STA, 4 January 2019 - Commenting on the anti-government protests in France, the left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest editorial that French society has finally realised what its main problems are.
Looking at the poverty statistics for Slovenia and Europe, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says that a high poverty rate is the reason for the French protests.
In Slovenia, 268,000 people lived below the poverty line in 2017 but as many as 345,000 were at risk of social exclusion, meaning one in six citizens. And Slovenia is among the countries faring rather well in Europe, he notes.
Until late autumn or early winter 2018, European and Slovenian politicians had been ignoring these people. They never perceived them as a political force.
"But there is hope that the protests in France will bring change. Because what we have seen on the streets in France have been protests that started among the poor and their message and frustration was quickly heard and understood by everyone but the French elite - at least for a while."
Most French citizens were able to identify with their feeling of despair that they will not be able to catch up and improve their lives. "Why? Because this is also how the middle class, which has been regressing for decades, feels."
The last crisis has left everyone feeling that no job is safe anymore and that the future is not bright, Repovž says. Save for a few exceptions, this is a source of constant and immense stress for Europeans.
Almost all European societies have become pressure cooker societies. France is important in this respect because it is almost always the first one to explode.
According to Repovž, the social stratification between those with no future and those choosing among the latest models of electric vehicles coming with state subsidies is a source of discontent, which extremist policies feed on.
But the French protesters have shown that most of the society has seen through smokescreens and realised what its actual problems are. People realised that they are not in a difficult situation because of immigration or a neighbour who receives social transfers but because of those who are in power.
"What a twist. And what a warning," Repovž says under the headline 345 Thousand People.
STA, 3 January 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija takes issue with The New York Times' comments on the US's involvement in the Syria war. In January 2018, the "lighthouse of global journalism" attacked President Donald Trump for keeping US soldiers there and only a year later it criticised him just as strongly for announcing a withdrawal from Syria.
"The situation was tragicomic. [Defence Secretary] Jim Mattis, who was the most hated person in the White House after Trump, became a hero of the left overnight. He was described as the 'last adult' in Donald Trump's administration," says editor-in-chief Jože Biščak.
Any reasonable man must have trouble understanding such a U-turn in the editorial policy of the paper boasting as many as 125 Pulitzer prizes, Biščak says.
"Trump is undoubtedly a unique president, even controversial at times. It is still too early to say how he will be judged by history. The mainstream media have already passed judgement and labelled him the worst president in history.
"But Trump has an effect on these journalists like no president before him. They are changing views and opinions, giving up their editorial policies exclusively based on what Trump says or does. No, he simply cannot do anything good."
The media have completely ignored the fact that Trump is a businessman and as such he knows that wars do not bring prosperity, new factories do.
The media attacked Trump in October for withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia but the criticism quickly died down after some Pulitzer laureates actually read the deal and found out it only concerned land missiles and not the sea-based, air-dropped and space nuclear weapons, Biščak says.
And that the US is far ahead of Russia in nuclear systems for launching missiles from the sea and land.
Similarly, the withdrawal from Syria means that 2,000 soldiers of US land forces will return home but the US will still have troops in the 6th fleet in the Mediterranean and in the 5th fleet in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.
Secondly, the move is in line with Trump's plan to end the oil conflicts in the Middle East. The US no longer needs Arab oil. Thanks to innovation by US energy engineers, focussing for example on shale oil, the US has become a leading superpower in oil and natural gas production.
"This has not only caused a drastic fall in oil prices in the US, it had also led to a new political strategy in the Middle East, as Trump is taking Islam's strong weapon (oil), which it had been using against the Western civilisation for more than a hundred years."
These are the things that the global mainstream media (including in Slovenia) refuse to see and accept. And it is what destroyed its reputation permanently, Biščak says under the headline The Time It Takes for Earth to Circle Around Sun.
"The media turned out to be much more ferocious than Trump, who actually cares most for peace and his citizens."
All our articles in this series can be found here
STA, 28 December 2018 - The latest editorial of the weekly paper Mladina looks at Spiegel's Claas Relotius scandal as a symptom of a spectacle-seeking media landscape that has been compounded by new media forms. These are cashing in on the credibility built by traditional media in the past while only mimicking real journalistic tenets.
