Mr López, white courtesy telephone

That crafty Augusto Pinochet, whose health seems to deteriorate suddenly every time he is served with a subpoena, has apparently been up to activities other than adjusting his IV in the periods in between. According to a report in El Nuevo Herald, investigative judge Sergio Muñoz has also discovered that he had four forged passports under various names, and bank accounts in several countries in addition to the $16 million USD he had stashed away in a bank in the United States.

As for the bank accounts, it seems he held some under his own name, some under his initials, and some under his second surname Ugarte. Some of them he held under the name "Red Fox." And the US accounts, it seems, were held under the name Daniel López.

The great Argentine cartoonist Horacio Altuna should be outraged at the use that has been made of his signature character.

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Pépé le traditionaliste

This is an old film, but we just saw it last night. Pépé le Moko (1937) features Jean Gabin as a Parisian gangster holed up in Algiers, where he is protected by his legendary status in the Casbah. The police do not dare to go into the Casbah to get him, but he cannot leave. The film begins with a postcard-like presentation of the Casbah, voiced over by a police detective's description, as a place of diversity, intrigue and tradition.

It isn't a great film, certainly: there are some fine actors and wonderful photography, weighed down by truly awful dialogue and bountiful evidence that the scriptwriter did no research at all into the world of police and thieves. But the Casbah/city motif intrigues me, because it sheds light on the status of the gangster as folk hero. What Pépé depends on for protection is a cocoon of tradition and culture, a favor that he returns by appreciating the objects he steals. The city of Algiers offers the pleasures and opportunities of ascendant capitalism, and with it the possibility of returning to France, but he knows that if he goes there he is certain to be arrested or killed. There is not much need to give away the (in any case fairly thin) story to offer this as the center of the film.

So what is it that makes the gangster a folk hero? In this case, it is the embodiment of precapitalist values: charisma, sociability, embeddedness (of course the gangster as a defiant individualist is not the perfect precapitalist, but even then he evades the rational requirements of modern society). He can exist as a part of a traditional community on the margins, but the modern world of the city below is an atmosphere that cannot support him.

What I don't get is why the people of the Casbah seem so ready to accept the Parisian Pépé, who is clearly not of their universe. Something does not fit, like all those actors using stage techniques on cinema sets.


Democrats, your pulse is silent again

I found this surprising, to say the least. I sent a letter to my senator -- John Kerry, a fellow you may have heard of -- urging him to oppose the nomination of torture advocate Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States. Here is the response I got back:

January 6, 2005

Thank you for contacting me concerning the nomination of Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney General of the United States. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

I am closely following the nomination hearings of Mr. Gonzales. I have several questions that I want answered, including his role in shaping the Administration's policy on detainees and how that may have contributed to prisoner abuses. The hearings currently underway will allow us a better understanding of Mr. Gonzales' record, so we can make an informed decision on his nomination to be Attorney General when it is considered by the full Senate.

Thank you again for sharing your opinions with me. I encourage you to contact my office with any additional concerns.


John F. Kerry
United States Senator

So let's get this straight. The leader of the party of opposition is confronted with a candidate whose main contribution to the country has been to approve gross violations of human rights. And he hasn't made up his mind??? I would respond, but I have been able to avoid using obscenities on this site so far.

Pfuj. I'll let you know how Kennedy responds.

Trouble with labels

According to the Boston Phoenix, a restaurant in my neighborhood may or may not have some difficulty with its name. The Tsunami sushi bar might need to do some of what in a distant land was once called "rebranding." Mike Miliard's article quotes the owner, John Wu:

"Still, Wu — who’s originally from Taiwan and, thankfully, doesn’t know anyone affected by the disaster — was naturally concerned that the eating public might react adversely to the new connotation of his restaurant’s name. 'That’s exactly what I was worried about since the occurrence on Sunday, that my name would now suddenly become a bad rap. But actually, that hasn’t happened so far.' Even so, he says, 'there have been three individuals — one was my customer and two others were pedestrians — mentioning that now the word tsunami is associated with this big destructive image [and] that perhaps we should change the name. Although that does not represent a majority of my clientele, it does make me think.'

"But he’s not ready to take drastic action quite yet. 'Of course, changing a company’s identity is extremely difficult,' Wu says. 'We’re a small, family-run restaurant. For the last three and a half years we have established quite a nice reputation for ourselves in a mega-city for sushi bars — there are 14 in Brookline alone. From my perspective right now, things are still okay. Right now, I don’t see the impact. But if I do, then I have to seriously consider marketing myself otherwise.'"

