Monday, October 30, 2006

Boys and girls come out to play…

...but maybe not in Polish schools, they won’t.

Following the horrific suicide of a girl school pupil after prolonged bullying which resulted in a simulated rape by boys in front of her class, there has been calls from the Education Minister, and many others, for stricter discipline in schools and for coeducation to be phased out.The case has repulsed everyone.

Vice-minister Mirosław Orzechowski (he’s the one who doesn’t believe in Evolution), said that boys and girls need space when they growing up to develop as people:

"it would be a sensible way to gain some reflection on the self during one of life's stormier turning-points, and it would enable children to take their first steps into adulthood in a calmer atmosphere."

I was at an all-boys school (Carshalton High School for Boys) and I can’t say it had that effect on me and my mates. All we thought about by the time we reached 14 or so was girls, girls, girls. I even gave up liking football for a while. At lunchtime we would sneak out and try our luck down at the girls’ school.

Problem was, we were so unused to female company that we were hopeless at chatting them up. Most of us just felt awkward. We had to act ‘mature’ in front of them, because they seemed so much more mature than us. And they were.

Sometimes it was a relief just to get back to the boys’ school with all the lads and act like complete idiots again.

So I don’t think separate schools will make boys any more mature or wiser and any better at relating to girls.

I also don’t think we can generalize about education policy from what is a disgusting, shocking, but rare horror in the classroom.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Polish media least free in EU

According, that is, to Reporters Without Borders (RWB). reports that just as France and United States have tumbled down the rankings of 168 countries in the RWB annual world index of press freedom, Poland has slipped down the rankings too, in 2006:

Poland (58th place) comes in at last place among the EU countries. "A journalist [Jerzy Urban, editor of leftwing and anti-church satirical magazine NIE ]was forced to pay a large fine for 'offensive remarks' made against the Pope, a subject that remains taboo", highlighted the press freedom group, which also noted how "an investigative journalist from the satirical weekly magazine 'NIE' [again] faces between three months and five years in jail for refusing to reveal his sources".

Finland, (they are usually top of everything) Iceland and Ireland have the most free press, says the report. On the other hand, North Korea doesn’t have a free press at all.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fear of the Polish Plumber, part 333

Has the Head of Britain’s Commission for Racial Equality got an Eastern European problem?

Here are words of deep wisdom from Trevor Phillips of the CRE, on the BBC this week. He said that the new wave of Poles etc to Britain are, “frankly with attitudes towards black people which date back to the 1950s. That is unacceptable.”

The remarks come the same week as the UK announced that it will not be accepting workers from Romania and Bulgaria when they join the EU next year.

Poles, of course, don’t have the same experience of having a significant number of immigrants come to Poland from their recently collapsed empire (coincidentally, in the photo above, Trevor Phillips is holding up his semi-prestigious OBE – Order of the British Empire, awarded to him by the Queen. I bet he'is now a proud member of the New Labour Establishment). Some may be a bit naive but Poles aren’t a threat to the national way of life in the UK, as that idiot Phillips seems to suggest.

What is shocking is that nobody has complained about his remarks. It seems that it’s true: PC speech code means that the only types of people you can say negative things about these days are central and eastern Europeans and the white working classes.

Nobody has complained apart, that is, from Mick Hume in the Times, who, after comparing the Head of the Commission for Racial Equality unfavorably to Borat writes:

Phillips’s veiled warning that Eastern Europeans could cause a “conflict of diversity” reveals what today’s elite think of the white working classes — as an ignorant ethnic pogrom waiting to happen.

Like Borat’s joke, the furore over Eastern Europeans is really about us rather than them. The way we look at immigrants reflects how we see ourselves. In a more self-confident moment, the British authorities would not be worrying about whether a few thousand hard-working Bulgars might tear apart the fabric of society.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Baby beats

Bite sized root vegetables when I am too tired to write longer stories.

Top story for days here has been Edward Mazur’s arrest in the US in connection with the murder, eight years ago, of ex-police Chief Marek Papala in Warsaw. Poland has applied for his extradition from Chicago.

He’s being charged with ordering the murder in a mafia, hit man style killing of someone who simply ‘knew too much’…

Mazur’s lawyers are saying this is a politically motivated move, due to his connections with the ex-communist SLD. The government is using the (outrageous) murder to underline the alleged corruption at the heart of the Third Republic. They think the order for the murder came from within the then SLD Interior Ministry.

Problem is, Mazur has joint US/Polish citizenship.

the meaning of life

The League of Polish Families, a particularly busy party at this time of the year, is calling for the Abortion Law - which currently only allows for terminations when the health (sometimes) or life of the mother is at risk, or when the pregnancy was the result of a rape, etc - to be repealed.

