Monday, May 31, 2004

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Croatian Blogroll Addition

Stipe Juras, Slobodna Dalmacija reporter who has published an article about Croatian blogging on Saturday, is running his own blog. As far as I know, he is the first genuine Croatian journalist to do so.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Emmerich Defeated

So, Shrek 2 defeated Day After Tomorrow at American box-office. It is too early to speculate about whether politics had any effect on those results. Just like most of Hollywood films, this one made better results on the overseas than on US market. However, left-wing groups embracing this film as their own, subsequent controversies and memories of 9-11 could have easily played the part. It is too early to tell whether Day After Tomorrow could gain ground in subsequent weeks, but I'm little bit sceptical. If environmentalists hoped to turn Day After Tomorrow into left-wing answer to Passion, they were wrong.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Neda Is Out

I was busy, so I managed to watch only glimpses of today's Hrvatski idol. Just as I expected, Neda Parmać (Neda Parmac) got booted. I don't like that outcome a little bit. Neda was a little bit too cocky and her ability to remember lyrics left much to be desired, but at least she presented some sort of recognisable character on stage. With Neda gone, finals showdown between Žanamari Lalić (Zanamari Lalic) and Pamela Ramljak is going to look like Grand Slam with Williams sisters.

At the Level

Freedom House recently published a report about the state of democracy and civic liberties in various countries around the world. The report has put the state of media freedom in Croatia at the same level as the state of media freedoms in neighbouring Serbia-Montenegro.

This report is probably not going to be revised after yesterday's assassination of Dusko Jovanović (Dusko Jovanovic), editor of Montengrin daily Dan and one of the harshest critics of Montenegrin prime minister Milo Djukanović (Milo Djukanovic).

Apart from the use of lethal force and spectacular manner in which the assassination was done, the event isn't that different from many similar events in Croatia. Only few days ago one of Croatia's sports journalists was beaten up by a masked thug and everyone believes that the incident was punishment for the article directed against some of the most powerful men within Croatian soccer world. Ninoslav Pavić (Ninoslav Pavic), one of the most powerful men of Croatia's media, had his car blown up by a bomb not that long ago.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

"Blame Me"

Anecdote, repeated in Soderbergh's Traffic, tells of the day Khruschev had to leave power to the new Soviet leader. He met the new man in his office, left him two letters and said: "Whenever you find yourself in trouble, follow the instructions in the letters". Few years later, new man in charge found himself in trouble. He went to his office and opened first letter. The letter said: "Blame me". The man did just that and remained in power. Few more years passed and new trouble came. The new man went back to his office and opened another letter. The letter said: "Start writing two letters".

I'm reminded of this anecdote when I hear news of Sanader's government deciding not to implement its recently passed legislation and slash VAT from 22% to 20%. Lowering VAT rate was one of Sanader's most attractive elections promises and Sanader tried to build his post-election credibility on the most immediate and uncompromising implementation of the promise. But, few months and few discussions with IMF officials later, Sanader apparently had a change of mind and announced that VAT would remain at 22%.

As a part of damage control, Sanader also began to lambaste Račan's (Racan's) government for "creating mess of state finances" and thus suggesting that all the reforms, all the tax reduction and the return of welfare benefits to mothers, veterans etc. are going to be scrapped.

Sanader's government is currently at "Blame Me" stage and would remain there for a long time.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Youth Day 2004

I noticed that Youth Day was observed within the ranks of emerging Croatian blogosphere.

But the most visible and explicit marking to the Youth Day happened elsewhere. Bosnian FTV television has aired 90-minute documentary about Youth Day, made in 1985 by Filmske novosti, newsreel studio of the former Yugoslavia.

By some coincidence, today's edition of Slobodna Dalmacija brought news of Sanader's government appointing Tito's son Aleksandar "Mišo" Broz (Aleksandar "Miso" Broz) to the post of Croatian ambassador to Indonesia.

Domestic Affair

ICTY prosecutors have brought war crimes indictment against Mirko Norac, former Croatian Army general. He is indicted for atrocities committed during Croatian Army and police offensive against Serb forces in Medak Pocket in 1993.

