Wednesday, July 30, 2003

When Reality Doesn't Follow Scripts

Few days ago I watched the Temptation Island wedding special. It was interesting to know that the most unstable relationship on the show proved to be the most unstable relationship in real life. Unfortunately for the show's producers, it took a while for those developments to produce the final result in real life. Reality shows based on dating or challenging romantic relationships are thus impaired in comparison with other kind of reality show. People's feelings and desires don't develop in a way that could provide neatly packed soap opera plots. So, any kind of such shows would require choose unstable, weird and often problematic contestants or elements that artificially "spice" the plot, often on the borderlines of conventional morality and good taste.

Cucumber Season In Split

Cucumber season – time of year when most of important people go to holiday, thus depriving media of interesting stories – affected Adriatic TV, local TV station from Split, in a very weird way. Since Croatian laws oblige local and national media to fill their air time with content produced in Croatia, that represents a problem in a time when nothing happens in Croatia and nobody is available for the regular programmes like talk shows, game shows etc. Adriatic TV got around this by sending its crew every morning on the streets of Split. They wander around centre of town and shoot whatever and whoever they fancy and two hours later this material – raw and unedited – is put on air. This approach, more suited for avant-garde documentary filmmakers than local TV stations, may have weird side effects on citizens of Split.

Many inhabitans of our fair city probably share the desire to be famous with the rest of the world. If the word about ATV activities spreads, I think that some intrepid souls would start waking up early in the morning and start wandering in the city centre at 7:00 in hope of being caught by ATV cameras.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Technical Difficulties

It seems that there are some problems with Bravenet counter.

Marie Trintignant In Coma

Marie Trintignant, French actress and daughter of famous Jean-Louis Trintignant, is in coma, apparently as a result of alcohol-induced assault by her boyfriend Bertrand Cantat, one of France's most popular rock stars. Until reaching headlines because of this particular incident, Cantat was known for his leftist views and political activism, especially during 2002 presidential elections, when he campaigned against Jean-Marie le Pen.

Cantat's noble political ideals couldn't prevent him to succumbing to women beating and alcohol abuse – two forms of social pathology usually associated with conservative, redneck types of men.

I saw Marie Trintignant only in one film – The Prince of the Pacific by Alain Corneau. She left very good impression there. I hope that she'll make it through this, although the chances for that are very slim.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Second Opinion

General Janko Bobetko, whose recent death has partially solved one of Ivica Račan's (Ivica Racan's) major pre-election problems, is widely regarded as hero, martyr and virtual saint by majority of Croatian population, even those who had little sympathy for his right-wing and nationalist policies. Those who didn't like Bobetko were silenced by his death. At least until now. Siniša Dvorski (Sinisa Dvorski), one of the more colourful and more controversial (to say the least) characters from 1991-95 war, has recently started a website in which he makes interesting accusations against the late general. However, I doubt that most people would take those accusations seriously, at least until a better spellchecker is used.

Transatlantic Issues

Just like the things between Serbs and Croats, current misunderstandings between French and American have some of its roots in WW2. This could be seen in this 1945 US Army manual, which recently became a surprise bestseller in France.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Different Tastes

There are many reasons for reading Feral Tribune, but movie reviews by Dragan Jurak aren't among them. I'm reminded of that after reading his take on Serving Sara:

Although "Serving Sara" is somewhat bellow our expectations after its start, it is still one surprisingly solid comedy.

Jurak gave 3 out 5 stars for that film. I know that people have different tastes, but I get obsessed with the thought of some naďve soul reading that review, later renting the film and being subjected to the same torture I had to endure few months earlier.

On the other hand, that brave soul is most likely to watch that film equipped with fast forward button, thus making the experience more tolerable.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Disappointing Campaign in the Balkans

Occasionally I watch WW2 documentaries on Discovery Channel. Although many of them tell stories I know by heart, every once in a while there comes a documentary which brings new and interesting spin on familiar subject. However, Campaign in the Balkans, documentary of Battlefield series, wasn't one of them.

Unlike other Battlefield segments that had covered various WW2 campaigns with great deal of detail (short biographies of leaders, segments on equipment, armies, political and military background of battles etc.) this one was chaotic and disorganised mentioning of all facts that for some reasons couldn't have entered other, much better Battlefield documentaries (German conquest of France, Barbarossa, Stalingrad, El Alamein, African Campaign, Italian Campaign, Normandy, Kursk, Berlin, Singapore, Midway). For some strange reasons, Allied air offensive against German industry and Warsaw uprising were covered with much more detail than events in Yugoslavia and Greece.

When Campaign in the Balkans did touch Balkans, results were… interesting, to say the least. In its brief mention of German 1943 attempts to stamp out Tito's Partisans they got the course of operations completely wrong. Furthermore, lacking documentary footage of Yugoslav Partisans, producers used little-known 1946 Soviet feature film In the Mountains of Yugoslavia. The movie, in which Tito is played by a Russian actor who doesn't look a little bit like Yugoslav leader, was banned for Yugoslav audiences immediately after Tito-Stalin split. If by any chance this documentary suffers the same fate in the future former Yugoslav audiences would hardly be at loss.

Friday, July 25, 2003

When People Like Star Trek Too Much

Two helicopters, six patrol boats, at least half a day of frantic search and roughly 70,000 US$ of additional bill for Croatian taxpayers – all that because one joker had strange way of expressing his love for Star Trek. Obviously inspired by Star Trek: Next Generation, which is currently being aired on Croatian television, he called Croatian maritime authorities few nights ago, claiming to belong to the crew of American yacht Enterprise and requesting urgent assistance – according to him, yacht caught fire and lives of twelve people, including six children, were in jeopardy. The search, conducted in waters northwest of island of Žirje (Zirje) yielded no result and additional checks showed no data about any yacht called Enterprise. There is a official consensus about this whole affair being bad joke, but few believe that the joker would ever be brought to answer for his irresponsible and dangerous action.

One Court Down…

Carla del Ponte, chief ICTY prosecutor responsible for so many Croatian girls named Karla having same problems as young Europeans named Adolf had in 1950s, is going to be booted out of Rwanda War Crimes Tribunal, while keeping her job at ICTY. Lobbying effort by Rwandan government managed to produced desired results – del Ponte is out and current rulers of that small African country probably wouldn't have to worry about their boys answering for possible atrocities done while stopping 1994 genocide.

Needless to say, this news would be great encouragement for Croatian right-wingers who still can't reconcile with the idea of victorious army being put to same judicial standards as defeated agressors. There are already calls for Croatian government to start following Rwandan example.

Return of Czehoslovakia

Since rump Yugoslavia changed name into Serbia-Montenegro, new Internet abbreviation had to be found. The only available choice was ".cs", which had been used by Czehoslovakia until that country's dissolution in 1993.

