Friday, October 26, 2007

Plans for Islamic cultural centre in Krakow

The usual suspects, on both sides, were at a meeting last Wednesday at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University to discuss the possibility of building an Islamic Centre, complete with prayer room, in one of Poland’s most Catholic of cities.

The Al-Fan Islamic Cultural Centre is the idea of a Krakow based artist of Albanian descent, Rahim Blak, based on plans drew up by architect Stanisław Deńko.

Someone I know who was at the meeting said proceedings started with an Imam chanting prayers as Blak theatrically drew off the cloth covering a scale model of the building, which the organizers want to build in the Zwierzyniec disctict in the heart of the old town.

Apparently, Rahim Blak said that around 500 Muslims, from 300 families, live in Krakow but the city didn’t want have a mosque. There are only around 200 Jews living in the city, on the other hand, he said, but they have a place to pray. Hmm.

The local media has been full of the usual scary type coverage, of a ‘Mosque to be built under the shadow of Wawel Castle...eeek!’ and raising fears that Krakow would turn into the new Afghanistan, and be inundated with al-Qaeda wannabe weird-beard extremists training for the Jihad and then running into the old Market Square to blow themselves up.

I am told that locals at the meeting were acting like the typical NIMBY, and saying that the cultural centre should not be built in the centre of town, but maybe on the other side of the river (and far away from built up areas, one presumes). Others couldn't understand why they were picking on Krakow to build the place in the first place.

I think it was a mistake by the originator of the idea to bring the number of Jews in Krakow into the argument – that is simply playing the multicultural numbers game – but there is already a beautiful Japanese cultural centre and museum housed on the banks of the River Wisla, so why not an Islamic Centre?

Could be good for tourism? Maybe?

And anyway, one of the symbols of Krakow is the Lajkonik - and you can’t get more Islamic than that.

Don’t you think the CIA’s new logo to publicize its ‘war against terror’ - Terrorist Buster - resembles a popular 1980s movie? Are they serious?

Even more?
Mosque to be built in Krakow,, Oct 24

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The descent of (Ro)man II

Roman Giertych, former education minister and ex-vice PM, is retiring from politics. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry (photo: Roman with what's left of his electorate).

His party, the League of Polish Families, only got a miserable 1.3 percent in Sunday’s election. Will this mean the end of Poland’s curator of 1930s style nationalist politics? Does this mean the end of his type of nationalist politics?

He is going back to his old job and setting up a law firm in Warsaw. Journalists, he said, will ‘get a 20 percent discount.’ Which is nice.

Looking back at all the posts I have devoted to this guy, I don’t know where to start summing up the year and half he has been in Poland’s government.

So I’ll just content myself with reliving a few of his choices quotes and moments.

How about when he drew up a new school reading list – the latest wheeze to come out of the Roman Giertych Education Think Tank (subtle as a ‘tank’, very little ‘think’).

Off the reading list went Gombrowicz, Witkacy, Conrad, Kafka, Goethe, Dostoyevsky...and on the list, lots of books about JP II.

And then there was the assault on evolution (see Descent of (Ro)man).

Or how about his contribution to the Polish language, with the popularizing of the term Homoagitacja – homo-agitation?

He was a little obsessed about gays, was our Roman.

‘The propaganda of homosexuality is reaching ever younger children. In some countries it is even forbidden for children in hospital to talk or read about mommy and daddy, because this allegedly violates minority rights.”

Or how about Roman’s chief henchman, Wojciech Wierzejski, who after recommending that gays should be bludgeoned if they took to the streets of Warsaw, had some deep insights about homosexuality, with which he would like to share:

“Every police officer will confirm that homosexuals are a circle that is nearly 100% identical to the circle of pedophiles. It is a fact that does not require any research.”

What a charmer!

Or remember when Giertych, as education minister, took over the organization of exchange visits of Polish and ...Israeli school kids? Tel Aviv was not pleased.

The Israeli press repeated the well rehearsed view that Giertych know...not really the right person get involved in Polish-Israeli relations.

But President Lech Kaczynski felt he had to defend Roman when on a trip to 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 [spooky!]. Today he is certainly not anti-Semitic. There is no problem with him. The problem lies in the extremist elements in his party."


But Giertych is amazingly sensitive on this subject. He took the massive step – for him, anyway – of visiting the memorial to the Jedwabne pogrom. In his political tradition this was akin to treason.

On communists? Well, he had quite strong views on the subject.

