Thursday, January 26, 2012
Hands off Hungary!
Brussels’ culture war against the ‘white savages’ of Hungary is destroying democracy and helping to boost reactionary right-wingers
By Frank Furedi, a reformed far Leftist who was born in Hungary
Thirty or 40 years ago, the way that the EU and the IMF are behaving towards Hungary would have been described as a classic example of neo-colonial pressure. Unlike Greece, Hungary is not simply being lectured about the need to sort out its economy - it has also been subjected to a veritable culture war. As far as the EU and the Western media are concerned, the real crime of the Hungarian government is not so much its inept economic strategy as its promotion of cultural and political values that run counter to what is deemed correct in Brussels.
The Brussels bureaucracy has long regarded Hungary as a society in danger of being engulfed by white savages. In 2006, when people in Budapest rioted against their corrupt government, the EU and sections of the Western media described the demonstrators as right-wing mobs posing a threat to democratic values. At the time, Brussels weighed in to support its man in Budapest, Ferenc Gyurcsany, the Socialist prime minister. The fact that Gyurcsany had lied to cover up the scale of Hungary’s massive budget deficit, and that he had admitted his dishonesty to some of his close colleagues, did not stop his mates in the EU from singing his praises. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, president of the Party of European Socialists, was quick to rush to Gyurcsany’s defence, claiming he was the ‘best man to make the reforms that Hungary needs’.
What the Western media overlooked was that the corrupt Gyurcsany government was complicit in creating the conditions for mass demoralisation and cynicism. It was this EU-backed regime that did much to unravel and damage public life in Hungary. Gyurcsany’s humiliating electoral defeat in 2010, and the triumph of Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party, meant that the EU’s placeman was replaced by an autocratic nationalist and populist prime minister.
As has been widely noted by the media, the legislative programme of the Orban government is a product of autocratic ambition. Its economic programme is a confused mix of pragmatism and nonsense – privatisation of industry, slashing welfare benefits while nationalising people’s pension schemes, and so on. In the domain of politics, the Orban government’s key impulse is to centralise control over the key institutions of public life, including the media and the judiciary. The Orban government has also passed new electoral laws that seem designed to entrench its power for years to come. This authoritarian approach is justified by the government in the name of upholding traditional Hungarian values. The new constitution reads like a caricature of a 1930s Balkan autocracy. It is thoroughly anti-liberal (in the classical sense of that term) and appeals to the Christian heritage of Hungary, the family and the nation.
Critics of this illiberal constitution rarely acknowledge that, for all its flaws, it is the first Hungarian constitution to be enacted within a parliamentary framework after a free election. In other words, this constitution has been put together by a government with a massive democratic mandate. Moreover, the Western media overlook the democratic deficit that preceded the Orban regime - namely that the earlier constitution of Hungary lacked any democratic mandate. The pre-Orban constitution was enacted on 20 August 1949 as part of the consolidation of the Moscow-dominated Stalinist regime in Hungary. No one in the EU appears to think it odd that an undemocratically enacted constitution imposed on Hungary by a former superpower should be considered morally superior to one based on a democratic mandate.
But then, the EU itself has no inhibitions about imposing its values on to its target audiences. It, too, does not want its constitutional proposals held up to public scrutiny. Sometimes it rules by decree and refuses people’s requests to hold any referenda on EU-related matters, on the basis that the issues are far too complex for ordinary people to understand. Evidently, the EU commissioners have read their Voltaire. To recall – it was Voltaire who praised the Russian absolute monarch Catherine the Great’s invasion of Poland and celebrated her ability ‘to make fifty thousand men march into Poland to establish there toleration and liberty of conscience’. The EU does not have 50,000 men but it does have many other resources for executing its culture war. Voltaire was tragically mistaken in his belief that deploying coercion was a legitimate tool for forcing people to change their beliefs – but at least he actually believed in tolerance and freedom of conscience. In contrast, the EU technocracy has little time for genuine tolerance.
Moreover, a genuine democratic ethos is not something that the European Commission is particularly passionate about. Its offensive against the Hungarian government has little to do with defending democratic rights. When it finally decided to match its threats of sanction with action, Brussels appeared to be most concerned about the fate, not of Hungary’s electorate, but of its unelected central bankers, unelected judges and the technocrats who run the data-protection agency. On 17 January, Brussels dispatched three letters of formal notice, warning the Orban regime to alter or get rid of recently enacted laws which failed to guarantee the independence of these three institutions. It seems that Brussels technocrats, who cherish their independence from the electorate, are annoyed by the Orban government’s self-serving attempt to cut their colleagues down to size.
