Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Polish news to piss off Prince Charles – hah!

Sales at McDonald’s in Poland grew by 14.6 percent to 668 million zloty in 2006, and their net income increased by 47 percent to 40 million zloty (10 million euro) compared to 2005.

How would that news make the heir to the British throne want to reach for his sick bucket?

Because when he was in the United Arab Emirates last week he was overheard remarking to a nutritionist there: ‘Have you got anywhere with McDonald’s? Have you tried getting it banned? That’s the key.’

I think it's about time Charlie got a proper job.

The key to what, is not known. But given Charlie’s reputation for talking to plants, and wanting to set up a degree course in parapsychology, it’s probably got one of those wacky ‘alternative’ tags to it.

The obsession with Big Mac’s by the western middle classes (and royals) is very sad, indeed. They seem to hate anything popular. Like George Orwell’s similar obsession with tinned food, this is a manifestation of a fear of the masses, of mass produced goods.

Big Mac’s are not the end of civilization as we know it. A hamburger and french fries is a nutritional (if not particularly tasty) meal. As part of a balanced diet, MacDonald’s is not a threat to anyone.

But that doesn’t stop British aristocratic morons – and the liberally challenged - like Prince Charles from trying to push weirdo, organic fantasies on us.

And to think I was annoyed another unelected public figure like the First lady of Poland thought she could have influence on public debate.

At least she never had the cheek to want to ban something as harmless as a cheese burger, just because it’s popular.

Polish First Lady - eco-warrior

Has the First Lady, Maria Kaczynska (she actually is the one on the right of the picture, the beatroot believes) been backseat driving u-turns in government highway development policy?

An interview in a national daily last week, where Mrs President declared that she was not happy about the planned Rospuda bypass (see the previous posts) - “It would be barbarian”, she said - came only days before her brother-in-law, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, announced that work would be halted on the highway until a local referendum was taken.

But has the (completely unelected) First Lady had an influence on public opinion?

Well, PBS pollsters are reporting today that 65% of Poles are against the bypass.

But the people of Augustow, the town where the bypass would take away choking amounts of traffic and bring economic development to the area, are firmly for the proposal. Eighty one percent said they want the highway.

So it appears Poland’s new eco-warrior is having a limited influence on the inhabitants of Augustow, but maybe is having an influence inside the Polish government.

What a shame that unelected family members of politicians can’t seem to keep their mouths shut. Who does Maria think she is: a 1990s Hilary Clinton?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Polish crosses defend economic development!

Protests get weird as the religious in Poland show up to demonstrate against environmentalists. It’s almost enough to make me turn into a tree hugger!

The above photo from the Gazeta Wyborcza agency shows the religious from the town of Augustow counter-protesting Greenpeace and other environmentalists (below) who want to stop the planned highway through the nature spot of Rospuda Valley.

The Polish government, which much to the annoyance of the EU, had supported the bypass around Augustow (where residents complain that increased traffic has killed many people) backed down last week and ordered a referendum in the town to decide the issue.

The EU, Greenpeace, etc say that the referendum cannot be a higher law than the EU. Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Cue the clash of protestors – tree huggers versus cross huggers.

That the religious right has suddenly taken economic progress to their heart has to be welcomed, but this is unusual, these days.

For instance, the religious have only been too keen to jump on the anti-GM crops bandwagon in recent years, preaching that the science of genetic engineering is trying to play God, blah, blah.

The religious don’t like stem-cell research either, because it’s ...‘playing God’ etc…

We have also seen the rise in the last few years of an unholy alliance between Environmentalism and Creationism. These green-Christians go by the name of 'Creation carers', and are gaining strength in the US.

Creationists say that environmental degradation is the same as spiritual degradation. They point to bits of the Bible – of course. For instance, Isaiah 24:5, reads:

"The earth also is defiled (polluted) under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant."

If the spirituality of Man is damaged then the environment will wreak its revenge. This bit of the Bible from Jeremiah 16:18 sounds very much like a modern day environmentalist. Both warn that ‘nature’ will fight back against the excesses of humanity:

"I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols."

So listen up, yee religious of Poland! Get back to your natural friends, the environmentalists: both of you hate progress.

And leave the anti-Green protesting to us Humanists!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

East Europeans get caught up in UK gun panic

A Lithuanian vet has been putting ‘hundred’s of guns on to the streets of London and Manchester’, apparently.

