull the chain of the oligarchs reminding them once again who is boss and improve economic conditions in Ukraine at least a little. And he can cement a reputation for having an abysmal understanding of what is happening in Ukraine.

The fact is that Yanukovych is non-existent. He is nowhere to be found these days. An opposition should be opposing and there is none of that. You hear at times Yanukovych's campaign manager, his last, come out and say things, Taras Chornovil, but that is just nuisance sniping from the trees not the frontal assault an opposition ought to be engaged in. It doesn't sound like he speaks for any organzied opposition.

And the administration has been vulnerable the past few months, very vulnerable. The only opposition that has been detectable (and interesting) has been from the administration itself. Nothing from Yanukovych.

I did make a prediction that the Kremlin would cut ties with Yanukovych and that appears to be wrong but I assumed a reasonable amount of reason was available. Bad assumption.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Economics Ukrainian style

This is what you get here a lot when talking about the price of things--someone somewhere is conspiring to raise it simply because they want to. Kyiv Weekly.

Particularly depressing is a drastic rise in the prices of poultry products in Ukraine, which is the most prosperous sector of the country's animal husbandry industry. But that is not the worst of it. Poultry farmers have decided to go a step further. One of the largest producers of poultry in Europe, the Myronivskiy Khliboproduct joint-stock company, which owns the trademark Nasha Ryaba chicken products, announced its intention of gradually raising the prices of poultry to the level of pork and beef. Not only is this a violation of the pricing agreement in the memorandum between the Cabinet of Ministers and the producers of poultry products. It is also another test for consumers...


Certainly, compensating the shortage of these products currently estimated at 400,000 tonnes with imported products can fill the market for a certain period and urb price growth. But many experts believe that a prolonged stabilization of the situation in the meat market and a drop in retail prices are possible only in the event that quotas are introduced on imported meat products and directing the proceeds from sales based on these quotas to developing the domestic livestock breeding industry...

The same sort of argument is made seriously here about gas prices. The Russians have refineries they have closed down ostensibly for them to be upgraded but the real reason is to cause a shortage and a rise in the price. The same sort of thing is said about grains and sugar each year; the traders are sitting on supplies to raise the price and then come into the market to make a killing.

To date, this kind of argument has been made for poultry, pork, gasoline, and wheat.

I guess it is possible for a couple of players to so dominate a market as to be able to control prices though I think that means a kind of coordination that I don't see as being a realistic possibility here. Maybe other places but not here. But even if this is the case, the response should not be more control, it should be to open up these markets to competition. But that isn't happening. The reason is that opening up markets would cause a lot of dislocation and that is the last thing the government would like to see. The problem though is that this kind of finessing of a soft landing doesn't seem to be doing anything but cause shortages and rising prices.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Here's some interesting information on the demographics of who participated in the Orange Revolution---NEW DATA CREATES DEMOGRAPHIC PROFILE OF ORANGE REVOLUTIONARIES, VOTERS - Eurasia Daily Monitor.

It ends:

The Orange Revolution succeeded because western Ukraine provided participants while eastern Ukrainians remained passive. Some 45% of the Orange Revolution protestors were from western Ukraine, especially from the three Galician oblasts: Ivano-Frankivsk (69%), Lviv (46%), and Ternopil oblast (35%).

A striking 35% of western Ukrainians took part in the Orange Revolution, and 23% of west-central Ukrainians. Besides western Ukrainians, more than one-third of the residents of Kyiv participated, a figure close to that of Galicia. These figures were far lower in eastern (15%), east-central (9%), and southern Ukraine (8%) respectively.

These studies by Democratic Initiatives and IFES point to a close interconnection between national identity and civil society in Ukraine, with eastern Ukraine dominated by passivity and a "managed" civil society. The 2004 election also showed that violence came from eastern, not western, Ukrainians.

The study also states that those in the East believed that those on Maidan were paid to go. This isn't anything new. But the reason for this belief is interesting: They, in the East were paid to go to rallies so those on Maidan had to be paid too. What I see and understand is what everybody else see and understands. In cultural studies this is called self reference criteria and it is the main thing I deal with when teaching people--mostly Americans-- about cultural differences.

More shenanigans

This kind of thing still happens--


Interfax-Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tues, August 9, 2005 KYIV - Representatives of two German companies Jungheinrich and Dufelsdorf Handelsgesellshaft producing agricultural and other equipments have appealed to the Ukrainian leadership, saying their Ukrainian partner –Kyivtractordetal – is intimidated.

They threaten to leave the Ukrainian market, which may serve a negative signal to German business circles, the Ukrainian service of Deutsche Welle reported. They call upon Ukrainian authorities to avert instability at the Kyiv-based enterprise.

