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

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

25 years of Solidarity

The Washington Post:

Solidarity Remembered
Walk down Long Market Street, past the shops selling amber beads and cavalry swords, through the medieval gates of the city of Gdansk, Poland. Cross the highway, head toward the shipyard and look up. When I did so a few days ago, I saw an enormous billboard featuring a list of cities: "Gdansk. Budapest. Prague. Berlin. Bucharest. Sofia. Kiev." The list makes it clear that the 1980 Gdansk shipyard strikes, which broke the state's monopoly of power in the Soviet bloc and created the independent Solidarity trade union, set the pattern for the democratic revolutions that rolled across Eastern Europe in 1989 and that continue to roll across the nations of the former Soviet Union today.

Walk a little farther and you'll come to the shipyard itself. To mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of Solidarity, a small exhibit has been installed. Somewhat oddly, the entrance leads through the hull of a ship, festooned with a not entirely comprehensible "multimedia" exhibit. More evocative are the black-and-white photographs. Some feature the strike leader Lech Walesa, signing the Solidarity agreement with Poland's communist leaders. Most show crowd scenes: thousands of shipyard workers praying, talking or sprawled out on the ground, passing the time during the two-week strike.

But what is most interesting about the billboard and the exhibit, along with the multiple conferences, concerts and celebrity speeches taking place in Gdansk this week, is the fact that they are happening at all. Until recently, it wasn't easy to find public displays of pride in Poland's democratic revolution. Five years ago, on the 20th anniversary of the founding of Solidarity, giant screens set up to relay celebratory speeches to the citizens of Gdansk attracted no more than 50 or 60. Far from seeing themselves as part of a peaceful revolution that stretched from Gdansk in 1980 to Kiev in 2004, most Poles associated the collapse of communism with corrupt politics and personal hardship.

This persistent pessimism has been one of the biggest surprises of political and economic reform. Back in 1980, or, indeed, 1989, no one imagined that the most difficult transition from communism to democracy would be psychological, not economic, or that the post-totalitarian moral hangover would linger 15 years past the first free elections. Even now, as economic problems are gradually solved, as once-shabby cities are rebuilt and repainted, and as Eastern Europeans join Western institutions, the perception of failure, personal and national, has remained. A survey of "happiness" recently quoted in the Economist revealed that despite their rising incomes, Poles still say they feel gloomier than they used to.

In part, this is because the adjustment to a new system itself was traumatic. Even if they make more money, people now have to work harder and longer than before. Even if standards of living are rising across the board, some people's standards of living are rising a lot faster. In the communist era, everyone seemed equal on the surface: Privileges, such as access to foreign goods and travel, were mostly invisible. When your neighbor buys a Mercedes, on the other hand, it's hard not to notice. It is also true that democracy, if you aren't used to it, isn't always a pretty sight. In Warsaw recently, a friend described to me a new TV talk show, in which (sound familiar?) participants of various political convictions all shout at each other. He rather liked it, he said, but most of his friends don't: "They think it's 'uncultured' when politicians disagree."

There were also ways in which the transition was genuinely unjust. Many of the early beneficiaries of economic change were not striking shipyard workers but their communist bosses, who converted political influence into private property and then used their money to win back political influence. A series of seemingly endless scandals over the past several years has reminded people that not everyone is in politics because they want to improve the lot of ordinary people. Because their official representatives -- the government, the cabinet ministers, the members of parliament -- hardly seemed worth admiring, many Poles didn't think much of their country either, whatever its economic growth statistics.

The festivities in Gdansk may not mark the end of this post-transition gloom, or of the resentment of politicians. But they do show that some kind of corner has been turned -- or at least that some Poles have found some blessings to count at last. To mark the anniversary, 100,000 people turned out for a pop concert on the grounds of the shipyard. Across town, dissidents from Burma to Belarus converged to discuss how they might foment their own peaceful revolutions at home. However much they disparage it, the generation that witnessed their country's transformation is finding that it's become a source of pride for their children and a symbol of hope around the world. It's been a long time coming -- take note, Iraq-watchers -- but despite themselves, Poles are starting to feel that Poland is a success.

The beginnings of a Berlin-Warsaw axis?

Radio Polonia

German President Horst Koehler has spoken in favour of forging a joint eastern policy of the EU in talks with president Aleksander Kwasniewski at the start of his official two-day visit to Poland. The two president stressed while there are some sensitive issues to be resolved, bilateral relations are very good. “We are giving the young generation a unique opportunity of a secure, friendly Polish-German neighbourhood”, Kwasniewski said. He voiced, however, his fundamental doubts concerning German plans to create a centre against expulsions in Berlin, which is seen in Poland as an attempt to revise history. President Koehler believes that bilateral consensus on the centre is possible. The idea of the centre is forced through by the German Expellees Union.

Horst Koehler is among some 20 heads of state and government taking part in events in Warsaw and Gdansk honouring Solidarity.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Walesa: I See No Place for Me in Poland


GDANSK, Poland (AP) - Solidarity founder Lech Walesa said Tuesday he sees no place for himself in Poland's public life - despite his achievement in founding the movement 25 years ago that helped topple communism throughout Eastern Europe.

Speaking a day before the anniversary of Solidarity's birth, the former shipyard electrician - also Poland's first democratically elected president - said he had considered running again in October elections this year but gave up when he realized he could only count on support from several thousand people.

``I used to lead 10 million people, so what use to me is just 1,000?'' Walesa, 61, said in an interview with The Associated Press in his office in Gdansk. ``From a logical point of view, there is no room for me here.''

Solidarity attracted an estimated 10 million in Poland - about a third of all adults - during its heyday in 1980 and 1981 before communist leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski cracked down by imposing martial law. Jaruzelski intended to crush Solidarity with his Dec. 13, 1981, decree, but the movement eventually prevailed, leading to negotiations in 1989 with the ruling communists who gradually ceded their power without a fight.

``I made the right decisions, I set everything on the right course, the reforms are going in the right direction,'' Walesa said.

``At that time, I tried to control enthusiasm and streamline it in the right direction,'' Walesa said. ``Today I only try to share my experience, pass it on and do something good for the world.''

But he conceded: ``Naturally, I would prefer to be cheered than booed at the anniversary ceremonies.''

On Monday, a splinter group of other Solidarity activists, including Anna Walentynowicz - the shipyard worker whose dismissal sparked the strikes that led to Solidarity - held their own parallel event in protest.

They are critical of Walesa, saying he has betrayed Solidarity's ideals by compromising with communists in the past and today, and are galled he is taking part in events joined by former communists.

Walesa said he spends more than six months a year giving lectures on Solidarity abroad, where he is often seen as more of a hero than at home following what many people think was a less than successful presidency from 1990-95.

Walesa began his term of office as a national hero, but his popularity waned amid perceptions he was trying to run the country single-handedly. He alienated former advisers and failed to deliver on social welfare promises as many people lost their jobs amid the transition from communism to free markets.

Walesa, speaking in his spacious and airy office in Gdansk's old town, said his open attitude to other people made him shake hands with former foe, ex-communist Aleksander Kwasniewski, who defeated him in the presidential election of 1995.

Walesa and Kwasniewski shook hands for the first time in many years at the funeral in April for Polish-born Pope John Paul II in a gesture of reconciliation. ``I have always been and will be an enemy of communism, but I love all people,'' Walesa said.

He said the celebrations of Solidarity 25th anniversary that are drawing many foreign leaders to Poland evoke no emotions in him.

The anniversary celebrations culminate Wednesday with a Mass celebrated by Stanislaw Dziwisz, the newly installed archbishop of Krakow, who is Pope Benedict XVI's envoy. Dziwisz was the longtime aide of Polish-born John Paul, who is credited with inspiring Solidarity.

Keep pretending this isn't happening


ZPB's Borys makes a stand against more harassment from Belarus police

Authorities in Belarus are continuing to oppress the leaders of the independent Association of Poles (ZPB). On Monday police forced their way into the house of Andżelika Borys, president of the ZPB, who is repudiated by Belarus government. "They asked me who of my friends beat up and robbed near my house Michał Dworczyk, an activist of the committee of Solidarity with Belarus who came from Poland. They also asked whether he had some illegal, stolen materials in his backpack. I shouted at them and said to stop making a fool of me, as they were the ones behind the assault. I told them to leave the flat," said Borys. In her opinion this was a warning and a show of power. Borys and her supporters did not accept the results of Saturday's meeting of the ZPB, which gave power to people connected with Aleksander Łukaszenko. The Polish Foreign Affairs Ministry also dismissed the results, as they were achieved by violating democratic rules.

