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."