Thursday, November 30, 2006

Another PR disaster for LPR…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 27, 2006

A new Cold War?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to calm down a little.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Gronkiewicz-Waltz wins

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

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

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

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

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

Hungover election official delays Polish exit poll

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Very nice?

Liberals start to turn against Borat.

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

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

What’s the Russian beef with Polish meat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Hanna blow it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 23, 2006

No survivors in mining tragedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Kuwait daze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

All is not well on the Platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 20, 2006

Teamwork in lazy UK

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

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

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Holocaust education is child’s play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Friday, November 17, 2006

What the….?

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

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

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

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

See CNN video here. It’s unbelievable.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

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

His name is Krzysztof Kononowicz, He wears nice jumpers.

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

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

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

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

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

Wojciech Wierzejski gets 'bludgeoned' in election

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

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

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

I honestly cannot remember a politician so brazenly inciting violence.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

UK nuclear attack?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2006

Those illusive CIA prisons in Poland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Polish local elections - round 1 - Updates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next question well are League and Self defense candidates doing?

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 11, 2006

No taxation without representation!

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

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

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

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

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

There is an alternative – it’s orange

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

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

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

Other candidates taking part in the Warsaw Mayor election are:

Włodzimierz Całka (independent)

Marek Czarnecki (Self defense)

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

Wanda Nowicka (independent, feminist)

Wojciech Wierzejski (League of Polish Families)

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

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rumsfeld falls on his sward... Reuters loses the plot.

If Rumsfeld has left us with anything worth keeping (and it certainly ain’t his prowess as a military planner) then it must be his contribution to the English language.

First we had his invention of ‘New Europe’, as a way of describing the pro-Atlanticist, free market, non-protectionist Poles and others (well, he got the pro-Atlanticist bit right). And then of course we had the almost Shakespearian:

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

On WMD in Iraq he said:

"We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

But there again, he also said something that James Joyce would have been proud of::

"We do know of certain knowledge that he [Osama Bin Laden] is either in Afghanistan, or in some other country, or dead."

But my favourite is:

"I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started."

He will be sorely missed by everyone, except maybe for Iraqis. Oh, and I bet Reuters journos are sorry to see him go, too.

Reason reports today:

Bad timing award on the day goes to this Reuters story, sent out at 10:50 a.m [about two hours before his resignation was announced].

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the face of U.S. war policy and a lightning rod for critics worldwide, will not be forced out just because he faces a tougher time from resurgent Democrats.


The Poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld, Slate magazine

President Kaczynski goes to London

He’s met with Tony Blair and my dear Queen, Lizzie II.

It's part of a three day visit ending Thursday. But how’s the visit going? Well here are two reports.

The first is from Radio Polonia:

The London visit of the Polish head of state has been seen as a very fruitful and friendly one...In fact it is said that Lech Kaczynski did not have such friendly talks with any other officials during his foreign trips as he did with PM Tony Blair. Both politicians underlined they shared common opinions and stand on matters concerning the EU and NATO as well as energy security.

And now look at this report from Notice any difference?

‘Thousands of 'feckless' Poles are raking in unemployment benefits back home while doing 'very nicely' out of the British economy, according to the Polish President [!!?].

Lech Kaczynski also said Britain has become the 'destination of choice' for many of his countrymen, who have ended up jobless and homeless here.

He was flanked by Tony Blair as he made the remarks, which had to be translated into English before the Prime Minister realised he had been acutely embarrassed on his own doorstep. Must be two different visits they are reporting. Or maybe Blair was being friendly when he was being embarrassed?

The full transcript of the press conference at Number 10 shows that Kaczynski was responding to a question from the press about what to do with the number of homeless and jobless Poles in Britain. He was also asked if he enjoyed his English Breakfast:

I did enjoy the English breakfast very much, yes, although it was a bit too hearty for me, a bit copious. The hotel is also exquisite, very well located in a wonderful part of London, close to Buckingham Palace. As regards unemployed Poles and homeless Poles in London and the UK, I believe that there are a number of people, not only from Poland but from other countries from the new European Union who are helpless or feckless naturally, but they seek a better life, they go abroad and currently the UK has become a destination of choice for such individuals. Poland does not shirk responsibility for its own citizens. We are aware that this problem exists, we are aware that there are people who aren't doing very well in life but this is something you find in all society. Poland does not seek to avoid its share of the responsibility. We know that there are those who have succeeded in the UK, who have jobs, who are doing very well thank you considering especially the differences between the wages in the UK and in Poland. But these people are registered as unemployed in Poland, so they are living a fiction and they are raising the unemployment figures in Poland while they are doing very nicely here in the UK and their unemployment benefits should rightly be sent to London. And this is something that we would like to do without, but like I said Poland is not avoiding its share of the burden.

