Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Championship Manager 4

If by any chance you wonder why the blogging is going to be light in next few days, Championship Manager 4 – world's best soccer team management simulation – is the answer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Worth Reading

Razib has an interesting article in which he deals with the way affluent upper-class whites in America tend to idealise ethnic minorities.

On A Related Note:
Isabella, If You Read This…

…you would probably get rid of your Croatian passport. According to the findings of Croatian Foreign Ministry Internal Supervision, Marković is not the only Croatian diplomat to be engaged in questionable activities. Ćiro Grubišić (Ciro Grubisic), former Croatian consul general in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, has to fend off accusations about thousands of Croatian passports being issued illegally in his consulate.

The survey was conducted in 1999, but its findings became public only now, and only because recent discovery about Milorad "Legija" Luković (Milorad "Legija" Lukovic), former Serbian special police commander and alleged mastermind of Đinđić (Djindjic) assassination, being equipped with one those.

A Place in History Books

Zvonimir Marković (Zvonimir Markovic), Tito-era dissident, political prisoner, Croatian nationalist and one of the founders of HDZ in Split, had a life-long dream to become first Croatian ambassador in Belgrade. 1990s made his dream come true.

But these days he is entering history books for somewhat different reasons. He became first Croatian ambassador to end up in jail. Zagreb County Court yesterday sentenced him and Nikša Giovanelli (Niksa Giovanelli), former CEO of "Jadroplov", to three and two years of jail respectively. Marković is found guilty for "abuse of power for the purpose of material gain", which describes some 672.801 HRK (cca. 88.000 euros) that were supposed to be donated to Croatian Embassy in Belgrade and ended on Marković's private account instead.

Janko Bobetko Is Not A War Criminal

At least this all those who claim the opposite won't be able to back that claim with a court verdict. Former WW2 Partisan whose military career spawned for fifty years and brought him fame in two wars (1941-45 and 1991-95) has died today after being released from Zagreb hospital few days ago and few months after independent experts concluded that he wasn't fit to stand trial at the war crimes tribunal at Hague.

This is the best possible outcome for Račan's (Racan's) government. Instead of being caught between the hammer (Hague tribunal and Western government) and anvil (domestic public opinion, vehemently opposed to the handover of Croatian generals and other "war heroes" to foreign courts), Ivica Račan could exploit this sad affair to organize spectacular state funeral with all military honours and thus solidify his status of born-again Croatian nationalist few months before elections.

When the indictment leaked to Croatian public last year, it had created such virulent outburst that Račan had to promise that the General won't be handed over to Hague. This failed to prevent "spontaneously organized" groups of vigilantes patrolling streets around general's home to prevent General's arrest.

Hardly Surprising

The Hours, last year's "Oscar" contender, has won Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Award for "outstanding film in wide release". Four other films were nominated, of which I had watched three (Far From Heaven, Frida, Sweet Home Alabama), same as The Hours.

Now, out of four GLAAD-nominated films I have watched, guess which one provided me with the viewing experience resembling physical sickness?

And guess which one of those four is most likely to get raving reviews in Croatian mainstream media?

Monday, April 28, 2003

The Postman of Baghdad

Mohamed Mohsen al-Zubaidi, self-appointed mayor of Baghdad, has been arrested by US troops for "exercising authority not legally his". That character in many ways resembles protagonist of The Postman. For those who weren't fortunate to read David Brin's novel or were fortunate to miss Kevin Costner's movie, protagonist of Postman is wanderer in post-apocalyptic America that takes the uniform of postman and pretends to work for non-existing US government. First he does it in order to get food and shelter from small isolated communities, then later it turns out that his "mailing activities", against his wishes, started to restore civilisations.

Story of Postman probably explains the al-Zubaidi phenomenon. In a desperate, chaotic times people would stick to anything or anybody that resembles or promises order – whether it is Communism, Fascism, strongman or even the most prosaic of all conmen. Al-Zubaidi was simply the first one to (ab)use this simple fact.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Adminstrative Issues

Few links are added. After realising that Razib used to participate in soc.history.what-if newsgroup, his blog is put into "Blog by Other SHWI Participants" section.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

She Is Not…

Isabella claims that she is not Liesel Pritzker. Article at Agonist's site claims the same (although it also claims that Liesel Pritzker's actions towards her family served as inspiration for "Isabella"). Furthermore, some of "Isabella's" claims don't fit with what is known about Liesel Pritzker – "Isabella" seems to be older.

Of course, some of details in "Isabella's" web-autobiography might be intentionally misleading. Considering the circumstances in which "Isabella" is, that would be hardly surprising. That would also serve as an explanation if, by any chance, at the end turns out that Liesel Pritzker is, despite all the denials, indeed "Isabella".

So far the most interesting revelation in her weblog concern her family's links to certain individual – her father's "mentor and confidant", who had been "spectacularly murdered in Germany 20 years ago". The only spectacular murder in Germany would be those of top industrialists who were targeted by RAF and other far left terrorist groups in West Germany. This also explains "Isabella's" anger when some of her readers wanted to interpret her flight as some sort of rebellion against capitalism.

