Thursday, December 21, 2006

No Experience Needed to Run Poland's Top Bank

Pretend for a minute you are looking for somebody to run a small bank branch and this impressive resume hits your desk:

* physics teacher at elementary school - 7 years
* vice principal - 2 years
* board of education member - 3 years
* experience running a company - none
* knowledge of a financial institution - none

Would you hire this person? What if I said he had some political experience???

Well, instead of running a branch, this individual will get to run Poland's main banking group, PKO BP. According to Gazeta Wyborcza, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, who was Poland's prime minister for a little more than half a year, will get the top post at state-controlled PKO in January.

This is a farce on many levels. First, Marcinkiewicz's bosses, the Kaczynski brothers, had stated that one of their goals is to blow up the previous system that depended on a close knit elite connected with the former communist regime. They wanted to fight corruption. Instead, they are creating their very own corrupt system based on associations with the current government with even less regard for competence. They have already placed less than qualified managers at other state-controlled companies, such as the leading insurer PZU.

But even closer to people's pockets, the money saved up by millions of Poles will now be controlled by a man with absolutely no relevant financial experience. Yes, he was the head of the Polish government, but his cabinet was not exactly known for its financial acumen or thriftiness.

Another sad day in the running of the Duck Republic.

Leszek Balcerowicz, the outgoing head of the central bank, put it best when he described a decision by the financial oversight commission to approve Jaromir Netzel as the new chief executive of PZU, despite his complete lack of knowledge of the insurance industry:
"I ran the banking oversight commission for six years and I cannot recall one instance of the commission approving a president of a bank, even a small one, who did not have at least one year of experience."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Economist Features Uncle Vladimir

The bully tactics of Uncle Vladimir and his posse have been a recurring theme on this blog. So I was glad to see that the Economist took the subject head on this week, along with a great cover. This is just another signal to European leaders that they better stop appeasing Russia, while looking for energy sources not coming from their increasingly obstinate eastern neighbor.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Kill Cows, Save Environment

Looks like that whole global warming thing is the cow's fault. Those crazy animals create more carbon dioxide than cars. So, if you want to save the environment, eat them steaks and burgers!

Lepper's Coup - Is Media At Fault in Sex Scandal?

Self Defence leader Andrzej Lepper with his usual flair for overaggeration and hysterics, has already called it a coup attemp and called for the closure (!) of Gazeta Wyborcza. But is Poland's media at fault here for the sex scandal that has been consuming Lepper's party. Is Lepper right?

The answer, mostly, is no. Wyborcza, no lover of Lepper, has perhaps jumped the gun with its sex scandal story a week ago before investigating all the lose ends. And, from what I had seen, some of its journalists were too eager to sell the story instead of remaining as neutral as possible in the light of imminent accusations from Herr Leader and his posse. But the story itself was well reported and had collaborating evidence from other women and former Self Defense officials. At least one more woman has come forward to speak of work-for-sex set up in the party. Something certainly stinks there and Wyborcza had a duty to expose this sad situation.

And it wasn't just Wyborcza that pushed the story foward. Aneta Krawczyk revealed herself and fresh allegations on TVN's respected news show Now Us, the same one that had only a few weeks ago showed the video tapes by another Self Defense politician being offered political favors for swithching to the Kaczynski brothers' party. Other newspapers and TV channels chimed in with their own charges. It is the duty of news organizations to seek the truth, even if its quite messy.

And closing a leading newspaper? This is not Belarus, no matter how much Lepper and Co. have been trying to take Poland on that path. Last time I checked Krawczyk was on top of Self Defense's electorate list earlier this year and ran the office of the man she later accused of harassing her. So if Self Defense found her that reliable shouldn't Lepper consider closing down his own party now? They groomed her for this.

Polish media doesn't have the cleanest hands in this affair, even as evidenced by the mad scene on the day Krawczyk and her daughter arrived for their DNA testing. There should be some rethinking of some newsgathering tactics. But in the end, most of the media outlets did exactly what they should have -- air out the truth.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Poland's Sex Scandal Fizzling Out?

All the articles, all the chest beating, all the blogging. Now it turns out that one leaders of Self Defense is not the father of his accuser's child. So, the main accusations against Stanislaw Lyzwinski turn out to be false, casting a shadow on other statements by Aneta Krawczyk.

I thought Krawczyk was a credible witness
, but it seems I was wrong. As with many others, her accusations played right into the stereotypes of Self Defense, which I am certainly no fan of. So I thought they are likely true, especially since I had heard in the past of similar practices in other parties.

Still, it is important to note that the child was only part, even if the main part, of wider charges and other women have come out to say that Lyzwinski and others expected sex for jobs. Nonetheless, the air is out of this scandal.

Now the next step. Self Defense goes after the self-righteous press, all too willing to accept uncollaborated charges against a party they desperate want to go away. This will not be pretty.

Another Clinton Moment - Poland's Lewinsky Photo

First, she says she can describe his private parts. Then, there's the photo of the two of them together. Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton? No, this time it's the Polish version: Aneta Krawczyk and Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper. Today daily Rzeczpospolita printed a great photo of the two of them together, with Lepper tenderly holding Krawczyk's cheek. If I remember well, Lepper said earlier he barely knew Krawczyk. Sound familiar?

The unfortunate part is that this sex scandal involves several politicians from Self-Defense and a handful of women accusing them of all kinds of sexual improprieties. And this mess is just nasty. It exposes the underbelly of Polish politics, the way things work behind the closed doors. And from what I hear, it's not just Self-Defense. I hope this will scare the crap out of the other parties.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Self Defense in Defense Mode

It says a lot when a female member of the Self-Defense defends her male peers by joking that she has been in the party for years and nobody, unfortunately, has molested her. But the statements, made by parliamentarian Danuta Hojarska, only underline the level of civility of this leftist, backward party.

And here's what another Self-Defense member accused of harassing another woman said of the accuser: "Even if we were the only two human beings left on an island and the future of the human race depended on us, I would let the human race die out." (Krzysztof Filipek)

One only hopes that the sex scandal that broke this week will bury this abomination of the Polish political system.

I again ask what I ask when Self-Defense first became a part of the ruling coalition. Is this a party that deserves to be represented in any government?

Maybe Borat is looking for a party to join???

Traveling Democrats - My Article from DC

Congressional Democrats, complaining about the Republicans going on private-sponsored trips, have had their share of sponsored travels. I came across one annual trip that takes members of the Black Congressional Caucus, including incoming Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, to exotic destinations like Bermuda, Jamaica, Bahamas. Here's my article.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Polish Sex Scandal - Accuser Speaks

Interesting time to be in Poland, especially to see the growing sex scandal that is quickly engulfing the Self Defense party. The flames got much hotter tonight after the woman accusing two Self-Defense politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister Andrzej Lepper, appeared on private broadcaster TVN. The woman looked quite credible and seems to have proof of some nasty things, including another politician, Stanislaw Lyzwinski, trying to force her to have an abortion and then give the child up for adoption. She fit the part of a reliable witness, signaling more bad times for Lepper and Co. I would not be surprised if this was the death knoll for the already unpopular Self-Defense.

