Monday, July 31, 2006

The Polish - UK migration backlash gains momentum

A campaign by UK’s Daily Mail attempts to highlight the downside of Polish migration. And 'liberal' Guardian journo is a racist twat.

The conservative, middle class Mail - which for as long as I remember has been carrying scare stories about waves, floods and other liquid metaphors of migrants swamping Britain - printed a story last week claiming Polish children were being dumped in orphanages in Poland so that parents could skip off to London for a good time and a decently paid job.

‘Hundreds of children, some younger than two, are being abandoned in Poland by parents chasing dreams of a new life in Britain, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

The terrible legacy of the mass migration encouraged by Tony Blair's open door to job-seekers from former Eastern bloc states joining the European Union can be disclosed for the first time today.‘

Shock, horror, gasp! The paper rumbles on:

‘Even more tragically, some youngsters have killed themselves after being left with elderly relatives - while others have turned to drugs and crime when they were abandoned by their migrant mothers and fathers.‘

The Mail admits that nobody knows how many kids are being put in these homes (though it seems to feel confident that there are ‘hundreds' of them, all the same) but quotes a few experts to back up the story.

‘Beata Rostocka, a social services manager in Wroclaw, said she despairs of this harrowing trend. "We often get phone calls from mothers and fathers saying they are going to the UK or Ireland to work and asking if we can provide for their children's safe-keeping," she said. "It leaves me aghast."

Aghast! Gazeta Wyborcza has been running similar stories, quoting some of the same ‘experts’.

Then on Sunday the Daily Mail ran another story of a secret British government report which concludes that the UK will soon be overrun (swamped, flooded?) by eastern and central Europeans.

Around 600,000 Poles have gone to Britain to work since the EU’s expansion two years ago, says the paper. The Mail is arguing that further expansion next year, when Romania and Bulgaria are set to join, will tip the balance.

Not just conservatives...

But if you think that it is only conservative right wing British who fear the ‘Polish plumber’ then look at this little piece of doggy turd in the Guardian, the newspaper of choice for British liberal, environmentalist tree huggers. The first sentences written by journalist Simon Burnton about how the Brits work too hard go like this:

‘We work too hard [meaning: 'boo hoo, I want mummy and my therapist']. More than any nation in Europe, British lives are wasted in offices, leaving only a couple of waking hours each day for us to call free, even if they are spent on journeys to and from the workplace, frequently with one's nose pressed into the unwashed underarm of someone speaking Polish...’

If you substituted the word ‘Polish’ in that sentence for ‘African’ then Guardian readers would be screaming ‘racist’. But, alas, PC seems to cover every ethnicity these days except the white working class, and those from central and eastern Europe.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Kaczynski twins on the Jon Stewart Show

Poland’s international PR problem gets ever worse.

See clip of the show on Chris Borowski's Traveling Life blog.

See also Troublesome Twins by Andrew Nagorski in Newsweek.

That’s it from me for a couple of weeks. I’m going on a bit of a Balkans Odyssey so I will have plenty of stories when I get back.

While I am away check our Edward Lucas, Polish Outlook, Our man in Gdansk and the truly extraordinary Being had.

I’ll leave a couple of postcards on P3.

Do zobaczenia

Friday, July 14, 2006

Jacek the Ripper?

The Ripper was a Polish Jew. That was the opinion of the head of the investigation into the Whitechapel murders in 1888, according to ‘evidence’ released today.

Handwritten notes by Chief Inspector Donald Sutherland Swanson, just put in the Crime Museum at Scotland Yard, identify Aaron Kosminski as the man who butchered at least five women in the one of the most infamous unsolved cases of all time.

This is Local London reports:

‘JACK The Ripper was a Polish immigrant who died aged 54 in a Hertfordshire mental asylum - 31 years after he terrorised the dark streets of east London.

Mr Swanson wrote in the margins of the memoirs of the retired assistant commissioner Robert Anderson, "The Lighter Side of My Official Life", that the killings stopped after Kosminski realised detectives had identified him as the prime suspect.

Kosminski, who worked as a barber after arriving in London in 1882, was never interviewed because he was insane.

The only eyewitness to The Ripper murders was alleged to have identified Kosminski in an identity parade at a Metropolitan Police convalescent home in Brighton.
But Swanson wrote that the witness refused to testify against Kosminski because they were both Jewish.’

