Saturday, August 30, 2003

Hollywood Injustice In The Making

Few days ago I watched Feardotcom on DVD. I don't think I should bother the blog readers with the movie itself – giant waste of otherwise interesting horror premise ("borrowed" from Japanese Ringu, later adapted as Ring in Hollywood). The thing that caught my attention was one of many examples of injustice in modern Hollywood.

Namely, the best and the most demanding acting job in this movie was conducted by an artist who is not likely to receive proper credit for it – not on the titles and not in her subsequent career. If you watch the film and later listen to William Malone's audio-commentary, you'll notice that among all the performers of Feardotcom the hardest, most unpleasant and most demanding task was conducted by Isabelle Van Waes, young Flemish actress. She appears in the film disrobed, she is forced to act her brains out and, finally, if we are to believe Malone, all her nude and semi-nude scenes were done in some cold French factory, where all other crew members enjoyed the benefit of having coats.

Van Waes' efforts aren't likely to be rewarded by future on-screen career, at least not in Hollywood. First of all, she is Flemish, and that would put off Hollywood casting agents. Second, she appeared nude, and that translates into "cheap" (unless the actress already had some significant career). Finally, Feardotcom tanked at the box-office.

However, Natasha McElhone and Stephen Rea, which sleepwalked through their roles in Feardotcom, don't have to worry about their careers.

Broken Promise

Weathermen promised us some rain, wind and generally cooler weather. In this part of Dalmatia all we got yesterday was strong scirocco (warm and moisty southeast wind), multitude of raging wind-fuelled wildfires and annoying power-cut (which was godsend to bloodthirsty mosquitos).

When Anything Else Fails, Blame the Serbs

This is the most popular explanation of all Croatian problems, including poor showings of national football team. Vedran Mardešić (Vedran Mardesic), City of Split anti-drug official who is, unlike Ante Barbir, still under criminal investigation, used Serbs as a convenient bogeyman in his interview for Slobodna Dalmacija. He claims that the evil Serbs used to flood Split with cheap heroin in 1980-ies, in an obvious attempt to blunt the rebirth of Croatian nationalism among Split youth. He also hints that the criminal investigation against him is part of the same perfidious plan – Mardešić's apparent, albeit modest, success in decreasing the number of heroin addicts in Split, stood in the way of those who wanted to destroy Croatia.

To say that Mardešić is full of it would be understatement. It is truth that Split indeed was the heroin addiction capital of former Yugoslavia in 1980s. Yet drug problems of Split, even in that time, were nothing compared to the drug problems in small towns of Dalmatia, where the rates of youth heroin addiction used to be even higher than in Dalmatian capital. One of those small towns included Knin – the very hotbed of Serbian nationalism in Dalmatia; according to Mardešić, evil Serb narco-lords poisoned even their own.

Mardešić also fails to explain how Croatian independence and cleansing of Serbs from Dalmatia failed to stop heroin epidemic in Split and Dalmatia. In 1995, the very year when rebel Serbs got kicked out of "Krajina", price of heroin was lower than the price of marijuana.

The real explanation for heroin epidemic in Split could be found in strings of scandals associated with Ivan Skender, Croatian citizen who was recently arrested in Austria with few kilos of cocaine during widely-publicised drug bust. Name of Ivan Skender was already known to Croatian public. Few years ago Feral Tribune published 1997 transcripts of Franjo Tudjman's conversations with his subordinates. One of them mentioned Ivan Skender as "one of biggest drug dealers in Dalmatia and Herzegovina". Tudjman's government seemed to be aware of his activities, but failed to act upon them. Račan's (Racan's) government followed the same example, and some of its members went even further – Veterans Ministry granted Ivan Skender, man claiming to be "Patriotic War invalid" with an apartment 2001. Only after the scandal did minister Ivica Pančić (Ivica Pancic) announce the review of apartment and invalid status policies.

In short, Croatian governments, past and present, participated, or at least turned the blind eye to booming drug trade in Split. Serbs had little or nothing to do with it.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Dawn Taylor

I've just found that OFCS member Dawn Taylor also writes blog. Added to blogroll.

Collectivism In High Places

Diane doesn't seem to be very enthusiastic about Riverbend's lack of enthusiasm for new collective presidency of Iraq. Then again, I'm more willing to give Riverbend benefit of the doubt. I used to be citizen of the country that had collective presidency. Guess where that country is now?

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Hard To Please

Hajduk Split has not only the most creative but also the most demanding of the fans. Two weeks ago, after losing 1-2 from Haka in Valkeakoski, its fans turned the pitch at Poljud Stadium into makeshift graveyard, digging the grave-like holes in Hajduk's current team formation.

This evening, at Poljud, Hajduk won the 2nd leg match with Haka and qualified for the next stage of UEFA Cup. But 1-0 victory and qualifying apparently wasn't enough for Hajduk fans who started booing after the last whistle. For thousands of fans the poor quality of game was just as bad (or perhaps even worse) as defeat.

Venice 60 Years Ago

Venice Film Festival celebrates its 60th anniversary. Croatian commentators note that there aren't any Croatian films competing for the prizes this year.

Well, some 60 years this wasn't the case. On the very first Venice Film Festival, Croatian cinema won its first major international award. Straža na Drini (Watch on the Drina), film directed by Branko Marjanović (Branko Marjanovic), got the Best Documentary award. The movie showed brave Black Legion, Ustashas, Home Guards and other Croatian military and paramilitary formations defending the eastern borders of Croatia (at time including today's Bosnia) from the Serb and Communist bandits and thus helping the cause of their German and Italian black-clad brothers in arms. I haven't watched the film, but the footage (some genuine, some staged) was subsequently used in former Yugoslav feature films and documentaries covering "Ustasha atrocities" during "People's Liberation War" 1941-45.

Interestingly enough, Marjanović continued his filmmaking career under Tito and made some feature films about Partisans fighting Ustasha.

Ten years ago, when Tudjman was around, newspapers, magazines and television were all over 50th anniversary of Venice and celebrated Marjanović's triumph as the "first instance of Croatia entered international arena as cultural power". Nowadays, with Tudjman gone, nobody mentions that anecdote.

Good News For Croatian Comic Book Fans

While HDZ leaders view comic books enthusiasts as worthless retards, HSLS leaders think of comic book fans as the part of potential voters' pool. Dorica Nikolić (Dorica Nikolic), one of HSLS officials, criticised budget priorities of Zagreb City government – dominated by SDP and HNS – and used references to Superhik, character from the Alan Ford, series of Italian comic book that used to be one of the most popular in former Yugoslavia many decades ago.

