Friday, October 31, 2008

Beatroot on Normblog

A profile has been posted on the ‘prestigious’ UK blog by Norman Geras about the beatroot.

But I am far too modest to draw readers' attention to something as egocentric as that!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama lets Russia invade Poland!

The US religious rightwing is trying to scare the type of people who get scared about these things that a vote for Barrack Obama will result in pornography being shown 24/7 on TV, abortion will become just another form of contraception...and Poland will be invaded by Russia!

Yes, it’s true. Vote Obama, invade Poland! The prophecy comes from religious nut jobs Focus on the Family, founded in 1977 by James Dobson, who also runs a radio show which claims a syndicated audience, worldwide, of 220 million listeners.

Nuts, but popular. Popular nuts.

In a sixteen page open letter Dobson imagines what the US, and the world, would look like in 2012, four years after the election of Barrack Obama. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll would take over the US. Porn would be as readily available on the television as ...well...religious nutjob broadcasting.

Internationally, an Obama presidency would be so weak and ineffectual at protecting democratic rights that, in 2009, says Dobson, Russia would move tanks into the Baltic States and retake areas lost to it on the break up of the Soviet Union. Three years later, more tanks would roll into Warsaw, Prague…

“In 2009, [Russia follows] the pattern they had began in Georgia in 2008 and sent troops to occupy and re-take several Eastern European countries, starting with Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Then in the next three years Russia occupied additional countries that had been previous Soviet satellite nations including Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria with no military response from the US, or the UN […] Liberal commentators in both the US and Europe have uniformly expressed deep regret at the loss of freedom of these countries but have observed that the US cannot be the world’s policeman..”

Sounds like hell, don’t it? Maybe that’s no coincidence since many that go in for this kind of rightwing evangelicalism appear to think Obama is the Devil, as prophesised by Revelations.

Stop sniggering - people actually believe this stuff! So it’s no leap of imagination to envisage Russia trying to regain its old Soviet empire, as an effete Barrack frets in front of the mirror...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Google-bomber on trial in Poland

Marek M., who was arrested late last year for google bombing President Lech Kaczynski, has gone on trial for defaming the name of the head of state.

You may remember that Marek had set up computer programme software which replicates the usual collective method of google bombing. The ‘victim’ was President Kaczynski, infamous for his oversensitivity and insecurity when being made fun of. The software tied a search of Lech Kaczynski on google to the Polish word “kutas”, a rather rude term for a male member.

To link the President of the Republic of Poland to a penis was too much for the head of state and police went round to Marek’s flat and arrested him. He faces three years in jail.

“This is not a matter of freedom of speech,” said Andrzej Holdys, a regional prosecutor in the southern town of Cieszyn, where the programmer lives. “If somebody uses a derogatory word to libel the head of state than it’s a clear insult which violates the law.”

It is actually against Polish law. But to spend the state’s time, and money, on an inconsequential issue as small as a male todger is a very good way of making a prick of yourself.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Central Europe joins the finance crisis

Early advise by ‘experts’ that the banking crisis would not affect Poland and other countries in the region too badly is looking a little shaky.

The central bank in Hungary has put interest rates up by a whopping 3 percent to try and prop up the collapsing forint; Hungary, Belarus and Ukraine are currently in talks with the IMF in the hope of a massive injection of funds to stave off serious economic trouble; Poland’s currency, the zloty, is depreciating against major currencies - so economy minister, Wladamar Pawlak better forget about his call, earlier this month, for rate cuts.

The central bank in Warsaw has got together a “confidence package” to get banks here to start lending to each other again. Despite the fact that these banks do not have the structure of debt that lenders do in the US and much of western Europe, a crisis of confidence has made bankers over- cautious even here in Poland.

And the foreign parents of Poland’s banks - as much as 71 percent of the banking system here is owned by foreign banks - are in trouble. ING has had a bail out from the Dutch government, Fortis and Unicredito look vulnerable, too. Talk is of a sell off of Polish assets to offset massive losses elsewhere.

Getting a home-loan has become very difficult. The housing market is taking a whack.