Getting what he deserves


Sejm overrides Kwaśniewski veto of construction-VAT refund bill

With the support of votes from all political clubs, the Sejm yesterday overturned the President's veto on the bill concerning refunding of costs on construction materials. This means that taxpayers will get a refund on part of the VAT tax spent on construction materials bought between May 1, 2004 and December 31, 2007. A total number of 388 deputies rejected the veto, while three refrained from voting. Even the Civic Platform (PO), which wanted to further discuss the matter just last week, voted to override the veto. The bill, which President Aleksander Kwaśniewski now has to sign, will enter into force soon. The Finance Ministry warns however, that the refunding of the expenses will cost the budget between zł.3-18 billion in the years 2006-2008. According to estimates prepared by Rzeczpospolita, the costs of financing this bill will cost a maximum of zł.5.9 billion, but most probably will come to some zł.2.7 billion.

Why aren't Poles buying anything?


Investment growth continues to disappoint in Q2 as demand weakens

According to the Central Statistical Office (GUS), the economy grew by 2.8% in Q2, which marks a slight acceleration in relation to the 2.1% observed in Q1. However, at the same time investment outlays increased by only 2.6% against 1% recorded in the first quarter and were much lower than the 4.4% anticipated by economists. "This data is disappointing. The result is worse than expected and worse than predicted by other macroeconomic data," said Katarzyna Zajdel-Kurowska, chief economist with BH. "Q2 was not a favorable time for investments. Enterprises directing products at the domestic market were affected by dropping consumption demand. Exporters in turn were not investing, as they were expecting the strengthening of the złoty and as a result a drop in their margins," said Wojciech Kuryłek, chief economist with KB. This means that the Monetary Policy Council (RPP) now has more reasons for further cuts in interest rates.

They're waiting for the elections. It's no use doing business with a government or according to rules that are going to change in a few months. In January, economists were predicting 5% growth for the year. Now we'll be happy with 3%.

Monday, August 29, 2005

A primer

For those of you unfamiliar with Polish politics, this gives you a good idea of what's happening and what's at stake this fall:


The poison in Poland
Poland's politicians have the chance in this autumn's parliamentary and presidential elections to end the atmosphere of cynicism hanging over the country's politics.

But they will have to show the sort of determination that founded the Solidarity movement 25 years ago this weekend if they are to take decisive action against corruption, which has alienated voters and undermined faith in public life.

Since the heady days of the early 1990s, governments of ex-Communists and former Solidarity activists alike have been embroiled in financial scandals. For the past 15 months, Poland has been ruled by a caretaker administration, installed after the last party-based government - Leszek Miller's centre-left team - quit amid corruption claims. The dirty linen has aired in televised hearings into alleged wrong-doing by officials dealing with the media, insurance and energy. Even Aleksander Kwasniewski, the internationally respected president, has seen his domestic reputation plummet.

Unfortunately, the centre-right parties that are likely to take power after this month's parliamentary elections have failed to use their time in opposition to create a strong political base. The liberal Civic Platform and the conservative Law and Justice parties target each other almost as much as their rivals on the left. Each is vying to be the senior partner in any coalition and to promote its candidate in October's presidential poll. But they should unite on fighting corruption.

Poland has made huge progress in overthrowing Communism, joining Nato and the European Union, and in implementing reforms. Corruption sometimes influenced policy-making, for example in privatisations. But it never spread far enough to jeopardise EU accession, because of the consensus in favour of integration with Europe.

However, with accession complete, the consensus is fading. After more than 15 years of upheavals, voters are tired of reforms. Some are falling for populist parties, headed by the leftist Self-Defence and the right-wing League of Polish Families. Many more are turning their backs on all politicians.

Mainstream political leaders will now have a much harder job selling the reforms that are still needed if Poland is to see further economic growth, cut unemployment and reap the benefits of EU membership. The public finances, notably the bloated social security budget, need overhauling; labour markets must be made more flexible and the funds found for infrastructure, especially roads.

To respond to these long-term challenges, political leaders need to regain the voters' trust - and they cannot do that without dealing seriously with corruption. The winners of next month's polls will not find the antidote in a day or even a year. But they must start draining the poison from the Polish body politic.

Going unpunished

Radio Polonia:

Poland’s ruling Left as well as the opposition parties are unanimous that Warsaw should not recognize the new leadership of the Union of Poles in Belarus. Poland should take steps to make the international community involved in the conflict around the Polish ethnic minority in Belarus.

The union’s new leaders were elected on Saturday at a meeting orchestrated by the Belarus authorities. They replaced democratically elected Angelica Borys and her associates, whom the Minsk regime accused of attempts to destabilize the state. Last month President Alexander Lukashenko declared illegal all public gatherings of ethnic Poles as part of persecutions which began earlier this year, after the Polish Union’s congress which elected independent-minded people. The Belarus president also started a crack-down on independent NGO’s which are supported by democratic forces outside the country.

Cimoszewicz looking cleaner every minute


LPR's Giertych casts more doubts over reliability of Jarucka's statement

On Sunday, the leader of the right wing League of Polish Families (LPR) Roman Giertych publicly undermined the credibility of Anna Jarucka, the main witness of the Sejm investigating commission which accused Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz of forging his wealth declaration. This is now the second event discrediting Jarucka. In an interview for Radio Zet Giertych stated that Jarucka did not tell the truth saying that the Sejm Speaker authorized her to erase the Orlen shares from his wealth declaration. "I have a hypothesis that the authorization concerned not Orlen shares, but BMC shares," said Giertych. BMC is a consulting company co-established by Cimoszewicz in 1997. He sold his stake in the firm in April 2002. The shares were not included in his declaration from January 2002, but appeared in the one from April 2. Cimoszewicz's spokesman Tomasz Nałęcz and SLD leader Wojciech Olejniczak, who were present in the radio station during the interview, reacted to Giertych's statement with laughter. According to Rzeczpospolita daily, Cimoszewicz will be released from all charges brought by the Warsaw Prosecutor. Anna Jarucka, in turn, may be charged with forging the document giving her power from Cimoszewicz to change his declaration.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sunday Vista Blogging III

Czersk - EK for WS

Czersk - EK for WS

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Sunnis lose their chance

Shiites and Kurds Halt Charter Talks With Sunnis


BAGHDAD, Iraq, Saturday, Aug. 27 - Shiite and Kurdish leaders drafting a new Iraqi constitution abandoned negotiations with a group of Sunni representatives on Friday, deciding to take the disputed charter directly to the Iraqi people.

With the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, standing by, Shiite and Kurdish representatives said they had run out of patience with the Sunni negotiators, a group that includes several former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. The Shiites and Kurds said the Sunnis had refused to budge on a pair of crucial issues that were holding up completion of the constitution.

The Shiites and Kurds reached their decision in meetings that ran late into Friday night, disregarding the Sunnis' pleas for more time.

The Shiite and Kurdish representatives sought to play down the importance of leaving the Sunnis out, saying that with their Baathist links, they had never truly spoken for the broader Sunni population. The Iraqi leaders who drafted the constitution defended it as a document that would ensure the unity of the country and safeguard individual rights.

"The negotiation is finished, and we have a deal," said Ahmad Chalabi, the deputy prime minister and a member of the Shiite leadership. "No one has any more time. It cannot drag on any longer. Most of the Sunnis are satisfied. Everybody made sacrifices. It is an excellent document."

The decision to move forward was a heavy blow for the Bush administration, which had expended enormous energy and political capital to forge a constitution that included the Sunnis. On Thursday, in a last-ditch effort to get a deal, President Bush telephoned Abdul Aziz Hakim, a cleric and the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, to press him to offer a more palatable compromise to the Sunnis.

Is it just me or is Iraq heading twoardsa three-state solution? And would that be so bad?

Environment & Energy Saturday III

US states bypass Bush to tackle greenhouse gas emissions

The Guardian

America's north-eastern states are on the brink of a declaration of environmental independence with the introduction of mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions of the kind rejected by the Bush administration.

In the first regional agreement of its kind in the US, nine states are expected to announce a plan next month to freeze carbon dioxide emissions from big power stations by 2009 and then reduce them by 10% by 2020.

The region stretches from New Jersey to Maine and generates roughly the same volume of emissions as Germany.

Pennsylvania and Maryland have signed on as observers to the regional initiative and are considering joining it at a later date.

On the other side of the continent, California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico and Arizona are exploring similar agreements, representing a clear break between state governments and Washington over global warming.

The outline of the north-eastern states' draft agreement was published [Wednesday] in the New York Times, and its main features were confirmed by Dale Bryk, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defence Council, who has been monitoring progress of the regional initiative. The 2009 freeze and the 10% reduction by 2020 were "a done deal", Ms Bryk said. "They plan to have a memorandum of understanding by the end of September."