Aha! Another Jewish conspiracy theory.

Kosminski has always been identified as one of the numerous suspects of the grizzly murders. But many feel that the guy was only included in the list due to the wide spread anti-Semitism in London at the time.

But it still hasn’t stopped local journalists, apparently, from rehashing the story.

In fact many of the suspects were Polish Jews. Apart from Kosminski there were:

David Cohen (1865–1889). A Polish Jew whose incarceration at Colney Hatch asylum roughly coincided with the end of the murders.

John Pizer (1850-1897). Pizer was a Polish Jew who worked as a bootmaker in Whitechapel.

According to the great, widespread social unrest in the East End of Victorian London led to:

‘...the belief that this “rising tide of Jewish immigration was reducing native Englishmen to destitution [and this] led to an increase in popular anti-Semitism”.

This anti-Semitism found its expression in a deliberate attempt to connect the Jews with the Whitechapel murders.'

Jack the Ripper, who ever he was (and who really cares?) was of more use as an anonymous monster than as someone who could be identified.

Much like today’s terrorists it is comforting, perhaps, to think of them as from an alien culture ‘over there’ – as a threat from outside.

Which is why it was such a horrible shock for Londoners to discover that the 7/7 bombers were not from ‘over there’ at all, but seemingly normal British Asians who played cricket at the weekends and plotted their weird trip to London on a white water rafting trip in Yorkshire.

For what it is worth, one of the most promising suspects was actually a Catholic Pole, Seweryn Antonowicz Kłosowski. A trained doctor from Warsaw medical school, he took the English alias George Chapman when he came to London from Nargornak in 1887.

He was convicted of murdering three women, including his wife. So, undoubtedly a very nasty man indeed who had all the skills to do the darstedly deeds.

But there again, Polish Catholics can make convenient folk-devils, too.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Kaczynskis: Poland’s answer to the brothers that ruled all that they could see...

...but it ended in the death of one of them.

Romulus (the founder of Rome) would slay Remus over a dispute about which one of the two brothers had the support of the local gods to rule the new city and give it his name.

One day, when Romulus and Remus arrived at Palatine Hill the two argued over where the exact position of the future city should be.

Romulus was set on building the city upon Palatine Hill, but Remus wanted to build the city on the strategic and easily fortified Aventine Hill.

The two agreed to settle their argument by testing their abilities by the will of the gods.

Each took a seat on the ground apart from one another. Remus had a vision of six vultures (which were considered to be sacred to Mars, their father), while Romulus saw twelve!

Remus was enraged by Romulus’s victory, and as the victor began digging a trench where the city's wall would eventually be (753 BC) Remus ridiculed some parts of the work and obstructed others.

At last, Remus could stand it no longer and leaped across the trench his brother had dug (an omen of bad luck) and a fight to the death began.

But Romulus was stronger and killed his brother there and then.

Romulus named the city Rome after himself, and served as its first king along with the Senate.

As he grew older, however, Romulus bored of democracy and ruled alone as a dictator.

One day, when Romulus and all the people of Rome had gone to Campus Martius, a sudden storm arose. The darkness became so great that the people fled in terror.

When the storm was over, the Romans returned. But to their surprise, Romulus had disappeared, forever.

Which of the Kaczynski brothers, Lech or Jaroslaw, is Romulus? Who will see the greater number of vultures?

Update, Friday: Lech Walesa, one time ally of the Kaczynski twins, was on television this morning saying: “Yeah, the Kaczynskis are used to fighting – they spent the first few months of their lives fighting for their mother’s tit!'

He always did have a way with words, did our Lech.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Miss World 2006 in Poland: beauty with a purpose!

The Miss Word contest, to be held in Warsaw this September, will solve Poland’s unemployment problem, apparently (photo: Lucky Aneta Kręglicka, Poland’s only winner of Miss World, 1989 – obviously a political vote in the year of the Round Table).

You thought it was just a ‘bit of fun’, didn’t you? You thought it was about ladies in swim suits and evening wear who, when interviewed by some MC, declare that after the contest they want to, ‘do lots and lots of work [giggle, giggle, gurgle] for charity!’

You thought it was just a load of boobs, legs and hairspray.

But no. The Miss World contest, to be held in Warsaw on September 30, has a social purpose. Course it does. It’s going to solve the 16% unemployment problem all by itself. And more!

