Thursday, August 31, 2006

Whatever happened to the solidarity in Solidarność?

Underneath the celebrations this week to mark the 26th anniversary of the August strikes which led to the formation of the first free trade union in the communist bloc, lurks bitterness and incrimination.

The news that Lech Walesa was leaving Solidarity, and did not want to share a platform at the celebrations with his old prison mate from martial law Solidarity days, President Lech Kaczynski, seemed to surprise many outside Poland. But few were surprised here.

Walesa says many things, but this time he appears to be serious.
“They (Solidarity) have backed the Kaczynskis too much," Walesa told PAP news agency. "I don't want to be involved with that. It is no longer my Solidarity, Something is wrong with it."

Walesa has been a lonely figure politically for a longtime in Poland. At one time or another he seems to have wound up most of his old friends.

The bitter spat with the Kaczynski brothers goes back at least to the early nineties when Lech was in the middle of what his critics say was a dictatorial presidency. Relations between Walesa and many of the more right wing, and much of the time more Catholic, members of Solidarity were never good. This reached a peak during the chaos of the Olszewski government of 1992, with both sides accusing the other of planning a coup d\tat.

In fact, he tried to run the Solidarity movement the same way he tried to run the presidency. Walesa has always seen himself as a pragmatist. Principles come second to realities. And that often pit him up against the Solidarnosc fundamentalists for whom the purity and democracy of the revolution was everything.

Two of these fundamentalists have been in the news this week. Anna Walentynowicz, whose sacking from the Gdansk shipyard was the initial spark which set off the Solidarity strike in ‘Lenin’ shipyard, and Andrzej Gwiazda, one of the main negotiators during the strike.

Being fundamentalists they see the Solidarity revolution as being only half done. They think the ex-communists still have too much influence and too many have got rich. So when deputy defense minister Antoni Macierewicz claimed that many of Poland’s post 1989 foreign ministers were Soviet spies, Walentynowicz and Gwiazda leapt to his defense.

And then we get the news of National Institute of Remembrance (Poland’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee, but without the reconciliation) releasing evidence that Jacek Kuron, one of the leading Solidarity intellectuals, had had talks with the communist secret services in the late 1980s.

Kuron, it is said, wanted to exclude some groups within Solidarity from the Round Table talks of 1989.

Walesa has said that he had authorized Kuron and twenty other members of the union to talk and negotiate with the security forces. Continuity after the end of communism was vital, he said.

Not so say the fundamentalists.

Kuron was always held in suspicion by many in Solidarity. He was secular, a son of a Communist. Educated. Reformed Nomenclature.

But the main cleavage between the various parts that made up Solidarnosc are represented today by the various parties we have both in government and outside. Law and Justice, League of Polish Families are in government and come from the conservative/fundamentalist wing of Solidarity. The more secular, pragmatic free market orientated Civic Platform and perhaps the Democratic Party and individuals from the old Freedom Union are in opposition. The gap between the different Solidarity factions has never been wider.

And then we have Lech Walesa, all by himself, as usual.

Walesa snubbed on Solidarity celebration UPI, Sept 1
The Polish politics of personal destruction leave few untouched Polish Outlook,

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Polish goalkeeper given red card by Scottish authorities for making sign of the cross!

Artur Boruc, Celtic FC’s goalie has been cautioned by the Glasgow Fiscal Prosecutor for making the Catholic sign of the cross before a game with Rangers, his team’s arch Protestant rivals.

Confused? You shouldn’t be. Welcome to the wonderful world of Scottish sectarian football.

The religious Lifesite reports:

According to the Crown Office, [back in January this year] the goalkeeper of Celtic, Artur Boruc, gave three gestures, which incensed the home crowd of the opposing Rangers during a heated Old Firm match at Ibrox stadium in Glasgow. Artur Boruc, gave a “V” for victory and an obscene gesture toward the crowd; however the crowd also complained about Boruc’s crossing himself at the start of the second half of the February 12 match.

For clueless non-football fans I should explain that Glasgow has two teams: Celtic, which is traditionally supported by Scottish Catholics, and Rangers, which is followed by Scottish Presbyterians.

Apparently, a Polish goalkeeper who crosses himself for luck can be cautioned for inflammatory behavior.

Church spokesman Peter Kearney found the decision "alarming" and said, "It is extremely regrettable that Scotland seems to have made itself one of the few countries in the world where this simply religious gesture is considered an offence."
According to the Sunday Herald, the Catholic Church is seeking the Crown Office to clarify “whether or not it deems the sign of the cross to be an offensive action, which is the equivalent of gratuitous hand gestures”.

“This is not simply a Catholic issue but a human rights issue,” said a spokesman for the Church. “Freedom of religion is part of the UN Declaration on Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Human right? This is football, mate. It’s just a game.

Poor old Artur Boruc must also be confused about the other ‘offensive’ gesture he made to the crowd: putting two fingers up in the air.

Of course, in Britain this is the sign of ‘F#ck off!’…but in Poland the same gesture is made with only one finger – as in ‘Spin on it’.

And I am sure that fans of the Protestant Glasgow Rangers – no angels themselves - can take a couple of innocent gestures made by a newly arrived Polish goalkeeper (he’s only been playing at Celtic since last season).

One of the favorite songs of Rangers fans that can be heard sung at the Ibrox stadium (and a song that has got the PC UEFA football authorities up in arms recently) goes something like this:

Hullo, hullo, we are the Billy Boys!
Hullo, hullo, you’ll know us by our noise!
We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood!
Surrender or you’ll die!

Winding up the opposite team is part of the game of football. Always has been.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Free speech in Poland must mean free speech for everyone

Gay activists are to take legal action against members of the governing party under Section 212 and 216 of the Polish Criminal code for two incidents of inciting discrimination and the promotion of hate speech. But are these the right cases to call in the lawyers?

Doug Ireland in Gay City News (hat tip: Doug Ireland) writes:

In one of the Polish ruling party’s latest anti-gay provocations, Waldemar Bonkowski [above - I bet his mum is proud of him], a leading Parliament member from the northern city of Koscierzyna, hung a banner in his headquarters reading, in part, “Today it’s gays and lesbians — what’s next, zoophilia… Our Polish pope is looking down from the sky and asking, Whither Goest Thou, Poland?”

In [another] incident, Pawel Zyzak, editor in chief of a party bulletin, Right Turn [W Prawo Zwrot!], wrote that gays are “animals” and were “the emissaries of Satan sent to destroy the Catholic Church.”

Leading gay activist, Lukasz Pałucki of the Equality Foundation and organizer of Warsaw’s Tolerance Parade last June, is consulting lawyers over the latest in a long line of homophobic comments from government and party representatives.

But going to courts over the two pieces of infantile nonsense quoted above is not the right way to go about challenging officially sponsored homophobia in Poland.

The only justification for legal action against what someone says or writes – no matter how vile - is if it presents a clear and present danger to an individual or a group of individuals.

The ‘queers are animals’ kind of dribble is not an incitement to violence, it is just the expression of a very ignorant person, indeed.

Even the ignorant have a right to dislike or even hate who they like. And they have a right, however distasteful, to express that ignorant opinion.