The Guardian reports:

‘Hundreds of relatively low-powered gas pistols are known to have been converted to discharge live ammunition in a workshop in the [ancient Lithuanian market town of Kedainiai] before being smuggled into the UK. Improbably enough, the man at the heart of the trade was a local vet.’

The vet, Andrius Raba, had apparently been buying up cheap Russian air guns, fitting them with silencers and strengthening the barrels to take higher powered ammunition and then selling them on to gun-crazed Brits at 300 pounds a time.

This news comes in the wake of four nasty murders of young guys in south London, where I am from. One of the victims was only 15 years old.

Of course, a media panic has been full of the usual hand wringing about the growth of gun crime in the UK and what to do about it.

With relief then, they can point to outsiders from places like Lithuania for being partly responsible. Blaming outsiders brings, as usual, some comfort – nasty foreigners are to blame for all our problems.

But the reality of the ‘growing menace of gun crime’ in the UK is very different from the media fantasy land.

Despite gory stories of guns flooding into the UK over the past ten years, the figures of homicide from gun shot in that period look like this:

1998/1999 - 49
1999/2000 - 62
2000/2001 - 72
2001/2002 - 95
2002/2003 - 80
2003/2004 - 68
2004/2005 - 77
2005/2006 - 50

So, over the last few years murder from a bullet has been falling in Britain, not rising.

Those figures account for one murder in ten in the UK. You are much more likely to be murdered by a hand or a boot than you are a gun.

So though ‘Eastern Europeans’ have been flooding into Britain, bringing their custom made air pistols with them, the UK is not in the middle of a gun massacre, and death from fire arms remains a very rare occurrence in Britain.


Shooting down the myth of the ‘gun culture’, spiked

Friday, February 23, 2007

Poles don’t want anti-missile base

It really is going to be a ‘tough sell’ (see previous anti-missile posts here).

Latest opinion polling data from CBOS:

Do you support or oppose the deployment of an anti-missile shield in Poland?

Support 28%

Oppose 55%

Not sure 17%

As Dirty Harry might say: "Some people don't know their limitations."

The right to die?

A 32-year-old motorcycle accident victim has had enough of life-sustaining treatment, which offers no relief or cure, and wants it turned off. Catholics not happy.

His name is Janusz Switaj from Silesia and he is attached to a life support system all day, since his accident 14 years ago which left him paralyzed and in pain. He needs attention from his parents 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

His care is a two-person job and when one of his parents dies Janusz has requested that doctors disconnect his life support system and let him pass away.

Of course euthanasia is against catholic teaching, but over 50 percent of Poles asked in various opinion polls say that they support it, in principle.

But Poland is not Holland, and the ‘right to die’ is not going to go into the Polish constitution anytime soon. And should it anyway? I have heard of the ‘right to life’ – but should the right to death be a basic human right? Hmm, it’s sounds like a oxymoron to me...…

Janusz has his own web site, see it here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bush asked to come to Poland

The Polish government must be desperate.

So contentious is the planting of US anti-missile systems in Poland that the government has asked George W. Bush to come to Warsaw in the summer and sell the idea to the electorate.

That Bush can be seen in the eyes of the Kaczynski’s as an asset in winning any battles shows that they are a little detached from political reality.

But no matter – the government has its own way to hold together its support in the country – hounding out a communists and ‘collaborators’ left in the secret services, media etc, always does the trick.

While a majority of Poles are against the idea of having an anti-missile base here, around 60% support the government’s attempt to finish off the Solidarity revolution by kicking the old guard out of the public services.

So at a time when the Kaczynski administration is fraying at the edges, with bits falling off it from resignations, etc, and when no real progress is being made at making the public services more cost efficient for the poor bastards that have to pay for it, a bit of commie bashing always comes in useful.

But will Bush come in useful as an anti-missile base traveling salesman? That’s…er...a tricky one…

According To Polish Prime Minister Democracy Is Not Functioning In Full, Polish Outlook

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The gibberish of Maciej Giertych

Take a deep breath and come with me as we delve into a mind stuck in the 1930s.

