Friday, June 09, 2006

letters about Poland survey

SIR – The cautiously optimistic outlook for the Polish economy presented in your survey on Poland is debatable (May 13th). To ensure long-term growth, structural reform is called for. Alas, the current government, distrustful of markets, is steeped in dirigisme and unlikely to take on vested interests (trade unions) that thwart reformist efforts. Instead of liberalising the economy, it plans, for instance, to ban shops from opening on Sundays, which is bound to result in an increase in already high unemployment. The administration's electoral slogan, “cheap state”, is just a paper pledge as it is currently expanding: new ministries, replete with cars and secretaries, have been created for coalition partners.

Piotr Zientara
Gdynia, Poland

SIR – I disagree with your characterisation of the Kaczynski brothers as weird but benign. Their appetite for power has prevented a coalition with Civic Platform, which would have given Poland a government with a strong mandate and the necessary competencies to implement meaningful and overdue economic reforms. The Kaczynski brothers missed an historic opportunity and have harmed Poland.

Marcin Telko
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

SIR – While it may be true that the worst bits of Poland are “egregiously bad”, it certainly does not apply to public transport, at least not in Warsaw. The example you gave of the bus from the airport to the city centre is misleading; in fact, most airport buses are modern and relatively clean (although I can't argue with “pickpocket-infested”). If they are slow it is because traffic in Warsaw can be a disaster, making public transport all the more appealing. It is easier for me to get from A to B in Warsaw than in my native San Francisco and much cheaper, even after accounting for the difference in spending power. If you need an example of the worst bits, you'd do better to look at pollution, corruption of all sorts, and the fact that no one will give you change for a 100 zloty bill.

Alex Zarganis
Warsaw

12 comments:

Pawel Dobrowolski said...

Piotr Zeintara said: "Alas, the current government, distrustful of markets, is steeped in dirigisme and unlikely to take on vested interests (trade unions) that thwart reformist efforts."

The vested interests that are blocking reforms are the older generation of Poles. The unions are only a small portion of the coalition of older voters that are blocking reforms.

Any successful structural reform will diminish the transfer from the young to the old that is taking place via the budget, and would put an end to the discrimination of young Poles in the labor market.

Pawel Dobrowolski

pricklypole said...

Your choice of letters commenting on your survey betrays self-indulging shadiness. You have gotten rid of the substantial criticism in favour of the petty one. I have posted my critical resume with links to the detailed analysis of the manipulative nature of your writing - all in the comments on your blog, which you have decided to junk in the archives the day after. I suppose your explanation would be that it was high time to close such a lengthy dispute. I am aware that it might have been to late to have it published in print, but it is rather low to avoid publishing it here, once you decided to do it at all. Again, just as you have done in your survey, you seem to flatter yourself claiming objectivity rather than trying to pursue it in earnest. Shame on you...
Jakub Chmielewski

pricklypole said...

...by the way, would you mind telling me (that goes to Mr. Telko and Mr. Lucas)what exactly does 'weird' mean in reference to the K.bros.? I hope there is more to it than medieval awe in the face of the ungraspable phenomenon of identical twins, my liberal-minded, future-oriented gentlemen...

pricklypole said...

hi, FlyingOko!? 'you there?
I know I'm here third time in a row, but this time, I promise, will be the last in the sequence and I am posting it in response to FlyingOko's post I have just dug out of Mr. Lucas' archives and just couldn't let it remain unanswered. You were curious about the response from lawyers in reference to the possibility of a libel suit and if I heard of Schroeder's lawsuit having been dismissed in blitz 30sec. (wow!). Well, lady, or whoever you are, I don't know what fuels your defensive zeal but it certainly has a sideeffect of making you skip large portions of text you venture to question; the answer was right below the fragment you were kind enough to paste in your post and especially, just for you, here it is again: "In return, I have obtained their statement of readiness to undertake it, provided of course the will in this respect of the possible complainant Mr. J.Kaczynski".
As to the second question: No, I haven't. Now, let me ask you mine: So what? - that and, please, the second, so that we are even: Have you taken your time reading my post (I admit it was lengthy)? ...well, please do with special attention on the part devoted to Mr.Lucas' account of the Balcerowicz/banking commission events and the last part with the BBC guidelines for avoiding libel suits. Then we can go on.
Jakub Chmielewski

Edward Lucas said...

