Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Beware hormones in tap water warns kook Polish nationalist

In an article in Wprost magazine MEP Maciej Giertych warns that feminism is a danger to men’s sperm count, and much more besides...(hat tip: Mike Farris)

Yes, in the suddenly dull world of Polish politics – how we miss the freak circus of the previous government – and under the deathly dull rule of Civic Platform...and Waldomar Pawlak, kook Euro deputy Maciej Giertych can always be relied upon to come out with statements and articles that never fail to amuse. Bless.

Giertych - father of ex-education minister in the previous, laugh a minute coalition government, Roman – has never been shy in getting involved in the great topics of the day. This guy is not just any old member of the European parliament – nope, Maciej is an intellectual colossus; philosopher,

We have been privy to the delight of learning his views on evolution. We have learned of his great insights into relations and hierarchy of cultures. And some tittered. Others laughed so much they burst several blood vessels and caused a queue at the accident and emergency department.

Well, he has opened 2008 with a volley of criticism aimed at that great scourge of the 21st century....feminism and, you know, ‘women’s equality’ [?] - yes, I know that was all a bit 1970s, but not to our Maciej, who last must have left the house sometime during the 1930s – that shines with intellectual daring, brilliance and verve.

So what deep insight has Giertych into the nature of men and women and all that stuff?

According to his article in Wprost magazine, he sees women as ‘more delicate, more vulnerable, physically weaker’. Domestic life takes priority over work for the fairer sex, thinks Giertych.

And men? They constantly seek approval; they over use physical strength as a means of settling disputes. But not all is lost for men. They can take ‘sharp criticism better than women,’ thinks Giertych, with deep insight.

He writes that the roles men and women perform in society should be returned to their natural state.

“Men interfering in women’s role is harmful. This is proven when men are changing nappies, cooking, doing the dishes, or looking after sick people, etc...Apparently, all of us have the same skill,” Giertych cooed sarcastically.

The fundamentalist Catholic Giertych is not too keen on the contraceptive pill. But he doesn’t just believe that the pill is bad for women. It affects men too!

“Hormonal contraceptives do not only stop the fertility of women who take them, but everybody! Released in urine, and down into the local sewerage system and the unfiltered returns into our tap water.”

Giertych fearlessly fights scary feminists

Giertych thinks that Charles Darwin’s ideas of evolution – his favourite topic - put the notion in some women’s heads that they should not accept their second class status. Evolution means things can change. Equality is possible, think deluded feminists. But Giertych, in his article in Wprost, warns what awaits these gender warriors.

Feminists, at the end of life, when in the old people’s home, their friends dead and with no children, their feminism suddenly disappears.

Giertych is just a bit of a tit. And even he probably thinks he is growing some, what with all those hormones in the water...

Monday, February 25, 2008

UK and Polish football fans most anti-Semitic in Europe?

Or so says a report by British MP John Mann alongside English activist Jonny Cohen (who I think is from the 'Socialist Zionist Culturally Jewish youth movement' Habonim Dror UK) presented at the Global Forum against Anti-Semitism, in Jerusalem.

In the report - entitled Anti-Semitism in football - a scar on the beautiful game - Man has counted over 30 incidents of anti-Semitic abuse at football matches across Europe. The Jerusalem Post reports:

The UK and Poland are the worst offenders, according to the 16-page document, which describes anti-Semitic incidents in 18 countries across Europe. The report notes that "in Polish matches fans routinely call each other 'Jews' as a term of abuse.

One example detailed occurred in May 2006 during a Polish cup tie between Stal and Resovia Rzeszow, where "fans of Stal exhibited a huge flag with the motto: "H5N1 - not only one Jew will die" and a banner with a Celtic cross - a racist symbol of white power."

Another occurred in Krakow in March 2007, when fans of Legia Warsaw chanted "Jews, Jews, Jews, [the] whole of Poland is ashamed of you."

