No Internet tax but attacks on the United States continue

On Friday Viktor Orbán was still determined that after a national consultation the internet tax would be introduced sometime next year. Today he retreated from this position. He suggested that the internet providers’ unanimous opposition to the tax was the reason for removing the item from the government’s 2015 budget proposal. I very much doubt that the joint letter of the providers addressed to Mihály Varga had anything to do with the decision. Rather, Orbán recognized that his attempt to simply postpone the decision would not appease the multitudes of internet users. There was a very good possibility that the demonstrations would be repeated from time to time, further damaging the reputation of the government and Viktor Orbán personally. Despite this retreat, however, I have the feeling that in one way or the other curtailing internet access will be back on Viktor Orbán’s agenda. He is only too aware that almost all of the large demonstrations against his government were organized on Facebook. Social media is a danger to autocrats.

Now that this issue is behind us, I would like to return to the Orbán government’s relations with two of its adversaries at the moment: the United States and Norway. You may recall that János Lázár invited the “appropriate Norwegian minister” to meet with him either in Budapest or in Brussels. I predicted that Vidar Helgesen, the minister in question, would not oblige. And indeed, Tove Skarstein, Norwegian ambassador in Budapest, held a press conference today where she announced that Norway does not recognize the right of the Hungarian government to investigate the Ökotárs Foundation. Norway is in the middle of conducting its own probe, which will be ready by the end of November. Until then, the monies of the Norway Civic Fund will continue to be distributed through Ökotárs. It is unlikely that the Hungarian government will be the winner of this dispute. So far the Orbán government has been left holding the short end of the stick: the Norwegian Funds suspended payment of some 40 billion forints that the Hungarian government was supposed to distribute for various projects.

After the meeting of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus a journalist asked Viktor Orbán about the U.S. travel ban on the six Hungarian officials and businessmen. As we know, the reason for the ban is not just simple corruption but also American fear that the reported cases would not be investigated by the police and the prosecutor’s office. In plain English, there is a well-founded suspicion that the government is complicit in the crime itself.

Viktor Orbán does not like to talk about this sensitive topic, and apparently the subject did not come up at today’s meeting of the parliamentarians. Of course it didn’t because it was not on the agenda. When asked whether he knows the names of the six people in question, Orbán’s answer was: “if the Americans tell me, then I will be glad to tell.” The game Orbán is playing is rather simple-minded. He would gladly investigate and if necessary bring the culprits to justice, but the Americans with their stupid laws prevent him from doing so. One has to be very naive to think that Orbán does not know the names or that the prosecutor’s office could not investigate their cases.

It seems to me that there is still a huge confusion about how to deal with the frayed American-Hungarian relations. On the one hand, Viktor Orbán at least twice tried to discourage the far-right leaders of the Peace Marches from organizing an anti-American rally. On the other hand, members of his government are accusing Bunge, the American agribusiness corporation, of corruption. Bunge is most likely the company that reported the corrupt tax authority officials to the American embassy. A few days ago Magyar Nemzet accused Bunge of corruption in Argentina, and today András Tállai, undersecretary in the Ministry of National Economy, went further. According to him, “it is a very interesting situation that in the final analysis it is possible, nay it is certain, that the informer itself is involved with the fraud.” That is, Bunge is being accused of tax fraud. And that’s not all. Magyar Hírlap learned that Carol Browner, Barack Obama’s adviser on environmental matters, recently became a member of Bunge’s board of directors. And, the paper added, Browner was also a member of the Clinton administration. The headline reads: “The threads may lead all the way to Barack Obama.” Wow!  Magyar Hírlap is a big game hunter.

Bunge says it is not under VAT fraud investigation Source: www.bbj.hu

Bunge says it is not under VAT fraud investigation
Source: http://www.bbj.hu

János Lázár also made it clear how he feels about the United States’ role in shining a light on corruption in the Hungarian tax authority. When an MSZP member of parliament inquired about Ildikó Vida, the head of the office, Lázár retorted: “How do you know that she is involved? For an answer it would be enough to bring the flag of the United States and put it between the European and the Hungarian flags because then we would understand that behind the MSZP caucus there is the Budapest chargé of the United States.” He also suggested to Bernadett Szél (LMP) that she go to the United States embassy and ask them why they intimate that part of Hungarian officialdom is corrupt.