Before the Tolerance Parade this summer Wojciech Wierzejski, spokesman for League of Polish Families, said that if ‘deviants begin to demonstrate they should be beaten (bludgeoned) with batons’.

Now that is an incitement to violence and should have been prosecuted.

In another incident which seems to step over the line of free speech and into incitement, Doug Ireland reports:

Polish police announced that, after a three-month investigation, they have arrested the man responsible for knifing an activist whose name and photo had appeared on a hit list published by the neo-nazi Blood and Honor Web site. The Web site targeted lesbian and gay activists as “enemies of the white race” and called for their assassination, providing their photographs, names, and addresses.

During this year’s Warsaw Gay Pride March, members of the Law and Justice Party’s youth division, the All-Polish Youth — a thuggish strong-arm group, largely composed of skinheads, which has been responsible for many violent attacks on gay events, and many of whose members are also members of Blood and Honor — were observed taking photographs of participants in the Pride March. Gay activists suspected that the photos would have wound up on the Blood and Honor Web site.

It is right that the courts have got involved over the Blood and Honor list and they should have been involved over the remarks by Wierzejski.

But the stupid remarks by Bonkowski and Zysak should be given the widest possible circulation. Only the most homo-hating Pole would get excited by such childishness. And I am sure that if they want to attack gays then they would have done it by now or will do it in the future anyway. And they will do it because they decided to, with their own free will. So they will have to take the consequences alone - we can't blame it on what someone wrote about 'Satan'.

The rest of Poland will get a chance to see these men for what they are. And then they can challenge it or they can ignore it, as they see fit.

This government has shown that it is prepared to go to the courts over remarks that it finds offensive. Human rights activists should not be encouraging them by taking legal action over ‘offensive’ remarks, but only those which directly incite violence.

Free speech means that we will not always like what is said. And that’s a lesson that some in the government have to learn as well.

The last Englishman in London

I found this comment buried away in an old post from July after it dropped into the archive. It’s worth quoting at length, if only for its gory stupidity.

Here is the whole thing from someone using the alias Last Englishman in London (you can imagine, I am sure, what’s coming). My comments will be interspersed between the paragraphs.

Two things strike me reading this blog.

1/ Lots of Pro-Polish sentiment..fair enough considering the target audience.
2/ A few apologetic English people with the backbone of a jellyfish.

Strange, many Poles think I am being too hard on them (which I am not, only certain politicians and ways of thinking) so I seem to annoy everyone. Sounds like I might be doing something right.

I want to explain why the English people are becoming tired of immigration - all immigration. The Poles may well be decent, hard working people but...

Re: I’m not racist. but...

House prices in the UK have soared [here we go] , it's almost impossible to get on to the housing ladder for young people. There are simply not enough houses for the people already here and 100s of 1000s more people arriving only makes the matter worse.

How would you feel if you were told that there was no room in your local hospital, dentist surgery, doctors surgery or room for your children in the local school? You've been paying your taxes for years surely your entitled? But the schools and hospitals are trying to cope with HUGE influxes of foreign nationals who have not spent years paying into the system.

It's almost impossible to get anywhere quickly in the South East of England, our roads are over congested, our airports and trains too. How does it help us to accomodate so many more people?

The house price rises and property boom have been going on for at least ten years now – well before the arrival of the central European ‘hordes’. Successive governments have failed to make sure enough house building has been going on to keep up with demand, Green campaigners try to maintain ‘greenfield sites’ around the cities, slowing down expansion. The train and transport system has been a disgrace for ages too.

But back to the clichés…

At the end of the day the UK is the home of the British people [does he think that is an original thing to say?]. We've every right to feel angry when a massive influx of foreigners starts to damage our way of life. People outside of the UK have no RIGHT to be here, they are here through the good graces of the British people.

[Froths at the mouth...and prepares for the coup de grace. Deep breath...]

As well as 100s of 1000s of Eastern Europeans there are 100s of 1000s of Africans and Asians [Ooo, not Africans and Asians!]. Until Poland experiences such an influx of foreigners and such a rapid change to it's social fabric I feel that Polish people are not qualified to speak with authority on the issue.

The Last Englishman in London is deranged. What about when the Prussians, Russians, Austro-Hungarians ripped the place into three for over a century? And what about when the Soviets and Nazis pilled in here, destroying everything? Rapid change to its social fabric? Nah...Poland never experienced that.

But then, to rub in the stupidity...

There was the German invasion of 1939 but you did at least get a chance to defend yourself.

Unbelievable. Favorably comparing the Nazi invasion and the Holocaust to the influx of a few hundred thousand Poles and others to the UK is truly the most cretenous thing I have seen for a long while.

I hope the Daily Mail, the Sun and the editors of the rest of his media intake who have been whipping this immigration thing up to its current froth and throth are proud of themselves.

Friday, August 25, 2006

What exactly is this under Senator Putra’s nose?

Evolutionary biologists make shock find, which they believe to be a previously unknown species of mammal, clinging to the nostrils of the deputy speaker of the Polish Upper House.

Apparently, member of Law and Justice, Senator Krzysztof Jakub Putra, woke up one morning and there it was – a fully formed...well, what?

Natural historian and journalist Bill Beaver of Hairy Things monthly told the beatroot this morning:

We are shocked. This is an unprecedented find for zoologists everywhere. We are just mystified as to its evolutionary genealogy.

Some think it is a direct descendant of the mammoth, which walked the Earth as long ago as BC 40000. Others think that it is a relative of the South American guinea pig.

Though not a lot is known about Senator Putra’s facial appendage UNESCO has promised to make his face a World Heritage Site and the EU has earmarked structural funds for its maintenance and upkeep.

UK - EU immigration policy

When is an ‘open door’ immigration policy not an ‘open door’ immigration policy? Answer: when it’s a-jar.

Both the UK conservative press and lefty liberal press have reacted a little squeamishly this week to the news of UK Home Office figures showing that, including the self-employed, over half a million Poles and other central Europeans have joined the UK workforce since the expansion of the EU in 2004.

The tabloid Sun – never a friend of the immigrant – screamed about how Poles and others had forced down British wages. And the Guardian ‘liberal’ columnist Polly Toynbee wrote exactly the same thing, claiming that to support the open door policy was to support American neo-cons (!):

‘Near-full employment should mean pay rises – but cheap imported labour helps keep it low….[and a ] 10-year unbroken burst of growth’ and a decrease ‘in pay inflation’ are a consequence of ‘cheap imported labour’.

Both the opposition Conservative party and many on the New Labour front bench are calling for Romanians and Bulgarians to not be given the same opportunities to come and work in Britain when they join the EU next year.

But not all British journalists are scared of the Polish plumber. Neil Davenport at Spiked has been refreshingly forthright:

The case for an open-door policy should be central to any meaningful discussion of immigration. People from Poland to Peru, Estonia to Ethiopia, should be allowed to come and live and work in Britain as they see fit. What is wrong with people moving around the globe in search of work and a better quality of life? Draconian controls on human movement are not only an affront to individual freedom and liberty; they also popularise dangerous Malthusian notions that society’s problems are caused by there being ‘too many people’. …

Whatever arguments are used to justify them, the truth is that immigration controls are a disgrace and a menace to freedom, liberty and prosperity. That half-a-million Eastern Europeans have passed through Britain to live and work is good news for them, and us. Apparently, a million-strong ‘Romanian invasion’ is heading this way, too. Bring ’em all in, I say.

