Monday, June 30, 2003

More Air Conditioning Woes

Currently some 6 million Italians are without power. National power grid can't keep up with the immense use of power, which is attributed to the increased use of air-conditioning. Summer heat, together with drought that had limited the output of hydro plants, is another contributing factor.

Today I walked the streets of Split and noticed that the power grid is not the only system that might collapse due to air-conditioning. Traffic is always a problem in Split, but in summer it becomes critical. Reason is quite simple – people are so accustomed to air-conditioning in their cars that they would drive instead of walk.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Pink Farce

Last year Račan's SDP saw Zagreb Gay Pride parade as an excellent opportunity to present Croatia as "enlightened European country" (unlike Serbia where similar event in 2001 had ended in street violence) and to present itself as "progressive" party unlike ultra-conservative HDZ. The event was attended by numerous state officials, including minister of interiors Šime Lučin (Sime Lucin), and heavily promoted in government media. All that backfired due to several thousands skinheads, soccer hooligans and similar creatures outnumbering parade participants (and accompanying police) and causing havoc on the Zagreb streets.

This year, Račan realised that the ultra-conservatives within his own governing coalition – mainly those belonging to HSS – and not so "enlightened" and "progressive" electorate in rural areas is much more valuable than few dozen gay votes in Zagreb in other big Croatian cities. So, this year's Gay Pride parade was very low-key affair; not a single politician attended and some 200 participants (only fraction of them actually from Zagreb) were accompanied by 150 private security personnel and probably hundreds of riot police. All this security was unneeded – skinheads again showed up, but in significantly smaller numbers and expressing their dislike of gays solely with verbal abuse.

The event was barely covered in evening news shows and that reflected its importance. Only few days earlier Sabor has passed Same Sex Unions Act, thus depriving Parade organisers of any major grievance that they could use as political ammunition.

Power-Cuts… Again?

Ten years ago, Dalmatia was experiencing probably the worst summer in its post-WW2 history. Unlike previous two war years, people had to endure almost entire summer without electricity. It was thanks to Krajina Serb forces who had blown up Peruča (Peruca) dam before it was taken by Croatian forces in January 1993 offensive. Thankfully, the damage on the dam was limited and the mass tidal wave that could have devastated cities of Sinj, Omiš and other settlements of Cetina Valley was avoided. But the damaged dam began to leak and major water reservoir was soon emptied, which had debilitating effects on hydro plants in Dalmatia. Since Dalmatia had been cut off from the rest of Croatia, its power grid had to rely on local hydro plants. In 1991 and 1992 the disaster was averted due to Bosnian power grid coming to rescue. In 1993 "misunderstandings" between Izetbegović's (Izetbegovic's) Muslim government and Tudjman's Bosnian Croat followers denied that power source for Dalmatia. As a result, people of Dalmatia experienced the darkest days since the time electricity came to this part of the world; power-cuts were massive and most unpleasant, and people often had to rely on only three hours of power per day.

I'm reminded of those dark times when I hear of Baghdad people's electricity woes, but I'm also reminded of that every time I walk down the street and start noticing increasing number of air-conditioners being set up in people's houses and private apartments. I began to wonder what would air-conditioners do to Dalmatian power grid during long summer droughts when the water reservoirs are likely to get very empty and hydro plants are likely to work with decreased capacity. Then again, I had air-conditioner installed myself and I too could be blamed for future unpleasantness.

Full Circle

Last week history went full circle in Split-Dalmatian County Assembly. In 1993 Kruno Peronja of HDZ became first governor of Split-Dalmatian County. Few years later, after the alarming defeat of HDZ in Zagreb City elections, Ivić Pašalić (Ivic Pasalic), Tudjman's chief domestic policy advisor, tried to woo voters by promising the fight against corruption and "mafiocracy" as Tudjman's first post-war priority. Of course, that was an excellent excuse for Pašalić to start his own little purge and fill the top ranks of HDZ and Croatian administration with as many of his supporters as possible.

