Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Is it a sin to make Polish lacy underwear?

Whereas once they had Pope John Paul as one of their customers, the famous lace makers of Koniakow are now making G-strings!

The ladies of Koniakow have been spinning and weaving lace for centuries – tablecloths, and the like. They also have produced gowns for Church ceremonies, including ceremonial clothing for John Paul II.

But recently the lacemakers of the small southern village in the mountans have rebranded their world famous lace and spend more time these days making racy underwear for ladies than table cloths.

APF reports that that the move to sexy underwear has not met approval with everyone in the village.

"The priest told me that a woman came to confession and asked him if it was a sin to make G-strings," said Anna Barska, a 47-year-old lace maker.

The Koniakow web site acknowledges the tension in the village, but seems to have retained a sense of humour about it:

‘Amazingly laces itself became a subject to anger, raised emotions, disapproval and divided small Koniakow society in half.
Lingerie handmade of Koniakow lace: sexy, making women proud and men excited is seen by some elders in Koniakow as sin and disgrace of an ancient respectful profession.
Well, if after Judgment Day I’ll be sentenced to spent eternity in Hell, I would feel much better to see a Devil (female one) wearing G-Strings.’

Ooo, you naughty devil!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Jaroslaw Kaczynski breaks arm after falling on ice

Does that make him a lame duck Prime Minister?

AP reports:

Kaczynski [nicknamed ‘the duck’] — the identical twin of President Lech Kaczynski — had the accident Sunday afternoon while he was on his way to attend a Roman Catholic Mass in a chapel at the president's palace, the government spokesman Jan Dziedziczak told TNV24.
Kaczynski received medical treatment and was expected to be able to carry out most of his duties in the coming week because he is right-handed, Dziedziczak said.
It’s good to know you only need one arm to be a Prime Minister...signing things...shaking hands...that kind of thing...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Anti-missile system in Poland

Critics of the US anti-missile system in Central Europe have the same paranoid mind set as the man who wants to place them here: George W Bush.

As I write, a handful of demonstrators are standing in a blizzard outside the presidential palace in Warsaw, protesting against a ‘grave new threat to this nation’s security’.

It appears that Poland and the Czech Republic are close to finalizing an agreement with the US to station an anti-missile system on their soil. Protests have come from Russia, but the US says that these missiles are a defensive measure against attack from ‘rogue states’, meaning presumably Iran, North Korea.

This story has not come out of the blue, of course.

The current Polish defense minister, Radek Sikorski, was a one time member of the neo-con American Enterprise Institute (AEI). As far back as December 2004, Sikorski was quoted on the AEI web site as recognizing that the placing of the anti-missile system presents political problems for Polish governments. The article says:

"Anything less than a generous package -- which could include greater industrial and economic incentives according to Sikorski -- would be "a difficult sell in the current atmosphere of Central Europe."

Poles have not been amazed by successive governments close association with the US ‘war on terror’, especially their troop placements in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s widely thought that these have moved Poland up the list of countries that are on possible terrorists’ target lists.

It appears that up to 10 interceptor missiles will be placed somewhere in Poland and a radar tracking station in the Czech Republic. So what ‘package’ has Washington come up with to help sell this idea to the Polish public? We simply don’t know.

But it is being assumed by the anti-missile critics that the placing of such a system in Poland would further move the country up the terrorist’s (and rogue states) list for attack.

Time to get real
Some on this blog (see comments in previous post) are drawing parallels to the US anti-missile system and the Soviet missiles we now know were in Poland from 1970 to the end of the Cold War.

But people who make this comparison are making the same mistake as Washington is. During the Cold War both sides were armed to the teeth with massive nuclear arsenals, which could obliterate either side within a very short period of time.

Nobody is suggesting, however, that Iran or North Korea have the capacity to launch missiles that have a range to get any where near Poland, let alone western Europe. In fact, nobody is seriously suggesting that these countries have any nuclear missiles at all. North Korea claims to have made a nuclear test, but that does not mean that it has any nuclear missiles. Nor does it mean that it is stupid enough to launch any.

And there is no evidence at all that Iran is actively perusing a nuclear weapons program – only that they are in the middle of developing nuclear material for power stations. Everything else is supposition.

There is no evidence of such a threat coming from ‘rogue states’ – and consequently there is no need for such a system.

But the critics of the decision of placing a US anti-missile system in Poland are being as paranoid as the US government.

