Those who deny cabbage to others deserve it not for themselves

There will probably not be new posts here over the weekend, because we are on a mission. Our Belgrade friend from the halcyon days of gradskool is off teaching at a very fine college very far from the nearest object. She dreaded the prospect of the bucolic life, but I think that over the years she has come to enjoy it, and her children are especially delighted. But being so far from the Balkans has a major drawback: no regular supply of kiseli kupus. This has never been easy for us in this large but kupus-deficient country either. In California we used to be supplied by our friend's mother who made it in the basement. Our rural friend used to get shipments from Vancouver.

But we have found a source: the Euro Market in Lynn, out past the airport, features a variety of Balkan specialties, including kiseli kupus from Travnik, courteously vacuum packed by Poljorad-Travnik! They used to have a Macedonian version in jars, somewhat thinner and more suited to sarme, but heaven knows we are willing to trim some stems in pursuit of perfection. Our mission: to deliver three heads of it to our friend, roll them up, and enlighten the countryside.

Too bad they are predicting a huge blizzard, but we are driven by a higher purpose. Back to you Monday.

Update: Thanks to AR, what we will not be drinking with our sarmice:

ZAGREB, Jan 21 (dpa) -- A wine in Croatia has been named after fugitive Croatian Ante Gotovina, whom the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has charged with war crimes. The daily Jutarnji list reported Friday that a wine called "Gotovina" was presented in his hometown of Zadar earlier this week. Former general Gotovina has been in hiding since the ICTY indicted him for war crimes related to the deaths of 150 Serbs during the Balkans war in 1995.

Graševina could be nice, though. Okay, now we really have to get going.

The glamor of Pirot

With apologies to The Glory of Carniola for the near-identity theft in the title, I offer you, courtesy of my Ohioan friend, a story of near-identity theft. It goes like this: a confidence artist by the name of Goran Marković looks, I guess, a lot like the actor Bruce Willis. He was able for a time to take advantage of the resemblance to get a lot of unpaid privileges for himself, deflect the attention of authorities, you name it. He even got himself a set of forged documents in the name of Bruce Willis, but there he made a crucial mistake: according to news.com.au, he "he linked the name Bruce with Australia's invasion of Hollywood," and got himself a fake Australian passport in the actor's name instead of a fake American one. So when the police in Pirot pulled him over and he gave them the Hollywood treatment, they:

"...immediately arrested him when they saw the passport was Australian. A further check revealed the car he was driving was stolen and an ensuing investigation linked him to other car thefts. 'When we pointed out the mistake he had to admit he wasn't the real thing,' a police spokesman said. 'He said he thought that Willis, like Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson and Nicole Kidman, was Australian. He did look like him, but it was the Australian accent that gave it away'."

It seems that there is a message for crooks here, that they need to keep up to date on their show business trivia.


This week's commentary by Svetlana Lukić

Svetlana Lukić is not sparing any rhetorical ammunition. In this week's commentary she turns her attention to the Serbian government, which has brought negotiations with the EU to a standstill because of its equivocal approach to the question of treatment of accused war criminals. She turns up the heat on Mr Koštunica:

"There is no longer any point in mentioning the prime minister, unless somebody initiates a disciplinary hearing or a criminal complaint against him. That man should be fired, since he has been absent from his job for months, and should be made to answer criminal charges, because his government is violating the law of the country in the most heavyhanded way, beginning with the fact that it cooperates with people who have been charged with crimes and protects them from the law. In a word, Koštunica should be fired, and the same day he should be brought in for interrogation and held. Let history judge him for treason."

Well, now! Her editorial has sparked a debate in the readers' comments section, where responses range from "Bravo!" to charges that Ms Lukić wants to establish a dictatorship and has the "typical profile of an ideological journalist born for a single-party system." One thing that the heated exchange shows is that in the wake of the decision by the US and the EU to make the point that continued inaction on war crimes has a price, political discourse is not remaining untouched.

A word of caution is due: the comments section of B92 is not a representative sample of the Serbian population, so a wider range of responses will probably not be available to people who follow events virtually until Saturday or Sunday. And I'll be away for the weekend, so you're on your own.

