Tuesday, 22 December 2009

20 Years

Exactly twenty years after the overturning of Ceausescu's regime, there are some very educational facts for young Romanians today, who were either too small to remember the events or were born after the Revolution.

First of all, 85 of the top 100 currently most influential (and wealthiest) Romanians occupied key positions in Ceausescu's regime. As John Simpson, the BBC correspondent who covered the Revolution back then, put it: it is a lesson on how not to do a Revolution.

And what more beautiful irony can be presented to the Romanian people today, than the still reverberating farce of a totally corrupt presidential election which just ended recently and the President was sworn in yesterday, on 21 December - 20 years after Bucharest, too went up in flames, literally and metaphorically.

The election presented Romanians two main candidates, both with extensive communist past and extensive ties with the Ceausescu Regime of the past...

On top of this, the winner, Traian Basescu, has accumulated votes in a somewhat interesting manner - one is reminded of the recent Iranian and Afghan elections...

Just one example: during the last hours of the extremely tight first round, he had so many votes from the Romanian diaspora at the embassy in Paris, that calculating with basic mathematics it shows that Romanians at that embassy spent 13 seconds per vote... which is a remarkable feast of 'speed voting'.

After this world record breaking wave of votes for Basescu, the person in charge of the voting at the embassy in Paris has immediately received a job as Government Minister... by pure coincidence, of course.

In face of such blatant and far from covert corruption, one has to wonder: just what more does the current 'regime' have to show to Romanians of today to open their eyes just what kind of 'democracy' they live in?

And one doesn't even need to add to this the unimaginable organised corruption that rules the country on every single level of administrative and political power.

It is only a small baroque ornament, that the Democratic Union of Romanian Hungarians, a party who claims that represents the rights of the Hungarian minority in Romania, strikes deals with any and every possible party in power...

So the very same Prime Minister and virtually the exactly same Government that this Hungarian ethnic party signed vote of no-confidence against is now the great ally of Bela Marko, the leader of the Hungarian ethnic party... and they occupy 4 Minister positions in the Government they were only months ago so against... saying that they did this for the good of the Hungarian ethnic population they sooooo represent...

At the end of the day, the Emil Boc Government No. 4 (as he is the PM now for the 4th time( is almsot exactly the same Government that was deemed anti-constitutional and corrupt even by Romanian standards only a few months ago... the same monsters have returned now...

It truly is a country that even after 20 years of so-called 'democracy', applies every day the visions of Kafka, Mrozek and Camus... reaching levels of absurd tragicomedy that are beyond most people's imagination.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Winding roads

While anti-communist demonstrations in Timisoara (the city where the 1989 Revolution started) and Bucharest have flared up, considering the current presidential candidates are all tightly connected with the former regime, another remarkable event took place.

The first 42 kilometers of the infamous Transylvanian motorway has been inaugurated.

What makes it remarkable is that it took six years, seven directors and five Government ministers to get this small chunk of the planned motorway completed.

Hungary, in comparison, completes 40-50 kilometers of motorways per year.

Until 2013, the company making this ill-fated motorway has to complete 370 kilometers of it... while to just build 15% of this motorway, almost half of the funds has been spent already.

The more tragicomic element of this vast fraud operation (as the funds have disappeared into the most expensive bits of road ever built anywhere, and this portion didn't even have to cut through the Himalayas let's say...) is that the motorway was hampered by all sorts of mishaps.

All kinds of 'archeological finds' stopped the work, in some cases some old half-demolished buildings in the middle of nowhere from 1950 which were proclaimed to be of key cultural importance...

The completed tiny portion is not even truly functional, entrance to it is made via an improvised concoction and the traffic node near the city Turda is not completed yet.

So we have 42 kilometers of heavy concrete and asphalt, semi-connected to existing roads and this is a great success.

Where the rest of the money will come (let's face it, the other half of the funds not yet spent will, in this manner, be sufficient for another tiny portion of road), nobody knows.

One thing is sure, in the same way, 90% of it will disappear into pocket linings as it did before...

Ceausescu had his grand dreams, and ironically he used to deliver (often unusable and semi-collapsing) materialisations of those dreams.

But this neo-communist regime is so busy with robbing the country blind, that even 15% of one single motorway, built in six years, is a heralded success.

Not quite sure any more what is more tragicomic.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Plurality

There are again remarkable and unfortunate similarities between the political scenes of my former and current home...

Of course there are enough scandals around British political elite at the moment, and even the MP's expenses scandal pales in comparison when looking at the problem of the average voter: who would one vote for, when the Labour Government is thoroughly discredited, the opposition is playing a game of so vastly unsubstantiated resounding claims that even Joe & Jane on the street can see through them...

In the meantime, the extreme right is gaining popularity, people are turning away from the major parties and considering voting for 'whoever else'... combine this with the fact that many thought the fascist BNP had made 'good points' during their leader's recent BBC appearance...

There is a deep sense of pointlessness in this, and many on the street feel that this so-called democracy works only in its basic mechanical elements... once they vote for somebody to get into Parliament, or heaven forbid, ends up in Government (or acquires peerage as in the case of recent shocking cases of 'celebrity' business personality twits like Lord Alan Sugar), there is no control over what they do any more.

They can commit fraud on vast scale, cheat, steal and on a milder front, 'just' introduce legislation that would make even Stalin proud (just look at Home Office ministers' activities).

It is quite a tragic state of affairs when e.g. The Sun, a tabloid that has 9 million readers (no wonder, as it pairs 'political analyses' with page-three naked girls) pulled such cheap propaganda stunts against Gordon Brown that even their brainless readership resented it... When the readers of The Sun think of something on those pages as a 'cheap shot', well, that is quite an event in this sorry segment of media...

In Romania, plurality works equally well in its version of democracy.

During the current presidential elections, still ongoing as they need a second round, the main candidates are all ex-communists with either Securitate connections in the dark past or 'just' names from high echelons of the former Communist party.

Also the difference between the two main candidates that stand a chance of winning is marginal, both are mega-Mafiosi with a trail of corruption behind them that is simply mind boggling.

The discussions of the electorate on blogs and comments on national newspapers' web pages is as disillusioning as the British counterparts' are. Many see no point in voting and wonder who they could vote for 'just for the heck of it'.

It is also quite tragicomic how even the BBC gets it wrong... their article on the Romanian elections was fantastic, as they said, for example, that Geoana (the one people just call 'the village idiot') is proposing a vibrant and dynamic package for getting Romania's economy back on track.

Well, that dynamic package comes from a truly idiotic (seriously...) person who, for example, promises vastly increased salaries and pensions at the same time with vastly reduced taxes.

So maybe he could go from illiterate idiot (makes W. look like a genius, seriously) to a Nobel prize winner in economics...

Therefore there is quite little difference between the two political landscapes in terms of just what actual democratic exercise can be performed to elect the country's leaders... just that in the UK there is still some feedback loop and some actions have some consequences, while in Romania, well... anything goes.

People there actually believed and voted for Geoana, which means that, after we recover from the spasms of laughter caused by his electoral programme, we can give brownie points to good old Churchill... who said that the best argument against democracy is a 15-minute chat with the average voter...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Families

There is the semi-romantic semi-nostalgic image of the cosy Mafia families, with their Dons that so much entertained us on the silver or shiny glass screens.

Then there are family values and family-centric policies of Governments and employers and whatnot. There are the Dynasties that filled pages of our history books in school years and beyond.

Then there are families that are much alike those illustrious (and/or sometimes bloody) Dynasties and surface in Romanian public, political and business life. Maybe not as romantic as the ones on silver screens or silver discs in our film collections...

The most recent and bordering-on-hilarity revelation comes from the reputable University of Iasi, where there are seven families employed at its Faculty of Biology. Out of the 62 staff members, 15 are related...

To add a particularly beautiful example of how Romanian legislation, rules etc. are in direct contradiction with everyday reality (namely laws and rules are simply worth the paper they are written on), the University in question has actually voted at the end of 2008 an internal rule which was 'anti-Dynasty'... in virtual unanimity...

Similar situation exists in the city of my former student years, Cluj - here the Faculty of Chemistry has a nice cloud of Dynasties on its staff list.

It would be very depressing to go beyond a few examples of such institutions who pay those salaries from public money... the list would be immense.

Just a few gems, as one can't resist: the National Civil Aeronautic Authority is riddled with close relatives holding high-powered jobs, including Tarom (the national airline company) and Romania's major airports. Young lads, who just took some exam or other, have been immediately put in co-pilot jobs... no comment.

National Energy Regulatory body is no different, nor is EnergoNuclear or Transelectrica, which are preoccupied with nationwide energy distribution and nuclear energy matters...

It is particularly interesting to follow the Dons and their Dynasties in such organisations and companies that spend public money and also in many cases are directly impacting public safety & welfare.

So we can return, in order for us to safeguard our health and reduce blood pressure, to the nostalgic cinematic imagery of families... and not peel any more layers from this wonderful giant onion...

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Flu business

Flu, especially the new swine flu, H1N1, is major business in Romania. After all, why this wouldn't have a huge and corrupt money making scheme around it?

The beauty of the situation started to develop a few months ago. By introducing containment rules well after all other countries at similar pandemic levels moved from the fundamentally useless containment stage to treatment stage, Romania was still closing schools, introducing quarantine regulations and sealing off hospitals... This was very useful for having certain companies get certain contracts via certain channels in order to procure and sell absolutely useless masks for example in the tens of thousands.

