Melania’s Speech (The Art Of Trolling)

Melania Trump‘s first (only?) major political speech of her career obviously made waves in the country of her birth as well. And not just because she plagiarised Michelle Obama quite audaciously. Or maybe precisely because of that, but from a different perspective. Sure, it looks bad enough from the US point of view. A would-be First Lady ripping off the, well, incumbent comes across as either too eager, inexperienced, brazen or shallow to pass the most basic of musters. After all, FLOTUS is an office (if one can call it that) one is married into rather than elected to. Which makes it all the more necessary to tread carefully lest accusations of usurpation of power be made. Just ask Hillary Clinton.

Melania Knavs Trump giving her first and possibly last major political speech (source)

But with Melania hailing from Slovenia and all, the whole thing took an additional twist this side of the Alps, where we are no strangers to politicos plagiarizing or fabricating elements of their CVs to make them look better and deeper than they really are. And although Ms. Trump has zero connections to the local political cesspool it would be a gross omission not to make a reference to the old Balkan proverb saying that you can apparently take Melania out of Slovenia but you can’t take Slovenia out of Melania.

You see, back in the day when the going was good, money was cheap and the future looked bright, Janez Janša extolled the virtues of Slovenia, her unique role in the world and the limitless possibilities that awaited her and her people if only we set our minds to it, looked to the future instead into the past and became a beacon of the 21st century. It was an upbeat, optimistic Janša, unlike anything we’d ever seen until then (or since). The only problem was it wasn’t actually Janša but rather Tony Blair who said that with Janša simply plagiarizing a key part of his speech from the British PM.

But plagiarizing speeches is one thing. While it is without a doubt bad form and ruinous to one’s credibility (especially if there’s not a lot of that to begin with), at the end of the day the ramifications are relatively mild. After all, why do you think Melania was slated to appear on the very first day of a four-day GOP convention? She’s obviously a political liability to The Donald and by the time the Circus in Cleveland (which, by the way, has a sizeable Slovenian-American population) is over her faux-pas will hardly be remembered.

But then there’s that other thing about her formal education. It would appear that contrary to her CV, the would-be FLOTUS didn’t exactly finish her studies of architecture and design. This, too is something we’ve had to deal with in Slovenian politics on various occasions, case in point Ivan Simčič MP of DeSUS, who falsified his high-school certificate to enroll in a faculty. But looking on the bright side, her not actually graduating precludes Melania from succumbing to that other malaise of academically ambitious politicians, plagiarizing their theses, as attested to on many an occasion in the past couple of years by many Slovenian politicians, former education minister Klavdija Markež of the ruling SMC being just the last one in a long line of academically disgraced politicians.

But in Melania’s defence, she is not running for office. Her omissions, misstatements, stolen passages and even lies speak volumes about her or – at the very least – the world she lives in, but they do not constitute any sort of breach of trust. Not even trust of The Donald since he (given everything that was reported on the couple) isn’t the kind of guy to fall for women’s academic achievements.

In fact, what if all of this, rather than a terrible faux-pas is in fact a very smart PR curve-ball, taking everyone by surprise and as a result ensuring Candidate Trump owned the media cycle once more?

Think about it: what exactly do you remember from Day 1 of the GOP convention? Abuse of Benghazi victims for political gain? Rudy Giuliani talking tough to terrorists? The Donald shooting himself in the knee by phoning-in Fox news mid-convention to trash John Kasich thereby interrupting the coverage of convention just as the speakers were ripping into Hillary Clinton at full throttle over Lybia?

None of the above. You just remember Melania channelling Michelle.

As noted above, Melania is in fact a liability for The Donald. But plagiarizing Ms. O. is not the reason for it. You see, Ms. Trump is everything Mr. Trump campaigns against. She’s an immigrant, she has a thick accent, she doesn’t have a “real” job and she’s a successful independent woman who could very well support herself long before she met him. With Melania on stage, the commentariat could (and probably would) be pointing out any of the above and given enough time make a noticeable dent in Trump’s armour.