Hit of the day (policy wonk category)

For those of you looking for a stimulating and short read, have a gander at the essay by David Held on globalisation. Ostensibly a response to Martin Wolf's book Why Globalisation Works, Professor Held's essay gives a brief balance sheet on the question and advocates a turn to social democracy. Thanks to Arts and Letters Daily for the heads-up.

The mystery of the Croatian blogs

I don't know what is up with the host at blog.hr, but you may have noticed that their blogs have been unreachable since yesterday. Ludost is offering temporary refuge for posts, so you may be able to find the new work of your favorite writers at this spot.

Update: Saturday evening: they're back!

Update from Vranjske on the Mačkatica case

The local Vranjske novine is running an article that provides a little more detail on the story that first emerged in an article by Nataša Kandić in the 24 December issue of Danas, where she gave details of the burning of corpses from Kosovo in the "Mačkatica" factory in Surdulica. In the article, Ms Kandić charged that:

"...the burning of corpses in the Mačkatica factory took place in two phases, on the 16th and 24th of May 1999, after midnight, with security provided by the Red Berets, who at the time had a base in the village Bele near Vranje. Milorad Luković Legija, who was then the commander of the Red Berets, according to our information personally accompanied one delivery of corpses and was present during the burning. The bodies were burned in incinerators 4 and 5. The deliveries of the corpses and their burning were carried out by Zoran Stošić, who was then head of State Security for the district of Pčinj, Bratislav Milenković, the head of the Security Intelligence agency (BIA) for Vladičin Han and Surdulica, Dragan Stanković, head of the local police in Surdulica from 1993, Miroslav Antić, head of the BIA in Vranje, Dragan Lakićević, the director of the Mačkatica factory, and his assistant, Aca Đorđević."

Perhaps the charge that received the most attention was that the project of destroying evidence of crimes against humanity was coordinated by Dragomir Tomić, president of the "Simpo" furniture factory and minister for all purposes during the Milošević period. Mr Tomić immediately responded with a statement denying all charges: "Dragomir Tomić was never acquainted with with any facts connected to the events mentioned or any similar ones, if they happened, nor did he ever have any information about them." Dragan Lakićević issued a similar denial.

Official responses have been slow. The special prosecutor for war crimes, Vladimir Vukčević, has promised an investigation, while justice minister Zoran Stojković gave only evasive responses.

Ms Kandić notes that the public has been more responsive than institutions have on the matter: "I would say that in comparison to institutions, the public is less silent. It seems to me that there is a part of the public that is shocked, which considers that this is just one of the horrific things that testifies to the dark pogrom that the former regime carried out here. With regard to the institutions, there are still people there who want to cover it all up, who want the past not to be mentioned, that there should only be mention of Serbian victims, and that crimes, burnings and the destruction of evidence of crimes against others should never be mentioned. I would say that there is a serious blockade which makes it difficult to gather information, and that it is difficult to encourage ordinary people to speak about it, because they are still under threat, because they are afraid and they see that the same people who were in power then are still in power now."

One indication might be suggested by the statement of district prosecutor Milan Božinović on the investigation that his office carried out: "We requested a detailed report from State Security and from Public Security, and we got a report that said that in our area there was neither evidence nor any trace of graves or of any possible burning. After we got two such reports, completely independent of one another, there was no longer any basis to develop an indictment, and the information was given to the state prosecutor."

Vranjske novine's reporter Saša Stojković observes one detail that may be telling: "It is suggestive for the whole story that so far nobody has taken any action against Ms Kandić herself. Because if she were lying, the machinery of the 'patriotic judiciary' would have to come into action and move against her. There has been no such reaction, and Nataša Kandić herself does not expect any charges to be filed against her, 'for the simple reason that I am speaking the truth'."

Time will tell whether the special prosecutor for war crimes files charges. There are similar potential cases, of which the best known is the recovery of a freezer truck with corpses from the Danube river near Tekija.


What price security?

I had kind of promised myself I would not have posts related to the presidential inauguration, but...

Americablog found this photo accompanying an Washington Post article on the challenges that the Marriott hotel chain has in providing comfort and security for all of the guests who are coming to Washington for the event. Susan Biddle's photo shows US Secret Service officer Richard Burfield and an unidentified companion checking the buffet.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

I honestly did not know this was how such things were checked.

