Tuesday, June 25, 2013
The years since 1989, the years since the new democratic history of Bulgaria marked a transition that to some extent destabilized the country, or at least whatever was left from the country after the communistic furor. Inflation, unemployment and poverty hit the ceiling and served as propaganda for the political parties. At every elections political leaders come up with their magical plans that they name after themselves. The most recent one was the plan "Siderov". Understandably, such a master plan had to be named after its founder - Volen Siderov. I'll give a brief summary of the events surrounding this individual since the last elections.
On Volen Siderov
Volen Siderov has been active politician for several years now. Years ago he was hosting a political program on TV but decided that he is "the chosen one" - the one to lead the country to success. Despite Siderov's very questionable sanity, thanks to his emotional speeches and army of supporters (does this remind of you somebody?) Siderov managed to get into Parliament ever since the creation of his gang/party. What does he do in order to attract enough voters? For example his campaign at the recent Parliament elections was spun around the plan "Siderov". Wow, it sounds so majestic - the plan "Siderov"! Reminds me of the plan "Marshall" or the plan 'Barbarossa". It is life changing. Anyway, the plan "Siderov" (btw, the full name is "the plan "Siderov" against the colonial yoke" included throwing out the foreign monopolists (I will elaborate the monopolistic problem later on), making the minimum salary 1000 lv (500 euro, currently it is about 200 lv, or 100 euro) and the minimum pension 500 lv (250 euro, currently it is around 145 leva, or 75 euro) and several other policies that would help the country prosper. All this sounds great, higher salaries, supporting local businesses and so on. I, however, do not find the need to explain why this plan won't and couldn't have worked. At the very least, the foreign interests (read "a few big and powerful countries") would not allow. And with the heavy ass-liking that some of our diplomats show and have shown, foreign interests will prevail over Bulgarian ones. Unnatural, I know, but it is what it is. But!!! Do not forget that we have SIderov. For many people he was the bright light at the elections. He was always speaking! (not acting, but speaking) against the communists, against the Turkish party, against the criminals, in two words, against the status quo. And people were desperate. And many believed him. At the elections his party managed to earn just enough votes to enter the Parliament. The previous party in power "GERB" won, the communists (BSP) and the Turkish party (DPS) also were trusted by the voters to represent the nation's interests. However, even though GERB won it did not have a majority at the Parliament. And if they didn't have majority, they couldn't form a stable government. So the mandate was given to BSP. They also did not have enough MPs to make a stable government so they entered into coalition with DPS. Once again, the votes would not have been enough. So, what happened is that the few MPs from "Attack", led by their "Grand Chief" Volen Siderov ended up in the center of the whole political fiasco hurricane. Their decision was what would've decided between have new elections or having the same ol' faces ruling the country. Nobody doubted what the party will choose. After all, the negativism that the party felt against both, BSP and DPS, was not exactly a secret. Surprise, surpries. "Attack"'s MPs did! support the formation of the new government. Not a surprise, Volen Siderov is now seen as a traitor in the eyes of not only many Bulgarians but also in the eyes of many of his supporters. After all, the guy just proved that he is no different that the rest and his actions speak loudly about his reason to become a politician. And no, it is not so he can lead the country to success. Oh, and ever since he got elected as a MP (MPs in Bulgaria have immunity against legal prosecution) he and his army (they do dress in military clothing) assaulted two journalists and a policemen.
The clown behavior of Siderov continued at the protests. A few days after the first strikes, many of the protesters headed towards the central office of "Attack" to express their contempt for the party's actions. Siderov and his party are part of the Parliament whose purpose is to serve the citizens. Protesting against bad politics is a constitutional right of every Bulgarian. However, Siderov was prepared. Behind the line of policemen that surrounded the office there were about a hundred supporters of "Attack" whom Siderov is using as his personal guard. Well hidden behind police and muscle Siderov was brave enough to blame the protestors and to call them derogatory names. He even insisted that the police should arrest the protesters. As a journalist and a MP, Siderov should know better that the police does not take orders from the Parliament and protesting is not a crime. <i>Maybe it will be in the imaginary country that he will lead.</i>
What makes the current protests different is also the reaction of some institutions. The police syndicate sent a letter to the media regarding the protests.
It is exceptionally hard and strongly apathetic to enforce public order when the very same politicians that stay behind the police lines instead of working for responsible government position, instead of working towards public peace and prosper of the nation, provoke the public and the government employees, groundless attack the employees of MVR [the Ministry of Interior Affairs], engage in physical altercations with the police and defend their [the politician's] behaviour with the MP immunity".
The letter does not name "Attack" or Siderov directly but it is obvious whom it is referencing. That's it on "Attack", Siderov and the straitjacket he needs.