Bad Day For Nick Hornby

Just few games before the end of English Premiership League season, Arsenal and Manchester United are tied at the top of the table. But it seems that Arsenal is would need all the luck to keep its title, after wasting 2-0 lead in today's game against Bolton Wanderers.

With only 1 point instead of 3 in today's game, Arsen Wenger's team must rely on Manchester United to suffer similar fate in next games. Which is not likely. Manchester United was knocked out of this year's FA Cup and Champions League. Premiership is the only title that team can get this season.

I can only imagine how Nick Hornby, famous British author (About the Boy, Fever Pitch, High Fidelity), and avid Arsenal fan, felt half an hour ago.

Dinner with Đinđić (Djindjic) Redux

Roughly one month after last month's brouhaha, Serbian methods for changing the heads of government are again advocated as a recipe for Croatia. At least, that is what President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) thinks of the poll resulted published in the last edition of Globus. That weekly conducted survey over some 800 Croatians and asked them whether they think that Mesić's and Račan's (Racan's) assassination would be beneficial for Croatia or not.

11.8 % answered positively (which is hardly surprising, since Croatia, due to its troubled past has bigger share of extremist cranks within its population).

Soon afterwards, Mesić reacted. Unlike his predecessor, who had dealt with critical media using old-fashioned methods of secret police harassment, "pornography" taxes, military drafts and criminal prosecution, Mesić used indirect approach. He sent a public letter to Croatian Journalist Society asking them whether such polls represent incitement to murder and whether they are within the limits of journalistic ethic.

Even before Society published its response, Igor Alborghetti, Globus editor-in-chief, issued public apology, trying to explain that the purpose of poll was strictly to discover why statements about "dinner with Đinđić (Djindjic)" became part of Croatian political mainstream.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Kuwaitis Didn't Complain

Few days ago, seventeen years following Chernobil disaster, Ukrainian government has declassified KGB documents containing the results of the confidential investigation. According to KGB officials, among the most contributing factors of the disaster was faulty equipment imported from former Yugoslavia. The documents specifically named two companies – "Energoinvest" from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and "Đuro Đaković" ("Djuro Djakovic") from Slavonski Brod, Croatia.

Immediately after the results of KGB inquiry had been published, current "Đuro Đaković" executives vehemently denied that Chernobil could in any way be attributed to their products.

In doing so they failed to mention another satisfied customers. "Đuro Đaković" was in this part of the world known mostly for their tractors. And like many other tractor factories, it also produced tanks. One of their late models, M-84, first (and last) original tank ever produced in former Yugoslavia, was exported to various countries. Its makers probably never imagined that their beloved tank would soon write many spectacular pages of military history.

Although it was extensively used in former Yugoslav wars, M-84 saw its most spectacular action before the dissolution of Yugoslavia. On the eve of Saddam's invasion, around dozen M-84s were sold to Kuwait. There they saw their first action and managed to retreat to Saudi Arabia. From there they took part in Desert Storm, destroying dozens of Iraqi T-72 tanks and other armoured vehicles while liberating their own country.

Granić (Granic) Won't Resign

Yesterday's edition of Glas Slavonije, Osijek-based daily newspaper usually perceived as right-wing, speculated that Račan (Racan) might demand Goran Granić's (Goran Granic's) resignation. Novi List, Rijeka-based daily at times unashamedly biased towards SDP, claims that this won't be the case.

Račan, when confronted by press about his deputy minister's anti-diplomatic outbursts, claimed that Granić in his own name only and that his statements are definitely not the official position. He also added that he understands Granić, because some of Western countries showed frustrating lack of understanding for Croatian positions in many important issues.

In other words, Račan is against Granić's resignation.

Which makes perfect sense. In a less than year before the next elections, public fallout with his most trusted member of cabinet would represent blunder of colossal proportions. Government parties have only recently began to regain ground lost to HDZ and seriously tilt balance in their favour.

Granić, because of his low-profile, is hardly the most popular of Račan's cabinet members. He isn't even the most efficient - this title goes to housing minister Radimir Čačić (Radimir Cacic) – but he is widely perceived as the warhorse of Račan's government. And, last but not least, he is brother of Mate Granić (Mate Granic), former foreign minister in Tudjman's government and leader of DC (Democratic Centre), small right-wing party of "moderate" Tudjmanists.

DC, which can't realistically expect to pass 5 % threshold necessary for Sabor representation, is widely expected to join grand "centre right" coalition dominated by HDZ. In order to improve its bargaining position during coalition talks, DC has begun discreetly floating names of prominent individuals that would bring their names to election tickets. Those names include war time prime minister Franjo Gregurić (Franjo Greguric) and Zdravko Tomac, estranged chief ideologist of SDP and leader of ultra-nationalist faction within Račan's party. But Goran Granić joining his brother's party would be prime catch. That would signal that the right wing opposition is shoe-in for next election, because Goran Granić always picked winning side during his career – Dražen Budiša's (Drazen Budisa's) nationalist faction while his HSLS party splintered in 1997 and Račan's SDP when Budiša confronted his coalition partner five years later.

