Election Continuous

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Vote for continued flourishing of our cities and villages! (source)


As of autumn last year, this country is in a state of political flux which will last probably until 2012. We’ve entered what I like to call “continous electoral campaign”, as there are elections scheduled every year with a brief exception in year 2011. Allow me to elucidate with refferenced to specifics:

2006 – municipal elections
2007 – presidentital election
2008 – parliamentary elections
2009 – European elections
2010 – municipal elections
2011 – take a deep breath
2012 – general (presidential and parliamentary) elections


From a scientific point of view this gives us an ideal opportunity to follow the flow of politics, as agenda setting will by default be influenced by upcoming elections every year. You’ve had the opportunity to observe this on this blog throughout 2007 as assasination of character of President of the Republic took place. Why? To prevent him from running again, making room for a more “appropriate candidate” and to diminish the role of the President as such.


Next, it is almost obvious that 2008 will be the year of “great achievements” of this government as it will try to boost its ratings and secure another mandate. I’ve full confidence in PM Janša in that departement (please note the sarcasm), although it is entirely possible that the next coalition will be ruled by these two characters


And the pattern will repeat itself every year until 2012. On one hand, this is bad of course. With the ruling coalition up to its neck in a reelection bid, little actual work will get done, so I shan’t be surprised if Slovenia finds itself lagging in development in 2013.

On the other hand, it offers a brilliant option for a political “exit-stage right” for Janez Janša, thus really bringing political transition to an end. Namely: parliamentary and presidential elections coincide every twenty years (the parliament has a four-year term, while the President serves a five-year term). If we suppose that Janša will get another mandate as PM in 2008, it is safe to assume that he will either fuck up big, making himself unelectable as PM in 2012, or that Borut Pahor and his Social Democrats will slowly build up power up to the point of becoming the largest party in 2012. In both cases, Janša would be offered the perfect exit cue, as he would not have to face electoral defeat, but would rather just switch offices – much like Drnovšek did in 2002. But Drnovšek had to resign in order to run for President, whereas Janša wouldn’t have to.


It’s gonna be fun for the next couple of years 🙂


EDIT: My timing is impeccable. According to this article by RTVSLO Slovenia’s economy will cool down in 2013. A summary of the analysis by government economists in English can be found here.

Smart Move

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Joško Joras, a walking border incident, in good company of Croatian police force


Agenda setting 101:

The PM has launched a semi-secret initiative to finally resolve the many disputes between Slovenia and Croatia (maritime border being only one of them). If we – for the sake of the argument – ignore the fact that this is the zilionth initiative to try to do that and that only one (1) has at least come close to being accepted by both parties (the Drnovšek- Račan agreement), then we could say that this intiative has potential.

Except that even Janša apparently believes that it doesn’t.


Forget for a moment that Slovene PM Janez Janša and his Croatian counterpart are still accused of rigging numerous border incidents – thus making their attempts at solving this thing higly uncredible. There is an entirely different telltale sign that the latest initiative is just a smokescreen: Janša is conferring with every political party in the parliament about this.


Sounds lovely. But the cruel fact is that it’s just a way of getting an issue off the agenda and preventing it from being used in election campaign. How can I tell? Because if there was only a tiny chance of actually striking a deal, Janša would take those chances and try to secure a political victory he so desperately needs. By involving all political parties he is making sure that everyone will share the blame for failure and will thus be denied a strong PR weapon in the upcoming election streak.


Let’s look at two possible scenarios:

Less likely: He actually clinches a deal with both position and opposition parties. Odds are that (due to pre-election period) none od the parties – especially the ruling Blut-und-Boden coalition – will want to appear as if they’re betraying national interests and will take positions impossible for Croatia to accept. It will be a well publicised attempt, a lot of brouhahaha and Croatian government will protest vehemently that Slovenia is not proposing negotiations but is giving an ultimatum (which is totally unacceptable in today’s modern Europe, where Slovenia should – as an EU member state – lead by example rather than resort to extortion – I guess that would be the outline of Croatian response)

Janša can then claim that a) it was all the oppositions fault or b) just keep quiet, knowing that the opposition would be ill-advised to press him on this.

