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<nettime> ivogram x6: blame, extravagance, travel, croatia, and soros vs
Ivo Skoric on Fri, 19 Sep 2003 19:35:53 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> ivogram x6: blame, extravagance, travel, croatia, and soros vs shrub


     [digested  {AT}  nettime]

"Ivo Skoric" <ivo {AT} reporters.net>
     Blaming the Mirror
     Extravaganze
     Travel Report
     More from Croatia
     George Soros Funds Plan to Block Bush
     Croatian Economic Woes

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From: "Ivo Skoric" <ivo {AT} reporters.net>
Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2003 04:40:00 -0400
Subject: Blaming the Mirror

How best to answer the merchants of dismay who are against
our occupation in Iraq, asks William Safire? By staying the course 
and reporting our accomplishments, he concludes.

But is it prudent to stay the course? And what accomplishments are 
out there to be proudly reported? A country brought to chaos? Looted 
artifacts from museums? Daily deadly toll? Destroyed road, power, and 
water infrastructure? Reduction of the role of women to 'more 
appropriate' Arab-Muslim levels? Escalation of Israeli-Palestine 
conflict (that was supposed to abate in wake of Saddam's fall)? 
Having everybody hate you? 

Not a single drop of oil was extracted and exported from Iraq under 
the American occupation. There is no functioning, democraticaly 
elected government, and a couple of dozens quislings appointed by the 
occupiers have to be guarded 24/7.

He is talking of military victory, calling himself a realistic 
optimist. Optimist, maybe, but with no connection to reality. 138 
Americans died in the assault on Iraq. 149 died since Bush declared 
"the end of major hostilities"... US is mired in a guerilla 
insurgency of ex-saddamist plus the hodge-podge of suicidal islamist 
militant volunteers who are flocking to the place to fight the 
infidel. It is less of a victory than Nazi Germany had in France in 
1942...

One thing Bush is right - bringing the war to "them": it may be 
better that "they" flock to Iraq and kill US soldiers there, then 
that "they" come to the US and kill US civilians. But is that a 
victory?

Now, however, he asks for aditional $87B to continue his wars in 
Afghanistan and Iraq. That's on top of the present $4B/month spending 
on those wars, already approved by Congress (total of $79B).

US budget deficit is already larger than India's GDP. Now it will go 
to $600B. Where are the IMF and World Bank to rein them in, like they 
do with the 'lesser' countries?

Furthermore, Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat and 
presidential candidate,  said tonight on the CNN program "Larry King 
Live." "That's [$87B] more than the federal government will spend on 
education this year."

Again, is it really worth, in a long run, to stay such a course?

And that in the country (USA) where 35 million people - larger than 
the entire Iraqi population - already live in poverty. That's 12% of 
all Americans - a sad figure for a hyper-power. And what kind of 
shity empire is pushing its retirees to go shop for prescription 
medication in Mexico?

1.3 million more Americans fell into poverty last year  almost half 
of them children -- as government officials continue to 
simplistically trumpet the drop in the welfare caseload. That drop 
occured because under new rules less of the poor are eligible for aid 
-- so that government has more money to pay for waging wars in hard-
to-pronounce places, bringing more hate against the U.S., and 
requiring more police-state measures to protect domestic security 
from those haters.

It is a sadly vicious circle that may destroy the world's most 
revered democratic society.

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From: "Ivo Skoric" <ivo {AT} reporters.net>
Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2003 04:32:55 -0400
Subject: Extravaganze

After President Bush requested $87 billion more for war and
occupation, peace advocate, ice cream entrepreneur and Kucinich
supporter BEN COHEN (no relation) explained what America could
get for that amount of money: We could solve the school budget
crisis in every community in America.  Or we could provide health
insurance for every uninsured American child for 15 years.  Or
we could feed all 6 million children who die from hunger worldwide
for the next 7 years.

On the other hand, by giving that money to the military, we can just 
prolong the agony of an elephant trapped in the sand, because neither 
American troops nor Iraqis will have their quality of life improve as 
a result of this collosal throwing of money into the wind.

What's next? Selling off national parks? That look increasingly like 
what Eastern European post-communist governments do: sell their 
national treasures to meet the budget...

ivo

ps - $87B is slightly more than annual GDP of Colombia, and slightly 
less than annual GDP of Malaysia.... ...Bush is talking about it like 
this is some sort of pocket money, and Congress is prepared to shell 
it over to him like it is his birthright...

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From: "Ivo Skoric" <ivo {AT} reporters.net>
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 2003 17:50:14 -0400
Subject: Travel Report

Living in relatively poor, unattended places like Montenegro, or, 
even, Croatia, has its disadvantages, but it also has its advantages.

Ok, there is food delivery, now, but there are still no decent, 
covered, paper cups for coffee to-go even in Zagreb, and they charge 
you for plastic bags in supermarket, but, on the bright side, 
Internet access is not tied to your credit card, you can rent a car 
without much hassle, and, while cannabis is just four times cheaper 
than in the States, dentist, doing perfectly legal job, is whooping 
ten (10) times cheaper, and in Montenegro you can get a pack of 
antibiotics, over the counter, for about $2.

So, I am thinking about dental/medical tourism for American seniors. 
Visit-Dubrovnik-and-get-your-teeth-done package for a price of two 
crowns in New York city, plus get all the medicine you need shipped 
over from Montenegro.