One of those supporters was Branimir Lukšić (Branimir Luksic) and one of the people who had to clear the way for Lukšić was Peronja. Peronja was marked for removal after his name being leaked to HDZ-friendly "independent" media as part of HDZ's own black list of people who had or were suspected of having hands dirty. The allegations were never proven and the matter was dropped, but Peronja went out of favour and Lukšić rose to the top. Split University professor, soon became not only county governor but also one of the most hard-line of all Croatian right-wingers. His rigidity and virulence of his speeches only escalated after Tudjman's death and subsequent defeat of HDZ on 2000 parliamentary elections. In Spring of 2001 HDZ comfortably won local elections in Split-Dalmatian County, allowing Lukšić to retain his post of county governor.

Unfortunately for Lukšić, the great HDZ factional struggle between Sanader and Pašalić ended with the defeat of Pašalić. Sanader decided to make another purge, mainly to clear the party of everyone potentially disloyal to him and partly to make impression of turning HDZ into "moderate European centre-right party". Lukšić had to go, but Sanader had to woo many HDZ County assemblymen, many of whom had political views even more extreme than Lukšić. In the end, Lukšić was replaced with the aid of all right-wing parties; HB and HDZ had decided to overcome their dislike of each other, fearing that the protracted County Assembly battle would lead to deadlock and Račan's government appointing commissioner, thus depriving right-wingers of power in strategically important county in the most unpleasant moment, only few months before new parliamentary elections.

To add insult to injury for Lukšić and Pašalić alike, Peronja turned out to be Sanader's choice of County governor.

Short History of Croatia

You may check this link.

Another Iraqi Blogger

Salam Pax discovered first Iraqi woman blogger.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Galbraith Telling Like It Was

In next day of his ICTY testimony, Galbraith admitted that Croatia did many "illegal and criminal acts" during and immediately after Operation "Storm" – naming systematic burning of Serb property, killing remaining Serbs and efforts to prevent Serbs from returning.

Something tells me that Croatian media won't pick up this part of testimony with same enthusiasm as his claims that Operation "Storm" didn't represented ethnic cleansing.

Bad Day for Croatian Tennis

Today Karolina Šprem (Karolina Sprem), 18-year old tennis player from Varaždin, was knocked out of Wimbledon. But this isn't the worst thing that happened to Croatian tennis today.

Few weeks ago I was thinking about making a day trip to Bol, small resort town on island of Brač (Brac), watch WTA tournament and later share my experience with fellow bloggers. Little did I know that was my last chance to visit Bol WTA tournament.

Today Antun Plenković (Antun Plenkovic), general manager of Bol WTA tournament, announced that the tournament won't be held in 2004. He failed to get 40,000 US$ from "Zlatni rat" tourist resort company, tournament's main sponsor, and thus the players would use the next year's time slot in Cincinnati. Plenković hopes that he could restart tournament in 2005.

No Ethnic Cleansing In Operation "Storm"

At least this is the title that Croatian media give to articles describing Peter Galbraith's testimony at Slobodan Milošević's (Slobodan Milosevic's) trial at Hague. Former US ambassador to Croatia claims that Croatian army and police wasn't able to commit any kind of ethnic cleansing operation, because ethnic Serbs have fled before advancing troops.

What Galbraith says is at least partially true. But, then again, there is that infamous "evacuation order" allegedly being dropped from Croatian planes, and, furthermore, there are numerous Tudjman's statements about "Serb problem being solved" and fate of those few elderly ethnic Serbs that remained clearly shows what would have happened to most of Serbs if they had stayed.

Of course, Galbraith in 1995 knew what really went on during Operation "Storm", otherwise he wouldn't have made his propaganda stunt by trying to protect Serb refugee columns from Croatian mobs.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Getting Serious

War in Iraq is going to get more serious than anyone had anticipated. Latest attack on British show that the resistance movement has broadened its activities towards south where majority of population is made of Shiites (who are, unlike Sunnis in Central Iraq, hardly nostalgic towards Saddam). Furthermore, British have more experience with counter-insurgency and winning "hearts of minds", unlike their trigger-happy American allies. However, it is too soon to judge whether this killing is isolated incident or sign of things to come.

In the same time, poll shows that more and more Americans are getting uncomfortable with the level of US casualties in Iraq.

New Croatian Sensation in Wimbledon

Croatian tennis players seem to like green grass of Wimbledon. Ivo Karlovic has knocked Lleyton Hewitt out of the tournament in the first round, and there is immediate talk about another Croatian coming from nowhere and taking world's most glamorous Grand Slam.

