Monday, May 19, 2008

The last post


Well...kind of. After three years and 646 posts, the beatroot is going into a summer hibernation - as all root vegetables should do at this time of year - only to re-emerge in the autumn bigger, better…etc.

We will be back in a slightly different form, however, taking a little more multimedia approach. And I am still going to write for other places. In fact, I can write more often elsewhere.

Thanks to everyone who has passed through here, at some time or another - and particularly the regular commentators, who helped give us a reputation for being a bit better than the ordinary blog.

And there has been quite a few folk passing by.


From January 1, 2008, we have had 289,248 hits with 238,814 uniques.

In April, the last full month, we got 79,542 hits and 65,303 uniques.

I know some commercial web sites in the English language in Poland that would be pleased with that.

The reasons for the summer break are many: over work, the need to recharge batteries, etc.

The Beatroot Republic

But mainly it’s because the beatroot has run out of a subject. This blog was really about Poland under the Fourth Republic - that two years of lunacy from the Law and Justice government.

It’s been six months since the demise of one of the strangest governments in Europe, certainly in my lifetime. And little did I expect to be caught up in it all.

So in case your memory has dimmed, let me remind you of how it was.

At one time we had a government with a cabinet made up of six inch nail swallowers, bearded ladies and other circus freaks.

The PM was Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leading the charge against what he thought was a cabal of communists, still clinging on, post 1989, in public institutions, government, organized crime and media. Jaroslaw didn’t just think there were legions of Reds huddled together under his bed - he was of the impression that they were under his nose, his hat and probably under his pet cat’s basket (I never did find out what his cat‘s name is, so let‘s call him Sebastian).

Jaroslaw launched an assault on what became known as the uklad by setting up a counter uklad. The nepotism that Poland has indeed laboured under since the fall of communism continued - except now we had a different bunch of cronies fighting over the spoils of being in power in this poor, long suffering country. Why a decent people like the Poles can’t ever get themselves a government good enough for them, we can only ponder on as one of those great unanswered questions - like, how large is the universe; or why it is we can’t tickle ourselves?

So close was the net he weaved around him that many expected Sebastian the Cat to get a job as Minister of Feline Affairs.

But he resisted. He did, however, end up by doing something even stranger - appoint Roman Giertych and Andrzej Lepper as his vice prime ministers.

This was too much for many of Kaczynski’s supporters, and it was all down, down from there into an inferno of madness.

Still, for a blogger, it was groszy from heaven. Every day brought some gory fascination. It was like watching the political equivalent of a slow motion car crash, on a loop.

If you came in late and have no idea what I am talking about then feel free to look back through this blog….and I never had to make one word of it up….Cue here wobbly screen like they do in old corny movies when cutting to another time, a memory, or when it’s a dream sequence.

Yeah, perhaps it was all a dream. And now we have woken up, haven’t we?

Haven’t we?

That's all, folks.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Potty Polish PM admits he ‘did inhale’


In an interview with the Polish version of Newsweek, Prime Minister Donald Tusk admits that in the 1980s he toked on a few spliffs. Cue predictable outrage from some opposition MPs.

In a long interview that delves into the past of Donald Tusk - which will be soon released as a small book - the prime minister talks about his time as a Solidarity activist and some of his experiences when he was banned by the communists from getting normal work.

Forced to take casual jobs as a painter and decorator and other manual work, he admits that he spent much of the time drinking cheap wine and on occasion smoking marijuana.

But the similarities with tales from that old perve Willy Clinton end when Tusk admits that he did inhale.

MPs from his own Civic Platform, like Julia Pitera, have praised Tusk for his honesty, for ‘breaking the conspiracy of silence’ about the issue of drug taking by politicians in their youth and that the statement ‘inspires trust’ among the electorate.

Predictably, however, members of the conservative Law and Justice party have jumped on the revelation in an attempt to gain a few points.

The outraged MP Beata Kempa said she wants a ‘sober and drug-free PM’ because senior politicians must have a spotless reputation. Kempa said that smoking wacky backy leads to ‘pathologies’ and causes ‘changes to the brain’ with symptoms such as failing memory and...um...other things this blogger...er...can’t quite remember.

But looking closer at Tusk, with his red tinged hair - and if you had smoked enough - then he could have a passing resemblance to a Camberwell Carrot.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

We forgive you Tomaszewski!


Two Brits have sent me a link to their myspace page where you can hear the first hymn by English football fans in support of the Polish football team at this summer’s Euro 2008 football championships in Switzerland and Austria.

And it’s a great little song! Written by Will Hetherington and Rupert Slade - the latter lived in Poland for four years - it's about an English football fan depressed after England were knocked out of Euro 2008 by Croatia. He was thinking like I was thinking - who to support now? No Scotland or Ireland in the finals either (and Wales never qualify for anything, anyway). Just then, Magda, the Polish barmaid in the English pub he is sitting depressed in, pulls him a pint and suggests he support Poland - well, there are hundreds of thousands of Poles in the UK.

The title refers to the goalkeeper of the 1973 Polish side who (in)famously knocked England out of the 1974 World Cup finals.

Polska Song (Come back Tomaszewski - all is forgiven)

Sitting in the pub
The final whistle's still ringing in my ears
All our hopes are dashed
And summer laughter's turned to tears

In the final game,
All we needed was a draw,
But Beckham couldn't bend it,
And now three lions roar no more

But I'm shaken from my blues
The sound of singing full of pride.
Haven't you heard the news?
Poland's gone and qualified

Polska, Polska, naprzod Polska,
You're our boys in white and red.
Polska, Polska, Come on Poland
Go where others fear to tread.

From London to Warsaw
From The King's Head to The Swan
Polska, Polska, naprzod Polska
Together we are strong.

