19 June 2007

About some of that time-travelling we're experiencing in Poland

Our deputy PM and Minister of education, notoriously infamous Roman Giertych decided to skip 20th century in his effort to immerse Poland in the darkness of the middle ages as he moves us straight to the era of penny black and Otto von Bismarck.

A new boys-only class is being formed in an elementary school in Świdnik. I wouldn't care much about that except that it's happening in a public school. Wonder whether those boys will also wear uniforms. Pupils were supposed to wear uniforms in Poland until the fall of communism. Even I had to wear it for a year. It was a smart way by country leaders to make some of the ground-school pupils into dissidents. Now, after 17 years our Minister of Education is encouraging schools to mandate children to wear them again. Combined with re-introduction of boys or girls-only classes it will surely erase the problem of drugs, violence and atheism in Polish schools.

For a whole collection of articles about uniforms in schools click here.

17 June 2007

Newsweek Poland: "Ministry of Health will count gays and lesbians"

Marek Grabowski, Ministry of Health has already denied that allegation published by polish edition of Newsweek. Or rather rectified that this is not what he exactly meant. A quote from him:
`This help is targeted at people are hesitating whether to become homo or heterosexual, because they can still be saved.'
In case you were wondering the guy is a physician. A second level specialist in rehabilitation. At least according to Wikipedia. However since he has been recommended for this post by Self-Defense of the Republic of Poland you can never be sure of his diploma. When asked by some other journalists about this initiative he answered:
`Penal code authorizes medical treatment of persons with sexual disorders if they commit a crime. Thus we established a team that will take care of such people and these are mainly pedophiles.'
In Poland obviously all gays are pedophiles and even if they weren't convicted for a crime yet, they surely will. Now if you think he meant the guys from committee being pedophiles then I can't help you, he expressed himself in polish just as ambiguously.

The only positive aspect of this whole affair is what the head of that committee - Wojciech Kłosiński - answered when asked about the issue:
`We were not dealing with homosexuals, since homosexuality is not a disorder of sexual preferences, it's just another orientation.'
A bold statement to make by a government official in a country with high unemployment rate.

15 June 2007

CBA can blackmail their informers during the recruitment process

CBA agents can shut their eyes to crimes committed by their informants, but also force the unwilling to secretly collaborate by using blackmail - the Dziennik Daily newspaper has found out.

'If CBA's operational instruction gives them such powers, it is a pathology' said general Adam Rapacki, former chief of Polish police.

The question on the contents of this secret CBA instruction has been posed yesterday on a hearing by Parliamentary Commission on Secret Services. The CBA chief Mariusz Kamiński reassured that the instruction does comply with law.

'CBA does not break the principles of a democratic state of law; the secret operational instruction does exist, however there is nothing in it that would breach these principles', he said.

According to Dziennik's interlocutors the possibility to use "incriminating materials" in order to recruit new informers is given to CBA's agent by a secret document - Operational Work Instructions. 'This a collection of techniques that can be used. It does not forbid the use of blackmail, it even encourages it. Also during the trainings we are told that we can use "hooks" to recruit informers' - explains one of Dziennik's interlocutors. His revelations have been confirmed by Dziennik at two other sources, including a high ranking official dealing with security of the state. What does the use of incriminating materials for recruiting process mean in practice?

'It can mean various things. The most banal example is when a drunk driver gets his driving license back [in return for information -- transl.]. But much more serious combinations can arise.' He provides an example: knowing that a physician performs illegal abortions, CBA agents can propose a deal to him. They commission him a task of luring another doctor into a trap by asking him to assist in an illegal surgery.

'And the next physician is taken to the CBA's office where he is provided with a deal: you will inform on your colleagues and you won't go to prison for participating in an abortion.'
another interlocutor adds.

The CBA chief communicated to MPs yesterday that he cannot reveal the contents of the instruction, because it's classified by law. However this issue will remain ongoing. 'I can say that we will ask the minister coordinator to provide [us -- transl.] with this operational instruction. The use of such methods is unacceptable' - says ex-Minister of Internal Affairs, Civic Platform MP [and member of Parliamentary Commission on Secret Services -- transl.].