Britain should keep its doors wide open and not be so scared of being ‘swamped’ and ‘flooded’ by central and eastern Europeans. A rich country like the UK should have a little more confidence in itself.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Miss World organizers in Poland make a bit of a tit of themselves

A poster advertising the Miss World contest scheduled to take place in Warsaw on September 30 has had to be altered after being thought ‘to revealing’.

The Warsaw City authorities are proud of themselves at having lured the Miss World contest to the Polish capital. They claim, as I wrote in Beauty with a purpose, that it will provide jobs and income for Warsaw and improve its image.

Getting the image of the contest right is of prime importance. So the Miss World organizers were alarmed when the poster for the contest, by artist Rafal Olbinski, showed a mermaid (the symbol of Warsaw) with one of her breasts showing.

And just as American television producers buried their heads in anguish when Janet Jackson revealed one of her best assets at the Superbowl game a few years ago, so the Warsaw city authorities immediately got on the phone in anguish to artist Olbinski.

“Can you cover her tit up, please’, they ordered, and Olbinski obliged by draping a white scarf over the offending mammary glad.

Tadeusz Deszkiewicz, head of Warsaw city hall's promotion bureau, told The Associated Press that there is "no doubt that Olbinski's original version was strongly erotic and we did not want to attach such aspect to the Miss World contest." [?!]

Not want to attach what to the Miss World contest? Erotic? Oh, I see. It's a contest that is without any sexy bits at all - it's a contest to promote the capital. Now I remember.

This is of course also strange as the Warsaw mermaid symbol is topless and not at all ashamed it.

It’s also strange again for another reason. The Miss World contest is to determine which girls have the best physical assets. That’s what it is for. Nothing less and certainly nothing more.

So why all the fuss? Why not let the Warsaw mermaid just let it all hang out?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Who are the richest politicians in Poland?

A relevant question – it’s they, after all, who are the least bribable.

Wprost magazine has a list of the top 50 best-off politicos in parliament. You might be surprised by which party many of them come from.

The richest politician, by a long way, is Janusz Palikot (photo - nice hair!), a member of the opposition, free market orientated Civic Platform (PO). He’s worth about 333 million zlotys – around 100 million dollars. He made his first million in the early 1990’s from producing wooden pallets for transporting alcohol (well, someone had to).

In fact, his party, Civic Platform, has the greatest number with 18 members of parliament in Wprost's top 50. No surprise really, as PO is the most business friendly party in Polish politics. Entrepreneurs and the growing and aspiring middle class make up its electoral base.

But guess which party has the second richest MPs in the top 50? It’s the rural proletarian, ex-Stalinist, farmers based trade union, Self defense (Samoobrona)!

Led by deputy Prime Minister Andzej Lepper, Samoobrona has 9 MPs in the top 50. There’s money in muck, as they used to say in Britain.

In fact the second richest politician in Poland is Samoobrona member Jozef Pilarz, worth a cool 23 million pln. He makes his money from farming and land ownership. So though its base support is from among the poorer members of Polish society, Self defense voters are represented by some of the richest.

Wprost calculates that the richest member of the ruling Law and Justice party is Radek Sikorski (12 million). He’s a graduate from Oxford University, who worked as a journalist for various British media in the Afghan war against the Soviets after which he went to the US. He’s married to American journalist and fellow member of the neo-con American Enterprise Institute, Anne Applebaum.

Wprost also lists the world’s highest paid politicians and heads of state.

Japan’s PM Junichiro Koizumi comes out on top, paid around 30,000 dollars a month. Next up is, amazingly, Irelands Mary McAleese, who gets a bit more than George Bush, at just under 30,000 dollars.

President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski only receives a poor 19,000 zlotys a month ( 6,500 dollars). But even that’s much better than the impoverished Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Siergiej Staniszew, who takes home to his wife as little as 1,200 dollars a month.

Strange then, is it not, that Bulgaria is the 54th least corrupt country in Europe, according to Transparency International, and Poland is 70th!

Maybe we should be paying Polish politicians even less?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Cucumbers seen flying across the sky in Poland

In Britain we call it the ‘silly season’ - in Poland it’s called the ‘cucumber season’, when the media starts to fill up with bull…

I could mention bees attacking policemen, four year olds in charge of street gangs, or a Turkish pilot who went to the wrong airport by mistake near Poznan because she could not speak English properly.

But take your eyes of the TV or newspaper for a moment, stop reading such nonsense and look up at the sky. Is that a little green man in his space ship, or is it a deranged journalist deprived of politician stories during the summer break?

A story in UFO Digest (too hard to digest for me, I am afraid) dated August 15 this year about a UFO sighting in 1995 reported:

‘According to an article in Nieznany Swiat Magazine, the photo [above] was taken at the end of June or beginning of July 1995 by Mrs. Maria Korejwo, a school teacher, in Katy Gorne [near Pustelnik Pinski] in Siedlce district in Mazowieckie wojewodztwo, Poland.

Mrs. Korejwo didn't see the object when the photo was taken.

Kodak photo laboratory workers concluded that the film was not defective and suggested a possible explanation for the appearance of the acorn shaped object. They stated whatever the object is, the reason the photographer did not see the actual object, was simply because the object was moving too quickly!’

Eek! An object moving too quickly to be seen! What can it be? An alien carjacking the Space Shuttle?

The day before that story appeared, the American Chronicle recounted the story of The Alien Abduction of Mr. Wladyslaw, who apparently, around the year 2000 (he doesn’t remember exactly when) was taken into an alien space craft for reasons best known to the aliens. Who are we mere earthlings to question why.

The case of Mr. Wladyslaw's abductions has been investigated by Grzegorz Domanski, an UFO researcher from the Legnica UFO Research Club. He was acquainted with a woman named Halina who related to him the strange experiences of her nephew.

Mr. Wladyslaw's experiences are not unique, but his story along with tomes of other abduction cases is confirming the hypothesis that not all extraterrestrial races are peaceful and benevolent. Some are extremely dangerous and have unknown agendas.

Legnica, is a city in southwestern Poland, capital of Legnica Province.

Is it all the vodka, or what?

On August 8, American Chronicle was at it again. Poland, it seems, is an alien playground – a central European UFO car park. Under the headline, Military aircraft chased UFO over Slupsk:

Radar identified an UFO object that had entered Polish airspace. Mr. Stanislaw Z. notified the proper officials and soon an alert was announced. In the following minutes Captain Praszczalek would have direct contact with the UFO…..

But the media this summer has not always been so gridlocked with Polish flying saucers.

At the end of last month, on a very hot July 28, Polish Outlook reported that Poland’s skies were unusually clear of UFOs.

The Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reports that there have been no UFO landings in Poland this summer. There has been a definite lack of pictograms [crop circles] that are created by the aliens when they land in the wheat fields in Poland.

Wylatowo, Poland is known for those pictograms. Every year farmers' wheat fields in Wylatowo are damaged when the aliens create pictograms. The farmers are always very angry but the town is UFO heaven and a lot of tourists come to see a UFO.

The newspaper ran a survey to try and find out why the aliens have stopped visiting Poland.

Here are the results of the survey

It's too hot - 2%
People don't feel like making them many more - 35%
It's the opposition Civic Platform’s fault - 63%

Since the Polish government ruling coalition party Law and Justice has been blaming the Civic Platform for any unpopular decisions or moves that the Law and Justice Party makes, it only stands to follow that it is the Civic Platform's fault that the aliens are no longer visiting Poland. And it is Civic Platform's fault that income is down in Wylatowo because tourists are not coming to see the pictograms.
It's the Civic Platforms fault!

Well, things obviously changed as we went into August. Were government sponsored aliens waiting for opinion poll results to show a lead for Law and Justice? Or were they waiting for the summer parliamentary recess and the appearance of flying cucumbers in the sky?

More Polish UFO stories?
See here or check out a bunch of them at the EASTERN EUROPEAN UFO JOURNAL

Evidence based medicine is microfascism!

Stop really, really is! If some are still wondering why nice British middle class boys from good homes are turning to obscurantist weirdo religions, then read on...

Wondering why religion and not modernity retains its influence on so many in Poland? And what about Islam in the UK? Are both a threat to 'our European way of life'?

Journalists like Melanie Phillips et at, who go on and on about the ‘threat to the West' from 'alien ideologies' like 'Islamofascism', are missing the point.

This is not about the strength of Islam but the increasing weakness of Western culture and its turn away from Enlightenment values.

Irrationality in the west is coming from our own, increasingly anti-science, relativist culture. It’s nothing to do with ‘them’ ‘over there’.
Check out this nonsense from post-modernist academic and Foucaultian nursing researcher Dave Holmes entitled Deconstructing the evidence-based discourse in health sciences: truth, power and fascism (snigger!).

If you can’t stomach reading the whole lot then here is a choice bit of bullshit which attacks the ‘microfascism’ of evidence based medicine (meaning the normal medicine that has helped make us the healthiest and longest living in the history of humanity):

‘Drawing on the work of the late French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari, the objective of this paper is to demonstrate that the evidence-based movement in the health sciences is outrageously exclusionary and dangerously normative with regards to scientific knowledge. As such, we assert that the evidence-based movement in health sciences constitutes a good example of microfascism at play in the contemporary scientific arena.

The philosophical work of Deleuze and Guattari proves to be useful in showing how health sciences are colonised (territorialised) by an all-encompassing scientific research paradigm — that of post-positivism — but also and foremost in showing the process by which a dominant ideology comes to exclude alternative forms of knowledge, therefore acting as a fascist structure.

ER...right. I used to teach that sort of crap at university. I should have been taken outside and made to eat a book by Foucault. Instead, people tried to give me research grants!

So are you still wondering why middle class British boys believe that blowing themselves and others up on trains and airplanes will bring them an early date with 12 virgins?

Are you still wondering why religion and not rationality has retained its influence with many in Poland? It’s because it is not meeting much opposition from liberals, many of whom are becoming as obscurantist as the religious.

The threat is not from ‘without’, it’s from our own, stupid, rotting culture.

Poseurs of the World Unite, By J. Carter Wood
Archie Cochrane: fascist! by Ben Goldacre
The Sokal hoax shows how post-modernists will swallow any old bull...

How to make a homebrew liquid bomb and terrorize a nation

It’s a little harder than it sounds.

From the reports in the media these are the ingredients that the British jihadist bombers were planning to create ‘murder and mayhem on an unprecedented scale’ with.

Your aim is to make triacetone triperoxide in a dried powdered form, a high explosive which can be made from 'common household chemicals' and which is 'unlikely to be caught by airport screeners'. This you will make on the plane while in the toilet. The ingredients you will need:

Adequately concentrated hydrogen peroxide. You will have to concerntrate this yourself, which is difficult. Better get a trained chemist to do it for you. Doing it yourself is risky.

Acetone and sulfuric acid.

Add vegetable dye to some of these (very unstable) ingredients and put in drinks bottles such as Powerade energy drink.

Remember to pack in your hand luggage several frozen gel-packs, preferably in a Styrofoam chiller (hydrogen peroxide must be kept near freezing point otherwise it ain’t gonna work), a thermometer, a large beaker, a stirring rod, and a medicine dropper.

Get on plane and slip into small toilet.

The Register mercilessly tells us how to do the rest:

‘Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide / acetone mixture into the ice water bath [from the first class Champagne bucket of course], and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you'll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you'll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else.

After a few hours - assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven't overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities - you'll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now all you need to do is dry it for an hour or two.

You see – it’s easy to be a jihadist, nihilist suicide bomber. You just need some very tricky ingredients, a virtual laboratory in your hand luggage and half a day or more left alone in the airplane toilet.

Friday, August 18, 2006

What’s brown and sounds like a bell?


After Zbigniew Brzeziński, called for a little bit of sense to enter into the recent spats between Poland and Germany, Polish authorities have apparently...completely ignored him! Look at this from Expatica:

Poland's coastguard has cancelled the loan to Berlin of a ship's bell recovered after the world's worst maritime disaster, the 1945 sinking of a liner carrying 9,000 German civilians, exhibition organizers confirmed Thursday.

The bell was on display at a newly opened Berlin exhibition devoted to 20th century refugee expulsions including the flight of Germans from eastern Europe. Many Poles say it is offensive to their own war dead to memorialize Germans' suffering...

Brzeziński has said that the current conflicts between the two countries are much smaller than the role the two countries could be playing on the international stage.

Good advise, me old mate. Shame nobody seems to be listening.

Another Polish object withdrawn from Berlin expellee display, Radio Polonia, Aug 17

Monday, August 14, 2006

Scottish racists sent to Poland to learn about tolerance!

Thugs who have attacked Polish immigrants in Scotland will be sent to Poland to make them more caring and sharing.

Here is a little gem in the Times (London)

A [Scottish] council is planning to send teenage troublemakers to Poland to learn about tolerance after a sharp increase in attacks on migrant workers and their children.

Moray Council [northeast Scotland] wants young Scots who have been involved in racist attacks to make the trip to help them to understand why so many Poles seek work in Britain.

A council spokesman said that children of migrants were hurt in racist incidents every week. “A lot of the kids involved are from third-generation unemployed families and some of them have been asking their youth workers why Polish people need to come here, why they can’t stay in their own country,” he said.

So, let’s get this one clear. Scottish youth from unemployable families who have attacked Poles who have come to Scotland to work, will be sent to Poland to show them why so many Poles leave Poland in the first place?

Moray has seen a growth in redundancies in some areas recently, though still has an unemployment rate of only 2.6%, which is below the average for both Scotland and the UK as a whole.

Many have the suspicion that the Pole bashing young Scots are not being given a punishment but a bit of a holiday.