P.S.: The protest's main focus is not Siderov. The strikes started after a businessmen with questionable business was appointed by the government as a head of DANS (Government Agency for National Security). However, the attitude of Siderov is a collective image of the whole current government - ignorant but arrogant. Siderov is just a puppy that serves as a guard dog...But even if he barks loudly, he is still a puppy. Who's a good boy? Not him, for sure.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
The blog is back and live.
The time since my last post did not go uneventful. On the contrary, there are several worrisome topics that caught the public attention. Among the recent ones - the surveillance scandal (Hello, to whoever is reading my personal correspondence), the protests in Turkey, and a more local event - the two waves of anti-government protests. During this several months, some other worrisome topics lost their public interest, but they shouldn't have.
On "the gun control debates
For example, the debate on gun control is not so interesting anymore. In Bulgaria we have a saying that roughly translates as: "every fuss lasts three days" (it sounds much better in Bulgarian, though). What has left from the gun control issue is a few provocateurs. Namely, all those gun owners who have committed to posting YouTube videos on how they defend their freedom by exercising their open-carry rights. Nothing says "I am free to do whatever I want because my country has a constitution", than walking around malls with a M16 strapped over the shoulder. And then the well-known scenario reveals - ordinary citizens, fearful for their safety, do the civilized thing - turn to the authorities (in this case the police). And when the policemen try to do their job, they are vigorously resisted by the proud open-carry gun owners. And then the other well-known scenario unveils: simple questions like "What's your name and why are you wielding guns in a public area" get pointless repetitive answer: "Because I can" or "Am I under arrest?". WTF? A cop asking you to identify yourself doesn't mean he is going to arrest you. I simply do not get it. One must be very bored to go out on the street with the sole intention of getting into arguments with the police force. Do not get me wrong, as I have stated before, I am not against guns. But if you want to carry, you do not need to brag about it, let alone get passive-aggressive because somebody asked you why do you need to go hiking with an assault gun* If gun owners want a safe society, gearing up like Rambo will certainly not provide safety. It provides confusion, fear, paranoia and all kinds of negative emotions that could be spared.**
*I saw a video of a man going to the nearby hills! (it wasn't even in the mountains) with his son. The man was carrying an assault rifle, supposedly for defense should they need such. Against what? Bears, raccoons, skunks?
On the surveillance
Speaking of freedoms...How to begin? The recent revelations from Edward Snowden earned extreme popularity all over the world so there is no need to recap on the recent events. The surveillance scandal brought a very interesting paradox. The paradox is that proposals to control gun ownership were met with colossal opposition - people were talking about freedom, democracy, Second Amendment, etc. However, the surveillance programs, which violate freedom severely, so far, pass by with not so much fuss. What's more disturbing is that Americans seem to be angry mainly because of the secrecy not so much because of the existence of such practice. The surveillance that the American government exercises violates at least two Amendments - the 4th and the 10th. People cannot be searched or/and have their property seized without a reason (4th Amendment) and the American government does not have the right to be a "world police" (the American Constitution does not and cannot delegate to the USA the task of being a "world police", therefore, by surveilling foreigners the US government gave itself powers that are not enlisted in the Constitution, thus violating the 10th Amendment). It seems that the American society is more keen on keeping its Second Amendment than keeping its private life. This is very, very disturbing. What is even more disturbing is the reaction of the government officials. They are trying to downgrade the situation by "calming" the Americans that the main target of the surveillance programs were foreigners not living in the US. In other words, if you are not Americans you are a second class citizen. Why? Well, because it seems that all non-Americans posses a threat to the "national security". How can one society be so militarized and paranoid? And how can people be fine with that? How can people be fine with such intrusion of personal space? As I have stated in a previous post, the government should serve, it should not oppress. But the US has its PATRIOT act, right? It can do whatever it wants because...well, because it can. State sovereignty doesn't mean anything. Except! when it comes to the US. Try to imagine what the outcome will be if a non-US intelligence agency was surveilling US citizens, no matter where they reside. On the bright side the US is on its way of enforcing its twisted beliefs over the whole world. Nobody dared to raise a voice at yesterday's G8 meeting. I mean to really raise a voice. Nobody dared to raise a voice about the 2009 G20 meeting, monitored by the British agencies. But it is irrelevant, what is relevant is that the US is kept safe from the dangerous 6,7 billion non-Americans.