Serious print media, which actually are the only ones with enough room to carefully dissect social events and processes, find it hard to compete and attract readers these days.
While facing competition from thousands of new platforms, traditional media are also suffering under commercialisation, under the need to only have content that is extraordinary, giant, surprising.
The Relotius case is of course a warning to the media, whose existence is a basic condition for democracy but also has the potential to cause enormous harm.
It is a warning to everyone, to journalists, as well as to the public. It shows that reality is not always interesting, shiny, explosive, extraordinary. It is often banal, a little grey, frequently even uninteresting, full of data, some of which paradoxical, sometimes without a guilty party and simply a result of unexpected circumstances.
However, it is worth hanging on to such a reality, even if it is not be as juicy or attractive as videos of accidents on YouTube or emotional posts on Facebook.
STA, 24 December 2018 - Reporter welcomes in its latest commentary the establishment of the opposition-initiated parliamentary inquiry into the Bank Asset Management Company (BAMC), which according to the right-leaning weekly is "one of the biggest hotbeds of white-collar crime in recent years".
In the commentary headlined “Self-service Bad Bank”, editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla says that "we are living in a country which has all the elements of a parallel state, where informal levers of influence are stronger than formal ones in many fields."
According to him, networks from behind the scenes actually rule the country. Unlike the government, which is supposed to work in principle in the public interest, these networks take care primarily of the interests of its members, so that as much public money as possible ends up in their private pockets.
Welcoming the parliamentary inquiry into the bad bank, the commentary notes that many bad things happened and are still happening behind the walls of the BAMC. There were probably some criminal acts committed, but they have so far not been discovered by the Court of Audit or criminal investigators.
Soon after being established in 2013, the bad bank turned into a self-service restaurant for networks, where a lot of tycoons, who first dug a hole in state-owned banks, made profits.
The new inquiry, which will probably be headed by New Slovenia (NSi) MP Jernej Vrtovec, should be welcomed, as the deputies intend to investigate both the transfers of assets to the bad bank and the possible involvement of public office holders in these transactions.
"Of course they were involved, because it is well known who made the staffing decisions at the BAMC in the recent years, who let the Scandinavians be chased away from there and merged the in-house banks of Kučan's Forum 21 - Faktor Banka and Probanka with the BAMC and then even employed their people in it."
All this happened in the term of the government headed by Miro Cerar, or actually headed instead of him by people from behind the scenes while he was consciously looking away, concludes the commentary.
Other posts in this series can be found here (note that sometimes we use another right-wing weekly, Demokracija)
Mladina: Slovenia experiencing serious crisis of managerial class
STA, 7 December 2018 - Speaking of ignorant arrogance that occasionally slides into direct hostility towards the working class, the left-leaning weekly paper Mladina casts in its latest editorial the new Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) director Sonja Šmuc as the embodiment of a serious crisis of management in Slovenia.
While social dialogue in Slovenia used to be at a level comparable to that in Scandinavian countries and featured refined managers with a good overall grasp of the economy and society, Šmuc is now demonstrating serious empathy issues, talking about workers with an air reminiscent of the arrogance of French queens just before the revolution.
Rejecting dialogue on a serious adjustment of wages, threatening with cancelling collective bargaining agreements in what is the fifth consecutive year with one of the highest GDP growth rates in Europe, amid record-low unemployment and record-high profits ... could be described as sad, but it is actually worrying.
Šmuc is an expression of a deep crisis of corporate governance in Slovenia, which has been dragging on for years, Mladina editor-in-chief Grega Repovž asserts.
He argues that today's managers were raised during the crisis or are even a product of the crisis itself. Having gone through a series of turbulences, including political pressure and purges, the Slovenian economy did not see the knowledge and experience of the managers of the old generation being transferred to the new one.
There are practically no managers left today capable of serious macroeconomic insights. The language of today's managerial elite is simple, elementary, bereft of progressive elements, of serious reflection.
