The Prez Was In Surgery. Why Wasn’t Anyone Told?

President Danilo Türk underwent a surgical procedure on Tuesday, removing malignant tissue from his prostate, the Office of the President said earlier today. According to the statement the procedure was successful and the President is expected to make a full recovery, returning to his duties next week.


The Prez was under the knife (source)

Wishing good health and speedy recovery to The Prez, pengovsky is somewhat troubled by the post festum announcement of presidential medical woes. The issue in itself is nothing new and has been debated time and again: to what extent is the public entitled to know medical details of their elected officials?. Slovenia has a patchy history on this. First Slovenian president Milan Kučan was relatively free of medical problems (at least those we know of) and during his two-and-a-half terms in office was admitted to hospital only once, due to kidney stone problems. Before Kučan, the first Slovenian Prime Minister Lojze Peterle had his appendix removed while in office.

More known and widely reported was medical condition of the late Janez Drnovšek. In 1999, while still PM, Drnovšek was admitted to hospital and had a cancerous kidney removed. Three years after the operation he ran for president and was elected to the office despite confirming that he was “of slightly weaker health”. His embracing of alternative medicine to combat cancer caught international attention and his changed lifestyle was an inspiration to many in Slovenia and abroad. Nevertheless, Drnovšek died of cancer in late 2007, shortly after leaving office.

And of course, let us not forget the glorious fuck-up years ago while Janez Janša was Prime Minister, when he had his hernia operated. Then, as now, the media were informed post festum, but the fun began when his spokesperson (some say deliberately) made a typo and wrote that the PM had ligament (Slovene: kita) instead of hernia (Slovene: kila) surgery. However, “kita” is also slang for cock (or penis, if you prefer) and you can imagine the roaring laughter that echoed for weeks on end.

And while we’re on the subject, rumours are circulating of Janša being of ill health. Whether or not that is true and if true, what is the exact nature of his medical condition, no one save Janša and those closest to him know. Which brings us again to the question: How much should the public know?

For better or for worse, I think that there is indeed a limit to that. True, there is a certain logic in politicians presenting a clean bill of health before assuming and during their time in office. It’s nice to know that the people we trust to run the country as physically capable of performing the task. If a person in office has a debilitating illness, or a condition which is impairing him or her from doing the job effectively, then the public has the right to know and the politician in question most likely has to step down (hat tip: John Morrow on Quora)

But good health is no guarantee whatsoever that they will execute their office in the public interest. Case in point being President Drnovšek who (in my opinion) was one hell of a president after he changed his lifestyle on account of his disease. I’m not saying he was a bad president before that or even that he was a bad prime minister (his track record remains unbeaten), but fact of the matter is that his presidency has had a profoundning and extremely positive effect after he “turned alternative”.

But there are legal and political issues to consider as well. In case of president Türk’s surgery this means there should be at least some kind of announcement made. True, Slovene president does not have nuclear codes, nor are we at war (save with ourselves, but we don’t need a president for that). But despite everything, the President still is the Commander in Chief. Furthermore, the Constitution stipulates that in case of temporary or permanent incapacitation of the President, his powers are transferred to the President of the Parliament.

I imagine President Türk was under narcosis during surgery which means that for the duration of the procedure the powers would have been transferred to President of the Parliament Pavle Gantar. Hopefully, the necessary paperwork was filled out, but a public announcement was definitely lacking. Some would say that it’s not such a big deal, given the fact that the president’s powers in Slovenia are limited and that it’s a more or less routine procedure. But what if – Bob forbid – something went wrong?

Despite his limited powers, the President has some relatively important duties and obligations regarding the functioning of democratic institutions. For example, he nominates candidates for judges of the Constitutional Court. In fact, it was only yesterday when his nominee for a vacated post at the Constitutional Court Rado Bohinc was not approved by the parliament meaning Türk must go through the entire selection process again. What if he were unable to and the public were to find out through this that the presidential powers were transferred to Gantar?

