Saturday, May 31, 2003

No News From Isabella

It is 15 days since Isabella a.k.a. Flight Risk made last entry in her blog. Her long absence would undoubtedly fuel speculations both among sceptics and believers.

I just hope that this mistery, just like Salam Pax', would have something of a happy end.

Most Wanted and Most Unwelcome

General Ante Gotovina, Croatia's most wanted fugitive, is among the most unwelcome people, at least when USA is concerned. His name appeared on US administration's list of people accused of war crimes or sabotaging peace process in Southeastern Europe. Gotovina would be denied access to USA and all of his assets in USA would be frozen.

Second Croatian to appear on the list is Ljubo Ćesić-Rojs (Ljubo Cecis-Rojs), flamboyant member of Sabor and former Tudjman's general whose extremist views have alienated even his fellow MSes from HDZ. In an interview for today's Slobodna Dalmacija Ćesić-Rojs has expressed dismay over US government's decision to make him persona non grata, especially after his whole-hearted support for American invasion of Iraq, support that included even his offer to volunteer in military operations.

Secular Stipe

President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) usually leads. This time he followed. He had to wait for SDP to rediscover itself as defender of secular values of Croatia before he had dared to express disagreement with Catholic Church's initiative for shops to be closed on Sunday.

In the meantime, hardly anyone was surprised with the Church initiative being the reason for just another among many rifts between main coalition partners –HSS and SDP. Rural and conservative HSS had, just as it had been widely expected, supported the initiative, while SDP had rejected it head on.

10 Years of Feral Tribune

Feral Tribune actually exists for almost 19 years. It first appeared in 1984 as a satirical supplement of Slobodna Dalmacija. In 1993 it appeared for the first time as magazine of its own. Tenth year anniversary was good opportunity for Feral to remind its increasingly disenchanted readers of its historical importance. Naturally, Franjo Tudjman, their arch-nemesis and favourite target, appeared on the front page of the 10th anniversary issue. This is hardly surprising, but it also brings something Feral desperately tried to deny – part of Feral Tribune died with Tudjman.

Friday, May 30, 2003

Once Is Not Enough

Bill Clinton apparently thinks so. Although I have my own reservations towards possibility of his picture reappearing in US government offices, some of his arguments make sense.

Tragedy in Varaždin (Varazdin)

Not long after losing Andjelko Herjavec, powerful local tycoon and charismatic chairman of NK Varteks soccer club, city of Varaždin has lost three of its soccer players in car accident.

Butlerian Jihad in Sabor Continues

Thursday's long-awaited first application of electronic voting system in Sabor ended as miserable failure. The system crashed, which led Speaker Zlatko Tomčić (Zlatko Tomcic) to say few uncharacteristically harsh words about technical staff and Siemens before announcing that the voting would have to take place by hand.

A day later it turned out that the reason for collapse of electronic system could be found in one man – MS who had forgotten to replace his old electronic key with a new one. He apparently tried to use it during the first vote and that led to collapse of an entire system. So, it took a single man to paralyse 300.000 € worth of equipment. This would provide inspiration for all future technophobes in Sabor.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

A Day of Sports

Last night I had taken few naps early on in order to wake up in 3:00 and be able to watch NBA Western Conference Final Game 5 between San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks. It was worth the wait – both for the game to begin and for Croatian state television to actually start airing NBA games live. I have watched many basketball games in the past, but rarely do I remember teams beating 19 point deficit, especially such underdogs as Mavericks in this case.

Then came the morning and I had opportunity to watch some Roland Garros tennis. Thanks to Eurosport scheduling and my own schedule, I was spared of watching Daniela Hantuchova, my favourite contender for ladies title, losing to Ashley Harkleroad.

Late in the afternoon I came home to watch the last stages of an epic battle between Croatian Mario Ančić (Mario Ancic) and Andre Agassi. The American veteran had managed to use his experience and compensate two set deficit. Of course, Ančić's defeat means that there would be much Roland Gaross tennis on Croatian state television. It was altogether bad day for Croatian representatives – Ančić was knocked off together with young Jelena Kostanić (Jelena Kostanic) and Iva Majoli, winner of 1997 French Open.

I watched only segments of Championship League final between Juventus and AC Milan. 90 minutes without goals. Then extra time without goals. And finally, penalty shooters having 50 % efficiency. Games like these are the reason why Americans can't understand global popularity of soccer.

Nick Barlow, on the other hand, had experienced much more joy on Monday when Wolverhampton won the next season's spot in English Premiership. 3-0 and penalty being missed, that's the kind of soccer that was supposed to be played in Manchester few hours ago.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

New Era of Sabor… NOT!

Tuesday was the day when Sabor was supposed to put its electronic voting system to its first test. However, MSes were satisfied with merely changing its standing orders, making them effective on Thursday. And those MSes who can't overcome their technophobia could comfort themselves with the new standing orders allowing vote tallying by hand whenever a parliamentary party demands it.

This little article of new standing orders is going to be abused a lot, since many parties would never like to watch electronic validation of their representatives being absent during crucial votes. Or merely having their votes being part of official records.

Only few weeks ago Sanader lambasted President Mesić (Mesic) for his statement in which he had accused HDZ of being against EU candidacy legislation during the latest vote. Mesić simply observed that most of HDZ representatives were against the legislation during the debate and later absent during the actual vote. With official records at hand, many parties and their leaders would look even more idiotic and irresponsible than they actually are.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Another Man's Hero…

In this, rather interesting Independent article about Colonel Tim Collins, British war hero turned war crime suspect, another British colonel, Bob Stewart, is described as "Balkans hero".