More likely: Janša’s move throws political parties in chaos, making them accuse each other of trying to sell out national interests, while he just shrughs and says “I tried, but I can’t do anything with these bozos”. Janša then has the exact same options as above




And so Joško Joras keeps on causing international incidents (someone lock him up for good, puh-lease!), the opposition has to keep its mouth shut or risk looking like morons and Janša and Sanader get to keep the shit-pan we call “Slovene-Croat border disputes” and stir it when their ratings drop.


Smart move, ain’t it? 😀

Put A Price On Your Blog

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In God we trust… All others, pay cash


What was meant to be a slight rant against so-called “blogger sellout” has gained momentum as of yesterday – in both cases had has provided the fodder 😀


Perhaps one should not be surprised that issues of bloggers’ copyrights and marketing have begun to surface. Until now bloggers have been mostly on the other side of the stick – accused of infringing copyright rather than having to defend original content. I guess part of it has to do with the fact that most bloggers swear by Creative Commons – a somewhat elusive and (at least in Slovenia) legally non-existent content.

The other part of course has to do with the fact that blogs bring little or no money.


MARKETING:

Let’s deal with the latter issue first – it first surfaced with several bloggers being invited do test-drive the new Renault Twingo and then exploded with full force when Kolosej (a cinema operator) offered free tickets to see Transofrmers – The Movie (insert transforming sound fx here) to bloggers who would have linked to Kolosej’s Transformers page.

The “problem” as I see it is of course the trade-off or lack thereof. Namely: What can a blogger and blog offer? Two things, basically. Content and links. The two are heavily interconnected, as content without links is non-existant and (in terms of this post) worthless, the links, however, cannot be effective without good content.

Now, let’s look at it from the other side: What does Kolosej have to offer. Again, basically two things: Movies and tickets to see them. The trick of course is, that tickets to blockbusters are usually not freely availble because why give them away, when you can sell them at € 4.95 each? So, which tickets do they usually give away en masse? Why, those which they wouldn’t be able to sell in the first place, of course!

So Kolosej was giving away worthless tickets and in return it got the most valuable thing a blogger can provide. I’d call that a ripoff, not a tradeoff.

But let us for a moment presume that bloggers who participated actually wanted to see the movie. Had they not taken up Kolosej’s offer, they’d have to pay for the tickets, naturally. But since they exchanged a link for two tickets, they put a price tag on a link. Since last week the price of a link is 9.9 euros. At least with bloggers who have participated. The problem is that now a precedence has been set. Next time an offer will be made to the blogging community, the price will already have been known.

Thirdly (for those keeping count), there is in my view also a question of ethics. A twofold question, actually.

One: linking as such. If memory serves, that’s called Googlebombing and is not allowed under Google guidelines. BMW even got banned from Google for a while for doing it. Some of us did it to help Michael M.’s solve his problems with a hosting provider, but that was done for a different reason.

Two: Linking without content. That’s even worse than just Googlebombing. Why? Because that’s sort of hidden advertisment. It’s like blogging about vodka and using Absolut font (or something in that manner). If a blogger got freebies on account of his blogging then I think it would be fair and square to publish his judgment of the freebie (a movie in this case). Furthermore, he should make every effort to it as objectively as possible (naturally, a movie review is almost entirely subjective, but still) – meaning that he should not be biased in favour of the movie or the company just because he got the freebie.

I’m not saying that individual bloggers who took the offer are or were in any way biased in favour of the movie or Kolosej, I’m just saying that every effort should be made to show that they are or were not. Otherwise, there can indeed be an impression of a sellout.

And lastly: I’ve no problem with making money out of blogging. I myself sport some google ads on this blog. But whether you like it or not, blogs are media. They are public, even though they more often than not feature personal accounts of events, people, etc.. And in media full disclosure must be made whenever there is even a hint of a conflict of interest. This way the integrity of the author and the media is preserved.