Just as western Europe is not a possible target of Iran or North Korea, neither will al-Qaeda be moving in to bomb public transport systems, just because a few (unnecessary) missiles are on Polish soil.

Either way, it makes little difference to Poland's security.

But everyone - for and against - seems to be reading from the same script. Critics of the US are buying into the same paranoia that is currently fuelling the US ‘war on terror’. Consequently, they are not forming a very good opposition to it.

Still a hard sell?, the beatroot, Nov 2005

Friday, January 26, 2007

Revealed: Soviets had nuclear arsenal in Poland

It has long been a rumour – but now we know that the Soviets planned to make Poland a nuclear playing field.

Two daily newspapers on Friday front page documents (still marked ‘Top Secret' as late as 1990) showing that the Soviet Union had nuclear missiles placed in three sites in northwest Poland from 1970 till sometime towards the end of the 1980s.

Each fortress containing the weapons - which were under Soviet control, although to be used by the Polish army - was camouflaged by trees, giving them the appearance of small forests to any satellite photography.

Built between 1967 and 1970 at a cost to Poland of 180 million zlotys, the missiles were pointed at targets in western Europe.

In the event of a war between the West and the Soviet Union the documents, revealed by Dziennik and Gazeta Wyborcza, show that 178 missiles would be fired at Nato countries in Europe, 14 of which had the strength of 500 kilotons (the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 had the strength of only 15 kilotons).

Nuclear wasteland
The newspapers also write that the Soviet Union was seriously considering invading western Europe in the mid-1960s.

Poland would be used as the site of nuclear confrontation, leaving the country a radioactive wasteland.

General William Odom, Chief of US Military Intelligence under the Reagan administration, is quoted in Dziennik as saying:

“[Poland] became a nuclear target of Nato’s. At the moment of a Soviet invasion, Nato nuclear missiles would be aimed at central and western Poland, in an attempt to stop the march of Soviet troops."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Popes should retire at 80

That’s one idea that JP II entertained during his long illness, says a new book by his Polish personal assistant.

Usually personal assistants' memoirs about the great and the good are of the ‘kiss and tell’ variety. But Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz’s book – My Life with Karol might better be described as a ‘pray and tell’. Perhaps we have discovered a new biographical genre?

AP reports:

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz said the late pontiff wondered before 2000, when he turned 80, whether popes should step down at that age. John Paul decided to consult with his closest aides, including his eventual successor, Benedict XVI…

JP II also considered resigning as the Parkinson’s disease got worse. And of course he was right. Everyone should have a retiring age. JP II must have been tempted.

But perhaps he kept going because he wasn’t too impressed by the Polish pension system? And who could blame him?

The only pope to resign because of the corrosive effects of old age was Celestine V, who assumed the papacy in 1294 at the grand old age of 85 - weird in itself as the average life span in those days was under 30 years old. Celestine resigned five months later, however, saying he was not up to the job.

Meanwhile, Pope John Paul’s sainthood is picking up a pace.

To be a saint you have to have a few miracles to your name. It used to take years for the sainthood process to complete. But in recent years, miracles have been much easier to find, apparently. In fact, John Paul himself waved the ‘5 year rule’ before the process could begin.

Examples of JP II’s miracle work are aplenty and coming in thick and fast. A nun in France claims that praying to the Polish pope caused her Parkinson’s disease to disappear.

Shame JP couldn’t cure his own Parkinson’s, then…

Stanislaw Dziwisz’s book will be published in Poland in June.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pink triangles in Poland?

Foaming mouthed fascist-types get all confused about Polish gay monument...shock!(photo: gay monument, Amsterdam)

The proposed idea of an Amsterdam-style ‘pink triangle’ to commemorate all the gays murdered by Nazis during the Holocaust (between 20 - 40,000) does not appear to be popular with the usual suspects.

So reports (with glee) something called Overthrow.com, a far-right web site:

A group of Polish homos are planning to erect a giant gaudy pink triangle near Auschwitz as a "gay Holocaust memorial", according to homosexual newspapers this morning.

"We have to build this monument so that the people will not forget the thousands of gays who were murdered in the concentration camps of Poland," Łukasz Pałucki of the Citizens’ Initiative to Commemorate Gays and Lesbians told the press…, "It’s time to commemorate all the homosexuals murdered in Nazi concentration camps."