Unlike in previous similar occasions, this indictment is not likely to cause any major problems for Croatian government. First of all, ICTY prosecutors have recommended that the trial be held in Croatia.

Second, it is unlikely that Norac could evade the trial, because he is currently in prison, serving 12 years sentence for the war crimes committed against Serb civilians in Gospić 1991.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Eurooptimism in Balkans

Until very recently, Croatian governments tried very hard to convince the people that Croatia would join EU in 2007. Račan's (Racan's) government tried to convince people that Croatia can enter EU only if it stays in power. Sanader's government used Croatian entry into EU as justification for some of its unpopular moves – having Serbs in government, handing generals to Hague Tribunal etc.

But it seems that the optimism is unfounded. It is very unlikely that Croatia can enter EU in 2007, and some ministers in Sanader's government admitted so.

Many in Croatia are angry over the prospect of Bulgaria and Romania – two countries that definitely looked like worse candidates for EU compared with Croatia in 1990 – entering EU before Croatia.

This post from excellent Halfway down the Danube blog shows that even Romania is unlikely to enter EU in 2007.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

St. Michael

As expected, Michael Moore won this year's Palm d'Or. Censorship stunt obviously worked.

This means that Fahrenheit 911 is very likely to appear in Croatian cinemas, just like Bowling for Columbine.

This also means that the Croatians cinemas won't show some French/Indian/Danish/Brasilian film that could have won under the normal circumstances.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Return of Nera

Unlike the other Story Supernova Music Talents finalists, Nera Stipičević (Nera Stipicevic) spent last few months far from public spotlight. Saša Lozar (Sasa Lozar), Tin Samardžić (Tin Samardzic) and Damir Kedžo (Damir Kedzo) had their 365 song as part of Scream 3 publicity campaign, Rafael Dropulić (Rafael Dropulic) entertained the critics with his autobiographic song Ja sam Rafo (although the video wasn't something to write home about), while Natalie Dizdar had few festival gigs.

After unsuccessful bid to get much-coveted role in Croatian stage version of Chicago, Nera spent months trying to relaunch her career, this time as genuine pop star. The results of such efforts – videoclip of the song Centar svita - can be seen at Nova TV.

I'm not impressed. In the clip Nera shows that can sing and dance, but the quality of music and lyrics is simply below her standards. What was supposed to be genuine article is going to be turned into clone of Severina Vučković (Severina Vuckovic). And it could be argued that this country is too small for two Severinas.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Preaching to the Converted

According to BBC, Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 911 is the most serious contender for this year's Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival. Most of the critics are ecstatic and 15-minute standing ovation at the premiere is unprecedented in the history of the festival.

So, the whole shebang with Disney and censorship has paid off. Equipped with the image of martyr and with the film that tells its audience exactly what it likes to hear, Moore is cinema deity of our times.

Standing ovations and rave reviews at Cannes are exactly what everyone could have expected, regardless of the artistic quality of Moore's film.

I feel sorry for all those reviewers, at least those outside USA, that would try to give this film with anything less than the best ratings possible.

The only comforting thought is that this film is going to become irrelevant after November, one way or the other.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Serbian JFK Saga Continues

Goran Svilanović (Goran Svilanovic), former foreign minister of Serbia-Montenegro, was guest on yesterday's HRT talk show Nedjeljom u 2. There he informed Croatian public about rumours that are currently circulating in Belgrade.

According to rumours, Milorad Luković "Legija" (Milorad Lukovic "Legija"), former leader of Serbian paramilitaries and chief suspect in murder of prime minister Zoran Đinđić (Zoran Djindjic), is going to use rather original defence at the trial. He is going to claim that the assassination was supposed to be staged as a pretext for huge purge against organised crime (which was conducted following the assassination). According to Legija, the fake assassination was part of the deal with Đinđić – only the prime minister's bodyguard was supposed to get killed. However, mysterious third party got involved and made sure that Serbian prime minister gets killed instead.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Thirteen Years and Twelve Points Later

Much to the shock and disgust of those who take pride in being called Croatian nationalists, voters of Croatia have given the maximum 12 points to Serbia-Monetengro representative on this year's Eurovision Song Contest. For them it is inconceivable that the people of Croatia would have such short memory and allow themselves to embrace the very nation responsible for destruction, rape, plunder and killing of Croatian men, women and children in 1991-95.

