Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The slayer of Bulgarians: implications for today

The following citations are from Trud newspaper, from the reports Bulgar-Slayer street in Athens is being renamed (May 17) and Bulgar-Slayer street was renamed (May 18):

"The name of Bulgar-Slayer street in the Ilion district in Athens will be changed today to Basil II... The decision was taken by the municipality... after repeated suggestions by Stefan Stoyanov, Bulgarian ambassador in Greece... A total of 17 streets in different districts of Athens carry the name Basil the Bulgar-Slayer, but actually only Bulgar-Slayer is written on the labels... Hundreds of such street labels can be seen throughout Greece..." (May 17)

"Basil II the Bulgar-Slayer street was renamed to Basil II street yesterday... Bulgarian ambassador Stoyanov, who attended the ceremony, will (be allowed to) keep the old label... During the ceremony, some citizens came to express indignation over the renaming." (May 18)

The later report is illustrated with the above photo showing Vasilis Kukuvinos, mayor of district Ilion in Athens (left) and the Bulgarian ambassador Stoyanov showing the old removed label. Above them, the new label can be seen.

Because slaying other people has been for millenia part of the routine job of any self-respecting ruler, possibly the non-Bulgarian (and non-Greek) reader already is wondering what exactly has Basil II done in order to be remembered as the Bulgar-Slayer? Here is a citation from Wikipedia (

"Basil II The Bulgar-Slayer... was Byzantine emperor from January 10, 976 to December 15, 1025 who led the Byzantine Empire to its greatest heights in nearly five centuries... As the second millennium got under way, he took on his greatest adversary, (King) Samuel of Bulgaria... Samuel had extended his rule from the Adriatic to the Black Sea and raided into central Greece, and Basil was determined to reverse the fortunes of the empire. In 1001–1002, the Byzantines were able to reassert their control over Moesia, and in 1003 he raided into Macedonia, taking Skopje... Finally, on July 29, 1014, Basil II outmaneuvered the Bulgarian army in the Battle of Kleidion, with Samuel separated from his force. Having crushed the Bulgarians, Basil was said to have captured 15,000 prisoners and blinded 99 of every 100 men, leaving 150 one-eyed men to lead them back to their ruler, who fainted at the sight and died two days later suffering a stroke. Although this may be an exaggeration, this gave Basil his nickname Boulgaroktonos, "the Bulgar-slayer" in later tradition. Bulgaria fought on for four more years, but finally submitted in 1018."

About the "exaggeration" - most historians estimate the number of the blinded prisoners between 11000 and 14000. Does it matter so much? Had he captured only 6000, he would have only 6000 available for blinding. Had he captured 20000, he would hardly decide that 15000 blind men are enough for his purpose and release the other 5000 unharmed. If you wonder over the technical difficulties associated with blinding so many people in so little time - blinding was the most common punishment in the Byzantine empire, so the procedure was routine and Basil had many employees with the necessary skills.

What are the implications for today? First, this historical event shows us the most dangerous aspect of terror - that it is effective. Blinding the prisoners and sending them back was an act of terror, because it intended to install horror and so to break the spirit of King Samuel and the remains of the Bulgarian army. Indeed, Bulgaria was losing anyway because of its economic and military inferiority to the Byzantine empire, but the 1914 event was the crushing point. Basil's terror was effective although its spreading was hampered by the primitive transport and communications of its time. Today's terrorists are facilitated: the media work for them. If you are a yogurt maker and want to advertise your production, Al Jazeera will charge you, but if you are a terrorist and want to advertise your head-chopping, the same TV will broadcast your video absolutely for free. Another difference: people in the 11th century were braver than us today. After seeing thousands of blinded soldiers, Bulgarians continued resistance for as long as they could, while the murder of only 200 people made Spaniards surrender to the enemy. Bad business.

