Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Macedonia: Media Outlet Mixes Labor Day with Giving Birth

Screen-shot:
Click to enlarge
In line with Macedonian government's campaigns to increase the number of births, a local newspaper declared that the U.S. holiday Labor Day is some sort of celebration of pregnancy and published an article "informing" about many American celebrities who mark it by being pregnant.

http://vecer.mk/zabavna/poznati-dami-koi-se-vo-blazhena-sostojba

Can the propaganda become more bizarre? Yes it can!




PS
Macedonia has declining number of births and increasing rate of emigration due to worsening economic and social conditions, including the decline of freedoms over the past several years. To hide this reality, the Government refuses to conduct a census way past the deadline set by law, which is 10 years since the last one (in 2002).  As a way to "remedy" the situation, the Government invests public money in costly PR campaigns [mk] with a "side-effect" of bribing the complacent media through advertising.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Macedonia State Election Commission Changed Data on their Website


This morning some the State Election Commission changed some of the data on their website.

During the night Libertas.mk informed about discrepancies between the actual numbers, sums and percentages shown on SEC website. Incited by the numerous posts on the social networks, as soon as I opened the article I also accessed the SEC Results website and verified that the screenshots published by Libertas are genuine. That was around 9:30 on 29.04.2014.


This is how data on Aerodrom on SEC website looked around 9:30 on 29.04.2014.

Another screenshot of SEC website made around 9:30 on 29.04.2014.
Around 10:30 I returned to the SEC website and saw that it displays different data, with the numbers, sums and percentages which correspond. One hour before, the turnout for the whole country was 64.05%, and the new figures lowered it to 63.93%. Similarly for the municipality of Aerodrom, in the morning it had turnout of 99.76%, and after 10 pm the turnout was 68.49%.

This is how data on Aerodrom on SEC website looked around 10:30 on 29.04.2014.


Another screenshot of SEC website made around 10:30 on 29.04.2014.


I am curious as to what figures are contained within the results provided on paper to the international observers immediately after the counting.

As a public, a people and a state we deserve an explanation from SEC whether this is some sort of error or purposeful changes, and if there was an error, what caused it.


--- Update at 15:40 hrs, 29.04.2014 ---

SEC sent the following media release by e-mail at 14:25 hrs.:

    Republic of Macedonia
State Election Commission
                
          29.04.2013.
             Skopje


Media Announcement
Regarding the claims put forward by certain Internet portals about the difference of 20.000 votes between the valid and invalid ballots at the early parliamentary elections in municipality of Aerodrom, the State Election Commission issues the following clarification:

During the input of data in the computer syste of the State Election Commission a typo was made in the field 5.of the registry of the Municipal Election Commission which contains the data about the total number of voters who voted. During the comparison of the recorded data in the system with the records of the MEC Aerodrom it was discovered that the system in the field 5. contains the data item 63,818 instead of 43,818. This error was corrected and it has no influence on the votes won and the mandates by political parties which are correctly input in the system, it only has an effect on the percentage of turnout.

According to the correction made, the turnout at the parliamentary elections in Aerodrom municipality is 68.49%, and at the level of Republic of Macedonia it is 62.95%.


State Election Commission

Friday, April 11, 2014

Underrepresentation of Women as Recipients of State Awards in #Macedonia

Can the only important thing done by women for this state from 2009 to 2014 is to be a well known singer or one-twelfth of the support staff for a male national team?

According to his "Account" („Отчет“), during his mandate as president of Republic of Macedonia Gjorge Ivanov awarded medals to 185 individuals. His official explanation why is the following:

"I did all this to send a strong message to the Macedonian public that everything that has been achieved in culture, sport, and social life is valued and noted by the state."
4% of the recepients of these awards are female.

Those 4% consist of 8 persons. Two are citizens of Republic of Macedonia fellow-party member Esma Redzepova-Teodosievska and Iva Chadikovska - member of the support staff of the male handball national team, consisting of a dozen persons, which received a medal in bulk. The other 6 female ricipients are foreign nationals, including one professor of Slavic studies, and 5 members of the ethnic Macedonian diaspora.

