It is difficult to get decent information about anything in Hungary during the weekend. As if the world stopped on Friday night. I don’t know what would have to happen during the weekend that Hungarians could find out about. Perhaps World War III.
There’s an obvious cultural divide between Hungary and the United States when it comes to weekend news. In Hungary there are no newspapers on Sunday, while in the United States the papers are ten times bigger on Sunday than on weekdays. The American model is that people spend at least part of their Sunday morning immersing themselves in news, catching up on celebrity gossip, working the devilish crossword puzzle, or clipping grocery store coupons. (That model obviously includes both national and local newspapers.) On television too: in the United States Sunday morning is the time for high-profile political interviews. In Hungary one can find, in my opinion, too many political programs during the week, but once the weekend comes there is practically nothing.
This is just to introduce the fact that not much happened during the weekend in Hungary. Or, most likely, a lot happened but we don’t know about it. However, I managed to catch two pieces of news today: (1) after all, the government is going to give some money to Budapest in order to tide the Budapest Transit Authority over, and (2) in principle the government and the Hungarian Medical Association have some kind of understanding concerning compensation for the lost co-payments.
And with this, another personal (mea culpa) experience comes to mind. When I was a junior faculty member at Yale University, I ended up being "director of undergraduate studies." This may sound fancy, but basically it was extra work without any extra compensation. The tenured faculty members didn’t want to do it, so they dumped the job on some unsuspecting junior faculty member. And thus I became the person who had to deal with undergraduate majors in Russian and East European Studies. Fortunately there were no more than twenty or twenty-five students. A year into the job I decided that our rules and regulations in the "Blue Book" (the catalog of courses that also included departmental requirements) were not rigorous enough. I proposed that the REES faculty rewrite its section of the Blue Book, and they accepted my revisions. From here on, I sternly said, those students who turn their senior papers in late will receive a grade of C regardless of the quality of their work. A year later my decision came back to haunt me. Our best student was late with his senior paper. I was supposed to give him a C. I couldn’t. There I was red-faced going against my own rules and regulations.
Anyway this old story came to mind when I read the news of today. I heard that after all it seems that the trade union of the transit workers was right in its decision to strike. BKV will get 10-12 billion forints from the central budget. Although Gyurcsány was adamant a few days ago that not a fillér would be given to Budapest on behalf of BKV, now after all there is money. It doesn’t sound good. Reminds me of my old self. Another piece of news is that after all the family doctors will be compensated for their loss of co-payment income. But why? Didn’t the prime minister say that there is no way? This is bad policy. Every Tom, Dick and Harry will ask for more money and, if it goes this way, they will get it. And what will happen to the convergence program?