Not so unreasonable. Blair responded:

...the vast majority of Polish people that come and work here are working very hard, they are very well regarded and on the whole as I find, and as I think most people do certainly in a city like London, they are both well respected and well liked.

The first report may have dodged the issue altogether, but the other reports are politically motivated, by the usual suspects in the British press, who are trying to stir it up all they can.

Polish president blasts 'feckless' countrymen who flock to UK, Yorkshire Post
Leader in Poles Rap, Daily Mirror

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A bloody cheek

A US diplomat has suggested that Polish deputy PM Roman Giertych get the sack for asking for a debate about Poland’s involvement in Iraq.

Responding to a call from the nationalist Giertych - who is against Polish troops being stationed in Iraq - for an open debate about the war and for accurate figures of the many Iraqi deaths (30,000?...500,000?) caused by, or resulting from, the ‘Coalition’ invasion and occupation be published, the US Deputy Ambassador in Warsaw, Kenneth Hillas, (pictured) said in a meeting with a Polish official:

“Should a deputy government head in Germany, France or Denmark make such a statement, he would be dismissed from his post”.

Roman Giertych has said of the memorandum containing these remarks:

'Maybe we have created a situation in which Poland has allowed the US to exercise absolute power over its foreign policy to the extent of eliminating Polish opinions...'

Many are wondering why it is that only extreme politicians like Giertych and others (see my Andrzej Lepper – peace activist) are reflecting and voicing public opinion in Poland. A majority of Poles have been against the Iraq war from the very start.

This is because mainstream conservative and ‘liberal’ politicians in Poland have been so anxious to bend over backwards (not a pretty picture) to any demand by Washington, no matter how ridiculous or destructive.

But Giertych is right: the current US administration has a very vague idea of what ‘national sovereignty’ means – which is why they went in to Iraq in the first place.

Polish ministry summons U.S. ambassador over accusation diplomat overstepped his bounds, IHT, Nov 6
U.S. spokesman refuses to discuss brouhaha in Poland over U.S. diplomat's comment, IHT, Nov 7

Monday, November 06, 2006

Surprise, surprise

Becca at p3 has written a very angry post about how EU funds are being denied the Campaign Against Homophobia in Poland. Shock!

Apparently Brussels gives the funds to the Education Ministry to dole out to NGOs etc to promote ‘tolerance’. Thing is, the current Education Minister is Roman Giertych.

Becca’s post is here and be prepared, quite frankly, not to be surprised. A more shocking post would be: ‘Polish Education Ministry funds gay rights campaign!’

If Brussels really wants to fund these groups then it should be via a direct grant from the EU, and not left in the hands of politicians who are elected to oppose it.

We may not like what they do sometimes – we definitely don’t like what they do sometimes - but nations should have some autonomy on what causes etc they think worth finding. This government doesn’t, obviously, think the Campaign Against Homophobia is one of those organizations. Maybe the best way to fight that is by engaging in politics and debate in this country, and not in the convoluted, remote, corridors of Brussels.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Worried about EU apathy?

Then do like the Polish Robert Schuman Foundation and create a ‘Virtual EU Parliament’ internet game. No really! Lots of fun!

Shocked at the pitifully low turnout at the 2004 EU parliamentary elections in Poland (a massive 20%) the Foundation’s Michał Kwietniewski - the man behind the project - said the aim of the game is "to raise awareness and familiarize young citizens".

The game has the sexy title of ‘Become a Member of the European Parliament International Internet Game’ (or BeMEP for short), where you can set up your own Brussels talking shop! Sounds great!

The Polish version of the game was so successful [?] apparently that they have launched the international version. The blurb says:

The Game is a simulation of the work of the European Parliament. Each of the contestants will become a Member of Parliament and will commence his activities in the virtual Parliament. He will have to negotiate with other contestants, predict the outcomes of votes in the real European Parliaments, and answer questions regarding the European Union. Furthermore everyone will be able to participate in virtual trainings (e-learning) on cultural, political, social and economical aspects of the European Union.

It doesn’t say whether you can also approve acres of useless, unreadable laws or fiddle your travel expenses, however. If not then the game’s designers may have left out one of the main motives for becoming a Euro lawmaker in the first place. Allegedly.

But if ‘Become a Member of the European Parliament International Internet Game’, doesn’t satisfy the inner Eurocrat in you then how about trying out the Eurocracy board game, where the aim is to become the President of the EU! Gulp! The game’s web site says it aims it to make ’European Governance fun for the whole family…’.

Personally, I would probably have more fun eating my foot.

