The Blackjack Affair

All sounds very mysterious, doesn’t it. Make a good title for a Robert Ludlum novel.

This is the ongoing saga of allegations that members of Civic Platform lobbied on behalf of the gambling industry to stop proposed tax hikes on betting. Fair enough, this stuff goes on all the time so not sure why this is being jumped on so heavily, aside from there being no bigger news to print. I didn’t want to focus therefore on the scandal itself but more on how Tusk seems to be dealing with it. At least if what I read in this article is correct. As an ex-Brit, I’m pretty well acquainted with political scandals.


Donald Tusk announced today that Interior Minister and vice PM Grzegorz Schetyna – a politician thought particularly close to the prime minister, and sometimes described as his “right hand man” – plus Justice Minister Andrzej Czuma and Deputy Economy Minister Adam Szejnfeld have all offered their resignation. This takes the number of scalps taken by the ‘Blackjack scandal’ as it has become known, to five, following resignations of Zbigniew Chlebowski and Sports Minister Miroslaw Drzewiecki. PM Tusk has also put in motion the procedure to sack head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau Mariusz Kaminski.

I read this as “A bunch of people were involved in lobbying for the gambling barons. They’ve been found out. Now I’m getting rid of them, as well as any other people I’m not too keen on.”. Which would be a fair enough response. But then I read:

The now former interior minister Grzegorz Schetyna will now head Civic Platform’s parliamentary party, a position left open by Zbigniew Chlebowski’s resignation.

Hang on! Wasn’t he the guy I just read has been whacked? So he’s not whacked, he just moved to be head of the party instead of vice-PM. And what, exactly, are we all supposed to make of that move?

It gets worse.

He [Tusk] said that the resignations were necessary to gain back the trust of voters. But he maintained support for the out going ministers. “Czuma, Szejnfeld and Schetyna have been let go in the name of chastity of principles, to defend the good name of the government and Civic Platform – not because they are guilty,” said the PM.

I’m obviously being really thick and too preoccupied with my 06:45 flight to Berlin tomorrow to be able to understand what Tusk is up to here. He’s removing loads of his top people from office because they are innocent? In the name of “chastity of principles”, whatever that is? This is NOTHING like a British political scandal at all. In the UK the guilty walk and the innocent stay. Actually, what normally happens is that the guilty stay and the innocent stay as well, unless it gets really nasty then the guilty stay and the innocent walk but whatever it’s very different to this, trust me!

Don, baby. The way to “gain back the trust of voters” is to find out who’s guilty and then send them packing whether they are your mates or not. Not to just move them to be head of the party or to send them packing but tell everyone they are innocent. That’s just stupid, even for a politician!

“Law and Justice [the main opposition party in Poland] wants to attack the government and Civic Platform, using the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau. The final political battle between us will take place in parliament in full view of the public,” Tusk said.

Apparently, it is the anti-corruption bureau that started all this kerfuffle. Probably why Tusk is now aiming to fire the head of it, the Mariusz Kaminski mentioned earlier.

Can someone tell me whether there are allegations that money changed hands in return for lobbying? Surely that is the inference, in which case there’s more serious investigations to be done. Poland’s own “Cash for questions” scandal although hopefully without any characters quite as sick-making as Neil Hamilton and his ghastly wife.

No doubt this is just another covert operation of The Brothers Karamazov.

Meanwhile, back at stately Wayne Manor, the president decides whether he’ll be signing that treaty today or whether he’ll let it rest there a while longer just to remind himself of how important he truly is to the future of Europe as we know it.

Will it never end?

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20 thoughts on “The Blackjack Affair

  1. Peter says:

    Polish politics at its finest.

  2. Bob says:

    Flight to Berlin? It is so close – why didn’t you take the ‘Polostar’ bullet train?

  3. Ania says:

    If you walk up to a politician and smack him across the ugly gob, you will not know what was that for, but he will. Or she.

  4. Malaysian says:

    If there is no opportunity of corruption, politics is like a social service – voluntary, pays badly and without much recognition (most recognitions are of course self-conferred).

