Sunday, January 03, 2016

2016: communist snitches are in charge of everything again

For many years, I have been proud about the velvet character of the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia. We did it nicely and it was possible. We didn't execute the leaders – like the Romanians did. Even the communist party was allowed to exist – and, unlike other countries, it has never changed its name in an effort to "improve its image" (which was mostly a sign of hypocrisy in the other countries). Despite this fact, communists have stayed out of all governments since the first free 1990 elections (so far).

Instead, our politicians have only introduced some soft laws designed to protect the new democracy from the return to a totalitarian system. In particular, the 1991 great and 1992 small lustration laws said that former agents of the communist secret police (StB) wouldn't be allowed to occupy top posts in politics. So everyone was allowed to live and make money but the power in the country wasn't (and legally, isn't) accessible to the communist snitches.

A particular communist snitch (with the secret name "Bureš") who has also worked as an apparatchik in the communist food industry and was doing lots of trade with the Arabs (and, as you can imagine, he could accumulate lots of contacts and helpful know-how from his communist job) – a Slovak man named Andrej Babiš – became a wealthy food industry mogul during capitalism. I don't have a problem with that. Ethically failed people may still be good in other things and if someone switches from doing nasty things to doing helpful things, it's a change we should celebrate. However, I have a serious problem with the fact that this snitch was allowed to enter politics even though the law explicitly says that ministers etc. have to prove that they had no StB record – which he obviously can't. I have a problem with that not because I am dreaming about some kind of a revenge. I have a problem with that because people with the mentality of snitches are likely to change our society in very harmful ways – and indeed, the process is underway, as I will discuss.

(Andrej's younger brother Alexander "cleverly" signed the cooperation with the communist secret agency as well – 11 days before the Velvet Revolution erupted, with the secret name "Miki". During capitalism, he's been a financial boss in Andrej's Agrofert Slovakia, he was charged from stealing $200,000 from the Slovak subsidiary of Czech utility ČEZ, and will spend up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He currently plans to flee Europe. Their father Štefan Babiš joined the communist party in 1952 and was a fanatical enough member so that in a 1971 letter to a communist minister, he has officially renounced his brother-in-law who emigrated to Australia: "I have had nothing to do and hostile relationship with my former brother-in-law for 9 years and it would be unjust if his act, which I absolutely condemn, would affect the future of my kids Andrej and Alexander". The party then allowed him to work in Japan, France, Ethiopia, Yugoslavia, and Switzerland. Truly a wonderful family ready to become "ethical role models" for all Czechs and to be in charge of all Czech public finances. At least, the father Štefan was discussed in the StB archives not because he cooperated with it. He was suspicious of misappropriation; and of selling a license to produce citric acid to a foreign country.)

Databases in Czechia and Slovakia (and the historians who run them) agree that Babiš was a communist snitch. But in Slovakia, Babiš has been able to win a trial by arguing that their proof of his wrongdoing during communism was insufficient.

Instead of being executed, this individual has established a one-man political party of the dictatorial type (he openly says that he wants a nation to be run as a company, with a dictator at the top), ANO2011 ("ano" means "yes" in Czech), was one of the 2 winners in the recent elections (along with social democracy, a statistical tie). To make the story short, this billionaire is now the finance minister, the de facto prime minister, and the most powerful Czech politician according to many. Millions of people belong to the jealous Czech rabble so ANO2011 currently ends up as the most popular party and Babiš is the most popular politician according to the polls.

As a guy who produces lots of rape for biofuels on his fields and other things, he has stolen billions of dollars in various subsidies and advantages allowing him to suppress his competition – both domestic and foreign competition.

But he isn't in politics just for the money. This guy is literally a fanatical snitch. In 2016, a new law penned by his folks came into force that will force 500,000 payers of the value-added tax (VAT) to send a regular monthly or quarterly record of all their transactions with other VAT payers, the so-called verification reports (kontrolní hlášení). A better translation of the new tax form is "a striptease for Babiš". Google Translate translates the phrase without diacritics as trol[l].

