Inconsistencies: Basescu in the Guild of the Guilty  

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I have in the past voted for the (former) President Basescu and even raised to his defence (more or less) when he was accused of slapping an impertinent child. Yet his latest display of inconsistency is more than I can bear.

kovesi-basescuI have not written about Mr Basescu for a while because I no longer consider him relevant. Still, the way he is treated by the current government is quite disturbing. They are jerking him around with providing a residence (which they should, according to the law), and keep “forgetting” (base-vila). They offered him two villas and then ignored him after he accepted them. Quite possibly, his mental state may have been affected by this abuse.

LE: It occurred to me that I am being a little too critical of the president. While in power, if he would have criticized the judiciary everybody would've cried 'interference' even more forcefully than now. Sadly, he is forced to be a spectator to a poorly played show and no matter what he does he's blamed: criticize it and be accused of betrayal, keep your mouth shut and get ulcer – or lend moral support / be part of a poorly functional dysfunctional system.

However, whatever he may be going through, there is no justification for his attacks on the justice, precisely because they come only after he left the presidency. If there were problems, he had ample opportunity to do something while he was in power and his family was not yet accused of anything. Now, that the shadow of guilt is darker and darker over him, his attacks appear hysterical and destroy any shred of credibility he ever had. Mircea Badea, his arch-enemy, is rejoicing, together with the other big corrupts. You cannot be fine with a justice system that is supposedly functional when it goes after anyone but you and “guantanamian” and “chaotic” and you are no longer in power and your family and possibly you is being investigated.

I have recently had a conversation with Krossfire on prosecutorial overreach (kr-scz). To summarize, I am annoyed about how far ahead is Romania in the fight against corruption (much farther ahead than the West) and how little recognition is getting. Recently, the Bulgarian PM has said that Bulgaria will get on top of Romania soon (za-borisov).
  • z: ..except that almost all Western politicians (who are elected) need money to be elected and they get this money mostly through unethical/immoral means; this is why the current prosecutorial overreach is a witch-hunt. See, for instance, “Mayday PAC” in USA.
  • k: The modern prosecutorial overreach is not a witch-hunt, it’s a demon hunt and, at least in terms of image and rebuilding trust it’s working. Effective on a long term? Who knows. Effective in jailing filth? Yes! Just like that Nastase remark, the thing is there are subjects which can only be judged from the inside. As one who had to personally deal (through his job) with some of the people who are now under serious scrutiny, I have to say the purge is necessary. It was necessary 20 years ago too and it’s most welcome now.
  • z:

    “ least in terms of image and rebuilding trust it’s working”

    Interesting! Let’s see.. [Romania was 69th on TI’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2014 and 2013]

    But hey! Hope springs in plm!

  • k: I was talking about the stream of arrests, not about the recent fiscal inspections which do seem a bit exaggerated. Most people who have been recently arrested had nothing to do with “getting money for elections” (and the PAC/SuperPAC comparison doesn’t stand, especially since the latter is a semi-legal mechanism). People have been arrested and trialed for bribe, abuse of power, blackmail and a host of other accusations… Also, saying that something doesn’t really change things on the long term does not eliminate any short term benefits!
  • z:

    The “corruptive” system is more “transparent” and corruption more “institutionalized” in the West, but that does not make it any more moral. Romanian politicians have less legal means to raise money and hold on to power; henceforth, behaviours that are legal elsewhere are often prosecuted in Romania. They all happen just as much elsewhere, but the Western “justice” system is more corrupt and the presumption of innocence taken more seriously when it comes to men in power. On my blog I have already written at length about Attorney General Michael Bryant’s killing of a bicyclist in downtown Toronto while dragging him on the side of his car for almost 1km (which ended with his complete exoneration and him writing a book about his murder (.CA, .UK, .FR, .DE, .IT, .ES), much like OJ Simpson did (.CA, .UK, .FR, .DE, .IT, .ES)), or prime minister Brian Mulroney accepting a cash envelope of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Airbus Affair, which ended with the government apologizing and paying him and his PR team a few millions. And these are only 2 examples from Canada I was in one way or the other implicated in, there’s far more.

    Nowhere in the West is the political game clean or moral (except maybe in Switzerland). Acceding and keeping power implies numerous compromises which are sometimes legal but seldom moral. The only way to “clean up” politics is to lower the stakes, as is the case with a system with more direct democracy.

    So you’re saying that the short term effect is different than the long term effect and better? How so and what makes you say that?

  • k:

    For more than 25 years, the Justice system didn’t work. Not for the low level thugs, not for the high ranking ones. The fact that people who seemed intangible are now falling is not only great for the overall morale of the population, but it’s also a welcome PR exercise (recent news has captured a team of Bulgarian journalists, coming to Romania to learn about our “justice successes”, only to discover the man who they were supposed to interview had been recently arrested). These people deserved and deserve everything that was coming to them. Could they have worked their way to the top any other way? Probably. Probably not. The thing is, most of them did most of their crimes way after they were elected or even in power.

    I repeat: most of the arrested people ARE NOT THERE BECAUSE OF ELECTION RELATED FELONIES. They had fortunes comparable or larger than their Western counterparts, fortunes made out of sustained stealing, extortion and abuse of power. Fortunes made while putting the lives of those who elected them at stake. Everything that is happening right now is fair, in regard to the current laws and in regard to common sense. Will it be effective on the long term? If other measures aren’t taken, it won’t, but it’s a great start! There is no logical or judicial defense for filth!

