Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam dangles, EU divides

Poland supports hanging Hussein.

President Lech Kaczynski has said that the death penalty for the ex-Iraqi dictator was the ‘only possible outcome’ once he was found guilty in court of ‘crimes against humanity’.

But the killing of Hussein is being used by nations and organizations like the EU to underline their attitude to the death penalty. Even in death Saddam has managed to divide the ‘international community’.

Some of the new members such as Poland have welcomed the execution. The Czech Republic's Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek, welcomed the hanging, describing it as "an act of justice", whereas the British government has said, “We advocate an end to the death penalty worldwide, regardless of the individual or the crime. We have made our position very clear to the Iraqi authorities, but we respect their decision as that of a sovereign nation."

Opposition to the execution has also come from within the EU in Denmark, France, Portugal, Spain and Germany.

Lech Kacynski has annoyed the EU with calls for a reinstatement of the death penalty in Poland – although one of the conditions of membership is that countries drop execution as a form of punishment.

But Kaczynski does seem to be in line with the people of the EU, in this case at least.

In a survey of 12,570 people in six countries by the new French international broadcaster France 24 and Novartis/Harris Interactive, most participants favored the death sentence for Saddam. With the exception of Italians, participants from Britain, France, Germany and Spain supported the execution.

I have no sympathy at all for the old shitbag, but to me the hanging seems like a symbolic form of revenge (as all capital punishment ultimatly is) and will do nothing to stop the violence in Iraq, which has been caused by the invasion and the subsequent and disastrous occupation. Hanging Saddam will do nothing to stop that.

Check out, a strange pro-Saddam web site

Thursday, December 28, 2006

President Gerald Ford won’t be remembered for much.....

...except for being the only president of the US never to win a presidential election...

...and wasn't he the bloke after Richard Nixon and the one before Jimmy Carter? But can you remember anything he actually did?

Except, that is, for saying in a presidential debate against Carter that:

"There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford Administration…I don’t believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union."

He said that only five months after strikes had broken out in many cities in Poland after a 60% rise in the price of food, made by the ever incompetent, Soviet backed, communist authorities. And the strikes of June 1976 were ruthlessly broken up by the ZOMO militia, with the backing of the (dominating) Soviets in Moscow.

Nuff said.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Get any strange Christmas cards this year?

Well, several members of the Polish parliament did via email from the ultra-nutty anti-Semites, National Rebirth of Poland (NOP).

According to chief NOP crazy Adam Gmurczyk the e-cards are in reaction to ‘absurd political correctness’.

The two incidents of ‘political correctness’ he is referring to are: the binning by a department store in Germany of thousands of Santa Clause toys showing Old St Nick making a Nazi salute (though the Rossman store protested that Santa was innocently pointing to the sky); and the outcry in Poland by media and most politicians after a film was found showing members of the All-Polish Youth having a kind of outdoor ‘fascist BBQ’ three years ago, shouting ‘Sieg Heil!’…accompanied by a swastika burning in the background.

“It was enough for the All Polish Youth to make some gestures for journalists to think that Fascism had arrived," said Gmurczyk, dumbfounded by all the fuss.

But even Roman Giertych, Head of LPR and founder of the reformed All-Polish Youth in 1989, has since disowned them.

As regards the Nazi Santa toys...well, yes, they could be pointing at the sky as Santa spots where he parked his reindeer. Banning them was silly, but shows how sensitive anything resembling the Nazis still are in Germany today.

But Polish ultra-nationalists dismissing the furor over All-Polish Youth – and producing the very stupid Christmas card above - shows that these people have a rather warped idea of what the word ‘irony’ means.

In that context, the Santa Clause toys, and the Xmas card, become a sick form of ‘fascist ketch’.

Just to give you a flavour of National Rebirth of Poland’s er...’politics’ (the group has been going since 1981) a recent campaign during the Israel-Hezbollah conflict included a poster stating, "Bomby na Izrael - Już czas!!!" ("Bombs against Israel - it's about time!!!")

But I suppose me protesting against that kind of crap is just ‘political correctness’.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Desperate Poles in UK eat fish heads for Christmas!

No, they don’t actually. But the Wall Street Journal thinks they do in the Beatroot’s nomination for the Most Stupidest Article 2006.

Yup, Poles eat carp, not turkey, for Christmas dinner. And Christmas dinner is not on Christmas Day but on Christmas Eve.

All very confusing. It’s certainly got the angling correspondent for the WSJ, Peter Fritch, in a flap. Reporting from Dorking, Surrey, in southern England he writes:

‘…the fish has great value to hungry Polish fishermen [in the UK] armed with nets, wet suits and even the occasional spear gun.

Unlike Britons, to whom carp are inedible bottom feeders fit only for sport, Poles and other Eastern Europeans eat them as a matter of culinary tradition. And many of the half million Poles who have streamed into Britain in recent years love to serve them on Christmas Eve -- starting with a nice fish head soup.’

Fish head what? Who told Fritch that? On Christmas Eve Poles usually have either beetroot (of course) or mushroom soup. Still, what’s a few facts when you are on a mission.

And note the reference to ‘hungry Poles’…those eastern European desperados…

Poles – Fritch goes on, and on - deprived of the familiar piscine delicacy in Britain are apparently lining the UK’s river banks angling for carp. And this, according to the Wall Street Journal, is a recipe for... culture clash [?].

‘The culture clash [I warned you] threatens to escalate as Britain's river banks become increasingly crowded. In many places the Poles' heavy fishing artillery isn't welcome. "It's a sore point with local anglers when they see (Poles) walking the banks with spear guns and nets [!] ," says Peter Arnold, proprietor of Pro-Angling, a bait and tackle store north of London.’

And Poles are so desperate to get their hands on the slippery beasts that they will poach them from private property!

‘Tony Pearson, owner of several fisheries in county Essex, says he has caught people stealing carp. He has taken the radical step of banning all Eastern Europeans from his lakes.’

The article – read the whole gory lot here – is a sign of the times; when the humble Polish Christmas carp can be an excuse for even a British fishing correspondent [!] to get in some reference to the problems caused by the immigration apocalypse heading the UK’s way.

Personally I have the opposite problem: trying to get my hands on a decent turkey. But then, that's a different kettle of fish...

Merry Christmas everybody from the beatroot.

More ?
Interestingly, Mr. Rago, an assistant editorial features editor for the Wall Street Journal wrote an article this week called The Blog Mob : written by fools to be read by imbeciles. about how all us bloggers are a bunch of half-wits and our readers not that much better.

Well, us bloggers may be fools, Mr Rago, but on the evidence of the above is the WSJ any better?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Jesus – King of Poland?

A very silly idea, of course. But nothing is too daft for some of Poland’s lawmakers.

46 members of the Polish parliament have tabled a motion to name Jesus Christ as the ‘honorary King of the Republic of Poland’.

The lawmakers are from the governing Law and Justice; alongside junior members from the coalition, League of Polish Families.

There is an historical precedent to this mad move, however. The Virgin Mary was made Honorary Queen of Poland 350 years ago by King Jan Kazimierz (who must have been a lonely soul).

Luckily, the motion has little chance of passing through parliament. But it does give me a chance to name the Beatroot’s Understatement of the Year Award to Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, who said of the wild and wacky idea:

"This kind of action, although it may stem from good will, sounds a bit like propaganda."
A bit like propaganda?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Stop carp abuse in Poland! Now!

Carp abuse? No, it’s not the latest accusations against Stanislaw Lyzwinski

December 20 is Fish Day in Poland, when environmental activists stage demonstrations against the live transportation and sale of carp destined for the Christmas table on December 24.

If you are interested in joining the Carp Liberation Front then meet outside Centrum Handlowego "Wileńska", Targowa Street, Warsaw at 20.00 hrs when a demonstration demanding rights for fish (including the right to vote in Euro and local elections) will take place.

Fish have rights too, you know?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Polish journalist awards 2006

Prestigious ‘Grand Press’ award goes to Polish government’s favourite programme.

The Grand Press 2006 – the top award for Polish journalists – has gone to Tomasz Sekielski and Andrzej Mrozowski, presenters of Teraz My, the current affairs programme on TVN.

