Thursday, 29 December 2016
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Tuesday, 13 December 2016
The problem with modern day politics, is that it is populated by grey and rather boring people. Maybe we are living in an age where being anodyne and characterless somehow reflects a quality of dependability and dedication, but I suspect that our present day leaders are no more dynamic or dependable than before, and often quite the opposite.
They are becoming rather elderly now, and one might say a little battered around the edges, but a few years ago politicians seemed to have more charisma, and more lustre.They somehow inspired us all to hope, and in anticipation of change, many of these huge characters, not only influenced these changes in the world, but they were often quite amusing too!
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a flamboyant veteran lawmaker known for his fiery rhetoric, recently told Reuters in an interview, that Trump was the only person able to control the dangerous tensions between Moscow and Washington, but by contrast, Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton could spark World War Three. Zhirinovsky, received a top state award from Putin, after his pro-Kremlin Liberal Democratic Party of Russia came third in Russia’s parliamentary election last month.
Many Russians regard Zhirinovsky as a clownish figure who makes outspoken statements to grab attention but he is also widely viewed as a faithful servant of Kremlin policy, and sometimes used to float radical opinions to test public reaction.
“Relations between Russia and the United States can’t get any worse. The only way they can get worse is if a war starts,” said Zhirinovsky, speaking in his huge office on the 10th floor of Russia’s State Duma, or lower house of parliament.
“Americans voting for a president on Nov. 8 must realize that they are voting for peace on Planet Earth if they vote for Trump. But if they vote for Hillary, it’s war. It will be a short movie. There will be Hiroshimas and Nagasaki’s everywhere.”
Vuk Draskovic is a Serbian politician who served as the Deputy Prime Minister of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and as Minister of Foreign Affairs fro both Serbia and Montenegro, and Serbia itself.
Graduating from the faculty of law at the University of Belgrade in 1968, from 1969-80 he worked as a journalist in the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug, was a member of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia and worked as the chief of staff for Yugoslav President Mika Spiljak. He has written several novels, and fits into the Balkan stereotype, of intellectual politician and leader.
After the Milosevic years, he attempted a comeback as one of the eleven candidates in the Serbian presidential elections, which were subsequently unsuccessful due to low turnout. Despite a polished marketing campaign that saw Drašković change his personal appearance and tone down his fiery rhetoric, he ended up with only 4.5% of the total vote.
His next chance for political redemption came in late 2003. Fully aware of a weak political standing, after more than 3 years in political oblivion, Drašković entered his party into a pre-election coalition with New Serbia, reuniting with old party colleague Velimir Ilic, but Joining forces for the 2003 parliamentary election, he achieved limited success. But more importantly, he managed to get into the coalition that formed the minority government, in which Drašković received the position of foreign minister for Serbia and Montenegro.
In response to Montenegro’s vote for independence, Drašković called for a restoration of Serbia’s Monarchy – “This is an historic moment for Serbia itself,” he said, “which would be based on the historically-proven and victorious pillars of the Serbian state and I am talking about the pillars of a kingdom.”
After the breakup with Montenegro in June 2006, Drašković served as the foreign minister of the Republic of Serbia, a successor to the state union of Serbia-Montenegro. He has published two novels, including The Knife and Charlie Rose, which became a TV series.
I have known George Ganchev – real name Georgi Petrushev – since 1985, when he walked into my West London office, and talked about a Bulgaria he had only recently returned to. He subsequently came most Saturday mornings – at exactly 10 am – knowing full well, that it was when a plateful of bacon sandwiches would be delivered from the nearby Greek cafe.
During his impromptu breakfast, he would regale us all with stories of communism and patriotism, and of course, the forthcoming changes. So much so, that I finally told him to stop talking about it, and to show me the realities of Communist Bulgaria, which he did during the Christmas period that followed.
A lot of rot has been spoken about him, and his connection with the old regime. And of course, much has been said by George himself, which has added to his myth and public image, but most of which was carefully crafted for his Bulgarian voters.
During the first Bulgarian presidential election, there was no doubt that George managed to capture the attention of the younger voters, with his Mid- Atlantic spiel and his numerous exaggerated claims. But that was then, and now of course, things are quite different.
But in the beginning he was one of the founders of The Union of Democratic Forces, and however you see that hotchpotch of opportunists – plus the occasional idealist – it did happen, and it left its mark on Bulgarian politics.
As to George being a spy, what was he spying on? Obviously it must have been his fellow boozers in Stringfellows. Or was his deceit crystallized, during an amorous foray into London’s Hampstead suburb, and an adulterous romance with a Russian Countess; with a thick Australian accent. Full of of American chutzpah, learned from his days in the US, perhaps it was when he was finally able to play the central character, and the romantic lead, in a story about himself.