I must say that I have some difficulties in picturing Stewart as "hero". Perhaps he did the best he could, perhaps his hands were tied with inadequate rules of engagement, but the fact remains that some of the worst atrocities of Muslim-Croat war in Central Bosnia 1993 happened in the are under his nominal control. And the fact remains that he didn't do anything to prevent the fighting nor massacres. Only thing was television appeal to waring sides to "stop atrocities", told with shaky voice, almost with tears in the eyes – the best possible embodiment of Western powerlessness in stopping Bosnian horrors. Perhaps he had indeed done some heroic things in Bosnia, but that story haven't been properly told. Until that happens I would take anything Stewart and Independent tell about Collins with huge grain of salt.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Youth Day

May 25th used to be known as Youth Day in former Yugoslavia.

According to some documents, Tito was born on May 25th 1892. Later historians found that Tito was indeed born on May 7th, but he got accustomed to celebrate birthday on May 25th. In post-1945 Yugoslavia this celebration took form of national semi-holiday. The climax of celebration was great evening rally on JNA Stadium in Belgrade (these days used by FK Partizan soccer club), in many ways resembling Olympic Games festivities. At the end Tito, sitting in his VIP lounge, would receive baton that was carried by young Yugoslavs throughout the former federation for the past two months. The Youth Day ceremony was kept few years after Tito's death only to be dropped in late 1980s, after serious objections of Slovenian Socialist Youth.

The violent end of Tito's state, emergence of new beloved leaders and establishment's dislike for everything that reminded people of controversial post-WW2 past meant that Youth Day got officially erased from history books. However, for past few years Youth Day went through some sort of renaissance in Kumrovec, Croatia, Tito's birthplace. This quiet little town in Hrvatsko Zagorje area became spot for pilgrims all over ex-Yugoslavia who gather on May 25th and remember good old times and "Dearest son of all our nations" who made them possible.

This year some 6,000 pilgrims appeared and, interestingly enough, many of them were quite young, not even being born during Tito's era. Biggest number of pilgrims came from Slovenia and Istria, but some Bosnians suggested that some sort of baton ceremony be reintroduced in next few years.

Eurovision Conspiracies?

While the governments of France, Germany, Russia and the rest of Europe try to mend fences and pretend that the whole fuss over Iraq never happened, the people in the street are somewhat slow in adapting to new realities. At least this is impression given by this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

Juries and voting public in many European countries used this opportunity to express sympathy for Turkey and its brave anti-war stance, thus allowing Turkish pop star Sertab Erener to enter history as that nation's first artist ever to win this spectacular event.

On the other hand, Jemini, pop duo representing UK, nation whose government led pro-war camp in Europe, got exactly zero points, leading to worst result in the history of British participation at Eurovision song contest. BBC commentator Terry Wogan already pointed fingers towards post-Iraq backlash as the major reason why Britain fared so poorly.

On a related, unexpected failure of T.a.t.u. (which ended third, behind Sertab and Belgian New Agers) shows what happens when performers don't live up to hype. Whether they were led by politics or usual sectarian/regional criteria (Cyprus giving maximum points to Greece and vice versa; Norway awarding Sweden; Croatia/Bosnia etc.), European voters and juries showed some good class. There is still hope for Western civilisation.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

High Positions and Lack of Class

Sabor has just given the annual awards for promotion of democratic values. One of the recipients is not problematic – GONG, non-governmental organisation specialised in monitoring of elections. However, the other two recipients are, since they happen to be members of the very same body that awarded them – Sabor.

The first one is Vlatko Pavletić (Vlatko Pavletic), last of Tudjman's Sabor speakers, man who acted as President in the period between Tudjman's death and 2000 elections. Sabor members obviously think that he did incredibly good job by simply following Constitution and allowing them to get to their beloved seats without having to resort to revolutionary methods.

Another is Bolta Jalšovec (Bolta Jalsovec), Sabor veteran and the only man in Croatian Parliament with steady job since the days of Communism. Although never a member of Račan's (Racan's) party, he had in Communist-era Sabor, was elected in 1990 and in 1992 managed to keep his seat as a member of Budiša's (Budisa's) HSLS. Lately he found personal sympathies for the losing side in WW2 and became prominent figure on Bleiburg memorials, during which he had publicly lauded Pavelić's (Pavelic's) soldiers as creators of modern Croatian state.

Needless to say, only two MSes voted against them.

Croatian right wing should be quite content with the choice of recipient, but even more delighted with those who lost. The biggest loser is President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) who was nominated only to lose because MSes from governing coalition decided not to back him.

Well, if this Sabor considers itself, especially its right-wing part, as the country's greater promoter of democratic values, it only follows Tudjman's path. Late President in 1990, only couple of months after coming to power, proclaimed Croatia to be "the most democratic nation in the world". Needless to say, ten years later Croatian voters disagreed. I just hope that they wouldn't need that much time to express their disagreements with this bunch.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Self-Proclaimed Terrorists

Few terrorists would ever admit that they are terrorists. People behind ITA – Istarska Teroristička Akcija (Istrian Terrorist Action) – are exception. Flyers claiming to be made by that organisation have appeared in Pula, capital of Istrian County. Those flyers contain lists of hundred names, all belonging prominent Istrian politicians, judges, businessmen and other public figures. According to the flyers, people from the list belong to "scum" and are connected with "Albanian-Muslim-Serb underworld that poisons children with drugs" and "Bosnian underworld that dominates construction business". ITA claims that each of the people from the list is going to be subjected to various form of punishment, ranging from beating, banishment from Istria to death.