“Och, I”, says Scotish racist thing when he turns up in Warsaw, “now I see why yer come to Scootland in the furrst place. Yer drink pissy beer, yer clean yer teeth with hot water (?) and yer put tomata ketchup all over yer pizza!”

But still, a treat’s in store when they get to Poland. These delightful Scottish kids (bless them!) are going to be taught about ‘tolerance’. Tolerance for who, exactly? Gays? German journalists? Unemployed gay German journalists?

I think Moray's Council’s new bright idea (“Let’s teach them, not chastise them", liberal therapist gurgle gurgle) - scheduled to start next summer - needs some…..(to be polite)...rethinking?

More? Other race attacks in the UK recently...
Victim is discharged, Lancashire telegraph, Aug 17
Polish men hurt in 'race attack', BBC Aug 17
[Belfast] House set on fire in racist attack on Poles, Observer, Aug 13
Search for Polish man's attackers, BBC, Aug 11

Lech Walesa beats a tin drum

Gunter Grass (pictured) admits he was in Waffen SS, Walesa is not pleased.

More nonsense from the Polish – German relations front?

Lech Walesa, Gdansk’s most famous son, thinks that Nobel Prize winner Gunter Grass, Gdansk’s other famous son (when it was known as Danzig) thinks that the author of the Tin Drum and many other works should give up his honorary citizenship of Gdansk.

The Independent writes:

Grass told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that, aged 17, he was called to the Waffen SS 10th Armoured Division, the combat arm of Hitler's paramilitary forces.
Grass, 78, said in the interview: "My silence over all these years is one of the reasons I wrote this book. It had to come out, finally."
He has written a book of recollections, which details his war service. The book is due out in September.

Walesa, also an honorary citizen of Gdansk says he feels ‘uncomfortable’ in Grass’s company.

Ruling Law and Justice member of parliament, Jacek Kurski has also called on Grass to return his honorary citizenship.

Spiegel online reports:

From the middle of 1944 until the end of the war in the spring of 1945, Grass served in the Frundsberg tank division of the elite military outfit. Previously, he had contended that he was teenage helper of an anti-aircraft unit.

Grass makes the revelations in his new autobiography, While Peeling the Onion. In it he says that he was only in the SS for around 9 months just before the end of the war and did not fire a shot.

Some in Germany are calling for his Nobel prize to be stripped. It’s not that he served in the SS – albeit not as a volunteer – that has angered the German press but that he concealed the fact for so long.

And what about other, elderly German gentlemen who got caught up in the Nazi machine in their youth? Would devout Catholic Lech Walesa object to being in the same company as...Pope Benedict?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Poles don’t trust politicians - shock!

Poles have one of the lowest opinions of their elected representatives in Europe. No surprise there, then.

A survey by gfk opinion pollsters finds the not very surprising fact that the politician is the least trusted professional in Europe. But only Greeks and Italians trust their politicos less than the Poles.

On average 17% of Europeans trust their politicians. In Poland this figures slumps even further to just 9%. In Italy and Greece this figure is 8 percent.

The most trusting of their rulers are the Danish at 37 percent, followed by the Swiss with 35 percent.

The most trusted professionals in Europe are doctors and teachers and Poles are no exception (although as Our man in Gdansk reports, it might not be a good idea to trust all doctors in Lublin!).

Sixty percent of Poles trust priests.

Most surprising is that 61 percent say that they trust journalists in Poland where as in the UK this figure plummets to just 30 percent.

Polish-German relations – not too good, really

Berlins ‘ethnic cleansing’ exhibition plus the infamous potato jibe against the Kaczynski brothers in a Berlin newspaper make neighbors’ sticky relationship stickier still.

On the face of it, what could be so ‘controversial’ about an exhibition in Berlin looking back on 100 years of expulsions and ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Europe? From the ‘Armenian genocide’ to two monotonous world wars, to the Yugoslavian conflict of the 1990s, ‘cleansing’ certain areas of certain nationalities and ethnic groups has been a dark feature of the twentieth century.

Good topic for an exhibition, then.

Except this exhibition, ‘Paths Unchosen’, has been initiated by MP Erica Steinbach, head of the German Expellees Union. The motive behind Paths Unchosen is to highlight the plight of German expellees from Poland and elsewhere after 1945.
Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski called the exhibition "a bad, worrying and sad event" and said: "it is not doing anything positive for Poland, Germany or Europe."

Former Prime Minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz – now acting mayor of Warsaw - cancelled a trip this week to Berlin in protest.

"It's an attempt to relativize the history of World War II," Kaczynski said. "It's important to remember who the murderers were and who were their victims."

According to Allied information sources revealed after 1990, the German deportation and migration affected up to 16.5 million Germans from Soviet occupied areas in Poland and elsewhere.

The Potsdam Conference called for this process to be done in an ‘orderly and humane manner’ but maybe over 1 million Germans died in the process from disease, malnutrition, murder.

Radio Polonia quotes Piotr Nowina-Konopka from the Warsaw-based Schumann Foundation.

[Head of German Expellees Union] “Mrs Steinbach is neither a historian nor an expellee; she hasn’t a moral right to defend the case. Second point – we had already a bad experience with the association under her leadership and that’s why in Poland there is a generally bad feeling about its activities and this latest initiative. Of course, I must see the exhibition to judge whether it’s objective and whether it shows the reason that led to all the cruelties that, without any doubt, happened.”

I am glad he said that he should see the exhibition first before he can judge it, something that hasn’t seemed to trouble Jaroslaw Kaczynski or Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz.

Eva Kraftchyk of the German DPA agency understands Poland’s suspicions that Germany is trying to rewrite its history, but she thinks such fears are exaggerated.

“The tone of discussions in Poland over the past months is not very objective. I don’t think that anyone who is serious in Germany would try to pretend that Germany did not attack Poland, is not responsible for the Holocaust and did not start the war.”

Furthermore, Eva Kraftchyk believes that the expellees have a moral right to show their suffering.

“The refugees lost their homes in what is now western Poland, Kaliningrad, the Czech Republic and other countries. That was a very dramatic experience for these people. Now they are very old and they want to tell their stories. I don’t think this should arouse fears that Germany is trying to rewrite its history. It’s about showing all the facts.”

It’s hard not to disagree with that.

Political hot potato
The controversy follows attempts by the Polish government to prosecute a German newspaper over a satirical article – Poland’s new potatoes’ which lambasted President Lech Kaczynski and his prime ministerial brother and their mother, with who Jaroslaw still lives with.

“We were wondering why there is no reaction from the German public opinion” after the “very brutal attack,” in Tageszeitung, a Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman, Andrzej Sados, said in an interview. “This was not an attack on the Polish politicians, but on a third person, on the mother of the president.”

On July 21, the Warsaw prosecutor’s office announced that it was investigating whether to file charges against the author of the article – something that would be unique in European law if it succeeded, which it won’t.
Far right catholic newspaper Nasz Dziennik, owned by the Radio Maryja media group, printed a list two weeks ago of German correspondents working in Poland. The article urged readers ominously to “remember the names.”