Suddenly the finance crisis - which was a bit of a spectator sport for the average Pole, as they watched the rich bankers of America and Europe take a spanking - has got a little too close for comfort.

Poland has a deposits guarantee system that promises to cover any losses should a bank fall. Getting confidence in banks is a priority in a country where folk simply didn't have bank accounts until not so long ago. Recently banks have risen the upper limit to calm any lasting fears of losing money overnight. But as the stock market in Warsaw tumbles - the Top 20 index lost over 7 percent of its value today - investors are taking money out of the bourses and putting them in government bonds - a move that one economist recently described to me as the equivalent of sticking all your money under the bed, as the interest you will make on that investment in minimal.

Is this the end of…well, what, actually?

Of course, in the wake of the finance crisis, the commentariat have rushed out to announce the end of Thatcherism, or neo-liberalism, or the free market, is nigh. Some have blamed the “greed” of bankers who lived off the never-never for too long.

But I don’t get the impression that any ideology has ended. Neither do I think the greed of bankers is to blame. Greed thrives in certain circumstances, and those circumstances were the rancid, sluggish nature of modern day capitalism in the highly developed countries in western Europe and the US.

Even though everyone for years has talked about a “boom” in western capitalism, when you look at the growth rates - 2, 3 percent, mostly - they are not that impressive at all. The recent long period of growth in the UK, for instance - 16 years of continuous growth - was a lot less spectacular than many think. In fact, its been a long, slow growth - not a “boom”. What has boomed in those countries is the housing sector. That fooled people into thinking they were getting richer and richer, when they weren’t.

As Asia, much of South America and this part of Europe have been experiencing a high growth rate boom, with real growth in productive forces and manufacturing base, the western capitalist countries have destroyed their manufacturing bases, failed to make real investments in developing infrastructure, and relied on the finance sector - and a weird web of loans and debts between customer and bank, and bank and bank - to keep their economies chugging along.
And that chug has now ground to a shuddering halt.

So it’s not greed that's responsible for this mess, but advanced capitalism itself. That doesn’t mean a socialist revolution is around the corner, because there isn’t really a socialist movement to take advantage of the situation anymore. Capitalism is not in its death-throws. But it does mean that our rulers are going to have to ask themselves some tough questions and come up with some tough and radical remedies.

But I wouldn’t be waiting for those remedies to emerge anytime soon. Our leaders are a fearful, disorientated bunch at the best of times. So expect some kind of tinkering to try to get through and out the other side. But they will still have to ask themselves this: how can western capitalism maintain decent growth rates without a manufacturing base and no other way to keep things going than a system of borrowing that even they don’t understand?

I know! Maybe environmentalism will come to their rescue. Green capitalism!

Carbon credit bond, anyone?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

President Kaczynski threatens to crush...a daisy?

Poland’s head of state screams and shouts at TV reporter Monika Olejnik in Brussels last week, says she is on his “short list”, accuses her of being a commie spy, and threatens to “crush her”. (photo: Pres. Kaczynski feels the full force of a hurricane of derision)

President Kaczynski isn’t suffering from paranoia - but they really are out to get him! The forces of evil lurk in every television studio - especially at TVN - or what Law and Justice party members refer to as “”Tusk Vision National”.

After an interview (see a bit here) by Monika Olejnik - the Jeremy Paxman of Polish TV political journalism - where the, now, veteran journo quizzed and pressed President Kaczynski, the guy just lost it. After the cameras were turned off he threatened her with…well, we know not what. He said that the “secret services” (meaning commie spies!) and the “Walters” - meaning her boss at TVN (another spy!) “will not be able to save her…”. He then accused her of being …yes, you guessed it - a commie spy!, operating under the code name Stokrotka (Daisy).

Oh, dear

President Kaczynski said he had a “short list” of people he was going to “get”. But Kaczynski’s list of people he thinks are working for dark forces is hardly “short”. In fact, it’s a rather “long list”, a very long list, full of most of the people who work for private and public media in Poland.

Kaczynski isn’t a paranoiac, but they really are out to get him!!!

TVN were outraged by, what is, possibly slanderous accusations. The president - like the sodden drunk who beats his wife up, only to wake up the next day with remorse added to his stinking hangover - apologised later, sending roses, I believe.

