Friday, March 23, 2007

Poland's Revolting Left

There is nothing better than getting a tape of one of the leaders of Poland's post-communist party (SLD) ripping on pretty much every one of the other top leftists, including former president Aleksander Kwasniewski and former prime minister Leszek Miller. But that's exactly what we got with another former PM and handsome devil, Jozef Oleksy putting out a full load of dirty laundry in a taped conversation with SLD-connected businessman Aleksander Gudzowaty.

I'd rather not go into the details on the blog about individual politicians because I don't have the money for lawyers, but this is some nasty stuff. The bottom line is this: SLD was up to its eyeballs in corruption. I'm beginning to reconsider the anti-commie vendetta by the Kaczynski brothers...

Here are some of the best quotes and the audio (both in Polish).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Romney's Mormon Money

A little PR here. Here's an article I wrote on the fundraising by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Last year he got some serious money from Utah, the heart of Mormon country. I calculated that it's about 5o cents for each Utah resident, and that in the year before he has to get big dough to run the official campaign.


Interesting set of responses out there. Some positive, and some not so positive (see fourth link)...

I had compiled a database of all the donations given last year to PACs ran by presidential hopefuls. The story about Utah and Romney came straight out of the numbers and is in no way a reflection of any pro- or anti- Mormon feelings. But it is worth pointing out and that's what this article did. People can draw their own conclusions.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

If at First You Don't Succeed...

Well, at least you can call Burger King persistent. The company pulled out of Poland a few years ago, selling all its restaurants to KFC. Well, the grill broiled burgers are coming back. And, if I am not mistaken, the new license is held by AmRest Holding, the same company that pulled the plug last time. McDonalds survived in Poland, just recently celebrating 15 years there. Why anybody would chose a McDonalds "burger" over Burger King is a mystery to me.

In 1996, I came to Kielce for the anniversary of the pogrom there. I got into a taxi in the evening and asked the driver to take me to the most happening spot in town. We drove for a while and drove up to the place. It was Burger King.... How things change.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Look Who's Back!

Look who's back in the good graces of Andrzej Lepper. On Sunday, the leader of Self Defense brought Stanislaw Lyzwinski to a news conference discussing these bizarre IOU's Lepper forced all party members sign to guarantee they won't leave the party.

So what if Lyzwinski is likely to be indicted for sexual assault, intimidation of witnesses and other charges. Lepper had banished his former right hand for a while, but clearly he no longer feels the need to keep the star of a nasty sex scandal behind the curtain. What does Lyzwinski have on Lepper, anyway?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cronies on Boards

"It has to be clearly said that 16 months after PiS's victory, no activist or supporter of our party, who bled himself during our election campaign, suffers from hunger and want."

This stark quote was made by one of the leaders of the Kaczynski brothers' PiS party, as quoted by Gazeta Wyborcza.

Of course all politicians have to reward their supporters and the spoils system has been around for ages. But this just shows what the Kaczynski brothers are really doing out there. It's not about getting the communists out and certainly not about kicking out political hacks from state-controlled companies to put in their own experts. It's the exact opposite. It's about funneling state money to your supporters, getting them jobs at any cost.

At least the opposition Platforma Obywatelska is putting together a list of all PiS members who are sitting on boards of state-controlled companies. This is going to be interesting. Probably won't help much in the immediate term, but at least it will shine some light at this corrupt spoils system of Duck Republic, Inc. For a party that is so anti-communist, it's amazing how well it adopts the tactics of its enemies.

There is one definite way of fixing this to prevent the millions of zloty that are flowing out of inefficient and corrupt state enterprise: privatize now!

Maybe the next government will do that, because PiS is doing the exact opposite. Not only have the Kaczynski bros stalled privatization, they are even considering buying back stakes of state-controlled enterprises from private owners. Take a look at LOT.

Not Enough Pierogi Eaters in Chicago

Polish Outlook pointed me in the direction of this Bloomberg article. It tries to show that fewer Poles are heading to the U.S., especially Chicago, to get illegal jobs because they can find legal ones in western Europe. Not a far stretch to see the rational for this, although the mostly anecdotal evidence in the article doesn't prove very convincing.

