A blog by an American expatriate living in the heart of New Europe

"It's a lateral transfer" -- George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
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Monday, February 28, 2005

Cross-dressing Nazi slayer

It's a month old, but I just found it. My guess is this slipped under your radars too...

by Ernest Gill

Hamburg- A 90-year-old transvestite flamenco dancer is stamping and clapping his way across theatre stages in Germany to promote a film about his life as a Jewish resistance fighter who killed Nazis in occupied Poland - and even in the heart of Berlin.

The seemingly incredible story of Sylvin Rubinstein, whose hands were as adept at lobbing grenades as they were at clicking castanets, is the subject of an extraordinary documentary film which is drawing a cult following at art cinemas in Germany.

Audiences erupt into cheers as Rubinstein, in full make-up, wig and ruffled flamenco gown, dances with ageless grace onto the stage to take his bows.

Audiences are captivated as he talks of his war-time exploits, which included dressing up in slinky cocktail dress to gain entry to a Gestapo dinner party in occupied Poland where his "surprise act" consisted of lifting his skirt - to whip out two grenades which he then hurled at his stunned onlookers.

Another time he picked off a Gestapo officer in the very centre of Berlin in broad daylight.

'Nasty Nazi'

"He was a particularly nasty Nazi who took positive delight in finding Jews who were hidden in people's homes," Rubinstein recalls, speaking in a distinctive mish-mash of German-Yiddish-Polish.

"He would have the Jews dragged off and also the German families who had sheltered them. Very nasty, indeed. Everybody in Berlin feared and hated him, Jews and Goyim alike," he says.

"Well, one fine day it was his birthday and a very elegant-looking lady (if I do say so myself) showed up at his office with a bunch of red roses, asking to see him alone," Rubinstein relates with a wry smile and an arched eyebrow.

Who would suspect a statuesque woman bearing flowers of wanting to gun down a major Gestapo officer in the very heart of Berlin? Nobody. And that is precisely how Rubinstein got away with that and other assassinations.

The film of his life, Er Tanzte Das Leben (Dancing His Life) by Marian Czura und Kuno Kruse, literally takes Rubinstein on a journey to his origins.

Born in 1917 in Russia, his aristocrat father was executed by the Bolsheviks while his Polish mother fled across the border to Poland with Sylvin and his twin sister Maria.

Penniless in the hamlet of Brodi, Sylvin and Maria learned early on they could charm pennies from passersby by dancing in the town marketplace.

By their teens, the brother-sister team were dancing professionally. Cashing in on a Latin craze, they did a flamenco act billed as Imperio y Dolores.

By the time they were 20, Imperio and Dolores were headliners at music halls in all European capitals, London, New York and as far away as Melbourne.

They were performing at Warsaw's Adria theatre when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Being Jewish, they were consigned to the Warsaw Ghetto where Rubinstein quickly had run-ins with Nazi guards.

Jailed and beaten, Rubinstein nonetheless managed a daring escape, wresting a machinegun from a guard and mowing down a dozen Gestapo officers. Once outside, however, he was no better off since he was still in Nazi-occupied Warsaw.

"One day a big, tall German army officer spotted me and kept staring at me," Rubinstein remembers. "He followed me and then walked up to me and I thought, well, this is it."

It turned out the officer, Wehrmacht Major Kurt Werner, was a fan of Imperio y Dolores and remembered Rubinstein from an appearance in Berlin before the war.

It was a chance meeting that ultimately would save both men's lives. Werner arranged for fake ID papers for Rubinstein and his sister and urged them to head for Switzerland. But his sister insisted on trying to fetch their mother, still back in Brodi.

"I saw her board the train heading east and I knew as we waved to each other that that was the last time I'd ever see her," Rubinstein says wistfully. "I could have insisted she stay with me. But I didn't. That is one of two things I've always regretted."

He never saw either his sister or his mother again.

Remaining in Warsaw, Rubinstein returned to Major Werner, who took the dancer under his wing and initiated him into the Polish resistance.

It was through Werner that Rubinstein became an accomplished assassin and sabotage artist using the cover name Silwan Turski.

The filmmakers took Rubinstein back to Brodi and Warsaw and even back to a Polish village where even today the mere mention of the name Turski elicits excitement. It was Turski who throttled a Nazi SS advance guard soldier with his bare hands, thus sparing a village from a reprisal raid.