Another implication: acts of terror will not be condemned by the terrorists' progeny. Time alone brings no catharsis. Of course nobody would blame today's Greeks for what some emperor did a millenium ago. Nobody would insist streets to be named only after perfect people - there would be too few streets to shelter us. But why did the Greeks name the streets Bulgar-Slayer instead of Basil II? They don't criticize the moral side of his actions. They are just proud that they have had such a mighty emperor. Only when Bulgaria is to become a fellow EU member in less than a year, does a Greek municipality decide to rename one (just one) of these streets, and citizens protest. And this is a nation claiming to be fully civilized. I don't care about the defeat of Bulgaria in the 11th century or the mindset of Greeks today. What worries me is the current war and the current enemy. Those who crashed kidnapped planes into the World Trade Center at Sept. 11, blowed up the subway in Madrid, stabbed Theo van Gogh in Holland and exploded 18-months-old Sinai Kenaan in Israel. If we only allow ourselves to be defeated, these acts and the miserable souls who committed them will be glorified in textbooks, corrupting the innocent minds of each generation of children.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Noblemen who steal umbrellas

In my English textbook, I read the following joke. A member of a club for noblemen and gentlemen publicly said, "I appeal to the nobleman who has taken my umbrella to put it back in place."
"But how do you know he was a nobleman?" somebody asked.
"Because this is a club for noblemen and gentlemen, and the person who took my umbrella was certainly no gentleman."
By definition, noblemen were regarded as different from other people. In the modern world where people have been stripped from privileges, we could expect members of the old aristocratic families either to be like everybody else or to try to be even better, "noblesse oblige". But in fact modern noblemen are quite like their ancestors and think they needn't obey the laws and moral rules valid for the plebs. They would be just a nuisance if they were stealing only umbrellas, but unfortunately they steal much more, given the opportunity.
We in Bulgaria have unfortunate experience with Simeon II Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. After the 1943 death of his father, the popular king Boris III, 6-year-old Simeon was crowned as king of Bulgaria. Three yeas later, Communists forged a referendum for republican rule and sent the boy into exile. Throughout the communist era Simeon was a symbol of the old Bulgaria which freedom-loving people dreamed to resurrect one day. After 1989, Simeon was saught and interviewed, many groups of citizens were asking for his return. However, his charm soon began to fade in the eyes of thinking Bulgarians. He said virtually nothing against the Communists. He didn't take part in the 1996-97 campaign to overthrow the Communist
Videnov government which reduced the monthly incomes to one-digit dollar equivalents. After we managed to get rid of that government and midterm elections were called in early 1997, Simeon came to Bulgaria and supported - guess whom! - Ahmed Dogan, rightfully called "The curse of Bulgaria", head of the Turkish party DPS and agent of the Communist State Security. At that time, the last thinking Bulgarian monarchists jumped to the Republican camp, agreeing that even if we are to be ruled by a piece of scum, it's more fun to elect that piece of scum ourselves than to have it installed over us by rules of heredity.
Unfortunately, thinking people are not a majority in Bulgaria. The rightist government formed after the 1997 elections was the best we had seen. Economy and incomes were steadily growing, rule of law was generally OK. However, as the short-minded began to forget the terrible 1996/97 winter, irrational anti-government sentiments accumulated. They seemed to be of the same kind as the equally irrational European anti-Americanism. The media fanned the flames. And as regular elections were called in 2001, a new actor emerged: Simeon returned to Bulgaria, formed a party - NDSV ("National movement Simeon II") and registered for the elections. His platform was a masterpiece of primitive populism; he promised "immediate and non-symbolical increase of incomes" and "end of the conflicts between political parties". Opponents pointed out that the first promise was incompatible with laws of economy, while the second one was against the multi-party system, the fundament of democracy. But voters said, "Fuck economy, fuck democracy, the King will solve our problems". Simeon enjoyed a sweeping victory.
The rule of Simeon's government was marked by freezing of incomes, out-of-control stealing, institutionalized corruption and degradation of rule of law. Simeon used his privileged position to "restore his ownership" over land and buildings worth about $ 200 millions. In fact, this property used to belonge to the Crown (i.e. the Bulgarian state), not to the person Simeon II. Simeon's son arranged a deal that made him rich but increased the already huge external debt of Bulgaria.
At the regular election in 2005, Communists (Socialists) received most votes but not enough to form a government. So they formed a coalition including Simeon's party NDSV and the Turkish party. It is curious that this coalition is headed by a triumvirate which doesn't include a single Bulgarian (Socialist leader Stanishev is a Russian, Simeon is of German origin and Ahmed Dogan is an ethnic Turk.) Dr. Shterev who said that cancer patients shouldn't be treated is a member of the NDSV parliamentary group. Economy, incomes, rule of law, everything continues to stay frozen at a very miserable level.
Now, a very sweet scandal in unfolding in Italy around a local umbrella-stealing nobleman: Prince Victor Emmanuel, son of the last Italian king and cousin of Simeon. You can read details e.g. at The Prince was "accused of corruption, criminal conspiracy and exploiting prostitutes" and spent several days arrested (now under house arrest). "The prosecution claims the prince is leader of a criminal group and had used his contacts to corrupt Italian officials responsible for granting licences for electronic gambling machines. In some cases, the machines were allegedly tampered with to reduce punters’ chances of winning. Emmanuel and his associates are accused of procuring Eastern European prostitutes for clients of the Campione d’Italia casino... Prosecutors also claim dodgy slot machines were distributed in Libya and Russia and that Emmanuel used his connection to his cousin, the former Bulgarian prime minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and bribery to bid for contracts to build a hospital and to provide telephone services in Bulgaria."
That hospital, as it was projected, had a cost 6-7 times more than the real price of a hospital of this class. Guess where the difference would go. Thank Heavens and some vigilant people, this particular scheme to rob Bulgarian taxpayers was stopped in time.
Also, from Italy came information that Simeon received from his cousin's group money to fund his 2004 election campaign.
Frankly said, after Simeon's rule began in 2001, at moments I fully understand the West-European revolutionaries who were cutting noblemen's heads in past centuries. Not that I really recommend this practice; but why does the average person still tend to regard noblemen as superior? He'd better be wary when they are around, or his umbrella may go...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What passes as good news in Bulgaria