Ivan Jakovčić (Ivan Jakovcic), county governor and leader of regionalist party IDS (former ally of current governing coalition) is on the top of the list, being sentenced to death. Jakovčić commented that list for the public and said that he wasn't impressed since those threats were nothing new. "Similar threats were made in the past, but this time, unlike during Tudjman days, police is willing to investigate them".

Wife-Beating Ambassadors?

Life imitates art.

In Brian de Palma's Femme Fatale Rebecca Romijn-Stamos plays wife of an American ambassador in Paris. During the movie wife claims that she had been systematically abused by her husband.

Similar story was published in last issue of Nacional. Magali Boers, wife of Ljubomir Čurčić (Ljubomir Curcic), former Croatian ambassador to Belgium, has recently taken shelter in Autonomous Women's House in Zagreb, started divorce proceedings and gave tell-all interview in which she accused her soon-to-be-ex-husband of wife beating.

Čurčić immediately answerd by giving interview to Večernji List (Vecernji List) and accusing wife of being certified lunatic and member of "Opus Dei".

Fox Comes To Croatia

What was until now only a speculation is now a reality. News Corp wants to get HRT3, soon-to-be privatised government-owned television channel. Advertisement in today's Slobodna Dalmacija claims that News Corp in this project is partnered with Hrvatski Telekom, country's fixed-line and mobile phone operator (controlled by Deutsche Telekomm and affectionately called Hitlerkomm on Croatian Usenet newsgroups), and Tvornica duhana Rovinj, Croatia's prime tobacco company.

So, HRT 3 is supposed to be controlled by alliance made of Right-Wing Media, Germans and Big Tobacco.

In any case, Croatian right-wingers need much better media outlet than poor old Nova TV. Today's Slobodna Dalmacija published an article that gloats over fiasco of that TV station's news programme – disastrous ratings, low salaries for reporters and general management's increasing displeasure with Tudjman's Young Turks who had been mistaken for genuine star reporters.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

So, It Is Porto

Last time they won UEFA Cup, they were run by Tomislav Ivić (Tomislav Ivic), native of Split.

War Crimes Again

One of British most recent war heroes is being formally investigated for war crimes. Is it only my impression that the chances for similar treatment of US serviceman or servicewoman has the chances in territory between slim and nil?

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Future of R-rated Films in Hollywood

San Francisco Chronicle published an article that claims that the commercial triumph of Matrix Reloaded means the new era of R-rated films. I wish this was the case, because Hollywood blockbusters today look cleaner, more puritanical and sterile than they used to be some twenty years ago. You would have to look a plenty of Hollywood films to find more than one four-letter word, a drop of blood or, God forbid, woman's nipple. But success of Matrix Reloaded hardly means that you would see such "problematic" contents in Hollywood films any time soon. According to the article:

Also, "Reloaded" is a tame for an R film. The sex is hardly overt, and despite huge explosions and constant gunfire, barely a drop of blood is spilled. Although the martial arts battles go on and on, combatants are likely to finish and -- like Agent Smith -- straighten their tie, roll their shoulders and walk away, apparently unscathed.

"I've seen PG-13 films that could have been R," Dergarabedian says. "This isn't 'Real Cancun.' This could easily have been PG-13."
n fact, it doesn't appear that there was much of an effort to earn a PG-13 rating.

"The R rating may have given it the aura of an edge," Dergarabedian says. "It may have made it cool for the teens."

This just proves the point I have made in recent movie-related discussion in SHWI. Today's R-rated movies have the content equivalent to PG-rated films of two decades ago. And if current trends continue, Hollywood blockbusters in twenty years, regardless whether they are rated PG, PG-13, R or NC-17, would resemble 1950s network television.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Tough Decisions Ahead

When Račan (Racan) has to go to Presidential Palace and meet his arch-nemesis Mesić (Mesic) Croatia is usually confronted with really big problems. Latest of them is US government's request that Croatia, just like Bosnia, signs treaty that would protect US citizens on Croatian soil from being arrested and extradited to International Criminal Court. The deadline for Croatian government to decide is July 1st.

On the very same day pro-government daily Slobodna Dalmacija has published an article which claimed that HDZ leader Ivo Sanader had informed Americans of his willingness to sign such or similar treaty when he becomes Croatia's next prime minister. According to article, Sanader did it very discreetly, which makes sense, considering strong anti-American feelings in Croatia after the war in Iraq. Furthermore, his willingness to keep Americans from being prosecuted for war crimes wouldn't sit very well in Croatian public, at least not without some kind of reciprocity. Until now, US government has very publicly demanded that Croatia, just like Serbia and any other ex-YU nation, co-operate with Hague Tribunal, even when it meant sending its top generals and war heroes to Scheveningen dungeons. For USA to demand that from little Balkan countries while refusing to do the same represents the policy beyond the limits of good taste. Croatian politicians who publicly accept such American stand risk being viewed as American puppets.

On the other hand, Sanader and other right-wingers hope that USA would reward Croatian co-operative stand with something more than 19 million US$ of military aid (mostly second-rate equipment). USA would, in exchange for Croatian non-cooperation with ICC, pull the plug out of Hague Tribunal and thus prevent Croatian generals and each of 1991-95 war veteran from having to worry about possible war crimes indictments. That explains why some rabid Croatian right-wingers, even those who had burned US flags in front of American embassy in Zagreb few years ago, supported American attack on Iraq with such enthusiasm.