The interview even took on a Clintonesque character when the accuser said she would be able to describe some of Lepper's physical characteristics to prove her story.

No matter what is proven in the end, this is also yet another black eye for the Kaczynski twins and their party. The Duck Republic was supposed to be a break from the scandals of the previous governments. Instead, it is bouncing from one nasty scandal to another, with little time to do any serious governing. If it's not bribe offers to keep the coalition together, then it's youth members of another coalition party hanging out with the neo-Nazis. Now it's jobs for sex. When will the Kaczynski twins decide that their government has lost its mandate to govern?

And one last comment. It's shameful to see female members of the coalition attacking the character of the accuser in this sex scandal, while in the same breath saying that we should not past judgment about the guilt of their leaders. How do they expect victims of rape and sexual harassment to come forward if this is what they'll get? There is already a huge taboo around here against women accusing men of inappropriate sexual advances. Shameful.

Caption: Man with Character...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Chicago Winter Is Baaack

Here's what I'm missing in Chicago: the snow, the cold, the nasty. OK, maybe I'm not missing it thaaat much.

Dirty Bomb on a Plane?

This story about former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko is fascinating. My sister Nicole has been on top of this for days. Among the latest twists is the fact that two British Airways planes have tested positive for radioactive elements and have been grounded.

But here's an unexplored angle, at least from what I've seen. Why is it that nobody has detected this before the cops showed up? Doesn't this show how easy it would be for a terrorist to smuggle a dirty bomb with radioactive material onto a plane? And how easy it would be to get tons of people to glow in the dark and spread this around?

Most likely no alarms went off (I hope there were some along the way) because of the minuscule amounts of radiation. I hope.

Of course there should be plenty of alarms going off about Russia and Uncle Vladimir, but that's a different story.

Polish Joke? Movie for the Blind

I had to deal with plenty of Polish jokes when I arrived in the U.S. a while back, but sometimes it's so difficult to avoid them. Here's one interesting Polish idea: movies for the blind. I am looking forward to concerts for the deaf.

Seriously though, good idea to help the blind enjoy movies. But here's a more revealing comment from one of the participants:
'I hope that this big noise which media made about this will make tv stations put more attention to this problem of accessibility for blind persons. Because so far even on public tv I'm cut off from such basic information as a phone number to their services. They always say: "If you have any comments, just call us to the number shown on the screen."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Come to Poland. Bring Your Teeth.

See, so Poland maybe not that bad, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. You might save hundreds of pounds and avoid long waiting lines if you want to get your teeth fixed! Just hop on Easyjet and come on over. Or maybe just ask your new Polish neighbor if he does teeth.

Of course, I must warn you that not all Polish dentists are top of the line. My mom, who will not be happy I am posting this, had her teeth done last time she was in Poland and that didn't work out too well.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Polish Devil Child

A friend of mine in DC forwarded me an article in Germany's Der Spiegel about a Polish teenager who had the "pleasure" of being an exchange student in the U.S. with a family of fundamentalist Christians. As my friend pointed out, the student seems just a little on the whiny side, and it's a shame we're not getting the other side of the story from the nutty family. But it is interesting to see a clash of cultures, especially on such a spectacular scale. Maybe Michael (assuming that's Michal) should have left a little earlier than after six months, but at least he'll have something to talk about, along with the nightmares of being waken up to go to church at the crack of dawn every day.

I would love to see how an American teenager would survive life with a supporter of the nationalistic League of Polish Families, having to recite the rosary every evening...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Chicago Tribune on Polish Slave Labor in Italy

My friend Chris Spolar of The Chicago Tribune wrote a nice piece on the Polish workers who basically worked as slaves in Italy. This story, of course, broke quite a while ago and was, not surprisingly, huge news in Poland. But it's good to see that it has filtered down to the States, at least to the home paper of the largest conglomeration of Poles outside Poland. (Chris used to be a correpondent based in Warsaw)

This is just another indication that the "Polish migrant" stories will be in the headlines for years, even on this side of the ocean.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Daily Mail Invents "Polish Borat"

Not that the Daily Mail is a fan of Polish immigrants, but the British rag hits a new low with its ridiculous story on "Polish Borat." The paper could have found any idiot who gropes women and makes up ridiculous excuses for it, but for clearly political reasons it chose to write an elaborate story about a Polish one.

You have to be an idiot yourself to believe that in a civilized country, which is now a member of the EU, would allow anybody to grab women's breasts and other body parts because it is simply"cultural naughtiness." The guy is on the verge of being a rapist, people! It's got nothing to do with his nationality.

If you're going to use stereotypes to further some xenophobic agenda, at least stick to real ones. This creep is no Borat. That's an over-the-top satire. Just like this BS article. A satire of a real news story.

Check out these clearly made up quotes:

A neighbour said: "He has been living here for about a year or so. I didn't realise his grasp of the differences between Britain and Poland was so poor. You could say he is the Polish Borat."

Another added: "Truth really is stranger than fiction. Who'd have thought a real-life Borat was living here in Weymouth?"

FedEx Sends Back Airbus Order

More bad news for Airbus and its jumbo problem, the A380. Not only did FedEx become the first company to drop its order for the super jumbo, it also announced it would buy 15 Boeing 777 freighters instead. I wouldn't be surprised if other potential customers followed suit. Lufthansa, ja?

If Emirates drops even a part of its biggest order for 43 planes, then I'm not sure if Airbus would ever be able to recover. Keep an eye on this one. The airline's people will be crawling all over Airbus's facility in Toulouse to see if this thing is flying anywhere soon.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Profile of Vanity

My favorite Polish blogger, beatroot, has a nice piece about PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski banning photographers from taking photos of his profile. Wow, this will definitely improve Kaczynski's image.
No need to do any significant policy changes. No need to try to be less hostile. No need to concentrate on running the country. Just make sure you're photographed from the front. I love how simple it is to improve things in the Duck Republic.

But wait, what will happen next time Kaczynski is shaking the hand of a foreign leader? I guess we'll need an over-the-shoulder shot or something. But then, since the Kaczynski twins are such experts at alienating foreigners (not to mention a large part of the Polish population), maybe this won't be such a problem.


Now, it seems, Kaczynski and Co. are backing away from the ban on photographers, saying it was just a one time deal. So we'll continue to see the ugly ducking from all sides. Here are a bunch of Kaczynski profile photos on Interia (courtesy of my dad, a Kaczynski supporter).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Polish Court Brings Back Some Sanity

Poland's top court has taken a step towards defending the freedom of speech, saying that one can only be punished for defaming a state official under a current law if the statements are made while he is performing his function (link in Polish). I'm not quite clear on what the court ultimately deems an official function, but it still looks like good news. This should bring back at least some sanity to the defamation law that has been used by some ruling politicians to punish anybody daring to criticize them or say harsh things about them. It's at least a step in the right direction.

But I still think Poland's constitution guarantees a much wider freedom of speech than some laws allow. Or at least it should. I know this is quite an American point of view, but a country is ultimately stronger if citizens are allowed to freely criticize state officials. Too many times politicians, who usually have a much better way to refute such criticism than those making it, hide behind defamation laws and use them to stamp out dissent.