‘Jews form ghettoes’….’they settle in our civilizations, preferably among the rich…’

That’s one of the classic lines in a just released ‘scholarly pamphlet’ you can be sure will be on all Polish school students’ reading lists, any time soon. His son is the present education minister, Roman Giertych, and the magnificent piece of scholarship is LPR Member of the European Parliament Maciej’s rambling ruminations on Civilizations at war in Europe.

I just read the whole thing. It’s…

Maciej Giertych goes neo-con?

No, no, no. This tract is not the product of the pre-Iraq war neo-conservative ‘battle of civilizations’, but back, way back to the 1930s, to nationalist politics frozen in time from 1945 - 1989, now seen staggering around Poland like a man recovering from long Soviet years of frozen animation, into the blinding light of post-Communist Poland.

That was a long sentence, wasn’t it?

Civilizations at war in Europe is based on what Giertych believes was a truly marvelous writer, odd-ball Polish historian Feliks Koneczny, the founder of the so-called ‘comparative science of civilizations’, who died in 1949. It takes in garbled sociology, tongue-tied linguistics, and a bit of 1930s race biology is thrown in for good measure.

Giertych on race
Civilization is a strong marriage barrier. People normally look for a spouse from the same [culture] as their own. They expect to share civilizational norms with the spouse. As a result the covilizational barrier becomes a biological one. In biology animals and humans develop as a consequence of isolation.

In the introductionary passage he seems to use the concept ‘human race’ and the differences between races of animals, synonymously. Whites, Arabs and Africans are, for Giertych, like the biological variations between wild cats and domestic cats.

That’s something mainstream biology gave up decades ago when categorizing humans. Human races – in the plural – is not a biological concept, but a social one.

But no matter, Giertych is not using race to explain the growth of societies – at least not in this essay. Civilizations are not formed from races, he says but from culture.
Giertych on Civilization

He says in the ‘method’ section that the categorization of cultures:

’…will be used hierarchically. Thus within the Latin civilization there are such cultures as British, Spanish, Polish and others. Within the Jewish [civilization] one can find Sephardic, the Hassidim, the Karaim and other cultures.”

Note ‘hierarchically’… But which civilization is on top, we wonder, breathlessly?

He spends rather a long time on trying to demonstrate certain defects in writing expressed in other than the Latin script. He claims that Chinese pictorial writing inhibits abstract thought [?] and that written Hebrew, because it expresses no consonants, leaves ambiguity in meaning[!].

Arabic script, though, is good, because you can scribble it quickly[!!].

Latin civilization (and he uses civilization and culture interchangeably) is the most enduring and successful [shock!] only spoiled if it comes under pressure and does not defend itself from either the outside (historically Byzantine and Turanian cultures, - meaning basically Russia and Germany) or from Jews from within.

It’s a Rip van Winkle world view in a 1930s rain coat. And there is a hole in his sock.

Giertych has a coded go at Law and Justice.

He fights his long dead 1930s nationalist dad’s battles for him, saying that Pilsudski-ites, followers of Marshall Jozef Pilsudski – and arch enemy of Giertych’s nationalist idol Roman Dmowski - were characteristic of the Russian and German cultures, in their preferred political system of a strong leader, leaving decision making to the higher-ups. That’s why they went along, as the Dmowski nationalists did not, with the Pilsudski led coup of 1926.

It’s a historical reference with a contemporary inference: the present Law and Justice led coalition government – of which Giertych’s League of Polish Families is part – consider themselves ‘Pilsudski-ites’.

Giertych’s whole view of today is informed by the nationalist struggles of the past. By bringing up Pilsudski as some kind of example of how Byzantine strong leader culture had infiltrated Poland’s ‘Latin’ culture, he is back fighting the inter-war struggle between the nationalist Endecja movement and the Sanacja government, filled with Pilsudski-ites.

Come on Maciej, isn’t it time to move on, old boy?

Giertych on Jews

Jews are not a race. So, logically, he says, almost proudly, “It’s a mistake to think that anti-Semitism is racism”.


“We [Poles] consider the Jewish people today as a tragic community, a people that has not recognized the time of its visitation,’ he says.

The real problem with these people, writes Giertych, is that they are still waiting for the messiah, when everyone knows he turned up 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. Jews have suffered for this religious blindness ever since.

The cultures that recognized Christ flourished, but the Jews did not, and:

‘…became wanderers, jealously nurturing their Chosenness, this messianic consciousness, which gives a defining mark to their [culture].'

