Happy new year!

Best wishes for a far better new year to everyone! We are off for an end of year road trip today (have never seen the mighty state of Maine, must take a peek at it), so I will not be posting. Until next year.

Documents on "rendition" and torture in Uzbekistan

This information comes by roundabout way of Jesus' General, who has satiric and nonsatiric takes on it. Craig Murray was recalled as UK ambassador to Uzbekistan after raising concerns about the use of torture to obtain evidence evidence passed on to the Foreign Office by the Uzbek security services. He documents his exchanges with the Foreign Office over the matter. Now the former ambassador is in a conflict with the Foreign Office over the manuscript for his book -- they would like him to remove all references to documents indicating the practice of torture and rendition. In particular, the concern relates to two documents, one of them (in PDF format) the telegrams sent by Murray to the Foreign Office compaining about the practice, and the other a legal opinion declaring the use of evidence obtained by torture not to be a violation of the UN Convention on Torture. Mr Murray is refusing to suppress the documents, and has published them on the Web instead. The Guardian reports as well.


Best developments on the Croatian blog front

You can now find the work of many of many of your favorite Croatian bloggers aggregated and organised by topic at Bestseler, the blogerski onlajn magazin. Worth a daily visit, no question!


People with whom I am proud to have crossed paths

One of them (with me in the photo) is Nikola Božilović, a sociologist from Niš. He has released two excellent studies of popular culture, one of them an exhaustive investigation of what rokenrol means in the history of the world, and the most recent one, Kič kultura, a multidisciplinary explanation of the varieties of false glamour in entertainment, politics, and cultural life. His work asks people to take seriously the things they encounter, no more and no less.

I am also delighted to have made the acquaintance of my brilliant friend's brilliant sister, the theatrical writer Milena Marković. I got a copy of her recent documentary film, Minerska opera, which records her experience in the dying mining town of Bor, where she and a group of local people staged a production of Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny opera. The film records the production, but also the joint efforts of the director and the locals to apply the aesthetic of the opera to their own hopeless situation, as seen through the experiences of two miner-musicians. The romantic guitarist Miki finds beauty in a variety of original and Communist songs ("Comandante Che Guevara," "O bella ciao," and "Bandiera rossa," the last two in a version most clearly derived from their performance by Pankrti), while his friend Lovke wanders around in search of a substitute for the romatic sounds of his youth, but is sure that he likes the aroma of the burning trave from his bottles of rakija. Mrs Ethnia and I (mostly she) did the English subtitles for the film -- we are still not sure that we did this honest work of art justice, but are proud to have had any kind of involvement with its production.

These are just two of the people who, during my last visit to Serbia, made me feel lucky to have some exposure with that part of the world. Sometimes I get the question as to whether I am "pro-Serb" or "anti-Serb." I have no idea what the question means. Actually, I could phrase that better: I know what the questioner thinks it means, but it makes no sense to me. I am in favor of honesty, creativity and hope. I admire the people who offer those things.


Mladić ante haagus?

Eh, maybe. The arrest of Ante Gotovina means that Serbia now has a monopoly on the fugitive racket, not a very enviable position. The special prosecutor for war crimes made an enigmatic announcement, suggesting that he might know something but was not about to do anything. The interior minister made a petulant remark, blaming the preceding government for not having made the arrest (but implying, correspondingly, that his government might). A former police official made a dramatic claim, suggesting that negotiations were under way (but he is not in a position to know). And so today Danas editorializes that public opinion is being prepared for an arrest and extradition. Since we have all been here before, we can only wait and see.

Update: New reasons for not doing their job are blooming like a thousand flowers. Interior minister Dragan Jočić says that it is difficult to find people charged with genocide, because "they are experienced warriors, people who spent the war under difficult conditions and survived." Indeed, it must have been terribly difficult to wage war against unarmed civilians, but this hardly makes for warrior experience. Not that Jočić would have a basis for comparison. Manwhile, Kurir is raising the alarm (by way of Index.hr) that Mladić may prefer committing suicide to surrender. But since Mladić is not a civilian, we doubt that Mladić will kill him.

The first ever East Ethnia poll!

Give your answers sometime between now and 5 January. Choose multiple answers if that is your inclination. Alternative answers or answers with explanations are welcome in the comments.

What would you like to see more of on this site?
Regularly updated news from the East Ethnian region
Eric blathering on about his personal life
Eric's recipes and kitchen hints
Tendentious political commentary and posturing
Semicomprehensible osvrti on academics and the arts
Jokes and mildly amusing pictures
Something else


Free polls from Pollhost.com


A holiday greeting

Having no talent for design of my own, I thought I might share with you the holiday greeting I got from my favorite media outlet.

The difference between knowledge and action

So Serbia's war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukčević says that he knows who is aiding Karadžić and Mladić. Or at least he has announced as much. But this seems like an odd thing for a prosecutor to announce, since he has neither named nor charged the people in question. Other agencies that might feel called upon to do something say that it is the job of the Bezbednosno-informativna agencija (BIA). But they have been too busy spying on parliamentary deputies in order to anticipate their votes, it would be a bit much to expect them to do any sort of job.

That crisp Massachusetts air

How tight was the connection in Paris? Let's just say that it was the first time I ever had to go up those steps leading to the plane and knock on the door in order to be let in. Otherwise the return was fine, my apologies for not posting these past few days but I ran out of hours on my fabulous dialup connection in Belgrade and had to see so many people that there was no time to go and buy more.

Much happened in between posts. Some of the perpetrators of the Ovčara massacre were convicted, and more are promised. The trial of the incidental players in Bosnia's most horrifying home movie began with the code of silence breaking down. Vojvodina's assembly set forth an initiative to ban neofascist groups, and the Serbian "diaspora" ministry promised (but did not deliver) an amnesty for people who refused military service in the last batch of wars. That is just a bit of the main stuff.

Burek from Prokuplje became a hit import product in Germany, and a proposal by a group of Croatian linguists to make the language sillier did not. A new Russian TV adaptation of The Master and Margarita became a huge hit.

On the culinary front, one friend taught me to make the dough for burek (it's not as complicated as it seems: it involves the strategic use of butter and a sheet, and the presence of Marlon Brando is not required -- and vinegar goes into the dough!). Another made me wild asparagus from Istra. The burek friend's daughter passed her last exam in architecture, so we made a Mexican dinner in her honor: salsa, arroz a la mexicana, chicken in a pepper and cream sauce, and of course Cesar Cardini's famous salad.

For a musical photo gallery of somebody more capable than me making burek, try this site. Thanks, Mirko!

Time now to rest and spend a bit of time with the family. To any of East Ethnia's readers who celebrate Christmas today, a happy Christmas to you!


Return to Belgrade

Ha! I thought that once I delivered the books I had brought for the Nishville sociologists (thank you, uncle George, for permitting me that shopping spree), that I would be free of heavy objects to lug across slushy sidewalks. It was not to be. I received more books than I brought, so now I have a full selection of readings, on everything from sociology of culture and religion to one of the local specialties, Romologija (are you listening, Mat Savelli?). It may have only seemed that I had more to carry, because this can happen after five straight days of eating a lot of meat, another local specialty.

Generally I would have to say that the visit to Niš was a success. We have a plan for future cooperation and for involving more people in it. Anyone who may have thought that some strange American was coming to give them instruction was probably relieved to find that it was just silly little me. I am now the proud owner of an album of the greatest hits of Luis. In the meantime, two of my dearest friends got job offers. Every sign is good. Except for the bus that broke down halfway to Belgrade, but even that was a nice opportunity to chat with people.

In the coming few days that I have left in Belgrade, there are people to cook for and people whose cooking must be tasted. So I will still be a bit occupied, but promise to begin again with the posting of news items tomorrow. After I sleep.


Greetings from Naissus!