Croatian government, on the other hand, awaits what EU would say. With this year's tourist season being wrecked by Iraq War, governing coalition's hopes for victory in upcoming elections lie in Sanader making major mistake (which he did in case of Iraq) and EU giving impression of admitting Croatia during Račan's (Racan's) second term in office. And since it takes only one EU vote to block Croatia's admission, Račan's (Racan's) only hope is in "Old" and "New Europe" finding some compromise on the issue and thus saving Račan (Racan) from something he hates the most – making far-reaching and tough decisions.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Sacramento Lost

Sacramento Kings' loss in semi-final of NBA playoffs might prove to be a gain for Croatian basketball fans. Croatian state television has all but ignored NBA, fearing that the sight of Serb basketball players becoming American champions could be too damaging to the over-sensitive eyes of Croatian chauvinists.

So, the possibility of NBA games being aired on Croatian television more than once a week has slightly increased. Croatian so far watched only four NBA games this year, none of them being deciding, with exception of Friday evening's Sixers loss.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

City of Violence

As expected, Miljenko Mesić (Miljenko Mesic), City of Zagreb's Urban Planning Institute director and member of City's Governing Council, has been removed from his posts by City Assembly. This follows weeks of controversy caused by the incident that took place in Mesić's (Mesic's) office during the meeting with Zagreb's flamboyant entrepreneur Zdravko Mamić (Zdravko Mamic). Apparently dissatisfied with the way Mesić's department's decision not to grant building permit for his 20-storey building in the middle of Croatian capital, Mamić expressed his dissatisfaction in such manner that Mesić, according to his testimony, hadn't got any alternative but to use fists in order to protect himself.

Mesić, who belongs to HNS, third largest party in City Assembly, was quickly expelled from his party. During the vote in City Assembly, Zagreb's right-wing opposition (HDZ, HSP, HIP and HB) defended him as a "brave official who stood up to bullies", but only HB actually voted against his replacement. Other right-wing parties abstained.

This is one thing I don't like about Sim City 4. It doesn't simulate situations like these.

Big and Small Fish

Bosnia-Herzegovina and USA have signed a treaty that prevents Bosnian authorities from arresting and extraditing American citizens to International Criminal Court. The treaty extends the protection to foreign national working for American-funded government entities on the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina. That includes Bosnians, so if, by any chance, some of local talents are "subcontracted" and flown to Guantanamo in order to apply their skills gained in places Trnopolje, Omarska and Dretelj they won't have anything to worry.

This would represent a striking contrast to the Bosnian experiences with Hague Tribunal and its broad powers, often misused by international observers to put problematic Bosnian politicians in line with the implied threat of war crimes prosecution.

In the meantime, Croatia has been offered the same deal. So far, Račan's (Racan's) government says that it won't make any decision until it receives the opinion from EU. Even Mesić (Mesic), usually more opinionated about international affairs, used the same line when asked about the treaty.

Friday, May 16, 2003

No Matrix Reloaded in Split

Ekran d.o.o., Split's only cinema theatre operator, has announced that it won't show Matrix Reloaded. This follows apparent collapse of negotiations with Issa, country's movie distributor over potential profits. Ekran d.o.o. executives don't want to give higher percentage of ticket sales to Issa.

Whatever the reasons, that would present Split's movie fans with serious problem. So far I can see few alternatives:
1)watching pirate version on DVD/VCR (out of question for legal and professional reasons);
2) waiting for Matrix Reloaded to be released on DVD (which means that I could be for a long wait; this could take at least six-to eight months, perhaps even few years);
3)driving six to eight hours in the middle of tourist season towards Zagreb only to watch Matrix Reloaded and having to fight for the seats with plenty of other people who did the same (apparently, many local theatre owners in Croatia chose "Ekran"'s course of action).

On the other hand, with theatres not burdened with the insatiable demand for Matrix Reloaded, cinema theatre programme could be more diverse and exotic. I might even watch some Italian, Spanish or Hong Kong titles that would otherwise never appear in Split.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

The Untouchable Has Left Us

Robert Stack has died. Future generations would remember him as Eliott Ness, protagonist of 1950s television show The Untouchables. This show, one of the first foreign TV shows ever to be aired in former Yugoslavia, became very popular in this part of the world and was one of the rare TV shows ever to be re-aired quarter of century later.

But I would probably remember best Stack for his brief and excellent performance in Airplane!

New Developments With Nova TV

Miljenko Manjkas, deputy programme director of Nova TV has resigned today. This resignation happened only few days after four of Nova TV news reporters have quit, citing their disagreement with the TV station's editorial policy as main reason.

(Apparently, they didn't like the way that Sunday's evening news presented the final results of Story Supernova reality show as the day's most important news, even topping Jasenovac and Bleiburg memorials).

Manjkas is relatively well-known personality on Croatian media scene. He was brought to Croatian state television in late 1990s as one of Tudjman's most trusted reporters and there got in charge of news programme. Most of Nova TV stars were former Croatian state television journalists, reporters and anchors who had shared both Manjkas' youth and his connection to Tudjman's regime. It was speculated that Manjkas' involvement with Nova TV shows on which side his TV station would stand in the upcoming election.

Another Collapse

City of Split has lost power around half an hour ago. This isn't that unusual, although it usually lasts for few minutes and the power outage is limited to few city blocks at the time.

But this time it seems that the problem is much more serious. I've just had phone conversation with someone in Šibenik (Sibenik) area, and they tell me that they had lost power too.

So, large sections of Dalmatia have lost power. Last time this happened in the beginning of the year, thanks to unusually low temperatures and subsequent collapse of Bosnia's power grid (which is connected to Dalmatia). This time I could only speculate about the reason for collapse, ranging from high winds (wind wasn't that strong here in Split), over-use of air conditioning (the temperature wasn't that high) or the usual SNAFU that just happens immediately before or in the middle of tourist season.


Just when I was about to post this latest comment, power returned.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003


Few days after Croatian police had offered 350,000 kunas to any person that provides information leading to arrest of General Gotovina, HB (Hrvatski Blok) organisation in Split offered exactly the same amount to any person that publicly names anyone who turns out Gotovina.