There is no doubt that there a quite a few right wing thugs in Polish football. And they can be very unpleasant. One of the worst clubs with a history of this is Lodz LKS, which is, or was, according to a report by the AJC Berlin Office/Ramer Centre for German-Jewish Relations ‘heavily infiltrated’ by the fascist nut job National Revival party (NOP).

And it’s not just the fans painting their dumb swastikas on walls and chanting anti-Semitic chants on the terraces. It’s actually in the dressing rooms of the clubs themselves, alleges Frankline Mudoh, who claims that coaches from many teams in Poland are ‘put under pressure from players not to include blacks in their team’!

The Jerusalem Post goes on:

In the UK, the report says, fans of Arsenal chanted "Send the Jews to Auschwitz."

The report also details anti-Semitic verbal abuse directed towards Israelis, including chants shouted at national team goalkeeper Dudu Awat of Spanish club Deportivo La Caruna during games against Osasuna, and the assault on Hapoel Tel Aviv fans after the team's win over Ukrainian team Chernomorets.

The Arsenal obsession comes from the hatred of their north London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, with its home ground in an area which once had a relative concentration of Jews living there. One of the chants you can still hear at Arsenal – whether Spurs are playing or not – is I've got a foreskin, how 'bout you?'

How quaint!

Arsenal fans have always protested that when calling fans and players of Spurs ‘yids’, they were not being derogatory to those players and fans – the vast majority of which are obviously not Jewish. And some of the supporters of Spurs call themselves the ‘Yid Army’...strange but true.

So, how large is this problem and is it on the rise? Mann, the MP who wrote the report, certainly thinks so: “The oldest hatred - anti-Semitism - continues to rear its ugly head in football," he writes in his report.

The football authorities in Poland were slow to get going on anti-racism measures, after black players began to come and play here. Michal Listkiewicz, chairman of the Polish Football Authority ignored the problem, and was slow to act, as he was against fighting endemic corruption in the game. But anti-Semitism on the terraces (and in the dressing room) is not dependant on what happens at football clubs. Anti-Semitism is used by fringe and populist political groups, which had a field day in the two years of the Kaczynski government – so encouraged they were by the weird administration in power.

But maybe the populist moment – which peaked in the wake of EU accession – has waned here. There are still the meat-heads of course, and they won’t be going way anytime soon. But as a political force these groups are spent. For now.

Is Poland a quivering pogrom time bomb waiting to go off? Is anti-Semitic Polish or English football culture getting worse? Not really.

And the admittedly offensive chanting of Arsenal fans in London? I honestly don’t think that has much to do with anti-Semitism at all. Not much.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Duck goes cheap in supermarket

Former PM Jaroslaw ‘the duck’ Kaczynski has said that the unregulated building of hypermarkets and supermarkets is against the social and national interests of Poland. Strange how the arch-conservative Kaczynski would appear hip and radical to many ‘liberals’ in the UK.

Supermarkets for Kaczynski – all of which carry foreign capital – are quintessentially evil. The already draconian building restrictions - the result of a law created last year by the old Kaczynski government – should be retained, he said yesterday at a meeting with trade unionists, trying to preempt any move by the more free market orientated Civic Platform government to allow the building of any more of them.

As he spoke, trade unionists at a branch of Tesco’s in Tychy in the south of the country went on a warning strike, fighting for better pay and conditions.

Liberals in Poland - who quite like supermarkets - would point out that Kaczynski’s opposition to them is merely playing to his political base: small towns which rely on small, local retail and production units, and to his old Solidarity trade union base.

But I would remind liberals in Poland that it is the liberal-left in the UK, for instance, who are calling for similar restrictions to be imposed on supermarkets there.

The Competition Commission is currently drafting up restrictions to supermarket trade in the UK that Kaczynski can only drool at. The big chains will be regulated in how big price cuts they can offer. 'Cheap food?' No thanks. And the support for that kind of invasive law comes with the blessing of the modern day western liberal.

The view behind this is expressed by Andrew Simms, author of Tescopoly: "Tesco is an expression of a winner-take-all dynamic at the heart of the business sector at the moment. Without adequate checks and balances to keep markets open, you end up with the ultimate paradox, flying under the flag of promoting free markets: monopolies."