So what led to this outburst of ungracious and ungentlemanly behaviour from Poland’s president, witnessed by both Poles and Belgians at the summit last Wednesday?

Apart from the fact that the Kaczynski twins have had a rather difficult relationship with TVN in the past, President Kaczynski had had a rather strained few days leading up to the EU summit. Prime Minister Donald Tusk and the rest of the government didn’t want Kaczynski to come to Brussels in the first place. They said it wasn’t usual for both head of state and PM to turn up at EU summits. They were there to talk about things like the “Climate Package” - which demands expensive cuts in carbon emissions, among other things - and how it was disadvantageous to Poland. This wasn’t a defence matter so the president should not be involved, said Tusk.

Kaczynski dug in, however, and said that even though he wasn’t wanted there, he was going to turn up anyway.

The government said that there would only be two chairs for Poles at the summit and they were going to be sat on by PM Tusk and Foreign Minister Sikorski. So would the president kindly butt out!

Miffed - very miffed - Kaczynski decided to hire his own plane and set off for Brussels regardless. The especially chartered LOT airlines Boeing 737 cost the country a cool 42,000 euros return trip - not exactly Ryanair prices.

When the weird coalition government led by Lech’s twin brother, Jaroslaw, was kicked out of office last autumn by a traumatised electorate - suffering over a year of Messrs Kaczynski, Giertych and Lepper running the country - I thought that Polish politics would become boring and …sensible. So let’s hear it for the continuing saga of Kaczynski and his fight with the forces of darkness, evil and...daisies.

There will be a slight delay between posting a comment and it appearing in the comment box due to temporary moderation issues. Trog attack!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Normal service has been resumed

Comment box is open to everyone again.

But, sadly, I am going to have to moderate the comments coming in to this blog for short while. That means that your comments will not appear in the comment box instantly.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Beatroot at the Vatican with Walesa and the Pope

If New York is the city that never sleeps then Rome is the city that never shuts up talking. Ever. (photo - Pope Benedict the cinema?)

Rome is a city wired up to the eyeballs on amphetamine-strength coffee. It’s probably why Italians talk so much.

I was in a taxi yesterday with a driver who was in the middle of a long monologue that covered such diverse topics as: why the Church murdered Bruno; the egotistical nature of the modern day Italian; and the disrespect and delinquency of his 14 year old son. While he talked his eyes were not often on the road and where he was going but on me in the back seat. His arms followed the intricate patterns of his stories, waving around all over the place. At one point he was driving the car with his left elbow only - I am not joking - as he debated, with himself, the pros and cons of the, latest, Burlusconi government.

Thursday morning I went to a special mass at the Basilica overlooking St Peter’s Square in honour of the 30 year anniversary of Karol Wojtyla becoming JP II. There were thousands of people in the huge church, about one in five of the pilgrim-tourists were from Poland, many wearing Solidarnosc scarves or t-shirts.

After the mass I went for a stroll, agog at Rome’s teeming traffic. Small cars - the Smart is a particular favourite at the moment - whizzed in and out of the lines of scooters and motorbikes. Horns honked and Italians shouted and waved their arms at each other.

Small cars are essential in Rome as the parking of these vehicles is …creative and inventive. Any tiny space not colonised already by one of these vehicles is backed into, with varying degrees of success. Many cars show signs of bangs and prangs, dents riddling bodywork as a testimony to past parking attempts gone wrong.

Just as parking is a mysterious Italian art so is crossing the road. There are traffic lights and stuff but they are treated as optional extras by both drivers and pedestrians. People wait at the side of the road for a moment and then suddenly dive into the middle of a stream of traffic. Some cars and bikes then skid to a stop, some swerve to avoid the person who is now in the middle of the road. It took me a while to pluck up the courage to try this, but once you take the plunge it seems to work. As you stroll - and Italians stroll everywhere, they never simply walk - through the traffic you hear the babble from within vehicles, the sound of horns and the scrapping of metal-on-metal as yet another parking stunt doesn’t quite make it.