Successive generations of Poles have grown less and less antagonistic to Germany – they don’t remember the war and don’t relate to the older generations memories of it. Some politicians, however, haven’t got over it and seem willing to use history – as Erica Steinbach appears to be as well – to reopen the old sores. It looks good to some of the home audience but looks a little grubby from the outside.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Poland returns ‘bomb-grade’ uranium to Russia...

...from its nuclear reactor near Warsaw. Er…Poland has a nuclear reactor?

Yup, has done since 1954, in fact. Reuters reported yesterday that in a ‘covert operation’ at dawn :

Poland...returned to Russia close to 40 kg (88 pounds) of highly enriched uranium, enough to make an atomic bomb, as part of a global effort to secure high-risk nuclear material, a U.N. watchdog said on Thursday.

The Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) was given to Poland years ago for research purposes.

This was another critical step towards enhancing security of fissile material by eliminating stockpiles of HEU," the IAEA's manager for the Polish job, Arnaud Atger, said in the statement

Poland’s reactor is in Otwock-Swierk, about 30 kilometers from Warsaw. Most of the research is for medical purposes for use in oncology treatment.

Poland announced last year that it intends to build a nuclear power station, to be ready some time around 2020.

Greens went nuts about the announcement, of course, but hey – nuclear fuel does not produce carbons and so is in line with all those directives from Kyoto and the EU to reduce emissions. Rejoice!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Liquid terrorist bombs: a new threat?

Not really. Were the 24 men arrested in Britain today just copying a planned attack 12 years ago?

Warsaw airport came to a standstill today. Radio Polonia reported that:

Sky Europe operates flights from London to 2 Polish cities in southern Poland, additionally offering shuttle bus connections to further 2 locations. Just like all other carriers arriving in London on routes shorter than 3 hours it has already felt the consequences of the flight cancellations. Sky Europe spokesman Eryk Klopotowski.

‘This may be a severe disruption but I wouldn’t call it a chaos. There are severe delays on many flight. Our planes are 2 hours late at the moment. This is caused by detailed security checks done at all British airports that includes personal security check and x-ray of every item including shoes.’

Security measures were stepped up:

More police officers, including counter-terrorist police and plainclothesmen, were deployed to safeguard airports and subways. The number of traffic police patrolling main routes to airports has also been increased.

Zbigniew Wassermann, the Polish minister without portfolio, in charge of special services, said there were no indications of a threat of terrorist attacks against Poland. He added that the Polish intelligence services would closely monitor the situation.

It seems these, mostly, British freaks planned to use a cocktail of liquid chemicals plus something like a mobile phone or a key fob to blow to bits airline passengers. But this isn’t a new ‘sophisticated’ method of terrorism, as some in the media are claiming.

These were not particularly sophisticated people at all. Neither was their method.

In 1994 Abdul Hakim Murad, Wali Khan Amin Shah, and Ramzi Ahmed Yousef led a group of men who planned a similar attack on US aircraft with 12 bombs using liquid explosives.

The Washington Post reported back in 1996:

‘The impressive workings of the bombs these men were making for that purpose are spelled out in Murad's confession and in documents retrieved from the hard drive of a portable computer allegedly owned by Yousef, which he inadvertently left behind in a Manila apartment where police showed up to investigate a fire caused by the mixture of some of the chemicals.

Murad made clear that their intent in designing the devices was to ensure they could be readily slipped past airport screening devices and assembled in the washrooms of the planes once the flights were underway.’

At the heart of each device was a timer built by rewiring a commonly available Casio digital watch, which could be connected to a stabilized form of liquid nitroglycerin stored in a bottle ostensibly filled with contact lens solution. The stabilizer for the nitroglycerin looked like cotton, and Murad told interrogators that "nobody can think that it's . . . explosive."

Read more of that article here

We know these religious nutters know how to blow up planes, and we know how they want to do it, but we seem to react after we have uncovered a plot. Not before.

It seems that the security systems that airports are now employing – no liquids, no hair gel, no bottles of contact lens solution, etc, are not proactive but reactive.

That just seems daft.

More on liquid terrorist bombing?
Plot to blow up passenger planes mid-flight foiled, New Scientist

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Poland is the 99th happiest country on Earth.

No, wait a minute. Another survey says Poland is the 114th. Surely some mistake?

It gets worse. The World Map of Happiness compiled by the University of Leicester claims that the happiest country in the world is Denmark. But the Happy Planet Index (snigger) by tree huggers at the New Economic Foundation reckons that the happiest country in the world is… Vanuatu!


Vanuatu – it’s a little island in the Pacific somewhere.

What’s more, the Happy Planet Index thinks that Columbia is second happiest. So, it looks like being permanently in a state of low level war, with drug gangs running amuck and the US bearing down on it as part of its War on Drugs is making Columbians deliriously happy!

Or maybe it’s all that coke?

What kind of bull is this, I hear you ask?

The happy, earnest people at the Happy Planet Index claim:

‘The Happy Planet Index is an innovative new measure that shows the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world. It is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives. The results are surprising, even shocking, but there is much to learn from what they show.‘

No, the results are not ‘shocking’ they are just silly. Linking the slippery concept of happiness to ecological efficiency is ludicrous.

The psychologists at Leicester University responsible for the World Map of Happiness say:

‘The meta-analysis is based on the findings of over 100 different studies around the world, which questioned 80,000 people worldwide. For this study data has also been analyzed in relation to health, wealth and access to education.

Whilst collecting data on subjective well-being is not an exact science, the measures used are very reliable in predicting health and welfare outcomes.‘

Again, ‘predicting health and welfare outcomes’ is nothing to do with measuring happiness.

Two daft studies both published in July prove nothing about happiness except that academics and Green campaigners have become obsessed with trying to make you and me ‘happy’.

The final insult to a grumpy old git like me, who would rather these people left us alone, is the news that British schools are to introduce happiness classes at school.

And that makes me very unhappy indeed.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Israel – Lebanon war: a chance for Poland to polish its image

What is a tragic, destabilizing war for the Middle East is giving countries like Poland a chance to look good on the international stage.

Poland has been trying to position itself for a few years now as ‘Israel’s best friend in Europe’.

It’s an image that fits with its close relations with the US and it also sends the message that Poland is not the home anymore of 1930s style anti-Semitic prejudices.

Jewish children from Naharyia in northern Israel, an area frequently shelled by Hezbollah’s low-tech ‘fire and hope’ artillery, have just arrived in Lodz for a couple of weeks holiday.

Poland is promising to be a member of the multinational force that will go into southern Lebanon just as soon as a UN resolution to the liking of the important players is ready and a ceasefire can be arranged.

Poland already has 200 troops in Lebanon as part of the peacekeeping force placed there after Israel was forced out by Hezbollah in 2000.

When the EU tried to write a united statement about the conflict last week it was Britain backed by Poland, Czech Republic, Denmark and Germany that managed to water down the resolution to stay in line with thinking in Washington.

There is only one problem with Poland’s desire to show the world - Israel - that Poland is not a land full of people who still think they are living in the 1930s.

Israel was horrified that the League of Polish Families (LPR) and Self defense parties joined the governing coalition a few months ago.