But that’s not all. “There is the poverty of our 'cloned' commercial surroundings, the poverty of knowing the hardship of the people who fill the supermarket shelves, and overwhelming [spiritual] poverty of actually getting to and shopping in a big supermarket.”

So the morons who shop in supermarkets – he is talking about you and me – are being ‘spiritually’ impoverished every time we park the car in the shopping mall multistory.

What about all the spiritually malnourished people who, like me, think supermarkets are a very useful way to do the shopping? And there are lots of us, because so many people go to Tesco etc.
"It's not necessarily so that just because people use it, it must be a good thing. It doesn't make the environment around it a pleasant place.

Oh. Yeah.

I can imagine Jaroslaw Kaczynski – who the western liberal middle classes would normally look down their noses at (with his anti-gay views, his nationalism) nodding along to much of Tescopoly. Supermarkets - and this is the rub – to both groups represent modernity and mass culture, and neither liberal nor conservative is too keen on modernity at the moment.

I do understand where Kaczynski is coming from: small not very good and expensive retail units are threatened by the evil supermarkets.

Small food producers are threatened by supermarkets – they just can’t produce enough of a good product to satisfy them. These people are Kaczynski’s base and he is expressing their peasant, and what used to be called, ‘petty bourgeois’ point of view...

Yet, much of the western middle class is made up of some very petty bourgeois thinking. What they forget is what I don’t. Being dragged around shops for about an hour everyday...the butcher, my exhausted mum, doing what are just routine chores. She didn’t have the luxury of a once a week mega shop in Tesco or Carrefour. So supermarkets have helped liberate women’s time. But the majority of people here in Poland simply don't have that choice. They still live how my mum lived today.

And what some of the liberal middle classes in the west have also forgotten is that supermarkets have helped keep the price of food down.

Now that may not matter to them – food has been and still is relatively cheap as a proportion of income in the UK for sometime. But to Poles, who on average still spend a quarter of their income on the basics of life – food, this is a big deal. Small shops do not have the economies of scale to keep prices down.

At a time of food inflation like we are experiencing now, supermarkets are essential.

And if trade unionists get active in them, then that’s fine by me and good luck to them. But you won’t be getting trade unions forming in small, often super-exploitative small businesses.

That someone like Kaczynski can find political common ground with liberals in the west proves that either: Kaczynski is not reactionary at all, but a liberal in disguise; or that many western middle class liberals are not so liberal at all, but reactionaries in disguise?

And put it this way: I don’t think Kaczynski is a cross-dressing liberal...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Daily Mail pays for dodgy stories: Part XXI

It seems the only qualification you need to be a Daily Mail investigative journalist is to have a thick cheque book.

You remember the post we did about how Sue Reid, top Mail investigative sleuth, had been offering money for Poles - and me (which proves how dumb they are) - to go over to the UK and park illegally and speed, just to 'show' how thousands of Eastern Europeans were doing the same and avoiding paying the fines because their vehicle was not registered in the UK?

Well, the Daily Mail never rests in its ethical quest for the truth.

Here is an email doing the rounds from another Mail hack, Diana Appleyard, who is offering money for information on Eastern European law breaking in the UK.

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: 13 February 2008 15:57
Subject: Response Source - Diana Appleyard , Daily Mail (Request for personal case study)
PUBLICATION: Daily Mail (Request for personal case study)
JOURNALIST: Diana Appleyard (staff)
DEADLINE: 14-February-2008 16:00
QUERY: I am urgently looking for anonymous horror stories of people who have employed Eastern European staff, only for them to steal from them, disappear, or have lied about their resident status. We can pay you £100 for taking part, and I promise it will be anonymous, just a quick phone call. Could you email me asap? Many thanks, Diana.

They must be desperate.

Hat tip to the nice person at Five Chinese Crackers for the email alerting me of this. Original source here?

Kosovo – a flag of ‘independence’?

This is one strange flag they have come up with for Kosovo.