In Zadar, I rented a car from Rino Rent-A-Car. That was the easiest 
car rental in my life. I gave cash to the dude, the dude passed me 
the car keys. He never asked for any stupid major credit card. He 
never even asked to see my driver's license, now that I reckon. 
Likewise, the car came with no papers. But it was a brand new small 
Fiat, that took me where I wanted, when I wanted.

True, I could have taken the car to Montenegro and sell it for 2000 
Euros, making good profit. But that kind of thinking eventually drove 
U.S. to become the nation of control freaks, where everything has to 
go through papers, and insurance companies, and major credit cards, 
and background checks. So, I didn't want to introduce that evil into 
the pristine new market economy. I called the dude on his cell-phone 
when I said I would do, and I returned the car to him.

I am still in awe how in such places people still use common sense, 
instead of rules, guidelines, and terms, to solve the life's little 
annoyances. Things can be agreed upon ad hoc. People - officials, 
officers, salespersons, customer relations people - seem to be ready 
to act corresponding to the individual situation, rather than parrot 
the instruction manual. Here, there is still the enthusiasm of 
dwellers in the young society that like to see things happen.

The Westernization (which is a combination of long working hours, 
small wages, no benefits, adherence to rigid standards of conduct) 
will eventually kill that and make bored employees who can't wait to 
go home, and whose only allowed small pleasure is to say 'no, that 
can't be done, didn't you read the terms of agreement, sir?...'

So, that the entire world maybe not exactly looks like, but, at least 
feels like the big U.S. corporation. To get a little taste of 'how 
does that feel' I offer this story as an example.

Take the Chase bank - large corporate entity that makes a living of 
your money. As it was suggested to him, by bank's representatives, a 
customer has opened two linked accounts: one higher-interest bearing 
money-market, and another checking. All his withdrawals are posted to 
checking. If the checking is close to zero, the customer is supposed 
to deposit money or transfer it from the money-market.

Now, why wouldn't the transfer be automatic? The checking balance is 
close to zero, money is automatically transferred from money-market. 
But it doesn't work that way. That's not in the terms of agreement. 
Because, it is not in the bank's interest. Of course, that would be 
better for customer. But who gives a fuck about customer! How else 
would rich become even richer?

In bank's interest is to set up a trap - making the customer open the 
two accounts in the first place, then patiently wait - large, rich 
corporations have all the time they need to be patient with their 
prey - for customer to be busy traveling abroad and forget to 
transfer money. Then when the checks come to be paid, and there is no 
money in checking - that's where the bank makes a killing with the 
insufficient funds fees.

By the time hapless customer finds out, his checking account is a 
couple of thousand dollars in red, and he is rushing to transfer 
money to cover that, usually forgetting to ask: why exactly does he 
pay so much money to the bank only to have it work with his money?! 
Why do not they warn their customers before they charge insufficient 
funds fees? Why money between linked accounts is not transferred 
automatically? Why U.S. interest rates on savings are the smallest on 
the planet, while simultaneously the interest rates on credit are the 
highest?

Then, take the AT&T Business, an Internet service provider, that ties 
its service to your credit card, and whose customer service 
representatives even outright refuse to give you their legal postal 
address when you ask them for: without any compassion they would tell 
you that by accepting to use their service you gave them the right to 
revoke your service at any time, if your credit card denies their 
charge, with them having no obligation to notify you of such their 
intention by any means.

In other words - you may be in the middle of traveling overseas, in 
some country with underdeveloped telephony, in dire need of internet 
access, and they can simply pull the plug on you, because your credit 
card, for whatever reason, denied their charge. Earthlink, at least, 
sends you an email notice about the credit card problem, so you can 
act upon it. AT&T revokes your service and makes you call them in the 
U.S., go through the 'press 3, press 8' voice-mail maze, to argue 
about it. So, if you happen to have only a rotary telephone at the 
place you are, you are in deep trouble.

Then, they have the gall to say that all of that is your fault under 
the terms of agreement that you accepted by dialing their service. 
Well, sorry, folks. I think you are rude sons of the bitches, and I 
think nobody should use your service under those terms. I, certainly, 
will not ever any more. You just lost a customer, forever.

Compared to this sophisticated, legal, cold, polite torture of small 
and weak, Croatia is still naive and innocent. It is actually only in 
the places where the foreign owner came, that those things slowly 
change. To worse, of course.

-/- 

Garbage disposal is one of the principal problems of the Adriatic 
coast. When Croatian-American industrialist Maglica (of Maglite 
flashlights) came to his birth-town Zlarin, he had the same 
impression, and, being an entrepreneur, built immediately a waste-
processing plant, that some grumpy townspeople greeted with 'why 
didn't he better build a casino?'

Maybe Montenegro needs one Maglica, too. As I wrote previously, lack 
of containers, bad habits, unrepaired sewer lines damaged by 
earthquake, make Montenegro's garbage problem less of a tourism 
issue, and, unfortunately, more of a health issue. After all, I did 
get a diarrhea, like I was visiting some sub-Saharan country. (I flew 
from Montenegro to Slovenia, and hiked Kamnicko Sedlo completely 
dehydrated, so when I reached the peak all puffing and panting, two 
older Slovenian gentlemen, asked me in surprise that why was I, a 
youngster, so exhausted. I explained them my misfortune. Laughingly, 
they told me that in Montenegro I should have drunk 'schnapps' - not 
water...).

It is true that the international community understands that 
Montenegro has a waste problem - USAID just recently donated a brand 
new garbage truck to Ulcinj. What I am not sure is whether the locals 
understand that they have a problem. There are no signs warning 
people not to throw garbage everywhere. There is severe shortage of 
containers. Maybe a model from New York and Ljubljana may be applied 
to Montenegro. 