After the war, Rubinstein returned to dancing. But Imperio y Dolores merged into just Dolores.

"Becoming Dolores was my way of coping with my twin sister's death," he says. "Only a twin can understand how horrific that was. It was like being torn in half. Not a day goes by that I don't think of her."

In Allied-occupied Germany it was Rubinstein's time to save Major Werner's life, testifying on his behalf before a US board to win Werner's freedom.

Rubinstein, in his female guise as Dolores, went on to become a major music hall entertainer in the 1950s. But advancing age and changing tastes took their toll.

Reduced to performing in seedy clubs in Hamburg's Reeperbahn red- light district, he retired around 1970.

"I was dancing in a place where the headline act was a couple having sex on stage. That was when I said, 'Dolores, it's time to hang up the castanets'."

Now 90, Rubinstein lives in a tiny apartment just off the Reeperbahn in the harbour district of Hamburg which he shares with a canary, a crippled pigeon and the mementoes of a lifetime.

Among those mementoes is a faded photo of Major Werner, with whom he remained a lifelong friend until Werner died at age 93.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

EU Official Suggests Ukraine May Join Bloc by 2015

The Moscow Times

BRUSSELS -- A senior European Union official predicted Friday the EU will expand rapidly in the next decade, with Turkey and possibly Ukraine joining the bloc around 2015.

In a speech prepared for a seminar at Sussex University in England, Regional Aid Commissioner Danuta Huebner said Croatia might catch up with Bulgaria and Romania to enter the 25-nation EU in 2007.

"But of course a massive change will occur as the union grows to absorb Turkey and possibly Ukraine by around 2015," Huebner said in the prepared remarks. "These two countries would add around 125 million citizens to the union, bringing the total population to around 635 million or 40 percent more than today."

The European Commission officially says Ukraine's membership in not on the agenda. But some member states such as Huebner's native Poland believe membership for Ukraine should be put on the agenda after pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko was elected president in December. Yushchenko told the European Parliament earlier in the week that Ukraine wants to start EU entry talks in 2007.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Downside of Democracy

Those of you who haven't read Juan Cole's provocative piece in The L.A. Times today, should do so now.

President Bush says he is committed to democratizing the region, yet he also wants governments to emerge that are friendly to the U.S., benevolent to their own people, secular, capitalist and willing to stand up and fight against anti-American radicals.

But what if democratic elections do not produce such governments? What if the newly elected regimes are friendly to states and groups that Washington considers enemies? What if the spread of democracy through the region empowers elements that don't share American values and goals?

Then we're screwed. Under such circumstances the new majority Republican everything will undoubtedly be screaming for more wars against these newly democratized states. But this time, we won't have a good excuse like "Their leader is a bad man", or "We're liberating them."

What will we do when these new democracies start deciding that they don't want to sell us any oil?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bankruptcies hit record in Michigan

Personal filings are up 38% from 2001, as job loss, credit debt, medical bills and divorce take toll.

By Karen Dybis / The Detroit News

Personal bankruptcy rates in Michigan rose to an all-time high last year as working-class families struggled with unemployment, credit card debt and medical bills.

More than 63,700 Michigan residents sought protection from their creditors last year, according to state bankruptcy court records, up 2.3 percent from 2003 and 38 percent from 2001. The majority of the Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 filings came in the state's Eastern District, which includes Metro Detroit.

And early numbers from this year are even grimmer: Filings in January were up 8 percent over last year.

The bankruptcies are taking a toll both on the thousands of families left with broken credit and scores of creditors -- including many local companies -- stuck with unpaid bills.

Sabrina Kinney was one of about 100 people who jammed into a federal courtroom last week in Detroit to file for bankruptcy. "I'm trying to keep an apartment, feed myself, pay my bills," said Kinney, 25, a nursing assistant from Detroit who amassed significant medical bills after a car accident. "I don't have any health insurance and no one wants to give you any."

Bankruptcy attorneys and trustees say much of the rise can be attributed to Michigan's economic woes, including the state's shrinking manufacturing base, cuts in overtime and the high unemployment. Most vulnerable are those families who rely on credit to pay bills and lack the income to build up a nest egg that can see them through an emergency.

