How I Know I’m Not in New York (Part 11)

An unfortunate, yet strangely welcome, accident
May 20, 2015
Interview with Laura Codruta Kovesi, Romania’s Top Prosecutor
June 11, 2015
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“A Tall Blonde”

It’s been a very busy spring, but after an urgent phone call from my Romanian friend Remus, we had a chance to catch up.

“Hey Remus. Over here!!”

“Hello, my friend.”

The Romanian Parliament. [Source:]

“Hi. I’m glad you called.”

“Yes, yes, I want to talk to you.”

“Wait, wait, wait. Hang on a second.”

“So, how was the US?”

“It was good. Wait, wait.”

“What are you looking at? Oh, the news.”

“Look at that. There goes another one.”

“Another one?”

“Yeah. See? Another government official – this time a minister – heading off to jail. It’s unbelievable.”

“Yeah. It’s great isn’t it?”

“Well, I don’t know if it’s great. It’s good they’re catching them. But it’s sad.”

“No, it’s not sad. It’s great!! Listen, listen. This is what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m going to become a politician!”

“What?! Remus, what?! What are you talking about?”

“Yeah, that’s great, huh? And it’s because these guys are going to jail. Thank god for jails, right?!”

“Remus, no, it’s not great. But wait. What are you talking about? How are you going to be a politician?”

“Ah, it’s fantastic! I should have thought of this years ago. Let me tell you what happened.”


“Wait. Wait. Let me tell you. So my sister has a new boyfriend.”


“Yeah, just a couple weeks. Anyway, she’s talking to him on the phone the other day and he says, just suddenly, ‘I want to make your brother a politician.’ Yeah, that’s right. Just like that. Do you believe it? The guy says he can get me into parliament with no problem and I won’t have to do anything.”

“Remus, hold it. That’s really strange. Even for you. What are you talking about?”

“Well, you know, he’s a politician. And he says he knows all the right people and there’s nothing to it.”


“Yeah, that’s right!!”

“Has he met you?”

“No. Why?”

“Well, nevermind.”

“Can you believe it? Seriously. A real job. Can you imagine? Great food. Free trips. Nice clothes. A car. A car with a blue light on top!! No responsibilities. And so much money, I won’t know what to do with it all.”

“Remus, I don’t think it’s…..”

“Have you seen those guys’ watches?? And their houses????? They have like 10 of them. Oh, and girlfriends!!??? Who knows how many of those?? And the guy who cuts my hair said some of them even get paid in gold bars. It’s like free. All you have to do is get elected. Or appointed. Or whatever.”

“Remus, wait. Really. I’m completely confused. You can’t just come out of no place and suddenly be in parliament.”

“Ha. Have I ever told you how American you are? Of course you can. Where do you think these guys come from? And the best part is, my sister’s boyfriend says there is a huge opportunity right now. He said there’s really a need. Uh huh. That’s right. He said the country’s about to run out of them. In fact, he said if things keep going like they’re going, there won’t be any politicians left!! So he says for the good of the country, I have to do it.”

“But Remus. You don’t have any experience. In fact, you’ve never actually had a real job. Not for long, anyway.”

“Yes, I know. I know.”

“In fact, when we first met, you had no idea what you were doing.”

“Yeah, I know. My uncle owned the company. They fired me after he went to jail.”

“Remus, I was going to fire you!!”

“I know, I don’t have any experience. You’re not the first one to mention that. My sister said the same thing, but then she told her boyfriend. And you know what? He said that’s perfect!! He said none of the politicians have experience. He said it just gets in the way. He said it’s better if you come in with no ideas at all.”


“Yeah, he said they even make fun of the guys with experience. They call them, umm, techno-rats, or something.”

“Yeah, I think the term is techno-crats.”

“Yeah? Maybe. Anyway, who wants to be called a rat? Not me.”

“Ok, ok. Not to be completely negative, let’s say this is possible. Let’s say you’re just given a seat in parliament. And you don’t have to do anything. You still have to show up, right?”

“Of course. That’s why I get the car. It is a real job, you know.”

“Ok, but when you do show up, you’ll need to know something – or pretend to know something. If nothing else, you need to know enough so you’ll know how to vote.”

“Oh, that’s easy. The guy said not to worry. He’d let me know.”

“What do you mean?”

“Yeah, he said someone would stop by my desk before anything happened and let me know what to do. He said that’s how everybody does it.”

“Ok, but what if you’re asked a question or something? What do you know about parliament? Or the government here?”

“Listen, I went to school. I’m not an idiot, you know. I vote.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, once.  Almost.”

“Ok. So you’ve read the constitution?”

“Hey, dude, leave me alone with the constitution!”*

“Remus. What are you 12? You can’t say things like that.  But wait.  Ok.  This is really confusing.  Ok, but let’s say it’s possible.  So what part of the country are you going to represent?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you have to be a senator or whatever from somewhere.”