We must go forward and chop, it's a knife fight! Otherwise we'll lose. If we stop, they will take everything from us. The tradition of bloodshed stands beside us. This is something different from the styrofoam tradition, of those who supposedly fought communism, those from the Workers' Defense Committee and other Trotskyites!

Is his demise the demise of his ‘movement’?

Is there Life After Giertych?

Now that he has stood down as leader of his party, does this make them the League of One Parent Families?

And who am I gonna write about for the next two years?

Still, I can console myself that his even more nutty dad, Maciej, still lurks in the endless corridors of Brussels.


I have just seen that henchman Wierzejski will be the self styled 'face' of the 'New Endecja' - so League look set to remain bunkered down in the nationalist 1930s.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How Kaczynski blew it

Two weeks before polling day Jaroslaw Kaczynski was ahead in most opinion polls and looked like pulling off a miracle victory. And then it all went horribly wrong. What’s worse, it’s all his own fault.

I bet when Jaroslaw went home election night he gave the cat a good kicking. Not that the cat had anything to do with the conservative’s thumping by Polish voters. Kaczynski has nobody to blame but himself.

The crucial moment of the campaign came in the head-to-head debate with the eventual winner, Donald Tusk. Immediately after the broadcast many on this blog saw it as a significant gaff by the prime minister, and a good performance by his challenger. Mike Farris said it was the ‘political performance of Tusk’s life,’ and the first time he looked like he had the balls for a fight.

Maybe. But though Tusk looked better, he got lucky: throughout the debate Kaczynski looked like he couldn’t care less.

On Polish Radio this morning he admitted that it was a crucial turning point and he maybe he should have avoided the whole thing altogether. British prime ministers would have warned him – debates are there for sitting PMs to lose – challengers usually get the upper hand as they have no record to defend and so cannot look to be on the defensive. Kaczynski spent the whole debate on the back foot.

But it finally gave Tusk some momentum and he took advantage of the gift Kaczynski had given him.

While liberals think that Kaczynski’s arch-conservative politics was the ultimate reason for the government’s downfall, many conservatives are claiming that he failed because he was not conservative enough!

For instance, columnist Paweł Milcarek told Polish Radio:

'The problem was that [Law and Justice] broke a kind of an agreement with conservative opinion. The so-called Fourth Republic was supposed to be built upon the values of ‘Civilization of Life’.

However, it turned out that when it came to the protection of life, pornography laws or coherent pro-family policy, Law and Justice contradicted its pre-election promises.

The second thing was that they tried to replace a real reform of the state with just the appearance of it. Conservative voters just have had enough.'

In other words, Law and Justice lost the election because they were too liberal.

But that argument just doesn’t work. More people voted Law and Justice in this election than in the ballot two years ago, which they subsequently won. So they mobilized more supporters this time around – problem for them was that Civic Platform mobilized even more of theirs.

Kaczynski also said this morning that he blames public television for his defeat. TVP ran a perfectly legitimate campaign to get young people out to the polling stations. In the last election only 40 percent bothered to vote at all, and the under 25 year olds were the most underrepresented back then.

The TVP ads said: ‘Get out to vote – go change Poland.’

Kaczynski said this morning on the radio: “The ‘go out to vote’ part was fine – but the ‘go change Poland’ thing was a clear suggestion that they should vote against the government.’

Try as he might, the blame for his defeat must lay with Jaroslaw himself and the boorish way he has spent two years in office. Blaming public media will not change that.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Warsaw prepares for a difficult cohabitation

Civic Platform (PO) have kicked Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski out of power – now they are getting ready to neuter his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski.

Poland’s constitution and the relationship between parliament and the presidential palace is a bit of a mess. In 1989, when they were trying to work out what a democratic constitution would look like, they took bits from American and French systems, put them together and created...a dog’s dinner.

President Lech Kaczynski is not nearly as powerful as a George W Bush, or even Nicholas Sarkozy, but neither is he as powerless or as anonymous as ....well, who is the president of Ireland or Israel?

Those two are so weak that they virtually don’t exist – wheeled out at ceremonies to shake some hands, cut some ribbon, and then wheeled back to wherever they keep them for another day – like your best table cloth and cutlery.

Lech Kaczynski cannot make laws. He can’t appoint ministers (although Lech Walesa did). But what he can do is veto laws he doesn’t like.

He didn’t veto any of his brother’s laws, naturally, but you can imagine he was up all night last night, sharpening up his veto guillotine.