New York has "Ready-Willing-Able" organization that employs homeless 
and poor on cleaning up streets. Ljubljana gives part-time jobs to 
students to keep the city center clean - maybe USAID can help 
Podgorica do the same. Just the sight of them would work miracles on 
the habits of the rest of the population, I think. Montenegrin 
environmentalist NGO-s organize clean-ups of canyons (Tara, Zeta), 
which is also underfunded.

This year, Croatian coast actually looks excellent regarding the 
garbage problem. Unlike in Montenegro, there is enough containers, 
and signs warning about forest fires, and prohibiting throwing 
garbage, are everywhere. Still, for a Mediterranean country with 
hundreds of forested islands, exposed to the danger of fire during 
the long, hot, dry summer days, it is alarming that Croatia has only 
two (2) operating Canadair firefighting planes.

With Forest fires, too, it is better situation in Croatia than in 
Montenegro: presence of warning signs, and less dry and less hot 
climate - still daily acres of forests are lost to fire in Dalmatia 
(nearly entire pine forest on the far-west island of Bisevo burned 
this summer; I hiked to the top of burned landscape, retracing the 
prime minister Racan's Land Rover's tracks - it is a sad picture). 
Encouragingly, an NGO is just established in Zagreb, which goals are 
to raise money to buy more fire-fighting airplanes.

Some say this is the "mentality" issue: fires are treated as 
someone's else problem, something that state, or higher powers are 
expected to take care off - in Dalmatia there is little or no local 
organizing on fire prevention and fire fighting - contrasting that, 
in North Croatia, with far less forest fires danger, benefitting the 
tradition they share with Slovenia, Austria, and Bavaria, every 
little hamlet has a volunteer fire-fighting squadron.

-/-

Here are some of my on-the-road impressions about Croatia:

Everybody seems to sit in cafes all day long sipping coffee and 
talking deals, particularly in Dalmatia. I am still trying to find 
who is actually doing the lifting.

One reason is that it is cheap to sit in cafes, twice as cheap then 
in New York. The other reason is that unemployment is high, well in 
the double digits.

To eat out is also reasonably cheap with most places being around $10 
for a dinner, and the range is roughly $5-$30. It is cheap to be an 
American in Croatia, kind of like being an American in New Zealand. 
But it is not cheap to be a Croatian. As a gym trainer in New York, 
I'd make at least $9/hour, in Queenstown $6/hour, but in Zagreb, with 
prices comparable to Queenstown, I'd make $3/hour (17 kuna). Average 
Croatian barely makes the end meet.

There is enormous natural and historic treasure but - except for 
Dubrovnik - not very enormous tourist offerings - it is always all 
about FOOD and LODGING.

There is not much to be seen between Zagreb and the coast, except 
empty prairie, where my friend wants to raise bisons. The disaster of 
abandoned hinterland - both Croats and Serbs just left their homes, 
at each others gunpoint, and nobody ever returned back there.

More surprisingly, I found tons of abandoned housing - literally, 
whole villages - in South Dalmatia and on islands, where there was no 
war. How did that happen, then? People left to America and Australia 
a long time ago, and in many cases the real owners are hard to trace.

On the other hand, unlike the brick houses in Lika and Krajina, those 
houses are built of stone, and will last forever. Some of them are 
already hundred years old, and completely habitable with minor 
repairs (roof, windows). It is already becoming a trend among 
Croatia's younger generation of professionals, artists,  'rich & 
famous', and even alternative community to move to the coast and live 
in such a place.

With Internet (which comes in the package with telephone service), 
ubiquitous GSM mobile service (you can even pay a parking meter by a 
cell-phone in Zagreb), and newly built highway through Velebit, 
Croatia reaches level of connectivity, where it is possible to live 
outside of Zagreb, and still be there within 3 hours, if necessary, 
from most places.

The trend is also picked up by the foreigners: BBC reported that 
Brits bought 300 such houses in South Dalmatia. Buyers are also from 
Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Russia. At 30-50 
thousand Euro, those places are still a bargain, although they need 
work, and are sometimes hard to get to.

One of the heaviest polluters in old Yugoslavia, smelter in Omis, is 
closed down, and abandoned. This happened to many other heavy 
industry plants. Besides empty houses, Croatia became a land of empty 
factories. While this is a victory for environment, there is very 
little today being 'Made in Croatia.'

The war and post-war trauma is much more felt in Zadar region than in 
Split or Dubrovnik region. There are still houses damaged by war on 
outskirts of Zadar. And people when they talk about war, they talk 
like it was yesterday. In Split they talk about it like it was 
decades ago.

Old Yugoslav Army military barracks in Zadar center are leveled and 
apartment buildings are freshly built from the rubble. A large 
picture of general Ante Gotovina greets tourists at the entrance to 
the old walled city, saying "Not a criminal, but a war hero!"

Pakostane, with the name sounding like Pakistan, located about 20 km 
South from Zadar, Gotovina's hometown, and the place where he is most 
probably hiding, is a drape, greyish township, peppered with graffiti 
in support of 'our general,' with a big auto-camp, patronized mostly 
by Czechs.  

The town has no ATM, copy machine, or a bus station. But, remember, 
you can rent a car without a credit card and driver's license, and it 
has a mean, well equipped gym (Fortius) with entire line of new 
machines, which are Made in Croatia (v-gym.com). I guess, the general 
likes to stay fit.