The essay really starts to pick up speed now, and it all just comes tumbling out.

On intercultural relations

Cultures – civilizations – must remain separate, otherwise they weaken.

This is why a Jew cannot be a Pole. Neither can Gypsies.

“Can a Gipsy become a Pole? Though [sharing the same language and religion] I think most Poles would tell you, and most Gypsies, that no, they cannot.’

After a brief detour into the Arabs (they are coming to get us, you know) he concludes:

‘…differentiate civilizations are mutually exclusive. Integration, middle ground, the ‘melting pot’ are not possible.'....The war between civilizations will be fought in the schools. Who will have the greatest influence on the minds of the young? Who will education our children?

He then makes a little detour back, way back, into his family’s past, to a golden age when men were men and women did what they were told. He bizarrely accuses the work of Polish Nobel prize winning author Wladyslaw Reymont of exhibiting un-Polish, un-Latin, elements.

‘In 1925 my grandfather forbade my mother of a standard text in her school, Chlopi, by Wladyslaw Reymont, because he considered it had immodest content. The whole class read it, but my mother did not…she never did read the book.

Which European school today would respect such a wish….?'

Giertych’s essay is a hymn to the ‘Latin culture’ and how it should defend itself against the invasion of other cultures; divorce, homosexuality, abortion and the EU are all symptoms of this creeping occupation. Poles, with a higher sense of national identity, have a lot to teach other Europeans, if we are to won the war of civilizations.

and so it goes on...and on...It's a pamphlet that should not be put on the shelves of the national library, but the natural history museum, where it belongs.

Maciej Giertych’s diatribe to the dinosaurs, which, in its richness and modernity, and it’s breaking of intellectual barriers, will be poured over by scholars for years, is here. Do not read just before bedtime.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Medical corruption case stuns Poland

A doctor has been accused of murder because his patient's family refused to bribe him.

Dr Miroslaw G – we have to use this silly name as he is under criminal investigation, but everyone knows who he is – a respected heart surgeon here, has been accused of taking bribes for preferential treatment on the national health service. No surprise there. It’s been going on since the old communist days.

But what Dr G has also been accused of is turning off the life support system of a post-op heart transplant patient, after the patients family refused to pay the good doctor a bribe. The patient died, as a result.

The doctor has also been charged with numerous other offences.

Bribing doctors used to be common in Poland. But attitudes to this sort of practice are changing, and not before time.

Less doctors these days are excepting, for instance, 1,000 dollars for jumping an operation waiting queue. But some will continue doing this until people stop offering them bribes in the first place.

But what kind of person would offer doctors a bribe, and so deprive more honest or poorer patients their place in the queue?

Well, there is a guy at work who regularly does this. In fact, he tries to maintain that it is ‘the only way’ to get decent treatment. Once, he was actually lecturing a fellow worker that it was almost his ‘moral duty’ to do so.

What sort of freak thinks like that?

The guy in question truly is a Polish 1980s dinosaur, who wreaks corruption from every pore in his body. But thankfully, he is widely reviled at work for this. Virtually everyone - apart from one elderly worker, now retired, who never knew any different from the commie days, when bribing really was the only way to get things done here – thinks the guy is a complete shit.

So Poles are becoming disgusted by those who give and receive bribes in hospitals and doctors surgeries. Hooray!

The guy at work, all the other bribers, and those who take them, have a hand in the culture that led to the death at the (alleged) hands of the doctor, Miroslaw G. There is blood on all their hands.

I hope they all get very sick, very soon.

Sex required in trade for operation at Polish hospital, Polish Outlook

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

CIA prisons in Poland

Euro parliament fails to back Washington Post

14 months after the Washington Post article (see here) which claimed that Poland hosted CIA torture prisons, how far have we got to substantiating those claims?

Well, nowhere. In fact, the year long report by the European Parliament - just like the Council of Europe’s report before it - has failed to turn up anything new.

All we have in the parliament summary of the report is:

In an amendment passed with a narrow majority (356 to 323), MEPs noted that, in light of the available "circumstantial evidence", "it is not possible to acknowledge or deny that secret detention centres were based in Poland." However, notes the report, "seven of the fourteen detainees" transferred from a secret detention facility to Guantánamo in September 2006 coincide with those mentioned in a report by ABC News (published in December 2005) listing the identities of twelve top Al Qaeda suspects held in Poland.