    Yes, Western politicians are more subtle and most of them deserve to be behind bars, but trust me, the difference is huge. Why? Because most of the Western MPs have grown in affluent families and usually pursue power and influence, rather than personal fortune. Most Romanian politicians who are now behind bars have started from the bottom (poor and uneducated) and, with any luck, will end up the same! Their crappy laws, horrible attitudes and lavish lifestyles have done more harm to the society (from the “modelless” youth to the working minority) than any other factor in recent history.

    If we put them behind bars and strip away their credibility, others might replace them, but there’s no reason to say the first group should not be behind bars!

  • z:

    Hary, Blegoo, Krossfire: “functional democracy” is an utopia as beautiful and close to reality as “functional communism” or “world peace” :)

    Here’s a bit of reality: [oligarchy]

    Your contention that “the arrested people ARE NOT THERE BECAUSE OF ELECTION RELATED FELONIES” is wonderfully naive and perhaps quite appropriate for a young, idealistic man, but not for someone who wants to advise politicians and manage campaigns. What you see in “House of Cards” is truly inspired by reality, as cynical or criminal as it may appear to be, much like “The Good Wife” is inspired itself by political events and the American “justice” system.

    An effective politician twists arms and breaks the law – see Lyndon Johnson and Nixon. Positions on voting lists are more often than not sold to the higher bidder – see my article on Geoana Blagojevich for an explanation in Romanian. You cannot get elected if you do not spend at first a significant amount of money out of your own pocket and then once elected, you have to traffic influence, spend and receive money, whether you do good deeds for the public or you simply follow your own interest. A very rich person might be theoretically able to spend only their own money, but who and why would do such a thing only for the good of voters who don’t know what they want, are easily manipulated and can’t tell the difference between a good politician and a bad one?

    Even if you leave the “morality or lack thereof” aside, the current convictions are mostly obtained on skimpy and often non-existent evidence and amateurish prosecutions – that is my own personal opinion based on the few judicial decisions I’ve read. 99% of the people who are “satisfied” with this travesty of justice either have not made even a symbolic effort to follow what goes on in the courtroom or if they did, they didn’t get it – they are happy to completely devolve any critical thinking to judges, who themselves don’t seem to get what a functional justice system is.

    Finally, the comparison we’ve been making (comparing current Romanian politicians to Western ones) is dishonest – and even there I don’t think there is much difference. If you want to make a more accurate comparison, you need to go back to “robber barons” and “the gilded age” (look them up on Wikipedia) as that era better resembles the Romanian “jungle capitalism”.
    (To clarify, in a corporatist/fascist/oligarchic system, corporate leaders are essentially the unelected government.)

  • k:

    Dude. House of Cards? Really? I’ve had contact with some of these people (not the best type of contact, mind you), back in the day when I thought I could change something. They’re the reason I won’t be switching back from advertising anytime soon.

    They’re not behind bars because of election connected felonies and I’m not the one mentioning a Kevin Spacey series here. Surely, some of them are there also because of election related felonies, but most of them should be behind bars for both minor and major offences. They’re being trialed for the most obvious, difficult to escape charges, not for the full extent of their “reigns”. They’re being trialed so they can be finally prosecuted, not so that can pay in full (though they would deserve it). This is the part that saddens me somehow, because we need stronger examples.

    “A very rich person might be theoretically able to spend only their own money, but who and why would do such a thing only for the good of voters who don’t know what they want, are easily manipulated and can’t tell the difference between a good politician and a bad one?” – For power and influence, not for the good of others. For opening up a world of possibilities which, if you’re smart enough, you can exploit without extorting, threatening and dilapidating.

    “Even if you leave the “morality or lack thereof” aside, the current convictions are mostly obtained on skimpy and often non-existent evidence and amateurish prosecutions – that is my own personal opinion based on the few judicial decisions I’ve read.” – Some of the files which are now being closed have been on the role for more than 10 years (some of them being opened during Nastase’s reign – a regime famous for not convicting anyone of actual importance).

    “who themselves don’t seem to get what a functional justice system is.” – The whole idea of “justice” has been tarnished to an extent where “he bring money to the economy” seems to matter more than “he has stolen immense quantities of money to get there”. It shouldn’t work that way, even if it does, in many Western “democracies”. Remember: People like Adrian Nastase, Sorin Ovidiu Vantu and Dan Voiculescu have dominated the “big business” landscape for years through blackmail and oppression and, if you can’t find enough evidence for that, you can find evidence that Darius Valcov and Dan Sova have crippled immense budgets and have approved some incredibly disturbing documents. None of these people have done “more good” for the economy than bad.

Obviously, in the above debate Krossfire is arguing that those charged are guilty in general, while I argue that they were probably not guilty as charged and furthermore these trials don’t do much to change Romania’s image. But what makes for Romania’s image and its lack of creds in Europe?

Currently, the most commented article on The Local in Sweden (za-sweroma) is the report that almost half of the Swedes polled want to ban begging, an increase of 10 percentage points in only a few months, suggesting a surge of beggars assaulting their cities, or a moral panic at work.

I have commented extensively on that article as I was trying to understand what was going on. In short, the idea of “banning begging” seems idiotic to me. If you are a Swede or foreign worker who believes that beggars should be “removed from the streets”, it makes more sense to fine people who give money to beggars, much like what their prostitution law is doing. If, on the other hand, you believe that the beggars should be helped, you need to design better programs and better outreach. Banning begging is idiotic no matter how you look at it.

Sources / More info: base-vila, mb-bucur, base-sila, hn-iccj, kr-scz, za-sweroma, w-robaron, w-ga, w-mp, za-borisov

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