Somewhere at my trip I learned that B92 in Belgrade has been 
privatized. Privatization is now going on in Serbia-Montenegro. It is 
already successfully concluded in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-
Hercegovina. As a result some people became very rich, while most of 
them stayed poor, ore became even poorer. The story of privatization, 
Balkan way, consists of: converting executive positions into 
ownership rights, selling those rights for hard currency, 
establishing competing companies, and living of the land... 
...everything works that way: customs, police, and port authorities 
included - there is a very thin line between public and private in 
all of the Balkans, including the parts of it that hate being 
included in it.

Croatia is a small country that Pope Woytila visited more than any 
other country in the world - even more than his home country Poland. 
Churches are everywhere. They are all nicely renovated, lighted up 
during night, and many new ones are built or under construction. 
Catholic church argues for even larger role in the society, complains 
about loss of its lands under communism, and plans the acquisition of 
Croatia's largest insurance company. Croatia is the only place in the 
world where all philosophy graduates have a job: because they can 
teach catechism in schools. 

But, the same is in Slovenia. The two countries are united in Christ, 
one may say. During my expedition in Kamnik Alps, I stayed at the 
beekeepers home in Lukovica, which is located very close to the 
church tower. I could barely sleep from the bells. This becomes an 
often complaint by the denizens of small townships in Croatia and 
Slovenia: noise pollution by the church. Feral Tribune recently 
reported on a group of artists-activists that broke into one church 
in Istria and muzzled  the bells with blankets and - boxing gloves.

-/-

If Slovenian and Croatian societies are so similar, what then is the 
recent rift about?

On surface, Slovenia-Croatia fake cold war is about a non-existing 
Slovenian maritime right, and an empty Croatian promise, given 
opportunistically for reasons of foreign policy, that is broken, now, 
to satisfy domestic political concerns. There is no real rift - it is 
just a series of gaffes by two politicians not up to their roles - 
Slovenian foreign minister Rupel and Croatian prime minister Racan: 
Racan gives promises that he cannot keep, and Rupel issues threats 
that he cannot deliver upon. German ambassador in Zagreb said that he 
was very surprised that a not-yet-member of EU - Slovenia - already 
threatens not to support Croatia's application for the EU.

In the middle there is the hysteria about so-called Euro-Atlantic 
integrations (E-A-I): stubborn belief in all post-Yugoslav societies 
that all their problems will be solved once their little countries 
are 'accepted' in the big-boys clubs, and the terrible consequences 
of that dependency: expecting handouts, expecting an umpire, local 
politicians giving statements to please foreigners while disregarding 
their own electorate. 

Racan promised Slovenia sea, that Slovenia does not have, because he 
probably hoped such obsequiousness would please Europe, just like 
Tudjman once believed that pushing his country into the Enron electro-
servitude would please US into supporting Croatia's 'E-A-I'. Now, as 
he failed to dig up a wider Piran bay to accommodate that promise, he 
rescinded it under the pressure of his parliament. Rupel called foul 
and, offended, cried uncle to Europe to rule. Europe, annoyed, 
nervously quipped: "knock it off, guys." 

Deeper, there is a reality of natural geo-political rivalry between 
Zagreb and Slovenia, a 1.2M city and a 2.2M country. While others 
were at war, destroying that meager infrastructure built during 
communist Yugoslavia, Slovenia was busy building roads - and that 
shows: Slovenia looks pretty much like Germany. Of course, Slovenes 
will be quick to point out that they had 10 days of war, and that 80 
people died in it. But, economically, this is peanuts compared to the 
calvary through which Croatia, Serbia-Montenegro, and, particularly, 
Bosnia went.

So, there is a sense of bitterness among other Southern Slavs, that 
their Slovenian neighbor's cow is not dead, while their cows died. 
Zagreb rightfully demands from Ljubljanska Banka to pay what it owes 
to Croats who had savings accounts at it before the bank defaulted 
(and decided to pay off Slovenian customers, and large, but not 
small, Croatian ones). There is also a rift about undelivered but 
paid for electricity from the only former-Yugoslav nuclear power 
plant, situated at Krsko - in Slovenia - but mostly providing power 
for Croatian capital, Zagreb.

As Clinton used to say, it is always about economy. And right now all 
the economy talk in the region is about the corridors - routes 
through which the large trucks will carry their goods between Ukraine 
and Adriatic, and between Middle East and Western Europe. All Balkan 
countries are literally obsessed with corridors. In seventies most of 
the cargo was trucked from Istambul over Thessalonike, through former 
Yugoslavia (a two-lane Skopje-Nis-Belgrade-Zagreb-Ljubljana-West 
highway from hell), because former Yugoslavia was a 'free country' - 
well, at least, compared to Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.

With the war and collapse of former Yugoslavia, the post-Yugoslav 
societies lost that trade route to meanwhile emerged democratic 
Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. Sadly, the six-lane motorway called 
naively "Brotherhood and Unity", was finally finished only after 
there was no more brotherhood, no more unity, and, also, no more real 
need for it, with all cargo being trucked elsewhere. Now the race is 
to fill the corridor Ukraine-Portugal. It can go from Hungary to 
Italy via Ljubljana, or it can go via Zagreb and Rijeka. 
Historically, Slovenia was a nicely manicured province of Austria, 
with no large cities, but rather with a good infrastructure of small 
towns, serving as Vienna's "downstate".

