Sunday, July 23, 2017

Zapad 2017


23 July 2017
A strange moment in history.

Trump visited Poland. PiS brought their supporters by bus to listen to his speech. The Polish president did not speak. PiS people booed Lech Wałęsa during Trump's speech. The worst constitutional crisis in the history of Poland since 1989 got reignited days after his visit.

The political crisis in Poland is escalating, tens of thousands of people have been protesting in the streets in defence of democracy for a few days now. There is close to zero coverage of it in Australian media. Nothing in ABC, almost nothing in SBS.

Russian TV - I'm watching NTV - why is the Australian government re-broadcasting a Russian government controlled station? (*1) - showed Russian parliament and government make a big fuss a couple days ago about some obscure update in the Polish law about removal of symbols of communism in Poland, with some members of parliament pushing for breaking of diplomatic ties with Poland. Polish news (POLSAT) did not even notice that change or the Russian reaction. Nothing in Russian news about Polish protests.

Al Jazeera does report the protests. It seems they are better at reporting what is important than the western media. (*2)

The Trump chaos continues in the US - press secretary Sean Spicer resigned.

The Brexit chaos continues in the UK.

Trump met with the new French president. Days later the French armed forces chief quit (*3) to protest the proposed cuts to the military spending, which even currently is below the 2% target for NATO. (*4)

A Chinese spy ship has been spotted near joint American-Australian exercises off Queensland coast. (*5)

Russia brought to the Baltic sea two ships, which never go there, because they are simply too big for the small and shallow Baltic: an old but still working atomic submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles, and a cruiser that has more firepower than the whole of Polish shore defences. (*6)

Three Chinese warships entered the Baltic sea to take part in joint manoeuvres with the Russians. (*7)

The Zapad 2017 military exercises seem to have already started in Russia and Belarus, well before their official September schedule. (*8)

What the heck is going on?
...

*1 "On 14 April 2001, Gazprom took over NTV by force":

*2 "The survival of democracy in Poland is at stake": http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/07/poland-turning-authoritarian-170722113057383.html

*3 French chief of armed forces quits over budget cuts:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/emmanuel-macron-pierre-de-villiers-head-of-french-armed-forces-quits-france-budget-cuts-army-resigns-a7848186.html


*5 Chinese ship spying on Australians: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jul/22/provocative-move-chinese-spy-ship-sighted-off-queensland-coast

*6 Northern  http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/8972/russia-reportedly-sending-worlds-largest-submarine-to-the-baltic-sea

*7 Chinese ships in the Baltic: http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/12656/chinese-naval-group-in-baltic-sea-at-same-time-as-russias-biggest-sub-and-cruiser

*8 Russian, Belorussian, Chinese military activity in Eastern/Northern Europe: https://osteuropastudien.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/analysts-say-russias-zapad-17-has-started/



Friday, July 21, 2017

Crisis in Poland - 20 July 2017

I am appalled by the PiS party in Poland and those who still support them. Shame on you. I'm not alone, millions of people in Poland have been protesting in the streets since PiS came to power in 2015. The protests don't seem to be working though. PiS is taking over the country, breaking or bending the law as they go. I don't know what more can be done. PiS clearly does not care about the people. They think we are protesting because we have been lied to, or that we were improperly benefitting from the previous - democratic system, which they call "post-communist". They say they are bringing democracy. They really believe we are all stupid, mafia, traitors, communists or thieves.

The democratic Poland is being destroyed by PiS. Since they came to power in 2015, a new, much worse, Poland is being born. Poland where the rights of women and minorities are not protected, where publicly funded television (TVP) is spewing disgusting propaganda, where football hooligans and nationalists are treated as patriots, where top government officials mix religion and politics and try to introduce laws to please religious zealots, where insinuations about the Smolensk plane crash are celebrated every month in the middle of Warsaw with thousands of policemen protecting PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński and his "we're getting closer to truth" idiocy.

