Monday, November 15, 2004

The elections

No not the US ones. I'm having a moratorium on them right now. The Romanian ones. The election for president of Romania is coming up at the end of the month, and I thought you might need a little background knowledge on who the candidates are.

First up we have Adrian Nastase. No relation to Ilie, as far as I am aware. He's the current prime minister and preferred candidate of the outgoing president Ion Iliescu. This in my mind makes me suspect that Nastase is no better than his sponsor. And thus not very good. He says diplomatically. However Nastase is younger than Iliescu and presumably not a powerful member of the Ceasescu administration, so at least that tainting by association is second generational rather than first.

Then we have Traian Basescu, the mayor of Bucharest. he recently stepped in to the role of primary challenger to Nastase after some guy called Stolojan pulled out citing health reasons. Basescu has two things going for him (a) he is named after a Roman emperor. I mean, how cool is that? (b) he seems to speak his mind and be fairly upbeat. Thinking is that he is likely to get closer to Nastase than Stolojan would have for precisely that reason.

Next we have the odious Cornelius Vadim Tudor who is not, as the name might suggest, a villan from the Harry Potter books, but a living and breathing villain in his own right. A horrible racist bigot, he taps into Romanian nationalist sentiment and is liable to poll somewhere around about 15%. The guy is a complete psycho. In the last election he came out with some outrageous anti-semitic bullshit the likes of which were probably unseen in European politics since ooh, about 1933, at a guess. Since then he has undergone a "dramatic conversion" and now loves Jews. His vitriol this time round is directed mostly at Hungarians and Roma. His conversion to pro-semitism came after he was invited to visit Israel. Probably he saw how the Palestinians were treated there and decided that the Israeli government at least were of a type to aspire to. I'm intrigued by the idea that you can be a complete bigoted racist bastard and get a free trip to a country out of it. Those bloody Seychellois - they are at the root of all the World's problems.

If Vadim Tudor were a character in Harry Potter he'd be a death eater in thrall to the great unmentionables of 20th Century European politics the three headed Voldemort of Hitler, Stalin, and Ceasescu. The idea that he can get 1 vote astounds me, frankly, but the fact that he's likely to get 15% is appalling.

The only other one I know of is Marko Bela, the candidate of the Hungarian ethnic party. Frankly I don't really know why they have a candidate in national elections. Many Hungarians will likely vote for him, which means that he'll get about 7% of the vote - but why? Surely they'd be better advocating for one of the likely winners to speak to Hungarian issues and make some promises to the community, and therefore use their voting power to bolster support for one of the likely winners. As it stands, basicaly they'll say "Look we're Hungarian and we want you to know that" and the winner will get in and ignore them. Seems weird to me.

I'll keep you updated. I bet you're excited aren't you?

Contexts Pt 3

So, enough of my righteous indignation at that scum Bush and his mates from the Southern Fascist Convention inflicting four more years of their bigotry and hate on the world. If you want to read something good (and don't mind a bit of swearing), I recommend the rant at

It snowed here last night, which reminds me of my need to continue with my Contexts series. So here it is ..part III

Contexts Pt III: Csikszereda

Csikszereda lies in the "Ciuc Depression", which is a geographical feature in the Carpathians, rather than a psychological condition medicated with Prozac. Essentially it means we are quite high up, 600-800 metres to be vague, and yet surrounded by hills. It's quite a climb to get out of this area in any direction, and from there onwards usually a descent. One consequence of this is that Csikszereda is widely considered to be the coldest town in Romania (although I have also heard the same claim about Gheorgheni, another town about 60km north of us). Today it is a relatively mild 3 degrees C, but I'm assuming last night's snowfall has heralded the onset of winter, and five months of freezing my butt off. Still, I spent the last six winters in Vermont and it doesn't sound like it will be that different. One advantage of the depression is that there isn't much wind, so even though I've been warned to expect occasional temperature dips to -35, there at least be any of that vicious wind that really rubs it in. (I should point out that -35 is a very unusual event, and what I really have to look forward to are a couple of weeks of -15. This is no worse than Vermont, and possibly better).

What else is interesting about the area? Well it's full of springs. Every town it seems has a tap in the middle of it from which you can draw mineral water for free. None of your fancy evian or perrier here, you just fill your bottles and go on with your life. This ready access to good water probably explains why one of Romania's most famous beers "Ciuc" comes from here too. (Ciuc, like most Romanian companies has been recently bought. In this case by Heineken).

It's also notable for being the centre of the remaining Hungarian community. Csikszereda is the county town of Harghita County, which along with Covasna county are the majority Hungarian communities left in Romania. As a result of which the Romanian media presents them as being the root of all evil in the country. The population of Csikszereda is 90% Hungarian, and the next closest town, Szekelyudvarhely (Odorhui Secuiesc in Romanian) is 98% Hungarian. Other towns round here are similar in ethnic makeup. The rest of Transylvania is now predominantly Romanian.

