Your Country Wants YOU To Be Her Taxman

Strictly speaking, this write-up isn’t political, but this being Slovenia and all, politics is never far away. As you might or might not know, government of Alenka Bratušek increased VAT 2 percentage points, from 20 to 22 percent amid cries of adding to the economic slump. Now, truth be told, Bratušek and her finance minister Čufer are somewhat caught between a rock and a hard place. The budget is screwed up and in dire need of rebalancing which is happening as you read this. Instead of an across-the-board slashing of the public sector, Bratušek opted for the slippery-slope approach of gradually reducing wages in the public sector and increasing taxes as well as introducing new ones. The VAT increase is the initial step, to be followed by a proper real-estate tax (cue property owners including the Roman Catholic Church going ape-shit) and a still-lingering option of special crisis-tax. To name but a few.

…to be her taxman.

But beyond the normal ripples of you’ll-pry-this-money-from-my-cold-dead-hands, none of this cause any special uproar. OK, maybe the property tax is yet to do this, because two things are sacred to a Slovenian. His house and his car. Both of which are usually slightly above his means. What is making rounds for the past two days, however, is a programme by the Tax Administration to have citizens send in photos of invoices they receive via MMS messages. That’s right. In the age of Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus (ok, maybe not the last one), the TaxAdmin opted for a 20 year old tech to turn people into snitches. I guess they went for quantity rather than quality.

Now, some people (@had included went slightly ga-ga over this, especially since the TaxAdmin is not a particularly small government agency. And is about to get bigger still, with the Customs officers being transferred from the border with Croatia to various posts within the TaxAdmin. However, the outrage is totally misplaced.

After all, even today, the Slovenian political class likes to wear the snitch-jacket when it breaks bread with a ranking US diplomat, to give an example at random. I mean, we’ve been doing this for decades. When Fascist took over in 1941, snitching was aplenty. When Communists took over in 1945, snitching on your neighbour was a favourite past-time activity to settle old scores. And when Capitalists took over in 1990, the same thing was happening all over again. And so on and so forth.

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is simply a relatively well-aimed but poorly executed attempt to tap into this nation’s snitching reflex.


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Trouble In Paradise

It’s the silly season and it shows. News is slow and it mostly consists either of Olympics, the continuation of eurozone crisis or wildfires. That and the ever louder coalition quarrels. In fact, days ago things got a bit ugly. And then some.

Picture almost unrelated (source)

While it has become customary for politicos to scuffle on Twitter along the coalition/opposition lines, friendly fire is much less common. An example of the former we could witness today, shortly after Police Commissioner Janko Goršek (the top cop) announced that he was leaving the post on 1 October. What is most probably a case of you-can’t-fire-me-I-quit! was more or less expected ever since Janša 2.0 came into existence. Police is too important a system to be left unto its own devices, no? You gotta have party hacks reliable people running it, if your boss is on trial for corruption charges and was somewhat humiliated by appearing on a TV show whose anchor was arrested a day later on blackmail charges.

Never the less produced a lively exchange between interior minister Vinko Gorenak and his immediate predecessor Aleš Zalar (who was acting minister after Katarina Kresal resigned in August 2011). Zalar tweeted that with this Gorenak is probably ready for interpelation proceedings while Gorenak shot back whether Zalar might be helping the opposition in drafting the document. It went downhill from there, with Gorenak finally tweeting that he only deals with Zalar as a sort of a hobby. Which can come across rather kinky, if you look at it from the right perspective 😉

But this is just a sideshow, albeit one with nasty effects coming later in the year. The real shit was happening between Janez Janša‘s SDS and Gregor Virant‘s Citizens’ List. The two coalition parties entered a bit of a turf war over who gets to appoint whom in various state-owned firms with SDS aiming to share as few spoils as possible. Virant made his displeasure known and earned a retort on official SDS Twitter account saying that “Virant can not pass a microphone without uttering stupidites”. Which is a nasty thing to say to the president of the parliament, especially if he’s your coalition partner.

But the real shocker came a week later. Contrary to all expectations, the government rejected draft budgets for 2012 and 2013, instructing minister of finance Janez Šušteršič (number two honcho in Virant’s party) to go back to the old drawing board. This was complemented with an official SDS tweet asking how can the finance minister be absent for a budget session of the cabinet

Now… In all fairness, the government is fully entitled to reject any draft document. It is what it does. Rejects and accepts. Furthermore, it is unusual for a minister to be absent when his documents are debated. But it has happened before. That’s why we have State Secretaries. To stand in when minister is not available. Also, given that state finances across Europe at this time look more like guess-work than real accounting, the rejection could be considered just a change of plans. However, the fact that Šušteršič is the architect of this government’s austerity plan and knows more about finances than the rest of the government put together (and that ain’t saying much!) combined with the above tweet amounts to nothing less than a public political dressing down of a man whom pengovsky already said is probably earmarked as the fall guy when thing will go badly wrong.

