How To Come Off As A Complete Idiot

As you can imagine, Slovene media drooled over the supposed attempt at PM Borut Pahor’s life. Pengovsky already explained why in his opinion the incident did not even come close to an assassination attempt. But since the four police officers who grabbed the deranged train passenger carrying bombs were awarded medals for bravery today, the media frenzy seems justifiable. After all, it is not every day that four uniformed officers prevent a serious bloodbath.

As a result, state television invited all four decorated cops to the studio, where they were feeling ill at ease, mostly answering in short sentences thus giving the host, Tomaž Bratož, an appropriately hard time. To give him credit, about a third of Bratož’s questions actually were relevant. But when he turned his attention to the policeman, who actually prevented the passenger to detonate the hand grenade, Bratoš swithced from an interview to a re-enactment, and produced a dummy hand-grenade, asking the police officer to repeat the moves.

An pengovsky went: What. The. Fuck!?!?!

A hand grenade in live studio? What’s next? A replica of an AK-47 when interviewing Slovene soldiers? An empty Uzi when doing a feature on mafia? A fucking tomahawk missile on the anniversary of the war in Iraq? Bringing weapons – even fake ones – on live television and having them handled by an untrained individual sends a seriously wrong message. If a twat from state television can juggle a hand grenade in a studio, what’s to stop a kid to do the same tomorrow afternoon during school recess? Just that this kid won’t know the difference between a dud and a live grenade, because they look the same.

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Tomaž Bratoš, host of “Odmevi”, holding a replica of a hand grenade (stills: RTVSLO)

What Bratož did was unprofessional, irresponsible and dangerous. If his editor were any good, he’d have him reprimanded on the spot. But given this particular editor, the hand grenade in the studio could as well have been his idea. Because it was almost certainly his idea to have another go at Ultra affair. Not because there’d be any new developments, but because the media watchdog fined RTVSLO for failing to publish a correction (a presentation of opposing viewpoints), which Ultra demanded in accordance with the Law on Media.

To cut a long story short: when the story broke out, RTVSLO (specifically: journalist Matej Hlebš) claimed that Ultra had taken out 21 million euros of unsecured loans. Ultra denied that, provided details on its loans and their collaterals and allowed its bank, Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB), to divulge details as it sees fit. In essence it revoked its “banker-customer privilege”. However, NLB chose not to divulge any details. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, actually, since any bank worthy of its name will not divulge details of its clients, unless ordered to do so by a court of law. But Hlebš and his editor Rajko Gerič (the very same who allowed a hand grenade in the studio) used this insignificant piece of information – the fact that the state had fined its own television (which means that the fine will be footed by taxpayers anyhow) – to launch another viscious tirade against minister Gregor Golobič and company Ultra, where Hlebš even took Gerič’s statement and put it into the piece. Basically, Rajko Gerič OK’d and aired a piece which featured himself as one of the protagonists (the other being journalist Hlebš personally).

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Editor of news programming Rajko Gerič (left) giving a statement to journalist Matej Hlebš (right) (stills: RTVSLO)

This latest piece of journalistic bravado put together by Hlebš and more than apparently supervised by Gerič added nothing new to the question of whether minister Golobič acted wrongly or how wrongly did he act. This was an ad hominem attack for no other reason than the fact that the company Gregor Golobič owns a small share in, demanded a correction, was denied and reported this to the Media Inspectorate, which dully fined the state television (not the editor or the journalist personally). Gerič even went as far as to say that RTVSLO will not be gagged and that they “will not rest until NLB divulges information which will show that Ultra was not privileged in getting the loans, but was granted them just as any other citizen would be.