Don't look so down
Says Magda pulling me another beer,
Wipe away that frown
And find yourself another team to cheer.

Whatever colours we wear
Our passion is the same
'Cos football's here to share
So come and join us in the beautiful game

Well my team are firing blanks
And the summer fills me with woe
I may not know Krakow from Gdansk
But I'm willing to give it a go

Polska, Polska, naprzod Polska,
You're our boys in white and red.
Polska, Polska, Come on Poland
Go where others fear to tread.

From London to Warsaw
From The King's Head to The Swan
Polska, Polska, naprzod Polska
Together we are strong.


Hear Polska Song here.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Fritzl, Austrians and ...Radio Maryja?


The shocking, disgusting and incomprehensibly cruel case of the Austrian ‘children in the cellar’ has made some commentators look for sociological causes, in some unlikely places, for what is really the individual act of a psychopath. Even Poland’s cranky, ultra-conservative anti-Semites at Radio Maryja have been dragged into the increasingly wild comment-fest.

Many commentators have tried to explain, what I believe is almost the unexplainable, by trying to find something buried deep within small town Austrian culture. And they seem to be finding it in a place even colder and darker than the cellar under Josef Fritzl’s house in Amstetten.

The locals knew something, didn't they? So why did they look away, pretend it wasn’t happening?

Apparently, it’s all to do with Austria’s anti-Semitic past. Yup! Of course it is. But not only Austria's dark past. Look at this bit from Howard Jacobson’s column in the Independent (UK).


As chance would have it – let's call it chance, anyway – the unremarkable provincial Austrian town of Amstetten has looked away before. There was a concentration camp in Amstetten. Not a big one. Just a sub-camp of Mauthausen, of which there were approximately 50 dotted around lower and upper Austria. Since Mauthausen's speciality was extermination by means of slave labour, in particular the extermination of politically educated and vocal enemies of the Reich, we might fairly assume that Amstetten's speciality was the same. It is also worth noting that Amstetten was a camp for women.

Whether it is equally worth noting that the Polish Catholic radio station Radio Maryja [my italics] – a continual embarrassment to the Vatican on account of its nationalistic and anti-Semitic utterances – has opened several bases in the Austrian Tyrol, the first of them in Amstetten, I don't know…

Well, if he doesn’t know whether it was worth pointing that out - and I would argue that it was ridiculous to point that out in the context of this story - then why bother in the first place?

It says here (under religious antisemitism) that the founder of Radio Maryja, the anti-Semite Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, decided in 1999 to expand his operations in the Tyrol region, adding to the base already set up in Amstetten, the town where the disgusting Fritzl imprisoned his daughter and children.

That said, the small town of Amstetten (eastern Austria) is not in the Tyrol region, which is in the west of Austria, as is the district of Amstetten - which is a different place. Could this be a mix up with Radio Maria International (which Rydzyk did have an involvment with back in the 1980s in Bavaria) which does have a place in Amstetten?

Whatever. What has that got to do with this case? Where is there evidence that any lingering anti-Semitism in Austria, or anywhere else, had anything to do with such a freak case such as this?

Maybe Brendan O'Niell in spiked is right. What Jacobson and others are alluding to is this: Catholic Austrians, like those Radio Maryja listening Poles, are not like us. They are from the East and so do not think and behave as we do in western Europe. They live in a denial culture, hiding from their past, deaf and blind to their present.

That the ultra-conservative loonies at Radio Maryja can be dragged into a case so shocking - because it is so unusual - maybe shows up something a little disturbing about some western European thinking about Central and Eastern Europe. It tells us nothing, however, about what caused a psychopath like Fritzl to do what he did.

Update - maybe someone can help, here.

In the Jacobson article linked in the above post it claims that Radio Maryja had a base in Amstetten and then expanded and has now many bases in the Tyrol region.

But the town where Friztl lived is in east Austria. Tyrol is in west Austria. There is also a Amstetten district in west Austria, but very far from the eastern town of the same name.

We have also failed to find evidence that Radio Maryja has bases in Austria, as is claimed in the Jacobson article and the other link I give in the original post.

What we have found is that another radio network, Radio Maria does have a base in Amstettel.

Father Rydzyk of Radio Maryja had contact with a Radio Maria in Germany in the 1980s.

Could Jacobson be mistaking Radio Maryja with Radio Maria?

Help!!!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Poles decide London mayoral election?


That’s what the losing candidate Ken Livingstone told Polish Radio this week.


'The Polish vote may be anywhere between 60 and 100,000 and therefore it’s become a decisive vote. We all expect this to be a very close election.'

'So the Polish community will effectively determine the outcome.'

Well, with the Conservative candidate Boris Johnson winning by 140,000 first and second preference votes then the Polish vote may well have been decisive.

There has been a record turnout in the election for London’s mayor. OK, the turnout is still only 45 percent, but that’s about ten percent better than usual.

And out of the 2.4 million voters who did go to the Poles yesterday, maybe up to 100,000 - the number who registered to vote - were from Poland.

So both the main candidates - the incumbent Ken Livingstone and conservative rival Boris Johnston were on to the Polish community in London during the election campaign to try and appear as their candidate.

Livingstone, or instance, promised a Polish day in London every year, to fall on May 3, Constitution day in Poland.

Former Polish prime minister (and once actiong mayor of Warsaw) Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz - who is now based in London working for the EBRD - reportedly gave his pledge to Boris Johnson.

And many observers believed that many Poles were likely to have given their vote to Boris, as Livingstone’s old nickname, dating back to the 1980s when he was a hard left local government politician, is Red. And maybe Poles, who wouldn’t know too much about the guy and how he is, these days, a typically British ideologically-lite politician, maybe they were not too keen on candidates with a nickname like that.

Heaer both leading candidates on the Polish vote here.