PiS has done some good too. That's why they still have support of about 37% of people in polls. Giving every family 500 PLN every month for the second and subsequent children, and poor families also for the first child, lowered poverty in Poland. That's a good thing. It is being paid by increasing public debt though, so it may not be sustainable. Increasing the minimum wage was a good thing too. That's it.

There are many more things that they broke. The most important being the trust in the rule of law. Now, they are taking control of the courts system, which in democratic countries are independent from political influence. Afterwards, they will have all state-level power in their hands: legislative, executive, judiciary. Legally, nothing will be able to stop them from de-legalising parties opposed to them, nothing will be able to stop them from falsifying elections - we, the majority of the people, are stupid in their mind, so they will be doing it for our good, of course.

Kaczyński called us - that's those who don't agree with him, on camera: communists, thieves, gestapo collaborators, the worse kind, low life, and just now the killers of his brother. This man is clearly full of hatred. Shame on those who support him and do his bidding: Szydło, Duda, Waszczykowski, Kamiński, Ziobro, Kurski, Piotrowicz, Kempa and many others.

PiS came to power after a wire tapping scandal in 2014, when Marek Falenta - a businessman selling Russian coal in Poland, with debts to a Russian company connected to Putin (*) ordered recording of private conversations of PO and PSL politicians. The recordings were made in restaurants, by waiters. PO and PSL were a governing coalition at that time. The tapes were leaked during an election campaign. There was nothing that was proved criminal in the tapes, but there were a few things that were used by PiS to show the arrogance of the PO/PSL government and to support their campaign slogans "Poland is in ruins", and "good change". Three years later, the arrogance of PiS government shown publicly is a hundred times bigger. What they say privately we don't know, nobody taped their conversations.

PiS got only 37.6% of votes in the 2015 elections to Sejm (lower chamber of the Parliament), and 40% in Senate, but thanks to the preference for the biggest parties, it has 51% of seats in Sejm and 61% in Senate. The voter participation was about 50%.

* Roman Giertych about PiS and Russia connections: The art of misinformation

Friday, July 14, 2017

Melbourne

A short business trip to Melbourne in the middle of winter. It was quite chilly in the morning and at night, and the days were shorter than in Brisbane. Here are some pictures to give you the feel for the city over two winter days.
CBD from the air







Sunrise

Melbourne on a sunny day. Can you see two trams?

An extreme tradie's ute.

Let's fully welcome refugees.


What a weird leaning buildings!

A view from the freeway

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hobart

Hobart is a city of 220 thousand people. First impressions: quiet city centre, inconsistent architectural styles - that's typical for Australian cities, an imposing mountain, super clear water in the port, people in winter coats. A walking tour is a good way to start learning about Hobart.

Battery Point, lovely historical houses on a quiet hill in the city centre, originally for gunners, now worth about $700k each.

Grain silos converted to apartments, right next to Salamanca Market.

Salamanca Market on Saturday, Mount Wellington in the background.

Tasmanian Parliament

Aurora Australis icebreaker


Mount Wellington over the city


Former IXL jam factory, currently a restaurant and an art shop.




 Post Office

What was this building?



Art deco buildings and an unfinished hotel


Local newspaper building
The Tasmanian Museum tells the tragic history of the aboriginal people of Tasmania. The author of the concept of genocide, Raphael Lemkin, considered Tasmania the site of one of the world's clear cases of genocide. The pure blood native population dropped from 3,000 - 10,000 in 1803 to 0 in 1876.












 North Hobart:





Love this mural on a veterinarian clinic.


Flying back to Brisbane, the view of Gold Coast.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Adelaide

This was my second visit to Adelaide. The first one, in 2009 made me think Adelaide was a bit boring compared to Sydney or Brisbane. Primarily, I thought about architecture - driving by car from and to the city centre I could not identify any landmarks, but also culturally, I did not remember many places of interest, except for the Migration Museum. This time, I went on a walking tour of the city with Ryan and a small group of other tourists. Ryan told us that about 6 years ago Adelaide government started working on making the city more appealing. They are copying some ideas off Melbourne, like pedestrian laneways. They paid the cricket club 350 million dollars to open up their CBD stadium for other games and constructed a pedestrian bridge to it, and embarked on other improvements... As a result, I no longer think Adelaide is boring, I actually quite liked it, and I will definitely return.