It would be interesting to see how Czech and Slovak Internet users would react to E-mails with ".cs" at the end of address.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Earliest Preview of 2003 Elections

Zlatko Tomčić (Zlatko Tomcic) and Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) have recently agreed about approximate date of elections – November 23rd or 30th 2003. President Mesić (Mesic) was consulted and used opportunity to suggest later date in Spring 2004. His suggestion was quickly rejected, probably because Tomčić and Račan think that extra six months would be used to boost chances of HNS, the third largest party in coalition (to whom Mesić belonged before being elected to President).

In the meantime Globus has published first poll that tries to predict outcome based on opinion polls in ten electoral districts. Globus has somewhat contradictory results – according to poll, SDP made enormous progress in last few months and is in virtual neck-and-neck race with leading HDZ (19,5 % to 20 %). But the most interesting thing that SDP, despite being half a percentage lower on national level, leads in six out of ten districts. This is the reason why this poll should be taken with a large grain of salt. Electoral district were left unchanged from 1999 electoral law, which was specifically designed to give maximum advantage to HDZ, often by most blatant gerrymandering. In 2000 elections this gerrymandering did little good to HDZ, because anti-HDZ vote was so overwhelming and anti-HDZ opposition was united. In 2003, low turnout and anti-HDZ parties appearing solo might give HDZ extra edge.

Another reason to distrust Globus polls in its traditional failure to predict correct election results. During Tudjman years Globus often had polls showing Dražen Budiša’s (Drazen Budisa’s) HSLS in lead over HDZ only to have all subsequent elections resulting with HDZ beating HSLS by large margins. This could be explained with Globus using bad polling methods (phone instead of door-to-door surveys, unrepresentative samples etc.) and people’s tendency not to admit which party they would vote for. In 1990s it turned out that HDZ reigned supreme among “undecided” voters, especially those polled in urban areas.

However, HDZ wasn’t the only party to fare better on elections than in Globus polls. SDP too managed to surprise many that had based its prediction on opinion polls (not just in Globus). This could be explained with people’s reluctance, especially during war years, to admit their loyalty towards the party associated with Communism and Yugoslavia. So, SDP, just like HDZ, fared better on elections than in opinion polls. Both parties also enjoyed loyal voting base among pensioners – people most likely to vote, usually for those already in power and afraid of newcomers that could take away their puny privileges.

This, as well as subtle propaganda campaign themed around Račan’s (Racan’s) coalition inevitable victory in government media, is the reason why Račan can comfortably await November. If HDZ and SDP fare better than in opinion polls, the difference would come at the expense of smaller parties. And smaller parties – DC, HSP, HSLS – are minor league players from Croatian right wings, whose entry to Sabor is essential for Sanader if he is to deprive Račan of majority.

So, if Globus prediction of Račan’s victory might not be that far from truth.

New SHWIer Blog

Another, more than welcome, addition to my blogroll belongs to Doug and Claudia Muir. Doug is one of the most respected participants of SHWI.

Far Right to Control Croatian Constitutional Court?

One of the more embarrassing facts of life in today’s Croatia is the fact that Vice Vukojević (Vice Vukojevic) sits in Constitutional Court. Vukojević, who had enjoyed reputation of the extremist even among usually far right members of Tudjman’s inner circle, was appointed to Constitutional Court shortly before 2000 elections, probably as a part of political deal between soon-to-be-outgoing HDZ and opposition (which explains why MSes from SDP supported that appointment). Vukojević’s appointment didn’t create much fuss then, although it should have, since Vukojević not only had far right views, but far right actions. In 1993, while Croatia tried very hard to prove that its forces didn’t take part in hostilities between Bosnian Croats and Izetbegović’s (Izetbegovic’s) Bosnian Muslim government, Vukojević, MS (and former deputy minister of interiors in one of many Tudjman’s cabinets) at the time, shocked many by appearing on Croatian television dressed in uniform of HVO – Bosnian Croat militia. Unconfirmed stories later, leaked to Feral Tribune immediately after the appointment, accused Vukojević of raping imprisoned Bosnian Muslim women. Vukojević’s war time adventures might be in the realm of speculations and vicious rumours, but his work on Holocaust denial, sanctioned by Tudjman’s government and conducted through special Sabor Commission, is matter of public record. Findings of the Commision established that only 203 Jews died in Pavelić’s Independent State of Croatia during WW2.

It is understandable why Račan’s (Racan’s) government and Croatian media didn’t like to remind the public – both domestic and international – of Vukojević’s presence in one of country’s highest institution. But all that changed few days ago when Nacional published sensationalist article claiming that Vukojević could very easily become new Chief Constitutional Justice, since he had secured support of six right-wing justices. The article claims that Smiljko Sokol, outgoing Chief Justice, failed to secure liberal majority in 13-men Court.

I’m somewhat sceptical towards Nacional claims. If Croatian right-wingers indeed want to dominate Constitutional Court, they would probably elect less problematic candidate. And Smiljko Sokol, who had used to write electoral laws for Tudjman, doesn’t strike me as the embodiment of European, civic and liberal values.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Life Imitating Art Again

Marin Tironi’s transfer from Nova TV to HRT isn’t the only television scandal in Croatia these days. Few months ago, Croatian public was entertained by the one created by Siniša Cmrk (Sinisa Crmk), host of the immensely popular Turbo Limač (Turbo Limac) children’s show. While shooting one of the shows, Cmrk became angry at his assistant Marjeta Jelenković (Marjeta Jelenkovic) and started beating her in front of dozens of witnesses, most of them children. Soon afterwards Crmk got confronted by his victim while being interviewed at Nedjeljom u 2 talk show. Although two of them shook hands and although Crmk apologised, Jelenković later announced that she would ask for legal action. But it took few months for this scandal to cause some official reaction at HRT. Only short while ago Croatian public got informed about Turbo Limač Show cancellation. HRT officials explained the move with the show’s poor ratings, thus allowing Crmk to spin this story and announce new project for HRT.

In the meantime, Death to Smoochy arrived to Croatian video stores, and few critics failed to compare Crmk with some of the characters in that movie.

Rude Awakening

If anyone believed that the elimination of Saddam’s sons’ would represent a magic wand to make Iraqi anti-US guerrillas go away, today they received proofs to the contrary. Attacks continue like nothing happened. 2 US soldiers are killed, one of them in vicinity of Mosul, with local guerrillas apparently unimpressed with American ability to take out their most senior leaders in that area.

US administration should abstain from overplaying importance of this coup. Some guerrilla movements can’t survive the death of their leaders, like Angola’s UNITA. Some can, as Russians learned in Chechnya after taking out top Chechen leader Dzokhar Dudayev. It would take a while for Iraqi resistance to show to which category it belongs.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Athletes’ ius primae noctis

Diane seems to have made the right prediction about the course of Kobe Bryant case. Mudslinging of the victim and race considerations already began.

