Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Beger tapes transcript – English version

Here is a rough and ready transcript of the ‘Polish Watergate’ tapes.

Renata Beger is in the hotel where members of parliament stay when they are in town. Opposite her is Adam Lipinski, vice chairman of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS). This is the first of three days of meetings.

September 22

AL. – So are you with the other group of five [the breakaway group of lawmakers who broke from Samoobrona and want to remain in the coalition]?

RB – I am talking about myself.

AL – So it means that the group of five people, that means six. You would like to join PiS and they will go to that [parliamentary] club….or maybe they are creating another group… it’s good…what are your expectations?

RB – Mmm…as I said...

AL – Meaning the Secretary of State for Agriculture, yeah?

RB – Yeah, immediately

AL – You know, its no problem at all….because we have lots of vacancies…lots….so no problem. And the other people…?

RB - They…

AL - I prefer if they didn’t push it…the Secretary of State…

RB – No, no…they would be speaking for themselves.

AL – Aha…

RB – And I am sure, 100%, about three of them…the other two are, maybe…

AL – You know, there are different options…some people just want to be re-elected…so we have some possibilities with them …for example, you can come to a deal…if anyone wanted to…with [Roman] Giertych [leader of coalition member, far right LPR]. Giertych has some places with blank spots [on his electoral lists for the local elections coming up in November]…if you match them up, some can join LPR. Giertych really wants to, let’s say, puff himself up…and there maybe is a guarantee of re-election with LPR. We can talk about PiS as well, you have a wide area for maneuver here.

Film is edited

RB – Let’s talk about me first

AL – Your proposition is the Secretary of State for agriculture and joining PiS. One talk to the president [of the party Jaroslaw Kaczynski], sincerely speaking…

RB – Yeah but I was talking about much more…

AL – Meaning?

RB – About my court case [about making up sponsorship signatures before standing as an MP].

AL – And how do you imagine solving this?

RB – That’s your problem, not mine. I told Wojciech [the other PiS negotiator].

AL – There is no point in cheating you. I would do it this way: you should meet an expert on that…you explain what you mean and that person will explain how it will go. If there is something…you know, I don’t know about this, he, will tell you and you take the decision. If there are some things going on then you can’t stop them.

RB – No, you can’t.

AL – I don’t know, but if you like I will find out and tell you.

another edit

RB – We have talked about the parliamentary club, position, the top place on the list in my region.

AL – The Pila region?

RB – Yeah, Pila. Mr Kraczkowski was there now [sic].

AL – I get it. I’ll make notes…[starts making notes of what she is demanding, like writing a shopping list]…

RB – And of course, jobs for my people. Because part of my people are coming with me. The local elections. They were already mentioned on the list. I am interested in two high places.

AL – Not so fast…[tries to keep up with what she is saying with his pen]

RB – Yeah.

AL – How do you mean?

BR =- Two high places. One I can give to the name of someone called Beger. [goes through list she has written out before hand so as not to forget something].

AL – OK, so…

BR – And I have underlined, I want this from you in writing. I said to Wojciech and others who contacted me that I want it signed.

AL – Mmm, you know, I am not sure if that’s possible. We can…make a deal.

RB – I want the signature of the PM [Jarosalw Kaczynski]. He is the one who has the authority.

AL – But you know, we can make a deal, because…

RB – We are playing for high stakes.

AL – And you know, I think that the PM, he can guarantee the nomination for secretary of state. You know, I mean…we can come to a verbal agreement that you will be secretary of state. You can believe me, or not. But let’s assume that you believe me. Secretary of state is no problem.

RB – This is straight talking.

AL – The top of the Pila list, we can come to a deal. You can have PiS’s declaration that we guarantee you the local government parliament. A declaration by the party’s chairman or by the chief of the zarzad glowny [?],…somehow signed by [Kaczysnki]. The other things … of course not.

September 25 Lipinski, who sounded very confident of what he was saying in the meeting before, suddenly starts to get less so. Up until now the negotiations are what you would expect from the horse trading of coalition politics. But now things take a turn for the worse. It’s here in this session that Lipinski brings up what has been interpreted by most Poles as a bribe.

RB – And what about our agreement?

AL – So, um…first you, must have talked to someone else about your demands?

RB – I talked to Kuchczysnki [head of the PiS MPs in parliament].

AL. – Ah…

RB – He invited me.

AL – I understand… it's OK, this is not an accusation, but I don’t want to be the guilty one, as I promised that…I have spoken to the PM [J Kaczynski]. He has not accepted the position of secretary of state, so far. I’m being straight.

RB – Yeah, we are being straight [actually she is really starting to get the bit between her teeth here and is stringing him along…].

AL – That’s clear. He has not accepted it yet. That way is blocked now, if I can say so. The switch of Samoobrina people, because now its that thing about the Promissory Note [if they leave Samoobrona]. The MPs are just scared.

Some time later...and here comes the bribe...…

AL – I spoke today to Minister Ziobro [Minister of the Interior] and he says that as far as he knows, after talking to lawyers, Lepper can use the … it can take a few months. But he can’t take assets if the MPs react quickly.

It will work this way: he uses the promissory note, MPs protest, the promissory note is blocked. The court case happens and the court case is won. Ziobro says that this case is won.

RB - I have the impression that if there are some MPs who are just waiting for my decision, then you could protect me financially, just in case…and others will follow me..

AL – We were thinking today, if not setting up…Hmm… theoretically you could even the charge parliament this money (over 100,000 dollars each member of parliament].. if Lepper…theoretically it’s possible.

RB – How? In what way?

AL – Well, ummm. parliament….the debt collector can take away until the MPs protest and parliament would provide this money somehow, I don’t know how, I am not a lawyer.

RB – You mean, you would finance it, yeah?

AL – Yeah, because we thought about setting up a fund which would provide the money for these MPs until the case is solved. If, God save us, the debt collector comes in.

September 26, with a different negotiator.

WM – What could harm you is.. for example, you just come in from nowhere and get the position [of minister]…better to wait two or three weeks, otherwise it might seem like a obvious trade off which would bring the [status of the position of minister] down.

RB – Like Sosnierz [who left an opposition party and walked into a company with that party’s connections], for example?

WM – I don’t know, not my area. I don’t give a damn about Sosnierz. It wasn’t good to nominate him now, but so what. You should wait a while. You joined, fact. Because you wanted to, and then we will see. But don’t give up on that. And after two weeks, and it all calms down. Then you can get nominated.

RB – Lipinksi didn’t say so.

WM – No, don’t push it immediately because they will kill us. You know, those who just take, lose. That person loses because he has been corrupted because he went for something. But no, he went for it because he was convinced about it…..

Friday, September 29, 2006

Everyone wants to dance, rural style

It’s come to something when the Polish Peasants Party (PSL) won’t talk about a coalition.

The government’s one real hope of putting back together a coalition suffered another blow last night when the Polish Peasants Party, who have 25 seats in parliament, broke off coalition talks saying that the ‘Polish Watergate ‘ tapes (see numerous posts below) showed that the government could not be trusted in its dealings over the allocating cabinet posts during negotiations.