...Catholic politicians, who dominate the Polish government, went on record opposing the "memorial":… "It is a devastating idea and we shall not agree to this," Marek Makuch, a member of the Polish parliament, stated…

Actually, Makuch is a Warsaw local councilor for Law and Justice (PiS), not a ‘member of parliament’; and the proposed monument is not planned for somewhere ‘near Auschwitz’ but in Warsaw – several hundred kilometers away.

But as my dad always used to tell me: “Never trust a fascist (journalist)”.

I imagine it is a ‘devastating’ idea to some, though. But why? If gays as a social group were persecuted and murdered systematically by the Nazis then why not build a monument to them? And gypsies, etc...

At the end of the article, however, the far-right Overthrow.com web site shows its true colours:

The Auschwitz concentration camp was built by the Soviets in 1948 in order to support their phony propaganda about "six million" Jews having been "exterminated". It has since turned into an amusement park for Jewish self-pity.

“Auschwitz...built...by Soviets….in 1948….?”

Ah…I see...

What are the hopes that Warsaw local council will give the go ahead for it? At a conservative estimate - quite low.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The EU, God and Poland...

...here we go again.

As Richard at EU Referendum notes, Angela Merkel is not just putting the blessed EU Constitution back on the agenda (big, wide-mouthed yawn!) but she is putting GOD back on the negotiating table., too.

Please….have mercy!

EU Referendum blog says Merkel regrets the big ‘C’ was not specifically identified in the original EU Constitution document as, "...[I] would have liked to have seen a clearer declaration on the Christian roots (of Europe) … No one doubts that they significantly shape our life, our society."

Richard then goes on to speculate that this is, “…primarily a [German?] ploy to exclude Turkey from the EU, or make it feel unwelcome – in the hope that this Muslim country would be dissuaded from joining.”

Well, maybe – although Merkel is chairwoman of the German Christian Democrat Union

But putting God back in the ‘Constitution’ (Zzzzzz) is that rare thing: an issue that unites Warsaw and Berlin.

The Kaczynski brothers would gladly throw off that chip on their shoulder about being called a ‘potato’ by a German newspaper if they could join hands with Merkel over getting Christianity into the resurrected EU (yawn!) Constitution.

The previous (yawn, Zzzzz, snore!) constitution mentioned Europe’s ‘religious and humanist’ traditions.

Personally, I don’t see why we have to have any mention of this kind of thing at all. Basically, the treaty is going to be about how to manage an EU with 27 members in it. It should not be about forcing a collective value system on what it means to be ‘European’.

Richard at the EU Referendum blog concludes on the whole sorry non-debate:

Politics and religion, of course, is a dangerous mix but, when an idea is floated in the European Union, it does seen that you simply cannot say no. Like a recalcitrant child refusing to eat its breakfast being re-presented with the same meal again and again, the people of Europe, it seems, are to have God thrust into their lives – and a Christian God at that - whether they like it or not.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

‘Communists still a grave threat’?

That’s the headline of an article by Eric Margolis in the Canadian Sun.

“Once again, the dauntless Poles show us the way”, says the piece, which goes on to recount the recent and on-going ‘Red Priest’ scandal and the continued digging by the government into some Poles pre-1989 records, looking for evidence of communist collaboration.

Margolis writes:

A few years after Poland's liberation from communist rule, I met with its deputy minister of defence. He suggested a stroll in a park, "because here in my office, there are many listeners."

I asked if communists still posed a threat. He whispered: "They are gone, but they are still here."

That just about sums up the Polish government’s position today. Last week brought more collaboration stories – as every week seems to, these days - one involving a former aid to Lech Walesa, and another about a popular TV historian, who was spying for the Commies in London during the 1980s, allegedly.

The Canadian article mentions some famous collaborators, in France and even the Roosevelt’s Whitehouse. But there is little evidence to back up the article’s headline: ‘Communists still a threat’.

A threat? Where? To who?

The Law and Justice government would claim that since 1989 ex-communists, turned capitalists, allied to their economic liberal friends (isn’t Poland complicated?) have carved up much of the economy for their own benefit.

But does that constitute a ‘present danger’, as Margolis seems to claim? Does he mean a ‘danger’ like in the old days? To the West?

Or is he expecting Polish priests, political aides and historians to drive tanks into the middle of Prague, at any minute?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Polish Communists in solidarity with Cuba!

No, I am not talking about the ex-communist SLD. I’m talking about the Polish Communist Party.