Barbir Is Back?

What a difference a week might make. Less than a week after being forced to resign from the post of Croatian drug czar, Ante Barbir had criminal charges against him dropped. And now the media speculations are putting Barbir back to his old post. Some claim that Barbir lost taste for politics and doesn't have a stomach for such quick comeback. His chief ally, former nun and anti-drug activist Bernardica Juretić (Bernardica Juretic), is most likely replacement.

In the meantime, two other players in the whole corruption business aren't so lucky. Mario Puljiz, leader of HELP, and Vedran Mardešić (Vedran Mardesic), City Of Split anti-drug official, haven't got charges against them dropped. Since they are minor league players on local level and since their downfall won't affect balance of power within Račan's (Racan's) coalition, they are most likely to be the fall guys.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Movie Recommendation

All those who like quality movies should visit this site. The title of the movie alone should warm your heart.

Alienating Fan Boy Voting Base

In the meantime, Luka Bebić (Luka Bebic), one of HDZ leaders involved in latest "Jambo" affair, had less luck in scoring election point for his party. While answering to "Jambo" accusation, he tried to portray the accuser as someone whose claims shouldn't be taken seriously. "His psychological level is equal to 13 year old boy. You know, he still reads children's comic books."

While Bebić's boss Ivo Sanader tried very hard to make HDZ "hip" and acceptable to young "urban" voters, this remark would undoubtedly alienate fan boys and reduce pool of swing voters for HDZ. Whether this would have any major impact on election results is too early to tell (my money is on "yes", since the race seems to be very tight and every vote would count).

However, Dubrovnik prosecutors don't seem to be much impressed with Bebić's psychological evaluation skills. They put much more credence to "Jambo's" claims and there is some talk about formal criminal investigation of the whole extortion business.

Campaign Has Begun

The election campaign has unofficially started, and so far the minor league parties are those who are making first major moves.

Few weeks ago leaders of HNS Youth hired a van and went to travel on Adriatic Coast and deliver their propaganda material to beach goers. Needless to say, for many local rednecks in Dalmatia HNS – party once founded by one of Croatian legendary nationalist leaders - is "Serbo-Communist spawn of Satan". Sight of those evil people was enough for verbal abuse, but real incident occurred only when HNS Youth van got stoned. That was excellent opportunity for young HNS troopers to yell bloody murder and gain instant media spotlight.

Libra was somewhat less successful in their opening move. I've just heard some stupid radio commercial in which Jozo Radoš (Jozo Rados) tries to remind public that his party exists and only manages to offend female electorate with clumsy and potentially sexist remark.

HIP, most Tudjmanist of all HDZ splinter parties (for the mere reason of having Miroslav Tudjman, Franjo's son and former intelligence chief for its leader), has managed to gain its first Sabor seats by staging defections of two HDZ MSes – Dairo Vukić (Dario Vukic) and Ante Beljo. Whether HIP would manage to keep same number seats after the elections is another matter; smart money is on "not unless they stick themselves to some major league ticket".

Rain Drops Are Falling On My Head

After weeks of intense heat and draught, rain finally fell in Dalmatia, causing some joy, few traffic accidents and street floods. But that would be hardly comforting to local farmers, who expect massive failure of crops this year.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Those Who Adapt Are Those Who Prosper

In Croatia word "tajkun", derived from English "tycoon" is synonymous with Russian "oligarkh" ("oligarch"). In modern Croatian dictionary the word could be have picture of Stipe "Jambo" Gabrić (Stipe "Jambo" Gabric) as an illustration. "Jambo", controversial businessman from city of Metković (Metkovic), used to be one of the most valuable members of HDZ. At least this is what he claims after being thrown out from that party for the same reasons as flamboyant Ljubo Ćesić Rojs (Ljubo Cesic Rojs). Ivo Sanader threw him out of party in an apparent attempt to show new, modern and "clean" version of HDZ few months before the elections.

"Jambo" didn't like it and expressed this displeasure by going public with all kinds of dirt on HDZ. He claimed that Vladimir Šeks (Vladimir Seks), one of HDZ leaders, came to him in February and tried to extort 1 million HRK (cca. 130,000 €) of campaign contributions, threatening with indictments and jail time if he refused (after HDZ triumphant return to power, of course). "Jambo" claims that he had been systematically extorted by his party in similar fashion during Tudjman years.

Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic), current Croatian President, expressed his support for "Jambo" and his plight by inviting him to the Croatian Navy yacht and publicly demanding that Croatian police and judiciary start investigating the case. He didn't mention any investigation of the way in which "Jambo" had gained the wealth being allegedly extorted.

Some journalists already began asking questions why "Jambo" chose to speak out now and why Mesić bothered to call him to the presidential yacht. Some already speculate that this is all part of the deal in which "Jambo" and couple of other HDZ-era "tajkuns" are going to offer their financial backing to governing coalition before services in exchange for various favours after elections. To already apathetic Croatian masses that should hardly be a shock – despite all pre-election promises about cleaning up the house and doing things differently than in Tudjman's era, Račan (Racan) & his crew adopted some of his practices, including cronism, either by snatching Tudjman's "tajkuns" from HDZ or creating their own. But until now Croatian public still had some illusions about President Mesić – usually very critical of Račan and his softness towards Tudjmanism and sleaze – and they are probably saddened by his sudden embrace of political pragmatism at the expense of noble principles.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Something Good From Nova TV

Nova TV is currently losing battle with Croatian state television, but at least in one thing it is superior to its arch-rival. Nova TV's weather report is anchored by Paola Poljak, young woman from Split. Her good looks, natural charm and obvious talent in front of camera make even the most depressing news about endless heat wave more bearable. This is something that professional meteorologists on Croatian state television aren't able to do.

In the meantime, Anja Alavanja still didn't get top news anchoring job, but that doesn't mean that she wasn't promoted by Nova TV. Few weeks ago she became the part of the panel in Story Supernova Juniors music talents show. In Story Supernova Music Talents she worked only as part-time host, making brief interviews of the contestants. Here she is under camera spotlight full time.