"We're always the first to get hit when we have a recession and the last to recover," said Walter A. Metzen, a Detroit attorney who handles about 1,000 bankruptcy cases annually. Metzen's one-man shop is so busy that he recently added two staffers to help him.

In contrast to Michigan, personal bankruptcies nationwide declined 2.6 percent in the 12-month period ending September 30, 2004, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Court officials worry bankruptcies could increase locally and nationally if proposed bankruptcy reform becomes law.

This month, two bills were proposed in Congress that makes it more difficult for individuals to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The majority of filings locally are Chapter 7, which allow people to eliminate most of their debts, compared to Chapter 13, which establishes a repayment plan over time.

Pushing more financially troubled people to file Chapter 13 could result in people who can't pay their debts coming back to file bankruptcy all over again within a few years.

Many Michiganians wind up in bankruptcy court due to changes in their job status, including everything from a reduction of overtime pay to getting laid off.

The state's unemployment rate for December tied Alaska for the highest in the country at 7.3 percent, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The nation's unemployment rate was 5.4 percent for the same period.

Some families are spending beyond their means, running up credit cards and paying the minimum balance as interest and fees pile up. Metzen said he has seen mortgages with interest rates topping 15 percent and credit card charging more than 29 percent when a person's credit starts going south.

"The credit-card industry will have you believe people plan to go into bankruptcy. But for most it's a last resort," Metzen said. "They just want the phone calls to stop."

Medical bills are another trigger. A Harvard University study released this month found that medical debt caused half of all personal bankruptcies. The research found that even families with medical insurance often couldn't afford to pay out-of-pocket expenses.

"The increase is medically as well as economically related in the state of Michigan," said Stuart A. Gold, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee and partner at Gold, Lange & Majoros, a Southfield-based bankruptcy law firm. "We're seeing more and more people seeking relief under the bankruptcy code to deal with medical problems."

It isn't necessarily huge medical losses either, said Jeffrey Morris, a University of Dayton School of Law professor and resident scholar at the American Bankruptcy Institute in Alexandria, Va.

"It's the person who gets behind by $3,000 or $5,000. Their income levels typically are not that high, so those debts are insurmountable," Morris said.

"It could be job loss, medical costs, financial mismanagement or divorce. Sometimes, all those things conspire to force individuals to seek bankruptcy protection."

Read the rest. The side panel is a great read too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Polish Artist Beksinski Found Murdered

WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish contemporary artist Zdzisław Beksiński (like: "G-suave" Beck- SHEEN- ski), famed for his haunting fantasy paintings, has been found murdered at his home, police said Tuesday.

Police said they found multiple wounds on Beksiński's body, discovered at his flat in a prestigious Warsaw neighborhood.

"His body was found late last night by his family. He had several wounds, some on his chest, which could have been caused by for example a dagger," police spokeswoman Zuzanna Talar said.

The 75-year-old artist became famous around Europe and Japan in the 1970s and 80s for his paintings that depicted disfigured objects or people against a background of hazy romantic light.

"He was one of the best known artists of Poland. He created a language, a climate of horror and secrecy in his paintings. He engaged people's imagination and it was very convincing," said Katarzyna Nowakowska-Sito, curator of modern art at Warsaw's National Museum.

Beksiński, born in the south-east town of Sanok in 1929, was also a photographer and sculptor, and drew pictures often compared to the work of Austrian Ernst Fuchs, founder of a fantastic-realism school.

More of his dark and twisted artwork here.

Do Europeans work less because they believe less in God?

On the occasion of Bush's trip to Brussels:

From: The Christian Science Monitor

A century ago, German sociologist Max Weber put forth a novel theory of economic growth. In "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism," Mr. Weber argued that Calvinist ideals fostered a disciplined work-and-save attitude that accelerated the creation of wealth. The implication - that Protestant economies outperform Catholic ones - has drawn skepticism ever since.

But today, researchers are reexamining whether there might be a link between religious belief and economic performance.

In a 2003 study of nearly 60 countries, Harvard researchers Robert Barro and Rachel McCleary found that certain religious beliefs did contribute to economic growth. Notably, they concluded that a belief in hell was a slightly more potent economic spur than a belief in heaven.