Revenge of the mad doctor

Not only the fear that somebody might ask me for emergency medical assistance, but also the appearance of all those titled zlikovci in politics (not to mention evangelicals!), have pretty much dissuaded me from using the title "Dr" for any but official purposes. But this does not prevent me from taking a voyeuristic interest in the description, now up to eight installments in Nezavisne novine, of Dr Karadžić by Dr Plavšić. She has a reason to characterise her own role as minimal, since her defence at ICTY relied on arguing that she never had any proper authority. But the bits here are really pretty fascinating: Dr K never informed Dr P about meetings; Dr K falsified minutes of meetings, Dr K has been sending incriminating forged transcripts to ICTY from his place in hiding. But apparently Dr P got to exercise some authority over Arkan, who was not even a doctor. Nurse your desire for further installments, the paper is publishing a new excerpt every day.

Update: An article by BBC gives a few quotations in English translation, s'il vous plait. There's a little bit more in Reuters.

Update2: Thanks to AR for the tip. In today's Danas there is an article on the presentation of the book in Banja Luka (go to the "Hronika" page). The first interesting detail is that the manuscript was brought out of Sweden by Milorad Dodik. But there is also a long quotation from the book about Karadžić's adoration of Milošević. As I am reading more from the book, though, it becomes increasingly clear why she is trying to put everything on Karadžić and present herself as, what her defence lawyer once called her, an "ikebana."

A protest idea I am not certain about

Actually I am not certain whether this is a protest or something else. But it seems that since the war in Iraq began, in the German city of Bayreuth, somebody has been has been decorating the doggie droppings ("puppy poop," in the report by Deutsche Welle) that visitors leave with little American flags. I imagine the sort that get stuck into the top of ice cream concoctions, but I really do not want to spoil anybody's dessert. Parks administrator Josef Öttl is also not sure, and guesses "Maybe someone is protesting the war in Iraq or just trying to let people know that there are too many dog droppings in the park." A police spokesperson points out that placing flags in puppy poop is not a criminal offence.

If indeed the gesture is meant as a protest, its effectiveness is probably open to question. Another question remains: are war supporters less likely to clean up after their dogs?

Serbian tradition

The new issue of Vreme has an interview with the historian Branka Prpa, director of the Belgrade Historical Archive and chief editor of a new book, Hronologija: Moderna srpska država 1804–2004 [Chronology of the modern Serbian state, 1804-2004]. Dr Prpa argues that from the 19th century onward, there is a strong modernising current that runs through Serbian history, and that this can be regarded as among the most distinguished traditions of the country. In doing so she argues against those critics on the political right who use "tradition" as an argument for undoing modernising reforms. A quote:

"Those people who call so much on tradition ought to know that aside from the Cyrillic alphabet, there is something else that can be called a Serbian tradition, except they are not familiar with it, and that is shameful for any traditionalist who claims to respect their own tradition. They should first familiarise themselves with their tradition, rather than before that, on the basis of their own ignorance, coming out with positions and decisions by which they define the idea of tradition."

One popular definition of tradition is that it is that set of practices that people engage in without knowing why. And imagine knowing why!


For the record

2004 Presidential election returns in the town where I live:

Kerry (D): 21,065 79%
Bush (R): 5,202 20%
Cobb (G): 137 1%
Badnarik (L): 129 0%

So Bush has about as much support in Brookline as Mesić has in Hercegovina.

Today's recommended interview

Aleksandar Popov, director of the Center for Regionalism in Novi Sad, discussing the Igman Intiative with Veliborka Staletović at One World.

Thank you for agreeing to be arrested

Today B92 is reporting that the Serbian government appears to be succeeding in its negotiations with ICTY indictee Sreten Lukić, and that he will agree to surrender for trial on charges laid by the Hague prosecutors.

What an interesting country, where high ranking officials go to great pains, after long political debate, to entice people charged with crimes to agree that it would be nice if they were to face trial. To clarify: the statute of the ICTY is a part of domestic law. Of course, this luxurious treatment only applies to people charged with major violations of international law. Minor offenders get arrested.


Are twits in power for genetic reasons?

