Who Let The Dogs Out

The hunting season is open. Literally. First the three bulmastifs went after their owner and mauled him to death. The investigation as to why and what exactly happened is still under way and (albeit strong) suspicions that the three members of canine persuasion were abused have yet to be confirmed. But that did not stop the media to succumb to the scent of blood and sperm and started beating the drums, turning the general population into a pack of rabid dogs and let them loose to go after whoever they came by.

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(source)

Minister for agriculture Milan Pogačnik of Social Democrats was starting to feel the heat almost immediately after the attack. After all the Veterinary Administration which (following a court order) released the dogs into the late SaÅ¡a Baričevič‘s custody is under his jurisdiction. Allegations of pressure being brought to bear surfaced and the whole thing started to look as if the laws apply differently to the powerful few than to the rest of us. So an interpelation was filed against minister Pogačnik who (you shan’t be surprised) denies any wrongdoing and insists that the law was followed to the letter and that in the end there was a decision of the Administrative Court which the ministry and the Veterinary Administration had to fulfil. The court said that the dogs are to be returned to their owner because the provision of mandatory extermination after an attack came into force after the process had started.

But as this angle was still being explored the “blood and sperm” thing exploded. The fact that Miro Senica, partner (spouse) of minister of interior Katarina Kresal of LDS represented Baričevič in the above case was bad enough (although Kresal was not minister when Senica took the case). But then allegations (completely unfounded, btw) of a media cover-up were circulated by the yellow press and were immediately followed by speculation that either Kresal or Senica (or both) knew about the alleged abuse (note the three-fold conditional). Even more, as days passed (and Kresal remained curiously quiet) speculation mounted that she somehow tried to influence the police or that the cops intentionally dragged their feet investigating. Therefore SDS, SNS and SLS filed for interpelation of minister Katarina Kresal.

So, now we have two ministers being dragged in front of the firing squad, so to speak. In case of Kresal this is the sencond time in less then a year (an interpelation against her was filed by SDS, SNS and SLS 364 days ago). But things do not stop there. As it happens, minister of justice AleÅ¡ Zalar is under fire as well, supposedly because his brother was on the judiciary panel of the Administrative Court which – it is now being argued – actually fucked up and interpreted the law wrongly. Things are not helped by the fact that Zalar is embroiled in a bitter dispute with General Prosecutor Barbara Brezigar who is politically closer to the opposition. As of this writing Zalar is neither a subject of an interpelation nor was he called on to resign, but give it a week. So. Minister three under fire.

Not that it stops there. Minister Gregor Golobič of Zares yesterday testified in front of an committee investigating his alleged abuse of power in acquiring an unsecured credit line for Ultra, a company where he holds a 7% stake. Pengovsky covered the Ultra affair at length here and here, so do your homework 🙂 Golobič is in fact the first public official to be under investigation by a parliamentary committee in the history of Slovenia (all others investigative committees only called public officials as witnesses). Minister number four being forced to walk the plank.

To go on. Today, the opposition demanded that minister of health Borut Miklavčič resign because of the deal with GlaxoSmithKline for the swine flu vaccine. It has emerged that Miklavčič could do little but say yes the terms of the deal (most importantly) the price, but he did negotiate slightly better delivery dates and the provision that Slovenia will not pay for surplus vaccine. But the catch is that – according to the contract now made public – the state would have to pay for any and all potential damages awarded had any lawsuits been filed because of complications due to vaccination. The thing is that – according to the minister – the law says otherwise which makes this particular stipulation in the contact null and void. Furthermore Miklavčič says that he did nothing wrong and that had he not agreed to the conditions of GSK and Slovenia did not get the vaccine in time, he would be held responsible when the flu struck.

And, to top it off, last Friday SDS president Janez JanÅ¡a posted a conspiracy-cum-philosophy text entitled “There is no god. Everything is allowed.” where he outlines what he sees as the fundamental corruption and moral wrong of the political left which – according to JanÅ¡a – stemming from the criminal roots of communism had flourished until today, perverting justice, bending the rules and – defying all things sound and moral – took every advantage to increase its own wealth and power to the point of being obscene:

As ever more bizarre details of the [canine] garage affair are unveiled, as new information about abusing judicial and administrative procedures is coming out daily, people who ask themselves how all of this is even possible should know this: if murder remained unpunshied, then that went double for theft and abuse of state, people and animals.

Time allowing I’ll translate this text as it will (I suspect) become an oft-quoted piece of Slovene political thought.

So, as you can see, no punches are being pulled. The dogs are out and the hunters are following. They smell blood. Question is, what if it leads them where they don’t want to go?

The Really Important Stuff

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The late president Drnovšek (source)

Today marks the second anniversary of death of President Janez DrnovÅ¡ek. If a year ago pengovsky asked whether we had learned anything from him (and went with “no”), the situation today makes even the question itself sound naive. If last year the political right wing was up in arms over the question of The Erased, this year the topic-du-jour are equal rights for same-sex couples. Actually, strike that. The topic-du-jour were equal rights for same-sex couples. Today, most of the nation is on the prowl against any sort of deviation from “normality”, be this deviation actual or imagined, personal or political.

Two years ago it was considered deviant to support the plight of the Roma population. A year ago it was considered deviant and unpatriotic to support the plight of The Erased. Some months ago it was considered to be deviant, unpatriotic and amoral to support the rights of same-sex couples. Today, it is considered sick and perverted just to be left-wing or to now the “wrong kind of people”. Or both. President DrnovÅ¡ek rarely passed judgement. Even less so while he was still Prime Minister. But when he spoke, his words had merit. Today, a lot of what is being said is judgemental to start with and is fluff to boot. God’s name is being taken in vain and big words are being used to describe small achievements.

