Monthly Archives: September 2007

The Hungarian public and corruption

I’m sure that if one of the pollsters asked about people’s attitude toward politicians, the overwhelming majority would say, "Yes, every politician is corrupt." Moreover, I think that a goodly number would be certain that there is a conspiracy among the parties: "I scratch your back, you scratch mine." And the majority would say that somehow the parties and/or government make sure that these corruption cases never end in a conviction. Of course, not every politician is corrupt, and there is no conspiracy (Hungarians love conspiracy theories), and I very … Read the rest

Journalistic independence: USA and Hungary

This afternoon as I was once again trying to carve a vegetable garden out of New England clay and rocks I wired myself up in order to listen to my favorite radio station, National Public Radio (NPR). As it happened, they were airing a weekly program called "On the Media," an informative hour on the state of the media. I usually enjoy it and learn quite a bit about the ins and outs of American journalism.

Today there was a five-minute segment that I found fascinating and relevant to my … Read the rest

Civility among Hungarian politicians and the press? What civility?

I decided to write about this topic because yesterday I saw István Mikola, the "doctor of the nation," former minister of health in the second half of the Orbán government, on Olga Kálmán’s program "Egyenes beszéd" (Straight Talk) on ATV. "Miss Manners" would have had apoplexy over his behavior, but it was not unexpected from Dr. Mikola, who is one of the most arrogant, one might even say brutish members of the political elite. (My other favorite in this department is István Tarlós, formerly mayor of Óbuda, now as an … Read the rest

Lakitelek: Hungarian Populism Twenty Years Later

Lakitelek is a large village with a population of about 4,000, not far from Kecskemét on the Great Plains. Very little of note happened there–at least not until 1987. In that year, on September 27, in the back yard of Sándor Lezsák, a minor poet, a group of people with an ostensibly laudable political purpose got together. Most of the participants came from the so-called "populist" (népies) wing of the Hungarian intellectual scene: writers, sociologists, lawyers, economists, etc. The "urbanists" (urbánusok) were represented by only one writer, György Konrád, the … Read the rest

Ildikó Lendvai, head of the MSZP caucus

I have been wanting to talk about her for some time. Every time I see that she will be on television I make sure that I take time to watch the program. What do I like about her? Her refreshing honesty. Of course, she is a politician and she carefully watches what she says, but even when she doesn’t answer a question ("You know that I can’t answer this") it’s perfectly clear what the answer would be. Her honesty is evident even in her entry in the Hungarian Who’s Who? Read the rest

Gyurcsány’s housecleaning

Before I begin today’s blog about Gyurcsány’s housecleaning I would like to do a little housecleaning of my own. I would like to repeat something that may not have caught everyone’s eye. At the end of one of my blogs I mentioned that I will not publish any Hungarian-language comments. Especially not the kind that calls for other people’s murder. I’m not joking. A person called on those who feel like murdering Jews to join him. This same person wrote another lengthy Hungarian language letter in which he verbally attacks … Read the rest

Campaign financing–not just a Hungarian problem

Just because it is a problem everywhere in the world doesn’t mean that Hungarians are resigned to the corruption that accompanies campaign financing in their own country. As elsewhere, the allocation of funds from the national budget to the parties is not enough to conduct a modern political campaign. But Hungarian politicians can’t pick the pockets of their rich friends to the extent that Western politicans do. So Hungarian political candidates have used all sorts of unsavory tricks to get money into their party coffers from other sources. According to … Read the rest