But if Diane worries about justice being done, things on that front look significantly better in USA than in some other countries, including my own. In Croatia there is exactly zero chance of an athlete of Bryant’s stature being subjected to criminal procedure over such trivial issue like having sexual contact – consensual or not – with the members of opposite sex. If some poor Croatian girl indeed gets sexually harrased, raped, sodomised or any other way abused by some of Croatian top athletes, her chances of throwing the offender in jail are somewhere between slim and none. If she confides to anyone – friends, parents, priest, social worker, police, lawyer, journalists - the universal advice would be to forget it and get on with her life. If she files complaint, police would refuse to investigate and public prosecutors would refuse to prosecute. If by any chance things gets to court or media, poor girl would be subjected to death threats, media stories about each and every dark detail of her past and attempts to portray her as blackmailer, mentally unstable or pathological liar. Huge effort would be invested to prove that the poor girl had at least traces of Serbian, Muslim, British or Jewish ancestry in her blood.

The latter explains why Croatian athletes are above the law covering sexual crimes. Since this is the small country, and since there are few areas in which it excels, sportsmen are viewed as the most valuable members of Croatian society. From there to treating them like modern-day nobility is small step. This modern nobility, just like their medieval counterparts, are separated by average Croatian citizens not just by fame, wealth and luxury, but also by informal set of privileges. Some of those privileges involve rights similar to ius primae noctis of European feudal lords.

On Second Thought…

Saddam’s sons death, undoubtedly a huge coup for US efforts in Iraq, might not be such a good thing in the long run. Those two represented the very worst of the Baathist regime and even those who liked Saddam didn’t like his “Cubs”. With two of them conveniently turned into martyrs, anti-US resistance in Iraq could easily disassociate itself from the Baathist past and sell itself to the people as embodiment of true patriotism without any ulterior motives.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

This news would be most welcome by US administration, since it comes in a time when even some of its supporters start asking unpleasant questions about US military presence in Iraq and the words like “Vietnam” and “quagmire” are increasingly used in American political vocabulary. Dubya can make a sigh of relief, at least for the time being, and, assuming that the speculations are true, of course.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Festival Scandal

Vinko Brešan (Vinko Bresan), the most successful and most popular of all Croatian filmmakers in recent years, created first major scandal at this year’s Pula Film Festival. Morning after the premiere of his latest film Svjedoci, press projection had to be cancelled due to bad sound. Brešan felt that after that press conference, scheduled after the projection, was pointless and cancelled it.

Conspiracy theorists could very easily claim that the failure of Festival’s sound system wasn’t accidental. Brešan’s film deals with the subject which used to be taboo in Croatia – Croatian atrocities against Serb civilians. The movie, based on the novel Ovce od gipsa by renowned Split film critic Jurica Pavičić (Jurica Pavicic), was shot on location in Karlovac, city that used to be on the frontline during the war. Shooting of the film was condemned by local HDZ assemblymen and Brešan and his crew received numerous death threats during production.

[ADMINISTRATIVE} Blogrolling Link

I’ve just installed Blogrolling link. If you have any suggestion or idea how to make links more readable and easier to handle, please E-mail me.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Double Entendre

Probably the most interesting statement in Croatian press last week came from the mouth of Dino Dvornik, one of nation’s best known pop musicians.

Few weeks ago Dvornik appeared as guest of honour on HDZ convention and performed a musical piece that could easily be that party’s election theme song. His presence at the convention created a lot of interest in Croatian media, because Dvornik’s music and lifestyle – indistinguishable from the worst examples of 1970s rock stars – represents the exact opposite of cultural and ethical values promoted by Tudjman and conservatives around him and embodied in turbo folk music.

But times have obviously changed. Ivo Sanader, in an obvious attempt to present himself as a kinder gentler and more “hip” version of Tudjman, hired services of Dvornik whose popularity would get at least some of youth votes. There HDZ fared very badly and most of Croatian rock musicians (or non-folk performers) supported Račan (Racan) in 2000. By agreeing to support HDZ, Dvornik created a lot of interesting reactions among Croatian media. Although his father, famous Split actor Boris Dvornik, had not only supported HDZ but also briefly served as MS in 1992, presence of a “rocker” at HDZ convention was a surprise and some even talked about betrayal.

Cause of Sanader-Dvornik co-operation, however, would be hardly served by some of Dvornik’s statements. In his interview for Globus Dvornik explained that he feels “certain chemistry with Sanader”. This statement could be interpreted in two ways.

First, when the word “chemistry” comes from the mouth of Dino Dvornik, this is hardly in the best possible context. Dvornik is in many circles of Croatian society better known for his long-time drug addiction (resulting in plenty of well-documented incidents, involving air rage) than for his music. Those who don’t like Sanader would undoubtedly compare his influence with heroin, cocaine and other substances that “poison and corrupt Croatian youth”.

Another interpretation would undoubtedly circle around Sanader’s alleged homosexuality, an issue which is slowly entering domain of mainstream politics in Croatia.

However, Dvornik’s statements, no matter what they really mean, would hardly have any effect on the upcoming elections. Sanader’s HDZ make-over is less directed towards young Croatian voters than towards European political establishment, whose members still view Tudjman’s party as hard-line nationalist and therefore unacceptable for EU standards. As for Croatian young voters, experience with previous elections show that they would most likely stay at home and that their political sympathies would hardly affect the outcome, more dependable on older people.

Temptation Island

I watched the final episode of the first season of Temptation Island. It has been a while before I was able to watch single TV show from the beginning to the end. I rarely have time to watch television with much of a regularity and when I miss an episode I usually stop watching altogether, thus saving myself from unnecessary spoilers and thinking of buying or renting DVDs in foreseeable future. (This might change after I have purchased DVD-recorder).

So, I had watched Temptation Island and I might offer some opinion about it. For me the show was the most entertaining in its first episodes, before establishing patterns. Afterwards it became predictable, including the ending – which was supposed to be “shocking”, but it wasn’t. All couples decided to stay together, despite Fox TV manipulating audiences in believing otherwise (and some of the participants also showed ability to manipulate expectations of the audience).

Viribus Unitis

Even the most passionate Eurosceptics in the eastern parts of the Europe admit that their cause is significantly weaker than in the western parts of the continent. Part of the reason is in people’s view that the entry of their respective countries into EU is something which is inevitable and doesn’t have any alternative. Movement to incorporate as many East and Central European countries into EU is something that look so formidable that even those who are against European integration know that their fight awaits them only after their country is in EU.

However, “there is no alternative” argument doesn’t hold water, at least in case of some East European countries. There are alternatives to European integration, and one of those alternatives might be found here.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Beginning of the End for Tony Blair?

It is still too early to tell, but when you have war being fought with apparently false justification and against the will of the electorate, subsequent cover up, media harassment and, finally, civil servants suffering the fate of whistleblowers in Chris Carter’s X-Files universe are making a mix too volatile even for the shrewdest of all political players. Iain Murray thinks that Blair’s days are numbered.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Life Imitating Art

Kobe Bryant story reminds me of a plot (or what went for plot) in Blue Crush. Of course, in the real life such things are more serious and sinister than in Hollywood movies.

Another Level of Blog Stardom

Not even such blogosphere stars like Salam Pax had the honour of having fan fiction based on their blogs. Isabella a.k.a. Flight Risk again manages to create make the event out of her single blog entry.

