Off The Record. On The QT. And Very Hush Hush.

If you don’t get the following, don’t bother. It’s not worth your time.

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Danny de Vito as Sid Hudgens, master of sin-uendo in L.A. Confidential

Pengovsky was freezing his ass off at the scene of the attack for several hours. At the end did I not only not feel my toes, but was also missing my fingers, nose, ears, lover lip and arse-cheeks. And I was three hours late for the macabre party. Some people were there even longer than me. But the point I’m trying to make that for hours after the attack there was nothing but the eerie feeling of something very bad and intensive happening. The four crews that were there (altogether some seven people, yours truly included) were acting like vultures in a very real sense, as we were hovering at the outskirts of the “do not cross” police tape, waiting for the dead body and carcasses to be transported out. It was us, the vets, cops and people from the morgue. And no one else. Not to sound dramatic, but I imagine that minutes immediately after the apocalypse will feel like that. You know that something bad happened, but you’ve no idea what exactly and just how bad it was.

But if until then passers-by and neighbours were giving the scene a wide berth, they started lurking around late in the evening. Ever threw a ball at a bunch of cats? You know how they instinctively run and hide and come looking what actually happened only after a while? Well, it’s the same with people. After “the coast was clear” so to speak, neighbours started hovering. One of them, a kid, told the TV stations that he filmed the whole attack on the mobile phone and if they’d buy it. No dice. He can share it, but they’re not paying for it. But it’s really awesome. OK, can we have a look at it. Sure, he’ll just go get it. After a while he does appear with a home-made CD, but already he’s saying that the quality is really bad and that he didn’t film the actual attack, but everything after it. OK, so you got the shots, right? Well, no, I only realized something was wrong after shots were fired. Ah. But OK, we’ll take it anyway.

While this was going on another neighbour appeared. No, he will not say anything for the camera. Yes, he knew the deceased. He told him something like this was going to happen. Yes, he’s the one who witnessed the attack four years ago and called the cops. And then another neighbour starts hovering. No, he will not say anything for the camera. Yes, he knew the deceased. He told him something like this was going to happen. Yes, he’s the one who witnessed the attack four years ago and called the cops. And then another neighbour appeared… You can see the pattern, no?

But this was only the tip of the iceberg. The sleazy part of Slovene media (the one which holds The Sun as their role model. You know, we just report what the world really looks like) runs a bomb-shell story about a strap-on, a condom and a pack of abused bull mastiffs which it combined with stories of sex change, political high rollers and perversion (sic!) of justice. Sex, lies, perverts and politicians. It was simply too good not to be true. That “facts” came from “unofficial” sources who spoke on “condition of anonymity” and “off the record”, that certain things were “general knowledge” and that other things were “obvious”, that the truth will “naturally” be suppressed, that pressure is being brought to bear as the story is being written and that your reporter will not be deterred at reporting things that are “hush hush”.

And if the national media first concentrated on the role of politicians (specifically, minister of agriculture), at least one television soon picked up the sleazy n’ sizzlin’ story and – not surprisingly – quoted the same unverifiable sources as the original story. And our sleazy Slovenian on-line version of the Sun takes this as the ultimate recognition, saying that the story was now confirmed by the said television which proves that our fearless rumour-monger-come-reporter was right all along. The circle is complete and unsubstantiated rumours start feeding each other. Forums start filling with hate-speech, links to any version of the story start filling mailboxes, witnesses start appearing, and their testimonies are becoming more and more alike, even further “confirming” the original story from “unofficial sources” and the number of people who know somebody who knew the deceased starts multiplying and suddenly…. Everybody. Just. Knows. Inconsistencies in the story don’t bother anyone.

Rocco to Succeed Teflon Karl

Just to keep you up to date with the latest development on the aftermath of Karl Erjavec’s succession: Prime Minister Borut Pahor nominated Roko Žarnić, professor at Faculty for Civil and Geodetic Engineering as candidate for minister for environment and urban planning.

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Rocco… eeerrr…. Roko Žarnić, the new soon-to-be minister (source: finance.si)

Technically, Roko Žarnić was picked by DeSUS in a not-so-fierce competition with Ljubljana head of Department of Urban Development Miran Gajšek and while he will probably not have film-props made after his body parts (unlike his more popular pornstar namesake), he does have his work, eeer, cut out for him. But his first order of business will be to attend and survive the hearing in front of the relevant parliamentary committee, where he is expected to fare along the lines of political division, i.e. to get the support of coalition parties, but not much else.