Our second-in-importance TV channel, BTV, regularly features in its central news emission The Good News ("Dobrata novina"). It is interesting to see what passes as good news after 16 years of half-hearted imitation of capitalism. Last week, The Good News showed a single mother of 3-year-old twin girls. The mother was caring for them alone, with 160 leva (EUR 80) monthly welfare and loans. Nothing was said about the father. Bulgarian laws and practice are very kind to men who divorce or make children out of wedlock; these fathers usually are forced to pay only symbolic sums for their children and get away when they prefer not to pay even these cents. The worst thing in the story was the hydrocephaly of one of the girls. It was relatively mild, otherwise the child, who looked normal on TV, wouldn't have survived at all. However, she had some abnormalities in development and couldn't speak. Although speech delay is not uncommon among 3-year-olds (my own son will soon be 3 and still isn't talking), the kindergarten used it as an excuse not to accept the child, forcing the mother to stay at home to provide care. This was all introduction. The story proper: The mother was told that, in order to develop near-normally, her daughter needed a brain-draining implant costing 3000 leva (EUR 1500). You understand that if they had requested a million, it would have been the same for the mother. She put charity-collection boxes in all local shops and people dropped their change, but the needed sum was not likely to be collected this way during the current century. Then, residents of the district had another idea. They emptied their basements from old paper and glass packages and brought all this for sale. The price of recycled materials if very low, but the quantity must have been huge, because the 3000 leva were collected and now the child will have the badly needed implant.
Well, dear reader, do you see anything really good in this news? Should we be so happy that an innocent little girl is given some chance which must have been available from the beginning? What if the residents hadn't come to the recycle-and-sell idea, or had cleaned their basements more regularly during the years? How much precious time was lost until some genius got the idea, and then in the inevitable technological delay while moving old papers and bottles around?
According to Bulgarian law, government pays the health insurance of all children. However, it is not uncommon for a health-insured patient to hear that he needs some treatment that costs EUR 1000 or more and, although essential, is not covered by health insurance or the money is exhausted for the moment. This is incomprehensible for the normal mind, but it is a fact. The most famous case in recent time are the cancer patients, periodically deprived of drugs that must be taken regularly to prevent tumour relapse and progression. Atanas Shterev, surgeon and member of Parliament, got attention with his public remark that "we mustn't waste so much funds on cancer drugs, because patients with cancer are doomed anyway". Drugs taken by transplanted patients to prevent rejection of the organ also go missing periodically. In general, any patient needing a relatively expensive treatment for a relatively rare condition is likely to find himself in this situation.
I think this is because our health care is based on herd mentality. Its philosophy is to keep the population as a whole in fair health to ensure people's fitness as workers and taxpayers, rather than to guarantee the life and well-being of the individual. I suppose this is because Bulgaria has rudimentary civil society, no religious values, small per capita income and a recent totalitarian Communist past.

Monday, June 19, 2006

If they want donors, why not reward them?

