Saturday, June 16, 2007

Beatroot goes to Venice

Back July 2

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What’s Polish for: Can I fondle your buttocks?

"Proszę, czy mogę pogładzić twój miękki tyłeczek"?

Just one of the lines in a small ‘tourist glossary’ thought up by an Irishman who is a frequent visitor to the weekend tourist hotspot of Krakow.

The phrases in the little dictionary are written out in English phonetics, so the above sentence I suppose would read:

‘Proshe, che moge pogwaghich tfoy mienki tewechek?

The phrase book also includes other chat up lines (all bound to fail, of course) such as: "Jestem twoim niewolnikiem". (I am your slave’).

There have been many stories in the press about Brits on stag party weekends in Krakow, Wroclaw, etc getting stinking drunk and upsetting the delicate sensibilities of the oh, so cultured inhabitants of the city. This is just the latest of them.

The Super Express tabloid even reported in the oh so supiorior tone of the most snobbish of Krakovian – “The locals are disgusted’….’They [drunken British - Irish] deserve a punch in the nose…’. Blah, blah…

They seem to miss the point that the phrasebook is obviously a silly joke.

They also seem to forget that there are well over half a million Poles in Britain and Ireland and many of them are going out nighttime and getting completely hammered.

And long may they do so.

Being a half Brit/Irish myself, I find some of the antics of the British and Irish in Poland slightly embarrassing. But let’s get this in perspective: a few hundred lads having a good time in Krakow should be met with as much tolerance as a few hundred thousand Poles should be welcomed in the UK and Ireland.

The Super Express tabloid – which when reporting the story adopts a high condescending tone (in amongst pictures of topless women and other tabloid trash) is merely reproducing some of the rubbish journalism that has appeared in the British press about Poles since they arrived in high numbers three years ago.

Super Express deserves a punch on the nose.

Update: I can reveal (as the hacks would say) that the origin of this ‘phrase book’ is actually TWO YEARS OLD - that's before the cheap airlines started flying over the British stag parties. This dumb Polish tabloid story is not even fresh news! Dumb, gets dumber. Cheap journalism gets cheaper still. See online phrase book here.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bush in Poland

He came, he saw, he got an attack of the trots.

Not Trotsky-ists – the few hundred anti-globalists who turned up in northern Poland to protest the visit of the President of the Free World do not have many old Trots in their ‘movement’ – Bush got an attack of the G-8 trots, otherwise known as ‘Euro summit diarrhea’.

But he found time to meet up with President Lech Kaczynski and wife, Maria.

Notice the woman with dark hair, of ample bottom and the sleeves of her top shrunken by too much washing machine action, behind Kaczynski? She’s the translator, as Lech has no clue what Bush and Mrs Bush are babbling on about - otherwise known as 'Bush's verbal diarrhea'. Maria speaks English, apparently.

The translator later had to translate to George Bush in English what George Bush was babbling on about.

Bush also got to discuss anti-missile shields with a dog; meanwhile, Lech Kaczynski abducts a member of the Putin Youth Movement, Nashi.

Bush then found time to apologise for getting Lech involved in Iraq...anti-missile shield...CIA prisons…Afghanistan…...still no visa waver program...…

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Council of Europe nails Kwasniewski and WSI as CIA stooges?

The report headed by Dick Marty (above) claims that CIA prisons in Poland were known about by the then president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, and operated in collaboration with agents from the now disbanded Military Intelligence Agency (WSI).

The report’s main finding, I suppose, is that Poland and Romania both operated clandestine CIA prisons, but the one near Szymany airstrip in northern Poland was set up to hold so-called High Value Detainees (HVD) – in other words, the most dangerous of suspected al-Qaeda type terrorists. Poland was the site of the CIA’s most important and sensitive ‘prison’ in Europe.

