May 2003   česky

Be careful, this line is not secure. Two members of the cabinet - Ministers Gross and Tvrdík, naturally - were caught on police wiretaps making calls to the proprietor of a local cathouse. Neither man would discuss the calls, although Tvrdík insisted the lady wasn't a "madam". Several of their colleagues have been caught making their own clandestine phone calls but no madams figured in any of them, either. Just people like Libor Procházka, suspected of swindling millions in the IPB bank crash. ODS front man Vlastimil Tlustý, who enjoys the president's respect like no other, felt a need to speak with the former bank director three times while he was under surveillance. Klaus also thinks highly of Tvrdík's abilities, or so he suggested when he accepted his resignation, which in itself certainly didn't speak volumes about Tvrdík's competence. He had no sooner handed in his resignation than he withdrew it and handed it in the following day. The reasons he gave for leaving the defense ministry had to do with recent budget cuts. He can't reform a wasteful military without any money. Other departments will also have to make do with less now that the government is taking public-finance reform seriously. It's proving to be a tough sell and the premier and finance minister have been riding herd over the Social Democrats to keep them in line. The Communists want no cuts in the welfare state, the Civic Democrats want more and the government has only one vote in parliament to fend them off. That vote could well come down to Jan Kavan, who's still moonlighting as the chairman of the United Nations general assembly. He already blew one close budget call with his absence, despite the government footing his huge commuter bill to and from New York. Kavan has indicated he will give up the UN in return for another plum assignment, like becoming the first European Commissioner for the Czech Republic. But he now stands accused of destroying security documents while serving as foreign minister and the current foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, is making sure everybody knows about it. The media began speculating that Svoboda was doing the bidding of the Bush administration, which wanted to fix Kavan for supposedly trying to thwart US interests abroad. The more likely scenario is that Svoboda too has his sights set on becoming the first commissioner and doesn't mind adding to his already impressive list of enemies to get the job. Among those is the president, whose sparring match with the foreign minister over the EU led him to call a meeting of all party leaders to discuss the issue. The meeting will be remembered for nothing except the picture of Klaus and Communist leader Grebeníček standing side by side on the balcony of the historic presidential retreat at Lány Castle with champagne in their hands. The rabidly anti-EU-NATO-US Communists were no doubt also pleased with Klaus' comments in a German newspaper declaring that foreign troops (EU-NATO-US) would not be welcomed in the Czech Republic. Of course, the decision isn't his to make, but he fired a warning shot by issuing his first veto. Klaus had promised not to use his veto to shape official policy, but the Zoo Act, which would put mom-and-pop bear dancing out of business for good, was too much for him. The government quickly overrode the veto and started turning its attention to an even bigger complainer. TV Nova had begun stepping up its criticism of the government after the broadcasting council was sacked. The government responded by hinting that it would revoke Nova's license once the new council was in place. The pressure finally became too great for Nova's shadowy owners and they dismissed the station director, who now has to settle for being just a senator. Another personality who fell from grace was Dominik Haąek, the goalie who led the Czech hockey team to Olympic victory in Nagano in 1998. Haąek pummeled an opponent during a match on in-line skates, landing the man in the hospital. In the wake of the Czech hockey team's inglorious exit from this year's world championships, the media was ready to pounce. It was suggested that the Dominator had always been a Terminator, it's just that everyone had been taken in by his wholesome looks. And there were other would-be terminators out in force. One man was apprehended after threatening to poison the nation's supply of Coca-Cola. Another caller warned that he would begin lacing hospital food with cyanide unless a bank account was opened for him abroad with $10,000,000 in it. A suspect was nabbed in that case as well and so far there have been no reports of anyone dying from eating hospital food.