Thursday, August 28, 2008

The return of Beger

Feeling down? Listless? A little depressed? Think it’s maybe the start of those pesky autumn blues?

Well, you are wrong. You are feeling like that because you have been deprived of the joys of having former MP Renata Beger constantly occupying the TV politico-spotlight. Now she (left of photo) is back! But who is that woman she is leaving the court building with?

I suppose this post should be labelled: “post-fourth republic nostalgia”. Of all the weird and whacky characters during those heady, Law and Justice/Self Defence,/League of Polish Families coalition years, Renata Beger was one of my favourites.

But since her party - led by another all time great of Polish politics, Andrzej Lepper - was chucked out of parliament last autumn by the wise voters of Poland, Renata has disappeared from our screens.

Until now. She is starting her trial for allegedly using small bribes to get people to round up the thousands of signatures needed before they can officially become a parliamentary candidate.

Renata, bless her, says that she has been stitched up by the media. Gazeta Wyborcza had done an undercover exposé on her, which is how she came to be in court for electoral fraud.

Her party - Samoobrona, or Self Defence - is no stranger to the courts and the legal process. In fact, Andrzej Lepper and his bunch of merry men - and Renata - have seen more legal action than many of the lawyers that represent them.

Sex scandals, public order offences, dubious electoral behaviour…you name it, they been accused of doing it.

So, after the court was adjourned today, Renata,who loves having her photo taken, was captured walking out of the building. Or maybe it wasn’t today but one of those other times?

But who is that woman with her in the slightly….well, I want to be a gentleman here, so you can fill in the rest of that sentence by yourself. Clue - it’s something to do with her dress sense. And the age she is. And the profession she practices.

Is she one of Renata’s good-time girlfriends? Is she her PR? For sure she can’t be her stylist!

Nope…that’s her lawyer!!!

Get the feeling she is going to lose this case? Renata faces a 10,000 zloty fine - around 5,000 dollars.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Owimpians of Poland

No, I don’t have a speech defect: I mean oWIMPians. Polish athletes came home from the Beijing Olympics, a little shame faced, today, bringing with them just 10 medals - three gold, six silver, one bronze. That’s poor. I’ve seen more medals on the chest of an old age pensioner on Remembrance Day.

What a bunch of wimps!

And the statistic of just ten medals gets worse when you consider only two of them came in the proper sports events - the track and field (by “proper sport” I exclude ‘synchronised nose picking’ and the like).

The ’blame game’ started even before the athletes touched down at Warsaw airport. reports:

During the games, Polish athletes, including fencer Sylwia Gruchala and runner Marek Plawgo, said that their poor results in China were due to the ubiquitous irregularities in their respective sports associations, such as alcoholism in the Polish Fencing Association and favouritism in the Track and Field Athletic Association.

Alcoholism in the fencing association? Scary! Can you imagine someone coming at you from the Polish fencing association, dressed all in white with that strange face mask, brandishing a sabre, or whatever, while dangling on the end of a piece of string and at the same time being completely pissed out of their heads!

Surly a few health and safety issues there?

MP’s like Jaroslaw Govin (Krakow, PO) have waded in, repeating the accusations against the sports associations, made by athletes …who failed.

I am sure it is partly to do with funding and a lack of good people to administrate sport. Blah! But that can be said for administrations in Poland, generally. Maybe, however, what Polish athletes really lack is the balls to win - even the synchronised beach billiards squad could do with those.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Poland, frozen conflicts and new ‘cold wars’

Stop blogging for just four months over the summer and what happens? The world - certainly this part of it - has changed. And not for the better.

The deal between Washington and Warsaw on the anti-ballistic missile system last week was signed by Condoleezza Rice and her buddy, Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski (pictured below) as the guns in the Caucasus were still warm and smoking.

Russian troops were still pulling out - or were they? - of areas in Georgia they had occupied since President Mikheil Saakashvili sent many of his troops to certain death by ordering them, somewhat ludicrously, to take back control of South Ossetia, one of the small, pro-Russian breakaway regions his nation lost after the nasty war in the early 1990s as the Soviet Union collapsed around them.

Poland - in the shape of its government and particularly its president, Lech Kaczynski - has been using the conflict between Moscow and Tbilisi to nail their colours to the mast of “protecting freedom and democracy” of the brave young George against the might of an imperialistic old dragon in the Kremlin.

