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It’s been an interesting week in Romania. What started out as a one-note story, that 27 people died in a fire at a club/disco soon morphed into wide-scale protests, and the “sudden” resignation of the Prime Minister (and a few other minor hacks).
The Western media has been scrambling to knit these facts into a cohesive story, all without success. For low-attention-span morons, here’s Vox with some colorful graphics. Here’s The Atlantic with a middling piece. And here’s the vaunted New York Times with its usual pithy style. There’s even a longer op-ed (in English) published in The Guardian by Romanian journalist Claudia Ciobanu.
The Romanian-language press hasn’t fared too much better, and I almost had to cry reading this Moldovan journalist try to figure out why a quick round of Romanian protests brought down the government virtually overnight, while here in RM the months-long protests (totally ignored by the Romanian press, but heavily covered in the Russian news, due to political reasons I don’t feel like getting into here) haven’t accomplished a thing.
Every single piece about what’s going on in Romania recounts the facts: an indoor show with pyrotechnics started a blaze, a single exit caused a stampede, 30 (and counting) people are dead, with dozens more critically injured, tens of thousands of people protested in the streets (mostly in Bucharest, but with some others in the bigger cities), the much-loathed Gabriel Oprea deputy PM resigned, the local Bucharest sector “mayor” resigned, and, at long last, Victor Ponta finally stepped down. Thousands cheered, mostly online, and a tidal wave of politicians hit the television channels to announce that at last, our long national nightmare is over.
Those are unequivocally the facts. But I’ve yet to see a good explanation of what really happened. Even the anonymous author of The Atlantic piece admitted:
That a deadly conflagration could hasten the downfall of a sitting head of government (along with the mayor of Bucharest and the country’s interior minister) seems remarkable and unlikely but…
Sort of. Of course, there was definitely a lot of frustration and anger over the fire. Romanians love their kids, even the technically-adults ones that like to party and drink and listen to heavy metal music, so the death of so many youths was definitely something that angered people. It certainly wasn’t the Gypsy woman that died in the same fire, that’s for sure. But what exactly did Victor Ponta have to do with any of that?
Absolutely nothing. I’ve blasted the guy here on my website for years now, everything from his blatant plagiarism to his violation of EU norms to his cabinet full of liars, plagiarists and criminals to his fucking coup d’etat in 2012. But a Bucharest nightclub failing to adhere to safety standards? That’s hardly Ponta’s bailiwick.
Yes, of course, there is a chain between the fire and Ponta, a chain called “corruption”, in which all of the local “mayors” on down who are tied to Ponta failed to enforce safety codes. But you know what? I’ve been in a hundred bars and clubs in Romania, many of them in cities with absolutely no ties to the PSD (Ponta’s party), and almost all of them were firetraps. Admittedly, few of them were operating live pyrotechnics at the time I was there, but with hundreds of people jammed downstairs, most of them smoking, with only a narrow exit, it’s just a miracle a deadly fire didn’t happen when I was there.
The reason why every article keeps saying the Bucharest club was in violation of “guidelines” is precisely because there are almost no laws about fire safety standards. In America, we had the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911, which is why you’ll always see the Fire Marshall (Bill for those who remember) limiting the maximum occupancy and other things, but no such history happened in Romania.
It takes about five minutes to get the paperwork to operate a club in Romania, and you can set them up almost anywhere. And, unlike here in Moldova or even “poor old” Ukraine, smoking indoors is almost entirely unregulated. Romanian clubs and bars are often located in the downtown/centre area of town, which is where centuries-old buildings are located, built as homes for for rich people, not to house hundreds (or even thousands) of drinking, smoking, party people. I’ve gotten drunk in Roman-era wine cellars, the basement of a Hungarian nobleman’s house, in the living room of a 19th-century aristocrat’s home, and dozens of other crazy places, including a “bunker” three stories underneath the Hotel Melodie in Cluj. One fire, and we would’ve all been burned to a crisp, that’s for sure.
And then, when you do open a club (or a restaurant, hotel, etc), you need a permit from the local firefighters. It’s super easy to bribe them. I hate to admit it, but a friend of mine did it for the price of two bottles of premium whiskey because it was easier than going through the rigamarole of getting the paperwork done the “straight” way.
So the first proximate cause of the disturbances was: no clear laws on fire safety, no maximum occupancy laws, and the ease of getting an “all clear” permit to operate from the local fire department.
But to understand the rest, we have to rewind the clock back to last weekend, when the story was contained to “people died and the country is sad”:
Romanian media have attacked as “irresponsible” the authorities and the owners of the Colectivu nightclub where the fire and a subsequent stampede killed 27 on the spot and left nearly 200 injured.