Careful observers will of course note that he completely fails to mention the original allegation of 21 million euros of unsecured loans. Even more, said that there are 6 million euros of loans which “are not fully explained”, but that did not stop Hlebš from implying that the only reason RTVSLO was fined is because government culture portfoilo (which includes Media Inspectorate) is held by Majda Širca, member of party Zares, which just happens to be led by Gregor Golobič. An allegation which might even hold up with some conspiracy theorists, if it weren’t for the fact that Head Inspector Aleksander Vidmar was appointed to the post in mid 2005 – well within the term of the previous government. Thus – if the decision on fining RTVSLO would really be political, one would expect the inspectorate not to fine the institution. But it seems that the decision to fine the state television was taken not on political but on legal ground – which is what both Gerič and Hlebš deliberately ignore. And just to top it off, the piece concludes by Hlebš saying that RTVSLO will (naturally) appeal the fine, meaning that the whole thing is far from over. But it was too good an opportunity not to say anything new to miss. Which is the essence of bad journalism.

But hey – this is what we’ve come to. Idiots who bring hand grenades to the studio and their brethren who think they’ve got everybody by the balls, even though they’re quoting compromised documents.

An Assassination Attempt (or so they would have you believe)

On Friday evening a routine passport control on a train crossing from Slovenia to Croatia almost turned ugly. A passanger on that train, Josip Zagajski, a Croatian war veteran was, supposedly flagged in the Schengen system as having been expelled from Germany in 2008 after apparently serving an eight-year prison sentence for throwing a hand grenade on Turkish embassy in Berlin. After being held for detailed search, and quite possibly refused entry in the EU, Zagajski took out a hand grenade and pulled out the safety pin, apparently wanting to detonate it. It was only a quick reaction by the police officer present that prevented a catastrophe, as he grabbed Zagajski’s wrist and prevented him from releasing the catch which would detonate the grenade.

After Zagajski was neutralised and handcuffed, he turned out to be armed with four additional hand grenades and he claimed that he boarded the train to assassinate Slovenian PM Borut Pahor, because Slovenia unjustly blocked Croatian entry into the EU. Zagajski turned out to have been among defenders of Vukovar during war in Croatia, where he received a head wound and was subsequently held in a Serbian concentration camp, where he was allegedly tortured. After the war, he was declared 90% disabled on account of his psyhological disorders (results of his head wound) combined with PTSD, commonly (but mistakenly) known as the Vietnam syndrome.

After being questioned at Dobova rail road border crossing, Zagajski said that there were a number of his accomplices on the Ljubljana-bound train, which – as a result – was boarded by swat teams after it pulled into Ljubljana railway station. Every passenger was searched and the train swiped for explosives, but luckily none were found.

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SWAT teams on Ljubljana Railway Station on Friday Night (photo by Igor Zaplatil/Delo)

Naturally, the whole thing exploded with full force at the moment PM Pahor’s name was mentioned. Media went into a frenzy with big fat titles announcing a botched assassination attempt, newly minted Croatian PM Jadranka Kosor called her Slovenian counterpart to assure him that he denounced Zagajski’s actions and that violence should never be used to solve problems, while PM himself told the press that he feels perfectly safe.

Which was of course true. While the border police were wrestling with the deranged war veteran, trying to save lives, the PM was safely tucked away in the Rogla skiing resort, where Social Democrats met to debate the current achievements (or lack thereof) of Pahor’s goverment. Prior to the meeting some pretty consistent rumours floated around that some sort of mutiny against Pahor will be mounted, possibly led by his party VP and traffic minister Patrick Vlačič (who, incidently, got himself in a pretty bad fix weeks ago, when his car, with him in it, overtook a traffic jam on a highway by driving in the slow lane using flashing blue lights, a privilege he is not entitled to, all because he wanted to be on-time for a talk show).

The mutiny apparently didn’t take place, but the hand grenade incident allowed Pahor to step in front of the cameras not as a party leader whose grip on things is slipping, but rather almost like a statesman who had just survived an assassination attempt, enforcing the image exactly by playing the incident down and being as cool as a cucumber. Media, naturally, went ga-ga and splattered every possible detail about the incident and about security of our top politicians over two pages.