I wonder if this means that the Kaczynski Twins can't go after foreign journalists who make fun of them?

Saving the Duck Republic, At All Cost

It's almost pathetic the way the Kaczynski Twins misplayed their hand in Poland's political poker. First, they bring in The Self Defense party and it's mercurial leader Andrzej Lepper (in all his glory in the photo), along with the so-rightwing-they're-wrong party, the League of Polish Families. Then they push Lepper to the wall and he bites back, leaving the coalition. Then our favorite brothers try to buy several Self Defense members to join the coalition without much success. Their whole dirty scheme comes into light when Polish TV station TVN plays exerts of the strong-arm sessions with one of the more colorful members of Self Defense. Got it all?

Well, the kicker is that the Kaczynskis are now trying to bring Self-Defense and Lepper back into government... I don't know if the twins could have wasted any more political capital. Their poll numbers are way down, so they had to come crawling back to Lepper, which will give him a much stronger hand when, as I fear, he comes back into the coalition. And so the Duck Republic continues its flight south, just in time for the winter.

On a different front, perhaps related to all those German kartoffel jokes, Poland's potato production is down this year...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Airbus - Expect Goodies not Profits

The bad news at Airbus just keeps coming. Now its new chief executive has resigned only three months on the job. Looks like Mr. Streiff just could not handle the politicians and technocrats who have different goals than ridding the company of stifling bureaucrats. I particularly enjoyed this quote in the Wall Street Journal story by Dan Michaels:

The structure of Airbus -- created in 1970 by technocrats in France, Germany, Britain and Spain -- is rooted in its origins as a consortium and has long proved more effective at spreading jobs and tapping subsidies than generating profits.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Russia Squeezing Its Neighbors, Again

Uncle Vladimir is at it again. With oil and gas money in hand and the West, especially EU leaders like Germany and France, worried about a key energy supplier, Putin now has a free hand to reign in the former republics. Most of Russia's "near abroad" has gotten in line and the few remaining rebels are getting hit over the head. This is especially true with Georgia, where a pro-U.S. president is wrestling with the increasingly aggressive Uncle Vladimir.

This yet another step in Russia's drive to regain a chunk of the pre '89 power in the neighborhood. Heck, even Russia's former pal Lukashenko is having troubles with the pushy neighbor. And the West continues to stand by. I just hope the move to strangle Georgia won't get out of hand. Putin is already threatening to recognize two of Georgia's rebellious regions. War, anyone?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Firefox not that safe?

I count myself among the biggest fans of firefox, but was a little disturbed to hear that it may not be as safe as our legions have hoped (my article on The Seattle Times Tech Tracks blog).

By the way, if, like me, you would rather smash your head through the computer monitor before using IE 6.0, but can't get it installed on a locked up computer system, check out the 'portable' version.

Airbus - Why Not Just Kill Jumbo?

Yet another delay for the superjumbo, super-fiasco Airbus A380. EADS has informed all its potential clients that it would take at least additional 10 months to roll out the first jets to the airlines. That's on top of the earlier delays. Emirates airlines, which placed the biggest order for the two-decker, was originally supposed to receive the first A380 earlier this year. Here's what the airline's CEO had to say:
"We have a further ten-month delay ... The position is very serious for Emirates and we are now reviewing all options."
If Emirates cancels its order for 43 planes, the A380 could be pretty much doomed. Lufthansa, the second largest customer, has ordered only 15. If it wasn't for European egos and government support, this project would have already been killed by now. Why not just let it out of its misery.

This growing mess only supports my thesis that the A380 is destined to be Europe's Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes' gigantic wooden plane that only flew once, a few feet above water. Airbus' flying coffin may not be wooden, but it sure looks closer to its funeral.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

US Agency: Don't Expect Visa-Free Travel for Poland Too Soon

The U.S. Government Accountability Office, the congressional watchdog formerly known as the General Accounting Office, released a report on the visa waiver program on Tuesday. The agency comes up with some general recommendations, but in a separate letter to the head of the House Committee on the Judiciary, a GAO official writes something quite interesting about the countries seeking for the U.S. to drop visa requirements for their citizens:
It does not appear there will be any expansion of the Visa Waiver Program in the short term, because despite ongoing progress, these countries will still fall short of the program'’s statutory requirements.
Not that this is the last word, but it certainly shows that neither Poland nor the other 12 countries, mainly the new EU members, can expect visa-free travel any time soon. Not sure what the definition of "short term" is, but I bet it's not months, but rather years.

What requirements are we talking about? Well, it's things like:
  • issues related to meeting biometric and other technical and security criteria
  • reporting lost and stolen passport information
  • and public affairs campaigns regarding the implications of violating the terms of visas.
Keep in mind Poland is still not part of the Schengen passport-free zone in Europe. That has to happen before U.S. drops visa requirements.

Flying with the Knights

Well, since I can't seem to find too much lately to write about Poland, maybe my great readers will indulge my ego and watch the final video piece I made for my broadcasting class. Drop me a note to let me know what you think. Be gentle...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Goodbye Chicago. Hello Washington!

Apologies for the recent silence, but things got a little busy in Chicago before I took off for Washington, DC. And the nation's capital is not welcoming me too warmly. It's being hit by the remains of Hurricane Ernesto. But things will get back to normal and I promise to start being more faithful to the blog.

In the meantime -- as I try to settle in, go to visit the parents and pick up a person close to my heart from New York -- take a look at my last article from Chicago. It's got Hamas, it's got an exclusive interview, it's got interesting stories. Worth a look ;)

OK, here's a little preview:

Muhammad Salah and his wife Maryam get up at dawn every morning for daily prayer in their Bridgeview home with the rest of the family.

Their five children usually return to bed, while Maryam Salah makes a cup of tea and toast for her husband, who takes a few quick sips before starting the first shift at their family business of driving dialysis patients to their treatments.

Maryam Salah, 45, jokes that even in this seemingly dull routine, she is violating U.S. law by aiding a designated terrorist.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Kwasniewski Wants Talks over Cuba Libre

This blog tries to keep track of Aleksander Kwasniewski as Poland's former president continues to lobby for some kind of a position on the international stage. Although his chances of getting the top spot at the UN are not very good, he might be angling for something else.

Now, it looks like, Kwasniewski wants to sip some Cuba Libre, hoping to organize a round table over the future of that country. Kwasniewski did take part in Poland's round table nearly 20 years ago, at that time on the side of the communists. And he did play an important role in negotiating a solution in the Ukraine standoff.

Bottom line is that this sounds like an idea dead on arrival and probably meant to simply put his name back in the papers, at least locally. I'm no expert on Cuba, although I doubt that Fidel and Co. would like Kwasniewski meddling in. So, for now, hold the rum and Coke, Alek.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Polish emigration bad for Europe?

Came across this very basic, and basically wrong, article that insinuates that Polish migrant workers are bad for Europe. Reasons given?