Benefits and Perils of Stardom

Thanks to Story Supernova reality show, Marin Tironi became Croatia's biggest celebrity, than Croatia's best known media acquisition, Croatia's most popular pothead and, finally, Croatia's best known quiz show host. But this doesn't seem to be enough for Tironi, who is enjoying privileges few of us can imagine. Tironi is going to be Croatia's best known teacher.

"Experta", Zagreb business school owned by Ivica Ropuš (Ivica Ropus), one of Tudjman's former advisors, hired Tironi to work as an assistant teacher for Television Show Hosting course. Tironi is going to be paid 500 HRK (67 €) per hour. He should work together with Helga Vlahović-Brnobić (Helga Vlahovic-Brnobic), legendary Croatian state television anchor whose career spawned for 35 years.

Apart from posing in front of cameras of Nova TV and brief stint as quiz show host on Croatian state television, Tironi lacks television experience. So far the highest level of his education is high school. But that didn't discourage "Experta" from hiring him; quality of the course is less important than the hordes of spoiled Zagreb debutantes whose parents would pay 20,000 HRK (2,700 €) for the opportunity for their daughters and sons to watch their idol first hand.

Of course, in all this brouhaha everyone failed to provide any kind of explanation why Tironi became Croatia's greatest star. The closest thing is usual lamentation of media manipulating the public, especially the young. In that Croatia began to follow world trends. Being a small country in which everybody knows everybody and people are supposed to be more aware of each individual's worth was obviously not enough to protect Croatia from some wicked aspects celebrity culture. Just like we have airhead ex-models as country's top legislative representatives and media personalities created out of thin air, we would soon have stalkers and people ready to commit murder and similar crimes only for a brief touch of stardom.

Just A Little Pregnant

Jozo Radoš (Jozo Rados), former defence minister and current leader of Libra – one of minor league parties that form Račan's (Racan's) governing coalition – lambasted criminal investigation against Ante Barbir, recently dismissed Croatian drug czar. In Radoš' view, embezzlement of few thousands euros is "minor transgression that doesn't warrant such scrutiny and the investigation would only create dangerous precedent".

There are probably few misguided souls who could even bother to find arguments for Radoš something like "too much scrutiny over public officials would lead to repression and paralyse the normal functioning of government". Most people would, however, have little understanding for Radoš's apologetic view of "nickel and dime" corruption just as they would have little sympathy for the girl claiming that she is "just a little pregnant".

Radoš's statement is even more interesting in the context of his record as defence minister in first two and half years of Račan's government. Radoš, who had been appointed at the helm of Defence Ministry as HSLS cadre, did very little to clean up the ministry that in many ways symbolised all the worst aspects of Tudjman's reign, including corruption.

Radoš said what he said only few months before the elections, and that statement, at first glance, might look like the clearest example of political suicide. The wise thing for every member of governing coalition would be to distance himself from Barbir and commend Croatian police and judiciary acting against public officials, which was not the case under the reign of today's main opposition party. Radoš should be even more careful because his own party has microscopic chances of entering Sabor on its own – its best chance is to offer a percentage point or two of its votes to Račan in districts where the race might be tight and thus get a seat or two as part of coalition ticket.

However, Radoš have other things on his mind. When defending Barbir, he indirectly defends himself. Barbir, just like Radoš, got his post after 2000 elections as member of HSLS (replacing somewhat controversial Dr. Slavko Sakoman, Croatia's best known drug addiction expert). And just like Radoš, in Summer of 2002 Barbir decided to ditch his party boss Dražen Budiša (Drazen Budisa), leave HSLS and join Libra – new party whose sole purpose was allow former HSLS members to keep their government posts in exchange for providing Sabor majority to Račan's government.

However, unlike Radoš – who was forced to leave Defence Ministry (and later advocate abandonment of conscription and other military reforms he had kept quiet about while being minister) – Barbir kept his job. Barbir wasn't expert and his tenure wasn't marked with much success in tackling drug problem in Croatia, but he, unlike Sakoman, kept out of public spotlight and didn't oppose marijuana decriminalisation – measure advocated by Račan in order to appease youth voters. That was enough for Račan, and that was more than enough for Radoš. People like Barbir were consolation prize to Radoš – proof that his party can still have some influence in the government, and that influence could come very handily in pre-election coalition bargaining. With Barbir gone, Libra lost influence and it is understandable why Radoš is so angry.

Another One That Won't Be Missed

One of the most enduring clichés in all police thrillers is "You know what happens with rapists and paedophiles once they get behind bars". According to some American legal scholars, this cliché, probably more wishful thinking than fact, is the reason why some juries didn't vote for death penalty in child murder cases, preferring to leave that dirty business to "normal" prison population. If applied to this case (although it only involved "ordinary" sexual abuse instead of murder), that line of reasoning might have been correct.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Dianne Feinstein Is Full Of It

Whoever accused Arnold Schwarzenegger of promoting gun violence in his movies probably never bothered to see even one of them.

Consider three of Schwarzenegger's best and most popular films.

Conan the Barbarian. Swords and sorcery. 12,000 years B.C. No guns in sight.

The Terminator. In this film Schwarzenegger plays bad guy. Besides, all the guns in the world can't help protagonists to survive. Any attempt to use guns is clearly counter-productive.

Predator. In this film anti-gun message is more than explicit. In one scene Schwarzenegger's character knocks gun out of someone's hand in order to save that someone's life.


I'm toying with NewGator 1.3 RSS reader. I might install RSS feed of my own in near future.

Any suggestion is more than welcome.

I'm Not Alone

No, I'm not the only blogger from Croatia. I'm not even the most prolific one. This guy is running two blogs – one in Croatian, one in English. And there are two more Croatian blogs – this and this. All added to blog roll, of course.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Blood of American Children on Arnie's Hands?

At least U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein thinks so, claiming that Arnold Schwarzenegger's films promoted gun violence among American youth.

However, she forgot one important thing. Even if the whole "movies turn our innocent children into homicidal maniacs" rubbish has some limited connection to truth, Arnold Schwarzenegger hardly bears any responsibility for that. He is an actor. He never wrote scripts for those movies, he didn't direct them, he didn't produce them, and finally, he didn't sit in censorsh… ratings boards that gave PG-13 ratings to movies with gun violence.

Most of Holllywood screenwriters, directors, producers and censors are, as fair as common perception goes, Democrats. Schwarzenegger, being a Republican, is much easier target for Feinstein in her anti-Hollywood crusade.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Ghosts From the Past

Tonight I watched the first episode of CSI: Miami. It was strange watching David Caruso and Kim Delaney together on screen again. Caruso, who thought that his instant fame could outlive NYPD Blue seems older, wiser and less irritating now. No such luck with Kim Delaney, whom I couldn't stand in NYPD Blue and I can't stand in this.