It's OK, the propaganda says, when one particular entrepreneur – who shouldn't even be in politics at all because he has been a communist snitch – will be given all the data about all business activities in the $0.3 trillion-a-year economy because such a setup could reduce the tax evasion rate, especially the "carousel frauds" in which a product is sold indefinitely and the VAT that should end up in the public coffers remains in the possession of the ring. About $3 billion a year is estimated to get lost in Czech carousel frauds every year. But the proponents admit that most of the money will be lost with the "stripteases for Babiš", too. It's questionable whether the extra official expenses will be covered by the increased revenue at all (the extra time that the entrepreneurs have to spend will surely not be covered). It is pretty clear that it won't be enough to cover the money that Babiš personally steals from the public coffers every year.

A complaint by the Czech Party of Entrepreneurs against the "stripteases for Babiš" has been accepted by the Constitutional Court. It seems obvious to me that the only possible right conclusion is that this new bill is absolutely unconstitutional – it not only violates the basic privacy rights of hundreds of thousands of citizens but does so in such a way that the minister thinks that a form is enough for that and no approval by the Parliament is needed for this aspect of the law. But many of us are afraid that the Constitutional Court has largely lost most of its political independence and they will just say OK.

Another, perhaps much more famous law to restore communist snitching is stuck in the Parliament – the introduction of Internet-connected cash registers that are assumed to report every transaction of every entrepreneur and self-employed person (mostly with non-payers of VAT in this case) to Babiš. The whole right-wing opposition is determined to block the Parliament up to the elections if necessary (whose results may be even worse than they were the last time, however). So far, the obstruction has worked out and the bill hasn't been approved. But the Babiš's sockpuppets have shown that they're willing to do everything to approve this bill – they didn't hesitate to prevent the lawmakers from speaking in the Parliament (ANO's new plan to shorten the speeches if they are against Babiš was proposed yesterday; surprisingly, the right-wing opposition as well as social and Christian democrats are against the proposal) – so it makes sense to be worried that the resistance will collapse sometime in 2016. (However, it takes much more time to launch the system because all the details and technical aspects of the proposed mechanism are an absolute mess.)

Four new sockpuppets of Babiš (this photograph was a strong test of the resilience of my stomach). Yes, they literally exist! In a tweet, Babiš claimed that these particular four sockpuppets will be used to distribute the doughnuts (a traditional piece of food used by Babiš to bribe the voters) and children's cash registers (a tool to fool the kids and make them think that it's not difficult to deal with the system of the "electronic record keeping of revenues").

The claimed advantages of this "electronic record keeping of revenues" are spurious, as the example of Croatia – where something similar was adopted – also prove. The tax revenues from that part of the economy don't increase measurably (they decreased in Croatia; Croatia also has 43% youth unemployment rate now and 30% of its economy is grey – the figures are 12% and 15% here and Croatia should be our role model?); the unemployment rate goes up because some of the entrepreneurs must give up (so they will have to get active support in the unemployment instead of simple forgiven taxes). But even if the tax revenue from those folks (who hypothetically haven't paid some taxes but they will) went up, the extra taxes will be automatically transferred to the consumers. So Czechs won't have their below-$1 pint of beer in the traditional Czech pubs anymore. Everyone will pay more. Who is supposed to benefit? The culture of people who spend some quality time and exchange their opinions in the pub will be suppressed. It may actually be one of the goals.

I don't want to analyze all the technical problems with the "electronic record keeping of the revenues" in detail. They are enough for a whole book and many people have done the work in quite some detail (e.g. these texts about the speed of programming and then speed of transactions and the security issues). Those who are evading the taxes will be able to do so now, too. If two parties of a transaction agree that it's better for their transaction to belong to the grey economy, it simply will! This simple fact has nothing whatever to do with the cash registers or new forms. The whole system will only add problems to the honest entrepreneurs. The perfect data about the Czech firms may be abused by the government or by someone who steals it. The system is supposed to use SSL 3.0, a computer security standard that was globally deprecated in June 2015. No one seems to care about these issues. The documentation of the bill is an absolute tragedy. For some occupations, it's virtually impossible to carry an Internet-connected cash register with a printer everywhere where they are getting their income, and so on.