This architecture helped Slovenia become the best developed part of 
former Yugoslavia, and most ideologically prepared to jump train, 
when it became necessary to do so. However, the regional Austro-
Hungarian center for the Balkans always was Zagreb. And its economy 
was the only to rival Slovenia's in former Yugoslavia. With the war 
costs, Zagreb fell behind, and one can still find Gorenje's 
refrigerators and stoves in Montenegro, but no Koncar's (Gorenje is 
Slovenian company, Koncar is based in Zagreb). With foreign 
investment, Zagreb, however, is quickly regaining its importance as a 
regional hub, and the largest city between Vienna, Venice, Budapest, 
and Belgrade.

This is what makes Slovenia and Zagreb natural rivals for the same 
position. In the matters of the said corridor, Slovenia has an 
advantage, because the route through it is shorter. But the route 
through Croatia would offer closer contact to the Southern Balkans 
markets (Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbia-Montenegro), and, more 
importantly, access to the Adriatic - the one that Slovenia wants to 
get. Currently, neither Zagreb-Rijeka, nor Zagreb-Split highways are 
completed yet (while Maribor-Kopar in Slovenia is). The most 
difficult portion of the highway between Zagreb and Dalmatia is, 
however, done: the Sv. Rok tunnel through Velebit and the serpentine 
approach to it. Meanwhile, highway to Rijeka is mired in bad decision 
making: environmentalists from Open Circle oppose 16km highway around 
Rijeka - it goes through sensitive waterbed area, and - it also costs 
2x as much to build it, than the alternative route. 

Another participant in the highway wars joined up: Budapest-Osijek-
Sarajevo-Ploce highway. This would cross the Belgrade-Zagreb highway, 
making a use of its connection to the West, and with Belgrade, while 
exiting on Adriatic South enough to be able to serve Split, Dubrovnik 
and Montenegrin coast. It would also provide badly needed 
infrastructure to Bosnia, and revitalize otherwise underused Croatian 
port in Ploce. Alas, there is already a rift between Croats and 
Bosnians about who should build it. Croatia offered to build the 
entire portion Osijek-Ploce, while Bosnian ministry of transportation 
assigned building of Bosnian portion of the highway to Bosmal 
(Bosnian-Malaysian construction company), telling Croats to rather 
take care of their own highways.

-/-

Non-governmental sector in Croatia and wider region is going to be 
hit very hard by several future developments:

Open Society is closing its doors in Croatia in a year, shutting down 
their grant-giving and leaving a lot of small NGO-s without funding. -
 for a summary of their presence they will offer a benchmark study of 
whether Croatia so far attained various goals of openness; the study 
will not play a role in EU acceptance, but OSI sure hopes to leave a 
mark. Some activists would make a remark that OSI already left a 
mark: disunited, nervous, dependent, inert, expecting, and hungry, 
local NGO community, that lost its grassroots origins. This feels 
less to be the case in Croatia, than in Slovenia. Maybe, because in 
Croatia, without OSI, there would not be any NGO community left after 
the Tudjman era.  

There will be an availability of EU support in pre-acceptance period 
under Stability Pact for various ngo activities developing better 
trans-regional cooperation (in the jargon: "trans-frontier 
cooperation") between communities, reconciliation, similar to the 
current East-West Institute micro-project Trebinje-Dubrovnik-
Hercegnovi promoting anti-drug use programs among teens.

That "micro-project" is worth .5 million Euros, and it went to a US-
based NGO, that takes 20% overhead. That's because EU grants are 
notoriously hard to get - requiring huge, dedicated, costly 
bureaucracy to prepare the proposal, and deal with reporting, a 
hurdle that Croatian NGO-s will have to jump if they want to survive.

Also, besides government sponsored activities, there is very little 
work being done (and much needs to be done) with carriers of 
violence, war veterans, persons suffering from PTSD, and their 
children. Number of people, that were involved in the war, as 
percentage of the society as whole in Croatia (and Bosnia-Hercegovina 
and Serbia-Montenegro), is much larger (~10x) than it was in the US 
after the Vietnam war, yet there is scarcity of projects in that 
area. 

With Bosnia-Hercegovina still not functioning as a single state, 
there is little that the officials there think about such marginal 
problems. Serbia-Montenegro still largely did not come on terms with 
them starting and losing a couple of wars. As the Vietnam syndrome 
shows, the PTSD is likely to be the biggest problem in Serbia, the 
loser society. Croatia, as a winner, has the opposite problem: they 
are simply too much in love with their victory to recognize that war, 
any war, is always a bad choice. 

Violent patterns of behavior learned in war may be easily inherited 
by children, creating a more violent society, and making it possible 
for the cycle of violence to repeat AGAIN: that's how people in the 
Balkans never unlearn to 'solve' their problems using violent means, 
and they are at war every 50 years, for thousand years.

And on trans-frontier reconciliation between people who were involved 
in fighting I found only one project in the entire region: Quaker 
Peace & Social Witness Representative in Post Yugoslav Countries 
brought to my attention "Four Views" by Center for Non-Violent Action 
Belgrade-Sarajevo (www.nenasilje.org). CNA organized a series of 
moderated lectures in Bosnia and Serbia featuring a dialogue between 
four veterans, some of whom had been unwilling conscripts, and some 
who were fiery volunteers, from various post-Yugoslav entities 
(Serbia-Montenegro, Republika Srpska, Bosnian-Croat Federation, 
Republic of Croatia) under the motto: "How did I end up in the war? 
How can we build the lasting peace?"