And, of course, this statements could be part of pre-election propaganda. By becoming radical critic of certain Western governments, Granić would satisfy two different constituencies – left-wingers who had opposed war in Iraq (cited diplomats and embassies are from "New Europe") and right-wingers who accuse West from equating Croatian generals with war criminals and demanding their extradition to Hague tribunal.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Italian Soccer Renaissance

In last few years Italian soccer clubs used to do very poorly in European competitions – being knocked out long before the finishing stages of Champions League and UEFA Cup. Italians weren't used to that, considering finals, semi-finals and quarterfinals to be their birthright. Some of Italian soccer officials began blaming poor referees, some of them even speculating about UEFA conspiracy against Italian soccer.

Well, this year they won't have to complain. Out of four Champions League semifinalists, three are Italian clubs – Juventus, AC Milan and Inter. That means that the finalist is definitely going to be Italian, and even with such powerful Real Madrid Italians have good chances of having Italian club winning Champions League.

And even UEFA Cup isn't totally beyond their grasp, despite Lazio being in 4-1 deficit after 1st leg of semifinal against Porto.


It seems that the greatest soccer loser of today was Portugal. Two of their teams lost chance for UEFA Cup Final - Porto and Boavista.


Actually, Portugal would have one representative in UEFA Cup final. Porto has qualified after scoreless game in Rome, thanks to its 4-1 victory in 1st leg of semifinal.

Flight Risk - Silenzio Stampa?

Mainstream media has so far chose to ignore "Isabella". This might be explained either by media not taking this whole story seriously or by some sinister conspiracy. If "Isabella's" folks are as powerful as described in her blog, it is enough to imagine them having enough clout to create silenzio stampa.

This article, made few months earlier, gives a little glimpse into life of Liesel Pritzker that doesn't contradict anything we so far saw in "Isabella's" blog.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Diplomatic Incident

Goran Granić (Goran Granic), Croatian deputy prime minister, was hardly the most outspoken of all member of Račan's (Racan's) government. Many accused him of sycophancy and lack of spine (although many still commend his administrative abilities, witnessed during his tenure as Croatian power company during Tudjman years).

All this is going to change, thanks to Iraq.

As some of the readers of this blog know, Račan's government was initially very willing to unconditionally support American war against Iraq. In the last minute, partly due to pressure from France and Germany, partly due to surprisingly massive opposition to war within the country (and across ideological lines), it changed the tune and adopted "Old Europe" position. This caused US Ambassador Lawrence Rossin to use some very un-diplomatic language to express his opinion on Croatian conduct.

The only official to answer him was Granić, and he also used some not very diplomatic language to express his opinion. This earned Granić great deal of sympathy within Croatian public.

According to interview given to Novi List daily, Granić went even further and accused couple of Western diplomats as "unfit for their jobs, ridiculous and making pathetic statements". When confronted about diplomats' identity, he named officials within British Embassy, US Ambassador, Dutch government, few other misinformed diplomats and international organisation representatives".

First reaction from Račan's cabinet said that the Prime Minister would try to verify authenticity of Granić's statements.


While one poor little rich girl flees from her past, another one has a little more difficulty in doing so.

Nevenka Tudjman, Zagreb entrepreneur best known for being daughter of late President Tudjman, has been indicted for various white-collar felonies allegedly committed during her father's reign. The trial was supposed to start last week, but Ms. Tudjman lawyers managed to postpone it by filing request that few justices of Zagreb County Court be removed from any proceedings.

The most interesting thing about that request was the claim that few of those justices used to be members of Communist Party and, as such "they can't be objective enough in any proceedings against the daughter of President Tudjman".

Little Princess forgot that even her father used not only to belong to Communist Party, but also to hold not so minor important positions within Tito's Nomenklatura.

In any case, the request was denied by Supreme Court and the proceedings might continue.

Straight From Hollywood?

It looks like Isabella, the latest star of world blogdom, has been in public spotlight already. According to Agonist, "Flight Risk" is in most likelihood Liesel Pritzker a.k.a. Liesel Matthews, aspiring actress who just happens to be member of Pritzkers, one of the world's wealthiest, most powerful and secretive families – people best known for owning Hyatt hotel chains. Ms. Pritzker has recently been subject of an article in Forbes that had described her quarrel with family over plans to break-up the family business empire into smaller units.

This story, if true, fits perfectly with some of the descriptions in "Flight Risk" blog. And this might explain why the world's most sought female fugitive decided to take such risk of sharing her adventures with the rest of the world. Liesel Pritzker was the star of 1995 remake of an Old Hollywood classic A Little Princess and seven years later appeared in little known 2000 indie film Blast. Last year she appeared on London stage in Neil La Bute's play The Distance From Here.

Now imagine being accustomed to media spotlight and then having to hide your face from the rest of the world. You would be under great internal pressure to do something in order to let the world know that you exist.

Whatever Isabella/Liesel motives for doing it, the result of her actions are more than commendable.


Unfortunately, I'm not in position to judge Liesel Pritzker's acting abilities, since I haven't been able to watch any of her films yet (with exception of brief and not exactly memorable appearance in Wolfgang Petersen's Air Force One).