One indication: fewer people eat pierogi at the Czerwone Jabluszko restaurant. Having eaten there once with the fam, I must say a more likely reason is that they're not very good...

Ultimately, it's not too easy to count illegal immigrants because most often they, surprisingly, don't want to be counted. I'll withhold my judgment on this one, even though I wouldn't be surprised if there were fewer Poles in Chicago, or Green Point in New York, or other spots around the U.S.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Polish Politicians Clinging to the Past

Beatroot wrote a nice post on the new law that requires all journalists, possibly even bloggers, to be vetted for communist collaboration. All in all, just another move by the Kaczynski government to hurt the unfriendly journalists. After all, why would the media criticize the Duck Republic unless it was loaded full of communist sympathizers and former agents?

The biggest problem here is not the search for collaborators. It's the fact that the government is forcing private citizens, working for private companies, to do this. What's next? Infidelity declarations?

Beatroot's solution: Kick out all the old era, revenge, us-vs-them politicians. Not a bad idea...

DISCLOSURE: Yours truly never collaborated with the communists and holds some strong dislike towards all who willingly collaborated. Of course, since I was born in 1974, I was a little too young to really do much in those days. So where do I sign my declaration? No, wait, I'll boycott it, even though the law doesn't really cover me.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Polish Job Seekers Take (a) Wizz (Air)

The Wall Street Journal is running a great feature today by Dan Michaels on the way that mainly Polish job seekers have helped no frill airline Wizz Air to become a success. Wizz had targeted these emigrants almost from the start, helping it to develop a foothold in Poland and other East European countries before Ryanair and others figured out the game here.

There is one chart in the article I found very interesting. It shows the airline seat capacity between Poland and the UK. Big gains for Wizz and Ryanair, but a drop for the Polish national airline LOT. Sure, state carriers were late to the no-frills game, but in this case it's just another indication that LOT management, loaded with political appointees and weighed down by strong unions, is just not up for the challenge. Sure, it created its own low-cost unit, Centralwings, but it's an also-ran in a crowded field.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Another Brilliant Idea from Self-Defense

So the geniuses at the neo-socialist Self Defense party have come up with another brilliant idea. They are proposing a new law that would forbid Polish television stations from inserting commercials into movies and other programming without the consent of the author. Sure, nobody's happy that they have to sit through advertising in the middle of another showing of Home Alone (a perennial favorite around the holidays). Self Defense deputy Janusz Maksymiuk, the leader of the anti-commercials movement, says that interrupting programming with those silly ads is not elegant and destroys art.

Self-Defense should really stick to corruption (with another case described on the front page of Gazeta Wyborcza today), leaving television to people who have a clue. How does Mr. Maksymiuk think that programming is paid for on broadcast television? How does he expect "authors" to make money if the television stations don't buy their movies? None of the private stations have the luxury of a "TV tax" enjoyed by the public broadcaster (TVP). How would they get permission from foreign producers or those who passed away?

At first glance this looks like a simple case of pandering to the Polish couch potatoes. But at a second look, it;s more like a heavy-handed attempt to hurt private stations for the benefit of TVP. Just last week the Kaczynski twins put in a trusted crony to run TVP, seemingly taking a lesson from Uncle Vladimir to the east. Are we seeing another push to hurt private television stations or, at the very least, to pressure them to stop being so critical?

Is Self-Defense looking for revenge after being ravaged in the recent months because of the sex scandal? This is certainly not the first time Lepper and Co. have targeted the media.

This silly idea should -- and probably will -- die a quick death. Hopefully nobody will take it too seriously. After all, don't we all need a bathroom break next time Czterej Pancerni i Pies is on?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Musharraf Coming to Poland

Just came across this weird item, which says Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf is coming to Poland as part of a European trip that will also include Spain. Not many details, but one of the issues to be discussed is the "war on terror." Poland is playing a key role in Afghanistan, so I'm sure that will be another issue on the table. I'm almost worried that this visit will place Poland back on the map for Muslim extremists. Wonder what this one is all about.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscars and Secret Police

Not surprisingly, the Oscar for the best foreign flick went to Lives of Others, a movie portraying the obsession of the Stasi, East Germany's secret police, to spy on its own people.