I was in Rome for the premiere of the film version of the memoirs of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Testimony, recounting his 39 years serving John Paul II. The film itself is not all that great although there is a lot of good archival material I never saw before. We also get the revelation - if that is the right work in the circumstances - that JP II survived not one but two assassination attempts. Not just a mad Turk tried to have a go at him - with the help of the Kremlin, or not: who know? - but also a mad Portuguese priest stuck a knife in him, in 1982, on the anniversary of the first assassination attempt. They covered the incident up in the hope that trying to kill the Pope would not become a fashionable thing to do for the world’s loons.

But the premiere itself - in a theatre slap bang in the middle of the Vatican - was something I will never forget. Six thousand people from all over the world sat down to watch the movie in the company of Lech Walesa, Jolanta Kwasniewska, and…Pope Benedict!! I never watched a film with a pope before, just a few seats down the isle.

The photo above I took as he made a little speech after the film. He was very moved by what he saw, obviously. The movie does have a very sad, although predictable ending, and someone told me they saw Pope Benny crying at the end.

Afterwards, people were milling around outside the theatre with the Swiss Guard looking on in their fancy dress garb. One photographer saw former first lady Jolanta Kwasniewska chatting away to the woman she took over from, former first lady Danuta Walesa. When the photographer asked if he could take a picture of them together, Jolanta started to pose, while Danuta - probably under strict orders from her husband - refused and quickly moved away. Relations between the ex-Solidarity leader and ex-communist Aleksander Kwasniewski may have warmed a little since the 1990s, but Walesa still does not want it to be seen that both families are best of buddies. That’s one miracle that JP II never got around to making and won’t be used in the evidence for his inevitable canonization.

Later I went for another stroll in Rome and after 20 minutes got completely lost. I quite like being lost in cities new to me. Soon, however, I wandered into an area where a succession of African guys seemed delighted to see me. They gave me high-fives and complicated handshakes and were very keen to sell me…something, I know not what.

So it was obviously a good time to get out of there. But how to get back to the Vatican? I stopped a nice looking old lady to ask the way. Understanding no Italian I just planned to follow the direction she was pointing in. Unfortunately, being an Italian, as she described the shortcut back to the Basilica her arms waved around all over the place. If I followed the directions of both hands I would be still be wandering around Rome in ever decreasing circles. So I set off in the direction she was facing, as she talked and talked…she’s probably still giving me directions even now.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Simon Mol, dead

Simon Mol, on trial for intentionally infecting up to 40 woman with the HIV virus in Poland, died in hospital on Saturday.

He never gave evidence in the court. No case was proven, no justice was ever brought.

Whatever, his legacy on race relations in Poland has not been very positive. We will never now know what his real motives were. I suspect he was, in what they call these days, “in denial” about lots of things in his life.

It’s an awful case with many victims. But one of the nasty strands of a generally ugly reaction to the Mol case was when some showed contempt for the women who contracted HIV. “If they are so dumb to be fooled by someone like Mol, they they deserved it…”, etc.

If anyone met Simon Mol then they were “fooled”. I met him. He seemed a genuine person to me. Lots of the people thought that. Lots.

So to be accused of being “fooled” by him is ridiculous. Even Simon Mol was fooled, by himself.

If you want to see how ugly it got then have a look at, the record for this blog, 166 comments, from an early post I wrote about all this.

October 16, 1978

After the shock of the death of John Paul I - a man thought blessed with real charisma - Rome concentrated its mind on finding someone equally compulsive and with bags of people-magnetism.

The second edition of US Time magazine that October reported that the search was on for a candidate who had both physical strength and the will to carry on the work of John Paul I.

‘The search for charisma, plus the near-universal insistence on a "pastoral" Pope, concentrates continued attention upon Corrado Ursi, 70, a popular shepherd in Naples whose easygoing air and ample girth inspire repeated comparison to Pope John XXIII. Close behind him in the early discussions is Salvatore Pappalardo, 60, also an effective pastor in Sicily,’ wrote the Time journalist.