What’s next for Hungary?
Faced with enormous economic and political pressure from the EU and the IMF, it appears the Hungarian government is ready to compromise and is likely to alter legislation that undermines the independence of the central bank, the data-protection agency and the judiciary. However, such a compromise will neither solve Hungary’s domestic problems nor restrain the EU from continuing to wage its culture war against this nation.
The Hungarian economy is in dire straits and the Orban regime faces growing hostility from an increasingly desperate electorate. Numerous commentators have pointed out that as a result of the massive scale of economic dislocation and disquiet about the new draconian laws, the Orban government has lost some of its electoral support. The large anti-government demonstration held in Budapest in early January was presented as proof that the base of support for Orban has eroded.
The reality is that, at present, there is no credible democratic alternative to Orban. Opposition to the new constitution, and to the Fidesz regime more broadly, has been both opportunistic and incoherent. A placard on the January demonstration summed up the problem. Written in English, it said: ‘Hey Europe, sorry about my prime minister.’ Clearly, the author of this placard was not addressing the people of Hungary but rather the Western media. Similarly, a statement written by 13 former dissidents protesting against the Orban government’s actions was clearly intended for foreign consumption. It ended with the line: ‘The desperate situation of present-day Hungary should be a warning for all of us: if Europe is prepared to help Hungary, it will also help itself.’
Sadly, imploring Europe to help opponents of the Orban regime is really a statement of irresponsible impotence. Brussels has no political role to play in Hungary other than to use undemocratic coercive pressure against a freely elected government. Worse, by appealing to foreign institutions to sort out Hungary’s domestic problems, the opposition betrays the same democratic deficit that it claims to see in the Orban government. The most likely result of this call for help from Europe will be to reinforce nationalist resentment at external interference. At a time when a sense of national victimhood has widespread resonance, the opposition’s plea for external intervention is likely only to confirm this prejudice.
In the present circumstances, the main beneficiary of the Orban government’s difficulties is not the Socialist opposition but the very unpleasant xenophobic Jobbik Party. It is likely that Jobbik – ‘the movement for a better Hungary’ – now enjoys greater electoral support than the Socialist Party. Jobbik has succeeded in mobilising a significant section of the people who have lost out in the process of transition from the former Stalinist regime to the corrupt post-Communist one. Unlike the ageing constituency of the Socialist Party, many of the supporters of Jobbik are young and relatively energetic. Jobbik’s platform consists of a mixture of populist xenophobia - against Roma people and Jews - with a nineteenth-century reactionary embrace of parochialism and national self-sufficiency. However, when I talked to a group of Jobbik voters last October, what struck me was not their nationalist fervour but their powerful conviction that they had ‘lost out’, had been forgotten and treated with contempt by institutions they could not trust. They support Jobbik because this movement reminds them that they exist.
To a significant extent, the relative success of Jobbik is a legacy of the wasted years of the post-Communist era. During this time, successive governments refused to settle scores with Hungary’s Stalinist past. The new elite – which had strong links with the previous nomenklatura – had one priority: securing its self-interest. Its alliance with the EU technocracy helped to foster an illusion of a reforming prosperous liberal democracy… but as we now know, the reality was far more complicated.
The most useful contribution that Europeans can make to help Hungary is to resist the temptation to ‘help’. It is up to the people of Hungary to determine their political future and hopefully to embrace the values of an open society. Most important of all is the need to recognise the right of people to work out for themselves the norms and values they wish to live by. That’s why the advocates of EU cultural correctness need to be told: ‘Hands off Hungary!’
What We've Lost
It’s the time of year when thoughts turn more concertedly to the ongoing tragedy – and travesty – of abortion. Activists count back to the January 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and produce new calculations on how many lives have been ended prematurely through the deliberate choice of their mothers—and with the often enthusiastic cooperation of medical professionals who have found their own ways of reconciling the destruction of life with their Hippocratic oath. (The latest addition tells us that a number roughly equivalent to the population of California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Arizona has been subtracted from the human race.)
Partisans of “a woman’s right to choose” rejoice, taking shelter in the assertion that the decision to abort a child is a personal one, between a mother and … well, really, no one. A father’s rights are no longer any more sacred than the life in the mother’s womb, parents are often legally required to stand aside, and doctors these days are on hand less to offer medical counsel than to facilitate the mechanics or chemistry of destruction.
