The cable-television news station CNN has an explanation for all those people examining the way in which the 2004 presidential election was conducted, and looking at discrepancies in the counting of votes: apparently, academia is "fixated on November 2."

What they are talking about is research reports from MIT, Cal Tech and Berkeley in which statistical methods are applied to the vote count to calculate the effect of technologies such as those fascinating Diebold machines on the election results.

So why describe it in psychological language? Unless they want to make the case that a concern as to whether elections are free and fair is really just a sign of needing therapy.

[Full disclosure: Many years ago, I took a statistics course from Michael Hout, who is the main author of the Berkeley report. He's a nice fellow.]


On the return of Slobism

The majority coalition in the Serbian parliament is led by Vojislav Koštunica’s DSS in coalition with the incredible disappearing G17+, the incredible reappearing SPO, and the simply incredible Nova Srbija. But it would not have a majority without the support of Slobodan Milošević’s SPS. One of their political projects is to officially discredit “Operation Sabre,” the police action against military, paramilitary, criminal and political groups which was undertaken after the murder of prime minister Zoran Đinđić.

A pretty good assessment of the politics behind the effort was given by Mileta Prodanović on the radio program by Svetlana Lukić and Svetlana Vuković, “Peščanik,” in their broadcast from 12 November. So I have taken the liberty of translating it:

I think that the return of Slobism which we are seeing now was to be expected. Why would we risk losing our souls when it is much nicer to live in our own little coop, where it is warm. That is the cultural model which is still holding on. One major daily paper published as a gift to its readers a book on Kosovo by Dobrica Ćosić. Wherever you turn, everything in this country comes back to him. There is a theatre group, which is asking for support from the Ministry of Culture, which is preparing a performance to be put on in Scheveningen. I don’t believe that the Ministry of Culture will use the taxpayers’ money for that, but just the possibility that our good old boys who are defending the truth about Serbia over there, that they should also be entertained in that way, it is really the last straw.

Look at the kiosks, I don’t even know how many daily papers there are which were founded by UDBA. “Operation Sabre” was the only moment when the numerous and multilayered UDBAs in our society were disturbed, but we see that that little wave has passed, and that they still have their five or six papers. They are openly criticizing the reach of “Sabre” – for me, that time provided some kind of hope. And I intimately believe, I have no evidence for it, but I believe that everyone who was arrested in “Sabre” was arrested for some important and meaningful reason. The only mistake was ending the action, because we can see that for many people in the currently governing party intimate connections with those services is not a strange thing, on the contrary.

Now there is a huge promotion of the publication of Karadžić’s books, that product is being advertised in all possible ways. I have to quote Teofil Pančić – of all Karadžić’s works the only ones I know about are the bombing of Sarajevo and Srebrenica.

Go here to order books by Mileta Prodanović. I’d like to find some pictures of his artworks online, but haven’t yet.

Tough on crime, Part I

Apparently the librarians of Bay City, Michigan have had enough of patrons who do not return the materials that they borrow. They want the worst offenders to be charged with a criminal offence and serve a 90-day jail sentence.

This all sounds pretty severe, it's true. But then on the other hand, it seems there is one fellow in a town called Bad Axe (I am not making this up!) who has been hoarding materials and owes the libary 1190 USD in late charges. Say what you will, that money could buy something.

Did BND sit on advance knowedge?

An item in Deutsche Welle today suggests that the German intelligence agency knew about plans for the attacks on Serbs in Kosovo in March but did not share the information with peacekeeping troops under UN command.

Report: BND Knew of Kosovo Attacks
The German government denied Friday that the country's BND foreign intelligence agency had kept relevant information from German peacekeeping forces in Kosovo when ethnic strife broke out there in March. On Thursday night, German TV broadcaster ZDF reported that three weeks before the March 17 and 18 attacks, which left 19 dead and 1,000 injured, the BND had listened in on a conversation in which an Islamist fundamentalist organized Kosovo Albanian attacks on the Serbian minority. ZDF said the man had been a paid informant for the BND. German government spokesman Bela Anda rejected ZDF's allegations, adding that the government could not publicly respond to questions until after it reported to parliament on the matter. The German KFOR peacekeepers have been accused of being unprepared and reacting too slowly to the violence.

Charges are already widespread that UNMIK regularly shows itself to be unable to control the situation in Kosovo. It seems as though it does not help if the reason for this is something other than ignorance.

Vic nedelje iz Vranjskih novina

The paper can be found at its web site, unsurprisingly enough.