Radio Polonia:

Miss World finals to be held in Warsaw will generate 20,000 jobs, 16 million zloty (or 4 million euro) in additional budget revenue and will ensure the development of the tourist sector for the coming years.

Radio Polonia doesn’t say where these 20,000 jobs will come from. We can only surmise.

150 hair dressers... give up: where are they coming from?

‘Miss World 2006 Contest, the event that grabs the attention of millions of people worldwide, will take place in Warsaw, Poland. This is a great success and a wonderful opportunity for our country – said Elżbieta Wierzbicka, the President of the Contest Commission, President of the Miss Polonia Office.’

That’s from the Warsaw City Hall web site.

‘Apart from the most important event of the Miss World 2006 Contest, which is the final ceremony itself, Warsaw will also organize four accompanying events, including a solemn opening gala.’

Solemn? What are they talking about? The web site gushes that the decision...

' a clear message basically to every country in the world that Poland and Warsaw are able to organize events of a top, world-class level’ – said Tadeusz Deszkiewicz, Head of the Office of Promotion of the Capital City of Warsaw.

Blimey! And I thought it was about which girl has the nicest tits! But there is the money angle:

It is obvious that the local authorities see the Contest as a huge promotional opportunity which, if used properly, may bring material benefits for the cities, their regions and citizens.

Ah, I see. Warsaw residents will benefit enormously. Can’t wait!

The Warsaw Voice, which never misses an opportunity to ‘promote’ the capital, oozes:

The competition will be broadcast by 200 TV stations from across the world. Apart from Olympic Games and soccer championships, the Miss World finals is the event that arouses the greatest amount of interest around the world. Dozens of Polish Internet forums are already full of enthusiastic comments.

Are they? I don’t think so. The Miss World Contest was in its hayday over thirty years ago. Since then the main TV channels in countries like the UK have dropped the live broadcast for the same reasons that they dropped the Benny Hill Show in the 1980s.

It’s a boring event watched only by men with a very, very of freinds.

Trivia: In the 1980s, to counter outrageous accusations that the whole contest was a sexist load of bull, the organizers added a personality and intelligence test!!!

Question: Why is the winner of the rival Miss Universe contest always from Planet Earth?

Answers on a post card to the usual address.

Tensions in Polish foreign ministry over German potato jibe?

Warsaw’s ambassador in Berlin admits that President Kaczynski has gone over the top by demanding an apology from the German government.

Speaking in a Financial Times interview in Berlin, ambassador Andrzej Byrt (above) said Warsaw’s reaction to a controversial satirical article [see here and here] in a German newspaper in which the Polish president was compared to a potato had been “too emotional”…

The German government has cited the principles of press freedom and says it would be inappropriate for it to apologize.

Ambassador Byrt then repeats what many think about the PiS government: that they are naïve about, and disinterested in, foreign affairs.

“There is an over-sensitivity in Poland, because many new politicians hardly know foreign countries. They believe they control foreign reactions [to events in Poland] in the same way they do in Poland itself. To do this with foreign partners is perhaps not very sensible”.

Strong stuff. That such a high ranking Polish official should admit that calls for the German government to apologize are a little ‘emotional’ shows some disquiet over the antics of the Kaczynskis administration within the administration itself.

We also know that if you break from the official government line here then you won’t keep your job very long.

So what gave Ambassador Byrt the balls to say such a thing at such a delicate period in Polish - German relations?

Well, Byrt is scheduled to end his term as Poland’s Ambassador in Berlin at the end of this month.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Was John Paul II a Marxist?! But a little known work by Karol Wojtyla confirms that the neo-con view that he was a champion of unfettered capitalism always was a bit of a fantasy.

The Zycie Warszawy newspaper is accusing the John Paul II Institute in Lublin, south east Poland, of attempting to “censor the pope” by withholding a text written in 1953/4 - Katolicka Etyka Spoleczna (Catholic Social Ethics) - from the late Pope’s Polish beatification tribunal, which ended April 1 after just five months’ work.

In the text, Wojtyla traces communism back to Christian tradition. One section is subtitled, “The Objective Superiority of the Communist Ideal.” In it he says:

“In line with patristic traditions and the centuries-old practice of monastic life, the church itself acknowledges the ideal of communism. But it believes, given the current state of human nature, that the general implementation of this ideal -- while protecting the human person’s complete freedom -- faces insurmountable difficulties.”