I forgot to mention in my previous post that the clerks at the blood-and-urine lab, beside mistaking the tests' numerical codes, lost my redirection documents. I specifically asked, "Must the redirection papers stay with you?" and they answered, "Yes, you take just the result". Later this turned out to be a lie. The redirection papers are in 2 copies. The lab must keep one of them and give back the other to be returned to the doctor. (If you haven't yet understood, Bulgarian public health care system is engaged mainly with filling absurd paper forms and moving them around.) Never mind.
At least the redirection paper for the blood group test was returned to me, although it looked as if my son had played with it. So I went to the Blood Bank.
Several years ago the head of the Department of Childhood Hematology in a TV interview complained that there were too few potential bone marrow donors in Bulgaria. "Actually, our database contains only the parents of the young patients. You cannot hope to find a compatible donor among such a small group." He obviously didn't hope to move anybody, because he didn't say where potential donors had to register. Nevertheless, I found the place and volunteered to be inculded in the database. It was the Blood Bank in Sofia (the building is adjacent to the Pirogov emergency hospital).
Three years ago I needed a document certifying my blood group and my doctor sent me to the same institution. At that time, blood group determination was free. However, I didn't want to give a blood sample and somebody to work and waste reagents over it, after my blood group was already determined. So I said, "You actually needn't test my blood group. I am in your database as a potential bone marrow donor." The doctor said, "But it is forbidden for us to make transcripts of our files." However, she took a folder containing the donors' data (a pathetically thin folder) and found my file. She pointed to her colleague, who had come interested, "True. Here is her file, all the antigens are determined." Then, with a decisive gesture, she took a paper form and made a transcript of the file.
I kept this document carefully not only because of its usefulness, but also because she had done me a favour. But last year I had to undergo some surgery and they requested the document. After the procedure I wanted it back, but they said it had to remain there. My doctor later asked, "Why didn't you give them a copy?" Of course I would if I had any idea they intended to keep it forever! Who could foretell all the absurdities of the health care buraucracy?
So last week I went to the Blood bank again, but this time nobody dared to violate the rules and make a transcript. To cap it all, the Blood bank (a public institution) no longer works with the public health care fund, so if I wanted to make the test there, I had to pay 14 leva (EUR 7). They advised me to go instead to Ciba Lab, the nearest laboratory which, despite being private, deals with the redirection papers of the health care fund. I had no choice but to go to Ciba Lab, give them 2.90 leva fee for sampling blood, let them pierce my vein and obtain the result. At least this lab was clean, the lines of patients were not long, they obtained the result in less than a day and made no mistake with the famous redirection papers.
Eh well, if the health care system really needs bone marrow donors (and also blood donors), why doesn't it offer them some carrot? Such as a free document certifying their blood group when they need it? Is it so much? The information is stored in the system anyway. I regret I have no time to check who and why forbids giving this information to the donors.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Be careful with the codes of medical tests

