Čoban se vratio

At a new site: http://eastethnia.wordpress.com.
2008 and earlier posts remain here. 2011 and onward posts there.



This blog is going to be closed for business for a while. You know the story: too much work, too little time. I am leaving the archive up in the unlikely event that somebody might find something useful in it.


Here come the brides

Somebody must have published this story as a joke. Right?

Update: No, somebody really proposed this. Check the comments below for a link to the quick rejection of the idea by the ministry where the fellow is employed (and to which he was proposed by SPS). For more on the fascinating biography of Željko Vasilević, have a look at today's Danas.



Everybody raise a glass to welcome two new letters to the written language -- šj and žj!!!!!!!!


Rasplet povijesne zbiljnosti

If you hurry, you may be able to order enough advance copies of Vojislav Koštunica's treasury of political speeches to give them as holiday gifts to all of your friends.

Fa fa fašista nemoj biti ti

At the core of this piece is something that is a legitimate cause for concern, not only of course in Croatia. But the text itself is a bit of a recycling of old news and commonplaces. Isn't the benefit of having a contributor who is from the place about which she is writing, like Slavenka Drakulić is, supposed to be that the reader gets some kind of new information or unique insight?


Prosecution, defence

The ICTY is bringing contempt charges against the former spokesperson of its former prosecutor, Florence Hartmann, for publishing confidential information.

And the Serbian ambassador in the Netherlands says that the Serbian government will assist in the legal defence of Radovan Karadžić -- presumably the principle here is that the state will assist not only its citizens, but also noncitizens that it promoted, financed, armed and hid.


What makes a terrorist?

According to a report by MI5, it is not one factor in particular. The research, "Understanding Radicalisation and Violent Extremism in the UK," (no, I do not have the original report: this is based on media accounts here and here) is based on a collection of case studies of people known to be "involved in or closely associated with terrorism." It might be said that some of the most important findings are non-findings, in the sense that several popular stereotypes did not receive confirmation. To wit:
  • There is not a pattern of "illegal immigration," most of the people are nationals of the UK. Among those who are migrants, they are more likely to have come for study or economic reasons than for political reasons or as refugees.
  • To the degree that they are religious, they are relatively new to religion and not well versed in it.
  • They are no more likely than than any other part of the population to suffer from psychological disorders.
  • They are not unified by any particular national or ethnic origin.
  • While most are under the age of 30, this cannot be said to be typical of the group.
  • Among those over 30, they are more likely than not to have families.
  • No general claims can be made about whether they are likely to have completed formal education or not.
As meaningful as these findings may be as a counterpoint to stereotypes, they are probably not very surprising. Since the overwhelming majority of people in every demographic are not terrorists, it would not be reasonable to expect any particular demographic characteristics to be typical of terrorists. These are individuals who are largely self-selected and their activity involves a considerable degree of will.

Is there anything that can be said the people in the group studied? Perhaps a few things:
  • It is not sufficient to be exposed to extreme ideas or to be persuaded by them. People are recruited into groups and remain in them by means of personal contact.
  • People who have experienced marginalisation or racism or who have only held low-level jobs may be more receptive to recruitment than others.
  • The tolerance of terrorists for people with criminal records (here they refer to ordinary rather than "political" crime) may mean that people who are not accepted elsewhere in society may be accepted by terrorist groups.
  • The people recruiting members into terrorist networks are less likely to be the famous "radical clerics" as they are to be peers from the communities in which the recruits live.
  • The strongest force maintaining members in the group is a sense of belonging.
  • Perceptions of racism, anti-Muslim sterotypes in media, and other information that promotes a sense of victimhood strengthen recruitment.
Now, if we look at that list of factors above, it is easy to conclude that there are a lot more people who are influenced by several of those factors than there are terrorists. The MI5 report is sensible in pointing out that personal recruitment is essential.

There is of course another distinction to be made: between having extreme ideas and using violence to realise these ideas. Here (this is not a quotation from the report, which I have not seen, but from a summary of it by Alan Travis in the Guardian):
"The MI5 authors stress that the most pressing current threat is from Islamist extremist groups who justify the use of violence "in defence of Islam", but that there are also violent extremists involved in non-Islamist movements.

They say that they are concerned with those who use violence or actively support the use of violence and not those who simply hold politically extreme views."