“Class struggle should gain strength in proportion to the resistance it faces from economically privileged classes, so the systemic social situation will mature under this pressure to the appropriate forms and transitions.”

….….The church is aware that the bourgeois mentality and capitalism as a whole, with its materialist spirit, acutely contradict the Gospel.”

According to respected religious correspondent, Johnathan Luxmoore, who worked in Warsaw for ten years and broke the story of the ‘forgotten text’ last January:

‘The text contradicts views promoted by neoconservative thinkers who depict the pontiff as a lifelong fan of U.S.- style liberal capitalism. It also raises questions of why, when every detail of Wojtyla’s life has been combed over by researchers and biographers, mention of this 511-page work has apparently been avoided.

[The text] shows Wojtyla had acquired by his early 30s a sophisticated knowledge of Marxism and an empathy with its critique of capitalist injustices. It shows he had already rejected both “socialist totalism” and “individualistic liberalism” as prerequisites for a well-organized society.’

When communism ended in 1989 in Poland, the Pope was hoping for a ‘third way’ between capitalism and what went before. According to Michael L. Budde in A Church Divided:

“John Paul’s concerns with economic justice are deep and important. He seeks to put the Church on the side of the have-nots of the world economy, and he says that the rich North will be judged by the poor South for its “imperialistic monopoly of economic and political supremacy [gained] at the expense of others...'

And this is crucial if you want to understand the Polish government today. Like Pope John Paul II, the Law and Justice party, and the minor coalition member, League of Polish Families, are social conservatives. But on economic matters they have a deep distrust of the free market.

Marcin Krol, Rector of Warsaw University sums up:

'The debate the Pope began on the relationship between the free market and moral problems remains unfinished. Eliminating the abuses that accompany capitalism and harnessing it for the benefit of society and human morals still needs to be tackled. John Paul II had the courage to raise the fundamental questions that needed asking.'

JP II was a lethal enemy of atheist communism but he was no fan of free market capitalism either. And the 'forgotten text' which has led to much debate in the Polish media shows he had a knowledge of the works of Marx that will suprise many a neo-con.

His name is Jaroslaw and he has a grip of iron

Wprost jokes on the new head of government’s control freakery…

Q: Why doesn’t the new Prime Minister,Jaroslaw Kaczynski, ever wear a watch?

A: Because he’s the guy in Poland who decides what time it is.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Finally some sanity coming out of Warsaw

An Iranian news agency reports that the Polish government thinks any US military action against Tehran is ‘unlikely’.

When the UK’s then foreign minister, Jack Straw, said in May that a US military strike against Iran would be ‘completly nuts’ many agreed with him. And then what happened to poor old Jack?

Tony Blair promptly gave him the sack.

Well, the Polish government is giving the same advice to the US – don’t even think about it.

The Iranian Fars news agency reports:

Mr. [Stanislaw] Koziej [under secretary of defense] said the experiences in Iraq, which greatly divided Europe, did not make it easy for the world to react in Iran. "I personally believe that military intervention in Iran is improbable," Mr. Koziej said. "So we should get used to the fact that we will have to deal with Iran as an established nuclear state."

Poland has been falling over itself to appear the US’s keenest ally in Europe in the ‘war on terror’ and other abstract nouns. But Iran would be a step too far for the Polish voter, who is already decidedly unimpressed with the disastrous war in Iraq. In fact, Poles were not too keen on the invasion in the first place.

Fars goes on:

In a separate interview, the undersecretary at the ministry of foreign affairs, Witold Waszczykowski, said it was vital to keep the US engaged. "We think that the American flag is waving in Warsaw above the roof of the American embassy and this is the only place you can find the American flag - it's a bizarre situation because in such a friendly country … [the US] is supposed to be much more visible," Mr. Waszczykowski said.

Mr. Koziej said public opinion in Poland did not support the country's presence in Iraq, the war having claimed the lives of at least 17 Polish soldiers.

So the US’s best friend in central Europe is gently telling Washington: ‘don’t bomb Tehran, as we will find it difficult to support you.’

Good advice, fellas. Keep it up. It might become a habit!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Poles get double vision

Update: Sixty percent of Poles think that having the brothers in the top two government jobs is bad for the country, according to PBS

And so it came to pass: the Kaczyński brothers double act that they promised last year would never happen, just happened.

