Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Apprentice: bloody nutter dismissed

Finally the ghastly Jo is gone. This episode should have been a cakewalk for her if her CV is anything to go by - a former manager of MG Rover, used to training directors, the task of selling second-hand cars should have been within her ability. But her performance in failing to sell anything, and scaring the living bejeezus out of the poor punters looking for cars, was one too far for Sir Alan, especially the scene where she nearly killed a pair of them with her machine-gun laugh - something a bit like Janice from Friends, but Brummie-style.

As he commented about MG Rover, on her previous experience and the performance in this episode, "no wonder they went bloody skint!"

Meanwhile, everything I've been saying about Ansell finally turned out to be vindicated in this episode. He was a poor team leader, dragged further back by pairing himself with - and failing to manage - Jo, while Ruth and Samuel teamed up to good effect and made them look even worse. In fairness, he did sell 4 cars, but was also responsible for a string of cock-ups and incurred the showroom manager's wrath in doing so. All diplomatic blandness and no substance, I'm afraid. Still, that's a formula that worked for Tim last year...

Now we are getting to the thick end of proceedings, the candidates are taking out their stresses and strains on each other. Witness the winning team spoil a nice Thames cruise by having a massive barney, whilst pathetic Sharon had a teary huff for the second time in three episodes. For someone who lectures in marketing and advertising, she is pretty feeble. But then they all are - I expect Samuel and Tuan to fall by the wayside with her because of a lack of bottle, and also Syed, Ansell and probably Michelle to go because of their lack of substance.

I've been saying all along that Paul is the best of the bunch, but in this task, Ruth really excelled, and must now be a good bet. She also showed some of her less rottweiler-like characteristics in reacting to Jo's dismissal with the comment of how she would miss her around the house, despite their conflicting styles in the tasks leading to several bust-ups. This also gives confirmation of how the editing manipulates the image we have of the candidates' interactions off-camera. As Saira pointed out in "You're Fired!" (highlighted by their clip from last year of her in the Spurs canteen bawling her eyes out), they have no contact with the outside world save a 10-minute phone call each week, so must rely on each other for support, despite the rivalry.

The final moments of Jo in this series to me epitomised the best and worst of her. Her constant pestering of Sir Alan to keep her in after he had fired her was incredibly annoying. Her weird non-handshake with Samuel showed her awkwardness with the other candidates. But Saira said she cried on watching Jo's final waterworks in the cab afterwards, because - much as she grated - her honesty and integrity were never in doubt and were on display more than the rest of the bunch put together. Let's hope that's why Sugar kept her in for so long, and not because of (as Harry Hill pointed out) any secret crush, or as I suspect, because it made for good TV.

Roll on next week - still 4 tickets going spare (bad LaLa!) to come along to the preview of the show on Monday and filming of "You're Fired!", meeting at 6pm at the Riverside Studios, 5 minutes from Hammersmith Tube. Ricky Gervais and his mysterious pal Carl may be in attendance (see previous posting)...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Lunching with Ricky

I was in a little sandwich place in Noho today when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a familiar face. I spun around and it was none other than Ricky Gervais. Slightly bamboozled after having spent the last few hours at a training session for coach tour managers (don't ask), I started waffling at him about a favour; to do a guest spot on Freedmanslife.

He sort of nodded or otherwise failed to struggle, so I decided to give him some means of contact. Forgetting my business cards were in my top pocket and not my wallet, I grabbed the paper bag that had his cheese and tomato sandwich in it (thin scraping of butter, he looks like he's trying hard), and wrote the web and email addresses on the side, accidentally stabbing the sarnie a couple of times.

Either way, he muttered something about someone called Carl and whether I would accept a podcast. A quick visit to rickygervais.com reveals a podcast link in pride of place - but it doesn't seem to work! We infer that you therefore have something ready to distribute, so Ricky (or the mysterious Carl), if you're reading, send it over and give me a scoop.

Meanwhile, this is an opportunity to update the readers on the vital debate of whether you are pro-Bush or anti-Bush. After a tragic shaving accident in which I took a clump out of the north-west corner whilst trying to pluck a peculiar blond hair that had appeared, I got annoyed and sheared the whole lot off. Photos below: again, please vote on whether I should keep it or not...

