I also noticed a lot of new, unknown faces in Caruso's team. They look like airhead fashion models pretending to be forensic experts.

I watched only few episodes of "real" CSI, but that was much better than this spinoff. William Petersen could have wiped the floor with Caruso and contest between Marg Hellenberger and Kim Delaney is no contest at all.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Quick Response

Ante Barbir, Croatian drug czar, was dismissed by Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) only few days after being charged for embezzlement. This is definitely improvement over Tudjman era, when it took months, and sometimes years for officials to get sacked, sent to distant embassies and "promoted" after being caught with hands in a cookie jar.

UPDATE: Actually, Barbir wasn't dismissed. He only offered resignation to Račan, and our prime minister, being a nice fellow, accepted. It is hard to imagine Račan sacking someone for incompetence or corruption.

One Good News From Iraq

Salam Pax pointed to first Iraqi female blogger. Unfortunately, her first posts are not recommended to the readers prone to depression. Commenting on the UN bombing, she made the good point:

Somehow I'm terrified. If someone like de Mello couldn't, or simply wasn't, protected- what's going to happen to the millions of people needing protection in Iraq? How could this have been allowed to happen?

Is Mel Gibson A Wimp?

I don't have much of an opinion of Mel Gibson's Passion. That movie might be misunderstood masterpiece or filthy piece of anti-Semitic propaganda, but until I see it for myself, I can only guess.

However, I do have an opinion on Mel Gibson doing this film. From everything I have read, his motives were deeply personal. He went into this project knowing that he couldn't expect hundreds of millions at the box-office, Academy Awards or even the consolation in the form of snobbish critics. Instead of that, the controversy and risk of being branded anti-Semite were were much likelier prospect. But Gibson nevertheless went with this project, showing the courage you rarely see among anyone living in Tinseltown these days.

Generally speaking, whoever put artistic integrity over commercial, political or "PC" considerations, is a hero of mine. Mel Gibson might be poor actor, his directorial skills might be on Ed Wood levels, and this movie might indeed be 21st Century's equivalent of Jew Süs, but at least Passion seems more honest, more genuine and more respect-worthy than 95 % of celluloid excrement coming from Hollywood.

Again, I must stress that the "respect-worthy" doesn't apply to the ideas expressed in the film. If the film is indeed as anti-Semitic as detractors claim, I would do a hatchet job on it while writing review.

However, it seems that Mel Gibson would cease to be hero of mine. Under intense pressure, he caved in and announced that he would alter Passion by adding "sympathetic Jewish characters".

At first I thought this was a joke, much like that story about Lucas adding Asian and Native American characters to Attack of the Clones (following criticism over racist stereotyping in portrayal of Jar Jar Binks). But it wasn't.

So, Mel Gibson obviously thought that the risk of becoming Hollywood's best-known anti-Semite (and, subsequently, Hollywood's best-known pariah) is too much. All those who crucified his film (after being conspicuously silent during Gibson's chauvinist portrayals of English in Braveheart and Patriot) have won.

I, on the other hand, think that this is "lose-lose" situation for everyone.

First of all, Mel Gibson proved to be a wimp. He sacrificed his artistic integrity and improved his future career prospects in Hollywood. However, it is too late for him to brush away stigma of anti-Semitism from himself; the mere fact that he had to make alterations is enough for brand him for good.

Those whose vigilance led to alterations also have few reasons to celebrate. If let to its own devices, Passion would, in most likelihood, be remembered as curiosity, watched only by couple of art-crowd, snobs and insignificant fraction of Mel Gibson's die-hard fans. It is very unlikely that the movie, whether in its present or altered form, would be shown in Croatian cinemas, for example (nor would I be able to rent it in video stores). But this affair only gave ammunition to all those anti-Semites who accuse Jews of having "too much influence in Hollywood".

Inconvenience, Not A Tragedy… So Far

If you notice increasing amounts of cynicism, misanthropy or plain old grunginess in my posts, the most likely explanation is in hundreds of E-mails, all with SoBig virus attached, being delivered to my inbox. As a result, I'm forced to spend a lot of time cleaning my machine and wondering whether one of those E-mails is going to wreck my equipment. However, my on-line and other computer activities are more affected by sun, sea and other things associated with summer than by viruses.

So, to paraphrase Michael Bloomberg, this is inconvenience rather than tragedy. But I'm not sure if that would be the case if I stumble on the "person" or "persons" responsible for the creation of things like Klez, So Big etc. Consequences of such encounter might very easily be within jurisdiction of Hague Tribunal.

Interesting WW2 Site

It is still work in progress and many sections are blank. However, if you want to know what went on in former Yugoslavia during WW2, visiting this site is good way to start. Much better than watching certain Discovery Channel documentaries, for example.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Death of UN Representative

On one hand, destruction of UN headquarters in Iraq and death of UN's top official represents a huge coup for anti-US forces in that country. If one of top international officials can be hit, than everyone can be hit. If they wanted to quash any hope of "light being at the end of the tunnel", terrorists could have never done any better.

On the other hand, this incident can also be PR disaster for Iraqi resistance. Shooting US soldiers is one thing – even if it is done in most perfidious ways, there is always someone who could condone such activity as legitimate "struggle against foreign occupiers". But to attack "soft" target and kill plenty of international bureaucrats, many of them belonging to countries or organisations not particularly friendly to USA, is something quite different.

I wouldn't be surprised to hear news of next Saddam's tape trying to distance Baathists from this thing.

Croatian Drug Czar Busted?

The usual way of making money out of illegal drugs is to supply the stuff to dealers and users or pretend that such trade doesn't exist if you happen to be government official. Dr. Ante Barbir, director of Croatia's Office of Narcotics Abuse Prevention, belongs is government official, but he found the new way of making money out of people's drug addiction.

At least this was the charge against him and two other individual. The second individual is his friend Mario Puljiz, chairman of HELP, Split NGO specialised for providing clean needles and counselling to heroin addicts. The third individual is Vedran Mardešić (Vedran Mardesic), head of City of Split's Office of Addiction Prevention Office.

