Expressing How Dumb That Was In Words Just Doesn’t Work

(original image: Blaž Samec/Delo)

After a failed attempt to fight off accusations of forgery, Slovene Democratic Party of Janez Janša issued an “Apology and clarification to visitors of our website” where it stated that “upon revising the entire procedure of collecting the archive documents a year ago, we cannot claim that all documents were sent to all addressees [as implied by the published document]“.

The party goes on to state that it now “allows for the possibility that due to (dis)organisation of the SZDL archives in the Archive of Slovenia, the particular archive included documents which were not part of the letter of July 2 1980. Should this really be the case, it was an error on our part because we did not check the document thoroughly enough and in that case we apologize to our readers“.

However, the party explicitly refuses to apologize to President Danilo Türk, and now says that the president “was member of the highest circle of Slovenian leadership at the time and was informed about the Velikovec case. Those documents, which were without a doubt addressed to him, report on trial of UDBa [general moniker for SDV secret service] operatives. He was privy to the background unknown to ordinary citizens. He knew the background in 1980 and he knew them in 2010 when he gave a medal to protagonist of the bombing Tomaž Ertl“. SDS concludes that the whole thing is only one more reason for the secret archives to be declassified.

Wow. No, seriously. Wow! Cornelious said it best in his comment yesterday: this really is a non-apology. Something along the lines of “oops, we fucked up, but we proved our point regardless”.

Well, SDS didn’t prove their point. Far from it. The party and its president only proved that they are willing to take unfathomable liberties with publicly accessible archive material. Bob knows what they would do with classified documents. And even if those documents were declassified (the government keeps them secret invoking interests of the national security), SDS lost any and all justification to interpret them. Not only are they playing dumb. They’re taking everyone else for dumb as well. I mean, the documents were in their possession for a year. A year! And it is only now that they discover a “mistake”? What other “mistakes” did they make in the past?

All Janša and SDS had to do to win the 2012 elections is to sit back, look pretty and keep their mouth shut for the next eighteen months. Instead they’ve proven beyond any reasonable doubt that there is no limit to what they’re willing to do to regain control of this country.

Expressing how dumb that was in words just doesn’t work, hence: facepalm.

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Creative Photocopying Leads To Creative Interpretation

After Janez Janša and his Slovene Democratic Party (SDS) were caught indulging in creative photocopying of archive material trying to implicate President Danilo Türk, the shit hit the fan yesterday, when Delo newspaper revisited and expanded the story it initially broke on Saturday. Delo’s exercise was relatively simple. It entered the state archives and compared the file SDS published against actual records.

(original image source:

In what was a hugely embarrasing day for SDS and its leader it was sort of funny to see how the usually vocal SDS MPs and other party members were conspicuously quiet, running to their hidey-holes and avoiding media attention, even distancing themselves from the actions of the party (and by extension, their leader). The evidence against SDS was irrefutable, especially after the state archives published the complete set of documents completely confirming Delo story. However, just about that time SDS leader Janez Janša posted a lengthy reply on his party’s website.

And by lengthy I mean what-the-fuck-long. Ten pages of, well, the shit. It’s got everything: communism, Depala vas, arms deals, persecution, revolution, political intrigue, power struggle, secret services, media manipulation, arbitration agreement with Croatia and personal vendetta. Everything you ever wanted to know about Janša’s universe but were unable to comprehend. I really hope SDS will translate the text and post it on their new-and-improved English website. Either that, or I just might translate it myself. However, the text and subsequent Janša’s media appearances send a message other than the leader of the largest opposition party will have us read.

Bottom is that Janša took responsibility for the whole thing, basically admitting that he was fully aware of what was going on. He denied any wrongdoing and maintained that a) there was no forgery, not even “misinterpretation” and b) the president is lying when saying that he was not directly informed about Velikovec bombing. This means that whatever the fallout of this spectacular scew-up, it will land directly in Janša’s lap. By yesterday late afternoon this seems to have dawned on Janša, who predictably survived his first interview on Kanal A‘s trashy news programme, where the host was no match for the illustrious SDS leader. Things got worse later in the evening, when Janša appeared on state television and started changing the story and its highlights.