In case there is doubt, the masks on sale were of the very everyday type, hugely overpriced, sold to hospitals with vast profit margins, and the punchline is that these masks had holes about 3 times the size of the virus in question. Essentially, buying and then using these masks against the flu virus was exactly as effective as buying and using a fishnet to protect one against rain...

But then in true proto-capitalist post-communist manner, Romanian authorities and the Government developed their flu business further.

The Government has launched a competition for distributors of the anti-viral pills (Tamivir and Zanamivir). On the surface, well, it was a normal affair, having companies bid for the lucrative rights of distributing the drug.

But the devil lies in the detail.

The requirements posed by the Government were astonishingly precise... the list described exactly how many warehouses of what size (in square meters) in how many and which exact cities the winner company has to have...

It also described with interesting details the exact required number of vans and response times the company has to have.

When confronted with the obvious fact that these interestingly precise numbers happen to favour very clearly a certain company, namely Europharm, the Government defended the list of requirements and pointed out that these details are actually just copied from its pandemic prevention handbook.

Actually, as one may guess oh so accurately, the mentioned 'book' contains no such details...

So essentially the flu pandemic is another typical Romanian affair... all the boxes are ticked, all the legal checkpoints satisfied, but under the surface, it is the same corrupt machination as everything else, simply putting money in certain pockets via biased and pre-set deals struck before any contract bid was filed by anyone.

The current bill is 20 million Euros, and one has to ask what proportion of that is purely channeled via such corrupt deals and so-called contract negotiations, while the death toll has risen, number of cases is shooting up exponentially and the Government is just interested in shady dubious money making on the back of the oh-so-scary virus...

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Land of culture

Well, after 20 years of tragicomic inability to promote Romania in terms of culture & tourism (let's face it, the 'Western' crowds by and large only know imagery with horse-drawn carriages shot in God forgotten villages and orphanages with 12th century living conditions), the various 'cultural' departments of the Government had another valiant attempt... as miserable as all previous ones.

This time, at the Frankfurt Book Fair, they tried to present Romania via a glorious book entitled 'Romania - Land of Culture'.

The slight problem is that this book is riddled with literally nonsensical translations from Romanian to English, massacres of English language of such gory hilarity that only a translation software in the hands of some orangutans could produce...

A few juicy examples from the thousands of diabolical passages, from a book that took 30 000 Euros to publish... and yes, all quotes are exact:

A writer is described via the paragraph: "He published the following books: headlight, windows, pictures, poems, book romaneasca, 1980, Poems of love, Cartea Romaneasca, Bucharest, 1982, All, poems, book romaneasca, 1984; dream (in the next editions of Nostalgia) stories, Cartea Romaneasca, Bucharest, 1989, [...] dream chimera, critical study, Litear, Bucharest, 1991, transvestite, Roman...".

In case your eyes and head don't huer yet, let's continue with other gems...

A poet is described with "he debuted in 1994 with a volume of poetry naturally exaggerate".

Romania is said to be "deeply European through its Latinity", and that it was searching for its democracy since the Middle Ages. Wow...

Or the following pearl: "For the long running history, twenty years are only a fragment of cronology, but for the life of a people escaped from the totalitarian nights this period of time marks the renaissance of the country, the finding of the European brothers and cousins once again".

Well, in case you're still standing and not convulsing with laughter (and possibly anger), then you'll also be pleased that Romanian words like 'roman' (which means novel) have been translated to English as... you guessed it (?)... 'roman'. Which kind-of means something else, doesn't it?

Bucharest is described as "the only capital city in the world whose patrimony had ever been aggressed during peacetime, between the dictatorship years: '70s -'80s of the last century".

Oh dear.

This lexical soup was produced by the Ministry of Culture, but they blame the manufacturers...

It is just another grand act in the tragicomic opera of Wagnerian proportions, an opera that lasted already for 20 years and has proven that the Romanian Mafiosi running the country with zero respect for anything have also zero self-respect.

In 20 years, none of the myriad governments that Romania had could in any way promote the cultural and natural treasures of that country - why would they, as the only interest they have is how to rob the country blind.

I had a vague hope in the 1990s, namely that this Mafia will be able to realise that if they do a good job with promoting Romania abroad, they can attract more tourism money to divert to their own pockets...

But the Romanian so-called cultural elite in the so-called Government, including myriad ministers responsible for culture and tourism over the last 20 years, always pick (being ultimately the laziest Mafiosi on the face of the planet) the methods with least effort to commit fraud at astronomical scale.

So why would they put effort into thinking, strategies, promotions etc... if they can do what they did for 20 years in that country, with minimum effort?

Monday, 2 November 2009

Extremism

It is quite interesting that the UK Home Office is setting up now databases which will hold information on 'extremists'.

How someone gets labelled an extremist? Well, before the Home Office Secretaries that introduced a mountain of downright Stalinist abuses of privacy, human rights and so countless violations of civil liberties, it would have meant probably militant violent people and/or terrorists.

Now, in the post-Jacqui Smith era, it also means just about anybody who happened to attend demonstrations, protest rallies etc.

Let's face it, in the current (extensively commented) Orwellian UK society, where even EU forums have shunned us for the abuse of human rights in the name of 'anti-terrorist strategy', the only democratic means at one's disposal are such protests.

But now, while we also can't take picture of policemen (exactly like in a former communist dictatorship) without getting arrested under the Terrorism Act, but they can freely and sneakily take pictures of anybody in the crowd, such activity can land you in a whole lot of trouble and certainly you can end up in the new database.

Well, I haven't taken part in any demonstrations, as I find the entire thing totally futile in this so-called democracy where we lost complete control of any kind over those who elect... exactly as it is in the post-communist states.

But... I just wonder who is extremist in this context.

Recently a photographer in Poole was stopped from taking photos on a public beach (which had no people even) and was told he needs special permission from the city council.

The myriad published and furore-producing abuses of power from the British police under the so-called Terrorism Act, not to speak the abuse of power from stupid mini-Hitler overzealous security guards and jobsworths in the name of the same legislation, are too many to count by now.

Now this database is just adding to the arsenal of what is becoming a police state in front of our own eyes.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Questiontime for fascists

The fact that this week the BBC will give a platform for the leader of the fascist British National Party has caused a lot of debate online and offline...

Some say these horrid and unspeakably stupid people should not be given airtime... others that yes, after all, the BNP is a noteworthy political party and they should be invited along as any other party in the UK.

Now what I am about to say, well, write, needs to be put in context a bit. I grew up in a vehemently anti-minority and anti-human rights totalitarian regime. I swallowed countless ethnic discrimination measures and abuse in everyday life. After the Revolution, was treated to a pogrom organised by the Romanian far right in my home town. The fascist Great Romania party has been saying unimaginable vile stupidities since 1990... Ergo not for a moment do I in any way feel inclined to support revoltingly stupid and absolutely fascist people like the members and leaders of the BNP.

But...

BNP has seats in the European Parliament. It is one of the constantly mentioned political parties in Britain. And, thankfully, against their wishes, we live in a democracy where equality human rights do matter (unless they cross the boundaries of major political interests and power games).

So... I do think they should be invited to BBC's Questiontime programme, exactly as any other notable (for right or wrong reasons) party was and is and will be.

Yes, they are ignorant, vile and revolting. Yes, their leader and his entourage are amongst the stupidest people you can ever hear on TV or in the media. Yes, they fund animated films for kids, educating them in neo-Nazi ideology. Yes, they have scout movement to do the same to impressionable brains of kids sent to those camps by fascist parents.

But... again...

It is perhaps the biggest mistake to let them argue their vile case within the confines of their warped and demented audience.

It is a huge mistake to not bring them into the spotlight and pair them up with human beings.

Let us see just how idiotic their arguments are... Frankly, they are so incredibly stupid that it is just breathtaking to listen to them... they even, in a recent political stunt, kicked the Ghurkas... and famously many of their sympathisers went away from the debate with feelings that gee, these people are truly revolting.

So let's discuss their views. Let's have a debate, on national TV, on one of the most watched and reputable programmes on BBC...

Let uber-fascist Nick Griffin talk about their views... answer questions... debate with panelists on the programme...

There was no, and is no, better forum to expose their breathtaking ignorance, stupidity and extremism. Let's not send the BBC criticism for letting this happen - it's the best forum for showing what the BNP is.

With great regret, I can only wish that in Romania, Nick Griffins of that land would be exposed in this way...

Let's watch, fellow humans, how these animals make a fool of themselves, please tune in, it will be educational and entertaining at the same time...

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Undercover

There is a fascinating article in one of the Romanian national papers - the claims are quite interesting and the facts speak for themselves.

The opinions voiced by former president Emil Constantinescu (one of the very few respectable politicians that country ever had) are presenting a scenario which, far from being unbelievable, are causing a major stir and demands for investigations.

To put it simply, it is about turning black into white - in the Romanian media, a metamorphosis carried out by large numbers of journalists who hold key positions and happen to be undercover exponents of various political circles and not just... some are officers of the SRI, which is the successor of the dreaded Securitate.

The spokesman of the SRI, the Romanian Service of Information, has himself admitted grudgingly that the SRI always had agents in various levels everywhere in the Romanian media organisations...

One example of the black turning white, during a process that relies on well-orchestrated manipulative distortions of facts and also happens to rely on the short term memory of Joe Public, is the Stolojan case.