This week I had to make some routine diagnostic tests. They were covered by health insurance, so my doctor gave me corresponding redirection documents (I cannot offer a better translation of the awful Bulgarian "napravlenia", as buraucrats have called these valuable sheets of paper.) I took them without looking at them and the told me I had to make blood test, urine test and blood group test.
When I last made such tests 3 years ago, the redirection documents contained some cues what they were for, e.g. "Urine". Arriving at the medical center, I looked at them to see which were for the blood and urine testing. To my unpleasant surprise, there were no cues, just some numerical codes unknown to me.
I decided to use my brain and not ask anybody. There were 2 redirection sheets. One of them contained 2 codes, 001 and 003. The other contained just 1 code, 012. I figured out that the first sheet was for the blood and urine tests and the second one was for the blood group test, which had to be done at another institution.
There was a label, "2 leva fee for taking blood, 1 lev for taking urine". Medical centers have the right to charge patients for sampling biological material and of course use it. I gave my sheet with 001 and 003 codes, the clerk asked for 2 leva and sent me to a lab where my blood would be taken.
Nobody mentioned any urine and I began to think that, after all, the second sheet was for the urine test. There was a line of patients waiting for blood tests and I, well, really wanted to give my urine sample (I am an old woman and cannot walk all day with a full bladder). So I returned to the clerk, handed her the second sheet and asked, "Is this for urine testing?"
She looked at the code and replied, "This is for sterile urine. Go downstairs."
I wondered because the doctor had mentioned no sterile urine, but she was expected to know the codes, wasn't she? That was her job! So I went downstairs. The clerk there took the redirection sheet, asked 2 leva fee for sampling sterile urine and accepted my sample without comment. I returned upstairs to wait for the blood test.
When my turn came, the nurse took a sample of my blood, then gave me a cup and told me, "Go to the toilet and produce an urine sample."
I was amazed and said, "But the clerk has just sent me to produce sterile urine." She wondered, "Why sterile urine? Possibly for microbiological testing? Anyway, try to produce some more urine and if you can't, don't worry, come another day."
I tried my best but produced little - it isn't easy to give two consecutive urine samples within minutes. Besides, the toilet was not the place I wished to return to. It was very dirty and after using it you had nowhere to wash your hands. (When I complained to my husband, he joked that women have a construction defect and therefore cannot produce an urine sample without contaminating their hands as well.)
2 days later, my blood and urine tests were ready. The nurses had managed to analyze successfully my micro-sample. But I had no result from the sterile urine and the redirection sheet was returned to me (in poor condition) with an annotation that it doesn't carry the right code for the sterile urine. After all my logic was right, it was for blood group testing. I don't intend to go again to this medical center (3rd City Hospital in Sofia). The nurses there are polite and competent, but the clerks are awful.
So, if you are health-insured in Bulgaria and undergo tests, be careful and ask your doctor which code for which test is, because the clerks whose job is to deal with these codes will not know and will not check!
It is good that most people doing these diagnostic tests are perfectly healthy. The ordeal would deteriorate the condition of anybody who is already ill.
The blood group testing will be subject of another post.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A monster is dead

Last week, an airstrike killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq and of the so-called Iraqi resistance. Of course I am relieved and glad that the world got rid of a mass murderer. So are most people who comment over his death. Not all, of course. Hamas mourns him, some people in Jordan express sympathy (I thought nobody would after he exploded a wedding there for no apparent reason). Michael Berg, father of Zarqawi's victim Nicholas Berg (see previous post), told AP that "the blame for most deaths in Iraq should be placed on
President Bush' name. He is more of a terrorist than Zarqawi. Zarqawi felt my son's breath on his hand as held the knife against his throat. Zarqawi had to look in his eyes when he did it. George Bush sits there glassy-eyed in his office with pieces of paper and condemns people to death. That to me is a real terrorist."
Quite the opposite, I think. Throughout human history, leaders have waged wars for different reasons, and all wars bring atrocities. However, most of these leaders felt no need to participate in the atrocities directly, while Zarqawi is believed to have beheaded some of his victims himself. As Ralph Peters wrote, "Zarqawi was the video star, the Great Beheader who treated helpless prisoners as sheep to be slaughtered. Although his gory antics ultimately alienated Muslims of conscience, to the extremists and the wannabes he was his god’s avenger" (
Did Zarqawi cut people's throats because he thought it useful for his cause, or just because he liked it? I vote for the latter. To me, his "cause" was a mere justification for his sadism. Without it, he would find another outlet; he is said to have been a gangster before stepping on the path of jihad. His photos show the eerie look of a serial murderer. Michael Berg said "the loss of any human being is a tragedy". True, but don't Zarqawi's deeds disqualify him from human race? He rather reminds me of the monsters that in horror movies fly into the windows at night to drink people's blood. The movies tell us how to deal with such creatures: (1) close the windows to prevent more of them from entering, (2) find a way to deal with those already in, and (3) wait for the night to end, because only daylight will bring safety.
Yes, the problem is "the night", the environment that creates and condones monsters like Zarqawi. The ordinary Iraqis who commented on Nick Berg's beheading, "Yes, it's bad, but did you see the Abu Ghraib photos?". The sympathetic Palestinians and Jordanians. Don't they think that if there was no jihad and Zarqawi had remained in Zarqa, somebody would periodically be missing from the neighbourhood and later corpses would be found? And how could thousands of Iraqi and foreigh fighters follow Zarqawi without being bothered by his monstrosity? If he was a monster, what are the above mentioned people? The politically correct folks tell us that Islamists are good people like us turned into our enemies by some terrible misunderstanding. At the moment when Pres. Bush is videotaped cutting the throat of a prisoner, I'll admit that the politically correct folks are right.
I guess nobody in Bulgaria is more relieved by Zarqawi's death than the families of his Bulgarian victims - a dozen of soldiers and two truck drivers, who were abducted and then killed. Of course nothing can bring back their loved ones, but now at least they know the monster received his due.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Parental psychopathology

