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February 10, 2005


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Raoul Djukanovic

Given this, I'm not too surprised to find that his ray of hope in Eastern Europe's miserable gloom is... an alliance between Marxists and right-wing ultranationalists. Yeah, that's generally worked a treat in this part of the world.

yes, it seems he has more than a few axes to grind, eh? especially in his yugoslavia coverage.

as i say though, it's rare to read anybody doubting the consensus view on reconstruction in the press - the guardian's one of the few places to dabble in that sort of thing, even if this isn't a good example. factual errors are something else, though and lazy stereotypes are unappealing in any coverage. still, they're neither of them uncommon in many papers, i find, especially when people start using statistics to generalise. also, many columns aren't often fact-checked like news reports unless people write in to complain and even then...

i think the guardian printed this because the comment page editor sympathises with the thrust of analysis - at least partially, along the lines of the majority suffer while a few prosper - but not being too familiar with what's going on in the region so kind of blind to the flaws in the story.

incidentally, tony benn's not such a bad sort either, in my humble opinion, although i wouldn't turn to him for economic analysis, any more than i read the guardian's comment pages for it.

i'd still like to see people putting the economics under a microscope more effectively sometimes, even if there's no panacea. unfortunately it's generally regarded as not for mainstream consumption, so you only get these kind of half-baked things outside the financial press, which tends to write for financial professionals rather than the layman.

anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts. look forward to reading about kosovo.


Andrew Lambdin-Abraham

Thanks for putting this up. I've always had a sort of generalized suspiscion about the Guardian, but it is nice to see a clear description of where they get things wrong.


It's a form of group self-identification. Having a certain position on, e.g., Milosevic immediately correlates with a whole lot of other stuff in the Byzantine world of the British Left. Is he sound or unsound on XYZ?

Thus, people within that group can nod sagely; people close to but outside that group can agree to disagree (or violently denounce them); people opposite them ideologically can lambast them to their heart's content, and all it will do is reinforce their self-image. (You would fall in that category.)

This is why Christopher Hitchens believes he's a such a rebel, incidentally. Hic!

There's something to be said about the old US style of amorphous, buffet-style party politics. Positions? We don't need any positions.



Dear Everyone:

Well, for me, what was grand about the Guardian article was that it gave a very good excuse for Doug to Rant.

God, I love it when Doug lets it all out. You can almost feel his rage singeing the inside cold face of your monitor.

Nice going, Doug.

(Now Doug is normally such a reasonable, well spoken kind of person, with all kinds of interesting insights, but always thoughtful...it's just nice to also see this side of his personality. Angry, a little upset).

Best Wishes,


Frank O'Connor

This is what happens when someone refuses to let the facts get in the way of a firmly held conviction.


For people that read HWDD, but aren't there, (Like me), I thought a little weather report might be of interest. People may be able to type, but it is apparently very, very cold!


In Karajukica Bunari on the Serbia-Montenegro border the temperature fell to minus minus 29 Fahrenheit. Meteorologists predicted the January 1954 record would fall in the coming days.

According to inland shipping reports, the Danube River was partially iced up in dozens of places, from Hungary to Romania.

In Albania and western Kosovo, villagers in remote areas had to drive off wolves and wild boar searching for food.

Link here:


Doug or Claudia, if this is inappropriate, please feel free to delete. I just thought it interesting.

Best Wishes,


Raoul Djukanovic

a bulgarian friend's parents who live near the macedonian border were complaining recently about minus 28 celcius. sometimes i'm happy to have escaped... ;-)

"I've always had a sort of generalized suspiscion about the Guardian, but it is nice to see a clear description of where they get things wrong."

i enjoyed doug's rant, but i wouldn't say it's deconstructed the guardian's overall output any more than i'd expect someone to stop reading the new york times if i told you how ridiculous i find david brooks.

i don't think they've even got a "position" as such on milosevic, although publishing laughland and clark quite a bit might suggest otherwise. the left is plagued with people arguing nonsense about the balkans to support a broader worldview - here's another classic from clark which not only argues along the hoary old "last economy in central-southern Europe to be uncolonised by western capital" line (he clearly never spent any DM's then) but tries to suggest that the intervention in 1999 was all about the trepca mine complex, which really cracked me up.