COPYRIGHT

Marketing is of course heavily connected to content. And had raises an extremely valid point when he says that blog-aggregators which display ads or otherwise market their webspace basically make money (if they make money, that is) by re-using contents of numerous individual blogs. To put is in Technicolor: aggregators who will display interesting and/or controvesial blogs and their entries (even just clips) will get more visitors and – by extention – more advertising money. Which is all fine and dandy – except for the fact that aggregators use other people’s work to make money. Which basically does violate bloggers’ copyright.

Of course, if you look at it from the other side, one could very well argue that blogs get more visitors by being featured in blog aggregators. Which is true to a certain point. However, as we all know, aggregators’ admins usually ask bloggers to publish links to
aggregators, which bloggers for the most part do. Call it a barter-deal. A link-exchange. No money involved. Besides. Aggregators need blogs to work – whereas blogs can technically exist without aggregators.

It is all very much like the current debate between Slovene media and this country’s clipping companies. The latter namely process almost all content produced by Slovene media on a daily basis, redistribute this content to their users – and charge them. At least one company (the largest among them) has started to recognise that this does contitute a possible infringement of copyright – precisely because media content is processed and distributed under a different brandname. So rather than wait for an expensive law suit, this company is (half-heartedly) trying to come to an agreement with most of Slovene media (the fact that this company is a part of the largest Slovene PR and marketing group does improve its negotiating positions a bit ;))

So the questions at hand are: what to do when (if) blog aggregators which also use blog’s content (and not just URLs) start making serious euros? Should blog owners be compensated? And if, what approach should be used? Would this concept hurt blog aggregators too much? What (for example) happens to Technorati if they have to compensate each and every blogger? What if aggregators start charging “membership”?

To put it in a nutshell: when money starts flowing around, do we all make a run for it, carving up the pie until there are only crumbs left or do we leave things as they are, each minding our own business?


So, that’s my two eurocents…. Personally, I think that eventually some sort of mechanism will have to be developed – perhaps a combination of the “clipping agreement” and Google’s AdSense. However, this mechanism should unite, rather then divide bloggers and aggregators – meaning that it should promote both good content and unbiased editoral process by agreggators’ admins. I’m not saying that they are biased now, just that noone really cares if they are or not – because there is no money involved. As for the marketing part… The moment readers will feel that a certain blog is favouring marketing against content, its ratings will drop and with it advertising revenue.

Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else) In Ten Easy Lessons

Naturally, br dr. Arf

LESSON V : WORLD WAR II AND ITS IMPACT ON BELGIUM

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WWII veterans memorial in Brussels. Photo by Guilliaume Dubé (source)

I briefly touched on this in the first two guest posts to explain how a portion of the Flemings looked to Germany to ?liberate’ them from Wallonian/French occupation. This week, we’ll get a bit deeper into the matter, keeping in line with P’s post earlier this week about this subject…

ET POUR LES FLAMANDS LA MÊME CHOSE

The gripes of the Flemings, as noted, lay in the fact they were rated as second class citizens in Belgium. This was especially evidenced in World War I, when Flemish men served as cannon fodder – as many as 80% of the Belgian casualties were Flemish – and were subject of derision of the francophone officer corps. The phrase ?Et pour les Flamands la meme chose’ still exists in our language culture as a reminder of this. Of course, it didn’t take long before a reaction to oppose to this treatment took shape, when the Flemish intellectuals founded the ?Frontbeweging’ (Front Movement). After the WW I, they would take the lead in ensuring a monument was erected to remember the fallen. It was called the ?IJzertoren’, after the fierce battle along the banks of the IJzer river during WW I. One of those aligned with the movement was catholic priest Cyriel Verschaeve. A romantic Flemish nationalist for most part, he would come to play a dubious part in the coming world war…

THE POLITICAL SIDE OF THINGS

Meanwhile, the Flemish hadn’t sat still on the political side of things. The first party to come to prominence was VERDINASO. The acronym stands for Verbond van Dietsche Nationaal Solidaristen (Union of Diets National Solidarists). They were led by Joris Van Severen, a charismatic dandy- like figure who evolved the party’s ideology from fervent anti- belgicist to ?whole Dutch’, which means a unification of Belgium, Luxemburg, French Flanders (the north- western region of France, including Lille and Roubaix, which were, historically speaking, part of County Flanders) and the Netherlands, supported on the Netherlands’ geographical situation under Emperor Charles V. This party was fascist in structure, and Van Severen put together a militia of what he called ?the best and brightest’, which were named ?Brown Shirts’ and later, during German occupation, ?Black Shirts’ after their uniform colours. Interestingly, they were financially supported by both The Vatican as well as dear old Adolf Hitler himself. The first had high hopes for VERDINASO, because they were rabiate anti- communist in nature and the latter, well, it doesn’t take a lot of guesswork to find what Adolf was after, right?