On the Boston bombings
It seems that the PRISM program was not so efficient in preventing the Boston bombings. If it so justified to illegally surveill people, why did not the agencies prevent the bombings? Why didn't the agencies prevent the Sandy Hook shooting? Why the agencies did not prevent the Aurora shooting? The list can go on. If the PRISM project really intercepted suspicious behavior, why did it fail in the mentioned tragedies? Attacks like these take some level of preparation. And in the era of the Internet this preparation must have taken place online. It is very doubtful that the Boston bombers learned how to make bombs in the library. It is also very doubtful that the shooters at Sandy Hook and Aurora did not leave any signs online - chats, emails, website visits can all be a valuable tip. Why were these tips missed? Because the US wasn't concerned for attacks carried out by Americans, as government officials said? Adam Lanza was American, James Holmes is American, the Tzarnaev brothers grew up in the US, the Unabomber is American, and so on, and so on. So, maybe the US government should watch more closely its own?
This is it for now. Soon I will post Part 2 of Vol. 2 which will cover the protests in Bulgaria and Turkey.
Sunday, January 6, 2013
* [assault] - a violent physical or verbal attack
a military attack usually involving direct combat with enemy forces
a concerted effort (as to reach a goal or defeat an adversary)
a threat or attempt to inflict offensive physical contact or bodily harm on a
person, that puts the person in immediate danger of or in apprehension
* [servant] - one that serves others
What happens when your gun has been your best companion for months? What happens when your enlistment in the army gives you immunity from persecution in the country that you were deployed to? What happens is that you get used to it. In the awake of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, that left twenty six grieving families, the authorities, at last, took the issue of gun ownership seriously (too little, and some 250 school shooting victims since 1992, too late). One of the measures came from senator Dianne Feinstein, a democratic representative from California, who proposes a ban or a stricter control on assault weapons. In fact, this is nothing new, but an attempt for recall of 1994 law that came to end at 2004.
Unsurprisingly, some alerted Americans immediately clinched to the precious Second Amendment to the Constitution. Amendment that was created in times when the civil state just emerged in the USA and it was unclear how it will affect the citizens, and whose purpose was to legitimize the use of guns against the government (in case the citizen decided that the government is being unjust). Obviously, or may be not to everybody, now, 200 years later, we live in organized states where the government is sovereign - the people have put their trust in it and to disobey the government means to disobey one's own trust.
Then why Americans are so protective of their Second Amendment? Why do they find it more important than their own lives? One of the answers was given on the 27th of December from USMC Cpl Joshua Boston. He expressed his anger with the proposition and specifically with its contributor, Sen. Feinstein, by declaring his refusal of registering his gun, should the federal law pass. Cpl Boston states that he is "not a servant" to the senator, however, the veteran misses one important point. His oath of enlistment: "Enlistment Oath.— Each person enlisting in an armed force shall take the following oath: "I, XXXXXXXXXX, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." Cpl Boston is correct in his statement that he is not a servant. It is true that governments (civil states) were created to serve the people, not the other way around. However, a government is an organization that is carried out by people. In this sense the people employed in the government are servants to all citizens; hence the designation "public servant". The military is still a part of the executive branch of the government and its task is to provide its service of protection. Hence, the term military service. Furthermore, the enlistment oath obliges every armed official to "obey the orders of the President of the United States". In order for a bill to become a federal law, it must be approved by the President. In this sense, a refusal to abide to a federal law will not only be illegal but it will be an infringement of the oath.
I do share Cpl Boston's concern that we live in a dangerous world and these dangers are rather overlooked than being addressed and tackled. I also agree that guns should not be banned as this measure only favors criminals and leaves people defenseless. However, the types of guns that Sen Feinsein is talking about are not meant for defense. They are called "assault guns" for a reason - they attack and kill. A Colt Commander with muzzle velocity of 340 m/s and effective range of 60 m cannot compare with the semi-automatic AR-15 with 975 m/s of muzzle velocity and effective range of 500 m. This is why the rifle looks scary, not because of its lack of "wooden stock" (AK-47's wooden stock does not make it less scary). Cpl Boston's disbelief in the internal security of his country is quite scary given the fact that he was a part of the very same people that are supposed to protect the country - the government armed forces. If this protection is not enough is it justified to even have a military, to have a police force, to make laws? Why not just go back to the state of nature?
Some "wise" people say "guns don't kill people, people with guns kill people" - guns were created to kill (or at least wound) and do not have any other application. Other "wise" people say cars also kill people - however, cars are means of transportation so it is like comparing apples and oranges. Therefore, acquiring an assault weapon from a civil citizen seems inappropriate and dangerous. Why would somebody need a tool that is made with the sole purpose of harming somebody else? There are many more means of personal defense where the person can exercise some level of damage control. Nevertheless the experience the shooter has, using a weapon that can easily kill a target 500 m away, only puts innocent people in grave danger and brings us back to the times when everybody would award justices according to one's beliefs.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
A summary of what happened so far (10:40 am, Washington time) at the Democrat-Republican debate on how to tackle the "fiscal cliff".