Thus the latest version of the truth behind “Archivegate” (moniker courtesy of the good doctor) as interpreted creatively by Janez Janša is that Danilo Türk was given information other than media reports about the background to Velikovec bombing some time after the attack. Conclusion: as of yesterday (according to Janša) being “directly informed” means getting any information (other than media reports) at any date after a particular event, even though the information in question is nothing but a non-problematic diplomatic cable.

Janša also went on to add that the whole thing only reiterates the need for the secret archives to be declassified. Regardless of the fact that the documents published were found in already declassified batch of documents. In other words, one has nothing to do with the other, except in Janša’s universe. That particular universe took a big dent yesterday. So big in fact, that Janša saw it fit to spread the blame, going out of his way to point out that it was “assistants to SDS parliamentary group” who sifted through the archives and came up with the documents. You know, just in case he starts to really feel the heat and he needs scape goats. The party faithful will come more than handy.

But still, why would Janša go after Türk in the first place? Pengovsky partly answered that question on Sunday. This was a ploy that back-fired on a massive scale and the collateral damage to SDS in general and Janša in particular will be considerable. It is very tempting to simply say that SDS leader has issues. In fact, the whole thing was most likely premeditated (after all, it was hinted at during impeachment attempt against Türk).

It is worth noting that 2012 will be the year of both parliamentary and presidential election and that a lot is up for grabs. Janša was making noises about a strategy called “50+”, probably meaning that he will attempt to secure absolute majority in the parliament. Given the (un)popularity of the government of Borut Pahor he might even have a chance (albeit a very slim one). But one area where he and his party are seriously lacking, is a credible presidential candidate. Other than again persuading Prosecutor General Barbara Brezigar to have another go at it (she lost to Janez Drnovšek in 2002 presidential campaign), there just isn’t a person with enough clout to run for that particular office. Especially with Danilo Türk probably running for re-election

Unless, of course, the incumbent president’s reputation is tarnished beyond repair.

Objectively speaking, the presidential race is a battle Janša can afford to lose. The president wields no executive authority and Janša (should he become the next prime minister) could easily govern with Türk in office. However, Türk was already in office during last year of Janša’s 2004-2008 government and made life rather difficult for the right-wing. Also, before Türk, the late Janez Drnovšek (he died on this day three years ago) also has plenty of not-so-nice things to say about Janša (calling him the Prince of Darkness), especially when Janša’s government went head-to-head against Drnovšek and his foreign policy exploits.

In short. Janša is only comfortable with total governing, controlling most if not all branches of power. And this is probably the gist of it. Archivegate is in fact an attempt to clear the field of a credible adversary ahead of what Janša hopes will be regaining the control of this country. Janša concluded his 10-page-essay hoping “that this will be done by elections and not by street protests”.

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Documents Sexed-Up For Dramatic Puroposes

As luck would have it, pengovsky is way busy co-handling The Offspring™ which sort of explains the blogging no-show of the past few days (still, you got the skin and meat :)) But that does not mean things were quiet this side of the Alps. Oh, no… What we had here in the past ten-or-so days was almost worthy of an Austin Powers adventure. Guess who plays Dr. Evil

Janez Janša and Danilo Türk as Dr. Evil and Austin Powers. Shall we shag now or shag later? (photoshop by yours truly)

Remember Operation North? When twenty years after the deed President Danilo Türk awarded a medal to the last socialist interior minister Tomaž Ertl for preventing a Milošević-induced mass rally in Ljubljana in 1989 aimed at overthrowing the reform Communist leadership and installing a pro-Serb hard-liners at the helm of the country? Slightly more than a year ago giving a medal to Ertl (who was, among other things, head of the state secret police) made Janez Janša‘s SDS go apeshit and move to impeach president Türk on the grounds of supporting human rights violations. Janša’s move failed spectacularly but in the whirlwind of half-truths, accusations and conjectures that were the “impeachment case”, a set of questions stood out like a sore thumb: “What was Türk’s connection to Ertl and what did the President know of Ertl’s involvement in acts of international terrorism”

Shaggadelic, baby, yeah!