A word of explanation on ?Diets’. It is a name to describe the language spoken in Holland and Belgium in around the 16th and 17th century, but for all Flemish movements, like VERDINASO that strove for reunification with Holland and become a separate entity within the Pan- Germanic Ideology of Nazi Germany. It’s also the basis for the English word Dutch, often confused with Duits (German).

Another pro- German and anti Belgian party, was Staf de Clerq’s VNV (I’m wondering whether the guys of VNV Nation are aware of this :mrgreen:). VNV in this case stands for Vlaams Nationaal Verbond (Flemish National Alliance). They were a force to be reckoned with and even got 16 parliamentary seats in the national election of 1936. De Lerq had a warped sense of humor when it came to dealing with Uncle Adolf’s invasion hunger. In 1939 he wrote in a pamphlet that VNV would be the first line of defense if Hitler ?get it into his head to invade’ and they would kick damn good arse, but that tone was slightly altered into ?Let’s cooperate with our Germanic brethren! They’re cool!’ after Hitler secured Belgium’s addition to Gross Deutschland. They, too, had a military bridage, called the Grey Shirts (guess why :P) and when they were merged with VERDINASO in 1941, the both of them became the feared Black Shirt Brigade.

So, did the Walloons sit still when it came to fascism? No way, Jose! They had REX and its El Maximo Lidér Léon Degrelle. The party, born out of Degrelle’s frustration with catholic politicians and clergy and a pro- fascist and anti- Marxist ideology rose to prominence in the years before WW II and even managed to get 21 seats in parliament as well as 14 in the Senate. They even had a Flemish pendant in REX Vlaanderen. They got their financial support from Benito Mussolini himself.

If you read this, you must conclude we had a great bunch of collaborators over here, didn’t we?

DURING THE WAR

So Adolf invades and it all comes together. VNV had the most clout, as Van Severen turned against the anti- Belgian sentiments and chose the government’s side when Hitler invaded. Still, he was arrested, sent to a prison camp in France, bur murdered by French soldiers on the way there.
VERDINASO, in the mean time, was usurped by VNV, and REX was marginalized, but still in (puppet) power in Wallonia. REX Vlaanderen was usurped by VNV, just as VERDINASO was. Both were forced to do this under German pressure. This didn’t bode well wit the REXists, who massively left the party. Several VERDINASO and VNV prominents who felt betrayed by the Germans, also chose to go underground and fight on the secret resistance’s side during the war.

Cyriel Verschaeve actively started to draft people to fight with the Germans on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union, still under the romantic notion that Flanders would be free under Germand reign.
VNV officially drafted people into service and actively helped to round up Jews for deportation. They, like VERDINASO and REX, had always had an anti- semitic sentiment, so it’s no surprise they willingly cooperated in the Jewish deportations in Belgium.
Their dreams of Flemish or even Diets/Dutch independence were squashed by the German occupiers, though.

