The Abortion of Minister Drobnič

the soon-to-be-aborted Minister

As of yesterday it became clear that Janez Drobnič, Minister for Labour, Family and Social Affairs is about to lose his job. He was a controversial figure from the very beginning, when Prime Minister Janez Janša was forced to nominate him to the post. Namely, one of the junior coalition parties, Nova Slovenija (New Slovenia or NSi), a deeply conservative and pro-Catholic party made it clear that a) it wants to control the said Ministry and b) that Drobnič should have the job.

Now, this ministry is a curious thing: It is one of the most influential and one the most volitale departements of every administration. It is in charge of more than 25% of Slovenia’s yearly budget. In 2007 that translates as SIT 500 billion (€ 2,2 bilion), making it second only to the Ministry of Finance.

One of the basic functions of the minister and his team is to conduct the so-called “social dialogue” – yearly negotiations between the government, unions and employers. The expected result is an agreement on wages which should follow the rising costs of living (what the unions want), not hamper the growth of the businesess (what the employers want) and have an overall positive effect on the growth of Slovene GDP and the country’s competitivenes while preserving the relatively high level of social security (what the government wants, although the final point is open for debate and depends mainly on the ideological perusasion of any given administration).

Janez Drobnič, the soon to be ex-minister, failed badly on most counts. I will not go into the details of his failed policies, but let me just remind everybody that under his tenure Slovenia faced the first general strike which brought together the ever-split unions, pensioners and students. He failed to conduct any form of social dialogue, but the straw that broke the camel’s back came from the third field of his duties: Family. A litlle more than a week ago he proposed a National Strategy on Raising the Birth Rate which – among other things – proposed charging women for abortion (thus making it accessible only to those who are really well off and who are less likely to have more than one child in the first place) and making pensions depentant on the number of children a person has given birth to (or fathered) until his or her pension.

Especially the former caused an uproar, athough Pengovsky is of opinion that the latter is a much more dangerous proposition.

But as there were and still will be enough posts on the issue, I thought I’d post something about how this all plays out:

PM Janša on Thursday asked Minister Drobnič to resign his post. Upon due consideration Drobnič refused. The move was not a complete surprise but it was a bold move given the power and authority Janez Janša has gained in the past two years. This put Janša in a bit of an akward position: Drobnič called his bluff and Janša was now faced with two options: Either he proposed Drobnič’s dismissal to the parliament or he could’ve waited until January 2007 when a vote of confidence in Drobnič was scheduled due to a move by Slovene National Party.

A quick sidenote for the uninitiated: Slovenia sports a parliamentary democracy with strong elements of “assembly system”: in practice this means that the ministers are approved and dismissed by the parliament rather that by the PM himself. It also somewhat diminishes the powers of the prime minister as his ministers are responsible both to him and to the Parliament. Thus any change in the government has to be approved by the Parliament, making it theoretically possible that the parliament refuses the change proposed by the PM, forcing him to “live” with the unwanted minister.

Anyways: Janša chose the quick and the hard way (proposing the dimissal to the parliament), putting Drobnič’s party NSi into an unfortunate position: If they vote in favour of the dismissal they stabbed their man in the back (a trait not at all appreciated among the party faithful) but if they vote against the proposition they failed the PM and the so-called “coalition agreement”, thus stabbing the PM (and the rest of their coalition partners) in the back.

While it is unlikely that Drobnič will keep his post it is quite possible that NSi will want some sort of retribution for this political ambush (or, to put in terms of Slovene politics – an assisted suicide) and one could not put it past them if they supported the dismissal of Minister for Culture Vasko Simoniti – but that would be a grave breach of coalition agreement and the consequences could be serious – at least with this prime minister. One way to avoid any serious backlash is for Janša to up the stakes even further and make the vote on Drobnič’s dismissal also a vote of confidence in his administration. Thus he would make any renegade deupty from NSi fall back in line and on the other hand he would silence the opposition which would – in a perverce twist of events – by voting for Drobnič’s dismissal also vote in support of Janša’s administration. Usually the opposition (especially the liberal democrats – LDS) would rather gnaw their leg off than do anything that remotely resembles supporting Janša, but they may have no choice.