That’s right, not a word initially about Ponta, corruption, or the government. The narcissistic black hole that is the Romanian media always gangs up on a target. You might remember such previous “national tragedies” as the Frozen Tears clusterfuck, The Perfect Dog Storm, and ex-PM (and Ponta’s mentor) Adrian Nastase’s “suicide attempt”. In every case, the Romanian media was initially wrong.
After all, it was the stupid drunken grandmother’s fault who let her kid get mauled by dogs, and it was the “heroic” doctor (in collaboration with Nastase’s scary smart wife) who completely faked Nastase’s suicide “attempt”, and it was the idiotic Communist-era dinosaurs (in conjunction with “hero” Rael Arafat’s mysterious use of a brand-new plane, forcing the doctors to use a much older one) that let people freeze to death on a mountain, but in every case those people got away with almost no punishment.
Therefore, the initial curve of the Bucharest fire was supposed to go like this: the club owners get arrested (which they did), and the Sector 4 “mayor” resigns (which he did), and then three days of non-stop footage of funerals and flower-laying, lots of histrionics on the TV news channels, and that’s the end of it.
Even the protests weren’t really a surprise. After all, unlike in America (1776, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, etc) where people prefer protesting in the warmer months, pretty much all of Romania’s street filling activities happen in wintertime. The 1989 Revolution took place in the cold, the protests that led to the resignation of PM Emil Boc, etc, all took place on equally frigid nights.
So why did Ponta resign, exactly? And after just one night of protests? Surely, the guy has developed thick skin, especially after three years of hearing from all sectors of society about just how revoltingly incompetent he is. I mean we are talking about Victor Ponta, who literally smirks during every single interview, even when caught red-handed lying about his recorded statements to the press. So a few thousands protesters on a single night in Bucharest made him resign? Bullshit.
To truly understand why Ponta resigned, it’s important to understand exactly how this scumbag came to be the Prime Minister. Back in early 2012, cold-weather protests led to the resignation of Prime Minister Emil Boc after four years in the position. A new Prime Minister, Mihai Razvan Ungureanu (MRU), was confirmed and everyone thought he’d be around for a while. But suddenly, “out of nowhere”, Ponta and his allies made a deal to get rid of MRU, and before you could say Abracadabra, Ponta was the new Prime Minister. What no one knew then was that all of this was pre-arranged by the United States.
Sound familiar? It ought to. The exact same thing happened in Ukraine in 2014. Unlike in Moldova and Ukraine, the Russians have no interest in Romania (aside from destabilizing Ponta’s best buddies Chevron and the genocidal warmonger Wesley Clark), so I think I’m the only one who ever connected the dots on America’s orchestration of putting Ponta in power in 2012.
Now, of course, it’s simply time for Ponta to go. As much as I’d like to think it was all the brave and courageous Romanians protesting who caused him to resign, it wasn’t. Ponta’s just served his time, and now he’ll comfortably retire to a life of crime as a lawyer (he and his buddy/minister Dan Sova already stole 1 million euros even before holding office) or going to his creepy cult church, or partying in Turkey and Dubai with his thug wife. All Ponta needed was a good reason to step down because Prime Ministers can last forever, so it’s better to resign than go out in defeat.
And Romanian President Iohannis Klaus, who came out of this whole Bucharest fire thing smelling of roses, and is being lauded as the new hero all over my Facebook feed, is of course, a corrupt bastard who has already tried to undemocratically influence the Republic of Moldova during his brief tenure in office. Wow, what a hero! Meanwhile, Romania lumbers on with no lustration laws whatsoever, and of course The Grandmaster is still at the helm. Nothing will change except the names on the ballot during the next elections. Sorry.
Therefore, here’s how the story really developed in Romania:
- No safety laws led to the tragic (but completely preventable) death of dozens of people, and the horrific maiming of dozens more
- A heartbroken populace expressed their mourning
- The Romanian media started blaming the wrong people
- The mourners started protesting about genuine problems
- Ponta got the nod to step down and retire to a life of luxury
- Dirty Klaus emerges as the hero, and assures everyone that everything is under control
- Elections will be held soon; and
- The protesters will go home, but get next to nothing that they really wanted (an end to corruption, etc), and the system will continue to creak on, unaffected
Watch, and you’ll see that the Romanian news media will switch this week to the “usual” fare of witches, gossip, musicians, celebrity divorces, and new trends in fashion. And everyone will forget that corruption and lax fire safety standards continue to kill and maim people in Romania on a regular basis.
And now you know!
19 thoughts on “Blowing Smoke”