Sergio Pignedoli, 68, was also a front-runner, Giovanni Benelli, 57, an outsider. Some mentioned the possibility of a foreign pope, a non Italian! Johannes Willebrands, 68, of The Netherlands. Some Cardinals are touting Curialists Eduardo Pironio, 57, of Argentina and Villot, 72, of France, perhaps? But that was unlikely. It hadn’t happened since 1522.

And then, two paragraphs from the end of the Time article, they get to a name not widely known outside of Poland.

‘Last week speculation also ran to names rarely heard before: Paulo Evaristo Arns, 57, Brazil's brave champion of human rights; Joseph Cordeiro, 60, of Pakistan, who exudes saintly simplicity and concern for the poor; and Poland's Karol Wojtyla, 58, who is a strong leader in a hostile environment—and speaks fluent Italian.’

But it was just speculation. A non-Italian who was under 60 years old? Nah. This was still the world, before JP II.

On Wednesday I am going to the Vatican. Catch you then.

A Light That Left Us Amazed, Time magazine, Oct 16, 1978.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Kidnapped Pole in Pakistan

It’s been over a week now since Piotr Stanczak was abducted by Taliban in the northwest of Pakistan, near the Afghan border. What are his odds of getting him back to Poland, as Pakistan seems to be coming apart at the seams?

Stanczak was working for a company looking for oil when three, maybe four Taliban ambushed his vehicle, killed his Pakistani driver, bodyguard and one other person, then took the Pole and disappeared into the mountains that surround the region of Attock.

Piotr follows two Chinese telecom engineers who were also abducted in the same region back in August. The two Chinese may be alive, as last week a spokesman for the Taliban said that they would exchange them for prisoners arrested by the Pakistani army - maybe over 100 of them.

Since Piotr’s abduction, a conflict has broken out between Pakistani officials and the company he works for, Geofizyka Krakow Ltd, as to who was to blame for the kidnapping. The prime minister of Pakistan and local police officers claim that Geofizyka did not avail themselves to security provided for them, and were negligent in the precautions they took before sending workers out on field trips. The Polish company and people who know Stanczak say that the security measures he left the base with on September 28 were standard and in keeping with guidelines.

There was also a nasty altercation between the Polish head of the Geofizyka base in Pakistan and the journalists who descended on the compound after the kidnapping took place.

Pakistan on the edge

The region the abduction occurred in is the most dangerous in Pakistan and is a spill over of the war in Afghanistan and the ‘War on Terror’ in general. On Sunday, the home of the North West Frontier Province's chief minister, Amir Haider Khan Hoti, was attacked by rockets, though nobody was killed.

Suicide bombers stalk the region, a haven for Islamic militants of the al-Qaida type and their whacky Taliban friends, who have regained support since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan has produced little economic fruit, and the recent incursions by American forces into the north-west of Pakistan. This is where many think Weird-Beard-in-Chief, Osama bin Laden is hanging out.

The instability in the region has been caused, in part, by Bush’s war on terror. Invasions by foreign forces usually have that effect. It’s a lesson neocons and liberal interventionists appear slow to learn. This is why the War on Terror was a mistake from its beginning.

Barrack Obama has made much in his presidential campaign of his opposition to the Iraq war before it began. Well, good - I have always opposed it, too. But where we differ is that he opposed the war in Iraq because, as he sees it, it distracted from the real objective: to go get Osama!

But does he really think that throwing more troops into Afghanistan would mean peace and security for both Afghans and Americans; that the world would be a more peaceful and happy place all round?

This is a delusion. Afghans have no trouble fighting large armies occupying their country - ask a Soviet Afghanistan veteran. The war on terror was always doomed to fail because it was trying to find the location of an abstract noun - terror.

Problem was, as Rumsfeld said in many Whitehouse meetings at the time - according to Bob Woodward - “There just ain’t enough targets in Afghanistan…” - meaning for Washington to look like it was “doing something” about 9/11, it would need a more spectacular “shock and awe” than bombing a few, low grade targets in one of the most undeveloped and poorest nation in the world.

No, to be really shocking and awful then Iraq would have to be next.

Barrack Obama supports a policy of American troops going into Pakistan in pursuit of Taliban and other Islamists. If that happens on a regular basis then the region will destabilise still further, Pakistan will disintegrate some more, and many more foreign workers will disappear into the lawless mountains that run along a front line in America’s war on terror.