Well, first, Poland is "exporting its unemployment". What a bizzare way of looking at it. Poles that go to Britain or Ireland are usually not taking the kinds of jobs that local were hopping to take. They usually grab the low-paying manual labor tasks or take on positions, such as in the medical field, where there were local shortages in th first place. Has the unemployment gone down in Poland? Yes. Did this bring measureably higher unemployment to other European countries? I seriously doubt that.

Second idea is even more wacky: " Many troublemakers and criminals have left Poland for Western Europe. The crime rate in Polish cities is down." The article has a link in the Irish Examiner, but it's not working, so hard to say what "proof" of this there is. Just saying that the crime rate in Polish cities is down does in no way indicate that this is because "the troublemakers and criminals" are all hanging out in Ireland or Britain. The more obvious link is that there is less crime because the unemployment is down. More work, less need to steal, etc. Are there a few bad apples out there who left Poland for Ireland? Sure, but this is no indication of a wide scale exodus of criminals. For Poland's sake, I wish that were true.

But to play up silly thesis like this is ridiculous and only feeds the nasty stereotypes of Poles spread by the xenophobes throughout Europe. Mind-boggling stuff. Who comes up with this BS???

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Kwasniewski heads for the mountains

Poland's former President Aleksander Kwasniewski continues his intellectual journey around the United States, now heading to lecture at the University of Denver in Colorado, according to The Denver Post:

The former president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, will spend about a month at the University of Denver this fall as a lecturer at the Graduate School of International Studies and Sturm College of Law, provost Gregg Kvistad said.

I know there are readers of this blog out there who would quickly point out that Kwasniewski seems to spending more time at the universities in the U.S. than he had ever spent in Poland. Kwasniewski is a subject of one of the Kaczynski brothers' vendettas, so it's no surprise he wants to stay on this side of the ocean as much as possible, but why the Rocky Mountains? Is he tired of Georgetown? (Go Hoyas!)

But I still stand by my earlier comments that Kwasniewski has plenty of achievements to lecture about, although I wish he would talk a little more about his transition from the young, overachieving communist to a free market post communist. I'd love to sit in on one of his lectures. I hope he'll return to Washington, where I'm heading next.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Iranian President Joins Blog Nation

You'll all be happy to hear that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has his own blog, even if there's not much there (yet). However, I do recommend answering the survey question: "Do you think that the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another word war?"

Well, as long as it's a "word war" I'm pretty sure we'll at least have the powerful weapon of spell checkers on our side.

UPDATE: I have fixed the link after it was changed on the blog. Now you need to click on the U.S. flag to get the English version. Take a look at the looooong entry discussing Ahmadinejad's story. Thanks, Nabeel, for pointing out the change.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Reader Comments: More Poles Needed

I appreciate all the great comments I receive related to the blog. Keep 'em coming. Here's a thoughful and upbeat one from Isobel Brookfield, a reader in the UK, commenting on the previous posting.

Yep - some of us have seen that garbage:-(

Fortunately - some of us UK - (dare I say us Lancashire folk:-) - we don't believe a word of it:-)

Polish people have a very good reputation here - honest, reliable, trustworthy and always on time!!

No wonder english employers are so keen to 'grab' this increasing reliable Polish workforce:-)

I don't imagine this will help in the drive to get rid of U.S. visas for Poles. But then again Poles seem to be doing quite well finding jobs in Europe, so perhaps fewer would head all the way here.

I just know that they are very welcome here:-) employers are very happy to recruit such law abiding people, who genuinley want to work - they help also with homes/school/Gp's etc - because they 'know a good thing when they see it' - we don't want to lose them (A message for the mayor (or whoever of) Wroclaw ? unless he comes up with something really worthwhile? then forget it - we want your people!!)

Unlike dare I say so many lazy young Brits:-( who see the nanny state as providers - some of them? sad but true - they can't even be bothered to get out of bed to collect free state benefits:-(


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

American Media on Polish Immigrants in Europe

The new immigrant wave of Poles heading to Britain, Ireland and other EU member states has grown massive enough to be seen, well, in this case heard, across the ocean. Check out this piece on National Public Radio in the U.S.

NPR has strong foreign coverage, unlike most main media outlets here, and seems to be ahead of the curve on this story. But I wouldn't be surprised if other news organization do their own pieces on Polish migration. I'm sure they will be more subdued than some of the garbage running in UK papers.

I don't imagine this will help in the drive to get rid of U.S. visas for Poles. But then again Poles seem to be doing quite well finding jobs in Europe, so perhaps fewer would head all the way here.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Journalist Heroes

It seems like dozens of Iraqis die every day. I certainly don't want to take away from that tragedy. But I still think we should remember the journalists who give their lives and their health to report what is going on in Iraq and in other dangerous places around the world. And so I encourage you to take a look at this article about Kimberly Dozier, a CBS News correspondent who nearly died there in May. Two other CBS staffers were killed in an explosion of a roadside bomb, but Kimberly managed to survive. It's sad, but also encouraging to see her struggle to regain her mobility. She is walking now, even if with a cane, and has left the hospital. Thanks, Kim.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Those Awful (But Tasty) Frappuccinos at Starbucks

Several folks mentioned I'm only writing about Poland lately, so let me change gears for a second.

Came across an article in the Wall Street Journal that Starbucks is blaming demand for cold Frappuccinos for disappointing sales. People want to beat the heat with some iced coffee, I guess. But Starbucks says those suckers take a long time to make because they require a spin in a blender. So the lines get longer than usual and fewer people are served in the end. I assume that means some people skip Starbucks when the wait gets too long.

Now I am a fan of Caramel Frappuccino, but I do have mixed feelings about Starbucks and perhaps more Americans do, too. The coffee is great, but it's like $5 a cup! Perhaps people are just being a little more frugal when they have to choose between buying gas for that SUV and grabbing a cup of venti skim vanilla latte.

But I'm glad I recently switched to the light Frappuccino. Instead of 430 calories (!), I now get 180.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Take Away Those Sunday Jobs

I enjoyed this cartoon in Super Express that, while a little rough, does present a pretty good picture of how the governing coalition feels about Polish consumers. Pulled by the religious nutties on the right, the government wants to close most stores on Sundays. Yet, according to a recent survey, pretty much every Pole likes to shop on Sundays. And why shouldn't they be able to?

I am even more concerned about the jobs that will be lost if this idiotic law passes. Did somebody forget about the sky high unemployment? How christian of the politicians to take away employment from those who often need it the most.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Poland in Need of Good PR

Gazeta Wyborcza is reporting that Polish government will soon hire a PR specialist to take care of Poland's image abroad (link in Polish). It's true, there's been a wave of critical media coverage of the Duck Republic in foreign press lately. But I'm not quite sure just a new PR post will take care of that. And we're not talking just public relations here. The Kaczynski twins are in need of a full blown crisis management team to deal with all of their recent gaffes.

First recommendation: stop blaming everybody else, especially the national media, for creating the mess. Take the blame and loosen up. Drop the witch hunt against a German newspaper. Dress up as a potato to show you can take a joke. Or maybe not.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Time Chimes in on Collaborator Law

Time magazine is running a piece on the new Polish law that will look into the past of an estimated 400,000 people in position of trust to check whether they had ever collaborate with the secret police. I agree with former foreign minister Bronislaw Geremek, who's quoted in there as saying: "It gives the state and managers the right of deciding the fate of individuals who are unable to defend themselves."