If this is the way that thinking is developing among people in law enforcement about terrorism, it is a good sign. Concentrating attention on where the trouble might be rather than on where it is could have the effect of producing more terrorists.

Update: That last point is made more colourfully at SpyBlog (which also discusses the possible provenance of the document) -- "One Obvious Question not mentioned in the "Key Points" or in The Guardian's articles, is to what extent "radicalisation" is influenced by the cockups and mistakes whereby heavy handed or inept Police and Security Agency actions, which sweep up innocent or neutral or marginal terrorism supporters, and who refuse to promptly admit, publicly apologise and make generous financial compensation for their mistakes, contributes to the conversion of these people and their relatives, into more extreme supporters or into actual terrorists, exactly as used to happen in Northern Ireland."


Worthy of note

Yesterday Belgrade got a new mayor and a bunch of lovely patronage jobs were distributed. This was probably good news for the people receiving direct benefit from it, and may be good news for more people in the sense that that other party did not get the goodies that were handed out.

There was more good news for Belgrade today, which will please local lovers of the game Monopoly. The new international version of the game has come out, and it features Belgrade among the fancy dark green properties, right between Cape Town and Parigi. Now anyone who puts a hotel there, if it is a decent one, ought to do just fine.

Home to roost

A delegation from SPS went to Požarevac to visit the corpse of Slobodan Milošević. And a delegation from SRS went to prison to visit Milorad Ulemek. We hope they both had nice chats.

Fly the complacent skies

Word is BAA will be instructed to sell two of the three airports it operates in London. That's one too few.



You know, I'm not a fan of conspiracy theory (so ignore the text on the page I'm linking to if you choose). But in this picture it really does look like Milorad Čavić is ahead of Michael Phelps. Doesn't it? Nothing against either one of them.


Forecast: Knifey, with occasional showers of hysteria

Confronted with a massive wave of media coverage of knife crime, police initiated the "Tackling Knives Action Programme" (TKAP). Though you could say that when you are confronted with a knife that "tackling" it is a bad idea unless you are Yukio Mishima or Cassius, nonetheless police came forward with results: 55000 people searched, 2500 arrests made, 1600 knives found. Sounds impressive, eh wot? Until you read the numbers to indicate that of all the people searched there was no cause to arrest 95.45% of them, and that of those arrested each possessed, on average, less than two thirds of one knife. They could have achieved a better average by rifling through random kitchen drawers.

Meanwhile a person was convicted and labelled as the UK's "youngest terrorist" because when he was sixteen he was found to possess, erm, some pamphlets. And computer files. Expect the "youngest terrorist" to figure among the youngest people to complete a sentence as well.

Update: It looks like the "young terrorist" got twelve years for possessing reading material. Imagine the sentences that will be given to people who have actually done things.

Update2: My mistake (I blame BBC!), it was the person who actually recruited the group who got twelve years. Pamphlet boy will be sentenced in September. The charge on which he was convicted was one count of "making a record likely to be useful."

A new problem for the Karadžić case

Several lawyers are offering reasons why ICTY judge Alphonse Orie should not preside over the trial of Radovan Karadžić: he was one of the counsels for the defence in the case of Duško Tadić, a soldier who was (at least formally) under Karadžić's command, and was the presiding judge in the case of Momčilo Krajišnik, a Karadžić associate convicted (but acquitted of genocide) in 2006. The Krajišnik case is particularly important, not only because of overlapping details but also because of the likelihood that Karadžić may call Krajišnik as a witness, and because Krajišnik is very likely to seek Karadžić's testimony for his own appeal. Edina Bećirević has the details of the discussion.


Solidarity among the squalid

The "president of South Ossetia" has a special message of brotherhood for Serbia in Glas gadosti. Highlights of his historical-anthropological disquisition:
"In the past there existed good relations between the Alana-Ossetians and the Georgians. The attack of the Mongol-Tatar hordes changed the situation."

"The nation of South Ossetia, an ancient nation with an old Orthodox tradition, is filled with extraordinarily warm feelings toward the brotherly Serbian nation. Our common roots date from the Scythnian-Sarmatian-Slavic times, and even earlier. In addition, our position is ordered not only by historical and religious-cultural closeness. Our opponents call us separatists and so we see that people in Serbia are surprised by our support. But as I have already said, South Ossetians are not separatists, we were always against the dissolution of our state, the USSR."