This initiative would surely warm the hearts of Croatian right-wingers and present Račan's (Racan's) government with serious dilemma – whether to treat as an ingenious way of political protest or obstruction of justice.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Croatian Tale of Two Cities

WW2 in Croatia is usually described with two words – Jasenovac and Bleiburg. While Jasenovac is somewhat more familiar to the outside world, thanks to these people, Bleiburg is strictly Croatian affair. It is a small town in Austria that entered history books on May 15th 1945.

Seven days after the capitulation of Nazi Germany, column made out of 200,000-300,000 soldiers belonging to various quisling formations from the territory of former Yugoslavia plus few hundred thousand civilians made their final push towards the territory controlled by British. Majority of those people were Croatians. Their aim was to escape the wrath of victorious Yugoslav Partisans. British, partly because of the logistical limitation and partly because they didn't want to complicate relations with their war-time allies, had most of them turned over to Partisans. In weeks and months that followed between 40,000 and 100,000 people were murdered on the death marches.

After the war Bleiburg became pilgrimage site for the survivors and for Croatian nationalist émigrés. Each year the anniversary of that event was marked by thousands of people proudly carrying war-time flags, Ustasha insignia and pictures of Ante Pavelić (Ante Pavelic). Since 1990 those events became state-sanctioned and visited by state dignitaries (although not Tudjman, who still remembered the side he had been on in 1945). Post-Tudjman government continued with the practice and last year Prime Minister Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) apologised for the role his party (now transformed into reformed Social-Democrats) had during those events.

This year great deal was made about Bleiburg memorial being cleansed from all "problematic" insignia. Austrian police had allegedly warned the participants not to wear Ustasha signs because that would violate Austria's tough anti-Nazi laws. But the insignia nevertheless appeared with Austrian police failing to act.

Another interesting thing about this year's Bleiburg memorial was the absence of anyone who could be closely associated with Račan's (Racan's) government. After last year's obviously unsuccessful attempt to win the hearts and minds of Croatian far right, Račan (Racan) decided not to risk his core base of left-wing voters any further and wisely stayed away. State dignitaries attending were Sabor officials, judges and other personalities well-known for their right-wing views, followed by the traditional delegation of Croatian right-wing parties.

By coincidence, the very same Sunday was used as the opportunity to mark the anniversary of the victory over Fascism. The memorial was held at Jasenovac and was, just like Bleiburg, aired live on state television. That was the first time Croatian television treated those two events equally. On the other hand, those watching the two events could have noticed absence of state dignitaries in Jasenovac. President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) was accompanied by Račan's (Racan's) minister of culture Antun Vujić (Antun Vujic) together with official delegations from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia-Montenegro (whose citizens had been among the victims of the camp).

However, the mere fact that Croatian state television (and government) recognised the fact that Jasenovac had existed represents the huge step forward in Croatia's attempts to finally put its troubled WW2 past behind. On the other hand, some images from Bleiburg show that this path is going to be much harder – many people carrying Ustasha insignia weren't the half-senile octageniarns permanently stuck in 1941-45 mental frame; their ranks were filled by children and teenagers obviously willing to perpetuate Croatian WW2 divisions into 21st Century.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Quiet Times

39 arrests, two vehicles damaged and four people treated for minor injuries. This was one of the quietest clashes between Hajduk and Dinamo in recent memory.

Is this the sign of progress? Did soccer fans in Croatia start to resemble responsible members of society? Did police gain valuable experience in handling these kinds of problems? Or did the game's lack of importance cool people's tempers?

All those questions are probably going to be answered in the next season.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Split Still In One Piece

Landscape of Split didn't change much in the past few hours and that could mean only one thing – Hajduk won. Trashing of Dinamo (4-1) served as a good consolation for Hajduk fans, again reminded that the clashes between eternal rivals play little part in deciding the outcomes of Croatian soccer championships.

100 Minutes Till Armaggedon?

Dinamo Zagreb has already clinched this year's title of Croatian soccer champions, but today's game between Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split won't lack excitements. As is always the case in games between those two clubs, especially when they are played in Split, events in and around the stands are more interesting than the events at the pitch. In case Hajduk doesn't win, anything is possible and being in the close vicinity of Poljud Stadium is not going to be the healthiest choice.

This game has already entered history. Crowds are for the first time going to be entertained by cheerleaders for the first time in the history of Hajduk. The same group of cheerleaders could be seen in yesterday's basketball game between Split Croatia Osiguranje and Cibona Zagreb – the event that ended badly for the Split club. The basketball crowd, however, didn't take it very badly and they even gave applause to Cibona players. This is something Dinamo can only dream of at Poljud.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Most Wanted

So, now it is official. Croatian Ministry of Interiors offers 350,000 kunas (46,500 euros) for any information leading to the arrest of General Ante Gotovina.

So far, the only reaction comes from HB (Hrvatski Blok). Their press release attacks the decision as "insulting towards Patriotic War hero".

News about the bounty have almost coincided with the incident indirectly caused by fleeing general. President Mesić (Mesic) yesterday refused to meet with Mayor Božidar Kalmeta (Bozidar Kalmeta) during his visit to Zadar. The reason for this snub was the picture of Gotovina, prominently displayed in Zadar's City Hall. Office of President wanted the picture removed, but Kalmeta declined, noting that the fleeing general enjoys the status of Zadar's honorary citizen and, as such, deserves to have his picture in City Hall regardless of Hague indictment.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Butlerian Jihad in Sabor

In late 1980s, when Slovenia began to seriously ponder alternatives to being part of Yugoslav federation, all those watching the news coverage of proceedings in Slovenian Parliament could have noticed an interesting detail. Results of every vote could have been seen on large television display. Even in those times, when Slovenia was formally under the clutches of totalitarian one-party system, their Parliament had electronic system of voting. This was something quite sophisticated for former Yugoslavia and fgor many it was the final proof that Slovenia belongs to the democratic and technologically progressive West.