I highly recommend the movie. I especially enjoyed it because I am fascinated by the how the old communist systems tried to control its citizens and how people reacted to the authoritarian state. One of the most successful movies on this topic was Krzysztof Kieslowski's Przypadek (Blind Chance) which showed three variations of a life depending on how a seemingly banal event took place. In each variation the main character becomes a communist, a member of the opposition, or a passive citizen.

Anyway, Lives of Others did make me appreciate a little more the hate felt by many towards the proponents and tools of the old systems. Even I can remember my mother being taken in for questioning to the police (milicja) headquarters when my father remained in West Germany after the martial law was declared. And I feel deep disgust towards people who actively supported that awful system.

So, I can almost understand why the Kaczynski brothers are so obsessed with rooting out any remnants of communism from public life. Almost, because this drive to vengeance has hurt a lot of innocent people or those who were simply forced to cooperate. It has prevented the current government from dealing with more pressing issues, such as the flight of young Poles. And the Kaczynskis are bent on creating their own system where loyalty is rewarded above all else. Nothing like the oppression of the old system, but too close for comfort.

As for the Oscars, The Departed got the best movie. I liked it, but I prefer the Chinese original.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

What Intelligence?

So far, I have stayed away from writing about the report on the Polish military intelligence agency (WSI) released last week. Mainly, I thought this was just yet another pile of dirt compiled to discredit the critics of the Kaczynski brothers. This particular tool, dull as it was, seemed to have mainly targeted members of the media. The report was compiled by a Kaczynski henchman, Antoni Macierewicz, who led the liquidation of WSI. Even former Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, who was hand picked by the Kaczynskis, earlier called Macierewicz a man who only divides and destroys. Boy, did Mr. M live up to the billing.

The report was widely criticized in Poland because in most cases presented little proof to back up its accusations. It did point to some nasty ties with the Russians and the agency's mostly feeble attempts to manipulate the media. Most of this stuff was reheated charges.

Even more importantly, as pointed out by Edward Lucas in this week's Economist, the blind vengeance of the Kaczynski brothers and Mr. Macierewicz has harmed Poland's interests abroad. The report revealed the identities of active Polish spies. Incredible. The revelation of the name of just one spy, not even an active one, has haunted the Bush administration for the last couple of years. But don't expect any consequences in the Duck Republic. As a matter of fact, Mr. Macierewicz will retain his post as the head of the military counter intelligence, having just won a bureaucratic struggle to force out respected Defense Minister Radek Sikorski.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Something Different - Background Music

While you're reading the rest of the blog, take a listen to this song. One of my favorites, in large part because it reminds me of someone special from across the ocean. She's far away, but I think about her always. Of course, it's also dedicated to my two fantastic sisters!

What a lovely version. Enjoy Antony and the Johnsons.

Is This a (Polish) Joke?

Seems like this little cartoon in the New Yorker is causing quite a stir among the Polish community in Gotham City and elsewhere. The magazine editor's somewhat shaky explanation is that "the heart of the joke is the difficulty in saying the name." In this vain, my parents must have been on drugs when they named me Krzysztof, forgetting to put a few extra vowels in there.

So is this a Polish joke? Is this suggesting that Poles like to hit the bottle too often? I have mixed feelings on this one.

Perhaps we do get a little thin-skinned when it comes to the images portrayed in influential media outlets, such as the venerable New Yorker. But even if it wasn't meant to slight Poles, it's not doing us any favors. And these things do stick, especially considering the long and nasty list of Polish jokes preceding them.