Then again, 12 Croatian points for Serbia weren't that surprising for all those willing to spot cultural trends in contemporary Balkans and Croatia.

Lane moje won Croatian favour by being the only song whose lyrics Croatian voters could understand. And the song in many ways belong to "turbo folk", musical style which is immensely popular in Croatia, especially among rural and people of right-wing persuasion.

How popular this music is, even when it comes from Serbia, is best illustrated by two concerts held in Split last year. First, held by Serbian rock star Momčilo Bajagić "Bajaga" (Momcilo Bajagic "Bajaga"), was interrupted by tear gas, apparently thrown by group of Croatian cultural vigilantes. The other concert, held some time later, feature Vesna Zmijanac, "turbo folk" star who had performed for Serbian soldiers besieging Vukovar in 1991. Common sense tells us that Zmijanac's concert should have been marked by even more controversy and incidents than Bajaga's. But common sense has little to do with sentiments and many in Split were too fond of "turbo folk" music to allow themselves to be distracted by ancient history.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Another Title

In the end Dinamo trashed Osijek with 4-1 score, but it didn't matter. With 2 points of advantage at the league table, Hajdukhas just secured another title.


Dinamo Zagreb has a 2-1 lead over Osijek, but after Hajduk's second goal at Poljud Stadium it is unlikely that this would change the winner of Championship.


If the current score in the game against Varteks holds, Hajduk Split has secured another title of Croatian soccer champions.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Granić (Granic) Saga Continues

Mate Granić (Mate Granic) might have case against himself thrown by Croatian judicial authorities, but the court of public opinion is another matter. Apparently someone within USKOK, deeply dissatisfied by the way their case against former foreign minister collapsed (although Supreme Court would have the last word on this), leaked the transcript of the conversation between Granić and Vladimir Delonga, businessman and USKOK informer.

The conversation (or at least the first part I had read in newspapers) clearly establishes that Granić was involved in illegal activities. At least this is the impression by most of Croatia's political commentators.

The most shocking aspect of this story isn't in the scandal, Court decision or leaked evidence. The most shocking aspect is in Mate Granić showing incredible incompetence in handling delicate negotiations between Delonga and Darinko Bago, at least judging by the transcripts.

More Eurovision Scandals

Željko Joksimović (Zeljko Joksimovic), representative of Serbia-Montenegro at this year's Eurovision Song Contest, created some sort of outrage in Istanbul by raising three fingers in the air (which is traditional Serbian battle salute) and allegedly stating that he would "win in Istanbul in order avenge centuries that his country spent under the Turkish yoke".

Before the semi-final Ivan Mikulić (Ivan Mikulic), representative of Croatia, allegedly complained to Aleksandar Kostadinov, head of Croatian delegation in Istanbul, that UDBA (Tito's secret police) tried to poison him and thus prevent him from entering the finals.

Both Joksimović and Mikulić entered into finals, partly because former Yugoslav republics traded each others' votes.

Croatian Eurovision Scandal?

It seems that some of the things that tend to happen with Croatian reality and music talents shows – voting problems – found their way into this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

For all those who want to know what Eurovision Song Contest is, I recommend this excellent post.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Salam Pax: The Movie

So, they are going to make a feature film about Salam Pax a.k.a. Baghdad Blogger.

This is undoubtedly going to create a lot of speculation in the blogosphere. I think this is going to be relatively low budget production.

Casting is going to be a little bit of problem. Major Hollywood stars are going to stay out. I've seen how Baghdad Blogger on BBC and he is not likely to be played by the likes of Banderas or Orlando Bloom. Colin Farrell, if he goes "De Niro" and gains some 10-20 kilograms, is the only major league star I can envision as Salam.