Constantinescu brings up this example, as it is just superb... Theodor Stolojan used to manage the funds of the Securitate, had close links with Ceausescu's circles, while being considerably dim intellectually... over the years, he was transformed by a media campaign into a champion of freedom, an intellectual beacon.

Stoloja happened to become suddenly prime minister exactly during the time period when the Securitate's funds were distributed...

But the highly effective wash cycle works also on other, much bigger Romanian political figures... even that of the current president, Traian Basescu.

Basescu is a self-confessed collaborationist, on top of which he was an informer, a leader of a group that used to spy in the NATO zone, a person who was appointed by Elena Ceausescu herself... but over the years, he has become a freedom fighter, a champion of change, a leader for the free Romanian people...

Constantinescu gives numerous examples of how the manipulation worked, after all the facts remain facts, but the methods used by the press campaigns are not difficult to guess. They range from files that happen to 'escape' onto pages of national papers with perfect timing, even conversations of the Home Secretary have leaked onto the pages of newspapers... which is simply unthinkable without orchestrated press manipulation.

The former president simply states that Justice has been put on hold during Basescu's reign... Not one person was sentenced for corruption during the last 5 years, and Basescu is considered a symbol of the anti-corruption fight, while he himself has a 'blocked' file in the Supreme Court...

So... yes, Romania has remained unchanged, only some surfaces have been re-painted, the essence, as always stated, remained the same - especially when it comes to absolute & absolutely corrupt power at the top.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Reversals

Naturally, during the recession there was and is much talk about property prices in both Romania and UK, just to pick two countries one knows more about :)

House prices started to slightly increase in the UK over the last few months (giving rise to a lot of Labour-biased press coverage on how well the economy started to do... forgetting that it means nothing whilst banks are still not lending...). At the same time, Romania is seeing an interesting reversal phenomenon.

The price of old, communist-era block flats is currently 25-30% higher than those of newly built apartments. Knowing the quality of the glorious Ceausescu-era apartments, this is even more tragicomic.

The strange reversal, as in a quantum physics phenomenon, is due to the fact that the silly prices of the new apartments had to come down aggressively, as few can afford them in current Romanian economic climate. Also, banks are not that keen on loans there, either...

40-year-old apartments are being sold for 1600-odd euros per square meter... while brand new apartments scarep in at around 1200 euros per square meter...

Many property developers and building companies that try to sell the new apartments are choosing to sell with great losses, instead of not selling at all.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Vision impairment

One watched for 20 years how, after the Revolution, the various layers of Romanian administration, Government departments, Parliament, business circles were harmoniously and consistently a vast chorus of utterly self-centred, short-sighted people who only and only tried to fill their pockets while in power.

Why would it then be a surprise to anyone that a German research group has placed Romania at the but-last position in the list of countries that took measures and/or have a vision against the economic crisis.

After all, why would people think about measures against the crisis and have any vision whatsoever about the country's future, if the same people have spent every minute of their political and business life simply squandering the resources of the country? In a country with unique and considerable natural and cultural treasures, they couldn't even make use of these in tourism, which is in deplorable state (unless we count the EU millionaires being brought in by organised Mafia to hunting parties where even protected animals, in the perfect Ceausescu era's fashion, are served in front of the shotguns of paying 'guests'). Politicians like Petre Roman and Attila Verestoy have, after all, also sold illegally vast amounts of timber cut from forests that now causes catastrophic flash floods. Especially Verestoy, who is known fondly as "God's Chainsaw"... for a very good reason.

It really is a matter of absolute and perfect state of self-absorbed egocentricity, where any means are employed to rob the country blind. Irony is that when it comes to EU funds, they can't even steal properly - the absorbing of EU funds is remarkably bad in Romania and everything is tangled up in such bureaucracy, that you have to pay layers of consultants to get anywhere near the funds.

Other funds, in the meantime, are diverted and stolen immediately, just think of the amount of money poured into Romania for infrastructure development (where again the country is in the last position in the EU rankings - and 20 years of motorway building led to few tens of kilometers being 'almost ready' while all the money disappeared) or anti-corruption agencies (which don't really do anything and never will).

A Deloitte study has shown also that 70% of the subjects considered EU funds difficult to access, and the overall pessimism regarding any chance of recovery is understandable when Romania can proudly show a 125% fall in consumer spending - this is the most dramatic fall in the EU.

What is remarkable is that this, to some in the press and on the street, is still surprising. Maybe 20 years of consistent patterns in the economic and political reality of the country were not enough for many to acquire some eyesight?... let alone vision...

Monday, 21 September 2009

Round figures

It is remarkable how nice and round the figures in Euros get when it comes to how even local administration spends funds, including EU funds.

I had a little mention earlier of a children's playground in my home town, it has the surface of about an Olympic size swimming pool - I ran a little experiment and asked people their estimates, even guesstimates, and everybody came up with sums in Euros with at most four zeroes.

In all actuality, it apparently cost one million Euros... nobody dares to ask the Mayor of Tirgu Mures where are the receipts, but it is a fact that it was made without any competition between companies, the contract simply ended up handed to one of his Mafioso buddies. Ironically, he is suing a senator who dared to point this fact out on a local TV channel... after all, these crooks have standards...

Interesting enough, another little but round sum hit the light of day - there were plans for an underpass in my home town, and I remember going to my entrance exams at the University I planned to attend - at that point in time I was watching the huge craters they dug for that underpass. It was in 1990...

Since then, the project was on halt, every local election a few bulldozers moved some grains of sand from here to there, then everything stopped again.

But now, to show the change in wind direction and the might of the clan that rules the town, it finally got finished. It is in deplorable state, but there is a tunnel under the main road and you can, if your life insurance covers it, go from one side to the other... even maybe emerge alive at the other end.

It cost... you guessed it... one million Euros.

Dorin Florea and his Mafia seems incapable of counting in anything other than multiples of one million Euros...

The results are remarkable, as usual - I, for one, am glad that after 19 years, 'officially' the underpass exists and it is 'finished'.

If they had not finished it now, who knows how many more millions of EU and public money would be spent on that tragicomedy.

I am lookin forward to their next project...

Monday, 14 September 2009

Innocence

I remember looking at the policemen (well, they were 'Militia' men) in the Romanian 1970s and '80s with fear.

The overall rule was that you were guilty until proven innocent - and I happened to be one of the kids that got once stopped at random, for no reason whatsoever in the little street called 'Peace Street' (ironically).

I was asked can I prove that I didn't steel the bike... which was of course mine. They were just bored out of their skull (not mind...) and had to pick on somebody. But they had absolute power... so conversation quickly degenerated into mumbling and hoping they get bored again... and they did so I was on my way without having to prove the impossible (no mobile phones in those days so I doubt they would have escorted me home to ask my Dad...).

But then who would have thought, that after all the totalitarian (sorry, anti-terrorist) legislation they introduced in the UK, including the ban on taking pictures of any policeman in any situation (maybe they are afraid to be seen again shooting to death innocent people on the Tube or making them have a heart attack, even if they are genuine bystanders at a demonstration), there would be even more Stalinism coming to the UK.

Thankfully I am exempt at the moment, but anybody being in repeated contact with kids and/or driving them to/from school will have to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau vetting.

So basically everybody in that category of (currently about) 11 million people in the UK are guilty until proven innocent, or at least deemed to stay innocent.

There is a lot of innocence lost here.

Simply because this country's Government and local officials, city councils etc. miserably failed in certain categories of public safety, and as per recent 'Baby P' scandal, toddlers died while all the child protection agencies and social services failed to recognise clear signs of abuse over long period, now we have a solution.

The solution that only a totalitarian state and/or its feeble minded impotent bureaucrats can invent.

We mark everybody a potential deadly risk to kids. Or worse.

We test and vet everybody.

This will then solve all the systemic and systematic failures this country should be thoroughly embarrassed of.

Where does this end? It is not enough that the systematically induced paranoia culture got to a point where more than 80% of parents don't let their kids out of the house any more, not in any radius greater than 100 yards... better to play on the computer and lead to situations where new psychiatric conditions are invented for what results out of game station and computer addictions.

This, somehow, is deemed to be a better society.

The real side-effect will not be suffered by the parents and people who have to go through the CRB vetting under the new rules... the future utterly paranoid generations growing up in a culture where any adult is officially considered a risk until labelled 'OK' by some bureaucrats will pick up the pieces...

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Road wars

There was an interesting statistic in one of the Romanian daily newspapers the other day (well, distance makes one read it online nowadays...).

Taking current figures, more people die on the roads of Romania each day than in Afghanistan. Also, they happen to be the most dangerous, well, lethal roads in Europe.

It is easy to take out to talk about certain isolated factors but there is a combination here of what personally would think as the key ingredients that built up this state of affairs over the years that followed the Revolution - one has to doubt whether such combination of such strength may exist in any other former Communist country.

On one hand, there is the state of unimaginable corruption - which among other things, allows truly countless numbers of people obtain driving licences (the huge figures reported in the press, after an anti-corruption clampdown on certain corrupt cops or administrative personnel are just the tip of the iceberg... or pile of corpses in this case).

But the same 'Mafia country' state of affairs allows also kids and people of any age basically get their hands on truly powerful pieces of machinery on four wheels. It is remarkable to see just what kind of people drive the most powerful cars - with few exceptions, at a single glance, you would not like to meet those people even in broad daylight in small side-streets. The stories of 17-year-olds, sons and daughters of the 'elite' (in Romania this has a very dark and particular meaning) are all the time in the news, causing incredible accidents and sometimes surviving themselves...