She Is Back

Diane M., blogger best known for helping Salam Pax, is back with her Letter from Gotham blog.

Interesting Prediction

After assessing Howard Dean’s chances in next year’s US presidential race, Nick Barlow makes rather daring long-term prediction. I’m a little bit sceptical, but his article is definitely worth a read.

Yale Professor Sees The Light

Few months ago I wrote about Dr. Ivo Banac, Yale history professor who had became the leader of LS, small centre party that is part of governing coalition. This change of leadership was the most positive development in Croatian politics because Banac was known as the man who takes liberalism of Liberal Party (“Liberalna stranka”) seriously and his Yale tenure also distanced him from the sleaze that engulfed each and every professional politician in Croatia.

However, in that blog entry I also expressed scepticism towards Dr. Banac’s chances of reforming Croatian politics. It seems that I was right. Banac, instead of removing “Swamp” (his name for the culture of corruption, ineptness and neo-Tudjmanism that had dominated Croatian political establishment following 2000 elections) from the face of Croatia, sank into the “Swamp”.

This is the only way to describe his decision to become new minister of environmental protection and urban planning in Račan’s (Racan’s) cabinet. The post was formerly held by Božo Kovačević (Bozo Kovacevic), one of LS leaders whose pre-election anti-Tudjman radicalism turned into utter incompetence. Kovačević, faced with huge criticism over his failure to stamp out building without permits in Croatia, recently took opportunity to evade public scrutiny and agreed to become Croatian ambassador to Russia. That left the post vacant, and, according to the coalition deals, it had to be taken by LS cadre.

Banac, whose area of expertise is history, originally wanted an expert to lead the ministry, but in last moment changed his mind and decided to take the post by himself. This strictly political appointment, designed to fill party quotas without any concern for expertise and character, represents the most telling example of the “Swamp” – the very thing Banac fought tooth and nail as Feral Tribune commentator.

So, why did Banac take this job? The reason is very simple – for the sake of his party. According to latest opinion polls, LS, despite all its noble liberal rhetoric and pandering to anti-“Swamp” sentiments, can barely expect 1-2 % of the vote. But even more disturbing news for LS election strategists comes from the same polls that discovered that only a fraction of electorate had any idea who Dr. Ivo Banac is. In other words, only a fraction of electorate has any idea what LS is. In today’s Croatia, where political platforms of all parties – from extreme left to extreme right - are identical, the only way for voter to set parties apart is by their leaders’ faces. And since Banac rarely appeared on Croatian state television until recently, few people were aware of him. Furthermore, unlike other coalition party leaders, Banac didn’t bother to take public post (ministry, chairmanship of Sabor committee etc.) that would give him extra media exposure (and some clout).

With elections to be held in matter of months this decision could be too little too late to rescue LS from sinking into oblivion. And it could also create irreparable damage to Banac’s reputation. Banac should have pushed for LS to merge with HNS instead.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Triple Digits

It took a week for 100th hit on this site.

Of course, there were far more hits on this site, since I had started writing more than six months ago, but only now I bothered to install web counter.

Interestingly enough, since I had web counter installed, I didn’t receive a single comment on my blog entries.

Confirming Sexist Stereotypes

Before 2000 elections SDP, trying to compensate the lack of coherent anti-Tudjman policies with “cool” image, filled the ranks of its Sabor delegation with large number of women. The idea was to give the impression of SDP being “modern European” party that takes gender equality seriously (unlike HDZ, which had been branded by patriarchal conservatism during Tudjman era).

Those who would later watch Sabor sessions on television would see that SDP only partially managed to change the image of post-2000 Croatia. SDP Sabor women proved to be incompetent, ignorant, self-righteous, intolerant, chauvinistic – just like their HDZ redneck colleagues are. Dijana Čižmadija (Dijana Cizmadija), one of those women, however, didn’t leave such impression. She actually didn’t leave any kind impression at all, because in three years of her sitting in Sabor she didn’t bother to speak any word. Having hefty salary of MS and enjoying all kinds of privileges did little to remind Ms. Čižmadija of her obligations towards the voters she had to represent.

Public was reminded of the sad fact in the election year and Račan (Racan) quickly reacted by manipulating Čižmadija into resignation. The media, however, took hold of the story and quickly found out that Čižmadija used to be fashion model in 1980s (and even had nude photos made by Stephan Lupino). This case would undoubtedly make Croatian sexists happy, since it confirms all stereotypes of fashion models as airheads and brainless bimbos.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

…But You Can’t Take Balkans Out of Croatia

Slobodna Dalmacija published two very different reactions to Julie Pascal’s infamous Guardian article. First one is regular article titled “Primitive Pamphlet By Insulted Artist” that claims that citizens of Šibenik (Sibenik) are appalled with the woman that insulted their fair city and thus abused their hospitality.

One citizen of Šibenik is Slobodna Dalmacija’s columnist Davorka Blažević (Davorka Blazevic) and she thinks differently in her today's column. She also claims that the article was based on prejudice, but some of the things in it are based on unfortunate facts.

People That May Convert You Into Dubya Apologist

Readers of this blog probably have some idea that I’m critical of George W. Bush and his policies. But there are some situations in which you are simply forced to defend Dubya. One of those is column in yesterday’s Slobodna Dalmacija written by Miro Kučić (Miro Kucic). In that article Kučič, who had already used epithets like “Adolf Bush” in his previous writings, pours acid on American policies and Bush, whom he calls “the worst thing that happened to the world since 1939”.

Having opinions, even strong opinions, about world leaders and their policies is one thing. But Kučić goes even further and in this particular article accuses Bush not only of “murdering poor Africans” but also by “humiliating them during that murder”. Kučić claims that Bush proposed mere 15 million US$ for combating AIDS in Africa. Bush actually proposed 15 billion US$ but Kučić obviously missed that fact or didn’t bother to check the difference between “million” and “billion”.

Bush Didn’t Like Iraqi Exiles

Dubya and I had something in common – we didn’t like Chalabi and whole idea about Iraqi exiles running the show in Iraq after the successful invasion. Unfortunately, according to this article, his dislike of Chalabi didn’t result in some better alternative and now Iraq looks like quagmire.

21st Century Brezhnev

Limited sovereignty doctrine is back in fashion, thanks to Tony Blair and his immediate need to find some better justification for invading Iraq. I wouldn’t have anything against Blair using that particular doctrine before the actual attack. Now all this talk about noble principles stinks.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Tironi Dumps Nova TV

Those who follow Croatian media scene already know that there is something rotten with Nova TV, project which was supposed to crush television monopoly of state-owned HRT. Its news programme is in disarray, some of their top reporters have left, and now even their most spectacular success is turning into worst possible failure. Marin Tironi, the winner of immensely popular Story Supernova reality show (or what Nova TV have claimed to be reality show), has recently declined to take the job of hosting Red Carpet – Nova TV’s ambitious entertainment news show (and that job was the main reward of Story Supernova contest). After some public display of reconciliation between Tironi and Nova TV, Tironi has decided to dump Nova TV entirely and take the job of hosting Upitnik, popular game show which is aired on HRT.