1) I don't choose the letters. The letters editor does. I have gone to enormous lengths to try to get pricklypole and Kagan to write publishable letters (of the right length, on time, etc). But sadly no luck
2) The previous discussion is archived because that's the way the software works. I'm a novice blogger. Don't be so paranoid
3) The Kaczynski twins are weird. They have a weird outlook and background. It's my charaterisation. Sorry if you don't like it.
4) Before you get excited about the libel action, I suggest you ask yourself why public figures very seldom sue the news media for libel. So long as the person concerned has had a chance to reply to criticism, courts take a very dim view of their complaining.

pricklypole said...

You are doing your thing, again; I have not once complained about my letter not being published in the economist - I understand it was too late for it and I said so just a few inches above, although you never said it was too long - I did complain that you haven't published it here where it is your decision. That's one thing.
If I had been excited, as you say, about the legal action, I probably would have had you kept away from anything that produces scripture for a time long enough for you not to be able to take hold of a pen - believe you me.
If I have not done so it is becauseI was hoping you had enough descency to simply apologise for what is unbecoming for a gentleman; it is one thing to criticise unjustly and quite the other to commonly lie and throw mud.
It is, however, sufficiently clear that the only measure of descency for you is likeliness of punishment. Now, you might want to use your impressionistic imagination, which sets scenes so lively in your survey to entertain this idea: you never know how thin is the ice you walk on and what waits underneath until it breaks. Sometimes a person you talk to may not be whom you have fancied.
At this point it is impossible for me to express usual regards.

richardlith said...

The letters editor obviously has a sense of humour. Bearing in mind the debate over Kagan and PricklyPole's letters and the libel treats, the editor goes and prints after the Polish letters an accusation of defamation from Glaswegian Neil Ferguson!! Your editor must have libel on his mind. This is then followed by Polish style letters from chippy Scots complaing about the Economist's treatment of that divided land.

I hope all the Poles noted that Scotland received exactly the same treatment and criticism from the Economist as Poland.

Still, nemo me impune lacessit, as all Scottish schoolchildren used to learn.

pricklypole said...

Do you know this joke:
Once upon a time, in the USSR, a radiostation in Erevan (Armenia) broadcasted the news that in the main street of Leningrad bicycles were being given away for free. When Leningrad was contacted to confirm it, they said that in fact it was not the high street but the dark alleys in the vicinity of the railway station, it weren't bicycles but wallets and they were not being given away but notoriuosly stolen. That's exactly the way Mr Lucas and The Economist present things in Poland. Did Scotland receive the same treatment?

Edward Lucas said...

I am really baffled by this. Prickly Pole seems to be threatening me, but I can't work out with what.

I am sorry if I have offended PP by lumping him together with Kagan, who is very cross too. My point is this: I don't choose the letters. I tried to do what I could to have my critics' views reflected in the letters column. I'm sorry it didn't work out. I hope that I allow the most abusive posts about me to stay on this website shows that I am not thin-skinned (or, God forbid, p-r-i-c-k-l-y)

I still don't understand what was so bad about the survey in PP's view. He thinks that I am pro-Balcerowicz and anti-Kaczynski. Even if I was, that would not be an eccentric or unjustified view. And as it happens, I don't think Balcerowicz is hero, and I don't share all the common criticisms of the Kaczynskis.

So what's the big deal? And as Lith points out, Scotland has just had roughly the same treatment that Poland got, of friendly but robust criticism, and no doubt some other country will be next.

I suggest that shows not that the Economist is particularly biassed against Poland, or that I am exceptionally ignorant or sloppy, but that this sort of brisk tone is the one that we generally adopt, not least when covering Britain.

pricklypole said...