On the other hand, maybe we should also be known for taking a joke or two and just chill out? What do you think?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Europe's Basket Case

I know, I know. It's not a shocker anymore to read articles by baffled foreign correspondents about the mess in Poland. But this article by Judy Dempsey in the International Herald Tribune goes quite deeply into the Kaczynski purges and vendetta-driven policies. And yes, there's little time for planning future policies in the Duck Republic, and the weak opposition is sidelined. What else is new? Still, it's sad to see it in print.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"I probably have to do it"

"I probably have to do it. I don't think I have another option." That's what former prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz is saying about taking a job at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. And, he adds, London is a capital of the world, perhaps along with New York.

So, there we have it. Even though he didn't get a job at PKO BP, Marcinkiewicz will work at a bank. I wonder if this will add enough to his resume to come back some day and run PKO after all. That, of course, will depend on the political climate.

And, judging from the recent shifts in the cabinet, which included the departure of the interior minister, Ludwik Dorn, cracks are beginning to appear at the core of PiS. "The Third Twin" -- so called because of his closeness to the Kaczynski twins -- held on to his post of Deputy PM, but has been making noise about back stabbing by other ministers. Several media outlets are reporting that Dorn has upset Jaroslaw Kaczynski so much that he's about to lose that spot, too. Is the ship beginning to sink?

Well, at least for his sake, Mr. Marcinkiewicz will be far away from this mess, enjoying London.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Marcinkiewicz Drops Candidacy for Bank Job

Former Polish prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz has withdrawn his name from consideration for the top post at PKO BP. In his blog, Marcinkiewicz blames the decision on the whole controversy surrounding his candidacy, which would have made his job much more difficult. Marcinkiewicz points a stern finger at the media, as well as the financial and banking circles, from which he"did not received any form of support." Shocking, no support for a man who has not managed any financial institution in his life.

Marcinkiewicz, who sounds a note of indignation, does go into details about the ambitious plans he had for PKO. He also points out all the experiences that would have made him a great PKO chief executive: he did study banking and finance at the Szczecin University (he never got the doctorate degree he started there) and his work on the public finances committee in the parliament. Oh, and he ran a school and a country. So, there!

Is it me, or is Marcinkiewicz getting more disconnected from reality?

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that in Szczecin, Marcinkiewicz studied under his later finance minister, Teresa Lubinska. Prof. Lubinska didn't exactly shine at that post, even calling for a larger federal deficit and attacking foreign supermarkets before being sacked.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sacrificing the Qualified in the Duck Republic

Another great day for mediocrity in Poland. Defense minister Radek Sikorski, one of the more qualified members of the the Kaczynski cabinet, was fired over a dispute with the head of military counterintelligence Antoni Macierewicz, one of the most nationalist politicians loyal to the Kaczynski twins. Sure, there are plenty of other layers behind this latest move that I won't discuss, but it still points to one of the foundations of this government: political ties win over expertise and performance.

There are so many examples of this happening since the Kaczynski twins took power. For a government so intent on rooting out former communists, it's amazing that they are taking the same exact approach to filling out posts that the communists did: loyalty to the cause above all else.

To this we can add living in the past instead of taking care of the future.

I did enjoy this Zbigniew Brzezinski quote in Gazeta Wyborcza:

The dismissal of Radoslaw Sikorski is a serious weakening for Poland, at a time when serious negotiations are taking place with America about the positioning of American defense rocket shield and further isolation of Poland on the international arena. It eliminates from the government the only person who is well versed in strategic and geopolitical issues.

My dad, still a Kaczynski supporter, points to an article in Nasz Dziennik, which says that under Sikorski the Defense Ministry has become a mess, especially when it comes to military contracts. I felt I should point that out, along with the fact that Nasz Dziennik is not exactly a middle-of-the-road daily, but rather a mouthpiece for the extreme right.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Four. How Many More?

Four. That's how many women have now come forward accusing the leader of the neo-communist Self-Defense party, Andrzej Lepper, of pressuring them to have sex with him. According to Gazeta Wyborcza, the latest witness is hard to dismiss. She's a wife of a prominent member of the party who advised Lepper on relations with Ukraine. Heck, he even got Lepper a doctorate from a Ukrainian university, along with one for himself.