She added: "It's huge. It's a drumbeat, and more and more states and regions are heading down this road. It's going to change the discussion at the federal level ... It's going to take the argument off the table [that] we can't do this because it's too expensive, there are too many obstacles."

The Bush administration withdrew from the Kyoto protocol on climate change in 2001, and restated its opposition at the G8 summit at Gleneagles in July, arguing that its mandatory emissions targets would devastate the US economy.

In July, Washington signed a separate pact with Australia, Japan, China, India and South Korea, which did not fix emissions targets but instead set out to encourage the private sector of green technologies and their transfer to industrialising countries.

"We welcome all efforts to help meet the president's goal for reducing greenhouse gas intensity by investing in new, more efficient technologies," Michele St Martin, a spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told the Guardian.

"We believe it is a better approach than regulatory mandates that would increase already high energy bills for consumers, put people out of work or achieve reductions simply by buying more energy from, and shifting emissions to, other states and other countries."

The American response to global warming has split the Republican party. Two powerful Republican state governors, Arnold Schwarzenegger in California and George Pataki in New York, have played leading roles in the regional initiatives.

Andrew Rush, Mr Pataki's spokesman, said yesterday he could not comment on the nine-state agreement as it was still in draft form. But he added: "I know we've made a lot of progress and we're still working hard on it."

The regional greenhouse gas initiative, as the north-eastern plan is titled, will allow for emissions trading, so that power stations in one state with lower emissions than their mandatory ceiling could sell the rest of their allowance in other states. The same system, pioneered in sulphur dioxide control in the US, is currently being used to curb greenhouse gases in Europe.

The north-eastern pact is less ambitious than the Kyoto accord, which freezes emissions at the 1990 level and imposes a 7% reduction by 2012.

The plan will initially only apply to power stations with an output of more than 25 megawatts, of which there are about 600 across the region, but it could later be extended to large manufacturing plants. The states are New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island and Delaware. Some states will need to ratify the agreement in their state legislatures, but that is not expected to be a significant obstacle.

The scheme is expected initially to raise energy prices in the states involved.

In a separate initiative, the mayors of more than 130 cities, including New York and Los Angeles, agreed earlier this year to meet the emissions reductions envisaged in the Kyoto accord, independent of federal policy decided in Washington.

NYT piece

Kiss and make up

Russia interested in Poland's increasing role in Europe
MOSCOW, August 26 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is interested in Poland's increasing role in Europe, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by the popular Russian daily Moscovskiye Novosti Friday.

'We are seeking Poland's constructive and stabilizing role in Europe, including in the EU and NATO,' Lavrov said.

The minister said Russia believes that Poland 'will use its significant potential constructively to contribute to the formation of a greater Europe without dividing lines,' adding that Russia is prepared to up bilateral cooperation.

Lavrov admitted however, that there were some problems in bilateral relations between the two countries and that the countries have established working groups to address problem issues.


Warsaw Business Journal

Making up with the bear

Tensions between Poland and Russia seem to be dissipating

A recent poll by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center shows that a significant chunk of Russians view Poland in a friendly light. The poll follows a phone call between Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewki and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, during which they agreed to work on improving the "unfavorable atmosphere" that has emerged between the two countries after a series of attacks on Poles in Moscow, including a diplomat and a journalist, and the mugging of three children of Russian diplomats in Warsaw.

The poll showed that though 40 percent of Russians believed the teenagers' mugging was caused by nationalistic zeal, nearly 30 percent believed the attack was nothing more than the work of hooligans.

The study also found that 35 percent of Russians see Poland as a normal European country, while 13 percent said they would like to visit it. Thirty percent of Russians remember Poland as Russia's World War II ally, while 40 percent call their common struggle against the Nazis as an important chapter in Russo-Polish relations.

At an Army Day military parade, President Kwaśniewski urged Poles to avoid anti-Russian sentiment.

"In relations with Russia we must do everything to eliminate radicalism and prevent the strengthening of negative, senseless stereotypes in order to conduct dialogue and build relations serving a neighborly future," Kwasniewski said.

The journalist attacked in Moscow, Paweł Reszka, has said that he harbors no ill will towards Russians, and that despite the beatings he will remain in Russia until at least 2006.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Dear readers

Please check out this post at Amendment IX or Redneck's Revenge. There is some good debate about two very important questions:

What is our goal in Iraq?

And how do we get there?

(Shoudn't we have asked these questions earlier?)

Cimoszewicz latest


Discovery of incriminating letter spells trouble for Jarucka

The Prosecutor's Office conducting the investigation concerning Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz and his assistant Anna Jarucka have found evidence, reports Rzeczpospolita. After the interrogation of the Foreign Affairs Ministry employees the police found in the apartment of one of them a letter written by Jarucka. According to Maciej Kujawski, spokesman of the Warsaw Prosecutor's Office, the letter is an original. It contains Jarucka's request addressed to Cimoszewicz for his help in obtaining a post in Italy. According to the prosecutor, this diminishes Jarucka's trustworthiness, as she had stated in front of the Orlen Commission that she never asked Cimoszewicz for any help in getting a job. Meanwhile, Cimoszewicz claims that over the past few weeks his former assistant contacted with some of his colleagues and "Demanded protection." Yesterday, Jolanta Kwaśniewska, head of Cimoszewicz's electoral office, condemned the latest attacks on the politician saying, "My heart bleeds in situations like this one."

Hunt for missing Poles abandoned

Radio Polonia:

Mission to rescue Polish mountaineers in the Caucasus failed

A joint Polish-Russian mission of rescuers who climbed the mount of Ushba in the Caucasus to reach the place where two Polish mountaineers had been trapped in a crevice failed. A group of 4 Polish mountaineers got trapped in a crevice in the Caucasus Mountains a week ago, two managed to survive and call help. Four Russians and two Polish rescuers resumed their search yesterday but found that the crevice was inaccessible and returned to their base today in the morning. According to the rescue team, chances of finding the two Poles alive were null due to the fact that the crevice was covered by snow and ice.

Belarus latest


Belarus continues to persecute ZPB leaders ahead of key conference

Andzelika Borys, the president of the Association of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), is still being interrogated.After her 43rd round of questioning she has been summoned for another one. This time she is being asked to explain what she was doing on the night of January 6 when the previous ZPB president's car was burnt. Two of the association's journalists, Andrzej Pisalnik and Andrzej Poczubutt, and its vice-president Tadeusz Porzecki were also summoned by the police. Borys says she is interrogated approximately nine times a month, and cross-examined on different matters, such as robberies, harassment, and forgeries. She assumes they want to arrest all of them now, before Saturday, for on that day the Assosiation's summit will take place in Wolkowysk near Grodno, led by its previous president, Tadeusz Kruczkowski, who is supported by the authorities.

Kwaśniewski faces veto override


Parliament set to challenge President’s veto on VAT bill
The chance that the bill on the reimbursement of VAT on building materials will ultimately enter into force is increasing. After President Aleksander Kwaśniewski vetoed the bill which was passed by the Sejm, some of the parliamentary clubs demanded that parliament meet again where the veto could be overturned by a majority of 60% of the votes. Sejm Speaker Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz yesterday proposed that the meeting should be tabled for Monday afternoon. "In order to make this possible, the opinion of the Seniors Convent is needed," explained Sejm Deputy Speaker Tomasz Nałęcz. However, it is unlikely that the Seniors Convent would object, since most of the parties, namely the Polish Peasants Party, Law and Justice, Polish Social Democracy and the League of Polish Families support calling the Sejm meeting. Politicians from the Civic Platform who on Wednesday were against such a move changed their minds and want the meeting to take place. Until now only the Democratic Left Alliance and Self-Defense have not voiced their opinion on the subject, but it seems probable that they will support the move. If Parliament votes the bill into law, the state budget will have to reimburse several billion złoty of VAT to the tax payers.

A rare sign of fiscal responsibility


Poland manages to massively reduce its foreign debt burden to the Paris Club
Poland's debt to the Paris Club has diminished by 42% as compared to the end of 2004, when it amounted to EUR 12.3 billion. The government managed to totally pay off countries such as Germany, UK, USA, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Sweden. Poland still owes the Paris Club EUR 7.1 billion, which constitutes nearly one third of the foreign debt, and liabilities with France, Austria, Canada, Japan, Italy, Belgium and Norway still have to be settled. "We are still in talks with the creditors. There is a chance that the government will manage to negotiate some debt reductions," said Paweł Kowalewski from the Finance Ministry. He did not want to disclose how much the budget saved on paying part of the debt earlier than planned. According to unofficial sources, the savings amount to hundreds of millions of złoty, mainly due to lower debt servicing costs. Kowalewski stated, however, that the financial benefit was not the main reason for the early repayment to the Paris Club. "Rather this has to do with the prestige of our country," he said.