The 1% of the medal recipients are female citizens, as opposed to about 50% of the population seems quite disproportionate, especially due to the ambitious declaration that the purpose of the awards was to provide recognition to "everything that has been achieved." Do you think so, too?



PS
Analyzing by areas, for instance taking into consideration which ministers received medals posthumously, "everything" important turns out to mean - the police.

Similar hazy criteria applies to institutions which received medals. For instance, in the priority area of education, only two institutions of higher learning received medals - the Faculty of Law "Iustinianus Primus," in Skopje (where Ivanov was professor) and the SEE University - Tetovo.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How Does it Feel to be Mugged by Bulgarian Cops?

Central Bus Station Sofia. Photo by Nikola Gruev, published on Wikipedia under CC-BY license.
Central Bus Station Sofia. Photo by Nikola Gruev, published on Wikipedia under CC-BY license.

 Political scientist and blogger Anastas Vangeli described his experience of extortion by Bulgarian policemen on his way from Macedonia to Poland. On February 9, 2014, two armed officers "detained" him at a secluded area the main bus station in Sofia, until he gave them some money. In conclusion, he wrote:
This was probably one of the most disappointing experiences in my lifetime. What added to the disappointment, however, were the comments and the double victimization by people when I told them this happened:
  • I was asking for it since I look “like a foreigner” and rich
  • I was asking for it since I was bragging with my China books and looked rich
  • I was supposed to know and expect this kind of things
  • I was supposed to hold my grounds better, e.g. not let them take me to a room, not let them get my money
  • I am supposed not to complain, as this stuff happens every day and I am not special
These are all statements that not speak only of the reality of omnipresent corruption and abuse of office and power, but about the complete lack of empathy, or even consciousness that one day it might be you. Moreover, it is an indicator that people have given up the hope that things will change; but also the responsibility that they should contribute to such change. At the end of the day, the state holds the monopoly of the use of force; I was mugged by those who are supposed to protect me (even though I don’t have a Bulgarian passport – no pun intended). So all kinds of relativizing comments are completely out of place on this.
These reactions are consistent with one of the key characteristics of "backsliding from democracy," exposed at the Seventh Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, held in Lima, in October 2012:
"...corruption becomes so widespread that citizens accept is as a norm."
People commenting (in various languages) on Vangeli's Facebook post about the incident reminisced that such "toll for foreigners" was common Bulgarian police practice during the dismal 1990's - but did not expect its resurgence. Some of them related similar experiences from other countries, from Russia to Kenya. Activist Besim Nebiu wrote:
Notice how they immediately asked you if you have a flight to catch at the airport. That gave them the 'upper hand' in dealing with you. A friend of mine who lives in Kenya, once wrote a blog post, in which he describes how corrupt police have "opportunity cost" (8 hours shifts in which they try to maximize revenue). They usually avoid "difficult customers," so any strategy of acting dumb and not too upset should work, after 15 minutes, they give up on you, and move to someone easier to deal with.
Special Winter uniform of Bulgarian Border Police. Source: Ministry of Interior.

Special Winter uniform of Bulgarian Border Police presented [bg] on the website of Ministry of Interior Affairs. According to the victim, the officers in question wore green and carried badges of common police (“Ohranitelna Politsiya”), which according to the Ministry wears dark blue uniforms.
  Bulgarian blogger Komitata translated Vangeli's post within his post [bg] "They protect us and it's no theatre," which includes opinions about the local context of wasted state resources on police actions praised by the relevant minister:
The system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is not reformed. Previous government invested great efforts, but due to lack of decisiveness and political will, the reforms remain modest and far from irreversible.
In his post, Komitata also referred to Twitter discussion [bg] in which Bulgarians ask whether the police has the right to search them at the bus station, and pointed to a info on citizen rights during police searches [bg].