This fellow is the president of Harvard University, which is an educational and research institution, where research is carried out that sometimes makes it possible for people to know what they are talking about. Unless, of course, the people in question are blissfully unacquainted with that research. That might be why Lawrence Summers decided to tell a conference on diversity in science and engineering that the reasons for the low representation of women in the area have to do with them being unwilling to work hard enough and not being biologically disposed to understand mathematics. No transcript is available, since Dr Summers apparently decided to blither off the cuff.

According to the New York Times, Dr Summers has two explanations for his concerted campaign to demolish the prestige of the institution which employs him. One is that "I wanted to add some provocation to what I understand to be basically a social science discussion," which he certainly did, demonstrating that provocation attracts a good deal more media attention than social science.

His other other explanation is "I'm sorry for any misunderstanding but believe that raising questions, discussing multiple factors that may explain a difficult problem, and seeking to understand how they interrelate is vitally important." But there is no misunderstanding: the conference participants may well have been raising questions, discussing factors and seeking to understand, but Dr Summers was not.

Also: Do take a peek at the responses by Prof. PZ Myers, by the pseudonymous Professor B, and by Matt Yglesias.

Albanian cuisine in Boston!

I ran across this completely by chance, but it seems that there is an Albanian restaurant in Boston! We have yet to try it, but Café Apollonia offers a full Albanian menu prepared by chef Marlon Hysi. It has positive reviews by the Boston Phoenix, the Boston Globe and CitySearch. I hope to be able to report back full agreement with the reviews in the very near future.

Sad update: After assiduous persuasion my family agreed to try Apollonia tonight. It was hard to get there because there was a terrible fire at a church in Jamaica Plain along the way. Any curious readers thinking of trekking to Roslindale to try what I am sure is an excellent place may want to know that they work every day except Tuesdays. I do promise a culinary report.


Prediction: Trouble for Koštunica, or not

If you have been following the news the past few days, you probably know that the United States is suspending economic aid to Serbia and Montenegro because of failure to apprehend and deliver indictees for the violation of international humanitarian law to the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague. The main political actors opposed to stepping up cooperation, aside from SRS and SPS which are directly complicit in the crimes for which charges have been filed, are: Prime minister Vojislav Koštunica, interior minister Dragan Jočić, and justice minister Zoran Stojković, all from DSS. The opposition DS of president Boris Tadić supports accelerated cooperation, as does federal president Svetozar Marović. Other supporters of accelerated cooperation include deputy premier Miroljub Labus (G17+) and foreign minister Vuk Drašković (SPO).

B92 quotes Mr Drašković today: "Slobodan Milošević, his generals, commanders and followers are a disgrace to our history and tradition. The transfer of indictees to the Hague is our moral and national obligation. The future of the people cannot be held hostage to a handful of indictees." Even people who disagree about the "disgrace" part are probably finding more reasons to agree about the "hostage" part.

Never mind the opposition parties. If the parties which are now in the government but oppose Mr Koštunica's approach were to withdraw from the governing coalition, it would force new elections to be called, and DSS would not win. Mr Tadić has invited the parties to do just that. What remains to be seen is how serious this invitation is, and how ready the people in power are to take the risk of losing it.

Update: Time to see whether G17+ is serious about anything. Blic is reporting that G17+ vice president Dušan Petrović is inviting his own party, SPO and Nova Srbija to withdraw from the governing coalition if DSS does not come forward with a policy in ten days. "Let them decide whether they accept that Serbia return to isolation or whether they will take measures to prevent it," the paper quotes Mr Petrović as saying. Correction: Mr Petrović is a vice president of DS. Makes more sense. Nova Srbija has already declared that they have no intention of withdrawing from Mr Koštunica's coalition, while SPO declares that their preferred resolution is not that they leave the government, but that DS enter it. So clearly a lot of options are in play, and much of it seems to depend on how receptive G17+ and SPO are likely to be to coordinating their activity with their sometime opponents in DS. The worst case scenario? All the centrist parties leave, and DSS stays in power with the support of SRS. Too disgusting to conceive of, you say? They already made a similar deal with SPS, which is how Mr Koštunica was able to form a government in the first place.

Update2: Have a look at Gordana Suša's commentary in Nezavisne novine.