He could, theoretically, cause chaos for Donald Tusk and the new government. So Donald Tusk – probably the next prime minister – has a plan.

Euro battle ground
Civic Platform are determined to get Poland into the Euro Zone and adopt the Euro as the Polish currency as fast as they can. And they want to do it without having to have a referendum.

Lech Kaczynski, like his brother Jaroslaw, has indicated that before Poland gives up the zloty the country should have a ballot. So he would probably veto any parliament vote on the matter.

Civic Platform are talking of creating a permanent anti-veto coalition within parliament, with enough votes to overturn Lech’s veto.

Yesterday’s election has made things much easier for Platform. Kaczynski’s Law and Justice (PiS) is the only Eurosceptic party left in parliament, with just 166 members of parliament out of a possible 460.

But wouldn’t it be simpler to cut the powers of the president permanently, and turn Lech Kaczynski into a toothless Irish president, or an anonymous Israeli?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

And the winner of Poland's election is...

A huge win for Civic Platform!

League of Polish Families and Self defense are out of parliament!

Civic Platform – 44.2 percent
Law and Justice – 31.3
Left and Democrats – 12.2
Polish Peasants Party – 7.9
LPR (League of Polish Right) – 1.6
Self defense – 1.4

Others (do the math)

Turn out – well over 55 percent.

The significant figure is the one for the Peasants Party, as they will now probably form a coalition with Civic Platform.

These are opinion poll results – official results out Monday or Tuesday. All we know for certain is that the German minority will have two seats in the Polish parliament, because they always do.

Any party under 5 percent will not be drawing a salary from tax payers and will not get a nice little seat in the Polish parliament.

But turnout has been good, although this can have some bad consequences.

the beatroot has been told (see comments on previous post) that one polling station in north Warsaw - election office 784 ul Staffa Zoliborz - ran out of ballot papers in the afternoon, delaying voting for some while.

That story has been confirmed by the electoral commission, which says there were also shortages of ballot papers in the Ursynow district of Warsaw.

That was one of the farcical ‘incidents’ which prolonged the election day, first by 15 minutes, then 20, then 25, then 30 minutes and then finally by three hour.

Drowning sorrows, drowning ducks

There was certainly a movement to Civic Platform in the last few days – especially after the election debates, which, to my amazement, seem to have made a real difference to the result.

The Law and Justice election ‘celebration’ party is being held in Warsaw's Hyatt hotel, about 2 minutes walk from where I live. The lady in the newsagents across the road said journalists covering the PiS piss up were saying that the party henchmen and lawmakers have been waltzing around the hotel with their noses in the air, being obstructive to journos, and convinced they are going to win.

I suppose the PiS piss up has turned into a bit of a wake.

Live blog as it happened - Results at 8.30 pm, Polish time...
20.23: Actually, this is turning into a farce. They have now revized the time again - the fifth time today - and we will know exit poll results at 9 O'Clock, or even later. And to think that the government was outraged that the OSCE wanted to come and observe these elections!
20.48: Turnout 55 percent.
21.00: I don't believe it. Now the electoral commission has announced that there is something wrong in Gdansk, and they do not know when results can be announced.
But TVN24, in anticipation that the results were just about to be allowed to be released, showed a bar chart that had one of the parties significantly in the lead. Which one could that be, we wonder? Are we coming to the end of a mini-era?
And someone in Lepper's Self defense party earlier made a 'civil arrest' of a journalist, accusing him of breaking the 'election silence' law. The hapless journo has since been 'released'.
21.14: The electoral commission appear to be overwhelmed with what is a high turnout for Poland.
21.24: We are now told that 'election silence' will finally end at 22.55! What a mess. But turnout is now officially 55 percent.
21.24: The blog has had 2,000 visits today, already...everyone waiting for ...something.
Age seems to be a factor in who came out to vote. The over 60 age group voted least - 47 percent. And in big cities 74 percent voted - suggesting that in small towns and rural areas the tirnout was low. That is bad, VERY bad, for Law and Justice.
21.56: Apparently, many people in rural areas have...moved to Ireland! This has depleted the social base for parties dependant on these folk's vote. You can guess which parties...
22.00: Um....anyone know any jokes....or something. Maybe: "What do the Kaczynskis do on a tennis court? They play volleyball," ha, ha.
22.28: EVERYONE HAS LEFT THE AFTER ELECTION PARTY AT THE HYATT HOTEL AND GONE HOME !!! The hotel is just around the corner from where I live. Guess which party was having the 'celebration' party there? Law and Justice. I think someone has told them something.