LPR wants women who have been raped to have the kid anyway. They are also calling for a change in the constitution to guarantee the right to life of a fetes from the moment of conception.

The majority party PiS seems to be for leaving things as they are.

I hope Poland doesn’t ‘duck’ out of this debate. It literally involves ‘the meaning of life’ and the rights of women over their own bodies.

Portugal is having a referendum soon, maybe Poland should too?

next stop, maternity ward

Though ‘95% Catholic’ Poland has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, babies are still been born here. But not usually on public transport.

Sulafa Ismail from Sudan, gave birth to a daughter in the middle of the rush hour this morning. The Mayor of Warsaw visited the mother and Duha (meaning ‘Light’) later in hospital.

When I first heard this story I just hoped Sulfara had bought an extra ticket for Duha. If you get caught without one it’s an 80 zloty fine (but many get away paying less).

It turns out that the tram company has offered the mum free travel on their sometimes rickety trams for life and all her (six) kids free travel till they are 18.

That’s quite a lot of tickets.

Expect in the coming months many more babies being born on public transport. It’s an earner!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Polish politician threatens to set up another political party

No…please...not another one!

In a land where political parties come and go like a Spring shower (shower being the operative world) Andzej Olechowski (see his very posey web site here) has decided to come out of political retirement and start up yet another.

Olechowski was the founder, in 2001, of the ‘pro business’ Civic Platform, the sole characteristic of which seems to be a belief in the ‘free market’ and a ‘flat tax’ policy.

He didn’t stay long on the Platform though. After losing the Mayor of Warsaw election a year later (that's his election poster in the photo) to Lech Kaczynski (Olechowski got a miserable 13%, probably because of his crap election poster), and after some minor ‘ideological’ squabbles with some of the more rightwing members in Platform, he got bored of politics and left to indulge himself as a businessman.

But now he is back, testing the water as to whether another free market party would be viable.

I doubt it, quite frankly. There is a gap in the Polish political scene for another party, but a normal European centre-left social democratic one. The social democratic ground is currently occupied by the SLD, but as they are mainly made up of ex-communists they are not really what can be described as ‘credible’.

But Olechowski won’t be founding one of those.

He does share some of the credibility problems of the SLD, however, as he worked for the communists in the mid-1980s, as an economist in the Central Bank and other slightly darker places that kept an eye on Polish finance activities (in a country that didn’t really have any).

Another Olechowski party will be more of the same; the room for a ‘free market’ rightwing party in Poland is not a large area and Civic Platform are doing well if they get 30 percent in the opinion polls.

None of the current political parties we have now have real roots in Polish society. And Poland has had many since 1989. All of the current crop (apart from SLD) are less than ten years old. They are basically vehicles to get politicians into parliament. Yet another fly-by-night Olechowski creation – here today, gone tomorrow – will do nothing to rejuvenate political life in Poland, but will add to the alphabeti-spaghetti that is Polish party politics.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Poland - Hungary 1956

If you don’t know the connection then see here. photo: Budapest October 1956

Poznan June 1956

Friday, October 20, 2006

Better out than in?

Or: why the alleged ‘outing’ of Polish politicians is maybe not such a brilliant idea.

Veteran (I hope he doesn’t mind that word) libertarian journalist and gay rights campaigner, Doug Ireland, published an article in Gay City News on Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski this week where he goes straight for the jugular:

Poland’s homophobic Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski — the identical twin brother of Polish President Lech Kaczynski—was outed as a homosexual in major Polish media last week…

Rzeczpolita [Rzeczpospolita?] published documents—some only recently declassified, and some that were leaked—from the files of the Polish Secret Service that discussed Prime Minister Kaczynski’s homosexuality. As part of an investigation, begun in 1992, of right-wing political parties that, the documents said, “could threaten democracy,” a Secret Service department then headed by Colonel Jan Lesiak reported, “It is advisable to establish if Jaroslaw Kaczynski remains in a long-term homosexual relationship and, if so, who his partner is.”

...Then, also last week, former President Lech Walesa repeated on Polish television a crack about the current prime minister’s homosexuality that he had made 13 years before—when, in an interview on the Polish public TV network TVP1, he had said that the Kaczynski twins had come to his birthday party, and that “Lech came with his wife and Jaroslaw came with his husband.”

The rumours about Jaroslaw’s sexuality have been around for along while, of course. But to put the current ‘outing’ in context, Kaczynski is the head of a government which has made some gross homophobic remarks since it came to power last November. His brother, President Lech Kaczynski, when mayor of Warsaw, banned a gay march and called gays ‘perverts’.