"Lepper explained that I'm a big girl and that I shouldn't be surprised. I declined," Anna Podgorska was quoted as telling the prosecutors. This was after Lepper told her that this would help her husband's career. He pressured her another time.

So now it's four. And the question becomes, how many women have to come forward before the Kaczynski twins and PiS, or the "Law and Justice" party, do some justice and kick out Lepper, along with the rest of his crooked party, from the government?

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Polish Government Takes Decisive Action

I especially enjoyed this little quote from an FT article by Jan Cienski about Polish music bands having problems attracting audiences because of the record migration of young Poles to western Europe.

The government has woken up to the population drain. A poster campaign compares young people who have decided to stay with veterans of the wartime underground.

Yeah, that will do it. Young people immediately react to posters that refer to WWII...

Former PM Living in Parallel Universe

"Dear great, extremely smart and all knowing journalists. I sincerely ask you to leave me along and to stop looking for something for me to do." This is how former Polish prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz starts his latest blog entry (in Polish). Frustrated? A little.

Looks like his successor and party boss Jaroslaw Kaczynski has come to his senses and decided no to squeeze the supervisory board at Eastern Europe's largest bank PKO BP to appoint Marcinkiewicz its new chief executive.

That is a smart move, considering the fact that Marcinkiewicz's appointment could ultimately be rejected by the banking supervisor because of his scant financial experience. This could erase any remaining credibility of the politically appointed supervisory board.

And this is where Marcinkiewicz enters a parallel universe. In his blog he writes that in the recent months he has not spoken to any members of PKO's supervisory board (except for its chair who is now the interim chief executive) nor any member of the banking oversight body. He adds: "So stop writing about political pressure because you're undermining my good name."

Whoa. Stop writing about political pressure? Which universe is Marcinkiewicz living in??? How else can you explain the fact that Marcinkiewicz is in any way being considered a serious candidate to run the country's biggest financial institution? How did this former physics teacher land a job as an adviser to the interim CEO? What else would explain talks about Marcinkiewicz taking another top post at a state-controlled company, like the oil group Lotos? [Marcinkiewicz says he does not plan to move outside of Warsaw, while Lotos is headquartered in Gdansk]

At least on the PKO side things are looking a little more sane. After a resignation of one of the more credible members of the supervisory board the competition for the top spot has been suspended. According to Gazeta Wyborcza, people close to Marcinkiewicz say his chances of running PKO are close to nil. Whew! For now.

UPDATE: The speaker of the lower chamber Marek Jurek said on the radio that Marcinkiewicz should be the head of PKO BP, but quickly added that the supervisory board should make its own decision. Nope, no political pressure here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Guide to Staying Away from Bad Movies

I'm a big movie fan and do my best to stay away from the plethora of crappy movies out there. But sometimes you get caught in the traps set by the evil marketing geniuses out there. Still, here's an interesting article to help avoid falling into their traps. It walks through all those sneaky strategies used to convince you to buy/watch awful movies. Enjoy. And for God's sake, stay away from those terrible films.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Just When You Thought Lepper-gate Can't Get Uglier

Lepper-gate, or Sex-gate, or whatever you call this mess in Poland, looks to be getting even uglier. With "Archbishop Spy" grabbing the headlines in the recent weeks (scandals seem to be coming from all directions in Poland nowadays), Lepper-gate has been mostly pushed into the back pages. But there have been some developments worth mentioning.

According to Gazeta Wyborcza, Deputy Prime Minister Lepper did not only go after the young female members of Self Defense, his party, like his right hand Stanislaw Lyzwinski. Lepper had his eyes on the wives of party members. At least two women testified that De Leader indicated that to help their husband's careers, they might want to consider a "pleasant moment" with him in bed.

On top of this, Lepper is now refusing to provide DNA samples to see whether he, and not Lyzwinski, was the father of a child of Aneta Krawczyk, the woman who was the first one to come out with accusations of wide spread sexual harassment at Self-Defense. Confusing? Yes. Ugly? Definitely.