In 2006 Teraz My has broken many stories (sometimes controversially by way of entrapment, etc) that have embarrassed the government.

The conservative government has accused TVN of being part of an anti-government conspiracy made up of ex-communists and liberals.

And I don’t suppose Kaczynski brothers supporters will be surprised at Sekielski and Mrozowski’s award (10,000 euros and a statuette). They would point to the make up of the jury, which is from mainstream media which they believe is part of the dreaded liberal/ex-commie ‘uklad’:

Ewa Milewicz ("Gazeta Wyborcza"), Andrzej Jonas ("The Warsaw Voice"), Michał Kobosko ("Newsweek Polska"), Piotr Mucharski ("Tygodnik Powszechny"), Rafał Olejniczak (Radio Zet), Adam Pieczyński (TVN 24), Janusz Sejmej ("Panorama" TVP 2), Jan Skórzyński ("Rzeczpospolita"), Andrzej Skworz ("Press"), Tadeusz Sołtys (RMF FM), Piotr Zaremba ("Dziennik"), Jacek Żakowski ("Polityka").

Don’t see anyone from Radio Maryja or Gazeta Polska...

Polish press (only slightly out of date)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Monkey in red

No, it’s not the new single by Chris de Burgh. It’s Lech Kaczynski’s least favourite Brussels correspondent.

The Sunday political talk shows are still going on about a comment President Kaczynski made Thursday when he was in Brussels on EU business.

As his previous answer towards the end of a press conference was being translated into English – and seemingly unaware that the microphone in front of him was still live – the following exchange was clearly heard between Kaczynski and his Under Secretary of State Anndrzej Krawczyk:

Krawczyk: Do you want to take another question?

Kaczynski: One more question – but not from that monkey in red [referring to TVN 24 journalist Inga Rosińska – photo above]

Krawczyk: Pardon?

Kaczynski: Not that in red.

For obvious reasons TVN 24 is not this government’s favourite TV channel.

Journalists have been outraged by this here, and are still banging on about it three days later. But I am sure Inga has thicker skin than that.

The incident brings to mind when George W. Bush was on the campaign trail before the 2000 presidential elections in the US when, once again in front of a live mic that he thought was turned off, he turned to Dick Chaney and said:

“"There's [liberal New York Times journalist] Adam Clymer - major league asshole…”

What’s interesting is that both Kaczynski and Bush refused to apologize for the boobs, complaining that they were sorry that a private remark had been made public.

But words in front of an open microphone at a public press conference do NOT a ‘private conversation’ make, Mr. Presidents…

In his non-apology Kaczynski did emphasis that his use of the word ‘monkey’ was not meant to be a comment on the way the TVN journalist looks, who, he said with chivalry, “Is a very attractive women.”

So maybe if Kaczynski does fancy making a quick cover of the old Chris de,…then he could just get it into the shops before Christmas.

I've never seen you looking so lovely as you did tonight
I've never seen you shine so bright
I have never seen that dress you're wearing
Or the highlights in your hair that catch your eyes
I have been blind

The monkey in red
Is dancing with me
Cheek to cheek……

Friday, December 15, 2006

Is the Suffolk Strangler a Pole?

Update Monday morning…Englishman arrested on suspicion of 5 murders in Suffolk… more here

Well, according to our old Polonia-phobic friend, the UK Daily Mail, someone from Poland is the main suspect.

Under the headline Strangler police hunt BMW Pole, the Mail reports that Suffolk police are looking for a BMW driving ‘Eastern European’ who works on a farm near where the body of one of the murdered women was found.

One of the murder’s 5 victims (and maybe now a sixth - this story gets nastier everyday), Anneli Alderton, was last seen getting into a BMW.

A witness spoke to the Daily Mail anonymously:

"I noticed the [Eastern European’s] BMW parked on a dirt track and because it matched the description of the car the police were looking for and because it was so close to where the bodies were found, I tried to find out who it belonged to.

"I spoke to someone who knows the owner of the car and he isn't around at the moment.

"I phoned the police and a forensic team was sent down to examine the car. It might just be a coincidence but it was too obvious to ignore."

Last night the BMW was no longer parked on the track and there was no-one at the man's home, where the lights had been left on all day.

Not really much to go on here and the British media is rife with speculation at a time when police are sensibly keeping what evidence they have under raps.

The Daily Mail has been leading a (successful) campaign (here or here or here) against Romanian and Bulgarians being allowed to work in Britain when they join the EU in a few weeks time. They have been doing this by printing all sorts of negative stories about the catastrophic effect of having so many Poles and others from CEE in Britain.

Call me a cynic but isn’t it a bit strange that this ‘exclusive’ report pinning the blame on a Pole just happens to brake in the Mail?

And do I get the impression the Daily Mail, which has led the eastern European scare campaign in Britain, would love it if the apparent serial killer just happened to come from one of the countries that they see has been ‘swamping’ their green and pleasant land with immigrants?

Turning murder into reality TV, Spiked

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Polish martial law smokes

Express Wieczorny [?] reported back in 1982…

‘A thief broke into [one of the few] cars parked outside a block of residential flats in Warsaw yesterday, and stole a cartoon of (rationed – pictured above are meat ration cards, I think) cigarettes.

But this was an honest thief, as he left on the backseat of the car, where the cigarettes had been, 51 zloty – the exact price of the cartoon of cigarettes.’

The thief was obviously out of ration coupons and desperate for a smoke!

Substitutes: more memories from living under martial law 1981

Inspired by beatroots Lwow correspondent, Opamp, take a look at the way Poles had to package things during a time of acute shortage.

Martial law lasted from December 13 to July 1983. That’s a longtime to live with nothing much in the shops – and what there was, was pretty crap (see previous post).

In those dark days of rationing cards - one kilo of sugar a month, two kilos of meat, one pair of shoes for six months, and, much more gravely, only half a litre of vodka a month – printers inks were also tragically in short supply.

This meant that when there was some chocolate in the shop then it tended to come in a packet that looked like this:

They made labels in any colour you want – as long as it’s grey…or pink!

This, as Opamp points out, was what was known as etykieta zastępcza, or ‘substitute label' – probably one of the finest contributions that the commies ever gave the world of design (on par, of course, with the brutality of much of socialist realism).

After you had gobbled down your plastic tasting ‘chocolate-like’ (Mum...why does the chocolate suddenly taste like shit?) then how about a dribble from your half a litre ration of vodka?

But the finest vodka it most defiantly was not. You have heard of ‘table wine’ before, so how about a little ‘table vodka’ complete with ‘label substitute’?

Na Zdrowia!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Martial Law, Poland, December 13, 1981...

...tasted like plastic.

There is an evocative free gift with this week’s edition of Newsweek Polska. It’s a little box of chocolates.

Inside the period looking box are two chocolates: one is made of real chocolate; the other is made of the ersatz chocolate (czekoladopodobny) that was all most Poles could get hold of during Martial Law, a period of rationing of food stuffs.

A family was allowed one average sized chocolate bar a month. People said that there were less squares of chocolate in the bar than days of the month.

The ersatz chocolate given away by Newsweek must bring back memories in a very tangible way for Poles. What better way to conjure up a memory than by letting people taste it?

I just tried a piece of martial law chocolate. It tasted of plastic. But it also brought back memories of what cheap chocolate tasted like when I was a kid back in London. I am sure I remember that taste of cheapness before.

Many of the people that I know have memories based around what it was like to be a kid back then. Many say the first thing they knew about martial law was when they went to turn on the television on a freezing cold Sunday morning. Instead of seeing the cartoons that were played every week at that time by the one TV channel they had – TVP – they were confronted with the now infamous image of General Jaruzelski. Minus his dark glasses for the momentous occasion he said:

The Fatherland finds itself at the edge of an abyss. ..In this situation, inaction would be a crime against the nation. One must say: Enough. ..Calling on the army can have, and has, only a provisional, extraordinary aspect. .. May this exhausted country, which has already experienced so many catastrophes and so much suffering, not see even one drop of Polish blood spilt. We will, by a common effort, stop the specter of civil war. Let us not build barricades where a bridge is needed.