Employees of the Ukrainian producer accuse courts and the Public Prosecutor's General Office of assisting elimination of the enterprise to have its land for
construction of a prestigious housing complex. Particularly, the plant's director
was detained, Deutsche Welle informs.

Now the German businessmen doubt over the execution of its commitments to other European partners because every ready-made mechanism has Ukrainian parts.

Adolf Dufelsdorf, the CEO of Dufelsdorf Handelsgesellshaft, said it is absolutely unclear what is going on for those used to work in another legal framework. He said they had been much more optimistic previously but now see how long Ukraine needs to cover on the way to Europe.

--and it needs an aggressive response by the business. It doesn't look like they have a direct approach to Yuschenko except through official channels so the success of that kind of appeal might be in doubt. But the new openness here creates other opportunities (and lessens risks) for the company to shine all kinds of light on this to get these officials to back off. And this needs to be pursued aggressively by the company to have any success. So an official appeal to Yuschenko is something that should be done but it is one prong of a multipronged attack the company should be pursuing.

One thing to remember is that there is rule of law here except when it makes a difference. That surprises Europeans and Americans and results in some paralysis when it hits them and makes it hard for them to understand what to do next. The rules of the game are no longer the rules. But it simply means that the legal solution is not going to work. There are other extra-legal (and perfectly ethical) methods that work better in these kinds of situations. And they all come down to shining lights on this sort of thing. Get this out in the public. Make it well known. There is a real sensitivity to this kind of thing right now so making it public knowledge will be very effective. One story in the newspaper won't do it, though.

Still the wild east--Russia

It is strictly business, you understand, nothing personal---Canadian Lives to Tell His Tale.

First he had to give up his Mercedes to avoid being killed. Then a man who owed him $1 million tried to kill him, and his girlfriend took out a contract hit on his life. In February, he was kidnapped and forced to pay a ransom of $1.5 million.

Incredibly, businessman Igor Lantsov, who claims to be a victim of circumstance, has not soured on working in Russia and is forging ahead with plans to build several golf courses. Maybe only after that will he go home to Canada.

"I don't walk around with bodyguards, and I don't owe anybody any money. It's strange, but what can you do?" Lantsov said of his recurring troubles.

Moscow city prosecutors on Tuesday charged two men, including a Moscow region police officer, in the February kidnapping of Lantsov, the vice president of the Russian National Association of Professional Golf and a former deputy director of the Kremlin Trading House, which provides food to the Kremlin, Vremya Novostei reported Wednesday...

It may not be like the 90s, though some say it still is, but this sort of thing continues to happen in Russia and here. I think though with the greater openness and transparency the Orange Revolution brought to Ukraine, it will be a harder thing to do from now on.

This also goes to show that unrestrained competition is not what is wanted. Competition must have a basic set of rules that people live by or you will get this sort of thing.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Yushchenko Registers Revolution Symbols

This is the kind of thing that is bound to come up in the scramble for information on Jr. that the press conference touched off--Yushchenko Registers Revolution Symbols.

My response to this new information is that those rights may be worth a small fortune in the US but they aren't worth much in a country where the latest Hollywood film is available for about 3 bucks. (You may have to put up with the occasional dipping of the camera or one or two moving silhouettes--like the old Warner Brothers cartoons. And the picture can be kind of grainy. But if you want better quality for that movie, just wait a couple of weeks.) The point is that intellectual property rights here are virtually non-existent. They may have registered the rights with Yuschenko's son but it will be a tough thing to get any value from them because there is really no serious enforcement going on for any such rights now anyway.

There were a number of musicians that became famous during the Orange Revolution. Grynjolly is the most conspicuous of the bunch. But I think you will find they did not make any money on the song they wrote even though just about everybody has a recording of it. The reason? Pirate copies out there. People around here may think that intellectual property rights are all for those rich Americans but the creative industry here suffers for the lack of enforcement of those same rights too.

So it might look suspicious that Yuschenko Jr. got the rights but in Ukraine they don't mean much of anything. You might say they are not really worth the paper they're printed on.

By the way, it is not as if there isn't a way to protect intellectual property rights. There is. It just takes a bit more than looking at it as a legal problem. And these options are not open to Yuschenko's son at this point.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

An apology

From Ukrainsky Pravda:

KYIV - Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has admitted that his answer to a question about his son at a news conference earlier this week was "too emotional" and said that this was "a lesson to him". Yushchenko called the journalist whom he offended at the 25 July news conference, SerhiyLeshchenko, and suggested shaking hands.At the news conference, Leshchenko asked him to comment on rumours that his son lives beyond his means, but Yushchenko called him "a hitman" and said the he "lied" in his articles.

Leshchenko authored a series of articles on the Ukrainian web site Ukrayinska Pravda exposing the reportedly lavish lifestyle of Yushchenko Jr.The following is the text of a report by Leshchenko posted on Ukrayinska Pravda on 29 July: Yushchenko's press secretary Iryna Herashchenko called Ukrayinska Pravda today. She asked me not to switch off the phone, as the president would call in two minutes' time. And so it happened.