We should remember that these secret police files are far from being trustworthy and complete. The hated UB will have more to say about teachers, journalists and others than they themselves can. Well, if I'm not mistaken, at least the church is exempt. The Duck Republic knows whom to protect.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Poland, Dangerous for Foreign Correspondents?

Here's something to be proud of. Poland is now regularly featured on the web site of Reporters Without Borders, an organization that monitors abuses against news folks around the world. Now, the group reports, some foreign correspondents in Poland are becoming potential targets. After the scuffle over the Potato comments against President Kaczynski, it looks like the right wing Nasz Dziennik has published the names of 16 German correspondents in Poland (This is in Polish. I'm not a reader of Nasz Dziennik, so I missed the original article earlier this month). The paper also tells its readers to "get to know these names." How about getting to know press freedom? And how about not harassing foreign correspondents?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Slim Poles Teach Chubby Brits

Well, there's one more positive effect of Poles coming to Britain: They can teach the chubby locals how to stay fit. At least according to this article in The Times.

Discovering Polish TV Pirates in Chicago

Earlier this week, while doing a little research at the federal court house in Chicago, I came across a case involving Polish television station TVN (my former employer from waaaay back when it was just being launched). Turns out TVN was suing some people in Chicago for putting their television programs on the Internet -- without permission, of course -- and charging people to stream or download them. I found one more case like that involving TVN and then located two more cases against the same people brought by TVN's competitor, Polsat. All four cases involving two web sites, Telewizja Plus and Polska Wizja, were filed on the same day in May. Both sites are pretty much dead now.

So I forwarded the complaints and related documents to my pal Vadim Makarenko at Gazeta Wyborcza, still Poland's largest daily. Vadim, in my humble opinion the best media reporter in Poland, decided to look further into the matter. And today Wyborcza is running a nice long story entitled: How Polsat and TVN are battling Internet pirates (in Polish). Pretty cool intercontinental cooperation, I must say.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What Happened To Fighting Corruption?

For a government that advertises its fight with corruption, I can't figure out how it can explain setting up a unified financial oversight agency that is ripe for political machinations. A new law that has passed one house of the parliament and should easily get a go ahead from the other, will eliminate virtually all the independence from the agency's predecessors. Six of its seven members would be directly chosen by the government or the president.

So it's no wonder even the IMF is raising a stink about the new law. Not that the Kaczynski bros care. It's all about weakening Central Bank's Leszek Balcerowicz and putting more power into the hands of the government. Because, as we all know, politicians are also great bankers.

(OK, to be fair, I must point out that Balcerowicz was also once a politician. But he wasn't too great at that and that was not how he started. He was always more of a technocrat.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Poland's Trouble - Living in the Past

I have seen this theme in several articles about Poland lately. Too many Poles linger in the past, keep looking back, keep searching for vendettas. This is especially true with the current government that seems to do very little other than fighting communist ghosts. They're after Kwasniewski and have politically assasinated its own ministers. Now we have the lustration law, which will only bring out more painful memories. It will convict people based on faulty, incomplete secret police records. It will give more power to the blackmailers, to the witch hunts.

It's pretty obvious, the more you look back, the less time you spend looking forward. I am disgusted by the corruption and believe me, I'm no fan of the communists who had ruined Poland before grabbing some of the best property in the messy transition. And I understand there is still a lot of justified pain and resentment. But let's move on. You can't punish everybody and not everything is so black and white. Unfortunately, we might have to wait for a while for the government to concentrate on the future. The Duck Republic is all about revenge.

I think this quote from an article in The Times, quite a conservative publication, makes a great point:

"“We are dismantling the past but we don't believe in a future,"” said the novelist Andrzej Stasiuk, one of many intellectuals critical of the ultranationalist, anticommunist line taken by the twins. "Those who still believe in a future are leaving the country in droves."”

Yeah, two million and counting. I wish this wasn't the case, but PiS may only get stronger with folks of other political persuasions leaving the country.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

New York Times on Religion in Polish Politics

The New York Times is running a quite long, well researched article on the growing strength of the Roman Catholic church and just general small vilage conservatism that has taken hold atop the Polish government. Now, I think it misses some nuances when it comes to religion because Radio Maryja is not exactly main stream, but the general point is quite on.

This article is an interesting contrast to the front page review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, which discusses a new book about the persecution of Jews in Poland after WWII.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Chavez Praises Belarus as "Model Social State"

If you weren't sure if Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was off his rocker, well, now you know. During a visit to Belarus, Chavez called one of the poorest countries in Europe, in large part due to its egomanical leader Alexander Lukashenko, "a model social state like the one we are beginning to create." Chavez and Lukashenko come from a similar mold, it's just that the mustached one can't count on high oil prices to prop up his socialist utopia. Instead, Lukashenko relies on the good old repression and fraud. Nice model, indeed.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Poland Launches Investigation into Potato Jibe

Here's something from the "I can't believe they're wasting time and money on this" file: Polish Justice Ministry has launched an official probe into whether the potato satire of Poland's President Lech Kaczynski libelled him. Let's look at the many mind-boggling ramifications.

First, the ministry that certainly has many, many more important functions is wasting its time on a vendetta-like assignment from the presidential palace. Two, Poland is risking further foreign humiliation over an article in some smallish German newspaper that should have been disregarded right from the start. It's already being laughed at over the fact that Kaczynski probably cancelled a meeting with his German and French counterparts over the article.

Three, the government is willing to consider a criminal prosecution of a foreign citizen outside of Poland over a meritless charge. Here in the U.S. satire is usually not considered a libel. Four, the twins are showing once again that freedom of expression in a country of nearly 40 million citizens, guaranteed in the constitution in Article 54, can be trampled upon by the government at any time.

It's no wonder The International Herald Tribune is telling the world not to judge Poland by the actions of the Kaczynski twins. I wish it were that easy. Looks like the twins who once stole the moon are now stealing the country's good reputation, not to mention rights supposedly guaranteed under the constitution.

And do check out this interesting opinion piece by Dorota Maslowska in The Guardian about the disenchanted young Poles and why they're heading west.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Royal President

So you must forgive me, but to keep my hand on the Poland's pulse, I sneak a peek at the tabloids. And so I came across this interesting quote from a spokeswoman for President Lech Kaczynski in Super Express (in Polish). Asked why he didn't show up for a key speech by his bro Jaroslaw at the Parliament, she said: "I'm sorry, but the President doesn't have to explain his absence from the Sejm."

Now there's a solid approach. He doesn't need to stoop so low as to explain his actions as president. Nah, that's too provincial. Why would any elected official need to do that?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Freedom to Lampoon - Bush and Blair Don't Care

My sister Nicole sent me this video last night. I wouldn't usually post it, but it provides quite a contrast to how things are becoming in Poland. Could you imagine how the Kaczynski twins would react to something like this? Wasn't somebody sued for something similar? Well, enjoy.
P.S. The song is by Electric Six. Check out another video: Danger! High Voltage

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Why I've Always Liked Walesa

Lech Walesa crashed and burned as a president of Poland. He should have stayed a symbol of the Solidarity movement instead of playing politics. Lech could have played a key role behind the scenes. But having said that I must say I still like the man. He is a walking quote machine. He will speak his mind in (very) down to earth terms. And so I enjoyed reading his assessment of the Kaczynski twins, who worked for Walesa while he was a president, before he fired them: "I realized they were destroying more than actually doing something constructive."