Looks like a higher turnout

By 10.30 am over eight percent had voted in the election today – that’s two percent more than in the last election, two years ago.

Highest turnout has been in Krakow so far, with 16 percent already voted.
My girlfriend has just cast her ballot. It’s a gloriously sunny day today and she said that she had never seen a polling station so busy.

And in the US, around 80 percent of those registered voted. In Greenpoint, NY, 87 percent turned up.

But the polling stations will be closing 20 minutes later than planned as in two places, one in Plock and the other in Pila, opened late. It reminds me of one election a couple of years ago – can’t remember which one, where the polling officers got so rat arsed the night before, she failed to get up on time to open the polling station.

So exit poll results will now be at 20.20 CET. See ya then...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Idiot’s guide to Polish elections III – the ex-pat vote

Lots of Poles have fled their homeland since Poland joined the EU in 2004. Will their vote make a difference on election day, October 21?


Who knows how many Poles are in the United Kingdom at the moment. Maybe a million have been there at some time or other during the last three years.

Polish politicians have woken up to a limited extent to the fact that this could be a new, valuable constituency – maybe there are some votes to be won.

And Polish politicians have shown some interest in the new Polish community in UK.

There was a debate broadcast on the recently launched Polskie Radio Londyn,net internet radio, aimed at ex-pat Poles in the UK.

All the major political parties were represented in the debate, though only the ex-communist Left and Democrats deemed the event worthy of enough by sending the high-profile Ryszard Kalysz to put their case (the fat bloke in the photo, second from the right).

By the October 16 deadline, 68,000 Poles had registered to vote in UK and Ireland. That’s maybe 7 percent or something of the potential vote.
Not really surprising. Ex-pats don't usually vote in elections back home. But who will those that do bother vote for?

An opinion poll by the Rzeczpospolita newspaper found:

Poles in the UK are most likely to vote for the Civic Platform party. 51% of Poles in the UK intend to vote for them. The Civic Platform's leader, Donald Tusk visited Britain recently for a series of meetings with immigrant groups. His popularity among immigrants might have increased as a result of his declarations that he would abolish double taxation rules which currently affect a large group of Poles working abroad.

Again, not a shock. The average age of ex-pat Poles in the UK is around 26, and the majority of young Poles generally indicate they will vote for Civic Platform on Sunday.

Worldwide, 170,00 Poles have registered.

Maybe the key to getting Poles back to Poland – and everyone agrees that might be a good idea – is linked to the result of this election. Young Poles are not amazed by their weird, conservative government and want a change.

So everyone – young Poles and Brits, Irish and everyone else – are involved in this election, even if they can’t, or won’t be voting.

I will be blogging (and working, unfortunately) from 20.00 CET on Sunday night when the exit poll results come in, if you would like to join me.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Opinion polls and political manipulation?

Since the debate between the prime minister and the main opposition party leader on Friday night, a handful of polls have shown a shift of support towards the Civic Platform party, led by Donald Tusk – all except one, that is.

The initial indicators of growing support over the weekend for the free market orientated Civic Platform were not convincing simply because they were those self selecting polls that people vote for on web sites or via telephone call to TV stations.

But two polls published this morning seem to reveal a genuine shift.

In a poll by OBOP in the "Dziennik" newspaper conducted a day after the Tusk – Kaczyński debate, Tusk’s party got a massive 46 per cent, which translates into 236 seats in parliament - five more than the minimum required to form a majority government.

I don’t find that poll believable at all.

Possibly the most believable is an opinion poll conducted by PBS, which indicates 38 per cent support for the Civic Platform (PO) and 37 per cent support for the Law and Justice (PiS). That means PO has gained five percentage points over the weekend, compared with a survey taken by the same pollster last week, while PiS lost one percent.

How much this has to do with Friday’s debate is unclear. According to a poll commissioned by the Rzeczpospolita newspaper, only 5 per cent of Poles say they changed their minds after the debate between Donald Tusk (PO) and Jarosław Kaczyński (PiS).

Whatever, there does seem to have been some movement away from the government in the last few days.

But one poll, slipped out yesterday by the Polish public television station TVP, bucked the trend – it showed the governing Law and Justice in the lead by four points – just as it was last week and the week before.