Reinforce the border guard, call in the helicopters

Radio Polonia:

Polish workers flock to UK

The number of workers from east European member states registered in the UK has risen significantly in comparison to government estimates – reports the bloc’s news service - EU observer. According to the figures released by the Home Office more people come to work to UK per month than had been predicted for the whole year. Currently, there are around 14,000 newcomers each month. According to June statistics, around 232,000 applicants from the eight countries - Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the three Baltic states - have registered under a special scheme, set up shortly before the May 2004 enlargement because of fears about possible abuse of the country's social benefit system. Over half of the registered workers (57%) are Polish, they are overwhelmingly young - between 18 and 34 - and rarely claim social benefits. The new workers are mostly employed in factories (41,000) and restaurant kitchens (12,000). Britain, Ireland and Sweden are the only three countries to have opened up their labour markets to the new EU citizens, while the 12 other 'old' member states have opted for a transitional period of restrictions for up to seven years.

Cossack Steppe


Poland, Britain, Ukraine hold joint military maneuver
Poland, Britain and Ukraine started Monday a two-week joint military maneuver in the western Polish province of Lubuskie, the Polish news agency reported on Thursday.

The military exercises, dubbed "Cossack Steppe," involve more than 500 troops from the three countries, the report said.

It said the aim of the maneuvers was to boost exchanges and cooperation among the armed forces of the three countries and improve their ability to carry out missions of maintaining peace and stability.

The joint maneuver has been held alternately between the three countries every year since 1996. Britain hosted similar maneuvers last year.

The current maneuver is schedule to end on Sept. 6.

Some big shoes to fill


Pope Benedict XVI to Visit Poland
Poland's bishops said Thursday that Pope Benedict XVI plans to visit his predecessor's homeland next year.

"The bishops greet with gratitude the plans for an apostolic visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Poland, which he is planning in the year 2006," Polish church leaders said in a statement. It gave no dates or other details.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Poles' polls

Angus Reid:

Donald Tusk (PO) 29%

Lech Kaczyński (PiS) 21%

Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz (SLD) 21%

Andrzej Lepper (SO) 8%

Marek Borowski (SDPL) 5%

Zbigniew Religa (C) 5%

Maciej Giertych (LPR) 3%

Run-Off Scenarios:

Donald Tusk (PO) 54% - 46% Lech Kaczyński (PiS)
Donald Tusk (PO) 65% - 35% Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz (SLD)
Lech Kaczyński (PiS) 57% - 43% Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz (SLD)

Source: PBS Sopot / Gazeta Wyborcza
Methodology: Interviews to 995 Polish adults, conducted from Aug. 19 to Aug. 21, 2005. Margin of error is 3.2 per cent.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cimoszewicz latest

Prosecutor reveals raft of mistakes on Cimoszewicz's wealth declaration
Yesterday the Prosecutor's office made three declaration documents public. First of all, Cimoszewicz should have delivered the first document before he became Foreign Affairs Minister. He should also have confirmed the fact that PKN Orlen shares worth zl.700,000 belonged to him in three different documents, but did not. Additionally, in the third document he did not reveal Business Management Consulting shares that belonged to him at that time. This means that his testimony in front of the Orlen investigating commission was false. Cimoszewicz himself did not want to comment upon the issue. His speaker, Tomasz Nalecz, said: "Cimoszewicz made the same mistake three times. I'm sorry that he did so, but we are all humans and we all err. I think this is not a crime." The prosecutor's office is convinced that Cimoszewicz has broken the law. Whether he will be charged with it or not will depend if it can be determined whether he did it on purpose.

Turkmenistan steps up its fight against Western 'cultural baggage'

Turkmenistan bans recorded music
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has banned the playing of recorded music at all public events, on television and at weddings.

In a decree, Mr Niyazov said there was a need to protect Turkmen culture from "negative influences".

This is the latest move by the authoritarian president to minimise foreign influence in the isolated former Soviet state, analysts say.

He has already banned opera and ballet, describing them as "unnecessary".

'True culture'

Mr Niyazov's decree was published in the official daily newspaper Neitralny Turkmenistan (Neutral Turkmenistan).

It banned sound recordings "at musical performances on state holidays, in broadcasts by Turkmen television channels, at all cultural events organised by state... in places of mass assembly and at weddings and celebrations organised by the public".

The president was quoted by the newspaper as saying the move aimed to "protect true culture, including the musical and singing traditions of the Turkmen people".

Read the rest

banned opera and ballet
forbade long hair or beards for young men
banned car radios
required video monitors in all public places
closed all hospitals, except in the capital, Ashgabat
renamed some calendar months after the president and his mothe

Let's applaud this leader for finally recognizing how sacred culture is, and that it should remain static and unchanging throughout time, or at the very least without any poisonous influence from outside. All the great cultures of course, never changed an iota.

Robertson wants Bush to break sixth Commandment

Robertson Suggests U.S. Kill Venezuela's Leader

Of course, a moral leader like George Bush would stand up and condemn such a comment. After all, though the administration has strong disagreements with the Venezuelan president, he is not an imminent risk to US security, right?

U.S. Dodges Robertson Comments on Chavez


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Do you remember what you were doing on January 6th?


Belarus continues to persecute ZPB leaders ahead of key conference

Andzelika Borys, the president of the Association of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), is still being interrogated. After her 43rd round of questioning she has been summoned for another one. This time she is being asked to explain what she was doing on the night of January 6 when the previous ZPB president's car was burnt. Two of the association's journalists, Andrzej Pisalnik and Andrzej Poczubutt, and its vice-president Tadeusz Porzecki were also summoned by the police. Borys says she is interrogated approximately nine times a month, and cross-examined on different matters, such as robberies, harassment, and forgeries. She assumes they want to arrest all of them now, before Saturday, for on that day the Assosiation's summit will take place in Wolkowysk near Grodno, led by its previous president, Tadeusz Kruczkowski, who is supported by the authorities.

More politics

PO and PiS together claim up to 52% of the electorate, according to Gazeta Wyborcza. Leaders of both parties, Jan Rokita (PO) and Jaroslaw Kaczynski (PiS) have said that a compromise on economic issues is possible.

Also, in a poll by Rzeczpospolita (Polish link), Tusk is leading in presidential polls, with strong 31% support.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Self -destruction

Washington Post:

Democrats Split Over Position on Iraq War
Activists More Vocal As Leaders Decline To Challenge Bush

Democrats say a long-standing rift in the party over the Iraq war has grown increasingly raw in recent days, as stay-the-course elected leaders who voted for the war three years ago confront rising impatience from activists and strategists who want to challenge President Bush aggressively to withdraw troops.

Amid rising casualties and falling public support for the war, Democrats of all stripes have grown more vocal this summer in criticizing Bush's handling of the war. A growing chorus of Democrats, however, has said this criticism should be harnessed to a consistent message and alternative policy -- something most Democratic lawmakers have refused to offer.

The wariness, congressional aides and outside strategists said in interviews last week, reflects a belief among some in the opposition that proposals to force troop drawdowns or otherwise limit Bush's options would be perceived by many voters as defeatist. Some operatives fear such moves would exacerbate the party's traditional vulnerability on national security issues.

The internal schism has become all the more evident in recent weeks even as Americans have soured on Bush and the war in poll after poll. Senate Democrats, according to aides, convened a private meeting in late June to develop a cohesive stance on the war and debated every option -- only to break up with no consensus.

The rejuvenation of the antiwar movement in recent days after the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq set up camp near Bush's Texas ranch has exposed the rift even further.

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) broke with his party leadership last week to become the first senator to call for all troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by a specific deadline. Feingold proposed Dec. 31, 2006. In delivering the Democrats' weekly radio address yesterday, former senator Max Cleland (Ga.), a war hero who lost three limbs in Vietnam, declared that "it's time for a strategy to win in Iraq or a strategy to get out."

Making a deadline to withdraw troops is like telling the terrorists exactly when they need to increase their attacks. As a moderate Democrat, I do not support immediate withdrawal nor a concrete deadline for withdrawal, though I was against the original war.

What's happening in Iraq is alarming, and something must be changed. Why doesn't Bush take this opportunity to get rid of Rumsfeld, bring on a new Defense Secretary, and rework the Iraq strategy? Simply speaking as a concerned American citizen, the slow progress there is extremely worrying.

Ed Kilgore has some good ideas on how to change course sensibly:
1) Publicly announce the United States is abandoning any plans for permanent military bases in Iraq to make it absolutely clear our presence is temporary.