When leader of LPR, Roman Giertych was appointed Education Secretary leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote under the headline, A Polish minister with an anti-Semitic past:

His father, Prof. Maciej Giertych, a member of the European Parliament, recently sparked a storm during its session marking 70 years since the Spanish Civil War; he called Francesco Franco one of the most brilliant leaders of the 20th century.

In another incident, Ryszard Bender, a senator from Giertych's party said that Auschwitz was not a death camp, but rather a labor camp, and everyone there - Jews, Gypsies and others - had to work hard but at least had something to eat.

Giertych responded:

"I like the Jewish people and I don't understand why they don't like me."

He also admitted to the Jerusalem Post that his recent visit to Jedwabne - the scene of a Jewish pogrom in 1941 - had confused many of his supporters and 'was one of the most difficult decisions of my life'.

Such are the efforts of Polish politicians from all parts of the spectrum to appear pro-Israel that some of them are willing to piss off some of their core supporters, who do still think they are living in the 1930s.

It’s simply one of the most important parts of Poland’s image abroad.

So the war with Lebanon is a chance to further reinforce the view that Poland is 'Israel’s best friend in Europe'.

But as with most Western intervention in the region over the past century I don’t think Poland’s involvement is going to do much good for the people of Israel and Lebanon. The war is being used by western governments to look good abroad when they find it difficult to appear so fantastic at home.

Israel anger over Polish minister BBC July 10
New Polish Coalition Jeopardizes Israeli Cooperation on Holocaust Education, AP July 9
Israeli ambassador criticized for meddling in Poland's affairs, July 10

Another UK - Polish immigration horror story

Following on from the Poles leave kids in orphanages story last week the British press really has gone to the dogs this time.

This week in our "fear of the Polish plumber' series: ‘Pets pay price of Polish exodus’. The Sunday Times:

As Poles head for Britain in search of work they are abandoning pets in their hundreds at animal sanctuaries across the country. Up to 1m Poles are estimated to have gone abroad this year alone.

Isabela Dzialak, head of a kennel at Celestynow in Warsaw, has collected 180 abandoned dogs since the beginning of the year. “People go away to England and to Ireland and we have so many dogs coming in we can hardly keep going. I won’t tell you how many dogs I’ve got altogether because I’m already under pressure from authorities to kill off the old ones.”

Abandoned kids, lonely dogs, whatever next?

But the real problem lies not with Polish immigration but with the UK’s strict rules on immigration of animals!

This blog calls for freedom of movement across borders for all – including dogs, cats and even hamsters!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

MSM, bloggers and Israeli-Lebanon conflict - Update: photogate

UK Blogger at EU Referendum accuses news agencies of colluding with Hezbollah and all hell breaks loose. Is it always a good thing when bloggers start making the news? (photos: ‘white t-shirt man and ‘suspicious’ logo on his chest)

Have been having a very interesting discussion with Richard North this afternoon at EU Referendum blog, in between taking dog for walk, making Yorkshire puddings, etc.

Richard's blog has been making news in the MSM and is claiming that bloggers are challenging the legitimacy of the media and a tipping point may have been reached by his posts about the Middle East crisis.

I disagree.

Richard - ‘maverick’ Thatcherite, member of the Bruges Group - has been in the news media loads in the UK this past week for his allegations that some news agencies having been using ‘misleading’ or even ‘staged’ photographs in their coverage of the Israel-Lebanon war.

North claims that Hezbollah has been manipulating the ‘left-leaning’ western media and editors have been presenting an anti-Israeli picture.

The MSM in Britain has got very defensive about the allegations and North has become a bit of a hate figure in the UK print media.

Unfortunately, at least some of what EU Referendum has been claiming is patently not true. The case of the White T-shirt man being the most obvious. North claimed that the photos had been doctored and the man in the white T-shirt was working for Hezbollah and that he had been directing the photographers and staging an image of him carrying a dead child in his arms.

The white t-shirt, North said, had a logo on it which was obviously ‘electronically altered’ so that you could not see what was written on it – some pro-Hezbollah slogan, perhaps?

North also stated that he had an ‘unnamed photo expert’ who could back up what he was saying.

It turns out that the photo in question was a compressed jpg and no photo expert in the world would have an opinion about it, one way or another.

The full size version reveals that nothing was written on the t-shirt apart from a faded fashion label. The strange ‘logo’ was the folds in the man’s t-shirt.

I tried all afternoon to get Richard to tell me who this ‘photo expert’ was, or even some information about what type of organization he works for, how long he has been an ‘expert’ etc..

Richard refused to answer. He said white t-shirt man was a dead end which didn’t affect the crux of his argument. He claimed that he was provoking a debate about the reliability of the news media and that they are biased against Israel.

But getting things right does matter, expecially when you are questioning the reporting of photo journalists in a war zone.

North claimed that he used an ‘independent expert’ in his analysis. So who is he?

I think the ‘expert’ is a fiction.

What about blogs being believable, trustworthy, and all that stuff, Richard? Richard said:

I have no "credibility" to lose, because I do not hold myself up to offer the unvarnished truth.

He then claimed the whole thing was a ‘sting operation’, which I don’t think I really understand – but it…fraud?

Yes, bloggers are indeed the purveyors of a tarnished truth. But I don’t think that is anything to boast about.

I have nothing against Richard personally, and some of the attacks on him in the British media have been ridiculous this week. He was also one of the first people to say something nice about the beatroot blog in the early days when I thought I was blogging to myself. And I am grateful for that kindness.

It is the bloggers role to pick the scabs, and even open a few wounds, on MSM news coverage. But if bloggers are reaching Richard’s ‘tipping point’ in our relationship with MSM then we had better try and retain the little credibility we have, and not go throwing it away by accusing war photographers of ‘staging’ events with evidence (and experts) that are beyond credibility.


But Richard isn't finished yet about journalists doctoring photos. See here. He is also appearing on BBC 2's Newsnight programme tonight, 7, Aug.

After the Reuters freelance photographer has been caught doctoring at least two photos Richard is on a roll...See Where there's smoke, Daily Telegraph.

The photo on the left is the altered one (click on the photo to get a clearer view). You can see more smoke. But two things strike me about Adrian Hajj, the guy who took these.

Why did he bother risking his career for a small change to a photo that was powerful in the first place?

Secondly, why do the doctoring so badly? It was done with a tool called 'clone' which you can find on photoshop. It takes bits of the photo and you can place them anywhere. You can see repeated bits of smoke on the left hand side of the photo easily.

If you look closely then you can see that some of the buildings repeat themselves. That is an effect of the 'clone'. Not a very good attempt to fool the world. So why bother?

But it does show that when journalists get things wrong there are consequences. Not the same for bloggers.

But the obsession about bias reporting is not just confined to right wing blogs. Harry’s Place, the supposedly left wing ‘Euston manifesto’ blog has a post about ‘Reutersgate’ claiming that the photographer who photoshopped his images "was behind many of the images from Qana – which have also been the subject of suspicions for being staged."

That claim is false, as much else is at Harry’s Place. Adrian Hajj was at Qana but he was not the author of the contested photos of 'white t-shirt man'.