The 9,000 word report – much of which I have waded through – paints a picture of the now disbanded Military Intelligence Service (WSI) as a ‘cartel’ operating on behalf of ‘self-interested elites’, and beyond the oversight of civil bodies, such as parliament, or even the prime minister’s office.

But not the president’s office. One ‘military intelligence source’ (the report is full of unnamed ‘sources’) told Dick Marty:

“Listen, Poland agreed top down…from the president, yes….to provide the CIA all it needed.”

The recruitment

CIA agents apparently identified ‘point men’ within the WSI – which the present PiS government, when giving reasons for disbanding it last year, described as operating as if it was a ‘state within a state’. The report seems to make the same allegations.

Once identified and recruited these ‘point men’ would be told things on a need to know basis, and that information stayed within this small circle of operatives.

The WSI had two functions, says the report, when aiding the CIA in the rendition program. It provided military security when prison transfers were taking place; and it infiltrated other state organs, such as the Air Navigation Services Agency, the Border Guards and Customs Office to make the smooth running of the transfers a very closed secret.

Top agent – Jerzy Kos?

One of the top agents was apparently Jerzy Kos, who was head of the Board of Mazury-Szczytno Airport Company. ‘He was our man,’ says one ‘source’.

Later Kos went to work for a private construction company (Wrocławska Jedynka – in which the public National Investment Fund has a stake, and which has received state loans in the past of over 1 million zloty to pay off redundant workers) which gained contracts in war torn Iraq. This Mr Kos is quite a guy.

The plot thickens

When, in June 2004, Kos became a kidnap victim in Baghdad, the American Special Forces staged a rare raid to free him (see Fox News report of rescue). The implication is that Kos is a very valuable guy to the CIA.

CIA sources said that they picked Poland initially, then Romania, as they believed that much of central and eastern Europe does not, yet, have trustworthy secret services.

But Poland, in particular, was different. One source told Marty:

“We have an extraordinary relationship with Poland. My experience is that if Poles can help us, they will.”

Poland negotiated its agreement with the CIA, says the report, in late 2002, early 2003.

“We have established that the first HVDs were transferred to Poland in the first half of 2003,” says the report’s author.

The most highly prized HVDs to have been detained in Poland were Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shekh Mohamed. Both were subjected to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques...' These ‘techniques’ have been controversial, to say the least (and described here).

The evidence for all this comes from the many ‘unnamed sources’, and from flight logs (see here), which have detailed the landings and taking off of CIA planes – evidence, most of which identified by Human Rights Watch when it first made the allegations back in November 2005.

The ‘new evidence’ – or ‘proof’ as Marty has termed them - appears to come from the interviews with the unnamed sources.

So they are impossible to verify.

But the picture that the report paints is plausible. The government disbanded the WSI because it thought it was out of control, and was operating, just as the report says, as a state within a state, on behalf of ‘elites’ – the present government, of course, would refer to these elites as the infamous ‘uklad’.

So it is perfectly possible that renditioned prisoners were being held in Poland, before being flown off to even more darker places, under the noses of prime ministers and parliamentarians. Hence their genuine ignorance.

But the accusation that former president Aleksander Kwasniewski was in on all this is a dangerous one for him, just as he is making his ‘political comeback’.

Yesterday, Kwasniewski said: “I deny it. I have as much many times.”

Yes, Olek, but do we believe you, anymore?

Read the report

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Poland to ban smoking in public?

Don’t hold your breath.

Law makers, some within the ruling Law and Justice party, have proposed a bill in parliament to ban Poles smoking in public places.

The move comes as England is preparing to do the same on July 1.

But will the Polish government support such a fashionable, but still draconian, law?

No. Not this government. Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski has questioned if ‘democracy’ and restricting freedoms such as having a smoke in the pub are compatible.

Quite apart from the fact that PM Kaczynski’s view of sovereignty over our own bodies is rather….well, selective, he has a point.

The health fascists would answer that smoking harms others too – look at all the passive smoking that bar tenders, or non-smoking customers, have to do in pubs.