Croatian decision to joined Slovenia in its drive to independence was partially justified with the claim that Croatia too belongs to the progressive cultural and political sphere of Western and Central Europe while everything east of its borders belongs to barbaric and primitive Balkans.

But when it came to such simple things like voting methods in Sabor, Sabor remained stuck in 19th Century. For the first four years, multi-party and democracitally elected Sabors used the method of voting inherited from Communist days – members of Parliament raising their hands and having Speaker and, in later years, Sabor officials counting them.

In 1994 Sabor finally passed the law that cleared way for instalment of electronic voting system. Some Croatian businessmen living abroad even volunteered to donate money for that particular purpose.

Unfortunately, in 1994 Tudjman was faced with the most serious challenge from within the ranks of his own party and with dozens of MSes defecting, maintaining tight party discipline became his obsession. Mistrusting modern technology he resorted to old ways in which everyone not seeing with his hand in the air at the right moment could be easily identified and brought to face the music. Furthermore, many MSes from Tudjman's party really loved having their right hands in the air because under right angle this gesture could resemble their favourite salute – the one associated with the 20th Century ideology they were most fond of.

After Mesić (Mesic) and Manolić (Manolic) got booted out of HDZ and situation in Sabor stabilised, whole initiative was forgotten. Instead of installation electronic voting, Sabor in next few years went through elaborate and luxurious re-decoration.

The new post-Tudjman rulers of Croatia in 2000 also publicly toyed with the idea to introduce electronic voting system. Unable or unwilling to make any radical changes of Tudjman's policies, they viewed this measure as an excellent view to signal the "serious break-up with Croatian troubled past".

But, like in many other areas, progress here was extremely slow. Coalition parties in last three years had more pressing matters at hand – haggling over appointments of their cadre in cabinet, administration, state-owned companies etc. while the public was entertained by soap operas in the form of Hague Tribunal indictments and border disputes with Slovenia.

Finally, few days ago the system was about to be introduced. By May 7th failed to become the start of information technology era in Croatian Parliament. The reason was simple – despite each of them receiving electronic key and having their seat equipped with three buttons indicating "Yes", "No" and "Abstanined", most members of Sabor said their the system is "too complicated". Some argued that the system is "impersonal" and not allowing "MSes" to be viewed as "individuals". As a result of those grievances, introduction of the system was postponed.

This represents one of the greatest fiascos in the history of modern Croatian democracy. Even more embarrassing is the fact that Croatia represents one of the few European countries with legislative body stuck in 19th Century. Even those "primitive Balkans" countries on the east have catched up with modern world, while "modern and pro-Western" Croatian politicians are still fighting Butlerian Jihad.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Flight Risk - New Developments?

After yesterday's reappearance of Raed, new developments in another big mystery are coming. At least, this is the impression given by the announcement in Agonist bulletin board. Following Wired article about Flight Risk (which is sceptical towards the whole affair), Agonist is about to post another big update in the story and "Isabella" should finally tell her story to media outlet.

A Little Local-patriotic Reminder

Today was St. Dujam Day, holiday dedicated to patron saint of Split. I wish I was there to attend some public celebrations, but, alas, real life has nasty habit of messing with my plans.

The only thing I can say that it was one of the hottest St. Dujam's Days in memory. Temperature is in high 20s – low 30ies Celsius. This means that those who like to watch pretty girls in skimpy clothes can do it at least a few weeks earlier than usual. With the lack of sunbathing their skin is relatively pale, which makes somewhat surreal experience.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Great News

Raed is back.

Evolutionary Leap

Goran Granić (Goran Granic) seems to enjoy his newly discovered role of government's Man of Steel. Today in Sabor, when opposition HKDU representative Anto Kovačević (Anto Kovacevic) asked what would government do about Church's initiative to close shops on on Sundays, he replied that the government would simply enforce current regulation. This might seem like a very polite and diplomatic way for saying "no" to Church, but for this government this represents huge evolutionary leap. In previous occasions Račan (Racan) always tried to wiggle out of such embarrassing situations. It looks like he finally realised that you can't win election without showing some resemblance to vertebrates.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

What Is Four More Among Friends?

Despite the assurances that they would stick to current mode of World Cup Final, top officials of FIFA have decided to propose changes that would bring 36 instead of 32 nations to Germany in 2006. This decision was made under immense pressure from South American soccer federation, whose officials claimed that the current form of World Cup leaves South American soccer nations underrepresented.

The decision has created quite a stir in Germany and especially among top European clubs. They claim that the increased number of World Cup finalists would lead to longer and more exhausting qualifications, resulting in their top players not being available for club competitions.

Election Campaign Croatian Style

While Račan (Racan) and Tomčić (Tomcic) have serious disagreement whether to hold elections in the winter or in the autumn, their partner Radimir Čačić (Radimir Cacic), minister of housing and public works and leader of HNS, has already prepared for all eventualities.

Recently the drivers on Croatian streets are able to see giant posters announcing the upcoming finish of the Zagreb-Split Motor Highway construction. Those who open TV sets in prime time can view some 20 seconds of "To Europe By Motor Highway" clip. And Croatian Television has just finished 12-hour long documentary series about the construction.