Rzepa quotes Jaroslaw Kaczynski: ‘We decided to take the risk and have a Prime Minister and President who are brothers.'

Opinion polls have been pretty consistent. Poles would rather not have identical twins who not only shared the same egg but also share the same political outlook in the two top jobs.

So why take the 'risk' in the first place?

Jaroslaw Kaczynski said at a press conference yesterday that the now ex-prime minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz’s talents were needed to secure a win in the mayor of Warsaw vote this autumn.

Marcinkiewicz is easily Poland’s most popular politician with support that crosses the party political divide. The formal explanation for the sudden resignation is that Marcinkiewicz is to be groomed for the post of president of Poland sometime in the future. But others see different reasons behind the move.

The riff between Marcinkiewicz and the Kaczynskis must have got rather significant over the last few months. Marcinkiewicz is obviously his own man, appointing Pawel Wojciechowski as the new finance minister without asking permission from Jarolsaw, the real power behind the government.

And it looks like the first thing Jaroslaw will do now that he is prime minister is give poor old Pawel the boot and get someone else to head the finance ministry.

The weirdest part of all this is that the government is making Andrzej Lepper look like one of the most reasonable men in the cabinet! He has been on the TV lots sounding like the ‘honest broker’ between the different factions within the government.

His party, Samoobrona and the far-right LPR are now in a position to push for more say in what will effectively be another new government. They will threaten not to vote for Jarolsaw unless they get more concessions out of him. This will include demands for more social spending in the 2007 budget.

The ‘liberal-conservative’ opposition Civic Platform has predicted a drift into even more extremist policies now that the Kaczynski twins will be running the legislative and the executive.

But Platform’s bleating sounds rather lame. It was they, after all, who voted against the possibility of a general election earlier this year when Law and Justice could not manage to form a coalition.

What Poland needs more than anything is a period of political calm and stability. But that, sadly, is just wishful thinking.

The long hot Polish political summer continues.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A chip on his shoulder?

What’s so bad about being called a potato?

So the President of Poland doesn’t like being called a kartoffel by German journalists, huh?

Reporters Without Borders is as outraged as this blog that someone should get upset about being called a harmless vegetable.

Reporters Without Borders denounced today as “disgraceful” the Polish government’s “over-reaction” in demanding that Germany apologise for a German newspaper article making fun of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his brother.

From one root vegetable to another – rejoice, Mr. President! It could have been worse. They could have called you a burak!

Vegetables of the world unite!

Polish Prime Minister resigns

Nobody seems to knows why but it looks bad news for PiS. (photo: Marcinkiewicz with opposition leader, Donald Tusk – a new alliance?)

Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz has left the government. Either he resigned – as he says he has – or he was sacked, as the government appears to be claiming, Friday evening.

Watching the TV news now, the announcement – which government spokesmen made this evening – has clearly taken the government by surprise. In fact, I can say that this has caused havoc among the, possibly, ex- PM’s ex-party, the ruling Law and Juctice (PiS). No prepared press statements by either side, just a scrum of reporters chasing quotes.

The speculators are speculating on the news programs but we’ll know more facts tomorrow when the government will make a statement. But it seems likely that Jaroslaw Kaczynski, twin of President Lech, will take over as PM.

One rumor is that Marcinkiewicz has resigned to fight the mayor of Warsaw elections, which PiS do not have a decent candidate for.

The latest opinion polls show PiS in a two point lead with 29% over Civic Platform, so maybe they can afford a few changes?.

But this seems unbelievable. If that was the case then the news would have been stage managed, planned to get the best publicity. Breaking news on a Friday evening, when the media is winding down for the weekend, is rather unusual.

Others say that this has been on the cards for months.

Few had heard of Marcinkiewicz when he was given the post of Prime Minister after last fall's election. He was given the position because the opinion polls were clear that Poles did not like the prospect of having identical twins in both president and PM roles.

Well, it looks like they are going to get them now.

PiS have the problem that Marcinkiewicz was their most popular politician. With an approval rating of around 65%, Marcinkiewicz is the most popular politician in Poland by miles!

Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his brother Lech, have seen their ratings fall since the election quite dramatically.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski was also said to be a bit upset that Marcinkiewicz did not consult him before appointing Pawel Wojciechowski as finance minister after the resignation two weeks ago of Zyta Gilowska.