OK, so that might be Mr Gervais. These ones are of me. The resemblance is uncanny. By the way, Ricky, my mum says she wet herself watching your show but I'm still funnier. I think that may be because you don't have access to as much raw material as I do by living with her.













After Ricky had left with his cheese-and-biro bap, I thought about the spare tickets I have to The Apprentice, and that I should have asked if he wanted to come with. Maybe having befriended the wonderful Adrian Chiles at our last visit, Ricky and I could take over the interview panel and Ricky could at last reveal what Freedmanslife has been thinking for some time - that The Office was recommissioned for a secret third series, in a new format disguised as this season's The Apprentice.

I have watched this season with the same cringeing sensation as with The Office, only with the realisation that this isn't meant to be funny. Some of Mani's moments of claiming to be "a world-class presenter" were uncannily similar to Brent's attempts at motivational speaking, whilst Alexa's sales pitch with the pizza was like watching the famous monkey-dance.

So Ricky, I have tickets for you and Carl to come and join us at 6.15 on Monday at the Riverside Studios, and look forward to your podcast, your own analysis of the similarities between The Apprentice and The Office, your views on the great facial hair debate, and your offering to have my mother live with you for a while to build some decent material for your next venture.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

You're Fired - again!

Another chance for Freedmanslifers to come to the filming of "The Apprentice - You're Fired!" on 3rd April. It's at 6.15pm at the Riverside Studios near Hammersmith Tube. I have 4 tickets up for grabs, first come first served.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Apprentice: from anchor to wanker

Tonight's was another fascinating episode in which Sir Alan made a decision to fire someone annoying and crap, but for the wrong reasons and in preference to the real culprits.

Plot synopsis first: the teams were tasked with producing a billboard and 30-second TV ad for a new product relating to Sugar's Amsair venture: a platinum card for reducing the hassle in hiring exec jets, complete with a $250,000 credit line. Paul and Ruth were asked to be project managers and pick their teams. Ruth got to go first and made sure she got in her now legendary death-stare. Both teams got to send 2 representatives to talk to Sugar Jr. about what the product was and his needs as their customer.

Ruth's team focussed heavily on the concierge aspects, shooting a film with an actual bell-boy meeting the flier at her hotel in camp-porno mode (Sir Alan asked Nick if it was one of his dodgy films) and accompanying her to the plane, whilst the billboard essentially consisted of someone trying to flag down a plane like it was a taxi.

Paul's team went for a magic theme with the phrase "let us show you a card trick" - the billboard showed planes flying out of a hat, whilst the ad was of a flustered businessman being given what appeared to be a blowie from a member of the cabin staff.

Sugar and the ad execs were rather underwhelmed at both efforts, but Paul's team won due to Ruth's bunch having missed the point of what they were advertising. This came down to Ansell and Mani's feedback right at the start, when Ansell really over-emphasised the concierge aspects. Mani whinged occasionally through the day that everyone had missed the point, but nobody listened, and when it came to Ruth selecting 2 people to take with, she chose Mani, rather than Ansell, as the scapegoat for the misinformation, and Jo for being a psycho nutter who crossed her path when managing the buying exercise (the original death-stare).

Mani has patently gone from anchor to wanker (Sugar's words, not mine), with his nonsense about divergence and convergence, and all that "world-class presenter" crap when he was cringeworthy in the role during the calendar exercise. But in this case, Sir Alan fell for Ruth's argument that Mani's early error and failure to correct it had cost the task. This reasoning never saved Alexa when Syed was the culprit, but then Syed is a wide-boy and Mani is a bit posh.

Sugar should have asked Ruth more on why she had not brought Ansell in as he was clearly responsible for overplaying the concierge aspects, and didn't do a whole lot during the task either. Whilst I think Jo is ghastly, she wasn't too terrible in this task and was there due to previous bad blood with Ruth - again, Sugar didn't really pick up on this. I suspect it was Mani's pompousness and generally misplaced sense of self-worth, exemplified by his rudeness to Ruth for not knowing what autocratic meant, that ultimately cost him.

