It looks like my native country of Poland is just as politically divided right now as my adopted home country of the United States.  In last week’s EU parliamentary elections, the two main rival parties received the exact same number of seats–19.

The party which is the “winner” of the election–with only 32.8% of the popular vote–is Platforma Obywatelska (PO) or Civic Platform, a center right party.  And this may be the one time that I will be excited about the right winning an election.  Because PO is–there is no other way to put it–the sane party.  They are right wing in a very moderate sense–perhaps this is what the Republicans in America used to be like, or wish they could be like again.  They are interested in free markets, open to Poland being a part of the European community and the economic benefits that can bring to the country.  They have previously come out in favor of privatization and deregulation, but have been in charge for the last few years and privatization has only happened on a small scale.  They don’t seem to be interested in dismantling society.

On the other hand, there is the opposition.  Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc (PiS)–the Law and Justice party.  It’s a bit unclear to me if they would be considered left or right by American standards.  What they are, more than anything else, is religious.  PiS followers are fervent Catholics.  They are nostalgic people of the sort which wants to wind the clock back to a better time in the past, in this case possibly back to the Middle Ages, when the Church was safely in charge and the priest was the ultimate authority figure.  Hence their opposition to Poland’s involvement in the EU–they don’t want Polish culture to be influenced by all that Western moral decadence, with its pesky feminism and pride parades.  This would also be why some Catholic right talking heads have actually expressed support for Putin’s expanding influence.  Sure, Russia may endanger Polish sovereignty, but at least it doesn’t have gay rights.  The spiritual scene in Poland has become a lot more diverse since the fall of the Iron Curtain, with Buddhists and pagans popping up, and PiS followers are not big fans of that.  While we’re at it, they would also prefer it if women would step back into the kitchen where they belong, thank you very much.  This would mean no rights to abortion or contraceptives, and a proposed tax rebate for each successive child, to encourage Poles to continue following the Catholic big family model.  There is definitely a populist streak to the PiS platform–they are in favor of welfare programs and at one point made promises of a large-scale guaranteed housing project for Polish families.  This is where your average American observer might get confused.  PiS essentially combines social conservative values with some progressive safety net ideas.

Funny thing is, the Civic Platform party isn’t that terribly liberal about social issues either.  But they are closer to the middle, which has caused them to be accused by Law and Justice of being depraved and sinful heathens, ready to take Poland over the brink into heresy, which is enough to recommend PO to me.  And I guess there’s the similarity–whether in Poland or America, elections aren’t about voting for the party you love, they’re about picking the less crazy option of the two.

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Watching Russia Today is like doing the Soviet time warp.  The pro-Russian propaganda takes me right back to my Eastern bloc childhood.  I feel like I should be wearing my blue school uniform and clutching my ration cards when I watch RT.  Even the vocabulary of the news anchors is the same–they still talk about Western imperialism.  When America invades Iraq, it’s an example of imperialism–and I agree with that!  But when Russia invades the Crimea, they’re “liberating” that region of the world.  Hmmmm.  Sounds like somebody’s recycling old Don Rumsfeld sayings.

Not all old memories are getting recycled.  I’m not hearing anything about the bourgeoisie and the proletariat–they’re not in fashion anymore.  When I was a Commieland kid, the bourgeoisie was maligned for being a tool of the capitalists.  Now it’s turned into the squeezed middle class, and RT is defending it.  You gotta keep up with the changes.

But some things stay the same.  In the 80s, when my parents and their friends protested against the Communist government, the official news channels labelled the protesters as a violent and criminal fringe element, and threw in allegations of heavy drug use and orgies.  According to RT, the protesters in Kiev were also part of a violent fascist fringe.  I’ve heard that song before.  On the other hand, the people marching against austerity in Western Europe are always “peaceful”.  It’s a thin line between a peaceful civil resistance movement and crazy neo-Nazis, I guess.

Another classic move in the Cold War time warp dance?  Promises of a wonderful economy.  Russia is going to bring vast economic improvements to the Crimea, RT says.  Once upon a time, we heard the same sales pitch in Poland.  That one ended with bread lines around the block.

Now, I’m by no means claiming that American news media don’t do their share of propagandizing as well.  In fact, Russia Today doesn’t just remind me of Communism–it also reminds me of Fox News.  Maybe Putin’s dream was to be able to run his own version of Fox.  If so, he succeeded.

CNN finally seems to have woken up from their nap today and has started covering the Ukraine crisis in a serious way, and it took the Russian Parliament voting for military action for them to do so.  Not that there wasn’t ominous stuff going on in that part of the world before today, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from looking at my TV machine.

Once again, I’m completely frustrated by the lack of international news coverage in the American media.  I like MSNBC for the political stuff–yes, I admit it, they reflect my bias–but they’re better on the domestic stuff.  I can’t take Fox News for the constant Obama bashing–I think that’s their full-time job at this point.  And CNN has been useless lately.  Endless Oscars specials and Justin Bieber gossip, while the world has been coming apart at the seams.  Were they joking about the “News” part of their name?

So I’ve been left with Al Jazeera.  They’ve been doing in-depth reporting on the Ukraine, and it’s been quality reporting that doesn’t appear to be too heavily biased in one direction or another.  I realize that a lot of people wouldn’t touch Al Jazeera, mainly because of who has created and owns the channel.  All I can say to that is that I would gladly watch American news channels if they improved their coverage of the world outside our borders.  But as long as they continue focusing on awards show red carpet BS, I don’t have too many options.