An ex-UOP chief and former Minister of Internal Affairs, Krzysztof Kozłowski simply says: 'Polish Secret Service did not have such possibilities since Służba Bezpieczeństwa [communist internal intelligence agency and secret police -- transl.]'. Biernacki reminds that there is a proposed bill on operational work techniques, common to all intelligence agencies, but he says that government is blocking all progress. As we found out, the Ministry for Internal Affairs already sees it necessary to create a single legislation. 'It would end all the pathologies in the secret services. I don't think that the openness of the techniques would harm the work of the officers. Just watch a good spy film to see everything' Rapacki thinks.

Author - Robert Zieliński

13 June 2007

Confessions on the Court floor

In today's issue of Rzeczpospolita newspaper you may find the following article:

Making a parody of confession and holy communion and putting online a "downloadable" holy host sign with the words "IHS, body of Jesus Christ" offends religious feelings, decided the court in Biała Podlaska. Court [...] sentenced a programmer, who authored the internet website On-line Confession to a fine of 2,000 PLN [520 euro] [...] the prosecutor wanted a year in prison, suspended for two years.

[...] "This website is not for fun. For the absolution to be granted, you need to fill in all the fields honestly and scrupulously" said [the author]. Then he included icons: "Connecting to God, please wait", "Sin transfer ongoing", "Absolution ongoing". At the end you could download a confession certificate. [...] "Make sure rice paper is in your printer, you may also use potato paper" recommended the programmer.

[...] Two people from Biała Podlaska informed the attorneys about the case. They decided that making fun at things they find the most holy offends their religious feelings. [...] Prosecutors initially declined to begin the proceedings, but then charged Radosław R. with offending religious feelings through insulting items of religious cult.

I used to write a weblog called Brother Anzelm's Comments. In the blog I pretended to be an old, uneducated catholic monk, insanely religious, holier than thou and the Pope together. The website attracted a lot of visitors, even reaching top 10 most read blogs on the portal I was using, blox.pl. However, I decided to suspend the blog, then I locked it with password -- because I was afraid something along the lines of the case described above could happen to me, too.

I can remember a few famous cases of "offenders of religious feelings" being prosecuted in the recent years. One of them organised a heavy-metal concert of the band Gorgoroth, which was filmed for DVD release. The cameramen decided their religious feelings were offended and sued the organiser, Tomasz D. of Metal Mind Productions. D. was convicted for organising an illegal concert. The lawsuit regarding offense of religious feelings is still going (two years after) and the DVD release was withheld until the sentence is announced.

Dorota Nieznalska, Polish artist, was convicted for her art installation "Passion". "Passion" consisted of "a metal cross of equal arm-lengths (Greek), of which one side shows a recurring shape of the object of a photograph showing the lower part of a male body - stomach, abdomen, loins and genitals - as well as a film showing a close-up of the face of a male exercising in a gym, which provides the background for the object which is suspended by a chain". (Source: Wikipedia translation of an article by Aneta Szylak, art critic.) Nieznalska "was sentenced to six months' limited freedom on the condition that she carried out unpaid, supervised community work 20 hours per month and was required to pay court costs."

Jerzy Urban, owner of the lefty newspaper "Nie", was sentenced in 2005 to a fine of 20,000 PLN (roughly 5,000 euro) for offending Pope John Paul II. Urban published an article, in which he referred to Pope as "old worship idol", "fading old man" and "Brezhnev of the Vatican". Despite the fact that even a specialist in church law declined to declare Urban's action was a crime, the court found him guilty. Urban is planning to turn towards the European Court of Human Rights.

So next time you decide to have a go on freedom of speech being limited in Afghanistan or about fundamentalist politicians ruling Iran, remember that all these people were sentenced legally, according to Polish law. Poland is a member of European Union and a close ally of the United States. It is also a country where it is illegal to criticise Pope, use shapes resembling crosses in art installations and create mock-up "Confession On-Line" websites. It is illegal even though Catholics are not forced to buy "Nie", go to museums where Nieznalska's works are displayed and/or visit "Confession On-Line". And don't get me started on the upcoming law which is about to make it illegal to produce t-shirts with marijuana leaf symbol.

06 June 2007

Journalism standards

Polish Press Agency (PAP) is a public press agency, the only public agency in Poland. According to its statute, it is obliged to search and provide to its recipients earnest, impartial and comprehensive news items and information from Poland and abroad.