On the other hand, Iva Majoli, winner of 1997 French Open (and, among other things, vice-chairman of HDZ during Tudjman's years), has been knocked out in the first round and immediately expressed thoughts about quitting professional tennis altogether.


Lawrence G. Rossin, US ambassador to Croatia, and Francis Bellanger, French ambassador to Croatia, have formally signed the sale of building which used to house US Embassy in Zagreb. The old building is to be sold to France and used as French Embassy in Croatia.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Unsolved Blog Mystery

After more than a month of absence, Isabella a.k.a. Flight Risk is back

Betting People

On HDZ convention Ivo Sanader said that he was willing to bet with "anyone and for any amount of money" that his party would win next election.

The only person to take that challenge is M.B. from – Croatian news portal. He wants to bet three average monthly pensions that HDZ won't win next election.

Of course, the real issue would be the definition of victory. It is very likely that HDZ would become the largest party in Sabor after next elections. But that won't be enough for Sanader to get necessary parliamentary majority and the real winner of elections would be selected by one of next three parties to get into Sabor – SDP, HSS and HNS.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Little Voice

Yesterday's HDZ convention had its main star in the form of Guy A. Vander Jagt, former Republican Congressman from Michigan. Vander Jagt used to deliver key speech on 1980 Republican presidential Convention. Almost quarter of century later similar services were provided to Ivo Sanader. Speech, in which Vander Jagt said that US Vice President Cheney had praised Sanader over Iraq issue, was best received by delegates. In the same speech Vander Jagt attacked Račan's (Racan's) government for rising unemployment, foreign debt, low exports, corruption and bad policies towards war veterans.

Having US Congressman as the main speaker at convention is supposed to give huge PR boost for HDZ, party that had suffered big blow in the Gotovina affair. The only way HDZ could win is to convince voters that its victory is inevitable, just like it did it in 1990 and SDP-HSLS coalition did in 2000. Support of US government – just like the one received by Račan (Racan) before 2000 elections - is the most important, whether it is real or simply perceived by misinformed Croatian public.

There are some problems with this. First of all, HDZ by tying itself to USA risks alienating Croatian public who had widely embraced anti-Americanism during Iraq war. Second, Guy A. Vander Jagt is hardly among key American political figures and Račan's media machine would undoubtedly remind Croatian public of that.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

HDZ Convention

HDZ had its convention on Saturday. It was aired live on some local TV stations affiliated to that party. This was opportunity for Sanader to put a brave face and try to convince his party and the rest of Croatian public that he is going to win next election, become prime minister and that the any resistance from Račan (Racan), Mesić (Mesic) and his parties is futile.

However, the convention had some signs that things aren't that good within HDZ and that the good old days when Tudjman's party could expect clear majority in Sabor definitely belong to past. First of all, Sanader's attempt to make "kinder, gentler and pro-European" HDZ are hard to take seriously since Doris Pack, MEP and one of chief Tudjman's lobbyists in European institutions, was booed by HDZ delegates who didn't like her views on Hague Tribunal. Even the boss himself contradicted his own party youth chief on the issue.

But the more interesting thing about HDZ is the changes within party's internal regulations. Namely, individuals can be thrown out of party for "harming political interests or the reputation of HDZ". Furthermore, Presidency of HDZ (dominated by Sanader) got extra clout over Central Committee (which still had some anti-Sanaderites) by getting authority to create party candidates' lists for upcoming elections. In other words, it would be Sanader who would decide who goes on the list, and later, in Sabor.

And, by the way things are going, Sabor seats are going to be everything HDZ is going to get. The most they could expect is to become biggest party in Sabor. But their partners from the right are going to fail by not breaking 5 % vote ceilings and thus depriving HDZ of coalition partner. Sanader's most desirable coalition partner, HSS, seems to be loyal to Račan. Its leader Zlatko Tomčić (Zlatko Tomcic), citing some insult to HSS representatives in Sabor, forbade his people to attend HDZ convention as guests of honour.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Not Doing Your Homework

Turning Gotovina is probably the most successful thing this government ever did. It represents major, probably decisive, propaganda coup in election year. General Gotovina – rallying point of every Croatian right-winger and justification for holly crusade against evil treacherous Yugo-Communists Račan (Racan) and Mesić (Mesic) – suddenly became major asset of those very anti-Croatian arch-traitors.