So even the Peasants don’t want to get into bed with PiS, it appears. Which shows how bad the image of the government has become: in the past 17 years since parliamentary democracy began in Poland PSL have been known to get into bed with just about anyone if it meant a place in the coalition.

What happens next? The government says they will vote against Civic Platform’s motion to dissolve parliament on October 10. OK, turkeys can’t be expected to vote for Christmas, but if you don’t have a majority in parliament then you cannot get through vital legislation like the 2007 Budget Bill. And if you can’t do that then you are not a government, you are a party of lame ducks...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Polish Watergate III

Latest opinion poll…Civic Platform 34%...Law and Justice 18%!!!.....Self Defense 10%......
It’s a conspiracy, says government.

The secret camera used to record the bribe PiS vice-chairman Lipinski offered Beger (see previous posts) was ‘very characteristic’ of those used by the Polish Secret Service – the very service that the government is currently disbanding in its ‘de-communization’ drive, according to government spokesman, Przemysław Gosiewski (above).

On TVN 24 tonight he said that it was ‘interesting’ that the day Donald Tusk, leader of the opposition Civic Platform (PO) put in a motion to dissolve parliament, this secretly recorded tape emerges too.

Ah, I feel a conspiracy theory coming on…

This is the world the government lives in: one where the uklad – a system of back scratching between ex-communists and liberals – rules everything. Gosiewski is implying that the Secret Services (that nest of commies), liberal politicians like Tusk, and a gullible media are somehow ganging up to bring them down.

Instead of coming out and sacking everyone involved and admitting that they have a problem, they blame everyone else.

This is the politics of denial.

Polish Watergate II

Hear the secretly filmed tapes (with transcript) by Renata Beger for yourself here

A few hundred people have been outside the Sejm, the parliament building, protesting against the Law and Justice (PiS) government’s (alleged) corruption.

The extraordinary Teraz My program on TVN last night, showing a member of the ruling party seemingly bribing MP Renata Beger (pictured above emerging from tractor) to join them in a new coalition, has left most Poles gobsmacked.

Sixty Five percent told pollsters today that parliament should be dissolved and new elections called.

Like all alleged corruption scandals the details are complicated. But basically, the TV program showed PiS’s Adam Lipinski offering Samoobrona member Beger a post in the cabinet and other incentives to join the government. But what has scandalized Poles is that he also offered to set up a ‘fund’ of tax payers money to pay for any penalty Beger or other members of Samoobrona would have to give to their party if they left it to join the government. (When Samoobrona members entered parliament last year they were asked to sign an contract agreeing that if they left the party during the time they were MPs then they would have to pay a substantial fine. It’s thought that this agreement is actually unconstitutional but Beger didn’t know that for sure at the time of the alleged bribe – neither did Lipinski.)

Government spokesmen have been defending themselves by saying that the secret recording of the conversation in the hotel used by lawmakers was ‘illegal’ [?]. They are saying the whole thing was a ‘set up’ to make the government look bad (er…well, it does). They are saying that anything that was offered to Beger was part of the usual horse trading of coalition building (Oh, really?). They are also saying that the ‘fund’ for the Samoobrona splinter group would be paid for by PiS, not the tax payer (the legality of even that is questionable).

Renata Beger has been prancing around the place looking very pleased with herself. She is saying she cooperated with the TV crew because she simply couldn’t stand seeing public life being ‘corrupted in this way’.

A truly amazing comment as this year she was found guilty of making up the list of sponsorship signatures lawmakers need to qualify as a candidate for parliament. Renata is a sleazy pot calling PiS’s kettle black.

As the above opinion poll shows, average Poles are disgusted by the recent antics. This government campaigned on bringing in a ‘moral revolution’ in Poland after years of sleaze and corruption. And here, it seems, we are again.

An election now looks almost certain (surly!) as it will be very difficult for other political parties to enter into agreements with Law and Justice. Anyone who does join this government now must be into self-abuse, in all its forms.

But this is bad news for politics in Poland in general. It will drive Poles further still away from politicians, who they already believe are a bunch of rancid, cynical pygmies.

But the planned march against the government on October 7 looks like it will be very interesting indeed.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Polish Watergate?

Massive political scandal hits government

I am watching TVN 24 at the moment and they have ‘secret camera’ footage of a Law and Justice (PiS) government representative offering to pay the ‘fine’ dissident members of Andzrej Lepper’s party Samoobrona are being asked to pay by their party, for leaving the party and staying with the government.

And this fine, amounting to over one hundred thousand Euro (which almost no Samoobrona MP could pay), was not being offered by PiS but from the coffers of the State – meaning the tax payer would pay for the government’s dirty dealing.

Looks very, very bad. The TV program has lots of ‘hidden camera’ stuff of the arm twisting that is going on by the government to stave off an election. The government really does not want an election.

The TV ‘set up’ was arranged by the beatroot’s very own political sex bomb, Renata Beger, who set up the ‘candid photography’. I suggested a few days ago that she was considering joining the government. This was wrong. She was actually conspiring against the Kaczynskis.

It looks very bad for a government that has fashioned itself as the ‘anti-corruption’ government.

Whatever the reality the only phrase that comes to mind is that ‘the shit has hit the fan’.

The weirdest thing about this is that it is a massive journalistic exclusive for TVN 24 news channel but the programme was broadcast at 10 O’clock at night!

This is potentially a huge story which I am writing down as the news is happening on the TV. Much more later….

Polish govt under fire after secretly filmed talks, Reuters,

Is Donald Tusk Poland’s answer to Martin Luther King? He’s not. So what’s the sudden interest in protest marches, then?

Donald Tusk and his opposition Civic Platform – who up until now have apparently been on a campaign of virtual invisibility while the government tears itself apart – have suddenly sprung into action.

With the collapse of the coalition last week Tusk has tabled a motion for parliament to dissolve itself – the vote will take place on October 10. For it to succeed Jarolsaw Kaczynski’s ruling Law and Justice administration would have to have failed to form another coalition with the Peasant’s Party and others.

But what has really surprised many is Tusk’s announcement that he will be heading an anti-government protest march through the streets of Warsaw on October 7 – three days before the crucial vote.

Tusk can’t have been on a march of any kind since his days as a Solidarity activist in the late 1980s.

It is a little difficult to see why he, literally, is going down this route. He says that the action is to demonstrate against bad and dishonest government. Maybe he is trying to make connections between the present government and what is going on in Budapest at the moment?


Civic Platform’s candidate for Major of Warsaw, former Head of the Central Bank, Hanna Gronkiewicz Waltz, was screaming on the television yesterday (she does a lot of screaming) that a counter march by far right member of the ruling coalition League of Polish Families (LPR) should not be allowed to take place because of ‘possible violence’.

The League of Polish Families has called in the past for gay activists not to be allowed to march through the capital.

What LPR and Hanna have in common is that they seem to think that the right to protest is uniquely theirs.

I also heard on the radio today someone droning on that the march by Civic Platform supporters was a ‘provocation’ to the League’s more thuggish supporters to attack them. Therefore, said radio commentator, it would be unwise for the march to take place.

