Monday, March 31, 2008

Brendan Fay in Poland

President Lech Kaczynski’s favourite married gay person, Brendan Fay, is in Poland. And he is bringing the anti-gay low life out from under their rocks.

A spokesperson for the anti-homosexual lobby in Poland was on TVN24 this morning discussing with a gay activist the visit to Warsaw of Brendan Gay and his partner - photos of whose wedding were used in a recent TV broadcast by President Lech Kaczynski, warning of how the EU Lisbon Treaty would ‘bring gay marriage to Poland…’ and other such nonsense.

Fay is here – brought to Poland by TVN TV – to meet with left wing politicians and with representatives from the Campaign Against Homophobia in Poland.

The arch-conservative activist, Joanna Najfeld, after threatening how she was going to take the 24 hour news station to court ‘for discrimination’ (we are confused as to what she meant by this) the interviewer asked her if she would shake the hand of the gay activist opposite her - Jacek Adler - with whom she was having a debate.

“No, I don’t know where his hand has been,’ was Ms Najfeld’s elegant response.

The primitivism of the anti-gay lobby here is sometimes surprising. But only sometimes.

Update - Beatroot’s Peace Be With You campaign

At Mass, when we turn to our neighbour and say ‘Peace Be With You,’ we also shake their hand.

In the spirit of tolerance, I suggest we start a new campaign, where we shake the hands of those who would not want to shake the hands of know...them!

So, spot a far-righter today, and shake their hands (and then ask them how they know where your hand has been...-{).


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Poland must give women right to choose

A parliamentary committee of the Council of Europe has recommended that all 47 states belonging to the Council should ensure legal access to abortion – and that includes Malta, Ireland, Poland and ...Andora, which at the moment, only do in very special circumstances.

The Left Democrats have supported the demand, as the equal opportunities committee of the Council of Europe puts it: “Women must be allowed freedom of choice and offered the conditions of a free and enlightened choice."

The Council of Europe, it must be remembered, is not the same thing as the European Union – even if the EU did steal its flag and anthem from the CoE. The CoE is much older than the EU and has 47, not 27 members. Russia has been a member since 1996. One of its main functions is running the European Court of Human Rights, and presides over the European Convention of Human Rights.

Though the Court is an exercise in International Law, different states have signed up to different protocol. It’s a pick and mix international law. For instance, though Article 12 of the Convention is entitled The Right to Marry, this only refers to the traditional, heterosexual variety. And in spite of several groups representing people like Brendan Fay having appealed through the Court for same sex marriages to be recognised, the Council holds that individual states have room for maneuver over that kind of issue.

And same goes for issues like abortion and the right to choose.

Poland has found itself in trouble with the Court of Human Rights over an abortion issue before. The ruling, which went against Poland, found that despite a right to an abortion in Poland if the mother’s health be seriously threatened, no legal means was available to Alicja Tysiac.

So a general ruling on abortion for member states to follow is not probable, though individual rulings do occur often. The parliamentary committee can’t change the constitution of the Council, so Poland will not have to change its law.

But the resolution by a parliamentary committee comes at a great time for Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party, who are battling over the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in parliament, warming that gay marriages, abortion - and satanic rituals compulsory in all Tesco’s supermarkets every Sunday morning between 10 and 11 a.m. – will be coming through Poland’s now open border to a small farm somewhere near YOU!

Quite what the Council of Europe does will be obscured from many of us, and its use is dubious. For Poles to win the right to choose they are going to have to fight for it at home, not in Strasbourg. And Russia is in the Council of Europe. So what about the Rights? But the Council of Europe has raised the question of sovereignty, at a time of sudden and heated battle in the parliament over Lisbon, the EU and sovereignty.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Gay marriage guy gets Polish apology

News coming on the beatroot radar that the Polish Consulate in New York has just apologised to Brendan Fay, the gay guy who complained about use of his image in the recent ant-homo TV rant by President Lech Kaczynski.

The Consulate has said that Poland apologises for the ‘regretful incident.’

Brendan Fay – an Irish immigrant to North America, and, poetically, a resident in the Queens area of the Big Apple – is accepting the apology.