So quite soon we should see the prosecutor's office coming out with charges against Lyzwinski and, very likely, against Lepper. So far, 110 people have testified in the investigation. Krawczyk's credibility was badly hurt when first DNA tests cleared Lyzwinski, but now at least ten women confirm sex-for-jobs accusations made by Krawczyk and three other women in Gazeta Wyborcza in December. Three of the 10 women accuse De Leader.

This is what the Kaczynski brothers get for brining in the dirtiest party (in more ways than one) into the government just to save the Duck Republic from early elections. But it's not the end just yet. The ruling PiS party is sending out smoke signals that even if Lepper is indicted, the party he created will remain in the cabinet. Lepper will also keep his hands in the pot with a role of the behind-the-scenes-puppeteer.

Hey, wait a minute... Doesn't PiS stand for Law and Justice??? How ironic. How sad.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Where's My Baggage?

If you fly a lot (and this blog's name is Traveling Life), then I recommend reading this handy Wall Street Journal article on what happens when your luggage disappears and what you should do in that unfortunate event.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cronyism at Its Worst

Polish papers are trumpeting the impending change at the top of PKN Orlen, central Europe's largest oil company. The Kaczynski twins are pushing another less-than-qualified crony to run a leading Polish company thanks to the government's golden share. He will replace a much more qualified manager. When I wrote about this to my friend Piotrek, a keen observer of Polish business, here's how he replied:

It's just another day in Duck republic. Ryanair probably can't keep up with the demand for one-way tickets to Ireland and Britain. Its cronyism at its worse, my friend.

I could not have put it better. I know that each political appointee has an army of advisers to make sure he doesn't screw up too much. But at some point we have to ask when the sheer incompetence of political appointees will hurt these companies beyond short-term repair. The nationalistic Kaczynski twins are hurting the national champions they are trying to promote. This is how we run Duck Republic, Inc.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Comments from Readers - Bring 'Em On!

I'm glad to say this blog has some loyal readers who are nice enough to share their thoughts about Poland and other issues. I bow to all of you and hope you'll continue to write. I'll be happy to post your notes here.

Here's one long essay from Mikhail. A lot of his opinions are near opposites of mine, but please take a look.

From an American's point of view, the current political situation in Poland is fascinating; it seems to teeter at the edge of chaos in fact... (click for full article)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Scaling New Levels of Incompetence in Poland

Poland has a new central bank governor. His name is Slawomir Skrzypek and is completely unqualified for the job. Here's a quote from the Financial Times:

In a parliamentary hearing earlier this week, Mr Skrzypek had some difficulties answering MPs' questions, and confused the deceased Wim Duisenberg with Jean-Claude Trichet, the head of the European Central Bank since 2003, when asked for the names of central bankers with whom he would have to work.

More on Mr. Skrzypek. He never finish his degree at the Warsaw School of Economics and his MBA comes from an obscure US university in Wisconsin. His only qualification is being in the pocket of President Lech Kaczynski.

All it took is another political backroom deal. One more political appointment celebrating incompetence in the Duck Republic.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Another Remake of a Polish Classic?

The fictional story of Nikodem Dyzma, a clever nobody who rockets to the top of the Poland's social and political world, has been part of the Polish psyche for decades. There are three movie versions of the book written in 1932, which I'd guess is a record for Polish remakes. I even gave my mom a box set of two of the versions for Christmas.

And now thanks to a posting on the clever Polish blog Kurczeblade (Pale Chicken), I realize that we might be seeing yet another remake of Nikodem Dyzma in real life in the person of Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz. OK, OK, so he already was the prime minister for a few months, even though he had quite a thin political CV. Now he's being quickly prepared to take over Poland's largest bank PKO BP, despite his even more scant financial experience. Funny enough, Nikodem Dyzma held both posts in the book, except in reverse.