Depending on the script and producers' priorities, there would be place for other real life blogosphere characters to be played by Hollywood stars.

I envision Susan Sarandon as most likely candidate for the role of Diana. Character of Riverbend could be played by Michelle Rodriguez or Eliza Dushku.

Dynasty Continues

So, contrary to all the polls and pundits, Congress Party has apparently won Indian parliamentary elections. Sonia Gandhi is going to be next prime minister and thus continue the legacy of her late husband and mother-in-law.

This election upset shows how polling can be bad indicator for the predicting of elections results. Apparently, polls and pundits were seduced by the booming economy and visibly improving living standards in the big cities, completely ignoring conservative countryside.

Something like that happened to Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) last year.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Granić (Granic) Off the Hook

Zagreb County Court upheld the decision of their investigative magistrate. There wouldn't be any criminal investigation against Mate Granić (Mate Granic) and Darinko Bago.

This decision would bring huge collective sigh of relief from Croatian political and business establishment. Granić might be political Has Been, but his arrest or eventual prison sentence would establish nasty precedent.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Worse Than Vietnam

Diana says that latest American experience is worse than Vietnam.

I tend to agree with her, although not for the reasons she used in her post. Iraq War is worse than Vietnam War for one simple, frightening reason.

USA, unlike in Vietnam, doesn't have luxury of simply calling quits, retreating few thousands kilometres over the ocean and treat that tragic episode as a misguided involvement into something that was and later turned back into essentially regional affair.

All those who hope that Kerry's victory in November and subsequent US military pullout from Iraq would bring back a good old Clintonian world are deluding themselves.

Pax Americana is gone, replaced by global conflict from which USA can't extract itself without losing its status of global superpower and endangering its very existence in the long run. The power vacuum left after American defeat is not going to be filled by UN, "international community" or emasculated Europe. The world is going to be much more dangerous place in which terror is going to be not only legitimate, but the most efficient and widely used political tool.

Going to war in Iraq was huge mistake. Pulling out is going to be even bigger mistake.

Granić Update (Granic Update)

Zagreb County Court investigative magistrate has refused to start formal proceedings against Darinko Bago and Mate Granić (Mate Granic). This is second time that Zagreb investigative magistrates are throwing out criminal charges against prominent Zagreb businessmen and politicians. Željko Žganjer (Zeljko Zganjer), head of USKOK, investigative body that had gathered evidence against Granić, has announced that he would appeal against the decision.

That news was accompanied with reports of Granić being hospitalised, apparently suffering heart problems because of his arrest.

It is too early to tell what County Court and Supreme Court would decide, but this represents huge setback and embarrassment for Žganjer. Of course, some would accuse Croatian judiciary – not known for its crime fighting zeal – of being in awe of such prominent defendant that only short time ago used to be part of national political establishment.

Monday, May 10, 2004

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Blogger Features

I'm currently testing new Blogger features. I apologise if the blog looks funny.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

No Surprises

SDP had its convention yesterday.

Just like in good old days when his party was the only one around, Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan) won chairmanship by being the only candidate.

Race for his deputy was marginally more interesting, with media speculating about former defence minister Željka Antunović (Zeljka Antunovic) having to fend off challenge from Milan Bandić (Milan Bandic), controversial and populist deputy mayor of Zagreb and boss of Zagreb SDP organisatuon.

Bandić more or less had his chances destroyed after media leaks about his verbal altercation with Zagreb mayor Vlasta Pavić (Vlasta Pavic). Bandić apparently used some rather un-diplomatic and un-gentlemanly language leading earning the epithet of "sexist" as a result.

Željka Antunović nevertheless had to go into the second round of vote before winning.

In any case, Sanader doesn't have to worry much about this kind of SDP. With Račan at the helm, HDZ wouldn't have to worry about Croatia's main opposition party.

And with Antunović as his apparent heir apparent, Račan secured himself from all those radicals who would like to see him go down. In views of many, Antunović is to Račan what Dan Quayle was to Bush Sr.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Mate Granić (Mate Granic) Busted!