It is a perfectly nice place that we have been to a few times. Although of the neighborhood places, most of the family prefers Takeshima.

Housekeeping again: New links

Just a quick post to bring attention to the new links that have been added since, um, the last time I put up a post like this:

Burekeaters: Pan-Balkan, just how me piace.
Centralni komitet: Sto ce nama tudjinske rijeci?
Kako odgojiti kravu: Don't dried bananas cost more than fresh ones?
Noga filologa: Language, literature and things that spin around them.
Roma Roma: Football and Balkan history, yes!
Tajni grad: “Kratki zapisi o stvarima.”
Teekay: Balkan politics, intellectual history and Macintoshes.
Berlin sprouts: European politics and culture from Ulrich Buechsenschuetz.
Tom Engelhardt: Commentary from the social critic and novelist.
Chez Nadezhda: Mostly Asian and US politics, but that is not all.
Unfogged: Oh look, smart people with attitude.

If I have forgotten your site, let me know! I’ll fix it.

The next big addition to the right side of the page will be a listing of news sources, to be prepared the moment I get around to it.

Vic dana

This one is not stolen from a newspaper, but was provided by our friend Milena:

Pita Mujo Hasu:
- Sta je bilo prije? Kokos ili jaje?
- Ma prije je bilo svega!


Don't get bugged, read this plug

Many of my posts send people to news articles at sites that require registration (the previous post has three of them, for example). There is an alternative: BugMeNot. Ko razumije, shvatice.

Anti-torture campaign picks up

Thanks to Americablog for bringing this to my attention. Now not only have the New York Times (in today's lead editorial), the Los Angeles Times (in an op-ed by Robert Scheer), and twelve high-ranking former military officers come out against the confirmation of torture advocate Alberto Gonzales as the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in the United States. A coalition of groups, including the True Majority Foundation, the National Council of Churches and MoveOn, is raising money to put an anti-Gonzales ad in the Times. Here is an image, thanks to Americablog:

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The site for the campaign is at True Majority, where you can also make a donation toward buying ad space if you feel inclined.

Update: Here is General James Cullen (ret.) in the Christian Science Monitor on his reasons for opposing Mr Gonzales:

"We saw this as posing a huge danger for American service men and women taken into captivity. These briefs under Gonzales could be cited by our enemies to justify torture of our people," says retired Gen. James Cullen, former chief judge of the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

He explains in an interview: The Army Field Manual cautions that if readers are in doubt about whether a proposed interrogation technique should be applied, they should ask themselves: If they were taken prisoner, would they want the proposed interrogation measure applied against them? "This very common-sense approach was missed entirely by Mr. Gonzales," says General Cullen.

While Gonzales may have acted at the urging of Vice President Cheney or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "Mr. Gonzales had the responsibility at some point to put the brakes on this ... and he failed to do it," he adds.

Update2: Now AP is reporting that Mr Gonzales plans to promise to obey the law if he is confirmed:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales plans to promise to abide by the government's non-torture policies and international treaties if he is confirmed by the Senate, The Associated Press learned Wednesday.

Soft bigotry of low expectations: if he promises (under condition of receiving a massive privilege) to obey the law in the future, that certainly qualifies him to be the chief law enforcement officer of the country. In this administration.

Azra's favorite mushrooms

These are with portobello mushrooms. Although the name sounds Italian, legend has it they are the product of a mistake by a Pennsylvania farmer (Let3: "Daleko je Pennsylvania") who forgot to harvest his crimini mushrooms and let them get really big. You could probably do it with crimini mushrooms as well, but you would have to do some fine-fingered spoon work. The recipe is very easy if you have one of those choppy-dicey food processor things. You could make it without one, but you will spend a long time with a knife. So, here goes:

Portobello mushrooms na bruklajnski nacin

1-2 portobello mushrooms per person, depending how hungry they are
1-2 cups of bread crumbs (grind an old loaf of bread; if you buy breadcrumbs at the store, don't tell me about it)
A handful of parsley
4-5 cloves of garlic (less if you are one of those people)
A spoonful of Vegeta
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and wash them, let them dry. Grate up the bread and put the crumbs in a bowl. Cruelly pulverize together the garlic and parley with the Vegeta and olive oil. Mix that together with the bread crumbs.