That’s because it has had a torturous design process, which encapsulated the process in which they have won ‘independence – under the instructions from the UN and EU.

Condoleezza Rice said today:

"The United States has today formally recognised Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state. We congratulate the peopleof Kosovo on this historic occasion,"

But independence is not what they are going to get.

The design of the flag the newly ‘independent’ state will use was not arrived at in an ‘independent’ way. They put the flag design together as I would follow the instructions putting together a new piece of furniture from IKEA.

Kosovars have won an assemble yourself, ‘flat-pack’ independence

So what they came up with was nothing like the Albanian flag that Kosovars wave at demonstrations,...

...but something very much like the EU itself. It looks like a protectorate of stars over ‘independent’ Kosovo. The EU has started up another EU protector colony. Grim.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Is Poland in danger from exploding US spy satellite?

The Polish ministry of defense has gathered a special task force together after George W. Bush ordered a crippled US spy satellite be shot down. The resulting toxic fumes will rain down on central Poland. Are Poles in danger? Hmm...

The TVN Fakt news program, which ran the story first item on Friday evening, said the resulting fumes from the fuel onboard could be a threat to our health! So the government is getting organized - just in case.

A satellite launched in 2006 by the US immediately mis-functioned and has been staggering around in a wobbly orbit ever since.

The Whitehouse finally ordered it be shot down sometime next week, so worried are they, apparently, that the lemon satellite will have an ‘unpredictable re-entry’ next month and come crashing down on someone’s house, or head, and unleash kiloliters of the dangerous, ‘highly toxic’ rocket fuel hydrazine.

Blimey! Worse – experts in this type of thing have worked out that after the US zaps the satellite the resulting vapor trail of scary hydrazine will be sprayed over an area covering central Poland.

Don’t p..p..panic!

So how lethal is hydrazine? The Theoretical and Physical Chemistry Lab says on its web site that it is “Harmful if inhaled or swallowed.” Wikipedia, via the Technology Transfer Network Air Toxics Web Site (for it is they) says:

Individuals may be exposed to hydrazine in the workplace or to small amounts in tobacco smoke. Symptoms of acute (short-term) exposure to high levels of hydrazine may include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, dizziness, headache, nausea, pulmonary edema, seizures, and coma in humans. Acute exposure can also damage the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system in humans. The liquid is corrosive and may produce dermatitis from skin contact in humans and animals. Effects to the lungs, liver, spleen, and thyroid have been reported in animals chronically (long-term) exposed to hydrazine via inhalation. Increased incidences of lung, nasal cavity, and liver tumors have been observed in rodents exposed to hydrazine. EPA has classified hydrazine as a Group B2, probable human carcinogen.

Crumbs! That’s scary!

But wait a minute. The US government's Air Toxics Index notes that:

Accidental discharge into water, air, and soil may occur during storage, handling, transport, and improper waste disposal. However, hydrazine rapidly degrades in the environment and is rarely encountered.

“Rapidly degrades...”? And the World Health Organization says:

Hydrazine is degraded rapidly in the air, through reactions with ozone, hydroxyl radicals, or nitrogen dioxide. In polluted air, the life-time will be approximately 1 hour.

Rapidly degrades? In one hour?

So if the US blows up the satellite as planned at 250 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, the resulting vapor is going to be extremely dispersed and ‘rapidly degrades’ anyway. By the time any of it gets down to Earth it won’t be any danger to anyone - except, maybe, a very small beetle, with an asthma complaint and nervous rash.

So why exactly has the Polish defense ministry got together an emergency task force to plan for the end of Poland as we know her on March 16?

And why, for that matter, is the Bush administration ordering shot down the old banger of a satellite in the first place?

The Whitehouse has been ‘shocked’ that many are saying the orbiter is not really any danger to anyone, and that the Pentagon is simply doing what the Chinese did last year when they tested out a missile system especially designed to shoot down spy satellites.

“But it’s a health and safety issue,” the Pentagon bleats, lamely. But few believe them. Few believe anything the Whitehouse says anymore, somewhat wisely.