Marcinkiewicz was their best asset. But he always was a duck out of water in PiS. His economics are free market, while the Kaczynskis are more statist.

One thing is for sure: it seems everyone has been suprised that this has come now. Except, maybe, for Marcinkiewicz. And Tusk? Is it crisis management down at PiS headquarters this weekend?

Polish government starts process of self destruction as the prime minister resigns, Polish Outlook, July 8

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

MSM and the ‘citizen journalist’

Bloggers writing about blogging is dull – but people – both bloggers and non-bloggers - get confused about the difference between journalism and blogging.

I have been blogging for over a year now. It’s a hobby much like long-distance running. I have done both. Both get addictive. Both demand that you do it, in some form, virtually everyday. Both need commitment. Both demand that you are in it for the long run.

I do it cause I like it. I do it when I get home from work and sometimes very late at night.

I have always written copious amounts of stuff about all sorts of things. Much of the time I get paid for it. But I used to fill up notebooks full of stuff just for my own amusement, as well.

And then blogs came along and it seemed only natural to write and publish stuff on that. The freedom of expression is total and you can indulge yourself. The blogger is the boss of his blog. No outside pressures.

Contrast that with getting something published in what the blog community calls ‘the mainstream media’ (MSM).

The content of what you write about, and the subjects you write about, are mediated by several ‘filters’. The owner, the editor, the advertisers, consumers. There is also the most powerful self-constraint of all: self-censorship. You know how far you can go, you need to try and be objective, you try and be ethical, you need to fact check, you are careful for reasons of professional self preservation.

I get many emails from people. One recently said very nice things about the blog and said that it helped him keep up to date with the country that his family is from (I think he is from the US).

I wrote back saying thank you but warning him that if the beatroot was the his only source of news about Poland then he would be getting a partial picture of the country.

I always meticulously put links from where I get information from, in English, so that everyone can be involved and can see I am not just making facts up.

But the subjects on this blog are ones that are of interest to me. That’s the only editorial consideration. If others find them interesting (or annoying) then so much the better!

But when bloggers claim that they are ‘citizen journalists’ – an expression I do not like – they forget that, fundamentally, blogging and journalism are very different things. Bloggers go through none of the ‘filters’ that journalists working in MSM do.

And I think it is wise that readers of blogs and writers of blogs remember that.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

General Franco – Polish hero?

A bit of a fuss at the EU parliament as far-right MEP Maciej Giertych praises Spanish dictator.

Yes, you did read that right. During a parliamentary debate in Strasburg on how nasty General Franco was (?) Maciej Giertych, far right father of far right education minister Roman Giertych, said he longed for the days of strong men ruling Europe with an iron first. Quoted in EU Observer, he said:

'The presence of such personalities as Franco, Salazar or DeValera in European politics guaranteed Europe's perseverance of traditional values. We lack such men of action these days.'

Yeah, I’ve read about it in the history books. Goose stepping in long shinny boots; when men were men and Bavarian sheep got nervous? That kind of thing?

Giertych told an opened mouthed EU parliament:

‘We observe in deep sorrow some attempts of historical revisionism which tends to criticize all that is traditional and Catholic while portraying in a positive light all that is lay and socialist.’

Oh, I see. He supports Franco because he ‘kept the commies at bay’ - that kind of argument. Like the one they use to justify Augusto Pinochet?

And then I lose Giertych’s argument completely:

‘Let's not forget that Nazism in Germany and fascism in Italy were also spiced up by socialist and atheist taste.’


German socialist leader Martin Schulz wasn’t having that:

‘What we have just heard is Mr Franco's ghost. It was a fascist speech and such a statement has no place in the European Parliament,’

Schultz then started shouting “You Nazis” at protesting rightist Polish MEPs.

All in a days fun, these days, down at the EU parliament.

The culture war in Europe continues...

Iran to stage Slawomir Mrozek play

Iranian director Mohammadreza Khaki plans to stage The Portrait at Tehran’s City Theater.

Opening night for Mrozek’s play is July 23. The director has been trying to put on the play by one of Poland’s best contemporary writers for ages, apparently.

“The play has a realistic structure. In fact, it is a fantasy which gradually turns into a realistic story,” says Mohammadreza Khaki.