Put some oil in a roasting pan and the mushrooms in the pan. Spoon the crumb-garlic-parsley and whatever mixture into the mushrooms. Grate Parmesan cheese over the whole mess and roast for about ten minutes at 400-450 (Farenheit, obviously).

Serve with roasted peppers.

My secret ingredient: duck fat. No, you can't buy it, you have to collect it when you roast a duck. Then put it in the refrigerator and use it wherever a normal person would use butter. My grandmother used to do this (sometimes with onions), and however clogged her arteries may have been, her life was long and happy. Put it in the bottom of the roasting pan before putting the mushrooms in.


Croatian elections turn ugly

The unpopular foreign minister Miomir Zuzul, shadowed by a corruption scandal, has resigned, observers suggest in an effort to improve the image of HDZ. Drax is reporting that health minister Andrija Hebrang will soon follow. One candidate who did not make it to the runoff, rich guy Boris Miksic, is claiming fraud.

Now today an article has appeared in Nacional (Nacional is a subscription site; the story is reported also by Index, which is free) calling into question how Mr Miksic acquired the wealth on which his reputation and campaign were built. It includes charges of theft of intellectual property (which a court rejected), dishonest connections with the Tudjman family, invention of biographical details ... juicy stuff.

If this is an effort to discredit Mr Miksic before the election, one has to wonder why it was not done before the first round. At this point it might be asked whether stories like this are more likely to influence Mr Miksic or his supporters.

The writing on the wall (foul humor edition)

I had the good fortune to come across this at Stvor.

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Twas found in the washroom of the bar "Ona a ne neka druga."

No statute of limitation

The Supreme Court of Chile has rejected an appeal by former dictator Augusto Pinochet to avoid being tried for reasons of health and old age, the BBC reports. His case will now be returned to investigative judge Juan Guzmán, who originally found him competent to stand trial.

According to the BBC article, "Lawyers for Gen Pinochet say the legal process could kill him." Naturally we are quite concerned for his welfare, as we are for the welfare of all unrepentant mass murderers. Best to have him where his condition can be monitored constantly.

Does anyone want a Gmail account?

I just started using it out of dissatsfaction with my employer's server (too much spam, the web interface I am using while confined to Mrs Ethnia's computer is offputting), and kind of like its clever design. They have given me three invitations for new accounts to hand out. If you want one, just send me your e-mail address to [eastethnia at gmail dot com], and I'll send it to you. First come, first serve.

Update: They are all handed out. And interestingly, all to people in the same city, which is not the one where I live. But if I get more to hand out, I'll make a new post.


I hear my species calling, but the pizza guy is on the other line

This is, apparently, from a high school textbook in philosophy published in 2003 and still in use. According to a letter in Tuesday's edition of Danas, on page 187 of Udžbenik filozofije by Ivan Kolarić, in the section on Nietzsche, the good professor Kolarić says:

".....However, our misogynist, while he is incomparably more moderate than his teacher Schopenhauer, succeeds in undertsanding the very essence of the female being when he writes: 'Woman is an enigma whose solution is a child!' Truly, women who have not given birth are like unripe fruit, they have not affirmed their nature, they have not answered the call of their species and they have not realized the meaning of their lives...."

Or maybe you prefer the original:

".....Međutim, naš ženomrzac, mada neuporedivo umereniji od učitelja mu Šopenhauera, uspeva da dokuči samu bit ženskog bića, kad kaže:'Žena je enigma čije rešenje je dete!' Zaista, žene koje nisu rađale su kao nedozrelo voće, one nisu potvrdile svoju prirodu, nisu odgovorile pozivu vrste i nisu ostvarile smisao svog života....."

The writer of the letter, Ljiljana Negojević of Kraljevo, points out that "The words between quotations are Nietzsche's, the rest is the personal position of the author of the textbook, which students are obligated to learn." There may be a pedagogical theory associating students' tendency to learn with the type of fruit they most closely resemble.

Professor Kolarić would appear to be head of philosophy and sociology at that distinguished academic institution, the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Pale, right in the vibrant downtown of "Srpsko Sarajevo."

A krigla named desire

BBC reports that the superbrewer Inbev, which was formed in August of last year when the Belgian giant Interbrew bought the Brazilian Ambev, has reached an agreement to buy out the huge Russian Sun Interbrew for 259.7 million Euros.

Now, I am not one to quote Marlon Brando frequently, but I can't help myself: "Stella! Stella!"

So popular all of a sudden!

Wow, I seem to be getting a lot more visits than usual today. This is probably because of fifteen minutes of fame that comes from being linked by the fabulous Laura Rozen. Laura, you have lots of fans!