So, it's cold, has good beer, is mostly Hungarian, and errm, well that's it mostly. There really isn't much else to say about it. It's nice though. Beautiful scenery, mountains, forests, lakes, the whole works.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

So, who are they?

The people who voted for Bush, I mean. I spent 6 years living in the US and in that time met one person who professed to be a Republican (but even he said that Bush was a disgrace to the party and he wouldn't be voting for him), and one person who never actually came out and said it, but who I suspect was a Bush fan. In SIX years. Now, admittedly I was living inpossibly the most liberal county in the most liberal state in the union (Windham County, Vermont), but even so, I'd expect to have met some people who supported Bush, given that there are apparently nearly 60 million of them out there.

It's the cretins who called the TV stations in horror at the exposure of half of Janet Jackson's right breast at the Superbowl isn't it? The people who were so appalled at such a display of indecency that they couldn't help but complain. "It's a family event" they cried in mock indignation. This in a half time show that was interspersed with ads for impotency drugs. What they were really worried about obviously was the idea of a white man and a black woman doing such a show. That kind of interracial sexuality is obviosuly quite out of place in middle America. Britney's breast would have been OK (unless of course it was exposed by Puff Daddy or someone), but Janet's? No thank you. If people had complained about the mind-numbing awfulness of the "entertainment" on view, then fine, but no, it was the sight of a breast on TV. A black breast.

What conclusions can one darw from this, and the election that followed? Half of all voting Americans are racist homophobes with limp dicks. It's fairly simple. Should the rest of the world accept these people with open arms and say, OK we need to reach out to you? No. No more than we should reach out to any other fundamentalist nut jobs - whether they be Al Qaida, the Taliban, the Settler movement, or the Saudi regime. Tolerance is a good thing. Tolerance of intolerance is not.

Bush will now claim to reach out across the divide. This will mean hosting a breakfast and inviting some Democrats, and telling them "we're going to ban abortion, and criminalise homosexuality, and you're all either with us or your against us. The US public have spoken, and you have no choice". This is not reaching out and it should not be confused as such.

Screw them. Keep fighting the regime in Washington. Keep arguing, keep the media on their toes and don;t let them get away with their ridiculous propagandist bias of the last four years. The world, and the USA needs people to keep fighting. If you need proof, check out

And then, to see the latest questions of vote rigging and odd stuff that went on at the polls, Greg Palast has written a good article here (His book "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" by the way, is an excellent one):

And finally an interesting picture among some of the figures from Ohio...

Franklin County, OH: Gahanna 1-B Precinct

US Senator:
Fingerhut (D) - 167 votes
Voinovich (R) - 300 votes

US President:
Kerry (D) - 260 votes
Bush (R) - 4,258 votes

And we are told that this wasn't fixed? Bollocks.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Reaching out

I am now back on home soil. Or at least Romanian soil, which is my home, though not my mother soil. Can you have mother soil? Is there some fancy latin name for it? Like terra mater or something?

Anyway, as you might imagine my mind has been whirring with thoughts of the US election ever since it happened. Here is what I have so far concluded:

1. It seems, at least for now, to have been a very democratic election, with high turnout (in US terms) and enthusiasm on both sides. Unlike the well documented denial of the vote to many African Americans in Floirida in 2000, as of yet we have heard of no major abuses of democracy. And with so many lawyers and activists watching like hawks it seems likely that there really weren't any significant ones (though I am still suspicious of the computing technology in these new style polls. Is there any suspicion that the exit polls may have been way off not because they were way off, but because the figures were fiddled electronically?)

This is unquestionably a good thing. It's obviously the wrong result, from everybody's perspective, but at least it is the wrong result for the right reasons (ie that the people decided it and not a bunch of aging judges who were appointed by the Republican party in the first place)

2. Amidst the inevitable recriminations in the Democrat party is is clear that one of the things that will come out of this is a desire to "reach out to the heartland". This is obviously what the party needs to do. But how? How do you reach people who are so twisted that they profess to want to protect the "life" of a bunch of cells in someone else's uterus, but are quite happy with capital punishment and with the deaths of over a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians. You know real, living breathing Iraqis. Children and adults alike. I mean I am not a huge fan of the pope, but at least his position is consistent - if you're anti-abortion (and for the stated reason of being "pro-life"), you at least have to be "pro-life" across the board. JP2 is anti abortion (which I don't agree with), but also anti war and anti capital punsihment. At least that has an internal logic.

How do you reach out to people who believe that carrying guns is an inalienable right? I mean really. How the fuck do you deal with these people? People who believe that walking around tooled up is what the country needs. And people who are so committed to the constitution that they quote the gun bit over and over like it's axiomatic. But at the same time they are so anti-constitution that the idea of equality of rights is anathema to them. The equality of marriage (oughtn't it to be open to all?), the equality of citizens (regardless of colour or background). To hear them talk you'd think the entirety of the constitution read "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that every american should be allowed to arm themselves to the teeth with assault wepaons and the like, except for the people we don't really like, such as blacks, gays, women, and pretty much everyone who is not a white man with a northern European surname".

