Saturday, December 16, 2017

New assertive Czech PM fails to legalize anti-migration stance in EU so far

On Wednesday, Czech president Zeman appointed a new government constructed by Slovak-born billionaire Mr Andrej Babiš. I am still worried about the authoritarian, anti-democratic political attitudes he has defended in his campaign. I still think he should be arrested for some of his self-evident and obviously serious crimes. I still find it terrible that influential communist apparatchiks from the 1980s and former communist secret agents get this high in politics of a democratic country. Some of these negative sentiments of mine are very strong.

PM Babiš (L) and his predecessor Sobotka (R).

And in practice, I think that many of these things are more important for Czech citizens than some abstract, remote problems of Western Europe.

On the other hand, don't expect me to behave as one of the hysterical anti-Trump activists in America – who write tirades against the leader every day or who burn university campuses. On Thursday, I attended a pre-Christmas party organized by Czech ex-president Klaus whose animosity towards Babiš is clearly weaker than mine. I was semi-jokingly afraid of the scenario that I could have met Babiš there. Would I have shook his hand? My guess is that "yes" would be possible after two glasses of wine. I didn't drink even that over there – the event was lame for me at the ethanol level – but it would have been a close call.

You know, while he should still be investigated by the police and the attitudes of the typical voters whose votes he stole before the recent elections are rather scary, one needs to be rational. It's not really my job to arrest everyone who stole a few million in subsidies – and not even someone who gets tens of millions of dollars in subsidies every year for the yellow rape biofuel junk. At some level, these are mundane issues and the prime minister could be doing more important things that justify his being liberated from similar problems.

Just to be sure, I don't find it obvious that the job of the prime minister is this important. During the 4-year tenure, a prime minister earns something of order $1 million including various compensations. Is it too much? Is it too little? I actually think it's about right. (Obviously, for a billionaire, this money is negligible, but that doesn't mean that I can't try to estimate the value of that job.) On one hand, it's more than the average salary, by an order of magnitude or so. On the other hand, the prime minister decides about billions and tens of billions and other important questions. He can screw a lot up.

However, I don't think that the salary of a prime minister should be comparable to billions because he just shouldn't get a big part of the money he is expected to save or create etc. A less prominent person could agree and do almost the same, equally good job for a much smaller salary! So if you adopt my position that the contribution that actually depends on the identity of the prime minister is of order $1 million for the country, it still doesn't justify a pardon in the lawsuit in which he clearly stole $2 million. And of course, the $2 million itself is just a symbol – it's easy to prove that this was a fraud but the investigation is supported by people like me because these two millions "symbolize" much larger gains that weren't fine, either, but that can't be proven to be illegal so easily. Al Capone was ultimately arrested for a minor tax offense – and this relatively small tax subsidy could play a similar role for Babiš's eventual arrest.

At any rate, while he got lots of the former communist and former social democratic voters in the 2017 elections, this former communist still thinks as a centrist, perhaps a fanatically apolitical or non-ideological or pragmatic ordinary man, sometimes as a genuine entrepreneur, so it would be vastly oversimplified to label him as a communist or socialist in the 2017 sense. He's not one. And he shares lots of the sensible opinions that are dominant in the Czech society such as the opposition to the mass (Islamic) immigration to Europe.

Ironically enough, on Friday, two days after Babiš became a prime minister, a policy that he once called his most important project was mostly cancelled by the Constitutional Court. It's the "EET", the online cash register of all cash receipts by small businesses that was introduced as a "tool to fight tax evasion". The Constitutional Court has agreed with right-wing lawmakers who protested and agreed that lots of the regulations in the law were unconstitutional. The 3rd and 4th wave of "EET" – when assorted craftsmen and similar occupations were supposed to get a tablet and send all their transactions immediately to the finance minister – were canceled by the Constitutional Court. More precisely, these two waves were delayed at least by a year, before some problems in the law are fixed. It's plausible that they won't be fixed because the support for such complicated fudged new "EET bill" has dropped in the Parliament, I think.