Watching "You're Fired!" and listening to Mani being interviewed on Radio Five Live, I felt a bit more sorry for him. He was a little more humble and contrite, and did concede that he wasn't really in the Sugar mould. It does beg the question why Sugar bothers letting the producers put in middle-class, well-spoken professionals like Alexa, Karen, Ben and Mani, only to axe them at the earliest opportunity because they are not like him.

I am still enjoying the programme, but the abject weakness of the candidates and the failure of the producers to stock the house with high-calibre businesspeople and/or genuine contenders for the kind of role Sugar is looking to fill and/or the personality types that he clearly prefers, is beginning to detract from the show's credibility.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Zionist op-ed round-up

Feeling a bit lazy today so am going to set you some homework reading.

First up, the wonderful Irshad Manji, on "How I Learned To Love The Wall". The upshot is what we've all been saying - the bombers came before the barriers; the latter can be torn down a long time before the victims of the former can be resurrected.

Secondly, Jonathan Tobin suggests we "Pull The Plug On UNRWA". This despicable and corrupt organisation has been used as a conduit for the world's money to line the pockets of terrorists and criminals, and on a wider level has perpetuated the Palestinian refugee situation for political ends. Its director helped perpetrate the first big blood libel against the Jews of the 21st century with his lies about Jenin.

Thirdly something from the Freedmanslife archives; Charles Krauthammer on the Gaza Disengagement and why "Israeli Withdrawal Is Correct And Necessary". A few months later, his article seems all the more appropriate in the light of the Hamas election and Sharon's effective demise. The World Jewish Digest disagreed with the Disengagement, predicting that it would merely embolden terrorists and rally people to their side.

Finally, I dug something else out of the Freedmanslife archive that seems relevant now that the matter of Ken and his Nazi jibe has reached its conclusion. I think the man is an insidious little tyke and would not cry if something were to befall him that incapacitated him from doing his job (thanks for the wording, legal team!), but the Board of Deps scored a bit of an own-goal in trying to nail Mayor Ken for anti-Semitism on this one. Yes, he does seem to have an ongoing dislike for people and institutions that happen to be Jewish, is a rabid anti-Zionist and a friend of Jew-haters, all of which does seem like a curious coincidence. But as Johann Hari says here, "don't let the Livingstone row blind us to the real and growing threat of anti-Semitism".

Normal service resumes this week...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Apprentice: lightweight blown away

Ah the joy of knowing 24 hours before the rest of you that Alexa was getting the chop. We had great fun watching the panel of Adrian Chiles, Lucy Kellaway, Alasdair Jeffrey and Felicity Lee tearing lumps out of her performance. In case anyone spotted us all sitting in the front row and saw that I voted for her to be hired, I want to clarify a couple of things.

Firstly, the letters on the boards were detachable and I had actually planned to change the lettering to "DIRE" but I couldn't. Secondly, I thought that both Alexa and Syed should have gone. Yes, Alexa's management was inadequate, and she was a lightweight. But Syed sought to undermine her at every opportunity, and either lied about his qualifications or simply hasn't learned anything from 8 years in the restaurant business. So I was voting him out rather than her in.

OK, onto the task itself. As many of you know, I cater regular brunches with long, complex menus, for the world's most demanding customers (Jews), 30-40 at a time, and generally manage a pretty decent job of it. These lot had a combined experience of decades in restaurants, family business, and the pizza counter at Asda. How they failed to spot the complexity of making any pizza, let alone 500, or that they had over-ordered on everything possible, is ridiculous.

My own view on how to rescue the situation (given that they had spend almost all their budget) was to buy some decent yeast and make fresh bread instead, then use the toppings to make hot panini with the mozzarella and some delicious roasted meat sandwiches with the gammon and those 100 chickens. But then I'm not on The Apprentice because I actually have a clue about how to run a business, which is not such good TV.

Speaking of which, Mani is the biggest talker of bullshit, according to Lucy Kellaway (this bit was edited out of the show). That convergent/divergent rubbish is most applicable to the divergence of public opinion that the guy is a moron away from his own ludicrously high self-esteem, and the convergence of someone's foot and his crotch at some point later in the series if he continues.