Last year, Niall Ferguson, a professor of history at Harvard University, examined the connections between faith and work ethic in light of divergent trends he found in the United States and Europe.

Religious belief in North America has "been amazingly resilient" amid big economic gains, he says, disputing the notion that wealthier countries necessarily become less religious.

But abroad, Ferguson noted that a decline in European working hours coincided with a decline in faith. "Americans don't in fact do better work than Frenchmen," he wrote. "They just do more work. A lot more." Between 1979 and 1999, the average US working year lengthened by nearly 4 percent. Yet in Germany, France, and Spain, that figure dropped by at least 10 percent. "Europeans now seem to believe in holidays, not in holy days," he adds.

This divergence, Ferguson, argues, coincides with a period of European de-Christianization, and American re-Christianization. "It's extremely hard to establish a causal relationship between changes in belief and changes in economic behavior," he cautions. But, he says, "something of Weber's theory seems to work."

Material prosperity, of course, is not the point of most religious teachings. And religion is clearly not the sole determinant of economic performance. China's official atheism hasn't stopped its rapid gains. Growth has been weaker in Muslim nations, where belief in potential damnation is high. And Ferguson notes that previous generations of Americans emphasized high levels of saving. Today, he says, they "work very hard in order to consume very hard."

I wonder who has the healthier psychology?

In a league of their own

Outflanked again. Rove and Co. have begun the demonization of AARP.

Did we not see this coming?

Follow the links to the outrageousness.


Say what you want

He was a talented writer. One of my favorites, and a hilarious political journalist.

Hunter's take on September 11, 2001.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

NHL season not quite iced

Report: Union, league have tentative deal; sides to meet today

February 19, 2005


Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman might have a future as a visionary.

The NHL season -- left for dead three days ago -- might have new life, just as Yzerman predicted when it was canceled.

The league and its union have scheduled a meeting for today in New York amid reports that the sides have agreed in principle to a deal. If they reach a final agreement, the NHL likely would play a 28-game season, starting on or around March 1.

The apparent breakthrough comes after months of stalling, glimmers of hope, gloom and finally commissioner Gary Bettman's announcement Wednesday that the season would be canceled. It was supposed to have started in October.

No major sports league in North America had ever called off an entire season because of a labor dispute. The Stanley Cup -- one of the most revered trophies in sports -- seemed unlikely to be awarded for only the second time since 1893.

Player salaries were the major sticking point in negotiations, but the Hockey News reported Friday that the sides had agreed on a salary cap of $45 million per team.

When asked if there was any way a deal wouldn't get completed, a player close to the talks told the Hockey News: "Not that I can see. I couldn't possibly imagine the idea that somebody is going to try to make a name for themselves in the last minute here."

The union, however, denied the report that the sides had agreed to a $45-million cap. An NHLPA spokesman told the Associated Press in an e-mail that the report was "absolutely false."

The league's last offer had been for a $42.5 million salary cap; the union had called for $49 million, with a flexible ceiling. With 30 teams in the league, the difference amounted to at least $195 million.

The Red Wings' payroll was about $78 million last season and would have been about $60 million this season without the lockout. With a 24-percent rollback proposed by the union, the payroll would be $43 million if the season started today. That doesn't include contracts for unsigned restricted free agent Pavel Datsyuk and unrestricted free agents Chris Chelios and Matheiu Schneider.

Wings general manager Ken Holland welcomed the resumption in negotiations.

"I think anytime they're meeting it's good news," he said. "I'm hopeful. They made a lot of progress early in the week. Hopefully, they build off that and find a solution."

Asked if he were more optimistic than he has been since the lockout began five months ago, Holland said: "It's such a roller coaster of emotions that until I see the leaders announce they've got a deal, I'll sit back and wait."

The Wings would have to work fast to work out the logistics of a season, but Holland said: "I'm hoping to have that problem."

The NHL Players' Association said the league had requested today's meeting. More than one outlet reported that Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux were involved in getting talks restarted. Gretzky acknowledged that he had talked to Lemieux, but said they hadn't tried to restart negotiations.

Soon after Bettman canceled the season, Yzerman said he thought the sides could reverse course if they acted reasonably soon. Saturday's meeting will come three days after Bettman's announcement.

