The Cold War is back. Or at least, some version of it has returned, with Russian troops on the move across the Crimean Peninsula with the oddsmakers predicting it will once again be Russian territory.
For critics of President Barack Obama, this is a prime opportunity to demonstrate how poorly he stacks up compared with the man who did all he could to topple the Soviet Union, President Ronald Reagan.
Reagan’s son, Michael Reagan, offered this advice for Obama on the Townhall.com website:
“I suggest that President Obama might want to study how Ronald Reagan defeated the Soviet Union.
“He did it without firing a shot, as we know, but he had a super weapon — oil.
“Oil was the only thing the Soviets had in the 1980s that anyone in the rest of the world wanted to buy, besides ICBMs and H-bombs, and they weren’t for sale.
“Since selling oil was the source of the Kremlin’s wealth, my father got the Saudis to flood the market with cheap oil.
“Lower oil prices devalued the ruble, causing the USSR to go bankrupt, which led to perestroika and Mikhail Gorbachev and the collapse of the Soviet Empire.”
It seems like a reasonable narrative, but as we’ll see in this fact-check, the record isn’t quite as robust as Reagan fils might like.
We made several efforts to reach Reagan for official records that would back up his claim, and we did not hear back.
The basic oil market numbers
We can see what happened with oil markets during Reagan’s time in office by looking at volume — how much was pumped out of the ground — and price. The U.S. Energy Information Administration provides the production numbers, and what we see partly backs up Reagan’s point and partly does not.
For the first five years of Reagan’s administration, Saudi production fell steeply. Then in 1986 it popped up, followed by a dip the next year, and ending with another rise.
The Energy Information Administration also provides pricing data and it too both supports and undercuts Reagan’s statement. Prices fall in 1986, then recover in 1987 followed by a decline in 1988. Prices remained below what they had been in 1985.
By several estimates, the drop in prices cost the USSR $20 billion a year. If the plan was to hurt the Soviet Union, it succeeded.
What is unclear is whether the Saudis ramped up production at Reagan’s request. We look at what the record shows on that front.
The evidence in support of Reagan intervention
Paul Kengor is a Reagan biographer who believes the Gipper has not received the credit he is due for waging economic warfare against the USSR. Kengor told PunditFact that Michael Reagan is correct when he says his father was behind the Saudi’s decision.
“They did this strictly to help us hurt the Soviets and as payback for us helping them in the past,” Kengor said. “It was a big risk for them.”
Kengor pointed us to the book Victory: The Reagan administration’s secret strategy that hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union, by Peter Schweizer. In that book, Schweizer describes a 1981 meeting between CIA director William Casey and his Saudi counterpart. At that meeting, Casey shared CIA reports on Soviet oil production.
“By raising the issues of oil prices and the U.S.-Saudi Arabia security relationship in the same conversation,” Casey was in effect saying the two were related,” Schweizer wrote.
Schweizer cites an unnamed U.S. official for this information. A former National Security Council official referred to Casey’s contacts with Saudi Arabia during a recent panel discussion but in less detail than in Schweizer’s book.
But move forward to 1985, when the Saudis actually made their production hike, and Schweizer wrote, “What factor lay most heavily on the mind of the Saudis when they made this decision is anybody’s guess.”
We asked Kengor for the best documentation they could find to support the claim of Reagan’s direct intervention. We have yet to receive that.
However, there is an ample public record on the factors within OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, that shaped the Saudi Arabian production strategy. Plus, the Reagan administration made efforts to push prices back up. We turn now to the information that tends to undermine Reagan’s assertion.
The evidence against
James Williams is an Arkansas-based consulting economist in the oil and gas industry who worked with producers in West Texas in the 1980s. Williams told us that in the first half of the decade, OPEC had an agreement to keep prices high through a system of production quotas. Members promised to limit the number of barrels they would pump. With less supply, prices would be higher.
“The Saudi Arabians were dropping production faster than the rest of OPEC,” Williams said. “They bore a disproportionate share of the effort to prop up prices.”
The problem was, not every member followed the rules. There are many references in the public record of Saudi resentment. Economist Darwin Hall at the California State University at Long Beach described it in a 1992 article in Energy Policy.
