Sunday, 28 March 2010

Suspects

I am listening again in the gym the radio advertisement calling for vigilance, and people to report anything and anybody suspicious.

I am beyond wanting to explain to the Home Office anti-terrorist campaigners that something can not be suspicious... only suspect. But that is beyond their ability to comprehend basic English semantics, they are too busy sustaining paranoia...

Well, it has been discussed ad infinitum that when Joe Public is asked to be an anti-terrorist vigilant 'agent', he doesn't have any training nor ability to recognise something truly suspect... the only possible result is, well, exactly what is happening in current British 'free' society.

A musician was removed from a train for "behaving suspiciously" just because he was writing a list of songs which included the band name "The Killers".

The songs would have been played by his band, The Magic Mushrooms, at a forthcoming gig. But as he was writing the list, he was approached by two security staff employed by the train company and asked to leave the train.

He was told that he had been behaving suspiciously and was asked to explain the list he had been writing. The set list had songs like Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand, Cigarettes and Alcohol by Oasis and Love Me Like You by The Magic Numbers.

Also, there was All These Things That I've Done by The Killers, and as a shorthand, he had simply written "killers".

The really sad thing is that the stupid act of 'vigilance' was carried out not by everyday morons, but "highly professional rail community officers who work closely with the British Transport Police".

The spokesperson said that, and this is the really depressing part, the person had a good "understanding of the need to be vigilant in the current environment".

The "current environment" means all-out medically certifiable paranoia, where every week innocent amateur and professional photographers are arrested, interrogated, even held under the so-called Terrorism Act, we have people held in custody because of a few angry words on Twitter, and now we have also people thrown off trains just for writing a few things down that morons abusing their (absolute) power can not comprehend.

So one wonders, what is next in this ultra-paranoid 'free' society. All in the name of public safety...

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

China and the template

It is fascinating how China's annoyance with Google, after latter refused to continue censoring searches made via its website, is phrased.

China talks about promise. Violated by Google, of course. China talks about 'Politicisation of commercial issues'. It blames Google for unreasonable conduct. It states it is all about China trying to stop information dangerous to national security and 'public'.

Is there a familiar template being used here? A familiar pattern?

Yes. Dictatorships have stated the same things for many decades, maybe some subtle differences of context and the nature of the media in question differed. After all, Stalin or Ceausescu or Honecker didn't have internet and Google.

But... the patterns are identical to those in the mentioned other dictatorships' textbooks. Unfortunately for yours truly, one of them was intimately known inside & out.

Information becomes threatening. A search for Tienanmen square is to be blocked. Now Chinese firewalls are stopping searches, instead of Google itself.

It is not politicisation of commercial issues, there is nothing commercial about a dictatorship's ideological censorship.

There is nothing commercial about rewriting of its history, about suppression of historical facts, suppression of fundamental rights and/or even people.

It is not a commercial matter.

But as all despicable totalitarian regimes, China has the very same schizoid medical condition: it can not acknowledge the nature of its own acts and measures.

So instead, it overcompensates by being upset and screaming at the rest of the world, crying like a spoiled child who had some toy taken away (oh, only one wishes it were taken away...).

It is a deplorable and somewhat laughable sight. Dictators and their entourage suffer, in the 21st century, playing with 21st century toys, of the same fundamental and incurable mental health issues as all their predecessors did.

It is also a deplorable pattern, though: if a dictatorship has weapons arsenal dangerous to the 'free world', or has economic powers that are important to the 'free world', or happens to have neither and is of no significance, then in all these cases the 'free world' will do nothing whatsoever.

So full respect to Google, it is quite astonishing in today's day and age to find a corporation who takes a stand with a simple but effective gesture against a despicable dictatorship.

The action came indeed from an unlikely source, but this is perhaps the only way nowadays - as political powers in the free world will only use their might to 'fix' regimes in countries that are of major economic significance AND incapable of fighting back effectively (via economic or military means) - see case of Saddam, where suddenly the 'West' was talking about (illegal military) actions brought against a dictatorship to 'remove a dictator'. Yeah right.

China is not powerless, neither economically nor politically... or worse. But maybe, although as a small dent, only such actions can start making a difference against a regime that is in complete state of denial. Which is again a very old-fashioned state of mind of all dictatorships throughout history.