But then again – Janša might choose not to up the stakes and just weather the storm. In any case it will be fun to watch Drobnič being aborted.

UPDATE: Nsi, Drobnič’s party has decided to support the minister and demanded a top-level meeting between coalition partners – second in less than a week. While this does not mean that party’s deputies will actually vote in favour of the Minister, it is a move in that direction. Janša is up for a bad weekend.

Milič’s Left Foot

Sleepy Snoopy
me, this morning

This not a real post…sorry… I’ve slept nine hours in the last three days and feel like the wrong side of a car accident. I’ve been pulling several all-nighters in a row trying to finish a project and yesterday (that is: today at 4 AM) I’ve finally made it – with a little help from my friends (thanks Marko!).
To put in in the words of Master Yoda: “Tired I am… Sleep I must…”

But as not to dissappoint y’all completely, a photo from yesterday’s basketball game between Union Olimpija and Partizan Belgrade, where Saulius Kuzminskas suffered a concussion after a particularly unfortunate up-close-and-personal interview with Marko Milič’s left foot. Here is the complete transcription:

Kuzminskas (lying of the floor, face up): “Oh shit!”
Milič’s left foot (slamming down on Kuzminskas’ head): “…”
Kuzminskas (salivating): “brlbrlbrlbrlbrl”


Olimpija lost 70:71, but Kuzminskas is expected to recover fully.

P.S.: Irena, thanks for the tickets! 😀

Broadcasting since 2002 and still going strong…

Pengovsky’s workplace – featuring the legendary AKG-K141 headphones

The Firm™ celebrated it’s fourth anniversarry yesterday. While the concept of a multimedia (or convergent) radio was brewing in our heads as early as 2001, we didn’t have it on paper until early-2002 and it took another six months to set up the company as a legal entity and put together a team of enthusiasts. Most of the legal wrangling was done by El Presidente™ for Pengovsky was just an undergraduate greenhorn back then. We did a test run on an IT event called Interinfos, then shut down for about fourteen days in order to move all the equipement to our present location and have all the communications set up. But on November 21st 2002 we started broadcasting – and have been ever since.

As I intend to keep this post short (the Official History of the Firm™ is yet to be written) I would only like to put down a couple of things I have learned in the last four years:

Never go in business with your family. Ever. While El presidente™ rocks and has incredible managerial and financial skills the project did put a lot of strain on our relationship. Grief neither of us needed.
A line in a PHP script always ends with a semicolon;
Private enterprise in Slovenia sucks. I love my job, but it will not make me rich and/or famous and as I work 12+ hours a day it makes the prospect of a “normal” family life a rather distant one.
When you try to sell an idea always make the other party sign a non-disclosure agreement (this one I learned very painfully).
Cable operators sometimes tend to abuse their local monopolies (as also witnessed by this incident).
Most of Slovene journalists have absolutely no idea how to do the job properly and have a criminally short memory. Kudos to the selected few who constantly save the face of the profession. Hopefully someday I will have achieved that status.
There is a difference between objectivity and neutrality.
System administrators are species that live in a dusty part of the LAN network and ingest only beer
If you want to do your job professionally, never put all of your eggs in one basket. If you step on somebody’s toe and he/she knocks over one basket, you’ve still got at least one more. Maybe not as full and beautiful as the first one, but it makes starting over much more easier.
Only spineless editors and journalist are prone to political influence. There are many in Slovenia, but that many
Dimitrij Rupel is an idiot and an international menace.
The study of journalism on FDV should be made a post-graduate study exclusivelly. I’m not a journalist by education, but the cadre that is produced by FDV is awful: Overambitious, overzealous, overopinionated and without the foggiest about what media is really about or about the subject of their supposed reporting
Any given cable is always 20 centimetres too short
The food at the Prime Minister’s New Year banquet is awful
Boštan at the City Hall makes the best coffee in town (sadly his place is not open to public)
Geonavtik makes the best publicly available coffee in town
All journalists are either chain-smokers and drunks or right-wingers or on the verge of becoming either of the two