“At the OPEC meetings in Geneva during the period from 1982 to 1985, Sheikh Yamani, the oil minister of Saudi Arabia at the time, repeatedly threatened to expand output unless Iraq and Iran stopped cheating on their agreed quotas,” Hall wrote. (Iran and Iraq were at war and needed foreign currency to finance their militaries.)
While OPEC wielded considerable clout on world energy markets, internally, it had no way to enforce the terms among its signatories. Philip Verlager, an energy consultant, said Saudi Arabia had more oil capacity than anyone and so had more power.
“From 1981 to the end of 1985, Saudi Arabia took on the swing producer role in OPEC,” Verleger told PunditFact. “Then in 1986, they threw in the towel and prices collapsed.”
In six months, the spot price for oil was cut in half.
Verleger said Michael Reagan “is wrong.” He and many other writers say the Saudis boosted production to send a message to other OPEC members.
Another bit of information from Saudi Arabia also undercuts the Reagan claim. Dick Combs, a foreign service officer and author of Inside the Soviet Alternate Universe, noted that Saudi King Fahd was not a strong supporter of the shift in 1986. He fired his oil minister and cut back “domestic oil production to enhance Saudi revenues.”
If the Reagan doctrine was to keep prices as low as possible, U.S. actions weren’t always consistent with that goal. As prices fell, the U.S. oil industry collapsed.
“In April 1986, Reagan sent (Vice President George H.W.) Bush to Saudi Arabia to get the Saudis to cut production to bring prices up,” Verlager said.
According to newspapers at the time, Bush told King Fahd that the United States saw the hit on the domestic oil market as “a threat to national security.”
Michael Reagan said his father got Saudi Arabia to flood the market with oil in order to drive down prices and undermine the Soviet economy. The numbers on production and pricing show that Saudi production rose, then fell, and then rose again. In the middle of 1987, prices were close to what they had been at the beginning of 1986, although they fell again and never went as high as they had been in 1985.
The pattern of production and prices do not fit neatly with Reagan’s statement. We have no public documents to confirm that Reagan asked the Saudis to use oil as an economic weapon against the USSR.
On the other hand, we have an extensive public record that Saudi Arabia was fighting with its OPEC partners and had warned them for years that it would raise production to make them pay a price for cheating on their quotas. We also see that Saudi Arabia charted its own course in setting oil prices and the consensus view among oil experts is OPEC, not Reagan, shaped their production decisions.
Finally, we have Bush calling on the Saudis to help send prices back up. This is exactly counter to the Reagan strategy in the statement.
There might be an element of truth in the claim, but the public record strongly points the other way. We rate the statement Mostly False.
As you may know, tackling my backlog is the main reason I started this site. Well, with that in mind I continue to proceed with both my PS1 era playthroughs and my creepy Autumn game initiative, with a review of the Playstation classic: Resident Evil. This is a title that is heralded among gamers as one of the greatest survival horror titles of all time. Without a doubt, this is the game that really launched the genre into the mainstream.
My very first experience with Resident Evil was the enhanced remake of this game back on the Nintendo Gamecube, but for this review I wanted to go back to the roots of the series. So I chose to play through the Director’s Cut edition of game. That being stated, let’s go ahead and take a moment to clear up any confusion regarding the different retail versions of Resident Evil that exist.
First, there is the original release: This is the game in it’s purist form. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best… The original US version of Resident Evil came under heavy criticism due to censorship. For whatever reason, Capcom decided to cut a number of scenes from the game. These missing visuals include references to smoking and also some of the more violent imagery. However, despite these cuts, the game still received a Mature rating. So, to me and many others, the decision to censor the game made little sense in the end.
Second, we have the The Director’s Cut. Originally, this release was marketed as being the uncensored version of the game. But, it was later found to contain the same edits as the vanilla release (apparently due to an error). This version of the game does feature a few enhancements to the playcontrol, as well as a new Beginner Mode and “Arranged Mode” (sort of a remix for item and monster placement). A second (corrected) version of the Director’s Cut was eventually released. This version also added controller vibration support. For many, this is considered to be definitive PlayStation version of the game – and this is the version I’m focusing on for this review.