Лете два орла, један нормално, други наопако, "леђно", па каже првоме:
- Леле, како уживам, живота ти питај ме нешто.
- Ма шта да те питам, пусти ме на миру.
- У, како је добро, питај ме било шта, рецимо "како ти је".
- Добро, како ти је?
- Ништа ме не питај.

Easy morning post

Don't you love that first cup of coffee?

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Electronic Information System for International Law

The American Society for International Law (ASIL), with support from the Mellon Foundation, has set up the Electronic Information System for International Law, which can be found at www.eisil.org

The materials include basic legal documents and agreements, research reports, pointers to sites for news and commentary ... it's encyclopedic! And I recommend it highly.

Credit for creating a tremendously useful resource goes to the EISIL authors:

Stephanie Burke - Boston University School of Law, Anne Burnett - University of Georgia School of Law , Marci Hoffman - University of California at Berkeley School of Law, Krista Lindhard - Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP, Amy Osborne - University of Kentucky Law School , Gail Partin - Dickinson School of Law, Pennsylvania State University, Dean Rowan - University of California at Berkeley School of Law, Mary Rumsey - University of Minnesota School of Law, Louise Tsang - Georgetown University Law Center, Kelly Vinopal - American Society of International Law, Jill McC. Watson - EISIL/ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for Int'l Law, Jean Wenger - Cook County Law Library

Failed reconstruction and the opium of the people

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime released a report today showing that the cultivation of opium has dramatically increased in Afghanistan. Afghanistan now accounts for 87% of the world supply of opium, up from 76% a year ago. According to the Associated Press:

Opium is now the "main engine of economic growth and the strongest bond among previously quarrelsome peoples,'' according to the report. It valued the trade at $2.8 billion, or more than 60 percent of Afghanistan's 2003 gross domestic product.

Of course the cultivation of opium is not a new phenomenon in Afghanistan, where people face limited economic opportunity and there is global demand for the product. The report calls for greater efforts to control the production of opium and for international engagement against corruption. But none of these strategies is likely to eliminate the problem if a more fundamental problem with "reconstruction" is not addressed: people can only take advantage of economic opportunities that actually exist. If there are no alternatives, all that is left is to use what is available.

Riz avec fines herbes

Today Gianfranco Fini was named as foreign minister of Italy. He came to prominence, of course, as the leader of the far right National Alliance (AN) party. So Condoleeza Rice ought to fit right into this company.

Oh, except that his party has been moving to the center. Never mind then.

Clear as folk?

In an interview in this week's Vreme, the writer David Albahari criticizes the massive amount of academic attention given to turbo-folk as opposed to the very fine rokenrol that the Balkans produced, especially during the eighties and nineties. He says:

Ovde postoji apsurd da je turbo-folk, koji je bio neki najniži oblik masovne kulture, dobio najviše akademskog prostora. Mislim da je to bilo zato što je bio povezan sa određenim političkim trenutkom. Politički trenutak je dobio tu pažnju, odnosno politički trenutak prelomljen kroz turbo-folk. A imate "novi talas" koji gotovo da i nije bio obrađen, jer nije na taj način bio političan. On je više govorio o pojedincu i njegovom odnosu prema društvu. To je bio pojedinac izgubljen u sistemu koji ga okružuje.

On the one hand, Albahari is certainly right in saying that the growth of interest in turbo-folk was a product of the political moment out of which turbo-folk grew, and which turbo-folk seemed to illustrate so obscenely faithfully. On the other hand, the research on "Yu-rock" is not so thin, even if the level of journalistic fascination is a bit lower. Albahari knows this, since he was a coeditor (with Petar Janjatović and Dragan Kremer) of the classic Drugom stranom - Almanah novog talasa u SFRJ (1983).

A few more recent works I would draw attention to would be Ines Prica, Omladinska potkultura u Beogradu: Simbolička praksa (1991), Benjamin Perasović, Urbana plemena: Sociologija subkultura u Hrvatskoj (2001), and Gregor Tomc, Petar Stankovič and Mitja Velikonja, Urbana plemena -Mladinske subkulture v Sloveniji v devetdesetih (2000). Then, of course, there are also a few works in English.


In Croatia, Večernjak is reporting that the ICTY fugitive Ante Gotovina is hiding in Ireland. Or Israel, whatever. More sensationalistic reporting indicating that in fact, they do not know.

Meanwhile in Serbia, B92 reports that the government would certainly arrest and extradite Ratko Mladić if they knew where he was, but they don't, except that they know he is not in Serbia. At the same time, ICTY spokespeople assure the public that they know that Mladić is in Serbia, but will not say where.