While arguing that this is also being reflected in companies, for instance in low productivity, Repovž says that a professional group that has so much influence on development should stop ignoring the crisis in its ranks.
The discontent over wages, which is real and justified and largely a result of neoliberal capitalism, will end up exploding with full force. It suffices to look at France, which is experiencing the same frustrations.
The difference is that while France has still not emerged from the post-crisis crunch, Slovenia is among the fastest growing European economies. Arrogance is not a sign of power, it is a sign of weakness, Repovž concludes the commentary entitled “Managerial Crisis.”
Demokracija: Deep state ignores certain issues
STA, 6 December 2018 - The deep state is re-directing the people's attention to artificially created problems, such as hate speech, while certain topics in need of attention get largely ignored, the right-leaning weekly Demokracija says on Thursday under the headline “Masters of Ultimate Illusion of Virtual Reality”.
With the help of mainstream media, the deep state of the transitional left is constantly redirecting the citizens' attention from real problems, most recently by trying to convince us there is nothing more important in Slovenia than hate speech.
But in the meantime a number of things are going on which should get at least as much attention, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says, listing the bad bank, the Karavanke tunnel and minimum wage debate.
He says nobody is paying any attention to the Bank Assets Management Company, or the bad bank, whose mission is, or was, to return to taxpayers as much money spent to save Slovenian banks as possible and then close down.
But it is still here. And after its Swedish leadership was replaced, it has turned into a socialist asset management company whose priority is to cater to the needs of "our people".
Its brisk action to sell liabilities has been replaced by a gradualist approach and its life span prolonged into the next decade. This is enough for companies to get slowly grabbed by tycoons, with the money getting into the "right" pockets.
Another example is developments surrounding the construction of a second tube of the Karavanke tunnel, the tender for which was won by Turkey's Cengiz Insaat as the most experienced and cheapest bidder, but since three Slovenian builders complained, the national review commission annulled the tender.
Biščak notes the Turks would build the tube for EUR 89.3m whereas the second cheapest bidder would do it for over EUR 100m, but since the latter is "ours", nobody doubts its "fair" price.
The debate on the minimum wage has also passed without causing any major stir, even if economists and employers warned about its pitfalls, with the mainstream media even applauding the planned changes to the minimum wage law.
Biščak says "the fact that the law is in breach of the Constitution, violating the free economic initiative, is apparently not important ... But as you know, 'our guys' always know better and can do anything".
Other posts in this series can be found here (note that sometimes we use another right-wing weekly, Reporter)
Mladina: An alliance is needed to fight SDS-associated media
STA, 30 November 2018 – The left-leaning weekly Mladina welcomes PM Marjan Šarec's appeal against state-owned companies running adds in hate-peddling media, but says it is only a first step. What needs to follow is the fostering of an alliance that will protect these companies in case of a change in power, Grega Repovž says in the weekly's latest editorial.
"Slovenian media have a problem... The Democrats (SDS), a political party, has an increasing number of products on the Slovenian market that are pretending to be media outlets... Because this propaganda machine it costly, it gets financial help from Hungary, from Viktor Orban," Repovž says.
He argues that the people of Slovenia and its media and journalists are not the only victims of this proliferation of fear and hatred by far-right parties working in concert.
Companies also find themselves under pressure, in particularly those that are involved with the state. Their managers know, including from experience under past SDS-led governments, that SDS leader Janez Janša will eventually end up issuing them a bill if they fail to cooperate.
Šarec's call was in order, but now the government has to follow up this first step by offering assistance and an alliance to these companies.
"If he is serious about this, it is not enough to point the finger at these companies. We posit that the reason why most of the exposed companies are advertising on these media platforms is their desire to secure the peace they need to do business normally," Repovž says under the headline First Step.
Speaking of the need for an alliance, he argues "this would benefit all genuine media" and lists several centrist and left-leaning media as well the right-leaning weekly Reporter.
It would also benefit politics, companies and above all the public. "The thing is a that radical politics is abusing liberal democratic institutes and institutions and rights (including those pertaining to the media and freedom of speech) and that this entails the undermining of democracy itself - and through that also of corporate autonomy."