On that score: chemistry is rapidly trumping mechanics, as the efficiency of the abortionists grows. Planned Parenthood is making new fortunes in blood money through the increasingly widespread use of “tele-med” abortions, which negate the presence or participation of medical staff. An expectant mother simply steps into a room, confirms to a doctor via a video chat her determination to abort, follows his directions to press a specific button, and – voila! – a drawer pops open with two pills inside. “Take one now and one tomorrow,” the doctor says. No muss, no fuss … no baby.
Such simplicities make it easier for the body count to accumulate, and there, too, the abortionists are at an advantage, for as Joseph Stalin reminded us, “One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” The more babies that die, the less unbearable the death of one more … a hundred more … a thousand more becomes. Abortionists know better than most that nothing succeeds like excess.
Stalin, though, had nothing on Shannon Dea, co-president of Planned Parenthood’s Waterloo Region, in Canada, who recently declared that “Medical science is irrelevant to the question of when a fetus becomes a human being – that matter is a legal and philosophical one, not a medical one.” But what, exactly, is to be gained by wading into debate with those who deem undeniable truth – and even facts – irrelevant?
Nothing, likely. But for the general benefit, let us consider one particular philosophical implication of all those lives, quenched in the womb. The roughly 53 million children aborted since 1973 equals about 17 percent of America’s current 312 million-plus population. Nearly one-fifth of us, simply taken out of the equation … the equation being our culture, our communities, our daily interactions, our myriad accomplishments as a people.
How would any of us begin to estimate the cost of losing not just the lives, but the extraordinary impact of one-fifth of our nation’s people? What diseases have gone untreated because the mind that could have isolated the necessary bacteria or virus never lived to see a laboratory?
Across those two lost generations, what outstanding leaders of business or industry, what eloquent voices of religion or politics, have been forfeited to a mother’s choice? What paradigm-shifting ideas and insights … what soul-stirring art and music and language … what heroic explorations and athletic accomplishments have never transpired because the unique imaginations and wills and endurances that would have achieved them were vacuumed from a woman’s womb?
How many of those aborted had within them the one-of-a-kind vision that might have accomplished peace … rolled back poverty … broken down racism … staved off tyrants and terrorists … translated, transformed, transcended some aspect of our civilization in a way no one ever had before?
A mind like Einstein’s … the eloquence of Martin Luther King, Jr. … the wisdom of Washington … the physical grace of Baryshnikov … these come along maybe once or twice in a generation. In our arrogance and near-sightedness, did we forfeit our most gifted ones to the expediencies of a self-centered, sex-obsessed culture?
We may never know – but we can wonder. In city after city, as child after child is destroyed without coming to fruition, what are we costing ourselves – and our own children and grandchildren? The abortionists are half right: abortion is as personal as a decision gets.
But it’s about far more – so very, very much more – than any woman’s “right to choose.”
Anti-social behaviour isn't a crime... it's just a nuisance: How lazy British police forces are failing to record and investigate offences
Muggings, burglaries and even rapes are being written off by police who wrongly record that no crime has taken place, a report says today. In some forces, up to one in four crimes is not being investigated properly because officers mistakenly choose to drop the inquiry.
Complaints of anti-social behaviour are being particularly badly handled with many crimes mislabelled as simply 'nuisance', a snapshot study has found. As a result, offences of harassment and disorder are airbrushed out, vanishing from official crime statistics with no hope of ever being solved.
Overall, officials discovered that most forces failed to record around one in ten crimes properly. In cases of anti-social behaviour, only a 'low number' of crimes were recorded and police remain poor at identifying repeat and vulnerable victims.
The failings come despite an outcry in the wake of cases such as the death of Fiona Pilkington and the murder of Garry Newlove.
Ministers want police chiefs to identify repeat victims and increase their response to low-level incidents which blight the lives of thousands. The latest figures are revealed after a review of police computer systems by officials at Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.
It examined whether crimes were recorded properly in the first place and if cases were later incorrectly written off under the category 'no crime'.
A valid example of a 'no crime' would be when a motorist calls police to report vandalism but it is later found that masonry fell from a roof and damaged his car.
The HMIC review found that, on average, 87 per cent of 'no crimes' were correctly recorded last year, compared with 64 per cent in 2009.
Crimes considered included violent attacks, robbery, rape, burglary, vehicle crime and anti-social behaviour.
Decisions in cases of violence were correct 84 per cent of the time and in rape the average was far higher at 90 per cent. Officials found that some forces incorrectly recorded up to a quarter of all reports as 'no crime'.