This probably represents the hardest and most humiliating blow for Nova TV. Not only did they lost their main (and arguably the only) star, but they lost it to their main competitors. To make things even worse, Tironi is going to be joined by Story Supernova co-finalist Barbara Radulović (Barbara Radulovic), who is also leaving Nova TV and even confirmed that decision while being interviewed for Iskon Internet news site.

Obviously people at Nova TV didn’t take this very lightly. News of Tironi’s departure was immediately followed by press release which not only slams Tironi for acting “maliciously”, but also hints about Tironi currently being tried for narcotic-related offences.

You Can Get Croatia Out of Balkans…

If it isn’t a front or breaking page news, article from foreign media usually needs couple of days or weeks before appearing in Croatian daily newspapers. This article/comment from Julie Pascal in Guardian is exception. Small segments from it appeared in Slobodna Dalmacija and Jutarnji list only a day after being originally published. And it isn’t hard to imagine why, since Ms. Pascal doesn’t paint particularly nice picture of Croatia.

The articles in Croatian newspapers weren’t on front page, so the reactions won’t be as savage as it could have been otherwise. However, it is easy to predict them. Minority would wonder how Julie Pascal could have drawn such conclusions on the state of affairs in enlightened, pro-Western and soon-to-become-part-of-EU Croatia. Many would argue that Pascal is misinformed and that she simply “got it all wrong”.

Majority would, of course, explain her article simply through her British nationality. “Of course, she is British, and all British are Protestant Masonic Serb-loving scum who had sold our Croatian heroes at Bleiburg and who are oppressing our Catholic brethren in Northern Ireland.”

This article illustrates somewhat ambivalent feelings I have towards Croatian entry into EU. While most of my compatriots believe that Croatia within EU would mean introduction of European values (and living standard) into our country, I’m getting more and more convinced that it would result in something quite opposite – Balkanisation of Western Europe. EU that contains countries of Southeastern Europe might very well start looking like Roman Empire during times when the emperors allowed Germanic tribes to settle on Roman soil.

Hunting for Bambi

This bizarre form of adult entertainment is relatively fresh news, so the savage attacks from feminist and moralist circle has not yet occurred. Before the proverbial excrement hits the fan, intrepid Nevada entrepreneur, if he is smart, could very easily dodge some of the projectiles by offering alternative service for women.

Blame the French

It may seem strange at first glance, Washington Times seems to agree with left-leaning commentators that CIA and its director George Tenet aren’t responsible “Yellowcake” scandal. Then again, choice for alternative scapegoat isn’t that surprising.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Worth Reading

Interesting article about Iraq.

Iraqi Governing Council

Establishment of governing council is good thing for Iraq. But there is also a bad thing about it – majority in that council is comprised of Iraqi exiles. When the exiles run the show in newly established democracies, things usually don’t go well. I can tell that from Croatian experience.

Why Indians Won’t Go to Iraq

In 1941, following pro-Axis coup, it took one Indian brigade to put Iraq under British control. Pentagon planners probably hoped that the Indians would show same skill six decades later, but this would remain only a speculation. Indian government refused to send proposed 15,000-20,000 men to assist Americans in their “peacekeeping” of Iraq.
Indian decision is quite understandable, considering the unpopularity of Iraq war among Indian population. Furthermore, American plan to have as many non-US militaries in Iraq as possible could be viewed as a American way of solving their own manpower/moral problems – there are currently three times more US servicemen in Iraq than planned and the casualties from guerrilla activity, although negligible in military terms, began to reflect on American popular mood. Indian voters, on the other hand, would hardly like to see their boys in body bags replacing American boys in body bags.

But the main reason why Indians won’t go is military logic. India borders Pakistan and China – two major nuclear powers with a history of military confrontations with India. With issues not resolved, and with the threat of war constantly in the air, deploying entire division far away from Indian borders would be justified only if such action is in Indian interest. But that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.

In the meantime, Jutarnji list entertains Croatian public with the news about some 40 Croatian special forces soldiers being trained for peacekeeping duties in Iraq. Jutarnji list is usually seen as pro-government, and this is surprising; considering overwhelmingly anti-war and anti-US moods of Croatian public, promoting such policies would only harm present government in election year.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Dancing on Graves

This whole affair of Beyonce Knowles dancing on President Grant’s tomb reminds me of the stunt pulled by Stephen Lupino, Croatian fashion photographer who became some sort of former Yugoslav celebrity by taking shots of country’s top models without clothes and on public places. One of such sessions was held in Belgrade, on the Monument of Gratitude To France, built after WW1. Interestingly enough, Lupino didn’t have any problems with police, but soon afterwards his stunt was savagely attacked by Belgrade press, at the time in increasing stages of chauvinist euphoria and very sensitive to anything that could be insulting to the sacrifices of Serbian soldiers in WW1.


I added link to Russian War in Iraq site and (in case you haven't noticed) a Bravenet counter.

According to the data collected for first three days, I have somewhere around 10 hits per day. This might look a little bit disappointing, but, then again, Europundit complains about getting only 30 or so per day

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Taking Elections Seriously

It happened late for SDP, but at least they realised that they might put some extra effort in winning next elections. That includes some things that SDP leaders couldn’t have imagined only a year ago. One of them is coalition with their IDS – regionalist party from Istria and SDP’s main nemesis in that particular part of Croatia.

On the surface, SDP and IDS would look like the natural coalition partners. Both parties are at least nominally left of the centre. Both parties, unlike most of Croatian political entities, aren’t ashamed of the fact that large segment of Croatian population fought for Allies in WW2 and that Tito at least did something good for Croatia. Both parties have been, at various times, seen as serious threats to Tudjman’s regime and their membership was, at various times, subjected to all kinds of unpleasantness. Furthermore, on the surface, relations between Račan (Racan) and Jakovčić (Jakovcic), seem most cordial, at least compared to those between Račan and the leaders of other parties that form governing coalition.

However, SDP and IDS can’t stand each other and their enmity manifested itself even in 1990s, when both Račan and Jakovčić could have only dreamed of unseating Tudjman’s boys. The reason is simple – in 1990, at the eve of first democratic elections, IDS was founded but their leaders chose not to participate; as a result, SDP, just like in neighbouring port city of Rijeka, made a electoral sweep in Istria and thus built strong electoral stronghold in that part of Croatia. But SDP hold on Istria was short-lived – in 1992 IDS had built not only its party machine, but also an ideology of regionalism, which Istrians liked much better alternative than virulent Tudjman’s nationalism. But, most importantly, Istrians saw their regionalist party as much better representative of its interests than SDP, burdened both by Communist-era past and by “constructive opposition” to Tudjman in early 1990s. So, in 1992 IDS entered Sabor and in 1993 local elections their candidates replaced SDP.