I have to post in a hurry because the Nišlije are keeping me busy! Today was the first full working day of my stay here. The local sociologists are delighted with the books, thanks to everyone who made suggestions! There is a critical mass of ambitious young researchers at the sociology department here, who see an opportunity to do something of lasting value. This presents an energising contrast to the political situation, which is similar locally to what it is on the larger scale. Also, everything you have heard about the excellent barbecue in Niš is true (sadly, the same cannot be said for Niško pivo). We reached a compromise on language: I am permitted to lecture in my native tongue, with questions and answers in theirs. That leaves everyone a little confused, which is probably the goal of social science research anyway. More dispatches when I get a moment.


See you in a couple of days

Just taking a break from packing to let you know that I travel today. I'll have more words for the esteemed readers of this site when I resurface in the lovely Balkans.

Bondsteel allegations remain unclear

Last week I posted an item indicating that the UN ombudsguy for Kosovo, Marek Antoni Nowicki, had given a statement offering vague support for the suggestion that the Bondsteel military base may have been a "secret prison" site. Now his office has issued a denial. It seems as though neither the statement nor the denial is definitive, and the question remains open.


New blog for my students

This last semester I tried using a blog as a way of sharing interesting topical material with students. Now I have decided to expand the effort into one blog for all of my students in all of my undergraduate courses. The new site has a new name, and Blogger was kind enough to provide a standard template in the Clark University colors (which must now be ecru and burgundy, yes?). So I humbly offer you The Iron Cage. There isn't much there now, just some old posts from the previous incarnation and lists of books for next semester. There might be some stuff to interest people who are not taking my courses, but then again there might not.

If you are one of my students, this should be your first stop for basic information: anyone who mails me asking what books to buy or what the assignment is will get a note back from me saying "check the blog." It should also be a regular stop by which you can anticipate surprises. Discussion and debate are welcome, but comments are moderated.

If you are not one of my students, you will still be welcome to read, follow, comment, whatever.

I know why the caged bird sings

Yesterday I ran an item from the Spanish press indicating that police thought that Ante Gotovina had not been in the Canary Islands longer than five days. Today AR sends along an item suggesting that he had been in the islands since September. This report from La Opinión de Tenerife indicates that police began to take interest in him in September, and that he spent considerable time moving from luxury hotel to luxury hotel, never staying longer than a week and using a variety of pseudonyms:

"La Policía detectó al prófugo el pasado mes de septiembre en Gran Canaria

La presencia del general croata en el Archipiélago fue detectada el pasado septiembre, cuando portando un pasaporte croata levantó las sospechas de los agentes de la Brigada de Policía Judicial que investigaban una ola de robos a naves industriales protagonizadas por una banda de delincuentes albano-kosovares.

Al chequear los establecimientos turísticos en donde se hospedaban personas con pasaportes de países del antiguo Este europeo descubrieron que Ante Gotovina, que se ocultaba bajo otra identidad, había permanecido una semana hospedado, en unión de otra persona, en el hotel Vital Suite, si bien no se le encontró ningún tipo de relación con la banda de delincuentes, algunos de ellos ex militares, cuya pista seguían.


Al parecer, el fugitivo de guerra, siempre oculto bajo una o varias identidades falsas (su acompañante, que hacía de guardaespaldas, portaba un documento australiano) tenía una peculiar forma de moverse para evitar ser descubierto por las diferentes policías del mundo que andaban tras su pista desde el año 2001. Según los datos captados por este periódico, Gotovina no solía estar más de una semana en los establecimientos turísticos, siempre de cuatro estrellas; al parecer, aunque tenía los suficientes recursos económicos, evitaba los de una mayor categoría para no llamar la atención."
And La Provincia reports that he had 12.000 Euros in cash in his hotel room. And BBC reports that whenever his sojourn in Spain began, it probably ends Saturday.

Update: This is cool, a video of his arrest (Windows Media, desgraciamente). I think that he was having an appetizer of some bread and cheese and that the mysterious Mr Grgić (no relation to the very good California winemaker, I hope) was having some soup, but then the mineral water bottle looks like it is nearly empty, so maybe they had already started dessert. But without coffee? Curse these small internet video screens.

Update2: And where was he coming from? We still don't know, but the AP reports that "The passport Gotovina was traveling on in the Canary Islands had entry and exit stamps from Tahiti, Argentina, China, Chile, Russia, the Czech Republic and as recently as Nov. 25, from the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius."


One of the best things about classes having now ended is that I can retire my "travel coffee cup" for a while. This is an insulated metal mug which has a lid with a little hole in it that can be screwed onto the top. It is supposed to allow me to drink coffee in my car on the way to work on those days (most of them) when I am not efficient enough to manage to drink my coffee in the way that civilised folk do. What happens, inevitably, is that once I am dressed in my fancy work togs, the device drips coffee down the front of them. Every time this happens I am led to think that a conspiracy is in question, and I am sure that the malicious Mr Zegna is at the center of it.

The morning has also greeted us with a beautiful snow, which although it might interfere with my plan to buy gifts for our friends down Balkan way, is a lovely thing. Unfortunately, all of the school districts in the area except Boston and Brookline cancelled instruction for the day, so we had to wake up all the same.

Tomorrow I am off -- I should arrive in Belgrado sometime on Sunday (which means that I will miss the Maniac Shop street fešta), and then I am off to Niš on Tuesday. If there is any blog silence it should be brief, and I will be happy to bring you updates from the shores of the mighty Nišava.

Photo: People buying snow shovels last night, courtesy of the Boston Globe.

Legal coverage

Remember Tomislav Dragun, who was able to get Milan Kangrga to recognise him as smarter than an unspecified animal? He has not had enough of adventures in court, so he has now filed a complaint against Carla del Ponte and a few other people, on the ground of making false accusations against Ante Gotovina. Thanks to Edo B. for the tip.

In related news, authorities in Belgrade have removed a huge condom from an obelisk dedicated to the first summit of nonaligned nations, which had been placed by AIDS activists. Not to be outdone, an obelisk in Buenos Aires sports one three times larger, but this one has the approval of city authorities.

Update: Oops, it's an old case. See the comments.


History is written by the historians

The project began with a comparative study of history textbooks in Southeastern Europe, and it has now reached the point at which it has released four volumes of history, produced collaboratively by 60 historians from 11 countries in the region. Read about it in Vreme, in a short analysis by Slobodanka Ast, followed by brief interviews with project sponsor Kostas Karas and project participant dr Dubravka Stojanović.

This just in: Gotovina arrested

B92 reports that he was arrested in the Canary Islands. Index is following the story as well. Also some obscure British outfit. Keep track of new reports from Google news. This just after I had a nice exchange on the topic with the talented young historian Vjeran Pavlaković, who presented his research on the case at the Woody Wilson Center earlier this week.

Update with a question: How long was Mr Gotovina in Spain? Here is what the news site cope.es says:
"El ex general croata se había registrado bajo la identidad falsa de Kristian Horua, pero ese nombre ya era manerado por la INTERPOL como una de las identidades susceptibles de ser utilizadas por el fugitivo. Junto a él también se registró en este hotel de cuatro estrellas un amigo suyo, cuya identidad también estaba ya en poder de la policía. Estos datos, conocidos por la COPE, llevan a los investigadores a la conclusión de que es probable de que Gotovina no haya permanecido más tiempo en las islas Canarias.
So Spanish police do not think that he was in the Canary Islands for more than five days. We do not know where he was before that, but may find out (thanks, András). This news item also gives a pseudonym different from the one that is riduculed in the comments to the post, don't know whether "Horua" or "Horvat" (shouldn't that be "Horváth"?) was actually used.


More on torture

It has been hard for me to write anything about this whole business about "rendition" and torture and secret prisons, because both the scale and rankness of it have, to be honest, struck me personally, and the sort of string of foul language I am most inclined to produce would not make for a good blog post. The only insight I have relates to the Bush administration's apparent habit of demolishing the credibility of its secretaries of state (in the case of this one, not a difficult task). Beyond that, all I have to offer is the expectation that this administration's extremism, adventurism and intentional disregard for international law will have us paying a very high price for a very long time.

Government spokespeople have been unable to explain who is being held illegally, why they are being held, and what they hope to accomplish by torturing them (their impossibly narrow definition of torture does not change the facts, nor does it change any existing legal definitions). They have been unable to explain why they have been operating unregulated prisons on the territory of other countries, including Poland and Romania. They have been unable to explain why they have kidnapped a German citizen in Macedonia to be tortured in Afghanistan, or a refugee cleric in Milano to be tortured by Egyptian security agents.

