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...