Couple this with the absolutely criminal attitudes, where most of the joyriders know for a fact that they (at least their relatives) are above the law...

Then on the other extreme, you have cars in vast numbers that should not be on the road - their safety has been seriously compromised years and years ago, but in a totally corrupt country anybody can get a pass on a roadworthiness test by paying off the right test centre's right people...

And then there is the juxtaposition of two worlds - one world is medieval and has people taking horse-drawn contraptions through even busy city centres very often, others leave animals roaming free and causing truly horrific accidents on motorways.

The other is a modern world that tries to cram way too many cars into way too small historic streets without any parking solutions (Romania is at the bottom of the EU list in terms of how it dealt, well didn't deal at all, with the explosion in the number of cars) that the other, medieval and rural, world clashes in ways not seen during the Communism. I myself, possibly together with the horse ands my taxi driver, almost died last year because a horse-drawn thingy packed with literally crap was going against the one-way street's direction of traffic where there was zero visibility, totally oblivious to any signs or markings.

And then there is the typical Balkan attitude towards things, the laid-back, who-cares type of attitude, which one can add as the extra spice into the lethal mix and anybody thinking driving styles in Italy are, well, scary, should try driving through any busy town centre anywhere in Romania...

So there is a war on those roads, statistically more lethal than some real wars raging at the moment - and it is a war between two world, where one is politically, economically, evolution-wise, law-enforcement-wise, anti-corruption-wise completely out of control. The other is trying to co-exist with its 'normality' and miserably failing.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Fractal country

It often strikes me as truly remarkable that certain countries can be like fractals... no matter how much you magnify a tiny detail taken from any point, they end up showing you the same pattern in beautiful mathematical consistency.

Romania does have such amazing fractal-like qualities. If anybody had any contact with let's say their Embassy in London, their officials anywhere there or abroad, and knows Romanian everyday realities well, can easily conclude: these little mini-manifestations are exactly as the country, in the worst possible sense.

A recent peek into the microscopic fractal-like details of this place was offered by an unfortunate case about a mountaineering trip that went horribly wrong. If anyone knows the country, can find the similarities with everything from political life to everyday glimpses in the facts below...

An unfortunate but very experienced mountain climber suffered a stroke at 2200m altitude. Thankfully had friends with him and mountain rescue was called.

They were given explicit instructions to stay put and will be rescued.

Hours passed, nothing... further queries revealed that on one hand two regional mountain rescue teams were fighting over who should go and who has responsibility...

There was only one helicopter anywhere near that could have been commandeered to rescue, but that was owned by a private company.

The private company found it much more important to pocket a nice fee from a high-profile politician and take him to an opening ceremony than to save someone's life.

In the meanwhile, the mountaineers decided to descend from the cold to some more decent temperature, and the stroke-afflicted person had to actually climb as they could not just carry him down on that terrain.

In the end, by the time mountain rescue finally... rescued them... 20 hours went by.

The victim is in much worse condition than he'd been in, if he had professional help promptly...

At the moment nobody whatsoever is taking any responsibility.

So, just take a magnifying glass and zoom in on any Romanian corner of reality... I can say as someone who grew up there and after 20 years of 'change' still choking with frustration how few truly vital things changed at all... that the entire country will be depicted in what you see through the magnifying glass.

It is only a side-story that the mountain rescue team of my former home county is also on the border of tragicomic when it comes to how they set themselves up and how they operate... so if you suffer an accident, pray...

This latter bunch of 'experts' even had training of their mates (as selection criteria for employment in the team was, well, not based on any interviews nor test results...) in a mountain cabin, sitting around a table, watching training videos because... yes... it was raining outside. Poor things.

So as the unfortunate recent victim said, who is now trying to recover over many months and is half paralysed, one should do oneself a favour and in those mountains die properly and quickly... because if one has an accident, then these morons will never find one in time... Unfortunate to him, his statement proved to be perfectly and accurately prophetic.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Priorities

Sometimes one wonders whether the mini- and mega-oligarchs in current Romanian political and administrative elite could be any more consistent in their ludicrous patterns of spending public money.

It is well known that my favourite mayor, obviously the mayor of my town of birth, Dorin Florea has scattered countless millions of euros of public money in the wind, a wind that always blows favourably around his entire entourage (which many just refer to simply as the local Mafia).

Apart from the many scandals, some lawsuits and the like, he reputedly said no to a plan of updating the town's absolutely diabolical water purification plant. After all, elections were coming and such an upgrade would not have been very visible. It was much more visible completely re-doing the pedestrian walkways of the town, replacing them with stonework which was contracted to one of his friend's company.

But now we have the considerably larger mini-dictator of a considerably larger city, the capital city of Bucharest, who has exhibited symptoms of the very same affliction, namely the obsessive-compulsive scattering of public money down a golden toilet, while high-priority and very vital projects are on hold.

This other megalomaniac (the ghost of Ceausescu must have popped in for a few brainstorm sessions there, too) has just spent close to 1 million euros of public money (also directly giving the money to one of his fellow Mafioso's company) on covering the many clocks of the city's parks in gold.

Yes, this is a high-priority project to be funded by the public. The same public of course in his mind doesn't really care about crime rates, public safety, heck, the clean-up of the mountains of garbage from every street of Bucharest.

When I last visited, in very central areas of the capital city, incredibly primitive people were throwing the garbage out on the window, from various floors of 10-storey block flats, the result being incredible and the result included also rats swarming between these buildings...

This medieval animalic misery right in the middle of the capital is of no concern... but the gold plating of clocks in the parks (which are also falling into tragic disrepair) is of key importance.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Security

It's been commented to death that UK has turned into a perfect Orwellian surveillance society. OK, the former Home Secretary, if she hadn't left due to scandals, would have tried to perfect it further... there is no such thing in the current British Government's viewpoint as a 'perfect enough' anti-terrorism legislation leading to a perfect enough police state...

Still, the statistics published recently confirm what any sane (or insanely conspiracy theorist) mind predicted...

Councils, police and the intelligence services asked more than 500,000 times to approve access to private email and phone data. This amounted to about 1500 requests per day to spy on people...

The figures were published in the annual report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner, Sir Paul Kennedy.

All these requests were made possible by a wonderful legislation which was meant to serve the anti-terror strategy of the Home Office... turning it into an instrument of terror, ironically.

Another aspect, also commented to death, was the abuse on amateur and, well, any photographer, all done by police and self-appointed vigilant citizens in the name of a similarly crazy anti-terror law.

Now there is a new website set up to gather information about such incidents, provide a map of these and well, also offers of course a photo gallery.

One recent development is that the Metropolitan Police has issued updated guidelines which have been communicated to its officers (and community support officers) in which it states the Force "Encourage officers to be vigilant against terrorism but recognise the balance between effective policing and protecting Londoners and respecting the rights of the media and general public to take photographs".

Well, let's see. So far there are no measurable effects of the new guidelines, but time will tell.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Learning

There is much renewed hope that current British Government ministers may learn from and evolve to the level of nonchalance and arrogance of the political circles in certain parts of the Balkans...

Currently Lord Mandelson is running the country from Corfu, via a Blackberry, while enjoying the lifestyle of a Russian oligarch he also visited there last year... All this farce simply because the Labour Party could not synchronise the PM's holiday with his deputy's holiday, who also left recently... so had to revert to the remote Mr. Corruption. As a reminder to short term memory loss cases, Mr. Mandelson, OK, Lord Mandelson has been thrown out of the Government so far 3 times, every time due to corruption and fraud... and made a comeback every time.

Gordon Brown, while there are British servicemen dying in Afghanistan, is 'keeping an eye on things' from his holiday in Scotland, where he also offered to do 'voluntary work'. The next step this desperate and hopeless Cabinet will do will be taking a page out of Ceausescu's manual and go around entertaining children who bring lots of flowers to the much loved Leader... What's next?

Then there was Tony Blair, enjoying long friendly visits to good old Silvio Berlusconi and receiving cheques...

It does seem that the role models of this party are the Eastern and occasionally Western European Mafiosi and oligarchs (not much difference really), and they are indeed progressing. The stunts pulled by the Labour Government only in recent two years shows that the learning process is going well.

We simply have to organise visits to Romania, they have so much more to learn - but they are on the right track.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Home affairs

Certain affairs of my home town, well it's mayor and those of his entourage, are worthy of a Romanian version of Saviano's Gomorra.

Certainly every single thing described in Gomorra can be matched perfectly to what Dorin Florea and his local Mafia, with astonishing connections with the similarly corrupt Parliament circles, carries out.

The few small facts and small-scale frauds are just tragicomic. He lost his temper in many interviews, when asked about his and his gang's foreign trips, all paid by public money. The latest amusement is provided by the exorbitant sums claimed as travel expenses during a 'seminar' in Turkey, where it turned out that all those things were actually provided free of charge by the organisers there.

On a slightly larger scale, the astronomical fraud (on a local scale) of the so-called playground mentioned in an earlier blog entry (1 million euros for a tiny playground, which cost few percent of the claimed sum) is still kind-of amusing.

Then there are more interesting aspects, too of Mr. Florea's Mafia. Several taxi drivers reported that they are afraid to stop near any bus stops and pick up people who, in 30+ degrees temperatures had enough of waiting for a bus... The reason for the fear is that the police, also in Mr. Florea's pocket, has been monitoring taxis doing this and... to protect the income of the public transport company, also in Mr. Florea's pocket, they issued hefty fines to taxi drivers... on made-up charges, as there is no law against what they did.