Viktor Yushchenko spoke in a quiet voice, though one could feel that the conversation was not an easy one for him. We discussed the recent developments
triggered by the publication about Andriy Yushchenko and the harsh answers by the head of state during the press conference on 25 July.

Viktor Yushchenko said at the beginning that this case had several aspects
to it. As to his son, he said that he had a tough talk with him. Andriy Yushchenko made conclusions and the main thing now is that he should take time to understand what he has been through."In order to [help him] live through this, I want to support Andriy as much as I can and have him near me," Yushchenko Senior said.

He also said that his answer to my question on 25 July "was emotional" and that "this was a lesson" to him. It was clear from his voice that it was not easy for the president to say those words. I said that I understand him and bear no grudge.Yushchenko suggested extending hands to each other and "turning the
leaf in this conflict", which was started during the press conference.

Making use of Yushchenko's own expression, I said that his hand would not hang in the air. We shook each other's hands on the line.Yushchenko added that the consequences of this story may be used to destabilize the situation in the country. To that, I answered that this definitely was not the aim we pursued with our articles.

Yushchenko suggested a meeting during my trip to Crimea tomorrow with a journalist team covering the Cabinet of Ministers' regional meeting. I replied that it is not worth troubling him when he is with his family.I also assured the president that the article in Ukrayinska Pravda was not ordered or paid for by anybody. He sounded as if he accepted my arguments. At the end of our conversation, Yushchenko said, "See you".

This is good.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Yuschenko and the press

There has been a lot of hostility toward Yuschenko from the press for the past few days here because of comments he made--accusations really-- at a July 25th press conference. This article is representative and goes into a bit of the whys--Them's fightin' words...Mr. President.

The problem occurred when a reporter asked a question about Yuschenko's son. His son, according to news reports, drives an expensive BMW, has a large upper story flat here, owns a platinum cell phone worth around $25,000, frequents expensive nightclubs and bars and has bodyguards to accompany him. All of this at the age of 19 and with no apparent means of support to maintain him in that kind of life style.

Yuschenko responded accusing the reporter of being a hitman. He then made the defense that his son had the cell phone from a rich friend, that the car was a rental and that he was able to afford his lifestyle and the bodyguards because of a consulting contract.

The response by Yuschenko hit the press here like a ton of bricks, they feel, from the blind side. A lot of them supported the Orange revolution and considered themselves to be a part of the family. 300 of them have asked Yuschenko to apologize, a thing interesting in itself.

What about the question? Was it out of bounds? I don't think so. The basis of Yuschenko's whole appeal is to end corruption. Yet his son is able to get a consulting contract that allows him to rent an expensive car, live in a flat that is about 5 times the size of our fairly sizable apartment, and to live an expensive nightlife--all at the age of 19. The only kind of contract that would pay that amount of money would be one that is politically indefensible for Yuschenko, at least to my mind. All of this was the elephant in the room in some circles so it was legitimate to ask.

Did Yuschenko have to answer it? No and he shouldn't have. He should have deflected it by saying something about it being his son's own life or that he, like any parent, had only so much influence with a son who no longer lives at home. Something like that. To antagonize the press like he did was not a good thing to have done. And by answering the way he did, he takes the problem on himself. Maybe that is the way of a good parent, I haven't thought that one through. (And I think Yuschenko is a good man and an honest one.) But it isn't wise for someone needing to change a government and in many ways a whole culture.

The problem is that after the initial shock wears off, a shock, by the way, that wouldn't have been felt in the US or Britain, the press are going to not only investigate the son and that won't come out good--too many questions that seem like they cannot be answered with anything politically viable--but they will also not be giving Yuschenko a pass on anything. This is particularly bad because there is no real attempt by the government to make its case. If it has to overcome a negative by the press, this will not be a helpful thing, especially if things begin to turn south with the economy.

And it is Yuschenko that is the liberalizing force in the government just about the only one. If he is dogged at every step and has to make his case over the press, that will just set reform and liberalization all that much further behind, especially again since there has been no attempt to make any semblance of a case for ,much of anything in public.

Why pick a fight with the press on such a peripheral matter and such a small matter? Maybe Yuschenko is frustrated and that frustration just came out at that conference. If that is what happened, he would lose nothing by apologizing and probably gain a whole lot by doing it.

I support Yuschenko and have since the revolution. I think he's an honest man and a good one. And I think the task he has at hand is one that borders near the impossible, at least in the time frames that are there for him to do it. But I want to see him succeed. He deserves it and the people do too, especially them. Ukrainians have had to endure decades of hardships and still endure them. They deserve to have something better than what it is they have now.