Fast forward eleven months and SDS starts making noises about how archives of the Slovene branch of SDV (Yugoslav secret service) still remain inaccessible and how this is most unacceptable, undemocratic and (oy vey!) unlawful. It goes on to say that SOVA, the current Slovene secret service, still prevents access to archives of former SDV and by that prevents parliamentary and public oversight of the intelligence services (the pretext being that Igor Omeza, a man of colourful past and high-profile past was denied access to the archives when supposedly researching a story). This apparently pained Janša so much, that he discussed the issue even in a debate on WikiLeaks, where he – in the presence of the new US Ambassador to Slovenia Joseph A. Mussomeli – made a quick argument against releasing the US State Departament cables but then went on a long tirade on why classified SDV archives must be made public in all their ignomy.

And then, a year almost to the day after Türk awarded Ertl with that infamous medal, SDS spectacularly “discovers” documents which supposedly prove that President Türk had detailed knowledge of the 1979 Velikovec (Völkermarkt) bombing in Austrian Carynthia in which three people were injured and which today is widely accepted to have been orchestrated by Slovene branch of SDV or at the very least cooked up by more rabid elements within the service. SDS claimed this directly linked Türk to acts of international terrorism as well as put him firmly in the circle of communist intelligence services. And what worse than an (albeit indirect) accusation that an incumbent president collaborated with communist secrecy service, by extension making either a spy or a snitch.

Enter Exhibit A

President Türk denied any prior or detailed knowledge of the Velikovec bombing. In what was an unusally strong-worded denial (Slovenian only) he bluntly accused Janša’s SDS of manipulation and deceit. Namely, the core of SDS’ case was a diplomatic cable from Yugoslav embassy in Vienna dated almost ten months after the bombing which was a compilation of official an unofficial Austrian responses as well as clippings from Austrian media in relation to the bombing. Recipients of the document included top Party brass and heads of other relevant institutions and committees, including one Danilo Türk, president of the SZDL committee for issues of minorities and diaspora.

At this point it should be noted that in 1979 Danilo Türk was a 26-year-old freshly minted law school graduate who just returned from serving in the army and landed his first job at SZDL (Socialist Union of Working People). The latter was a sort of all-encompassing umbrella organisation for groups and activities which were not strictly sanctioned by the Party, but were needed to be a part of the system to a) maintain the illusion of plurality and b) for the party to keep tabs on them. SZDL was designed to be the intermediary between the Party and the people and as a result, people working with or for SZDL could get away with a whole lot more than those working for the Party. Just to prove my point: the documents which started the JBTZ affair and ultimately began the final push for Slovenian independce were “acquired” by Igor Bavčar (today of Istrabenz infamy) in 1988 while he was working for that same SZDL.

Enter Exibit B

Anyways. Türk denies it and SDS immediately shoots back saying that not only is the President lying but also that it has in its possession a document which proves that Danilo Türk and SDV chief Tomaž Ertl (the one with the medal) go way back and did not meet face-to-face only last year as Türk had claimed during the impeachment proceedings. To back up their claim, they produced another document, a letter by interior secretary Tomaž Ertl from 1982 in which the latter informs the former that the Interior Secretariat is replacing its member of the Türk’s committee.