A closer look at the poll, however – and something that TVP did not mention (oops!) when they published the poll initially – was that the survey was taken before Friday’s debate. On the ninth and tenth, in fact. The poll was published on one of those 'tickers' running along the bottom of the screen, but you would think that the most important thing about that particular poll was, when it was taken.

Critics are also pointing out that PGB is Law and Justice’s favourite pollsters, as it usually gives leads to the Kaczynskis when no other company does so.

So, is there some manipulation going on here?

Well, you certainly could say that of state television, TVP. But the opinion pollster PGB has since recorded a similar wild shift since the debate, as well.

PGB was the only pollster to pick the winner of the Tusk - Kaczynski presidential election in 2005 - so the Kaczynski's must be a little concerned.

But I really can't see support shifting so hugely from one debate. Tusk will bounce, but not like a helium balloon.

But keep your eye on PGB, and close them when TVP election polling news comes on the TV - just in case.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Polish political TV debates are like game shows

Latest polls all over the place....(OCT 14) ....OBOP pollsters....Civic Platform 46%, Law and Justice 21%, Left and Democrats 11%.....(OCT 15)...PBS pollsters...Civic Platform 38%, Law and Justice 37%, Left Dem 18%.....PGB pollsters ...Law and Justice 36%, Civic Platform 30%, Left Dems 18% ......go figure......

If your idea of a televised debate during an election campaign between the two main protagonists is of the formal, stiff, American variety, then the Polish version will come as a bit of a shock.

The Tusk-Kaczynski TV debate game show tonight – that the media billed as the key moment in the election campaign, when government could be won or lost – was a bizarre sight. The set looked like a game show. The three different referees, with white teeth, taking turns over the three rounds looked like game show hosts. The audience whooped and applauded their man, and booed and heckled his opponent. It reminded me of that old classic – The Price is Right.

The rules of the game show were that each politician had one minute, or more often thirty seconds, to either give an answer or ask a question of his opponent. At the end of the allotted time, a gong would go off. Bong! Like the Gong Show.

But, of course, the combatants - Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and leader of the largest opposition party, Donald Tusk – didn’t keep to the rules.

Instead of asking a question, they made a statement. When they ignored the gong going off, Bong!, after still not asking a question, the hapless referees - political journalists and one was the head of Polish Radio 3 - would bark, time and again: ‘Time for a question, time for a question..’, as the politicians droned on and on and on....

It was hilarious. Round One was on the economy – a bit predictable - but things started to get heated during Round Two – foreign policy.

Donald Tusk berates the Prime Minister for his Rottweiler style of diplomacy [cheers, boos,] Bong! Kaczynski infers that Tusk isn’t Polish, he’s German (he comes from Gdansk/Danzig) Boo ....Cheer....Bong!...and that if Tusk wins the election then he would lay down at the feet of Brussels, giving up all the vetoes and blocks that Kaczynski is trying to make sure stay in any new EU Reform/Constitution Treaty and [referee, ‘Time for a question, time for a question’]...Boo.....Hiss.....Cheer....Poland will consequently continue to be infected by ‘homosexualism and euthanasia’.....Boo....Hiss.....Cheer......Laugh.....Boo....Bong!

Audience: 'Don-ald Tusk, Don-ald Tusk....Ka-czyn-ski, Ka-czyn-ski....'

And so it went on. I watched open mouthed, waiting for a hook on the end of a long stick to emerge from the side of the stage and rap around one of their necks and haul them off the set.


Who won? Eighty five percent of viewers of the private TVN 24 said it was a crushing win by Tusk - but they are Tusk voters. Thing is – it wasn’t a game show. Nobody walked off with the cuddly toy and the fortnight in Ibiza. Supporters of Kaczynski will think he won; supporters of Tusk will say he did.

As for the ‘floating voter’, torn widely by the charisma and verve of the two main players in the Polish election, I really don’t think they have learned anything about these characters that they didn’t, unfortunately, know already.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

BBC should stand for Beatroots Beat Cretinous (er…journos)

I used to be a big supporter of the BBC – meaning I liked watching it. But it has got in all sorts of embarrassment recently, and all of its own making.

So this just takes the biscuit, as far as the beatroot blog is concerned. Here is top BBC reporter Mark Mardell claiming the Economist broke the story of the Daily Mail paying Poles to go around speeding and parking illegally in the UK.

He says the Economist have an ‘expose’, ‘based on a story by the beatroot blog’!