Friday, November 03, 2006

PM Kaczynski keeps a low profile

Photojournalists have been instructed that they are not allowed to take pictures of the Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s profile.
Extraordinary piece of silliness, this one. I mean, we all have our complexes but this is getting ridiculous.

The strange announcement was made at a press conference yesterday where signs forbid snappers getting round to the side of the PM and taking pictures. No reason was given for the strange demand.

The government has long been touchy about the coverage it gets from the media here in Poland. They think it’s bias, and maybe it is. But though Jaroslaw’s ‘profile’ has not been good in the media, I can’t see how a ban on his profile will make that ‘profile’ any better.

The control freakery that the government’s critics have long accused it of has gone to new lengths with the attempt to control what photos are taken of its members.

The ban of profile shots of the PM has not, to my knowledge, been extended to profile shots of the President, which is odd, as identical twins usually have the same profile.

And of course, once you start making odd demands like this one of the media you are just asking for trouble. Profile shots of the PM are now all over the internet. The German blogs seem very impressed by it all, see here [sorry, it's Dutch] and here and here and here and here.

The Friday Moustache

the beatroot is proud to add to his ‘Hall of Famous Polish Moustaches’ Poland’s greatest footballer, Zbigniew Boniek.

Unlike some variations, Zbig’s contribution to the art of growing a Polish moustache is a modest expression of his hair growing talents. No great Salvador Dali type curly wings for our Boniek (it would have made him an easy target for defenders to disrupt play by hanging onto it) .

So what we have is a trimmed, sensible tache. Only one problem: it’s ginger! It looks like a Scottish hamster has decided to nest under Zbigniew’s nose.

But, nonetheless, I have to award the beatroot’s ‘Finest Moustache on a Sporting Pole Award’ to Mr Boniek, for his lifelong contribution to facial hair topography.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Sun really is going for it...

Brits are told to get ready for a tidal wave of Romanian gangsters:

ROMANIAN gangs commit 80 to 85 per cent of all cashpoint crime in Britain, The Sun can reveal.

The staggering figure is contained in a secret Cabinet memo which warns the crooks will be joined by a wave of new recruits after Romania and Bulgaria join the EU in January.

The classified document, seen by The Sun, predicts a devastating rise in street violence, people-trafficking, prostitution, tax dodges and cash card fraud.

Gasp! The government memo, apparently written by EU minister Geoff Hoon warns that Romanian and Bulgarian women will be trafficked into the country. Aggressive beggars will threaten money out of the British in the streets. They will steal your mobile, pick your pocket, will smuggle cigarettes and contraband in to the country.

I have no idea how the British government thinks it knows all this. It’s seems incredible. Literally. But Sun readers don’t care: they see an Eastern European apocalypse coming round the corner. In the comments section at the Sun’s web page MarcCoden says:

‘Why have we lost our National identity? Why are we the Country that these people will choose to come to? We are a joke under this Government? Blair is to blame for this and his ridiculous policies.’

Don’t think so, Marc. Actually, more Poles have gone to live and work in Germany than they have to the UK (the figure in the link should read 250,000 by the way). But I am not hearing the same level of screaming about this issue there, even though Poles do not have full rights to work in Germany! And Romanians will probably be joining the 500,000 Romanians already in Italy.

Still, whatever – Eastern Europeans are now well and truly a political issue in Britain. Shame. Immigration is an issue again. And I thought Britain had got rid of this kind of crap years ago.

Now let's watch the left spring into action to defend Eastern Europeans. They have not done much up until now. The silence on the lefty blogs has been deafening.


Eastern Europeans: the new 'white niggers', Spiked, November 3

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Grave day in Poland fills up more graves

More carnage on the Polish roads on All Saint’s Day.

It’s the day when families in Poland – like in Lithuania, Croatia, some parts of Germany - visit graves of dead relatives, tidy the place of leaves and weeds and light candles. The cemeteries are huge and at night, the sea of little flickering lights as far as the eye can see is amazing.

But sadly, a significant number of Poles have died today in car accidents. Since the weekend there have been 770 serious accidents causing 96 deaths and 1000 injured. Nearly 3000 drunk drivers have been arrested.

Around 7,000 people die on Polish roads every year. That’s 40% higher than in Ireland, for example, where the problem seems to have been exported to.

Among the safest drivers in Europe, according to an EC report, are the Dutch, Swedish, Germans (all those lovely no speed limit autobahns!) and the Finns (didn’t you just know Finland would be in the top group). The worst drivers are in Poland, Portugal, Greece, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Cyprus and the Czech Republic.

It’s a shame that on the day Poles visit graves so many of them seem intent on getting in one.