AFTER THE WAR

Suffice it to say that these parties became outlawed after the war and were subject to what is called ?The Repression’ in collaboration circles. Party members were incarcerated, stripped of their citizenship rights and generally harassed, just like non- denominational economic collaborators and women who had ?fraternized’ with the enemy.
Staf De Clerq died in 1942, while his successor had already died on the Eastern Front. The more moderate Hendrik Elias then succeeded De Clerq and was sentenced to jail until he was released early due to deteriorating health issues.
Cyriel Verschaeve, given an honorary doctorate at the University of Köln, was evacuated by the SS to Austria, where he stayed until he died in 1949 in Solbad Hall. His body was exhumed by a ?commando unit’ of the extreme right paramilitary organization VMO (Flemish Militant Order) under leadership of Bert Eriksson, to be reburied in Flemish soil. Eriksson claims to have done the same with the remains of Staf de Clerq, whose grave was defaced and ransacked by former resistance fighters.
Léon Degrelle escaped to Spain and was never extradited because he was close to Spain’s dictator Franco. He died in Malaga in 1994 from cardiac arrest. In the 80’s, he got into the news again, after having given a remarkable TV interview, which displayed his revisionist, fascist and anti semitic nature for all to see.
But the real victims here, are the people who actually followed these men and, of course, their multitude of victims. Through both their and REX’s efforts, a Flemish and Wallonian SS legion fought on the Eastern Front. Suffice it to say, they were looked down upon by their ?true’ German counterparts, which would count for a lot of frustration after the war and result in minds twisted into negating the whole episode and glorifying it, since they were ousted by their own people as traitors when they came home. Some of the most die hard pro Hitler SS veterans today still hang on to their service in the SS on the Eastern Front as their only remaining measure of pride and self esteem. Having read interviews with these people, I am always baffled by their twisted line of reasoning so as to justify themselves and their deeds, while at the same time recognizing that these men are just as well the victims as the deported Jews, intellectuals, gays, resistance fighters and other undesirables under the Nazi regime. It accounts to a lot of hurt, anger and unresolved issues on both sides of the fence. One has to recognize that, especially in the case of some economic collaborators and women who fell in love with German soldiers, these people had no choice than to collaborate. You can’t choose who you fall in love with, right? And what would YOU do if your family’s well being was at stake? Not everyone is brave enough to stand up against troops with the overwhelming convincing arguments that are machine guns, deportation, plunder and rape.
An organization of Eastern Front veterans still gathers together every year, to sing old songs they sang together, recount old war stories and remember fallen comrades while flying the flag of their SS legion. It’s all they have left after a life of service for the wrong side and to be honest, I myself don’t begrudge these octogenarians their annual get- together. It’s all they have left in a life that’s not left them with much after they made the wrong choice for whatever reason. The general public didn’t even remember them until a moderate Flemish Nationalist politician was seen in their midst, after which old issues came to a head again. Belgium hasn’t finished its World War II yet, that much is certain. Only when the last survivor is dead, then might we attempt to start to come to terms with what happened. Might, because as long as extreme right Flemish Nationalist parties like Front Nationale and Vlaams Belang (who used to be named Vlaams Blok, after VNV’s moniker ?Vlaams Nationaal Blok’ when they won their parliamentary seats in 1936) keep using VERDINASO’s and VNV’s political ideologies and strategies – not to mention the latter’s fascist party structure – to keep raising hate and racism and instill fear into the hearts and minds of the Wallonian and Flemish citizens.

And it’s not just Belgium that still reels from the after effects of this war. On route to visit Slovenia for the second time, in 2002, I encountered a friendly Bavarian man on his way to a friend’s birthday. He started talking to me, noticed I wasn’t German and we got to talking. When the subject turns to politics the man suddenly tells me : “You know, I still feel so ashamed for what we did to your country and others in the war”. Tears welled up in his eyes and I was quick to console him and say ?Sir, this was a long time ago and we should be able to forgive and look to the future.” His answer was : “Yes, you’re right. But still…” We sat there in silence for a moment, pondering how a war that started sixty plus years ago still had such an effect on the both of us, talking in 2002. “Bury your dead and move on”? It’ll be a while yet, I fear…

Dr. ARF

THIS JUST IN: Heather Mills and Slovene Gov’t Cancel Cottage Deal

ukanc_250.jpg Rather important, I’d say, so you’ll forgive the double posting


According to a press release by the Government’s Communictaions Office representatives of the Government of Slovenia and of Heather Mills, ex. McCartney agreed to declare null and void a concract to sell a cottage (see picture) in Bohinj to Ms. Mills.

The statement reads that both parties have agreed to do so until full and satisfactory inqury into the claims of the Stankovic family has been made. This UK-based Serb family claims to be the rightful heir of the cottage.

Go figure… 🙂