Smiling Standa   česky

The headline in Mladá Fronta, largest Czech daily, read Hardcore Radicals from Italy Heading towards the Czech Republic. Their target was the NATO summit that was to convene in Prague. Next to the article was a picture of the Minister of the Interior, Stanislav Gross, who is responsible for police and public safety matters in this country. Gross, the boy wonder of the Social Democrats, was smiling and holding a glass of champagne. Had he just announced a series of measures to stop the radicals cold? No, because he had business other than the NATO summit to take care of at that moment. Gross was standing next to Karel Gott, a giant among Czech singers who had just released a new CD. At Gott's request, the minister was there to "bless" his CD. This is nothing out of the ordinary for a minister who regularly cultivates pop culture, who uses it to keep his popularity high among voters. What was extraordinary was the way Gross brazenly advertised his relationship with the agency that organized the event, the same agency that reaped millions from similar work it had done on behalf of Gross' Social Democrats during the summer elections. The same agency that employs his wife, whose income, which the minister laughingly tried to attribute to Amway sales, allowed the couple to buy a plush condo in Prague. But neither criticism of the condo nor his relationship with the GOYA agency has fazed Stanislav. Standa, as he is affectionately known, leaves all other politicians behind in popularity polls. This despite the international scandal he caused by claiming that 9-11 leader Mohammed Atta had met with an Iraqi operative in Prague before the World Trade Center attack. Gross was simply after the publicity, but the claim, which was later discounted by Havel, has given ammunition to some in the Bush administration for the war they want with Iraq. At home, Gross has little to show for during his tenure at the Interior Ministry. Ok, the ministry did launch an internet radio station, but when a Polish Congressman waltzes across the border and apprehends a suspects without extradition proceedings, Standa is nowhere to be found. Every time a pedestrian is run down in a crosswalk, Standa is nowhere to be found. It finally took a policeman running down a family to get Gross to announce that preventive steps would be taken. But no sooner does he say that than another picture of him holding a champagne glass crops up in the press. This time he's being awarded a cross by his colleague and defense minister Jaroslav Tvrdík for the work they did together in providing security for the NATO summit. In stark contrast was the picture next to Smiling Standa, which shows a man being sentenced for murdering his ex-wife and her daughter. The woman and her family had sought protection from the man, but the police did nothing to help them. Even today the police insist they can do nothing in such cases because their hands are tied by the law. But Standa's hands certainly aren't tied, not with all that champagne to drink.