All sounds a bit dull. Why have the Iranian authorities been slow to grant permission for The Portrait, then?

Maybe because the play – very much in Mrozek’s Theatre of the Absurd style - is, according to critic, Jacek Sieradzki, about two characters:

‘…Bartodziej prays to a portrait of Stalin, appearing to be a "child of the idol, one who seeks meaning and life fulfillment in ideology. Bartodziej is burdened by guilt and strives to impose order on his inner chaos by finding a punishment that would fuse his life into a sensible whole. But a second protagonist, Anatol, just released from prison where he was sent after being betrayed by Bartodziej, also turns out to be a "child of Stalin."

Jan Blonski wrote:

‘Both Bartodziej and Anatol are worthless people. And this renders them capable of serving a false idol, one capable of turning these weaklings into heroes - at least in their own eyes.’

Now I get why it will be a great play to put on in Tehran. Dictatorship, false idols, weaklings who think they are heroes...

Sound familiar?

Monday, July 03, 2006

President Kaczynski runs for cover...updated

...and calls off Weimar Triangle 15th anniversary celebrations after suffering mysterious illness.

‘The Weimar what?’, I hear you cry. It’s an informal alliance first formed between France, Germany and Poland back in 1991. It’s really a series of summits where leaders sit around and talk about stuff.

The celebrations for this ‘triangle’ were complete in the town of Weimar, where the first talking shop took place. And then, with French and German bags packed and ready to go, President Kaczynski, right at the last moment, says he can't come! ‘Due to an illness’ the presidential palace announced but without filling in the details.

And then it emerges that the president has an extreme case of Belwederska Belly, which he picked up at the weekend.

Still, cynics will be cynical: this is a president who is not really into foreign affairs. He doesn’t like traveling abroad. Not really interested.

And France and Germany can’t be his favourite countries. Some Poles still haven’t got over Jacques Chirac’s remark after Poland supported the US position before the Iraq war. He said, rather patronizingly:

"It is not well-brought-up behaviour. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet,"

So President Kaczynski might well prefer sitting on the can all day with Chirac’s Revenge than he would spending a day sitting around having to indulge in diplomacy small talk on a pleasantly sunny afternoon.

Update Tuesday morning:
The talk now surrounds an insulting article in a newspaper printed in Berlin at the weekend about the Kaczynski brothers, which many are speculating led to the presidents ‘diplomatic illness’.

The article does seem rather childish: it refers to the diminutive height of the two twins, calls them ‘a couple of potatoes’ and says something nasty about their mother.

Now here’s the weird bit: the article was put, in full, onto the Polish Foreign Minsitry web site! The person that did that was the director of the web site, Pawel Dobrawolski, someone who has long experience as foreign spokesman for the various right wing governments here – and someone I have spoken to many times and is a very nice, helpful guy.

Dobrawolski has now been given the sack.

But did the German ‘potatoes’ give President Kaczynski his ‘bad stomach’?

The plot thickens.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

FEAR - Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz... the latest work by Jan Gross, the historian/sociologist who scandalized Poland five years ago with his book about the Jedwabne massacre.

Well, it looks like he will ruffle a few feathers again with his new book about the Kielce pogrom of 1946.

I haven’t read FEAR yet so I can’t review it.

But here it’s reviewed by Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel for the Washington Post.

Basically, the now almost conventional view here of the Kielce pogrom was that this was a ‘provocation’ by communist secret services, etc. Much of the violence, goes this view, was done by the communist authorities themselves.

What I gather Jan Gross is saying is that the political situation in Poland made ordinary Poles believe that Jews sided with the communists – many communists were Jews, in fact.

So when a kid (Henryk) claimed that he had been abducted by Jews (he hadn’t – he had just gone to see his friends for a few days!) he was readily believed.

And that’s when the ordinary Poles went into a frenzy of killing, which ended with scores of Jews dead.

What was left of the Jewish population after the war thinned out still further, leaving only a few thousand left (and most of those left in 1968).

What is for sure is that Jan Gross (one of those who left in 1968) will again become a bit of a hate figure here for dragging up an uncomfortable past once more.

On a similar theme please see the last three comments - started by 'yulia' at the end of the post here.