SDS of course failed to prove either one of their claims. Rather than proving that Türk was a member of the inner circle of the Party/SDV circles, the first set documents proves only that Türk was “privy” to diplomatic cables on the issue of Velikovec ten months after the attack and that information in that particular cable was stale, to say the least. Even more. The list of recipients of the said cable include not only the top Party officials, but people across the institutional spectrum of the socialist system (the Assembly, the SZDL, various committees) which points to the fact that the cable is a cleaned-up “civilian” version of intelligence collected (if there ever was any). In other words, it’s harmless. Secondly, claiming that Türk and Ertl go back thirty years (and again by conjecture trying to establish a link between the President and the inner circles of the SDV) by means of producing a bureaucratic notification is akin to fans claiming to be buddies with Bono of U2 on account of having his autograph. An exaggeration of biblical proportions, that is.

The plot thickens

However, things got even more interesting. First it transpired that SDV documents were sealed by the government of Janez Janša. It turned out to be a classic. First, Janša’s right-wing coalition passed a law transferring all SDV documents to the state archives and aimed at declassifying them. Only then did a special committee take a look at the archives and apparently discovered that some of them are smoking hot. As a result SOVA (Slovene secret service) reclassified parts of documents and Janša’s government set a new release date for them, forty years from now. So, rather than whining about how this government is unlawfully hiding the archives (and at the same time condemning Wikileaks for releasing some other archives), Janša and his party would be better off keeping their mouth shut.

However, this is obviously too much to ask. Releasing supposedly damaging documents has been Janša’s modus operandi for the past 25 years. Indeed, he was sent to prison by the federal army in 1988 for being in possession of a secret army document and after a glorious period during the war of independence in 1991 things only got worse. In 1994, during an attempted coup d’etat, army intelligence service loyal to Janša tried to plant forged documents and use them as pretext to topple the government. The plan backfired and the whole thing ended with Janša’s dismissal as defence minister. After that he made a career of sifting through old archives and publishing them in volumes on end, each and every time claiming to have shed new light on the role of key players of Slovenian independence. Although the documents were either declassified or have at the very least been in the public domain for a very long time, Janša always interpreted them in a way that extolled his role in achieving the independence and portrayed him as a victim of SDV, at the same time diminishing role of others key players, depending on who was his primary enemy at any given time. This time around this appears to be President Türk, who admittedly has little or no direct involvement in achieving the independence but is apparently enough of a problem for Janša to be discredited at all costs. Even if the released documents are forgeries.

Yes. It turns out that the first set of documents wasn’t actually a single set of documents but rather two different batches, sent to two different lists of addressees at two different dates. Indeed, one set (with more details in it) was not addressed to Türk but rather to his predecessor in the SZDL committee. So, in order to implicate Türk in a spy-ring-scandal, SDS published forgeries. If you want to be really lenient, you can call it a document that was “sexed-up for dramatic purposes”. At any rate, the documents thus became irrelevant, while Janša was once again caught lying.

But… Why?

This fuck-up-uncovered might also explain Türk’s strong reaction to Janša’s initial claims. Rumours were circulating for the past few days that Janša’s people took liberties in interpreting what they found in the archives, but few knew just how liberal-an-interpretation they cooked up. Türk apparently knew and it would seem logical for his office to have made inquiries into what exactly were Janša’s people looking for. So, why would the largest opposition party sex documents up in order to substantiate their claims against the president, when they’ve got so much going for them? I mean, SDS is leading the polls, economy is still going down the drain, most people see Janša as the next PM and all he has to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

Part of it most likely has to do with the fact that Janša will not accept defeat. Danilo Türk’s victory in presidential elections in 2007 was the harbinger of Janša’s electoral defeat a year later. Several of Türk’s moves (not in the least giving a medal to Ertl) were like throwing a gauntlet in Janša’s face. And Türk also stole some much wanted limelight during Slovenian EU presidency, having much more diplomatic clout than Janša and his foreign minister Rupel combined.

Secondly, it has to do with destabilising the country. The largest opposition party seems to have made it its mission to oppose almost every government move and actively try to block and derail any measure which could – even by a long shot – break the current social and economic status quo. This includes calling for referendums virtually on a monthly basis, prolonging the legislative process beyond any acceptable means.