Read the rest.

They're playing with my emotions. . .

Friday, February 18, 2005

US debt about to bite back

By Zbigniew Piekarski
The Warsaw Business Journal

“To say that economic and corporate growth in the US were good is a joke. Measured in Polish złoty, the US economy contracted by 19 percent last year.” Marc Faber, quoted in Barron’s

On the eve of the February 5 meeting of the G7 in London, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan finally admitted that the Americans have mortgaged the economic future of generations to come and that the present state of affairs is due to debt-induced consumption.

Thus the increase in the purchasing power of the American consumer was and is based on debt, on the selling of the putative value of their major asset, their homes. This has been stimulated by a lax monetary policy and artificially low rates of interest and has resulted in one of the largest spending binges in history.

Consummate consumers

As Stephen Roach points out, the consumption share of the US GDP rose to 71.1 percent in early 2003 and it is still at 70.7 percent, far above the norm of 67 percent that prevailed from 1975 to 2000. And this has occurred at a time when real wage and salary growth have increased a mere four percent over the first 37 months of this recovery–a full 10 percentage points less than the average gains of more than 14 percent that occurred over the five preceding cyclical upturns.

In his speech in London, Greenspan acknowledged that the men at the Fed have played their part in facilitating the greatest spending excess that the world has seen to date. However, he assured the audience that there was no need to worry, as “natural market forces” will remedy the situation without aggravation.

Spread it around

Thus the American consumer will become a prolific saver and restore the budget deficit to a surplus; the debilitating interest that has to be paid will become more manageable as the dollar devalues further and spreads that burden onto citizens of other nations; and the ‘voices of fiscal restraint’ will finally prevail in Washington.

Unfortunately, as, according to the UN, the US military is visibly ensconced in 130 out of a total of 191 countries and seems determined to add a few more to their military misadventures, the demands on the exchequer from this sector will not abate. Only the poor citizens will suffer.

Chinese checkers

On February 11, the Commerce Department informed the world that the trade deficit for all of 2004 was up 24 percent from the previous year to $617.7 billion. For all of 2004, US exports rose 12.3 percent to $1.15 trillion, but imports rose even faster by 16.3 percent to a new record of $1.76 trillion. And the deficit with China was up 30.5 percent at $162 billion, the largest ever recorded with a single country.

The reaction to this news was predictable. Legislation is being introduced in the US Senate that will slap 27.5 percent tariffs on all Chinese products sold in America if the yuan is not revalued by a similar amount. Once again, the politicians seem determined that their poorer constituents shoulder the burden as Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, buys as many Chinese goods as the whole of the Netherlands and more than the whole of the UK. The destructive palliative of protectionism is gathering pace without the realization that without Chinese banks’ purchasing, the US Treasuries’ interest rates would be far higher than they are.

Obligation to consume

On that same Friday, on CNBC television, Steve Leisman and a guest described American consumption as being “a sacrifice,” and American consumers as “bearing the brunt of world consumption,” and of having an “obligation to consume.” Thus the motivation behind the Protestant Crusaders’ messianic zeal of spreading freedom and democracy throughout the world, in particular to those countries with proven oil reserves, is made clear. It is to maintain the Holy Grail of gross and feckless over-consumption.

In 2000, Clinton left Bush junior a surplus of $236 billion and the forecasted 10-year surplus pursuing similar policies was projected to be around $5.6 trillion. Bush immediately reversed Clinton’s policies and ladled out some $630 billion in tax cuts to the top one percent of income earners. They returned the favor by investing over $200 million to ensure Bush’s re-election. Republicans know about good investment returns. A $630 billion return on a $200 million investment amounts to $3,160 per $1.

Bush blew through Clinton’s surplus in his first year and by 2003 the deficit had reached $415 billion.

Fuzzy math

But its real size was masked by the fact that Bush shifted $150 billion from the social security trust fund in order to make the shortfall look smaller. The real amount borrowed was the $415 billion ‘nominal’ deficit plus the $150 billion from social security, or $565 billion. This run-up in debt represents the most rapid, predatory looting of public wealth in the history of the world.