The "EET" was introduced to collect the votes of millions of jealous Czechs who want their successful neighbors-entrepreneurs to be harassed etc. This basic fact has often been disputed by defenders of the bill but because the jealousy is a self-evident scientific fact, the disputations failed and the claim of mine has turned out to be indisputable. But the potential to accumulate votes by the pro-EET propaganda has faded away. The EET is already mandatory for restaurants and hotels. The extra tax revenue that the EET has brought is tiny, basically consistent with the hypothesis that the growth is due to the general economic growth in these industries, anyway, and either almost no one was evading taxes, or they can still do so now. So the real-world data have proven the claims of mine and other critics of EET that the accusation that all the restaurants are stealing huge amounts of money are simply falsehoods popular among the jealous anti-capitalism rabble. The restaurant and hotel owners were basically honest in their taxes, the data seem to prove!

So I think it's obvious that Babiš – who must understand the hard data just like I do because he's an achieved entrepreneur – doesn't really care about EET now anymore, and if it were needed, he would abolish even the 1st and 2nd wave of the EET, i.e. the duty for restaurants and hotels.

Babiš is leading a minority government that is unlikely to gain confidence in the Parliament. He and President Zeman, his (at least ad hoc) ally in these enterprises, is trying to defend the meme that it's basically OK for a government to govern without the confidence from the Parliament. Almost all other politicians and constitutional lawyers agree that it's nonsense – that a prolonged system with a government without confidence is unconstitutional. Needless to say, I actually like the setup with a government without confidence because it's a weak government and a weak government is a good government. The less government a country has, the better for the country, and this setup with a government without confidence is a way to achieve the dream of the weak government.

While the private sector generates the actual growth, the government is what creates nasty things such as EET, smoking bans, and dozens of others. Almost all such big changes made by the government were harmful. So of course if there is a way to lower the rate of this harmful activity that is known as the government's work, it's great.

On the other hand, I would love the Czech government to be more influential in international politics. Is it possible?

Bohuslav Sobotka, the former prime prime minister who left his job on Wednesday, was considered the most submissive prime minister in our history – despite the fact that he has had some competitors. He was a life-long professional politician, a soft-spoken ordinary bureaucratic guy who doesn't seem to have ever used an expletive. His (bald) haircut turned him into an asymptotic role model for your humble correspondent and surely many other men who realize that receding hair is a defining characteristic of a true man. ;-)

OK, on one hand, I also prefer entertaining, emotional, clearly formulating politicians. On the other hand, I do appreciate the advantages of modest guys like Sobotka. He hasn't been exceptional but as a voter of other parties than his, I think he was a decent guy from many viewpoints. I feel some compassion because of the ways in which he was treated. And he had my sympathies even when President Zeman – a former social democrat whom I voted for some 4 years ago (partly due to the absence of better yet realistic alternatives) – was behaving truly harshly towards Sobotka.

Sobotka was the prime minister – his social democracy led the government. Babiš's ANO was formally a junior coalition partner. But Babiš, the finance minister in the last 4 years, was the "de facto prime minister" since 2013. He was the guy who always talked assertively, who tried to sell every perceived success of the government as his own success (even though many of those were really realized promises of the social democrats), who constantly repeated that he was "better than Sobotka at everything". So it's unsurprising that Babiš was capable of stealing most of the voters from the social democratic as well as communist parties, in an analogous way in which he stole most of the right-wing ODS voters 4 years earlier.

So now, Babiš is the prime minister, his ministers are various people employed as secretaries or prostitutes in his Agrofert Holding, various puppets like that, and it's a government without social democracy (left) and without ODS (right), the two leading parties that have been in all post-election governments in the history of the modern Czech Republic (since 1993). So it's the first government that came from elections but that avoids what have been the two main political parties so far. They would have no chance to build something that was called (and, in Germany, is still called) the grand coalition. The social democratic-ODS coalition would not only fail to be grand. It would have no chance to reach at a 50% support in the Parliament now, at least not without further arrangements for the additional parties.

OK, the most submissive prime minister Sobotka was replaced with Andrej Babiš, the ultimate predator who has destroyed all his former partners in business, who divides the people to subordinates and enemies to be destroyed – although I suspect that given the limited strength of Czechia, this attitude won't quite work in the international context.

At any rate, Babiš brags about his immense ability to make our country important in the international context. Unlike Sobotka, he speaks several languages – well, he speaks well enough to communicate and charm other people and some of this way of speaking could be close enough to my personal lifestyle. But he also plans to weaken the Visegrád Group. Babiš tries to sell the idea that we can do better, team up with countries like Germany, Austria, France instead and force our opinions upon them. Does it have anything to do with reality?