When I was 11 or 12, I so much wanted to understand human mind, and with so little success, that I read through an entire textbook of psychiatry. Later I learned that understanding humans comes naturally with experience. Now I'll try the other way round: to speak like an amateur psychiatrist on a subject which fully deserves the attention of professionals but seems neglected by them.
Highlander had quoted Libyan-American blogger Smokey Spice complaining a year ago about relations' attempts to arrange a marriage. I opened the blog to see what the situation is now, has the girl finally found her man, arranged or otherwise. But, as I have mentioned earlier, Arab blogs regarding Palestine and Israel and the current war resemble minefields and you can enjoy them only if you decide not to care when you'll step on a landmine. Eh well, I landed right onto a mine. You can see it at For readers who have a bad Internet connection and don't want to venture another link, I'll tell shortly what it is about. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an Israeli woman whose child was killed in 1997 at the age of 13 by a suicide bomber, speaks to the European Parliament on International Women's Day. She says a Palestinian woman must have been invited instead of her. Then she states that "state violence and army violence... are the lot of Muslim women today, not only in Palestine but wherever the enlightened Western world is setting its big imperialistic foot... The so-called free world is afraid of the Muslim womb... This in spite of the fact that the people who are destroying the world today are not Muslim. One of them is a devout Christian, one is Anglican and one is a non-devout Jew... Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan women are my sisters because we are all at the grip of the same unscrupulous criminals who call themselves leaders of the free enlightened world and in the name of this freedom and enlightment rob us of our children. Furthermore, Israeli, American, Italian and British mothers have been for the most part violently blinded and brainwashed to such a degree that they cannot realize their only sisters, their only allies in the world are the Muslim Palestinian, Iraqi or Afghani mothers, whose children are killed by our children or who blow themselves to pieces with our sons and daughters... My natural and civil rights as a mother have been violated and are violated because I have to fear the day my son would reach his 18th birthday and be taken away from me to be the game tool of criminals such as Sharon, Bush, Blair and their clan of blood-thirsty, oil-thirsty, land thirsty generals..."
Nurit Peled-Elhanan is not the first parent who, after losing a child at the hand of Islamists, champions their cause and spits on the leaders of the free world (not for failure to achieve victory, but for the very attempt to defend freedom). I know of two other such parents, both Americans. The first is Michael Berg whose son Nicholas (Nick), a humanitarian, was kidnapped and beheaded on video in Iraq. The second is Cindy Sheehan whose son Casey was killed as a soldier in Iraq. Upon reading Michael Berg's interview where he was accusing Pres. Bush more than the terrorists for his son's death, my mother said, "You mustn't blame the poor man for what he says, because a parent cannot be expected to remain sane after losing a child." I think she is right and Sandmonkey was too cruel when he called Cindy Sheehan "walking genetic waste" (though I understand him, too; she said e.g. that Sept. 11 was done by Americans themselves).
The above cited text is clearly also a product of a derailed mind. Reading it, I automatically sought some telltale particle, something fit for diagnosis, no matter how small. It is usually present in our opponents' writings. I think I found it here, too. Did you? The last of the cited sentences, where the mother said how afraid she was for her son. I immediately remembered that both Michael Berg and Cindy Sheehan have at least one surviving child.
Imagine you are a parent and lose your only child, or all of your children. The world ends for you. But it also means that you reach immunity. Because they have done everything to you, your enemies can do nothing more. Of course they can kill you as well, but you don't care. You are free and don't need to reckon with them or to appease them in any way.
Now imagine that you have two or three children and one of them is killed. You are hurt beyond healing, but you still have children to care and fear for. The war continues with no end in sight, the free world is in a difficult position, and to you it seems even bleaker than it actually is. The enemy claims victory at the battlefields and many fools in your own community take its side. I guess you'll be in the worst situation if you are religious. You begin to doubt your God who obviously cannot or doesn't want to help His people. Possibly He is powerless and the evil deity worshipped and offered human sacrifices by the enemy is the real God? If so, let's rush to pay respect to Allah, let's appease and praise His hordes, so that He spares your other children...
This is my explanation for the psychopathology shown by these three parents. Of course the truth may be different. What I am sure is that it is cruel and undignified for journalists and others to push microphones in the faces of these unfortunate parents and to expose to the crowd their minds, burned to red by pain.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Why I am reserved towards the European Union

