PM Bratušek Meets The Pope, Gets Pulled Over By The Fashion Police

Alenka Bratušek met @pontifex today (or maybe it was the other way around) and the fashion police were out in full force. As if that were the main problem this country has. Admittedly, she does seem to have a penchant for tiger/leopard patterns, but surely a politician’s ability to carry out his/her office outweighs whatever fashion no-nos he or she might have committed. At the very least, it way better than having a PM who looks like he walked out of a Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue but is prone to committing diplomatic gaffes.

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Alenka and Francis, earlier today. (source: Delo/AFP)

Anyway, the thing is that while AB sported a leopard-pattern skirt while meeting her Italian counterpart, she put on a nice black outfit for her date with Francis (veil included) and was apparently toeing the line of the diplomatic protocol. So, everyone should be happy.

What is more important, however, and what we probably will never know, is what exactly they talked about. After all, the Maribor Diocese still has the 800 million debt hanging over its head and basically went tits up. Just for comparison, only days ago, the state OK’d recapitalisation of two largest banks, NLB and NKBM for a combined amount of 900 million. So you can see that the Roman Catholic Church has a bit of a problem in Slovenia. Which is probably one of the reasons the local clergy did not go ape-shit over the proposed real-estate tax which – according to a government leak – would encompass Church-owned real estate as well. That, and the fact that the local clergy is more Ratzingerian than Bergoglian and are probably still getting their bearings vis-a-vis the pop-Pope.

Also, it was reported the entire real-estate assets of the Slovenian Roman Catholic Church amount to – you guessed it – 800 million euro. Repossession, anyone? No? Too heavy?

Point is that there are serious issues at play here. Bratušek government is about to start selling a batch of state-owned companies as well as start transferring toxic assets to a bad band bank. In short: the landscape of Slovenian economy is about to change dramatically very soon. But here we are, as a nation, talking about the size and colour of the PM’s skirt.

Really, maybe we deserve the shit we’re in.

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Who’s Your Daddy?!

The modern plagues of Egypt have befallen the Slovenian branch of the Roman Catholic Church. It, too, was rocked by the paedophile scandals, just like sister branches near and far. Then followed the infamous financial crash of the Maribor diocese which revealed the gaping € 800-million hole in church coffers, by far the largest of any Roman Catholic diocese anywhere in the world. And that in a diocese with a flock of merely 100k sheep. And now two of the most senior Slovene clergy-men are accused of having fathered children.


Cardinal Rode, Peter S. and Archibshop Uran (source and source)

Within a space of a couple of months, Slovenian Roman Catholic Church (RKC) shook all the way to its foundations. Seemingly out of the blue, former Archbishop (top-ranking cleric in Slovenia) Alojz Uran was ordered to completely retire from public life and leave Slovenia immediately. While no official explanation was given for expulsion of a very popular former Archbishop out of his homeland, it was soon speculated and later confirmed that claims of Uran having fathered a child are at the crux of the matter.

Uran responded first by heeding to orders from Vatican but was soon admitted to a hospital due to a worsening heart condition, prolonging his stay in the country. However, only a month or so later (mid-August), Delo daily, which broke the story on Uran, ran a bomb-shell of an article claiming, that a middle-aged German citizen of Slovenian descent claims that Cardinal Franc Rode was his father and publicly demanded a paternity test.

Now, if Uran story was huge, the Rode thing was a motherfucker-of-an-A-bomb–showed-up-your-ass-and-detonated type of story. You see, both Rode and Uran served as Slovenian Archbishops. Rode replaced the wildly popular Archbishop Alojzij Šuštar who lead RKC during the dying stages of socialism in Slovenia and into its first democratic years. Although very conservative, he was seen as a dove, someone who could be reasoned with. Enter Rode and the Church immediately became more aggressive. He regularly made headlines, promoting a rigidly conservative, high-visibility and very hardline political profile of the Church. In all honesty, he massively increased the political (and economic) clout of the RKC, culminating in a concordat between Slovenia and Vatican in 2004. But he also alienated the Church from the more moderate part of the flock. As a result, percent of Slovenes declaring themselves of Roman Catholic persuasion (not necessarily practising, but simply of faith) fell from 75% under Šuštar to 55% under Rode.

