Živela Slovenija and Montenegro! Michael has bales of liquid video.

Specijalna molba za beogradske čitaoce

Ljudi, uskoro dolazim u vaš grad. Pošto civilizovan čovek, a naročito Srbin, ne može da živi bez brze internet veze, tražim ISP (wajrles, po mogućnosti) koji bi pokrio našu veliku i luksuznu garsnonjeru u vašem gradu (Vračar, da budem precizan). Da li neko može da me uputi u to koje su sve kompanije, kakva im je pokrivenost, koliko iznosi neka normalna cena, koja je oprema potrebna itd.? U suprotnom slučaju, retko ćete imati šta da čitate od mene tokom leta. Unapred zahvalan, vaš verni sluga.


The Guardian reports today on an investigation by Amnesty International, according to which "the US government arranged for the delivery of at least 200,000 Kalashnikov machine guns from Bosnia to Iraq in 2004-05," using a network of private companies, "at least one of which is a noted arms smuggler blacklisted by Washington and the UN." That firm would be Jet Line International, the successor to the Moldovan company Aerocom, implicated in the illegal weapons trade in western Africa (operating at that time, it seems, at least in part through Serbia). Here is a little bit more on the principal, Viktor Bout. The destination of the weapons was said to be "coalition forces in Iraq," but there is no evidence as to where they ended up.


A question for all you softveraši out there

My browser (the very fine Firefox) runs into the same problem each time I go through my ritual reading of the Balkan online newspapers: at one point, something, probably some script on one of the pages, disables the keyboard functionality. The most noticeable effect of this is that I cannot scroll down the screen using the space bar. I cannot be sure, but I think the culprit is a designer for ANSA, Dnevnik or Glas. I'm inclined to suspect Dnevnik the most, since their page is very javascripty. Any diagnostic thoughts?


Over the past week a good deal of attention has been paid to the uneasy situation regarding intelligence agencies in the United States. With the sudden and unexplained "resignation" of CIA director Porter Goss, a number of questions have been raised regarding the degree to which the departing director and his loyal staff have been involved in a sordid corruption scandal, the effect of a reorganisation of intelligence services on the independence of the CIA from political interference by the party in power, and the ambitions of the Department of Defense to exert control over intelligence activities. The uncertainty was not eased when the president put forward his nominee to succeed Goss: an active-duty military officer who has had a leading role in the administration's controversial (and apparently illegal) domestic surveillance projects. On all these themes, see the ongoing reporting by Laura Rozen.

And what of intelligence agencies in Serbia? Dejan Anastasijević has an overview in this week's Vreme. The latest accusations being put before them relate to the ongoing failure to arrest or locate Ratko Mladić, though this is hardly the full extent of it. At bottom, critics are continuing to raise the question of whether the intelligence services are under the control of the government and whether they work for the interests of the state. And what services are these? Serbia has five intelligence services, reporting to different officials and agencies. These are:
  • Bezbednosno informativna agencija (BIA -- Security Information Agency): Headed by Rade Bulatović. Reports to the prime minister.
  • Vojno-bezbednosna agencija (VBA -- Military Security Agency): Headed by Svetko Kovač. Reports to the minister of defence.
  • Vojno-obaveštajna agencija (VOA -- Military Intelligence Agency): Headed by Veselin Milović. Reports to the minister of defence.
  • Služba za istraživanje dokumentacije (SID -- Service for Research of Documentation): Headed by Ljubomir Milić. Reports to the minister of foreign affairs.
  • Služba bezbednosti MIP-a (SBMIP -- Security Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs): Headed by Mirko Tomčić. Reports to the minister of foreign affairs.
So: five intelligence agencies, reporting to three civilian officials (to be fair, only the first three have a very broad scope of activity). And how is their work coordinated? Simple: it is not. This may account for some of the failures of the services that Anastasjević lists in his article. On the other hand, some of the failures may be attributed to a bizarre inheritance from the previous position of intelligence agencies in the Communist period, when they were extraordinarily privileged and closely tied to the party in power. Now the intelligence agencies no longer tie their function to the maintenance of a monopoly of power by a party, but more to maintaining their own. The questions raised by their role in the Mladić case (have they stopped protecting him? are they trying to find him?) highlight the extent to which these agencies have remained powerful islands resistant to civilian control.

Živio BH film!

You can find the program for the Third Annual Bosnia-Hercegovina Film Festival online. It will be held in New York from 19 to 21 May, and will include both documentary and dramatic films, full length and short. Among the full-length features (these are the translations of the titles as they appear in the program, for the benefit of people who want to order tickets) are Go West by Ahmed Imamović, Well Tempered Corpses by Benjamin Flipović, Totally Personal by Nedžad Begović, Justice Unseen by Aldin Arnautović and Refik Hodžić, The Dream Job by Danijela Majstorović, and Borderline Lovers by Miroslav Mandić. many of the short films look interesting as well, including a documentary on burek in New York and the sleeper net-hit music video by Damir Nikšić which you may have already seen.

Odvedi me iz ovog grada

Explanation for little posting lately: I have been scrambling to get the end-of-semester grades in, hoping to be able to make my departure to the mystical Balkans unencumbered. In the moments between, we have been watching films. One standout: The Conversation. Before he became Francis Ford Coppola, this fellow was a fantastic director, and this piece featuring an intense Gene Hackman, a sylphy but sinister Harrison Ford, and for fans of the period, a bit of John Cazale and Robert Duvall as well, deserves to be considered a classic. The psychological angles (oh, and the gender stuff) are strictly period-piece, but it is one of the most fascinating takes on surveillance, and the uncertainty of knowledge, I have seen. To say nothing of the soundtrack. Sadly, Walk the Line turned out to be a huge disappointment, succeeding in doing something that the contemporary haters of Johnny Cash never managed to do: turn him into a bundle of VH1-style cliches. More news as the pile diminishes.