Troubled Twins

The negative reaction from foreign press to the Duck Republic continue to flow in. Latest to add its two cents, or two p's, is my favorite weekly, The Economist:

IT IS easy to argue that the Law and Justice party has done disappointingly little in the nine months since it won Poland's parliamentary and presidential elections. But in one respect it has done a lot: once a regional heavyweight, respected in America and around Europe, the country now attracts ridicule and condemnation.

The Financial Times has a more subdued feature about the Two who Stole the Moon. And the Sunday Telegraph returns to the Potato fiasco. Well, at least the Kaczynskis are keeping Poland in the headlines...

And here's something interesting: Poland is about to take over from Spain as the largest recipient of EU funds.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Duck Republic - Beginning of the End?

Is it possible that Lech Kaczynski guaranteed himself a loss in the next presidential election by swearing in his brother Jaroslaw as prime minister? According to a Friday poll, Lech has become Poland's least popular president since the fall of communism, according to Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish). Of course this only means that people rate Aleksander Kwasniewski and Lech Walesa higher. But it could show that Poles are not happy with the Kaczynski vendetta-style approach to politics and the family-business approach to government. I have a feeling that this could carry over into the next election, even though it's quite a long time off.

Double the Polish Pleasure with Jon Stewart

Well, I never thought it would come to this, on so many levels. Here's a little piece from the Daily Show on the Kaczynski twins. The Duck Republic, or as beatroot puts it, the Burak Republic, conquers the world. John Stewart doing a bit on Poland. Incredible. Will the Kaczynskis now boycott the next meeting with George W. Bush?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Maybe Poland Isn't So Bad?

A few of my good friends and one person close to my heart have complained to me that I do exactly that: "Chris, you complain too much about Poland." But on one count my opinion is grudgingly shifting a little. Corruption is a huuge problem in my first homeland and I experienced it first hand while living and working in Warsaw. It was so close that it entered my family (at the time).

But now that I've covered a little bit of the federal courthouse in Chicago, I can see that this place is not too clean, either. There is George Ryan, former Illinois governor who spread work/jobs/deals around in exchange for a share of the loot. Just wrote an article on one of his buddies. There's Robert Sorich, who was in charge of giving out city jobs to often less qualified applicants as long as they were on the "blessed list" of supporters of Mayor Richard Daley. I co-wrote a story on this mess last week.

So Chicago is quite corrupt too. It's not a big surprise -- it's always been famous for it. And I'm not naive enough to think that this kind of stuff doesn't happen all around the U.S. But Chicago does have the largest Polish population outside of Poland. Coincidence? Just kidding, friends!!!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Duck Season in Poland - Markets Fall

Not that the reaction of the markets is the only indicator of sentiment, but the main index at the Warsaw stock exchange started sharply down on Monday after the news over the weekend that the Duck Republic will officially commence with the Kaczynski twins as President and Prime Minister. Stocks started down two percent. Currency down, bond yield on government debt up. Not exactly thumbs up.

UPDATE: Stocks recovered later in the day and ended a percent higher. So, looks like there was a scare, but investors collected themselves and figured, they can't do that much bad. We'll see.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Polish Visas - Chicago's Take

The Chicago Tribune is running an interesting, if not quite groundbreaking, story on the controversy over elimination of U.S. visas for Poles. It does a solid job explaining the issues, even including a few local stories about weddings or birthdays that somebody from Poland couldn't make because he/she didn't get the visa.

I have mixed feelings on this (maybe this is normal after law school). On the one hand, Poland is one of America's two best allies in Europe, and its citizens should receive a better treatment than they do now. I hear many stories about Poles going to the U.S. embassy in Warsaw or consulate in Krakow for a $100 a pop, only to be rejected. No numbers on this, but I can bet the stack of rejections greatly outnumbers those that get a visa. One more argument for dropping visa requirements. The number of Poles illegally in the U.S. is tiny compared for illegal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

But there are some strong counter arguments. According to some estimates, 2 million Poles have gone to work in other European countries over the last few years, becoming very large minorities in countries like Ireland virtually overnight. Two hundred thousand of my fellow countrymen have signed up to legally work in the UK just over the last two years, and who knows what the number would be if it included illegal laborers.

No wonder. Official unemployment in Poland remains high at 20 percent and something like double that among the young. The brain drain, or at least the drain of the most motivated, is tremendous. So, now that I think about it, maybe the visa requirement helps the Polish government in a bizarre way, limiting another avenue of escape for the young. Most of all, immigrant workers are a huge political time bomb in the U.S., with not many politicians wanting to look like they are taking steps to take away jobs from Americans.

In the end, I think U.S. should take away the requirement, but the chances of that are close to zero for now.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Throwing Potatoes - International Mess

Now this Potato fiasco is growing, with Reporters Without Borders, rightfully, condemning the actions by Polish President Kaczynski and his posse. If this mess wasn't so serious, I would say it's just plain ridiculous. If you can't deal with a joke or two from some foreign newspaper, how do you plan to run a country?

The freedom of speech is crucial in a democracy. Unfortunately Polish law has some remnants of the communist approach, making it illegal to "insult" an institution established under the Polish constitution. Of course it's the same constitution that ensures "the freedom to express opinions, to acquire and to disseminate information" in Article 54. And who's to say what an "insult" is? I mean, really, is saying that somebody is a "kartoffel" a serious insult? And what kind of law goes outside of its borders to persecute a foreign newspaper published in a neighboring country? Total silliness.

How far are the Kaczynski brothers and the rest of PiS from the Muslim leaders who threatened Denmark over the Mohammed cartoons? At least Mohammed established a religion. The leaders of the Duck Republic only starred in a silly communist movie back in the 1960's.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Duck Republic

Some places have banana republics, Poland will now have the Duck Republic. The Kaczynski brothers have already been running the show for months, but with Jaroslaw now taking the PM job, he won't be able to hide behind the scenes. I'm worried and could go on about how this is far from being good news for Poland. But then I can also point out that in the time the news hit, Polish currency dropped versus the euro and dollar. Trade probably wasn't too heavy, but let's see what happens on Monday.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Cult of Free Word and Freedom of Speech

There's nothing much more scarier for a journalist than this quote from a member of Poland's ruling party, PiS:

"This cult of the free word and freedom of speech goes too far."
- Law & Justice deputy Tadeusz Cymanski

Cymanski, that paragon of free speech, was referring to a satire in a German paper that compared Polish President Lech Kaczynski to a potato. Seems like our friends on the Polish Right (also known as the Polish Wrong) are losing their minds. Now the justice ministry is supposed to check whether the paper was insulting Kaczynski. This is after papers speculated that the article could have been behind Kaczynski's last minute cancellation of a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chirac. Are potatoes this thin-skinned?

