Friday, January 6, 2012

What I hear from Hungary

My ubiquitous network of clandestine informers, being ubiquitous, is world wide. By which I mean, basically, North America, Europe, and Australia (and assorted islands.) What I hear, via said ubiquitous network of clandestine informers, from Hungary is not good.

I wasn't sure if I should say what little I know about what's going on in Hungary because I think most people here have already heard it elsewhere. What finally made me decide to write about it was learning how it was announced that the name of the country had changed. It wasn't. People found out when the newspaper mentioned that some signs had been updated and others had not.

The entire situation makes everything seem upside down and backward. Because the truth is that as things go this was a little thing, not even in the top ten things worthy of note that the government has done. And yet, saying, “It's a little thing, but that's what made me decide to write this,” feels wrong. How can it be a little thing? It's the name of an entire country. Millions of people suddenly discovered they were in another country.  (Well, sort of.)

It's like if the US changed it's name to just “America” and rather than getting an announcement that the United States doesn't exist anymore because we're now just plain America we all found out because there was an article in the local paper saying that some border crossing in Eastport or Houlton or Bridgewater had been late in changing their signs.

That's what happened, the Republic of Hungary no longer exists, it's just plain Hungary now. Which means that the signs and currency will need to be changed. It also says things. If The USA became just A it would imply that we weren't united states any more. Of course that would take more than a name change, we'd need to change all sorts of laws and probably rewrite the constitution. So, does this change mean that Hungary isn't a republic anymore? Disturbingly, it looks like things are heading in that direction. Like I said, changing the name of the country millions of people live in seems like a little thing in comparison to some of the other stuff that is going on.

(Some context: A party called Fidesz got a slim majority (53%) of the vote in Hungary which translated into a 68% percent super majority in the government. That 68% is more than two thirds is what has allowed them to do what they have done.)

More than 95% of the recognized religious groups in the country stopped being recognized.

Sometimes in my country there is talk on a war on religion. For all the talk about there being a war on religion, there isn't. Even if there were, somehow I don't think the aggressors would manage to take out 95% of religions in the US with the first volley. And yet, that's what has happened in Hungary. Those 95% are being told they don't count anymore. I haven't checked this, but I'm guessing the people who got rid of the other 95% are in the remaining 5% and quite happy to leave those religions untouched which means that I think the war on religion in Hungary is over. Those left standing won, everyone else lost.

The constitution has been rewritten. Top to bottom, left to right, front to back, 4-space positive to 4-space negative. This is to say nothing of the laws that have been passed. How many? I'm not sure exactly. One count was 359 but that's surely out of date now. They're being passed so fast that they had to create new rules to manage them. Now they can introduce a law and then vote on it without having any pesky debate in between. It's a wonderful time saver if you don't care about democracy. Even so they're passing so many and that photos show the legislators falling asleep because the sessions are stretching on for so long. Passing laws and amendments that fast, even when you have no debate on either, requires people to work late into the night, you see.

The gerrymandering is pretty bad too. The districts have been redrawn to prevent those in power from ever losing it. I'm not entirely sure how possible it is to make, “From now on we win all elections,” the law of the land, but people have looked at some previous elections to try to find out. As you would expect, the election the ruling party won is one they still would have won under the new laws. The elections that they lost are also ones they would have won under the new laws.

In case stacking the deck isn't enough, they're also the ones who will score the game, having changed the rules regarding the election commission. Add to that that they've done away with anything resembling a free press, and you'd think the possibility that they'd ever be out of power would be unthinkable. But they've prepared for that. They're making it so that the various things they're doing can only be undone with a 2/3rds super majority (for comparison it takes less than that to break a filibuster in the US Senate, consider how little progress they make) and see again the above bit about changing things so they're unlikely to lose any time in the near future. What are the odds they end up with less than 1/3rd under those rules?

Once they're out -if they're out- , baring a supermajority against them, those they appointed will still be in and the power those people have is quite sizable.

And then there's the courts, the courts have been stripped of power, loaded down with lackeys and brought under the power of the central government. When I was trying to get a bit more information on that I ran into this:
The same constitutional amendment also listed the crimes committed by communist party officials during the soviet period, extended the statute of limitations for these crimes, branded the former communist party a criminal organization, and designated the current Socialist party (Fidesz’s primary opposition) as the legal successor to the communist party, responsible for all of its crimes.


So named because it is to a fucker as a giant enraged grizzly bear is to an adorable little cub.

I do not have words. Or at least I don't have words other than profanity. What the fuck? How the hell could something like this happen?

I may worry about what will happen if the Republicans take over my country, but having them brand Democrats criminals to be held accountable for crimes committed before many of us were born is not on my list of things to fear because I like to think that that sort of thing is in the past.

I don't- I don't even … I just don't... what?

I've left things out, at the rate Fidesz is passing bad laws it would be hard not to.

Some things that might be worth noting are that when I said there isn't a free press that “press” is metaphorical and in fact extends to all media. The last independent radio station has closed and even if it hadn't I'm not convinced it would have mattered because it looks to me like the government now has the power to bankrupt any media company it doesn't like The laws have been changed so that you can't buy more than a month's worth of medicine at a time which is a problem if the only way you were able to afford your medicine is if you bought in bulk and also a problem if your medical condition or your age makes it difficult to get out to the pharmacy.

On the medical front a quarter of the doctors have quit because they're not getting paid enough. I don't know how much they are being paid, but I do know they want $10,000. Not $10,000 more, $10,000 total.

I leave you with a pile of links:

Fred Clark has posted on this in passing.

Paul Krugman has hosted two guest posts on this. One. Two.

Hungary might lose its membership in the EU.  (Note that that's not completely accurate, it says the recognized religious groups have been cut down from 300 when it should in fact say from well over 300.)

This is an article regarding the doctors, there's a paywall so I don't actually know what it says.

No comments:

Post a Comment