When Big Brother Is an Idiot

Recently, my wife and I bought a house here in Tiraspol (more on that soon). As were unpacking our stuff, my wife came across some documents that she had completely forgotten about – a very serious plan that we once had to move to Cluj-Napoca.

In 2017, we were in Chisinau (Moldova), and my wife was looking around for a good graduate studies program in her field. We found several attractive programs, including one in Cluj, and we initially thought that would be the one she would choose.

For one thing, I had lived in Cluj for a decade and had many wonderful, happy times there, as has been amply documented right here on this site. Secondly, Cluj is where my wife and I met, and it would’ve been cool to return there together.

But, as it turned out, after we spent a lot of time and money getting some papers in order and doing research, we never ended up going. Instead, we stayed in Chisinau for a few years before moving to Tiraspol.

It was a very difficult decision to make, at that time. But now I’m damned glad we didn’t choose Cluj.

Race to the Bottom

In fact, it was right around the time that we concluded that we were not going to return to Cluj that Romania took a hard turn towards complete insanity.

It’s rarely discussed anywhere in the news, but President Iohannes gave a rather remarkable speech (mostly in Romanian, but partly in English) at the American Embassy in Bucharest on July 4, 2017, in which he, essentially, promised to vastly increase Romania’s spending on (American-made) military stuff.

A week later, he started wearing his “Top Gun” shades and touring military bases, thus “rehabilitating” his image, which had been severely tarnished by all his previous acts of corruption (such as, you know, defrauding old people in order to steal their homes, amongst other things).

Since then, Romania has squandered an unbelievable amount of money on weapons and other completely unnecessary things, such as the “Air Policing” that is still going on today. “Air Policing” is where Romanian and/or NATO planes fly around in circles all day long to “protect” the country from Russian invaders. Who, of course, never come.

2018 was even crazier as Romania (under Iohannes’ gleeful glaze) put on a straight-up Nazi display of power on December 1 (the national day of independence), including a heavily militarized parade with jackbooted thugs and tanks belching smoke in Cluj-Napoca.

Even in 2020, when the Great Panic struck, Romania was so dedicated to military bullshit that it brought in Spanish pilots to do that “Air Policing” even though this was explicitly illegal (because the pilots were not vaccinated). Good luck trying finding that story (🇷🇴) on Google!

Big Brother

Still, though, it saddened me quite a lot the other day when I came across this story (🇷🇴).

Since it’s short, I’ll translate the entire thing. But first, let’s look at this headline:

A Bicyclist Who is Guilty of Causing a Deadly Accident in Cluj-Napoca Has Been Arrested by Police

Fucking hell! Whoever this guy is, saying he’s “guilty” in the headlines is about the shittiest form of journalism there is. He literally just got arrested and hasn’t even been in court, so how does anyone know if he’s guilty or not yet?

Beyond that, it’s more than a little weird to even hear about a bicyclist killing someone. Usually, it’s people in cars killing cyclists.

Let’s read on, shall we?

A bicyclist who was guilty of causing an accident that led to the death of a pedestrian was captured by police.

According to Digi24’s source, the cyclist was identified in the Observatorory neighborhood thanks to facial recognition technology.

The cyclist is a young man, aged 21, and a student at the Technical University in Cluj-Napoca.

The victim, a 67-year-old man, was a professor at the same university.

The cyclist was weaving between traffic lanes when a van had to swerve to avoid hitting him, and this caused the driver to strike the pedestrian.

Right now, the young man [cyclist] is being interrogated by the authorities.

There’s also a video in the link that says the bicyclist “fled” the scene after the van ran over the pedestrian.

First off, it’s a little unclear how a swerving bicyclist causing a motor vehicle to run over a pedestrian = the bicyclist is responsible for killing the pedestrian.

And who knows if the cyclist even realized that the accident happened or if he was (partly) guilty? For all we know, he heard a car crash occur behind him and just went on his way, oblivious to his role in everything.  But maybe he is at fault, I really don’t know.

It’s also kinda weird to say he’s been arrested and is “guilty” of causing the accident but not publish his name.

But that’s all minor stuff in comparison with the oh-so-casual admission that the cops used facial recognition technology to arrest him.

How It Works

The long-time mayor of Cluj, Emil Boc, is a personable and charismatic guy. It’s probably why he’s been in office since 2004, for fuck’s sake (minus a three-year break to serve as Prime Minister).