Left, right and centre there have been vast amounts of trees cut, in the name of new parking spaces... as in the case of one residential area, there were no permissions issued, no paperwork whatsoever... except that the company paid to cut the trees had a piece of paper which was not signed nor stamped by the Mayor's office... but they got the contract due to the connections with that office. Any media investigation and Green Party actions have been totally futile.

To get a feeling of just what Berlusconi-esque Mafia (combined with the remarkable, grotty primitivism of the Camorra) is at play in this Romanian city, oh-so representative of what goes on in every local government, the local Romanian daily newspaper simply refuses to publish anything whatsoever that is in any way against the Mayor and his office, sorry, Mafia.

So those criticising the Parliament and the current (again will be short-lived) Romanian Government for the stratospheric heights of corruption have not yet understood that everything, at every level in Romania, has a remarkable consistency when it comes to textbook fraud, organised corruption, diverting of public and EU money and plain illegalities that they don't even mind if those hit the pages of the media.

There is a Berlusconi-esque Teflon coating on this little, medium and large scale Mafiosi... even if their deeds hit the pages of the press, unless the EU pressurises the national anti-corruption agency to take action, they brush it off and carry on.

Oh those puny British MPs who had to be disgraced and resigned just because some puny expense claims hit the pages of the Daily Telegraph... go, go, and take up political career in Romania... although when it comes to the art of fraud, you'll have to learn a lot there.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Uniforms

It is interesting how among various echoes of the past, the love of various uniforms is so ubiquitous in formerly dictator-ruled countries.

Romania is no exception, the former dreaded 'Militia' was replaced with the police, but then there is the civilian guard, gendarmes and countless other similar bodies that have their people roam the streets in various uniforms. Oh they love uniforms.

It is interesting then, how this love for authority figures also reveals itself in finances. A report of the World Bank shows that Romania's target of 6.5% of employees working in the public sector has been achieved in 2008.

So far so good. But what the figures also show is that 37% of the state budget spent on these employees goes to... uniforms. Secret police, police, civilian guard, gendarmes, you name it, long list of uniforms... The other part of the budget then goes to all of the other public sector employees, from doctors to teachers, spread very very thinly.

Combining this with the information on salaries and the huge pensions these people get from the Government, it is evident that Romania hasn't cured its love for uniforms... and their deeper meanings.

It is also interesting, that when the Government gives signs of cutting public sector employment, they show plans of cutting teachers, who have a barely 4% portion of the budget spent on the public sector. There is no talk about cutting the multiple, bloated, obese (literally and metaphorically) uniformed masses of people.

It could be worse. We could have military-looking people presenting the weather forecast, as in a certain EU country in the Mediterranean...

Monday, 27 July 2009

Reality switch

After three weeks in Romania, in some ways good to be back from the 35+ degrees heat to the typical English grey rainy mess. Also, it is again a heck of a reality switch for me... from old to new home.

On a small scale, it is still a breathtakingly corrupt country.

The Mayor of my town of birth has built a children's playground for 1 million euros... if you'd see it, you'd estimate its cost to about 5% of this sum, even in your most generous moments. Where 95% of the public funds went, nobody knows... but this is similar to what at least led to the resignation and criminal investigation of the Youth & Sports Secretary in Romania, who spent obscene amounts of euros on some rock concerts... and it turned out only less than 10% of the money was actually needed & used... Within days of her successor having been appointed, the new person also hit the news with her tax evasion scandals and 'omissions' of not declaring properties she owns in Switzerland...

So at Government level, too the corruption is simply astonishing, despite any national anti-corruption agency that only catches the smaller fish. The typically Balkan Mafia also has attitude... after all, the mentioned Mayor actually sued a city council member because latter said that he has (and he does have) evidence that the mentioned playground was built by a mate of the Mayor, without any public bidding and contracts were handed out 'under the desk'.

The nostalgia about the Ceausescu regime is still quite amazing... once again, had several taxi drivers wax lyrical about how great it was during the dictator, how traffic was much better and parking was easier... It is simply breathtaking that such things can outweigh in the people's memory the atrocities of the regime... but vox populi was and is always based on short-term memory.

What about ethnic minority rights? Well, nothing changed. Things prescribed in the Constitution are barely respected and when bi-lingual street signs go up somewhere, it is a sensational thing.

Steaua, a Romanian football team had a match with Ujpest, a Hungarian team - the match held in Bucharest led to major incidents between supporters, the Romanian media with very very few exceptions only presented the issues caused by Hungarian supporters.

The small fact that the Romanian supporters displayed in Hungarian a racist and chauvinist banner with such text that no media dared to even repeat it, was kept quiet. It only came to light when UEFA handed out to Steaua the largest fine it ever handed out to any Romanian club. The scandal was then big enough to have the Romanian paper Adevarul finally publish an apology in Hungarian (!) about the behaviour of the Romanian extremists.

Not that the Hungarian supporters were angels after their fuse was lit, but it is remarkable how the oh-so-familiar manipulation tactics employing partial truths and magic video editing (very familiar from the days of the ethnic pogrom in 1990, organised by Romanian fascists) is still very much alive and well.

So yes, not much changed in that country. Old patterns just got stronger and perfected on many levels. The fact that THE largest University called Spiru Haret was discredited by the Minister for Education and the diplomas nullified was just tragicomic... this University was founded by one of the Governmental Mafia clans and was the largest money printing business, handing out immense number of diplomas for money. 350 000 thousand students it had around the world, and wasn't even accredited in recent times.. but it lied about it on its website, and the money kept pouring into the pockets of the senators and MPs that were involved in this.

Many innocent students got hit by this, but eventually, as a calculated pre-Presidential election stunt, the Minister reversed the decision... already handed out diplomas will stay valid, but the fate of the so-called University is still in doubt.

In the meantime, the motorway being built in Transylvania is still not progressing, all EU funds are going into Mafia pockets, and it now turns out that 'accidentally' the route was designed to go right across an oil extraction facility - moving it or the motorway would cost up to 50 million euros...

So Romania does make one laugh, cry, but above all, made at least me as angry as I ever was during any of my visits to my homeland... I simply can not imagine to what heights will this corruption go, as it already operates at levels that no everyday mind can imagine.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Frankenstein's Michael

Although one tries to concentrate on the main topics that this blog is, well, mainly about, it is impossible to ignore the media frenzy around the death of the King of Pop... and it is strangely as relevant for my new and former home's societies, as his life was relevant world-wide.

First thing that strikes one is that his life is truly a post-modern story. He was a chameleon, yes, but as someone put it: he was constructed from many disjointed parts. Now people have to choose which part, or actually, which Michael Jackson to remember. There were too many - and each incarnation has been a combination of strange, sometimes loveable, often tragic, often tragicomically misguided and, perhaps his greatest tragedy, way too innocent child-like elements.

He truly was a creation of Frankenstein - but the misguided doctor in this case happens to be actually the environment around the star, showbiz, media and the public's insatiable hunger for sordid details of his life.

Perhaps his sometimes freakish childish innocence clashing with the immense pressure of the showbiz engine exacerbated everything - surely, we never had such a tragic case of a mega-star who was so devoured by, importantly, not just the media pressure itself but his own efforts to deal with it.

He was truly unique, whether one appreciates his music and/or his showmanship or not - and so was his quite tragic downward spiralling life which was, again, a truly unique and direct product of the showbiz machine. We had way too many troubled artists over the decades, but just looking at the series of physical and mental transformations this man has gone through shows one that we truly have an unfortunate and very special case in Michael Jackson.

Second thing that strikes one is the hypocrisy of the media which now uses every bit, byte, terabyte and every wavelength and every square millimeter of paper to give touching tribute to the often bizarre, consistently touched by genius unique mega-star.

The very same media that used every opportunity to speculate and use same bits, bytes, wavelengths and square millimeters to discuss Michael Jackson's bizarre transformations and, for the last 10-15 years, truly bizarre behaviour, is now talking about the same person with immense reverence.

The extremely obvious law governing the media here and in my former home (as indeed, they have evolved rapidly and aligned themselves to the best and worst levels of world media hypocrisy) is that they will say, write, show anything that sells whatever medium they use.

At this point in time, for a short while, as in the case of Diana, the Kennedys, Priestley, Monroe (yes we and/or our parents have seen all this before, many times), the best thing that sells is reverence, with cautious and occasional references to Jackson's darker side.

This phase will be followed by the newer and newer revelations about his private life and once all the biographies and back-catalogues are sold out, there will be new books and new documentaries dragging him through the densest mud the media can produce. This, too has been seen too many times.

But also, one hopes, invariably and certainly, once all these media phases expire, there will be his memory as a musician and showman and, not least, dancer - his memory as an artist, troubled as he may have been.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Racial statistics... and anti-terror law

From the viewpoint of someone that has a visceral reaction to any totalitarianism, whether honest in-your-face or covert by twisting democratic (?) legislation, the issue of the British anti-terror legislation has been covered in ample manner on this blog. Its lessons are valid for any country and any regime...

But it seems there is no amount of 'paranoid' speculation that would be sufficient to beat the plain facts of current British reality...

The Government's anti-terror watchdog has now revealed that "thousands of people are being stopped and searched by the police under counter-terrorism powers simply to provide a racial balance in official statistics."

There is virtually zero evidence that Section 44 which gives the police stop-and-search powers has any helpful effect as a counter-terrorism measure.