But why should a group call off a demo because some other group might cause violence? We pay the police to protect our rights and its up to them to keep the thugs away from a peaceful protest. It’s not up to Civic Platform to deny their own right to demonstration, it’s up to the law to protect those rights.

It will be interesting to see what happens on the march October 7, and of course the beatroot will be there to record the whole thing.

How many will turn up? If the number is low then Tusk will have a large dollop of egg on his face – even if LPR don’t throw any at him.

And will Donald Tusk lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of that old Civil Rights classic from the 1960s, ‘We shall over come…’? Does he have any Joni Mitchell in his record collection? Does he have a record collection? And will he, as he addresses the crowd on October 7, start his speech with the words: “I have a dream….”?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Feed the ducks or shoot the ducks?

The Kaczynskis seem to be getting duck-centric.

Kaczki in Polish means 'ducks'. Lech and Jarosalw Kaczynski’s nickname is ‘the ducks’.

Apparently, the Kaczynskis love this name. In fact their party’s mascot in the up and coming local elections in November is ...a duck.

Well, why not? But the duck thing is getting to be a bit of an obsession. Yesterday, Jarosalw Kaczynski turned up in a park in the middle of Warsaw pleading for better understanding and tolerance of ducks everywhere.

He asked us to make sure we remember to feed the ducks during the long cold Warsaw winter. He then turned on the opposition, ex-communist SLD, which are launching their local election campaign with the slogan: 'It’s the start of duck hunting season’.

Jaroslaw said that this was proof of how far public life has been degraded by the ex-communists and their allies. Even ducks are not safe in today’s Poland, it seems.

Other Poles have reacted by saying that they do not intend to feed ‘the ducks’ this winter. They want to kick them out of the park - or, at least, clip their wings...

Poland investigates Taliban warning

MSM catches up with the beatroot

You may remember a post I did on September 15, Taliban threatens Polish troops, where I quoted a Taliban spokesperson (no spokesman – they don’t ‘do’ women, do they?) saying on a jihadist web site:

"We appeal to the Polish parliament and nation. British and Canadian forces are suffering defeat after defeat. The more so you should not decide to despatch your troops to Afghanistan."

Well, it took them a while to pick it up, but after the daily Zycie Warszawy reported the same story Friday (one week after this blog), the Polish Security Services have decided to take the threat seriously. And now the story has made its way to Scotland. The Scotsman quotes Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski as saying:

"Such information appears on the Web, and our special services are naturally investigating, but nothing serious is happening,"

Meaning what? Something quite serious is happening. 1000 Polish troops are going to a very nasty war zone.

But the real story is this: I reckon Jaroslaw reads the beatroot!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Freudian analysis of bitter ex-coalition politics?

Great little post at Our man in Gdańsk blog...

...about the insults that have been flying around between Andrzej Lepper and PM Kaczynski since the former was kicked out of government by the latter.

They have been accusing each other of low class thuggishness, basically. It’s been a bit messy.

Our man makes an interesting connection with the word warcholstwo, troublemaaking, sowing dissent. Kaczynski has accused Lepper of this. Communist boss Wladyslaw Gomulka used the same word in 1968, when the Communist party was purging Jews from its ranks, and Jews from its country.

See post here.

Freudian slip?

Polish government look for a majority

The graphic from shows the government's dilemma. Where to get a majority from?

If PSL – the Polish Peasants Party, jumps in with PiS, the largest party in what is left of the coalition, and they get the 15 others rumored to be lining up to join the government (mostly from the breakaway group of Andzrej Lepper’s Samoobrona which are calling themselves Ruch Ludowo Narodowy – the National Peasants Movement) then they are still short of six votes.

If they can't find those extra votes then an election in November is probable. It will take place on November 26 at the same time as the second round of the already planned local elections.

Polish Outlook has decided that, due to the fact that many in the present parliament would fail to get elected in a new election, a snap poll is unlikely.

But it’s a brave person to bet on anything in the weird and whacky world of Polish politics.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Which way will she jump?

The beatroot’s very own political sex-bomb, Renata Beger of Samoobrona, is rumoured to be thinking of jumping into bed with the depleted coalition.

Will she, won’t she? Is she being seduced by a place in the cabinet? Or is she seducing Jarosalw Kaczynski with those ‘kurwiki’ in her eyes? Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

In another dramatic development (stop sniggering!) Donald Tusk, leader of the up until now impotent opposition party Civic Platform has vowed to lead a ‘social movement’ against the lies and incompetence of the government. He appears to think that a Budapest riot type situation is just around the corner in Poland.

So – man the barricades lads – Tusk is on the march!

Please! Election! Pretty please?


Polish conservatives struggle to avoid elections, Reuters, Sept 22
Lepper claims coup d'etat, Polish Outlook, Sept 22

Self defense splits...

...after getting kicked out of the coalition.

PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski says that he is still trying to save the coalition by picking off some disillusioned members of Lepper’s party, plus adding the Polish Peasants Party and some independents. Bloomberg:

Jan Cepil, a Self Defense lawmaker, said in an interview today on private television station TVN24 that 15 of his parliamentary colleagues have already decided to leave and set up a separate parliamentary group that will support the Law & Justice-led government. That is still not enough to secure a majority for Law & Justice.

Lepper, after being sacked from the government, is not going quietly. He is saying that the Sejm, the Polish parliament, is ‘full of corruption’. He also says that only eight members of his party have defected. And one of the Lepper-loyalists is on television as I write saying that she was called ‘in the middle of the night’ by someone from the ruling PiS, tempting her into the government. She refused.

Get ready for another quite ludicrous weekend of deal making…

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bits fall off coalition. Apparently.

Lepper appears to leave the coalition – maybe - PiS talk to peasants.

I am getting bored of this. I just can’t find the strength to write anything about it. So see here

Yawn! Let’s have an election! Please! Put us out of this misery….

Polish Premier Fires Coalition Partner's Chairman (Update1), Bloomberg

Only seven percent of Poles would support military strike against Iran...

...according to a BBC World poll

As the President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winds up George Bush in New York this week, he will be cheered by a survey showing that only seven percent of Poles are in favour of a military strike against Iran if it fails to comply with demands to halt its nuclear research programme.

The people of the world are often a lot more sensible than the political classes (not really very difficult!) but the poll also reproduces some prejudices and misunderstandings that are regularly peddled in the media. The BBC sponsored poll suggests:

World opinion opposes aggressive steps as a way of stopping a possible Iranian nuclear arms programme, according to a 25-nation poll for BBC World Service.

The most popular course of action, with 39% support, was to use only diplomatic efforts; 11% favoured military strikes.

The survey asked 27,407 people in countries ranging from the US and UK to Brazil, Egypt, France, India, Indonesia, Israel, Nigeria, Poland, Russia and Turkey.

Only 17%, however, believe that Iranian nuclear development is for energy use only – despite no ‘smoking gun’ evidence to suggest the contrary. In Poland, 67% think that Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they would be concerned if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons, with 43% saying they would be "very concerned".

In general, there appears to be a world-wide mandate for stricter controls on the production of nuclear fuels that could be used in weapons.

Fifty-two percent favoured a new effort to have the UN develop new controls, while 33% favoured preserving the existing system allowing non-nuclear powers to develop nuclear fuel but not weapons.