“I know that. But I don’t know. My sister didn’t have a chance to ask him.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, when he was talking to my sister, someone stole his phone.”

“Someone stole the guy’s phone while he was talking on it!? Really? When did that happen?”

“A couple days ago.”



“And what did he say when he called back?”

“Yeah, well, he hasn’t been able to. Not yet.”


“Maybe I’ll get a blue Maserati.”

“What? No wait. What do you mean he hasn’t been able to?”

“They’re not really supposed to have phones.”


“The prisoners.”

“The guy’s in prison?!!!!”

“Just for a little while.”


“Ok, a couple of years.”

“A couple of years?! This guy, your sister’s boyfriend – or whatever – is in prison?!”

“Yeah, but he said it’s ok. He said the months are going by pretty fast.”

“Months? Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You just told me they’ve been dating a few weeks. You mean your sister started dating a guy who’s in prison?”

“Yeah, but hey, it’s not like he’s a bad guy. He’s young. He’s really nice. She said he’s really well-prepared.”

“Well-prepared for what?”

“I don’t know, but that’s what she said. My sister said he’s really cute. Well, she hasn’t met him yet. But from the TV, she said he looks really cute. Short, yes, but cute. Anyway, he didn’t really do anything wrong. My sister said he was just doing his job.”

“What? What do you mean she hasn’t met him yet?”

“Well, you know that she’s on that dating site. She’s had a bit of a problem finding a boyfriend, you know, that problem she has. Anyway, apparently this guy was a bit bored and, well, I guess after a few months, he got lonely. So they met on the site. Now they’re dating.”

“I don’t know if I’d call that dating exactly.”

“It is for my sister.”

“Well, yes. I suppose.”

“And he said it’s not so bad for now. It’s like a reunion. The best part, he said, is that when he gets out, he knows lots of places to buy things tax free.”

“Yes, I suppose he would.”

“Maybe I’ll get a Rolex.”

“You know, Remus, this is not a game. This is very serious stuff.”

“Well, maybe. But it’s just politics.”

“Just politics? Remus, it’s criminal activity!!”

“No, it just looks like that. My sister’s boyfriend says it’s that Basescu and that other lady. And I’m telling you, I think he’s right. And you know why I think so? You know how I know? Did you see a little while ago the head the investigative agency here got arrested. That woman. Whatsername. The one in Paris. I mean you know what her job was? She’s the head of the investigative agency for the WHOLE COUNTRY. And then, THEN….the head of that something integrity office – the NATIONAL integrity office! You hear me? IN-TE-GRI-TY!!! – I mean, c’mon. Seriously. How’s the guy in charge of this country’s INTEGRITY going do something wrong??!!! They wouldn’t let him if he tried!!! So when THOSE TWO get arrested, you know it’s political. No sir. Someone is trying to get rid of them. Someone definitely set them up. You know what I think, it’s that lady Kvetch. Well, and Basescu.”

“You mean Kovesi?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said.”

“No, you said Kvetch. Kvetch means….”

“Whatever. And probably the Americans too. It’s you guys. You know that. You do.”


“Ok, maybe not all of you. But you and the Europeans and probably some others. They don’t like us. You know, if you were Romanian, you would know that. They never liked us. You don’t know our history. Nobody likes us.”

“Remus, I really think you might be missing something.”

“No, I’m not. And you know what? You know how else I know it’s political?”


“You don’t think I know the constitution? You asked me about the constitution? Ok. You know the most important thing in the constitution?”

“No. What?”

“You don’t know? I know. You want to know the most important thing in the constitution?”

“Yes, please. What are you talking about?”

“The most important thing is that we are a democracy. It says it in the constitution. Right? Romania is a democracy.”

“Ok. I don’t know that it says it that way. But yes, it’s a democracy.”

“And what’s the basis of a democracy?”

“Well, it starts with the principle that…”

“I’ll tell you. Majority rules! No more single guy, no more single bad guy can tell us all what to do. We vote. And you now what? We do what we want. And the majority rules.”


“So let me ask you a question. This lady bigshot Kvetch says all the politicians are crooks.”

“Well, no, I don’t think she ever said that.”

“Ok, but she acts like it. So let me ask you, if they are crooks, then they’re not doing anything illegal.”


“Well, because if she’s right, and everyone is a crook, everyone would be a majority, wouldn’t it? So if everyone does something, it can’t be illegal. Majority rules. See?”

“Remus, what? What? Wait. What?”

“Hmmm. Uh-huh.”

“Democracy doesn’t mean you just let people go because everyone does something.”

“No? Everyone parks on the sidewalk. You see any tickets?”

“Remus, I don’t know.”

“I wonder what color I should dye my hair.”

“What? What? Hey, are you listening to me!!?”