In A Little Princess she was directed by Mexican director Alfonso Cuáron, best known for last year's "Oscar" nominee Y Tu Mama Tambien, one of the most popular road movies in recent memory. If Ms. Pritzker returns to acting, I hope that two of them would co-operate one day.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Is She For Real?

Following the strange (and sinister) disappearance of Raed, blogosphere is confronted with another great mystery. Isabela V. alias "Flight Risk" – blogger who claims to be young woman on the run from power-wielding father. Genuine or not, her blog makes a good read.

I began speculating who real-life candidates for Isabella might be. So far, the real-life personality whose history resembles Isabella's the most is Mirjana Lučić (Mirjana Lucic), once promising tennis teenager star from Croatia. She used to be coached by her father, man belonging to one of the most powerful West Herzegovina clans – people who controlled business, police and intelligence services in that Croat-populated part of Bosnia. Mirjana (or "Mikica", as she was called) apparently couldn't stand her over-bearing father any more and made spectacular escape to USA, severing all her ties not only with family, but with her country as well. After her flight, she refused to answer questions in Croatian during her press-conferences. Unfortunately, that decision had great impact on her tennis career – she began losing and now is next to non-entity in WTA.

In most likelihood Isabella has very little to do with "Mikica", though. But "Mikica" story shows that stuff described in the blog indeed happens in real life.

Importance of April 22nd

April 22nd is in the rest of the world known as the Earth Day. For me this date has additional meanings – it happens to be birthday of not one, but two persons I care very much for.

It is also the date that might become another in long line of Croatian national holidays. On April 22nd 1990, thirteen years ago, Croatia had its first multi-party democratic elections (at least in recent memory; there were few more-or-less free elections in the last decades of Habsburg rule). The overwhelming winner of those elections was HDZ and its leader Franjo Tudjman, so things, at least in the short term, didn't turn out that good for Croatia; but for the first time in history Croatians had only themselves to blame.

Another Great One Has Passed Away

Moldavian film director Emil Loteanu has died. He is best known for his 1975 musical drama Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven. This loose adaptation of Maxim Gorky's fiction, was immensely popular in Eastern Europe, partly because it defied Brezhnev-era codes of Soviet cinema with its graphic depiction of violence and nudity. The movie left a long impression on me and I still remember some of the songs, although I had heard them decades ago.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Broken Promise

Earlier I said that I wouldn't experiment with blog designs any more. Well, the old design made my experiments with commenting and link updates very difficult. This one is somewhat simpler, so…

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Bravo, Elena!

Who says that pretty blondes can't win tennis tournaments? Unlike her better known compatriot Anna Kournikova, Elena Dementieva has just shown that she has what it takes for that task. She managed to snatch 2:1 win over favoured Lindsay Davenport in the final of Amelia Island WTA tournament.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Sanader Loses His Nerve?

Today's Slobodna Dalmacija tries to give positive spin to the biggest Croatian political story this week – meeting between HDZ leader Ivo Sanader and leaders of three minor right-wing parties. According to Slobodna Dalmacija analysts, this is the first sign that Ivo Sanader isn't completely confident that he would pull off victory on upcoming general elections and thus become prime minister. At least not alone.

Slobodna Dalmacija tries to explain Sanader's new anxieties with the results of last Sunday's elections for Orahovica City Council. For the third time in a row, HDZ has gained votes and maintained its position as the strongest party. This time the result is even sweeter because Orahovica happens to be hometown of President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) and his own party HNS got clobbered at the elections. But HDZ victory is hollow – other right wing parties failed to gain 5% of votes necessary for the seats in City Council, thus enabling SDP and HSS to maintain their majority coalition.

Sanader fears that this might repeat on national level. HDZ could expect between 20 or 30 % of the vote, and this is simply not enough for outright majority. Until late March, HDZ could have hoped for new election law that would raise the bar for small parties, thus making elections into two-party contest between HDZ and SDP. Unfortunately for HDZ, opinion polls showed SDP slipping to 10-15 % territory, and its partners HSS and HNS gaining votes at its expense. If HDZ goes alone, most likely outcome would be HDZ as the strongest party in Sabor, yet forced into opposition by joint forces of SDP, HSS and HNS.

So, Sanader's idea is to create right-wing coalition – HDZ plus minor players that would never enter Sabor by themselves. That includes three parties – HSLS, which used to be part of "reformist" coalition in 2000 only to become ultra-Tudjmanist in last few years; DC – former faction of HDZ "moderates" led by Tudjman's minister Mate Granić (Mate Granic); HSP – far right party of former armed blackshirts that went surprisingly mainstream between 2000 and now. With those parties Sanader hopes to gain extra 15% of the votes that would allow comfortable majority in Sabor.

However, Račan (Racan) can counter that with the use of his own minor players – LS, Libra and various regionalist parties. Of course, that probably wouldn't be enough for SDP to get within 20% vote territory, but it could complicate things for HDZ in some areas.

Despite optimism of Slobodna Dalmacija (which is pro-government these days), Sanader and HDZ still have good chances for electoral victory. But those chances are much weaker now than they used to be only few months ago – partly because of Sanader's pro-American stance in the Iraq affair and partly because he had overestimated SDP willingness to hand him victory in the silver plate.