According to complaint filed by Vesna Pilić (Vesna Pilic), founder and former chairman of HELP, Puljiz have paid between 25,000 and 65,000 HRK (between 3,300 – 8,600 €) to Barbir – out of the subsidy that HELP had received from Office of Narcotics Abuse Prevention, the very institution chaired by Barbir. When questioned by investigating magistrate, Barbir claimed that he only "borrowed" money from Puljiz in order to buy himself a new flat and that the money borrowed didn't come from the subsidies.

Mardešić, apparently not a player in Barbir-Puljiz connection, was accused of blackmailing HELP. According to complaint, he promised City of Split's subsidies to HELP, but only if HELP later paid 30 % of the sum to him directly. HELP refused and thus lost 110,000 HRK (14,500 €) of municipal subsidies.

It is too early to say where this story would lead. All three men were released after being questioned by investigating magistrate; indictments, if brought, could damage Račan's (Racan's) government few months before elections. They could also damage NGOs – institutions that used to handle drug problem in Split and the rest of Croatia more efficiently than government's offices burdened with bureaucracy, incompetence and corruption.

In any case, all three men can comfort themselves that their illicit gains hadn't been directly connected to young Croatians ruining their lives. And their gains were relatively small – only thousands of euros. If they wanted real drug money, they could fare much better – heroin trade in Split alone is estimated to bring tens of millions of euros to local dealers.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Sometimes A Camera Doesn't Look Like A Camera

It is quite certain that the death of Reuters cameraman at the hands of US soldiers in Iraq would serve the cause of all those who were uncomfortable with war and with US military presence at the country. The incident would be branded "a murder" or "an attempt to silence the truth by brutal occupiers".

However, a similar incident which had occurred in my country's past leads me to provide more prosaic explanation. In summer of 1991 the war was slowly escalating and Croatian militias fighting "Krajina" Serb rebels began to exchange fire with nominally neutral JNA – Serb-dominated federal military. Near the town of Osijek, one of Eastern Slavonia's flashpoints, Croatian state television cameraman was killed by JNA tanks. Soon afterwards JNA held press-conference called that "an unfortunate incident" and tried to provide explanation – the camera was mistaken for anti-tank launcher by trigger-happy tank crew. This explanation made perfect sense, because "Armbrust" anti-tank rockets had taken a (relatively) heavy toll among JNA tanks during Slovenian "war" few months earlier. Unlike in Slovenia, JNA in Croatia didn't take any chances. Needless to say, Croatian media, at the time irreparably in chauvinist mode, laughed at the JNA explanation and stuck to "murder of truth" story.

Cameras being mistaken for anti-tank weapons could be applied for yesterday's incident. From the perspective of an average American soldier in Iraq – exhausted, tortured by heat, lack of trust towards civilians and more than aware of death that awaits from every corner – shooting first and asking questions later is more sensible option than worrying about possible PR disaster for his country in case of mistake.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Money Matters

This afternoon I watched Liverpool vs. Chelsea game. The result didn't surprise me very much. Big money invested in Chelsea simply had to produce some effect, especially against much-weakened Liverpool. The game was fun to watch and it was much better way spend two hot Sunday afternoon hours than to torture myself on overcrowded beach.

First Dane to Die

Today Denmark lost its first soldier in Iraq. Even more disturbing is the fact that this incident happened in supposedly pro-Coalition and peaceful Basra region.

Croatian state television didn't report this in its evening news. Sending Croatian boys as "peacekeepers" in Iraq – project openly endorsed by defence minister Željka Antunović (Zeljka Antunovic) would have been much tougher sell now.

Bad News From Croatia – Breaking Records

One of the reasons why former Yugoslavia broke apart was in 20 billion US$ of foreign debt - problem which federal government had been unable to solve and which later led to economic woes, complete break-down of federal authority and rise of nationalism.

Now, it seems that Republic of Croatia, in twelve years of independence, managed to break the record of former Federation. It is estimated that Croatia is burdened with 21 billion US$ of foreign debts.

Even if we take inflation into account, and the fact that some of ex-YU debt was inherited by Republic of Croatia, this is a unpleasantly huge debt. Needless to say, present Croatian government doesn't seem to be more efficient than ex-Yugoslav government in handling this crisis.

Good News From Croatia – Breaking Records

According to various sources, number of foreign tourists on Adriatic coast of Croatia has reached pre-war levels for the first time since the end of hostilities. Some resorts even managed to break their pre-war records.

Of course, huge numbers of tourists don't necessarily guarantee huge profits. And even those profits don't tend to effect Croatian economy as a whole.

[ADMINISTRATIVE] More Enetation Problems

It seems that Comments, for some unspecified reasons, simply don't appear on my blog entries, or don't appear as they should be. I know that some people comment on my entries (I receive comments via E-mail) but responding to them is something of a problem – responses tend to appear on wrong entries etc.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Total Excitement

Gubernatorial/recall race in California might not be the best example of American democracy, but at least it isn't boring. Starting with the success of recall itself, Schwarzenegger joining the race, Democrat Rob Lowe joining his Republican friend Arnold – there was plenty of surprise twists that would keep attention of sensation-loving public. And the latest one is Cruz Bustamante's tiny but nevertheless surprise lead over Schwarzenegger in one of the polls.

Somewhat Good News From Hollywood

At least this didn't escalate to the Trintignant/Cantat levels.

It is too early to say whether this would mean the end of Tom Sizemore's career. Although Hollywood tends to be very forgiving in such matters.

This One Won't Be Missed

Then again, Idi Amin's death isn't entirelly good news, since he was never brought to justice.

Another Country's Idiot…

Petr Bokuvka (alias Daily Czech) thinks of this man as an idiot. Here in Croatia that man wouldn't be considered an idiot. Shortly before the passage of Family Act, one of the expert members of Sabor committee wanted to amend the bill with the high fines and prison sentences for adulterers. In subsequent interviews he described himself as representing the views of Catholic Church. Thankfully, the amendments didn't get in the Family Act, but you could never be sure of similar proposals appearing in next Sabors.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Great Night of British Television

I've just spent couple of hours watching Croatian state television and, by one happy accident, its programme included two British shows – Manchild and Murder in Mind.

First show was translated as Seks i neki drugi grad (Sex and Some Other City) and this wasn't an accident. The show employs Darren Starr's formula but instead of 30-something women protagonists are 40-something British men. One of them is played by Anthony Heald, best known as Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Another show, Murder in Mind, tells murder stories from the perspective of murderers. First episode features David Suchet in a role very different from Poirot – here he plays highly regarded teacher whose attempt to satisfy long-repressed urges in seedy part of town leads to terrible messy situation.