In 2004 and Rode was recalled to Rome to take over as Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, in fact keeping tabs on various orders of the Church around the world. This he did with much gusto, which is something some of the more liberal nuns in the USA experienced first hand.

At any rate, Rode, who was made Cardinal by the new pope Benedict XVI shortly thereafter, was succeeded by Alojz Uran in Ljubljana. And this where the plot thickens. Under Uran, who always struck pengovsky as a Roman Catholic version of Friar Tuck, the flock began to swell again. But apparently Rode was none to happy to have been succeeded by a man with a down-to-earth-back-to-the-people agenda. Also, it was hinted lately, that Uran was opposing RKC’s financial excesses in general and the machinations of Maribor diocese in general. Without much success, but annoying quite a few people along the way. The straw, which seems to have broken the camel’s back, however, was Uran opposing using Church funds to pay for renovation of Goričane mansion, where Rode was planning to retire to after he bid goodbye to Vatican.

Thus a below-the-radar investigation was apparently initiated into Uran’s alleged fatherhood. While no names were named, the rumour mill went up to 11. Thus it was said that Uran apparently had a thing going in Šentvid area of Ljubljana and that everyone involved, including the kid, was pretty cool about it. Uran, for his part, denied ever having broken the vow of celibacy, but apparently bowed to Vatican. He was expected to be sent to Trieste, which – although just across the border in Italy – technically is outside Slovenia.

It was speculated early the whole thing is Rode’s payback for Uran being a pain in the ass. That the whole thing is a high-level semi-divine power play became apparent after one Peter Stelzer, 42, a German citizen of Slovenian descent publicly claimed that Franc Rode is his father. As with Uran, Delo daily had the exclusive, where the allegedly Cardinal’s long-lost son claimed that Rode, then a young vicar, knocked his mother up forty-two years ago and then left her, whereupon she, barely 18 years old, emigrated to Germany.

Rode’s reaction was most curious. He confirmed a relationship with Peter’s mother, but said that it was platonic and discontinued due to his heavenly call. As if… 😀 Additionally however, Rode hired a stellar lawyer, Nina Zidar Klemenčič, who – incidentally – also represented PM Janez Janša in various civil cases, including those tangential to the Patria Affair (which got its own twist today, by the way).

In the last few days the story got another twist, with Rode in principle agreeing to a paternity test which Peter S. demanded and said he’d have it done by the Ljubljana Institute of Forensic Medicine. However, Peter S. now says he wants the test done by a relevant German institution, citing concerns that religious persuasion of the head of Institute Jože Balažic would taint the process.

This will be fun to watch, although pengovsky would be very much surprised if the Rode – Stelzer paternity test came back positive, despite their seemingly strong physical resemblance. In fact, the only reason why this is mildly important to the general public is because the Church, from position of celibacy, takes it upon itself to approve or disprove of how other people’s intimate lives and family matters. Like it did in the Family Code debate. If either or both allegations turn out to be correct, this would be the final nail in the coffin of RKC’s credibility and morality.

Other than that, pengovsky doesn’t really care a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys if either Rode or Uran (or both of them) fooled around. Quite to the contrary. I’d rather have clergymen screw consensually than screw little children forcefully or screw unsuspecting shareholders and investors out of their money.

As the old folk-wisdom goes, why does the vicar have a housekeeper? Just in case.

 

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Language of Austerity (Ben Tre)

“It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”


(source)

The deconstruction of the welfare state is looming with a breathtaking but completely predictable tempo. Speed is everyting. The left had not yet reeled from the post-electoral fuck-up (Janković) and the electoral rout (everyone else on the left), while the civil society is still bemoaning the defeat on the Family Code referendum. Thus the labout unions, what little authority they have left after stabbing Pahor‘s government in the back, are in fact the only ones left (sic!) standing. But for how long? The right wing (correctly) sensed a window of opportunity to reshape this country way beyond anything we’ve ever imagined possible.