Meanwhile, curiously, of all ministries, the over-bureaucratized 
Croatian government has, it will shut down the Veteran Ministry 
coming this fall. While Croatia definitely has too many Ministries, 
ministers, and politicians altogether, interestingly, it never 
occurred to the US to close down the Veteran Administration, and 
Croatia will do just that, less than a decade after the war. This 
move will sure ad strain to the non-governmental community dealing 
with the war's aftermath.

Naturally, the veteran and the PTSD problems are tenfold worse in 
Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbia-Montenegro, with more people involved, 
and there is even less interest to confront them there. Montenegrin 
way is to let them drink and drive mad on roads, and hopefully kill 
themselves in the process.

-/-

One off-hand thing that I noticed, the post-Yugoslav societies may be 
improved by imports from the U.S. is: there is no sports-drinks on US 
scale anywhere in Europe (not even in Germany!). Europe still stands 
to be conquered by the gargantuan US sports-drinks industry. Here 
there is only Red Bull and its imitations: carbonated sugar drinks 
with caffeine and taurine. There are no non-carbonated drinks with 
taurine in re-closeable containers (like Sobe Power). And there are 
no drinks with ephedra, carnitine, yohimbe, androstenedione, 
chromium, and other creative combinations of various stimulants 
available on the US market. Ok, a Croatian company just started 
selling a drink with carnitine, but you can find it only in the gyms.

Ivo

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From: "Ivo Skoric" <ivo {AT} reporters.net>
Date: Sat, 13 Sep 2003 18:47:45 -0400
Subject: More from Croatia

More business opportunities in Croatia: Mail-Boxes, Etc.

Something that every business in the US takes for granted - having 
P.O. Box as a business address - is unknown of in Croatia. That of 
course is an obstacle to smaller businesses that cannot  pay for a 
physical office address in the sellers market of the Croatia's office 
real estate short on space.

Postal service does not rent P.O. Boxes. They simply did not realize 
the potential of revenue there. They will, though, offer to larger 
businesses that receive over 30 pieces of mail daily a service to 
keep that mail for them in a sort of a box. They are making a small 
savings on not having to deliver that mail. Unbelievable, but nice, 
they offer this service free of charge.

Croatia is ripe for private mail-boxes service, that would offer mail 
forwarding and similar advanced stuff.

-/-

Croatia's Defeating Demographics:
1.3 million people in Croatia works (~30%), 10% of population is with 
war-related disabilities, >14% is unemployed (now they started 
counting all part-timers as 'employed', like the U.S. does, to bring 
the ugly statistics down), and there are 600 thousands kids in school 
(~15%)
=
there is not enough people working to feed all the people not 
working.

Current Bleak Solutions:
1) Exorbitant sales tax (PDV) of 22% (New York city has 8.25% for 
comparison) - more than 1/5 of the price of ANYTHING that you buy in 
Croatia goes to the state. This feeds the elderly, pays for the 
schools, provides for the disabled veterans, but this also kills the 
economy. 
2) Consumer debt: Croatia is full of new banks holding nice Croatian 
names like Erste, Hypo, Vereinte, etc. Their foreign owners stoked 
them with capital realizing the potential of Croatia'e emerging 
market. They extended that capital to consumers, via credit cards and 
loans. Banks, of course, hope to make a killing with high interest 
rates. So far, however, they just created enormous consumer debt 
(which amounts to about the half of the country's $20B debt, which is 
already larger than former Yugoslavia's was before the war). And some 
people already balked under the burden of monthly payments, so just 
recently Croatia established the debtors registry. Eventually, if 
Croatian economy does not pick up (salaries are 3 times smaller than 
in EU, while the prices are at the same level, and everybody wants to 
have everything) to match the spending habits, a massive wave of 
individual bankruptcies may occur, defaulting some of the banks, and 
forcing the devaluation of the currency, and other maladies, perhaps 
even EU, IMF and other sanctions.

-/-

Croatian War on Drugs:

Croatia became a land of non-governmental not-for-profit 
organizations. This makes it a politically vibrant society. This is 
also a very neat way to avoid paying 22% sales tax on a laptop. Even 
better, some NGO-s are recognized as being of public importance, 
hence they are funded by a special governmental fund for non-
governmental organizations (i.e. from the 22% others pay), an 
oxymoron Made in Croatia.

Perfect example for that is the drug rehab Commune lead by Sister 
Bernardica, an ex-nun who cashed on parental fears and political 
connections. She established a well managed total abstinence (with 
work and prayer) long term program that works fine for about 60 
people annually. She gets nearly 400,000 Euros for that a year. Her 
converts and her are the most vocal proponents of the zero-drug-
tolerance, mandatory workplace and school students drug testing, and 
no alternative therapy to the 'oro et laboro' approach she started.

Despite the disgust among urban intelligentsia, and some sarcasm in 
the law enforcement community, her program enjoys multi-partisan 
support from left to right of the political spectrum (there is a 
total of 84 political parties in Croatia; 7 of them have seats in 
Sabor [parliament]). The same as in the U.S., conservative Parents 
Anti-Drug lobbies are very strong, and politicians are terrified to 
appear soft on drugs. So the Drug Tzsar, Sakoman, a psychiatrist that 
specializes in addiction, who managed/manages 1600 addicts a year on 
30,000 Euros, fell out of favor, advocating methadone therapy.

There is a danger of awarding to one program such an un-proportionate 
amount of money, particularly if there really is political agenda 
behind the program. Why waste so much tax-payers money on a don-
quixotic crusade?

