I Don’t Need Sex. The Government Fucks Me Every Day.

Besides the border dispute and more or less intelligent pieces on journalism on that issue, there are also other aspects of Slovene-Croatian relations. Yesterday Dr. Arf posted a comment mentioning an “incident” where a Slovenian tourist in a restaurant in Zadar, Croatia forked out 1.300 euros and bought an entire aquarium of lobsters (save those which were already sold to other gests) whereupon he proceeded to release them back to the sea.

Cameraman Ivan Cvirn wearing the infamous T-shirt (source)

In not-so-related news, an auction was held in Croatia for the now-legendary T-Shirt worn by cameraman Ivan Cvirn, who enraged newly minted Croatian PM Jadranka Kosor weeks ago. While shooting footage during her inaugural session of the government Cvirn wore a T-Shirt saying “I Don’t Need Sex. The Government Fucks Me Every Day.”. Jadranka flipped, gave the cameraman a public dressing-down and ejected the entire crew. Ivan Cvirn subsequently lost his job at RTL Croatia (and is now suing them) but he also decided to auction off the infamous T-shirt with proceeds to go to charities. According to today’s Dnevnik, the T-shirt goes to a bidder in Ljubljana, who will fork out 573 euros (or 4.000 Croatian kunas). Since it was a web auction, bidders used nicknames, but pengovsky thinks that the mysterious bidder might be none other than Nedeljko Dabić, a free-wheelin’ and utterly unsuccessful candidate on this year’s EU elections. Why do I think that? Well, the bidder’s nickname repotedly was “50 is more than 100

P.S.: you can tell the politicians are on vacations, can’t you? :mrgreen:

Never Send A Boy To Do A Man’s Job

It seems that some people took the old adage “things are too serious not to be taken lightly”, well, too seriously. Admittedly, Slovene-Croatian border dispute is giving ample material to make fun out of, but there are funny jokes and then there are just sheer egotistic stupidities.

Operation South Shield by Dejan Steinbuch. Yes, it really does include bears (source)

An example of the former are the amazing columns in Dnevnik daily by Boris Dežulović (already featured on this blog), a Croatian journalist, currently based in Belgrade, Serbia who (almost invariably) every week sheds light on various dark corners of the joint Slovene-Croatian trauma and exposes them for what they really are: small-time provincial petty disputes fanned by enormous egos of two-bit-hustlers-turned-politicians who run the show. From time to time, although more rarely, this wry humour approach is complemented b< Ervin Hladnik Milharčič, a Slovenian journalist and a Dnevnik columnist as well, who just happens to be a friend of Dežulović’s. Between the two of them, there isn’t much of the last 25 years history of what once was Yugoslavia that they didn’t witness first hand, including the war which ravaged the once-common country and the prospect of which is (sometimes more seriously, sometimes less) often spoken about vis-a-vis the dispute.

On the other hand, there are plenty of mental adolescents who indulge in fantasies and what-if stories, compare sizes of both countries’ militaries and – although jokingly – play out war scenarios of one sort of another. An example of this came some weeks ago in Croatian magazine Globus, which ran an item titled Imaginary Fight On The Border. Although not totally serious, the article by Boro Krstulović and Igor Tabak played out a possible war scenario between the countries, where – naturally – Croatia came out victorious.

And only days ago Finance (Slovenian would-be WSJ) ran an item titled A Fantasy Story: How Croatia Returned To Europe by Dejan Steinbuch, former editor of Žurnal, a free weekly. Steinbuch wrote a travesty which includes top echelons of Slovenian politics as well as literally every Slovenian who – disguised as tourists – occupy Croatia during the summer. Only this time they do it for real. I imagine the story was prompted by an apparent joke by Croatian PM Jadranka Kosor, who reportedly said to Slovenian PM Borut Pahor that the only way Slovenia will lift the blockade is for Croatia to become part of Slovenia.

Both these articles have a problem – they miss their targets completely. War between Slovenia and Croatia may seem improbable. Hopefully it is. But let us not forget that there have been stand-offs between Slovene and Croatian police in the past and that after every failed round of negotiations a new round of escalations followed. And this summer every time an incident involving a Slovenian in Croatia or a Croatian in Slovenia happens it makes first pages of newspapers.

I realise both articles meant to be funny and – I may be reaching here – tried to show that conflict between the countries is absurd. But to do that in a tongue-in-cheek manner requires considerable skill. These two articles and their respective authors failed miserably in that enterprise. They just look pathetic, terribly not funny and do precious little to help the overall situation. I just wish they were available in English as well, so the world could see the amount of ineptitude one sheet of paper can hold in this part of the world.

Didn’t This Get Us In Trouble The First Time Around?

I was meaning to write this one up for the past two weeks. In case you’re wondering how some investment companies can post huge profits in the middle of the crisis, here’s part of the answer.

(author: Lisa Haney; source)

Powerful computers, some housed right next to the machines that drive marketplaces like the New York Stock Exchange, enable high-frequency traders to transmit millions of orders at lightning speed and, their detractors contend, reap billions at everyone else’s expense.

These systems are so fast they can outsmart or outrun other investors, humans and computers alike. And after growing in the shadows for years, they are generating lots of talk.

(source: NYT)

I don’t know about you, but this HFT seems wrong on a very fundamental level. Admittedly, I’ll have to see what this guru I know will say on the issue, but as things stand two things come to mind: Wasn’t computer-ran trading what caused the Black Monday of 1987? And secondly: wasn’t this kind of market tweaking by profit-hungry investment banks what got us in trouble in the first place?

Slightly OT: It seems that it is not economic changes that hit Slovenia with a couple of months’ delay. The same apparently goes for economic revelations as well. The Rolling Stone magazine article linked above which tells the tale of how theCredit Crunch began, was widely circulated in Slovene media… two weeks ago.

Game Over

(source of picture, DIY at despair.com)

Yesteday Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB) impounded shares of Laško Brewery and Mercator from Infond Holding, which had defaulted on its loans it took out to buy Laško Brewery. As you know, Infond Holding is ultimately controlled by Boško Šrot and his company Atka Prima, with another company – the infamous Kolonel – in between the two. Through Infond Holding Šrot was performing MBO of Laško Brewery for which NLB alone granted a loan of some 130 million euros. As Infond defaulted on its loans (a combination of recession, investigation by Competition Protection Office and political pressure on banks to stop being excessively nice to Šrot), banks started making nervous noises and began talk of impounding shares Infond put up as a collateral if the company (and ultimately Šrot) cannot come up with cash to pay off the loans.

Šrot was obviously in no condition to do that, as his house of cards was built on a presumption of a continuously rising share prices of investments like Mercator, a stable cash-flow from Laško and subsidiary companies as well as politicians turning both blind eyes to his antics. Two out of three would have been nice, but since none of the above is the case any longer, the inevitable happened. Banks are starting to collect and they are none too nice about it. Yesterday NLB sold 23% of Laško brewery and 10% of Mercator and cashed in on some 157 million euros, which means that it just about broke even. Today, Abanka (a smaller bank) is following suit, selling some 23 million-worth of shares which it impounded from Infond Holding, and other banks are expected to do the same.

Thus Boško Šrot no longer owns Laško Brewery and – by extension – no longer controls any of Laško’s assets, which include Delo newspaper. He basically no longer owns anything beyond immediate assets of Atka Prima, which are bound to be impounded as well. The combined value of 180 million euros is peanuts with close to a billion euros of debt Šrot is said to have run up while trying to take over Laško.

Game over.

EDIT: It was only an hour or so after this post that Infond Holding officially declared that it is insolvent. End of story. Only pieces remain. And possibly criminal charges.