Lord Carlile has pointed out that none of the many thousands of searches had ever led to a conviction for a terrorist offence - also, the damage done to community relations was "undoubtedly considerable".

Also, it has been pointed out that the new legislation which allows police to challenge (and, as countless cases show, frankly and simply abuse) amateur photographers has been widely abused, exposing the police officers themselves to criminal prosecution.

This, I am sorry, is a police state, whatever anyone says - and in order to say the opposite, one has to be completely and utterly blind.

Monday, 15 June 2009

The paranoia race

In the race for reaching the state of complete and utter paranoia of truly Orwellian and, in some cases, truly Dickian heights, the UK and China have been head-to-head for a long time.

In China, the various surveillance measures (electronic and otherwise), control of the internet with the great help of great companies that herald their ethical and moral stature (just think of Cisco, which was, while advertising how it connects people, at the forefront of routers that allowed totalitarian regimes to intrude in and control the internet traffic depending on 'banned' keywords...) is all done in the name of a certain status quo, a certain regime opposing true democratising.

In UK, the citadel of democracy, well, it was all done in the name of anti-terror legislation and 'public safety'.

Thing is... the UK has finally won the race. Not yet at the level of electronic surveillance (unless the successors of the recently resigned criminally incompetent and unprecedentedly evil Home Secretary continue her epic thrusts in that direction), but at the level of general paranoia - and amongst its manifestations, the abuse of power stemming from paranoia when it comes to amateur or (semi-)pro photography.

A photographer who worked extensively in both UK and China has recently reported his experiences during and after the Beijing Olympics, and one, after having seen the scary mass of stories on British authorities and Joe Public abusing photographers, is stumped reading his accounts.

In China, he could work for months unchallenged, even in highly sensitive areas - and could also do photography with tripods on , around and in official buildings without anybody stopping him, confiscating his equipment, arresting him etc.

Things he managed to do consistently in China as a photographer were absolutely unimaginable in today's Britain. The situation in the UK is simply out of control and despite petitions to Downing Street, endless fights via human rights organisations, the 'anti-terror strategy' with its campaigns has not only managed to make police regularly abuse their power, but also Joe Public with just one braincell (but highly evolved paranoia) is free to radically challenge and abuse even the amateur photographers.

The normality, which was experienced by him ironically in China of all places, is gone, if not forever, for the next generations in the democratic and oh-so-free and oh-so-Great Britain.

Well done, David Blunkett, Charles Clark, and especially the magnificently Fahrenheit 451-inspired (?) Jacqui Smith... you have been excellent Home Secretaries that any communist or other dictator would have loved to employ you... and you have left behind you a society so infused with the paranoia you cultivated that a person can actually discover how much freer he felt doing his job in China than in Britain.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Fascism and protest votes

The recent chaos around the British MPs, Government and the Labour party have led to interesting, well, deplorable developments and side-effects... far from the hilarious effects of the recent months of scandals.

The voting public vented anger in protest votes... both at the local and the European elections. This was predictable, so was the fact that with many staying away from the urns and others voting for just about anybody except the Labour party (or even the main parties) - after all, even the archbishop of Canterbury has made an official statement calling for people to go to votes and not let the fascists get seats in the European Parliament.

Of course one is talking about the BNP, its leader having been treated today to raw eggs in a serving that Gordon Ramsay would have deemed less than appetising. People chanted 'fascists get off our streets', while throwing eggs. Probably British eggs, locally made and sourced, not some foreign stuff BNP would soooo much more hate.

But it doesn't change the facts that while the BNP got less votes than five years ago, proportionally they've done very well due to the 'protest voting'.

It is a lesson in democracy.

Take a country that is a historical 'citadel' of democracy (minus what was done in the name of the anti-terror strategy that turned it into as despicable of a police state as any totalitarian regime did elsewhere).

Then screw up its political scene so much, even by such ludicrous frauds as those committed in expense claims. Get the people to hate the party at power and also the other two main parties.

Then sit and watch what happens.

The result is that while angry voters feel that democracy failed, that they lost any control over the country's politicians who they have elected in the past, we truly lose control as a result of the direct actions of those who feel they have one single weapon left: abstaining from voting or voting at random for minor parties.

And then, for the first time in British politics curing the existence of the European Parliament, we get extreme right, OK let's call it what it is, fascist party to end up in the European Parliament with two proud seats.

A dark day, no matter how many eggs were thrown at BNP's leader.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Post-modern D-Day

Recently, amongst all the political turmoil caused by or just exploded around the British Prime-Minster and MPs, there was this other conflagration of an international mini-scandal.

The fact that Sarkozy hasn't invited the Queen to the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, well, in itself is funny, bizarre, scandalous, take your pick. The Royal family's reaction and the media was again, well, funny, predictable, take your pick.

But there is a greater, quite philosophical significance around this farce.

Sarkozy said that the reason for knowingly not inviting the Queen was that, well, this was a Franco-American affair. And this truly funny comment lands us in a juicy debate around the Wikipedia history of the world, around the post-modern situation that as long as something is, as a convention or belief, accepted by sufficiently large numbers of people, it becomes fact.

The Hollywood image of history, built over so many decades of cinematic excrement, took weeks of international diplomacy to sort out a bit... but it doesn't mean it changed the understanding and perception of people on the street. Hopefully illuminated Sarkozy to a few facts...

Facts like... the Brits gathered most of the intelligence, from maps to detailed photos of even German radar stations. The Brits came up with all, OK, let's not exaggerate, about 90% of the entire plan for the D-Day landing. The Royal Air Force provided the main muscle in terms of air cover and the list goes on and on. And of course, half of the forces that stepped onto the shores of Normandy were British and Canadian...

But then cue Hollywood. Eminent history professors like dr. Mel Gibson and the like... OK, he hasn't truly screwed with WWII, but has done so with other bits of history. But there are vast numbers of Hollywood 'history lessons' that made vast parts of the 20th century an 'American affair'. Of something with a hyphen and still predominantly American.

Quite remarkable that media and pop culture distortions of (in time) not so distant facts can gradually, sneakily, become the new history.

What shows it more eloquently than Sarkozy's remark... apart from showing utter ignorance and silly chauvinism (well, what chauvinism is worthy of serious analysis), it shows how the countless celluloid 'outputs' and Americanisation of our global culture has led to a truly nice lesson in post-modern philosophy.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The cost of expenses

The expense claims scandal that engulfed the British Parliament continues... but as it provides further tragicomic episodes, it is difficult not to see the cost of this scandal - and some of the costs are huge compared to the temporary humiliations and the destruction of public trust.

First of all, it is expected that the fascist British National Party (yes, they do send chills down one's spine) will gain vastly by the turmoil. It is capitalising on the public anger so much that even the Archbishop of Canterbury had to make a political stance and explicitly beg people not to vote in anger for the BNP. When trust and faith (or remains of them) in any major political party has taken a huge beating, then BNP's loud anti-Europe and anti-establishment messages attract a large number of voters - their scary fascist manifestos and agenda are secondary in many people's much narrowed field of view.

Then, more softly, there is that issue of... moral relativity. What is the true cost to society when the disgraced MPs, whose expense claim records hit the press, dare to treat the public to such manifestations as these handpicked ones below:
  • "The system is bad" - ah yes. Countless criminals, and even mass murderers, used this excuse throughout history. Sorry, but the problem is with individuals... who perverted the system to an extent worthy of Easter European parliamentary Mafiosi.
  • "It was a mistake", "It was an accounting error" etc. - these, and endless variations of these, make it sound as if anybody could defraud the country in any way and then go 'oops', without any repercussions whatsoever. I wonder what would happen if any humble mortal used the same line after let's say trying on a nice tax evasion trick...
  • "I will pay it back" - as some were made to, and other offered to. So if basically, you catch a shoplifter and he/she hands back the valuable item, it's all OK - again, no repercussions.
  • "The claims were approved and signed for" - right, so again, it's the system and someone else... not the individual.
  • "I am a hard working person, very busy, with kids" etc. - wonderful, great, brilliant... and it explains and absolves everything and everybody... just how exactly?
  • "People are just jealous of my big house" - this is perhaps the most amazing reaction from an MP. Right. So his scandalous fraud is somehow forgotten, what matters is the envious, pardon, jealous, public's reaction.
The list could go on. But... with such utter moral relativity (as any humble mortal trying on any of the frauds committed by hundreds of MPs and using such excuses would find him/herself kicked through the justice system after the first few laughs from the Fraud Squad), they truly set an example to kids and adults alike. A terrible example... of a world where laws and regulations don't matter at all.

It truly, really adds a very Balkanic dimension to all this... just that back there all this is normal and doesn't produce scandals... but in British politics, the damages done by this mess will reverberate for generations. In short-term, perhaps vast number of extra council and Parliament seats will be gained by the extreme right-wing, absolutely fascist party or parties of this political landscape of carnage.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

300 years... or 20 years

In my former home's Parliament, nobody really gets pushed to the point of deep embarrassment and has to resign and/or criminal investigations are launched against him or her, unless he/she is such a petty criminal that diplomatic immunity is taken away and even the EU steps in... as it happened recently.

In 20 years since the Revolution, Romanian politicians and MPs have evolved, one can say, beyond any physical realm and they are truly untouchable... unless again, they commit such petty crimes that, compared to stratospheric corruption and Mafia activities which are the norm, lead to them falling from those heights.