So the tactic of gay campaigners here has been to point to the hypocrisy of Kaczynski’s (alleged)

When the political is reduced to the personal

I should be honest and say that in July this year Doug Ireland contacted me about the existence of the report by Colonel Jan Lesiak (which as I have showed in a previous post is mostly full of gossip got from reading magazine articles) and asked me how he could get hold of some translated extracts.

I told Doug then that Col Lesiak was a secret service agent during the very oppressive 1980s, when Solidarity leaders were being banged up by Stalinists, and that he was not a good source of information about prominent Solidarity activists like the Kaczynskis.

In fact, for various reasons I didn’t want to get involved in all this – largely on the principle that raking up details of the personal lives of politicians – even hypocritical ones – was not the best way to win political arguments.

But Doug Ireland has contacts with the anti-homophobia movement here and they have been feeding him lots of gossip about the private lives of Polish conservative politicians.

For instance, in the article in Gay City News Doug Ireland quotes gay journalist Michal Rolecki as saying: “…everyone knows that the president and the home secretary regularly visit female brothels.”

Blimey! Does everyone know that? I didn’t, neither does anyone else I have asked about it. Does the president of Poland really sneak into brothels for a quick one now and again? I doubt it.

But as Rolecki says “…you must bear in mind that sex still remains a considerable taboo in Catholic Poland. Some three-quarters of Poles say that that sexuality is a private thing not to be discussed in public. For example, we have never had a sex scandal related to government…”

Actually, there was an expose of the sex lives of Polish politicians published in a book by a journalist who got to sleep with many of them, Anastazja Potocka. The revelations were published about the same time as the initial ‘outing’ of Kaczynski by Walesa. In fact, many think that she was working with Col. Lesiak.

But generally the private lives of politicians are left out of the newspapers. And that is not a particularly Polish, or Catholic thing: in fact most European countries are not like the US, (or the UK, for that matter). There is a separation between public and private.

In the US ‘political arguments’ commonly end up revolving around the grubby activities of drunks like Foley – which of course, is not really a political issue at all.

I do understand that gays and lesbians are using the alleged ‘outing’ of Jaroslaw Kaczynski to bash the government with the same weapon that the government has been bashing them with.

But the best way to challenge homophobia is to restrict the argument to political principles. Gays have as much right to live as they want as heterosexuals do. The issue is about equality and human rights, not what politicians get up to, or don’t get up to, in the privacy of their own bedrooms – or wherever.

Let’s stick to politics and kick the personal out of the political. Otherwise the argument comes down to the behaviour of politicians, and not the principles of Politics.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Even cows want to get away from Lukashenko

Illegal bovine immigrants in Poland!

It seems it is not just humans who despise the regime of President Lukashenko in Belarus. Radio Polonia reports:

A herd of 240 cows which crossed the border on river Bug from Belarus into Poland is today being transported back home.

The cows, which are all 14 to 18 months old, swam the river in the vicinity of Janów Podlaski on Sunday. Border guards alerted veterinarian services but attempts to turn the herd back across the river failed. The cows were then rounded up and placed in temporary quarantine.

I would have given them refugee status.

Polish creationists will be delighted to know...

...that Charles Darwin’s complete works have just been put on line.

Creationists and evolutionists can check out ‘the largest collection of Darwin's writings ever assembled.’

‘This site currently contains more than 50,000 searchable text pages and 40,000 images of both publications and handwritten manuscripts. There is also the most comprehensive Darwin bibliography ever published and the largest manuscript catalogue ever assembled. More than 150 ancillary texts are also included, ranging from secondary reference works to contemporary reviews, obituaries, published descriptions of Darwin's Beagle specimens and important related works for understanding Darwin's context.’

Groping isn’t OK. in Poland

Neo-fascist British National Party get confused…

Under the headline Groping’s okay is Poland – apparently!, the BNP’s web site runs a story that opens like this:

A case that came up before Weymouth magistrates last week may well illustrate the extent to which we Brits, some say, are being “taken for a ride” by some migrants to our country.

Our Dorset correspondent tells us that the above court was told by a Polish defendant – or rather his taxpayer funded interpreter – that groping women is an acceptable pastime in Poland!

Well that appears to be the defence put forward by one Thomasz Stepniowski. Mr. Stepniowski is charged with four offences, which the local media have explained relates to how ”the women he groped included a teenager aged 15 and a woman in her mid-40s. He fondled the breasts of three of them and pinched another on the bottom.”
Perhaps even more surprising is the media assertion that Mr. Stepniowski’s claim of - groping is acceptable behaviour in Poland - is shared by the female Polish interpreter present in court. This lady, we are informed, is alleged to have: “volunteered the view that she was "outraged" such a matter could be brought to court and that she had agreed that such behaviour would be acceptable in Poland.”
But what is absolutely amazing is that sentencing has been reportedly postponed until later this month - when a witness is to be called who will apparently tell the court ”about Polish attitudes to such behaviour”.