The summary reiterates something we heard months ago after MEPs came to look for evidence in Poland that:

'Regarding the testimonies gathered during their visit to Poland, MEPs conclude that the investigation carried out by the Polish Parliament was not conducted independently and that statements given to the Committee delegation were “contradictory” and compromised by "confusion about flight logs [...] which were first said not to have been retained, then said to have probably been archived at the airport, and finally to have been sent by the Polish government to the Council of Europe."

The 'its not possible one way or another’ line is the one that the Council of Europe used, but a far cry from the aggressive allegations by Human Rights watch and the Washington Post that started this all off, all those months ago.

Journalists in Poland have turned up nothing new, and neither has anyone else, including the Washington Post and HRW.

Let’s conclude then that though CIA ‘rendition’ occurs, shamefully, the singling out of Poland and Romania was a mistake by the initial reporters, and that all the talk of US ‘gulags’ and even another Auschwitz in Central Europe was what I said it was at the time - nonsense.

Poland was main CIA European detention base -group, Reuters, December 2005

Remember the 100,000 World Cup East European sex slaves story?

Well, it was a load of...balls.

Remember the beatroot wrote back in May last year, just before the FIFA World Cup in Germany, that the Catholic News Service reported:

'Polish nuns, anticipating an increase in human trafficking and prostitution during the World Cup in Germany, have issued anti-prostitution leaflets in multiple languages for circulation during the competition.

"Our resources are extremely limited, but we're doing what we can," said Ursuline Sister Jolanta Olech, president of Poland's Conference of Superiors of Female Religious Orders. "We're deeply concerned at reports that men's lives are to be made nicer by importing 100,000 young women from Europe's poorest countries."

The story of the ‘100,000 sex slaves’ originated in the European Parliament (as 40,000) when the matter was raised by German Green MEP Hiltrud Breyer. The Polish nuns then added another 60,000 to the scare for good measure.

So German Greens formed an allaince with Polish nuns (and weirdly, George Bush got involved, too) against the more baser instincts of us thuggish football fan types, who like a nice eastern European sex slave after a good game of footie.

I also noted that the figure of 100,000 appeared to have been plucked out of thin air, much like a goalkeeper plucks a ball from the head of an attacking forward.

Well, Bruno Waterfield of the UK Daily Telegraph has seen a copy of the reports by the Council of the European Union - documents 5006/1/07 and 5008/7 – on the matter, which reveal the real number of the East European sex slaves imported into Germany during the World Cup. One hundred thousand? Well, Waterfield quotes from the report:

‘Of the 33 investigation cases reported to the Federal Criminal Police Office on the grounds of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and/or the promotion of human trafficking, and which took place at the time of the 2006 World Cup, only five cases were assumed to have a direct link to the 2006 World Cup’, concludes the report.

‘The increase in forced prostitution and human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation during the 2006 World Cup in Germany which was feared by some did not materialise’,

So not 100,000, or 40,000, but...five.

The next time you see an unholy alliance of a German Green with a Polish nun, keep your cynical hat on, won’t you. Football fans are not a bunch of sex starved Neanderthal things.

Read the rest of Bruno Waterfield’s article here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Very Catholic President of Poland’s daughter to divorce

Oh, dear...isn’t life complicated.

Any divorce is bad news, really. It means something, somebody, some people, failed.

But for poor old Marta, 27, daughter of President Lech Kaczynski, a private failure has public symbolism.

Tabloid Super Express printed last week that she and husband Piotr have filed for divorce. They have a three year old daughter, Ewa. What’s worse it appears to have been Marta’s fault, as she is having - allegedly - an adulterous affair.

What’s even worse, the guy - another Piotr - she is having an affair with (allegedly), the beatroot understands, is (allegedly) the son of a member of the ex-communist - and Catholic President Lech’s arch enemies - the SLD!

[Correction – I since learn that the affair with this new Piotr took place after they spilt up (or something) and that both had other partners and that the divorce is on mutual agreement, and they are both very happy cooperating with bringing up the kid. Tke beatroot regrets any misimpression he may have caused and should be hung up outside the presidential palace by his short and curlys…anyway, where were we? Oh, yeah...]