For kids it must have seemed bewildering, but the meaning of what had just happened was lost on them, thankfully. For their parents, however, it must have left the taste of something much more unpleasant in their mouths than the cheap, plastic chocolate that would be part of the rations during the year long period of clampdowns.

Around 25,000 people were charged with 'crimes against the state' and 90 people were killed during that period.


This is a print of a famous photo taken by Time photographer Chris Niedenthal of a cinema (Kino Moskwa, where Silver Screen now is on ul. Marszalkowska) in Warsaw during martial law. The film showing that week was: Czas Apokalipsy - Apocalypse Now

Monday, December 11, 2006

Happy birthday Radio Maryja

The radio station that everyone loves to hate (apart from a million anomic Poles, and the Polish government) is 15 years old this month.

“I'm standing here with the feeling that I'm taking part in something important. I'm taking part in the 15th anniversary of an institution ... that has played a great role in Poland's history," said Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski last week.

The Polish government is in the middle of a ‘moral revolution’, which ‘would not be possible without the Radio Maryja family’, Kaczynski gushed.

But what have others said in the past about Radio Maryja and father of the family, Father Tadeusz Rydzyk?

The papal nuncio in Poland, Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyuk, wrote to the Polish episcopate requesting their aid "to overcome difficulties caused by some transmissions and the views presented by Radio Maryja".

The Vatican has issued a serious warning to 'stay out of politics'.

The Polish Council for Media Ethics referred to the station's "primitive anti-Semitism".

A report in 2000 by Tel Aviv University began: “The popular Catholic nationalist radio station Radio Maryja is still the most influential source of anti-Semitic propaganda in Poland.”

Last surviving member of the Warsaw Ghetto, Marek Edelman, accused Maryja of broadcasting openly anti-Semitic comments.

The recently retired Archbishop Jozef Glemp charged Radio Maryja with promoting a specific type of religiousness, a selective approach to Church teachings and regarding itself as the only true church.


So what kind of ‘moral revolution’ will Radio Maryja be helping the Polish government in, exactly?

Happy 15th birthday Maryja! Sto lat, sto lat...

As a special birthday treat watch a 1 min 30 second video of how the peace loving, moral revolutionaries from Radio Maryja’s listenership react when they find out that the camera filming them is from the much hated TVN 24 round the clock cable news station. See video here

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The speed of Lyzwinski’s DNA test...

...coming only 24 hours after he gave his tissue sample...

...has sparked off a conspiracy here that the tests were ‘faked’. The Prosecutors Office in Lodz had been ‘got at’ in other words, by a government who wanted the whole affair hushed up. Etc.

Not being an expert on DNA tests I wouldn’t like to comment - except to draw attention to the speed of the DNA test result confirming the identity of Saddam Hussein after he was caught down a little hole by the Americans three years ago this month.

Genome News, no less, reported back then:

One day after Saddam Hussein’s capture on December 13, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Iraqi Governing Council, announced at a press conference that DNA tests had confirmed Hussein’s identity. The announcement came less than 24 hours after his capture, indicating that the DNA test, which usually takes days to perform, had been conducted with unusual speed.

I suppose when you need the results badly then science can be speeded up. And in the small world of Polish politics, Lyzwinski’s sex life and the capture of Saddam Hussein are equally Earth shattering – or maybe equally meaningless.

DNA twist in Polish sex scandal, BBC News

Poland's exit strategy from Iraq

It’s the Polish president’s decision whether to keep troops in Iraq or bring them home now – shame no one seems to have asked the Iraqis.

900 Polish troops were originally scheduled to pull out of the carnage of Iraq at the end of this year. But last Thursday, Defense Minister Radek Sikorski signed the necessary motion for a prolonged mission. President Lech Kaczynski, whose duty it ultimately is, will probably make his decision on whether Polish troops stay on another half year or year this week.

Last month Kaczynski said that Poland had ‘invested so much’ in Iraq that they should stay on until the ‘job was done’.

Over the past 36 months since Polish troops have been stationed in the south-central zone in Iraq, 22 including 18 soldiers lost their lives.


Polish officials said that exactly how long Poles stay is dependant on American ‘strategy and tactics’. Up until now these ‘strategy and tactics’ [ironic snigger] such as they are, have been built around a sound bite – George Bush’s mantra, “Stay the course’, an open ended commitment to the occupation until things, magically, get better.

But things on the ground refuse to get better – they just get worse.

So Bush has dropped the ‘Stay the course’ and is fumbling around for another sound bite, which he was hoping the much trumpeted Baker-Hamilton Commission would deliver.

But the commission’s report turns out to be a slim document with even thinner and less substantial ideas contained within it.

They realize that the war has destabilized the region (as those anti-war from the very beginning warned the fools in Washington and London that it would) so some creative diplomacy is needed involving Syria and Iran, they say. How Bush will manage that when he has labeled these regimes as ‘evil’ will be, in a gory, prurient kind of way, interesting to watch.

But much of the report echoes signals already coming out of the British and American governments that the ‘Iraqi government better get their house in order quick, otherwise we will just pull out troops (and reconstruction money’ anyway, whether they like it or not.’

The BBC reports what that the (democratically elected) Iraqi Prime Minister thinks of the latest American attempt to dictate events:

Mr Talabani said elements of the Iraq Study Group report undermined Iraqi sovereignty and its constitution.

The president said that on the whole, he rejected the report.

The arrogance of the Americans, British, Polish is stunning. They are literally trying to pass the buck for the bloody chaos they have created onto a weak and helpless Iraqis state – which was fatally weakened by the US-led invasion in the first place: the – de-ba’athification and so on – and the UN sanctions which preceded it, killing around 500,000 children by UN estimates in the process.

This is the deadly politics of denial. By refusing to admit that the invasion gave little chance to Iraqis to maintain a multi-ethnic state, post-Saddam, they are failing to learn the most important lesson in all this: that you cannot impose freedom, liberty and democracy from without.

The Baker-Hamilton Commission, the American government, the Democrats in Congress, the Blair government in London and the Polish government, should refer to what the Iraqis want when deciding whether to stay or leave.

But they won’t. The imperial arrogance continues.

We Must Not Leave Iraq, American Enterprise Institute
The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Recommendations: "Stay the Almost Course", Political Affairs net

Saturday, December 09, 2006

It’s not Lyzwinski’s baby!

So whose is it?

DNA tests released Saturday evening prove that Self Defense MP Stanislaw Lyzwinski is not the father of Aneta Krawczyk’s child.

But don’t think this is the end of it. Aneta Krawczyk’s lawyer has just said her client is considering forcing a DNA test on Andrzej Lepper! She is still claiming both Lyzwinski and Lepper had sex with her, promising a nice little job.

Lepper has just said that the whole thing is an attempted coup by the newspaper that broke the story, Gazeta Wyborcza, allied with opposition Civic Platform, to oust Self Defense out of the ruling coalition and so bring down the government.

The truth? Who knows. But it looks like we may have discovered a new sex position which should be included in the Karma Sutra.

Position 69 we know. But what do you think Position 68 is?

You do it to Andrzej Lepper...and then he owes you one!

More here

Friday, December 08, 2006

I wrote a post about the finance minister...

...that was completly wrong.

She didn;t resign. No idea where the story came from. Lots of 'nervousness and emotion around the corridors of power' at the moment, according to Minister Zyta Gilowska.

But I still think she will be resigning soon as she is now a front runner for the chief of the Central Bank, a position vacant soon with the end of the term of Leszek Balcerowicz.

So I apologize to any readers I may have misinformed.

It probably won't be the last time.

I took the post off. Sorry. But naybe she is waiting for her moment to resign for this

Tony Blair says Poles are not racist and intolerant

Which rather contradicts what the Head of UK’ Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Philips, said last month.

Blair said today in a speech calling for more tolerance from recent immigrants coming to the UK, who he sees as yet another ‘threat to our way of life’.

"It is not a problem with Britons of Hindu, Afro-Caribbean, Chinese or Polish origin. Nor is it a problem with the majority of the Muslim community [but] a new and virulent form of ideology associated with a minority of our Muslim community".

Though appearing to give the Poles a clean bill of health, Blair seems to think that the UK’s problems come from outside, from crazy mullahs indoctrinating our kids.