Nor have they denied reports that are out. Rice's strategy has been to tell European governments to "back off," offering incentive in the invitation of governments to examine their own complicity. In fact, there may well be good legal ground for examining the complicity of any state involved in the process, and it appears that there have been several.

The movements and landings of aircraft can be reconstructed, and efforts to cover them up traced. Khaled al-Masri's lawsuit will force the creation of a public record. What is done in secret will not remain secret. The people responsible will carry fewer of the consequences than everybody else.

Disturbing news item of the day

So appalling, I do not even have the heart to tell you what it is about.


Brže od života! Fifth Balkan carnival!

The next Carnival Of The Balkans will be coming on or around 15 December to the Yakima Gulag! If you are from the Balkans, or currently in the Balkans, or write, at least occasionally, about the Balkans, please submit your posts. The editrix is especially interested in items about "the transition for people from the Balkans living in the West and for people who have lived in the West what is the adjustment, perhaps something that was easier something that was worse, something that was incomprehensible..." So if you have something on the topic, submit it! You are also welcome to nominate other blog posts you find of interest regarding the Balkans. Send them to QueenKatarina2000@yahoo.co.uk


The artist formerly known as the president of the commission of the local assembly

Much of the old socialist jargon, like "complicated organization of friendly work" (složena organizacija udruženog rada--SOUR), has gone the way of the handleading structures (rukovodeće strukture) that introduced the terminology. Among these is that much-loved local selfruling monad (samoupravna jedinica), the meat society (mesna zajednica). But the functions of local administration have not, of course, disappeared along with the titles of the people responsible for them. Now it seems that in Vojvodina an old title has been reintroduced -- the title of the "knez." Literally the term means "prince," but this folk practice is probably not a sign of the reinfestation of the land by royalty. The term was used for the (generally elected) leaders of local village adminstration in earlier years. Miloš Obrenović was a knjaz, not a knez, so the mineral water has got it right and the street (formerly Miloša Velikog) has got it wrong. The former president of the Kikinda district council, Duško Radaković, explains that "we thought it was cute" to use the archaic term in place of the unwieldly "president of the commission of the local assembly," and that the usage appears to have caught on. If there are a bunch of people going around calling themselves dukes, they are another story entirely.


Notes on representation

After reading this fascinating item from Laura Rozen on what have to be interpreted as ideological litmus tests by the State department for choosing which Americans go as representatives to other countries, I came across this news item on the appointment of Frank Wisner as the US representative to the status talks on Kosovo. Frank Wisner is an interesting fellow. Not as interesting as his father, though.

Update, 4 December: (Thanks, Chip.) That's not all! Look who has been appointed as deputy director of USAID, in charge of all programs to promote democracy and good governance overseas! Since Mr Bonicelli is a dean at Patrick Henry College, which promises "conscious torment for eternity" to people with religious views different from those of the institution's administration (who are "by nature sinful and inherently in need of salvation"), he should fit right in.


Some vague information on the Bondsteel allegations

What with all the talk of "secret CIA prisons" around the world, including Europe, there has also been some discussion (little solid evidence, though) that Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo may have been used as an oversight-free holding facility. I haven't posted anything on the topic so far because I have not seen conclusive reports that would suggest where there is anything serious to the stories or not. Today I received this item from friend of East Ethnia AR: the Montenegrin MINA news agency is quoting the UN ombudsman for Kosovo, Marek Antoni Nowicki, to the effect that "there was no doubt that Kfor [NATO-led Kosovo Force] had prisons in the southern Serbian province [of Kosovo-Metohija], which were beyond external, civilian and judicial control and this justifiably raises the question of what had occurred there," but that since he had no jurisdiction "we virtually know nothing about what goes on there." No indication of times, the size of the facility, who was held in it, or what happened, but something nonetheless.

For more on this story, and a broader reflection on the final status of Kosovo, see what Talos and Doug have to say.


Prices up, Ashdown?

I do not know whether this is a hoax or not, and it seems to me the fellow hasn't moved yet (although contingency is a concept that travels well). But if it is not, then Paddy Ashdown's vikendica on the shores of Jablanica lake is available. Fishing, swimming, barbecue, a vegetable patch, all "reached via an electronic gate off of the main road from Sarajevo" and available for 200.000 Euros.

International đetić set

Bora wants to know what proportion of visits people's (presumably US-based) blogs are getting from outside the US. I am only too happy to comply, of course.

It is not too surprising that a majority of the visits here should be from outside the US, since most of what gets written about here is not about the US. There are some limitations, though: the tracking program that I use only records (at least in its free version) the past 100 visits. Depending on the topic of the moment, the proportions can change wildly. It also looks like there is one visitor coming from a place called "Unknown country." That sounds very exotic, and I am sure it is a place I would like to see.


How many fatalities in the BiH war?

The researcher Mirsad Tokača, on the basis of the documentation gathered by his Istraživačko-dokumentacioni centar, disputes the most frequently used estimate that between 200,000 and 300,000 people were killed, and gives his estimate at just under 100,000 victims, of whom 70 percent are Bosniak, 25 percent Serb, and 5 percent Croat. Aware of the ways in which this estimate is likely to be used, Tokača explains, "in ideologised societies controlled by neither rationality nor empiricism, but political conclusions, we see either the complete denial of crime or, on the other hand, their exaggerated presentation. The character of the war in BiH does not change if we give a real number. We do not need untruths and myths about victims." Like all estimates of war victims, of course, this one is constrained by the fact that reliable records or testimonies do not exist in all cases, and that data which would allow for reliable demographic analysis (like a postwar census) are also not available.

29. novembar

Svim vernicima East Ethnia želi sretan dan svetog AVNOJ-a.


Rehabilitation notes from all over

The web site of the Serbian Ministry for the diaspora opens with a photo of Draža Mihajlović (followed by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, Nikola Tesla, Mihailo Pupin, and Saint Sava) that links to a Bosnian Četnik site, B92 reports. Svetlana Velmar Janković is waiting for a law that will declare her father, a high ranking official in the "government" of Milan Nedić, to have been something other than what he was. And the Institiute for literature and art has submitted agitprop poetry in a faux-epic mode celebrating Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić to UNESCO's cultural heritage program.

So you got that? Draža belongs with the scientists and saints, Nedić's deputy ministers belong in the company of respectable human beings, and Karadžić and Mladić are epically heroic subjects of global cultural significance. And I am Marie of Romania.

Update: The ministry has removed the photo.

Update again (1 December): Draža is back. Master of disguise.


"The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is" --Bruce Lee

The gesture of putting a monument to Bruce Lee in the center of Mostar (facing north so that neither the people in the eastern nor the western part of the city interpret him as being ready to fight for them, but also with his butt facing both enclaves) was probably meant as clever parody, directed at two enclaves divided by a common history and burdened with calls to misguided hero-worship. It is also a reminder of the difference between the battles in his classic martial arts films, where struggle is related to moral categories and the warriors share in a code of mutual respect, and the battles in the region's recent wars, which operated according to different standards. Maybe it is also a reminder of the way that Bruce Lee combined his talents and unique presence to contribute to undoing a long tradition of ethnic stereotypes. Mostarci could do worse than to follow the philosophy that Bruce Lee encapsulated in his slogan, "Using no way as way, Having no limitation as limitation.” His stance against the constraints of classicism and tradition may well have some lessons for people seeking paths through unenviable conditions. There is more here than an ironic gesture toward the fame of an old film star and the incapacity of a political community.

Photo: Jesse Glover and Bruce Lee sparring, courtesy of Wing Chun.

Update: Someone in Mostar seems not to have appreciated the effort taken on their behalf. Nataša Krsman comments.


Najbolje se putuje...

We are off today for a holiday visit to our friends in lovely Baltimore, most likely back late Saturday night. There may or may not be time for a post or two in between cooking and socializing. If not, everybody enjoy a fine rest. The next couple of weeks will be intensive -- end of the semester, and then immediately off for a winter sojourn in Niš.