You really have to worry about Polish media when these kinds of examples surface. Kaczynski and PiS have already gone after their critics in the press. Instead of concentrating on some serious problems (hello unemployment, failing healthcare system), they are wasting time and resources on silly vendettas. So the justice department should investigate this German article instead of dealing with the gangs and corruption? This is just mind-boggling.

But don't let reason get in the way of this government. Just last week, coalition partner, League of Polish Families, called to take the EU flag off Polish car plates. Man, there must be nothing left to accomplish in Poland.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Jon Stewart Killing Democracy?

The king of political "comedy" may be spreading his disease. A couple political scientist say that people watching Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" catch his cynicism bug, which is bad news for the political system. People who watch his show, according to the academics, tend to be more critical of politicians and the political system and, not surprisingly, are less likely to vote.

That, of course is not surprising for a guy who sells the I'm-too-cool-to-care attitude like candy. I don't take the study too seriously, but it's ironic that Stewart had criticized real political talk shows for their combative approach to politics. Well, at least the viewers of Crossfire (RIP) were also the likely voters, not whiners.

The question, which did not seem to be answered in the Washington Post article, was whether Stewart fans tend to be more cynical than the rest of the populace, or whether they became more cynical through the "Daily effect". I'd guess it's a mix of both.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Polish Foreign Minister to Expats: You Lobby Now

In an Interview with The Chicago Tribune, new Polish foreign minister Anna Fotyga tells the expats to lobby a little harder to help with issue such as dropping a visa requirement for Polish travelers. It's an interesting strategy ahead of meetings with Rice and Cheney. So it won't be her fault if the visas stay in place? I just don't see how the House would back anything that could bring in a bunch of potential workers to the U.S. Keep in mind that about 2 million Poles had left Poland in the recent years to work around Europe.

Europe's Spruce Goose

I have been following the misadventures of the Airbus A380 mega jumbo jet over the recent months and years, amazed that the brainiacs on the Old Continent really thought this gigantic mess would ever make much/any money. In the recent months the jumbo problems with production have made me think of the Spruce Goose, the huge wooden aircraft built by Howard Hughes in the 1940's. The plane missed the war it was supposed to had been built for and flew only once, managing to rise just 70 feet over water for barely a mile (you might remember the climactic scene in the Aviator). Sure, the A380 has already surpassed that feat, but it looks like a much more colossal waste of money and resources. So far Airbus has only 159 orders for the A380 and I wouldn't be surprised to see some cancellations soon. It just shows what a huge pile of public money in the hands of proud "continentalist" politicians can do. Did anybody say Concorde?

So let's recount just a few problems:
- Huge bet on a shrinking segment
- Production problems as different parts are built in different countries
- Delivery of first planes delayed by more than a year
- Wake turbulence issues

No wonder the stock of Airbus's parent company, EADS, lost a quarter of its value just last week (it has recovered some ground). The Boeing folks here in Chicago must be overwhelmed with joy, as they grab more and more orders for the mid-size 787.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

New York Times Notices Polish Government

The New York Times is running a knee-jerk reaction editorial on Poland today, complaining about its "bigoted" government. It goes through a list of complaints which makes me think that the paper has not looked at Poland for quite a while. It's basic premise is that the government is homophobic, but also suggests is anti-Semitic and just all around awful. Close, but this laundry list of problems goes nearly over the top in its bell tolling.

The NYT often helps to set the political tone in the U.S., even if the Bush administration is not exactly full of fans of the paper. So, don't be surprised if politicians start to complain about the situation in Poland any day now.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Poland Through a Train Window

Poland is still gray. That's the one impression that hits hard as I sit on a train to Warsaw after visiting my family by the Czech and German border (It's soooo damn far from Warsaw). The country, at least outside of the main cities, is still depressed (maybe the unseasonably cold weather is contributing to my mood). I am now passing through the mining region, even more depressed than most parts. Many of the buildings have not been painted for decades, it seems. Of course, just as I write this, I look out the window and see a 'makro' wholesale store and plenty of billboards. Of course, in this grayness Poland is moving forward, in many ways by leaps and bounds.

My short time with the relatives here was, as always, eye-opening. One side of my family seems to be stuck in the past, the other seems to be moving with the times. On one side, it seemed like all I heard about is their ailments, their woes, their struggles to survive from small paycheck to the next. I sympathize because they do have it rough. But even as I tried to change the subject, we just circled back to the same refrains. I love them all, but I can't take too much of this in one dose.

Many Polish families, it seems, are stuck in gray, like some of my relatives. In an opinion piece in today's edition of Polish financial daily Parkiet, Jacek Fudowicz calls many of these folks "homo sovieticus", who complain and reminisce about the past, seeming to forget how things really worked, or didn't work, under the old regime. I know some people like that, but I'm sure that my relatives, who had always opposed the communists, are not longing for the past too much. But there is this lethargy in the air among the citizens of small cities. Not only have they been thought to be passive by the pre-1989 rulers, they have also been disappointed by the corrupt and usually ineffective governments since then.

So a couple more days in Poland and then back to the U.S.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

1L Hell - Over and Done

It wasn't that bad, but there were certainly some rough patches. Now the paper for my favorite class is in and I am done. Few weeks of freedom and back to school in mid June. Looking forward to meeting up with some friends I haven't seen for ages and spending time with my family early next month. You know, maybe I'll do this law thing, after all.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Exams Done, Paper to Go

Well, I have finished my exams. Wait, wait, I'm still not done with my second semester at law school. There's still a paper I have to turn in in a couple of days. So, there's some more pain on the horizon before some rest. You'd think I would enjoy writing these things because I am a journalist. But no, papers just don't provide much joy. And on top of it, I don't get paid for them and instead I go into further debt as the days go by.

This semester was certainly less rough than the first one. I had a better schedule, less demanding classes (Civil Procedure was a killer in the Fall, even though the prof was great). And when you kind of settle in and see that it's not going to be all roses so might as well accept in and enjoy life a little by coming out from behin the books does helps. This time around I took my exams spaced closer together, so it was basically: exam-study day-exam-study day... And this time I figured that last day of studying is not going to make a huge difference, so get a good outline or two and just go over the stuff that you hopefully learned in large part during the semester.

Some people out there still stress quite a bit. My fellow Northwestern blogger at Thrown for a Loop has made some interesting entries over the exam period, sometimes seeming to reach the edge of sanity. But we're all a little on the crazy side out here. I have been out in "the real world" for quite a while before coming back to school and thought I could deal with the pressure. And I have, in large part, but the stress does get to you. My sleeping hours are all out of whack (writing this after 3AM, after all) and I'm a little jumpy, perhaps because I'm drinking even more Diet Pepsi and Coke than usual. And on top of this I've been having some difficult times with a good friend, which hasn't helped.