His speech from Downing Street then takes a convoluted turn. In a speech about immigrants and their supposed intolerance to other faiths, etc, Blair started going on about the 7/7 bombers, which were second or third generation immigrants, born and bred in northern England. Washing Post quotes him saying:

"Their emphasis was not on shared values but separate ones, values based on a warped distortion of the faith of Islam," Blair said. "It has thrown into sharp relief, the nature of what we have called, with approval, 'multicultural Britain.'"

He said that the London attacks had caused, for the first time in a generation, "an unease, an anxiety, even at points _ a resentment," about Britain's tradition of offering refuge to people from across the globe and allowing people of all religions to practice their faith.

He said money allocated to faith groups would now be tightly controlled, called on all faith schools to team up with schools teaching a different religion and hailed laws that require preachers arriving in Britain from overseas to be able to speak English.

The last bit is very bizarre. If preachers arriving from Britain can’t speak English then that makes them a lot less able to influence ‘our kids’.

A very confused speech by Blair, which tries to sidestep the fact that it is indeed something about multiculturalism and a lack of a uniting value system in the UK that might just be to blame for Britain’s problems. But at least the supposedly racist Poles get left out it this time.

Polish sexual harassment at work

In the wake of ‘sex-gate’ (see here) the hot topic at the Polish workplace this week has been ‘sexual favours’ for promotion.

Everyone is talking about it. In an opinion poll for Polskie Radio by Pentor Research International, 33% of those asked believe that women are forced to have sex with their boss ‘very often, or often’ if they want to, er, climb up the greasy poll and get promotion. Only six percent thought that this never happens.

To say it never happens would be ridiculous. But to believe that it happens ‘very often’ is equally silly. But it would also be naive to believe that sexual dynamics does not play some role in the way men and women interact at work.

I am one of those people who prefer having a female boss to a male one. And it’s probably because the ‘sexual dynamic’ is always somewhere buried beneath the more official interactions. A bit a flirting never hurt anyone.

But I can’t say that any female boss has jumped me bones, and at the same time as she whispered sweet nothings in my ear promised me a pay rise. I have never had to get my leg over to get a leg up the ladder. .

But what I did experience quite often when I was working as a university lecturer – in the UK and Poland - was thinly veiled, and not so thinly veiled, advances from female students. It was always quite obvious and I quite enjoyed it, to be honest. It never affected the way I marked their work, though. In fact, I got even tougher with them, spent longer marking their papers looking for weaknesses.

But over emphasizing the potentially abusive nature of sexual dynamics at work is a deeply negative development and points to how we are trusting each other less and less. .

In US and UK universities it’s often the case where the male lecturer avoids being alone with a female student, or if he does makes sure the door is left open. That mistrust between adults is corrosive to teaching and learning and I hope that level of suspicion doesn’t come to campus or the workplace in Poland.

It’s better to trust our fellow men and women than be suspicious that every opening of the door or other courtesy is an invitation for a little rumpy-pumpy, or the opening salvo of ‘sexual blackmail’.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Not so all-mighty Lepper begs: ‘Feel my pain’.

Tearful Andrzej begs press to back off.

Andrzej Lepper cried today at a press conference. Yes, political bruiser Lepper, referring to the hounding he is getting from the press since Aneta Krawczyk claimed she could describe what his todger looked like (see previous posts below), said today in front of the ranks of the national media: “You can hound me, but [blub, sniff] please, please [gulp] leave [blub] my family [blub, blub] alooooone….[blub].”

Hanky anyone?

Polish anti-Semitic kook gets sent for psycho tests

One time MP, and presidential candidate, Leszek Bubel gets locked up. But is it for his anti-Semitism or is he just nuts?

Prosecutors in Bialystok have ordered that Bubel be detained for ‘spreading anti-Semitic hate speech and text’ and will be ordered to have psychiatric tests. This is not the first time that he has been charged with such offenses.

Last year he was charged under the Polish penal code (Art. 257), which prohibits ‘insulting individuals because of their ethnic, national, racial and religious affiliation,’ and carries a maximum charge of three years in prison. Bubel got off with a 5,000 zloty fine.

He had a written a pamphlet called ‘Polish-Jewish battle of the Crosses’ in which he had written gibberish such as ‘Jews brains are circumcised’ and other weirdo bullshit.

The guy is certainly very odd indeed. He was a candidate for president for the Polish National Party (Polska Partia Narodowa) during the presidential elections last year and received 0.13% of the vote (about the same as the LPR candidate got in the recent Warsaw local election, in fact).

He was elected to the Polish parliament 1991-93 as a member of the Beer Lover’s Party (until the party split into factions, as all Polish political parties inevitably do, into the Big Beer Party and the Little Beer Party).

He has run a number of magazines including Nasze Polska (Our Poland) and a bi-monthly Tylko Polska (Only Poland), both regularly and fanatically anti-Semitic and are what would be known these days as ‘Holocaust denial’ publications.

He also appears to have had some links as a publisher with Samoobrona, the party that is currently embroiled in their very own Monika Lewinsky-type sex scandal.

So, a thoroughly bad egg in everyone’s book, bar the most carpet-chewing of racists, that is.

And maybe he is a complete nutcase. But I hope the psychiatric tests he is being ordered to undergo are medical in nature and not because of his distasteful political activities.

And should an odorous nutter like Bubel be arrested and charged for ‘hate speech’? What he says is obviously so stupid and prejudiced that only the most extreme or mentally deranged would take any notice of him.

Much better would be to let him speak, let him hate, and let the rest of us deal with him as we see fit – or, even better, completely ignore him.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

New allegations in Samoobrona ‘sex-gate’ scandal

Lyzwinski wanted an abortion; forced drugs on Aneta to induce early birth!

This is one hell of a weird scandal. Aneta Krawczyk (photo), the women who claims that Vice Premier Andrzej Lepper and other top brass in Self Defense (Samoobrona) offered jobs and promotion within the party for sexual favours, was on the TVN Teraz My program last night (the same program that broke the Beger-gate scandal) making some more amazing allegations.

She says that Stanislaw Lyzwinski, with whom she is claiming that has had a child (we wait for the DNA tests), tried to get her to have an abortion. When this failed she says that a friend of his, who is a vegetarian surgeon [??], gave her drugs late in the pregnancy to induce a still-birth!

If that is true then Lyzwinki could be prosecuted under numerous, serious charges.

It’s also being claimed that Andrzej Lepper – who Krawczyk is also claiming had sex with her – sexually molested the present government’s Minister of Labour, Anna Kalata, who is also a member of Samoobrona.

He denies all the allegations claiming that it is all a set up to bring down the government.

How on earth are Samoobrona going to get out of this horror? How is the coalition government, of which they are a vital member, going to survive this?


Polish Sex Scandal - Accuser Speaks, Traveling life blog

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rokita’s line in the sand

The splits in Civic Platform mainly revolve around one crucial question.

As we saw before the local elections recently all is not well on the opposition Civic Platform (PO) – in fact, a few party members seem set to fall off it.

The main Platform dissident is Jan Rokita (right of photo). The last line in an ‘open letter’ sent to head of PO, Donald Tusk (left), he demanded an answer to one simple question:

“Will you, or will you not, rule out completely an alliance with the ex-communist Left?”

For many Poles this is still a crucial issue. Most of my friends are what in the West would be called ‘liberals’ – on social issue many are even ‘center-left’. But none of them would entertain the idea of voting for the ex-communist SLD, or Marek Borowski’s breakaway party.

So any alliance after an election between PO and SLD would be a very difficult one, for obvious and understandable historical reasons. SLD etc are the heirs to a party that locked up Solidarity dissidents, murdered striking miners and so on.

So Rokita’s question is a pertinent one: would you be seen dead in bed with the reds?

At the time of writing, Donald Tusk has failed to give a clear answer – suggesting that he may be tempted to make this historic leap, if an election resulted in a hung parliament with a composition that demanded an alliance between SLD and PO.

And that is a distinct possibility. I get the impression that the Kaczynkis are tempted to go to the electorate again. With scandals rife within the two main junior political parties in the coalition, he may just have to. And as their support declines most of it is going to the Kaczynski’s Law and Justice.