He even spells 'beatroot' incorrectly - beatrout!!!

The .....cheek. But very representative of many MSM journalists. If it is first published by the MSM then it is an ‘expose’. But when bloggers, ‘expose’ something it is called ‘a story in the beatroot blog’ (see his post half way down).

The little set up of the Daily Mail involved two or three different people here in Warsaw – they ‘exposed’ the Mail.

A journalist ‘exposes’ and a blogger has a ‘story’. Mardell is writing in the context of ‘journalistic ethics’. So where is the ‘ethics’ in misrepresenting the source and method of distribution of your story? .

EU tries to bridge the gap

This post was first published on the DLiberation blog, as part of the EU's Tomorrow's Europe project.

Is it recent eastern enlargement that is pushing a slightly disorientated and isolated Brussels into the arms of experiments with Deliberative consultation?

When Poland and the other ex-communist, central and eastern European countries signed up, the European Union got more heterogeneous overnight. And that means many more interests to cater for.

If the aim of Deliberative methods is to make it easier to transcend individual, local, sectional and national interests, then the job has got much harder in a 27 nation state club with wide economic and social differences between the new and old members.

The present Polish government certainly takes the idea of ‘national interest' seriously - it thinks it has the mandate to do on at the Dliberation blog

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Pole in running for Nobel Peace Prize

And looking at some of the competition, if she doesn’t win, then it’s time to bury this dumb, sad, annual ritual.

Twenty four years after Lech Walesa won it, 97 year-old Irena Sendlerowa – who is famous in Poland for protecting many, many Jewish children during the Nazi occupation of WW II - is on the long list of candidates this year for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The decision has been made today as to who the winner is, though the annoucment will be made Friday.

I don’t know whether this is just the Polish press bigging the story up, but Irena is one of the favourites this year.

So, who are her main rivals?

Well, one of the top tips is Al Gore. Remember him when he was the very dull candidate for President of the United States?

Since then he has gone from ‘Boring Al’ to ‘Extremely Interesting Al’ by way of a power point presentation he cooked up on his lap top, no doubt, about how we are all doomed unless we cut down our ‘carbon foot print’ and start knitting our own jumpers from rape seed and hemp.

But does he deserve a peace prize? Isn’t the Oscar he won more appropriate?

Another name on the list is …Bono.

Bono has been entered, one presumes, for his contribution to….world….um….use of wearing dark glasses in the evening? Or, maybe for wearing sun glasses at press conferences to push his latest/record/’I represent Africans’, pose?

So which one would you chose for a peace prize? Someone who had protected Jewish kids even under the penalty of death if found out by the Nazis? Or Al Gore or Bono?

It’s a no brainer.

Election debates and other spectator sports

With 12 days to go it is looking increasingly likely that the ruling Law and Justice will win the general election in Poland (see here, here, here). But can the opposition put the skids under PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski in the televised debates remaining? (the photo above is actually Lech Kaczynski and not Jarosalw, but what the hell...same difference...)

Eight million people watched the first TV debate last Monday – which in these days of multi channel TV and internet, is a televisual blockbuster.

Kaczynski will now likely debate leader of the Civic Platform on Friday evening and there will probably be a three way debate on Monday between Kaczynski, Tusk and the ‘face’ of the Left and Democrats campaign, former president Aleksander Kwasniewski.

That the Left and Democrats have to put Kwasniewski into the ring for them – someone who is not even standing for parliament – is a rather pathetic sign of what a race of pygmies they have become.

Fact is, he is still their biggest personality, and TV debates are all about personalities.

In Britain, where I am from, prime ministers don’t do debates – why run the risk of making yourself look an idiot? (Risk is not on the menu for UK politicians – look at the mess Gordon Iron Jaw Brown has got himself into: people are shocked by his lack of guts, ignoring the fact that Brown has a long history of bottling it.).

Usually, prime ministers can only lose debates, opposition politicians might just win one. In last Monday’s debate both candidates managed not to lose any support. The more Kwasniewski taunted Kaczynski that he was making his country a laughing stock abroad (and there is no doubt he has) the more Kaczynski’s supporters cheered him on – they want his confrontational stance in the European Union and elsewhere.

On Friday it is Kaczynski versus Tusk. Tusk, being from Civic Platform, will do what the Democrats do in the US – they will try and appeal to reason and give lots of little policy initiatives that they think their supporters want.

Kaczynski will continue to act like a US Republican: give them one big message – ‘Poland is ruled by corrupt liberals and ex-communists’.