Friday, April 18, 2003

No More Letter of Gotham

Diane E. of Letter of Gotham fame has decided to quit her blogging activities. I hope that she would reconsider or start new blog in near future. Regardless of what you think of her views, her posts were quite interesting and often thought-provoking.

Freudian and Other Slips

Yesterday I wrote review for Personal Best, 1982 sport drama directed by Robert Towne. This reminded me of a time when this film had been aired on Croatian state television in June 2000.

In that time, Croatian state television still operated under rules introduced in Autumn 1999, few months before the elections that would remove HDZ from power. Tudjmanist administration tried to secure the support of Catholic Church by cleaning the act of state television and puting "objectionable" content (sex and nudity) in late night time slots. Afternoons were supposed to be family friendly, with 14:00 time slot being reserved for American television films – the only films you could be certain of not having nudity, sex or four-letter words.

HDZ lost elections, but the scheme continued for extra few months (and in some form continues today, since current state television editor-in-chief is devout Catholic).

But in June 2000 Croatian housewives, little children and the rest of national audience had their afternoon delight in form of Personal Best. Television's executive probably brushed through the brief plot description of this film, blissfully unaware why this film had been ground-breaking some two decades ago. He probably thought that Personal Best is nothing more than American TV-movie.

The audience thought that too. And probably was very surprised to find characters using four-letter words, than plenty of full frontal nudity and, last but not least, explicit lesbian action.

Interestingly enough, Personal Best being in afternoon time slot wasn't the only slip by Croatian state television. Those who like to compare dialogue with translation in subtitles could also notice something interesting. One of the characters in the film is Jodie "Peach" Anderson. But the translator referred to her as "Pam Anderson", which is interesting, since character in question happened to be black athlete with anatomic details that hardly resembled Baywatch star.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Experimental Addition

It seems that the comments service works. But I can't know for sure unless I receive some feedback.

Quashing Freedom in Order to Save It?

Reporters Without Frontiers criticise Serbian government for misusing its powers given by the state of emergency. Couple of Serbian newspapers and radio-stations were put out of business for reporting about state of emergency without using government sources.

Of course, anyone who thinks that some elements of Serbian government won't use opportunity to silence unpleasant critics is incredibly naďve. Živković (Zivkovic) and his Democratic Party has already used anti-mafia investigation to make arrests among people close to its most dangerous rival, former Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica (Vojislav Kostunica) and his party DSS.

Našice (Nasice) Coup

Berislav Rončević (Berislav Roncevic) of HDZ became new mayor of Našice (Nasice), town in Slavonia. He owes his office to two members of City Council who had defected from governing coalition (SDP – HSS – Party of Croatian Flatlands – HNS – LS – HSU) and thus brought sufficient majority to HDZ and its new partner HSLS.

This new development is going to represent huge boost for HDZ, party somewhat discouraged with polls that indicate that their return to power after autumn general elections is anything but a done deal.

Dubya – Evil Incarnate?

Reading the blog by Charlie Stross, I noticed an interesting article that tried to speculate whether the current President of USA is a psychopath or not. The article was interesting and thought-provoking, but I still think that the author had too many axes to grind. If someone wants to connect George W. Bush with pathological behaviour, this would make much more convincing case.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Death in Nazorova 57

Yesterday around 12:30 there was a fire in the house at Nazorova Street in Zagreb. Fire started in the room of 82-year old Marija Eker-Manolić (Marija Eker-Manolic), owner of the house. Despite her grandson's attempts to rescue her from the inferno, she died quickly afterwards (it is unclear whether from 3rd degree burns or carbon-monoxide poisoining). The cause of fire was apparently unextinguished cigarette; Ms. Eker-Manolić, despite her age and fact that she couldn't move without somebody else's assistance, kept her chain-smoking habit.

This tragedy quickly became top news in Croatia, because the victim was the wife of Josip Manolić (Josip Manolic), man who used to be the second most powerful man in Tudjman's Croatia and one of the closest associates of late Croatian President. Manolić, WW2 Partisan and former Colonel in Tito's secret police, briefly served as prime minister and later became overall chief of various intelligence and security agencies that had multiplied under Tudjman's rule. Never far from public spotlight, Manolić was also known as a champion of the moderate faction within Tudjman's HDZ party. His faction, however, began to lose influence to the extreme right-wingers led by defence minister Gojko Šušak (Gojko Susak) and in 1994 Manolić, just like current president Mesić (Mesic) was marginalised within HDZ. His defection from HDZ and unsuccessful attempt to deprive Tudjman of parliamentary majorities branded him as the ultimate traitor within ranks of Tudjmanist true-believers.

However, the real reason why Manolić is hated by Croatian right-wingers with such passion could be found in his secret police's role of uncovering details about Croatian army and police atrocities towards local Serbs during 1991-95 war. Manolić collected this information, but never did anything officially about it. There is suspicion, however, that he had been leaking some of those information to independent media in 1990 (using Mesić as his conduit) and later co-operated with ICTY. Defendants in Norac trial often mentioned Manolić as the main "fabricator" of the evidence against them.