Uncertain future of nobody's favorite soap opera

Between frequent rest breaks, Slobodan Milošević has used up three quarters of the time which was allowed him to conduct his defence, and has concentrated most of this time on the first (and original) set of charges against him, in connection with violations of international law in Kosovo in 1999. He has shown that he is not an especially capable lawyer, that he does not have the physical or intellectual capacity to do the work of a legal defence, and that he is not willing to withdraw in favor of a legal defence which might be capable. This might be because he plans to appeal his eventual conviction on the ground that he did not receive an adequate defence, it might be because he is using the trial as a regular television broadcast, or it might simply be because he is conducting his defence with the same monomaniacal ineptitude with which he committed the violations that led him to be charged in the first place. As the trial has dragged on and on, it has become less the revealing and cathartic event which was intended -- even the live broadcasts draw an audience only on those days when a colorful witness is called.

Now it looks like there is a possibility that the show might be cancelled. When it comes back into session on 29 November, the Tribunal will consider a proposal to retroactively separate the indictments against Milošević. This would mean that they could deliver a verdict on the Kosovo indictment and hear the defence on the Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina indictments sometime in the future, if at all. Leaving aside the procedural decisions which led the trial to this state, that sort of half-finish without resolution would offer one more example of why the job of establishing historical truth and of contributing to peace and reconciliation is not one that should be put in the hands of lawyers. The tendency is to offer process rather than substance.

HRT and Nova TV do not sikiriki

Courtesy of Index.hr, here is the full text of the song "Mater vam jebem" by Edo Maajka, for which HRT and Nova TV have decided that they would not broadcast the video spot. It is true that the song contains some of what the linguists among us call by the technical term "naughty words," but this may not necessarily be the thing that bothers the TV producers.
Mater vam jebem
Kod nas se od Dejtona godine broje, ljudi se ljudi boje i svako glasa za svoje. Brđani postaju građani, do jučer svjetla gasili sjekirama, a sad su u odjelima.

Mirnese, sredi ih Mirnese, jebi im mater, ako se ti počneš prodvat i tebi ću mater jebavat da znaš, nije bitna ideologija, bitna je biologija, bitna je genetika balije, ustaše i četnika!

Svaka ovca svome krdu. Krave uz telad, u šarena vrata gledat, jedni drugima mater jebat. Znam ko je počeo rat, znam šta je glad! Znam kad su šešeljevci došli u moj grad!

Pričamo ono kako je sad, slabo se mičemo s mjesta, puni smo rupa ko naša cesta. Često vučemo ručnu - vidiš svaki biser, išli bi naprijed ali volimo taj rikverc.

Postalo nam navika da ne radi ni jedna fabrika, malverzacije prešutimo da šefove ne ljutimo, navikli smo, na gebiru i u miru. Mladi iz zemlje bježe, izbjeglice se vratit neće ne moraju, nek zarađuju, nek nam šalju para mi ćemo živit u mraku i jedni drugima jebavat majku...

Cijela država plaća reket, po kućama oružja od rata čuje se zveket, imamo mina ko jagoda - pune oranice, ali neće brati gurodovi sto su pravili sadnice!

Bole nas kite, imamo resursa više, pogotovo metala, govana, metana, to je naš zrak i hrana, s tim nas vođe hrane. Ne znam za vas ja sam sit, u mene više ne stane. Svako kurac u državi puši, zatvara uši.

Pred nepoznatim ljudima držim jezik za zubima. Dal selam, zdravo, bog? Kako je pravo? Ne znam više šta da kažem, u sranju da se ne nađem.

Pas je ujeo bubu, sviraju ratnu trubu, ljude drukčijeg pogleda imaju na zubu, a da im isprave pogled poslaće im jedan odred da im zapaljenu kuću gledaju kroz dvogled.

Al nema ratne nevjere što može uništit temelje, onaj korijen kuće u kojem su naše duše, onu burmu i lanac što u temelj baci Bosanac. Kad kuću pravi u temelj dio sebe stavi! Srušit do temelja ne ide! Temelj, on će ostat vječan ko Sava...

Mater vam jebeeeeeem!
Mater vam jebeeeeeem!
Mater vam jebeeeeeem!
Mater vam jebeeeeeem!


Just to clarify

The excellent news and commentary source that I have linked in the "Broadly international" section of the links here is the radio program (also available as a podcast) Open Source, which is hosted by the wonderful interviewer Chris Lydon together with several collaborators. It is a coproduction of WGBH and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and it is distributed through Public Radio International. Lovers of good radio will certainly remember Chris Lydon as the extraordinarily insightful and well-prepared host of The Connection, which is now hosted by Dick Gordon. The new project grew out of Lydon's inspiration to integrate the formats of radio and bloggery, and the result is a tremendously innovative program with far more interactivity than the broadcast product that most people are used to.

This project has nothing to do with a new, well-financed, and to all appearances thoroughly mediocre project which is going under the name Open Source Media, which would appear to be a promotional outlet for a group of right-wing personalities from blogs and media. Their frequently-revised claims to the contrary, they would appear to be using the name of an existing organisation unethically, and perhaps trying to muscle the name away from its originators. Does anybody remember when the forgotten sycophant Dragutin Brčin attempted to do the same thing?

Update: It looks as though they have listened to the objections and no longer claiming the name. Instead they will be going as "Pajamas Media," possibly because after you have used them it is time for a shower.

In time for holiday shopping

The brilliant Florian Bieber has a new book out from Palgrave, yclept Post-War Bosnia: Ethnicity, Inequality and Public Sector Governance. Says the promotional blurb:
"Ten years after the end of the war, Bosnian ethnicity continues to matter and the country remains dependent on international intervention. The Dayton Peace Accord signed in 1995 successfully ended the war, but froze the ethnic conflict in one of the most complex systems of government in the world. The book provides an in-depth analysis of governance in this divided post-war country, providing important lessons for international intervention elsewhere around the world, from Afghanistan to Iraq."
Wake up early to get in line, there will be crowds for these 200 pages of pure Balkanological reading pleasure.

Back online tomorrow

This week is a little bit of a breather before the final exam crunch begins in early December. I have not posted since Thursday because I had to scramble to finish an article (about which more soon), and also because my sister has been visiting from Seattle. We had to give her the opportunity to taste all of those things she cannot get at home, so we took her to Azra's favorite Chinese restaurant (my advice: try the crispy duck in addition to your other favorite dishes), to Roslindale's legendary site of Albanian cuisine pilgrimages and to Cambridge's always reliable Portuguese standby. All that and several good dog walks, a breakfast brought to our cousins on their first day in their new apartment, and even a bit of good home cooking. Plus the article got finished!

So I hope to have some new items to post tomorrow, then we head off to Baltimore for a short holiday visit. We are tired of turkey, so your goose recipes, if you have them, will be received with a welcoming smile. Our destination is the home of our former neighbors, and whenever we go there I seem to get inspired to make a dish that takes two days, is delightful, and will probably never get made again.


Israeli media on Tadić's visit

Thanks to friend of East Ethnia O.F. for bringing this to attention. Yossi Melman interviewed Boris Tadić for Haaretz and found out:

*He could not go swimming because he had a flu and was too busy

*The murder of Zoran Djindjić was like the murder of Yitzhak Rabin because "both were motivated by a desire to put an end to historical processes."

*He wants to commemmorate Serbian and Jewish victims in "a memorial center for the common tragedy of our two peoples, which will be built in Belgrade, where two concentration camps were located during the Nazi occupation."

*He sees a parallel between the sense of threat in both states, as (the reporter's words) "many Serbs feel close to and identify with Israel; they feel a common sense of victimization, justified or not. Israel is fighting Palestinian terrorism, and Serbia feels threatened by Albanian terrorism in the fight over Kosovo, most of whose residents are Muslims who want independence from Serbia."

All said, the interview is typical Tadić: a little bit of moderation, a little bit of opportunism, a little bit of playing to the extremes. It makes for an interesting set-piece on hybridity and the uses of victimisation.