Kaczynski seems to understand campaigning much better than Tusk, who is getting the reputation as being a bit of a wuss - a wish-washy dullard, who lacks the balls for a fight (a Polish version of the UK’s hapless leader, perhaps).

The coming TV debates are likely to emphasize these differences. Kaczynski is giving his supporters - those in rural areas, the old, the poor, the ones who lost out in the transition to capitalism - what they want. Tusk is frustrating his. We have had two years of the weirdest government I have ever seen. If Tusk and Kwasniewski haven’t been able to nail Law and Justice by now then they will not be able to do it - no matter how many TV debates they have - in the remaining couple of weeks.

Get ready for a Kaczynski win. The only thing really in doubt now is whether he will get a big enough majority to rule alone.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Daily Mail knows...

The Economist magazine told them.

I wondered how long it would take the Daily Mail to catch on to our accusations....

I imagine it is Edward Lucas from the Economist who writes on the magazine’s blog:

Wondering if the whole thing might be a misunderstanding, this blogger gave Ms Reid a quick telephone call. Ms Reid said she was the special investigations editor of the Daily Mail. She cheerfully confirmed that she had brought a Polish driver to Britain where he had driven through congestion charge areas without paying and parked illegally. Was this not paying someone to break the law, your blogger asked. "No, it's a civil offence," she replied. "We never did any speeding. We decided against it."

The story has not been published in the Daily Mail yet, as the newspaper was waiting to see if any tickets turned up in Poland, Ms Reid added. None had arrived yet.

It’s a civil offense. Oh. So on that basis, my post should have read:

“Daily Mail pay Poles to go and commit Civil Offenses.

There is a difference there. But not much, as far as yucky journalism goes.

Read more of the Economist blog post here, in which, I think, the gentleman blogger is telling off the Mail, but very gently.

British National Party confused

On their web site, the British National Party (BNP) has reproduced this blog’s article about the Daily Mail scam on Polish drivers avoiding traffic fines.

They copy text from another blog's post about my story:

The Beatroot writes on his blog how The Daily Mail, in its zeal to prove how ruinous has been recent immigration by new EU members like Poles, will go to any lengths – including giving people money to break the law - and staging evidence of lawbreaking for its "investigation".

They then print all of my post plus Richard’s concluding sentence, from a different blog.

But they are missing my point.

They are ignoring the obvious: my post was, indeed, about how low Daily Mail journalism has sunk – but also it was about how blaming immigrants for problems of the UK’s own making (which the Mail constantly does, and so does the BNP) is simply getting the causation of things a little confused.

It just shows that the BNP will pick up on any tiny tit bit to prove a case that was discredited around ... oh...1939 - 1945?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Polish Ambassador, Blackwater and the Iraqi terrorists

The Polish Ambassador in Iraq, Gen. Edward Pietrzyk, was wounded today after two bombs exploded when he was being driven in Baghdad, outside of the ‘Green Zone’.

His driver – a member of the Polish government protection service – was killed in the attack and nearly a dozen others were hurt.

Poles have had just over 20 people killed so far in Iraq since they became part of the occupying forces there. So every death or injury is felt strongly here. There has never been a majority of public opinion for Poland’s involvement in Iraq and every incident is accompanied by calls for more troops to be withdrawn.

But government spokesman, Marek Kuchciński, made sure that Washington would never be disappointed in Poland. He said today:

“Such a decision would make the terrorists stronger and would let them expand their activity. No government should ever take even one step back in the battle with terrorists. “

But how did he know that the Polish Ambassador was attacked by ‘terrorists’?

Blackwater and Poles in Iraq

Minutes after the blast which injured the Ambassador, AP reported that:

U.S. Army and Iraqi troops sealed off al-Arasaat street where the attack took place. "Little Bird" helicopters, the type used by Blackwater USA, were seen flying above the bombing site, although it was not immediately known what role, if any, the North Carolina-based company has in providing security for the Polish diplomat. An unidentified wounded man [now thought to be the Polish diplomat] with bandaged head, leg and hands was seen walking toward one of the choppers…

U.S. authorities confiscated an AP Television News videotape that contained scenes of the wounded being evacuated. U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl told the AP the government of Iraq had made it illegal to photograph or videotape the aftermath of bombings or other attacks.

I bet they have. Last week Blackwater was – briefly - prohibited from working in the country after an incident where they shot up Iraqi civilians. Blackwater are very unpopular in Iraq.