But as things stand, Team Trump once again dictated the terms of the narrative and the media ate it up. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is state-of-the-art trolling. And if you think that’s a bit rich, well, there’s an actual rickroll in Melania’s speech.

We’ve all been had. Again.



July 20th, 2016, posted by pengovsky

Goodbye UK! We’ll Meet Again!

As countries go, Slovenia is a fairly sorry excuse for one, but she is celebrating her 25th birthday today. Hence the party, the flybys and salvos from the Castle hill, if you happened to be in downtown Ljubljana yesterday evening. And yes, despite putting on a brave face and some jovial attempts at ad-libbing it, President Pahor did not, could not avoid mentioning Brexit. He even shared some of his personal views on post-Brexit Europe.

Schlager-singer Magnifico commenting on Brexit (source)

Let’s ignore the fact that a state function on what is basically our Independence Day is usually a carefully choreographed event with few surprises. Especially surprises such as the Prez going off-script. But Pahor didn’t really go off-script. He merely elaborated on a position he floated a few days ago, namely that a deeper and a more connected EU is needed, up to the point of creating the United States of Europe and confirming the integration on a referendum. Yes, you read that right. While Nigel Farage is probably still working off  a mother of a hangover, an EU leader is already mentioning another referendum.

With this, Pahor joined Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Gerry Adams and Nicola Sturgeon in poking around the charred remains of the UK EU membership. Granted, he did it in a different context with a radically different message, but it all reeked more of just wanting to stir the pot rather than carve a reasonable path forward. Not in the least because PM Cerar and FM Erjavec (the other two people in this country with carte blanche to conduct foreign policy) gave slightly more muted responses to the referendum result which – on the other hand – were much more in line with the response of the EU leadership.

To put it another way: if you want to observe a politician putting himself in an untenable position, reducing his own room for manoeuvre and needlessly running out of options, you can either look at Borut Pahor or at David Cameron. No difference in this case. Well, apart from the fact that unlike Borut, Dave already has to start packing.

In all honesty, the Brexit meltdown was quite spectacular. And I don’t mean just the fact that the stock indices and sterling exchange rate at some point looked like the Cliffs of Dover. Pengovsky is more befuddled by the fact that a politician at the top of his game, who against all odds won a decisive electoral victory only a year ago and was arguably the main honcho of a country no-one could afford to ignore, performed an act of political suicide in full view of the public.

Make no mistake. Brexit was entirely avoidable. It was an unnecessary, uninformed and an unfair vote.

Unnecessary, because it was called as a political calculation to stop a brewing civil war within the Tory party.

Uniformed, because Leave support was strongest in areas which get the highest EU subsidies in the UK and in age groups which have hugely benefited from the economic and social stability the European project brought to the continent.

And unfair because it took Farage and BoJo less than five hours to do a U-turn on key Leave positions: The 350-million-for-NHS and, well, quitting the EU.

This is not what the public voted for. Although one might be persuaded to ask what the fuck they were voting for since the most-searched query on Google in the UK the day after the referendum was What is the EU.

And then there’s Farage being a right-proper cunt by saying they won “without a shot being fired“. If there’s an uglier way to spit on Jo Cox’s grave, I can’t think of any.

That is not to say that grievances against the EU aren’t real or that people who voted to leave had no reason to do so. Indeed, it seems that the Leave vote was strongest with those who took the brunt of the economic and financial crisis, a fact Jeremy Corbyn was angling to exploit while still campaigning for Remain. And now he may well find himself out of a job, too. Just like Cameron. Not that anyone will cry over those two, but it’s kind of hard to get over that sinking feeling that the whole clusterfuck happened because there were too many twats at the grown-ups’ table. And now the EU is reeling from yet another kick in the gut, the UK is bursting at the seams and German diplomats are forced to have a sense of humour.

As for the Balkans, the parallels of WWII are all too vivid. Which is probably why Magnifico took this wartime squeeze-hit and remade it.

Well, that’s that, then. See you in thirty-odd years, Brits. Just don’t forget that Normandy is a bitch to land on. The only upside to this sorry mess is the fact that Nigel Farage never again gets to run for the European Parliament.