The latter is the real cause of enmity between SDP and IDS. All politics is local and even with ultra-centralist tendencies of Tujdman’s regime, IDS and people associated with that party created a lot of clout in Istria. SDP wanted the piece of that pie but they always failed in that, and a result, they began accusing IDS of governing Istria in the same way HDZ governed Croatia. SDP was very active in undermining IDS and much more successful than HDZ in doing so. It is hardly surprising that IDS used to be the first of all 2000 coalition partners to leave Račan’s government.

However, IDS is still the most important political factor in Istria, and Istria happens to make the very important slice of VIII. Electoral district. In 1999 HDZ-dominated Sabor passed electoral law that gerrymandered Croatia in a way to compensate HDZ weakness among urban voters. Thus each major urban area was artificially connected with HDZ-dominated rural districts. All except VIII. Electoral district, which was probably considered a lost cause for HDZ.

But even lost causes can bring at least few votes for HDZ, especially now, when Sanader can expect slightly better results than his predecessors in 2000. And not only HDZ, but, more importantly, minor-league parties from Croatian right-wing, whose presence in Sabor is essential for HDZ to get any sensible majority.

Račan is aware that he would have to attack minor-league parties instead of HDZ. In VIII. District, both SDP and IDS can comfortably expect Sabor seats; but if they appear as single ticket, they could merge each other votes and thus gain more seats; and d’Hondt system of vote representation means that those increased number of seats would happen at the expense of small parties.

Schroeder Not Coming To Croatia

Schroeder’s PR people have put the end to all speculations about German prime minister spending holidays in Croatia. This must be quite a disappointment for Račan (Racan), who would undoubtedly use the presence of European statesman in order to boost his electoral chances.

Woman Terrorist – Italian Style

Deteriorating relations between Italy and Croatia won’t be helped by the article in La Liberta, Piacenza daily newspaper publish. Its latest editorial claims that “great Italian patriot” Maria Pasquinelli should have its own monument. Fact that Ms. Pasquinelli is still alive is not the only interesting thing about this story – the great patriotic act for which she should receive such honour is something that is currently being done to US servicemen in Iraq on daily basis.

On February 10th 1947 in Pula Ms. Pasquinelli has shot Robert D. De Winton, British General. At the time city of Pula was under Allied occupation pending the peace treaty that was supposed to establish new border between Italy and former Yugoslavia. A day earlier, Paris Peace Treaty has given Pula (Pola) to Tito’s state. Pasquinelli didn’t like the idea of “most sacred Italian lands” being handed over to foreigners, so she shot General as “representative of victorious powers”. She was caught and sentenced to death, only to have her sentence commuted to life imprisonment. She was released 17 years later.

General De Winton, however, is not the only person to die from Pasquinelli’s hand. During WW2 Pasquinelli, a devout Fascist, volunteered to serve in Balkans. Her attempts to pass as a man and serve as a soldier failed, so she had taken another task on the fringes of Mussolini’s New Roman Empire. The place was city of Split, annexed by Italy following the collapse of Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1941. Pasquinelli was given the job of Italian teacher in local high school and there she mercilessly tried to remind the pupils of their Italian identity. One of her colleagues, Professor Ćiro Gamulin (Ciro Gamulin), didn’t show much enthusiasm for Italianisation of the pupils and made unfortunate decision to express his anti-Italian feelings in public. When Pasquinelli heard about that, she immediately informed her Black Shirt comrades and they had Professor Gamulin arrested and tortured to death.

(After the war Gamulin, although never a Communist, became a martyr for Tito’s authorities and had one of Split’s high schools named after him. In 1990 HDZ authorities considered Gamulin to be to Communist and had the school renamed, thus showing that they, just like their spiritual fathers in 1940s, considered Italian fascists as their natural allies.)

In Memoriam Dr. Ivo Petrinović (Ivo Petrinovic)

This morning I picked up the latest edition of Slobodna Dalmacija and was deeply saddened to find news about the death of Dr. Ivo Petrinović (Ivo Petrinovic). That old gentleman used to teach History of Political Theories course on Split Faculty of Law. To say that I knew him well would be a lie. But he happened to live in my neighbourhood so every now and then we would bump into each other on the street and exchange greetings.

Other people, more qualified than myself, should take the task of writing a proper obituary and mentioning his numerous books and City of Split Lifetime Achievement Award. What struck me about Dr. Petrinović was his utter professionalism; I never saw him smile and he, unlike other professors, never tried to compensate the dullness of his course with amusing anecdotes. But he did his job very well; although I had already known much about various political theories before attending his class, his course was one of the more interesting during my times at Split Faculty of Law.

Aleks Does It Right

She might be hack or she might be a real journalist, but Aleksandra Kolarić (Aleksandra Kolaric) can write interesting articles. One of those was published in latest edition of Globus. Using the polling data recently collected by IRI, she made electoral predictions more or less identical to those I had in this blog – HDZ would get stronger than in 2000, but not strong enough to defeat united front of SDP, HNS and HSS. Even more interesting is her perception of small parties; again, she judges their chances the same as the author of this blog, although I’m not that certain about Mate Granić’s (Mate Granic’s) DC being able to take a single Sabor seat on its own.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Popular Guy

Thanks to Berlusconi and his ministers, Gerhard Schroeder turned into the most popular statesman in Europe. At least this is the impression you might make from the large number of invitations he received lately. One of them came from Denmark (via Nick Barlow).

Croatia Gets Involved in Italo-German Feud

One man’s misery is another man’s opportunity. At least this is the view from this side of Adriatic. Rapid cooling of Italo-German relations and latest scandal would drive at least some of German tourists from Italy, including Gerhard Schroeder. Croatian authorities seem happy about it, because they hope that some of those would go to Croatia instead.

Ivan Jakovčić (Ivan Jakovcic), Istria County governor, has already called Schroeder to spend holidays in Istria. Račan (Racan) would also like to see Schroeder here, because his presence could be huge pre-election boost.

On the other hand, Croatia inviting German tourists could seriously dent Croatian relations with Italy, which were never on the same level as those with Germany. Each and every incident – referring to Croatian territory as “Yugoslav” by sloppy Italian news editors or the most recent altercation between Italian consul and Croatian policemen in Split – is always a good excuse for Croatian nationalists to accuse Italians of neo-irredentism or for esuli (Italians who were resettled from Croatia following WW2) to demand Italian blocking of Croatian entry into EU. Croatia taking part in this Italo-German feud uld hardly settle those issues.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Ugly Old Times

Croatian state television has recently began airing Croatian best-known documentaries. One of those was Mala seoska priredba, 1971 piece by Krsto Papić (Krsto Papic) that showed singing talents’ show and beauty pageant in small Croatian village in early 1970s. I caught only a glimpse of that film but one thing was striking – what passed for good-looking woman in those places and those times is different from what passes for good looking woman today. This could be attributed to different make-up, better living standard, better diet, better health awareness and better exposure to women’s magazines and modern ideals of beauty.

Or perhaps I’m a little bit biased, because I live in Split, town that was known for the beauty of its women even in those dark times.

Why Do They Hate Her?