In Britain, it took 300 years to have the Speaker of the House of Commons forced out of the Parliament. With a speed that hopefully overtakes the speed of thought while some think I am making some parallel between the unfortunate gentleman's departure and the Romanian Mafia/Parliament (at home, truly there isn't really a distinction between the two, trust me and the facts...), I have to quickly emphasise: there is no parallel between the two Parliaments and the two countries.

The expense claim scandal that engulfed the entire British Parliament and the Speaker, who unfortunately focused on how the information was leaked rather than apologised and at least seem regretful, bares a number of key dissimilarities with Romanian realities:

  • In Britain, the publication of the frauds (as some are just comic, but majority are scandalous frauds committed by Ministers and MPs who very well knew and exploited the system that now suddenly all call ' a bad system' and their frauds 'regretful mistakes... purely because they hit the press... otherwise it would have carried on for hundreds of years...), well, has negative feedback loop. It leads to investigations, scandals, resignations, apologies (mostly empty gestures as no legal action is taken against chemically pure fraud that would drag any normal human being through courts immediately...). In Romania, anything published in the papers leads to a Goodfellas-style 'well, what you gonna do?' gesture from most... as billions stolen or diverted, extorted, cheated etc. are just the expected norm.
  • The Speaker has found himself the regrettable target of most of the anger - regrettable not because he is innocent, but because he's being made into a scapegoat. The problem is not him, but with anger focusing at him, attention is diverted from the outrageous and wilful frauds committed by most of the MPs, who, despite all this scandal, will never face legal proceedings brought against them. In Romania, the former leader of the House of Commons, in quite different manner, had to be pushed in front of legal action by even EU stepping in and diplomatic immunity had to be taken away, otherwise he would have been closing a deaf ear to all the media outrage... he would have stayed totally immune to 'public anger'. Politicians in Romanian are simply not that connected with the public to feel any level of anger, unless hundreds of thousands march on the streets and manage to smash up the building they are in... But then again, as Machiavelli very well put it, any ruler who thinks that he can control the fire on the streets he ignites is simply deluded... so even politicians in Romania are careful to repeat the events that took place in 1990...
  • The disgraced MPs apologise, are forced to pay back the defrauded sums, and ah yes, they do try to call all of the scandalous expenses 'mistakes', 'errors', 'bad accounting' etc. Of course, the single, one and only, unique reason why any of this is happening is that their actions have become public knowledge. Otherwise none of the regrets and apologies would be happening, nor the heated debates over the 'so corrupt bad baaaaad system' which was a perfectly good and maximally exploited system until... yes, it hit the press. In Romania, well, I am still waiting after 20 years for any MP to apologies for anything whatsoever... and their crimes are unimaginable in comparison.
One thing that has changed, though for both worlds... that Eastern absurd genetic hybrid between capitalism and old Balkan 'values' and this citadel of so-called democracy... The one thing that is common is that both now exist in the 21st century. Things - emails, CD-Roms, whatnot- get leaked to the press. There are long lenses and directional microphones... there are instantaneous bank transfers for a juicy CD filled with data that made the Daily Telegraph's sales skyrocket when published...

Things, in both countries, do hit the light of day and the optic nerves of Joe Public. What happens after that, though characterises both countries... and with the above differences highlighted, in many ways, no matter how amazing the current scandal is, I am somehow very grateful to have the opportunity to live in this, and not that, country and see these, and not those, things happen with its politicians.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Unacceptable...

I wrote extensively here about the various (well, infinite) shades and flavours of Romanian, and in general, Eastern European post-communist corruption.

Time to write a bit about the quite grandiose scandal that erupted around the British Parliament recently. In order not to duplicate the terabytes so far published in the media about this over the last few days of public anger, some things that should be said in addition... so let's see...

In a nutshell, the MPs expense claims have hit the press - and there were amazing, scandalous, outrageous and also downright breathtaking lists of perversions of the system, MPs from the main parties claiming amazing amounts of money for amazing things...

But now some party leaders have taken action and are loudly talking about the following:

1. The system - "the system is wrong"... Well, sorry, but numerous criminals or just plain dishonest people (or downright monsters) throughout history used this excuse. The 'system' i.e. the rule book very clearly states what an MP should claim for... so people for years going around this and violating the rules in every possible manner for personal gain, on taxpayers' money, is not the system's fault... it is the moral failure of individuals.

2. "Unacceptable" claims... Sorry, but the only thing that made these claims unacceptable was that they hit the press... Otherwise everybody would have carried on, as they did before, with the outrageous expense claims... Suddenly now all the moral champions trying to score electoral points (especially Mr. Cameron, who is a perfect in-the-flesh version of Yancy in Philip K. Dick's Mold of Yancy) are talking about unacceptable actions of MPs...

3. Taking action against these unacceptable claims, being forced to pay the sums back... OK, but again, none of this would be happening unless someone leaked the information to the press... So sorry, but someone now being a loud 'hero' does not actually score any actual moral bonus points: all he/she is doing is damage control in face of utter public shaming and... scoring bonus points for the next election.

It is remarkable how short is the short term memory of the people... vox populi always was and is based on that short term memory... Add to that the fact, that most people can not grasp the causality chain at work here, and suddenly you elevate a David Cameron to the level of a 'hero' who is now cracking the whip about 'unacceptable' expense claims... Oh, please...

Monday, 11 May 2009

Show me the money...

In 1990, just after Ceausescu was removed from power (and shot...), certain bits of information claimed that his bank accounts in various banks abroad amounted to about 400 million dollars.

The PM, Petre Roman, in 1990 kick-started an investigation into the dictator's bank accounts, Swiss and Canadian experts signalled that they found a trail of money - and their contract was suddenly terminated.

The matter of the Ceausescu accounts is back in the spotlight, due to the 'relaxation' of certain banking laws in Switzerland (as a result of the credit crunch fallout).

Interestingly, the Canadian expert has now declared that there are significant amounts of Ceausescu's money in Swiss bank accounts and those could be recuperated... but the Swiss expert who took part in the 1990 investigation denies this... also claims, that the Canadians made all sorts of dangerous claims back then and now.

Funny enough, the very same Swiss lawyer in 1990 declared that the leader of the Communist Party, Dan Voiculescu (who was connected to the huge funds hidden in those accounts) could even be arrested.

But now, 19 years later, Petre Roman says he doesn't even remember the investigation ordered by him... clearly, it was a small matter and easily forgotten :-)

Also, since 1990, various Romanian parliamentary committees have reached the conclusion that the Ceausescu accounts never existed.

Last year, a 'final report' done by a committee chaired by a subaltern of Dan Voiculescu (of course impartially...) declared that there is zero evidence of any Ceausescu money in any foreign accounts.

Amnesia, when it comes to certain aspects of the dictatorship, is epidemic in Romania, it seems...

The irony is... 400 million or even 4 billion dollars are peanuts compared to the amounts stolen, embezzled, diverted etc. by the various Romanian Mafia of the last 19 years... all of them sitting comfortably in the Parliament.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Ups and downs

The European Court of Human Rights last year judged the British DNA databases illegal - they held innocent people's DNA data for the last 12 years. Now finally, after much subterfuge and magician tricks pulled by the Home Office and its head Stalinist, Jacqui Smith, UK finally starts to act on this ruling.

DNA profiles of innocent people are to be deleted from the national database, but innocent people accused of serious violent and sexual offences who are released without charge will still have their genetic profile stored for 12 years under the Home Office plans.

Kids convicted of only one minor offence will be deleted from the database when they turn 18... so this means that totally innocent people - very much including children - will have their most intimate details stockpiled for years on a database.

So some progress, but it sounds like, as some put it, UK has to be taken to court once again... until this mess is resolved in a manner that aligns the UK to the rest of the civilised world.

To compensate for this partial good news, the much debated ID cards (yes, biometric data will be held on databases...) will have a go-ahead via retailers (yes, not kidding, high street shops!) taking part in collecting the data from shoppers.

They were deemed suitable for this and also security concerns over the data were said to be invalid. Scottish National Party's Home Affairs spokesperson, Pete Wishart MP, said: "It says everything about Labour's priorities that, when they are slashing essential frontline investment, they are throwing away billions on an unwanted, expensive and unnecessary ID card scheme."

Also, it hides the fact that the program needs an extra quarter of billion pounds...

So, now as another spin on the 'terror strategy', high-street shops will be potentially authorised to take your biometric data, send them to Home Office databases and then have the ID cards issued to you. Clearly, an improvement in Jacqui Smith's (very very limited but worthy of a dictator's) mind.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Greed for information - Addendum

As an addition to a recent blog posting, there are some new developments around the Phorm technology (which monitored personal data and during the pilot experiment forgot to mention users about this...).

There was a theory that surely, if the British Home Office got something so simple so wrong (i.e. does it or doesn't it violate European laws...) then it must have had a reason to give such blatantly false information (and approval).

Well, it is remarkable, as said before, that reality in the case of the current truly Stalinist British Government (when it comes to so-called 'safer society') beats any conspiracy theory and/or paranoid delusion.

It turns out, that emails between the Home Office and Phorm show the department asking if the firm would be "comforted" by its position.

The messages show Phorm making changes to the guidance sought by the ministry. The emails say (in, as some called, jaw dropping manner) thing like: "If we agree this, and this becomes our position do you think your clients and their prospective partners will be comforted".