What is Backsliding from Democracy? - Return to Authoritarian Rule

Backsliding from democracy is experienced by nominally democratic countries world over. An early discussion about this phenomenon took place at the Seventh Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, held in Lima, in October 2012. During the discussions the following four signs of backsliding were identified based on experiences from South East Europe:
  • "The first is a shrinking space for freedom, a process which creeps up and often goes unnoticed by the public. Decline of Freedom of expression, for example, often starts with self-censorship. Public information becomes increasingly incomplete, inaccurate and hard to access; consequently, the government stops letting people know what it is doing. 
  • Second, corruption becomes so widespread that citizens accept is as a norm. 
  • Thirdly, trust in institutions declines, as their legitimacy is replaced with legality. 
  • The final indicator is the selective application of justice, most poignantly illustrated in... selective prosecution of opposition leaders."
(I actually attended this discussion, and was impressed on how the speakers were able to concisely synthesize a very vast and confounding subject. The quote above is based on the transcript from the Seventh Assembly's bulletin.)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Pre-Christmas Fires Indicate Survival of Ancient Slavic Rites in Macedonia

Ancient custom of lighting fires around the Winter Solstice, originally in honor of the Slavic sky god Svarog, is alive and well in Macedonia, as presented by this great pictorial [es] by Robert Atanasovski and Gorgi Licovski, published by Miami Herald.

Most of the participants consider it part of the Orthodox Christian Tradition, even though some Orthodox Christian priests regularly denounce this practice as "pagan" (in a very pejorative sense), reminding that it's not related to church cannons. Some, but not all, as the celebrants also invite orthodox priests to bless the fire. Such priests charge various kinds of material compensation for these acts.


In the past, the solstice and Christmas coincided. However as Earth plows through the universe and also turns, the imperfect Roman calendar required readjustment, done in XVI century by Pope Gregory. In Macedonia, most Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas according to the old calendar, so today it's removed from the actual solstice (December 21) by about two weeks. 





In Skopje, these fires are built within neighborhoods, gathering residents of a single alley or of an apartment complex. Neighbors prepare the wood and chip in to buy food and alcohol. Often the chief person of the celebration is deemed godfather or godmother of the feast, an annual honor that includes preparation/bringing of some special type of food, like the customary pie. 

In order to win favor with the voters, authorities keep a blind eye on the ecological aspects of these fires (normally it is not allowed to build fires within urban areas) and even use public funds to supplement much of the fuel.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Boza and Kebabs in Sarajevo

Compared to the boza from Skopje (from Apče as benchmark), the boza in Sarajevo is of lighter colour, with a hue approaching yellowish. The taste is a bit sour ans sharp, but does not go in the direction of corny aftertaste as the Bulgarian boza. The texture is similar to Skopje boza, but not as thick. Price of a glass which can be labeled as medium is 1,5 marks - around EUR 0.75.

Glass of boza on a table in the old town in Sarajevo with people passing by.
Boza in Baščaršija
Kebabs in Sarajevo are pretty similar to the ones in Skopje. Most famous kebab place (bos. ćevabdžilnica) in the Baščaršija (the Old Bazaar) is called Željo. According to area people it is also most expensive. Numerous others in the neighborhood are allegedly pretty OK too, however, the kebabs a bit smaller in them.

Outside of the center, the most recommendable kebab place is Zmaj (Dragon), next to the Train Station. The price of a portion of ten kebabs in a characteristic bread with onions and yogurt is 7 marks, or EUR 3.5.


Two plates with bread containing kebabs and onions, and a glass of yogurt in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
Kebabs in bread with onions and yogurt at "The Dragon"

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Quasi-history: As if Aristotle Taught Alexander about Democracy

 This article is also available in Macedonian | Овој напис е достапен и на македонски
- на Блогерај: Квазиисторија: Аристотел демек го учел Александар за демократија
- на Блогспот: Квазиисторија: Аристотел демек го учел Александар за демократија

In the city of Skopje, by the Vardar River, under the lion of the type called “Cringer” which is nearest to the Kale fortress, there’s a relief which seems to portray the philosopher Aristotle holding a lecture for the young prince Alexander. Aristotle holds a scroll with the inscription “ΔEMO КРАТИYАТА Е ОСНОVA НА СΛОBOΔATA” which can be translated as “The Democracy is the foundation of freedom.”