The infrastructure is improving too. The rail line to Seaford has been electrified:



For railway enthusiasts: track gauges in Australia are a mess. Most of South Australia uses standard gauge track (1435mm), but Adelaide's suburban trains use broad gauge track (1600mm). The carriages are noticeably wider - compared to Gold Coast, which uses narrow gauge track (1067mm), although the seats seem to be the same narrow kind:
Adelaide train (source)

Gold Coast train (source)














As of 2017, though, according to our guide, only 13 thousand people live in the CBD (there are hardly any apartments there) and on weekends some restaurants/coffee shops are closed, major shops close at 5pm, cultural events wind down even earlier, and some places, like the Victoria square seem to be occupied primarily by the homeless. I was asked for small change at least twice that day, and once a pair of bored young boys tried to disrupt Ryan's monologue by shouting obscenities at him. The electrification of the commuter rail has been stalled, and it's strange to see these diesel powered trains in the capital of the renewable energy leader - South Australia:


Photos from the city centre:

Street art

Opposite side

The oldest shopping mall in Australia - The Adelaide Arcade built in 1885.

The Rundle Mall

One of the popular meeting points on the Rundle Mall - the pigs - this one is Oliver.
The other popular meeting point is the balls - two big metal balls stacked one on top of the other.

The west end of the Rundle Mall

A view of the mountains from Adelaide's city centre.
Adelaide is only about 20km wide west-east from the gulf to the mountains and about 100km long north-south.

Photos from Port Adelaide suburb located north-west of the CBD:
Port Adelaide railway stop - reminded me of a prison: everything is vandal-proof and there is no way of escaping, but through the very long ramp down. The feeling was reinforced when, after boarding the train here, I got off at Adelaide (city centre) and there were about 10 police officers watching closely passengers leaving that train.

Port Adelaide - this old house has maybe 40m2 area, but 4 columns!

An old Meat Store - Port Adelaide

Photos from the Aviation Museum:
Jindivik - see below

Australia was making a Jindivik jet drone in the 1950s!

F-111 of the drop and burn fame - it could drop some fuel in flight and then ignite it creating a spectacular display.

The front page of The News from 15 Oct 1953.

7 major nuclear tests have been performed in Australia
Prohibited areas during nuclear testing. Currently, the zone is much smaller.
The British design De Havilland Vampire jet plane, first flown in 1943. This one was built in Australia in 1951.

A beautifully restored Spitfire.
Original condition of the Spitfire above.
Surfers have it harder in Adelaide, as it is located on the shores of St Vincent Gulf, and the waves are miniscule.

Looking south from Glenelg - a picturesque suburb of Adelaide.

Some government residence in Glenelg?

Glenelg Town Hall - in the US people go to Disneyland to see places like this.

Glenelg - last tram stop, almost on the beach.
 Back in Adelaide CBD:
Old and new.

The front yard of the Adelaide airport with a water feature - must be very popular with kids in the summer. This really is the front of the airport - private cars drop off people in back of this photo, buses and taxis have their stops on the left side of this plaza - not visible in the photo.

City centre seen from inside the airport. Adelaide's airport is between the city centre and the gulf.
Trivia:
1. When the Beatles visited Adelaide, they drew a crowd of 350 thousand people, more than the queen and the pope combined. Their picture is permanently on display on the city hall balcony from which they made their appearance.
2. The first Australian Eurovision contestant - Guy Sebastian - is from Adelaide.
3. The first Australians to fly from England to Australia in less than 30 days, were South Australian brothers: Ross and Keith Smith.