There still is one, you know. And it’s envoi, Comrade Marcin Popiuk, was in Cuba this week giving support to the ailing Comrade Castro, who appears to be very ill indeed.

(Here is Castro, btw, a few months ago getting rather intimate with Comrade Chavez.)

‘…[The Polish Communist] group condemns the US economic, commercial, and financial blockade against Cuba.

...Popiuk also expressed his solidarity with the five Cubans unfairly imprisoned in the US since 1998 for infiltrating Miami organizations responsible for numerous terrorist acts against Cuba.

The Polish communist leader [?] praised the opportunity of learning while here that "Cuban people s health and education have another dimension."

I must say I agree with him being against the US blockade – all sanctions are morally wrong and are harming ordinary people, not their anti-democratic leaders.

But the article gives us another insight into the current state of Polish communist thinking (a minority sport in Poland, but still…).

‘Questioned on Poland s inclusion in the European Union, he pointed out there are more disadvantages than advantages.

"Now we are politically dependent on that block and also economically, since we have opened our country to capitalism. There are no limits for foreign investors to acquire our land or industries," Popiuk explained.

“…limits for foreign investors…” is exactly the stance on this issue we get from Polish nationalists. And that’s always been the way with Polish communists – Red Nationalism. Maybe Popiuk really should seek out an alliance with the League of Polish Families and comrades at Radio Maryja?

The Communist Party of Poland (not to be confused with the Polish United Workers Party, which ruled in Poland from 1948 until 1989)) sounds like an old party, which existed from 1918 to 1938 when Stalin shut them down after the inevitable purges, etc. Another (illegal) Communist Party was formed by Stalinist Kazimierz Mijal in 1965. After his emigration to Albania [?] in 1966, the party was based for some time in Tirana.

The new Communist Party is actually only four years old. They describe themselves as ‘neo-communist’ – whatever that means…

Due to its very small size (actually almost non-existant membership) I imagine they regard themselves as ‘vangaardist’ waiting for the right moment to ‘go to the class’ and lead us into revolution. Or not.

But as you can see by the photos of the last Polish Communist Party Congress (December 2006), its membership appears to be rather elderly.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hurricane force winds rip through Poland

This is what the dog and I were confronted with on the walk in the park this morning.

Six people are dead; electricity is still cut in many areas of the country; the railways on various lines are suspended.

The media are calling it ‘a hurricane’, which it is not, of course, as hurricanes are circular weather systems with an eye in the middle. This one was a storm with hurricane force winds.

No matter what the definition is, it was a destructive and scary beast.

These pictures are taken of a park just to south of the centre of Warsaw where we live. The dog was amazed by all the carnage – more sticks to play with! But it was much worse in other areas of Poland.

Of course, a freak act of nature like this will be endlessly chewed on by the doom mongers, the (fallen) tree hugging environmentalists, as a sign of the coming global warming apocalypse. These storms do happen. I remember a particularly spectacular one smashing into Britain in 1988 (?).

But that won’t stop them claiming that storms like this and the very warm winter we are having (hooray!) is ‘nature’s revenge’ on us horrible humans.

Let them fantasize about inanimate objects taking ‘revenge’ – the rest of us will just get on with clearing up the mess.

Photos taken by Traczka.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Who succeeded Alan Greenspan as Head of the Fed?

If you know the answer then you are more qualified to run Poland’s Central Bank than the one we are stuck with for the next six years...…

In interviews with parliamentarians yesterday, President Lech Kaczynski’s nomination for the post of Chief of the National Bank – the little known, or respected Slawomir Skrzypek, was asked what he thought of Alan Greenspan’s successor at the Federal Bank?

Unfortunately, Skrzypek didn’t seem to know who Greenspan’s successor is.


This confirms the opinion of many that poor old Skrzypek has neither the experience or talent to run a local bank, let alone the Central one. The only reason he has been given the job, say the many critics, is that he is old pals with Lech Kaczynski.

Cronyism in a government at war with cronysim? Surly not…

So if you do know who is the man standing in between Bush and Greenspan in the photo above then let me know quickly and I will put your name forward as a possible substitute for the job of top Polish Banker...