2) Publicly announce benchmarks that will trigger withdrawal of American troops, including approval of a constitution and election of a permanent government; specific levels of trained Iraqi troops and other security forces; and renunciation of demands by major Iraqi communities that are incompatible with a stable and pluralistic regime (e.g., Kurdish right to secede, Sunni Arab privileges in a strong central government, Iranian-style Islamic Republic).

3) Initiate direct negotiations with insurgents.

4) Renounce any public or private-sector U.S. designs for control of Iraqi natural resources.

5) Launch an internationalized reconstruction effort which explicitly renounces U.S. exclusive privileges, with special attention to assistance from Sunni Arab countries.

Yes, I do disagree with point three. What for?

But the rest would be helpful.

Bets they'll happen?

Presidential polls latest

Tusk on top!

What candidate would you support in the presidential election?

Donald Tusk (PO) 21%

Lech Kaczynski (PiS) 21%

Andrzej Lepper (SO) 17%

Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz (SLD) 16%

Maciej Giertych (LPR) 7%

Zbigniew Religa (C) 6%

Marek Borowski (SDP) 5%

Jaroslaw Kalinowski (PSL) 4%

Source: PGB
Methodology: Interviews to 1,061 Polish adults, conducted from Aug. 12 to Aug. 15, 2005. Margin of error is 3 per cent.

First, an apology to my readers. As an overenthusiastic blogger, I made an endorsement too early. I endorsed Cimoszeweicz.

If, in the end, the runnoff comes between Kaczynski and Cimoszewicz, WS still endorses Cimoszewicz. However, if it comes between either of these two and Tusk, WS would much prefer Tusk.

Righties, please take note. Tusk is center right. I hope you will remember this among my moderate criteria.

Tusk is a free marketeer, as well as a social liberal. His party and his party's leader (Jan Rokita) can be conservative when it comes to gay rights, but there was not necessarily any reason to believe anything would happen on this front with Cimoszewicz in power. Warsaw is ready for gay rights. The rest of the country is not.

Yes, I believe Poland needs a change from the SLD, but I am not prepared to accept change in Kaczynski's direction. Let me enumerate some major policy differences between the three, to show you why I endorse whom I do.

Taxes - For lower, but still progressive taxes.

State-owned industry - Would simplify government ownership of, but not completely privatize, all state-owned companies.

European Union - for participation, but leans a bit more to the skeptical side. Does not favor entering the Euro zone as soon as possible.

Health System Crisis - I've heard nothing.


Taxes - Has not made a lot of noise on taxes, but would probably favor lowering, but still progressive.

State-owned industry - Would continue current privatization process, with no major changes.

European Union - Pro EU, favors entering the Euro zone as soon as possible

Health System Crisis - I've heard nothing.


Taxes - For a flat, 14% tax. Chances that PO will be able to push this through are slim however.

State-owned industry - Favors complete privatization of all state-owned companies.

European Union - Pro EU, favors entering the Euro zone as soon as possible.

Health System Crisis - I've heard nothing.

-As you can see, none of these candidates are perfect. No candidate has yet to address what to do with the country's crumbling health-care service. On the other hand, all top three are for tax easing and simplification, which is good. Tusk beats Cimoszewicz because he is younger, and new blood, because he believes in using business as the engine for the Polish economy, and because he understands that making taxes lower will give Poland a significant economic advantage against other EU members.

Jaruzelski apologizes to Czechs

Prague Daily Monitor:

Former Polish president apologises for Poland's participation in 1968 invasion
(PDM staff with CTK) 22 August - Former Polish President Wojciech Jaruzelski apologised yesterday on Czech Television for Polish troops' participation in the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 and said he feels grieved and worried over his decision more than 30 years ago.

This May, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded a commemorative medal to Jaruzelski in Moscow. This raised criticism from Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who said he considers Jaruzelski a symbol of the Warsaw Pact troops' invasion of Czechoslovakia and the violent suppression of the democratic movement in Poland.

Jaruzelski, 82, told Czech Television that it was impossible in 1968 to avoid signing the order for the invasion. "It grieves and worries me. I perceive it with enormous sorrow, but I could not act otherwise at the time. It was a politically stupid act," he said.

read the rest



A miner problem

Radio Polonia:
The president's decision to sign the amended pension law has met with harsh criticism on the part of political and economy circles.

The signing of the amendment to the pension law by president Aleksander Kwasniewski will allow miners to retire having worked 25 years underground regardless of their age.

This change had long been fought for by the miners' trade unions and eventually what was to be a peaceful protest in Warsaw last month and turned into regular clashes with the police forced the lower house to vote in favour of the amendment.

Miners claim that the age limit of 65 for retirement was unacceptable as there have been few cases of miners working underground for years living up to 65 - a time when they could retire. Yet it proved that the president's signature under the amended law has not come to the liking of most circles.

Former economy minister Jerzy Hausner called president Kwasniewski's decision a purely political move.

The president chose to support Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and the SLD party rather than to back a cause that is crucial for the country.

'Indeed, the president's decision was announced to the miners by presidential candidate Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz coming from the same political party as Aleksander Kwasniewski - the SLD. Rafal Antczak of the centre for Economic and Social Research agrees that the signing of the amendment is not economically justified.'

The government's calculations indicate that Poland will have spent over 17 billion euro on miners' pensions by 2020. Deputy social policy minister Agnieszka Chlon-Dominczak is worried that additional expenditures may reach 0.4 per cent of GDP.

'This means that we'll have to look for the lacking funds in areas where expenditures can still be reduced such as funds for research and development or active forms of counteracting unemployment.'

No matter how dangerous and health-ruining the miners' work underground is, it is obvious that their benefits stemming from earlier retirement are only possible at other social groups' expense.

But aren't the miners right? Who lives to 65 when you work in conditions like that?

What really needs to be done, is to reduce the high number working in the mining sector already.

Don't expect that to happen if Cimoszewicz becomes president.

Immigrants changing British culture

Radio Polonia
Britain's first ever commercial billboard campaign entirely in a foreign language has been launched ... in Polish. To meet the needs of thousands of Poles who arrived in Great Britain after EU enlargement in May last year, a money transfer agency is advertising its services in Polish.

Great Britain, together with Ireland and Sweden are the only old EU members who opened their labour markets to the citizens of new EU member states from the first day after enlargement. Even though thousands of Poles have arrived in the British Isles ever since, the much feared mass flow of workers did not happen. On the contrary, every now and then various British companies place job offers directed to Polish citizens. To help those already employed there, money transfer company Western Union has launched a campaign in Polish offering its services of sending money earned in Britain to the family in Poland. This is the first billboard campaign in Britain in a foreign language.

While it is difficult to state precisely how many Polish citizens are now residing in Great Britain, it is estimated that Poles constitute half of all new comers who settled there after May 1st 2004. As Bartek Stencel of Western Union admits in these circumstances there has been a growing demand for money transferring services to Poland. For the time being, 200 posters are plastered on the London hoardings and bus shelters, understandable only to Poles.

How dare these immigrants, lounging about and living off of British taxes, demand special treatment?! Next they'll be teaching Polish in school and bringing their cultural baggage - no liberum veto in Britain! Take your pierogi back home!

Cimoszewicz corruption watch


Cimoszewicz has nothing to fear from Warsaw Prosecutor after grilling
On Friday, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz testified for over nine hours as a witness in the Warsaw Prosecutor's Office. The most difficult part concerned Anna Jarucka's testimony made in front of the Orlen investigating commission. According to Cimoszewicz, Jarucka lied saying that his 2001 wealth declaration was false. Although the Prosecutor's Office will reveal what it found at the turn of August and September, the spokesman Maciej Kujawski stated: "No charges will be served on Cimoszewicz, and there is no reason so far to annul his diplomatic immunity.


Commander of Polish Air Force dies in private plane crash

General Jacek Bartoszcze (Yacht-sek Bar-TOSH-cheh), Commander of the Polish Air Force, died in a plane crash with a Belgian friend. The cause of the crash is not yet known. According to Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish) it is also not known who was piloting at the time, due to the fact that the RV-6 that they were flying had a dual-steering system.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sunday Vista Blogging II

EK for WS
Tatra Mountains, Zakopane

EK for WS
Morskie Oko, Tatra Mountains, Zakopane

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Laughing all the way to the poorhouse

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Environment & Energy Saturday

A modest proposal

By now you've all probably heard about Josh Donlan of Cornell University who, with his colleagues, in this week's issue of Nature (subscription required for article), advocates introducing some African species of big mammal into the Great Plains of North America. It sounds ludicrous, but often the most ludicrous ideas are also the most ingenious. These biologists are quite serious about what they're proposing, so let's give it fair consideration.