Third, The remake: In 2002, a remake of the original game was released exclusively on the Nintendo GameCube. This was the first version of the game that I experienced. This version includes revamped graphics and sound, a higher degree of difficulty, and some other major and minor changes. Recently, an enhanced HD version of the remake was released. I have decided to review this new version separately at a later time. So for now… on the the review.
The story for Resident Evil takes place in the fictional locale of Raccoon City. Recently a number of bizarre murders have occurred on the outskirts of the area. To investigate, an elite group of police officers known as “STARS” were dispatched to the scene. When this group did not return, a second team was sent to assess the situation. The game begins with this second crew locating the crashed helicopter of the original team. While investigating the crash, the STARS are attacked by a pack of enraged, monstrous dogs. Unable to combat them effectively, the STARS officers run to a nearby mansion for shelter. Inevitably, the team gets split up in the chaos. The goal of the game is locate your missing companion(s) and explore the mansion for clues regarding the whereabouts of the former STARS team members. As the player, you can choose to control either STARS’ member Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. Each character has their own set pros and cons, and the flow of the story will change slightly depending on which you choose. Regardless of your selection, the overall plot is the same.
It doesn’t take long for the hero to realize that things at the mansion and surrounding area are far from normal. The place is crawling with zombies! As you continue to play and explore, the story-line that unfolds is one of classic B-movie horror.
The basic premise of the game is to explore the mansion and locate your fellow STARs members and then escape. Initially, a large part of the mansion is closed off, but as you continue to explore you will obtain keys and other items of interest. These items enable you to continually probe deeper and deeper into the mysteries that lie before you.
As each new area is unlocked, every step into the unknown is wrought with danger. As you play, you’ll soon realize that the comfort of trekking through familiar territory is quickly replaced with dread each time you set foot into a new unexplored wing of the mansion. You never know what type of horror may be lurking around the corner. To make matters worse, weapons and ammunition are a scarce and valuable commodity. This is made even more so by a very limited inventory space. Your character can only hold so many items. So often, you will find yourself stumbling upon something of value, with no way to hold it. Luckily, there are special storage boxes located at various locales in the game. These can be used to store your valuables and free up precious inventory slots.
Resident Evil does a masterful job of keeping the tension at a fever pitch. Everything from the creepy atmospheres, to the music, to the gruesome monsters is masterfully crafted. The game does lack in a few crucial areas however. The first, being the play control. This game controls very similarly to many of the early third-person 3D games of the era, which I’ve always found to be somewhat problematic. Your character moves in a tank-like fashion. You point them in a specific direction and then move them forward. This makes for some rather stiff and clunky navigation. Combine this with turning the corner into a room full of zombies and it can make for a easy death – simply due to the difficulty of trying to navigate away from danger. As I mentioned, other games of the time had the same control scheme (Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, etc). Second, the voice acting is simply horrid. I mean, it’s REALLY bad. But I’m able to overlook it by imagining the whole thing is a spoof of a terrible B-movie. (Sadly, I don’t think that was the actual intention of the developers.) Finally, the whole inventory system is overly cumbersome. I understand how space-management can be an important aspect for some games, but in the case of Resident Evil, I feel it’s largely unnecessary. For example, to even save your game you are required to keep “Ink Ribbons”. These are a consumable item that can be used at typewriters you may find scattered around. Using a ribbon in a typewriter will allow you to save your progress. So yes… you can technically blow all of your saves by running out of ribbons and find yourself in a heap of trouble late in the game.
Despite these annoyances, the game is a masterpiece. It’s certainly worthy of the hype it receives. On top of the excellent storytelling and tension that you get from the game itself. Having two characters to choose from adds a good level of replay-ability to the game. While the background story for both Jill and Chris are the same, each characters sees the scenario unfold differently. Plus, there are differences when it comes to playing the two characters. For example, Chris is a bit tougher and can seem to take more of a beating. But Jill can hold more gear and is able to pick locks, this allows here access to more of the mansion right from the beginning. And if that’s not enough, the Arranged Mode featured in the Director’s Cut mixes things up even more, giving even veteran players a new experience.