It is remarkable, in this template of actions and declarations they are also using, how China as to 'condemn' the gesture and attack outwards, because it needs so desperately to convince itself of its version of reality and 'truth'.

It is a sorry sight to see such a huge man being such a despicable little child. But conversely, let's not delude ourselves that this 'gesture' has any clout of any kind, or that, if others join the superior American 'democratic' forces ;-), this will have anything to do with actual human rights issues or anything related...

Also, let's not even dream that USA or any of its companies have any moral ground to talk in absolute terms about freedom of information, human rights etc.

But dictators and dictatorships have always been psychopathic children who were perfectly happy to kill people even, but could not come to terms with their own actions - so had to invent imaginary deluded systems of values and stories to scream about, while banging the side of the pram with a loud annoying toy.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Mafia haven

Over the years, well, two decades, since the regime change in Romania, it may have seemed that some over-used the word 'Mafia' when describing the various circles of power (political, administrative, law enforcement and/or business).

However, apart from everyday myriad cases of unimaginable corruption, the organised crime in Romania doesn't only engulf all layers of society, it has also created a very good environment for foreign organised crime.

The latter found refuge and could even develop the 'business affairs' from within Romania, and according to recently published statistics (which carefully avoid commenting on the ties these Mafiosi had with Romanian officials), Romania is a safe haven for the Italian Mafia.

This is not only about various 'minor' characters, like certain assassins chased by the Interpol, but also very important players in the major Italian crime families.

When these characters are found to have lived for many years in Romania, hiding from Italian and international investigators quite successfully, and organised activities like illegal arms trade, it is impossible to deny their ties to local and central authorities in Romania.

The leader of Sacra Corona Unita lived and organised his 'business' in Romania for a timespan of six years, until captured.

The 'Number 2' person of the dreaded Camorra has passed through Romania many times, and ultimately Romanian police was involved in his capture.

Another key figure of the Camorra has been living in Romania since 1994, until finally captured. His involvement in certain 'business' deals again points to (unspoken) tight connections with local Mafia and authorities.

A key figure of the Cusoti clan of the Cosa Nostra is just the latest person captured in Romania, and the list is just the tip of the iceberg.

The press talks about the social and cultural factors that made Romania a favoured country for these 'businessmen'.

But it is impossible to consider the obvious, namely that an unimaginably corrupt country in Eastern Europe, where corruption permeates every level of authority (regardless of which 5-minute-long Government is in power), is a haven for these people and their network.

So while Romania still struggles with its finances and the economic situation in general, at least the Mafia and its international networks, on top of the local Romanian Mafia, flourish brilliantly.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Parallels

Interesting parallels have been found between the recent Greek financial crisis, its lead-up and Romanian realities.

It is quite intriguing how similar the two countries' economic path and their Governments' measures were in the years leading up to the Greek 'bang'. One wonders whether Romania will repeat exactly that 'bang', or somehow avoid it due to esoteric economic and financial particularities in Romania.

Well, let's see...

In Greece, budget deficit between 2006 and 2009 has risen from 2.9% to 12.7% GDP. In Romania, the deficit has jumped from 2.5% to 7.5% between 2007 and 2009, as they had to raise the truly puny salaries and pensions.

In both countries, the salaries in the public sector have risen to vast proportions of the budget, in Romania this is currently 27% of the budget. The number of employees in the public sector has risen vastly in both countries, as both grossly overestimated the economic growth... while the expenditure on the salaries has also risen greatly (in Romanian, it doubled in last 4 years).

Pensions have caused in both countries vast increases in expenses, Greece can show that pensions are 12.5% of the GDP, while income in the public sector is mere 32% GDP.

Romania's repayments on Government borrowing have now tripled in just under two years. Greece has followed a similar policy of plugging the increasing holes with borrowing that then can be barely repaid.

Both Governments before and around the elections have adopted same populist gestures that look disastrous on the balance sheets.

So parallels may meet, according to Bolyai-Lobachevsky geometry, at an infinite point indeed. In case of Greece and Romania, their economic stories may meet much closer than that theoretical infinite...