Both shows are well-written, well-directed and well-acted and serve as another proof that British television shows are much better than their American counterparts.

Honeymoon in Basra Is Over

I wish Salam Pax was wrong, but it seems that his predictions are coming true.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Message to New Yorkers

I don't know whether this power outage is terrorist act or simply the more virulent case of separate things going badly all at once. I don't know whether any New Yorker can read this or not, but I nevertheless feel compelled to offer my moral support and advice. You can survive this. I survived summer of 1993 in Split. People in Sarajevo survived worse. People in Baghdad survived worse. You can survive this too.


Apparently, power outages in New York and elsewhere have nothing to do with terrorism. Some amount of suspicion is going to stay for a while, though.

On the Eastern Front…

In the meantime, it becomes apparent that Croatian chauvinism isn't the only chauvinism in Croatia. In the war-torn border city of Vukovar, where Croat and Serb communities live in virtual state of apartheid, couple of monuments celebrating fallen Croatian heroes from 1991-95 War were damaged by vandals. In nearby villages there is increasing number of graffiti praising Vojislav Šešelj (Vojislav Seselj) and cause of extreme Serb nationalism.

Needless to say, chauvinisms feed each other. According to some polls, Ivić Pašalić's (Ivic Pasalic's) HB –"unreformed" splinter group of Tudjman's HDZ – fares much better in Eastern Slavonia than in the rest of country. This is probably because of local nationalists being more comfortable with Pašalić's (Pasalic's) "real" than with Sanader's "made up" version of Tudjmanism.

Flow Your Tears, Policeman Said

According to media reports, those attending Bajaga concert in Split had to endure more than tear gas. Some people reported verbal and even physical abuse by some of the policemen guarding the concert.

If true, those incidents are hardly surprising. Like in most other countries, policemen in Croatia are recruited from the more conservative and right-wing segments of the population. Many of those policemen are war veterans with strong right-wing mindset, and those too young to participate in war have been systematically brainwashed by the older colleagues.

For many of those policemen Serbs are Croatia's eternal foes and idea of anyone or anything Serb being allowed to breathe same air with Croats is deeply insulting. Even more insulting is the idea of some Croats being self-declared fans of Serbian rock music. So, those policemen would grudgingly accept the idea of protecting Serb musicians, but to ask of them to protect traitors who sing "Chetnik" songs in the middle of sacred Croatian soil is too much.

In the meantime, two men responsible for tear gas attack on San Remo club in Sinj were apprehended. One of them is 24-year old policemen belonging to Croatian equivalent of SWAT units whose members usually fit the above profile. Apparently he had a second job as a security guard in the club and didn't like being sacked. So, attack on San Remo has little to do with politics or later attack on Bajaga.

Misbehaving Fans

Hajduk Split fans perhaps aren't as combative as Dinamo Zagreb fans, but they are definitely more creative. Two nights ago they penetrated Poljud stadium in Split and dug couple of grave-like holes at the pitch, apparently trying to express their displeasure with Hajduk's recent defeats in national soccer league and UEFA Cup.

Apart from showing how little respect the team and management have among the fans, this incident also shows the disturbing lack of security at one Split's greatest landmarks. Those digging the holes evaded security cameras, security guards and had ample time to engage in such activity. You could only imagine what could have happened if their intention was arson or act of terrorism.

Interestingly enough, Đermano "Ćićo" Senjanović (Djermano "Cico" Senjanovic), one of Slobodna Dalmacija columnists, takes rather sympathetic view of hole-diggers seeing in them nothing more than rather innocent prank, much like some of the similar and equally spectacular incidents in the past.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Dinamo vs. Dinamo

Championship League qualifing match between Dynamo Kiev and Dinamo Zagreb ended with home team's 3-1 victory. One of the reasons why Dinamo Zagreb fared so bad was the absence of its fans. Some 75 Bad Blue Boys indeed came to Kiev earlier, but the incident involving one café, too much alcohol and attempt to rearrange its interior led to quick and massive deportation from Ukraine.

It is somewhat comforting to know that our soccer fans don't need presence of anything Serbian to misbehave.

Under Smoke Screen

This afternoon in Split the sky was cloudy. At least it looked that way until I opened window and instantly recognised the smell of burning wood. Soon after that I turned TV on and heard news about massive forest fires on the nearby islands of Hvar and Brač (Brac).

Croatian state television reports that this day in Croatia was hottest this summer.

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Comments Problems

It could be full moon or it could be the latest Internet worm, but the Enetation comments service seems to be messed up.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Tears For Bajaga

As readers of this blog already know, Serbian rock-musician Momčilo "Bajaga" Bajagić (Momcilo "Bajaga" Bajagic), confronted with the local Croatian nationalists, caved in and decided to postpone his concert in Split. Decision was due to concert being held in the same time as HDZ promotional concert by Dino Dvornik some 200 meters away. Bajaga wanted to evade any kind of tensions, but his caving in probably encouraged more chauvinistic citizens of Split. On Monday night they attacked concert goers with a tear gas – method which is not exactly new; in 2002 it was used by skinheads against Zagreb Gay Pride parade and few days ago it was used in San Remo dance club in nearby city of Sinj. The last attack was reportedly unprovoked and without any ethnic or political dimension – it seems that the attackers wanted simply to test their ability to produce tear gas and what effects it would have on people (in case of Sinj, some 12 people, mostly teenagers, were briefly hospitalised).

Last night the concert, which began at 23:00 was attacked twice – at 23:30 and after midnight. First time wind and concert goers' desire to defy hooligans allowed Bajaga to continue, but second time police intervened and stopped the concert. There are reports of arrests and Split-Dalmatian Police District is supposed to hold press conference at this very minute.

500th Hit

It took more than a month for Bravenet counter to record 500 hits for this site. To be frank, I hoped for more, but I expected less.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Bright Present, Dark Future

Sometimes I wonder whether I write too many negative stories about Croatia and whether I should try to tell about some positive developments, simply for balance's sake.

Well, one of such positive developments is relatively good tourist season and the fact that despite the endemic disorganisation of Croatian fire fighting forces, forest fires at Adriatic didn't make as much damage as in other Mediterranean countries. Despite 75% of vegetation on island of Biševo (Bisevo) being destroyed in last fire, Račan (Racan) was right to point that Croatian fire fighters have something to be proud of – no person had died in fires (actually one firefighter did, only Račan obviously attributes his death to previous health problems rather than smoke-related suffocation or burns) and none of the houses was consumed by flames.