All in all, I recommend Resident Evil for nearly anyone who loves retro gaming. For fans of the survival horror genre, this is a must-play. I know that the new HD Remake of the game is shiny and tempting, but there’s really something charming about the original PS1 version that is also deserving of your attention.
Difficulty: Variable – The Director’s Cut version features three levels of difficulty: Beginner, Original and Arranged. The Beginner option reduces the difficulty of the game dramatically. Monsters are weaker, ammunition is more plentiful, and there seem to be fewer monsters overall. Original difficulty matches that of the game during its original release. Arranged is a bit of a different bag. Arranged Made changes the location of items and monsters, making the game completely different for players that already know their way around. – Generally speaking – I do recommend the Original mode of difficulty for most players. But gamers that simply want to enjoy the storyline may find Beginner mode more suited to their tastes.
Story: The story line behind Resident Evil is surprisingly complex. It’s starts out simple, but slowly builds as layer upon layer is uncovered by the player as they proceed through the game. Much of the plot reminds me of what you might find in a cheesy B-grade horror flick, which is fine by me. It works well here. I have not played any other games in the series yet, but I think it’s safe to assume that the plot will only expand in later games. I’m interested to see what’s to come.
Originality: For many, Resident Evil is the original survival horror title. It may not technically be the first in the genre, but it certainly paved the way. A lot of the game design elements seen in Resident Evil come from other games, but it’s combined here in a way and in an atmosphere that makes it all unique and memorable.
Soundtrack: This game features a very minimalist soundtrack, which works very well. Music is used to queue up tension, or in some cases even relief. (Anyone exploring the mansion who opens an unknown door – only to hear the “Storage Room Music” knows exactly what I mean.) Sadly, the game suffers from some pretty terrible voice acting.
Fun: Resident Evil is the perfect game for late Autumn nights. This is one to play in a quiet house with the lights off. I had a blast with this game. Admittedly, more than I expected to.
Graphics: The pixelated graphics and the low resolution FMV movies are very dated by today’s standards. But at the time of the release, they were considered very well done. Despite the dated look, Resident Evil still manages to capture the spooky atmosphere it needs to succeed.
Playcontrol: This is one of the weaker points for the game. The character in the game is controlled using the old, clunky “compass rose tank” style of movement. Players used to modern 360 degree movement will need some time to get adjusted. Overall the controls feel stiff and antiquated. But in the long run, they are manageable.
Mature Content: Extreme violence and gore. Some language.
Value: This game is available as a PS One Classic on the Playstation Network for $9.99. Even today, this price is well worth it.
Overall score (1-100): 90 – If you’re curious to see what the hype is all about, or if you’re interested in the seeing the origins of the survival horror genre, this is the game for you. In fact, as long as you’re not completely adverse to games that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up… I recommend Resident Evil to nearly anyone old enough to play it. It’s a real classic.