Update3: Tomorrow's news today -- Danas is reporting from "circles close to the Serbian government" that the government has agreed with the State Department to arrest three generals indicted by ICTY if they do not appear voluntarily by 27 January. This is not the whole enchilada, but it is at least a bean. Either the coalition parties succeeded in pressuring DSS, or the whole conflict was a media spectacle. Or the "circles" are rolling out false information.

That periodic "housekeeping" post

Some new sites were added to the link list in the past week or so:

Canada foreign policy: Stan Markotich's analyses of world politics
Christopher Lydon: The works of America's best radio interviewer
David McCandless: Journalism and satire from the Guardian contributor
Heart of Europe: Nicholas Whyte on European politics and culture
Pastoralni kupus: Živciranje zbog glupih političara (35,89%)
Skelly Wright: Tribulations and trials of a public defender

A couple of others were removed from the list, not because I do not like them, but because now that the US elections are far behind, those sites which are primarily concerned with the Democratic party and its future are not so interesting, and probably will not be unless by some huge surprise the Democrats begin to show some signs of life. Basically the only sites that are remaining in the "US politics" section are ones that I actually read every day.

The "Balkan blogs" list continues to grow, but it remains thin in blogs from Serbia, Albania and Macedonia.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is, of course, the holiday on which Americans are supposed to remember and commemorate the contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr. The establishment of the holiday might have had the paradoxical consequence of neutralising Dr King, making him into a noncontroversial and consensual voštana figura. So it would not be a bad idea to become reacquainted with some of the things he actually had to say. His thoughts on the war in Vietnam, for example, have become timely once again.


First projections from Index

The first two exit polls show Stjepan Mesić with a commanding lead. Puls has Mesić at 70.85% and Kosor at 29.15%, while GfK has Mesić at 71% and Kosor at 25.5%. This is more variation between sources than I would need to consider either reliable. Also, the surveys were conducted only on RH territory, not BiH.

Update: Nobody wants to cast doubt on any results, of course. But B92 is reporting a result of 70.75% for Mesić, 39.15% for Kosor. Which adds to 109.9%, an incredible turnout by any measure!

Update2: GONG's first unofficial projection: Mesić 65.62%, Kosor 32.78%. The official results will have to be announced sometime in the next few hours, but this seems beyond the capacity of fraudulent results from Hercegovina to alter. Ratko Maček, campaign director for Kosor, says they would be happy with 35%.

Update3: Final result according to the Electoral commission, as reported by Index: Mesić 65.98%, Kosor 34.02%. On the territory of Croatia, Mesić won in all districts except Ličko-senjska, 47,24% to 52,76% and Šibensko-kninska, 49,70% to 50,30%. The vote was close in Splitsko-dalmatinska, 50,85% to 49,15%, but he won by large margins everywhere else in the country. The "diaspora" vote was hugely lopsided in the other direction, though, as Quod observes in the comments: 17,47% for Mesić, 82,53% for Kosor. There are clearly major differences between voters who live in Croatia and voters who do not over where the country's interest lies.

Update4: I do believe that I agree with the people who are saying that it would be good for both Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina to do away with the "diaspora vote." It came into being as a manifestation of Mr Tudjman's territorial ambitions and as a way of assuring a permanent reserve of votes for HDZ, and it is now a bastion of irresponsible influence and fraud.

Update5: It looks like Mr Mesić agrees with me, imagine that. Ordinarily he might not get far in wanting to eliminate the "diaspora vote," especially with HDZ in government, but there is the added factor that the EU wants uniform electoral laws.

Croatian presidential election

The first projections are promised any minute now by Index. In the meantime, turnout projections suggest that fewer people are voting than in the first round in Croatia, but more than in the first round in the "diaspora." Add to this the support that HDZ receives from its solid constituency among the deceased, and the results might have some surprises.

By the way, I keep citing Index, but there should also be results available from my dog's favorite television outlet, HRT.

Croatian journal of media research

Thanks to Piskarije for linking to this. Medijska istraživanja features articles on media, journalism, technology and rhetoric of media, with abstracts available for all and full text, even English translations, available for some. Their archive contains issues going back to 1995, and it is searchable.