Meanwhile, I also share Ferocious Mr Fixit Alasdair Jeffrey's view (also edited out) that the whole series is a little unfair and also weaker than the USA version, because neither we nor the candidates actually know what the job is at the end (does Sugar?!). Hence we don't know what his criteria are for how good or bad they are. Actually, I don't think that's relevant, because they have all seemed pretty lightweight so far.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

You're a lightweight, you're fired!

Without giving too much away, I am happy to report that our trip to see The Apprentice - You're Fired! was a success. Accompanied by Weetabix Boy, Bison, Freedmansister, Veggie Tuna and the Limmud '04 Power-Couple, we enjoyed a trip to deepest Hammersmith to watch Baggie Adrian Chiles and the panellists laying into the "lightweight" candidate. Suffice to say that if they gave stats on all the would-be apprentices, this one would in fact be the lightest weight. So no, Ruth, Paul and Ansell were not voted out. More tomorrow in my weekly review...

On the way back via some light Lebanese supper at Maroush, a deserted Oxford Street gave me and Bison a unique photo op:


Sunday, March 12, 2006

My intellectual/fressful week

MONDAY

Dinner with Freedmansister at the White House with £10 off any main course, which made it just about value for money. Excellent food and generous portions, decent service, and bumped into the "other" Michael Freedman - now Melech Freedman, with a more resplendent beard than mine.

Then to Blondie's for the first instalment of "From Plato to Foucault", his fortnightly journey of introduction to philosophy. Freedmanslifers welcome to join in future weeks, it's very chilled. Brochure available here if you want to come along. We looked at Plato's Phaedo, which is the tale of Socrates' final philosophical discourse with his disciples before taking the hemlock on orders of the Athenian electorate. 3 hours of discussion cannot be reduced sufficiently, but suffice it to say that Socrates was a bit self-righteous although full of sensible and bright ideas.


TUESDAY

Dinner at Freedmansister's lovely new flat in the shtetl - baked breaded haddock with some nice veg and the tiniest pot of tartare sauce I've ever seen.

Then to Kinloss for the final instalment of the KLC's weekly learning annexe. We enjoyed the first talk on the history of London's Jews, noting especially the ironies of the institutions of Anglo-Jewry not learning from it. For example, the United Synagogue placed advertisements in the newspapers of the shtetls of Eastern Europe, telling them not to emigrate to London, and the Jewish Chronicle followed the Board of Deputies' advice and used a double-page spread advising London's Jews to stay indoors and not participate in the counter-demonstration against Mosley's brownshirts that turned into the Cable Street stand-off.

The second talk was given by Sarah Stern, Director of Governmental Affairs at the American Jewish Congress. She told us several stories of how she had helped introduce policy to the American government that openly and proudly helps Israel and the Jews either directly or indirectly. I asked her what advice she would give the community here, given Henry Grunwald's argument of "why shout when a whisper will suffice?" She gave a very diplomatic answer that she hadn't been in the country long enough to understand the nuances of our circumstances, but that we should all work harder to defend Israel's corner.


WEDNESDAY

Went to Alan Dershowitz's talk at the School Of Anti-Semitism (SOAS). Enjoyed him wiping the floor with what he politely coined "critical students" - or more correctly, took great satisfaction from their self-destruction. Best example was one who accused Dersh of something or other, and he responded by offering his accuser $10,000 if he could substantiate the claim. On being comprehensively trounced, the accuser stood up, mouthed off a bit and made for the exit. Dersh asked whether he could leave behind his name and address so he could send the $10,000. The accuser screeched and gesticulated that "Mossad agents are here, here and here; they have my photo already," thus totally discrediting himself.

Then Bison and I went for a £5 curry dinner on Warren Street, in this little basement restaurant where we were the only diners. The food was perfectly adequate for the price, although we were highly amused by the starter portions: a tiny bhajee and samosa to share between us.


THURSDAY

Buffet dinner and a private tour of Vinopolis and its museum courtesy of my new best friend Trevor Gulliver. The Bankside Gastronomic Festival saw the inauguration of Bombay Sapphire's gin bar, Bar Blue, and their own section of the museum, and was a general excuse for a fress of great proportions, with beautiful fresh food supplied by Borough Market. Learned a lot about how gin is made, with its aromatic botanicals, and got to grips with 4 different (and utterly superb) gin-based cocktails, along with 2 excellent wines from the cellars and some of the beer from Vinopolis's own micro-brewery. Not that I'm biased, but I strongly recommend a visit.