The Economist:
In theory, the return of the big mammals would result in more diversity throughout the ecosystem. It would also, the researchers suggest, bring tourists flocking to the Great Plains and provide an alternative income for people there. That may sound fanciful. But, as Mr Donlan's paper points out, there are already some 77,000 large exotic mammals, most of them African or Asian species, roaming freely on private ranches in Texas and, in some cases, attracting paying customers.

Many mainstream conservationists are naturally (in more than one sense of that word) suspicious. Chris Haney, a conservation biologist at Defenders of Wildlife, a voluntary conservation group, fears the effort might detract from what he describes as "more realistic" goals, such as the reintroduction of wolves, bison, grizzly bears and North American elk. These reintroductions have faced bitter opposition from some ranchers, farmers and politicians. In Yellowstone National Park, a wolf-reintroduction programme begun in 1995 was ultimately successful, but not before a number of lawsuits were heard, thousands of dollars paid to ranchers for lost livestock, and two of the wolves illegally shot. If programmes like this were seen not merely in isolation, but as the first steps in a grand plan to reintroduce lions and cheetahs, they would be even harder to implement.

Eric Dinerstein, chief scientist at the World Wildlife Fund US, another conservation charity, has a related objection. He suggests Mr Donlan's idea might be damaging not only to efforts to conserve North American species, but also to the very Old World species it is intended to save. He thinks Mr Donlan is too pessimistic about the chances of preserving endangered animals in their African and Asian homes. Rather than spending money to establish those species in North America, Dr Dinerstein would prefer to see it spent conserving them where they live now.

Both of these objections are sensible, though not overwhelmingly so. But Dr Haney has a more visceral worry, too. Modern conservation is generally against the idea of species being spread into novel habitats, and he opposes Mr Donlan's idea on those grounds, as well.

One reason conservationists try to stop alien introductions is pragmatic - they sometimes do serious damage to native species. Rats, cats and pigs, for example, have wrecked the native fauna of many a small island. But part of the objection to alien introductions has an ideological flavour. There is a feeling that what exists now (or, at least, what existed before man stuck his oar in) is what ought to exist. It is pristine. Shipping in other species is, in a sense, a form of pollution.

Perhaps it is, although such pollution does happen naturally from time to time. But even if such introductions are not the ideal solution, they may be the best one available. Mr Donlan's idea is a big and imaginative proposal to solve a clear and present danger. It is certainly worth some careful scrutiny.


Will it save these species?

Are they in such danger that such radical measures are needed?

Doesn't it make better economic sense to make use of the land this way, as the article argues?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Old habits are hard to break

The Times Online:

Poland's pensions threaten reform

Has Poland become complacent since it joined the European Union? Or has it just lost its way? In either case, its European neighbours must be aware that one of the largest and most vocal EU members may duck the challenge of modernisation.

As a result its role within Europe may be diminished. It is now hard to assume that Poland will join the euro - something that its people, and Brussels, had taken for granted.

On Wednesday, President Kwaśniewski signed into law a plan to extend miners' rights to retire early on a pension after 25 years' work. It also freezes reform of pensions in some other sectors.

The President, who is almost at the end of his full term, appears to have been prompted by the weakness of the centre-left Government before elections next month. The move was a sop to the trade unions, still the object of passion and sympathy in Poland.

The miners' demands awakened memories of the 1980 Solidarity trade union protests. The miners, still powerful within that movement, are also a national symbol of the struggle against the former Communist Government.

But the President's move cannot be justified on economic grounds. The Bill is expected to cost Polish taxpayers about 18 billion zlotys (£3 billion) by 2010. That compares with a government budget deficit this year of 35 billion zlotys.

An impressive array of economists and Polish dignitaries pleaded with him not to do it. They included Marek Belka, the Prime Minister and a close ally, who told him it would wreck public finances and undermine the reform of other sectors. Leszek Balcerowicz, the central bank chief, also attacked it, and bond and currency markets moved sharply lower. And although the resonance of the miners' cause won the day the strain of paying for their lavish pensions will make it more difficult for Poland to meet the criteria for joining the eurozone, which sets limits on the permitted level of budget deficits.

It has been taken as gospel by the ten countries which joined the EU last year, and by Brussels, that they would each later join the euro.

Of course, Poland may reckon that the eurozone will bend its rules again, given how far it has already done so to accommodate France and Germany. Or Poland may, indeed, reckon that the prize of membership was not worth having. Many would agree.

But the worry in President Kwasniewski's cavalier treatment of public finances is that Poland is showing signs of ducking reform. The country has done well since the end of Soviet rule - maybe too well in that pressures for reform may now have eased. Its economy may grow by 4 per cent this year. That is enviable by the standards of Western Europe, but not by those of the East. And growth is slowing.

Meanwhile, unemployment is stuck at nearly 18 per cent, higher than any other country in the EU. The figure is twice as high among people under 25. The country also has the lowest employment rate of the entire EU: only 52 per cent of those of working age have a job. Many of those are in the hugely inefficient state bureaucracy. Many others have managed to emulate the miners and secure an early pension.

It is a pity. Poland has already managed to make its voice loudly heard in the politics of the EU. As Ukraine was gripped by its Orange Revolution last year, Poland called for it to be let into the EU to knit its ties to the West.

In the EU's internal fights about the failed constitution, Poland came out firmly on the side of the free marketeers. That is refreshing, and an important new element in the EU.

Where other former Soviet bloc countries have seemed entangled in introspection as they struggle to modernise, and, as a result, quieter within the EU, Poland has seemed loud, confident and sophisticated.

But that surefootedness in foreign affairs is worth nothing if it fails to complete the changes so badly needed at home. It may find itself overtaken in reform by other Eastern European countries as it neglects to get to grips with its problems. That is a sentimentality and indulgence that it cannot afford.

Presidents of Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Georgia meet in Crimea


The leaders of four Soviet successor states held meetings on Ukraine's Crimea peninsula Thursday amid growing efforts by President Viktor Yushchenko and other leader to forge a counterbalance to Russia's regional dominance.

Yushchenko and his Polish counterpart, Aleksander Kwasniewski, were the first two leaders to sit down for one-on-one talks in the Black Sea region Thursday, Yushchenko's press office said in a statement.

The two discussed developments in neighboring Belarus, which is locked in dispute with Poland over the status of ethnic Poles there and which has also crossed swords with Ukraine and Georgia.

The dispute with Belarus "doesn't have a positive impact on bilateral relations," Yushchenko was quoted as saying by his press office.

On Wednesday, Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka said he wants to set up a working group with Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia to coordinate their policy toward Minsk. He also discussed with Polish political leaders the idea of opening a radio station to broadcast into Belarus in support of pro-democracy groups.

They deserve it

Ukraine, Poland pledge further work on 2012 Euro bid

KIEV, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Ukraine and Poland agreed on Thursday to press on with a joint bid to stage the 2012 European championship and pledged high-level support in the two east European states.

"I think we have a good chance. We had a good look at the facilities here. The Ukrainian side is preparing for this very seriously," Deputy Education Minister Jerzy Ciszewski, the top Polish official overseeing the bid, told Reuters.

"At the moment, we do not have enough top quality stadiums. But I believe we can find the money to upgrade what we have. I see no problem in securing the necessary funds."

Ciszewski on Wednesday met Hrihory Surkis, head of Ukraine's football federation, on the sidelines of the Valery Lobanovsky memorial tournament. Poland defeated Israel in the final of the four-nation tournament.

Surkis said the two sides would hold new meetings to work out final details before the bidding process enters the next phase in November.

"The government and our president fully support this idea," he said. "If we get approval to go through to the next stage we will be able to produce more thorough evidence of our ability to hold such an event."

The joint proposal faces stiff competition from individual bids by Greece, Italy and Turkey. Croatia and Hungary have also submitted a joint bid to stage the tournament.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Russian beatings follow-up

Russians at odds with Putin over Poland

The government Russian Public Opinion Research Centre conducted the survey this weekend, that is after the mugging of Russian diplomats' children in Warsaw, which president Putin described as a hostile act by anti-Russian Polish nationalists and which sparked off Russian mass media attacks on Poland, followed by a series of beatings of Poles in Moscow.