Do animals harass people with lawsuits?

So it seems that the philosopher Milan Kangrga has won the case brought against him by the unusual person Tomislav Dragun on charges of "libelling Croatianity," noted earlier this month on this blog. Dragun had claimed that Kangrga had done him damage by claiming that animals were smarter than Croats. Kangrga denied having made any such claim (the conflict seems to have been over a satirical remark the philosopher had made on the question of whether people know what their interests are), and allowed that Dragun was smarter than an animal. There was no effort to specify what animal it was under discussion.


Moral foreign policy?

The Times reports that the Uzbek interior minister, who is accused of directing the massacre of potesters in Andijon in May, is currently in Germany for cancer treatment. Colonel General Almatov is one of twelve Uzbeks affected by an EU travel ban announced Monday. EU officials explained that "medical emergencies" were exempt from the travel ban. There goes your leverage.

The Bush administration's contribution to the progress of civilisation, in five words

Torture. Secret prisons. Chemical warfare.


Blog Against Racism Day, 1 December

This is the sort of blog action it is easy to support, and it could produce some useful results. Chris Clarke is asking people to make 1 December "Blog Against Racism Day." There is plenty going on worthy of comment and critique. On that day, put up whatever thoughts you have on the topic, and a good discussion ought to follow.

What's in a name?

The village of Smrdići (little stinkies) near Žitorađe (native town of Ceca Ražnatović), apparently got its name after a lot of horses died there. Now it has changed its name to Izvor (source), for some reason.


Treatment for blogophobia

There was some concern this past summer when a pseudonymous "Ivan Tribble" published a couple of essays in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the perils of blogging. Considering that he chose a pseudonym for a column in a print publication too, he might as well have been warning about the perils of saying anything at all, anywhere. This week Rebecca Goetz has a response based on her own experience (and a small-scale survey), highlighting the positive contributions of blogging to many parts of the academic job. I would go further: to the extent that professors and other academics have anything valuable to say, they are not doing their job if they do not communicate it.


Prediction: Something might happen, maybe

The interior ministry of RS is negotiating with somebody regarding a surrender to the ICTY, reports Nezavisne novine. It might be Ratko Mladić, but then again it might not be.

Confronting and understanding the extreme right

Today's papers have several reactions to the very public display of neo-Nazi groups in Serbia. Dnevnik's article cites a number of social scientists, including historian Zoran Janjetović who points out that the country does not have authentic fascist traditions and points to the appearance of extreme right groups as a sign of social crisis. The article also cites social psychologist Žarko Trebješanin who concurs that extreme movements appear as a result of social crisis, and also ties the appearance of these groups to the destruction of social values over the past several years. Sociologist Zagorka Golubović places the development in a global context, pointing out that similar developments are apparent elsewhere in the world, as a consequence of "great turbulence and confusion, and the impossibility of showing that there exists some different, new and more acceptable alternative to the dominant neoliberalism." Sociologist Neven Cvetićanin argues that people who see no future for themselves will tend to find solace in extremism.

A similar but more detailed perspective is outlined in sociologist Isidora Jarić's interview in Politika, where she details the results of a series of surveys on questions of hopelessness, inclination toward extreme perspectives, and the possibility of violence. B92's article concludes with a brief discussion of whether purely punitive approaches can address the problem.

Carnival of the Balkans #4!!!!

The fourth Carnival of the Balkans is up over at Science and Politics! This is the most exhaustive and diverse Balkan carnival ever, featuring Balkan blogs in many languages from around the world. Have a look and see what people are writing about, and what sorts of communications they are getting from their neighbors. Previous editions are archived at the Balkan carnival site.


Study in Eastern Europe!

Apparently the degree will come much more cheaply than in other places, and the Bologna process is just as tasty.

A reunion in question

A group of veterans of the Honvéd, the Hungarian occupying forces in World War II in Yugoslavia, held a reunion in Subotica, which seems to have inspired differing reactions. The organisers of the meeting, a nongovernmental organisation called "Open perspectives," insist that in the context of the move to claim equivalency for Četnici and Partisans, the meeting should be taken as an effort to promote understanding rather than as a provocation. The meeting organiser Gabor Kudlik denies that most Honvédek were fascists, and that rather these were people who were forcibly mobilised, and that many of them could be considered victims themselves, particularly as many were sent to the Eastern front. Others, including most of those who have so far commented on the news item, see the event a revisionist provocation.

(For my part, I am not certain that "Honvéd" is a very specific term. It would seem to be more or less an equivalent of "domobran," and it appears in the names of many military institutions, as well as providing the name for a popular football club. Perhaps this is a bit of vojvođanski shorthand for something else?)

Update: A brief summary of what J. Tomasevich (War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945, pp. 168-174) has to say on the matter -- the Hungarian occupation concentrated most of its nastiness, especially the dispossession and deportation of civilians, to 1941. Otherwise, the German minority exercised far more real power. By late 1943, Germany had substituted its own power for that of the Horthy regime in every sense but the most formal, and did so in the formal sense by installing Ferenc Szálasi in October 1944. Germany evacuated many Volksdeutsche from Vojvodina when it was clear that territory would be lost, but not many people who were not Volksdeutsche.


Little fascists

One group cut short a concert in Belgrade by the archival left-punkers The Exploited, by tossing tear gas into the audience of 1000 or so at the Student Cultural Center (SKC). Another group came in to verbally threaten participants in a discussion panel on the "fascist threat" in Novi Sad. Police reacted uselessly in both instances.

Odd as it may seem, appearing publicly as "fascists" is probably as far as these marginal and confused young people can get in terms of associating their behavior with something that people recognize. The tolerance of decent folks is probably the best treatment they will ever receive as well. If real fascists were ever to come to power thanks to their efforts, their "shock troops" would probably be among their earliest victims, as in the Night of the Long Knives.

Update: See the comments for the full text of the statement from the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV).

Update 2, 11 November: It looks like the police in Novi Sad are beginning to arrest members of the neo-Nazi group "Nacionalni stroj" after all. But they also want to file charges against the organisers of the meeting that was attacked for failing to file notice of a public meeting. Balance or something, what? But then the balance is upset again -- somebody is smashing the windows on shops owned by Chinese businesspeople in Valjevo.

Islamist Terror Strikes Again!

No, I'm not talking about the very real terror in Amman last night. I'm talking about the increasingly fantastic -- fantastically thin, that is -- case of the teenagers recently arrested in Denmark and Bosnia. The Copenhagen Post Online (whatever that may be) reported yesterday that they were linked to three suspects arrested in the UK:
Police fear that terror suspects arrested in Denmark are linked to a British plot to attack the US White House

A British police dragnet has raised suspicion that nine terrorist suspects arrested in Denmark and Bosnia are linked to a plan to attack the White House and other strategic targets in the United States.

British police became interested in one of the suspects after they arrested three men in London and found they had had email correspondence with a man living in Bosnia. The man living in Bosnia had been suspected of running a network that sought to draw alienated youths to the rebellion in Iraq.

Seven 16-20-year-olds are currently under arrest in Denmark along with two 18-year-old men in Sarajevo, one of Danish-Turkish heritage and the other from Sweden, in connection with the find of cache of weapons and explosives in Sarajevo.

Two days after the two were arrested in Sarajevo, British police arrested three people in Great Britain on suspicion of planning a terror attack on The White House.

The three men had apparently been in email correspondence with someone in Sarajevo who used the codename 'Maximus'.

I don't know where to start with this thing. First, it's totally unsourced. It says, "A British police dragnet has raised suspicion..." but doesn't tell us who is holding that suspicion. It says (in the hed, which probably wasn't written by the reporter) "Police fear..." but never tells us who told the reporter. But let's check the substance.

Police in Denmark and Bosnia arrest a bunch of people. Then the Brits arrest three more folks, apparently in an investigation that was at first unrelated. They find that the three new arrests had e-mail corrspondence with someone in Bosnia. That someone is "suspected" (but we don't know by whom) of running a network that "sought to draw alienated youths to the rebellion in Iraq." We are not told whether the network ever succeeded -- the term "seek" seems to indicate it didn't, and I wouldn't know what it means to "draw" someone "to the rebellion in Iraq" anyway.