June 25th, 2016, posted by pengovsky

I Just Can’t Even….

This was supposed to be a mildly self-serving blogpost on Brexit from an outsider’s perspective. You know, the kind that mixes a bit of historical narrative with a few ill-chosen links, all in the hope of scoring a few extra clicks and chipping off an eyeball or two for a second. It’s not that Brexit is not an important issue. It’s just that the arguments of both sides have been hashed and re-hashed time and again, the issue was approached from (what seemed at the time) every possible angle and, last but not least, it is for the Brits to decide. Unlike the referendum on Scottish independence, where this blogger could actually provide insight into the often-overlooked details of declaring independence (i.e. the hassle of a proper international border) and reiterating the historical role London always had keeping Berlin and Paris in check, there is awfully little for pengovsky to bring to the debate other than  a groveling “please, don’t go”. And then Jo Cox was murdered.

Jo Cox in the House of Commons during her maiden speech. (source)

It’s been twenty-four hours since she died  and I am, to be honest, still at a loss for much words. I can’t even do sarcasm. I just can’t even… I mean, there you are, Brits and your United Kingdom, a country I always liked and, as I grew older (if not wiser), came to respect and even admire for its role in the world, past and present. Its cultural influence, pop and otherwise, its ability for innovation while nurturing tradition and – last but not least – its political creed and democratic values which much of Europe, especially post-socialist countries, often looked up to.

You see, when you mention the word “parliament” to a Slovenian, he or she will, obvs, first think of our own madhouse, but the very next thing to come to mind will the The House of Commons. Whenever the state of the media is debated, it almost always ends with “but they should be more like the BBC.” For the political aficionados in this sorry little excuse for a country, the House of Cards (the original with Ian Richardson) and The Thick of It were formative pieces of entertainment. Vanessa Redgrave recited the English version of Zdravljica, a Prešeren poem which constitutes our national anthem. You gave us fucking Monty Python. That’s just in case you ever wondered what has the UK ever done for us.

And then Jo Cox was murdered. I realize that it was a deranged neoNazi (a euphemism if I ever saw one) who pulled the trigger and wielded the knife. But the stage was set by someone else. As Alex Massie pointed out in the Spectator, events have a multiplier effect.

Look. When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged. You cannot turn around and say, ‘Mate, you weren’t supposed to take it so seriously. It’s just a game, just a ploy, a strategy for winning votes.’ (link)


It wasn’t just Farage and Leave campaign, sowing fear and loathing of immigrants while harking to a 19th-century notion of an empire respected. It wasn’t just Boris angling for a win-win scenario where he either scores a senior Cabinet post as a conciliatory present should Remain win or kick David Cameron out of Number 10 and take his spot, should Remain lose. It wasn’t even just Jeremy Corbyn, looking to have the cake and eat it, by trying to make both the case for Remain and make political hay out of legitimate grievances many of Labour voters have with the conservative government (let alone stem the bleeding of his voters to UKIP). And it wasn’t even just David Cameron who started this whole referendum business simply in order to appease the eurosceptic element within the Tory party and, well, remain at the helm.

In addition to the above, it was everyone who enabled a toxic debate environment where what is euphemistically refered to as “post-truth politics” thrives at the expense of an honest and candid, let alone rational debate (yes, I’m looking at you, the media). But it was also, I am sad to say, everyone who did nothing against it.

For quite a while, the EU referendum issue was dismissed by the general public as a political game, an episode of Westminster twats doing their twatty stuff. You guys didn’t take it seriously. Because you couldn’t be bothered. Or, if you could be bothered, you didn’t really take the time to sift through the claims and counterclaims or even took a long, hard look at the issue. From what pengovsky understands, Jo Cox did. Drawing from her previous experience, she knew what was in play. And now she’s dead.

A family was robbed of a mother and a wife, a constituency and a parliament were robbed of a fine MP and a country and a society were robbed of an active citizen, in an era where these are few and far between as it is.

I really was going to beg you not to go. But now I’ve half a mind to tell you to just sod off.

This isn’t how things are suppose to work. This is not how you taught us.

June 17th, 2016, posted by pengovsky