In most likelihood the death in Nazorova 57 is nothing more than tragic accident. Yet, it is almost certain that conspiracy theories are going to pop up and that some people would connect this tragedy with some sort of payback for Manolić's role in putting "Croatian heroes" behind bars.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

NBA Is Back

NBA is going to return to Croatian state television. Viewers will have opportunity to watch live play-off games of Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic. Those teams have Croatian players and that, together with KK Zadar's winning Goodyear League, silenced all critics who unofficially branded basketball as "Chetnik" (Serb) sport.

Some Thoughts About Iraq

Pan-Arab secular nationalism isn't the only ideology to suffer serious blow during the recent events. Cause of libertarianism was hardly helped with the looting that went on Baghdad.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Big Game

It seems that Hajduk Split players weren't particularly impressed with their former management woes. In Croatian Football (Soccer) Championship game with Dinamo Zagreb they scored important 1-0 victory and thus kept their championship hopes afloat (Dinamo still holds 4 points lead over Hajduk).

Game, played in Zagreb, had better football than usual and rival soccer fan groups, infamous for their stadium violence, were relatively quiet. Fights erupted after the game, with one tram wrecked and 25 people arrested.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Eppur Si Muove ?

Hajduk Split, soccer club which is among the most powerful organisations in the country, is apparently not above the law any more. At least this is the impression given by County Attorney's office and its indictment against ten ex-managers of Hajduk. They are accused for various financial felonies like tax evasion and embezzlement. The former charge is especially interesting development, since Hajduk, like any other major soccer club in Croatia, had accumulated quite a hefty tax debt over the years. Fulfilling those obligations, however, was never an issue, since soccer club enjoy strong support from politicians, squeamish about offending small armies of soccer fans.

Indictment against Hajduk ex-managers is also interesting because the club is known as HDZ stronghold. Among indicted are some well-known local HDZ politician, including Nadan Vidošević (Nadan Vidosevic), former economy minister in Tudjman's government.

This looks like a good development. Nobody in Croatia is above the law, or at least the government tries to give such impression.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Two Sides of Srebrenica

Former Yugoslav wars were never simple. Not even in the case of Srebrenica, former Muslim enclave in Eastern Bosnia, place of the worst post-WW2 massacre in Europe. For world's public this it looked like a simple case of unarmed and defenceless Muslims desperately seeking shelter from UN peacekeepers only to be delivered to heavily-armed Serbs and brutally slaughtered.

Yet it seems that Serbs weren't the only side to commit atrocities in Srebrenica. Last night Naser Orić (Naser Oric), wartime commander of Bosnian Muslim garrison in that town, was arrested by SFOR troops and brought to Hague. He had been secretly indicted for war crimes committed against Bosnian Serb civilians in and around Srebrenica – murders, torture and even mini-version of Srebrenica massacre that had occurred after Bosnian Muslim raid on Serb village.
Orić's name used to be mentioned in speculations about ICTY indictments, but few believed that Bosnian Muslim commander would end up in Hague cell before his better known Serb counterpart General Ratko Mladić (Ratko Mladic).

Underground Holidays

Croatia is probably the only country that has three holidays that could be called Indpenedence Day. Only one of them is official – October 8th – and it marks the anniversary of Sabor's 1991 decision to end all constitutional links with former Yugoslavia. Sabor had actually proclaimed Croatian independence on June 25th 1991, but under pressure from EU diplomats there was three-month moratorium on all effects of such declaration. October 8th 1991 was therefore the day when Croatia formally became independent, and October 8th makes most sense as Croatian Independence Day. Yet such holiday was introduced only few years ago, to the utmost horror of Croatian right-wingers and neo-Tudjmanists.

Croatian right-wingers tend to celebrate their own Independence Day in the form of May 30th – date which was known as Statehood Day in Tudjman's era. It marked the anniversary of May 30th 1990 – the day when Tudjman formally took power from Communist authorities following first democratic elections. Although Croatia didn't win independence on that day nor became state ( Croatian statehood dates back to 1944, when ZAVNOH, Communist-dominated assembly, proclaimed Federal State of Croatia). Statehood Day was celebrated as public holiday in Tudjman's era only to be replaced by Račan's (Racan's) version. New Statehood Day is June 25th 1991, which marks the anniversary of aforementioned first declaration of independence. However, Croatian right-wingers see this as travesty and many HDZ leaders have vowed to re-establish May 30th after next elections.

Yet, May 30th as Statehood Day is increasingly threatened by another date championed by Croatian right wing. On April 10th 1941, following the entry of German panzers in Zagreb, Independent State of Croatia was proclaimed. For decades under Communist rule many Croatian nationalist adopted their day as their own underground holiday, choosing to ignore fascism, holocaust, genocide, civil war and other unpleasantness associated with that puppet state. Under Tudjman, former Partisan, this day was never publicly celebrated. But collapse of HDZ and radicalisation of Croatian right wing under Račan's (Racan's) government led to renaissance of April 10th as alternative Indepenedence Day.