FRIDAY

Spent the day at Bison's place, helped cook chicken and garlic lokshen soup, rosemary and honey lamb, roast tatties and a Tesco/Tofutti lazy dessert. All quite excellent.


SATURDAY

Grandma's 80th birthday lunch - we surprised her by bringing Freedmansister back from the shtetl and corralling her closest friends from around London to join us for blue champagne cocktails, home-made gnocchi al pesto, Dover sole and steamed triple-choc pudding.


SUNDAY

Working my way through the leftovers and going to see Danny Finkelstein interview Nick Robinson tonight. Will report back during the week.


By the way, still 2 tickets up for grabs for The Apprentice on Tuesday at 6.15 at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith - first come, first served...



Friday, March 10, 2006

The Apprentice: who's the nutter?

This week's episode can be summed up in Sir Alan's own words:

"Nick keeps saying to me 'she's a wonderful, wonderful person, she's very calming' - and that's not what I'm looking for... The other one (Jo) is stark raving bloody mad - but so am I... I don't need another lawyer, Margaret, I've got you, if that isn't bad enough. I mean, you know, you couldn't sell a box of matches if you tried."

So let's get this clear. Sir Alan runs a very successful business by employing nutters and people who heat things up. And he also likes taking the mick out of Nick and Margaret - his mimicry of Herr Hewer was hilarious, and Margaret looked like she was going to burst into tears when he made his matches comment.

All in all, totally unfair on poor old Karen, who did very little wrong. I suspect that Sir Alan didn't much care for the steely calm, slightly posh intellectual, and knows full well that Jo makes great TV. If you're not cowering behind the sofa.

In terms of the task, it strikes me that the boys were lucky, as they were last week when they won by default. In short, each team had £1000 to buy 10 items in 10 hours, with the winner being the team which returned with the most money. Unpurchased items were billed at list price plus a fine.

This time, the boys, led by Syed, won by a mere £8, despite the girls being debited £140 for their missing item. In other words, if the girls had bought that elusive tyre, they would have been victorious - but alas, that female stereotype of not being able to read a map and follow directions meant a fruitless search. Also it showed that Syed's negotiating skills and leadership were probably not as strong as they seemed - or merely not as deeply analysed, especially as they were in contrast to Jo's combative style.

Other little highlights were the boys' lack of knowledge of gastronomy in not realising they didn't need to find a cooked lobster, Ruth's psycho eyes when offered the chance to bawl Jo out, and any moment where Jo continued to confirm her nutter status.

But after this week's firing, I think we should be questioning who the real nutter is. Jo runs an HR department, whilst Sir Alan heads a major corporation. So we can expect a certain level of poor decision-making, lack of understanding of business drivers, and an inferiority complex from one of them. Oddly enough, it seems HR policy and practice has more influence on Sir Alan than he might care to admit.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tickets to "You're Fired!"

Freedmanslife is offering a special treat for loyal readers. To celebrate the new weekly themed reviews of The Apprentice, we are giving away 4 tickets to be in the audience of the special review that is shown on BBC3 immediately after the main broadcast, "The Apprentice - You're Fired!"

It's being filmed next Tuesday (14th) at 6.15pm at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. And yes, we think this does mean you'll have seen the main show 24 hours before the rest of the nation.

First reply, first served!

Being Frank

Today's BBC Radio 5 Live debate centred on Dr Frank Ellis, a Leeds University lecturer who is facing a petition from the Student Union for his sacking. His crime is to cite a vast body of scientific research in forming his opinion that, on average, blacks are less intelligent than whites.

According to the usual suspects who called in to attack him, this makes him a racist, despite the university insisting that they double-mark his papers and have found absolutely no evidence of discrimination in his treatment of students, and his own denial that this is the foundation of his argument.

What's more interesting is the number of blacks who called and emailed into the show to support him, either for his right to think that based on the research he has done and freedom of speech, even if they disagree, or in most instances, to actually concur that he might be right and that his voice should be heard. Dr Ellis was very clear that it is only the average that shows this, and that of course there are vast numbers of dim whites and brilliant blacks.