Edo Murtić

Elections are not the only thing happening in Croatia. Today also marks the passing of the great painter Edo Murtić.

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Edo Murtić, "Autumn," 1963
Courtesy Galeria Torbandena, Trieste.

Thanks to Quod, here is a biography from Iskon.

GONG: First unofficial Croatian election results

As reported by Index, here are the first unofficial election results released by the nongovernmental organisation GONG, on the basis of 4% of polling places. The estimated result is given, followed by the estimated margin of error in the results.

Stjepan Mesić 51,41 +/- 1,88 %
Boris Mikšić 18,37 +/- 1%
Jadranka Kosor 18,2 +/- 1,17 %
Đurđa Adlešić 2,72 +/- 0,36 %
Slaven Letica 2,62 +/- 0,19 %
Ljubo Ćesić 1,90 +/- 0,25 %
Ivić Pašalić 1,65+/- 0,23 %
Anto Kovačević 0,87 +/- 0,14 %
Miroslav Blažević 0,78 +/- 0,08 %
Miroslav Rajh 0,75 +/- 0,07 %
Doris Košta 0,42 +/- 0,06 %
Mladen Kešer 0,33 +/- 0,1 %
Tomislav Petrak 0,12 +/- 0,03 %

Update: I see that Drax is also publishing results as they come in, with commentary as well. So I will not update results, go to Drax or Index instead.

Update2: GONG's projections are being updated every 30 minutes at Index, until midnight (that's 6PM in Bostonian). They still show Mesic above 50% and Miksic in second, but the current article does not say how much larger the uzorak is than the one for the results above. My wild guess: the vote from Hercegovina will not help HDZ move up to second place, and there will not be a second round. But take this for what it is worth, time will tell.

Update3: Well, that was fast! If this report from Index is correct (it cites a leak from the state election commission), then the prediction I made in the last update was wrong on both counts. As Yogi Berra once said, "It's hard to make predictions, especially about the future."

Update4: The state election commission is reporting that Mesic leads with 49.03%, and Kosor has captured second place with 20.18%, edging out Miksic 17.80%. The remaining ten candidates are all below 3%. On 16 January, a second round will be held.

Update5: Just to note that the far right is the big loser in this election. The candidate of HSLS, Đurđa Adlešić, got 2.69%. Slaven Letica, who was once a mild-mannered medical sociologist but wants to be a national-populist when he grows up, got 2.60%. Ljubo Ćesić Rojs, about whom the less said the better, got 1.85%, while ex-hohštapler Ivić Pašalić got 1.82%. Even if all of their supporters vote for HDZ, it will not be enough to defeat Mesić.

Election day in Croatia

Today Croatia has presidential elections. If public opinion surveys are to be believed, no surprises are expected, and the current president Stjepan Mesic should have little difficulty getting reelected. Polls show him far ahead of his nearest rival, HDZ candidate Jadranka Kosor, who promises not to drink coffee or tell jokes if she is elected. In any case, I will be following events as they are recounted to the world by Dragan Antulov.

Update: The elections have not passed without at least one bizarre incident. Apparently in the very pleasant city of Split, an election observer from the non-governmental organization GONG was smacked in the head by a drunken Boris Dvornik, who was once a great actor, but has perhaps found other interests.

Update2: More detail on Boris Dvornik's introduction of violence into the election cycle from Drax. Apparently the incident arose from a gap in perceptions, in which Mr Dvornik thought the election observer was a hot young woman, whereas she thought he was a nasty old drunk.

Update3: Actual real news! Poll results conflict as to whether Mesic will succeed in getting over 50%, thereby securing election without going into another round. But results appear to agree that second place will not be taken by Jadranka Kosor (whose HDZ is the party of the current prime minister Ivo Sanader, and is also well known for a couple of other reasons) but by Boris Miksic, a former tennis champion and rich guy from Minnesota who financed his own campaign. Reports from Drax, from Index, and from B92.

Update4: Now the speculation is focused on whether votes from outside the country might change the result. If the "diaspora votes" (don't say it, I know) are significantly different from the results so far, this could either 1) put Mesic below 50%, which would force a runoff election, or 2) put Kosor ahead of Miksic. I do not have a guess on the likelihood of either, except that if either one happens then the likelihood is increased for possibility 3) that a change of the outcome as a result of the "diaspora vote" would lead to greater pressure to eliminate the "diaspora vote."