All that was paid by Croatian taxpayers, but, needless to say it is HNS that would try to use it for election campaign.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Seventh Day

It is the election year in Croatia, a perfect time for Catholic Church to flex its muscles.

Few weeks ago Catholic bishops did so by issuing statement in which they demand new labour legislation that would prevent shops from being open on Sundays. On May 1st, International Labour Day, this initiative was joined by few labour unions. Even Ivica Todorić (Ivica Todoric), one of Croatia's top businessmen and owner of huge retail empire, attended public festivities in Zagreb in order to give public support. Catholic intellectuals within Croatian media are joining the fray, few of them attacking the work on Sundays as "un-Christian" and more attacking "heartless capitalists" who "exploit poor workers by forcing them to work on Sunday for lousy salaries".

It is still unclear whether the government would bow under such pressure and send bill to Sabor.

But if this initiative becomes a law, that would be a bad thing for Croatia.

First, obviously political motives behind this initiative would seriously compromise the idea of Croatia as a secular state. If Christians (Catholics) are offended by shops being open on Sundays, why should 7th Day Adventists or Jews feel any better about shops being open on Saturdays? Or atheists or agnostics of shops being closed at all?

Second, if the aim of Croatian foreign policy is to enter EU (and this is something everyone in Croatia seems to agree with, Church included), than the practice of EU members leads to opposite direction. Germany and Austria – two countries that had adhered to old customs and had their shops closed on Sundays, have recently liberalised such policies, partially forced by their EU partners that had their shops open and thus gained extra revenues from border-crossing German Sunday-shoppers. Croatian experiences in past decade indicate that the measure would result in increased cross-border traffic on Sundays and plenty of lost revenue.

Third, closing shops on Sundays is going to prove incredibly inconvenient for many average Croatians.

It is also unfair for workers in retail business to be the only ones spared from Sunday work. If shops are closed, why not hospitals, police and fire stations? Why should soccer players and other professional athletes have their games on Sundays? And what about bars? Should they be closed too? It doesn't take genius to see how this measure would be enforced.

In most likelihood, this initiative would be talked of in media, probably even in Sabor, perhaps in some form even passed, only to be quietly dropped after next elections.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Flight Risk – Is This Getting Serious?

Sean Paul Kelly, writer of the blog that broke the Isabella/Flight risk story, claims that he had received cease and desist letter from the firm representing "Isabella's" parents. It happens amid speculations that the whole story is nothing more than someone's publicity prank.

In the meantime, Isabella has continued to post his writings. So far, I haven't been able to find many contradictions nor anything that would indicate that she is not young woman in her mid-to-late 20ies.

However, in her last post she tells of times when she, as a young college student, watched The Firm, 1993 film directed by Sydney Pollack, and describes one of the scenes in the film. Isabella doesn't seem to be sure who played the lead female character in the film – Ashley Judd or Jeanne Tripplehorn.

One thing is sure – "Isabella" doesn't use Internet Movie Database as a reference material for her writing.

What is less certain is the reason for this mistake. Jeanne Tripplehorne has indeed played the role, but Ashley Judd in 1993 was never near the fame and recognition she had now. Furthermore, Judd in early 1990s was blonde and it was impossible to mistake her for brunette Tripplehorne.

The best known role of Jeanne Tripplehorn was Basic Instinct. Whoever watched that film won't forget the scene featuring her and Michael Douglas. Unless someone never watched Basic Instinct. Or was, perhaps, too young to remember 1992 movie season or too young to be admitted to projections of R-rated films.

Those who would mistake Tripplehorne for Judd are most probably those who watched Judd in more recent films, in which she was brunette.

So, we might speculate that "Isabella" is somewhat younger than she claims to be. Those who still like to believe that she has something to do with Liesel Pritzker have just gained a little more basis for their speculations.

Like Anyone Cares…

Mladen Schwartz, leader of Nova Hrvatska Desnica (New Croatian Right) has just announced that his political party is disbanded. He blamed "brainwashed Croatian people" for this decision, claiming that they failed to see "necessity radical, extreme nationalist, patriotic and the only nation-saving formula".

The end of NHD would hardly cause tremors on Croatian political since, since NHD was never formally registered and never managed to gain a single seat in any election – even on community level. This was hardly surprising, because NHD was never believed to have more than half a dozen of members.

But it would be sorely missed by Croatian media, because those few NHD members used to be among the more colourful characters of Croatian public life. Hardly anyone took them seriously, and the only media exposure they received in Tudjman's era was thanks to the fact that Schwartz made even the looniest among Croatian far right look moderate in comparison.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Peaceful Funeral

According to media reports, funeral of Janko Bobetko had its share of daily politics, but speakers – Bobetko's right-wing military comrades – reserved their criticism to Hague tribunal.

The funeral was attended by some 25,000 people, but some were notably missing. Learning from their traumatic 2000-01 experiences, Račan (Racan) and Mesić (Mesic) chose not to appear and they sent their represantives instead, thus avoiding possible booing. Speaker Zlatko Tomčić (Zlatko Tomcic) attended today's first part of funeral procession in Zagreb, thus giving cryptic hints that his HSS party after elections might think about coalition with right-wing whose leaders were at funeral at all stages.

Poor Santorum

While Americans are up in arms over Senator Rick Santorum's controversial remarks about homosexuality, on this side of Big Pond media commentators and pundits seem that they couldn't care less.

You could expect that the Iraq crisis and emergence of virulent anti-Americanism would result in Santorum affair being used as perfect ammunition for America-bashing ("bigoted Protestant fundamentalists, Republican Nazis, intolerant idiots" etc.).

In Croatian media, however, this affair was hardly mentioned at all. The only comment I saw was in Slobodna Dalmacija, in a form of article written by correspondent Biljana Wilson. And, lo and behold, the article shows some sympathy for Santorum and his plight.