Of course, both Račan and Mesić now must fulfil their part of the bargain and at least give some impression that they would do anything in their power to prevent Gotovina from spending a single day in Scheveningen prison. The simplest way is to help ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte to see the error of her ways and drop the "absurd" war crimes indictment. While Gotovina is still at large, Račan and Mesić are conducting major media campaign, filling pro-government media with official Tudjman-era transcripts about former government's ICTY-related shenanigans and talking about newly found documents that would clear Gotovina of all charges.

Major contributor in this campaign is Nacional, the very magazine that spectacularly broke the story about Gotovina's turning. In its latest issue it published some documents that show how ethnic Serbs during Operation Storm in August 1995 weren't cleansed by Croatian troops (led, among others, by Gotovina) but by their own leadership. One of such documents is flyer containing special order signed by Milan Mrkšić (Milan Mrksic), commander-in-chief of Krajina Serb Army (currently sitting in Scheveningen prison awaiting trial for some other war crimes). The flyer ordered Serb civilians to leave their homes and retreat to safety using specifically named roads and routes.

If authentic, this document still wouldn't absolve Croatian generals from the stuff that led to ICTY indictments. Even if Krajina Serbs left their homes by their own will (or being co-erced by their leaders), that still doesn't explain what happened to those Krajina Serbs that didn't follow that order. Roughly some 677 Krajina Serb civilians, mostly elderly people, were murdered following Croatian Army take-over of "Krajina" and some of those murders, including brutal massacres of multiple families, took place weeks, and sometimes even months after the official ending of hostilities. In those few cases that actually went to Croatian courts, most of the defendants were Croatian Army soldiers.

However, it seems that people at Nacional, President's Office and Croatian intelligence services didn't do their homework. Because almost identical document has been published in Feral Tribune more than two years ago. In accompanying article, Feral reporters couldn't help noticing some strange details about the flyer – being written half in Cyrillic, half in Latin alphabet. Furthermore, Feral had sources within Croatian military claiming that the flyer had been delivered over "Krajina" by Croatian Air Force planes as part of black propaganda operation designed to destroy enemy's morale and logistics.

So, it is very likely that the attempt to clear Gotovina could very easily put only more dirt on Croatia, because if this flyer turns out to be forgery, this could prove that the ethnic cleansing was state-sanctioned. The dirt this time would not only be on Tudjman, Šušak (Susak) and other conveniently dead Croatian leaders, but on people who run today's Croatia and enjoy reputations of "liberal pro-Western reformers faithful to European values".

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Anthems, Political Correctness and Ignorance

In one very recent Hollywood film (I won't say which one, because I don't want to make a spoiler) protagonist finds himself on neo-Nazi rally. Apart from swastikas and the rest of usual insignia he is also greeted by a song that was supposed to symbolise Nazism. That song is Deutschland Über Alles, current anthem of Federal Republic of Germany.

I don't know what the Germans would think of this scene, but I guess that they would be very offended. For them that would be just another example of Hollywood continuing WW2-era stereotypes and equating all Germans with Nazis.

Of course, if the Hollywood filmmakers used real Nazi anthem – Horst Wessel-Lied – there wouldn't be any problem. But the problem is in last decade or so of political correctness and Hollywood becoming too sensitive towards various pressure groups and politicos who would condemn the use of that song, even in most negative of all contexts. Of course, when it comes to European countries, Hollywood is somewhat less sensitive, especially if those countries happen to be Germany or France.

On a related note, Horst-Wessel-Lied was used as the main motive of Stanley Myers' musical score for The Great Riviera Bank Robbery (1979), British film based on real life events in which Ian McShane played the protagonist – bank robber with neo-Fascist political convictions.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

When Most Unwanted Become Convenient

Ljubo Ćesić-Rojs (Ljubo Cesic-Rojs), flamboyant and controversial former general and building entrepreneur, has just had his membership in HDZ suspended. Central Committee of that party made that decision soon after Ćesić-Rojs had his name on the list of persons barred from entry to USA. Interestingly enough, some of government's representatives protested that American government's move, but that course was not followed by Ćesić-Rojs' party comrades. Ivo Sanader in the election year, just like the rest of Croatian right-wing, desperately tries to present himself as pro-American as possible.