Expect this story to be all over the pink press. Kaczynski has a record of daft, and worse, comments and actions against gay people. He has now been hoist by his own stupidity.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

White Boots Poland

It’s the social trend, even a sub culture, that the sociologists have yet to acknowledge: the rise of Polish White Boots Girrrl.

I don’t know which web site you click to first thing – your favourite news site, game site, social networking site, porn site, horoscope site, gambling site, the beatroot...but me – I click to the site that is not just a sartorial chronicle, but an observer of social trends in Poland.

The site tracks photographically (mostly on dodgy mobile phone cameras) a spectacle that stalks, almost literally, our not so green and pleasant Polish land.

You know and love blondynka, the dumb Polish dyed blond equivalent of Essex Girl in the UK – and how we laughed at all those jokes. ‘What do you call an Essex Girl with half a brain? Gifted!’

How we did. Indeed. Chuckle

Well now let me introduce you to White Boots Girl.

She can appear anywhere – but her favourite place is at the shopping mall. White Boots Girl can be spotted, of course, because of her conspicuous white boots and her conspicuous love of consumption. The boots are usually accompanied by the same, chemical looking orange skin - the result, maybe, of either a daily roasting at the solarium, or, perhaps, from the leftover bottles of blonde hair dye...

Since I found this site I notice White Boots Girl everywhere. When I see a pair walking down the street the sound track I hear in my head is usually by Disco Polo Queen Shazza.

Soon, as her numbers grow, we will hear the same jokes about White Boot Girl as we used to endure about Blondynka, or Essex Girl.

What unites Essex Girl, Blondynka and White Boots Girl is that they are usually not the best educated, but have a little money – and man, are they going to show you they spend it.

And I think that’s good. It means money is starting to liberate poorer Poles. The reason why we laugh at White Boots Girl is because we want to maintain our superiority over them. Those working class oiks, chavs, rednecks, who dare to dangle their cash in front of our faces.

How uncouth.

But to me that is just another reason to lerve White Boots Girl. See the site (updated daily) of which I speak here. It will change your surfing habits forever.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Playing the homo-bogeyman card

In their new found zeal to get opt out amendments into the EU Lisbon Treaty currently going through the Polish Parliament, Lech, Jaroslaw Kaczynski and co have raised the specter that is haunting...well, not Europe, but the fantasies of the main opposition party – Brussels is going to force gay marriages on Poland!


Despite voting, with only just over fifty against, for the first reading of the Lisbon Treaty Ratification Bill, the Polish parliament has rocked with bitter arguments over amendments tabled by the Law and Justice party, demanding British style opt outs from the Fundamental Rights Charter, which guarantees certain rights throughout the EU.

Law and Justice, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski – who has realised that his party have some power over the issue as the government needs some of his MPs to vote with them to get the bill through parliament and onto the table of the President – have also, rather bizarrely, demanded the preamble to the old Constitutional Treaty be put back in.

It was this preamble on universal European values which caused so much trouble to Brussels last time and has now been ditched by nervous Eurocrats and governments desperate to get the now renamed ‘Lisbon Treaty’ quietly through national legislators.

Party political broadcast on behalf of the lame duck party

Last night, President Lech Kaczynski went on two public TV channels (a very good argument for privatisation of both of them, if you ask me) and made what was, in essence, a party political broadcast in favour of the opposition. Against sentimental music from a 1970s Polish TV series, he warned, darkly, that the Lisbon Treaty would open up Poland to Germans wanting back property confiscated after WW II.

The Lisbon Treaty would also bring ‘homosexual marriages’ to Poland, says the Prez. As he said this a clip of video came on showing two men getting married (photo).

Unfortunately, it was a film of two Canadian men getting married, not Europeans. Oops! And one of the men has complained to the Polish ambassador in Canada about his image being used in anti-homosexual propaganda. Double oops!

PM Donald Tusk has called Kaczynski’s antics ‘anti-European’. Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski was in parliament this morning reading out bits of the treaty which guarantee that social legislation, such as abortion or gay marriage, will be left, as it is now, to national parliaments to decide.

