Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Would have, should have...

Lots of strange interesting things happened in Poland in the past two weeks during our summer R'n'R that we would have written about. They run the gamut from the sad to the shocking and everything in between. Here's a quick review of the twists and turns in Poland's recent history.

From rags to riches to dust
It was a shocking, tragic end to one of Poland's most intriguing and colourful politicians. Andrzej Lepper most likely committed suicide on Friday, August 5. If Lepper's life had been a movie script -- the story of a local pig farmer's rise to power via populist protests to being deputy prime minister and then through scandal back to being a nobody -- a tragic death would have been obvious from the outset.

Most of the media immediately forgot Lepper was an "enfant terrible" willing to use illegal means to make his populist point or worse. Instead, many journalists praised him for his political prowess and pitied him for his private woes.

Lepper's big problem was that he made the usual mistake of revolutionaries: he was lured into power, joined a government, was completely co-opted into a system he had fought against, and would up being useless. After all, who needs former revolutionaries?

Love and hate the Swiss franc (though mostly hate)
Poles loved the Swiss franc when they were taking mortgages that were cheaper than similar zloty-denominated ones, disregarding cautionary tales of FX market risks. Some 700,000 Poles decided to bet their mortgages on a single-sided FX bet and for a long time they were laughing.

They are now crying. The Swiss franc is rallying to record strong levels against the zloty and the euro and pretty much every currency. Poles with franc-based mortgages quickly found themselves on the other end of the bet. With real estate prices dropping their mortgage payments skyrocketed and so they are quickly learning to hate the Swiss Franc. 

Poland admits incompetence
Poland's government, after a report from Interior Minister Jerzy Miller, finally admitted the level of incompetence and negligent disregard for regulations that helped end in the Smolensk airplane crash of April 2010 that killed then President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and 94 others. But the report, besides minor details, is nearly exactly in line with what the Russians said earlier in their own findings.

As a result, Defence Minister Bogan Klich resigned and the military unit responsible for flying government officials was disbanded. The government will now fly only civilian planes.

Oh, and surprise, surprise, it turns out Poles don't care that much about the whole mess anymore. The co-ruling Civic Platform (PO) remains safely in the lead ahead of the opposition Law and Justice (PiS), which for obvious reasons derided the report as a bunch of lies.

Our own Breiviks
They say neophytes make the biggest zealots and Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski is doing everything to prove them right. The now PO member but the former defence minister from the PiS government complained recently to Britain's foreign minister that Poland has its share of Breiviks, people who "believe that democratically elected president and government are traitors and do not represent Poles and Poland."

Now let's think, who could Sikorski have in mind? Jaroslaw, where are you....

We have to apologize. We made fun of the police for having two portraits of the Krakow Unabomber, but it seems at least one of the portraits was good for something since the police apprehended a suspect and are convinced he is the man responsible. We don't know for sure, but the bombings did stop.

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