Interest costs alone will consume the government and, soon, the entire economy. In 2004, interest costs came to $321 billion against a deficit of $415 billion. So, three-quarters of that year’s borrowing was spent paying interest on past borrowing. This is a key symptom of the “deficit death spiral” when borrowings have to cover interest payments rather than reduce the principal and bankruptcy is only a matter of time.

Yet loose monetary policy, artificially low rates of interest, the easy availability of credit and extreme liquidity has meant that over 2003 and 2004 all asset classes, bonds, equities, commodities and property, rose in value.

Exotic złoty

Even the dollar rose in value; it appreciated by 85 percent against the Zimbabwean dollar.

Fortunately for the largest debtor nation on the planet, its currency depreciated against all of the other major currencies, making its debts easier to repay. It also plummeted against the aptly named “exotic” currency, known as the Polish złoty, losing 23.9 percent in the last year. Thus the widows who were encouraged a couple of years ago to set up dollar-denominated savings accounts must be suitably impressed with the respective banks.

The fall in the value of the dollar was expected to reduce the level of imports, as they would become more expensive, and increase the amount of exports and so reduce the deficit. Instead, the deficit increased. To the American consumer, as to all human beings, habits are hard to break.
Over the next year the dollar will recover and retrace at least 33.33 percent of its fall from January 2002 for the Fed has warned that it will drop the words “measured” and “accommodative” when it refers to future increases in interest rates. In addition, since December, it has been reducing liquidity and where liquidity leads psychology follows.

The ‘soft patch’ that Greenspan has successfully avoided will become a quagmire.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

And now we can mourn

While I could take this space to comment on a number of the day's political issues (especially my favorite, foreign policy), I have no strength for it. Goodbye hockey-- wherever you are.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Iraq tension?

The New York Times reports that underneath all the brownnosing yesterday, Warsaw and Washington are wrangling over Polish involvement in Iraq, which most Poles hope will end this year. Of the 2,400 troops stationed in Iraq, 800 are set to leave this month.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

President and Polish President Discuss International Policy

The Oval Office

11:50 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT BUSH: The President and I will have opening statements. I'll answer a question from the American press; he'll answer a question -- or somebody will answer a question from the Polish press. And we'll do this twice.

Thank you all for coming. Welcome back to the Oval Office. It is my great pleasure to welcome my friend back here to discuss important international policy and policy related to our bilateral relationship. We discussed, and will continue to discuss, very important issues. We'll talk about, of course, Iraq and our mutual desire to train Iraqis so that they can defend their own freedom. We'll talk about my trip to Europe. I'm looking forward to advice from my friend.

We'll continue to discuss the Ukraine. And let me just step back and say that I'm impressed by the leadership of President Kwasniewski when it came to the Ukraine. He showed remarkable leadership. And the people of Ukraine are better for it, and the world appreciates that and I appreciate it.

We'll spend time continuing to talk about the importance of our bilateral relationship, whether it be trade and commerce, or whether it be the ability of Polish folks to travel to the United States of America. The visa policy of the country has been under review for a while, and now we've got a way forward to make trips to America easier for Polish citizens.

I want to thank you for your leadership on that issue, Mr. Prime Minister. I mean, Mr. President. Excuse me. I demoted him. (Laughter.) Well, it's not a demotion.


PRESIDENT BUSH: It's a lateral transfer. (Laughter.) Anyway, I am thrilled you're here, and look forward to seeing you not only over lunch, but in Brussels on my trip. Welcome.

PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Thank you. So I should speak Polish in the beginning.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I would like to express my joy that this is my fourth visit already to the White House, visiting President George W. Bush.

I want to tell you that we talked about Polish-American cooperation, which has now a strategic, lasting character. And in the recent years, we have had many successful events in cooperation with the United States.

During our meeting today we talked about Iraq. Poland participates in the stabilization mission in Iraq, and we are full of optimism thinking about that country and about the successful completion of our mission.

We have been talking about the transatlantic relationships, and we are very happy that America is getting closer and is having better and better relations with our European neighbors and also with Poland. We talked about bilateral cooperation, and both President Bush and myself talked about the adoption of the road map that is going to solve the visa problem. And it implies concrete decisions that are going to be made in relation to the visa regime, doing away with some old information -- old data, statistics concerning the immigration violation from before 1989, easing the procedures, review of different -- that are connected to the visa system, and further cooperation with the Congress in order to facilitate the process as much as possible.