    You don’t seriously believe the politicians work out of their love for their motherland, do you ?

  5. Ania says:

    They used to – back in the days when if you wanted a post, you had to buy it, or tender for it.
    As soon as democracy increased, senators started taking bribes, and in Sejm Niemy they all allowed Catherine the Great to become the King of Poland.
    And it all happened when Poland was a Republic with a constitution and a lifetime representative called King.
    Imagine what is hapening now, when we are a Democracy.

    Let’s be smart and admit that power lies with the rich people – and let’s make them publicly buy their posts. They will want to. who would not be the Wojewoda (Dux) of Mazovia, or the Burmistrz (Metropolitan) of Warszawa?

  6. Steven says:

    Scatts, I feel is a bit hard on my man Tusk.
    The more I read about the man the more I like him.
    Any politician that admits he puffed the magic dragon when vodka was hard to find.
    Wants to castrate sexual predators
    Likes firing idiots and even hiring one or two back that he can tolerate

    This sort of politics happens in every country Mr. Scatts, In the States a cabinate member can be fired for not reporting 20 dollars paid to the maid 15 years ago. And similar examples of firing and re hiring in England too.

    Why don,t you like Tusk? I think he is really good at what he does, and makes the Prezez look like the funny little man he is….That,s what I like about him the most.

    Tusk is the master PM,

  7. former dweller says:

    What a “bleepin” farce.

  8. Malaysian says:

    Democracy does not mean corruption-free.

    The most corrupted country in the world is probably the most democratic nation in the world. In the corruption perception index list, the United States is probably not so, but come on, just because you legalised corruption (lobbying industry) makes you clean ?

    It’s like winning a gold medal in the paralympics and trying to convince the world that you’re not a retard.

    My apologies if my comparison is offensive to some people.

  9. Pioro-Boncza says:

    Q:What’s the difference between a politician and a carp?
    A: One is a scum-sucking bottom-dweller, and the other one is a fish. :^)

  10. Pioro-Boncza says:


    Keep in mind that lobbying has its positive uses as well although they usually get dwarfed by the more scandalous kind of lobbying.

    Take the USA, you have 535 Congressmen representing 300million+ people! There is no way every issue, person, cause can be heard. It is simply impossible. Lobbying allows like-minded people of a similar cause to band together and push their interests be they good, altruistic, or selfish and greedy.

  11. Dominik says:

    Presidential elections run has started, apart from the fact that Civic Platform has been failing on their plans drammatically – the KRUS reform, the medical care, the motorways, the 2012 Euro.. let alone the 3×15%..or even the Belka’s Tax lift off, you just name it. They keep sticking on looking better than PiS, but I’m not buying it :)

  12. Pioro-Boncza says:

    I think if PiS stopped or calmed down its Catho-Nationalistic overtones it would have a much better chance of swaying more urban Polish voters. But until they do they don’t stand a chance no matter how poorly the PO (short of something dramatic) is perceived to govern. But overall I think PO’s fiscal policy has a been a strong point. By keeping a hands-off approach to fiscal policy it has allowed the central bank to maintain its continued strategy of strong control over monetary policy (which was the right move). Countries like Hungary or Romania which opted for currency stability are now suffering under huge inflationary pressure plus loss of the stability they were working so hard on, putting them right back in the pocket of the IMF.

    So yes, there is still a lot to be done, but considering the aggressive overture from organizations like the IMF and the major banks like Deutsche Bank that really tried to push our currency (therefore our economy) off a cliff to gain on their forex spreads and then come in with “emergency” loans – but they failed with Poland and our Czech neighbors. I am as &^#$ off as the next Varsovian that it takes more than 8 hours over shoddy roads to reach Germany – but its going a lot better for Poland than it could be…especially in our neighborhood.

  13. Scatts says:

    There is such a thing? Last time I took a train between Berlin and Warsaw is took all night. Then again, it was a Ukrainian sleeper carriage.

  14. Iota says:

    This is going to be hugely off-topic, but I feel I need to ask:
    “It’s like winning a gold medal in the paralympics and trying to convince the world that you’re not a retard.”