In 1990s he used to be the most popular of all politicians in Croatia, liked even by those who couldn't stand his boss Tudjman.

In late 1990s he was widely believed to be Tudjman's successor.

In late 1999 and first days of 2000, following Tudjman's death, all opinion polls showed him as clear favourite to win Croatian presidency.

In early 2000 he was widely believed to lead transformation of HDZ from rigid nationalist into gentler and kinder moderate conservative party.

In Autumn of 2003 he was widely believed to be kingmaker whose party alone could bring Sanader and HDZ to power.

Following fiasco of his DC party on 2003 elections, former Tudjman's foreign minister Mate Granić did the right thing and stepped down as party leader. He was supposed to retire from politics.

But today, Croatian media are all over Mate Granić. Former foreign minister is arrested by police following classic sting operation related to case of illegal sales of shares of Rade Končar (Rade Koncar) company. Granić is arrested together with Darinko Bago, chairman of Rade Končar administrative board.

Killing For Money, Balkan Style

Another tragically underreported story, which is probably not going to make much impact in blogosphere (although it should because it is related to issues for which Rumsfeld is currently being grilled) comes from Macedonia. Ljube Boškovski (Ljube Boskovski), former Macedonian deputy interior minister and couple of his associates are charged for murder of six Pakistani and one Indian illegal immigrant. They lured immigrants from Bulgaria to Macedonia, than shot them in cold blood and later staged the scene to look like genuine anti-terrorist operation and their victims dressed up as dangerous Islamist terrorists. The motive of the killings was allegedly Macedonian government's desire to get financial aid from US government by presenting itself as country totally dedicated to War on Terror.

Sadly, this story is related to Croatia. Boškovski is Croatian citizen and veteran of 1991-95 war. He disappeared and many speculate that he sought shelter on Croatian soil. As Croatian citizen, Boškovski is unlikely to be extradited to Macedonian authorities.

Interestingly (and menacingly) enough, the only segments of the world media willing to pay much attention to this story belong to Muslim world. Something tells me that in the long run this crime might indeed turn Macedonia into battlegrounds of the War On Terror.

St. Dujam's Day

Today is St. Dujam's Day, church holiday dedicated to the patron saint of Split.

This is opportunity for good citizens of Split to hail the success of their new favourite son, prime minister Ivo Sanader. He came to Split together with President Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) and their presence at the festivities is good opportunity for people to speculate about the start of 2005 presidential campaign.

It is good day for Sanader. Opinion polls show that, for the first time in four years, someone is more popular than Mesić. And that someone is, of course, Sanader.

With Brussels bureaucrats and EU diplomats' statements about possibility of Croatian entry into EU being presented into great diplomatic victory for Sanader and with opposition being led by inept Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan), Croatian prime minister is probably going to remember this year's St. Dujam's Day as one of the high points of his political career.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Creating Martyrs

Disney has stopped Miramax from distributing Michael Moore's new documentary Fahrenheit 911.

I don't like that move a little bit. Not only because I always hated censorship, but because this move brings memories of movies that were banned in my part of the world for political reasons. Needless to say, all those bans were temporary and all they achieved was to bring status of martyrs and great artists to people who would otherwise be lost in the fog of mediocrity.

I can already picture how would this ban affect Michael Moore's chances of victory at Cannes Film Festival or his film's chances of getting regular cinema distribution in countries like Croatia. And I don't envy those critics who would question Michael Moore's status of film genius and political martyr.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Deal With Legija?

As usual, even the most spectacular events in this part of the world are swept under the world media's carpet. I don't doubt that the surprise surrender of Milorad Luković "Legija" (Milorad Lukovic "Legija"), dreaded leader of Serbian paramilitaries and chief suspect in the assassination of prime minister Zoran Đinđić (Zoran Djindjic) would get very little attention in blogosphere.

Yet, how and why this surrender happened would in many ways tell what lies in future for Serbia and this part of the world.

Most people believe that Legija surrendered due to a deal. The only question with whom he made a deal and what he could offer.