This move was expected a long time ago. Just like he is trying to sell himself as pro-American now, Sanader before Iraq crisis tried to sell his party as "moderate", "reformed" and "pro-European" HDZ in which there isn't room for extremists like Ćesić-Rojs.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Before I Become A Felon

Sabor is about to pass amendment to Criminal Code. The most important change is re-introduction of life imprisonment, but MSes were up in arms over another novelty – new felony called "idolisation of past fascist states and displaying their insignia". The felony is modelled after German and Austrian anti-Nazi legislation and is motivated with the desire to give image of Croatia as modern "European" country that cherishes anti-fascist values, just like the rest of EU.

Of course, right-wing opposition and parts of governing coalition had very little understanding for the law that would make singing Ustasha songs and wearing Ustashas insignia illegal. They were even more outraged over the fact that the law doesn't apply to Communist states, and that Tito-nostalgics could wear display Hammer and Sickles and former Yugoslav and Communist-era Croatian flags.

If I were MS, I would vote against this law. Perhaps I have somewhat naďve notion of fundamental civil liberties, but for me freedoms of speech and expression include even those ideas I consider abhorrent. Besides, historical experience in this part of the world tells us that any attempt to quash "demons of the past" usually results in most unpleasant forms of backlash.

And there is a strictly personal reason for me to oppose this law. Recently I began playing Hearts of Iron again. In order to enhance the atmosphere of the game and give a period feel, I checked this site and found a lot of pop songs, marches, hymns related to the WW2 period. Needless to say, some of the best tunes are songs celebrating Italian Fascism. I downloaded them and started them using as game's new soundtrack. According to new law, this activity could be interpreted as felony.

As It Once Was

In recent times you might have noticed Croatian Tourist Board videoclips showing the images of Croatia, accompanied with the slogan "The Mediterranean as It Once Was".

Every time I hear that slogan I remember that my grandmother's maiden name was Kursar, and some basic knowledge of linguistics (Kursar = Corsair) will tell you that at least one of my ancestors earned for a living through questionable means. So, the image of "Mediterranean As It Once Was" was the image of islands and coastal communities being in constant fear of plunderers, parents being in constant fear of their children being captured and sold into slavery, husbands and fathers being in constant fear of their wives and daughters being raped, ship passengers being in constant fear of having their throats' cut and being deprived of every penny in their pocket.

Actually, the way most Croatians imagine tourism, things didn't change that much, except for the plunder, rape and throat cutting.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Croatia's Water Polo Shame

Today's final game of European Water Polo Championship in Kranj, Slovenia would enter history books as the first game in which the commentator got assaulted while on-air. This happened due to Croatian water polo fans not being happy with 9:8 defeat of their national team from Serbia/Montenegro.

Cameras didn't record the incident, but Jura Ozmec, Croatian state television commentator was interrupted while delivering live audio report to regular news show. What followed was the sound of breaking and four-letter words. Cameras later showed fans brawling with Slovenian riot police.

Apparently, Serbian fans decided that it wouldn't be right for Croats to be the sole villains in this story.

However, this incident, no matter how disturbing or disgusting, had at least one good thing – Croatian prime minister Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan), state and sport officials, and even the unfortunate Mr. Ozmec, condemned the vandals. Only few years ago it would be unimaginable – they would all blame Slovenian police for not securing, Serb fans for provoking and forcing our boys to defend themselves, referee for stealing well-deserved victory for Croatian team, intense heat etc.

Friday, June 13, 2003

It Works! It Works!

After two unsuccessful attempts, electronic voting system was finally introduced in Sabor. However, few people would notice it, due to country suffering under intense heat and Croatian political establishment still trying to fathom the consequences of the major twist in Gotovina saga.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Another Great One Has Died

Gregory Peck had died. Not just a Hollywood star, but a great actor, capable of delivering completely different roles, ranging from neurotic in Spellbound to demonic Dr. Mengele in The Boys From Brazil.

Early Starter

Right wing of American politics seems to have one big advantage over the left wing – larger number of unusual characters. The latest of them is Kyle Williams, 14-year old political commentator.

Some might view this as bizarre and think that 14 years is too early for someone to have established (or relevant) political opinion. Then again, I remember myself and some of the convictions I had at the age 14 I still have now, many years later.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Surreal Moment

This afternoon I caught a little glimpse of Croatian state television programme and I watched the unbelievable scene. Two men were sitting in bar and compare their 1991-95 War experiences. Nothing unusual except the fact that there were on the opposing side – one was Croatian war veteran, while another was former Serb paramilitary. The discussion was incredibly civil, with both men having experiences incredibly similar to each other (Croat had the usual litany about Serbs having advantage in heavy weaponry, while Serb complained about poor logistics and being betrayed by Federal Army).