Isn’t life complicated?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Via Baltica: humans versus the environment

Stop Press!!! the beatroot agrees with Polish prime minister...shock!!!...well, there is a first time for everything!!!...

Euro-green protestors get upset about a planned bypass around the Polish town of Augustow.

Greens are campaigning about a planned bypass around the northeastern town which will cut through the wetland area of Rospuda Valley. As usual, Greens turn to the EU for help. Environmental Data Interactive reports:

In December 2006 the European Commission launched legal procedures against the Polish government for consenting to a series of eight road developments along the Via Baltica route which are likely to damage important and protected sites.

The road developments as they are currently proposed run through the Augustow and Knyszyn primeval forests and the Biebrza Marshes National Park.

These areas contain a broad array of threatened wildlife including wolf, lynx and white-tailed eagles.

The road - part of the E67, or Via Baltica - will form a major link from Helsinki to Prague and greatly increase trade in the area.

I was talking to Kasia today, who is from Augustow. She says that most people in the town are for the bypass. Currently around one and a half million trucks rumble through the town every year, causing traffic accidents and casualties, damage and congestion. Ironically, Augustow is known as a health resort – the pollution caused by the traffic is damaging that reputation and the tourism that it attracts.

The EU has many designated protected sites in Poland, mostly in the east of country – an area of economic underdevelopment. Of course, nobody would casually want to damage areas of beauty. But sometimes humans, and economic development, have to come first.

I think this is one of those times. Poland badly needs better road transport, which at the moment is the most under constructed in Europe.

We are getting to the stage where an abstract idea such as to what constitutes what ‘natural’ is is taking precedence over human development. What Poland needs more than anything is economic growth. The Eurocrats in Brusesels, and Green NGOs from all over Europe (mostly city dwellers who have a romantic, yet detached idea of what ‘natural is) are trying to slow down economic progress here.

I think its time they were told that birds and wetlands come second; humans come first.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Poland’s most moronic law of 2007

It’s still early but this could be a contender.

The mayor of Sopot, Jacek Karnowski (Civic Platform) has decided to slap a ban on selling alcohol from 11 O’Clock at night to 6 in the morning.

It’s a bad law because a) Sopot is Poland’s top seaside resort and people go on holiday and drink…lots! And b) it is a bad law because it will be broken regularly.

You expect this kind of thing from the British, but a Pole banning drinking? Is the mayor of Sopot limbering up for a career in Brussels, perhaps?

Polish football – could things get any worse?

It’s a dismal time to love the ‘beautiful game’ in Poland, but potential remedies could kill off a vital part of the game.

Tomasz Kuszczak will be in goal for Manchester United today as the first pick goalkeeper is injured. There are a lot of good Polish soccer players playing in the British leagues, and they always seem to be popular with the fans.

And it’s not surprising all the talented players get out of the Polish game as soon as they can. Football here is in a sorry state.

Corruption runs through all levels of the game – 70 players, officials, managers are involved in criminal investigations. Things got so bad that in January the government stuck its boot in and suspended the Polish football association. FIFA reacted by warning the government to keep out of the internal affairs of the association as this breaks its rules on government interference in national football affairs.

Add to that the disgusting state of most grounds in Poland, a chronic lack of money and a hooligan problem that makes the current problems in Italy look like a Sunday picnic, and it all adds up to sporting disaster.

But what to do? Many think that FIFA should ban Polish clubs from international competitions for five years or so, as they did with English clubs in the late 1980s after successive hooligan trouble.

English clubs and the British government reacted to the ban by making far reaching changes to football stadiums and the structure of funding the leagues.

Both Italian and Polish football are studying the English example, which introduced often draconian controls over supporters – named tickets, CCTV cameras in every ground, all seating stadiums, etc.

Getting tough could kill off more than just hooliganism

There is much talk in the press at the moment about the Italian ‘ultras’ – which the Guardian, for instance, claims have been responsible for the violence inside and outside stadiums lately.

‘Italian clubs have sucked up to their hooligan element for years, but now they have no choice but to get tough.’