But as if to prevent excessive drabness, Zmago Jelinčič of Slovene National Party said that his party will not support Žarnić because “not only is he Croatian by birth, he holds double citizenship and will serve the interests of his second or rather first [Croatian] homeland“.

And just when one thought that ethnically-related hits below the belt were coming out fashion

Ljubljana SDS Gets New Leadership

As autumn municipal elections approach (the date has not yet been set, but second half of October this year seems reasonable), Ljubljana branch of Janez Janša’s Slovene Democratic Party held its electoral conference and picked new leadership. As of yesterday the new leader of Ljubljana SDS is Dragutin Mate who served as interior minister during Janša’s 2004-2008 government.

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Dragutin Mate, new president of Ljubljana branch of SDS (source)

This in it self would not be news, although Mate played a dubious role in the anti-Roma Ambrus Standoff (to pick an example completely at random). Being branch president does not necessarily mean running for mayor. Indeed, history shows that political parties in Ljubljana often picked other prominent people to run for mayor’s office, whereas branch presidents remained the behind-the-scenes power brokers and/or powerful figures in the City Council (under Ljubljana Statute the mayor does not have a right to a vote in the City Council).

However, things do get interesting when one takes into account that Peter Sušnik stepped down as branch president only days before the conference and announced that he is leaving city politics after a sixteen-year stint (he had hinted at the move in the end-of-the-year-interview for The Firm™), saying in no uncertain terms that he had done his bit. Perhaps no less important than Sušnik politics-fatigue was an interview party leader Janša gave in autumn 2009 where he specifically criticised Ljubljana branch saying that it had underperformed.

This probably was not completely fair to Sušnik. Ljubljana branch of SDS is working in a “hostile” environment. Not just because Slovene capital is considered predominantly left-wing oriented, but – even more importantly – because Janša’s government changed the law on funding of municipalities, depriving Ljubljana of some 53 million euros because it had elected “the wrong man” in 2006 – namely incumbent mayor Zoran Janković. Given the situation, SDS in Ljubljana performed quite well under Sušnik. It was (well, is) the single largest group in the City Council after Janković’s List, by far the largest party group (Janković’s group is not considered a proper party but rather a “group of candidates”) even doubly so in the right-wing part of Ljubjana’s political spectrum.

But be that as it may, the new Ljubljana branch leadership faces a tall order. To secure a better result than their predecessors and put a noticeable dent in Mayor Janković’s ratings. But… There is one positive side to Mate’s becoming the Big SDS Kahuna in the capital. Being born in Čakovec, Croatia, this will probably put an end to below-the-belt hits against Janković being born in Serbia. If there is one thing this town has too much of is the xenophobia, small-mindedness and inferiority complexes which manifested itself shortly before new year when youth organisations crahsed Janković press conference and called him names. So maybe with a Serb-born and a Croat-born Ljubljanchan calling the shots in the city the musty provincial odor this city sometimes still sports will finally clear up.

Patria Endgame Approaches

On Saturday Delo daily ran yet another in the series of articles dealing with the Patria Affair and the role Janez Janša (allegedly) played in it. Written, as per usual, by the now infamous Dejan Karba, the article exposes how Austrial lobbyist Wolfgang Riedl supposedly worked with Jože Zagožen, a senior official in Janez Janša’s SDS and how the bribes were allegedly split up among Riedl, Janša’s party, Slovene lobbyist and painter of dubious fame Jure Cekuta and Walter Wolf, a Slovene-Canadian businessman. The percentages and numbers the article runs are quite specific. In fact, they are a bit too specific.

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Janša, Erjavec and Pahor. A marvelous photo by Luka Cjuha/Dnevnik

But before we go on, please, consider the following:

Item: Prime Minster Borut Pahor slightly surprisingly decided to stand by finance minister Franci Križanič even after the anti-corruption commission said that his making that call was an act of corruption

Item: Despite buckets of shit thrown at him, Karl Erjavec (himself indicted over Patria Affair, albeit for dereliction of duty) is playing ball and is being awfully nice to Križanič and Pahor and is not crying double standards, even though he was technically dismissed from office for a minor infraction.

Item: Justice minister Aleš Zalar just had a severe clash with General Prosecutor Barbara Brezigar, who is widely perceived to be one of Janez Janša’s hardcore supporters as she and her group of special prosecutors killed most indictments against Janša and his collaborators, be it in the arms trafficking allegations, or the Depala Vas affair. She also ran for president on SDS ticket in 2002, losing to Janez Drnovšek in the second round.