“You ever notice how many of those guys dye their hair? They’re old, they’re like, I don’t know, they’re like over 50 – oh sorry – and they have hair like, like, I don’t know, like Smiley. Hell, no one has hair like Smiley, I mean not if you’re more than 20. So what color do you think I should be?”

“Remus, I think your hair is fine. I think, be to honest, you have a lot of other things to worry about than your hair.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Well, you might have to write laws.”

“Don’t be silly. Politicians don’t write the laws.”


“Politicians here don’t write anything. Even in school. We hire people for that. That’s why we’re politicians. C’mon you’ve been here for years. Don’t you know anything?”

“Oh, now it’s WE’RE politicians? That was quick. But wait, when did you say your sister’s boyfriend was getting out of prison?”

“In a couple years.”

“Well, for one thing, there’s an election next year. You’re going to have to run in an election.”


“Well, that is going to require some preparation and some money. Remus, you don’t have any money.”

“No no no. My sister told him. He said he’s got a couple friends and money was no problem. Whatever I needed.”

“Wait. No.”

“Yes. He said he can call them anytime – well, I guess when he can find a phone – and they’ll bring over whatever I need.”

“No no no. Wait. You can’t do that. Remus, I don’t want to be visiting you in prison. You can’t just take money from strangers. You’ll need to report it. To someone. At least, I’m pretty sure.”


“Well, that’s a lot of paperwork. Do you know how to do that?”

“Paperwork? Like what?”

“I don’t know. In the US, any donation more than $200 has to be publicly disclosed. So you have to keep track of it, give a receipt, report it, send in forms. Things like that.”

“Oh, yeah, I’m pretty sure we do that here, too.”

“Really? You have the same law? That’s good.”

“Yes, almost the same. Except I think it’s the opposite.”


“Well, the guy told my sister something about the fact that I needed to keep track of any money I get over a certain amount.”


“To make sure no one finds out. I think that must be the law.”

“Ummm, Remus, I doubt it.”

“Well, maybe not a law exactly. But, he said, that’s the rule. So that’s what we do. I guess we just do that voluntarily.”

“Yes, maybe.”

“We wouldn’t want anyone to get in trouble for denying the right to secret ballot, or secret giving, or whatever.”

“No, of course not.  So what did that boyfriend say will happen when he gets out in a couple of years?”

“What do you mean?”

“When he and the others get out of jail.”


“The politicians.”

“What about them?”

“They will want their old jobs back.”


“For the same reasons you want their job.”

“Well, I don’t know. I don’t think they can do that. That doesn’t seem fair.”

“No, I suppose not.”

“They can’t come back. They were in prison.”

“I know.”

“Are they allowed to do that?”

“I don’t know. I think so.”

“Well, that doesn’t seem right. I mean, they almost destroyed this country. They can’t come back and do it again! Can they? And kick me out of a job.”

“I don’t know if you can stop them.”

“Well, we should. We should figure out a way.”

“Yes, actually, this time, I think I agree with you.”

“They can’t take my stuff.”

“I don’t know if that’s the right reason. But you know, it won’t be that easy.”

“Wait. No. They can’t have their jobs back. They won’t have lived anywhere. They can’t be politicians if they don’t live someplace.”

“Remus, they still have their house. Or houses.”

“You mean they get to keep them?”

“Well, it seems they do.”

“Really? That’s not right.”

“So they’ll just become mayor or a senator again.”


“And actually, I think they still have most of their money.”

“Really? You think so? Even the money they stole?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“Then why did they bother sending them to jail?”

“They broke the law. They were sent to jail to punish them.”

“That’s not much punishment.”

“I don’t know. Prison’s not very nice.”

“Really? You don’t think so? I know some villages they should send them to if they wanted to punish them. I mean really punish them. I know one, it’s way up north…..”


“Yeah, ok, right. Anyway, if they really want to punish them, they should take all their money and their girlfriends and stuff.”

“I’m not sure they can find it all.”

“Oh, yeah It’s hidden, huh? Like in Madagascar or someplace?”

“I guess.”

“You know if they started finding it all, then you know what?”


“Then I say then we give them a choice. They can either give back all the money they stole – which would be everything – EVERYTHING – plus maybe a little more to teach them a lesson. And let’s say if they do that, they could stay out of jail.”


“Or, we’ll make them a deal. They can keep it ALL – no matter how much it is – ALL of it – we won’t even look for it – if – IF – they move away and never come back. Never visit. Never call. Never take my job.”

“Hmm. You know, Remus, sometimes you’re a pretty smart guy.”


“That really would be interesting. A fresh start here. A real fresh start. You know, yes indeed, that might be just the thing. You know what we could do then? Remus. Hey, you know what we could do then? Remus?”

“A blonde. That’s it. Definitely.  I think I’ll get a tall blonde, maybe from Moldova.”


FOOTNOTE: * Special thanks from Remus to UNPR Senator Ruxandra Jipa.

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