Last night in Zagreb, according to media reports, some 300 people were seen during very public celebration of April 10th in "Millennium" club. Most of them were very young and that is a bad sign. New generations of Croatian right-wingers don't seem to take Tudjman as their role model and embrace Ante Pavelić (Ante Pavelic) and his Ustasha regime instead.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

When People Forget About Rain

This day in Split was rainy. It was the first rain after almost a month of draught. This is good news for Croatian power company, because higher water levels would ensure constant supply of power from hydro plants and prevent possible power reduction.

On the other hand, drivers seems to forgot what rain might to do roads. Police has reported 36 traffic accidents in Split-Dalmatian County. Luckily, only two people suffered minor injuries.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Still No News From Raed

I must admit I'm getting more worried about Raed. You could expect to hear something from him on a day like this one.

The Date Is Set

Next general elections are going to be held in middle of October. This announcement came roughly a week after Sabor passing some amendments to current electoral law. Although it might seem that this represents the continuation of Tudjman era legislative practices towards elections – changing electoral laws before each elections – those changes are minor and concern only the numbers of seats reserved for various ethnic minorities and Croat diaspora. Sabor was mandated by latest Constitutional Act to pass those amendments until to March 31st 2003.

That opportunity was, however, almost misused by SDP, which tried to reduce the number of representatives in Sabor in each electoral district. The reduced number would in practicality raise the percentage of vote necessary for single party to have its representatives in Sabor from today's 6% to 8 %. The idea was to significantly reduce possibility of smaller parties – namely Račan's (Racan's) coalition partners – entering Sabor. That would lead to SDP and HDZ being only major parties in Sabor and establishment of two-party system. HDZ was, naturally, also interested in such idea and there was speculation about their representatives voting for such proposal in de facto coalition with SDP. However, results of IRI and few other polls showed that HNS and HSS took some of SDP voters and got very close to 10% of the general vote. Only few days before the vote, SDP quietly dropped the initiative.

That doesn't mean that proponents of multi-party democracy should be particularly happy about this. Current electoral law is probably the worst of all ever passed since 1990. Country is gerrymandered in order to group HDZ voters together, sometimes with ridiculous results – people in Zagreb suburbs must vote in the same electoral district as people on Adriatic Coast etc. It is almost certain that HDZ is going to be over-represented following the next elections.

Vesna Pusić (Vesna Pusic), leader of HNS, calls this a triumph of democracy, because for her this is the first instance that the people would elect new Sabor in the same manner that they have done previously. Pusić is wrong, because first such instance occurred in 1997 during elections for House of Counties (upper house of Sabor, abolished by post-Tudjman Constitution amendments).

Tuesday, April 08, 2003


I'm experimenting with comments, so if you see this webpage acting funny, now you have an explanation.

BTW, if you have any suggestion how to set up Comments sections, it would be appreciated.


I've just found that Andrew Reeves, former US Marine and SHWI participant, also has his own blog. It would be added into Links section ASAP.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Family Business

Croatian police managed to crack the case of paintings stolen from Banski Dvori, the heart of national government.

Three people were arrested, one of them being 29-year old Dario Petrov, waiter employed in Banski Dvori. He stole the paintings and gave them to his 31-year old wife Lena Koščec-Petrov (Lena Koscec-Petrov), the granddaughter of Mencije Clement Crnčić (Mencije Clement Crncic), one of the painters whose work had been stolen. She later sold them to various buyers in Zagreb, using her family background as guarantee for the legality of the deal.

At first it was speculated that the stealing was a protest against government's refusal to return property during Communist era (and that includes valuable paintings like Crnčić's), but the investigation instead revealed another scandal.

It turns out that Petrovs (Dario, Lena and Dario's 24 year-old brother Vladan) did it for more prosaic purposes. Dario and Lena were heroin addicts and needed money to support their habit. They were registered as drug addicts by authorities and received methadone therapy.

So, in Croatia heroin addicts can pass highest security clearances and work within the very heart of national government and work in close proximity to government's top officials. And in the same time Račan's (Racan's) government is still undecided on the issue of obligatory drug testing.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

A Bridge Too Far

KK Zadar is basketball club with rich history, but last night's win over Maccabi Tel Aviv gave them their first international trophy. City of Zadar is supposed to organise great public celebration at noon and give the heroes' welcome to Goodyear League champions. But some KK Zadar couldn't wait that long to greet their heroes. They awaited bus with KK Zadar players at Maslenica Bridge on 04:00 CET.

Considering the weather conditions, the zeal of those fans could be compared only with those of suicide bombers. For last few days Adriatic Coast of Croatia is currently experiencing bura – strong northeastern wind. I was recently outside and it wasn't too pleasant experience. I could only imagine what all those fans on Maslenica Bridge had to endure.

Maslenica Bridge is in many ways symbol of Tudjman's Croatia – its triumphs and tragedies. The old Maslenica Bridge, that connected Maritime Croatia and Dalmatia, was occupied by JNA and blown up during 1991 War. Two years later Croatian Army conducted offensive with intention to liberate the area. Immediately after that began the work on the new bridge. Dr. Jure Radić (Jure Radic), Tudjman's housing minister, was in charge of that operation.