Item: Prime Minster Borut Pahor yesterday said in no uncertain terms that Barbara Brezigar has his complete support

Item: Janez Janša is suing Delo for 1.5 million euros, because the newspaper wrote some time ago that the Patria money (at least 1.5 million euros of it) went to accounts of Janša’s SDS, who in turn financed the pre-election rags with it.

Now. Pengovsky is still deeply troubled by the nature and content of Karba’s articles. They simply don’t make sense. If Karba, a journalist with a relatively low mileage and with a distinctive right wing prefference, has access to sensitive documents, he is obviously being fed them. There is no way in hell he could have gotten hold of them by himself. Especially not repeatedly and during an ongoing investigation. The absurdity and sloppiness of Karba’s articles is also a matter of concern. Despite using unofficial sources, documents that cannot be checked for validity and quoting people who deny saying anything, Karba is continuously putting together articles with firm accusations which leave little to imagination and which are bound to attract law suits. And given the amount of conjecture in these articles, it should not be too difficult for Janša to win at least on some counts of the suit(s). Either that, or Karba has already built a watertight case against Janša, even before the police. And since the latter is probably not the case, the following question is inevitable: What if Karba is doing this on purpose? If we for a moment assume that Karba and Janša are (still) on the same team, then it is quite possible that Karba is attacking Janša knowing and indeed counting on the fact that he will win a lawsuit, thus severely damaging the credibility of the entire Patria investigation. And just as it seems that the investigation is yielding results.

Namely. It is extremely unlike Karl Erjavec not to go apeshit over a clear case of double standards. If he was officially dismissed as minister of environment for failing to set up a system of waste management, then finance minister Križanič should be immediately kicked out for trying to influence the composition of a Ph.D committee at the Faculty of Economy. PM Pahor decided not to dismiss Križanič, whereas Karl not only didn’t protest, he even supported PM’s decision. So, my guess is Pahor promised something to Erjavec in return for good behaviour. And that something might be a guaranteed mild slap on the wrist for his role in the Patria Affair. As you will remember, Erjavec was minister of defence during Janša’s government and as such the person who actually signed the contract with Patria.

Something similar might very well apply for General Prosecutor Barbara Brezigar. Minsiter of justice Aleš Zalar went right for her throat, not in the least because the prosecution went after Finnish journalist Magnus Berglund, the author of the original Finnish TV programme which sent shit hitting the fan rapidly. The whole thing was starting to become really ugly and unbecoming and then, all of a sudden, there was the PM, saying he’s got Berzigar’s back. The question is, at what price. Her outstanding liability right now is definitely her connection to Janša and SDS and it could be that Pahor got her to switch camps in return for her continuation in office.

What we’re (likely) seeing is setting up a stage for the Patria endgame, where PM Pahor is slowly but surely, one by one, taking over Janša’s support centres, quite possibly as a result of coordinated attacks on these centres by other parts of the government, whereas the PM enters the show at the last minute, playing the great saviour provided people switch allegiances. Janša is trying to fight back, mostly by trying to discredit the investigation (via feeding refutable claims to Karba for publishing), but he is also getting cornered more and more, apparently willing to sacrifice his top people in the party and, possibly, the party itsef, in order to save his own skin. The same goes for his numerous lawsuits in this affair. Apart from trying to take Delo to the cleaner’s he also filed yet another suit against Magnus Berglund which provoked outrage with the Reporters sans frontieres. The story was picked up soon even by obscurely remote media such as The Ethiopian Review (of all places! Thx Adriaan!).

This is far from over, but things will get mighty interesting come spring. It is becoming ever more clear that Janša’s call to the streets in spring time was not a coincidence (his ass might need saving yet again) as it is quite possible that it is no coincidence that minister of interior Katarina Kresal just authorised a purchase of a police-operated water cannon for crowds dispersal.

The Sleeping Beauty

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The Glory of Carniola, frozen in time.

As Les pointed out yesterday, 1 February marks the anniversary of The Glory of Carniola going dormant. The event should indeed not go unmarked, especially since TGoC and its creator Michael M. were probably the single most important factor in pengovsky’s decision to start bloggin’ fo real with his own blog, domain and all.

Here’s to hoping that Carniola and Michael will one day be back. In whatever way, shape or form they may choose to do so.

P.S.: While we’re in the sorely missed category, the absence of La Poulette and Crni is also painfully noted (although the latter occasionally still pops up). The same goes for a whole lot of other people who kept the blogosphere going in the good old days. Good thing alcessa is still here 🙂