On the subject of Donald Trump, George Galloway had this to say-
“He is a big vulgar oaf, a locker room jock. But we knew that. And it is saying something that he beat the Establishment’s favourite, the one with all the money behind her. Trump spent more on souvenirs, T-shirts and giveaways than he did on pollsters and focus groups. Who called that one, right? The elite – and Clintons represent that elite – have constructed a supra-national paradigm in which the losers, the ordinary people have no say. People want to live in a national economy. They don’t want globalisation, which cannot be affected and they cannot; by definition, influence..”
George Galloway, was a traditional socialist, until he fell out with Tony Blair. A long-standing associate, Galloway has supported Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, since Corbyn’s election in September 2015.The Respect Party “voluntarily deregistered” itself at the electoral commission in August 2016.
Early in his career, Galloway was an opponent of Saddam Hussein, but he has been accused by David Aaronovitch and Christopher Hitchens of changing his mind, about the Iraqi leader, when it became Western policy not to support him. Galloway visited Iraq in 1994 and delivered a speech to Saddam Hussein, which ended with the statement – “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.” But, he maintained that he was addressing the Iraqi people in his speech.
Galloway testified to the United States Senate in 2005, over alleged illicit payments from the United Nations Oil for Food Program. Galloway supports the Palestine side of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, taking an anti Israel stance, and was involved in the Viva Palestina aid convoys.
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Thursday, 1 December 2016
The Satyr has lived amongst us journalists and writers for many years. Our way of debunking pompous political asses - those prone to mutual admiration, or self aggrandizement - seemed to gather strength during the 19th Century, when the very first satirical magazines appeared on the newsstands in middle Europe, and Great Britain.
Regarded as thoroughly sacrilegious, during the reign of Queen Victoria, Punch gave birth to a tradition of political lampooning and humour, which had previously been demonised by the great and good.
These days there are TV cameras in parliament – in whichever country you may choose to live– but in Victorian times, speeches were exclusively recorded by The Times, court circulars, and of course in Hansard. Whatever the great unwashed and exploited working classes may have believed in at the time, was another thing, but in those days their opinions were rarely sought and generally ignored. Punch Magazine brought much of the political theatre onto the British breakfast table, and for many years - apart from comic books - it was the only readable satirical magazine readily available. However, in the nineteen sixties came Private Eye, Richard Ingrams, William Rushton, and the inimitable Peter Cook.
Their way of debunking the political elite and the self proclaimed guru’s of the day, was to laugh at them. If people threatened to sue them for their troubles, they would simply give them a cartoon name, and continue to mercilessly lampoon them. That is until the editors of Private Eye found themselves standing in the dock in the High Court, and on their way to prison. But as the political strictures of the time began to wane, we started to see very rich people prepared to pay the fines imposed by the courts, and very posh lawyers, to defend their activities. In fact very few people were safe from Private Eye, or from Punch Magazine, including Margaret Thatcher and even Ronald Reagan!
When Richard Ingram became too old for Private Eye, he handed the editorial mantle over to Ian Hislop - who is still at the helm - and started the magazine which many of us older readers enjoy, The Oldie Magazine.
A much more sophisticated monthly magazine, it has over the years attracted most of the top British writers and journalists into its ranks, many of whom are regarded as national treasures.
And then came Charlie Hebdo. Famous for attracting the attention of ISIS and the unfortunate results, this has now become Europs number one satirical magazine, and the scourge of nationalism and bigotry everywhere.
In the new German edition of this magazine, Angela Merkel is depicted as a somewhat tired and complacent politico - in need of a few repairs and political reinvention - who represents a Germany in need of change.
However, the change may well be within the ranks of Charlie Hebdo itself, and its many anarchic writers and cartoonists. Because, whatever it was once famous for may have been lost in the clouds of debris and dust - caused by an attack on its Paris premises - by a certain dwindling caliphate.
To see the strength and purpose, of a heroic magazine like Charlie Hebdo, turning into mainstream satire is, is for me at least, a step in the wrong direction, and maybe the first sign of a general change in EU thinking.
From social inclusion, to apparent nationalism, I can now smell the unpleasant odour of an upcoming French and German election. But, what is happening in Europe, and has it stopped being funny?
The two French gnomes – Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande – look like history to me, and short of a miracle, I don’t quite see Maree Le Pen as the new French President, which leaves Francois Fillon. Likewise, it is hard to see any up and coming contenders for the post as German Chancellor, able to dislodge Angela Merkel, and so it might be more of the same. So, where does that leave the satirists, humourists and the cartoonists of yore?