Poland, HIV and the dreaded ‘PC’

Why does everyone want to make HIV into a Sontagian metaphor? Well, I bet nobody else asked you that today…

I turned on the satellite television in Egypt to watch the evening news on TV Polonia (yes, Polish TV is beamed into the hotels) and there was Simon Mol, handcuffed, walking towards a police van. As he passed the camera he shouted, “The media are manipulating this story – I am the victim.’

For sure the media are distorting elements of the story, as they will; and for sure Mol has been the victim of much in life – that’s why he is in Poland in the first place: but to regard himself as a ‘victim’ in this case is weirdly delusional. With many women HIV infected and many more thinking they might be infected, Simon must be in a very strange place psychologically right now to think he is the victim.

Others however are determined to make a wider point about this – just as Simon Mol has done, and will.

Virtuous blog accused me of something quite nasty. When talking about the Simon Mol posts on this blog (see below) he says I went out in an extreme way to:

‘...defend Mol (maybe not defend, but abstract the case into political sphere away from the actual human suffering) regardless of all. Even if I can appreciate taking a stand of a devil’s advocate, again, the message focuses on the culprit and disregard the victims. In the comments someone notices that the author seems to find Mol suspected of a deed equal to spreading flu, which for me, if proven, would rather amount to a mass murder.

I don’t think that is fair comment at all.

The point of the second Mol post was about how some are trying to turn what are basic human tragedies, lives completely changed, suffering, into a political crusade. It is not me that is doing the abstracting, or the crusading.

(As far as my concern for HIV and AIDS sufferers, I trained as an AIDS information officer back in the late 1980s at University, when the AIDS panic was first sweeping through the UK. Ignorance was rife (many thought you could get HIV from a toothbrush, or from kissing. I have also known people die from the virus. Care I do and have done.)

Margaret Thatcher tried to use the AIDS panic in those early days in Britain to promote what she called ‘Victorian values’. For others it was the ‘wroth of God’, against homosexuals.

So HIV has always been wheeled out to support some kind of political point, both reactionary, or in the form of the dreaded Political Correctness.

This time it's not AIDS and gays, however, it’s AIDS and Africans.

Mol’s behaviour has taken on a much wider significance than to the lives that he has affected. People want to make a point, to push an agenda, to show, as one Polish newspaper headlined it last week: ‘The Consequences of bad ideas.

Peter S Reith – from, I think, the Warsaw theatre crowd that Mol used to hang around with - wrote in Rzeczpospolita that ,”… the ideas that allowed Mol to ravage women must also be held to account.’

These ideas he summarizes as ‘Political Correctness.”

Mol apparently thought that anyone who accused him of being HIV positive was ‘being racist.’ Which, of course, (if he knew that he was already infected - which now seems very possible indeed as he first had a test in 1999 in a refugee camp in Poland - is another example of his capacity for victim based delusions. It seems as though he can’t separate himself and his actions from his position as a black refugee in Poland.

Reith implies Mol yelled at women that even the act of wearing a condom was ‘racist.’

He concludes:

If some women had not been corrupted by the academia and the culture of political correctness to believe that they owed sexual gratification to Simon Mol on account of his skin color and status as a member of an "oppressed" group, this tragedy would have been avoided.

This stretches the meaning, and power, of ‘Political Correctness’ to breaking point, I think...

Watching Ps, Cs and Qs

The classic liberal PC does have many negative aspects. Political Correctness is about ‘speech codes’ – restrictive speech codes; a way of closing off debate; of not being offensive; ‘You can’t say that!’

It all started with the naive belief in liberal academic circles, decades ago that if you changed the composition of words – astronaut instead of space man, chairperson in instead of chairman, etc, sexist thought would simply melt into thin air. Language didn’t reflect reality, it constituted it.

All very daft, of course. By the 1980s ‘PC’ had become a form of political abuse. It became a way the right mocked the left.

But it’s a big jump from that to claiming that young girls had sex with Mol because it was ‘PC’ to do so. The context of speech is important.

Reith writes:

’…for many women, having unprotected sex with a black man fulfilled two politically correct obligations: it was trendy to have sex with a black man, and it was also a sign that one was not prejudiced against blacks.‘

I am sure he never meant this, but Mr Reith seems to rule out the possibility that they might have found black men attractive simply because they found black man attractive.

And anyway, remember too that Poland – which, let’s be honest - has a level of prejudice that I am sure Peter would agree is on a rather different level from where he comes from.