    How exactly does being a paraolympic sportsman equal retardation? Let me be clear, I’m not “offended”, I just don’t get the logic.

    Unless loosing a limb in an accident is in itself proof of retardation, or being born blind automatically means one is stupid, there is no definite link between winning gold during paraolympics and being a “retard”.

    Of course, you may have intended to use some other word to describe the fact that paraolympic sportsmen have to be disabled. That would make sense. But I’m quite sure they don’t have to be obtuse. Neither does their disability have to be the effect of what could be called a “retardation” in medical jargon.

    Or, you may have wanted to refer to the sporting event for the mentally disabled (Special Olympics). However, also in that case, using the word “retard” is a rather bad choice. Even though their intellectual capacity is lower (and it does not necessarily need to be dramatically lower), it does not mean they’re stupid – just as being smart/intelligent does not equal being wise.

    (Some of them may indeed be on the level of, say, a six year old when they are thirty, but I would still seriously reconsider using the word “retard” unless one considers normal six year olds to be stupid by default as well, which so far as I can see, most people don’t).

  15. Malaysian says:

    Dear Iota,

    My apologies. It should be ‘Special Olympics’.

    I could have used a politically-correct term like ‘intellectually challenged’ but obviously I was not trying to be politically correct.

    Likewise, you could have called a Frenchman who assisted the Nazi as a collaborator, but really, was he a collaborator or just a pure traitor ?

    Or you could have called the Americans the liberator of Iraqi people, but really, are they not just agressor of a sovereign nation ?

  16. Iota says:

    Distinction between Paraolympics and Special Olympics accepted (yes, I’m a stickler for precise phrasing). :-) As for the rest:

    Actually I applaud not being politically correct because the whole business is, IMO, quite fake and countreproductive. Thumbs up.

    Bud I uphold that, say, a person with Down”s syndrome, does not equal “a retard” (in the non-medical sense). Primarily, because for me acting stupid (colloquial understanding of retarded) means acting below one’s justly expected capacity, not below a certain absolute level (in pretty much the same way that a small baby is not stupid if it cries instead of telling you what it wants).

    You are entitled to your own opinions, of course. Just remember that while using too mild language brings the risk of being labelled “politically correct” (yuck), using a language that is too strong brings the risk overdoing it. There were traitors is France, but was simply trying to live during the Vichy years an act of treason (it did benefit the III Reich)? War on Iraq may be aggression, but are therefore, all American taxpayers aggressors? Harsh words, seem to me, to be quite hard to handle justly an this level of abstractness (though, I admit I’m having the same difficulty with milder English words, which have been incorporated into the PC jargon – thank goodness Poland is not that politically correct yet and there still IS the option of using words that are relatively neutral and factual).

  17. Malaysian says:

    Dear Iota,

    I think it is quite clear that most of us are just looking after our own interest. What was clearly a wrongdoing could be justified if one’s argument was put forward in a different light.

    If we don’t clearly make a distinction between right and wrong, as what is happening to the world right now with the increasing grey area, I’m afraid that we will once again be brought back into the age of warring tribes.

    Sure, the Frenchman who merely wanted to survive justified his treachery. Likewise, a Palestinian bomber’s action can be justified in a similar way, can it not ?

    In the land of the free, if the Americans are not able to dictate what their Government is doing, then surely they are not doing enough, are they ?

    Poland is not that politically correct yet internally, because there is not a need. Her homogeneity keeps out the threats of diversity – religion, culture, ethnicity and way of life. However, externally Poland is as politically correct as the most of the world simply because that’s what diplomacy is all about – being a pussy and a dick all at the same time.

    My apologies again if my comparison offends anyone.

  18. phlojd says:

    PB wrote: “Lobbying allows like-minded people of a similar cause to band together and push their interests be they good, altruistic, or selfish and greedy.”

    That’s exactly the problem not the solution, PB. The people with the most money win. Pretty much all the time, the winners are the ones who are the most selfish and greedy.