Here world opinion seems to be saying that sovereign nations should not be allowed to independently develop nuclear fuel. It also suggests that the UN – an organization which almost everyone seems to agree needs reforming – should be given more powers over the internal affairs of nation-states.

An average of 30% of respondents support economic sanctions if Iran continued to produce nuclear fuel. In Poland 41% support sanctions.

I remember Madeleine Albright, after she was asked whether the sanctions against Iraq, which killed around a half a million children, were ‘worth it’ she said, “Yeah, it was worth it.”

Sanctions were as much hated in Iraq as was Saddam Hussein. That coloured Iraqi opinion of the UN, and the US/UK invasion and occupation when it happened. Sanctions never work – they unite people against the outside, and not against the dictatorship or government. And Poles would tell you that even when the economy is on its knees and the people are suffering, somehow the ruling elite will still have loads of sausages on their table. Sanctions are immoral and counter productive.

The international political will is not behind sanctions. And I shouldn’t think that the president of Iran is too bothered about a military strike. The US really would be alone if it tried it – even if it could. And let’s face it: with US troops bogged down for the long term in Iraq and Afghanistan the likelihood of any sustained military action is about as likely as the president’s of Iran and the US giving each other a big, slobbery kiss.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On being offensive

Or: why the Pope should not say sorry.

As an evangelical, fundamentalist humanist anti-theist, I tiptoe into this debate as if walking on eggshells. But then, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.

And until I can think of another eggy metaphor I will get on with the point.

Pope Benedict has apologized for the offense he has caused some Muslims by his remarks last week in a lecture about “Faith and Reason’.

But why should the leader of the Catholic Church apologise for saying things he believes in? He is a Catholic. If he agreed with Muslims then he would be a Muslim. There is a fundamental doctrinal incompatibility between the two faiths. That’s why they are two different faiths.

Many though are seeing the Muslim outrage as part of Islam’s unique view of itself as a ‘Super Victim’. But maybe it is we in the West, with our wet liberal relativism and multiculturalism who have created a cultural climate where everyone feels the right to scream for an apology when they find something ‘offensive’(see here here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here or here).

Mick Hume in Spiked writes:

This bizarre ruckus over the words of a medieval monarch has turned into a revealing picture of the modern world. A world in which nobody, not even the leader of a major faith, is allowed to express a strong opinion without risking condemnation and demands for an apology. A world dominated by a victim mentality, in which groups with hyper-sensitive ‘outrage antennae’ are always on the lookout for the chance to claim that they have been offended, insulted or oppressed by the words of others.

Pope Benedict thinks that the moral relativism abound in the West is a bad thing. I, as an evangelical, fundamentalist humanist anti-theist, agree with him, though we would disagree profoundly about the relationship between ‘Faith and Reason’ – which to me are mutually exclusive terms.

But the Pope should not have to apologise simply because he is being a Catholic. If people don’t like what he says – I don’t like what he says – then tough. We can either engage with his remarks or ignore them. But don’t be mistaken, either, for thinking that it is only Muslims who have the Super Victim mentality.

The Pope making Catholic remarks is like a hen laying eggs – it’s just what they do best (ah, another egg metaphor!).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

November election in Poland?

It feels a little like Groundhog Day, but we appear to be on the verge on an early election. Again.

A row within the ruling coalition over the amount and type of government spending in the 2007 Budget Bill has given one of the minority parties – Samoobrona – the chance to leave the government after being seen to be fighting for causes popular with its constituents – farmers and poorer Poles.

The announcement of more troops to Afghanistan – a deployment too far for many – has seemingly given extra impetus to Andzej Lepper’s (photo above, in favourite pose) threat that he will not support the Budget.

PM Jarolsaw Kaczynski said:

‘Andrzej Lepper has to decide whether he wants to govern and change Poland, whether he wants to serve his electorate in the countryside and small towns, or whether he wants to destroy it all. One thing is obvious, it’s impossible to go on governing in this way, from one quarrel to the other, because it’s totally ineffective.’

We have been here before. Many times. The difference to the many previous ‘election scares’ over the past year is that both minority parties have been in the government for a few months and can demonstrate to their constituencies that they have ‘done their best’ but the ‘big bad nasty government is unbending, and we can leave the government with our honour intact’.

We also have a resurgent opposition PO in the opinion polls.

The latest survey, which is inline with recent polls, puts the free market PO at 30 percent, with the majority party in the ruling coalition PiS at 24 percent (minus 1 in the beatroot’s PiSed-Off index).

A few months ago, when PO declined the opportunity for another election, polls were showing that Poles did not want another election so soon after the last one. But now the mood has changed. People are fed up with the uncertainty of a coalition at war with itself.

It’s difficult for LPR (which has a declining support) but for Samoobrona and PO the temptation to go to the country must now be very tempting.

The Budget Bill should be finalized by the end of the month. But a meeting began today among the three coalition parties will resume tomorrow. So something has got to give soon. Six months ago the government would have expected to win an election. Now they are not so sure. But the chances, and the will, to pull another late rabbit from another late hat is receding tonight.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Oriana Fallaci – the eulogies

I read loads this weekend (see here and here and even here) about what a great woman Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci was, who died last Friday, aged 77 – of how she was a courageous woman in the face of Islamic terror, etc…

But as she got older, and certainly after 9/11, she turned into an elderly Italian version of Ann Coulter – in other words, a ranting, raving right wing bigot.

Here is just part of what she said on Polish TVP television after the lethal bombings by British religious fanatics in London in July last year.

Interviewer: Father Andrzej Majewski: Those responsible for the terrorist attacks on London were Muslims born in Great Britain or English citizens [actually third generation British]. They can therefore be considered Europeans. Do you believe that in order to defend our continent and western society we should banish all the Muslims from Europe?

Oriana Fallaci: To begin with, they are not Europeans at all. They can’t be considered Europeans. Or not more than how we could be considered Islamic if we lived in Morocco or Saudi Arabia or in Pakistan taking advantage of residence or citizenship.

Citizenship has nothing to do with nationality, and it takes a good deal more than a piece of paper on which it is written English or French or German or Spanish or Italian or Polish citizen to make us English or French or German or Italians or Poles.

That is, an integral part of a history and a culture. In my opinion, even those with citizenship are guests and that’s that.

Or rather, privileged invaders.

Naturally, if they want to go of their own free will, I wouldn’t cry over it. Quite the contrary, I would light a candle to the Madonna.

In the essay published a few days ago by the Corriere della Sera, “We are treating the enemy like a friend”, I even suggest they do so. “If we are so ugly, so bad, so disgusting and sinful,” I say, “”if you hate us and despise us so much, why don’t you just go back to your own homes?”

The fact is that they would do anything but. It’s the furthest thought from their minds. And even if they were to think about it, how could such a thing take place? Through an exodus equivalent to that in which Moses brought the Jews from Egypt and crossed the Red Sea? They are too many, by now. Calculating only those who are in the European Union, as the most recent data suggests, they are around 25 million. Calculating even those who are in countries outside the European Union and in the Ex Soviet Union, around 60 million.