But I'm almost finished. Now let's get this Entertainment Law done before Thursday afternoon.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Poland Up In Arms Over Russian Pipeline

Poland, always a little touchy over deals between Russia and Germany, at least since that 1939 fiasco, is quite upset over the fact that Germany still wants to go ahead with a pipeline that will take Russian gas under the Baltic Sea. This, of course, will leave their neighbor in the middle in the cold and more vulnerable to Russian whims, similarly to Ukraine and Georgia. The previous German chancellor already got rewarded for playing along with Uncle Vladimir, but looks like Angela Merkel is also not willing to drop the agreement.
The Baltic pipeline doesn't seem to make much economic sense because it will cost more to build. So what's the deal here? Hey, aren't those pesky Social Democrats in Merkel's cabinet? Oh, yeah. And never mind that Poland is now part of the EU and certainly a much more stable partner than the Russians. Good neighbors.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Hilarious Bush Double Act

President Bush's Double Act at the White House Correspondents' Dinner was freakin hilarious. Good to know he can poke fun at himself, even if he barely survived the White House shakeup (as he suggested). The skit was almost as funny as the one with President Clinton wandering around the White House aimlessly as a lame duck a few years.

Here's a link to the Bush video. Sorry, couldn't find one without a commercial.

Is Oil Headed for $100 Shock?

My friend Len has been ringing the alarm bells on oil supply for quite some time and has been gloating lately about how right he has been about the prices going up. Now some people out there are warning of prices $100/barrel if this whole Iran mess escalates or anything else nasty happens. There's a lot of if'ing in the article, but who knows. It may be just as likely that oil will head towards $50, only to spike later. Still, it may be a good thing I don't own a car.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Unstable Coalition Adds Unstable Deputy PM

Just when you thought it couldn't get much worse for Poland. Not only is populist (read: I want communism back) politician Andrzej Lepper becoming a deputy prime minister, but the right-left-all-over-the-place government still does not have a majority in the parliament. So what is this coalition all about? Still unstable with a volatile and unpredictable Lepper on the team. PiS had once talked about cleaning up Poland and now it brings one of the most unclean politicians into power? Keep in mind that Lepper's Self-Defense party, yes, the one that pretends to represent the poorest, has the biggest cash pile. Just when you thought things couldn't get much worse.

And I never thought I'd say this about the agrarian PSL party. Nice job to keep your integrity by backing out of joining this mess, I mean coalition, at the last minute.

The always reliable beatroot has a nice take on all this.

And I like this little kicker in the Financial Times article:

Mr Lepper's party's economic programme consists of paying out huge sums to the unemployed and attacking Leszek Balcerowicz, the head of the Polish central bank.

My Sister on the Way to College

Quick personal note. I am thrilled to say that my (baby) sister Nicole has decided to enter American University in Washington, starting this Fall. She wants to go into politics some day, and this is not a bad place to start. Congrats, Sis! You'll do great and will get to live in a fantastic city. - proud big bro

Kwasniewski Not Made to r-U.N.

So I've heard from a friendly source -- and please forgive me if this is old news -- that former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski is no longer in the running for UN Secretary General. The Russians, no fans of Kwasniewski since he worked against them a year in Ukraine, basically said they would veto any East European candidate. So, look north for the likely winner.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Uncle Vladimir Warns Europe: Be Nice or No More Gas

I hate to say I told you so, but Uncle Vladimir is already threatening Europe with the one threat that works: gas. Read between the lines: be nice to Gazprom and Russia or else we'll send the gas you need the other way. Russia already uses its gas stranglehold on Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus. Why not start blackmailing the rest of Europe, the one that has the money and the unquenched appetite for energy?

More to come.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Snow'ing in the White House

So looks like Tony Snow will be the new White House spokesman. I'm not an expert on the President's spokespeople, but I don't think any of them has ever said something remotely close about his future employer (at least on the record) as Snow has not too long ago:

"His (Bush's) wavering conservatism has become an active concern among Republicans, who wish he would stop cowering under the bed and start fighting back against the likes of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Wilson. The newly passive George Bush has become something of an embarrassment." - Snow in November 2005.

This will be interesting.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Russia Inc - Gazprom Wants to Be World's Biggest Corp

There is not much scarier out there than to hear that the state-controlled Russian Goliath Gazprom wants to become the world's largest company. This monstrosity is already using its muscle to threaten its neighbors (see Ukraine and Georgia), but it could also close the valve on most of Europe's gas. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Europe, watch out! Uncle Vladimir controls a good chunk of your energy. Russia Inc. at its finest.

Poles Invade Britain (And Rest of Western Europe)

When I was in London a year, I was surprised to hear plenty of Polish spoken behind the counter at Starbucks and many other places around the city. And now there's proof that my fellow compatriots are going to Britain in droves. According to an article in the Evening Standard (sorry, no link):

AROUND two million people have traveled to the UK from Poland since it joined the EU two years ago, official figures reveal today.

The number of arrivals has quadrupled and comfortably exceeds the population of Warsaw.

The figure includes holidaymakers, students and business people but more than 200,000 have signed up to the Government's employment register in the last two years - a 58-fold increase on the 3,459 given permission to work here in 2003.

Not included in the statistics are the self-employed and those working on the black market to avoid taxes.

I'd imagine there are similar statistics in places where Poles can find jobs, like Ireland or Germany or Holland. The Isles have been especially helped by the growing popularity of the no-frill airlines, like Ryanair. And I remember reading not too long ago Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary dissing Poland as a revenue source.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

George Michael Dope'd Out

Poor George Michael. He hasn't released a good song since I don't know when and now he's become a proof that pot may not be so harmless after all. Poor guy supposedly chain smokes at least 20 joints a day and has some problems with motivation. I would too, if most of the stuff I wrote sounded good when I was stoned but then nobody bothered to listen. He still has some remains of a career in Europe, but here in the U.S. nobody even remembers. Nobody bothered to wake up George before his career go-go'ed.

UPDATE: My friend DK reminded me that George has been quite a disaster lately, slamming into several parked cars with his Range Rover and falling asleep in his car in the middle of an intersection. You can't even let him outside, duuude!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Please Don't Die! I Need You To Govern

Ran across this interesting Bloomberg piece pointing out that Italy's Romano Prodi needs the help of some way-old "Senators-For-Life" to create a government after winning the elections by the slimmest of margins. The average age of these teeny boppers is 85 years old according to my quick calculation, with the oldest nearing the century mark at 97. Lord, wouldn't the AARP love to be in this position? Grandpa and grandma would get whatever they want....

And the Pope might get some extra funds just to pray that these folks stick around long enough to govern, if most of them remember which team they're on. Next to them, Prodi is a spring chicken at 66...

Monday, April 10, 2006

French Gov't Caves In; Immigrants, Economy to Suffer?

So our friend Jacques Chirac and his crony Dominique de Villepin cave in to the unions and protest-happy students and drop employment reforms that would have made it easier for employers to hire and fire new workers. Good news for France?

Hardly. First, a stagnant employment market keeps unemployment levels high. Why would you hire new workers if you'd have to keep them when going gets tough? Even more importantly, the current laws discriminate against immigrants in France, especially Muslims. Yes, the ones that were burning cars all over France a few months ago. One of the main problems: unemployment in some immigrant communities at around 50 percent. So these reforms would have given many of the poorest immigrants a chance to find employment. But then the unions stepped in. French immigrants on the losing end again. Not to mention the French economy.