The ‘ultras’ have become synonymous in journalists’ minds with hooligans. But this seriously misunderstands the role of the ‘ulras’, which are not gangs of hooligans but unofficial supporters clubs which aim to keep alive football fans culture on the terraces. As spiked football columnist Duleep Allirajah writes this week:

If all you know about the ultras is what you’ve read in the newspapers, you might be forgiven for believing that they are some kind of hooligan mafiosi led by sinister capi (bosses). In reality they are little more than semi-official supporters’ clubs who make huge flags and banners, organise pre-match tifos or choreographies, run social clubs, arrange away travel, and produce merchandise. There are invariably some tifosi who enjoy the odd punch up but to use the word ‘ultra’ as a synonym for hooligan is just lazy journalism.

The worry is that if the Poles and Italians follow the English example they could risk robbing the stadiums of the intense atmosphere that they currently enjoy. Go to a game at Arsenal these days and you will experience an atmosphere about as exciting as a hospital waiting room. British stadiums have become as quiet as public library reading rooms.

Meanwhile the antics of Polish football fans and the atmosphere they create when the games are in play is often extraordinary. fans really are part of the game here, not just spectators.

So I hope that Poles and Italians do kick the corruption and hooliganism out of their stadiums, but leave us some of the atmosphere, please! Let’s not turn Legia Warszawa’s ground into a British one, full of prawn sandwich eaters who would be better off going to the theatre for their entertainment.

Appro to nothing in particular, see this Youtube clip of the campest ref you wll ever see in your life!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Yes but, no but

Why do Poles hate change?

I was at a meeting yesterday when the new boss announced that we are going to change the way we do something.

It was actually a very good idea, but the reaction in the room was predictable. People were not pleased.

You could see what was going on between their ears: thinking up a thousand different ways why THINGS SHOULD NOT CHANGE.

It’s a very typical Polish reaction – particularly among older Poles.

But there must have been an occasion in Polish history when a Pole was confronted by a new idea and said: “Yeah! Good idea! And we could do it like this, or maybe like that…”

But I have yet to see it. How does Polish society ever change when people are so change-phobic?

There is a character in the BBC Little Britain comedy series who has a verbal tic, where she starts each sentence: “Yes but, no but...”

That’s what comes to mind when watching Poles confronted by change.

“Yes, but, no but, we can’t do that because…well, how will we pay for it...who will do it…things were fine as they were, weren’t they...there must be an ulterior motive for them wanting to do this...yes but, no but...”

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Wishful thinking and the beatroot’s ‘PiS-ed off’ index

Do the Sikorski/Dorn resignations mean the government is falling apart? With a lack of anything inspiring in the opposition ranks going on, many are pinning their hopes on it.

The ex-defense minister, Radek Sikorski was never one of the Kaczynski brothers’ closest supporters. When he excepted the defense portfolio he said he was ‘non-aligned’, even though he stood on the Kaczynski brother’s Law and Justice ticket when campaigning to be elected for the Senate, the so-called (snigger) ‘upper house of parliament’.

The ex-interior minister, Ludwik Dorn, on the other hand, was the ‘third twin’; he was loyally ‘on-side’ – a safe pair of hands.

And now Ludwik has gone and spoiled it all (to quote Frank and Nancy Sinatra) and done something stupid: implied that there is a rift deep inside the government.

PiS opponents get excited – not by their inspiring opposition to this government – because there has been none – but maybe, just maybe, PiS will split in two.

As Polish Outlook notes, this is the government opponent’s only hope.

What is remarkable about this bumbling, naive, single issue obsessed government is that they have retained support among their core voters.

Last year I introduced the beatroot’s PiS-ed off index – how much of government supporters have deserted them since the general election of November 2005. In that election PiS gained 27 percent of the vote.

In the latest opinion poll, PiS are receiving 28 percent approval rating. That gives PiS a + 1 pissed off rating. More voters support the government now than they did in the last election.

What that proves, if anything, is that no matter how bad things get for the government, and if they had another election tomorrow, PiS would still be in government, albeit forced into a coalition with their main rivals, the ineffective Civic Platform.

So what all the government’s opponents are hoping for is PiS split in two.

And that’s an indictment of the opposition’s impotence, as much as it is the government’s incompetence.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The mysterious resignation of Ludwik Dorn

The now ex-minister of the interior takes everyone by surprise.

With a cabinet re-shuffle imminent, Minister of the Interior, sociologist (and writer of children’s books!) Ludwik Dorn decided to resign.