Only few years ago seeing such scene on Croatian television was simply unimaginable.

And only few moments before watching that scene I saw few glimpses of CNN covering the latest Jerusalem bombing. Seeing the bar scene afterwards was somewhat comforting – perhaps one day, in ten, twenty or thirty years, an Israeli and Palestinian would have similar discussion on local television.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Gotovina Update

Saying that Gotovina interview caused quite a bit a stir in Croatia is an understatement. This is especially so for Gotovina's staunchest supporters from the extreme right wing who question the authenticity of the interview (although corroborated by one of Gotovina's attorneys). Apparently they didn't like sections of the interview in which Gotovina partially linked Tudjman's government to his current predicament.

Blog Discoveries

New blog search engine allowed me to discover another blog with posts dedicated to French Open.

Another Scandal For Nova TV

Unsettled ownership issues, news programme fiasco and rumours about national frequency being taken away – the last year was very bad for Nova TV. However, at least one thing Nova TV did right – the launch of Story Supernova, glitzy and glamorous "reality show" in which few young good-looking contestants – some of them aspiring pop singers and models – competed for the job of host of Red Carpet, Nova TV's talent show. Story Supernova turned into unprecedented media event with thousands of spectators, mostly screaming teenagers, watching the contestants on their way to hotels and studios.

The winner, Marin Tironi from Rijeka, was supposed to host the first instalment of Red Carpet. But instead of him, the show was hosted by Monika Kravić (Monika Kravic) and Dorijan Elezović (Dorijan Elezovic), two of his former Story Supernova competitors who had been voted out from the show in its early stages.

Croatian public soon learned the reason for this Nova TV move. Tironi apparently refused to sign contract and two contradicting explanation appeared in Croatian media. According to Slobodna Dalmacija, the contract offered to Tironi was utterly unacceptable, "bordering on slavery" – in exchange for brand new car , laptop computer and 7,000 HRK (cca. 950 €) of monthly salary, Tironi had to host the show indefinitely, regardless of being formally sacked by Nova TV management. Novi list, on the other hand, claims that the monthly salary was twice larger – 14,000 HRK (1900 €) and reports nothing of the "slavery" clauses in the contract; Tironi apparently didn't like the obligation to show up in studio at 17:00, claiming that "he couldn't wake up early in the morning" and that "working eight hours per day for this sum" was unacceptable. Unconfirmed reports also claim that Tironi already found the new way to exploit his fame – in acting, for which he would be trained by Krešimir Dolenčić (Kresimir Dolencic), fame stage director.

If Novi list version of the events is true, that means that waking up before noon and working eight hours a day for 1900 € a month represents too much of a sacrifice for average Croatian youth.

Croatia's Most Wanted Wants To Be A Witness

Ivo Pukanić (Ivo Pukanic), owner and chief editor of Nacional, didn't have much of journalistic coups recently, so his interview with General Gotovina might look like a godsend. In it Gotovina claims that he would co-operate with Hague Tribunal, but only as a witness and in Zagreb, just like General Petar Stipetić (Petar Stipetic) did.

With the name being on Most Unwelcome list of US government and being a symbol of Croatian nationalist resistance to Hague Tribunal, I don't see how Carla del Ponte would grant Gotovina's request.


Couple of pilgrims have died because of the heat during the papal visit to Croatia. But the heat is going to stay, according to weather forecasts. From the middle of this week onwards, many areas of Croatia are going to experience 35-40 Celsius – in shade.

If you wondered why I'm not blogging as much I used to, or why I blog at night, now you have an explanation.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Another Iraqi Blogger

Salam Pax complains about heat affecting his writing abilities. Being confronted with 31 Celsius in Split, I can understand the sentiment.

Luckily, there is another Iraqi blogger to fill the void.

Temptation Island – First Impressions

I watched the first episode of Temptation Island. It wasn't as bad as I had expected. The events unfold smoothly, editing is not too manic and the only irritating thing is New Age music in the background.