I can’t remember reading such a load of rubbish in a very long time.

For the information of the fascist who wrote this gobshite, groping is definitely NOT okay in Poland. In fact it occurs much less frequently than on British public transport, where unilateral ‘frottage’ is quite a common occurrence on crowded tube trains, etc. The Polish guy in question is delusional, of course. As to the witness who agreed with him that groping was OK in Poland...unbelievable!

But you can see how these cases are being used by nasty little parties like the BNP to stir up trouble.

Another thing I find amazing is that I found this story on Google News… Web sites by dirty little fascists should not be counted as ‘news’. Period.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Oh, by the way – they formed a new coalition government in Poland. Again.

I find the behaviour of these people so ludicrous that I’ll leave it to a couple of links.

Old-is-new coalition bodes more turbulence for Poland, Raw Story

Poland: Is this really interesting news?,

It's probably better just to ignore them.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The descent of (Ro)man

Far right Polish politicians are not descended from apes.

Members of the League of Polish Families (LPR) have started a campaign against the theory of evolution. Miroslaw Orzechowski (deputy education minsiter) said:

"The theory of evolution is a lie, an error that we have legalised as a common truth….We should not teach lies, just as we should not teach bad instead of good, or ugliness instead of beauty….We are not going to withdraw Darwin's theory from the school books, but we should start to discuss it."

According to Orzechowski, Darwin only thought all that stuff about humans descending from apes because he was ‘a vegetarian’ and consequently lacked ‘fire in his belly’ [?].

His boss at the Education ministry and leader of LPR, Roman Giertych umed and ahed about evolution on Radio Zet, though he is on record as not believing a word of Darwin’s Descent of Man.

The story started earlier in the week when Roman’s father, and member of the European Parliament, Dr. Maciej Giertych (who is an expert on the genetics of trees) did call for evolution to be taken out of European textbooks.

Maciej Giertych is a well known Creationist biologist. In a forward to Creation Rediscovered, by Gerard J. Keane, Giertych wrote:

‘Genetics has no proofs for Evolution. It has trouble explaining it. The closer one looks at the evidence for Evolution, the less one finds of substance…..

A whole age of scientific endeavor was wasted searching for a phantom. It is time we stopped and looked at the facts! Natural sciences failed to supply any evidence for Evolution. Christian philosophy tried to accommodate this unproved postulate of materialist philosophies. Much time and intellectual effort went in vain, leading only to negative moral consequences. It is time those working in the humanities were told the truth.’

So what are Polish kids going to be taught in biology class, if the Giertychs get their way?

Well, take Noah’s Ark. Creationists like Maciej Gietych, following John Woodmorappe’s book Noah’s Ark: a Feasibility Study,.have spent much energy trying to prove that Noah did in fact take animals on a large boat during the floods. Woodmorappe and others calculate that the ark, as it says in Genesis, was about 140x23x13.5 metres (or 459x75x44 feet), so its volume was 43,500 m3 (cubic metres) or 1.54 million cubic feet. To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent volume of 522 train carriages – which Woodthmorappe calculates could accommodate around 16,000 animals.

‘But, Miss’, I hear the kids thinking at school as they are being taught this, ‘How would Noah get rid of, you know…all the animal shit?’ He was in the boat with 16,000 animals for just under a year.

Answers in clears the matter up (if you forgive the deliberate pun):

‘It is doubtful whether the humans had to clean the cages every morning. Possibly they had sloped floors or slatted cages, where the manure could fall away from the animals and be flushed away (plenty of water around!) or destroyed by vermicomposting (composting by worms) which would also provide earthworms as a food source. Very deep bedding can sometimes last for a year without needing a change. Absorbent material (e.g. sawdust, softwood wood shavings and especially peat moss) would reduce the moisture content and hence the odour….’

It might have smelt fresh on Noah’s Ark but do I detect the smell of bullshit trying to enter the science classrooms of Poland?

League of Polish Families info pages

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Polish political soap opera

It goes on and on and on...


Nobel Prize for...politics?

Or: why Ryszard Kapuściński didn’t win it this year.

The Nobel Prize for Literature is seen as a ‘big deal’ by most. And it is true that when you look back at some of the winners over the years there are some very impressive authors on the list.

But there are also gaping holes where obvious geniuses like Tolstoy or Joyce, should be.

Does whoever awards these things take into account more than just artistic criteria? Of course they do. This is not a literary prize at all, it merely reflects the contemporary obsessions of the West – and particularly Sweden.