Let me just present you with some selected earnest, impartial and comprehensive quotes from today's PAP article on Spain's deputy Pedro Zerolo's plea to exclude Poland from European Union on the grounds of homophobia. I assure you that I am doing my best to provide a literal translation. The only changes I've made was underlining the most impartial bits.
The Polish Embassy in Madrid received over a hundred letters and tens of phonecalls from Spanish people opposing the statement of a deputy of Spain's governing Socialist party (PSOE), Pedro Zerolo, who called to exclude Poland from the European Union because of alleged discrimination against homosexuals.

[...] "European Union is not a bank that you only go to for subventions. If there is no respect for specific civic and republican values -- out of the EU! There's the door!" said [Zerolo] during last week's debate about "oppression" of homosexuals during Franco's times and regime transformation.

[...] Ruling party's deputy criticised the decision of Polish government as regards the prohibition of propagation of homosexuality in the schools. [Note, no inverted commas around the phrase 'propagation of homosexuality' -- O.] In Spain the government is currently introducing a subject called "civic education", which teaches e.g. about "various sexual orientations" and "various family models": heterosexual and homosexual.
On one hand, it could be argued whether the words oppression and "oppression" are the same and whether a public news agency, funded from public money should be allowed to use inverted commas freely to lessen the weight of certain phrases; my own opinion is that it's such a very delicate matter, they should not be allowed to make their own choices -- these should be left to the reader. Still, inverted commas aside, I do not believe that Zerolo has used the phrase "alleged oppression". Also, strangely enough, PAP's impartial news coverage is so impartial that I recognise PAP-sourced news items before I check the authorship -- if an article mentions "alleged oppression of homosexuals", "civilisation of death" or uses the phrase "murdering unborn children" where you would expect the word "abortion", it's quite obvious that you are reading coverage provided by the only public press agency in Poland, whose statute obliges it to be earnest and impartial.

"I will not have a minority living without god telling me what I should do."

I will find out which teacher informed on me. I will punish her for sure. It's me the person with spiritual authority over the village.
In case you ever wanted to come to Poland and work here, please be informed that besides your contractual boss you will always have another one: the local parish priest. It's a whole parallel reporting hierarchy, above the local priest there are bishops and it goes all the way up to Holy See.

I case you wondered what it's all about - tomorrow it's Corpus Christi. In every city, town and village, you'll see decorated streets, an altar every several blocks and processions going between them lead by guys wearing dresses. They go along streets in the morning singing loudly and waking up any sleeping sinners. The thing is - all those altars have to be built by somebody. In Kroczewo in Mazowieckie Voivodship, one of the altars is to be built close to the school. And the altar itself is to be built by school teachers. They found out about it when they saw a note in teachers room in their school:
As Rector has assigned teachers to prepare the altar for Corpus Cristi, I assign following teachers to this task [list of five teachers].

The note was signed by Barbara Łubek, the school director. The deputy school director said in an interview, that they could not refuse since rector has asked them to do that. When asked what about the non-believing teachers in that school she answered:
It's impossible. After all this school is named after John Paul II.
Don't expect any comment from me, I'm at a loss of words.

05 June 2007

That evil sex thing

Sometimes I wish I haven't left Poland. Honestly, it must be the funniest country in the world (although many times it's black humor, and you laugh through tears).

Today's highlight is a right-wing deputy, Anna Sobecka from People-National Movement, leader of the parliament's Committee for Family and Women's Rights.

Sobecka, when informed about a forthcoming feminist demonstration (scheduled for 2008) found it necessary to voice her opposition immediately. The demonstration's motto is 'Every woman and man has the right to derive pleasure from sex, be able to access safe contraceptives and abortion'. Sobecka's reply? 'Sex is evil and does not lead to development.'
'If sex is placed first, it's hedonism. Sex is an integral part of humanity. But it has to be connected with feelings. Every human being has their purpose in life. I do not believe that women or men's purpose in life is sex. Their purpose is family life, being a father or a mother. But not sex in itself.'
'So is sex in itself evil?'
'Yes. It's evil, because it doesn't develop human beings, it doesn't bring goodness, it doesn't make one closer to another person. Sex should be for married people. [It should] be connected to love.'
When asked, if the feminist demonstration should be forbidden, Sobecka replied:
'Human rights and democracy defenders would immediately speak out. These people [feminists] need to be negotiated with, convinced that what should be exposed is the beauty of the nation. Our culture and tradition. Feminism, especially radical, really gives no future. It doesn't respect love for other people. It is set to egoism.'
Sadly, deputy Sobecka was not asked whether it is possible for families to procreate using the means of culture and tradition.