Dear Father Andrzej, it is by now too late to ask them to go back home. We should have, you should have, asked that of them twenty years ago. That is, when I was already saying, “But don’t any of you understand that this is an invasion that has been well calculated, and if we don’t stop them we will never be free of them again?”

Now explain to me how that same rant could not have come from the mouth of a Jean Marie Le Penn, or any other dribbling neo-fascist.

Great woman? She may have been once, but by the time she died she was just a senile old racist.

Even her rantings are too much for Chris Hitchens, that arch foe of 'Islamofascists' everywhere - see Holy Writ, Atlantic, April 2003

Saturday, September 16, 2006

What’s in it for Poland?

The new Polish military adventure in Afghanistan will cost the cash strapped government 100 million dollars.

Leader of Samoobrona, Andzrej Lepper (photo above with rather large tooth pick), is scornful of the Afghan mission. After PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski came back from Washington following his very short meeting with George W. Bush, Lepper commented: “That’s the most expensive five minutes Kaczynski ever spent.”

"Instead of helping Polish pensioners, teachers and nurses, we are sending our soldiers to a war. It's a scandal," Lepper said. "Poland cannot afford such a commitment".

Other opposition parties have come out against the deployment. SLD leader Wojciech Olejniczak said Friday that Poland already had troops in Iraq and Lebanon and could not afford to "dispose of its forces with such ease. Poland is not a military power. We can’t afford this."

Another rural based party, PSL agrees. In fact, all the 'leftist' parties here are against.

A spokesman for Kaczynski's party, Law and Justice, said that the 1000 troop offer by Poland was decided “way before Kaczynski went to the US.” Poland initially offered 500 more troops but has since doubled the offer. The NATO conference in Warsaw last weekend was probably when the offer was made.

Poland offered that amount in the hope that other countries would start coming forward and offering more too. But so far, so little.

Afghanistan and the 2007 Budget Bill

At a time when Lepper and LPR’s Roman Giertych are pushing for more to be spent on agriculture and education – their two respective ministries – it must be galling to see 300 million zloty being spent on the Afghan adventure at the drop of a hand grenade.

Lepper has repeatedly threatened to leave the coalition if he does not get increases in public spending.

The government has said that government debt in the 2007 Budget must be capped at 30 billion zloty. Many economists think this is too high a figure as it is.

Others, like lowly paid teachers, medics, police... scratch their heads and wonder just what Poland gets from all this posing in war zones? No more money is being offered to the education and agriculture ministries but the defense ministry gets another 300 million zloty, to be spent on something with little tangible benefit for Poland.

Many think Afghanistan is a dangerous diversion.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Taliban threatens Polish troops

Poland will ‘rue’ the decision to send more 'peacekeepers' to Afghanistan, says Qari Muhammad Yousaf, spokesperson for those who do not watch television, listen to music but who do like their women with bags over their heads.

The Kavkaz Centre, a web site for radical mujahideen types reports that the Taliban High Command – which they refer to as the Islamic State of Afghanistan – warns that when Poland sends 1000 troops to the country in February they might not get a friendly welcome from everyone.

"I advise the Poland government not to send troops by reviewing its decision and this is my message to the parliament and people of Poland that Canadian and British troops which is considered very fierce, are in trouble, therefore you should not take this decision."

"We consider all foreign troops either they are in Afghanistan or planning to come to Afghanistan as invading forces and every Afghan thinks that it his duty to wage a Jihad (Holy War) against these forces, the government spokesman, Qari Muhammad Yousaf, told the Afghan Islamic Press news agency.

"The former USSR had made this mistake by sending 120000 troops to Afghanistan but faced defeat. Now a few troops can do nothing but to bring destruction to Afghanistan and increase their death rate." Poland should thank that their troops are not as active as US, British and American troops but what fate they met? The US showing its wisdom pushed NATO into an unjustified and wrong war and God willing the Polish troops will also face defeat, the spokesman predicted.

Oh dear.

Better paid, better armed, better connected - Taliban rise again, Guardian, Sept 16

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Kaczynski meets Bush after all

But at one time it looked like he had been snubbed.

News sources reported that according to the Polish schedule released before Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's arrival in the United States, he was to meet with President Bush mid afternoon – maybe they could share a hamburger? Pierogi? Unfortunately, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said there was no such meeting on Bush's schedule.


When this was pointed out to Bush he complained that he was too busy trying do defend his ragged Was on Terror, and hanging on to votes in the mid-term elections in November. And anyway, Condi and Dick were going to meet him.

In the end, George popped his head around the door during a meeting with Cheney and said, “Didn’t I meet you before, last February? I never forget a face!”

He didn’t say that really. He thanked Kaczynski and Poland “for its stead fast support in the war on terror. Thanks. Bye!”

But Jaroslaw barely had time for George, either. Many are commenting that the Polish PM has had an absurdly hectic schedule.

Kaczynski is having meetings and giving speeches and press conferences on missile systems in Poland (and a possible bilateral defense agreement to go with them (or not), Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon – Israel, energy security, Ukraine\s entry into NATO, anti-Semitism in Poland (or not)….

He’s giving a lecture at the Heritage Foundation on ‘Central Europe’. He’s having meetings with Polonia representatives in Chicago.

So many meetings on too many things, surely the prime minister must have a huge team from which to delegate talks? Well, not this prime minister - he seems to be involved in everything. Foreign Office, Embassies are by-passed as Jaro sticks his finger into everything. That’s very much his style.

Professor Zbigniew Lewicki, expert on Polish-US affairs from Warsaw University, told Radio Polonia

'It is, indeed, a very packed schedule. I think there are too many meetings. Usually PMs don't do that. There are people who do that for them. Then the Prime Minister would meet with one or two really important hosts, rather than try to deal with every issue by himself.’

Still, Bush did good in meeting with Jaroslaw, no matter how short. When you snub the Kaczynskis they get upset, and have long memories…

Poland to send even more troops to Afghanistan

Poland will be sending 1000 more troops to quell an increasingly vicious Taliban counter attack. But I have a better plan. Send in Madonna!

The problem NATO military chief General Ray Henault had with the meeting of defense ministers in Warsaw last weekend was that many NATO countries signed up to send troops to Afghanistan, but have been dragging their feet ever since by not sending enough troops, or when they have sent troops neglected to accompany them with any decent equipment.

Poland has already committed over 500 troops six months earlier than they were scheduled to. Now it is the first to pledge even more forces.

Polish troops will be stationed, not in the southwest Helmand province where the British are and is extremely dangerous at the moment, but in the north of the country (up where the Germans are and comparatively safe) and in the east. They will only arrive in February 2007.

Many wonder why, five years after the US and others invaded Afghanistan to smash the Taliban and ‘get’ bin Laden in response to 9/11, they have neither smashed the Taliban nor got the bearded one...

So what can we do to pacify the Taliban and maybe even tempt Laden out of his cave?

Well, the beatroot thinks that conventional methods of battle will not be affective in this most asymmetric of wars. So we need an unconventional response.

Madonna, Gloria Gaynor or even George Michael could just hold the key.

Everyone knows that homosexuality was a capital offense during Taliban rule. What many don’t realize is that the city of Kandahar, the Taliban’s home town, is a hot bed – maybe literally – of homosexuality.