The optimists believe that Legija can either offer information on whereabouts of fugitives who are more notorious than him – Ratko Mladić (Ratko Mladic) and Radovan Karadžić (Radovan Karadzic) – or testify in Hague at the expense of his former boss Slobodan Milošević (Slobodan Milosevic).

Pessimists believe that Legija surrendered because he expected more lenient treatment from Koštunica (Kostunica) and his moderate nationalist crowd. His public testimony at the Đinđić (Djindjic) assassination trial could reveal many unpleasant truths about slain prime minister and his Democratic Party. That is something that could serve Koštunica very well during next month's presidential elections.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Worth Reading

I don't have much time for blogging myself, but I can point towards couple of other people's blog entries:

Alison Kaplan Sommer and her crude analogy about blogging (via Imshin).

Tobias Schwarz' about new legislation that turned German state into pimp.

Andrew Reeves comments on Stargate SG-1.

Iraq Reality Check: Abu Ghraib

Just like the fiasco in Fallujah, Abu Ghraib scandal is another eye-opener for all those who had the naďve belief that the Iraq War (or insurgency) would be somehow different and "cleaner" than other armed conflicts of the same nature.

US military forces may have the best equipment, the best training and the best logistical support in the world, but this is apparently not enough for victory in the nasty, prolonged guerrilla war. US military, just like any military in the same situation, is forced to use certain methods that the militaries of enlightened democratic and self-righteous Western industrialised nations at the beginning of 21st Century aren't supposed to do.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Iraq Reality Check: Fallujah

There would be plenty of consequences of the recent American defeat in Fallujah, but one of them is certain. All ridicule of Russian military, based on its poor performance in Chechnya, especially Grozny, is going to cease. Events in Fallujah showed that even the best trained and best equipped modern armies can't deal with urban combat without suffering unacceptably high levels of casualties or causing unacceptably high levels of casualties among innocent civilians or both.

Silenzio Stampa

Apparently, more people were outraged with the Split Municipal Court decision in the case of Ivona Lalić (Ivona Lalic). That included accused Jurica Torlak, 22-young man who got three years for vehicular manslaughter. He allegedly expressed deep dissatisfaction with three years he would have to spend behind bars. When escorted from the courtroom he got into verbal altercation with Vedran Biuk, friend he had been driving during the fatal incident. According to unconfirmed reports, he confronted Biuk and threatened his life, blaming him for the incident and offering to "settle this matter with guns".

This, however, isn't the most interesting part of this story. The altercation was reported in Novi list, Rijeka daily newspaper, while local Split daily Slobodna Dalmacija didn't bother to report it.

[ADMINISTRATIVE] Some Major Changes

Captivenation(s) added to the blogroll.

I recently started experimenting with alternative blog site.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Fair Weather and Inept Forecasts

RTL Televizija started airing its regular program yesterday. I haven't seen much of it, so I can't comment.

But I had time to watch the most talked about part of their program. That part was also the shortest – weather forecast. They advertised it with the words "Let weather be as fair as our weathergirl". Weathergirl in question was Renata Sopek, former fashion model recently pronounced as the Croatia's sexiest woman by self-appointed "expert team" of Globus magazine.

I watched that broadcast and all I can say that Renata Sopek's performance leaves much to be desired. Sopek might look beautiful, but her attitude in front of camera doesn't strike me as particularly professional. Paola Poljak, host of Nova TV's weather forecast, might not appear on Globus cover, but she can wipe floor with Renata Sopek any time.


This year's International Labour Day isn't going to be well-remembered by fans of Hajduk Split.

In tonight's dramatic match in Zagreb Dinamo Zagreb has beaten Hajduk Split with 3-1. Only few weeks ago Hajduk was supposed to have Croatian Soccer Championship in its grasp. Dinamo had to beat Hajduk in order to remain in the race for championship and that is exactly what happened. Dinamo and Hajduk now have the same amount of points, but Dinamo leads on the goal difference.

Not everything was lost this evening. Some sort of comfort was provided by Neda Parmač (Neda Parmac) from Split who, against expectations, managed to qualify for the next round of Hrvatski idol (Croatian version of American Idol) music talents show.