In a context where there is genuine prejudice – much of the time innocent, though sometimes ugly, naivety – the act of showing that you are not prejudice seems a powerful statement. It gives the more ludicrous claims of Simon Mol, about not wearing condoms, some traction, purchase, …even sense.

If these women did have unprotected sex because it was ‘PC’ – is that a supposition? – then the consequences have been very unfortunate, life changing.

But if the PC factor is that important – if - then maybe it’s the context in which Mol finds himself in that feeds the victim status he clearly thinks is the only thing that defines him as a person. But if this were a society that had grown to cope with the immigration of blacks then Mol would seem transparently ridiculous.

Maybe these poor girls believed him because some of it was true?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

‘Red Priest’ resigns, but the Church fights back

Appointed by Pope Benedict on December 6 as Archbishop of Warsaw, Stanislaw Wielgus resigns just before special ‘ingress’ ceremony this morning.

Watching on TV now it looks like a wedding where all the guests turn up only to discover it’s a funeral. President Lech Kaczynski is sitting in his pew with the wife. The whole of Poland’s political and religious establishment is there.

It’s like some sick reality TV show. Big Brother at prayer.

Archbishop Wielgus, thought proven to have been spying for the communist authorities over a period of 20 years, is there, humiliated. After all, only on Friday he made a statement saying: "I damaged the church. I denied the facts of this collaberation."

This contradicts previous statements he has made before denying any collaberation with the Communists.

Case closed then, surly?

But when the resignation was read out in the Cathedral this morning most of the congregation started shouting and chanting in protest. I have never seen anger in a Church before.

Then top Polish Catholic, Cardinal Glemp stands up to say a few words. But if the government – which will be defined in the history books for its relentless, ruthless vetting of public officials for collaboration with the communist regime – thought Glemp would be making some kind of apologetic statement on behalf of Wielgus, were in for a bit of a shock.

Cardinal Glemp said that ‘Today we have seen a ‘court’ where the evidence against amounts to Xerox copies of copies of copies of old documents. The case for the defense has not been put. We do not want this type of court.’

When he said these words applause rang throughout the cathedral. It seems that the Polish Church thinks that Wielgus – who admitted lying on Friday after a month long hounding by the media, by historians, by the government – thinks that he has been the victim of a witch hunt. Glemp seems to think that the government’s vetting process in this case has not been fair. Much of his flock appears to agree with him.

Someone in the Church shouts out ‘Stay with us…’

What looked to be the end of the matter seems to be only the start. Some in the Church now have joined a growing number who think that the 'vetting culture' here has turned into a frenzy of recrimination, of revenge, where innocent victims get caught up in the craziness (though as has been pointed out in the comments below, the irony is that Radio Maryja listeners - who have done as much to create this culture of revenge as anyone - are complaining the loudest. They are saying that the incriminating documents were leaked by someone who was in the communist secret services trying to screw the catholic Church..).

Revenge is the motive for much of what is happening today - not justice. I have seen at close hand a completely innocent person get caught up in this, accused of collaboration, of being ‘a Red’. It’s not pretty, it’s not fair, it’s not civilized, it’s not justice.

Sick, old Cardinal Glemp himself will now stay on in the role of Archbishop of Warsaw until they can find someone else who has no skeletons – real or imagined – in his closet.

Crowds are standing in the rain outside the Cathedral, chanting, protesting. Strange times in Poland get stranger still.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Racists enjoy the MOL HIV case

The case of Simon Mol will become a cause celebre for racists everywhere.

Simon Mol has tested positive for HIV. In itself this is distressing. There are at least four girls who have also tested positive for HIV – with what they are calling an ‘African’ strain of the disease.

But the issue is not whether Simon has HIV – it’s about what Mol’s motives were when having sex with the girls. Polish Radio reports:

Polish Police are looking for women who have had sexual contact with the Cameroonian refugee, poet and journalist Simon Moleke [his proper name], who has been charged and arrested for intentionally infecting women with the HIV virus.

The implication is that Mol knew he had HIV and has been going around Warsaw, not just casually and carelessly having unprotected sex with girls, but trying to give women a potentially deadly disease!

That is an amazing claim and one I don’t know how the police substantiate.

Whatever – the case is taking on a political character. Even in the Polish Radio report, politics creeps in:

The case has surfaced only recently, but as records on the internet forum of the Green Party website show, the intentional spreading of HIV by Moleke might have been known to the leftist activist circles as early as over half a year ago.