For instance, Czeslaw Milosz won his Nobel prize in 1980. Now what was going on in 1980? Oh yeah, Solidarity became the first independent trade union in the communist bloc.

That was back in the days of the Cold War. Today, the West thinks it has other things to worry about.

So it’s no surprise that Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk won the 2006 Nobel Prize for literature. The judges said that they had given it to him as his ‘quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures.’

Ryszard Kapuściński, the third favourite this year and an obvious choice as he is one of the greatest journalists of his generation, never stood a chance. If he really wants to win it then perhaps he should become a Muslim and start writing about why he wants a sex change operation (with recycled scalpels and forceps).

Poland has won the prize lots of times - some of them in political circumstances. The 1905 prize went to Henryk Sienkiewicz - the year of another failed uprising. Wladyslaw Reymont won it in 1924 (in the years following the First World War the committee were giving awards to ‘non-combatant countries’ - in a bid to appear neutral. As Poland didn’t exist at the time of WW I it certainly counts as being a non-combatant). The Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer won it in 1974, and Wislawa Szymborska (who? – don’t worry, she’s a poet) won it in 1996.

What's So Funny About the Nobel Prize for Literature?, LA Times, Oct 1

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Helping Poles in Scotland – it’s child’s play!

Clueless Scottish politicians turn to the kids for ideas on how to fight sectarianism.

As I have noted before, it is in parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland where you find the strongest negative feelings towards Polish immigration. There have been beatings. Many complain that ‘they are taking our jobs’ etc.

For instance, a reporter for the Scotsman, talking to people in an Edinburgh pub, reports:

Out of earshot [of the Polish barmaid] a young single local man is quick to voice his anger. Taking a swig of his drink, the 21-year-old, who refuses to reveal his real name, rants: "I can't get a job because all the Polish are taking over here. The Waterfront is full of Polish, and people from other countries. The fish factories are the same.

"I've been trying to get a job for about two years and I'm really angry. A lot of other people feel like I do too about all the immigrants…I think people in the city should be given jobs first."

You would think they were talking in an area with many thousands out of work, wouldn’t you? But Edinburgh has an unemployment rate of just 2.2%, one of the lowest in Scotland. Poland has an unemployment rate of 15%.

Others think that the attacks against Poles are part of the sectarian divide in Scotland (and N. Ireland) between Protestants and Catholics.

To the rescue comes the Scottish Assembly (a glorified parliament) with a great new idea. The Evening Times reports:

The Scottish Executive has launched a new initiative aimed at promoting a clear, concise and strong anti-sectarian view.

And young people aged between five and 22 who can sum up the country's stance on sectarianism are being asked to submit their ideas.

A five year old? Submit ideas? About sectarianism?

It really has come to something when the political class in the UK are so clueless that they have to create Kindergarten Think Tanks to sort out the sectarian divide.

Monday, October 09, 2006

What’s in a Polish secret service file?

Well, it’s a bit like Hello magazine, actually.

The government has released secret service papers from the early nineteen nineties that show conservative politicians such as Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski were ‘under surveillance’. The author of the notes on leading politicians from the right of the Solidarity movement (and many others) were made by Col. Jan Lesiak, who is currently involved in court proceedings(above) for his cloak and dagger activities - he was in both the communist SB and, after some kind of vetting process, the post communist OUP.

The government is convinced that this hangover from communist days is the reason for Poland's problems. Maybe all of them.

The government has also accused Jan Rokita, leading member of the opposition Civic Platform, of being responsible, as he was head of the Council of Ministers Hanna Suchocka’s government in 1992-3, the period the files by Jan Lesiak refer to (known as "Lesiak's Wardrobe').

So what do these secret files look like? Well, they are full, much of the time, with banal details of the lifestyle of politicians. It’s here where the widely known insinuations about Jaroslaw Kaczynski's ‘lifestyle’ are noted.

Modern day secret service activity seems to be comprised of going through current affairs magazines looking for quotes. Here is a snippet.

‘He lives in a three bedroom flat on one floor in a three apartment bloc. Kaczynski’s mother explains why he didn’t get married. “I think he did meet already the one woman of his life. It was in the seventies. She claimed that he left her for KOR [Workers Defense Committee, a forerunner to Solidarity]. She got married. We never talk about it. It’s our deal. “

He doesn’t drive a car neither does he have a driving license. He doesn’t really care about what he wears. His mother says: “It’s a real burden for him to have to buy clothes. He will never do anything for himself. “

He doesn’t play any sports, though he is interested in sport. Out of all the alcohols he likes wine and beer. He used to smoke but gave up. He is keen on going for walks.

He loves animals, particularly his six and a half year old cat, Busio.