  19. Iota says:

    This one is going to be long – all those interested, brace yourselves. All those not – skip and accept my apology:

    Sure, the Frenchman who merely wanted to survive justified his treachery. Likewise, a Palestinian bomber’s action can be justified in a similar way, can it not ?

    I’d assume that becoming a suicide bomber requires definite action FOR it (.i.e. wanting to become one) – correct me if I’m wrong. Being a “traitor” by your definition would be pretty normal human behaviour during occupation. In fact, it is acting otherwise that requires extra faculties, such as courage determination and even overcoming one’s instinct for self preservation (including the instinct to protect one’s family). In other words – whereas to become a suicide bomber Joe Average would have to stop being average, to be a “traitor” during the Vichy period Joe would simply have to be his average self – it is resistance that would require him to be above average.

    Now, in a more ideal world (and knowing what kind of a regime the III Reich was) all Joes shouldn’t be Average but Heroic and resist the Reich. As the world is, however, to demand that is rather risky. Unless, for example, you are willing to be made culpable for not showing the same heroic qualities. Being earnest with yourself – have you ever lacked the courage, determination, stretch of will etc. to choose ethical values rather than your most basic needs? If yes, do you expect to be placed on par with the Vichy Frenchman (and by your comparison – with the Palestine bomber) for not acting correctly?

    In fact, if we maintain that it is good to demand of all people that they display behaviour negating their own most basic needs (e.g. the need for survival and safety), we’re into deep trouble. Because, seeing the extent of misery in this world, we’d have to assume we’re all an ethically worthless bunch. After all, instead of spending our precious time relieving the poor, educating the unlearned or caring for the sick, we’re commenting on this blog. None of our basic interests are in danger and yet we’re presumably not doing it to the largest extent absolutely possible (but would demand it of others).

    if the Americans are not able to dictate what their Government is doing, then surely they are not doing enough, are they ?

    On a nation-wide level, that may be true (or may not – I’m no judge). Though to blame all members of any nation merely on the premise the nation as a whole is free to act otherwise, is also risky, unless both sides are willing to face the consequences. If all Americans are guilty of the war with Iraq (regardless of their stance – since it continues, they didn’t do enough) then so are… all the members of the nation of origin of the 9/11 attackers (if they had done enough, 9/11 would not have happened and the US could not use it as a reason to attack Iraq).

    And, bringing such an argument to its logical conclusion: all nations are guilty of every conflict and untimely death, unless they were the defending party in that one case, or firmly, and to the largest extent possible, opposed the conflict and aided the victims.

    On an individual level, it gets even more complicated since you’d have to ask what exactly can Mr. Henry Smith do if he’s against the Iraqi war and whether, if he did it, it would make any actual difference. You’d have to also ask, for example, what kind of actions would Mr. Smith resign from doing – if all he’s doing is sitting on a couch in front of a TV, the problem seems silly, but if Mr. Smith is caring for his ill relative, trying to earn enough to ensure that his family has what to eat and wear, or say supporting the needy in his community, you’d have to ask a very basic question: is the good that can potentially be done better, than the one he’s obtaining right now (including the probability of that potential good not happening at all, since it doesn’t depend only on him).

    I’m willing to admit that on a metaphysical level, we’re all entangled in all the evil of this world (we could be much better people than we are, making the world a better place than it is). But:
    1) When making such a statement, I’d start with myself and not with others
    2) There is a difference between the fact I’m partly guilty of the hunger in the world (because I live in a consumerist society and partly subscribe to it, using more resources than I need) and actually causing a particular person, presumably close enough for action and fully known to me, to die of hunger.
    3) I’m aware we’re talking of an ideal here: in practical terms, whatever I’d do would be insufficient to fulfil that ideal – there is almost always something more you could do than what you’re actually doing.
    4) In practice, it is dangerous to say that there is no difference between me (because I don’t try hard enough to be a good person) and a suicide bomber. It’s horribly demotivating – after all, if there is no gradation of evil, why try being better?
    5) I would be hesitant to demand of anyone that they be more ethically ideal than I am.

    There, that was long.

  20. ezekielf says:

    Blackjack is a game that fulls of controversy so people must now the consequence of playing it.

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