Demokracija: Šarec’s anti-hate speech campaign is an attack on opposition media
STA, 29 November 2018 - The right-leaning weekly Demokracija says PM Marjan Šarec's recent call to state-owned companies to reflect on whether to advertise in media outlets instigating hate amounts to "the worst attack on the freedom of speech since independence", making him No. 1 enemy of the freedom of expression.
Šarec's call not to advertise in media outlets which are critical of mass migrations was a case of abuse of power par excellence, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says on Thursday.
Although Šarec did not specify what hate content is and did not mention any media outlet, "it was clear he meant private opposition media – Demokracija and Nova24TV".
Instead of endorsing a referendum on whether Slovenia should join the UN-sponsored deal on migration, he in fact started implementing its objective 17, which speaks about media funding and advertising standards.
He announced, in the manner of the hardest communist times, attacks on the media which promote different views from those of the government and left-wing activists.
As an elected representative of the people, Šarec has a right to influence state-owned companies, for instance if state assets are poorly managed.
"But he is absolutely not authorised to use a state-owned company to suppress the fundamental and most important human right, that of the freedom of expression."
Biščak notes there is a short way from dictating state-owned companies where to advertise to police violence against those with different views.
"What is more, his actions show that he would be one of the first to abolish elections and ban opposition, whereby risking a civil war.
"He crossed the Rubicon, which he never should have," Biščak says, quoting philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's thesis "What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence."
While not denying Šarec the right to be critical or even harsh, Biščak says his instruction that advertisers should end their business cooperation with the opposition's media is "scandalous".
"In this way, by abusing power, Šarec has become enemy No. 1 of the freedom of speech," according to the commentary headlined Ludwig Wittgenstein's Seventh Thesis.
Other posts in this series can be found here (note that sometimes we use another right-wing weekly, Reporter)
STASTA, 23 November 2018 - The left-wing weekly magazine Mladina analyses on Friday Slovenia's conduct towards Hungary regarding its participation in the Koper-Divača rail expansion. It wonders what was behind the former Miro Cerar government's push for Hungary's involvement and its lenient treatment of the neighbour's plans to extend influence in Slovenia.
Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán has pulled out of the rail expansion because he changed his mind when realising he bet on the wrong horse, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says under From Hungary to Koper, noting Orbán counted on his EPP "comrade" Janez Janša, into whose media outlets he has invested a lot of money.
If Janša was in power, Orbán would probably already be buying ships to create a Hungarian fleet, Repovž says in reference to Orbán's statement that he wanted to make the Slovenian port of Koper Hungary's gateway to the world.
He also made it clear, as he visited the Hungarian minority in the Slovenian town of Lendava last week, that Cerar's government had promised Hungary 50,000 sq. meters of land in Luka Koper, that is a position which would enable it to form its own fleet.
What Repovž finds particularly intriguing is former Prime Minister Cerar's conduct in relation of Orbán's "attack" on Luka Koper, which operates the port of Koper.
He finds Cerar's enthusiasm about the rail expansion towards Koper incomprehensible in the first place, saying expanding the port on the small Slovenian coast is not the only development option.
The editor notes that with 200 million euro, the amount Hungary would contribute for the rail expansion, miracles could be made with more environment-friendly projects.
Nevertheless, Cerar was pushing for the port's expansion despite potential environmental issues.
He also insisted on Hungary's participation despite being aware that Orbán was betting on somebody else in Slovenia and that by sponsoring Janša and his Democrats (SDS), he was in fact undermining Cerar.
Cerar's conduct was "totally illogical", even more so because he in fact supported the potential of a country which is Slovenia's competitor.
What is also puzzling is that Cerar's government silently accepted Hungary's extending its influence in the Slovenian region of Prekmurje, where it is making investments and granting citizenship to members of the Hungarian ethnic minority.
Repovž wonders what was behind the Cerar government's benevolent treatment of Orbán's plans and why he was so outraged when Orbán announced to pull out of the rail project.