In one of BBC World Affairs editor, John Simpson’s brilliant books, he recounts seeing many Taliban fighters hanging around street corners with their Kalashnikovs slung casually over their shoulders, wearing eye make up, cheek blusher and a pair of gold lame sandals! Simpson wrote that they didn’t seem too interested in doing any fighting as most of the time they were convulsed in a hail of giggling and a cloud of marijuana smoke.

Homosexuality is far more common in Kandahar and among the Taliban than it is in London, Amsterdam, and San Francisco!

Mullah Mohammed Ibrahim, a local cleric told the LA Times:

"Ninety percent of men have the desire to commit this sin," the mullah says. "But most are right with God and exercise control. Only 20 to 50% of those who want to do this actually do it."

Following the mullah’s math, this suggests that between 18% and 45% of men here engage in homosexual sex—significantly higher than the 3% to 7% of American men who, according to studies, identify themselves as homosexual.

In other words, Kandahar, Afghanistan is one of the gayest places on earth!

Dr. Mohammed Nasem Zafar, a professor at Kandahar Medical College, estimates that about 50% of the city’s male residents have sex with men or boys at some point in their lives.

"The Taliban had halekon [young male lovers] , but they kept it secret," says one anti-Taliban commander, who is rumored to keep two halekon. "They hid their halekon in their madrasas," or religious schools.

The photo above is taken from an article on gay Taliban in the New Yorker. Even though the craven image was banned many Talibs took the opportunity to have their photo taken and had it touched up a bit to make them look even more camp than they already did.

So this is where Madonna comes in. The Taliban obviously have no respect for NATO. But what about Madonna? If we parachuted her in to do a concert they might put down those kalashnikovs and ‘Get into the grove’. They could even sing along to ‘Papa don’t preach’ and do the pose during ‘Vogue’.

It’s a sure fire winner. Before long Kandahar would by one big gay pride march.

The only problem might be: if Poland has control over the area then, will President Kaczynski give the go ahead for the march?

Beatroot’s Socialist Realism Awards

This blog has a quest.

We aim to find the most ridiculous (and by definition, the most fantastic) piece of socialist realism art ever (see previous post).

Nomination for Best Painting: Boris Vladmirski - ‘Roses for Stalin’. (circa 1950)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Polish Socialist Realism

Socialist Realism, an art ideology enforced by the Soviet state as the official standard for art, literature etc., was defined in 1934 at the First All-Union Congress of Soviet writers. It was based on the principle that the arts should glorify political and social ideals of communism. (Slogan on painting above says: ‘Our young hearts are beating for our nation'.)

It covered all areas of the arts including music, all the visual arts, writing.

Introduced after the Soviets ‘liberated’ Poland after WW II, lasting up until the late 1950s, socialist realism, in practice, was mostly a patronizing celebration of all things ugly and pompous.

Whereas art directly after the Bolshevik revolution was avant gardist, challenging, modernist, socialist realism was made to be 'simple' - in the same way that the word 'accessible' means to today's liberal - so even ‘simple workers’ could understand its meaning.

In popular music this led to songs being produced with lyrics about happy tractors and steel mills. I imagine the lyrics went something like:

We love concrete, we love steel,
We love working in the fields,
Hey ho, hey, ho!

We love working down the mine,
We love working all the time!
Hey, ho, hey ho!

We love building roads of tar
For General Secretary’s big car
Hey ho, hey ho!

Socialist realist architects were the biggest criminals. You can avoid a rotten painting by not going to a gallery; you can avoid crap music by covering your ears, but architectural monstrosities cannot be so easily ignored.

Here is a selection of some of the wonderful stuff you can still see in Warsaw today.

Palace of Culture and Science: This is the Stalinist legacy by which everything else should be measured. It was a gift from Stalin. The Poles didn’t want it, but you don’t refuse a present from Uncle Joe. Not unless you actually appreciate the outdoor life in a gulag, that is.

Around its base, and on the outside of various other buildings (the Stalinist plac konstytucji having so many of these figures you could fill up a Communist Party Congress with them) are homoerotic, in the same way as when George Orwell in Road to Wigan Pier describes miners taking a shower after a hard days grind at the coal face. These figures are meant to represent the strength of the proletariat but they just end up looking a bit camp.

Monday, September 11, 2006

President Kaczynski goes to Israel

He doesn’t like going abroad much – but this week the President of Poland is visiting a key country for Polish foreign policy.

Lech Kaczynski likes to stay at home. But one of the draw backs of being head of state is that you have to keep packing your passport.

Since becoming president last autumn he still hasn’t done much traveling. He has made the short hop to Brussels and Germany and back in February he was in Washington. But now he is begining to seriously clock up some frequent fly miles by going to Tel Aviv .

The EU, US, Israel – these are the key destinations for a new Polish president to make an impact and give some character and purpose to diplomacy.

Israel is far from being an easy trip.

The inclusion of the League of Polish Families (LPR) in the governing coalition this year, a party which Tel Aviv thinks is anti-Semitic, prompted the Israeli government to protest via their Ambassador in Warsaw. So the Polish president is going to be very eager to please.

Today a joint declaration on the visits of youth delegations to Poland was signed by Israel’s Deputy Director-General for Eurasian Affairs Mark Sofer and Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Kowal.

These youth visits were under the control of LPR’s Roman Giertych as education secretary, before the government removed them from his department after complaints from Israel.

President Kaczynski told Haaretz before he left for Israel:

"Giertych is not anti-Semitic, He only grew up in an anti-Semitic tradition. He is the son and grandson of Polish politicians. But recently he has undergone a change. Today he is certainly not anti-Semitic. There is no problem with him. The problem lies in the extremist elements in his party."

But what about the statue Kaczynski unveiled last month dedicated to WW II Polish resistance fighter Jozef Kuras, who not only fought the Nazis and then the communists but also found time to attack an orphanage full of Jewish Holocaust survivors?

"I heard about Kuras as an anti-Communist activist," he says, "but I was not aware of all the other aspects relating to him. This is a subject of historical controversy. Accordingly, I have ordered an examination of the matter so that the historical truth will come to light."

So keen was the President to impress Israeli journalists he occasionally went over the top a little.

"I am fond of Israel, Poland has a special relationship with Israel," Kaczynski told Haaretz, "Arik Sharon is one of my big heroes."

Maybe not a great thing to come out with. Sharon is not a popular figure in either Palestine or Lebanon. Poland has promised to send over 500 troops as part of the UN peacekeeping force in Hezbollah territory. Polish forces might have to confront them if they see any breach of the ceasefire. He is also going to have meetings with the President of the Palestinian authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

But there was no stopping Kaczynski. On his personal view of Jews he gushed:

“I love Jews. I had many Jewish friends in the different periods of my life. I understand today what I did not understand as a child: that my attitude toward the Jews was that I viewed them as Poles in every respect, albeit as special Poles. [?] At home and in my milieu I heard that Christos was actually a Jew. It is true that I also heard other voices, which claimed that the Jews crucified Christ."


Kaczynski is in Israel for four days, the longest time he has spent in a country abroad. Such is the importance of Israel to Polish foreign policy.