‘Geofizyka’s security arrangements normal, not negligent’,, Oct 6
Is al-Qaeda winning?, BBC, audio, 23 minutes

Friday, October 03, 2008

Bogdan Zaryn

A very nice person died this week. I have known radio journalist Bogdan Zaryn for a long time and he was one of the most extra-ordinary people I ever met.

Grieving him are two children, a wife and many, many others. He was in hospital for radical surgery to help him walk again, freely. The first surgery was successful but an emergency surgery after was not. He died Friday, aged 51 years old.

Tragedy always seemed to follow Bogdan. His mother was a survivor of the Nazi’s Auschwitz. She moved to Canada after the war and that’s where she gave birth to Bogdan. Bogdan was born with bad legs, bad back, you name it. The family is not a lucky one.

But even though he was sick for much of the time I knew him, he was also one of the most positive people I ever met. And Bogdan had a special kind of charisma that everyone found irresistible

Even when people got annoyed with Bogdan - and that seemed to be quite often - they never could dislike him. In fact, the opposite. Even when you were annoyed with Bogdan, you always remembered the reasons why you were so, so fond of him.

Bogdan’s guide to journalism

Bogdan never did conventional research. While the rest of us mere mortals looked up stuff in boring old books and computers, Bogus - with typical Bogus logic - thought: why look something up in a book when you can telephone an expert and ask them? So that’s what he did. All day. Everyday. All the time.

After a couple of years of this he had a contact book that resembled a telephone directory for the entire New York State. Bogdan knew LOTS of experts.

Unfortunately, he didn’t just ring experts up. If he didn’t know something - even the most banal of things - he used to ring his work colleagues up, too. Even when they were in the room next door.

Bogdan used to single out individuals at the workplace as the target - victim - of his constant questioning. He phoned them at work, he phoned them at home. At morning, noon and night, Bogdan kept right on phoning.

He knew that he only had a limited time for their direct attention, as after a few days the poor hapless colleague would be such a nervous wreck that they would have to retire to a sanatorium to recuperate - by which time Bogdan had moved on and found himself a new victim to harass. Corridors were littered, at times, with the twitching, gibbering results of Bogdan’s ’special attention’. Some folk would be scared to answer the phone in case it was one of his questions on the other end of the line.

Bogdan was never the most technologically savvy person I ever met. The internet always confused him, a little. Once he was listening to us talking about what a god-send Google was - information in under 0.14 of a second, blah, blah. The next day he came into work and turned on the computer. And then, by reflex, he got on the telephone. This time it was to me. I was in the room next door, so I could hear his voice both on the phone and coming through the dividing wall between us. It was one of his classics.

“How do you spell ‘google’”, he shouted.

“I don’t know,” I said in prophylactic exasperation: “Why don’t you GOOGLE IT!”

It was like that all the time. He was a very hard person to refuse. That’s one reason why he was so good at getting people for an interview. People always stopped for Bogdan, no matter in what rush they were in. I have seen government spokesman being pursued by Bogdan down spiral staircases - Bogdan asking questions as the spokesman helped him get down the steps.

He could illicit the dumb quote from celebrities by asking a perfectly timed, cliché question. He once asked Edyta Gorniak: “So…who is the real Edyta Gorniak?”

Gorniak said: “Ooo, I really don’t know - there are so many sides of me!”


Bogdan had met them all. He interviewed Donald Tusk once about his Kashubian roots, before he became the current prime minister. Tusk didn’t want to speak to him in English and did the interview in Polish. But, somehow - and only Bogdan could get people to do this - he got Tusk to sing him a song in Kashubian! To my knowledge that is a world first.

Even when he was in hospital he was on the telephone the whole time, ringing colleagues up.

After the first, successful operation to help him walk again, he decided that he absolutely must get an interview with his, rather good, surgeon. For two whole days he harassed a couple of colleagues, night, day and very early morning, to get them to send him some recording equipment. Finally, they relented. So a special company car was sent to take to the hospital, not a person, but a small recording device and a microphone. I wonder if the driver made it wear a seat belt?