Free speech is a concept...

...that some don’t understand.

As Our man in Gdansk notes, being a journalist in the mainstream Polish media is becoming a hazardous business, in these dark days.

He says:

This time it's Mariusz Ziomecki, who called a League of Polish Families deputy a "babsztyl" (big fat aul' one) and a liar in a tabloid, and is now being investigated for "defaming a public functionary." The prosecutor's office called him in for questioning.

'Our man' wants to know what could possibly be the topic of discussions and enquiry – the comments are in the public realm already.

But what the prosecutor will want to know is the motive behind the comments. They are also using the occasion to intimidate journalists in the private sector into more self-censorship.

In the public sector media journalists are being asked to hand over lists of names that they use as commentators. If who ever is in charge – often a government functionary – doesn’t like some of the names on the list then they are banned from the airwaves.

The coalition government feels under siege from a media where they have few friends. It’s interesting to note that all the mainstream weekly titles – even the right wing conservative Wprost – are lining up to have a go at the government. It’s unprecedented in the western world that a government has no friends at all in the MSM.

For friendly coverage the government turns to religious crazies at the Radio Maryja media group who are only too pleased to use ministers for their own peculiar ends.

If I were the government I would drop the intimidation of journalists and try and make some meaningful contacts.

But, at the moment, with opinion polls showing that Law and Justice are retaining their support in the polls, I don’t think this is about to happen anytime soon.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Elephant sized riddle in Poland

Why has Krakow city hall asked Mittal Steel to pull a few strings and get them an elephant?

Following the death of Burma, the 40 year old Indian elephant who lived in Krakow zoo in July ( I know, sad), Krakow has appealed to the Indian steel giant to get them a new one.

"Everyone in the city is waiting for a new elephant, especially the children," Krystina Paluchowska, spokesperson for the local authority told Reuters. "It could take a long time if we don't get help…’

There are trade embargoes on exporting elephants, all sorts of bureaucracy, and there is a waiting list as long as your trunk.

But why has Krakow city hall picked on Mittal Steel to buy them an elephant? Wouldn’t a new steel plant with lots of lovely jobs be a better idea?

Well, no. Mittal Steel already have a steel plant in Krakow. Apparently Spokesperson Krystyna thinks that Mittal could ‘pull a few strings’ (tusks?) on their behalf.

Mittal, however, seemed unprepared for shock announcement and ‘has no immediate comment’. Hmm

Has Mittal been bounced into handing over an elephant? What will Krakow city council offer Mittal as gratuities in return for them asking the Indian government if they can ‘have an elephant, please'? Are top Mittal executives going to get free elephant rides around Krakow zoo with their very own personal Char Wallah?

Have we uncovered an elephantine sized uklad?

Friday, August 04, 2006

UK refuses extradition to Poland of Stalinist prosecutor

She’s very old, lives in Oxford, and claims that the extradition is part of an anti-Semitic witch hunt. (photo: the only one I can find, taken back in her Stalinist heyday)

Great Britain has refused to hand over 79 year old Helena Wolinska - on ‘humanitarian grounds’ - for trial in Poland for sentencing to death, among others, the hero of the Polish Home Army during WW II, Emil August Fieldorf, who was accused and sentenced in a one-day show trial and then executed in 1953 for ‘conspiring with the Nazis’.

Even the communists, as part of the Stalinist thaw of 1956, admitted that Wolinska presided over show trials and frequently broke the constitution with her judgments.

Wolinska, an Auschwitz survivor, ironically moved to Britain after the anti-Semitic ‘partisan’ communist purges of 1968.

She has said all along that the extradition charges, made in 1999, were because she was Jewish.

The daughter of her most famous victim, Maria Fieldorf, hasn’t helped to dispel this impression, unfortunately. She is reported as saying:

"Poland has said sorry to Jews too many times. Now it is their turn to apologise to Poland"…"The sad truth is that our secret services in the 1950s were dominated by Jews. They were disposed to Communism, perhaps it is genetic. All the people connected with the arrest and prosecution of my father were Jewish, and most of them went to Israel. Nobody says sorry to us, but nowadays we have to say sorry to Jews all the time."

Oh, dear.

Since she left Poland Wolinska has been leading an uneventful life married to Oxford University economist Wlodzimierz Brus.

Is it worth dragging someone to Poland for what they did 50 years ago, even if they have a personal history they would rather forget? Her record does look bad and it looks like she was acting in revenge when she was executing Polish Home Army fighters. But isn't this fixation with the past an excuse for not confidently facing the future? Does Poland spend too much time in its painful history?

See The Three Lives of Helena Brus, by Ann Applebaum

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hang 'em, flog 'em

Capital punishment is back on the Polish political agenda.

Generally the public is very much in support of the death penalty, it is the politicians and other bodies who oppose it. I am quite sure that it will be difficult to reintroduce death penalty but someone has to start work in this direction.

Those are the words of the far-right League of Polish Families, MEP Maciej Giertych, who is launching a campaign to reinstate the death penalty. He’s going to get half a million people to sign a petition demanding a referendum on the subject.

President Lech Kaczynski said last week that the EU should debate reinstating execution EU-wide.

EU establishment’s jaw hits its boots.

Giertych wants to start with the most outrageous killers – predatory pedophiles who murder children.

“The public is afraid of such criminals after they are released from prison.'

Poland formally gave up capital punishment in the late nineties. But nobody had been executed since 1988.

Donald Tusk, Leader of Opposition Civic Platform, a party that tries to appeal to the more ‘liberal’ voter, said that:

“Everyone would be willing to do away with a freak who kills children but on one condition - everyone has to be aware of the repercussions of the reinstatement of capital punishment in Poland. One of the most important for the millions of Poles would be the weakening of this country's position in the EU or even the exclusion from the most vital membership rights.'

One of the conditions of entering the EU is giving up the death penalty.

As usual with Civic Platform this is rather feeble opposition. The only argument they can come up with against capital punishment is that ‘Brussels won’t like it’.

If Tusk wants to oppose capital punishment then he is going to have to make some rational and coherent moral and judicial arguments why capital punishment will not make children any safer from pedophiles, nor will it make Poland a lovelier, happier, place to live.

But why now?
This might be about the EU, sovereignty, but all politics is local. By jumping on the momentum of Kaczynski’s remark, the League’s petition campaign is an attempt to give it some distance from its senior government coalition partner, Law and Justice (PiS). This could well be about pressing the right populist buttons to reinforce the electoral base.

PiS, who in opposition in 2004 tried to get a reinstatement of the death penalty (and lost by four votes!) and will make noises about reinstating it when in government, are still wary of the huge international consequences if they tried

The League couldn’t care less.

Commentator Oskar Chomicki told Radio Polonia:

'The League of Polish Families wants to be recognized as a separate political entity versus the ruling Law and Justice. It is a local issue but it also has some international repercussions.'

League of Polish Families is hovering around 5% in the opinion polls, barely enough to get them members of parliament in an election or many councilors in the local elections later this year.

It’s time to play the hang ‘em, flog ‘em’ card.