The sole connection between the UK arrests and those in Denmark and Bosnia seems to be this 'Maximus' guy -- but the article doesn't even tell us whether those arrested in Denmark and Bosnia were ever in touch with him!

I'm not denying the very real danger of radicalism in Bosnia, or the potential for terrorism there. But the fact is that all of it is so far just speculation -- and I hope it'll remain that way.

Ustav ćemo vam

In the Guardian, Ian Traynor is reporting that "the Americans have written a new constitution transforming Bosnia into a centrally governed parliamentary democracy." The report indicates that some Bosnian politicians were consulted as well, but none are quoted in the report until the next to last paragraph, and this one does not seem too hot on the plan. While the new draft seeks to address one of the complaints about the Dayton agreement, that it imposed an unmanageable degree of decentralization, it does not address a more widely shared complaint, that it was imposed from outside.


A baseball league is named after him

It was always certain that the Bush administration, a criminal aberration distinguished by dubious popular legitimacy, profit-taking under the rhetoric of patriotism, theocratic absolutism, incompetence in the face of disaster, illegal retaliation against intelligence agents, ill-conceived warfare, and torture, would go under. It is going under. With surveys showing that broad majorities disapprove of the job the president is doing and distrust him personally, his party entered the first major local elections since the national elections in 2004. They lost races for the governorships of both New Jersey and Virginia. In St Paul, Minnesota, a Democratic mayor who broke ranks to endorse Bush's reelection campaign has been defeated by a wide margin. Next year, the Republicans will lose their majorities in the two houses of Congress, in preparation for losing the presidency two years after that.

That is enough time for the Democrats to try to show that they can be anything other than pale and quivering imitations of their opponents, if they are able.

Update: In other election news, Maniac Shop's poll has chosen Belgrade's representatives to the final status talks on Kosovo.


Your suggestions, please

Here is the deal: I will be heading off in December to the university in lovely Nishville (yes, I know! The home of Louis and Šaban Bajramović!), where I will have the job of helping the local sociologists improve their program in sociology of culture. The plans are ambitious: for creating a regional MA program in cultural studies (together with other universities in the region) concentrated on the Balkans to, more immediately, putting together a new textbook for sociology of culture. This is one of the results of isolation over the past several years: contacts need to be rebuilt, curricula are fifteen years out of date, and contemporary textbooks and readers need to be put together. It is not just Serbia -- there are no new culture textbooks in Croatia or BH either. Yes, this means I will be maintaining another blog silence for most of December.

This is where you come in. I have a budget from the foundation that is sponsoring our cooperation to bring them publications in sociology of culture that are essential for bringing the curriculum up to date, and portions of which might be excerpted and translated to be included in the textbook. What should I buy them? We are defining sociology of culture broadly -- for example, political sociology and sociology of religion are fair game, together with the usual topics. I have a sense that "border studies" might make for some good analogies, and our friend at Phronesisaical has given some good suggestions.

So, what would you like them to get? What texts do you think need to be in a new reader? The criteria are: 1) they should have been published between 1990 and the present, 2) they should be helpful in understanding the production, character and social life of culture, and 3) they should be, if not about the Balkans, about something for which comparisons and analogies will be useful in the Balkans. My finger is on the "order now! button.


New frontiers in libel

The courts in Croatia should be keeping themselves mighty busy, but fortunately the Balkan scissors can be relied upon to cut to the chase. First the writer Predrag Matvejević was sentenced to a five month prison term for calling out a right-wing lesser writer. Now the philosopher Milan Kangrga is being charged for "libelling Croatianity" (is that a legal entity?) in a newspaper column. The Kangrga case has apparently been transferred from the Zagreb court to a rural district (a place which got a traffic signal earlier this month! And some road paving last month!), which could easily be interpreted as a strategic move to create a greater likelihood of conviction.

4eme Carnaval des Balcans

The Carnival of the Balkans is coming back. The Fourth Edition will be hosted at Science and Politics next week. Send your entries (or suggestions about other people's entries) to Coturnix1 AT aol DOT com by Saturday, November 12th at 8pm EST. The Carnival will go up on Sunday.


I to ti je Amerika

I do not know who the gentleman in the leather trousers is or where or when the photo was taken. It was sent to us by a friend in Njujork. But he has a nice t-shirt.

Of course, there are lots of other places where one can find signs of nostalgic remembrance of Tito.


Take two tabloids and call me

Poor Florian! He read nothing but Kurir and Srpski nacional for a week. Follow his link to see where that led him.

The torture president seeks accomplices

The abuses at facilities like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib are already well known. But they may have overstepped their capabilities by setting up "secret prisons" in Europe, because now the EU wants to investigate. Today, the sixtieth anniversary of the opening of the IMT trials at Nuremberg, would be a good day for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzales to resign.

Lawyers and scholars of law, attention please

There would appear to be many interesting articles in the new issue of the Leiden Journal of International Law. They have bibliographies posted on international courts and tribunals as well.


Roasted potatoes with lemon

When I look over the web searches that bring people to this site, I find that the most frequent sources of visitors are searches for Edo Maajka and Lepa Brena, followed by searches for burek recipes. But lately there seem to have been several visitors looking for potatoes roasted with lemon. Since I seem to have got myself into an exchange with a distinguished blogger from the place where this recipe originates, I had better share it.

Roasted potatoes with lemon
*5 or 6 potatoes, I am especially fond of the kind that are sold here as "Yukon gold." Maybe potatoes from Nunavut would be even better.
*About half a stick of butter.
*About half as much olive oil as you put butter.
*Enough broth (mixed with water from a cube is fine, no need to go overboard) to just about cover the potatoes.
*Juice of one lemon.

Heat the oven to a moderate temperature (350 F or so is fine, but probably it will be whatever temperature you are roasting the meat at, since these potatoes go with meat). Cut the potatoes lengthwise into 5-6 pieces about the shape of the old Citroen "Ajkula." Put them in a roasting pan into which the oil has been poured, cut up the butter into bits, add the broth and lemon juice, and mix. Let it roast for at least an hour, stirring it maybe once or twice, if even that much.

These are good with just about any roasted meat or poultry, but if you happened to be making lamb, it would really be a shame not to make these as well.

Update: Hm, looks like I posted a recipe for this same thing once before, last December. But this one is a little different, which shows, doesn't it, that knowledge marches forward even as we become increasingly powerless and subject to it.

Update2: Be sure to cook everything you eat to an internal temperature consistent with health standards in your regulatory environment of residence. You wouldn't want to suffer the fate of the security police in Mar del Plata, felled by inexpertly prepared lasagna. Isn't that a place where people should be eating fish, anyhow?


Resources on research, journalism, peace, human rights and advocacy

Frequent visitors to this site may have noticed that there have been a few exchanges here about the efforts of some people from outside the region to develop and impose interpretations of events in the region. These efforts have little to do with any of the concerns of people actually in the Balkans -- they are an effort to harness events that have consequences for real people to political arguments elsewhere.