But on the other hand, he’s an old-school Communist. As a young man, Boc published unbelievably sappy love letters to Ceausescu. And it’s clear that he, too, enjoys being a little dictator (as Amnesty International knows oh too well).

Somewhere in my files, I have an old photo of Boc touring the ultra-creepy surveillance center that the city government has in Cluj-Napoca, but I can’t find it, now. It’s a room with dozens of different screens where “authorities” watch everything that goes on in public from at least 275 different cameras.

Back in 2015, the local paper did a story (🇷🇴) on that center, talking about what an expensive boondoggle it was (over 100.000 euros/year) and how the cops kept failing to catch acts of vandalism in the downtown area, such as the guy who threw red paint over the big statue in the central square.

Despite the obvious failure of the surveillance system to do its job, Emil Boc doubled down by spending 20.000 euros (🇷🇴) in 2015 on some facial recognition software.

Here’s my translation of Boc’s comments when the purchase was announced:

This software, which is unique in Romania, will allow for the rapid identification of people who break the law, people who commit vandalism in public areas.

And that, really, was about the last anyone ever heard of it. Aside from the Cluj county (separate from Cluj city) police and then the national police getting some (different) facial recognition tools, it truly seemed like that software was never used to solve any crimes whatsoever in Cluj.

In fact, I just spent half an hour doing detailed searches of all of the local papers in Cluj, and I cannot find a single mention of facial recognition technology after the initial purchase announcement in 2015.

Vandalism, however, continued, despite the hundreds of cameras and the “fancy” new software. In fact, just this summer (2021), the big statue in the central square was vandalized once again (🇷🇴). And no one has ever been caught (or identified) for that act.

So how the fuck did the cops in Cluj find a bicyclist in the middle of a busy street, record his face well enough for the facial recognition software to work, and then use it to track him down and arrest him?

Romanian journalism being what it is (utter shite), we’ll never know. But it does feel really, really, really fishy and weird.

Based on the video from Digi24, it looks a lot more like the guy was filmed on an ATM camera, not a street camera, which are usually mounted up very high.

Furthermore, even if the cops had a crystal clear photo of the cyclist, it’s very unlikely that they successfully used this to find and arrest him. Romanian cops are pretty damn dumb.

It is far more likely that the cops got lucky with the photo and ran across him somewhere by sheer luck, and then later turned it into a bullshit Orwellian story about a triumph of the facial recognition software. The subtext, of course, being that “the cops are always watching” so you better do exactly what Boc and his armed goons say.

A Side Note About the Statue

During the Communist years, the central square in Cluj was named “Liberty” Square. After the Revolution, they renamed it “Unification” Square.

This “unification,” of course, does not refer to any unity amongst the various peoples of Cluj, but to the annexation of the city in 1920 by the Romanian monarchy, which led to two years of warfare between rampaging Romanian troops and Hungarian guerillas.

Prior to 1920, the city had been an important Hungarian capital. The church in the square was built around 700 years ago by Hungarians, and one of Hungary’s greatest leaders was born in (what is now) Cluj.

The statue in question in Cluj that keeps getting vandalized is of him. In Romanian, he’s known as “Matei Corvin,” where “Matei” is equivalent to the English name “Matthew.” In Hungarian, his name is and was “Hunyadi Mátyás” because he belonged to the powerful Hunyadi family.

The statue was erected long before 1920, so it was always problematic to get rid of it, especially because of its extreme importance to a lot of Hungarian people, including the current government in Budapest. Over the years, they’ve donated a lot of money to clean up his statue and add some gold trim, et cetera.

As a sort of “compromise” between the pride of the Hungarians and fascist Romanians, the statue has been allowed to remain, even though it shows him trouncing his enemies (in between collecting books hehe). But instead of using either the Romanian or Hungarian name, the statue has his Latinized name written out in gold letters (Matthias Rex).

Various fascist mayors of Cluj (before Emil Boc) tried all kinds of hijinks short of blowing up the statue, such as surrounding it with Romanian flags or tearing up the paving stones to make it hard to get close to it.

And, as is clear from all the vandalism reports, even “progressive” mayor Emil Boc never bothered to really stop Romanian fascists from vandalizing it, despite the extremely expensive surveillance center with its facial recognition software.  But you better behave or else the cops will get you!

What a farce…

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