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.