Україна - Ukraine, the Borderland

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This is a snapshot of a nation that has reached the end of its rope. It’s not so much just the most recent events (atrocities? trampling of the rule of law? naked excess of power?). It’s the decades and centuries of pent-up frustration. It’s little people, who are sick of being trampled upon, taken advantage of, robbed of the fruits of their labor. It’s people that have seen through the veneer of what is supposed to pass for democratic institutions, representative legislature and government and realized (yet again) that the system is there to exploit them – not to serve. It's people that are mad as hell, and are not going to take it any more.

Their rage is amorphous, inchoate, not focused enough. The anger centers on the current controversy, the current figurehead – but has not yet reached a level of clarity to recognize that the ‘other guy’ would and WILL be just as bad. The crowd gathers, both in size and in inner strength from its growing mass and momentum. Spaces are occupied, enforcers of the regime are confronted, buildings and objects destroyed. But the most recent spark of the rebellious nature inherent in their DNA ultimately will not generate enough energy, momentum and direction to TRULY change the state of affairs. After the weeks and months of demonstrations, people eventually grow weary and tired. They need to go to work to support their families, they lack the stamina to maintain their protest – and never escalate to truly ‘majority size’ nationwide, nor to overwhelming force against any true target objectives in the capital.

No, it’s not Kiev 2014 -- though it may as well be.

The above shots are from Budapest 2006. If any specific moment in time could be attributed to my waking up, and beginning truly look around (besides the one previously mentioned), this was it.

The setup:

The prime minister (no proper noun status for him) is holding a speech at a closed conference for his party, following an election they had just won. The speech is surprisingly frank, detailed, and incredibly incriminatory. It is leaked four months later to the state-owned national radio, and is broadcast nationwide. Whether the leak is from an embittered party member, a planted mole from the opposition, or a byproduct of the wonderful All_Seeing_Eyes_and_Ears™ system deployed by the No Such Agency and its cohorts worldwide is an interesting detail, but one I have no answer to.

The salient points of the speech:

“There is not much choice. There is not, because we have fucked it up. Not a little but a lot. No European country has done something as boneheaded as we have. It can be explained. We have obviously lied throughout the past one and a half-two years. It was perfectly clear that what we were saying was not true. We are beyond the country's possibilities to such an extent that we could not conceive earlier that a joint government of the [socialist party] and the liberals would ever do. And in the meantime, by the way, we did not do anything for four years. Nothing. You cannot mention any significant government measures that we can be proud of, apart from the fact that in the end we managed to get governance out of the shit. Nothing.

If we have to give an account to the country of what we have done in four years, what are we going to say? Naturally, it is [i.e. the government's work] not constructed nicely, calmly or scrupulously. No. No. It is being prepared at a mad break-neck speed because we could not do it for a while in case it came to light, and now we have to do it so damned desperately that we are almost at the breaking point. And then we slowly end up falling over. Because we cannot do better in keeping up the pace. This is the situation.”

They essentially cooked all the books (labor/inflation/debt statistics/budget) in order to a) secure elections by projecting optics, b) secure loans/funding to ensure a), and c) to (appear to) meet EU requirements. The same that all other periphery EU members did/are doing, the same that USGOV is currently doing, etc.

On one hand, the (much longer) speech was a welcome breath of fresh air. At least they RECOGNIZED their incapability to govern, at least they acknowledge the tremendous problems facing the country. The quote above is taken out of context (as these things always are), and is actually part of a motivational speech to the party faithful. It talks of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, and changing the quagmire we find ourselves in. Reforming the system. Making things different this time.

On the other hand, this is just another version of the same breed of political animals that infest many other parts of the world. Come to think of it, ALL parts of the world. Sociopaths who will say and do ANYTHING to cling to power -- including tearful confession of past wrongs, and chest-thumping pledges to do better after being born again.

I almost felt a little sorry for the guy. But only almost, as of course our gentle protagonist had made himself a multimillionaire by what the country more or less universally believed to be his access to the capital, connections and cronyism arising from his leading role in the fading communist nomenclatura of the previous regime. His defense of the whole affair is here, for the sake of completeness. The sad part is that one may almost believe his sincerity in intending to effect change for the betterment of the country – until sanity reasserts itself.