- Around 9 pm (Washington time), the Senate agreed on the following measures:
- The tax cut for the middle-class Americans, implemented during Bush's administration, will remain, while individuals and families with annual income of over $ 400 000 and $ 450 000, respectively, will have to pay 39,6 % taxes (a raise from 35 %) - a result of compromises made by both Democrats and Republicans.
- The other issue that was debated was the tax on inherited real estate - the proposal to decrease the value from $ 5 million to $ 1 million did not pass. Therefore, still, individuals who inherit property valued at less than $ 5 million do not owe federal tax.
- The benefits for long-term unemployed will extend for one more year (despite Democrat's wish to cut them)
- The government spending cuts included in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (a.k.a. budget sequestration), that were supposed to take in effect from today will be delayed with two months.
- A policy known as "child tax credit" that decreases taxes on families with income of less than $ 130 000 and who have kids will be extended for two more years.
- So far, nothing on the reason for all these measures - the foreign debt ceiling.
The Congress approved the measures (257 - 167).
In summary - the taxes of Americans will raise at the expense of very little government spending cut. The measures are expected to add around $ 715 billion in the span of ten years.
Monday, December 31, 2012
Chaos, panic, uncertainty. These three words can summarize the current negotiations between the American Republicans and Democrats.
What is the "fiscal cliff"? The outcome of the negotiations is, not surprisingly, looked with great interest from all over the world - we all remember, from a few years ago, the great deal of impact that the American recession caused over the whole world. Ironically, the USA, the country in fault, was among the first to, relatively, recover from the crisis, while many others, mainly from Europe, still struggle in handling the economic setback. The best example is Greece - country with rich history in politics and state development who is torn apart by extreme rates of unemployment, wage cuts and foreign debt. And the USA is walking on the same path - with the difference that US's economy has enough resources to remain No. 1...so far. Nevertheless, one does not need a PhD in economy to know that the Greeko-American model of spending>earning cannot provide stability, let alone, growth. Unfortunately, this malpractice is not something that can be handled over a day - with the everyday advance of technology, the great marketing strategies of major producers and the easy availability of credits, it is close to impossible for someone to resist buying a new phone, tablet, car or even a house - buy now, think later. Of course, the government is happy with this excessive consumption - every purchase is contribution towards the tax collection, hence, George Bush's advise to the people to spend more instead of save during the time of economic crisis. So far, so good (actually, bad...whatever, semantics) - everybody is happy, people get to enjoy life, the government gets to collect more money which later go back to the people in the form of welfare, security, education, etc... So what could be wrong with this "perpetuum mobile"? The problem is that people spend money they do not have and cannot make on time to pay back their loans - which leads to more loans, and, eventually, banks have to file for bankruptcy, get help from the government and...well, you know the drill. In summary, this is what caused the 2008 crisis. Now, 4 years later, the New Year's eve might bring only further suffering to the country's situation by putting into practice the widely used term "fiscal cliff" - the process of rapid setback (recession) in the American economy.
What are the options? There are two possible outcomes and neither of them will bring any good - the major tax cuts voted during Bush's administration will end at the end of this year (with just a few hours left, however, no decision has come yet) and the citizens will be burden with having to give the government greater cut of their wages. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that it is necessary for this tax increase to be limited only to families whose income exceeds $ 250 000 (Democrats' demand) or $ 400 000 (Republicans' demand). This decision is not something that can be discussed over a cup of tea, and puts the Senate and the president's administration at an impossible position - to approve the extension of tax cuts, thus contributing further to the enormous foreign debt; or to proceed with the increase of taxes, thus, limiting people's ability to invest in the country but contributing towards the pay of the debt. The former outcome will limit the country's ability to manage its debt, while the latter, will limit the country's ability to stabilize its current condition. With foreign debt of 16 trillion ($16,000,000,000,000) dollars, neither outcome will lead to anything good.
However, the Republicans and Democrats have yet to decide on another major issues - like the efficiency of the current social security system and the amount of money that are spent on "long-term unemployed". or the possible increase of taxes on inherited property - in case such an increase does go through, many farmers will be badly affected because their business will be even more severe taxed as a private property.
Unfortunately, all these measures come too late. It was long time ago, when it was the moment for the US to review completely its economic policy. The enormous expenditures in the fields of defense, space programs and benefits for the "professionally unemployed" (the ones who do not even look for a job) could have been redirected to fields that will pay-off or could have been used to create a fund for emergency situations (like the one that is about to arise after tomorrow).
What will happen during the negotiations and the result from the outcome will be seen in the following year. In any case, the outcome will not be pleasant and it is uncertain how it will affect the rest of the world - after all the USA is very important part of the wold economy chain and any policy, any decision that it makes is reflected on every country on every continent. It seems that this "cliff" is what the country needs in order for its people to wake up and reconsider their views on spending and saving.