We hope that the road map that has been accepted will be a very good solution. Poland will have to observe many rules, and it will bring about a final doing away with this problem that has been present in our talks for many years now.

I would like also to say that as far as the thank-you words concerning Ukraine are concerned, everything wouldn't be possible without the participation of the United States. And without the United States' role, it wouldn't be possible to finish the crisis situation in Ukraine and strengthen democracy in that country. It is the success of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, but it is also the success of all of us.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Very good, thank you.


Q Mr. President, Secretary Rice said today in Brussels that the United States would not tolerate foot-dragging by Tehran on accounting for their nuclear program. Is time running out for Iran to come to terms with the European negotiators?

PRESIDENT BUSH: The Iranians just need to know that the free world is working together to send a very clear message: Don't develop a nuclear weapon. And the reason we're sending that message is because Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a very destabilizing force in the world.

And I look forward to going over to Europe to continue discussing this issue with our allies. It's important we speak with one voice. I'm very pleased with the response that European leaders have given to Dr. Rice on this issue. She has made -- her trip, by the way, has been a fantastic trip. I want to thank Aleksander, the President, for being so gracious to her on the first leg of her trip, or one of the first legs on her trip. But the message is, is that we're going to speak with one voice, and we'll continue to do so.

Yes, Polish --

PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Yes, please, Polish press.

Q I have a question to President Bush. Are you going to -- concerning the visa problem, are you going to support the legislation being introduced in the Congress? I talked to some congressmen; they say they keep receiving mixed signals from the White House concerning the issue.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, we've got a way forward to answer the questions of a lot of the members of the United States Congress to get this issue solved. And the President has been very -- hard at work in helping develop a road map that is fair to the Polish people. And I adopt the principles and accept the recommendations of the road map, and that will become the basis for legislation.


Q Mark McClellan is now acknowledging the new Medicare drug benefit will cost $720 billion, far more than the White House initially said. Will you consider steps to lower the cost? Might Medicare be a bigger problem now than Social Security?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, there's no question that there is a unfunded liability inherent in Medicare that we're -- Congress and the administration is going to have to deal with over time. Obviously, I've chosen to deal with Social Security first. And once we accomplish -- once we modernize and save Social Security for a young generation of Americans, then it will be time to deal with the unfunded liabilities in Medicare. The same issue that deals with -- creates a problem with Social Security creates a problem for Medicare. In other words, baby boomers are retiring with fewer payers going into the system. And I look forward to working with them.

Listen, the reforms haven't even begun yet. I signed a piece of legislation last year and the major reforms of providing prescription drugs for our seniors kicks in next year. And I look forward to watching those reforms take effect. I'm convinced they'll have cost savings for our society, and I know it will make the life of our seniors better.

And so we look forward to working with Congress to make sure that the Medicare reforms that are in place are fully enacted and the people can realize the benefits of them.

Q I've got a question to President Bush. Sir, will the United States increase its assistance in modernization of Polish armed forces?

PRESIDENT BUSH: We -- Aleksander and I, the President and I talked about that. He has been very insistent that -- about our mil-to-mil relations. He's been very forthright and very clear, and I appreciate his leadership on this issue. I am -- intend -- I say "intend" because our system is one where I make requests; Congress has to appropriate the money. But we will make requests that will enable there to be a mil-to-mil expenditure to help Poland modernize and fulfill its mission of about $100 million this year.

Now, again, I repeat, I don't get to write the checks in the American system; the government -- the Congress does that. But I get to put out requests. And I assured the President that would be -- when it's all said and done, that would be the request that we would put forward. I'm confident the Congress will respond.

Listen, Poland has been a fantastic ally, because the President and the people of Poland love freedom. And I know the people of your country must have been thrilled when the millions of people went to the polls and showed that people from all parts of the world want to live in a free society, just like your great nation has shown the world over the last decade.

So, Mr. President, welcome. Thanks for coming. I value our friendship.

PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all.

END 12:01 P.M. EST

Bush to Ask Congress for $100M for Poland

Wednesday February 9, 2005 5:46 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush said Wednesday he will ask Congress for $100 million to help modernize armed forces in Poland, a staunch ally in the war in Iraq.