The problem of course is that there was no attempt at Borut Pahor’s life. While Zagajski’s destination was Ljubljana, his “target” was at least a hundred kilometres away in Rogla, which should tell anyone with half a gram of brain that Zagajski had no idea what he was doing. Even calling this a terrorist attempt is stretching it a bit, as it is obvious than rather than media and political attention, Zagajski needs professional help. But media on both sides of the border were quick to pick up on his statement that he was doing this because Slovenia blocks Croatian EU entry and smartly concluded that apparently sour relations between the two countries are starting to take their toll, this time in the form of mental cases trying to kill top politicians.

Which is of course a load of bollocks. Zagajski’s actions are political only insofar as media and politicians put them into a political context. Take that out of the equation, and you’re left with a nutter holding a bomb on a border crossing. I mean, the cops there did one hell of a job, preventing what might have become a real bloodbath and for once our new Fortress Europe and its Schengen system did what they’re suppose to.

But media hyperventilation over Slovenia-Croatia border dispute blows every single thing way out of proportion and gives it connotation it does not necessarily have and is in effect adding to the problem rather than clearing it up.

Do You, Janez Janša…

… take Urška Bačovnik to be your lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do you part?

He did.

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(source: POP TV, 24ur.com)

Former PM and current leader of the opposition Janez Janša finally married doctor Urška Bačovnik ending years of speculation about when and if the marriage will take place. Urška made her first public appearance alongside then-PM in late 2006, just as pengovsky started blogging (in Slovene, mind you!) and she immediately became a sort-of-leitmotif of pengovsky.com.

Anyhoo – they got hitched last Saturday in a picturesque church in Drežnica, a small village above Kobarid in Primorska region. The fact that Janša’s SDS held its annual summer get-together in the valley below was only an added bonus, providing scores of well-wishers. And it cut down in transportation and reception costs, as gulash was alredy being served. But this should be a powerful reminder to the bride that she will always have to share her husband with his party. Apparently, as he came out of the church, his first words were “You gotta try this!”

While I’m sure many would like to try Doc Urška, JJ probably didn’t mean that. But is also slightly unclear whether he had already “tried that” years ago, contrary to media reports that this is the first marriage both for Urška and Janez. Namely, several books which deal with late 80’s in Slovenia claim implicitly that Janša was married to Silva Predalilč, with whom he has two children. Silva was with him when he had it real bad in 1988 and then just sort of dissapeared from the radar…

But that’s water under the bridge. Now they are married and without being cynical about it, pengovsky wishes the newly-weds a long and happy marriage.

There is, however, still a question which intrigues me: When Janez and Urška play doctor and nurses – who gets to be the nurse? 😮

Now Hear This

On Saturday pengovsky already hinted at the the curious incident which happened last Thursday during the weekly session of Borut Pahor’s government. Namely, the session was broadcasted (audio only) live over the internet, apparently inadvertently. At least that is what they say it happened.

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Government in session. Live if necesary. :mrgreen: (source)

The stream (Slovene only) was live for about 37 minutes and most of it was promptly recorded and posted on numerous Slovenian sites and for a moment it seemed as if all hell broke loose. Web portals competed in slapping the fattest title possible on their index page and reactions ranged from chuckles to sheer outrage.

And yet, the recording, whose primary protagonists were minister for public affairs Irma Pavlinič Krebs, interior minister Katarina Kresal, defence minister Ljubica Jelušič, justice minister Aleš Zalar and PM Borut Pahor, showed nothing more than that the goverment was acting according to its job description: debating and implementing policies. In this case a very touchy policy of cuts in employment in the civil service.

Minister Krebs was exasperated by the fact that the government missed every deadline and every target to cut employment in civil service by two percent. Truth be told, every government to date had that same goal and every single one of them spectacularly failed to meet it, endind its term with more people employed than it started with. But Krebs was adamant that something had to be done and it had to be done now, because at the moment this particular policy isn’t worth the paper it is written on. And where better to start than with the police and the army. They also fall into the category of “civil servants”, thanks to brilliantly misguided civil service wages reform executed by Krebs’ predecessor, Gregor Virant.