Polish president: We're Israel's best friend in Europe, Jerusalem Post, Sep 11

Sunday, September 10, 2006

9/11 monument - Homo Homini, Poland

At 5 pm, Monday, (low ranking) politicians and dignitaries will be in Kielce to unveil Poland’s tribute to all those died on 9/11 five years ago, the Homo Homini monument.

It’s a work by artist Adam Myjak.

Representatives from all the world’s will be in attendance.

George Bush has sent a letter to the organizers of event which thanks Poland for its support in the ‘war on terror’.

The monument is not just to commemorate the 3,000 who died on 9/11 – including 6 Poles - but also as reminder of the destructive power of hatred in general. Kielce was where a a pogrom against Jews in 1946.

This week we have been buried under the weight of ‘anniversary journalism’ coverage of the nihilism, five years ago. And maybe the way we react to this kind of thing is more dangerous to us than the thing itself.

Simon Jenkins, a British columnist who writes for the Times and Guardian, has been the most realistic over the years. He wrote this week:

Terrorism is ten per cent bang and 90 per cent an echo-effect composed of media hysteria, political overkill and knee-jerk executive action, usually retribution against some wider group treated as collectively responsible. This response has become a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week amplification by the new "politico-media complex", especially shrill where the dead are white people. It is this that puts global terror into the bang. While we take ever more extravagant steps to ward off the bangs, we do the opposite with the terrorist aftershock. We turn up its volume. We seem to wallow in fear.

Let’s honour the monument in Kielce and then move on, a little more confidently

Good news from the Polish political blog front

Readers of English language blogging about Polish politics and current affairs have never been better served.

I think Warsaw Station, or maybe the old Polblog, was the first blog in English that I became aware of. Warsaw Station is two years old this month. The blog went through a hibernation period for much of this year but is now back even better than he was.

A new blog started up this month: Polish Matters. He was the author of Eurogoeseast, which froze in March this year. But now he is back with a site more focused on Poland. If the last blog was anything to go by he will be concentrating on political economy.

Back from holiday soon is Our man in Gdansk, which is part of the Three Monkeys thing. He does a few posts about finance, economy and politics but he strays into other areas as well. Picks up some good stories in the Polish press.

We also have Traveling Life by Chris Borowski, who gives us a perspective from Poland’s second largest city – Chicago. He has picked up a head of steam recently and does mainly Polish political stories but also a few US ones as well.

There are lots of other blogs in English but few regularly do stuff about politics. And crucially, few provide comment about the stories. Blogging is much more than just cut and pasting a story from MSM. You have to add some ‘value’ to the story.

If I have missed someone out let me know.

But if you read the above blogs, and come back to me occasionally, you should get a rough idea about what is going on in the weird and whacky world of Polish politics...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

9/11 – one view from Poland

Most Poles feel that they have been dragged into someone else’s ‘war on terror’.

A Muslim asylum seeker in Warsaw was in an internet café browsing sites in Arabic. The manager of the café decided that this was suspicious behavior and called the cops. Minutes later anti-terrorist units dashed into the café and arrested the asylum seeker, who was innocently checking out a few web sites.

Four years ago two Pakistanis were arrested in Warsaw central station after police decided that the men were ‘acting suspiciously’. When police raided the flat the men were staying at they found a map of Warsaw with various government buildings with rings drawn in pencil around them. The police decided that the Pakistanis were obviously planning a terrorist attack.

It turned out that men were asylum seekers who had ringed the government addresses they had to visit as part of their applications for refugee status.

Such has been the irrational behavior of some Poles in the wake of September 11.

When the planes went into those buildings five years ago in what was really just a mindless display of barbaric nihilism, Poles were as shocked and awed as everyone else. The general feeling of horror was compounded by the fact that several Poles died in the attacks on the Twin Towers along with Americans, British...

But Poles also felt that this was essentially an attack on America, not Poland.

Since the Bush administration launched its ‘war on terror’, however, successive Polish governments have responded to calls for help and have sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bush has admitted in a speech today that there were indeed secret CIA prisons where terrorist suspects have been detained and been subjected to an "alternative set of procedures" to get information out of them. Last year the Washington Post alleged that one of these prisons where these ‘alternative sets of procedures’ (torture?) had been carried out was in Poland.

"In addition to the terrorists held at Guantanamo, a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency," said Bush. (see full transcript of the Bush speech here).

As this blog has often pointed out, the evidence for one of these prisons being in Poland is weak, but the accusations have helped cement in peoples’ minds that Poland is up to its neck in America’s ‘war on terror’.

Warsaw has also been talking with Washington about anti-missile systems being placed in Poland to shoot down rockets fired by ‘rogue states’ such as Iran.

Polish governments eagerness to get involved in Bush’s war on abstract nouns has made Poles feel vulnerable, and caused internet café managers and Warsaw police officers to act in the irrational way that they have.

Successive opinion polls have shown that a majority here do not want their armed forces involved in the carnage of post-Saddam Iraq. They do not feel it is their war. They feel that their government’s involvement in the war on terror has made them a possible target for the jihadists.

What was five years ago a deep sympathy for the people of America has turned into a low level unease that Polish foreign policy has dragged Poles into a war that is not theirs to fight in the first place.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

In defense of Lepper

Yes, he is trying to hold the fragile coalition government ‘to ransom’…but most of the criticisms of the leader of Samoobrona are motivated by good old fashioned snobbery.

On Saturday Andrzej Lepper, deputy PM and Minister of Farming, said he thought that ‘there would be an election next year’ but it would not be him that would be calling it. He implied that Law and Justice, which leads the coalition, were the ones that were planning an early election.

Last week, however, Lepper was threatening to leave the coalition if the government didn’t come up with extra funds for farmers – who make up much of his constituency – who are suffering from a poor harvest and flooding after the summer’s extreme weather conditions.

So what’s going on?

The simple truth is that both sides are playing coalition politics, with all the bluff and counter-bluff of a poker player with a weak hand.

Lepper is trying to get an increase in public spending – high spending and state intervention were premised in his party’s manifesto. Samoobrona are unfashionably unreconstructed Soviet style socialists.

But they have never hid that.

Lepper also knows that the threats of leaving the coalition do not carry much weight. He knows that to bring down the government he needs the support of opposition Civic Platform (PO). But PO failed to support the no confidence vote in parliament earlier this year – waiting instead for the government to fail more spectacularly and so boost their position in the opinion polls. A vague tactic very characteristic of their vague opposition to date.

Civic Platform, the ‘middle class party’ in Poland, have also made great play of the Kaczynski government making coalition pacts with Lepper, someone they regard as ‘a criminal’ – pointing to his various arrests when he was a trade union rabble rouser in the mid 1990s.

Snobbery Platform

That view of Lepper plays well with many voters in Poland. Look at this comment about him by a Pole on a Ukrainian forum:

‘He is a very clever person and his extremely populist and socialist slogans attract uneducated voters, mainly peasants. In foreign policy he is very pragmatic, and will talk to anyone and everyone, including such rogue states as Belarus and North Korea.