Others would retort that the evidence of how dangerous passive smoking is, is a little hazy, to say the least.

But banning smoking is not just about health. The UK government, for instance, is using smoking – just as it is urging us to ‘reduce our carbon footprints’ – as a new kind of pseudo-morality. Smoking is not just bad for our health; it’s a sign of ‘bad morals’, too (in western, relativist societies that are not really sure what a ‘bad moral’ is anymore). Smoking has become an easy issue to make a pseudo-moral consensus from.

But not all European countries will be as keen to follow the UK or Ireland’s example.

Polish politicians are scared of the voting power of smokers – they wouldn’t even dare to put a high tax on cigarettes (a pack of 20 is still only a couple of dollars).

And in Germany the last government to make such a law was the Nazis – so modern governments don’t want to go there.

And what about the Dutch government? I am just back from Amsterdam, and it is clear that if a Dutch government banned smoking (Jamaican cigarettes) in ‘coffee bars’ then they would watch a rather huge chunk of their tourist revenue go up in smoke.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Education Minister Giertych’s new school reading list

More Pope, less literature...

This is the latest great idea from the Roman Giertych Education Think Tank (which is about as subtle as a ‘tank’, but with very little ‘think’).

Giertych said yesterday on the radio that ‘teachers all around the country have sent in suggestions for what should be on compulsory reading lists for school students.' He said that more about John Paul II should be put on the list but…

Gombrowicz, Witkacy, Conrad, Kafka, Goethe, Dostoyevsky...

...should be taken off.

These are, of course, some of the most significant names in literature in the last century, or so.

The secretary of the late Witold Gombrowicz, Rita, for instance, told a newspaper this week that her former boss would have got the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1969, I think) if he had lived a little longer. Unfortunately he died that year and the prize went to …Samuel Beckett.

So if Gombrowicz is good enough for a Nobel Prize then why shouldn’t he be good enough for Polish school kids’ reading lists?

I am not sure that teachers all over Poland really have been writing in pleading for Gombrowicz et al to be – like gays – banned from Polish schools.

So what has Giertych himself got against these writers, one wonders?

I am off to Amsterdam on a bit of journo bizzzzness. Next post Wednesday evening.

Ciou for now….

Friday, June 01, 2007

Tinky Winky is a fully fledged heterosexual

So says one of Poland’s leading sexologists.

B92 reports

Ewa Sowinska, who had earlier announced her suspicions about the Teletubby named Tinky Winky, said that her fears had been allayed by an expert.

"The opinion of a leading sexologist, who maintained that this series has no negative effects on a child's psychology, is perfectly credible," she said in a statement today.

"As a result I have decided that it is no longer necessary to seek the opinion of other psychologists."

But wait a minute: how does this sexologist ‘know’ about Tinky’s sexual orientation?

And didn’t Sigmund Freud say that humans – and teletubbies in particular – have ‘polymorphous sexualities’?

And isn’t there a more ethical point to be made here: isn’t the sex life of celebrities, like Tinky – not to mention his winky – their own personal business?

I wonder what Jaroslaw Kaczynski makes of all this

Stop Press: But the nonsense is not over yet….Public television TVP has admitted that it has cut out around one minute of the BBC comedy program ‘Little Britain’ because it featured...a…wait for vicar.

Yes but, no but, yes but….he was a protestant vicar!

Stop stop press
See a nice little series of short Polish films taking the piss out of what they call ‘Sexual lustration’…the sexual vetting of cartoon characters. The sound track is from a song by Elektryczne Gitary from the comedy movie Kilar. The title of the song is Ona jest pedalem. The joke in the title is that ‘pedalem’ is a nasty word for a gay man (like faggot) but exclusively used for a homosexual man.

So the title in English would be, I suppose:

She is an arse bandit

Which somehow, doesn’t really go, does it? But the little clips successfully ‘sexually lustrates’ all of the famous Polish cartoon characters. See it here.