what bugs me once again is that he's exploiting a gap in news coverage to get this through. the guardian comments lot, as far as i can determine from the other stuff they print, are merely looking for sceptical perspectives on economic orthodoxy. but not being very economically minded, or very aware of what goes on outside their area of expertise, they're seduced by this sort of nonsense because it pushes the right buttons.

i think there were legitimate reasons to question the recourse to bombing in 1999 and also to query the way that the ICTY has gone about its business, as well as the general take on east european economics in the western media. unfortunately there are so few people doing this at all, never mind well (largely because it's not what their editors want, for all sorts of reasons, some commercial, some ideological) that it's left to the likes of clark to satisfy the fetishes of misty eyed leftists looking for examples of western malfeasance.

clark's prejudices shine through, although he's usually departing from a point of truth to elaborate on them. even the djindjic story sprung from that kind of mould. by early 2003, he was exceedingly unpopular, not least because of the protracted disputes with kostunica that had derailed the reform process in parliament and left him clinging to power thanks to the milosevic-era constitution.

many of my friends in belgrade kept asking where the new democracy was in all that - they had a point. as for the corruption allegations, however many of them were true, they were widely believed. the idolisation of djindjic after his death was in marked contrast to the demonisation of him while alive. perhaps one only appreciates what one has once it's lost - in any case, many people were grieving for the state of their society itself, it seemed to me. they mourned djindjic and the fact that he could be shot in their city centre in broad daylight. there's a certain reverence for martyrdom in serbian society too, on which the nutjobs tend to trade. but that's another story.

the rest of his article seeks to distort all this - and the economic frustrations - into a milosevic apologia, which is pretty revolting two days after the guy's been assassinated, especially given that two thirds of voters were consistently turning their back on the old regime parties.

anyway, enough about clark. sadly, however, i don't think there's too many people approaching the guardian with balkan commentary except his ilk. why not send them your thoughts on kosovo as an antidote. you might get a shock and see them in print... :-)

i agree with traveller - it's good to see you fired up.



David Brooks is a good analog. He's there at the Times to soothe some of its readership and upset other parts of it. But very few NYT subscribers are going to cancel their subscription because of Brooks's inanities -- the ones who would have, already did -- and very few subscribers to the Guardian are going to cancel because of Clark. I think the main difference between Clark and Brooks is that Brooks is still capable of feeling shame (unlike, say, Safire).

Meanwhile, the chief editors can pat themselves on the back at providing a correct range of views.

It would be funny if it didn't have effects in the greater world.


Doug Muir

It hit -14 (about 6 degrees Fahrenheit) the other night. Pretty mild compared to -29 (which is about -20 F). But on the other hand, the Serb-Montenegrin border is all rugged mountains, while we're down at sea level here.

Lots of good points here (I like the Brooks analogy too), but no time to reply -- we're off to Budapest on an overnight train in an hour, with boys. Wish us luck.


Doug M.

Raoul Djukanovic

safe travels - look forward to hearing from you when you're back. hope you've got plenty of blankets for that train... ;-)



You claimed that "inflation here was at 100% just five years ago, and has still not dropped out of double digits." - that's not true for Romania, since inflation in 2004 was slightly higher than 9% (I think it was 9.3%) for the year. So, while still being high by European standards, it has dropped into the single digits.


Dear Miahi:

I suppose also that if you squint a little, and look at the Leu relative to the dollar, the trend has actually been deflationary.

It wasn't that long ago that I was getting 33,200 lei to the dollar...it closed today at 27,999.579.

(I know nothing about money (curency trading), but I have access to Bloomberg, so what the heck).

Best Wishes,



Ko je ovde naš?

Raoul Djukanovic

Ko je ovde naš?

šta zna?i naš?


Finally, I can post something relevant...Tadic today in Kosovo takes a hard line on Serbia allowing independence.

See BBC Link:


Of course, time alone will tell.

Best Wishes,



thanks for an excellent post.
it is very obvious that day by day djindjic is getting more and more popular. b92's "insider" show had shown once again dark games of Kostunica's inner cicles towards djindjic. i read somewhere that it was the show with the most viewers ever on any serbian tv. (i am not sure whether it was for all shows or political shows only). definitely something to blog about.

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