Aleksandra “Aleks” Kolarić (Aleksandra “Aleks” Kolaric), former Račan’s spokeswoman and Globus columnist (who used to be active participant of Croatian political Usenet newsgroups before being hired by Račan) has recently been invited to appear in Latinica, popular (and often controversial) talk-show which is aired on Croatian state television.

Her appearance left quite an impression on Tomislav Klauški (Tomislav Klauski), Slobodna Dalmacija media columnist. He wrote an article dedicated to “Aleks” and her attempts to become new top journalist on Croatian state television. Few articles in Croatian media recently fitted the definition of “hatchet job” like this one. Klauški called her “non-journalist” and hinted that she was going to get television job thanks to Damir Matković (Damir Matkovic), television executive and “well-known promoter of many ambitious female journalists”. Her appearance in Latinica was described as “speaking long sentences and telling next to nothing” and Klauški also mentioned lustful gazes of Ljubo Ćesić-Rojs (Ljubo Cesic-Rojs) and Ante Prkačin (Ante Prkacin) – two men who also appeared in the show and were obviously intrigued by her looks.

This savage attack on Kolarić is nothing new. Her meteoric rise to the top government job probably created many enemies among Croatian media, mostly because of plain old envy. The way she handled fellow journalist while working for Račan (Racan) might have also contributed to such enmity (and vicious rumours about her being pregnant with Račan’s child, usually spread by right-wing circles). Now, when she can’t expect protection from the top, any attempt to get some kind of spotlight is going to trigger outbursts of journalistic venom.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Come Out… If You Dare!

MSes today were also debating government bill covering same sex unions. Although the bill represents compromise between liberals and conservatives within governing coalition – same sex unions had been thrown out of proposed Family Act – some people in Sabor can’t stand them in any shape or form. One of those was Anto Kovačević (Anto Kovacevic), already infamous for his Taleban-like statements about women’s role in modern Croatia. He opposed the bill claiming that “homosexuality represents crime against nature” and that “all homosexuals are drug users and dregs of society”.

Surprisingly, homosexuals were defended by another colourful personality from the far right of Croatian politics. Ljubo Ćesić-Rojs (Ljubo Cesic-Rojs) countered Kovačević’s claims, stating that all homosexuals aren’t drug users, and that many of them are respectable citizens, including politicians and fellow MSes. The latter were called by Ćesić-Rojs to come out and thus prove their true manhood.

This entertaining episode could be explained by Ćesić-Rojs’ animosity towards Ivo Sanader, HDZ leader who wanted Ćesić-Rojs expelled from party and whose sexual orientation have recently became object of endless rumours.

New Criminal Code

Sabor, with 58 votes yeah, 12 votes nay, 7 sustained and entire right-wing opposition out of the building, passed new Criminal Code. Possession of small quantities of narcotics became misdemeanour, while the worst offences from December 1st would mean life imprisonment.

Croatian Constitutional Court vs. Croatian Telecomm

Unlike Tudjman’s years, when it used to be the only government institution with semblance of standing up to the government, Constitutional Court is very low-key these days. But today it made the verdict that would affect each and every Croatian – it banned Croatian fixed phone companies from charging so-called “subscription” – 13 € of fees that every phone user had to pay whether he used phones or not. The decision was far from unanimous – five out of 13 judges dissented and the debate was quite heated.

The explanation for this decision is in sloppy job by Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Communications – according to 1999 Telecommunications Act, minister had to issue book of regulations covering the fixed phone network financing, but both former and present government failed to do so. Instead, phone companies use old 1997 regulations. The “subscription” would be abolished on October 31st 2003, and by that time government would hopefully correct this error.

Bye, Bye VHS

Recently I purchased my very first DVD-recorder. This means the end for my VCR, who had faithfully served me for almost two decades. I had already stopped renting videos from local stores and VCRs served only to record stuff I missed on TV. But now even that is going to be done by new kind of equipment.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Brotherhood & Unity Mk II

Following the incidents in Kranj, Croatian government has used emergency procedure to push Sport Fans Act, new piece of Sabor legislation designed to curb violence during sport events.

The proposal was welcomed by most of mainstream political parties. HDZ and most of rest of right-wingers have problems with few details, but they consented with the idea in general. The only exception is far right HSP, party that expects to harvest most of future votes among urban Lumpenproletariat (which includes "sport fans").

Short while ago, MSes and Croatian media received angry letter signed by BBB, Torcida, Kohorta and other Croatian soccer fan groups. The letter denounces the new legislation as hypocritical and oppressive and claims that the real aim is to crush "sport fans whose activities might be impediment to certain policies" (in other words, any kind of EU-sponsored reapprochement between Croatia and Serbia). Fans claim that they shouldn't deserve oppressive treatment, because their stadium riots "began the process that ended with destruction of Yugoslavia". In other words, if not for brave soccer hooligans, Croatia would have been under Yugoslav yoke right now. Soccer fans claim that they would stage street protest. What would those protests would look like is left to anyone's imagination.

The claims of the letter have very little to do with reality – historical or present. It is truth that soccer hooliganism in 1980s – singing nationalist songs, fights with soccer fans from Serbia - represented smudge on the official picture of former Yugoslav "brotherhood & unity", but it never had potential to crush the regime alone. If BBB, Torcida and other Croatian soccer fan groups are to take credit for existence of today's Croatia, the real work they did occurred during the real war.

And it is debatable whether the mythical hooligan patriots of 1980s have anything in common with soccer hooligans of today – teenagers who have grown up in independent Croatia and therefore can't use national oppression as the excuse for their violent behaviour. The only thing hooligans of the past and hooligans of today have in common – apart from their violent ways – are far right views, best shown during Zagreb Gay Pride events.

The most interesting thing about letter is, however, the fact that all those soccer fan groups showed such a great unity. Whenever BBB and Torcida – main reason why motorists have to think twice about parking car with Zagreb licence plates in Split and vice versa – meet you can expect the very same kind of bloodbath you could have seen during "good old" days when those two groups used to meet Delije and Grobari from Belgrade. But now BBB and Torcida are going to embrace new kind of "brotherhood & unity".

Sunday, July 06, 2003

ICC Wrecks Serbia-Montenegro Union

Croatian government, all too aware of rising anti-American feeling among Croatian population in election year, decided to refuse US request for ICC non-extradition treaty. Therefore, Croatian authorities would be able to arrest and extradite American citizens to ICC. US government replied by cutting military aid, but few Croatians so far noticed it – lack of some 19 million US$ would hardly hurt anyone except those in already shrunk and insignificant Croatian military.

Our eastern neighbours aren't so lucky. Loosened union between Serbia-Montenegro seems to be on the brink of total collapse after five months of its existence. The reason is American request for non-extradition treaty. While Serbia, where many people still didn't forgive USA for 1999 bombing, doesn't like it, Montenegrin government greeted this offer with utmost enthusiasm. On July 4th Montenegrin authorities informed US consul in Podgorica that they would sign non-extradition treaty unilaterally, without any consultation with their Serbian partners. Of course, Montenegrin government couldn't care less about ICC or USA, but this treaty would be an excellent opportunity for Montenegro to snatch quick US diplomatic recognition. This already caused some Serbian officials to question existence of Serbia-Montenegro Union.