I imagine the writer of that report means a post dated June 28, 2006 on the forum of zieloni.org.pl (the Green party web site) warning that Mol was ‘spreading HIV’ around Warsaw.

Mol has connections to the Green Party in Poland.

June, remember, was the month when the claims (in fact, exactly the same text on exactly the same day) that he was deliberately spreading HIV first emerged online at poezja.org , a supposedly cultured web site in Poland for poetry lovers.

In fact, it was someone called ‘ppp’ who posted both warnings (see comments in previous post). So the readers of a poetry web site plus Green Party forum readers knew about this. But they were not trying to keep it a secret. That's why they put this message online.

Racists lick their lips

The crude racism that has been appearing on these web sites (and there has been some nasty stuff) is nothing to remarks made on an international white supremacist web site with the jolly title Pan Aryan National Front.

If the ramblings of racist morons makes you physically sick then don’t read this next bit. Under aliases such as LR Eichmann (naturally) our charming racists comment:

….A gift of multiracialism... HIV, AIDS, sexual diseases, rapes, without forgotting [sic] more steals, more homicides, etc.... Why do even the white girls from Poland believe niggers are good persons?

…….kill him, and send those girls with that mind to the nuns!....or better butcher the nigger…

……Poor white girls.... but they were FUCKING STUPID. Sleep with the dog and wake up with fleas!

And so on, literally ad nauseam.

Mol has a high profile in the Polish media. He is Poland’s ‘celebrity refugee’. Whatever the outcome of this case, racists are going to use it for their own destructive ends.

I am sure poezja.org had a forum about this. But now that forum thread has suddenly disappeared. Why?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Refugee tried to infect innocent Poles with HIV, screams the tabloids!

African poet, playwright, human rights worker and Poland’s ‘celebrity’ refugee, has been arrested for deliberately spreading HIV to ‘at least’ 100 women in Warsaw.

This story, to anyone who knows the guy, stinks.

The newspapers Dziennik and tabloid Fakt (both owned by the German Axel Springer publisher), splashed headlines all over their front pages today claiming ‘He infected 100 women’!

On the inside pages they describe ‘Simon M’ - a refugee from Cameroon who has won numerous awards for both his artistic and humanitarian work - as a charming charlatan, who knowingly infected unsuspecting girls with the virus.

He would seduce them at artistic parties, he would stop girls in the street and ask them for directions!

The opening paragraph of the Fakt story:

‘Tender words by this well-read, black skinned lover have deceived many Warsaw girls. But Simon only had one thing on his mind – drag them to bed and infect them with the deadly virus HIV.’

I love the ‘black skinned lover’ bit. Later the article says:

‘It’s known that he has seduced at least 100 women.’

Apparently, the accusations that Simon has HIV, knew had HIV, and then deliberately tried to infect ‘at least 100 women’ with HIV, began to circulate on internet forums of arty types in the capital – see poezja.org and teatr.pl (he is a playwright and poet, remember!) when someone posted that he ‘is conscious that he has HIV, but lies, and without scruples knowingly sentences girls to death’!

This ‘warning’ went unheard until December, when the panic began to build after someone responded:

‘I am one of the infected women that you write about. THIS MAN SPREADS HIV.’

On the main evening TVN news the police said that they had received ‘numerous calls’ from women who had been with Simon (is this where the ‘100’ figure comes from?). Four women who have tested positive for HIV (following reading the forums?) had unprotected sex with the guy. He ‘doesn’t like condoms’, said the TV reporter pruriently.

Africans + AIDS + Poland = racism

These allegations will not come as a shock to Simon, sadly. On his web site on Feb 26, 2006, he wrote:

Some three-years ago, my [Polish] girlfriend was forced by her parents to split with me after a 12-month affair. They couldn’t tolerate the fact that their daughter was dating an African. After our split she was further compelled by her relatives to undergo an HIV test to verify her medical state after this ‘unclean affair’ with an African. She did the test, which emerged negative.

As I said, this story smells bad...

Though the article in Fakt claims that the rumours of Simon spreading the disease started last June, it seems that they emerged much earlier. In February last he writes:

Character assassination isn’t a new phenomenon. However, it appears here the game respects no rules. It wouldn’t be superfluous to state that there is an ingrained, hash and disturbing dislike for Africans here. The accusation of being HIV positive is the latest weapon that as an African your enemy can raise against you. This ideologically inspired weapon, is strengthened by the day with disturbing literature about Africa from supposed-experts on Africa, some of whom openly boast of traveling across Africa in two weeks and return home to write volumes. What some of these hastily compiled volumes have succeeded in breeding, is a social and psychological conviction that ‘every African walking the street here is supposedly HIV positive, and woe betide anyone who dares to unravel the myth being put in place.