And the ‘emergency task force’ scrambled together by the Tusk government? Another sign, if we needed it – which we most certainly don’t – that maybe they have too much idle time on their hands.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Polish immigration causes Icelander xenophobia?

A 14 year old boy has set up an anti-Polish web site in Reykjavik. The newspaper Rzeczpospolita says that xenophobia is on the rise in Iceland due to an influx of Poles in the last few years. But have Poles unleashed a chilly tsunami of Icelandic racism? Have Icelanders blown their collective geyser? The beatroot investigates.

In three days the embryonic Icelandic race warrior gained 700 teenage members on his forum, calling for Poles to ‘get out’. And much worse.

It got so bad, says the newspaper, that the police were brought in to investigate.

“A xenophobic mood is on the rise in Iceland. The number of immigrants is skyrocketing, which makes native inhabitants uneasy and confused,” says Einar Skulason, of the Intercultural Centre in Reykjavik.

Uneasy, confused, racist Icelanders on the march! Eek!

In January 2008, claims wikpedia, Iceland had a population of just 313.736. Not really very many Icelanders, are there? But 12,000 Poles have migrated in - which, as a proportion of not a lot, is quite a lot. And maybe Iceland is rather large for a population so small, but most Icelanders live in the capital (it’s probably warmer to stay close) so Poles are perhaps fighting for a small space, for a small amount of jobs, and for a small amount of light hours.

Or maybe not.

An Icelandic source has contacted me – rootlets spread everywhere – saying that the Rzeczpospolita story is out of date. The anti-Polish ‘association’ that the kid founded is no more, after feeling the full force of Icelandic censorship. Icelanders, you see, are sensitive, Scandinavian types, who would not be so crude to rise, en mass, to xenophobic temptation.

The source says that there is no more negative feeling against Poles than there is in ‘any other country.’ I believe him.

And a well-known Icelandic pop star, popular with the kids, has organized a concert to ‘fight against racism and xenophobia’. Good.

The singer has - oddly in my opinion - ‘[...] challenged the prime minister of Iceland, who is half-Norwegian, to sing a song in support of anti-racism’[!].

That’s a brilliant way to protest. Ask the prime minister to sing!

I know a journalist who once asked Polish prime minister Donald Tusk to say something in English about his Kashub roots. He refused. But he did, endearingly, sing him a song in Kashubian! Which was nice.

But other postulates could be made by a new political movement demanding elected leaders belt out a tune. Bush should be made to sing ‘Yellow Rose of Texas’ while dressed up as Dolly Parton. Putin could sing 'These Boots are Made for Walking....'

And ex-PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski could be asked to repeat his barn storming performance of the Polish national anthem, where he demonstrates that he has clearly no future in the music business.

The fact that there are anti-racist movements appearing in Iceland does tend to suggest that there are racist sentiments there. Which is sad. Icelanders are one of the most inoffensive people in the world. I can’t imagine Bjork in jackboots. On the other hand...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Poles plump for Clinton

An opinion poll published in the Dziennik newspaper reveals what the beatroot was mulling over a couple of weeks ago – who would Poles vote for in the US general election in November?

Forty eight percent said they would vote for Hilary Clinton, and that’s 11 percent more than her rival Barak Obama.

I imagine this is down to maybe a couple of factors: firstly, recognition. Poles remember Bill – ‘I did not have sex with that women’ – Clinton. So Hilary is a known quantity. And the second reason I will leave to your imagination.

Poor old Republican nominee-in-waiting John MaCain doesn’t seem to have much support at all in Poland. If the presidential race was between Clinton and MaCain then 64 percent of Poles would vote Democrat and just 20 percent Republican. If Obama was the candidate, then Poles would still vote Democrat but by the smaller margin of 52 to 36 percent.

So Poles are Democrats, interestingly, and they are rooting for Hilary.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Who is the most popular Polish prime minister – ever?

Asked by Pentor opinion pollsters who they think was, or is, the best prime minister of Poland post-1989, one in three Poles say… Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz!