These forces were the Metropolitan Police, Avon and Somerset, Leicestershire, Staffordshire and West Yorkshire. The best force was Thames Valley Police, where 100 per cent of 'no crime' decisions were appropriate.
The survey looked at almost 5,000 records from 43 forces in England and Wales and the British Transport Police.
Officials said they are concerned that police call handlers may be the weak link in the chain because it is not easy to check their decisions.
Fears have been raised that police may be tempted to record disputed incidents as 'no crime' to improve performance or simply because they are too hard to solve.
But that means victims are unlikely to receive the same level of support and police fail to build up a picture of repeat offences and crime hotspots.
Last night Tory MP Priti Patel said: 'The fact that police are prepared to write off serious crimes almost needs to be investigated itself – it is dreadful. How can they justify this to victims of crime?
'Clearly there are police forces out there failing in their duty to protect the public and give support to victims to protect them. They need to learn from those doing the right thing.'
Vic Towell, of HMIC, said: 'These results show that forces understand the importance of making correct “no crime” decisions, particularly for the more serious crime types. While the majority do well, the variation between the best and worst remains too wide and needs to improve.'
Policing Minister Nick Herbert said: 'We commissioned this report to shine a light on recording practices and there are issues in some forces which need to be addressed.'
Two years ago the head of HMIC, Sir Denis O'Connor, warned that police are failing to get to grips with a tidal wave of anti-social behaviour.
He said the true number of loutish incidents could be twice as high as the 3.6million estimated by the Government.
The problem was highlighted by the death of Miss Pilkington, who killed herself and her disabled daughter after being tormented by thugs.
Police were heavily criticised after it emerged she made 33 calls for help before setting fire to her car in a layby near her Leicestershire home in 2007.
The murder of Mr Newlove, who was kicked to death after confronting teenagers outside his Warrington home in 2007, also showed the terrible toll of yobbery.
The research comes hard on the heels of news that year-on-year crime fell in some of the cities worst hit by the August riots. Senior officers admitted that looting and disorder may have only resulted in a handful of offences because of the way crimes are recorded.
Fury as British Defence Dept. fires hundreds of troops in job cuts... but not one penpusher
Public servants are a specially protected class just about everywhere
Not a single penpusher has been sacked under Ministry of Defence job cuts despite the 'grotesque' axing of hundreds of troops, a damning report reveals today.
MPs say it is 'stark and shocking' that no bureaucrats have been made compulsorily redundant yet 40 per cent of the military personnel culled were forced out.
In a scathing attack on the MoD, the Commons defence select committee hints that civil servants might also have received a better voluntary redundancy package.
'The MoD should consider whether the terms offered to either the military or civilian staff [were] fair or appropriate,' the MPs' report says.
The committee also criticises the claim by top MoD mandarin Ursula Brennan that civilians were more likely to apply for voluntary redundancy because they were more 'flexibly employable'. The report says: 'This runs contrary to our experience.'
Under the Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review, unveiled in 2010, the Forces must lose 17,000 personnel by 2015 – 7,000 from the Army and 5,000 each from the RAF and Royal Navy.
The MoD will eventually lose around 32,000 civil service posts. Ministers have been ordered to make £4.7billion of savings within four years and to plug a £38billion equipment overspend.
Some 2,900 servicemen and women were selected for the first tranche of redundancies last year, with the Army and RAF each losing 920 posts, and 1,020 being cut from the Navy.
But only 60 per cent applied for redundancy, meaning around 1,200 members of the Forces were sacked. A second round of 4,200 cuts was announced last week.
By comparison, not one civil servant has been forced to quit the MoD in the first two redundancy rounds, set to total 15,000 penpushers. Instead, all volunteered to leave.
The report says: 'For military redundancies to be compulsory in 40 per cent of cases, yet for civilian redundancies to be compulsory in none, is so grotesque that it requires an exceptionally persuasive reason, which we are yet to hear.'
MPs say Forces personnel should be retrained in areas of the military where there are shortages, such as bomb disposal, logistics and healthcare.
Labour defence spokesman Jim Murphy said ministers were treading a 'thin line between callousness and carelessness' over the job cuts. 'Thousands of service personnel are being unceremoniously sacked,' he said. 'It is essential that the painful impact of David Cameron's decisions is minimised wherever possible.
'The committee are right to suggest retraining for all those made compulsorily redundant.'
The MPs' report – into the MoD's annual report 2010–11 – also expresses dismay that the National Audit Office spending watchdog had refused to give the seal of approval to the department's accounts for the fifth successive year.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.