These people are often referred to (by themselves) as Christians. By others as the Christian Right. But where in the gospels (which is basically the only source we have to go on) is Jesus promoted as some kind of avenging angel, smiting homos and A-Rabs? He isn't, is he? I confess my knowledge of the bible is pretty limited, but he always seems to come across as this nice guy who protects the weak and asks people to love their neighbours and turn the other cheek if you get struck, and does a couple of miracles just to keep people interested. Where is Jesus the homophobe? Where is Jesus the NRA member? Where is Jesus the imperial crusader? Where is Jesus the hanging judge? What kind of Christian can read the bible and think that killing a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians is pretty much "The Way"? What kind of Christian can read the bible and think that by advocating the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, they are somehow doing "His Will"? Mad ones. That's who.

3. We are told that the US is a divided nation. I bloody hope it is. If there are 50% of the people who think that invading Iraq was a good thing to do in the war on terror, and that discrimnation and racism is a good thing, then thank god it is divided. There's hope there still.

Meanwhile I have work to do. So, I'll go ahead and get started. And return to this argument later.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

letter to the editor

After my rage had subsided a bit yesterday, i wrote the following letter to my gformer local paper in the US. I suspect they haven't printed it as I haven't receiuved any emails from old friends commenting oin it...

Dear Editor

I sit here in Europe having left Brattleboro in July, feeling as angry, scared and depressed as I can ever remember feeling. After 6 years in Brattleboro, I now live in Romania and want to express my solidarity with the people of Brattleboro and of Vermont in what will undoubtedly be the toughest four years in US and world history.

In some ways I feel like someone who has gone through a terrible experience with an ex-. I first came to the US in 1995, and slowly but surely fell in love with the country. I admired its values, respected its history and loved its freedoms. So enamoured was I that I moved in. I had many blissful yeras before starting to realise not long after September 11th, 2001, that something in our relationship was wrong. It wasn't me that had changed but the country. As more and more anti-democratic legislation was passed, and more and more of what I had assumed to be the core values of the country were eroded, I felt cheated on. With hindsight I realise that my partner's affair started in Florida in November 2000, but at the time I had thoiugh it was a one-off problem. Finally, unable to conceal my disappointment and betrayal any longer, I left in the summer of 2004. As time has passed in this seperation, I have wondered if we could ever be friends and resume a normal speaking relationship. Today, as I sit here terrified for the future of the world and of the next four years, I realise that at least until 2008, there is no going back. There is no rapprochement between me and the USA I thought I knew.

I am angry. Angry with the media which has consistently failed to challenge the Bush administration, angry with the voters who were duped into voting for this madman and his cronies, angry with the US for letting this happen. I am scared. Scared for the world, scared for the people who will be directly affected by this vote and who had no say in it. And I am depressed. Depressed that for the next four years at least the country I once loved will be dragged ever closer to being a fundametalist theocracy and an imperial military power.

I feel like the US has stuck its middle finger firmly in the face of the world and said, in effect, f*** you. I fear for America, for the people I know, for my friends and loved ones in the USA, that now the anti-bushism that has gone around the world will translate into full-on anti-Americanism. I can feel it in my blood, and I can already see it around me. We can forgive you once, but a second time is too much, is the sense I am getting.

I am sorry for all of you, and I hope you feel the same sympathy for those of us who didn't get to vote and who will suffer just as much.

Andrew Hockley

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

November 3rd. Angry, scared, and depressed.

It's nearly 9 a.m. Polish time on Wednesday November 3rd. I woke up this morning to the news that it seems likely that Bush will win the US election. Here are my instant responses.

The USA has basically just held up its collective middle finger and said "Fuck You" to the world. As a citizen of the Rest Of The World, I feel quite justified in holding up my middle finger and saying "Fuck You America". If I had a US flag and a can of lighter fluid I'd go down the US consulate and burn the hideous thing.

Four more years of war, of theft, of viciousness, of polluting the planet to within an inch of its life, and of religious and imperial fundamentalism. Or perhaps just mentalism. There is nothing good about this news. Absolutely nothing. The world is fucked, and US voters have fucked it. Thanks guys.

And if I'm angry and scared and depressed right now, how must others be feeling? Palestinians know that Bush has basically told Sharon that he can keep whatever bits of the West Bank he wants. Syrians know that they will probably now be bombed and killed and their homes flattened between now and 2008. Likewise Iranians. People in low lying countries or regions know that their homes will soon vanish under the rising seas while the US churns out vast quantities of shit into the atmosphere unchecked.

This result is an unmitigated disaster with no silver lining. Fuck America. Fuck it, fuck that fucked up country.

Sorry to all my American readers, who may feel offended by this. Probably more than half of my friends are American and in all my years living there I have only met one self-professed Bush voter. If this result just affected you and your nation, it would be merely an example of one of the failings of democracy. As it is it effects all of us. Every single one. And approximately 50% of the American poublic (who voted) think that Bush is worth electing. Well fuck those people. They have fucked all of us. I hate you. Bastards.