Saturday, June 07, 2003


I must say that I'm very pleased with the outcome of this year's Roland Garros ladies finale. I was rooting for Justine Henin-Hardenne during the entire tournament. Part of the reason for that is her image, which represents the complete anti-thesis of modern tennis. Henin-Hardenne with her modest looks and tiny figure is complete opposite of the glamour models like Kournikova and Hingis and big girls like Williams sisters.

The only thing I didn't like about this final is its relatively short lenghth. Henin-Hardenne made a short work of Kim Clijsters. But expecting another epic battle, similar to Henin-Hardenne's victory over Serene Williams, would be too much.

German Peacekeepers Killed in Kabul

Today's bomb attack on German peacekeepers in is, to my knowledge, first post-WW2 incident in which German servicemen died because of the hostile action.

Croatian military police platoon in Kabul is subordinated to the ISAF unit commanded by Germans. This would undoubtedly lead to some in Croatia demanding Croatian military pullout from Kabul. Only few days ago Croatian television reported "minor" incident of mobs throwing stones at the vehicle carrying Croatian MPs (which didn't cause any injuries).

Friday, June 06, 2003

No Va For Nova TV

Although I was, like everyone else, intrigued by reality television show craze, I didn't watch a single one of those shows (except the German version of Big Brother). Nova TV has been airing Survivor for past few years, but I didn't watch it, partly because I had already knew who the winners would be. Tomorrow Nova TV would start airing Temptation Island and I'm not so well-informed about it, so I'll try watching it.

But chances are that I won't be able to watch the finish of that show. There are more and more rumours about Nova TV being taken off the Croatian airwaves. According to articles published in Nacional and Feral Tribune, Račan's (Racan's) government is seriously pondering suspending Nova TV's national frequency. Nova TV has gained national frequency under condition of covering 75 % of Croatian territory with transmitters, having its own news programme and, last but not least, large proportion of its programme being made in Croatia.

Anyone who had been watching Nova TV knows that those conditions weren't met. New programme was introduced only few months ago, Nova TV officials were going on record with statements about their transmitters covering only "commercially viable interesting urban areas" and the programme was made of almost entirely out of American films and TV shows. Only in last year or so there was some attempt to get some Croatian content in the programme – foreign video-clips were replaced by Croatian video-clips, two news shows were introduced together with spectacular Story Supernova "reality show".

But those measures came too little too late. Račan's (Racan's) government couldn't have cared less about Nova TV not fulfilling its obligations, but in the election year all that became an important issue, especially after news show personnel opened a gate for suspicion about pro-HDZ and anti-SDP character of its programme.

Rumours say that Nova TV would be stripped of national frequency and that would allow government to make a double coup. Soon-to-be privatised HRT 3 channel would be sold to the group led by RTL and some media corporations with close ties with German Social Democrats – Račan's ideological counterparts. Nova TV's frequency, on the other hand, would be given to NeT – Nezavisna Televizija from Kutina, small regional outfit that had gradually evolved into Croatia's most prolific producer of television programme. NeT talk shows (the best one of them is Ispod pojasa, being hosted by controversial historian and Sabor representative Zlatko Canjuga) and comedy acts are sold to local and regional stations all over Croatia and they often steal away important chunk of viewers' demographics from Croatian state television and Nova TV.

According to rumours, Račan hopes that this manoeuvre would leave him with two extra government-friendly television networks and thus improve his election chances.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Belgian Finale

Roland Gaross would resemble Championship League final after all. Justine Henin-Hardenne has managed to beat Serena Williams in the semi-final and thus ensured final match with another Belgian – Kim Clijsters. It would be interesting to see whom of the two would French crowd cheer. In today's match they cheered Henin-Hardenne.


Crowd cheered Henin-Hardenne, but also booed Serena Williams, who was later quite devastated.

Onward To Baghdad?

Croatian state television has recently hinted at possibility of Croatia sending small military contingent for peacekeeping duties in Iraq. The report suggested that the gesture could be part of government's plan to build new bridges to Bush administration after Croatia's apparent refusal to sign ICC non-extradition treaty.

The report was very discreet and it should be discreet. Croatian public was overwhelmingly against the war in Iraq and it would be overwhelmingly against the move that could put Croatian soldiers' lives at risk. There are also financial issues – Croatia barely managed to field a single platoon in Kabul, and only after all sort of logistical, legal and political complications.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Not Family

Quality of sound during last night's airing of Croatian Basketball Championship finale was bad. Croatian state television commentator quickly offered explanation in the form of television's best equipment being mobilised for the coverage of upcoming papal visit.

