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.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Heights of corruption

Well, a philosophical Romanian cab driver once told me that the similarity between USA and Romania is that while USA is the country where everything is possible, Romania is the country where anything is possible.

Reading the newly published facts about what amount of money can buy what in Romania, even skeptics have to agree...

Let's look at a few examples of the dizzying heights of corruption in this EU country...

Even the most exclusive university diplomas can be acquired for up to 15000 euros, but most go at much lower prices. It is amazing, how every illiterate politician's illiterate kids get amazing diplomas at amazing Universities... Engineering diplomas go for around 3500 euros, as recent huge scandals have shown.

Stolen cars can be registered and false tax discs obtained for about 4000 euros.

If you bought your driving licence from Italy, you may have paid 600 euros, but locally, in Romania, those that bought it there without attending a single lesson or exam, paid around 3000 and 10000 euros.

Citizenship can be arranged for 10000 euros, via naturalisation - i.e. in Romania's case, for this amount of money the Mafia 'supplies' a willing woman that will become one's wife to sort out the naturalisation.

The most high-profile case of corrupting the course of justice involved 25000 euros paid for a judge to suppress a case... Thankfully, the judge was arrested.

Kidneys go for around 8000 euros and transplant organ black market is flourishing. Only recently, the details of parents that were selling their kids for organ harvest have hit the press.

Selling kids for adoption is commonplace, some sums are around 12000 euros.

And the best part... you can actually get into the Parliament for 50000 euros... the pinnacle of democracy. After all, Romania has cut out the middle man - the Mafia is not paying off members of the Parliament and Government... the Romanian Mafia is in the Parliament and Government. Camorra, Piovra, eat your heart out...

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Evolution

As discussed before on this blog, certain aspects of changes in Romania are seen by many locals as steps backward, while these are in reality just very speedy alignments with the deplorable standards of education and the like in the 'West' they try so desperately to copy otherwise.

Now it is remarkable that while Darwin is being celebrated around the world (and Sir David Attenborough for his factual and excellent documentary series about Darwin, aired on the BBC in the UK, received literally tons of hate mail from religious bigots), Romania also 'evolved'.

It evolved in a way that finally aligns it with the best standards of enlightenment seen in the US especially... when it comes to bigotry. A new biology manual, for the 9th grade, was published recently in Oradea, Romania... and it presents Darwin's theory as an 'alternative theory'.

It thanks the Creator for the creation of lymphocytes, so that we can fight infections. It asks the pupils: could Christ heal viral infections? It teaches that the HIV virus is associated with sin, and it is God's way of punishing us for it. So probably the countless people that contracted it via blood transfusion or due to medical equipment in the decades of communism when the 'imperialist' HIV could not exist officially, are all sinners in some way? including the babies born with it due to the mother carrying it? Just how astounding can officially promoted bigotry be in an EU country in 2009? .. as it also has the Education Minister's seal of approval...

It states that this manual, as it teaches about biology, will make the pupil appreciate that every cell, every leaf, every insect and every creature shouts in the language of complexity: God created me.

And it also leaps into utter paranoia, stating to pupils that mass-media is the 'shadow agent' covertly promoting Darwin's dubious theories...

So yes, even Romania has finally evolved to the level of the... 12th century.

While far from being an atheist myself, such blatantly manipulative religious fundamentalism does, as in the case of any reasonable and rational persons, send chills down my spine in 2009.

It is worth reading the comments that some wrote... they range from foaming bigotry to gems of 21st century thought like "it is ridiculous to believe in 23 billion years old so-called evidence", that "only the Bible is the one true text" etc.

Maybe these people should read a few, very few, but fundamental facts about the history of Christianity and just how many times, when and who edited, cut, changed, re-hashed the text of the Bible. And to raise an interesting question: just what proof do they have exactly about the exact origins of that text? But debating these facts would make one sound like some avid fan of Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris... and once the debate comes away from the facts and becomes a fight between camps of various convictions, all is lost.

Being a reasonable person, having partially absorbed thousands of years of scientific learning and progress, does not make one less of a believer or less of a Christian in this case. But it seems that we need to push education to a new level, where thoughts from the Dark Ages have to be pushed into our kids' minds.

Evolution. After all, it does exist... we just witnessed another great phase of it in Romanian education.

Galilei was pardoned by the Vatican in 1992. It makes one think: if even hard laws of physics needed hundreds of years for the 'approval', how long does it take to accept the ideas in the theory of evolution... and the laws of genetics and natural selection... But maybe by that time some people will... finally... evolve.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Bulldomanipulator

Rarely one finds in Romanian press something truly worthy of a very loud, full bodied, spasmic attack of hilarity...

Romsilva, the Romanian 'authority' in charge of the forests of this... foresty country, purchased for 300 000 dollars a ... something... that they still insist is a 'bulldomanipulator'. That's the equivalent of 8.7 billion old romanian Lei in local currency.

This bulldomanipulator lies unused for the past 5 years in a ditch, watched by a guy with soem dogs, as the local roma gipsies are very keen on taking any removable bits off it and selling it as recycling centres.

The magic gizmo is a T55 tank, repainted in orange and sold to Romsilva by a Ukrainian company that imports and exports military, yes, military and not agricultural, equipment.

It needed a lot of repair, when many parts were replaced at great cost, then its pipes burst. It was a sorry saga for years, trying to get it going again and, well, using it for something useful. Obviously it arrived as a tank that had various bits put on it to make it look a little bit like a ... bulldomanipulator, whatever that is. It took them weeks to even start the engine, until then they had countless villagers and visitors standing around it regularly and admiring it.

The first time when it started, it broke down immediately. After all, it was an old tank :-)... After a while, they finally managed to use it to clear 7 hectars of terrain...

It was then moved to its current location, in Dimbovita, and it's rusting there ever since. If anyone did use it, it would eat up 10 liters of oil per day, almost 100 liters of petrol and well, it would run the economy of the local little community into the ground...

The director that 'imported' the thing was given a 'knighthood' by the former president Ion Iliescu, among other things, for being the most efficient director of Romsilva...

Monday, 2 March 2009

The genetics of a police state

Only days after international and national verdicts on the practices applied by the government of this oh-so-democratic country, UK government ministers again are at it...

The new measures are introduced, just to quickly recap, in a country with the highest number of CCTV cameras per head, the longest period of detention without trial in any civilised country, among the strictest electronic surveillance system for emails, phone calls and the like, the most restrictive rules on data storage by ISPs (only China leads here, but UK is working hard to equal that... or even beat it)...

The government is trying now to circumvent the recent European court ruling that condemned Britain's retention of the DNA profiles of more than 800,000 innocent people.

The "blanket and indiscriminate nature" of the UK's current DNA database was harshly condemned, and this database includes DNA from those never charged with an offence.

Last month the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said she would publish a white paper setting out "a more proportionate, fair and commonsense approach", but she has not given any indication whether DNA samples already obtained would be destroyed. However, Home Office sources said the government, which was given three months to respond to the ruling, has "no plans" to destroy samples of DNA.

So... as per the data for biometric ID cards, now introduced via 'back doors', we are again moving to newer heights of democracy, freedom and basic human rights abuse...

While thousands of photographers protested about the recent Stalinist law banning photography of policemen under any circumstance (yes, you guessed it, again under the Terrorism Act), the Government is blissfully in denial.

One who lived under totalitarian regimes has to wonder: how many more moves like this are needed to become one of those regimes... we are really not far off that point. At least Jacqui Smith has good examples to follow in history, only some keywords change but the essence remains the same.