I realise this looks like nitpicking but normally President Türk is such a stickler for constitutional details that this is quite a serious slip-up on his part and the part of his office. Again: I assume the powers were formally transferred but in the name of transparency, accountability and all the of-the-people-for-the-people-and-by-the-people shit, it would be nice if they would let us know that the Commander in Chief is going under the scalpel.

The same goes for the Prime Minister. Agreed, the PM wields more executive and less formal power, but in his case there is not even a clear line of succession as there is no formal Vice-PM (or something). Technically, the PM can decide which of his ministers can run the daily government business, but should the PM become incapacitated, there is no-one with parliament-mandated powers to run the executive branch. And the situation in Slovenia at the moment is so fragile that PM Borut Pahor reportedly cannot afford to be out of the country for more than three-or-so days.

However, most of these constitutional nuances are lost on general Slovene media. They are more concerned with why The Prez went to Innsbruck, Austria to have the surgery when he has professed his faith in Slovene health system. Well, that’s bullshit, methinks. The Prez can have him self opened up wherever he damn pleases, if he pays for it out of his own pocket. Which he has done in this case. And were he to choose a Slovenian hospital (apparently only Celje hospital is capable of performing a similar robotic surgery), he would be accused of jumping the queue.

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A Parlamentarian Vignette (throw him the fuck out!)


Tadej Slapnik, Zares and Zmago Jelinčič, SNS (source)

SCENE: A parliamentary investigative committee on the Patria Affair. Headed first by Zvonko Černač and then by Branko Grims, both members of SDS, it is aimed at proving that the Patria Affair was concocted to influence the result of 2008 parliamentary elections when the left wing coalition led by now-PM Borut Pahor defeated Janez Janša and forced SDS back into opposition.

ROLES:
Branko GRIMS of SDS, head of the committee
Tadej SLAPNIK of Zares, member
Zmago JELINČIČ of SNS, member
Franc PUKŠIČ of SLS, member

THE PLOT: Just as they did with Černač, the ruling coalition aims to have GRIMS replaced as the head of the committee by declaring him a witness in the inquiry. This would further hamper the work of the committee. The approach was pioneered during the last parliament, when SDS used the tactic to replace Milan M. Cvikl of Social Democrats, who ran his Patria investigation committee but was prevented from finishing the job on bogus claims that he must testify in front of the committee. As a result, the committee never filed a final report on the issue.

THE DIALOGUE:

GRIMS: Esteemed colleague, if you don’t have…
JELINČIČ: What’s that suppose to mean, ‘you too’?
GREMS: Order, please! Look, if you don’t have…
JELINČIČ: You’ll get your cunt slapped, I’ll show you ‘you too’!
GRIMS: … if you don’t have a clue about the law and procedures, I can’t…
JELINČIČ: You watch now!
SLAPNIK: What’s the matter? You want me to throw you out the window?
JELINČIČ: Who?
SLAPNIK: Who are you to threaten me?
GRIMS: Would you please stop…
SLAPNIK: Jelinčič, who are you to threaten me
JELINČIČ: Call security and throw him the fuck out!
SLAPNIK: Just try and hit me…
JELINČIČ: Call security and get him out of here…
SLAPNIK: You bum!

Further on in the scene SLAPNIK refuses to give in and continues to argue, when PUKŠIČ walks over to him and turns off his microphone

In case you’re wondering, the above really happened. Word for word. It is taken from a transcript of the session of the committee, released by the parliament on Zares‘ demand.

Very well-mannered people, Slovene MPs, no? 🙂

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Fun Times! :D


(source)

After the Archivegate fiasco, Janez Janša and his SDS took a noticeable (and predictable) dip in the polls. It was just too obvious for anyone but the most hardened SDS supporters to believe that the whole thing was just an honest mistake. But the effect will probably not last beyond a couple of months, although it is highly likely that this will become the proverbial gift that keeps on giving, at least whenever Janša will question the credibility of his political opponents.