So time for Tusk to give a clear-cut answer to Rokita might just be running out.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sex, lies and Samoobrona

Another day, another scandal for the coalition government.

Last week it was film of the youth wing of League of Polish Families partying hard with neo-fascists.

This week it’s accusations by Gazeta Wyborcza that female workers for Self Defense (Samoobrona) were ordered to perform sexual favours for top members of the party, including the leader, Andrzej Lepper (baff!).

It is alleged that in a kind of political casting coach situation, a worker at a Samoobrona local government office, Aneta K (this is now a legal case so we can’t give her whole name), says that promotion was promised up the party ranks if she was willing to indulge in a little rumpy-pumpy with prominent member of Samoobrona, Stanislaw Lyzwinski (photo). She is also claiming that she was commanded to have sex with Andrzej Lepper, and to keep servicing him, if she wanted to keep the job.

The Prosecutors Office is looking at the allegations.

Party members are fighting back dirty, however. They say that Aneta has three kids, each by a different father. So she is a loose woman and not to be taken seriously.

Aneta K counters that, in fact, the first two kids are from her husband, who she is now separated from. But the third child is indeed Lyzwinski’s. To prove it she has had DNA tests done and is waiting for the results.

Wife of Lyzwinski says she trusts him if he says he didn’t do it, but if he did, then it just shows what a man he is (she sounds like she deserves him, stupid cow).

Andrzej Lepper is claiming that this whole ‘affair’ is a set up by Gazeta Wyborcza to break the ruling government coalition, which he is Vice PM of.

The coalition staggers on…but if Jaroslaw Kaczynski was serious in his election promise to ‘clean up Poland morally’ then how much longer can he tolerate a Vice Premier associated with grubby sex scandals and an Education Secretary, Roman Giertych, associated with neo-nazi party goers?

Well, maybe he can tolerate it as long as he needs a majority in parliament. But it’s gonna cost him and the government…

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pinochet has heart attack. Tee-hee...

...but right wingers in Poland, including many in the present government, will not be too happy about the demise of ‘our bastard’.

When Pinochet was arrested in London for human rights violations during a trip in 1998 to see old British buddies like Margaret Thatcher, Marek Jurek – the current Speaker of the Polish parliament - and other rightist MPs, sent a letter of protest to the British government demanding Pinochet be set free.

A group of right wing journalists from the now defunct Zycie newspaper (who have political links with the present Polish government) went to England to give support to the man who ‘battled against communism’.

Aleksander Kropiwnicki of Zycie wrote at the time:

"The decision to detain Pinochet was political. The independence of the judiciary branch--a cornerstone of democracy in this supposedly most law-abiding country in Europe and possibly in the world--suffered a heavy blow."

Tomasz Wolek, the then Editor-in-Chief of Zycie, wrote breathlessly:

"He was the first person in the second half of the 20th century brave enough to put an effective stop to worldwide communist expansion. He saved not only his own country, but all of Latin America,"

In the end, they got their way, and Pinochet was allowed to go home - though only to face trial there (which is where he should have been judged, of course). But the Zycie journalists and conservative POlish politicians were simply following the old Cold War logic that, ‘Maybe he is a bastard, but at least he is our bastard’.

That kind of attitude was rife on both sides during the Cold War and led to Washington and London’s support of various tyrants – Saddam Hussein included – who could do their bidding in regional hotspots around the world. The Cold War, most of the time, was a war fought by proxy, through and between these dictators.

Well, Pinochet looks like he will never be prosecuted in Chile, as his illness will kill him before a judge has a chance to charge him. And in this post-cold war world few tears should be wasted on that.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Fog saves Warsaw from polonium contamination!

The Nov. 28, BA846 Heathrow to Warsaw flight – one of the four planes involved in the Russian spy poisoning murder – had to be diverted to Vienna due to thick fog in Poland that shutdown many airports this week.

Phew! That was a close one. If it wasn’t for the fog we could have been in for an irrational radiation panic.

Britain's Polonium restaurant doing a roaring trade, AP, Nov 1

Is Poland the new UK?

You could forgive those poor old hapless Eurocrats on the EU Commission for thinking so.

It used to be Maggie Thatcher who wound up Brussels, insisting on a single currency opt out and many other intransigent demands.

The slightly batty old ‘iron handbag’s’ catch phrase when dealing with the EU was simply, “No, no, no…”

Well, now it’s Warsaw getting the ‘trouble maker’ tag. The Russian veto over the Polish-Russian meat wars (‘Nie, nie, nie!) is only the latest in a long line of stubborness from the Poles. EU Observer reminds us that:

In the past 12 months Poland's cry of "solidarity" [from Brussels to the other new EU members] has erupted over labour market access, the services directive, a German-Russian gas pipeline and the Schengen zone. Its budget deficit is breaking EU rules. Its plan to hold a referendum on eurozone entry is unpopular and in January it alone vetoed VAT reforms.

Tusk, tusk. Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said this week that he doesn’t envisage a referendum on the single currency till 2011. Brussels bit back by saying that Poland’s budget deficit will be 4% in 2007 one percent above the magic 3% that is stipulated in the sexy sounding Growth and Stability pact, which tries to keep high spending governments in line (and there is a long line of those).

But having Poland as the bad boy only partially deflects criticism from Brussels itself – which, since people in Holland and France told it where to stick its silly ‘EU Constitution’, hasn’t known what to do with itself. Now its only relevance, apparently, is to lecture Poland (and now Turkey) on what democracy looks like (quite forgetting that you cannot impose democracy).

Maybe Brussels should take a good hard look in the mirror a bit more often, and democratize itself.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Another PR disaster for LPR…

Maciej Giertych’s assistant joins in the fun at neo-nazi party. reports film evidence of a neo-nazi party (that’s having a good time ‘party’, but maybe not only) two years ago in Silesia, with lots of drinking, cries of ‘Sieg Heil’ and burning swastikas etc, attended by members of the All-Polish Youth (Młodzieży Wszechpolska), the Giertych-jungen of the League of Polish Families (LPR).

It gets worse. Spotted at the neo-nazi knees-up was a female assistant of Maciej Giertych, Euro MP and senior member of LPR.

Holding nazi type gatherings is illegal in Poland under article 256 of the penal code.

Leader of LPR, Roman Giertych (and former president of Młodzieży Wszechpolska), denies any knowledge of the matter and says that any perpetrator of improper behaviour must be punished – ‘and that includes All Polish Youth.”

In July this year, the editor of Zielony Sztandar printed an apology for accusations that All Polish Youth were fascist sloganizers, promoting violence and criminal activity. I bet he wishes he had to stuck to his guns.

Don’t forget to support All-Polish Youth’s jolly web site in English. It has comment boxes like a blog, so I am sure they will be glad to hear what you think.

Right-wing Polish European Parliament lawmaker dismisses aide after neo-Nazi rally video, IHT, Nov 30

Monday, November 27, 2006

A new Cold War?

Economist correspondent on Poland and eastern Europe, Edward Lucas, pops up in the Times (London) where his opening three sentences are:

‘How was Litvinenko murdered? We don’t know yet; we may never find out, but what is clear is his death marks the start of a new Cold War. The question is: how to win it?’

But surely, if we ‘don’t know yet’ what happened, and ‘may never find out’, then how on earth can we deduce that the murder ‘marks the start of a new Cold War’? Some confusion here, me thinks.

What we do know is that much of the western media has responded to the radioactive murder in London as Edward has done. The British government is being careful, but a New Labour minister broke ranks at the weekend and said what they really think by laying into Putin’s (admittedly loathsome) human rights record. This is a battle of good versus evil, we are told, and President Putin is on the side of the baddies and Litvinenko on our side, the side of the goodies. And this all adds up to a ‘new Cold war’.

But let’s be realistic: Litvinenko was, like Putin, a member of the KGB. The KGB was a nasty organization. Litvinenko was no knight in shining amour. He wasn’t even a dirty angel. He did bad things too.

And at a time when Russia is trying to form new agreements with Britain over energy supplies why would Putin start murdering people in the middle of the UK capital?