I would not have learned these things without the help of the following people who have my eternal gratitude for being a part of this project at its various stages (some of them even more than once):
Boštjan (a.k.a. Voja Brajović, Veliki Beštijan), Greciozo, Igor (who first put together our webpage), Rollo Tomassi, Mojca, Neža, Ajda, Katarina, Janja, Urša, Brigita, Katja, Matej, Gospod Ravnatelj (formerly of Gama MM), as of late also Luka and Goran, and of course El presidente™. I just hope I gave something back to these people (besides ulcers and ocassional fits of rage)

That said, there are things that need to be done as soon as possible:

overhaul the webpage
promote the mobile webpage
hell, promote the entire Firm™!!!
update and edit the musical database so that the music played by the computer will stop suffering from a manic-depressive dissorder (i.e.: going from absolutely faboulous to Radio Center-like)
update the English page regularly
finally get an FM frequency in Ljubljana
finally get some vacation
listen more to RSI (100,8 MHz in Ljubljana)

Damn! It was a long post afterall…..

Skrokani župan

Huda je županska, huda… Pretekli četrtek je Zoki zaprisegel kot župan Ljubljane, dan kasneje, se pravi v petek (17. novembra), pa se je zgodila tudi primopredaja poslov – po domače: Danica se je izselila iz Magistrata, Zoran pa je pritekel v Hribarjevo sobo. No, bolj privlekel, kot je razvidno iz teh fotk

17112006003.jpg 17112006006.jpg
Prva županska noč je očitno pustila posledice…Malo po deveti zjutraj v petek je Zoki komaj gledal.. 🙂

No, res je tudi, da Zoran ni bil edini, ki je imel za seboj težko noč. Če je bilo soditi po glasu Janija Möderndorferja, je človek prejšnjo noč skadil dosti več kot škatlico cigaret, hehe
V primerjavi z Zoranom je Danica prav blestela. Kako tudi ne bi, saj bo zdaj še tri mesece vlekla župansko plačo, ki ni majhna. Če bi bil jaz na njenem mestu, bi šel za mesec dni nekam v tople kraje


“Anti-Gypsy” wall somewhere in Eastern Europe.
Slovenia is saying: “I have to get me one of those!”

Contrary to popular belief Slovenia was never a text-book example of ethnical or religious tolerance. Or any other kind of tolerance for that matter. Kind of hard to be tolerant when 90 percent of population is of Slovene ethnicity (there is a huge difference between ethnicity and nationality, as will be shown shortly) and when on average 75% of people are of Catholic faith (the number depends on wethwer Slovenia has a left-wing or a right-wing government) thus leaving very little room for other ethnicites and religions to develop and maintain their identity.

In mid-nineties a very interesting study was published which found that almost two thirds of Slovenes thought of themselves as tolerant. The same study, however, showed that more than 55,7% of Slovenes were intolerant towards the Serbs, almost 42% felt the same way about Croats and some 36% couldn’t stand the sight of Roma (commonly known as the Gypsies).
And that’s just intolerance in general…

When asked “who would you not like to have as your next-door neighbour”, almost 38 percent said they wouldn’t like to have a drug addict as their neighbour, 31 percent felt the same way about a homosexual person, 17 percent about Roma person, et cetera… Almost 9 percent of people would hate to have a Jew as their neighbour! (according to 1991 census 199 people declared themselves of Jewsih faith, and only 99 in 2002 – less than 0,1 of entire population of Slovenia!!!; source)

These numebrs had of course changed by 2006, at least as the anti-Serb sentimet is concerned, as it was fueled by the historical proximity of Slovene fight for independence and the attrocities commited by the Milošević regime in ex-Yugoslavia at the time. But the level of intolerance has not changed significantly, that – I’m sure of. The intolerance just refocused on other minorities.