As he was only in the top job for the nine months between October 2005 to July 2006, it didn’t give him a lot of time to make many mistakes, I suppose. This was during the time when Jaroslaw Kaczynski – the real leader of the government - said that Poles would not accept having twins both in the prime minister’s job and in the presidential palace. And then they got rid of Marcinkiewicz and Poles got just that.

Polish voters didn’t accept Poland run by twins and booted Jaroslaw out at the first opportunity. Only 7 percent think that J. Kaczynski was the best PM since the demise of communism.

Donald Tusk gets a remarkably high 10 percent rating, but I wonder what these people think he has done? Maybe, like Marcinkiewicz, the less you do the more popular you become.

But who is the least popular PM since 1989? Well, it’s a dead heat for last. One is Józef Oleksy. The other is the current deputy PM, Waldemar Pawlak. Both only get a miserable 1.4 percent support.

In Pawlak’s case, this conforms with the beatroot’s rule that a prime minister’s activity and longevity are negatively correlated with popularity. Pawlak - so bereft of personality and verve is he, that even his friends refer to him as the ‘Cyborg’ - has been prime minister not once, but twice.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

From Russia with love?

Prime Minister Donald Tusk makes his first visit to Russia, Friday. Whatever happens when he gets to Moscow, he is going to take some flak at home, and maybe abroad.

Ex-Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski always said that he would go to Moscow after, ‘Putin comes to Warsaw.’

It didn’t happen.

Since the October election, Tusk has been to see Chancellor Merkel, he has been at the Lisbon summit to discuss the EU Constitution (oops, sorry, I meant ‘Reform’) Treaty. In March he is going to see George W. Bush. But a little chat with Putin comes first.

The decision to prioritize warming up the, up until now, Siberian temperatures that characterized the Kaczynski government’s relations with Russia has prompted a snow storm of criticism from the... Kaczynski brothers.

“Sell out!” They shout. President Kaczinski is particularly incensed that Tusk is taking unilateral decisions about foreign policy. “Isn’t the government constitutionally obliged to consult the president?”

“If you appear weak before the bear, then the bear will eat you alive...agggghhhhgurgle...burp,” etc.

What’s worse, Tusk decided to go and see Putin in Moscow before he sees Yushchenko and Tymoshenko in Kiev. “But Ukrainians are our friends..,” the Kaczynskis skweem.

But Tusk has never hid his desire to calm down diplomatic relations between Warsaw and Moscow. The row over the gas pipeline between Russia and western Europe, by-passing Poland; the row over Moscow’s ban on Polish meat imports; the row over the anti-missile shield being placed in Poland; the row over allowing a NATO base in Poland. There have been more rows between Warsaw and Moscow in the last two years than there have been between Tom and Jerry. And some of those rows had the same cartoon quality about them.

Tusk has not helped himself with his desire to want to please everyone, all the time. To say the Polish government has been sending mixed signals of late would be to understate an understatement.

Take NATO: when foreign minister, the Atlanticist Radek Sikorski, was in Washington last week he signaled Poland’s willingness to have a NATO base in Poland. Or did he?

Putin is outraged by this, as the Russian government think that Poland should be sensitive to having too many of the US’s power vehicles parked right outside their front door. Maybe they still see Poland as a ‘buffer’ against the West, just as they used to during Soviet times.

And then PM Tusk goes and confuses matters this week by saying that Poland never had any plans to have the NATO base on its soil, in the first place. Er...? Um...

This followed a December meeting between the Polish government and NATO which indicated that having a radar base in Powidz, western Poland, was very much on the cards. Since then the two sides failed to agree on the sharing of costs – meaning, how much Warsaw will have to cough up.

All very confusing. Tusk is trying to look (at two different directions at once) more independant from both Moscow and Washington than he really is, or ever can be.

And then there is that anti-missile shield unpleasantness. During the election Tusk was keen to show that, like the electorate, he was for getting troops out of Iraq, but against a blank check for the US to place ten interceptor rockets in northern Poland.

In Washington, Radek Sikorski was clear that ‘in principle’ they are for having the missile shield in Poland. On condition. The negotiations will continue to be of a ‘marathon’ length.