He is a very autocratic leader. His party consists of many former lower ranked communists and some MPs who not finish elementary school [15 yrs old]. But party members are just pawns to him.

I consider him to be fifth columnist in the Polish government.’

Note the stinking snobbery of that comment. He attracts ‘peasants’, the uneducated, fools who follow his self-serving political maneuvering. Samoobrona voters are just dupes and his party members are just pawns to be pushed around.

But it could also be argued that he is as self serving as Civic Platform have been – except that he has simply been much more effective at it.

Civic Platform have failed to form an effective opposition to the present government. They have refused to enter the coalition, which means that smaller, more extreme parties like Lepper’s or Giertych’s far-right LPR have had much more influence on government policy than their size in parliament warrants.

But instead of representing the interests of their voters, Civic Platform, led by Donald Tusk, have sat on the sidelines, sneering down their noses at Lepper and Samoobrona.

If I was a Lepper voter I would be much more pleased with my vote than if I had voted for Civic Platform.

Lepper is simply representing the interests of his constituency. That’s what politicians are meant to do.

Leaving the coalition would do Lepper little good. Better, probably, to stay in and try and blackmail the government into spending more.

That’s what he promised to do during the elections. Civic Platform promised to form a coalition with the Law and Justice. They have failed. Lepper may be seen by many as a much more honest a politician than someone like Donald Tusk.

MI5 files on Polish seductress

WW II documents released by MI5 this week reveal a Polish refugee seductress who beguiled the British aristocracy, but worried the hell out of the Secret Services.

The story involves an arms dealer supplying both sides of the Spanish civil war; a down on his luck alcoholic British aristocrat; and even the future prime minister of Britain, Anthony Eden.

Read more about the Polish unexploded WW II sex bomb here.

National Archives - Soviet Intelligence Agents - released Sept 4, 2006
A search for Krystyna Skarbek, Radio Polonia

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Elton John meets Lech Walesa at Sopot Festival - Update

It might be interesting.

Elton John flies into Poland today to perform at the Sopot Festival, the annual celebration of all things middle of the road musically in the Baltic coastal resort. As well as playing the old favourites and showing us his new pair of glasses, Elton will be meeting up with legendary Solidarity leader, Lech Walesa.

But what will the two superstars talk about?

Maybe it will be Walesa’s comment last year that homosexuality was ‘intrinsically evil’?

Elton John – who ‘married’ his partner David Furnish last year in London – wrote an article in the Guardian in 2005 on world homophobia. After listing abuses in United Arab Emirates, Jamaica and Uganda, he wrote:

‘In Poland the man who will become President this year, Lech Kaczynski, banned a Gay Pride 'Equality Parade', saying it would be 'sexually obscene'. Several Pride marches have been banned in Poland. Predictably, there has been a simultaneous growth in harassment and intimidation of gay people by right-wing groups.'

So I wonder if John and Walesa will be having a philosophical discussion about the meaning of the word ‘evil’ in Sopot tonight?

Update: I am watching Elton John in concert from Sopot now (well, someone had to!) and he has just introduced the third song with: ‘This is a song about love and tolerance…’. I wonder what he means?

Update 2: In between the end of set and the ‘encore’ Lech Walesa was introduced to Elton on stage. They first showed a photo of when the singer met the Solidarity leader in the 1980s - both of them appeared to be in their New Romantics period. Walesa then gave a little speech, saying how much he appreciated the support of Elton all those years ago.

Then when he had finished the two stars from the 1980s embraced on stage. In fact, they had a big cuddle, patting each other’s backs and exchanged kisses on the cheek! It was all very passionate and emotional.

Then before Elton began his final number he gave a little speech that went like this:

“I come back to Poland 22 years after that photo with Lech Walesa was taken. He is a great man. I love coming to Poland, the audiences are always so great.

But I am a gay man and I have been saddened by the recent aggression towards gay people in Poland. I just want to say that gay people are not a threat to anyone and WE JUST WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE.’

And then Elton settled down at the piano to play ‘Sorry seems to be the hardest word.’

Sopot Festival has never been so interesting!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

US anti-ballistic missile base in Europe – Poland or Czech Republic?

This is one competition both governments would rather lose.

AP reported Friday that:

An interceptor missile destroyed a mock warhead over the Pacific Ocean on Friday in a key test of the [US’s] missile defense system, U.S. military officials said.

The technology will be housed in the US and another site, probably in central Europe.

Out of the sites where the US system could be installed in Europe – to stave off any rockets fired by ‘rogue states’, apparently (which means Iran or North Korea these days) the Czech Republic and Poland are the leading contenders. But the Czechs have a vital advantage, is appears.

The Czech newspaper CeskeNoviny writes that:

‘Members of the U.S. expert team who visited the Czech military premises said that the localities in the Czech Republic suit the U.S. needs better than those in Poland from the technical point of view, the server quotes a source from diplomatic circles, who requested anonymity as he/she is not authorised to comment on the selection of areas for the U.S. base.

A source form the Czech Defence Ministry has confirmed the information.

"The Czech localities have a rocky bed, while the Polish ones are allegedly situated on sand," the source from the ministry said.’

The Polish area referred to is probably somewhere in the Tatra mountains, the beatroot believes.

I have already reported, last year, that Polish government ministers seemed a little squeamish at the idea of a US missile systems on Polish soil. People believe that it would make Poland ‘a target’ for nutty Islamo-terrorism. Defense Minister Radek Sikorski said the idea would be a ‘hard sell’ to the voters.

An opinion poll this week confirms the minister’s fears. The poll found that 63 per cent of Poles are against the project, 23 per cent are in favour, while 14 per cent do not have an opinion.

A similar majority are against the idea in the Czech Republic.

The US Congress will be publishing a report on the matter mid-September.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Lech Walesa’s moustache… a magnificent beast.

Apart from the squiggly writing of its logo, or the monument outside the gates of the Gdansk shipyard, Walesa’s tache must be the greatest and most revered symbol of the Solidarity movement.

Charities have asked him to shave it off in the past to raise money for good works (such as the Polish Society for the Protection of Moustaches) but to no avail.

In 2002, however, the Polish nation was shocked when he briefly shaved off his fury facial appendage, for a ‘bit of fun’, he said.

And oh what fun we had.

But it soon grew back again, much to moustache lovers relief everywhere.

I have been accused on this blog of being an anti-moustache-ist, and, after a period of deep reflection, I must plead guilty as charged.

Being an anti-moustache-ist I joined the huge ranks of those who have persecuted tash wearers throughout history.

In 1800 B.C. Pharaoh Teqikencola outlawed moustaches among the elite Egyptian society. Many think this eventually led to the demise of the Ancient Egyptian empire.

And, of course, Ataturk banned the moustache in Turkey in his drive for secularization early last century. Similar policies are being considered today as Turkey presses for membership of the European Union.

Tony Blair banned moustaches during cabinet meetings.

So apologies to the wearers of moustaches everywhere, including females who refuse to wax – we salute you sisters!

In honour of the humble moustache here is a web site dedicated to returning the fury thing to the centre of style and fashion.

And did you know that there are around 867 Poles who have the surname Wasikowski, meaning one 'from the place of the guy with the moustache'!

Some famous moustaches