"We follow the events in Serbia with great attention. We would like very much for the Serbian nation to be consolidated and we are deeply affected by the division in Serbian society. In contrast to the Serbs, among us there is complete unity."
One very tiny group of Serbs wants to return the compliment. The ten or so people who are still protesting the arrest of Radovan Karadžić paid a visit to the Russian embassy to congratulate them on their military success, equipped with a banner reading "Ne dam Osetiju!" It is nice to know that there is always some little crowd of marginal people who can never get enough of murderous little territorial disputes.

If you think that the other folks are doing any better, look over at Georgia, where president Mikheil Saakashvili is attempting to draw on his contacts with the American far right (for example Randy Scheunemann, John McCain's top foreign policy advisor, who was a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government) to try to encourage a revival of the hostile footing between the US and Russia.

For an interesting perspective, look at the assessment of events by Soli Ozel. In the world where humans actually live, ill-intentioned national romanticism will not achieve any more than it already has, and neither will dreams of bringing back another Cold War that will never end.

Thanks to AR for a bunch of the links and to the Mongol-Tatar hordes for keeping the world interesting.


Quote of the day

  • “Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime.”
--Michael Mukasey, Attorney General of the United States

Bez komentara, zbilja.

(Thanks to Wonkette)

News from Necrophiladelphia

I suppose psychologists might be pleased that the losers on the far right do not hide their inclinations.

In related news, it's not for nothing that people need to clean up after their dogs.


Five quick points about Georgia

The first one: It is a matter of no consequence whether South Ossetia is a part of Georgia or not. It is a matter of tremendous consequence how people live in the whole region regardless of borders.

The second one: Russia is determined to show how powerful it is again in a way that other countries will recognise. It would be good to find ways to let this expression be made that do not involve endangering or killing people.

The third one: The choice of means offers a pretty good sign of who is in power in Russia. This will not make anything easier, and a strategy of confrontation will only confirm their power.

The fourth one: The Georgian government calculated badly in tying its foreign policy position to the United States. As convenient as the US may have found it to have a client in the region, it is not going to challenge a regional hegemon or take any other risks for its client's sake.

The fifth one: A lot of people in the US and Europe will find it hard to resist the tasty new Cold War bait that is being offered. This would make a few arms manufacturers happier and wealthier but would not help anyone else. If nothing else has become clear over the past seven years, it is that a failure of diplomacy cannot be covered over by an excess of belligerency.

Predicting the past

For the last several years, there has been the occasional flurry of stories claiming or conforming that various authorities have known where Ratko Mladić was until some point more than a year before the present. Here is another. Of course there have been moments: nobody really believes that the two soldiers who were guarding an underground play dungeon at Topčider somehow accidentally shot one another at the same time. But generally there is a thread that runs through all of these "Where's Ratko" stories: 1) a representative of a government tries to claim that its predecessor was protecting him, while the present government is not; 2) there is a claim that somebody else knew his location and movements (but we don't); 3) all of the stories involve an active role on the part of the military.

On that last point: let's accept for a moment the null hypothesis that the military is not actively protecting Ratko Mladić on some of the real estate it owns. Is it still impossible to trace the pension payments he receives?


Guzonjin odvratni sin

I have not written about this story because .... well, because it is a stupid story about a stupid person. But here we go: the spoiled and brutal child of a rich family beats a person in a bar fight, causing that person to go into a coma. The family, certainly by means as charming as those by which they got the money the first place, compels the local Serbian consul to bail out the snot and then to violate the terms of the bail by issuing him a false travel document which he uses to hide out in Serbia. Then they expect the minstries of justice and foreign affairs in Serbia to continue to shield their horrifying weasel from being tried for the crime he committed. The result: the entire population of the country, that is to say people who -- unlike the members of the family in question -- are not bar bullies, forgers, practioners of bribery, cowards, or hohštapleri, have to tolerate the diplomatic crisis that was provoked.

Do they feel entitled? See what their lawyer says.

And all those people who are not criminals, and who have not bribed a consul? They wait to receive a passport, and wait to be able to travel with it.

Lesson from the arrests of war criminals: the whole country is better off when people's lives do not depend on the moods of people who live off influence they would never have in a legal state.