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I think that politics has become so grey and insipid – lost and inward looking – that, they must have found it all a bit depressing and practically given up. But wait a moment; I think I might have a bright idea, and something to cheer you all up for Christmas!
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Sunday, 13 November 2016
It is not a language difficulty nor is it an inability for me to comfortably use the internet – after all I am a writer and a Journalist – but for many Greeks, the idea of being online appears to be unnaturally abhorrent. To me, Greek attitudes towards life on the web, is akin to some aging aunt from Middle England switching off her cell phone when she gets home. Can you remember how annoying that was? I can.
This year, there has been a great improvement in Greece, and I can now pay all my bills online. Unknown to most, including many of the office staff working in the enlightened company’s which offer this service, perhaps it is an ageist thing? After all; according to local standards, I am well past it, and should not bother my poor dithering brain about such complicated things as computers. But whilst others stick to the heady subject of horticulture, I write books, and play hard in the world of the internet.
All roads lead to Athens, as the paraphrase goes, but they often stop there too. In a country which seems to get almost anything and everything by courier; where the well known mantra - ‘I will have to order it from Athens’ - seems to punctuate each response to even the mildest unorthodox request, you might think that buying your goods on the internet, for delivery next day, is a brilliant idea!
Perhaps people have simply got used to the standard shopkeepers droll reply, ‘that it will be here in the morning,’ followed by the usual trudge back to the shop the following day, only to be told to come back tomorrow..
Oddly enough, the deals available by Forthnet and OTE – the main IT service providers in Greece – are very good. Even from my little northern Greek village, I have no complaints about the 4G service – five G on offer shortly – a deal which includes TV, and a virtually free landline. Although, that maybe one of the problems?
The Greeks, with their inclination to chatter on forever, and to frequently repeat themselves into the bargain, might find their elongated streams of consciousness, far more satisfying than clicking away on a laptop. The trouble is, that they tend to do this on their mobile phones as well, which - from my own experience - costs an arm and a leg.
So, it all happens in Athens, and – subject to availability – it is safe to buy things from established businesses and traders, as long as you are careful with your banking information. The Greek banks, whilst enjoying a few years of doubt, despondency and depression, have nevertheless improved their banking services, and recently The Bank of Piraeus has adopted an internet programme, which anyone should be able to operate online, which is fast and helpful. But what happens if you cannot use a computer?
Well, the other day I needed, for some annoying reason, to go to my local branch of the said same bank, to be confronted by such a crowd of people, I thought that the building had been evacuated, due to some life threatening emergency. But no, it was a crowd of crumblies, priests, farmers and pensioners, all trying to deal with a rather knackered ticket numbering machine, followed by a wait of two hours!
Of course, there were many claims for special treatment – especially by the priests – and everyone quickly became angry and extremely twitchy, including me. So – for that alone - I think I have made quite a good case for the internet, but what about the banks themselves? And, why are they so overcrowded and dysfunctional?
As a part of the Greek banking crisis, many banks were amalgamated, although remarkably, very few have actually been shut down locally. So, whilst there was a shortage of cash, there was also a surfeit of employees. Those employees who remained were then distributed amongst the active branches and the rest were let go. But which ones were let go, and which ones now remain? Not all the good ones, that's for sure, I can attest to that!
There is another side to the rather neglected Greek internet though, and that relates to news media, and publishing in general. Now that news media from around the world can be seen virtually anywhere online, it has only recently been the case in Greece, but not to any great extent. I am referring, of course, to newspapers printed in English or other European languages. We all know how difficult it is , for us laymen at least, to fully understand the Greek language, but - unlike most other EU countries - there are few choices to inform or entertain readers on the ‘World Wide Web’ in Greece. Greece has very reliable standby’s like Kathimerini, or the Athens News Agency, but as to the real happenings in Greece and the Greek Parliament, this very often remains a mystery to most foreigners.
I have always said that Greece – certainly up until the financial crisis finally exploded on the world scene – was a secret society. Byzantine to the point of exasperation, ten years ago, and as a then recent arrival, Greece seemed to be populated by underemployed and overpaid citizens, steeped in nepotism and corruption, who – in comparison to the rest of Europe - were as much use as a chocolate teapot. But since this crisis, much of this has gradually changed.
But not in the case of computer familiarity or use, and Greece remains well behind its next door neighbours of Bulgaria and Romania in this respect. And Turkish computers? Well, aren’t most of them presently in Police custody?