I acquired the Harry Potter audiobooks recently. I read the Harry Potter novels for the first time when I was in my early teens. I knew about these novels, and about how popular they are, long before I picked them up. But, since I’m not the kind of person that usually goes with the flow, I didn’t read them. When I was 15 years old, however, I overheard some girls in school talking about the Harry Potter novels. Now I don’t remember exactly what they said, but their talk made me interested in the novels. One of the girls said that the fourth novel in the series is the best one. So, out of curiosity, I then decided to read these novels. I picked them up at my local library, but I had to wait for days, and even weeks, to get hold of some of them because they were hugely popular at that time. The novels are meant for children, but even teenagers and adults can enjoy reading them because they’re quite well-written and because the story is quite interesting. Well, I have to admit that I enjoyed reading them so much that I read them for hours at a time. The only other novels that I read with this much interest at that time were the Death Gate Cycle novels by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Therefore, I finished reading the Harry Potter novels quite quickly. The novels made the author, J. K. Rowling, a very wealthy woman. Some people don’t like the novels because of their popularity and because they’re fantasy novels. But, objectively, these novels aren’t bad at all, and I’m not surprised that they became so popular. It’s obvious, however, that these novels have been specially promoted by the publishing industry and by the media. In England and in the USA, books don’t just become popular. If a book or a film becomes popular, this usually means that the establishment wants them to become popular. In the world of the novels, English society is divided into very distinct classes. Wizards are kind of like the nobles of this world. There aren’t many of them, they have their own hidden world, and they have powers and privileges that ordinary, non-wizard people (muggles) don’t have. There’s even an insulting word in the world of the wizards for wizards that aren’t of pure wizard blood. This word is “mudblood”. Therefore, I guess that it’s understandable why the Harry Potter novels are so popular in oligarchical, right-wing, and anti-democratic states like the USA, England, Poland, and the Russian Federation. Not surprisingly, the Harry Potter novels were soon adapted to film, with some of the most famous British actors playing the roles. The films are enjoyable as well, and it’s clear that an effort was made from the beginning to make them entertaining and well-made. So, some weeks ago, after seeing the films again, I decided to read the novels again. Instead of getting the novels, I later decided to purchase the audiobooks because sometimes I prefer to listen to audiobooks. However, when I read some of the user reviews of the audiobooks that were narrated by Jim Dale, I decided to get the audiobooks that were narrated by Stephen Fry. It seems that many people didn’t like listening to Jim Dale’s narration. The only problem is that the audiobooks with Fry’s narration aren’t readily available for purchase, especially in North America. It’s not even easy to obtain these audiobooks in used condition for a low price on eBay. Fortunately, I was able to find the audiobooks in MP3 format on some website after realizing that I may be able to find them for free on the internet. So far, I’ve finished listening to the first few chapters of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ (1997). I’ve got to agree with the user reviews on Audible. The versions with Stephen Fry’s narration really are good.
I’ve already mentioned in an earlier post that Ready Player One is one of my favorite films of the 2010s. The race for the first key at the beginning of the film is a favorite of mine. It’s a fast-paced race, but I specially cut out and saved this segment of the film on my computer. I’ve seen the race many times since then. Moreover, I watched the race in slow motion on a number of occasions, almost frame by frame. I think that just about everything in the race looks really good. Wade Watts’s avatar, Parzival, drives the DeLorean car from the Back to the Future films. Samantha Cook’s avatar, Art3mis, rides on the famous red motorcycle from the film Akira. Also worth noting is that Parzival’s color in the film is blue and that Art3mis’s color in the film is red. The DeLorean and Kaneda’s bike are shot very well during the race, from various angles. In fact, every item of pop culture looks really good in Ready Player One. One example is Daito’s Gundam, which looks phenomenal in the fight with Mechagodzilla. Many frames of the race, as I’ve noticed, look very good by themselves. If you take screenshots of the race, they wouldn’t look bad as a poster or as wallpaper on your desktop. There are some beautiful views of New York City during the race, for example. So, the people that designed and created the race can be applauded, in my opinion. Nowadays, special effects in Hollywood films rarely impress me, but the CGI in Ready Player One looks fantastic. There are other standout sets in the film too, like the Overlook Hotel and James Halliday’s childhood room. Another scene that I often watched is the talk between Parzival and Art3mis in Aech’s garage. Parzival and Art3mis look good throughout most of the film, but, in Aech’s garage, they look particularly good. And their conversation isn’t dull either. In fact, I like the designs in the film so much that I bought the book ‘The Art of Ready Player One’ (2018) by Gina McIntyre. Anyway, since I enjoyed seeing the film, I got the novel by Ernest Cline some time later. I bought the audiobook on Audible first. When it comes to the novel, it seems that some people love it and that some people hate it. The people that hate it usually hate it because they think that it glorifies “nerd culture”. The people that love it usually love it because it’s rich with nerd culture. I don’t consider myself to be a nerd, but I still like some aspects of the novel. I’m not going to lie. I like just about all of the pop culture from the 1980s. I think that, in the USA, the 1980s was the last decade that consistently delivered well-made and original cultural products. By the 1980s, the USA was already in a state of degeneration, but, when it comes to pop culture at least, the Americans could still make some good things. Anyway, there are many pop culture references in the novel. Soon after I finished listening to the audiobook, I bought a used copy of the novel as a reference of 1980s pop culture. The novel turned out to be a page-turner the first time I listened to it. But there are some aspects of the novel that can be criticized. For example, the novel isn’t particularly well-written. The world-building can be criticized because it’s often hollow and unimaginative. The author’s humor is also not for my tastes. So, I think that I probably won’t read or listen to the novel from beginning to end a second time, but I wouldn’t call it awful, especially for a novel published in 2011. However, this is my review of the novel, and the film is somewhat different. As some people have already pointed out, the film is considerably better than the novel, partly because it excludes the cringy things from the novel. The characters are more appealing in the film than in the novel as well.