-/-

But, with all its obvious shortcomings, Croatia is becoming a 
favorite destination to relocate for surprisingly many people.

I have a friend who came back to live in Croatia with an American 
wife. Another came back with a Japanese wife. In Zadar I met a 
married couple, he a Croatian, she an American citizen. Instead of 
him getting his American citizenship through her, she is getting her 
Croatian through him. What an upside-down place the world have 
become.

A Norwegian guy, conscientious objector, came to Croatia, after 
refusing to serve even in civil service in Norway. They told him that 
he may get arrested if he comes back. He returned his Norwegian 
passport to the consulate in Zagreb. Eventually, he got a German 
passport through his father. The interesting, anecdotal, detail is 
that the German passport lists his address in Zagreb.

Cynics may say that it is not surprising that Germans consider Zagreb 
as a German province. After all, 95% of Croatian financial 
institutions are owned by foreign banks, most of them Austrian, which 
in turn are owned mostly by German, Bavarian banks. 

Ivo

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From: "Ivo Skoric" <ivo {AT} reporters.net>
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2003 04:54:00 -0400
Subject: George Soros Funds Plan to Block Bush

Open Society closes shop in Russia and opens up in the U.S. Soros 
signals that democracy is now more in danger in America than in 
Russia. Unforrtunately, Soros was rich enough to counter Eastern-
European thuggish leaders, but his wealth is no match for Bushes. 
Yet, he is a hedge-master...

ivo
------- Forwarded message follows -------
              ''The Soros initiative should gain support as the
               situation in Iraq worsens, and as the public becomes
               more aware that President Bush took us to war based on
               false information about Iraq's weaponry and about its
               connection to terrorist groups."

'Open Society' Advocate George Soros Funds Plan to Block Bush
  --------------------------------------------------------------------

  --------------------------------

Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service (IPS)

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 12 (IPS) -- George Soros, most often described as
a billionaire philanthropist, once shared some of the political 
values
of U.S. President George W. Bush . For example, they both wanted
''regime change'' in Iraq  . Now Soros has made a full political
circle: he wants to see a ''regime change'' in the United States.

Soros has also been gunning for Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Libya's
Muammar el-Qaddafi, Burma's Gen Than Shwe and Turkmenistan's
president-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov.

A long-time pro-democracy advocate and a sometimes currency
speculator, Soros is openly backing a non-governmental initiative
called 'Americans Coming Together' (ACT) aimed at stopping Bush in 
his
bid for a second term as president of the United States.

ACT is planning to spend about $75 million to mobilize U.S. voters to
defeat Bush in the next presidential elections in November 2004.

Described as a counter-cultural investor whose net worth is more than
$five billion, Soros has already contributed about $10 million to the
anti-Bush campaign.

Six other philanthropists have chipped in a total of about $12
million, while $8 million has been contributed by trade unions.

Soros, who is chairman of the Open Society Institute (OSI) which
promotes multi-party democracy worldwide, thinks that Bush and his
aggressive unilateral foreign policy is doing more harm than good to
the United States.

He also believes the president has neither the intellectual capacity
nor the political prowess to guide the United States on a sound
foreign policy course.

Bush's policies are bound to be wrong ''because they are based on a
false ideology'', he told students last month in a commencement
address at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
in Washington.

He sees striking similarities between the U.S. president and Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites), both of whom believe
in military power to achieve their political objectives.

The idea that might is right, advocated by both leaders, cannot be
reconciled with the idea of an open society, Soros told the students.

A strong advocate of the concept of an ''open society,'' he argues
that neo-conservatives in the Bush administration have made a mockery
of the values of freedom and democracy--all in the name of fighting
terrorism.

The battle against terrorism, he says, cannot be accepted as the
guiding principle of U.S. foreign policy, and Soros wants Washington
to play a more constructive role in the progress of humanity.

''What will happen to the world if the most powerful country on
earth--the one that sets the agenda--is solely preoccupied with
self-preservation?'' he asked.

''Acting as the leader of a global open society will not protect the
United States from terrorist attacks,'' he warned, ''but by playing a
constructive role, we can regain the respect and support of the 
world,
and this will make the task of fighting terrorism easier.''

While he favored the removal of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein (news -

web sites), Soros thinks that one of Bush's biggest foreign policy
debacles is the war on Iraq.

He has pooh-poohed the idea that the Bush administration is fostering
democracy by invading and occupying the Middle East nation.

''Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside,'' he argues. ''I have
been actively involved in building open societies in a number of
countries through my network of foundations. Speaking from 
experience,
I would never choose Iraq for nation building,'' he added.

Soros says his primary aim in getting involved with ACT is to 
mobilize
civil society and convince people to go to the polls next year ''and
vote for candidates who will reassert the values of the greatest open
society in the world.''

The anti-Bush campaign is gathering support from anti-war groups,
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academics.

''The Soros initiative should gain support as the situation in Iraq
worsens, and as the public becomes more aware that President Bush 
took
us to war based on false information about Iraq's weaponry and about
its connection to terrorist groups,'' John Quigley, professor of law
at Ohio State University, told IPS.

''A president who initiates war on such (false) premises should not 
be
re-elected,'' Quigley added.

''There is no question that if you really look at the deeper 
situation
(about the Bush administration), George Soros is right,'' says Rob
Wheeler, organizer of the United for Peace Coalition and U.N.
Representative of the Association of World Citizens.

''The president and his administration is surely leading the country
in a 'false and dangerous situation' and they must be stopped,'' he
told IPS.

