Odds and Ends

I tell you what, folks, lately I’ve been letting my American work ethic take over and so quite frankly I’m exhausted. So instead of one post about one thing, today you get a little of this and a little of that*.

1) A couple of weeks ago I posted a link to an interview with Yours Truly (me) only I erroneously linked to Observatorul. That is the right interview but apparently the people who conducted it are some media group and so the same interview appeared in multiple publications. Thanks to those of you who contacted me with the other links as well. I got a nice PDF file which I’ll convert to an image here soon (my “to do list” seems to always get longer, never shorter – oof).

2) Speaking of which, one kind soul went to all the trouble of translating that same interview into Italian.

While I don’t speak Italian much these days, you may be surprised to know I used to live in Italy. I know a lot of you found my blog because of the “37 Steps” so you may also enjoy my post How I Learned (And Forgot) Italian in 34 Steps.

3) I cannot listen to my new television but I’ve been keeping my eye on it throughout the day and it looks like almost everything I briefly discussed (and predicted) in this post is more or less accurate.

I’m not going to get into a long discussion of “The Spectacle”, which is a kind of political theory ongoing in the English speaking world, but let’s go ahead and call these protests in Romania a circus. There are lights, cameras and plenty of entertainment but a revolution it is not. The other night I passed by Piata Unirii (here in Cluj) and I saw about 50 people in a huddle, all of them lit up by extremely bright lights (from the media) and it looked exactly like a “show”.

Speaking of horizontal versus vertical protests, I thought of a couple more examples. Clearly 1989 in Romania was a horizontal protest as it fit my description – complete media blackout and spreading laterally through grassroots efforts.

Meanwhile in Greece in 2011 there were protests hundreds of times bigger than in Romania (half a million people in Athens, whereas in Bucharest has it even gotten to be 10,000 people yet?), widely covered in the media and what happened in the end? A banker was installed as their president.

Likewise in 2003, millions of people marched in London and America against the Iraq invasion. Widely covered in the media. Nothing changed whatsoever.

I am currently working on some ideas for more ways that more horizontal discussions can take place but I’ll get into that more in a future post.

4) I’ve been keeping my eye on the whole Teodor Baconschi thing and it seems to further validate what I’ve been talking about. First from the SE Times:

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc fired the country’s top diplomat on Monday (January 23rd) over his insulting remarks about anti-government protesters.

I know a lot of people read the SE (Southeastern Europe) Times for news about Romania in English. However few people know that it is a newspaper paid for and run by the Pentagon (American military).

Mr. Baconschi’s blog is online and it’s pretty clear that nothing he said there was all that offensive. I’m no particular fan of Baconschi’s but he’s been such a loyal party member (PDL) for a long time so I can’t imagine that the real reason had anything to do with what he said. In fact two days after his supposed “offensive” blog post he wrote this (on January 17, five days after the protests began):

La puțină vreme după ce am fost ales în conducerea Partidului Democrat-Liberal am propus biroului permanent național al formațiunii mele declanșarea unui amplu proces de consultare cu societatea civilă. Ieri am primit oficial mandat în acest sens și voi începe, încă de mâine, o primă rundă de consultări.

Essentially he’s saying he was given an “official mandate” to meet with “civic leaders” on January 17 and by January 23 he was fired. Baconschi has been a loyal PDL member for years and was rewarded with the post of Foreign Minister (USA: Secretary of State) and then gets canned for a little blog post? No way.

From Nine O’Clock (posted on January 23):

PSD President and USL Co-president Victor Ponta said he agreed to Teodor Baconschi’s dismissal as foreign minister, but added that it was ‘too little’ and also ‘too late’. Ponta also said he hoped that Baconschi’s revocation would be explained by his performance as a minister and not as ‘one additional opportunity to pay bribe to those who have betrayed in order to come to the Power.’

He most likely referred to the long-standing speculations about an intention to have Baconschi replaced by his former party colleague, currently UNPR Honourary President Cristian Diaconescu.

Well today I was keeping my eye on the (silent) TV as I said and what do you know? Looks like Diaconescu is indeed going to be handed the job. Mind you, Ponta is a member of the opposition party and he clearly knew what was going on. I’m sure in a few years we’ll read on Wikileaks (or its equivalent) exactly what the hell was going on and who was truly involved in this.

Folks, you can look at the Greek protests last year for a perfect copy of what’s going on in Romania. Crushing debts are taken against the future of the country. This prompts “austerity measures”, raising taxes and slashing government services. Then the people begin to protest and get angry. Then a bunch of political aims are serviced in the name of appeasing the people (and feeding the media a story) and at the end of the day nothing changes. In English we call this rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Actually it’s a little more sinister because while it does nothing to contribute to the solution the people want, it does further the goals of those in power (both elected and unelected).

If you look at the comments to the post on Baconschi’s blog (link above), one “Sorin Zavelita” is clearly aware of the relevant issues:

– sa faceti transparent decontul celor 10 miliarde Euro imprumutati de la FMI (in mod normal, orice imprumut are ca tinta modernizarea tarii insa tara noastra nu se modernizeaza, dimpotriva se degradeaza pe zi ce trece)

– explicarea pe intelesul tuturor a datoriei externe a Romaniei care s-a dublat de-a lungul guvernarii PDL – de la 48 miliarde Euro la 96. Cifrele le puteti regasi pe site-ul BNR urmarind rapoartele din Nov 2008 si cele din Nov 2011.

Or my translation in English:

I call on you to be transparent about the issue of the 10 billion Euros borrowed from the IMF (which are described as being for the furtherance of the modernization of the country when this country is not being modernized at all. On the contrary it is regressing every day that passes).

Explain clearly to everyone Romania’s foreign debt which has doubled under the PDL government from 48 billion to 96 billion Euros. These figures can be found in the BNR (Romanian Central Bank) reports from November 2008 and November 2011.

Folks, these are the issues I want to see being discussed “horizontally” in face to face discussions and on Romanian blogs and between the protesters themselves. Funny signs and rhyming puns are nice and entertaining but this is the real shit here.

5) I heard from several people that Murder, She Wrote was indeed shown on Romanian TV (it’s called “Verdict: Crima”) and lots of people liked that show. It is indeed one of the best. And yet despite its enduring popularity worldwide, the content of American media (which certainly saturates other markets as well, especially Romania) is decided by men with a lot of preconceived ideas, as I briefly discussed here, one of which is that no woman can be a star of any show or movie unless her primary activities concern pleasing a man.

How Murder, She Wrote ever got “green lighted” to be a show starring a woman (and not some 20 year old sexy chick) who went around solving murders and not pleasing men is a mystery. Especially when you read this (Wikipedia):

Link, Levinson and Fischer changed the gender of their protagonist from male to female and transformed the character from a good-looking, absent-minded young pedant to a middle-aged, down-to-earth widow.

In other words, three men somehow miraculously were allowed to change the expected star (a good looking man) to a grandmother and then made one of the most popular shows of all time. I guess sometimes the viewers get lucky ;)

6) I am more or less getting caught up with my backlog of emails and other messages. If you’re waiting for a response, shouldn’t be much longer.

* – This reminds me of a woman I once knew who used to make “Refrigerator Soup”. At the end of the week, she’d put everything left over from the refrigerator into one big pot and make a soup out of it. Consider this post a kind of “Refrigerator Soup” if you will ;)

Whew, okay! Enough for now. Lots more to come soon, if I don’t kill myself from overwork :)

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