Urgency and instability

As pengovsky has shown, “austerity measures” are nothing short of a raid on this country’s assests as well as a showdown between the government of Janez Janša and the labour unions. The PM said as much earlier tonight during a TV interview when he said that his government will not kneel before the unions. He was also – as per usual with him – quick to introduce two key elements: urgency and instability. Janša said that time is of the essence and that cuts in public spending must be made this year, while revenue side of the budget (new and/or higher taxes, mostly) can only come into effect next year. Additionally, rumours are being floated by key SDS people that the government is likely to step down should austerity measures be nixed. With this Janša is threatning a full-blown political crisis only four months into his term. Remember, speed is everything.

Additionally, the minister for ideological apparatus of the state Žiga Turk is telling teachers’ unions that austerity is the only was to go, that they will have to “do more with less” and basically suck it up, regardless of the consequences. Speaking of consequences – only yesterday the minister issued a memo instucting schools and kindergartens to take care of any children which might show up on the day of the strike. Effectively, the minister instructed teachers to work (albeit in a reduced capacity) during the strike. Which isn’t exactly a placating move, if you catch my meaning. Policemen, for example, are required by law to perform their duties even while on strike. Not teachers, policemen. And speaking of cops, the minister for the repressive apparatus of the state (part of it, anyway) Vinko Gorenak just issued a revised set of instructions for police to follow if a state of emergency is declared.

Ben Tre

Do you see the pattern? The PM says we’re out of time and that it’s “my way or the highway”, threatning political crisis. One of his ministers then dictates the terms of the strike to the unions, while the other one slips the phrase “state of emergency” into the media stream. Add to that the fact that the right wing astroturf movements already took aim at abortion and prescription contraceptives while the Catholic Church decried vilefication of private eductaion by the unions, because “private schools are already cheaper for the state from the financial point of view“. You need further proof that this is about privatisation and deconstruction of the welfare state? How’s this for proof: The PM said that “auserity measures are necessary in order to save the welfare state“.

In other words, we have to destory the welfare state in order to save it. Sort of like in ‘Nam

May whatever god they believe in have mercy on their souls…

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Referendum on the Family Code: Aftermath

The result of Sunday’s referendum on the Family Code left many people disappointed. Also, it left many people happy, especially those who felt that the supporters of YES campaign (including yours truly) were annoying little pains in the asses. But be that as it may, the rejection of the Family Code with a 54% against vote does have a couple of very serious rammifications.

First and foremost it’s the fact that children who live in same sex families still have only one “legal” parent, whereas their non-biological parent has zero legal relation to the child. True, there are ways around that, but that’s courts recognising legal loop-holes and not having a straight-up legislative solution. Secondly, a wholesome legislation regulating all types of partnership remains a distant prospect. And when I say distant, I mean it literally. Before 2012, the last time the parliament was about to vote on same-sex marriage and rights (although not as comprehensive a law as the Family Code) was way back in 2004. which means that at this pace, the next time Slovenia will decide on this issue will be 2020. Just lovely. :/

On the upside, however, even though the Code was rejected, the debate surrounding it, sour as it was, did plenty of good. This was the first time for a lot of peolpe to learn that so called “rainbow families” do in fact exist and that their lives are in every way similar to those of “traditional families” except for a set of really painful and awkward complications, such as the non-biological parent being unable to take sick-leave to tend the child.

So, why was the Code rejected, despite the last poll projecting otherwise? A lot of attempts at explaining it were given: that it was a case of slacktivism; that people don’t give a fuck; that the NO campaign mounted a last-ditch attempt and succeeded; that their lies simply paid off. Well. pengovsky’s take on thing is that for the general population this was a lot to take in as it were. No matter how tollerant people claim to be, they tend to be wary of people who are “different”, especially in an area as intimate as family relations. But even if you cross that brige, you stil have to have the people make a combination of a rational and emotional decision to cast a YES vote. And this is where things ground to a halt in my opinion. Most people were simply unable to make an emotional connection to the kinds of situations the Family Code provided for, even though they may have been able to rationalise into accepting it.