STASTA, 22 November 2018 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija deplores the election victory of Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković in the latest editorial, expressing concern about an emerging "kleptocratic axis" between Ljubljana, Maribor and Koper.
The editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says that Janković is running the capital city in a kleptocratic, corruptive and morally perverted way; "by awarding some kind of LGBT certificates to schools and kindergartens he indoctrinates the youngest with an ideology that defies common sense and Catholicism".
Biščak is also critical of the Catholic Church for not publicly endorsing Janković's challenger in Sunday's election, Anže Logar of the Democratic Party (SDS), suggesting this would be appropriate because of Janković's "arrogant and contemptuous attitude to Catholics".
"It would be too cheap to point the finger at the Church for making a new victory possible for Janković. No. Ljubljana remains the breeding ground of organised criminal rings and corruption, the city of the sheriff 10% who is distributing bread among parasites, consultants and the leftist city elite.
"This company, including the non-natives who have turned the capital into a little Yugoslavia, was obviously large enough for a victory at the given turnout."
However, Biščak also says that Anže Logar activated more of the electorate than anyone would expect and that the proportion of the vote he won indicates an inevitable end to Janković's parallel economy.
Biščak also expresses concern about what he terms a kleptocratic north-south axis in the headline of his commentary. He is concerned the run-offs in Maribor and Koper may be won by "persons who have the same mindset as the Ljubljana sheriff. Boris Popović has 'proved' himself, and Saša Arsenovič (if he defeats Franc Kangler) certainly will as he has said it publicly that Zoran Janković is his mayoral role model."
Referring to the poor showing of the ruling coalition, Biščak says that such a result would send party heads rolling in developed democracies. He also rebukes the left bloc for failing to file top-tier mayoral contenders in Ljubljana and Maribor.
However, he offers the higher turnout as proof that "political apathy is over and that a large part of the country that is not related to urban municipalities is healthy and not yet infected with the immoral leftist agenda".
Other articles in this series can be found here
The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, November 16, 2018.
STA, 16 November 2018 - The weekly Mladina is critical of the government for what it sees as a blunder in the sale of the bank NLB. The government planned to preserve control over the bank through state-owned companies, but then the securities market watchdog said it could not be done. The government obviously walked into this without having prepared properly.
Mladina editor-in-chief Gregor Repovž even goes as far as to compare the state to an adult movie actress who once said that she was "the sort of girl who doesn't research in advance. I just go".
Looking back at how the sale unfolded, Repovž says that the sale prospectus presentation attracted representatives of pension and investment funds directly or indirectly controlled by the state.
The concept of controlling companies through state-controlled firms is well-established abroad, the weekly notes.
The combined share of the state and its companies usually amounts to about 40%, however the rest of the stock is so dispersed that the share suffices to control the company.
"We assumed that the government was planning something like this and it seemed prudent," Repovž says in the editorial. "Finally somebody knew what they were doing."
But then the Securities Market Agency issued a legal opinion saying that legislation regulating privatisation and investment funds made it impossible for state-related institutions to buy NLB stock.
"Because we were watching the matter closely, we learnt that this was a surprise for Slovenian Sovereign Holding, as well as the government. How is that even possible!"
Unofficial statements indicated that the government had no clue about the stock ownership in the bank. But intending to keep 25% and one share, the state should be aware of every share, the weekly says.
"We heard later that state-owned and para-state funds will be able to buy shares on the stock exchange. But such light-heartedness demands the dismissal of the heads of the Sovereign Holding and the finance minister."
Ljubljana, 15 November - The right-wing weekly Demokracija welcomes in its latest commentary the sale of the NLB bank, saying that there will be no more "free lunches" for the "leftist comrades" who are used to being fed by taxpayer money.
The "comrades" are screaming that it was a heist and that Slovenian Sovereign Holding should have rejected the "shameful price" EUR 51.50 per share, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says under the headline Colour of Money.
He adds that the mindset of socialists in Slovenia is vividly described by a statement by chemist and economist Peter Glavič, who complained that "once foreigners get hold of Slovenian banks, they will decide whom to give a loan and whom not."