But more importantly, we should also be realistic in admitting that the relationship between Russia and the rest of the world is most defiantly not a new ‘Cold War’.

In the Times article, Edward reminds us that there are lots of conflicts going on between Russia and countries that were unfortunately imprisoned in the old communist bloc, such as Georgia, Ukraine and Poland. Most of these disputes are over oil and gas supply, which Moscow does have a strong influence over. Putin (who, remember, has an approval rating in Russia of about 80%) can turn off the taps; the Big Bad Bear can force them into new agreements (for a start, it can make Belarus or Ukraine pay the market rate for gas anytime it likes – at the moment they are getting cut price Russian gas because pipelines go through there territory).

But do these trade disputes add up to a new ‘Cold War’? To think that they do confuses what the old Cold War was really like – a struggle over land, territory, influence, and most importantly, ideology.

Russia is not trying to force its Dickensian capitalism on Poland. There are no threats to invade Warsaw. Tanks are not on the borders. Polish school kids are no longer forced to learn Russian.

So why are western (and many Polish) journalists equating two completely different situations?

Brendan O’Neill in Spiked may have a point when he writes:

‘What is really motivating this reversion to Cold War rhetoric is not any clear evidence of Putin’s involvement in Litvinenko’s murder, or the reality of the ‘Russian threat’ (let’s not forget that the real Cold War involved a global stand-off between two nuclear-armed superpowers; the occasional killing of spies was only a small part of that stand-off). Rather, it is a transparent and cynical attempt to give a shot to Western politics itself.’

When the real Cold War did end western politicians were left without an enemy with which do justify their own existence. Politics has become more and more meaningless and the political class more and more isolated from its people. The last 16 years have been a search for ‘meaning’. Who are the new bad guys?

Well, they have found al-Qaeda; and now they have found a new ‘Russian threat’ – even though we have little or no evidence that al-Qaeda is capable of ‘threatening our way of life’, or that Putin is sending guys over to London to slip some polonium in someone’s sushi.

Time to calm down a little.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Gronkiewicz-Waltz wins

21.00 CET: Exit poll results of the second round of the mayoral elections in Poland indicate a win for the opposition candidate in Warsaw.

Former President of the National Bank, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz of Civic Platform (53.6%) beat incumbent mayor and ex-Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz (46.4%) of the ruling Law and Justice party.

That's a better result than was expected over the last few days. Hanna had been losing support in the opinion polls.

Marcinkiewicz was kicked out of his Prime Minister post earlier this year to secure Warsaw for the government. Didn't work. How long will he remain with the government now? It's known he has differences with the Kaczynskis. He has just given a little speech saying the usual thank yous and that he is now 'unemployed'. The gossip is that he might get either a very nice little earner as head of Poland’s oil giant, Orlen, or re-enter government as Foreign Minister. But maybe a move to the UK, Kazimierz?

Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski just said on TVP that the government’s support, nationally, held up well in the countryside but their campaign didn’t really take off in the cities. Natch…He also is surprised that Marcinkiewicz lost. But the fact is that if the Civic Platform can’t beat the government at the moment in the capital then they may as well not get up in the morning.

Hungover election official delays Polish exit poll

Turned on the television at 8 O’clock to see the exit poll result for the Warsaw mayor election.

Unfortunately, one election official got so drunk Saturday night that she failed to drag herself out of bed to open the balloting station. She is now helping police with their enquiries. So all voting places are open for one extra hour, folks!

Police were also called to a polling station today after a man showed up to vote accompanied by his pet goat (which wasn’t registered to vote).

In Krakow we do have some results. Mayor Jacek Majchrowski (who got 42% of the vote in the first round) beat government candidate Ryszard Terlecki by 50% to 40%. Last week Jan Rokita from opposition Civic Platform gave Terlecki his support, much to the outrage of many Platform supporters. This probably turned out to be a kiss of death.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Very nice?

Liberals start to turn against Borat.

It seems the Borat character, initially welcomed by US and UK liberals as he made them feel all superior to those pesky rednecks, are starting to get uncomfortable about their own laughter.

The film is on general release in Poland from this weekend. See 'Borat and the Polish connection' here.

What’s the Russian beef with Polish meat?

Poland vetoes Russian-EU deal because Moscow maintains a ban on importing Polish food products.

The Polish-Russian meat war is the latest in a long line of post-Cold War conflicts between the two countries. Relations are as rancid as rotting chicken. Moscow banned the import of Polish food products last year, claiming that Polish vetenary standards are poor and Warsaw is doing little to stop cross border meat smuggling. Poland, and the EU, say that food health standards have ‘improved’ and the meat ban should get the chop.

So relations are frosty to Poland’s east, but they are not too warm on the western border, either. The German government coordinator for German-Russian relations said of Poland vetoing a special cooperation pact between Russia and the EU at the current Helsinki Summit this week:

"The Polish leadership is acting against Russia with a high degree of irrationality. Poland could better carry through its interests within the framework of the European Union."

There looks like there will be a compromise on both sides, but not soon enough to save the doomed Helsinki Summit.

But there is another reason why Polish government members should be nice to Russia. One of Moscow’s most successful exports seems to be radioactive poisons. If I were the Kaczynski brothers I would be taking a second look at what’s on their weekend pork cutlet, remembering that the name of the substance that killed Alexander Litvinenko in London is Polonium 210, named after the country of birth of Polish scientist Marie Sklodowska Curie.

Will Hanna blow it?

The second round of the Mayor of Warsaw election looks too close to call.

Much of the campaign leading up to the second round of the mayoral elections this Sunday had to be cancelled after the 23 deaths down a Ruda Slaska mine on Tuesday.

The election silence hasn’t done government candidates any harm. The opinion polls in the race for Warsaw Town Hall show Law and Justice’s (PiS) candidate Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and Civic Platform’s (PO) Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz neck and neck. After the first round two weeks ago Gronkiewicz-Waltz had a ten point lead. But she had been hemorrhaging support ever since. In fact, in one poll published in Gazeta Wyborcza she was actually behind by two percentage points.

If Platform can’t even win the Mayor of Warsaw election tomorrow it will be a damning indictment of their opposition (or lack of it) to the present government, whose reign in office over the last 12 months has little to show for it, except the chaos of endless coalition building.

There is a daily newspaper in Warsaw which gives awards for the ‘Best Law of the Year’ every December. Such is the lack of any significant lawmaking by the present ‘law makers’ that I can ‘reveal’ that the editors are having trouble coming up with good enough laws to give awards to.

So you would think that Civic Platform would be crawling all over such a weak government and would be winning mayoral elections easily – especially in the capital.

Incumbent mayors have a real advantage in Poland, for some reason, and are very hard to dislodge. So Marcinkiewicz, the current mayor, has that advantage. But if Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz doesn’t win tomorrow then Platform election headquarters will be a very gloomy place to be indeed. But it will be their own fault.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

No survivors in mining tragedy

23 dead in Tuesday’s gas explosion in the Halemba mine in Ruda Slaska, southern Poland.

It was a build of methane gas that set off the explosion, 1000 meters below ground. Shocking, of course, but unfortunately not that shocking. Around 20 miners die a year in Polish coalmines. Collieries measure acceptability of the death rate by measuring one death by tonnage of coal mined.

Twenty deaths a year is bad but during communism around 150 people were killed a year in this way.

The recent chronology of the worst mining accidents in Poland looks like this:

2002: 10 miners killed in a coal dust explosion in the Jas-Mos mine in Jastrzebie Zdroj.

1998: 6 miners with damaged oxygen masks asphyxiated after being sent into a shuttered shaft in violation of security regulations at the Niwka-Modrzejow mine in Sosnowiec.

1991: 5 killed in cave-in at Halemba mine in Ruda Slaska.

1990: 19 killed in methane gas explosion at the Halemba mine in Ruda Slaska.

1987: 19 miners killed in coal dust explosion at Myslowice mine in the town on Myslowice.

1979: 34 killed in coal dust explosion at the Dymitrow mine in Bytom.

1974: 34 killed in coal dust explosion at the Silesia coal mine in Czechowice-Dziedzice.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Kuwait daze

There is a Polish trade fair going on in Kuwait at the moment.