Ghosts Of Independence Past

However, the leader of the largest opposition party remains on the defensive. It just so happened that parallel with the Archivegate claims of Janša’s involvement of illegal arms sales resurfaced (yet again) with people who claim (or are claimed) to have been in on it saying that Janša took cuts (or at least knew of cuts being taken) from arms sales to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now, this is highly complex subject and features Janša, his fellow political travellers and a number of other former high ranking Slovenian politicians, including former presidents Milan Kučan and late Janez Drnovšek.

At some point pengovsky will probably (have to) write a blog-post on the issue, but I admit this is a daunting task, as books have been written about it and still it remains unresolved. The thing is that twenty years after independence, wherever there’s a shady arms deal, Janša is not far away. He is definitely not the only one, but he is one of the few names that pop up every single time. And right now the question-de-jour is whether or not he had a part in what seems to be a 10 million euro difference in cash between what buyers from Croatia and Bosnia paid to Slovenia and the amount that was officially registered by defence ministry while Janša headed the department.

It should be noted that throughout the last two decades, give or take a year, Janša denied taking any illegal activities and that he was never convicted of anything (whether or not he was charged with anything escapes me at the moment). It should also be noted that of the four parliamentary inquests, none filed a final report, thus only adding to the confusion with partial information being leaked and interpreted in a zillion different ways. But one thing seems certain. Twenty years on, Janša is looking increasingly lonely in professing his innocence. People are starting to point their fingers and they point them dangerously close to Janša.

Meanwhile in the Batcave…

On the other hand the dark magic that is being called “handling the crisis” and which is being practised by the government of Borut Pahor seems to be making at least partial headway. Nothing dramatic yet, but those same polls which noted a dip for Janša, saw a slight bounce in the government’s ratings.

Somewhat more surprisingly, however, the reform legislation – at this point the pension reform and the law on menial work – seems to have a fighting chance in the upcoming referendums. In fact, according to polls by yesterday’s Delo newspaper, a majority of voters support the law on menial work (reforming the area of student labour), while those opposing the pension reform have only a couple of percentage points’ lead over those who support it. And that’s before campaigning started for real.

Much work remains to be done before PM Pahor and his coalition can claim another crucial referendum victory, and some would argue these are not really reforms but more of a patch-me-ups, plugging only the biggest leaks and not really kick-starting the economy. In all honesty pengovsky wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more substantial pension reform, but until we get a working model of basic income, every reform will be limited to plugging leaks. Not to mention the fact that the ruling coalition again suffered a minor hear attack due to controversial (and harmful) plan to build bloc 6 of Šoštanj coal power-plant, where the costs have apparently risen for additional 300 million euro, at the moment totalling at 1.5 billion euros.

In other news…

Combination of perceived political and economic gridlock on one hand and the inherent inability of a capitalist social order to correct errors caused by its own design flaws together with reaping all the “benefits” of wealth distribution which comes as a result of a transition from a socialist to a capitalist society, is a bitch. But one is still amazed at how the above leads highly intelligent and academically accomplished individuals into having the most wonderfully absurd ideas.

The latest one, launched by Žiga Turk, formerly minister of development in Janša’s government, currently a Ljubljana city councilman and a fellow twitterer, who floated the idea of a “reset”. Days ago his thinking was beefed up by two other former ministers, Matej Lahovnik who served as minister of economy in governments of Tone Rop and Borut Pahor and Marko Pavliha who served as minister of transport in Rop’s government, former head of the Government Institute for Marco-economic Analysis and Development Janez Šušteršič and Rado Pezdir, the bad boy of Slovene economics (and I mean that in the kindest possible way).

Together they expanded on the idea of “resetting Slovenia”, basically saying the whole country and most if not all of its subsystems are FUBAR and that we’re better off starting all over again. Only this time we’ll do it right.

Now, I’m oversimplifying things, to be sure. Their text is substantial and it has been already taken apart by Drugi Dom and the good doctor (all links in Slovenian). But on the issue of fixing problems of capitalism with more capitalism pengovsky said all he had to say some time ago. But as things stand now, this is a valid issue in a public debate.

At any rate, the entire quagmire that is Slovenian political landscape just got a bit more murky and opaque in the past week. Fun times! 😀

 

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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: 24ur.com)

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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