Originally posted on September 26, 2016:
I’ve got to say that I miss Granville 7 Cinemas. I remember the first time when I saw a film at this cinema. It was in 2004, when I attended high school. I found out that Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is being screened at this cinema. Granville 7 Cinemas was one of the few cinemas in the city that was screening this film from Japan. So, I made the decision to go and see the film there. Back then, I checked movie showtimes in newspapers. It may have been the first time that I saw a film at a cinema in the center of the city, and I had a good time because Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is visually a fantastic film. In my opinion, it’s one of the last great anime films because already in the 2000s the anime industry in Japan began releasing dull and unoriginal films and series. The last anime film that I saw in a theater is Your Name (2016), by the director Makoto Shinkai, and I wish that I hadn’t gone to see it in a theater. Not surprisingly, this dull and unoriginal film got praised by the bought and paid for film critics, and the gullible public actually turned this film into a hit by going to see it and by believing that this boring film is actually good. Well, if you compare it to the many other bland and unoriginal films that get made nowadays, perhaps it doesn’t seem bad. For me, however, this film is just another example of the growing irrationality and anti-scientific thought in the West, in Japan, and in other states (like the Russian Federation) that can be called economic and cultural colonies of the West. The story in Your Name is a kaleidoscope of New Age nonsense. The animation is technically fine, but it’s still bland. None of the scenes struck me as being memorable. The characters aren’t interesting. There is no brilliance in the film. I think that the fact that some people are calling Shinkai the new Hayao Miyazaki is laughable. None of the new anime directors in Japan can be compared to Miyazaki. Even Miyazaki himself hasn’t made a good and memorable film since Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). By the way, Howl’s Moving Castle is another anime film that I went to see in a theater. I saw it several times at Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas, in the center of the city, and I have good memories of seeing it as well because seeing it in a theater was actually an experience. Anyway, I enjoyed seeing Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence so much that I decided to see it a second time, and I brought a girlfriend of mine with me. I’ve got to admit that when I was attending high school, I rarely went to see films in theaters. I wasn’t into doing this. Only when I reached my twenties did I begin going to theaters often. So, in 2012, when The Dark Knight Rises was being screened, I decided to see the film at Granville 7 Cinemas. Seeing the The Dark Knight Rises in a theater was a good experience for me. It’s a flawed film, but, artistically, I think that it’s better than The Dark Knight (2008), which is a ridiculously overrated film. It was summer and the weather was good. The showtime was in the evening. It was then that I found out that the cinema is going to be closed soon. This was a gloomy surprise for me. It definitely made me feel sad. Another memorable viewing at this cinema for me was of Thor (2011). Perhaps this is the reason why Thor is one of my favorite Marvel Studios films. If I had known that this cinema would close so soon, I would have gone there more often. Granville 7 Cinemas was one of those old style cinemas, with large, wide auditoriums and halls with fine decor. Sure, it wasn’t that old, and it wasn’t a movie palace, but it still had its charms. It opened in 1987. In the 1980s, well-built buildings were still being constructed. It was clear that some thought went into designing Granville 7 Cinemas and its interiors. It wasn’t like the bland cinemas that began to be built in the 2000s. In the early-2010s, it remained as one of the three large cinemas in Downtown Vancouver, the others being Scotiabank Theatre and Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas. Some people claim that the closure of Granville 7 Cinemas was due to growing competition from home video and television. Others claim that attendance was affected by the fact that Granville Street became a place where homeless people began to hang out. These factors may have played a role in the poor attendance. But I think that the main factor was the economic depression that began in 2008. Since the media in Western countries is controlled by an oligarchy, it’s rarely mentioned in the news that the depression that began in 2008 hasn’t gone away. Economic growth in Western countries since 2008 has been almost nil. I think that the depression is the factor that caused the closure of cinemas. Almost no new cinemas have been built since 2008. There have only been closures of cinemas and of other businesses. People aren’t spending their money like they did before the financial crisis of 2008. I think that another factor contributed to the closure of cinemas in Vancouver. If I’m not mistaken, almost all cinemas in Vancouver are now owned by Cineplex Entertainment. This means that Cineplex Entertainment now has a nearly complete monopoly in the city and in the rest of the province. Since Empire Theatres left the movie theater business in 2013, prices for tickets have gone up by several dollars at the cinemas owned by Cineplex Entertainment.