And thirdly, it has to do with creating an atmosphere of distrust, deceit and paralysing fear, where no-one dares do anything for fear of what Janša and his people might dig out on any given person. It is an environment of paranoia Janša thrives in but which is ultimately destructive both to him and the country he wants to lead yet again.

Looks like someone lost their mojo

In short, what was meant to be a sort of political black-ops campaign turned out to be amateur night by people who keep feeding us the same shit over and over again, as if they’re caught in some sort of political Ground-hog day, constantly reliving the same idea over and over, always seeing ghosts and wanting to prove that there is some sort of secret clan of die-hard Communists who run the country, refusing to realise that the entire country is sick and tired of their stale tricks and wants to move forwards. If that is still possible at all.

BTW: As of recent the SDS has a lovely new site in English. It is definitely worth your time every once in a while. The more observant of readers will find in there literary gems by none other than former foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel, but even if that’s not your thing, you can still check the crap pengovsky posts against the sharp and deep analysis of the largest opposition party in Slovenia 😀

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Pahor-Obama: A Very Special Huddle (But Not All That Special)

So, Big O. met Lil’ B. regardless… Yesterday Prime Minister Borut Pahor concluded his visit the United States. This in itself would be of only mild importance had it not been for the infamous Wikileaks cable detailing how Pahor did some diplomatic tit-for-tat and, among other things, told the top ranking US diplomat in Slovenia that this country will consider taking in one Gitmo detainee, but he’d like to speak to President Barack Obama for 20-or-so minutes. And – somewhat surprisingly – did get what he asked for.

Big O. meets Lil’ B. (source: RTV SLO via STA)

Now, fair’s fair and it should be noted that Gitmo and quality-time with the Big O. were only part of a bigger package, much (if not all) of which was discussed with various US players by Slovene delegation which included foreign minister Samuel Žbogar and finance minister Franci Križanič. The fact that the latter was on the scene suggest that preliminary talks with J.P. Morgan over the bank possibly buying a stake in state-owned Nova Ljubljanska banka may actually yield results. Personally, I wouldn’t hold my breath, although it seems that Slovenian delegation mostly got what it came for: pleading a case for US direct investments, American acknowledgement of Slovenia having clout in the Balkans and some face-time with Obama.

Truth be told, this wasn’t an Oval Office meeting. According to the infamous cable Pahor wanted a 20-minute private pow-wow with the US president, but instead got what appears to be a half-hour group huddle in the Roosevelt Room (adjacent to the Oval Office) where the two leaders were accompanied by their entourage.

Furthermore, it must be said that Pahor is not nearly the first Slovene leader to have met a US president. Way back in 1997 Slovenian President Milan Kučan had a private meeting with president Bill Clinton, which according to reports lasted about half an hour and every Slovene President and/or PM sice was either visiting or hosting the President of the United States of America. A year later Cliton was paid a visit by Slovene PM Janez Drnovšek. Then Clinton came to visit Slovenia in 1999 (co-hosted by PM Drnovšek and President Kučan), then we had the legendary Bush – Putin summit in Slovenia only months before 9/11 with Kučan and Drnovšek again playing co-hosts. A year later Drnovšek meets George W. Bush in the Oval office. Two years later, upon entry into NATO, Bush meets with Slovenian PM Tone Rop, whereas two years after that President Bush meets PM Janez Janša, who – again – two years later, in 2008, together with Slovenian president Danilo Türk plays co-host to President Bush while he visited Slovenia on his farewell tour in 2008. And now, two years later, Slovenian PM Borut Pahor visited US President Barack Obama.