Polish government wants to increase ‘cultural contacts’ apparently - though I imagine the location of the principality (not really a country, is it?), sitting on top of a great big lake of oil, makes Kuwait a ‘strategic’ area where everyone wants to increase ‘cultural contacts’.

I met someone who just came from covering the Polish trade fair. He was saying that cigarettes are a dollar a pack (no tax!) and petrol is less than a dollar a gallon.

In the middle of telling us all this stuff, he sidetracked into a little story about when he was in Frankfurt airport. In the departure lounge was a heavily bearded, mullah type Muslim guy praying on his mat, as he waited for the same plane to Kuwait.

Everyone in the room with me who was listening to this story said, “Yeah, ‘they’ do it on purpose to intimidate people…” Everyone nodded, knowingly.

But do they do it to ‘intimidate’? I thought that if they are devout then they have to pray at certain times. How could people possibly know he was trying to intimidate people? I opened my mouth to correct what is just a rather disturbing prejudice…but in the end, I just couldn’t be bothered.

So I thought I would tell you about it, instead. Very worrying. And it’s going to get worse…

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

All is not well on the Platform

After Civic Platform’s (PO) leading dandy, Jan Rokita, gave his support to Law and Justice candidate in the second round of the election for Mayor of Krakow (taking place this Sunday) talk of splits within the opposition are rife. No surprise, really.

Rokita is backing historian Ryszard Terlecki, the Law and Justice (PiS) candidate, because is a ‘good guy’ and someone he knows as a fellow Krakovian from the old days of knocking around at the Jagiellonian University. It was either that or back the popular leftist candidate and incumbent mayor Jacek Majchrowski (who got 42% of the vote in the first round).

Some members of PO - whose own candidate came third, and is disqualified from the second round - are outraged by this treachery. Leader of PO Donald Tusk is publicly trying to calm things down, emphasizing that all hands should be on deck pulling together to get Law and Justice out of local government. Behind closed doors, however, you can imagine the screaming match going between Platform’s two main political figures.

In a way though, this division between Tusk and Rokita has always been there, waiting to come to the surface.

Rokita has always been a reluctant member of Civic Platform. When it formed in 2000 Rokita didn’t initially join. He was a member of the Conservative People's Party (SKL), a right wing offshoot of the Freedom Union, the most liberal of the parties to emerge from the Solidarity trade union. He only threw his (extravergant) hat into the ring with Platform when he saw much of the membership of SKL drift over to the new party.

But the ideological differences remained. Rokita is a freemarket conservative, much in the same way as Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz is. Tusk is on the more liberal wing of the party.

So Platform – like all Polish political parties – is a split waiting to happen.

How this will affect the second round of elections on Sunday where PO has a candidate is unclear, although voters don’t usually like parties with obvious internal divisions. What’s certain though is that the race of Mayor of Krakow is going to be a tight one.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Teamwork in lazy UK

Despite the negative campaign against central Europe immigrants in Britain by some of the media, Poles still have a good enough reputation as far as working hard goes.

As you can see by this photo sent to me from Britain...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Holocaust education is child’s play

Is building a 400 square metre replica of the Warsaw Ghetto out of 50,000 Lego bricks ‘offensive’?

It had a wall around it. Built with bricks. The ghetto was made up of interconnecting parts. Get it? Er...well, not really. But offensive? Dan Sieradski certainly thinks so at the blog

“When I think about the senseless slaughter of 10,000,000 innocent Jews, Roma, queers, political dissidents and other undesirables, I think Lego …[sarcasm] …It makes me ill to see people trivializing the Shoah in the name of commemorating it.”

The model made of children’s building bricks was part of a history workshop on November 5 at the Alex Aidekman campus of the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest, New Jersey, US.

Lego bricks have been involved in Shoah controversies before. In 2002, Polish-born artist Zbigniew Libera’s Lego Concentration Camp Set (pictured above) a collection of seven empty boxes bearing pictures of death camps fashioned out of kiddie’s construction materials caused a small outrage. Menachem Rosensaft, founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, said that the show was “in excremental taste” and that “there can be no excuse, aesthetic or otherwise, for the crude desecration of the Holocaust inherent in the display.”

Dan at thinks that at least the Libera piece had some artistic merit – kind of - the new Warsaw Ghetto construction, he says, does not:

'Say what you will about Zbigniew Libera’s LEGO concentration camp... It at least is presented in a context which gives way to discussion, whether on the position of the Holocaust in popular culture, the marketing of violence to youth, or even the participation of mainstream German corporations (the proprietors of popular household brand names) in the Shoah. It’s supposed to be controversial.

Six year-olds reconstructing the Warsaw Ghetto with LEGO as an educational activity? That’s senseless and tasteless.'

But is Dan just being silly? Lego is a material kids relate too (and education must be ‘accessible’ nowadays, remember); any education about the Warsaw Ghetto is welcome; surly the material the exhibition is made out of is …well, immaterial? And why has left-liberal ‘identity politics’ made some people so hypersensitive to being ‘offended?


What were they thinking?, New Jersey Jewish Standard, Nov 10

And if the need for education about this subject is still in doubt then see Muslim leader sent funds to Irving, Guardian, November 18. But do young Muslims play with Lego? Perhaps they should…

Friday, November 17, 2006

What the….?

We in Europe see CNN International, a very good, high quality 24 hours news channel...

What we don’t see, too much, is the CNN that Americans see.

I could not resist this: Keith Ellison just got elected as the first Muslim in the US Congress. Lots of interesting stuff to talk about there, of course.

Unfortunately, CNN’s Glenn Beck doesn’t rise to the challenge.

See CNN video here. It’s unbelievable.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Poland’s next president? - now with English subtitles!

His name is Krzysztof Kononowicz, He wears nice jumpers.

One of the stranger candidates in the recent first round of local elections was Mr Kononowicz, an independent candidate standing in the mayor elections in Podlasie, in the northeast.

His policies were not what attracted the 2.5 million visitors to his web site (election videos here with English subtitles) as he didn’t really have any: he spends most of the time rambling on about everything and nothing, much like you hear people moaning on the bus. Funny thing is that he has taken the trouble to write all this nonsense out, and does his best to project his message. He is like the UKs Tony Blair: image, image, image...

In the end, though, the 'tipping point' of his personality cult for the electorate must have been his jumpers – one of which he later sold on the internet for 200 zloty (50 Euro).

Psephologists are currently chewing over his successful campaign (he got nearly 2% of the vote). Everyone is talking about how he is showing established politicians how to campaign on the net.

For sure, Krzysztof has great charisma, but the interest in him is surly because he is an ‘anti-politics' candidate; voting for guys like him is like sticking a finger up at a much loathed political class in Poland. It's also a vote for the traditional craft of Polish jumper making.

Wojciech Wierzejski gets 'bludgeoned' in election

I have never known an electoral humiliation that brought such pleasure.

League of Polish Families representative in the Mayor of Warsaw election, Wojtek Wierzejski, got 0.3% of the vote(according to opinion polls).

Everyone has their own reason for disliking this person. Mine is when he said that ‘deviants’ such as gays (and including me and my girlfreind) who want to demonstrate in the streets of the capital (last summer) ‘should be bludgeoned’.

I honestly cannot remember a politician so brazenly inciting violence.

On the television yesterday, Wierzejski was trying to laugh off the 0.3 embarrassment by saying that voters obviously liked him as a member of parliament but did not see him sitting in Town Hall.

But I think he is in ‘denial’. As quotes from Wierzejski’s ‘blog’ (I think it’s an attempt to make us believe he can read and write) he wrote about a trip to the television studio when he thought he was being discriminated against because he didn’t have much support in Warsaw.

“Just after arriving I was told that I would not be on with Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Borowski and Marcinkiewicz [the main contenders], but on another program - with “less likely” candidates, for example with the dude in the orange hat from “the Committee for Gnomes and Idiots”. Real funny public television! I submitted a written protest and left.”

Shame then that Wierzejski got a minute 0.3% of the vote in Warsaw – the dude in the orange hat from “the Committee for Gnomes and Idiots” got 0.5%.

When a politician gets less votes than a gnome or an idiot, it’s time to consider a change of career.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

UK nuclear attack?