We were driving at about 100 clicks an hour. I’d seen some pretty forests in Poland, but this wasn’t one of them. Dark, craggy, and apart from the passing traffic it would be considered isolated. It wasn’t a freeway, it was more an interstate back-road. I saw a lady standing by the curbside in the sand by some trees. There was a large black plastic bag by her side.
Lots of makeup, attractive, and well dressed. Something seemed not-quite-normal. It was a strange place for such a lady to just be hanging out. Within a couple of minutes, I saw another. My mind subconsciously twigged. It was the third spotting, two ladies in matching mini-skirted uniforms, that erased any doubt in my mind. I had entered the lands – of the Polish forest whores.
Brothels, whorehouses, chicken houses, cat houses, dens of iniquity, knock shops, houses of ill repute, and bordellos are illegal in Poland. As the old adage goes, pimping may not be easy, and in Poland, pimping is also illegal. However, in Poland, consensual prostitution — selling sex — is perfectly legal. Motivated by these laws, industrious Polish prostitutes have taken their wares and prominently displayed them along roadsides that cut through the forests surrounding many cities in Poland.
Commonly, these ladies are referred to as tirówki. TIR is an abbreviation for Transports Internationaux Routiers — the moniker given to the many heavy-duty truck drivers that also travel these same wooded roads. I won’t profess to know who the main clientele of the forest prostitutes are. I will say that with drivers facing endless hours in the truck cabin away from home, well, combine that with the tirówki nickname and the conclusions are there to be drawn.
Despite the legality of prostitution, the forest prostitutes are members of the only profession that officially remains un-taxed in Poland. Unfortunately, this also means these citizens are not entitled to any social benefits, such as healthcare and other social welfare. In a country where all efforts to promote safe sex are hindered by the dominance of the Catholic Church, this is worrisome.
According to the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, 10% of all Poles under investigation by the tax office have reported their occupation as “prostitute.” The Warsaw Business Journal wrote about Polish tax authorities having to instigate procedures and systems specifically to interview the vast numbers of people claiming to be prostitutes. Avoiding income tax may not be so easy. Self-proclaimed prostitutes are now being asked to provide evidence of their working life, such as photographs or client testimonials.
Driving from Warsaw to Augustow, I would estimate that I saw around 40 forest prostitutes. Certain Polish legislators are not happy with this level of street prostitution in Poland. So, in 2007 a proposed nationwide ban on miniskirts, heavy makeup, and see-through or low-cut blouses was proposed, considered an appropriate method to rob prostitutes of means of advertising. Fortunately, the ludicrous proposal was not acted upon.
Personally, I didn’t expect to see scores-of-whores adorning the forested back roads of the Polish countryside. That morning, I was researching one of the most ancient forests in Europe, located not far from where these photos were taken. By lunch, I was reminiscing with friends about the surreal and strange world of the forest-dwelling prostitutes of Poland.
The thing is, I have many female readers. Above all, I respect, protect, and admire women the world over, especially those nearest and dearest to my own heart. I make no personal judgments on these forest ladies. Sadly, I am sure many of them are working as prostitutes so that they may simply have a roof over their heads, and meals each day.
Even sadder is that many are probably seeing their dangerous jobs as a way to get that new BMW or big-screen TV.