It would therefore be very benefitial if the effect of the YES campaign would go beyond just bringing out (too little of a) vote. If the momentum of raising and maintaining awarenes is kept, then the whole thing probably was not in vain. If, however, NGOs and other progressive groups which came together on this issue are again scattered wide apart, then… well… cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war… for the backlash of the conservative side will be fast and furious. This wasn’t just about gays and their children. It was about the society as a whole, whether it would continue in a more tolerant way or if it will start sliding back into ages past. On this issue status quo is simply not possible.

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Lies, Damn Lies and the Campaign Against the Family Code

Apart from voting in a few mayors, Slovenians will be casting their votes on the referendum on the new Family code, the very piece of legislation which reignited the culture war which (truth be told) never really stops in Slovenia. It only rages with different levels of intensity. This time around, the Gates of Hell seem to have opened and the forces of darkness descended upon this sorry excuse for a country.


Talk to the hand, ’cause the face ain’t listening. Vesna Vilčnik (NO) shushes Miha Lobnik (YES) (RTVSLO via @milijonar)

During this campaign the amount of lies has reached unprecedented levels. Even the referendum on arbitration agreement with Croatia saw less bullshit produced by those who opposed it. Indeed, this time around we saw the whole plethora of lies, fearmongering and deceit. Everything from claiming that the family code brings “homosexual education” to schools, that children will be taken away by the state if parents will not have them vaccinated and that the code provides for surrogacy. The natural order of things will be dismantled, Slovenian society as we know it will fall apart and the world will end. This is not my rendition of opponents’ statements. These are their statements.

So, what’s it all about? This, this and this, basically. The Family Code, which was passed by the parliament and then put up for a referendum by an astrotuf movement headed by Aleš Primc and heavily backed by the Roman Catholic Church, basically provides for legalisation of most (not all) family situations, giving both children and adults with a legal framework within which they can operate even if they are not a “traditional”, mother-father-offspring family. It should be said, that – although finally provided – this framework still differentiates between various types of families. For example, a same-sex union, while equal to a heterosexual union in virtually every other aspect, is not allowed to adopt children unless one of the adults in the union is a child’s biological parent.

But that doesn’t really matter, because what is at stake here, is not really the right of individuals to marry and have children (at this point, most opponents will hurry to assure you they have a number of gay friends), but the fact that the conservative, reactionary visions of a society where “everyone knows their station” are fast disappearing. In fact, the definition of family and the moral imperative which stems from it, is one of the last pillars of a rigid and pre-modern concept of a society champinoed by the Catholic Church and others who take it upon themsevles to be the ultimate judges of the morality of others. This is not about families, nor it is about partners or children. It is about control. Who gets to decide what’s wrong and what’s right. In a modern society, individuals do, with the caveat of entrusting the care for the common good to the state. In a pre-modern society, the self-appointed moral and spiritual leaders do, often asking to be followed blindly. Because. They. Know.

Which is why they feel they can sell even the most epic of bullshits. Indeed, the whole NO campaign is not unlike the US Tea Party movement and the level of agressiveness brings about memories of frenzied Republicans shouting Barack Obama is a Muslim terrorist during the 2008 US presidential campaign. Even more, the lies of the NO campaign are on the same level as Michelle Bachmann‘s “death panels” during th Obamacare campaign. In fact, the whole NO campaing seemed to be picked up from an old Reublican handbook. It doesn’t matter how far out the claim is, as long as it keeps the ball roling and the enemy engaged, making him spend time and energy debunking the latest crack-pot claim. Like the one that the Family code is full of secret keys. What do they do? Explain the Mayan calendar?

Voting yes on the referendum on Sunday will mean a) that adults will be able to love whomever they like and in a manner they see fit, not hurting anyone, b) children will have a better chance of being with a loving family and c) no self-appointed “higher authority” will be able to tell you what a) and b) in fact are. Voting no, however, will mean that things stay exactly as they are and a lot of people, who pose no threat whatsoever to anyone, who could have it better, will not be able to do so. It’s that simple.

Everyone deserves to be happy. ZA.

 

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