But no matter – here is an issue where Law and Justice can consolidate its more nationalist electoral base and relive the good old days when they had some power over public life.

So the Kaczynskis playing the ‘gay card’ was pathetically predictable. All the more pathetic when you realise that the Lisbon Treaty, which governments signed back in December, was supported back then by one President Lech Kaczynski, who is now saying he will veto the bill if he thinks that Poland will lose its sovereignty over certain issues – such as banning gay civil unions.

So why support the treaty in the first place then, Lech?

The government has threatened new elections if Law and Justice continue to obstruct the bill. Law and Justice would be annihilated in such a poll. And today there was also a suggestion that a referendum would be called if the bill is blocked, a move supported by the Left Democrats – and this blog, for that matter. Should idiots such as the above be able to decide these things?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Asia loves Papaya

The whole of southeast Asia – from Japan to Malaysia, that kind of thing – has fallen in love with a song recorded by a Polish jazz singer in the mid 1970s.

Actually, what they love is the remix version of Urszula Dudziak’s Papaya (1976). It’s as big in the Philippines at the moment as was Macarena all over Europe in the mid 1990s.

See how Asia loves Papaya here. What you have to remember is that many Philippinos think that Urszula is singing in Polish...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Are you a sex addict alcoholic?

Well, if you are reading this then you are, according to former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Bless.

Plans by the government to introduce voting via the internet have alarmed Jaroslaw. He thinks that anyone who hangs around on the web is a deviant.

On his Law and Justice party web site Kaczynski says: “I am not an enthusiast of the idea that a young person can sit in front of a computer, watching movies and pornography, drinking beer, and then vote when he feels like it. The act of voting should be serious, conscious and demanding some activity.”

Are you a drunken sex maniac?

But I agree. Politics should be about engagement. But someone should get Jaroslaw a communications director and stop him making statements so dumb. He reflects the small town view here among the many not connected, that the internet is the devil incarnate.

They have heard stories, but have never used the web. Internet reach is limited in Poland. And those folk are Kaczynski's political base. They will ignore the positive benefits for many workers – like disabled people who can now work from home, and demonstrated by callers to the TVN 24 news station today, outraged at being called drunken alcoholics by Kaczynski.

The present Donald Tusk government has been scratching its head (and considering this government is not the most active in the history of governments, probably picking and flicking its collective nose) about how to increase turnout at election time in Poland. If over fifty three percent turn out for election time (as they did in the last election in October last year) then that is seen as a ‘success’. Poles, many of them, are not amazed by democracy.

And the reasons for low turnout - which is connected with the collapse of meaningful politics - will not be tackled simply by a click on a mouse.

Al Gore in Warsaw

Yes, the world’s favourite eco-warrior was in Warsaw this week to collect an award given by the Confederation of Polish Employers.

The business club gave the Super Vector Award to the failed presidential candidate (he failed to beat George Bush let’s remember: anyone who can muster up a loss to that chump is not fit to be president in the first place) for ‘facts and figures regarding the threats to the global climate, but avoided a moralising tone.[?]’

I think they must have seen a different film than I did. Even Gore has said that global warming is not a political question but a ‘moral question’ – and the film was incredibly finger-waggingly moralising throughout.

And he spent a lot of time banging on about ‘The Science’. But, and this is an inconvenient truth, it has since been pointed out that his ‘science’ is not all that it could be.

Quite why a group of Polish businessmen would want to give Gore an award is quite strange when you think about it. Gore, when he becomes world president, will put such environmental tax on business (and customers) that will make their eyes water. So why would capitalists want that kind of burden?

Maybe it is because if a company can ‘look green’ it does their brand the (globally warming) world of good, and covers up the fact that their products are not developing quite so fast as their eco-profile. Can the green movement have given the brand industry a boost? Not only have Greens saved the polar bear but they have also given nasty big business a nice little side-line in building up their green credentials.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Polish PM – ‘Are you pleased to see me...

...or is that an anti-missile system in your pocket?' (photo:

George W. Bush met Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk at the Whitehouse today and...well...nothing happened that we did not know already.