So, this summer in Croatia is better than previous summers and only the eternal losers like Budiša (Budisa) can claim that Croatia is galloping towards disaster. With good results of tourist season, Hague troubles forgotten by state media and EU membership in 2007 being considered a done deal, Račan can comfortably enter this November's election race.

But the climate can spoil this plan. The very same drought that had helped forest fires is currently drying up rivers necessary for Croatian hydro plants to function properly. Drought also threatens with water reductions.

In normal circumstances some sort of reductions would have been established right now, but that would hurt tourism. So those problems are swept under the carpet and the real, and significantly less pleasant water and power reductions are expected in September. It is too early to tell whether such dark and dry September would have any impact on voters in November.

Battle Avoided

Bačvice (Bacvice), area of Split known for its picturesque cafes, beaches and open-air stages, nearly became battlefield yesterday – battlefield in the war that was supposed to be over right now.

Dino Dvornik, chemistry-loving pop musician and Ivo Sanader's greatest fan, was supposed to hold concert one of Bačvice's stages. The concert was part of Pokrenimo Hrvatsku (Move Croatia), HDZ pre-election campaign designed to present Tudjman's party as "hip" and acceptable for first-time voters.

Problem was in another great perfomer having a concert scheduled only 200 meters away. Momčilo "Bajaga" Bajagić (Momcilo "Bajaga" Bajagic), one of Serbia's best known rock-musicians, was supposed to hold concert in Split for the first time after 14 years.

14 years ago Dvornik and Bajaga were citizens of the same country, played more-or-less the same kind of music and had more-or-less the same fan base. After that Bajaga became non-person in Tudjman's Croatia, but kept relatively huge fan base – partly of nostalgia, and partly because listening to Serb music was part of youth rebellion against Tudjman's ultra-conservatism. Gradually, as Dvornik began more (in)famous for his lifestyle than for his music, fan bases began to separate.

So, the idea of thousands of Bajaga fans being at the same time and same place with thousands of Dvornik fans (many of whom would come as a show of support to HDZ) must have been a nightmare for Split police. Despite the efforts to paint HDZ as born-again "European and tolerant" party, its membership is still made of people who see any Serb on Croatian soil deeply offending. All that combined with heat, alcohol and drugs could have guaranteed violent riots.

In the end, Bajaga folded and decided to hold concert on Monday. Dvornik was allowed to perform alone and his concert proved to be somewhat disappointing. He was one hour late (which would probably create a lot of speculations about his love of "chemistry") and the crowd was small, gradually growing from some 50 die-hard fans to some 1000 people (many of whom appeared from neighbouring bars and cafes to take a brief glimpse at the spectacle).

The last battle of Serb-Croat war was, therefore, avoided.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Going Postal, Croatian Style

In gun-loving ultra-violent America disgruntled employees, while invading their employers' offices, use handguns. Here, in this part of civilised continent of Europe, they use hand grenades and cans of patrol.

Ivo Žaja (Ivo Zaja), 42-year old employee of "Salonit", one of many struggling Split's business firms, didn't like his employment prospects and that, together with intense heat, led him to attack firm's headquarters and use some of the skills he had learned during Patriotic War. In doing so, he wasn't that successful – only two of his co-workers were hospitalised. But his attempt to torch the building was caught by cameras of Slobodna Dalmacija and was used in today's front page.

Use of such disturbing images at front page in the middle of tourist season is something you couldn't have expected in previous years. Being under government control, Slobodna Dalmacija usually didn't put much emphasis on any story that could scare foreign tourists. In the old days they could have put the story at the front page, but without disturbing photos – most of the tourists couldn't understand headlines about stuff like man-eating sharks being spotted in Adriatic, so it didn't matter.

Use of such photos in today's edition shows that the heat didn't affect only poor Mr. Žaja. Some of editorial (self)control was also lost yesterday.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Total Recall, After All

So, Arnold decided to join the fray. This was big surprise, since most people viewed the talk about his gubernatorial campaign as nothing more than free publicity for Terminator 3. There was wide speculation of Arnold being halted by his wife or by Republican machine, not happy with his moderate views.

Yet, Schwarzenegger is in the fray. I must say that I hoped that it would be like this. Although I like Schwarzenegger's films, I'm quite aware that his career of action movie superstar was going nowhere, at least judging by some of the latest titles. Schwarzenegger always gave impression of being something more than a mountain of muscles, and now has a chance to prove it.

Furthermore, his eventual victory could lead the way for changes in US Constitution and thus allow immigrants to vie for the White House just like any other Americans.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Slippery Slope

To say that I don't support official Catholic Church views about many social issues would be an understatement. To say that I'm not happy about huge political influence Catholic Church has in my country is even greater understatement. For me separation of church and state is indistinguishable from modern civil democracy – and that condition is, sadly, not met in Croatia, where Church enjoys status of "state within the state", spared of criticism and other troubles experienced in other countries.

Then, when I see this, I feel the strange urge to become a staunch defender of Church.

Again, I don't like Vatican views on the social issues, including alternative lifestyles. Some of them are offending, and the call to Catholic legislators to vote the Vatican line is an attack on the church and state separation principle. Those views are reactionary and have little to do with modern democracy.

But to try to suppress those views with legislation is even greater attack on democratic principles. If separation of church and state is indistinguishable from modern democracy, so is free speech.

If someone wants to be reactionary Taleban-like bigot and wants to inform the world about this, he or she should be completely free to do it.

It might seem strange for me to oppose "hate speech" legislation, especially considering my nation's traumatic past, but this past is exactly the reason why I consider it the dangerous thing.

First of all, such legislations simply don't work. You can't make bigotry and chauvinism go away through legislation just like you can't make alcoholism and drug abuse go away through legislation. Even the strictest enforcement of such legislation would hardly produce any desired results; it would only serve as a pretext for all kinds of abuse and create resentment.

Many people who feel nostalgia towards Tito's Yugoslavia usually justify its totalitarian one-party regime with its efforts to stamp out "regressive nationalism" through repression. Those efforts backfired with spectacular results in 1980s and 1990s. The very same pretext of "fighting nationalism and preserving brotherhood and unity" was abused by those wanting to eliminate any threat to establishment. In case of Croatia not only moderate nationalists, but even the most secular and non-sectarian opposition to the regime was put in the same basket with the creeps who had worshipped Pavelić (Pavelic). Needless to say, when the tables turned, those who were most demonised by the old regime were those who were most hailed by the new.