But is Tusk tough enough to get enough from Bush in return?

Bush versus Tusk? No contest.

In this context, Donald goes to Moscow to see the Man himself. What can Tusk get from this that will make him look good? It’s a tricky one.

It would be very easy for Putin, playing to his adoring gallery at home, to make Tusk look like the weed he gives the appearance of being. Putin is practiced in looking tough, but also making alternative suggestions, in very reasonable language, of how Russia should be consulted on absolutely everything Poland, and everyone else, does. Always. Tusk says he wants ‘open discussions,’ but how open will he leave himself?

So what can Tusk do? Act tough, and get nowhere – or act weak and look like...well, Donald Tusk?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Katyn – it was the Nazis what done it!

A strange thing is happening at Wikipedia. Or perhaps it is not so strange.

I just went on the site to get some copyright free photographs for something I was doing, when I noticed that the first sentence of the entry about the Katyn massacres read:

The Katyn massacre, also the Katyn Forest massacre (Polish: zbrodnia katyńska, 'Katyń crime'), was a mass execution of Polish citizens ordered by Nazi authorities in 1940.

By the Nazi authorities? Maybe it was just a typo? Strange, especially as the rest of the article goes on about how the Soviets were responsible.

Even stranger – I went down stairs to get some wine, and when I came back the wiki article had changed:

The Katyn massacre, also the Katyn Forest massacre (Polish: zbrodnia katyńska, 'Katyń crime'), was a mass execution of Polish citizens ordered by Soviet authorities in 1940.

The word ‘Nazi’ had changed to ‘Soviet’ in the ten minutes it took to go and get a bottle of merlot.

How fluid history has become since the advent of wikipedia type sites, when anyone can get in and screw around with what someone else had written.

See here which word wiki is using at the time of you reading this.

But who could be screwing around with the Katyn entry? Well, it might be Russian ‘historian’ Aleksandr Shirokorad. reports:

The Russian Niezawisimaja Gazieta daily claims that the Soviet NKVD secret police could not possibly have been responsible for the mass murder of over 20,000 Polish officers in 1940. The author of the article Aleksandr Szirokorad claims that the massacre could not have been the doing of the NKVD since the ropes used for tying the victims' wrists, and the bullets used to kill them, were not those used by the NKVD. He also claims that the shooting technique used was apparently alien to the NKVD.

Contrary to most historical opinion, the murders, claims Szirokorad, must have been the work of the Nazis [that old chestnut raises its ugly head once more, to mix metaphors].

There has already been a series of four articles in the Russian press questioning the truth about Katyn recently, the last one being inspired by the Oscar nomination for Andrzej Wajda's film Katyn. Moscow has refused to define the murders in Russia and Ukraine as ‘genocide’ or regard them as war crimes.

I meet quite a few Russians when I go to Egypt for holidays in the winter. Nice, intelligent people, some of them. But many seem to be psychologically unable to come to terms with their Stalinist past. The real low point for them was during the Yeltsin years, when the country was being humiliated by a bandit capitalist economy and a leader who was often very, very drunk.

The only good thing they have to say about poor old Yeltsin was that he appointed Putin to be his successor.

I also got the impression that they think that Yeltsin, in some ways, and to some of the more nationalist, was a worse leader than even Joe Stalin. OK, Stalin was a bad man, but he didn’t humiliate them like The Drunk.

I wonder how many Russian members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences there are? If there are any, I suppose they won’t be voting for Wajda’s movie about Katyn, a massacre in which some of his family died.

But I don’t think Wajda is going to need their help, as New York Times readers are putting the film as (87% at the time I looked last) favourite to win Best Foreign Film Oscar.

Vote here yourself and annoy a Russian 'historian'.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Poland’s Frankenstein GM crop law in the dock

Poland is being taken to the European Court of Justice after it banned GM crops, against the wishes of Brussels.

It was the previous, Law and Justice, government under Jaroslaw Kaczynski which pushed through the Seed Act in May 2006. A Feed Act followed which banned the use of GM in animal fodder.