Surprise! There are people in the region with knowledge and perspectives of their own, and they are not sitting around waiting for prominent American or European magazine writers to tell them what they think of themselves. I have begun compiling a list of research organisations, advocacy groups, media and journalism centers, information clearinghouses, and other resources in the area. When it seems complete enough, it will be added to the blog and news resources in the link list. This is a preliminary list culled from my bookmarks and contacts, and your suggestions are welcome. The list does include research institutes (but not universities or academic departments) and does include advocacy groups for peace, human rights and equality (but not political parties). It is partial, and it inclines to the SCG side because that is the part I know best. If you have additions to suggest, they are more than welcome. Here is the first version of the list:

Alternativna akademska obrazovna mreža, Beograd
Asocijacija nezavisnih elektronskih medija, Beograd
B.a.B.e., Zagreb
Balkansko udruženje mladih, Beograd
Beogradska otvorena škola, Beograd
Beogradski centar za ljudska prava, Beograd
Centar za demokratsku kulturu, Beograd
Centar za mir, Mostar
Centar za mir, nenasilje i ljudska prava, Osijek
Centar za nenasilnu akciju, Beograd
Centar za politikološka istraživanja, Zagreb
Centar za razvoj neprofitnog sektora, Beograd
Centar za regionalizam, Novi Sad
Centar za slobodne izbore i demokratiju, Beograd
Centar za unapređivanje pravnih studija, Beograd
Centar za ženske studije, Zagreb
Centar za ženske studije i istraživanja roda, Beograd
Centre for Southeast European studies, Sofia
Citizens' pact for Southeast Europe
Civil dialogue
Edukacioni centar, Leskovac
Fond centar za demokratiju, Beograd
Građanska čitaonica Libergraf, Užice
Građanske inicijative, Beograd
Igman initiative
Institut za etnologiju i folkloristiku, Zagreb
Institut za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju, Beograd
Kreativna asocijacija mladih, Kotor
Mediacentar, Sarajevo
Mediaplan institut, Sarajevo
Medija centar, Beograd
Medijska dokumentacija, Beograd
Mreža za afirmaciju nevladinog sektora, Podgorica
NetNovinar centar za istraživačko novinarstvo i medijsku edukaciju, Sarajevo
Omladinska organizacija Kvart, Kraljevo
Open university / Szabadegyetem, Subotica
PALGO centar, Beograd
Pravo gore, Beograd
Projekat Beograd
Youth initiative for human rights, Belgrade and Prishtina
Udruženje Žene ženama, Sarajevo
Ženska infoteka, Zagreb
International and outside observers are great, much of the time. But there is nothing like a familiarity with what people are doing for and about themselves.


Oh, why bother?

Before he became famous in politics for combining a talent for saying things everyone knows with a language nobody can understand (allowing him to slip in a lot of claims which are simply not true, but obscure enough for most people to pass over), Noam Chomsky built a reputation in linguistics for claiming that everyone innately understands things that he imagines they know. All of which led to the definition of the adjective "chomsky" in Dan Dennett's Philosophical lexicon:
chomsky, adj. Said of a theory that draws extravagant metaphysical implications from scientifically established facts. "Essentially, Hume's criticism of the Argument from Design is that it leads in all its forms to blatantly chomsky conclusions." "The conclusions drawn from Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle are not only on average chomskier than those drawn from Godel's theorem; most of them are downright merleau-ponty."

But he's old, and apparently a lot of people like him. Which is what lets him get away with this sort of appalling intellectual laziness, all of which can be reduced to arguments from personal authority.


It keeps on rocking, back and forth

Last week's NY Times travel article on Belgrade got a wide range of responses over the net. This week there were also two letters from readers giving varying responses. Walter Blass teaches at the interesting "Megatrend University of Applied Sciences," which grew out of a consultancy firm (it would appear to be accredited), and writes that Hotel Moskva is unpredictably air-conditioned but recommends the cuisine at the bizarre Novi Beograd Hyatt (a good place to go if you have just murdered the criminal Vlada Kovačević, not so good if you are the criminal Aleksandar Knežević). While Nancy Anderson is "deeply offended to be told just how much fun it was to be partying there." Two perspectives which leave a person hoping for some middle position. Or any other position.

Short electronic art

Thanks to Maniac shop for linking this announcement. The Sixth Festival of the Short Electronic Form in Belgrade is seeking entries by 20 November. The organisers want electronic works which last or can be consumed in thirty seconds or less, with this year's theme being "The promised land." They are also organising an exhibit of digital photography in public space. Selected works will be exhibited beginning 29 November. Follow the link for guidelines and entry forms.


Friday nonrandom ten: Balkan pop edition

I'm violating the "random ten" rules this time out, all for good educational purpose. A student was just over who is trying to learn the language of everybody's favorite region in a hurry, and I could not suggest that the best way to learn a language (aside from films) was by listening to pop songs without giving him some. So I made him a disc. A sampling of items on the disc:
Cabaret patetico -- Ultima patetica
My but she can sing "I will survive." In Slovenian translation, no less.

Edo Maajka -- No sikiriki
The only pop song I know of which compares the quality of life to burek, which has got to be more appropriate than anybody thinks.

Eva Braun -- Bečej noću
Imagine surfing across Vojvodina. By night.

Jarboli -- Revolucija
Whether they wanted to or not, this group has become the master of political songs that foreground the possibility of defeat. El pueblo unido quizás será vencido.

Jinx -- Tamo gdje je sve po mom
There was a time when you could not enter a coffee shop in Dalmatia without hearing this. Sometimes the coffee was also nice.

Let 3 -- Profesor Jakov
Why can't all pop songs be written in at least four languages?

Oružjem protivu otmičara -- Budi tu
Listeners of a particular generation will have no problem recognising this as a cover of the Bay City Rollers' "I only want to be with you."

Pekinška patka -- Biti ružan, pametan i mlad
It wouldn't be education without some time set aside for a careful study of the classics.

Prljavo kazalište -- Sve je lako kad si mlad
See above comment.

Zabranjeno pušenje -- Hadžija ili bos
This group spawned more than one group with an identical name. Before that, they were outrageous, funny and insightful.
Maybe it might be a good idea to try my hand at a language textbook?


Reports of my demise

I don't think that anything I have posted has got as impassioned a reaction as my announcement that I would be retiring East Ethnia after a year. It seemed like as good a time as any to hang it up. Over a year of blogging, the site has got a decent and active regular readership, some people have (with any luck) been challenged, informed or entertained, a few good debates have been hosted, and I have learned a couple of HTML and CSS tricks. October has been the second most successful month in the life of the blog in terms of number of visits (the most successful month was a fluke: an item was linked by a popular Belgian newspaper, and everything went wild for a couple of days).

My thinking was that the amount of writing I was doing for East Ethnia could be directed toward something more permanent, especially the couple of books I have in plan. My first book was enjoyed by literally dozens of people, and even translated, which gave me the chance to collaborate with the wonderful Biljana Lukić (for whom it turned out, sadly, to have been her last translation). Now I want to move forward on a big project on public memory, together with my brilliant colleague Aleksandra Milićević of Colgate University and my brilliant student Tiberiu Galis. I also have a couple of projects which have been on the back burner for a while that I want to move up, especially two projects on organised crime and the “informal economy.” This means grant applications, research trips and – especially – writing. I guess there are people who manage to combine family, job, blog and professional writing, but it is hard to imagine myself as one of those overachievers.

What I did not expect was that there would be people who would want the blog to continue. Thanks to Katja, Catherine, Darko, Bora, La Lara, Michael and Daniel for your kind words of encouragement. Even Mrs Ethnia got in on the campaign, and the little Ethniette told me, “Tata, I can't imagine you without the blog.” Media presence, eh wot?

Seeking sources of wisdom in this dilemma, I remembered the person who lived next door to us when I was young. She ran a restaurant, the only really authentic Chinese restaurant for miles around in those days (anyone remember the Six Persimmons in Coupeville, Washington?). It was a fabulous place, her set menu. I haven't found a place in my life with food as good as hers. It was a kid's dream to work her stand at the Coupeville festival every summer – all the spring rolls and jook I could eat, and jasmine iced tea! And the parties they had – Mongolian barbecue on the beach in the summer, Mongolian hot pot by the fire in the winter! When she got a bit older she decided the restaurant was more work than she wanted to do, and wanted to shut it down. But her fans (next door) resisted, so she compromised: she moved to a smaller place with a smaller menu. Eventually she would only open the place on Fridays, the day my father would work in Coupeville, and for the last couple of years before she quit entirely he may have been her only regular customer. She has long since retired, but it was a day for celebration when my sister found some of her recipes.

So I will follow her example. I can't maintain the pace of several posts every day, but I'll keep East Ethnia open and put up new items from time to time, according to inspiration. This might be once a week or less, certainly not daily. And I will thank everyone for their support.