Point being that starting with Clinton, Kučan and Drnovšek US presidents regularly met with Slovenian presidents and prime ministers. In this respect yesterday’s meeting is not really so much of a breakthrough as it is a continuation of Slovenia (again) punching above its weight in terms of regional diplomacy. While Slovenian politicos across the board consider themselves specialists on the Balkans issue, fact of the matter is that the moment the US realised that the endgame of Yugoslav wars will be played in Kosovo and took the Kosovar side, Slovenia was slowly but surely sidelined, although Kučan’s and Drnovše’s advice was much sought before the big boys decided to clear things up and finally kicked Milošević’s ass. Slovenia’s “special status” in the Balkans was of course confirmed by the 1999 Clinton visit.

Under Bush the US focused on their war on terror, life, liberty and pursuit of happiness and since at than time Slovenia was still outside NATO looking in, it continued to curry the US favour, often in a less-than-tasteful form (i.e. by co-signing the Vilnius Letter). Fast forward to 2008 and Slovenia has virtually no more clout in the Balkans (economic expansion into the region notwithstanding). Not that we didn’t have information, insight or opinion, it was just that the border dispute with Croatia was becoming an ever bigger mess, often almost on the brink of a shooting war. And if you can’t solve a petty dispute on your border, how can you give advice in the region? But that was solved, courtesy of big case of cojones on the part of PM Pahor and his Croatian counterpart Jadranka Kosor (with a little arm-twisting from Brussels and Washington) and now Slovenia can have a serious go at regional diplomacy once again. And since it is the US which shuffles this particular deck of cards, Slovenia again has to curry their favour, this time in clearing up the human rights mess that is the Guantanamo Detention Camp. Bottom line: although at times it looked more like Slovenia was blowing American dick and a lot of people looked away in disgust, Slovenia always tried whisper into the Americans’ good ear and for the past twelve years it has more or less succeeded.

Having said that, despite heartwarming assurances that Slovenia is an equal partner and all that jazz, it is obvious that yesterday’s meet-up was not a culmination of a long and successful diplomatic streak but a sort of a re-start, which had some good karma to it. However there are things that were conspicuously missing, mostly the fact that Obama did not meet Pahor separately but sort of “invaded” meeting with VP Biden. However, it is plainly obvious that the whole thing was carefully planned, despite a tweet by foreign minister Samuel Žbogar couple of hours before the meeting asking himself whether or not Obama will drop by.

This has all the hallmarks of a diplomacy Pahor-style, where everyone is playing stupid, allowing everyone to get what they wanted. Something like this happened late in 2009 when Bill Clinton came to a Diners event and bored everyone to death for 45 minutes, but refused to meet with Slovene leadership officially, apparently because the State Department will not have him pissing in his wife’s pool. But Pahor being what he is, he engineered a “chance meeting” in downtown Ljubljana. You can imagine the scene: a former US president just happens to be strolling down Čopova Street and the incumbent Slovenian PM by pure chance happens to find himself on that particular street and you’ll never believe whom he met…

The Pahor-Obama huddle is special when viewed through the prism of the Wikileaks cable which caused plenty of embarrassment and produced some very ballsy denials both in Ljubljana as well as Washington. In terms of defying the public outcry which – although largely unwaranted – followed the release of the cable, the meeting is both an achievement as well as a strong commitment of both Slovenia as well as US. However, when viewed on a larger scale of things, it only shows that what we are seeing is a variation of a familiar tune. A pretty good variation, but nothing radically new.

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The Prešeren Recital

Polde Bibič last year performing Zdravljica/The Toast (source: The Firm™)

Today, just like every year, a recital will take place on Prešeren Square in Ljubljana in honour of France Prešeren, arguably Slovenia‘s greatest poet. Members of Slovenian Association of Dramatic Artists will take turns in reciting/performing poems by Prešeren which is always plenty of fun, despite the sombre occasion, as Prešeren died on this day in 1849.

The Firm™ will – as every year for the past eight years – provide live streaming of the event (starting at noon local time), which you can see by clicking this link. And if you’re in the neighbourhood, plenty of museums and galleries charge no entrance fee today, so you’re more than welcome to visit a few.

Have a good one!

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