He likes to relax by reading and listening to music. He likes books on sociology, psychology, history, religion - doesn’t really like fiction but his favorite novels are ‘The magic mountain’ by Thomas Mann and ‘Conversations in a cathedral’ by Mario Llosa.

He can cook. His favorites are beefsteak and chicken liver.

When working [as a lawyer?] he gave one third of his salary to animals… ‘

Ah. It’s Hello magazine! You can imagine the photos of Jarosław and his mum; photo of him with Busio…

Jan Lesiak should be given a job in the paparazzi.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Warsaw takes to the streets

We had the ‘blue’ march, the ‘white and rose’ march; we had the governing party hold a rally; we had crusty anarchists with pet mongrels (Photo taken from Dutch journalist Marloes de Koning’s blog).

Three main demonstrations today – by opposition Civic Platform (blue march), minority coalition partner League of Polish Families (white and rose march) and the Law and Justice rally outside the Palace of Culture, gathered over 20,000 people.

But playing a supporting role in this sudden carnival of democracy were numerous other little demos: the Young Socialists (who probably hold their AGM in a small wardrobe) gathered at 12.30 p.m. in Plac Bankowy; half an hour before, a handful of ‘anti-globalists’ (remember them? Anarchist types with dogs on the end of bits of string) were outside the Presidential Palace, demanding the end of…globalization, I suppose; down the road there was something about EU integration going on; and at the same time, back up in Plac Bankowy (where the Young Socialists were filling up a couple of tables in KFC) something called the Labour, Health and Ecology Party held a mass meeting, in a telephone booth.

There is some dispute – as usual – about numbers. Euronews says:

More than 15,000 supporters of Civic Platform, the biggest opposition party, are calling for the government to dissolve parliament and call a fresh general election.

Reuters in Warsaw:

"We are here to say loud what Poland feels ... We are here to say ‘enough’," Donald Tusk, the leader of the Civic Platform, told a crowd of more than 11,000 people.

Media reports say that the ruling Law and Justice picked up around 8,000 and League of Polish Families managed just 2,000.

I was at all three demos and I would say that Civic Platform’s gig was about 30 percent bigger than Law and Justice. And I have seen League of Polish Families on many marches and this was easily their best showing yet. Maybe more than 2,000, That means, with opinion polls showing their support down to well under 5 percent, they must have got their entire electorate out on Saturday. Quite a feat of organization!

Before the demonstrations the media was full of’ ‘there will be violence on the streets’ apocalyptic rubbish. Lots of people on the streets means bad news for many, in a country where demonstrations could end, in the bad old days, with someone getting killed.

Come the day, however, there was little trouble – just a few eggs thrown at the Young Socialists (maybe by Old Socialists).

All in all, a better day for Polish democracy than we have seen in the Polish parliament for the last 12 months.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Maybe he was short sighted?

Polish dignitaries put up the Czech Flag instead of the Russian one to greet Moscow’s foreign minister.


It’s a tricky visit, too. Polish-Russian relations are as cool as a bottle of vodka straight out of the freezer.

But I don’t blame the visually impaired functionary for getting the flags wrong. It can be very confusing. There are just too many flags with three colours in them, arranged in thirds. Did France begin this trend? Merde!

Other nations have tried to mix things up a bit. Lebanon puts a cedar tree on her’s. Nice! The guy who did Macdedonia obviously liked Greatful Dead during their acid phase…

But what is this contribution from the French territory of St. Pierre & Miquelon? It looks like a beer mat.

The Union Jack is probably an attempt at a traditional tricolour, a la France, Italy, Ireland…a million others, but someone appears to have gone mad with a knife (knife crime in the UK is common due to the outrageous ban of hand guns) and slashed it up into strips, arranged haphazardly. Very Vivien Westwood.

There should be more spotty flags (for countries that eat too much junk food…maybe Scotland)…florescent flags (very effective in dark countries like Norway)….a flag with bullet holes in it, for countries like Iraq, Afghanistan…and a glowing, radioactive flag for North Korea!

My favourite is Greenland. You would think it would be green, wouldn’t you? But no. It’s kind of a ..beatroot colour...and is a brilliant modernist design.

Even a diplomat with the eyesight of a bat could see that was different from the Russian.


Wrong flag causes diplomatic faux pas in Poland, Canada Now

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Old sores have been reopened once again with publication of a book based on inter-war Polish - Jewish newspaper archives. Jewish leaders distance themselves from it.

It’s assumed in Poland that pogroms such as in Jedwabne and Kielce were either one-offs, or even communist conspiracies. But a book telling the story of the Warsaw based Yiddish newspaper Haynt (1908-1939) by its last editor Chaim Finkelstein, written in Yiddish but now in English, claims that Jews were under increasing attack in many parts in Poland from the end of WW I. By the mid-thirties anti-Semitism became official policy.