And badly wrong they will go. As you know, Slovenia’s credit rating was cut down recently to just a notch above “junk” which means that we are more or less fucked. Even the former happy-go-merry market fundamentalists the likes of Jože P. Damijan who made a name for themselves by advocating flat-rate tax during Janša 1.0 have come to their senses and are now opposing across-boar-austerity, instead advocating the Krugman-Roubini gospel of jump-starting the economy as the government’s top priority.

There’s trouble in paradise and I ain’t talking an Ernst Lubitsch film, if you catch my drift. Members of the self-styled “coalition to save Slovenia” are slowly but surely going for each other’s throats while the world around them crumbles to pieces. That SDS went after Virant yet again only days ago only further proves the point.

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#prevodikomadov – the playlist

A lovely thing happened yesterday in Slovene twitosphere. Yours truly started a little shtick where one posted a Slovenian translation of a verse of a song, whereupon everyone else were to guess the performer and song title. The first person to guess correctly was then entitled to continue the thread, while his/her correct answer was confirmed via a re-tweet by the verse’s originator.

#prevodikomadov trending on

The whole thing was being run under the hasthag #prevodikomadov which roughly corresponds to “lyrics translation” and it started trending relatively quickly, securing the top position in Slovenian Twitter trends fairly soon. And while pengovsky came up with the idea and the hashtag, it should be noted that @loudanvicked helped craft the final rules of the game and that the whole thing would get out of control hadn’t he, @DavorinPavlica and many others helped curate the whole thing.

It all started with this innocent take on Shout by Tears for Fears

and ended some 360+ tweets (and counting) later. Granted, not all of these tweets included an actual verse. Some were merely guiding (curating) tweets, others were the same solutions by multiple users to the same verse, still others RTs of correct answers. But since I really can’t be bothered to sift through the entire CVS file, let’s just take things at face value and proclaim @DavorinPavlica as the most active user of #pravikomadi (myself excluded for obvious reasons).

Here’s Davorin’s take on Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin

And while we’re at it, a special shoutout goes to the one and only Boštjan Gorenc – Pižama, the top-tier stand-up comic and most excellent translator of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice saga. This is how @Pizama sees Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers in Slovenian:

And since bizarre picks are bizarre, a hat tip to @jkmcnk for floating this special gem of Slovenian electro-pop: Fredi Miler – Vedno si sanjala njega

And here’s the complete #prevodikomadov playlist, as submitted by 0020 hrs this morning. Seventy-two songs, in order of appearance:

Tears for Fears – Shout
A-ha – Cry Wolf
Deep Purple – When A Blind Man Cries
Snoop Dog – Aint Nutt’n But G Thang
Lewis and the News – Power of Love
Blur – Girls and Boys
Jimmy Reed – Big Boss Man
Korn – Twisted Transistor
Pixies – Where is my mind
Bad Religion – Generator
Bob Dylan – Motorpsycho NIghtmare
Johnny Cash – A Boy Named Sue
Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love
Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing
Bruce Springsteen – Lucky Town
Beatles – Day in life
Led Zeppelin – Dyer Maker
Chop Suey – SOAD
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under the Bride
Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the devil
Pink Floyd – Money
Flogging Molly – What’s Left Of The Flag
Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head
Zaz – Je Veux
Bob Dylan – All Along The Wathctower
Liza Minelli – Cabaret
Taio Cruz ft Flo Rida – Hangover
Deep Purple – Hush
Fredi Miler – Vedno si sanjala njega
Rage Against the Machine- Killing in the Name
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclypse Of The Heart
Jerry Reed – Tupelo Mississippi Flash
Sum 41 – We’re All To Blame
Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
The Doors – The End
Bruce Springsteen – Tougher Than The Rest
Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good
Mick Jagger – Wired All Night
Buffallo Springfield – For What It’s Worth
Monty Python – Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
Prodigy – Smack my bitch up
Azra – Pametni i knjiski ljudi
Slayer – Can’t Stand You
Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
The Andrews Sisters – Bei mir bist du schön
Jet – Are You Gonna Be My Girl
Sting – Roxane
Arctic Monkeys – When The Sun Goes Down
George Michael – Praying for Time
Michael Jackson – Beat It
Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed
KUD Idijoti – Punk`s njet mrtav
U2 – Zooropa
Beatles – Ain’t She Sweet
Alice In Chains – Down In A Hole
Grand Funk Railroad – Heartbreaker
Zabranjeno Pušenje – Zenica blues
Pink Floyd – Time
Amon Amarth – Twilight Of The Thunder God
Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale
Radiohead – Green Plastic Trees
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Outasight – Figure 8
The Temptations – Papa Was A Rolling Stone
Lou Rawls – You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine
Maja Keuc – I’m a Tree and You’re a Baloon
Stereophonics – Maybe Tomorrow
Pink Floyd – Hey You
Status Quo – Whatever you Want
Bjelo Dugme – Hajdemo u planine
Rednex – Cotton Eye Joe
The Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)
Sunrise Avenue – Hollywood Hills
Radiohead – Karma Police

I loved it! And if I missed or miscounted anything, feel free to correct me in the comments section 😀

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