Elie Wiesel Accuses Poland - commentary by Adam Michnik,
Excerpt: From "Fear" - Washington Post
Remembering Kielce, Jerusalem Post, July 2
Poland marks 60th anniversary of Kielce pogrom against Jews, European Jewish Press, July 3
Poland Prepares to Mark Pogrom Anniversary, Los Angeles Times, July 3

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Beatroot launches the Polish Pro Corruption Party (PPCP)!

Samoobrona lawmaker (law breaker) Renata Beger, has been convicted of falsifying her electoral sponsorship list.

She made up 1700 names out of thin air, apparently. The signatures were hand written, so she must have been up all night, poor love.

She has received a two year suspended sentence for her trouble.

All rather embarrassing for her party, Samoobrona, which has led the crusade against political corruption.

Renata first came to attention when she was on the special parliamentary commission looking into the ‘Rywingate affair’, a tale of high corruption during the previous SLD government.

In an interview to a woman’s magazine at the time, she confessed to finding her boss, Adnrzej Lepper a bit sexy (?) but also admitting that she was a very amorous person herself, saying that she had ‘kurwiki in her eyes’ – an extraordinary expression which could be translated as ‘the look of a prostitute in her eyes’.


But dear Renata has inspired this blog to start its own political party – the Polish Pro Corruption Party (PPCP). Renata can be our president (if she promises not to give me any of that kurwiki nonsense!).

The PPCP will stand in the next Euro elections. We think Brussels is not corrupt enough and could learn a few tricks from Poland.

PPCP doesn’t mind if we haven’t got any support as we’ll just make up our signatures anyway.

We welcome backhanders and back scratching. Our accountant will bribe himself to falsify the accounts.

Our election slogan will be: VOTE EARLY, VOTE OFTEN!!!

How unemployed is Poland?

Official figures say it’s just over 16.5 percent. But things are a bit more complicated than a simple statistic.

The figures only record those who are registered unemployed. But since benefits can only be drawn for six months – that leaves the numbers of the unrecorded unemployed much higher than 16 percent.

Or does it?

Unemployment grew rapidly after the changes in 1989. In 1990 around 6 percent were recorded out of work. By 1994 that figure had risen to 16 percent. The rate dipped down again to under 10 percent in 1998, only to rise steadily again thereafter. This year has seen a slight decrease.

Youth unemployment is around a massive forty percent.

One of the most notable features of Poland’s economy is that GDP growth has been around 5 percent for a long time now but the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high – the highest in the EU.

One answer could be that the productivity rate of each worker has gone up significantly. Which is good.

But it also could be that many of the unemployed either do not want jobs that are offered to them or that employers can’t find the right type of staff with the appropriate skills.

Good piece – as always – in Polish Outlook about unemployment this week:

In the city of Slupsk the unemployment rate is approximately 30%. A car repair shop needs to employ eight workers. It offers a monthly pay of 2000 zloty which is much higher than the 800 to 1000 zloty offered to people by many of the large retailers. They have been unable to fulfill the positions for some time. It is reported that they believe that people have registered as unemployed [in the town] but are working illegally and are not interested in taking on another job.

Outlook also says that some employers are wary of employing younger workers as most only stay in the position for half a year and then leave for larger cities or go abroad to London or Dublin and get work there.

Conclusions we can draw, I suppose, are these:

• there are significant skills shortages in certain areas of the economy.
• the labor code is not flexible enough to deliver the right workers to suitable jobs
• the population is not geographically mobile enough to fill jobs in certain areas
• many are long term unemployed and have become unemployable
• many are working in the black economy

Of course, the more people working 'on the black' in an economy the less tax they pay, starving the government further of funds to do something about unemployment. But at least they have some income to pay VAT!

The government made a pledge during last year’s election that solving the unemployment problem would be a priority. This means that they have to maintain high growth and increase the amount of skills in the workforce to meet the changing nature of the economy.

But they also have to grasp the nettle and change the labor code, which, at the moment, discourages employers taking on new staff. It is very hard to sack someone for incompetence, for instance. They also need to make it cheaper for employers to take on new workers.

Unfortunately, changing the labor code and lowering taxes on businesses will be resisted by much of the coalition, who are old style protectionists and what Andrzej Lepper mysteriously calls ‘social liberals’ (/).

And that’s a shame. Unemployment is one of Poland’s biggest problems. If they don’t solve it soon then more and more young people will just pack their bags and head for the UK, Ireland, Spain...even Finland!!!