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Friday, 28 October 2016
Recently listening to an interesting podcast discussion, by Clive Leviev Sawyer and Lance Nelson - concerning the forthcoming Bulgarian presidential election - I chanced upon a newspaper interview in the Daily Sleaze, a Bulgarian underground yellow press weekly. It was with a jobbing actor, who had recently arrived in the capital, called Harold Throdes.
A well known impersonator, Mr. Thodes has recently appeared in the Wrexham Players version of The Invisable Man, and in the past featured in the Hollywood film Ghoastbusters. Originally appearing in a documentary, filmed in Sofia in 1998, called The Invisible Bank Manager, Mr. Throdes – a talented actor – specializes in parts involving people who aren’t there.
The 2016 Bulgarian Presidential election has 21 candidates to date, many of whom have never been heard of before, most of which will never be heard of again, and some of whom are so old, that they have forgotten why anyone is voting for them in the first place. Most candidates qualify for the well known maxim that: ‘Politics is Hollywood for ugly people,’ which is something that makes Harold Throdes an ideal candidate. This is because, you cannot see him at all!
It all came about when the Bulgarian Parliament chose to make it illegal, for its citizens not to vote in presidential elections. It has also become rather confusing for political statisticians, because it befuddles the matter of electoral numbers, if people don’t vote. But, nevertheless, the law was passed.
This then caused more anxiety, when the political pundits had to design a voting slip for the Bulgarian election, because, what if people didn’t want to vote for any of the candidates? So finally, and in desperation, it was agreed to have a special box to tick on the voting form called, “I don’t support anyone.”
‘That’s when I got the phone call,’ Throdes was reported as saying in The Irish Pub, ‘it suddenly dawned on the voting commission, that if the “I don’t support anyone” voters won, there would be no one to take the top job.’
Asked if he was politically motivated in any way, he replied, ‘Nah, most politicians are a bunch of plonkers, aren’t they? They are all the same to me, I only came here for the money!’
Asked what he would do, if he was elected, ‘Well, nothing really; nobody else does, do they? I might open a few supermarkets and petrol stations, and I am quite good at dancing and singing, as long as my bandages don’t drop off. If that happens, everyone usually runs away.’
Asked about the advantage of being invisible, Harold Throdes had to think for a moment. ‘Well, I suppose the best thing is not having to pay for buses, and of course, being able to drink as much beer as I like. I usually find a nice crowded pub, and go around emptying every bodies glasses. Nobody seems to notice!
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Saturday, 22 October 2016
Some comedian recently asked on British TV; apropos the loutish and androgynous Donald Trump – ‘Why would American voters want to replace a perfectly good black president, with an orange one?’
Rather rude, but that is exactly what he looks like. Is it stage make-up which has gone wrong, has he got some sort of malignant skin condition, or does he come – as I strongly suspect - from the planet Zog? These are questions which may enter one's thoughts each day as – we the innocent citizens of Europe – are regaled on the box, and via the news media, by Trumps antics, and his animosity towards his favourite victim, the redoubtable Hillary Clinton.
Mind you, there are those who believe that these two are as bad as each other, as they perform ritual character assassinations on one another, which brings me back to tranquil summer holidays, as a boy, in Rye or was it Margate? Because, through the mists of time, I can still remember summers spent on the south coast of England, and the delight of a traditional English Punch and Judy show, as they knocked the living daylights out of one another.
‘He’s behind you,’ we would all shout, and Mrs. Punch would reply - ‘Oh no he isn’t,’ and we would all shout – ‘Oh yes he is!’
So, do you now recognize who I am talking about?
I for one have lost so much respect for the Americans, during this absurd US election, which has been reduced to a ridiculous puppet show. Call it a media event if you wish, but the debate has been totally turned on its head, and is now simply light entertainment – at its best - if not a rather bad situation comedy.
The behaviour of these two has shown the USA to be a shallow and trivial place – judging by their supporters and spokespeople - which makes a mockery of their frequent; if now unconvincing announcement, that they are the largest democracy and the world, and the only superpower.
Can you imagine how Putin is rubbing his hands in glee, as he sees the largest *** in the world, daily making a total ass of itself. Could anybody in Europe honestly say that either of these two contenders for the top US job, should be taken seriously? Do you believe the world would be a safer place, with Trump or Clinton's finger on the nuclear button?
I think that the way these two have turned on their old rival Russia, by accusing Putin of practically any misdemeanor imaginable, demonstrates the total incapacity of either of these two stalwarts, to maintain a US position within global politics. If you watch the Russian Television Channel, many there are laughing their socks off at the US, wondering when America will finally implode, and many of us also wonder how Putin has the gall, to send a rather battered and smoky Russian aircraft carrier, up the English Channel?
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