Anyone who knows Simon – and I have met him several times – finds these accusations incredible, in all meanings of the word.

He is described in the newspapers as a sensitive, intelligent, educated person – and that’s exactly how he seems to me. He is here as a refugee after being persecution in his own country.

Since being in Poland he has played a very active part in various anti-racism campaigns, has had books of poems published and plays put on in the theatre. He has also been a tireless worker with other refugees and those seeking refugee status in Poland (governments here have been completely unprepared for these people, so someone has to help them).

The accusations against him are that:

a) has HIV
b) knows that he has HIV
c) had unprotected sex with women when he knew he had HIV
d) did not tell them he had HIV,
e) and certainly in the FAKT article, tried to infect them with HIV
f) and then when confronted by the women after they discovered points a to e lied about the having HIV in the first place.

If found guilty he could face up to 12 years in jail.

But how we know any of this is not clear at all from the media reports.

Simon is pleading not guilty, of course. It's like one of those off-the-peg stories Polish tabloid journos dream of: 'Black African artistic seducer infects innocent Polish girls with HIV!!!

Knowledge about HIV – and Africans, for that matter - is very limited here. Just ripe for a scare story.

These are very serious allegations, of course, and the fate of not just Simon M but the image of African refugees in Poland rests on the outcome.

Ominously, in February 2006, Simon seemed to know what was coming:

As an activist, I know I have set myself on the firing line.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Polish government will fail in its fight to clean up public life...

...because it will fail to reduce the influence and size of the state.

In a perceptive article in Reason magazine - Is Liberalism Dead in Central Europe? - Marian Tupy reminds us, as this blog has done many times, that when the Western press labels members of the Polish government ‘right wing’, or even ‘far-right’, they are missing an important point:

‘Of the Central European countries—Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic—all but the Czech Republic are seeing the rise of politicians who combine “right-wing” attitudes toward public and private morality with “left-wing” ideas about economics. Demands for tax hikes, price controls, tighter labor regulations, and renationalization of privatized property mix freely with calls for a return to faith, traditional family values, and restrictions on sexual autonomy.

Polish PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski is not a central European version of Margaret Thatcher. If they met he would call her an economic ‘liberalizer’ (a dirty word in Polish government circles) while she would give him a sharp whack over the head with her handbag and accuse him of being a bit of a [whisper it] ‘socialist’.

And it’s the attachment that all the elements of the current governing coalition – PiS, LPR, Samoobrona – have to maintaining the state as central to their redistributive, protectionist economic agenda that will limit any success in the Kaczynski’s central platform: to rid Poland of the corruption that has taken hold since the fall of communism.

It’s telling that there hasn’t been a big backlash against liberal reformers in Estonia, the country that has gone furthest in the transition from communism to free markets. In their Baltic outpost miles to the east of Central Europe, the Estonians have greatly reduced the size and scope of government and, as a result, limited corruption as well.

From Tupy’s perspective any battle against corruption and sleaze is doomed if they do not reduce the size and role of the state.

I would also add that to seriously put a dent in Polish corruption the government must also seriously tackle the connection between the political class and the public sector.

But since taking power PiS has passed laws that actually make it easier to get rid of top civil and public servants, only to be replaced, of course, with functionaries more amenable to their political outlook and project.

Old boys’ networks are replaced by New Boys’ networks, and the opportunity for corruption and nepotism is obvious, tempting, irresistible.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Beatroot’s New Year Resolutions

May I wish all my lovely readers an optimistic New Year...

...and as it is the start of a new year it’s time to turn over a new leaf, start afresh, change all those bad habits.

So in that spirit the beatroot promises to...

1) Be much more balanced and objective in my views and posts

2) Break all New Year resolutions regularly.

p.s. A big thank you to all the people who have commented on this blog in 2006 – both the ‘passing trade’ and especially the regulars. You have been informative, educational and entertaining and often the best thing about the blog.

I am drinking a very nice Chilean red (no, that’s a wine, not something to do with Allende!) and I am toasting you all right now.

Cheers (even to those who hate me)!