I have mixed thoughts about the European Union, which Bulgaria is scheduled to join on Jan. 1, 2007. On one hand, our country is in such an abyss that it is likely to benefit from EU, at least we'll have more Western influence. (We'll also receive funding, but I don't think this will help - societies, similarly to the healthy adult individuals forming their backbone, rarely benefit from goods they haven't earned themselves.) On the other hand, you never know when the offsets will outweigh the advantages, and besides, by its rush to join EU and its future membership Bulgaria adds more undue legitimacy to this very dubious construction of political thought.
Why do I dislike the EU? It has too much bureaucracy, too much intervention of state into every affair, too much anti-American and anti-Semitic feelings. To form it, governments used blackmail. They first introduced myriads of sky-high tariffs and other barriers to free trade and movement, then told their peoples, "We'll let you have free trade and movement if you let us create united Europe, overlay a super-state onto the outdated nation states." The good old nation states of course were not perfect, but democracy in them was or at least could be functional. In the EU, the most important decisions are taken by people appointed by non-transparent procedures who are neither elected by anybody nor accountable to anybody. The elected body, the European Parliament, isn't much better because any decision concerning any country is taken by a majority assembled from other countries and hence incompetent in the situation (even Germany, France or Britain are a minority if taken isolated). In the United States, despite the common language and history, it is well known that New Yorkers know little of the life in Minnesota and vise versa, so states have much autonomy. In Europe, you have dozens of languages and cultures with long history of wars and no real wish to unify, yet the Eurobureaucrats know only how to centralize, centralize, centralize.
I first formulated these thoughts a year or two ago when talking with a British, who seemed surprised by my opposition to the EU. (He probably expected such opposition in Bulgaria to be rooted only in primitive nationalism and other anti-Western sentiments.) In that discussion, I didn't use one of the most important arguments against the EU - that it allowed itself to be transformed into what Bat Ye'or called Eurabia. Here I am pasting a June 1 post by Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey (

Supporting free speech proves danish intolerance
Oh man, my head hurts!
Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s the report on Denmarkreleased yesterday by the European Commission against Racism andIntolerance. And here’s the section — under the heading “vulnerablegroups” — on Danish Muslims. Quote (footnotes omitted):
"In September 2005, with the stated intention ofverifying whether freedom of speech is respected in Denmark, a widely-read Danish newspaper called on cartoonists to send in caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad; such drawings are considered to be offensive by many Muslims. This newspaper thus published 12 suchcartoons, one of which portrayed the Prophet as a terrorist. The issue has caused widespread condemnation and a protest march was organised in Copenhagen as a result. The fact that, according to a survey carried out regarding the publication of these drawings, 56% of the respondents felt that it was acceptable, is a testimony of the current climate in Denmark. ECRI considers that the goal of opening a democratic debate on freedom of speech should be met without resorting to provocative acts that can only predictably elicit an emotional reaction."
Here’s the poll I think they’re getting that number from. Via WorldPublicOpinion:
"A majority—56 percent—of Danes in the Feb. 3 Epinionpoll agreed with the statement “Respect for freedom of speech should be more important than the consideration of religious sentiment.” Only 37 percent agreed with the statement “Out of respect for the Muslim faith, the cartoons should not have been published even though this could be considered a limitation on the freedom of speech.”
Proof positive of a climate of intolerance. (End of Sandmonkey's post.)

Well, if the EU doesn't protect its members and the values of the civilization, what is the use of it? Just to keep legions of bureaucrats on payroll?
Danes were right to resist the EU. We older people remember that they said "No" on the first referendum whether to join EU. The government spent 3 years on pro-EU propaganda and then made another referendum. This time EU won by a very thin margin. Some Danes began street protests, the police used firearms against them and injured several people - a thing that hadn't happen in Denmark for many decades. So the Danish EU membership was baptized in blood.
Those street protests were neither violent nor even very numerous, so the use of force was unnecessary and just showed how easily the pro-EU politicians resort to nondemocratic means in order to enforce EU on the reluctant plebs. It is also notable that if the people say "No" to the EU, the referendum is periodically repeated until they say "Yes", after which it is never performed again. The national independence is lost forever. But is it really forever? We'll see.