New Style of Regime Change

When Dubya tells you to go, your only answer is "when and how". At least this is the impression given by Liberian president's decision to step down, which happened shortly after his American colleague made such friendly suggestion.

Saturday, July 05, 2003


Couple of fellow European blogs are added.

Moment of Silence

I must say that I didn't care much for Ally McBeal. Few moments featuring great Barry White were different matter.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Bringing Them On

Large part of American public accused Dubya for "reckless macho rhetoric" and "endangering the lives of US servicemen" after his call to Iraqi resistance to try ambushing US troops. His rhetoric might indeed be in poor taste, but at least today it served its purposes. US forces in Iraq would have more than Fourth of July to celebrate today, since they managed to turn the tables on the Iraqi bushwhackers for a change and kill 11 of them. Such efficiency is very rare these days and considering the apparently low level of C&C in Iraqi resistance, it is easy to imagine some of guerrillas being inspired by this dare and getting careless.

Eastern Front

HDZ central leadership has joined the chorus of Croatian public denouncing Vukovar youth soccer tournament, apparently unimpressed with the fact that the local HDZ chieftains were responsible for the case.

In the meantime, some of the hardest pre-election salvos were fired in Eastern Slavonia. Ladislav Bognar, former governor of Osijek-Baranja County, nowadays SDP assemblyman in Osijek-Baranja County Assembly, made serious accusation against Branimir Glavaš (Branimir Glavas), charismatic and controversial Tudjman-era warlord and current HDZ boss of Eastern Slavonia. Bognar accuses Glavaš of being involved in the 1992 murder of Mate Šabić (Mate Sabic), charismatic leader of Osijek city militia.

Glavaš struck back by accusing Bognar of being involved in failed 1992 Croatian Army attempt of chasing Serb forces from Baranja.

In the meantime, there are speculations that the real force behind Bognar's attack is not SDP but Ivić Pašalić (Ivic Pasalic), leader of HB and former right hand of Tudjman. During the war Glavaš used to be portrayed as dangerous, irresponsible and unstable extremist, often accused of bad treatment of Serb civilians behind Croatian lines and on many occasions he even dared to be insubordinate to Tudjman. After the war Glavaš somewhat reinvented his image as "modern European" politician. His controversial war record was almost forgotten following his decision to support Sanader's faction during its struggle with former Tudjman's right hand Ivić Pašalić (Ivic Pasalic). Blinded by their hate towards Pašalić, many Croatian commentators hailed Sanader's victory in HDZ internal struggle and few of them bothered with some of the questionable methods with which Glavaš had secured necessary votes for Sanader.

Now, this unprecedented attack on Glavaš from SDP assemblyman represents a novelty in post-Tudjman Croatian politics – HDZ politicians were often accused of many things, but rarely of being involved in murder. And being accused by usually timid SDP was almost unheard of. This could mean that SDP would take next elections seriously and use any available method to put as much mud on HDZ as possible.

Another speculation tells of Pašalić being behind this. Pašalić knows that his HB with 2 % of electoral support (according to latest IRI poll) hasn't got chance in entering Sabor. The only way for him to return to power would be to de-throne Sanader and take helm of HDZ, its party infrastructure and loyal voting base (some solid 26 %, according to the poll). HDZ failure to win next election would undoubtedly lead to Sanader's downfall – in his zeal to make his party "post-Tudjman" and purge it from real and alleged Pašalić supporters, Sanader has alienated plenty of rank-and-file HDZ members. Pašalić would, therefore, be quite happy to see HDZ defeated on next elections, so it isn't hard to imagine him being the source of information leading to accusations against Glavaš.

Brothers in Arms

While Croats and Serbs are not supposed to play soccer in Croatia together, they may play some other games. Croatia's best known fugitive, General Ante Gotovina, has apparently avoided capture partly thanks to the help of a man who would become Serbia's best known fugitive – Miodrag "Legija" Luković (Miodrag "Legija" Lukovic), former commander of Serbian paramilitary forces and chief suspect in the case of Zoran Đinđić (Zoran Djindjic) assassination. Gotovina and Luković have fought against each other during former Yugoslav wars, but that didn't stop them from being friends. Gotovina and Luković have started their friendship while serving in French Foreign Legion in their earlier years.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Administrative Issues

I'm switching to Central European encoding. If you have any problems with that, let me know.

Few blog links are added.

Croatia's Soccer Shame

Last weekend city of Vukovar hosted its traditional Veterans Memorial youth soccer tournament. Just like in many other occasions, Vukovar 91, local soccer club, was supposed to play with top seven teams from Croatia.

14-year old M.M. was supposed to be the star player of Vukovar 91. But few hours before the first match he was barred from playing. The explanation was very simple – he was ethnic Serb, and, as such, he was unwelcome on the tournament dedicated to the memory of Croatian soldiers, policemen and volunteers who had died in defence of Vukovar from Serb forces in Autumn 1991. The decision was made by tournament board, chaired by Petar Mlinarić (Petar Mlinaric), HDZ leader for Vukovar and vice-speaker of City Council.

The news about this decision broke only few days ago, mostly because City of Vukovar represents something of a black hole for Croatian media. The city, captured by Serbs after three-month long and bloody siege, was peacefully reintegrated into Croatia following 1995 Dayton Peace Treaty and three year transition period. Despite constitutional and para-constitutional guarantees about equality and self-righteous politicians preaching "forgiveness" and "tolerance", Croat and Serb population co-exist in the state of virtual apartheid, which includes separate schools.

14-year old M.M. was apparently such soccer talent that nobody in Croat-dominated Vukovar 91 – management, board, other players – minded his ethnicity. But that wasn't the case with local HDZ politician, determined to show that seemingly "reformed pro-European" party still has people who are faithful to Tudjmanist principles of ethnic purity and chauvinism. This resulted with the affair that represents so far the most blatant case of ethnic/racial discrimination ever recorded not only in the history of post-Tudjman, but also in the post-war areas of former Yugoslavia. Instances when people get discriminated because of their ethnicity are very common, but instances when it is done openly are quite rare.

This event is even worse than Kranj waterpolo riots. In that case it could be attributed to intense heat, large amounts of alcohol and plain old hooliganism. But this is different – the chauvinistic excess was premeditated. It is something that shouldn't be tolerated. Even prime minister Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan), not known for standing to virulent forms of Croatian nationalism, had to react. And even Croatian Soccer Association, institution that used to embody Croatian nationalism, is now in the serious spin mode, trying to give good explanation why its officials didn't intervene during the tournament.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Big Brother Shocks Africa?

People who have recently tuned in to watch Big Brother Africa were shocked to find some of the contestants actually engaging in explicit sexual activity in front of cameras.

I wasn't able to watch but the description of the event gives impression of something I had seen during the first season of Big Brother Germany.