A step forward in war crimes prosecution

The special prosecutor for war crimes, Vladmir Vukčević, has detained nine people on suspicion of involvement in the massacre of 48 civilians in Suva Reka in March 1999. Among those detained are six active police officers. Two facts are of special importance here: 1) this indicates movement on the evidence from the mass grave in Batajnica, where victims of massacres (including those from Suva Reka) were moved in 1999, and 2) this demonstrates willingness to prosecute offenders who are neither paramilitary nor former officials, but are officers on active duty.

In case you were wondering

Courtesy of McSweeney's, the story behind the song "I heard it through the grapevine."

Long post: The "human security" report

Last week I promised a response to the UBC Human Security Report. I have finally got through it, and have several responses. Since the response is mostly critical, I want to preface it by saying that I am not dismissing the report out of hand. It represents a very ambitious and original effort to tie together a lot of information that is usually available only in scattered fashion, and also to begin measuring several important things that nobody has measured systematically yet. In that sense, it is a major and meaningful piece of work. This has to be appreciated – along with the fact that hardly anybody gets anything big right the first time out. My criticisms have to do with the categories and methods they use, and also with what seems to be the absence of a framework that would let them interpret both data they have and data that are not available.

First, one big reservation: the title of the report would suggest that it is about “human security,” but every previous use I have seen of this term defines it much more broadly. I understand “human security” as an effort to shift the balance of understanding security away from the strategic concerns of governments and toward the everyday concerns of actual humans. The idea is that the security of the world derives in large measure from how secure people feel in their lives, and that secure people make the greatest contribution to peace. Think of Mary Kaldor's big question: would money and effort be better spent building armed borders around the “green zones” of the world, or contributing to the everyday security of all of those people in the “red zones” who are too often the unprotected victims of violence?

The authors argue, essentially, that they are already measuring quite a lot, and that to take into account all of the factors that might make humans feel secure would be impossible to manage (p. viii). Fair enough – but then what they have produced is not a report on “human security.” When they begin repeating hypotheses (p. 42) about how democracies are more peaceful than other states (hypotheses which are based on a long tradition of deriving definitions from a dependent variable), the claim begins to matter. Developments that took place later than the period covered by the research, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, call the general hypothesis into question: interethnic and intercommunal violence were promoted, torture was reintroduced on an official level, and these things were done by states the authors would define as neither poor nor authoritarian.

The next big objection has to do with theory and methods. One of the first rules of research is that researchers have to recognise that the information that is available will not always tell them everything that they want to know. Also, information cannot think or talk, so it will not tell you what it means all by itself. This is why theoretical frameworks are necessary: they give guidelines as to how to interpret the things you know, and how to anticipate the things you do not know. No decent researcher has ever given “just the facts.”

The main claim of the report is that, although just about everyone believes otherwise, the world is a safer and more peaceful place than it has been in the last 20 to 25 years. They characterise the changes as a “radical improvement in global security” (p. 3). Surprised? The authors want you to be, they regard their report as a major challenge to the conventional wisdom. A word now about “conventional wisdom”: this is a delightful phrase which is usually deployed to suggest that what most people believe is not true, and it works because so many people regard the possibility of becoming “conventional” with contempt and dread. But there is another side to this – it might be that if a lot of people regard something as being true, that is because it is true. This is why “conventional wisdom” cannot really be challenged with a “conventional” label, but has to be challenged with persuasive evidence.

So what is their persuasive evidence? Their argument basically runs like this: 1) there are fewer wars than there used to be, 2) wars are less deadly than they used to be, and 3) there is a decline in the number of incidents of organized killing outside of war. The favored explanation the report gives for all of these is the end of the Cold War, with secondary attention given to the increased involvement of the UN in conflicts. Let's look at the three major points one by one.

On the number of wars – first of all, it is not entirely clear what is measured by counting the number (p. 17) of wars. It is not a general measure of risk. Second, the decline in the number of wars is a conclusion driven by a definition. They define war as a conflict involving two states in which there are 1000 or more “battle deaths” in a year (fewer battle deaths would make a “conflict,” and if only one state is involved it is a “civil war": nothing on how these distinctions are made or whether conflicts between nonmilitary organisations are counted). To give an idea of how misleading the number of wars is as an indicator of security, consider Rwanda in 1994: the number of battle deaths in the conflict between the Rwandan army and the Rwandan Patriotic Front does not pass the threshold of 1000 to be called a war, while the report's categories have no way of counting the at least 800,000 victims of the most intensive genocide in recorded history. The figures the report interprets as a decline in war are entirely consistent with unsettling facts that are already well known: wars are less likely to be conducted between states than inside them, they are less likely to be conducted by soldiers than by private, semilegal or illegal armed forces (or in internal conflicts, by police or semiformal “services”), and the doctrine of “force protection” makes “battle death” one of the least likely consequences of war.

So on to their second point, that wars have become less deadly than they used to be. The report demonstrates what was already known: wars have become less deadly – to soldiers. Again, the conclusions trumpet a result which is not a finding but an artifact of methodology. The data which demonstrate the effects of technologies which prevent armies from coming into contact with one another are already well known (and they do not demonstrate this persuasively, but choose a data set which consistently offers lower estimates of fatalities than other data sets [p.30]). Their observation that “non-state conflicts involved considerably fewer fatalities” (p. 21) is true only in relation to “battle deaths.” On the issue of civilian victims, the authors perform a methodological trick. First they note (correctly) that data on civilian victims have not been systematically gathered in the past. They attempt to address this by commissioning a study of civilian victims in 2002 and 2003. Then they base a global claim about the decline of victimhood on figures which show a decline in the number of civilian victims between 2002 and 2003! This would be like concluding, if it rained yesterday and is not raining today, that the long-term incidence of rain is declining. Only longitudinal data can demonstrate that a trend exists, and data comparing a small number of cases over an inconsequential stretch of time can maybe demonstrate a blip, or maybe demonstrate a theme for future research, but cannot possibly give a basis for a conclusion.

The section dealing with deaths not directly related to war (and deaths which are not “battle deaths” -- which is the largest category!) is probably the single most frustrating section of the report. There are several points where they observe that evidence is either unreliable or not collected systematically, an observation which is both true and useful and which offers a guide to future research.

But there are also several points that demonstrate the changing nature of political violence (the use of child soldiers, violence carried out by proxies rather than by military forces, the deliberate targeting of civilians, the intentional production of displaced populations, the “strategic” use of sexual violence, the production of hunger and disease), but which are not incorporated into the general analysis because their theoretical framework has no place for them. People tend to fear their governments (p. 48), but the authors have no explanation why. So while they know that in contemporary wars armed forces will “avoid major military confrontations but frequently target civilians,” and that powerful states use “high-tech weaponry against far weaker opponents who have few or no allies” (p. 34), they have no way of addressing these developments. Despite evidence that in contemporary wars “battle deaths” constitute at most 29%, and at least less than 2% of war deaths (p. 128), their model insists on using “battle deaths” as a measure of danger. These flaws in the report do not derive from the authors not knowing the facts. It is probably to their credit that the data which would negate their conclusions are right in the report. The flaws derive from their effort to describe human security in the dated and inappropriate terms of Realpolitik.

Add to this that there are several points (the number of victims of political violence, the number of displaced persons, the rate of violent crimes such as homicide and rape, the frequency of sexual violence in wars, the probability of “indirect” victimhood due to war conditions) on which the authors not only admit that there is a lack of reliable evidence, but explain the factors leading to a lack of evidence – and then go on to draw a conclusion! At one point (p. 7), they take underreporting to be evidence of a decline in human rights violations (!). A lack of evidence may be a problem to be observed, but can hardly be basis for conclusions. The desire to argue that the world is a safer place seems to have been stronger than the support for the argument. To the authors' credit, though, at several points they promise that areas on which they have insufficient information (such as “indirect” war deaths, p. 126) will be a theme of the next report.

Generally, the evidence and conclusions seem to be at odds with one another, and this seems to be the result of trying to apply an old and weak theoretical framework to new and challenging conditions. The end of the Cold War has not meant that conflicts have ended; it means that they have changed. Accounting for those changes is probably more the job of a generation than one that can be accomplished by generating a report. The UCB team deserves a lot of credit for presenting what they know and initiating the dialogue. Better to consider their contribution as the first word rather than the last.