Naturally ministers Kresal and Jelušič went apeshit and a lengthy debate ensewed, primarily between Irma and Katarina, which was finally put to an end by PM Pahor. But – contrary to media reports this was not a cat-fight, nor was there a bitter argument or anything like that. It was simply a matter of bringing together different points of view. Granted, has this government truly functioned as a team, the differences and details would have been ironed out before hand. But as things stand, the government debated it and – as it happens – did not reach a decision yet. And did so in the most civil and respectful ways possible. The debate wasn’t even properly heated. Every media in-house coordination has more punch to it that this supposedly scandalous broadcast. In the end everybody looked good. Irma for trying desperately to cut down the number of civil servants, Katarina and Ljubica for sticking out fot their men, Aleš because he’d rather resign than see more people go, and – last but not least – Borut, who managed to bring it to the end despite everything.

So, maybe the whole thing was not really an accident but a carefully staged PR event, aimed at showing the government being serious about its job… Or it could have been something completely different.

Celebrating Independence By Beating Up Gays

As most of you know, pengovsky has, time and again warned against rise on neo-Nazism and its various offshots in Slovenia. Be it government pogrom against a Roma family, nationalistic marches on the border aimed at creating border incidents, nationalistic anti-Croatian rallies with a clear superiority agenda, boneheads trying to intimidate a round-table event on intolerance or a (called but cancelled) fascist rally in downtown Ljubljana, modus operandi which is usually associated with shitheads who think that Der Führer had a couple of nifty ideas, is becoming increasingly mainstream, while those same shitheads are becoming ever more self-confident.

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Nationalists marching on the afternoon of June 25th and Mitja Blažič after the attack a couple of hours later (sources: Mladina.si and Narobe.si respectively)

The latest incident happened some ten days ago, and while it is not exactly news anymore, it deserves to be written about. Prior to Gay Pride Parade, which was held in Ljubljana on 27 June, a gay-and-lesbian literature night was organised in a bar in Prule, a nice, cozy and slightly bohemian area of Ljubljana. At about 2100 hrs on Thursday 25 June, a group of at least eight hooded and masked people stormed the place, armed with sticks, stones and torches. As he was just in front of the entrance at the time, journalist and gay activist Mitja Blažič took the brunt of the attack, being beaten and repeatedly kicked in the head. Afterwards the attackers tried to set the bar ablaze, causing Blažič some mild burns and – having failed to start a fire – threw stones into the bar’s windows.

The fact that the attack took place on June 25th, Slovenian Independence day makes it all the more appalling.

But then again… In hindsight this attack should not have been a surprise. Neo-Nazi sentiment is building in Slovenia. Slowly but surely. Most of its proponents probably don’t even recognise it as such, but rather think of themselves as patriots who want to protect the country and take it to a new level. The fact that they share that line of though with the second most famous Austrian (after Brüno) does not bother them.

And the fact that the fascist rally, which was cancelled on April 27th, did take place exactly on June 25th, only hours prior to the main celebration of the Day of Independence shows that neo-Nazi agenda is becoming dangerously wedded to the notion Slovenian statehood.

This year they marched by the Republic Square of their own accord. Unchecked, they will be leading the parade in a decade. By then it will be far too late to do anything about it. Luckily, it sometimes does help to have a left-wing government and an interior minister who is big on human rights. The police have proven that they can be remarkably efficient if needs be and have arrested three attackers within days. Apparently they are members of one of the football hooligan groups, where incidentally, where people with superiority issues seem to be especially thick on the ground.

It would be a most dangerous mistake to see this only as a series of unconnected incidents. What we are seeing here is at least a semi-concerted effort to restore neo-Nazi and other superiority ideology and make it a legitimate participant in a public debate. And they seem to be making headway as Hervardi one of these groups, even secured a weekly programme on Radio DUR, one of Ljubljana’s local radio stations.