An ancient student who looks like the future king Alexander II and
an ancient teacher who resembles philosopher Aristotle on a Skopje 2014 relief.
Nine muses in the background.
I found out that the author of this propagandistic work from the Skopje 2014 project is the artist Koki Janev. However the messages of the relief are totally out of sync with the historical data. Based on my general knowledge, it seemed illogical to attribute teachings about freedom and democracy to the king Alexander of Macedon, whose whole career consisted in establishing and maintaining absolutist rule. On top of his perception that he is the absolute earthly ruler, he also considered himself to be a god. Or, in his more modest mood, he only thought of himself as a son of a god.

To obtain more information on Aristotle I addressed prof. Katerina Kolozova, PhD from the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities in Skopje, considering that her academic work also covered analysis of that historical period. For instance, in 2000 she had published the book “Hellenes and Death” („Хелените и смртта“). She responded:

“If the teacher on this relief indeed represents Aristotle, then I would advise the author to read anything by Aristotle, or at least to make an internet search. Aristotle based his political thought on critique of democracy and defended the idea of aristocratic/monarchist rule.”
Macedonian kings, who later become Persian shahs, practiced their power in totally undemocratic manner. Alexander and his father openly acted in despotic and tyrannical fashion, and their kingdom of Macedon lacked any tradition of rudimentary slaveholding democracy as some Greek city-states or Rome. For instance, while freedom of speech ranked among the basic values of ancient democracies (part of the Roman concept of libertas), on one occasion Alexander murdered one of his closest friends, Cleitus, for daring to talk back to him.


We should believe that in ancient times the people spoke the modern Macedonian language but used a combination of contemporary and future scripts to write in it? Cyrillic alphabet was invented over 1000 years later.
In addition, even more illogical is the representation of the “educational” inscription with a mix of three scripts: Latin, Cyrillic, and Greek. The relief also presents a Sun resembling the ancient symbol used in Macedon which featured 16 rays. This one, only has 8 rays.

View of the front side of the basis of the lion statue.

Relief on the opposite side, with a view from the Goce Delchev Boulevard.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Brian K. Sullivan: Design Like Da Vinci

Brian K. Sullivan gave this intriguing and enlightening presentation at SXSW 2013. He wrote:
In this talk, you will learn about five sketching secrets of Leonardo Da Vinci, four rules for generating ideas, and four rules for refining ideas. I call these lessons from Leonardo. You might find a few stories about Leonardo Da Vinci that you did not know. 
Here's the presentation and the recorded audio embedded together in one package, in the style pioneered at e-Society.mk conference website back in 2007, so you can listen to the talk and browse/follow up through the slides simultaneously.


Remark: The reproduction of "The Last Supper" in the presentation does not look like the photo...

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
"The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo by Wikipedia.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Anti-Fascist Poster from Serbia

AFA - Anti-Fascist Action Novi Sad published the following photo collage [sr] on their Facebook page in the form of a medicine commercial (Wikipedia links added). In a few hours it received hundreds of shares.

  • No girlfriend?
  • No job?
  • You were beaten by father (/a cop)?
  • You are not handsome, smart, witty?
  • In general, your life sucks?
Looking for someone to blame for your personal failures?

Try! neoFascism
(Available to former "lower races" too!)

Our satisfied users:
[Logos of 7 Serbian right-wing organizations]


neoFascism  has all the characteristics of Fascismtm but is additionally adapted to 21st century losers. Specially designed for the uneducated, angry young man, capable of redirecting his anger towards stupidities and helping perpetuate the system forever. neoFascism  differs from classic Fascismtm by its allowance of even greater mental acrobatics. Connecting Hitler, Jesus, Russia, Germany, Emperor Dušan, Karadjordje, Battle of Kosovo, SS Divisions, Hip-hop, use of drugs and fight against drugs. It offers unlimited opportunities for lifelong navel-gazing and removes all chances for personal and spiritual development.