Using the newspaper’s archives Finkelstein shows that anti-Semitism was prevalent in Poland, even earlier than it was in Germany.

The book has naturally caused quite a storm.

In chapter 4 Finkelstein writes:

Immediately following Poland’s rapid emergence in November, 1918, the physical abuses of Jews accelerated, rapidly assuming the form of pogroms. On November 13, 1918, a scant two days after Poland declared independence, Haynt (v. 213) reported on pogroms in Galicia. The news was not issued directly, as the Polish information services kept it quiet. Information was released by wire from Berlin, dated November 12, reporting that “according to sources in western Galicia, monitored in Vienna, pogroms have broken out against Jews in several towns across western Galicia. A large number of Jews have been killed, many wounded.

Pogroms in other places multiplied:

Following the Brisk pogrom and as a protest against the pogroms and riots in the country, a general strike was proclaimed by Polish Jewry. Jewish shops closed down, mass meetings were held, and the effect on the "Jewish Street" was great, but nothing really changed. Bloody attacks, and anti-Semitic hate accompanied by cries for expulsion ("Zhidzhe do Palestineh"; "Jews to Palestine") continued until the outbreak of World War II.

But it wasn’t just physical violence. Jews were subjected to economic forms of intimidation and discrimination as well.

In January, 1921 Sunday was declared a compulsory day of closure for businesses. Haynt calculated that Jews who wanted to observe the Sabbath and Jewish holidays had to close their businesses for 134 days a year. Non-Jews only had to close up on 62 days a year. Not only was this law introduced to ruin the Jews economically, it was also intended to undermine religious practice and traditions of Polish Jews.

The Jewish Deputies did everything they could to combat this law. They called upon the Polish Deputies and the government not to ruin the Jews. Their words fell on deaf ears. The Polish Deputies and the Jewish socialists from the Polish Socialist Party united and supported the Sunday closing law.

By the mid-1930s things had become even worse, as nationalists under Roman Dmowski began to exercise greater influence with the death of Jozef Pilsudski

The machinery of the state, the government, the officials, the press, all of society, with extremely few exceptions, were taken over by the anti-Semitic madness. Weird new ideas steadily surfaced for “rescuing” the Fatherland from the “Zhides”. The democratic faction (“Strognitsvo Democratitshne”), a small liberal group of intellectuals and professionals, under the leadership of Professor Mietshislov Mikholovitsh (1876-1965), fought against fascism and anti-Semitism in the periodical “Tsharne na Bialem” (“Black on White”), but had no tangible influence on events in the country. Those few Jews who had up to this time managed to hold onto their government jobs were dismissed, and that was trumpeted in the newspapers as something of a great accomplishment – a clear demonstration that the government was saving the state from a “Jewish flood”…..

...General Stanislav Skvartshinski (1881-), then the leader of “OZON”, introduced a proposal in the Diet, that the government should carry out a mass emigration (simply put, an expulsion) of Jews, and two hundred deputies supported this expulsion proposal……’

This wasn’t the first time the idea of mass expulsions was put forward. In 1926 several governments, including British and Polish, were looking at ways to solve the ‘Jewish Problem’. Britain, as we know, ultimately favoured Palestine, but Poland was quite keen on the French colony of Madagascar as a place to send its Jews. This was an idea - the Madagascar Plan - that had been going around for some time in Europe and was ultimately picked up be the Nazis. The French wouldn’t cooperate. In 1937, however, the Polish government remembered the idea.

‘ 1937 the Polish government sent a special delegation to Madagascar to study the situation on the spot. It comprised two Jews and one Pole: Major Mietshislav Lapetski, a traveler and author of travel books (1897-1969), Leon Alter, director of “HIAS” in Poland (1880-1963), and Engineer Solomon Dick, officer of the “United Committee for Jewish Emigration (“Emigdirekt”). They returned with a report that with the exception of small areas, the climate of Madagascar was not suitable for Europeans.

The Polish historian Vladislav Pobug-Malinovski writes about the expulsion plans in the second volume of his Spiritual [Intellectual?] History of Poland (pp. 817-818). He recounts also that a band of speculators and weapons dealers saw the Polish expulsion plan as an opportunity to profit at the expense of the persecuted Jews. The account then went silent.’

Read the whole book online here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Polish government declares war on TVN

The government accuses private TVN television’s news and current affairs programs of acting as a mouthpiece for ex-communists and the liberal opposition. And there are secret agents working for the broadcaster. And that TVN is part of the anti-government conspiracy...

Just when you thought you had seen it all, Poland manages to pull another weird looking rabbit out of the hat.