In other areas papal visit had more beneficial consequences for Croatia. One of those consequences is the end of the most pointless political row in Croatia.

As some of my blog readers know, the issue of same sex unions has divided the governing coalition. Nominally leftist SDP wanted to portray itself as "progressive" party by aggressively promoting idea of same sex unions being introduced in new Family Act. However, main partner of SDP in governing coalition happens to be HSS, party with almost exclusively rural voting base. HSS leaders, when confronted about their ideological alignment, like to present themselves as conservative guardians of Croatian traditional values. Needless to say, idea of same sex unions was not particularly welcome in that party and the most vigorous opposition to this initiative came from HSS representatives in Sabor. The issue was quietly swept under the carpet few months ago (with even some of SDP government ministers expressing reservations about it) only to re-emerge in last few days.

Davorko Vidović, SDP minister of welfare, has recently announced that the same sex unions into the bill that was supposed to go in Sabor. Vladimir Simonić (Vladimir Simonic), deputy prime minister from HSS, reacted by refusing to support it at the cabinet meeting.

In the end, Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) finally remembered that this latest row has exploded only days before Pope's visit to Croatia. His party's aggressive push gay rights agenda could easily backfire in case of Pope publicly speaking against gay marriages in front of hundreds of thousands of potential voters. In the end, a compromise was announced – same sex unions would be legalised, but not in the Family Act. SDP thus accepted HSS objections over same sex unions being treated as "families".

Of course, this compromise could have been reached many months ago. If SDP indeed cared that much about gay rights the exact legal definition would be the last of its concern. But gay rights row served Račan (Racan) and his people wonderfully by taking public attention from the more important economic issues.

Another good thing about this compromise is in Cabinet accepting objections of Ingrid Antičević-Martinović (Ingrid Anticevic-Martinovic), minister of justice. Despite her SDP membership she had objected against introduction of same sex unions, but her real problem with proposed Family Act was the lack of surrogate motherhood. New, revised bill would introduce this institution.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

After 15 Long Years

There is a lot of shooting in Split this evening. Usually that indicates a local athlete or team winning important sporting event.

In this case the cause for celebration is Split Croatia Osiguranje basketball team. They've just beaten Cibona VIP in Zagreb and thus won national basketball championship for the first time in history of independent Croatia.

That was incredibly emotional occasion for Split's main star Dino Radja, man who had returned from a stellar NBA career in USA in order to help the very club in which he had started his path to stardom almost two decades ago. Radja had already won national championship with Split fifteen years ago, but at the time Croatia used to be part of former Yugoslavia. At the time, the club was known as Jugoplastika Split and it won the championship in bitter contest with Partizan Belgrade. The series featured another two more future NBA stars – Jugoplastika's Toni Kukoč (Toni Kukoc) and Partizan's Vlade Divac.

When asked to comment on his victory by Croatian television commentators, Radja simply couldn't answer anything, being overwhelmed by tears.

Monday, June 02, 2003

You Watch, You Learn

Today I watched Special Edition DVD of Fargo. Trivia track claimed that the movie was indeed based on real events, although not in a way suggested in opening credits. Real inspiration for Coen Brothers came from a 1987 newspaper article describing macabre case of Connecticut car dealer who had murdered his wife and later disposed of her body with a help of wood-chipper.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Dangerous Roads of Croatia

Ivo Baica, member of Sabor from Šibenik, has died in a car crash this afternoon. His "Rover" has collided with WW Golf with Austrian licence plates, resulting in Ivo Baica's death and three people being injured, including Mrs. Baica. The accident occurred on D27 National Highway, near Prezid, between Gračac (Gracac) and Obrovac.

Baica entered Sabor on HDZ and later switched his allegiance to Ivić Pašalić's (Ivic Pasalic's) HB (Hrvatski blok), following Pašalić's defeat in factional struggle with Ivo Sanader. After some time Baica, dissatisfied with Pašalić, returned to HDZ.

Varietas Delectat

Vera Zvonareva has just beaten Venus Williams and thus prevented ladies finale of this year's Roland Garros to look like tennis equivalent of this year's Champions League final.