Meanwhile the right and far-right media are full of attacks on the stupid, ignorant and boorish Americans and their representative, M. André Goodfriend, as opposed to the Russians of Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Dostoevsky. Since we all know that a single word from Viktor Orbán would be enough to silence these hacks, we can safely assume that the rants from the staff of Magyar Nemzet and Magyar Hírlap are not against the wishes of the Orbán government.

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69 comments

  1. KTP the US does not have the capability of rapidly providing natural gas to Ukraine, it was discussed in the media along with a rather far out idea of shipping natural gas there by sea rapidly. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/03/25/can-u-s-natural-gas-rescue-ukraine-from-russia/

    So the Ukraine has really no choice but to make a gas deal with Russia, just like after its military was decisively defeated by combined separatist and Federation forces had to sign the September 5 Minsk Protocol on ending the fighting in the Donbas. The incredible military defeat Ukrainian forces experienced has been largely not discussed in the mass media in the USA and the Minsk Protocol is presented as a cease fire agreement here in the USA when in actuality based on the facts on the ground a huge section of Ukraine was handed over to Russia as the price of saving thousand of Ukrainian soldiers lives who were totally surrounded and facing annihilation. This has been discussed really only among military type people in the USA and in NATO I suspect. The US aid going to Ukraine could indeed end up going to Russia due to the payments for gas.

    KTP, Republican control of both the Senate and House is seen as a very positive thing by most retired and active military officers in the USA. There are a series of cuts to the military many of us would like to see reversed. the existing congressional budget deal hit my own military retirement benefit , reducing my cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments by 1 percent for the last several years.The average cash loss for non-reserve retired officers is around $80,000 or more in lifetime benefits for each affected retiree, mine is somewhat less because of my former reserve status. The cut in the COLA only lasts to age 62.

    There is also the cuts of about $487 billion over ten-years in defense spending required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 that needs to be reversed and may now be possible with Republican control of both Houses. Currently there is a planned reduction in US Army forces from around 520,000 active duty personnel down to about 440,000 we believe the Republicans will stop that and cuts to the reserve units. Most Army officers would like the Army to remain stable and expand dramatically its ability in technology including remote controlled type ground weapons. In general I would say a Republican controlled legislature and a Democratic executive is not the worst of all worlds.

    Republicans like G W Bush have in the resent past had a history of shooting first and figuring out how to exit second and the Democrats like B Obama don’t want to shoot at all because they can’t figure out an exit strategy. Maybe a mixed government is what we require at this time in terms of foreign policy and strategic thinking.

  2. @Istvan
    Gattyan’s porn business is rather pornography related internet services – he’s providing the technical base, know-how and all that – to the users, he isn’t “producing” porn.
    Tat’s why he has nothing to do with the mob and such.

    The moral aspect still questionable, though, if one really insist, but then again, did you ever blamed Mr.Smith & Wesson for the violence committed with their products?

  3. @Istvan, I hate to stray to much into US politics but the Budget Control Act was passed with strong Republican support. I could go into the history over the last few years of republicans blocking passage of bills supporting veterans. And their role in the defense budget sequestration.

  4. Honestly, did anyone managed to act surprised upon hearing the story of Ildikó Vida?

    This government is rotten to the core, and as the Hungarian saying states “the fish stinks by it’s head”.

    Indeed.

    Orbán is an unscrupulous, greedy sod, with no moral or ethical principles whatsoever, who will stop on nothing to achieve his goal: ultimate power and unlimited wealth.

    Sort of amusing to see from a safe distance, but to the natives who has no choice but live under his rule, God may have mercy – in some better day – because Orbán will never ever let them even breath freely.

    Somehow the whole setup resembles to those suicide sects, when the whole congregation decided totally “freely” to take their own life…

    The stupidity has no upper limit, obviously: there will be “Peace March” – the Hungarian Lemmings – to support these corrupt criminals to stay in power longer..!

    Learn to commit seppuku, anyone?