But the ban didn’t last long. It’s thought that pressure from Washington was put on the hapless Iraqi government to keep allowing these firms to operate.

Mercenary firms play an essential role in the occupation, and will be even more important in the future. As troop numbers are reduced for political reasons, they can still increase the number of Blackwater employees and the 30,000 other…well, ‘dogs of war’, is what they used to call them.

And it’s not just Americans who make up the Blackwater workforce. Ex-army Poles have been working for Blackwater in Iraq. In 2004, two former Polish GROM officers (the Polish equivalent of the SAS) were killed after an attack by, the now dead, Abu Musab al-Zarkawi and his al-Qaeda type gang of cross-state Inslamists.

Zarkawi, from Jordon, was, for sure, a ‘terrorist’ – putting bombs in the middle of crowds of civilians was a regular trick of his. But how can the government spokesman, Kuchcinski, know who was behind the attack on the Ambassador today?

Poles are a target in Iraq because they are part of the occupation. And occupations do, I am afraid, get bombs lobbed at them quite often by those who do not want them in their country.

The status of the occupation is made all the more transparent – and resented - by the existence of Blackwater and their ilk. If Iraqis cannot arrest and try these people for crimes against Iraqis - which they cannot - then Iraqi sovereignty is a mirage.

See video of aftermath of attack here and here..

Monday, October 01, 2007

Daily Mail pays Poles to break the law

The beatroot can reveal that in their zeal to prove how ruinous recent immigration by new EU members - meaning Poles - has been to the very fabric of the United Kingdom, the Daily Mail (London) will go to any lengths – including giving people money to break the law.

This April the phone rang and on the other end was someone I know in Warsaw:

“How do you fancy stitching up the Daily Mail?,’ he said.

Apparently, he had got a call from the Daily Mail (I can’t remember how they found him – but I am sure he will be telling us) asking him if he would like to drive a car with Polish number plates from Warsaw to England and deliberately park illegally.

They also asked him to drive purposely over the speed limit in sight of speed cameras.

There had recently been a report by the BBC claiming that Poles had been parking all over the place and disregarding the highway code, as they knew that because their cars were not registered in the UK there was no chance of them ever receiving a summons to pay the speeding/parking fines.

The guy who called me didn’t want to do it, but would I like to get involved in this little scam?

Well, of course

A couple of hours later a 'researcher', Sue Reid (author of this story), at the Daily Mail offices telephoned me. I told her that though I was British my girlfriend was Polish and that she has a car registered in Poland. We were interested.

We were not interested – but we were interested in getting the details of how low journalism has sunk in the UK.

Ms Reid said that she would offer me 800 pounds to come over and park illegally and speed, “Just ten miles an hour over the speed limit, no more…”. We would then go back to Poland and wait for the demands for payment of the fines.

“We know this is going on but we want to prove it by having a foreign car here with a foreign driver for five days and driving and parking in London, Kent, East Anglia and Portsmouth,” said the Daily Mail researcher.

A photographer would follow us around, showing how we were breaking the law. And then, back in Warsaw, when we later failed to receive any demands for payment - as the British authorities would have no record of our vehicle – the Mail would publish the whole thing as an ‘exclusive’ on how Poles and others are breaking the law in the UK and GETTING AWAY WITH IT.

She even offered to put the girlfriend and myself up at her house in Fulham in London, if we had nowhere else to stay.

I was amazed. The Daily Mail is offering money to Poles to encourage them to break the law in the UK – which in itself is a criminal offense, of course.

I asked her to give me an email putting all what she had just said in writing – which she did (fool) – and I would ‘think about it’.

Two days later she sent me another email saying that a Polish couple, ‘were arriving in England today’ (April 30) ready to rack up the speeding and parking fines, no doubt. So they didn't need me anymore. Shame...

That was nearly half a year ago. I am guessing that their sneaky little ‘investigation’ is now at an end and they will be publishing the results very soon.

Everyone I talk to here about this thinks that the Daily Mail must be a disgusting little gutter rag, and the lowest of the low of tabloids. But it isn’t. It is a middle market newspaper, owned by Associated Newspapers Ltd, for the conservative middle class.

I wonder what those respectable Mail readers in the suburbs would think once they realized that their favourite daily is paying people to break the law in England - and then trying to blame Poles, and immigration in general, for a rise in the UK crime rate?
Richard develops the story at the ER blog (see the email).