After few years, the bridge was finished. However, it turned out that the bridge was not on its old location. It was built further to the west, making it longer. It soon became apparent that the reason for that was price tag; construction company was connected to Radić. Maslenica Bridge thus became the most visible symbol of corruption in Tudjman's Croatia.

It was also symbol of gross incompetence. Radić, construction expert, ignored people's advice about new location being too sensitive to winds. And winds in Maslenica are much stronger than at the rest of Adriatic Coast. That resulted in Maslenica Bridge being closed for large part of the year, often creating insurmountable transportation problems in the middle of tourist season.

I can only imagine what awaits future generations of Iraqis.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Victory of Basketball

This year seems to be very good for Croatian athletes.

This evening in Ljubljana KK Zadar has just defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv and thus became first Croatian club to become Goodyear League champion. Sceptics who questioned the whole concept of Croatian clubs participating in this competition (often branded "Neo-Yugoslav League" by rabid nationalists) are going to be silenced, at least for now.

Victory of KK Zadar is even more important, because the team was viewed as underdog. First against Red Star Belgrade, then against Maccabi, this team proved that Croatia can still produce some basketball talents.

How to Lose Seat in Parliament

SDP is going to lose one of their Sabor seats in rather bizarre manner.
It is not uncommon for political parties in Croatia to lose seats between elections. During Tudjman years it was natural for members of Sabor to change their affiliations, even those who used to be elected on the basis of proportional representation rather than as individual candidates in single districts.

But proportional representation seems to be the reason why SDP is going to lose its Sabor seat. To make things more interesting, they are going to lose because they fared very well in certain area. In 2000 Zlatko Šešelj (Zlatko Seselj) was replacement candidate on joint SDP-HSLS-PGS list in VIII Electoral District. The District is known for its strong SDP sympathies and the list won there by landslide. Mato Crkvenac, who was 10th on the list (the district had 14 seats for grabs) later became finance minister and Šešelj replaced him in Sabor.

Through time Šešelj, widely respected as independent-minded intellectual and the principal of first private high school in Zagreb, became so disgusted with the government's education policy. His falling out with SDP escalated and few days ago he announced his resignation from Sabor.

That puts SDP in position to lose seat. If Šešelj goes, his next replacement is going to be member of HSLS. In the meantime, SDP and HSLS broke their coalition partnership and Šešelj resignation threatens to give extra seat to opposition. SDP leaders reportedly are trying to convince Šešelj to change his mind. Loss of one seat wouldn't make much difference in Sabor, but such event would represent huge blow for SDP some six months before elections.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Basketball Wars

Today's semi-final game of Goodyear Basketball League between KK Zadar (Croatia) and Red Star Belgrade (Serbia-Montenegro) has been almost abandoned due to crowd trouble. The game was held on presumably neutral venue in Ljubljana, Slovenia. However, presence of large contingents of Serbian and Croatian fans in Tivoli Sports Centre created an atmosphere reminiscent of former Yugoslav sports stadiums immediately before 1991 break-up. But the fight between Serbs and Croats was mostly verbal, at least until the moment when Red Star fans – notorious "Delije", best known as Arkan's recruiting base – began throwing pyrotechnic devices in the field, hitting KK Zadar assistant coach in the process.

Slovenian police and security made almost fatal error when they allowed group of Serbian fans to enter the hall in half-time. Many of them were not checked for pyrotechnics devices. In 2nd half the game was interrupted and it took almost hour and half of unpleasant standoff before the Serbian fans gave up their ground and left the hall.

Their act, however, led to Red Star losing the won game. The incident has happened when Red Star was on its way to increase huge lead over KK Zadar. But the long pause allowed KK Zadar players and coaching staff to design new strategy and win the game in the last minutes.

Of course, following this ugly incidents, there would be many calls for Croatian clubs to leave Goodyear League. This would be foolish, because the alternative to this competition would be decay of Croatian basketball. Besides, Maccabi Tel Aviv doesn't mind playing in this league, despite being forced to play outside home and in front increasingly anti-Semitic audiences.

I hope that KK Zadar wins the final game. That would silence anti-Goodyear League forces, at least for time being.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Missing Paintings

If Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) wants to evade dining with Đinđić (Djindjic) he would have to improve his security. Aspiring assassins are definitely going to be encouraged with today's news about four valuable paintings being stolen from Banski Dvori – the very heart of Croatian government and supposedly the safest building in the country.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Where is Raed?

It has been more than a week since we last heard from Salam Pax. Considering the circumstances in which he writes, there are many explanations for such pause, but none of them very pleasant.

Ironically, those same circumstances made him an international Internet star. Even Feral Tribune, magazine that couldn't care less about net.personalities or bloggers, mentioned him in their article about war in Iraq.

Bad Day for World Cinema

Today the world of cinema lost two great ones. Leslie Cheung, Cantonese movie and pop star best known for his role in A Better Tomorrow, has apparently committed suicide. On the other side of the world, Michael Jeter, one of most recognisable character actors of present-day American cinema, has died of natural causes (although he was HIV-positive for many years).