But you just could not refuse Bogdan, when his mind was set on you doing something for him. And that’s quite a talent he had. A people talent. Bogdan had lots of people-talent.

What a sad day Friday was. It was made all the sadder, for everyone who knew him, for the fact that Bogdan had never been happier. His operation was successful, he was moving house, he had two gorgeous young children. And then one day he went into an operating theatre and never woke up again.

The memories of him will be made up of all the mad stuff he got up to in his life, his wheezy laugh …and maybe his constant questions. But in my mind I will always remember Bogdan’s last masterpiece.

After Bogdan’s operation, the 24 hour news station - TVN 24 - got to hear about this new and risky surgery he had undergone. How they got to know about this is still a mystery to me. Maybe Bogdan rang them up? Anyway, a film crew went down to the hospital in Constancin, on the outskirts of Warsaw, and did an interview with Bogdan. It’s a moving, short piece of film, which you can see here.

I am going to miss him so much.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Who does Sepp Blatter think he is?

FIFA president Sepp Blatter (pictured right) has warned the Polish government that if they do not reinstate the suspended board of the Polish football association, the PZPN, then nasty sanctions could follow - meaning he will not just take his ball home with him in a sulk, he might also take away Poland’s chance to co-host the Euro 2012 soccer championships.

The question on many a lip in Poland is this - does Sepp Blatter - and his sidekick at the European governing body UEFA, Michel Platini (pictured sitting, coquetishly, on the left) - think that they are above the wishes of a democratically elected government?

Another question footie lovers here are asking is this: what exactly is the relationship between Sepp Blatter and the now deposed head of the PZPN, Michal Listkiewicz?

I was asked to comment today on this issue by RTE radio in Ireland - the programme was 'Sports Drivetime' - so there is a lot of international interest in this strange affair.

When the Sports Ministry wound up the present board of PZPN this week they also did what many wished they had done years ago - got rid of Michal Listkiewicz, who has been in the job since 1989 - a rare feat in a country which gets tired of its officials after a few weeks, at best. Listkiewicz has long, then, presided over a football association that has sat on its hands - when those hands are not busy taking a few bribes and greasing a few palms…allegedly - at a time when over 100 football officials, referees, managers and players have been arrested in Poland on charges of being involved in the wide spread sleaze which appears endemic within Polish football.

Sepp Blatter - more powerful than God, more sexy than...Brad Pitt?

The Polish media today is full of reports on the close relationship between Sepp Blatter and Michal Listkiewicz. Sepp said yesterday that Listkiewicz was the only man in Warsaw that he could do business with. What's more, national sports institutions, says Sepp, should be completely independent of government, and elected politicians should keep their nose out of PZPN’s business. If not, then “there will be consequences”.

Blatter and Listkiewicz do seem unusually close. The Dziennik newspaper carries allegations today that they share girlfriends! Allegedly, Listkiewicz’s long time lover, the 40 year-old Ms. Ilona Boguska, is now the 71 year old Sepp Blatter’s new flame. I suppose she loves him for his…understanding of football, who knows. Sepp and Michal are very good friends indeed, evidently, and if you mess with Listkiewicz then you are gonna have to get past Blatter first.

Which is… nice.

Normally I would agree that national sports associations should be completely independent of government. But these are not normal times in Polish football. Sponsors are loathed to get involved with a game that, quite frankly, stinks. So cleaning up Poland’s football industry is a legitimate area for government to be involved in if - and this is a big if - the current football association has been negligent.

And the kindest thing one could say about the current losers in the PZPN is that they have been ‘negligent’.

By the way, four names are in the hat to take over from Sepp’s Listkiewicz as head of PZPN - one or two of them you might of heard of: Grzegorz Lato and Zbigniew Boniek. Boniek was a fine, fine footballer, of course. But do fine footballers necessarily make good sports administrators?

The best way to answer that question is to just name one high profile football politician who is now the second most powerful administrator in the game: Michel Platini - a glorious footballer, but a complete oaf as head of UEFA. Maybe its time, not just to blow the whistle on corruption in Polish football, but show a red card to Sepp Blatter and the rest of the cronies at FIFA.