But it's obvious that none of the people who support this monstrosity cares about any of these "technical details" why the law would be adding lots of unnecessary work and why it would be dangerous for the entrepreneurs. They are not entrepreneurs. Millions of Czechs are just rabble that doesn't have enough inner qualities to live without a big government or a big employer and who are jealous when they see someone who can do it. Not only these people don't care about the violations of privacy, security risks, and added expenses, worries, automatic liquidating sanctions, and extra spent time for the entrepreneurs; the harder life for the entrepreneurs is the very reason why this rabble supports this sort of harassment directed against their more independent fellow citizens.

They simply love the ideology that all the self-employed people and entrepreneurs – perhaps except for the "honest" Babiš – are basically thieves and criminals (or they are at least suspicious) while the mediocre people like themselves employed in companies like Babiš's Agrofert are the "right people" who should determine the character of the country. They love to strengthen the idea that they are "entitled" to be getting money from all these people who have their own business – in the form of taxes – and this "right" is so important that it trumps the basic human dignity, privacy for almost a million of Czechs, and so on.

The ultimate reason why this pernicious system of laws has a political support is almost exactly the same as the political circumstances that allowed the communist party to successfully complete the coup in 1948. (It just happens that the first deadline for "stripteases for Babiš" comes on February 25th, the anniversary of the 1948 "Victorious February" communist coup.) Millions of losers who love to live out of other people's hard work and who think that their shared jealousy and accusations are enough to downgrade a part of the population (a part better and more important than they are) to citizens of 2nd category.

These people are ready to view Mr Babiš himself as an exception. He's already so rich that they are no longer jealous about him. He's in a different league from their viewpoint. So instead, they adopt him as the "boss of the working people", another Klement Gottwald (the first leader of Czechoslovakia who was a communist) who is "above" all other entrepreneurs in order to make their life more annoying. This may sound ironic but the totalitarian mindsets always work like that. The people supporting these systems claim to want some kind of a "perfect equality" and "perfect justice" – and a dictator who is totally above everyone else (and who has the right to screw the life of anyone else) is helpful if not necessary for such an "egalitarian and just" system. The names of the people who are "even more equal than others" keep on changing – Hitler, Stalin, Gottwald, Babiš – but the logic remains the same.

What drives me up the wall is that Babiš is supposed to be the "trustworthy ethical authority" in all these mechanisms. He's almost certainly the #1 biggest de facto thief in the Czech Republic these days. And due to his "second occupation" during communism, he belongs to the morality-wise bottom 1% of the population that could have been executed for having done things that were "way too despicable". And this individual is supposed to be placed above all other entrepreneurs, self-employed people? I find it absolutely unacceptable. Has a half of the Czech nation lost its mind?

It's not surprising that lots of people want Babiš to die. Such a communist snitch who has circumvented the laws specifically designed to be a protection against him and the changes to the society that he is currently doing and who creates a fortification around his body out his cult worshipers is obviously much more dangerous than a communist snitch whom no one likes. Recently, Babiš insisted on being given a special task force of guards to protect his life because he feels threatened. Well, he has good reasons to feel so – much like Stalin and Hitler, he must have bad conscience. Just the money wasted on these security men may turn out to be greater than any hypothetical benefits of all the laws.

He has transformed himself into a guy who is supported by the jealous scum that shouldn't have any say about these matters because if we were a free society with the presumption of innocence, it's just not their f*cking business; while he is hated at least by half a million of people who are being genuinely hurt by his outrageous policies.

I am a natural optimist – sometimes maybe a too naive one. After the Velvet Revolution, I honestly didn't expect that 25 years later, my country would be governed by a communist snitch who would become a Big Brother with the right to look into everyone's business and every piece of it while using the isomorphic justifications as the communists were using in the late 1940s when they were destroying entrepreneurs in all industries including private farmers etc.

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