While Glavič is afraid for Slovenia's economic and political sovereignty, Bičak asks the readers whether they had been able to come to a NLB office and ask not for a EUR 100,000 loan, but for a EUR 300,000 loan, as Glavič claims.
"Of course not. In the best case you would be escorted out of the office by a security guard," the commentary says, adding that big loans (usually without adequate collateral) were being given to the chosen ones who "used NLB as an ATM or for money laundering".
Biščak admits that the price is low, but says that it was determined by the market. "The culprits for the multi-million loss are known: Miro Cerar, Karl Erjavec and Dejan Židan, who had broken promises, procrastinated and feigned ignorance."
Taxpayers will continue to pay down NLB debt for years, but this is better than throwing new billions at the bank in a year or two, so that it would remain "ours".
Something is certain, this is the end of "comrade loans" at the expense of taxpayers. If the bank ends in trouble, the owners will have to recapitalise it on their own, and "NLB will need to learn how to drive on macadam", concludes the commentary.
The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, November 09, 2018.
STA, 9 November - The left-leaning weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that Foreign Minister Miro Cerar is actually criticising his former self as prime minister as he is changing his mind on Slovenia's support for the UN Global Compact for Migration.
In the commentary headlined Cerar against Cerar, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž notes that Cerar had said that "Slovenia endorsed this spring the Global Compact for Migration, but that the circumstances have changed since".
"'Slovenia must make sure ... that the present way of life, the European way of life is preserved'", Repovž quotes Cerar, wondering what is the European way of life he was referring to, adding that "we are in a serious trouble".
If you take a look at the list of countries which decided not to endorse the document, which is expected to be adopted in Marrakesh in December, one can see that it is not a list of countries of the European way of life.
"Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Austria - is this the company Minister Cerar would like to push Slovenia into?", Repovž wonders.
UN document clearly separates migrants and refugees
What is funny is that Cerar speaking about "changed circumstances" reads like criticism of Miro Cerar as prime minister, who agreed with the European Commission acceding to the Global Compact for Migration.
"As long as the accession to the Marrakesh agreement was something the European Union expected us to do, this had to be done. How provincial and typical."
But immediately after the right started expressing doubt about the document, the foreign minister was quick to talk about changed circumstances.
Cerar and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec should actually defend the agreement and stand behind it, present it to the public, introduce it into public discourse as a positive shift. But Cerar is obviously not taking the document seriously.
It is actually a very though-through, relatively conservative document, which very clearly separates the issues of refugees and migrants. Politicians could use it to stand against the rightist agenda which abuses migrants for populist purposes, concludes the commentary.
STA, 8 November 2018 - The right-wing magazine Demokracija sets out its case against the UN Global Compact for Migration in its latest editorial, asserting that signing the declaration without seeking people's endorsement in a referendum first would be high treason.
Referring to the 2005 riots in France, the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and Muslim ghettoes in Europe, such as Molenbeek on the outskirts of Brussels, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak argues that European countries are losing the battle against the spread of "Eurabia".
"Pockets of little Eurabias are scattered throughout the western part of the continent. Whenever right-wing politicians try to restore state jurisdiction over their territories, violent unrest follows.
The only solution is to use “brutal power” to remove immigrants
"The planned signing in December of the Marrakesh Declaration, which is irreversibly taking away countries' sovereign right to decide on migration flows on their territories, could seal the fate of Europe as we know it. This is why signing the declaration without having asked people's opinion in referendum will be high treason."
Biščak says that the way for Europe's Islamisation was paved by the 1975 Strasbourg Resolution, backed by 200 members of parliament from West European countries.
The resolution said that Arab immigrants to Europe had a right to transfer their culture, customs, way of life and religion to Europe.
"The native population tried to preserve their customs and traditions, but the political authorities did not demand of the immigrants to integrate in the western society, but rather let the Muslim immigrants, joined by blacks from Africa, to create their territories (little Eurabias) where they live by their rules. An the Marrakesh Declaration will legalise all that."
Finally, Biščak says that the only solution is to use "brutal power" and to have the army surround these Little Eurabias and move all the immigrants out of the country.