As to your:
"1.I still don't understand what was so bad about the survey in PP's view. He thinks that I am pro-Balcerowicz and anti-Kaczynski. Even if I was, that would not be an eccentric or unjustified view. And as it happens, I don't think Balcerowicz is hero, and I don't share all the common criticisms of the Kaczynskis." -
I think you know very well what I find wrong in your s. and it baffles ME why you pretend you don't. It is not about 'anti-this' or 'pro-that' and don't try to slot me in this category. I AM ONLY HIGHLIGHTING THE DISHONEST AND TABLOID-LIKE METHOD OF PRESENTING THINGS IN YOUR SURVEY; IT IS ABOUT FACTS AND LIES. REGARDLESS OF WHETHER I (OR YOU) LIKE K. OR B. OR NOT - IT IS ESSENTIAL FOR A JOURNALIST TO PRESENT FACTS THE WAY THEY WERE IN ORDER TO BE CREDIBLE. FACTS AS YOU PRESENT THEM (AND AS THEY ARE RECEIVED BY YOUR READERS WHO TURN TO YOU FOR RELIABLE INFORMATION) - NEVER TOOK PLACE!!! IT IS EXACTLY AS IN THE ANECTDOTE I POSTED ABOVE. iF YOU HAD PRESENTED YOUR OPINION OR JUDGEMENT WITH ANY REAL SUBSTANCE BEHIND IT I WOULD NOT HAVE TYPED A SINGLE LETTER HERE. AS IT IS, HOWEVER, (AND I SAY THIS PUBLICLY)- YOU HAVE LIED. PERIOD. AND DON'T ASK ME TO COMPARE YOUR SURVEY WITH ANY OTHER - hOW DO I KNOW IF THEY'RE LYING - I DON'T KNOW ITALY; UNTIL NOW I TRUSTED THE EXPERTISE OF THE ECONOMIST'S AUTHORS - NOW THE TRUST IS RUINED AND THAT'S THE BIG DEAL. NOW DO YOU GET IT? BESIDES, IF THEY ARE LYING AS WELL, DOES IT MAKE YOU CLEAN? IF THEY DO NOT, DOES IT MAKE YOU TRUSTWORTHY?
2. As to the rest; I am not offended - unlike Kagan I am not making an issue of myself here. Nor have I sought to abuse you for the sake of it. I am sorry, but if I see an individual stealing an apple from the stall I cry "thief!" - If I find a lie, I cry "lier!" - if a thief or a lier felt offended - I would say they're a bit p-r-i-c-k-l-y, wouldn't you?

p.s: to those who would like to view the evidence they can find it in the May archives to this blog

Edward Lucas said...

I am sorry that your trust in The Economist has been destroyed by my survey. I wonder, what do you think my motive was? Do you think I am an enemy of Poland who delights in painting a distorted picture? Or do you think that I am just extremely careless? Or maybe I am mad? Or a congenital liar?
And do you think it is Poland that suffers uniquely because of this? In everything I have ever written about the country (there is plenty on this website, and even more on yahoogroups.com/edwardlucas if you want to look at it)?

Or maybe I am unfair to all CEE countries. Or to everybody?

I would be most interested to know whether you can detect a consistent pattern of bias or carelessness. Believe it or not, I am never satisfied with what I write, and am always glad to have concrete suggestions about how to do better in future.

Could I ask you the following: please suggest three or four stories which you think the Economist should cover from Poland in the coming months. And suggest whom you think, given the constraints (trips no longer than two or three days) that I should talk to.

Could you also suggest, for my benefit, any foreign newspaper (English German French Russian or Lithuanian-language) which you think covers Poland well, where I could see the kind of reporting and analysis that you think is really on the button.

And for that matter, please also send me links to any articles in the Polish press that you think I should be reading.

I think this would be a more constructive way of proceeding than the cycle we seem to have got into, in which you repeat your accusations of monstrous mistakes, which I, rightly or wrongly, fail to recognise as such.

Many thanks

Edward Lucas

pricklypole said...

I am glad to have your response in this way - had you reacted so earlier, we would have saved a lot of typing space. I had had only this when I wrote to you for the first time (beleive it or not - before that, It was my first letter to any newspaper (-man) ever!) - Whatever. I'll be honoured if you really want me to contribute in such a way. If you are serious, then please allow me two days so that I can put my mind to it the right way. I mean of course the second part of your post as your questions in its first part seem to me rhetorical in a sense that you are really the only person who knows the right answer - I could only guess, so it couldn't be serious. But just for the record; I don't think you or anybody at the Economist is biased against Poland. I have never thought that! Like I told you - I valued your paper perhaps above any other international magazine and for ten years it was the only one I read regularly and throughout that period not once have I found an issue that I would not see the same way as The Economist or come to see it The Economists' way because I was convinced by arguments! Not once! Up until the incident with the caricatures of Mahomet - The Economist's stance was alien to me but I swallowed it and blamed the change of The Editor-in Chief. And then, I was flabbergasted by all that I read in your survey...Anyway, in two days time I ll try to come up with something.