And yet, this is the hand we were dealt. Pengovsky has no idea what President DrnovÅ¡ek thought would become of Slovenia in 2010. He may have even envisaged the very thing were are going through today. But it doesn’t really matter. The future is what lies ahead and it is in our name that we should be creating it. It would not hurt, however, to look up to the late president for inspiration from time to time. He was dealt quite a rotten hand and still played a brilliant game. But he knew to tell the really important stuff from the whole sort of general mish-mash.

Like Rabid Dogs

The Canine Scandal is spiralling out of control and the shitstorm spread from agriculture minister Milan Pogačnik to engulf interior minister Katarina Kresal as well. Specificially, the immediate reason for shit being dumped at doorstep is her partner and one of Slovenia’s stellar lawyers Miro Senica, who, it turns out, represented the late SaÅ¡a Baričevič, M.D. , who two weeks ago was mauled to death by his own dogs. The thing is that Barivečič’s bull mastifs had a history of violence and were ordered to be put down after a nearly-fatal attack on a bystander way back in 2006. Baričevič, himself apparently a relatively influential individual, disputed the order to have the dogs put down and hired Senica to represent him in front of the Administrative Court. Senica won the case for him and the dogs were returned to Baričevič under certain conditions. To deadly effect, as it turned out. However, the plot thickens.

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Several questions, some more relevant than others are overlapping in this case and the noise level is so high that only the loudest and the easiest of answers are being heard. The media are in a frenzy, the nation in a state of mass hysteria, various institutions are playing their own angles each, coalition politicians all but went underground, opposition is beating the drum and the list of people whom the vox populi connects to the scandal is becoming ever longer and more distinguished. It seems like everyone is acting like a pack of rabid dogs.

Regardless of everything, the most important question right now is whether pressure was brought to bear to secure return of the dogs to Baričevič. Did Baričevič, besides hiring Senica employ other, unlawful, methods to achieve the desired result and if so, who was in on it? On the outside and judging from the documents released by the ministry of agriculture things appear to be legal. But since everything went so badly wrong it is only right that this legal path be re-examined. But the legal aspect of the story interconnects with another, altogether more gruesome aspect.

Namely, at the moment authorities strongly suspect that dogs were (sexually) abused, possibly repeatedly so. I put “sexually” in brackets because sexual abuse (sodomy) is only inferred by the type of damage found on which were (finally) put down after the attack. The sexual aspect of the story puts the question of “who was in on it” in an entirely different context. No longer are the media and the public concerned with whether the pressure was brought to bear, but why was it brought to bear. All of a sudden pressure being brought to bear was taken for granted, speculation became fact and it all hell broke loose. Literally.

Initially mainstream media left the more sensationalist aspects of the story to Slovenian version of a particular song by Don Henley and focusing on the role of agriculture minister Pogačnik who apparently employed a PR agency to handle the fall-out but the latter fucked up immediately, giving ample material for media to go after the minister. But the moment the sexual abuse angle was taken, things followed started happening with lightning speed, and the rule of the day was “everything goes”. Unconfirmed reports, rumours, partial investigation results, sources close to the police, all of it “information acquired by [insert media]”, all of it identical, all of it probably from the same source.

It must be said at this point that most of the unofficial and off-the-record information that was circulated in Slovene media has so far been at least partially confirmed. But that don’t make it OK to act like a vampire. People inferred the most impossible things from media reports and media in turn acted upon those comments, fuelling the story even further. Late last week the difference between the media and comments on forums and blogs was gone. Some prime examples were left over at Drugi Dom and had.si, but the real gems were posted at all major news sites, with people re-posting comments from one site to another, claiming censorship and the aforementioned web-tabloid the hero of the day. Why? Because “it had the balls to print what we knew all along”. And it was probably at this point that mainstream media lost compass. Trying desperately not to come across as “in bed with the elite” they started howling with the wolves and joined the hysterical party.

Until then, Slovenian politics as a whole was fascinatingly quiet on the issue. Slovene People’s Party did file an interpelation against minsiter Pogačnik, but that was probably as much a self-defence move as anything else. Agriculture was traditionally SLS’ turf and at the moment it seems that Sonja Bukovec Pogačnik’s second in command (an SLS member) is involved as well. But other than that things were quiet, with most coalition politicians trying to put a daylight between themselves and the whole business. Some naively ran to the rescue, only see shit hit them as well (like Borut Sajovic, an LDS MP), but mostly ministers Pogačnik and Kresal and – by extention – PM Borut Pahor were left hanging dry.

But. When SDS president Janez JanÅ¡a finally commented on the matter and focused on Miro Senica as “a power centre which controls executive, judicial and legislative branch”, this was interpreted as a green light for an all-out offensive. This has only just begun and yet it is already clear that no punches will be pulled and no holds barred. To illustrate, SDS chief whip Jože Tanko only day later made the connection between the canine scandal and the new Family Code, saying that Katarina Kresal’s LDS aims to radically change the society in order to satisfy wishes of the the elites and introduce unnatural possibilities to certain privileged groups . Or, as one comment somewhere put slightly less bluntly, “now sodomites are trying to tell us what family is“.

The problem this country is faced with right now is three-fold. First, unlike the original pack of bull mastiffs this particular pack of rabid dogs needs to be broken up. Instead the media, the masses and the politicians were tripping over one another in in making ever more juicy and scandalous statements, comparisons and assessments. Opposition is suppose to keep the coalition in check, media are suppose to keep in check both, while the people should at least keep tabs on all of the above. Call it a societal version of checks and balances, something at which all of the above failed miserably.

Lynch Mob

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If one took for granted all that is being said and written on the canine subject these days, then half of Slovenia are working for the Veterinary Administration, the other half are members of the Police investigating the scene of the attack, whereas the third half are pals with the first two halves