During an Oval Office meeting with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Bush said he was confident that Congress would approve the money. That would be an increase over the $60 million the United States gave Poland last year.

"Poland has been a fantastic ally because the president and the people of Poland love freedom," Bush said. "I know the people of your country must have been thrilled when the millions of people went to the polls" in Iraq.

The money will be part of the estimated $80 billion war funding request the White House is expected to submit to Congress next week.

Poland has taken command of a multinational security force in central Iraq that currently includes about 6,000 troops -among them more than 2,400 Polish soldiers. Poland, however, recently disclosed plans to withdraw about 800 of those troops, leaving about 1,600 there until the end of the year.

Kwaśniewski in talks with Bush

More on this later. But already there is some good news. Nancy Johnson, a Republican from Connecticut is planning talks with Kwasniewski on the bill she re-introduced yesterday adding Poland to the Visa Waiver program. Her bill was defeated in Congress last year, so I don't think she would have done this without the ok of the administration's go-ahead. Here's the full story:

U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-5th District, is scheduled to meet today with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski to discuss efforts to exempt Polish nationals from visa requirements on extended stays in the U.S.

Tuesday Johnson re-introduced legislation first submitted in the last Congress that would add Poland to the list of U.S. allies in the Visa Waiver Program. Currently 27 countries participate including France, Germany, Australia, Singapore, and Japan.

The New Britain area, which Johnson represents, is home to large numbers of Polish-Americans and increasing numbers of immigrants from Poland seeking work.

The waiver program covers stays in the U.S. of up to 90 days.

"As a matter of fairness, Polish citizens should be able to travel to the United States under the same rules as citizens of most other European countries," Johnson said. "Generations of Polish-Americans have helped build this country. Their friends and family should be able to visit the United States with just a passport like French and German citizens can.".

"I’m pleased President Kwasniewski is supporting my legislation and I look forward to working with him to achieve fairness for Polish-Americans and Polish citizens," Johnson added.

Last year former Polish president and Nobel Prize Winner Lech Walesa met with Johnson on Capitol Hill to lobby for the change.

At that meeting Johnson said her legislation would likely find success, but only if Poland updated an arcane system of travel documentation.

Current Polish passports do not have machine-readable identifying components like U.S. and other counterparts, making them easier to fabricate.

Andre Blaszczynski, president of the Polish American Foundation of Connecticut, said the issue "means a great deal for the Polish community."

"This is at the very top of the agenda for Polish Americans and signifies Poland’s final rejoining of the West," Blaszczynski said, thanking Johnson for her assistance.

Johnson noted Poland joined the NATO alliance in 1999 and the European Union last year, and has been a staunch ally of the United States in the war on terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Kwasniewski is scheduled to meet with President Bush during a 2-day visit to the U.S. Poland plans to begin a partial withdrawal of its 2,400 troops currently serving with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Poland repealed its visa requirement for Americans in 1991.

Johnson’s bill was co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., John Shimkus, R-Ill., Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y

It's bi-partisan too.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Hausner Update

By quitting his party, Hausner has managed to draw the fire of every criminal-politician in the country. They call him a traitor, but he's made the right judgement.

He can survive the elections. SLD can't.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Jerzy Hausner quits SLD

Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Jerzy Hausner has quit the ruling SLD party.

This is another rough blow to the SLD. Hausner was one of their only remaining members with integrity. His famous "Hausner Plan" has been going nowhere -- no thanks to the SLD.

The Hausner Plan is a set of legislation designed to modernize and streamline the Polish economy. It has wide support from business leaders, but so far, every measure has been watered-down to the point of irrelevance.

Which is why Citizen's Platform will run the table in June or Autumn, whenever the SLD finally decides is the best time to get beaten.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Condoleezza Rice

is in Warsaw today.

Rumor has it the discussions will include Poland's participation in Iraq and "the visa question".

It's getting to sound like a broken record. Undoubtedly, there will no progress on either.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Social Security

Read this.

So I'm watching the BBC...

... --that's BBC World-- and Mike Embley is asking some guest what it means that a UN report says that what's happening in Darfur isn't genocide.

My question: "Who cares?"

P.S. Do I sense a go-round on the ICC coming on?

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