Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Freedom of terror

Up until I hit the grand age of 18 and a half, the world around me was one of various terrors... A wrong sentence, a wrong word in the wrong context could have meant all sorts of variations of Hell. One learnt how to play the everyday game of everyday life without landing oneself in trouble with the absolute powers that shaped everything around us.

It is quite interesting that although the context very much changed, and keywords also very much got replaced with others, some things do come back and one feels stuck in a rondeau of a very macabre sort.

Recently a man was arrested under the Terrorism Act in the UK, because after huge delays at an airport, he vented steam on Twitter, saying that unless something is finally done to resolve the chaos, he'll just blow this thing sky high.

Even someone as pacifist as myself can't quite count how many times used such figures of speech in momentary peaks of annoyance and frustration.

When we have something like Twitter that allows instantaneous broadcasts of short thought expressions, then the flow of thoughts to some large or small audience becomes very easy.

But then should we be terrorised, as in the days of totalitarian regimes, by the spectre of being next day arrested for using some figure of speech?

Should we be, as this person experienced, held for 7 hours and interrogated under the Terrorism laws of Britain, the land of freedom of speech?

One could say, well, it has a potential for that person being indeed a terrorist.

But really? Do we then police every sentence people say and write wherever? Just to be safe?

So where is the line then between the 'safety' the Government wishes to guard and an Orwellian world?

The practicalities of course mean that it's astounding effort to have this level of monitoring and well, based on a sentence on Twitter, such police actions are huge waste of effort and resources.

But all the debates come down to the facts: we have a new world order where we have a new public enemy No. 1 - and in order to "protect" us against that enemy in any way we can, we end up in a society that in its actions and measures, does not at all differ from any former Stalinist totalitarian regime where thought police could have jumped on you just for the wrong sentence said in the wrong environment at the wrong moment.

So we need to watch, amongst the freedom of speech... every word we say, because they can become 'terrorist threats' and 'dangerous'.

Interesting how things move in circles... and what is then true terror? The menace of occasional and terrible atrocities committed by demented terrorists or the everyday terror of forces protecting us against that other terror?... where are the lines?

Wherever they are, UK has long crossed them in the name of protecting its society. I remember the very same reason used by every totalitarian regime in history...

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Crisis measures

Of course, Romanian economy wasn't immune to the global financial crisis.

It certainly doesn't stand out as a unique country in the way its economy was impacted, but it may be quite unique in terms of what measures does the Romanian Government introduce to tackle it.

After the presidential elections, where the second round was quite farcical, a new Government also got established so that the next batch of financial help is quickly unblocked towards Romania. It is just a beautiful quirk that vast majority of the ministers and the prime minister is the same as the ones in the Government which recently had a vote of no confidence against it.

The main priorities in the new/old or old/new Government's crisis measures are quite interesting, but surely nothing unexpected.

First of all, major job cuts in the state sector, about 80000 jobs are to go. About 15000 are school and high-school teachers, who anyway between the Christmas and New Year period were forced to take unpaid leave.

Their salaries have been and are diabolically low, but this is where the Government thinks will save significant amounts of money to help with the vast budget deficit...

While it hits this sector so hard in order to save some money, it reduced and eradicated special taxes (of the order of 20-25%) on the following: gold jewellery, precious stones, yachts (!) and hunting weapons.

These taxes are abolished whilst numerous other taxes are invented as the Government desperately needs money it seems - so there is new tax even for fast food. So there is a remarkable, typically Romanian duality at work here: vast (even seemingly public health-oriented) gestures combined with totally contrary measures favouring the ultra-rich Mafia of the country.

So let's just be honest and say it: this Government has absolutely ZERO willingness to actually solve the budget deficit and the overall financial crisis, it just makes empty (and silly) gestures while it looks after the vastly rich Mafia that runs the country. Simple as that.

What is also interesting, and has been reported earlier in this blog, that this Mafia is incapable of even stealing properly: the vast EU funds for development have only been absorbed in a proportion of 3% (!), putting Romania at the bottom of the table.

In order to get access to those funds, one has to write a proper document and build a business case that shows how the funds will be used by company X and Y. There are now consultancies specialising in this and helping businesses to file such applications.

But this means some real work, some real thinking, some real minutes and hours spent to make an application.

So why bother even at the level of making up a fake business plan?

Surely for the Romanian ultra-Mafia it is much simpler and time saving to just continue robbing the country blind as they did for 20 years, this requires (in the ways they are doing it) virtually zero intellectual effort and it is purely based on an established list of connections...

It is not an accident that this country is incapable of solving any real problem in any real way , and that it is incapable of even accessing real funds for real things...