The Novosti Russian news agency reported Saturday:

Two more NATO ships, a Polish frigate and a U.S. destroyer, passed through the Bosporus strait and entered the Black Sea on Friday evening to boost the alliance's presence in the Black Sea, where it is delivering humanitarian cargoes to Georgia, a source in the Turkish navy said.

But the only people cheering from the sidelines, as politicians and media pundits reached for the ’new cold war metaphors’ were probably a few arms dealers. Georgia needs even more US arms! Patriot missiles coming to Poland! American troops to set up a garrison in Poland! Yippee!

And people like President Kaczynski must have been cocker-hoop! Here was HIS mission - his reason to be. As he said - “Russia has now shown its true [imperialistic] face.” Someone had to stand up to them. Didn’t they?
The war in Georgia galvanised travel-averse old Kaczor into a radical transformation. Suddenly, before our incredulous eyes, he turned into Action Man interested in notching up a few frequent fly miles vouchers. As the war raged in South Ossetia, a duck-like Rambo figure emerged from the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, rounded up fellow New Cold War Warriors from Presidential Palaces and PM Offices in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and set off in Poland’s Air Force One for Tbilisi.

But where Kaczynski goes, farce quickly follows. At one point during the flight the pilot - fearing that Tbilisi airspace was still controlled by Russia - refused to go to Georgia and re-routed the plane for safer climbs in Azerbaijan. But President Kaczynski first ordered that the pilot be sacked - then took control of the plane. Kind of. I can almost imagine him - almost - gripping the joystick in sweaty hands as he said, his voice firm with purpose and intent: “I am the Polish Commander-in-Chief and this plane is going to Tbilisi!”

Sadly, that was just my imagination. Actually the pilot touched down somewhere in Azerbaijan and then Kaczynski and crew were forced to endure a four hour car journey for his date with destiny.

Kaczynski goes to Tbilisi

And what a heady experience it must have been. President Kaczynski is no longer popular at home. But here, in front of crowds of Georgians, he could appear the hero. Here were a few leaders sticking a finger up at Putin, almost daring him to do his worst.

But while President Kaczynski was forging a new reputation for himself as a 21st century Pilsudski - well, he can dream - the rest of us were feeling decidedly nervous. The signing of the anti-missile deal, the war in the Caucuses, are both the result of national and international elites looking for a sense of their own worth - and that goes for Moscow and Washington, Tbilisi, Warsaw and Paris. The price, meanwhile, the average Central and Eastern European- in-the-street is paying is a more unstable region.

We are left with more questions than answers. Why did Saakashvili start a war with Russia he knew he would lose? Did he expect President Kaczynski - his main supporter internationally - to send a few Polish F-16s over Moscow? Did he not realise that Polish F-16s are having a little trouble flying over Warsaw these days, so naff and knackered is consignment given to them by Washington? Did he honestly think that acting like the loose canon he is would make Georgia’s chances of joining Nato any greater?

And why do so many people think that Moscow is acting from a new position of strength when they are actually trying to hang on to what are, realistically, meaningless pieces of territory in South Ossetia and Abkhazia? This is not strength - it shows their desperation, weakness and diminishing influence in the region.

Is the anti-missile shield really needed at all? Are the existential threats more the product of post-Cold War and War on Terror fantasies? Will the shield really make us safer? Is a further antagonised Moscow really worth it? Wouldn’t some creative diplomacy be a better way for international leaders to spend their time?

One of Us?

More questions: What did Bush say to Saakashvili in private as he praised him in public? When the Georgian president was contemplating making his suicidal move against South Ossetia two years ago he reportedly got more than an earful from Colin Powell. “Back off!,” was the clear message.

Bush often says that Saakashvili - in reality an authoritarian who has more in common with someone like Putin than many realise - is “one of us”; Bush often reminds us that Saakashvili is “western educated.” Which is true - but there again, so is George W Bush “western educated.” So what does that say about the state of Western Education Systems?

Friday, August 08, 2008

the beatroot returns...

...on September 1. I was musing about a multimedia thing, and there will be elements of that, now and again, but usually it is going to be the same old rubbish.

See you then.