Similar developments might very easily occur if the modern Western democracies adopt new dogmas of "brotherhood and unity" and some forms of political views become banned. In case of Ireland, successful prosecution of Church for opposing gay marriages might lead to dangerous precedents. Those precedents, for examples, might be abused by European Union authorities – any demand to restore more rights for member-state could very easily branded as "chauvinist", "nationalist" and treated as "hate speech". Would that suppress or inflame French, German, Italian and any other European chauvinism?

Let's hope that we should never find that out.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

American Teens Love Bad Boys

At least judging by Kobe Bryant enjoying some good publicity for a change.

Worth Reading

Horst Prillinger wrote interesting piece about pros and cons of blogrolling.

Monday, August 04, 2003

If You Can't Stand the Heat, Stay Out Of Berlin Offices

Regional ministry of interiors in Berlin declared that the all employees of public institutions would be relieved of the duties on days when the temperature rises above 29 degrees Celsius.

It is nice to see once hard-working Germans adopting the lifestyle of their fellow Europeans from southern parts of the continent.

If the Whole Thing With Julie Pascal Wasn't Enough…

Asian Dub Foundation recently had concert in Croatian city of Rovinj. After the concert the members of the group discovered that Monvi amusement park – whose premises they were using during the concert – stages paintball games in which participants simulate destroying mosques and shooting Muslims.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Croatian Pride and Swedish Shame

According to the criteria adopted by Račan's (Racan's) government, this means that Croatia is more enlightened, more peaceful and more tolerant society than Sweden. There is no way gay pride events are going to be disrupted by skinheads in our nation's capital.

Furthermore, streets of Zagreb are definitely much safer than streets of Stockholm, at least judging by the possibility of nation's prime minister being shot there.

Living In A Small Town

I glimpsed through last nighjt's instalment of Story Supernova Talents, shot in Split few days ago. Despite its nominal size, Split is spiritually small town, so I tried to see whether I could spot a familiar face among few hundred contestants or not. No such luck. Then again, I haven't watched the show in its entirety. Preserving mental health is more important than satisfying curiosity.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Death of Marie Trintignant

Marie Trintignant has died. It was hardly unexpected news, but it is nevertheless sad. It is even sadder when I think of this kind of tragedy as the only way for Marie Trintignant to be actually noticed by world's media.

Interestingly enough, few Croatian media has picked up on this story, apparently forgetting her role in Harrison's Flowers, movie set during the siege of Vukovar.

Cucumber Season in Croatia

Is this the only kind of stories from Croatia to reach international media?

Nova TV's Golden Girl

Imagine Britney Spears as the anchor for Fox News. Something like that might very well await Croatian viewers. According to some media reports, Anja Alavanja, one of the contestants at Story Supernova reality show, is supposed to co-anchor news at Nova TV, struggling Croatian TV station which is the subject of interest for Murdoch's Newscorp.

Whatever the motives of Nova TV, I doubt that most of male audience would complain if this scheme becomes reality. I haven't watched much of Story Supernova and I didn't have time to pick my own favourites to victory. Closest to that was Anja Alavanja, and solely based on her looks, which make her Croatian equivalent of Britney Spears. Alavanja currently co-hosts Story Supernova talents show on Nova TV, job she got together with Dorijan Elezović (Dorijan Elezovic), another Story Supernova contestant.

However, it would be unfair to treat Anja Alavanja's news anchor job as a desperate marketing ploy or exploitation of airhead bimbo. Anja Alavanja entered Story Supernova while studying journalism at the university, so if she becomes news anchor, she wouldn't be complete amateur.

Let's hope that Alavanja's news career would resemble the one portrayed in Up Close & Personal rather than the one portrayed in Almost Golden.

Eternal Loser Finally Lost It

Dražen Budiša (Drazen Budisa), leader of HSLS, claimed that the series of forest fires currently ravaging Adriatic coast of Croatia, was the work of "underground organisation". Conspiracy theories about "sinister forces" behind forest fires in this part of the world are nothing new. In 1980s, while this coast used to be part of Yugoslavia, fires were attributed to "Ustasha emigration". In 1991, during the war, fires were attributed to evil Federal military; according to conspiracy theories, Federal military had prepared for war against Croatia for years, and burning forests was part of the plan – if left intact, forests would allow Croatian militias to sneak towards Federal military installations undetected. After the departure of Federal military fires continued; this time culprit were, of course, Serbs; the ubiquitous "fifth column" which continued with its evil acts even after the formal end of hostilities. Only minority of conspiracy theorists mentioned real estate speculations or Italians wanting to bring tourists from burned-down Croatia to their polluted coast of Adriatic.

Explanation for increasing number of forest fires, however, is more prosaic and it could be found in the very thing that brought prosperity to Mediterranean – tourism. This branch of economy brings reliable source of income to local communities, but it also discourages everything else, especially agriculture. Why would some local spend enormous amounts of money and sweat all-year long in order to grow crops when renting few rooms in July and August would bring much bigger and more reliable profit? As a result, fields and orchards are left unattended and slowly consumed by weeds and shrubs. Most of the infrastructure, including water supplies, is concentrated at the coast and in tourist settlements; depopulated hinterland is ignored. All that is forgotten for most of the year, but when summer comes combination of neglect, high temperatures, drought and occasional nasty wind would result in disaster.

Of course, some of the fires have been the work of arsonists. But again, the arsonists are hardly organised and their motives rarely have anything to do with politics. Or even plain old pyromania, for that matter. Simply, too many people are conditioned by media to consider fame to be their birthright; where everything else fails, can of petrol would guarantee that their work becomes prime news of national television and thus brings some perverse satisfaction to glory-deprived arsonists.

In any case, Dražen Budiša pushing conspiracy theories is the sign that his HSLS party is in the real bad shape only few months before elections. Opinion polls predict that it is way bellow 5% limit and it could expect only one or two MSes in southern parts of Croatia (couple more if it joins ticket with other right-wing parties in certain districts). Succumbing to cheap and potentially dangerous xenophobic populism is the sign that HSLS, which had begun to adopt far right rhetoric even while being part of Račan's (Racan's) government, would shift to the loonier spheres of Croatian politics.