There has to be some way that all of the people who make a habit of giving public statements accusing other people of knowing what they do not know while demonstrating that they do not know what they claim to know believe that they are promoting confidence in international justice, the institutions they represent, and themselves. Because they would not deliberately present themselves as non-authorial participants in a circus repeatedly over the course of several years, would they now?

This is a war crime

Shooting an unarmed prisoner, in a mosque

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The photo was posted by Abu Aardvark, who uses it to illustrate why the Arab press seems to be no longer downplaying events in Fallujah.

Update of a sort: Writing in Slate, Phillip Carter and Owen West argue that it is not a war crime. Color me unconvinced. Their reasons seem to be 1) prisoners have been murdered in other wars, 2) the victim had not been identified as a prisoner, 3) one cannot expect soldiers to follow international law since they are in dangerous situations, and 4) insurgents in Iraq have also killed a lot of noncombatants. These arguments are for the most part not relevant. Societies equip a portion of their members with deadly weapons expecting that they will behave as a part of a legally constituted body, and bind them by rules to assure that they do.

Jugopopblogging 1

These bands all offer music to listen to or download on their web presentations:

Obojeni Program
Zabranjeno Pušenje

More to be added as I find them, and suggestions are of course welcome.


Joke of the day from Danas

Dolazi Mujo kući s posla i pita ženu;
- Fato, bona, gdje su djeca?
- Na engleskom.
- O. K. Where are the kids?
Prilog čitaoca Ibrahima iz Novog Pazara

397,25 pages a day for 90 days

For three months after he became president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in October 2000, Vojislav Koštunica refused to dismiss the head of the State Security (Državna bezbednost -- DB) service, Milošević loyalist Rade Marković. As far as I am aware, he has not said why.

Since that time, the number of criminal cases brought against members of the old regime has been small. Undoubtedly there could be any number of reasons for this. Possibly it is a result of a lack of political will. Or maybe it is because of insufficient evidence.

If it is because of insufficient evidence, could this have anything to do with the fact that between October and December of 2000, 11.490 documents, or 35.753 pages of documentation, from the DB central archive were destroyed?

Or do these two facts have nothing to do with one another?

Holidays in the sun

This is an idea for tourism that one does not come across too frequently (NY Times AP news feed: requires registration, which is free).

Josip Modrić, the architect who is promoting the project for tourists to enjoy a spell of hard labor on Goli Otok, says "If you want to experience some of the torture that political prisoners underwent ... just come along." But then he promises that visitors will not be tortured. Isn't that everyone's experience of getting what they pay for from tourism agencies?

Goli Otok was, of course, the island to which political prisoners were sent for reeducation and other vacation-related activities in the early period of Communist rule in Yugoslavia. But you knew that.

Azra's favorite bread recipe

We are lucky enough to have an outstanding bakery, Clear Flour Bread, in our neighborhood. But there is still nothing like homemade bread. My recipe is far from secret, it is adapted from a basic cookbook, and it is about as simple as possible -- but my daughter likes it best, so here it is.

My far from secret bread recipe

2 cups warm water
1 tbsp. active dry yeast (I like Red Star)
5 cups bread flour (my favorite is King Arthur bread flour)
1 tbsp. salt

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Combine the flour and salt in a standup mixer. Slowly pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture while running the dough hook through the whole mess at low speed. Increase the speed and knead the glop until it seems to take some sort of shape.

Pour a small amount of olive oil into a large bowl, then add the dough, flupping it about until it is covered with olive oil (this will keep it from sticking to the bowl). Cover the bowl loosely with plastic and leave it in a warm place for about 3 hours.

When the dough has risen, set the oven to 425 degrees Farenheit. Shape the bread any way you like (I like to make 3 long baguettes, but you could also do one or two big loaves). Let the shaped dough rise again for about a half hour. Before you put the loaves into the oven, sprinkle the top with a bit of coarse kosher salt and fresh pepper.

Bake the loaves for about a half hour. They are done when the color is breadlike and they make a sort of hollow echoing noise when you tap on the bottom with your finger. Eat them with enthusiasm.

What is intelligence for?

According to a report in today's New York Times, that issue has finally been cleared up by the new Director of Central Intelligence, Porter Goss. The paper obtained an internal memo which Mr Goss sent on Monday to agency employees, in which he writes that the job of CIA employees is to "support the administration and its policies in our work.'' He adds, "as agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies."

Now, this might be less than it appears to be. He may be seeking to control the public statements or the books or articles written by CIA employees, rather than trying to influence the contents of their reports. That remains to be seen, one way or another. But one thing seems clear: the administration is troubled by facts on the ground that contradict their policy positions. The CIA's findings did not support Mr Bush's claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, for example.