  5. Here is another incredible scandal today.

    The Orban government gave the “free” (not collateralized by mortgages & other loans) money of the depositors of the credit unions,

    3.2 billion euros !!!

    to a subsidiary of the bank FHB of oligarch Speder.

    http://vs.hu/gazdasag/osszes/demjan-ujra-megdobbent-az-fhb-hoz-kerult-a-takarekok-1000-milliardja-1105

    As I already remarked on February 7, 2014,
    FHB bank and the gas dealer MET are connected through Csaba Lantos

    https://www.fhb.hu/tarsasag/Altalanos-informaciok/Tarsasagi-iranyitas/Lantos-Csaba

  6. Kohl is a very old and bitter man – he’s going to court against his ghostwriters, doesn’t want them to publish what he told them …

    @Istvan:

    I found your comments on the military under a “mixed government” very interesting (and positive too …). Do you mind if I quote them on a German/American forum or do you maybe have another source with similar ideas for me?

  7. Reality Check: the military cuts were the demand of the Democrats in the budget deal not the Republicans. In fact there were some Democrats on the Armed Services committees that were reluctant to make that deal, but their hand was forced by the crisis. Many Republicans believed that the bill would serve as a template for what they wanted: no tax increases, no defense cuts, and considerable domestic spending reductions. On this see http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/14/there-are-now-four-plans-to-stop-the-sequester/?wprss=rss_ezra-klein

    The basic Republic strategy of domestic spending cuts to fund the military can now be implemented. Depending on the level and type of domestic cuts Obama may or may not risk a veto override. In the House the Republicans have enough votes to override, in the Senate they do not, but there are Democrat Senators who do not agree with the military cuts given the current security situation so an override is not assured in the Senate.

  8. Tappanach, thank you for posting those stories. The credit unions (or mutual banks) were mutually owned by their depositors and were a modest but healthy part of the banking sector. There was nothing broken about them, nothing needed fixing. But the owners — small depositors, all of them — were disowned by the Orban government, for no good reason at all, and the banks were basically handed out to to Fidesz favorites. Now to have these liquid assets given away is outright theft. There are no two ways about it: this government is a kleptocracy.

  9. @Music Lover, I don’t know whether they read all comments but old timers know that Mr. Goodfriend is a regular reader of the Hungarian Spectrum. In fact, he exchanged comments at one point with other readers.

  10. Tappanch has produced the link for anyone doubting my assertion. Habony Árpád has a criminal conviction for assault which should prevent him from entering the United States. So his presence in Washington last week means he either has a diplomatic passport, which he is not entitled to, or else has failed to declare his conviction on entry into the United States which is a criminal offence. Hopefully someone at the US Embassy can look into the matter.

  11. Flame me for giving another piece of [not] surprising data:

    2014 data:
    US national debt / resident = $56,097

    Hungarian gross debt/ resident = $10,072

    Sources:
    http://www.usdebtclock.org/
    http://www.census.gov/popclock/

    http://www.ksh.hu/docs/hun/xstadat/xstadat_eves/i_wnt001b.html
    http://akk.hu/object.697fa986-d204-419c-b782-a89aa362c3ba.ivy

    2013 data (World Bank)
    US GDP / resident = $ 53,143
    Hungarian GDP / resident = $ 12,560

    Source:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29_per_capita

    Therefore

    US national debt/GDP = 1.056
    Hungarian gross debt/GDP = 0.802

    In this sense, Hungary is less indebted than the US!

  12. Did anyone see an interview with Szabolcs Vamosi-Nagy, formerly one of the deputy chairmen of APEH/NAV? He defended Vida whom he considers to be an honest person. He kept repeating that it is perfectly alright if Vida herself investigates her deputies. He does not seem to believe that there was serious corruption at all at NAV. Earlier he was interviewed after Horváth came out with his green folder and even then he announced that Horváth doesn’t know what he is talking about. Basically, he claimed that he was lying.

    Vamosi-Nagy was deputy chairman of APEH between 1997 and 2006. High APEH officials were most likely corrupt even before 2010. Perhaps he is worried that he himself might get into trouble if an investigation actually takes place. He was very agitated.

    http://www.atv.hu/videok/video-20141105-vamosi-nagy-szabolcs

  13. Let’s make one thing absolutely clear. At NAV (formerly APEH) any and everything can be solved, bought with money. If money is involved problems go away, if not problems they tend to persist. There’s no other Hungarians state organization which would have the same reputation of being corrupt.

    Vamosi-Nagy is frightening. He knows exactly what’s (was) going on and he’s lying despite that. Is he afraid that the statute of limitation hasn’t run for all of his shenanigans? He was there under the first Fidesz government even under the short tenure of Mr. Simicska. Or is he on a mission to defend NAV because […]?

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