The US will come up with a package for butching up the Polish armed forces to such a degree that the Polish government can claim they ‘really are protecting Polish security.’

Oh, and as Bush said, there will still be no visa waiver program for Poland.

So was it worth the trip by PM Tusk? He did try to reduce costs: he travelled to see Uncle Sam not in the Polish version of ‘Air Force One’...but on a scheduled Polish LOT airline to New York. Shame then that there was a hoax bomb threat that prevented the aircraft from touching down for nearly an hour.

If I was Tusk, I’d revise my travel plans.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Lisbon Treaty – what are they scared of?

Polish and British governments are bulldozing the Constitutional, Reform, Lisbon Treaty thing through parliament, ignoring the elephants in the room – their respective electorates.

If the political class of Europe is so confident of the EU project then why have they become so allergic to having referenda on the issue?

On February 28, the Sejm, the Polish parliament, voted to ratify the Lisbon Treaty by 357 votes to 55 with 7 abstentions. That’s virtually unanimous – a very rare collusion of politicians in Poland.

The Civic Platform led government does not want a referendum on this issue, and does not want the EU to be a political issue in general, as it was under the Kaczynski government.

So, a treaty that shifts and confuses the meaning of sovereignty even more than it has already become will not be put before the people. Tusk would probably win a ‘yes’ vote, though the necessary 50 percent turnout to validate the referendum would be a problem, so crushingly dull and irrelevant is much of the document to most Poles.

Brown-nosing Brussels

But Tusk never pretended to be keen on a referendum. He never led his voters to expect anything else. The same cannot be said of the UK PM, Gordon Brown. New Labour had promised a referendum on the original Constitutional Treaty, which got flushed down the toilet after the Dutch and French votes.

When practically the same document re-emerged as the ‘Lisbon Treaty’ Brown said that since the treaty was no longer a ‘constitution’ then he didn’t have to have a referendum on it. Brilliant!

And last week Gordon Brown’s brown-nosing New Labour MPs went along with the deceit, with only a handful voted against or abstained to ratify the EU Constitution Treaty dressed in Portuguese drag.

I think that Poles, the British and most Europeans are being held in contempt by their political class. There are serious issues involved in the Lisbon Treaty and we should have the right to a direct say in the decision making process.

The EU, from the very beginnings in the 1950s, has always been a project of European political elites. I don’t ever remember people marching through the streets demanding a department in Brussels set up to measure the size of people’s letter boxes (there is directives about this; I just got a new EU letter box! The bit you put the letters in must be within certain parameters...and should not be made of Genetically Modified products made in China). I don’t remember people chaining themselves to the railings demanding the Common Agricultural Policy. From the Coal and Steel act in the 1950s onwards, these ideas have come from political elites, not from social movements. The gap between Brussels and its ‘people’ has always been wide as a result.

One of the ideas behind the EU Constitution was to find a way to bind people closer to Brussels – to find, create a relationship and identity with society. But as long as national governments continue to stick a finger up at their electorates over EU matters, by-passing them on the road to ratifying the Lisbon Treaty then those Euro-elites are never going to get touchy-feely with me or anyone else.

Give us a referendum! What are you so scared of?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

John Cleese, Polish loans and ZA GERMANS!

An advert in Poland for bank loans featuring ex-Python John Cleese has caused a bit of a fuss. Cleese managed not to mention the war in the ad, but he did mention the Germans. Cue lights, camera...controversy.

The advert made the evening news a couple of days ago and everyone seems to have an opinion about it.

The ad – for Bank Zachodni WBK S.A, whose major share holder these days is Allied Irish – features Cleese in a television studio in Poland preparing to film an advert and talking to the director how he would like one of these loans (how very Po Mo).

See the ad here. (it's in English).

The controversy comes from the last line, obviously, when Cleese, desperately wanting a cheap loan from BZ WBK bank, says: “But I can speak Polish: Guten Morgen!”

Titter, titter.