True, over 40 percent of those polled said the mugging of the Russian children in Poland was a nationalistic excess, but almost 30 percent did not believe the official propaganda and assumed it was the doing of hooligans. Thirty five percent of Russians regard Poland as a normal European country, for 13 percent it is a nice place which they would like to visit. As many as 30 percent remembered that Poland was Russia's ally during the 2nd world war and over 40 percent spoke of the common fight during the war as an important chapter in Polish-Russian relations. All that despite president Putin's failure during anniversary events last May to mention Poland's contribution to the allied victory over Nazi Germany. Despite the tensions between Poland and Russia, almost 50 percent of those polled believe that there is more that unites the two nations than divides them. An opposite view is expressed by slightly over 30 percent of the Russians. A Polish correspondent, Pawel Reszka, who has been beaten in Moscow, says his back is aching and his face is bruised, but the assault did not change his friendly attitude to Russia. He is not going to leave at least until 2006. Russia for me, he says, is much more than thugs who beat up foreigners.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Asians oversell horsepower


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Cimoszewicz corruption watch

Radio Polonia:
The parliamentary committee investigating the privatisation of Poland's oil giant Orlen has decided to notify the Prosecutor General that parliamentary speaker and presidential candidate Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz made a false testimony in his personal assets statement.

The committee was informed by Cimoszewicz's former assistant Anna Jarucka that the speaker had omitted this information in his statement, even though she claims that she did remind him of this.

Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz said he did not sign a document presented to the committee by his former assistant and claimed that it bore a facsimile of his signature. According to the copy of the document, Cimoszewicz authorised Jarucka to change his personal assets statement.

Controversy around Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Left Alliance continues. He has notified the Prosecutor General that his former assistant Anna Jarocka forged documents and hence committed a crime.

He also called a press conference during which again he denied all allegations that he made a false testimony in his personal assets statement.

'It is not my signature this is just a stamp which has been put under this document. I could as well present to you a blank piece of paper which would contain identical signature scanned and put there which could allegedly be construed as my signature,' said Cimoszewicz.

Attacking credibility of candidates from oposite camps may seem nothing unusual when presidential seat is at stake but Poland's president Aleksander Kwasniewski expressed deep concern over the methods of conducting electoral campaigns in this country.

'It is all aimed at thwarting the chances of one of the candidates who has a lot to offer and who is involved in an affair that is even difficult to follow. I deeply disapprove of such situations which make me feel embarassed. I am also angry that the electoral campaign which should focus on many other important issues is full of such methods of getting at other candidates instead.'

However, many analysts looking at recent developments express no surprise saying that the dirty campaign has begun in Poland.

It seems that the presidential race is gaining momentum in this country which is also reflected in opinion polls expressing unstable moods of the Polish society going to vote in parliamentary elections in September and presidential ones in October.

Currently, the liberal Citizens Platform tops popularity polls with 23% of Poles ready to vote for it according to the recent CBOS survey the centre-right Law and Justice is placed second with 22 percent support and the militant farmers Self-Defence party is backed by 16 percent of those surveyed. Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz's ruling Democratic Left Alliance is supported only by 8 percent of the electorate.

The good news is that fifty eight percent of Poles intend to go to the polling stations in the fall, which by Polish standards will be a good turnout.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

It's a tempting prospect

Walken in 2008?

Rudy and Hillary are quaking in their boots...

Hat tip: Larski

Cimoszewicz corruption watch

Cimoszewicz claims Jarucka lied over his wealth declaration backed by ABW

On Thursday the deputy head of the Sejm Orlen Commission, Roman Giertych announced that he has a sensational testimony of Anna Jarucka, a former assistant to Sejm Speaker and presidential candidate Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz. The assistant said that she deleted the sale of Orlen shares from Cimoszewicz's financial declaration on his demand. "A line has been crossed, where the case relates not only to me, but directly to the issue of rightfulness in our country," said Cimoszewicz, who added that he is astonished by the fact that he is being accused by a person he has helped several times in the past. The presidential candidate also appealed for the case to be investigated thoroughly and to check whether the fact that Jarucka's husband, who works for the Internal Security Agency (ABW), had any influence on the matter. The ABW also revealed that Jarucka was lying as the investigation proved that no declaration which included the sale of Orlen shares were found in her apartment. Moreover, Jarucka is currently accused of illegally accessing secret documents of the Interior Ministry.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Am I the only one who thinks that these guys sound like Ayatollahs?

Rally targets 'arrogant' judiciary

Conservative Christians denounce power of nation's judges during `Justice Sunday II' event

NASHVILLE -- A group of conservative Christian speakers took aim Sunday at the power and decisions of the nation's judges, and especially the Supreme Court, using a "Justice Sunday II" telecast to denounce what House Majority Leader Tom DeLay called "judicial autocracy."

America's judicial system is "unelected, unaccountable and arrogant," Focus on the Family founder James Dobson told the thousands of people who packed a Nashville church for the televised rally.


The president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, William Donohue, suggested a constitutional amendment to say that "unless a judicial vote is unanimous, you cannot overturn a law created by Congress."

The court is trying to "take the hearts and souls of our culture," he said.

Make no mistake. Theocracy is what they're after.

Too long to post

but worth a read:

Cindy, Don and George

Ellen Knickmeyer of the Washington Post reported last week that "a US general said ... the violence would likely escalate as the deadline approached for drafting a constitution for Iraq". For two years now, this has been a dime-a-dozen prediction from American officials trying to cover their future butts. For the phrase "drafting a constitution" in that general's quote, you need only substitute "after the killing of Saddam Hussein's sons" (July 2003), "for handing over sovereignty" (June 2004), "for voting for a new Iraqi government" (January 2005) - or, looking ahead, "for voting on the constitution" (October, 2005) and, yet again, "for voting for a new Iraqi government" (December 2005), just as you will be able to substitute as yet unknown similar "milestones" that won't turn out to be milestones as long as our president insists that we must "stay the course" in Iraq, as he did only recently as his Crawford vacation began.

Why aren't we changing what we're doing in Iraq?

A good day for anniversaries, part 2

The Battle of Warsaw

The Battle of Warsaw (sometimes referred to as the Miracle at the Vistula, Polish Cud nad Wisłą) was the decisive battle of the Polish-Bolshevik War (also known as the Polish-Soviet War), the war that began soon after the end of World War I in 1918 and lasted until the Treaty of Riga in 1921.

The Battle of Warsaw was fought between 13 and 25 August, 1920, as Red Army forces commanded by Mikhail Tukhachevski approached the Polish capital of Warsaw and the nearby Modlin Fortress. On August 16 Polish forces commanded by Józef Piłsudski counter-attacked from the south, forcing the Russian forces into a disorganised withdrawal east, behind the Niemen River. Estimated Bolshevik losses were 10,000 killed, 500 missing and 10,000 wounded and 66,000 taken prisoner, compared to Polish losses of approximately 4,500 killed, 10,000 missing and 22,000 wounded.

Before the Miracle at the Vistula, both the Bolsheviks and the majority of foreign experts considered Poland to be on the verge of defeat. The stunning and unexpected Polish victory in the Battle of Warsaw crippled the Bolshevik forces. Over the coming months, several more Polish victories would secure Polish independence and eastern borders.

A good day for anniversaries

Poland Celebrates 25 Years of Solidarity

Gdansk, Poland (AHN) - Twenty-five years ago, on August 14, 1980, Solidarity, the first independent trade union in the former Soviet bloc, was born in Poland as political and economic tensions overspilled in the northern Shipyard town of Gdansk.

Led by the electrician and political activist Lech Walesa, who later became the country's President in 1990, the strike was part of a growing campaign to improve economic conditions for Poland's labor force and push for political freedom.

The strike Walesa led culminated in a historic accord with the government out of which arose Eastern Europe's first independent workers' movement.

Russia beatings latest

*Presidents of Russia and Poland criticized street attacks
President Vladimir Putin talked with his Polish counterpart, Aleksandr Kwasniewski, by telephone Friday after the beating of a Polish journalist - the third attack on Polish citizens in Moscow, including a diplomat, in five days.

Kwasniewski contacted Putin late Thursday after Pawel Reszka, correspondent for Poland's leading Rzeczpospolita daily, was beaten Thursday evening in central Moscow, and expressed concern that the attacks in Moscow were "leading to a harmful escalation of hostility."

Kwasniewski's office said that Putin also "strongly criticized the radical actions and hooligan acts which took place in Russia and Poland."
My favorite part:
Attacks on polish citizens started after three teenagers, the children of Russian diplomats and a Kazakh schoolboy were attacked in Poland. According to witnesses, the attackers included about 15 people, aged 19-25. They shouted anti-Russian slogans and obscenities.

During medical examinations, doctors found numerous bruises, and scratches on the victims. The teenagers had some of their teeth knocked out, one boy had a broken nose and doctors suspect that one had a concussion. There were no internal injuries and the victims declined a hospital stay, reminds Pravda.