Not really surprising that the Kaczynski government did that. Much of their support comes from small farms that feel threatened not just by new technological improvements in farming, but of the 21st century in general (and a few other previous centuries, too).

The new Tusk government has said it will maintain the ban - for them it is a 'moral issue' - though some relaxation of parts of the law, on animal feed, for example, maybe possible.

But, at the same time, the government wants to get away from all the Brussels bating that Kaczynski’s government used as sport. No more loggerheads with Brussels, Strasburg, Luxemburg...or wherever it is. But, already, it's back to loggerheads. Problem.

Unlike the last eco-conflict over the Rospuda Valley motorway, environmentalists are rushing to defend the previous, conservative Kaczynski government’s law.

Sir Julian Rose, president of the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside implored the Tusk government not to cave in to the European Commission or the Court of Justice. Polish Radio.

'Don't give up because Poland is a treasure trove of high quality food and the most bio-diverse countryside setting in Europe. It could be the bread basket of Europe for organic and natural foods of the future. This would be the worst moment to suddenly decide that you are going to give in to the corporate lobby and to the European Commission's attempts to force genetically modified food on the public.'
What Rose appears to be arguing for is for Poland to give over its agricultural sector to low yielding organic crops that would increase, drastically, the price of food – at a time when the prices are already soaring, due to the shortage of supply of land.

Organizing your farming sector around growing organics is simply not a viable option, apart from giving over a small amount of land to satisfy middle classes prejudice in the UK and elsewhere.

Termed an ‘independent expert’ in the PR report, someone called Piotr Połanecki, claims that the introduction of GMO would mean changing Poland's farming sector into an ‘industrialized’ monster (something, of course, the communists never really managed to do in Poland).

'The seed regulation and animal feed regulations are very good. Once we introduce them to our environment, GMO plants will contaminate our country and it will be very difficult to enter ecological food markets’.
It works the other way, too. Bans and propaganda against GM has persuaded some African nations to abandon or resist the introduction of crops that would be a great help to them – crops resistant to certain types of diseases, so removing the need to use pestersides; high yield crops so enabling increased production from the same amount of land. But African countries are scared that if they start growing these crops then nobody in Europe might want to buy them.

Are these environmentalists crazy?

Another activist from the Coalition to Save the Polish Countryside thinks not. But Jadwiga Łopata warns, spookily:

‘It is not true that only crazy ecologists are fighting against GMO. In the Coalition we have now hundreds of organizations and VIPs, business and private people and every day someone is joining. So I believe that finally we'll start some debate about GMO and there will be a chance for Polish people to hear what we are facing and how big threats follow from introducing GMO on our table and in our fields. Bog threats’ coming to our ‘table and fields’? She means that GM will destroy the environment and be a threat to our health?

But what threat? Where is it proved that there are dangers to ‘our health’? There simply isn’t any. ‘The science’ – which environmentalists produce when they want to justify authoritarian measures to cut ‘global warming’ – is much more unified on the GM issue than it is about climate change.

The International Council for Science (ICSU), after a review of 50 different research projects concluded: "Currently available genetically modified foods are safe to eat."

A 2003 position paper by the Society of Toxicology found, "The level of safety of current BD [biotechnology-derived] foods to consumers appears to be equivalent to that of traditional foods."

And so it goes on

And what of Americans? They have been eating GM crops for years, and apart from a propensity to vote for governments that seem to think that you can sort the world out by bombing it, they are showing no real ill effects at all.

Only two to three percent of Poles are ‘aware of the issues’ around GMO. I get the impression that some of the people campaigning on ‘the issues’ haven’t got a hang of the facts, either.

But maybe this isn’t about ‘evidence’ or ‘the science’ at all. This is cultural. If you told people at a dinner party in Notting Hill, or even in small town Poland, something had a risk rate of ‘one in a billion’, their reaction would be immediate: “One in a billion! One! You see – there is a risk!”

The unholy alliance of liberals and conservatives in the face of technological progress continues.