In real life the religious intolerance is best seen by fierce opposition of Slovenes and a good proportion of their elected representatives to erecting a mosque in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. The Firm(tm) has a relatively good archive on the issue (although it is slightly outdated now). But for an objective look on the issue, check out this story by the Beebs.

But the most recent example of not-so-well-hidden intolerance are the latest incidents in the municipality of Ivančna Gorica, some 20 kilometres outside Ljubljana, where a Roma family was evicted by the local majority population (i.e. Slovenes). Check out the story by the Int’l Herald Tribune for an impartial report.

The last paragraph of the said article is particularly telling: “There is a huge sense of relief,” said Sinkovec, the village president. “We have nothing against them. We just think they should be found somewhere else to live.”

It is the embodiment of the begginig of this post. Slovenes don’t think of ourselves as intolerant. We just don’t want anybody who’s different in any way to be living near us.

Now, the usual argument is that outsiders like me cannot know how it is like in Ivančna Gorica. EEEEERRRRR!!!! WRONG!!!! We sure as hell know! Almost every apartement building in Ljubljana – and I’m sure it goes for other cities as well – has at least one person whose only purpose in life seems to be to make life sheer hell for everyone in that particular building. But hey! We have to live with it? What am I suppose to do if Mr. V. from third floor pumps his turbofolk music way over the medically acceptable level at noon on Sundays? Should I knock down his door, light a bonfire in his living room and tell him to get the fuck out and never come back? I can’t really, can I? So I have to learn to live with it. And so should the people of Ivančna Gorica. That’s what being tolerant is all about.

Of course noone is asking them to tolerate crime, but as shown above this situation has grown beyong security and enviromental issues. Now, a person in guilty and a persona non grata simply because he/she is of Roma ethnicity. Which brings us to the next interesting question:

Ethnicity vs. Nationality

The Roma family is obvisously of Roma ethnicity. But they are Slovene nationals. How in the world is possible that this government refrains from using force when one or more of its citizens are in danger and are being denied basic human rights? The “us” vs. “them” dillema is artificial, as is artificial the notion than Slovenes are purely caucaisan Chatolics. But this is what drives the current anti-Roma sentiment – that they are not one of “us” and should be therefore removed.

But they are one of us. They deserve the same priviliges and are subject to the same duties as any other Slovene national. Should they happen to avoide those duties, the State is the only institution which can punish them. No one else. That’s why the instrument of due procress wasn developed: so that everyone would get the same treatment in front of any court. It seems however that the Roma are second-class citizens, who were stripped of most of their human rights, and – in the case of Roma family in Ivančna Gorica – of their land as well. Sounds much like they did it in Nazi Germany or during the period of hardcore communism in Slovenia – shortly after WWII.

Today, it’s the Roma. Tomorrow it will be Bosnias. Next – the atheists. Then the left wingers and liberals. Endlösung – the final solution to purge this country of any and all unwanted elements. The people of Ivančna Gorica might not see it that way and could very well be shocked by the notion of being compared to the Nazis. But that is what they’re doing. That is what this nation is capable of.

P.S.: I will undoubtedly have the sad opportunity to write some more on this issue. There are scores of issues this post doesn’t cover: The idleness of government(s) during the past three decades. The dissolution of the rule of law. The role of the current prime minister in fueling the anti-Roma sentiment two years ago, and so on – ad nauseam, I’m afraid. But fear not! Come Monday, there will be meat galore, yet again 🙂

P.P.S.: Why in English? I could say that this way more people will understand this post, but the truth is that Michael was bitching about my posts being all in Slovene so I want to give him a break – at least as long as Poulette doesn’t nail me to the cross for my terrible English 🙂