The reason? “Disagreement on certain issue,” with Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Journalists, disorientated by yet another resignation only a couple of days aft, resignationser Radek Sikorski resigned as defense minister - also citing ‘differences with the PM’ - grilled Dorn for what these ‘disagreements’ were over, but to no avail. Dorn was keeping his mouth shut...for now.

He is staying on as one of the government’s many vice-prime ministers, however.

Speculation on what’s going on here welcome.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sikorski to leave government?

He always was a fish out of water.

It’s been reported this morning that Defense Minister Radek Sikorski will be leaving his post as Defense Minister in the Polish government. The rumour is that there is conflict with the vice defense minister Antoni Macierewicz.

There is also talk within government ranks that he is ‘acting as a foreign minister within the defense department. If that is true then to wonder: the present foreign secretary, Anna Fotyga is completely useless.

There is also another weird rumour that the government will be ‘looking into the immigration history of Sikorski’. Don’t know what that means, but Sikorski was an exile during the 1980s in the UK and US.

So it appears that the government will be losing the only internationally respected politician it has. But it’s good for Sikorski – he always was a little too good to be in the same company as Law and Justice.

Crime rate down in Poland

...but some crimes in Poland are still higher than many realize.

Interior Minister Ludwik Dorn announced on Friday that the overall crime rate fell by 10.7% in 2006. Theft fell by 13.5%. More importantly, theft related killings were down by 8 percent.

Corruption detection – a central plank of the government’s domestic policy – was up 6.4%.

Crime in much of the western world – UK and the US for instance – is also on the way down, but, crucially, the number of people in the main age category most associated with crime – the 16 – 25 year olds – is falling in those countries. So the sub-population where the criminals originate is falling.

Poland, however, has seen a bulge in 16 – 25 year olds, following the Polish ‘baby boom’ of the 1980s. So crime is falling at a time when the criminal sub-population is growing.

So these figures are a major success. How much of this is due to the government, however, is less clear.

But how criminal is Poland?
Crime in general has risen since the introduction of capitalism. Capitalism in a sense is crimogenic.

But what worries Poles the most is that Poland has become a more dangerous place to live. But is it any more or less dangerous than the average western society?

Well, the bad news is that Poland has a higher murder rate, per capita, than does the United States!

Poland has a murder rate of 0.0562789 per 1,000 people … America has a rate of 0.042802 per 1,000 people. Those stats will come as a bit of a surprise to both Americans and Poles, no doubt.

The country where you are most likely to get murdered in the world, by the way, is – no surprise – Columbia. The safest country in the world is Qatar (see the whole fascinating list here)

Luckily for Poles, however, most murders appear to be gang related – one criminal killing another.

(Perhaps there is a kind of Darwinian thing going on, and in a few years time all the weaker thugs will have become extinct, and we will be left with a handful of Superthings… )

But the news that the murder rate is falling in Poland is going to go down very well here, and not just with the government’s supporters.

I don’t suppose gang related criminals are too disappointed about it, either.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Poland lose in handball final

But this is a country where coming second is good enough.

Poland just lost to German in the World Handball Championships Final in Cologne, 29 – 24. They played well in the tournament, but their defense was weak this time, and the Germans used the home advantage well.

The headline on is ‘Bronze in 1982, Silver in 2007, Gold…? Referring to the fact that maybe they will win a gold medal next time, in the 2009 championships, or maybe even at the next Olympics.

That’s a very Polish attitude. Everyone is saying that ‘second is the best Poles have ever done, in (the relatively obscure sport of) handball. So that’s great, isn’t it?’

Coming second for Poles is good enough. I am British and we have been ‘blessed’ with the amateurish attitude that ‘as long as we play well, that’s good enough’.

Consequently, the only thing we are consistently good at!

I prefer the American attitude: coming second is coming nowhere.

Poles lost in the handball final: period.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Simon Mol charged with...corruption!

Things get worse for Poland’s celebrity refugee.

As Mol languishes in jail awaiting charges of knowingly spreading HIV to numerous women since he has been in Poland as a refugee since 1999, police will be questioning him on yet another charge.

Rzeczpospolita is reporting today that Mol received one of the five apartments given, annually, by the local council to refugees last year.

Unfortunately, Simon Mol is on the board that decides which refugee gets which apartment.

Oh, dear.