Here's a parody from YouTube (in Polish):

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Corruption Among Post-Communists

A few years ago, an up-and-coming member of the post-Communist SLD party was asked what his goals are as a politician in Poland. His answer? "I want to become a millionaire within a couple years and a multi-millionaire down the line." Nothing about helping Poland, making things better. Not a snippet of idealism. (Forgive my naivety)

And no wonder. SLD, a successor of the repressive communist party that controlled Poland for decades, was brimming with corruption. It seemed to be full of two types of people: the old commies and the new careerist just ready to grab power and take advantage of it.

Today's Dziennik is running a great piece of investigative journalism which unveils, at least in a small part, of how things worked when SLD was in power just a few years ago. According to an article by Robert Zielinski (link in Polish), a company registered by the daughter-in-law of Leszek Miller, who headed the SLD-led cabinet, made a whopping 4.3 million zloty (around $1.5 million) on a sale of a stake in Internet portal Wirtualna Polska, without investing a penny. The stake was bought from a Polish investor and later unloaded to a mysterious firm registered in the Bahamas.

There's a lot more to this story, and I hope more will come out. But an investigation into this has been going on for years, so I won't hold my breath.

And don't forget that Miller ultimately lost his post in large part because of another sleaze scandal involving a bribery shakedown by one of his cronies.

It's just a shame that the current government never really followed up on promises of cleaning up corruption. There's still plenty young people looking to make millions through politics.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Caribbean Travel - Other Media Outlets On the Case

As I mentioned in a previous posting, I wrote an investigative piece more than a month ago on annual trips to the Caribbean region by Congressional Democrats led by powerful Charles Rangel. In the article, I pointed out that Rangel did not file a required travel disclosure form for his 2005 trip. I also discussed the fact that the trip is sponsored by many big corporations, even though the Congress members who attended have not listed them on their disclosure forms.

Now other media outlets have also gotten on the case. USA Today published an article on Rangel along the lines discussed in my article, but discussing last year's trip. And House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct told at least one of the Congressional participants of the 2006 trip to list all of the corporate sponsors on the disclosure form. Here's a note from

Confusion Still Exists in November 2006 Travel Reports 12/19/2006

Rep. David Scott and spouse, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and her sister, Rep. Gregory Meeks and spouse, Rep. Sanford Bishop and spouse, Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick, and Rep. Donald Payne took a free trip to Panama City, Panama, compliments of the Carib News Foundation. Their reports were just filed and one included a letter from the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct indicating that all the sponsors of the trip, not just the Carib News Foundation, should be listed on the Members travel forms. This would include Macy’s, Pfizer, AT&T, Citibank, IBM, American Airlines, Golden Krust Franchises, Jerk Qzine, Panama City, and the Republic of Panama. These were not included on the Members’ travel reports.

An October 6, 2006 working copy of the agenda lists AT&T /Macy’s sponsoring the sessions on “Unlocking New Regional Opportunities and Expanding Business Horizons.” AT&T was also listed for a session on “Technology – The Engine of Invention”. Pfizer was listed for sessions on “Health Care – a strong investment and growth center for the economy,” and “Health Care Regional Initiatives.” Citibank was listed for the session on “Regional Economic Collaboration,” and the session on Entrepreneurship – The Next Level.”

I filed my article before the 30-day filing window was over, so I had seen none of the disclosure forms nor the note from the committee.

Quick Internship Before Running the Show

Former Polish PM Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz has started on his short path to get the top job at Poland's (if not Eastern/Central Europe's largest) bank PKO BP. According to Gazeta Wyborcza, he is taking on a job of an adviser to the interim chief executive. This quick "internship" seems to be a charade to soon hand Marcinkiewicz the top job at PKO in an official (and likely rigged) selection process. Marcinkiewicz, who up to this point had no financial experience and wouldn't spot a ROE if it jumped in his face, has already said he will take part in the "competition."

Perhaps to indicate how happy the current staff at PKO is about his imminent ascendancy, Marcinkiewicz got an office on the 13th floor.

Welcome to the new Poland, where old corrupt system is being replaced by new corrupt system. Yet another indication of the failure of the Kaczynski brothers to follow up on their main goal of stumping out corruption.