An attention grabbing, but not very funny advert, all in all, and very typical of John Cleese’s career over the past three decades. After the amazing success of Fawlty Towers – made in the mid 1970s, let’s remember – he all but gave up on comedy and started writing books and making films on cod-psychology. He is also a famous money whore, frequently making not that good adverts which trade on a time when the guy was one of the most talented comedy writers and performers Britain has ever produced.

The Polish bank advert references perhaps the most famous of Fawlty Towers episodes – ‘The Germans’, where Basil, disorientated from a bang on the head when he was putting a moose’s head up on the wall under strict orders from his purple hared, parana fish of a wife, Cybil, is confronted by a group of German guests at his ‘hotel’. The catch phrase, “Don’t mention the war,’ and the famous goose stepping have entered British comedy folklore.

Listening to people talk about it today at work, the problem appears to be that: “You see, most Poles don’t know Fawlty Towers and just find the advert insulting.”

So, because ‘most Poles feel insulted’ by the advert it therefore must be a bad advert.

The truth is a little different. Any advert that can make it onto the evening news – and an advert using subtitles, at that, with no horrid Polish voice over, like most things on the television here - is a very good advert, indeed. It was probably focus grouped, as most ads are these days, on the target group that the bank hoped would be their future customers. The focus group gave it the green light.

They probably calculated the type of people who might feel insulted by this – the old, the nationalist, the Kaczynski, Lepper, Giertych supporting Radio Maryja listening, mohair beret wearer, maybe – was not the type of person who might be coming to the bank for a loan in the first place. After all, former PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski infamously has never had a bank account and gets his mum to look after dosh for him. So any controversy that did result would just be more free air time for the advert.

The added twist to it all is that the Basil Fawlty character was a satire on what we call in Britain ‘Little Englanders’...those lower middle class, Daily Mail reading, xenophobic conservatives who are now aghast at the amount of Poles currently living and working in the UK. So a Polish equivalent of Basil getting upset about a slightly deranged Torquay hotel owning Little Englander will not be much of a problem for Bank Zachodni WBK S.A..

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Polish 68-ers

The Shalom Foundation in Warsaw wants tens of thousands of Jews who were expelled from Poland in 1968 after the communist inspired anti-Semitic campaign of that year to regain Polish citizenship.

Commemorations of what happened that year will take place on March 5.

The Communists took away Polish passports and gave Jews a one-way ticket, usually to Austria, where most went on to reside in Israel.

In 2006, when President Lech Kaczynski was in Israel trying to mend difficult relations between the two countries over the decades, promised that any Jewish Pole who wanted their citizenship back could have it, ‘as if they had never been away’.

Problem is – it isn’t in the president’s power to give back their passports. The local authorities, as I understand it, have that privilage, and many are not too keen. Giving back their citizenship would also give them back property rights. Israelis are also none too pleased about having to go through a rigorous procedure that many see as demeaning.

1968 – the year that rocked

Mark Kurlansky’s 1968: the year that rocked the world – available in Polish and English language bookshops - unravels the connections between the revolutionary events of that year in Paris, Prague, America and Poland.

Like 1945 or 1989, 1968 is one of those years that are seen as pivotal to the history of the 20th century.

We were only one year away from the first human being walking on the moon. It was a time of civil rights and anti-war protests, of new and inventive music and sub-cultures, of scientific and social experiment. A very different time, then, from the one we live in today, characterized as it is by aversion to risk and a fear of the new.

The motor of this movement for social change were young, mostly middle class sons and daughters of the old ruling elites. It was a time when students were concentrating more of sit-ins and love-ins than they were on their study-ins. It was a time of hallucinogenic drugs, which my granny used to tell me made one want to jump from the top of multi-story car parks in the mistaken impression that one was an albatross.

Most people, except perhaps the most historically challenged, will have heard of Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Abie Hoffman in the US; or in France, Henri Comte and Jean Paul Satire; or in the Czechoslovak capital, the students and Alexander Dubcek. All over the world, ruling elites had lost their legitimacy and were under pressure.