How did this memo get out to the New York Times and also, apparently, to The Washington Post? Mr Goss hastens to remind agency employees, "We remain a secret organization.'' But he might do well to reread Max Weber's classic essay on bureaucracy: what gives professional civil servants power over the political appointees who run their agencies temporarily is that they control the information.


RS apology for Srebrenica massacre

Here is my translation of the apology issued by the government of Republika Srpska, the Serb entity in Bosnia and Hercegovina, for the massacre in Srebrenica in 1995. The text was published by the best Balkan news site, B92 vesti, on 10 November 2004. Note to journalists, researchers and others – my translation is not an official translation, and should not be considered reliable for documentary purposes:

1. The Government of Republika Srpska has familiarized itself with and accepted the Report of the Commission for the investigation of the events around Srebrenica from 10 to 19 July 1995.
2. The Report clearly demonstrates that in the area of Srebrenica in July 1995, crimes of great measure were committed with gross violations of international humanitarian law.
3. We affirm that Republika Srpska has shown resolve to confront the truth about events from the recent tragic conflict on the territory of Bosnia and Hercegovina.
4. The Government of Republika Srpska considers that the Report will assist in revealing the fate of a large number of missing persons listed in the Decision of the Chamber for Human Rights of Bosnia and Hercegovina, and also of others not listed in the Decision.
5. The work of the Commission is a historic act and as such is subject to the judgment of history. The formation of the Commission and its work are evidence of the maturity of the institutions of Republika Srpska and the Serbian people.
6. The Government of Republika Srpska offers its condolences with pain to the relatives of the victims of Srebrenica, with sincere sorrow and apology for the tragedy which befell them.
7. The Government of Republika Srpska intends to take decisive steps in order to bring to justice all people who have committed war crimes. No crime, no matter who committed it, can remain unpunished.
8. The Report with its appendices represents a good basis for action by the responsible agencies (especially agencies of prosecution and judicial organs at all levels of government) for further investigation, documentation and prosecution of crimes.
9. The responsible agencies of the Government of Republika Srpska will continue their activity in the further gathering of evidence which will help in the full revelation of the fate of missing persons.
10. The Government of Republika Srpska requests that exhumation and identification of missing persons be carried out as soon as possible, because without that it is not possible to complete this process.
11. The methodology and manner of work of the Commission should serve as a model for further investigation of crimes committed on this territory, without regard to who committed them, when or where.
12. A complete understanding of the events in and around Srebrenica is only possible after a full accounting of the historical context.
13. The Government of Republika Srpska considers that the work of the Commission and its result will contribute to the building of a climate of confidence in Bosnia and Hercegovina and in the greater region.
14. The Government of Republika Srpska expresses its respect for the work of the Chamber for Human Rights and its successor, with a sincere intent to carry out the requirements of humanitarian law, and with the recommendation that the results of this Report be accepted.
15. The Government of Republika Srpska offers its sincere recognition to the members of the Commission for their courage, decisiveness, their conscientious and human relations which they have shown in their work.

Kofi Annan called the apology a "courageous act," but I am inclined to agree with the lucid Tobias K. Vogel, who wrote, "It is a strange moral universe in which admitting a crime that everyone else knows you committed - and admitting it nine years later and under massive pressure, and without any attempt to actually punish anyone for it - is considered a 'courageous act,' but I guess for UN standards it is."

Diaries from DailyKos

Although I have followed a number of good blogs mostly for entertaining news items, particularly Arts and Letters Daily for interesting thoughts of the day, Jim Romenesko's Obscure Store for unusual news items to annoy my friends with, and Bifurcated Rivets for news of the provocative and strange, my introduction to participatory blogging came from following in and contributing to Marko Moulitsas's popular Daily Kos during the crushingly disappointing 2004 US presidential election campaign.

Kos suggests that people who feel as though they have something to post more than twice a day ought to start their own blogs, so I am giving it a try. In any case, I doubt that I will stop contributing to Daily Kos just because I have started this. But just in case anybody cares to see the diaries that I posted there in 2004, they are archived at this site.

November 2004: First pitch

This is the first post on my first blog, and it is anybody's guess how long the energy to maintain this endeavor will be sustained, or whether there will be anything much of interest here to anybody beyond my closest personal circle. What I hope to do here is to maintain a journal, to be updated at least intermittently, on the themes that interest me most. The initial list is not exhaustive, and the items are not in order of priority, but the main themes here ought to be:

--politics and culture in the Balkans
--politics and culture in the United States
--good music and good cooking
--the loves and travels of the Gordy - Ćurčić family
--the joys of academic life

And, of course, whatever else comes to mind.