Some highlights of the months of protests that followed the revelations:

The crowd was more than a little upset by the fact that the evening news of the primary national TV channel announced that ‘around 900 people were demonstrating’. Their numbers at that point were in the tens of thousands. Marching over to the TV headquarters building, they attempted to get a petition aired. After the demonstrators besieging the TV building beat back several police attempts to disperse the crowd, the building was evacuated and the station was shut down. Upon reaching this impasse, the crowd escorted the remaining riot police back to their unit. The petition was aired the next day.

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An enterprising group of gentlemen brought a set of truck batteries and jumper cables to the park in front of city hall, where WWII-era tanks were parked on display. Breaking into one of the tanks, they connected the batteries, fired it up and let it rip. While foolhardy and certainly risky in such a crowded urban environment, I cannot help but cheer them on whenever I see this:

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Stolen tank (T-34) Budapest 2006 riot

And it makes me extremely mad to see the idiocy of the representatives of authority responding thus to a decommissioned, de-weaponized T-34 in the middle of such a crowd of citizens:

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This guy is certainly going to have some tales to tell his grandkids…. He ended up with a probationary sentence, and a 3-year ban from driving.

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But in the end, it was all for naught. The ‘elected’ government stayed in power, though the 'Justice Minister' and the national and capital police chiefs stepped down. The pm eventually abdicated to another party crony three years later.

In the election that followed in 2010, the nation elected ‘the other guy’ -- who had been prime minister BEFORE the then-current corrupt, socialist governemnt. The guy who was supposed to be the antithesis of the corruption, unaccountable greed for power and money that the previous regime represented. He was already on record for having, among other things, awarded the contracts for supplying materials for expanding the interstate-highway system in the entire country to… (wait for it… wait for it…) a construction firm owned by his father. The litany of other similarly ethical/wise/beneficial feats of governance in his second, currently ongoing term would fill a book.

The way to discern a true revolution is that it rapidly ends in one of two ways: abdication of government and lots of executions, or defeat of the rebels and lots of executions. If neither of the above happens, the social upheaval in question can (in my mind) be thought to have ultimately never truly reached a revolutionary state. The problem is that over the centuries, professional agencies have grown remarkably adept at fostering/igniting existing powderkegs (of their own making, in many cases, though not a prerequisite) into ‘revolutions’. Hijacking existing revolutions is even easier. This latter version ends in feigned concessions and gestures to placate the populace who have been allowed to vent their ‘spleen’ against the authorities. Different cronies are hoisted, not to lampposts, but to positions of power. Say hello to the new boss, same as the old boss. Or even worse, these situations can devolve into full-scale civil war – with the final end of the spectrum being proxy warfare between competing empires.

These pictures actually ARE from Kiev from the last few days/weeks:

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(Notice the creative application of heavy machinery and recycling of police gear)

Current newsfeed of events can be found here.

I do find it more than a little convenient that such a significant degree of unrest should develop on the doorstep of the New Russian Empire. Along with the Syrian forensic photos (sponsored by today’s broadcasting partner, Diamond Level contributor Emirate of Qatar – which is not to say the Syrian regime DOESN’T commit atrocities against its citizens) and the ‘shocking expose of gold-trade-related corruption’ in Turkey that the (also-guilty) government of Erdogan seems to have ‘resolved’ (thanks ag1969). How very opportune. All that is missing is some kinetic action that goes beyond the ski jumps in the Black Sea resort next month… as promised by that favorite Bush brother, Bandar earlier. I guess we’ll see if that conversation was a red herring, and/or where the imperial entanglement lines truly lie. Then again, someone ELSE could actually do it, and then merely reference those alleged comments and have SA take the fall. The possibilities are endless…

My heart is with the people of Ukraine. I sincerely hope their perfectly justified anger at the current system, at the power struggle they find themselves trapped in the middle of, at Russia AND the US finds a more focused, organized and effective shape. I wish them godspeed in their attempt to reclaim their birthright of freedom, (true) self-determination and the prospect of building a better life. I truly hope they can do better than their current, recent and more distant historical predecessors/counterparts/neighbors were able to do.

Author’s note: I am, despite the much-discussed obstacles in the path of free enterprise, in the process of planning for starting a business. This is taking up a lot of my time, and thus my notes will probably become less frequent for a while. For any of you software development/DBA-minded Turdites interested in an epic WISA vs. LAMP cage-match in large data, distributed storage/processing arena, do drop me a line via PM (larger-scale project for competent and experienced PHP/MySQL team). For other employment/venture ideas, this link goes to a forum I started a while back (that ultimately went dormant). I would encourage all so inclined and positioned, to post your ‘help wanted’ ads, venture ideas or any other employment-related thoughts.

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