But few in the West have heard of the names associated with events in Poland of that year: Jacek Kuron, Adam Michnik…

Radical theatre

In Warsaw, it all started with an evening at the theatre. The Polish National Theatre decided to stage a new radical interpretation of Dziady. – which is sometimes translated in English as Forefathers’ Eve – by Poland’s most celebrated poet, Adam Mickiewicz. The play, written in the early nineteenth century, tells the story of Polish political prisoners under czarist Russia. As well as a being a political play it is also interpreted by theatre and literary critics as being a mystical, religious piece of work.

The communists had no problem with the political content, but they weren’t too keen on all the religious stuff, which had undertones of a pre-communist Poland they would rather people forgot. They saw this version of the play as being subtly subversive, and with a stupidity characteristic of the regime, decided that they were going to ban it.

On the last night of the performance, about 300 students from Warsaw University picketed outside the theatre and then marched through the center of town in protest. They were met by police and so-called workers-militia (who were basically a bunch of thugs) who beat them up and the police arrested anyone trying to get away from them.

The next day thousands of students joined in the demonstrations on the university campus, refused to go to classes, called for more freedom of expression and held sit-ins outside the Dean’s office, just as they had seen American students do on television. Before long, students from other universities had joined the struggle. All were met by the workers militias, and were beaten and arrested.

These protests had a similar character to those in Paris, or New York; mostly middle class kids from good homes, connected to parents who were part of the establishment. Another thing that the leaders of these protests had in common was that many of them were Jewish.

But in Poland, as ever, there was an extra twist.


The communist party in the late sixties was divided into two factions: those who had fled Poland as the Nazis invaded, or lived in areas in the east of the country grabbed by Stalin in 1939. Many of these people were taken to the gulags, only to team up with the Soviet army as a way of freeing themselves from Stalin’s grip. Many, maybe not surprisingly, were Jews. The other group, more nationalist in their outlook – the self-styled Partisans – came from communist cells within the underground movement, who fought the Nazis from within Poland.

Many of the ‘Partisans’ were anti-Semites and wanted to get rid of Jews from the party, who they accused of being ‘Zionists’. Remember, 1968 came just a year after the Israeli-Arab conflict, in which Moscow sided with the Arab states – the losing side.

Jews in Poland had become communism’s scapegoats. And with many sons and daughters of Jewish members of the party taking part in the student protests, the opportunity for an anti-Jewish purge was just too tempting to be turned down.

The ‘Partisans’ organized counter-demonstrations, leading chants such as: “Zionists go back to Zion.” Unfortunately, the mob that the party had assembled were simple folk who had never even heard of Zionism. In fact, they thought that the militias were shouting, “Siamists go back to Siam”, and chanted along with gusto.

Yul Brynner would have been proud of them.

Meanwhile, the communist regime had given most of Poland’s remaining Jews one-way tickets to the West, stripping them of their passports.

Jacek Kuron, Adam Michnik and many of the other protest leaders were arrested again and thrown in jail. The demonstrations gradually ran out of steam, and a potentially dangerous ‘counter-revolutionary’ movement was snuffed out.

One of the failures of the demos in Poland, as elsewhere, was that the intellectuals failed to make connections with the workers. It was only when, in the late 1970’s, intellectuals such as Kuron connected up with workers such as Lech Welasa that the opposition movement really gained steam. And that is why the name of Solidarity was chosen for the first independent trade union in the communist bloc: it was a solidarity between workers and intellectuals – two parts of Polish society that were finally, and mutually, dependant on each other.

In the book, 1968, the year that rocked the world, American journalist, Mark Kurlansky tells this story well, and captures the spirit of adventure that was so characteristic among university students all over the world back in 1968.

Fast forward to today and look at the university students. Do you see that same idealistic, brave, adventurist spirit? If you do, then maybe you have been ingesting some of those chemicals that granny said make you want to jump off the roof of multi-story car parks.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

New blog on Poland online

Polandian is a new collaborative site by bloggers writing in the English language about Poland.

As you can see I am down as one of the bloggers included. But due to having no time or energy at all for even more writing at the moment I have not had time to add anything as yet, and my contributions will be infrequent.

Still, give it a try – it’s really rather good.