So he loves to take photographs with the likes of Macron, Tusk, Schäuble etc., trying to pretend that those people are basically his friends, amazed by the wonderful personality that Babiš is. Well, at some chemical level, I think that this might be true, but at the relevant political level, I think it's just a pile of bogus fairy-tales for the stupid worshipers of Babiš. Babiš's position in the European politics is bound to be weak. After all, he was charged for serious crimes. The crimes are also investigated by OLAF, an EU bureau to fight against economic crime in the EU, and it's rather likely that OLAF has also concluded that Babiš is "guilty". The verdict may be delayed deliberately, Babiš may be blackmailed by the EU, and so on.

Thankfully, so far, Babiš keeps the standard Visegrád Group position. He tries to make it sure that he de facto despises Poles – partly because they export cheaper and more competitive food products than his Agrofert Holding – and perhaps Hungarians, not to mention his homeland, Slovakia, where he would have absolutely no chance to win the elections. A certain kind of stupidity only exists in my beloved Czechia. But he agrees that we don't want to accept any macroscopic amounts of asylum seekers.

So there was some overt arguing in Brussels, between the Visegrád on one side and the pro-migration EU member states on the other side. Merkel and Italian PM Gentiloni were among the idiots who tried to criticize the Visegrád Group's anti-migration attitude – they failed to criticize us, however, it was just an unsuccessful attempt to repeat a couple of childish threats and expletives. Babiš spoke just like the Poles and Hungarians (and Slovaks). But the promises that he would persuade the Western Europeans unsurprisingly turned to be rubbish. So he couldn't stop the lawsuit against Poland, Hungary, and Czechia. He couldn't do a damn thing.

I would love to be proven wrong but this gap has nothing to do with Babiš's sexually attractive pseudo-charisma of a village idiot (this is how his virtues were described by numerous people).

The gap is simply a profound difference between the dominant opinions of Western Europeans vs Central and Eastern Europeans concerning the Islam, mass migration, political correctness, nation states, sovereignty, and lots of other things. The migration quotas are simply considered unacceptable in the post-communist part of Europe – while they must be considered tautologies or at least implications of some basic principles in the politically correct Western Europe. This gap is too deep and I don't really expect Babiš to erase it.

The gap became even more geographic in character – and therefore more likely to divide the EU and maybe ignite a new war in the future – when the "EU president" Donald Tusk criticized the migration quotas as something that has failed and that divides Europe. He was immediately assaulted by a bunch of politically correct Western European politicians in the EU, such as some unhinged Greeks. They were trying to calm down the internal rift in the EU and the question is who has softened his stance. I am not actually sure what the right interpretation of the outcome is. At any rate, they stopped their too obvious and loud verbal clashes.

What's remarkable is that Donald Tusk is a Polish politician – and former Polish prime minister – who represents the most politically correct and pro-EU party in Poland. This has formally made him an arch-rival of the current Polish patriotic government for many years. So even if the Western European, EU-PC politicians in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Madrid, and other capitals try to cherry-pick the (famous enough) politicians in the Central and Eastern European countries, they won't be able to find anyone who would support the Western Europe's PC attitude to migration. All politicians, including the most pro-EU available politicians, still largely agree with the dominant opinion in post-communist Europe! Mass immigration is wrong, it has to be prevented, the problems leading to mass exodus have to be solved in the exotic places that the migrants flee. Tusk is less certain about these claims than Orbán but he is still closer to Orbán than to Merkel.

I would love if Babiš were able to make a difference and finally explain to the likes of Merkel why they have been so wrong about these fundamental things. Merkel would thank Babiš for the light. You're such a charming village idiot, Andrej, now I see why the mass Muslim migration is wrong. If it were so, many Babiš's foes like me could happily forget about his crimes, his murky methods by which he accumulated the billions of dollars, his rather dark communist past. ... But I don't expect anything like that to happen. I suspect that Babiš's ability to impress the people is mostly limited to the stinky Czech pond and even if his pseudo-charisma extended behind the Sudets mountains, the European gap concerning Islam and related issues is just way too deep to be erased by any single man.

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