In USA you could say whatever you like about President, you can tell jokes about fat people, women etc. but try saying anything even remotely negative about homosexuals…

The rest of the article claims that US homosexuals have more power and clout than their proportion within general population would indicate.

Osama Bin Laden – The Only Real Winner of Iraqi-American War?

No, this is not just one of those "doom and gloom" pre-war predictions. Charlie Stross makes convincing argument, based on some recent developments.

Norac Not on Funeral

Ika Šarić (Ika Saric), presiding judge of Rijeka County Court, declined Mirko Norac's request to be allowed to attend funeral of General Janko Bobetko. Request is part of Janko Bobetko's last will and was forwarded by Bobetko's widow to Mirko Norac's lawyers.

If Norac, first Croatian general ever to be convicted at domestic courts for war crimes, had been released, that would be great moral victory for Croatian right-wing. Only a year ago, such privilege would probably be granted.

Hagiographic treatment of late General Bobetko in state media and statements of government politicians (none of whom mentioned Bobetko's war crimes indictment) probably led some to believe that Račan (Racan) might decrease the pressure on Croatian wartime leaders.

Apparently, it wasn't the case. With Norac sentenced to 12 years, Croatian judiciary has crossed the point of no return. It would take something more spectacular than Bobetko's death for the balance to shift in favour of troubled Tudjman's generals.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Where Life Is Too Harsh…

While Iain Murray writes about 63% Britons having nothing against reintroduction of death penalty, European criminals would probably need not to worry about encounter with state-sanctioned executioners any time soon. Opinion polls all over Europe – "Old" and "New" – would probably bring same results, but political establishment, unlike in USA, tend to be alienated from their grass roots and, furthermore, in widening rift between former allies death penalty is the rare issue that make European politicians feel good about themselves. And the death penalty also tends to be associated with European totalitarian past which everyone wants to be disassociated from at any cost. Sometimes this cost is in common sense and Croatian example is most telling.

Croatia, just like all the republics of former Yugoslavia, had death penalty in its penal code. When democracy came, death penalty was one of those symbols of un-democratic past that had nothing to do with new, "enlightened", Western and European regime of Franjo Tudjman. Constitution of 1990 specifically prohibited its use, thus only sanctioning six-year long practice.

Now, it would be easy to imagine that Croatia had replaced death penalty with its best/worse alternative – life imprisonment. But it wasn't case – Croatia kept its old Communist-era penal code which had its own alternative for death penalty in the form of twenty-year sentence.

This alternative to death penalty was introduced by victorious Communists in 1945. The idea was to "differentiate" between "scum" (captured Ustashas, Chetniks, war profiteers, collaborators etc.) who deserve no mercy and those who still had some hope of being rehabilitated and re-educated into useful parts of Socialist society - mostly those who had bad luck of being drafted by losing side in WW2 and mostly people in their early 20ies. After serving their 20-year sentence those men could get out in their 40ies and still be able to earn for the living.

Whatever the motives of victorious Communists, courts of former Yugoslavia, especially in the last decades before the dissolution, embraced 20-year prison sentence as the harshest form of criminal punishment. Death sentences were rare, executions even rarer and Communist authorities in all federal units were tolerating public calls for abolition of death penalty. With 20-year sentence practically reserved for worst of crimes – capital murders, terrorism etc. there was deflation of punishment for "smaller" crimes like "common" murder, armed robbery, rape etc. Criminal Code of Socialist Republic of Croatia, for example, had 5-15 year sentence as standard punishment for murder. In practice courts usually gave 7-8 year sentence for that crime.

In first years after 1990 Constitution and abolition of death penalty, Criminal Code wasn't amended because Tudjman's government had other priorities. So, throughout entire war the worst thing to happen to any evildoer in Croatia was 20-year sentence. If Ratko Mladić (Ratko Mladic) had surrendered to Croatian authorities in 1992 he would be sentenced to twenty years (and most probably a free man by this time). Many of the worst crimes were committed by people in their early 20ies or late teens – when all those people get out they would be in shape to continue with their murdering ways.

Ivica Crnić (Ivica Crnic), justice minister in Tudjman's government (now Chief Justice of Supreme Court) was the first politician to address this issue in 1994. He proposed new Criminal Code with 20-year sentence being replaced with so-called "long-term prison" – special punishment of 20-30 years. Soon afterwards he was sacked for allegedly supporting liberal faction within HDZ, but his subordinates within Justice Ministry managed to push proposal to Sabor.

The bill got to Sabor in 1997 and created very little interest within Croatian public. The only people being bothered with it were among human rights groups and leftists. Feral was appalled to find government accepting some amendments from more conservative HDZ Sabor members and raising the maximum sentence 40 instead of 30 years. Amendments introducing life imprisonment were defeated, though.

New sentence was applied very rarely in Croatian courts. Those sentenced to "long-term prison" usually got 20-25 years. The only one to get maximum 40 years was former policeman who had shot judge, lawyer and his wife during divorce proceedings.

But now Račan's (Racan's) government is contemplating introduction of life imprisonment, partly in an attempt to win votes on "tough on crime" platform. If the idea is to score PR points, so far they are doing poorly. Practically every attorney in Croatia and most of the judges are up in arms, demanding that life imprisonment stays out of Croatian Criminal Code. They slam the measure as "inhuman", "anti-Christian", "anti-European" and "barbaric" and claim that life imprisonment would not the serve the main purpose of Criminal Law which is, in their mind, rehabilitation.

One of the authors of the proposed law had to publicly defend himself using the very same arguments as those who support the death penalty.