In an email dated August 2007, an unnamed Home Office official wrote to Phorm's legal representative and said: "My personal view accords with yours, that even if it is "interception", which I am doubtful of, it is lawfully authorised under section 3 by virtue of the user's consent obtained in signing up to the ISPs terms and conditions."

In an e-mail dated 22 January 2008, a Home Office official wrote again to Phorm and said: "I should be grateful if you would review the attached document, and let me know what you think."

So the Government guidance was quite... interesting. And one wonders, and this is then a rhetorical question: why would the British Home Office give such incredible treatment to this matter...

Well, obviously, they had their eyes on the technology- so that, while introducing truly unprecedented electronic surveillance, can expand that technology and eventually, one can be sure of this, find other 'applications' to Phorm...

Jim Killock, executive director of privacy campaigners, the Open Rights Group, said: "The Home Office's job is to uphold the law: not to reinterpret it for commercial interests.

"It's extraordinary, when you think of the blatant disregard Phorm showed towards UK laws in its secret trials, that this sort of lax attitude should be shown."
It is a very black day again for basic human rights and this scandal around the anyway truly unbelievable Home Office measures, misinformation and misleading of the public has hit new heights.

It is a democratic country, remember? We vote for these people... and once in office, we lose completely any control over them... and under the new Holy Grail of master manipulators, the anti-terror strategy (oh sorry, it's called 'terror strategy' actually- well, it literally is) anything is possible.

I lost count so far on how many levels and points has the Home Office violated the Constituion, European law and basic human rights.

And these people actually comment on China's human rights issues?...

Thursday, 23 April 2009

High spirits

Ah, no, it's not some attack of good mood in much corruption and financial crisis-impacted Romania.

It is literally about high amounts of alcohol used as bribe... Well, one can say that there is pride to be taken in having so characteristic and special ways of using tools of corruption.

It came to light, after many files of the national anti-corruption agency's investigations hit the pages of the printed and electronic media, that apart from usual amounts of money having changed hands, alcohol in various forms and quantities has also been used as bribe.

In the premier league of football, bottles of vintage wine were used to bribe referees. Possibly, to also enhance their visual acuity and reaction times... At least the officials who gave the bribes were caught and sentenced.

In the justice system, judges and prosecutors have been caught accepting wine and whisky as bribe... again, much improvement was probably made to their accurate legal thinking and to their much needed associative memory... Others gave bribe in money, wine and whisky to get into various positions in the justice departments.

The ex-minister for agriculture has also been involved in similar bribe taking, accepting 15 000 euros, 100 liters of brandy (well, that will last some time) and was supposed to also receive an Audi Q7 (but hopefully not driving it while consuming the hectoliter of brandy)... Gulp. Giggle.

So yes, in many ways even bribes have a special twist (or fruity body...) to them 'over there'...

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Paranoia in extremis

Interestingly, just when things really heat up around the economic situation (coupled with new heights of political scandals) in Romania, the country starts to suffer of a classic case of projectile paranoia. At least its media and political figures do...

My term projectile paranoia is made-up based on Ray Bradbury's classic thought about how a society, when can't find any good reasons to explain and defuse its own problems, will start projecting them outwards (pointing at other countries and external forces) or will find enemies within.

Well, at the moment the Romanian media is discussing how the country is surrounded by hostile neighbours... Well, on one level, it is quite true that being neighbour with a country like Romania (which oscillates between subtle subversive attacks and downright fits of fascism) is difficult.

The list is quite interesting, but not quite in the manner that media tries to depict it. Yes, Romania had its fair share of tensions with the Ukraine...

With Hungary, as usual, the matter of Hungarian minority issues and excesses of the extreme right on both sides have made relationships difficult - and in the last few months, tragicomic and childish acts around the much debated autonomy of a region in Transylvania have heated things up so dangerously that it got close to tensions that preceded the pogroms of 1990.

With Serbia, it has minority problems but in reverse... tensions are there because of the situation of Romanian minority in Serbia.

With Bulgaria, it had a number of 'incidents' and issues with the border, namely on both sides of the Danube.

And then, perhaps most ironically, recently its relationship with Moldova has taken a beating... while demonstrators were taking a real beating on the streets of Chisinau in Moldova... Romanian media and the political luminaries have been foaming about the rights over that territory, proclaiming injustices and even calling Moldova ancient Romanian territory.

Well, it is just fundamentally funny and ironic, how the country so riddled with layers and circles of the extreme right and downright fascist circles in government can taste its own medicine...

Anyway, somehow, while several very high profile politicians had their immunity removed, some jailed, others under criminal investigation (because in a country of out-of-control Mafiosi some are so bad that even the Mafiosi need to get them thrown in jail), economic situation with unprecedented problems etc. etc. ... somehow everything can be put down to the fact that, well, poor country is surrounded by such unfriendly neighbours... and the country is a sorry victim of dark forces...

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The greed for information

While several times Britain has been singled out when it came to surveillance tactics, so-called anti-terror 'strategy' that is taking pages out of the totalitarian states' secret police cookbooks, its databases called illegal... nothing ever happened internally or externally to actually DO something about these issues.

Not sure the new scandal will do much, but finally, Britain is actually targeted by the EC and latter started legal action.

A new advertising technology called Phorm was a while ago tested on BT internet users - it is a behavioural advertising service. The trick is, it gathered information about the users without their consent. Furthermore, Britain has actually said that it is perfectly fine under European data laws... well, it wasn't.

Last year, Phorm received clearance from the Home Office and police closed a file on BT trials of the technology which looked into their legality. The UK government said last year the technology could only be rolled out if users had given their consent and it was easy for people to opt out.

It is the same government that ignored international laws and its databases with personal data have been labelled illegal by international judicial committee...

Also, the EC remarked quite nicely, that it is very "concerned that the UK does not have an independent national supervisory authority to deal with the intentional interceptions of user data.". Well, surprise, surprise...

Anything and everything was, is and will be committed under the so-called terror strategy (which, by now, has really become a terrorising strategy, if we just count the fundamental human rights violations it brought)... It is a strange coincidence, that exactly the country which (apart from US and China) has beaten all records on (il)legal surveillance, allows an 'advertising technology' to spiral out of control.

Surely, they can read and could have checked (if they wanted to) whether it satisfies fundamental legislation - but, greed for information is blinding them by now.

What fascinates the more lucid ones amongst us, is that the acts of this Government by now resonate letter by letter with what a paranoid delusional mind obsessed with conspiracy theories would think up.

Just shows that under this Government, in this former citadel of democracy, reality beats any paranoid delusion.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Databases

While the British Home Secretary was busy with her 'terror stratergy', a few things happened.

The funnier even was the discovery that her husband paid for a few porn movies and these were listed on the expense claim she signed for. So taxpayer even picks up the tab for the esteemed Home Secretary's husband's porn movies...

The less funny event was that about a quarter of the Government's databases held on people have been deemed illegal. Not that it matters...

After many high-profile data loss scandals, the report examined 46 public sector systems. A quarter of them were "almost certainly" illegal under human rights or data protection laws.

Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University, said: "Britain's database state has become a financial, ethical and administrative disaster which is penalising some of the most vulnerable members of our society."

Funnily, the Government said it was "never losing sight" of its obligations under the data protection and human rights acts. Ah yes, so the absolutely incredible data loss scandals are then quite an attack of blindness...

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Search and replace

The perfectly timed new 'Terror Strategy' (hm, one thought it's anti-terror strategy...) of the Government has been unveiled in the UK. It has perfect timing because it is best to take the attention away from a number of extremely embarrassing problems the Government is responsible for.

Well, if one took a Stalinist discourse from Romania, dating back to 70s-80s, and performed a search & replace operation, one would end up with a very familiar sounding text... almost identical to what Home Office has published.

Let's look at the key ideas. If any of these sound familiar, or even identical to what you saw few decades ago, then you're not imagining it.

The enemy is among us. Yes, of course... but what is the new strategy? We push the power to the people. We have more vigilant people... this comes after the openly paranoia-cultivating poster campaigns. There is just one letter difference between vigilant and vigilante... and in the UK, even with previous 'strategies' we have seen the shocking results of absolute everyday morons starting to feel important in the 'war against terror'.

Then we train tens of thousands of people, from hotel employees to shop staff, to fight terrorism. This of course ranges from 'observing' and reporting 'suspicious' people & acts (yes, the everyday moron will be free to make up his/her mind on what is suspicious... again, we have seen how nicely this works...). There will be 'extremely' wide ranging attack against terrorism.

People voicing anti-democratic or extremist views will be suppressed, reported, marginalised. May one ask: what is extreme and what is anti-democratic? Who will make the difference? Of course, the everyday moron with mostly zero education (let's just take the average British public...). And what is a view that damages society? Yes, of course this is meant to marginalise extremist Muslim leaders, clerics etc. but come on, sweet (seemingly) naive Home Office, you know very well how Orwellian this gets in any society and in any country.

"Terrorists will try to stay one step ahead of us" and counter-terrorism was "no longer something you can do behind closed doors and in secret", says Jacqui Smith. Yes, indeed but in the context of the paranoia cult she induced, this sentence again sounds eerily familiar, although on the surface wants to seem all focused for a good cause.

There is talk about increased electronic surveillance (after all, we have to match at least China's level, we are close second at the moment), encouraging pro-democratic voices from Muslim leaders, increased funding for intelligence etc.

And of course, separately, several databases held by the Government with personal details of people has been ruled to be illegal. And of course, they now introduce an extra database, that will indefinitely hold information on where you travel and why...

Deja-vu.