Interesting, no mention of Reszka's (RESH-ka) injuries. A few days after the beating, he looked like this:

And in this column (in Polish), he explains how it was done professionally, but that his warm feelings toward the Russian people hasn't changed.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Sunday Vista Blogging

Kazimierz Dolny

Zelazowa Wola (Chopin's birthplace)

Because he thinks he can win the upcoming election, that's why

Germany attacks US on Iran threat

Let's take the military option off the table. We have seen it doesn't work
-Gerhard Schroeder

This is gonna make things so much harder.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Environment & Energy Saturday

Is nuclear the answer?

I've long been a supporter of nuclear energy as an attractive short-term alternative to coal-based electricity generation. Mark Hertsgaard, however, says nukes aren't green. The main problem, he says, is that nuclear plants are too expensive to build, and that the billion-dollar government subsidies granted to get these plants up and running would be better spent if invested in energy efficiency. A report by the Rocky Mountain Institute says that if $2 billion (the typical price of a nuclear power plant) was instead invested in things like better insulation and super-efficient washing machines, it would make unnecessary seven times more carbon consumption than a nuclear plant would.

He says:
The case against nuclear power as a global warming remedy begins with the fact that nuclear-generated electricity is very expensive. Despite more than $150 billion in federal subsides over the past 60 years (roughly 30 times more than solar, wind and other renewable energy sources have received), nuclear power costs substantially more than electricity made from wind, coal, oil or natural gas. This is mainly due to the cost of borrowing money for the decade or more it usually takes to get a nuclear plant up and running.
I'm all for more subsidies to renewable energy producers, providers and researchers, but he makes a very sneaky move when he says: nuclear power costs substantially more than electricity made from wind, coal, oil or natural gas. If the point is to reduce emissions, then cost isn't an issue. The only renewable energy he mentions is wind, which at the moment has a precarious future since:
Wind plants produce electricity only when the wind blows, so if the wind is not blowing, the plant is not producing electricity.
(Which makes me wonder why someone hasn't found a way to store wind energy yet - but that is a different discussion.)

He goes on to say:
A second strike against nuclear is that it produces only electricity, but electricity amounts to only one third of America's total energy use (and less of the world's). Nuclear power thus addresses only a small fraction of the global warming problem, and has no effect whatsoever on two of the largest sources of carbon emissions, driving vehicles and heating buildings.
I see, so, electricity generation is no big polluter. But just paragraphs earlier he admits:
Coal, the world's major electricity source, kills thousands of people a year right now through air pollution and mining accidents. Coal is also the main driver of climate change, which is on track to kill millions of people in the 21st century.
Which is it?

Then there is his criticism that nuclear energy has no effect whatsoever on two of the largest sources of carbon emissions, driving vehicles and heating buildings. When was the last time a wind-powered car passed you on the highway?

His third argument however, is much more convincing:
The upshot is that nuclear power is seven times less cost-effective at displacing carbon than the cheapest, fastest alternative - energy efficiency, according to studies by the Rocky Mountain Institute. For example, a nuclear power plant typically costs at least $2 billion (up to $5 billion with overruns). If that $2 billion were instead spent to insulate drafty buildings, purchase hybrid cars or install super-efficient light bulbs and clothes dryers, it would make unnecessary seven times more carbon consumption than the nuclear power plant would.

In short, energy efficiency offers a much bigger bang for the buck. In a world of limited capital, investing in nuclear power would divert money away from cheaper and faster responses to global warming, thus slowing the world's withdrawal from carbon fuels at a time when speed is essential.

But is efficiency really the fastest alternative? I don't see much of it happening...

Look, I'm all for efficiency incentives. But we should start converting out of coal as quickly as possible. Why not invest in a reliable, market-driven, immensely powerful energy source as a short to mid-term solution? Doesn't that, combined with better efficiency, offer the best chance to becoming completely carbon-independent in the shortest amount of time?

Related:Holes in the Energy Law
What could really work? Enforceable fuel standards for cars and trucks; higher national building codes for energy efficiency; a tax on carbon emissions to fund research into promising technologies; requirements that utilities maintain a certain percentage of renewable fuels in their portfolios; and a moon-mission national focus on achieving energy independence that informs policy decisions for years to come. That's exactly what's missing from Bush's new law. And yesterday, the price of crude hit $66 a barrel.

E&E Saturday off-topic links:

Growth Stirs a Battle to Draw More Water From the Great Lakes

Liquefied petroleum gas is becoming more popular among drivers

Global-Warming Discrepancy Solved

Giant waterfall discovered in California

Friday, August 12, 2005

Lazy Friday

The beatings continue

Journalist joins the list of Poles brutally beaten in Moscow
"It was very similar to what happened to the embassy employees - a blow to the back of the head, I was thrown to the ground and then they kicked me," he told Polish state television.
President Kwasniewski calls on Putin to end violence against Poles in Moscow
Kwasniewski described the beatings as organised events, and insisted it was within the power of the Russian security and police services to put an end to such attacks.
Comment on the situation from the Khaleej Times

My people
"I find it unbelievable that people would break fellowship with brothers and sisters with whom we disagree, brothers and sisters with whom we're going to share eternity," Housholder said.


"I hope we can make some changes because we are now stifling the use of the very gifts we promised to the segment of the church that wishes to offer them to us to build up the body of Christ and the healing of the world," said the Rev. Scott Cady of the New England Synod. "That stifling, it seems to me, is not what we were called by Christ to do."
If you've ever known any Lutherans, you'd know that these are the kinds of things that they would say. I heartily believe that the proposals they're considering don't go far enough - but I'm so proud of how they're remaining united, and doing the best to find an acceptable solution to one of the most divisive issues in the church's history.

This is how Christ would have asked us to solve our disagreements.

See also: Tepid support from ELCA for same-sex relationships

Lutherans agree to unity on gay issues

Not good:
Exports stayed virtually flat in June as the trade deficit climbed to $58.81 billion, up from $55.42 billion in May, the Commerce Department reported. This was higher than the $57.2 billion that economists had expected. The trade deficit was up 17.9 percent in the first six months of the year from the comparable period in 2004.
Food prices will rise due to the drought too. Is the US in for a crash?

Related: Europe's economies unfazed by surging oil prices
Even the 12-nation euro zone, dogged by sluggish domestic demand and high unemployment, is showing signs of life despite the rising oil prices - helped in part by oil-producing countries that are spending more money on European goods.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Don't you just hate it...

... when work gets in the way of blogging?

Talking points

Russian-Polish diplomat beating fiasco latest:

Leads found in Russian children beating in Warsaw:
Warsaw police have detained two persons in connection with the beating of Russian diplomats' children in a public park in the city on July 31st. They were charged with pawn broking. The police were tight-lipped about exactly what their connection with the beating was.

The teenagers lost their mobiles and some cash in the attack. A few hours later the police detained 9 persons but freed them the next day due to lack of evidence.
Poland protests after another attack on diplomat
Poland's foreign ministry has issued a firm protest after another Polish diplomat was beaten up in Moscow. Minister Adam Rotfeld said that Polish-Russian relations have been developing from "bad to worse" and that there are too many cases in Russia for Poland not to demand a response this time.

In the third attack on a Polish embassy worker in Moscow in five days, the second secretary was hit on the head and kicked. He is in hospital with suspected concussion.

Poland stepped up security precautions at its embassy and asked Moscow for adequate protection of its diplomats. Minister Rotfeld was unable to contact his Russian opposite number Sergei Lavrov, who is on vacation but Poland received assurances from Lavrov's deputy that Russia undertook energetic steps to detain and punish the attackers and to ensure security to Polish diplomats.
Yeah. Right.
The attacks follow the mugging and beating of three teenage children of Russian diplomats and their friend from Kazakhstan in Warsaw last July, which created an uproar in Russia and president Vladimir Putin complain about an unfriendly act.

Protective guarding of Poland embassy tightened in Moscow
Police have tightened the protective guarding of the Polish embassy in Moscow.

A deputy spokesman for the Moscow Interior Department, Yevgeny Gildeyev, told Itar-Tass on Thursday that the "decision to increase the number of policemen guarding the embassy had been made on August 3 after the incident with children of Russian diplomats in Warsaw".

Two policemen were on guard at the embassy building routinely, but five are on duty at daytime and four at night at present, Gildeyev said.

He said police patrols have been reinforced to watch order in the area of the Tishinsky market in a territory adjacent to the embassy after another incident with a worker of the Polish embassy.

A police car patrol and three foot patrols began to ply in the area since Wednesday.

"Police are talking all measures for detaining suspects in the attacks on embassy workers, but identities of the criminals could not be established as yet," Gildeyev said.

Playing field is now level, Holland says

Shouldn't the cities who pay more to see their players get better players?

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