''The question is, really, what issues ACT will focus on and how 
tough
they will be on the president,'' he added.

The Hungarian-born Soros says he is not backing any candidate for the
U.S. presidency.

Besides Bush, Soros also targets U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft
(news - web sites), author of the Patriot Act, a highly controversial
law that has restricted civil liberties in the guise of fighting
terrorism.

Anyone who opposes the Patriot Act, says Ashcroft, is giving aid and
comfort to the enemy. Ashcroft's remarks have prompted a rejoinder
from Soros: ''These are views of extremists, not adherents to an open
society.''

A graduate of the London School of Economics, Soros says one of his
political pursuits was to defeat communism and transform former 
closed
societies in the Soviet Union into open societies.

Last week, he closed down his operations in Russia, where he spent
over $1 billion promoting democracy in a country that was the cradle
of communism. Russia, he said, had weathered all its crises, and 
needs
no outside support to survive.

Still, the OSI is known to spend over $450 million annually to create
open societies in several developing nations and Eastern European
countries.

Ironically, although his anti-Bush campaign has strong supporters in
the current U.S. anti-war movement, Soros is still vilified by
anti-globalization groups, who criticize him for his strong advocacy
of free market economies and the global capitalist system.

As a currency trader, he is accused of making his fortune by
manipulating markets, mostly in developing countries. He is said to
have made one billion dollars on a single day by speculating on the
British pound.

In an article in Covert Action Quarterly last year, Heather Cotton
said that Soros' foundations and financial machinations are partly
responsible for the destruction of socialism in Eastern Europe and 
the
former Soviet Union.

''He has set his sights on China. He was part of the full court press
that dismantled Yugoslavia,'' she writes.

Soros' role, she said, is to tighten the stranglehold of 
globalization
and the ''New World Order'' while promoting his own financial gain.

Cotton writes that while anti-globalization forces were freezing in
the streets outside New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel in February 
2002,
Soros was inside addressing the World Economic Forum (news - web
sites), the traditional platform for the world's economic elites.

''As the police forced protesters into metal cages on Park Avenue,
Soros was extolling the virtues of the 'open society.'"

As chairman of Soros Fund Management, Soros built a huge fortune
doubling as a speculator in international currency and financial
markets.

He has been accused of profiting unfairly in foreign markets,
including developing country markets such as Thailand, and was
lambasted by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for currency
speculation that contributed to the 1997 Asian economic crisis.

At a meeting at the University of Pennsylvania, Soros was asked how 
he
reconciles his two roles in life: philanthropist and ruthless
speculator.

Pleading innocence, he said the cash crises he has been blamed for
were really caused by government policies, not his speculative
actions. ''I was used as a scapegoat for government actions,'' he
added, pointing out that he is known in China as ''the crocodile.''

--
______________________________________________________________________
_______________ There are no unconquerable fortresses. There are only
bad conquerors.

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From: "Ivo Skoric" <ivo {AT} reporters.net>
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2003 04:54:02 -0400
Subject: Croatian Economic Woes

Further disincentives to development of Croatian economy: 
On top of previously mentioned sky-high sales tax, and large consumer 
debt - are high rents, and the decision of Croatia's National Bank 
not to approve loans for venture capital and business investment.

Real and artificial shortage of rental space is endemic to post-
communist societies. This drives rents high. Or the rent is set high 
an the space is kept empty until somebody is willing to pay. 
Particularly hurt are seasonal businesses that are forced to sign 
year-long leases, while actually profiting from the space rental only 
for a couple of months. Not yet fully explored alternative is moving 
the business on-line as a mail-order business.

Maybe, because, the UPS and Fedex, moved to Croatian market, charge 
criminally high rates. International rates are even worse rip-off. To 
send 5 kg of books to the US from Zagreb, Fedex would charge me $140. 
UPS would do it for $220. Per kg of weight this is more expensive 
than passenger air-fare: I am 70 kg, plus 40 kg luggage, and I paid 
about $700 for Zagreb-New York: if I am a Fedex package I would cost 
$3080, and as a UPS package I would cost $4840. That would make sense 
only if I am sending opium.

The decision of banks not to give loans to small businesses, while 
giving loans for consumer spending, does not compute. Croatian 
importers are damned to extinction by no credit, high rents, high 
shipping costs, and high taxes environment. Ultimately, foreigners 
only lend spending money to Croats to buy foreign goods, at foreign 
prices, imported and shipped by foreigners. God forbid they make 
something of their own. And the only entity that makes profit of that 
in Croatia is the government, through the 22% sales tax, which is 
then spent to keep social peace.

This makes perfect sense - for foreigners - because money comes back 
into their hands, yet Croats still owe them that same money. But 
Croats are not developing their own economy. They are buying at 
European prices, with 3 times lower wages, and the gap is covered by 
the consumer debt financed by the foreign banks. Eventually, they 
won't be able to pay the debt, and banks will do what?!

All possible scenarios lead to social unrest in a couple of years: 
devaluation of currency, making people work for even less real money; 
foreign banks acquiring more premium real-estate when people and 
businesses default on their debts; foreign banks picking up their 
toys and leaving Croatian financial system with no liquidity (95% of 
Croatian financial system is owned by foreign banks at the moment)... 


Ivo
ps - Institute Francais in the center of Zagreb displays a large 
picture of Mostar's Old Bridge.

---------------------------------------------------------
Ivo Skoric
19 Baxter Street
Rutland VT 05701
802.775.7257
ivo {AT} balkansnet.org
balkansnet.org

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