Why are the British authorities scaring the hell out of the Brits?

This morning in the Guardian we have the headline Al-Qaida plotting nuclear attack on UK, officials warn

This follows unprecedented remarks by head of MI5 last week who said that there were at least ‘30 active plots to attack Britain’, including nuclear attack.

How do they know that some evil mastermind is plotting to nuke London? “An awful lot of chatter" on jihadi websites, apparently, expressing the desire to acquire chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons.

‘An awful lot of chatter’ is not enough reason to scare Brits witless in this way. I mean, what can ordinary Londoners do about such a ‘threat’? Maybe we should be alert for Muslims carrying large bundles of uranium on public transport?

I can only imagine that the government will be unveiling more restrictive laws in the coming days, and that MI5 wants an increase in funding. Whatever, this is an irresponsible way for the UK authorities to carry on. All it is doing is further ratcheting up the fear.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Those illusive CIA prisons in Poland

Council of Europe couldn’t find ‘em; Euro parliamentarians can’t find ‘em, either. No smoking gun, no torturer’s rope, no Polish version of Lindsay England.

Euro MEPs are annoyed. A press statement last Friday by the European Parliament, made at the end of a three day visit to Poland by one of the EP’s crack team of investigators says:

The head of the delegation, Carlos Coelho thanked the journalists, NGO representatives, intelligence and airport officials who had agreed to meet them. "I regret, however," he said, "the fact that political authorities from the Polish government and Parliament were not as kind: some government members rejected the invitation, others initially accepted to see us and later refused to come [this includes Defense Minister Radek Sikorski]. Finally, there were some high officials were willing to meet us but they never got permission from their superiors."

Busy with the local elections, I think. The team did meet up, however, with the principle players in the supposed intrigue.

Among those who did agree to meet MEPs were the former head of the Foreign Intelligence Agency Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, the former and current chairmen of the board of Szymany airport – Jerzy Kos and Jaroslaw Jurczenko.

When the original story broke last November, the EU Justice Minister threatened to cut off Polish voting rights (during ministerial meetings) if any torture prisons were found on Polish soil. But as I have pointed out many times, the evidence against Poland on this is as weak and wobbley as a just-born baby horse's legs.

Hopefully the EU will come to the same conclusion as I have: Polish CIA torture prisons are a bit like Saddam Hussein’s WMD. The EU investigating team is like a blind man, in a dark room, looking for a black cat, that isn’t there…

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Polish local elections - round 1 - Updates

20.00 hrs …Warsaw mayoral election exit poll…Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz (PiS) 36.7%…Hanna Gronkiewicz – Waltz 36.5%... Marek Borowski …22.4%.....

Another opinion polls is giving Marcinkiewicz 38 percent and Waltz 36 percent.

A really terrible result in Warsaw for Wojciech Wierzejski (LPR) who got a sad 0.3 percent.

There are many opinion poll companies releasing results tonight, so be prepared for the odd strange one.

Here's one: In the Warsaw Council as a whole, Civic Platform 32%, Law and Justice 17% and Left got 11%...

If these results are correct then Hanna Gronkiewicz - Waltz will be the next Mayor of Warsaw in the second round in two weeks time, for sure.. Borowski's vote is the big surprise. It seems the arguments between Platform and Law and Justice are getting on people's nerves...

20:17 No opinion poll results yet for nationwide elections but some cities are coming in. The Left are doing better than expected all over the country. In Lodz they got 22 percent; in Krakow they got 44 percent (although the candidate is a very well-known and seemingly much loved character. In Wroclaw the independant candidate got 89 percent!!!

20:30 A pattern is emerging where independent candidates and the Left are doing better than expected in urban areas. Platform is doing well too. But it seems people are very pissed off with the spat between the rightwing Law and Justice and Civic Platform.

In Poznan the Independent candidate got 35% and Civic Platform 34%. In Bialystok Platform 48% Law and Justice 32%...

Next question well are League and Self defense candidates doing?

20:37 One thought – this is me sitting in front of the television here – if things keep going like they are then the two minority parties in the coalition are getting screwed badly in local elections. That means that they are not going to be causing trouble for the government. That means no elections anytime soon, folks…

20:53 1 in 4 who voted for Civic Platform in the General Election in 2005 (in Warsaw) voted for Left candidate Marek Borowski this time! These are secular voters pissed off with the performance in opposition by free market Donald Tusk and friends. That’s bad news for Tusk, of course, but it’s also bad news for the government. Pissed off right wing Platform voters are willing to vote for ex-communists to get rid of Law and Justice.

21:05 As MIGG has just commented, the Warsaw LPR candidate, Wierzejski, got less votes than the beatroot’s candidate Waldemar Frydrych. In fact, the candidate sympathetic to gnomes and dwarfs got 0.2% more votes than our friend from LPR! That means that gnomes and dwarfs have more right to be in the government than he has.

21:19 It seems that the independant candidate in Wroclaw who got an incredible 89% was nominated by both the main political parties. So he had no opposition. Why, I don't understand.

So, with all kinds of opinion poll results coming in (too much!) they are reporting on TVN 24 that in Warsaw Council we have PO 43%, PiS 30%, L 17% and LPR 2.3%....Good night.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

No taxation without representation!

Who should ex-pats vote for in the Polish local elections this Sunday?

Since the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 foreigners with an EU passport can vote in municipal and European elections anywhere they are resident. So you would think that the government, and media aimed at foreigners resident in Poland, would be overflowing with especially tailored information about the Polish local elections, the first round of which takes place on Sunday.

In fact, the opposite is the case. Despite contributing to the local taxes that pay for the (sometimes non existent) services it’s as if the ex-pat is an unwanted guest at the Polish ballot box. The government web site on the municipal elections is dreadful. And when foreign media have covered it, they mostly don’t even bother to mention that we can be involved too (no surprise that as the English language media in Poland is generally worse than useless).

In Warsaw, two candidates have a chance of winning the mayoral election – ex-Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz of the ruling Law and Justice party, and ex-head of the Central bank, Hanna Gronkiewicz Waltz (of the main opposition Civic Platform). In third place will be ex-communist Marek Borowski (in an alliance of left wing parties). Unless one candidate gets over 50% of the vote – which is unlikely – then the contest goes to a second round in two weeks time when the top two candidates go head-to-head. As most of Borowski’s votes will go to Gronkiewicz-Waltz then she is favourite to become mayor.

So who will I vote for? Well, sorry, but all the candidates’ politics are so alien to me that I am not going to bother. Although I am tempted by one of them.

There is an alternative – it’s orange

During the Martial Law period, 1981-2, strange graffiti, drawings of gnomes wearing orange hats, began to appear on the walls of buildings. The artists were from the Orange Alternative, headed by Waldemar Fydrych, known to his friends as ‘the Major”. Whereas Solidarity thought it could whip the communists by strike action, Fydrych decided he would lampoon, mock and humiliate the communists out of power.

His method of protest was based on the Situationists of Paris 1968 (‘under the pavement the beach!’). His supporters would roam the streets handing out tampons to women (sanitary towels, like everything else, were in short supply in those dark days); Frydrych also had, and has, a thing about gnomes and dwarfs, which for some reason have an association with freedom for him. He once said: “Can you treat a police officer seriously, when he is asking you the question: 'Why did you participate in an illegal meeting of dwarfs?" But arrest him they did. Many times. Gnomes, dwarfs and elves, were subversive for the Polish communist. That’s how sad, insecure and pathetic they were.

Since gnome-power brought communism to its knees, he has stood in a few elections since 1989 and now he wants to be Mayor of Warsaw. And if the quality of the other candidates is anything to go by then I see no reason why a pro-dwarfist shouldn’t get the top job.

Other candidates taking part in the Warsaw Mayor election are:

Włodzimierz Całka (independent)

Marek Czarnecki (Self defense)

Janusz Korwin-Mikke (conservative, free market, monarchist weirdo independent)

Wanda Nowicka (independent, feminist)

Wojciech Wierzejski (League of Polish Families)

We will be blogging from 20.00 CET Sunday night when the exit poll results of the first round of the nationwide local elections are released. See you then.