All hell went off today after right wing Gazeta Polska published an article claiming that Milan Sobitic, Program Secretary of TVN (and advisor on the program Teraz My which broadcast the Beger Tapes last Tuesday), collaborated with the Polish Secret Services from 1984 to 1993. His contact officer was Konstanty Malejczyk, who went on to head WSI (1994-96), the post-communist Secret Services which the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) are currently disbanding, in the relief that the organization is still, literally, a nest of communist spies.

At lunchtime a spokesman for PiS said, during a very bad tempered news conference (it was the journalists who were outraged) that TVN was indeed part of a campaign to bring down the government; its news coverage was not objective journalism; and that it was putting forward the views and interests of Civic Platform, the opposition party with a lead of 16 points in the polls since the program was aired a week ago.

Gazeta Polska’s article goes on to draw connections between TVN and the ex-communist SLD to prove that it is part of the ex-commie-liberal conspiracy.

For instance, the paper notes that Mariusz Walter, founder of TVN, was a journalist for state television in communist Poland from 1963 and was a member of the Party until 1983. In 1976, Jan Wejchert, Executive Chairman of the owning company, ITI group, one of the richest men in Poland, was the first Pole to open a business in East Germany.

Lots of connections between ex-president Alex Kwasniewski and TVN, between Kwasniewski and Wejchert and Kwasniewski and Walter. Gazeta Polska even suggests something sinister in the fact that his wife, Jolanta Kwasniewska is a regular guest on a health and beauty program on the TV cabal channel TVN Style.

And much more besides. TVN are outraged, saying that the claims are ‘absurd’. They say that Milan Sobitic, the man alleged to have been a secret services collaborator, first heard about what was in the program Teraz My when it went out live on air, last Tuesday night. Only five people knew about what was in the program (and that excluded Walter and Wejchert).

Shoot the messenger

This government’s record with the media has been a dreadful one, almost from the very start (see Reporters Without Borders). They alienated all the mainstream media by giving unique access to TV Trwam, part of the right wing nationalist Radio Maryja group. I commented at the time that if most of the media weren’t against PiS then, then they were for sure out to get them after that. And ‘get them’ TVN did on those now infamous tapes with Renata Beger and Adam Lipinski putting a price on the survival of the government.

PiS have felt entitled to try and control what is in the media, both print and electronic, public or private, in Poland and outside of it (particularly when it’s in Germany).

And now we have open war between a government and a popular and expanding TV station.

Surly it can’t get any worse than this? Can it...?

Update: The editor of Gazeta Polska, who was invited to this week’s Teraz My has failed to turn up. I wonder if he is getting nervous about the ‘material’ he says he has to prove the allegations?

Polish television under attack by Poland's Government, Polish Outlook

Monday, October 02, 2006

ZOMO - Jaroslaw and kamikaze politics

Unpopular Prime Minister speaks…unpopular PM digs a hole deeper.

PM Kaczyski hijacked a Solidarity trade union rally in Gdansk yesterday and made a speech to rally the troops. Unfortunately he ended up insulting many of them.

In a speech defending his government after the Beger tapes and the recent collapse of his coalition, he said that either ‘you are with us [in his drive to de-communize of the country] or you are in the [riot breaking thugs during communist times] the ZOMO.

Cue pictures on the TV news of ZOMO breaking skulls of striking workers.

Last week the trade union said that though it had supported the Kaczynskis in last years elections, this year they won’t be.

Opinion polls put the opposition Civic Platform 16 points in front of Law and Justice.

Polish police hunt farting dissident

That’s the headline for what is actually a story from about a month ago. But they have a certain flair when telling it.

Many have commented on this government’s weak grip on the concept of some basic human rights. Well, another is being challenged: the right to fart.

Police in Poland have launched a nationwide hunt for a man who farted loudly when asked what he thought of the president.

Hubert Hoffman [of no fixed abode - and no, that is not him in the photo, that's the president], 45, was charged with "contempt for the office of the head of state" for his actions after he was stopped by police in a routine check [meaning, harassing homeless people] at a Warsaw railway station.

He complained that under President Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother Jaroslaw, the country was returning to a Communist style dictatorship.

When told to show more respect for the country's rulers, he farted loudly and was promptly arrested.

I am impressed by his self control – maybe he has a future in a circus?

Personally, if I were the cops, I would not have ‘promptly arrested’ him. I would give it a few seconds for the atmosphere to improve a little. But it’s come to something, has it not, when letting off is unconstitutional.

Ss, is a basic human right under threat? Is there a UN charter on farting? Call the human rights lawyers!

Maybe, in connection with the anti-government demonstration this Saturday in Warsaw, the beatroot should organize a mass ‘fart-in’ outside parliament?

‘The workers , united, will never be….phreeeeewwww!!!’