Not only that, but according to both Ellis and many callers, hard work and seizing opportunity can tip the scales, although this is so distorted by the current victimhood complex of most ethnic minorities, perpetuated by the self-flagellating white liberal classes who (patronisingly) want to help them through positive discrimination to reach an "equal" level in society.

Naturally the (to quote Greg Dyke "hideously white") BBC spent plenty of time trying to make him admit he was a racist, and he duly wiped the floor with white, university-educated presenter Victoria Derbyshire. He trounced her on accusations that he thought blacks were inferior, and showed the total lack of a convincing counter-argument posed by her or in fact anyone else.

Ellis went even further, to posit that it is politically incorrect for him to state what does seem on the evidence to be pretty inassailable fact. He says that journals and papers consistently show IQ tests to be fair and not favourable to blacks, but that scientists have to say something else in public to avoid being pilloried. One reason is because of the ramifications for positive discrimination or "affirmative action" as it is known in the USA.

The essence of the problem of black underachievement, we are told, lies in discrimination and lack of opportunity. Through affirmative action, could it be that we merely shift the problem to whites and other less organised ethnic minorities? In fact, the key to resolving underachievement is in proper anonymity of entrants and exams, and improvement of access to and awareness of opportunity, not giving it on a plate. The emphasis is therefore on self-help and self-improvement instead of artificially propping up the numbers.

Part of the effort to discredit Dr Ellis centres on some of his other radical statements. For example he believes in the "humane repatriation" of immigrants. When one actually delves into his view, he is saying exactly what the Tories and New Labour do, which is that Britain is not a charity and you cannot come here solly with the intention to leech off - or indeed preach against the existence of - the state. If you do, you are liable to be evicted.

Another example is Ellis's opinion that the Macpherson Report was unduly harsh on the police in claiming vast institutional racism. A version of ORFTORFU springs to mind. Cherie Blair says that Palestinians have no option but to become suicide bombers because of the terrible circumstances of oppression and poverty - the IDF are an instrument of repressive behaviour that perpetuates and worsens their circumstances. Applied to Britain, we should assume that the reason blacks carry out crimes in vastly disproportionate levels to their numbers (as shown statistically by all independent research), is because they are oppressed and poor - the police are an instrument of repressive behaviour that perpetuates and worsens their circumstances.

What is inconvenient to point out is that whilst without a doubt there are many IDF soldiers who already hate Palestinians before serving, and many policemen already hate blacks before joining the force, many more will find that their experience in facing disproportionate Palestinian terror and black crime increases their blanket discrimination against innocent Palestinians and blacks respectively. This may in turn lead to a reaction from the innocent who feel unduly oppressed, but we should be under no illusion as to where the cycle begins, and that any reaction that allows people to feel justified in choosing terror or crime, further delegitimises their causes and makes the policing parties harshen their approach.

It is much easier to side with the perceived victim; all the more so if they are not white, middle class men.

Having said all this, Freedmanslife does not necessarily like or support Dr Ellis's views. But he has clearly based them on thorough scientific research, and the way to argue back is by quoting alternative credible science like that of Stephen Jay Gould at Harvard, not PC shrieking and the mudslinging use of the word "racism".

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Joseph Farah: Intifada and Iraqifada

I know some of you don't want to hear this from me, so I found a real live Arab to say it for me...

Things are sure working out in the Middle East, aren't they?

Israel's decision to turn over the Gaza Strip to the terrorists has, predictably, led to an increase of violence and warnings that a new intifada, or uprising, is on the way.

Somehow I must have missed the end of the previous intifada.

What Israel got as a thank-you for its unilateral decision to withdraw long-established communities of Jews from Gaza are shootings, stabbings and Molotov cocktail attacks. Now Hamas, the terrorists ruling part of the Palestinian Authority, sees Israel in retreat and is upping the stakes.

Likewise, in response to the increasing pressure within the United States to get out of Iraq, terrorism there is on the increase as well. Some see Iraq on the verge of civil war – mostly one sect of Muslims killing other Muslims.

If all that isn't bad enough, later this month, Iran is talking about a nuclear weapons test.

What can be done?
Can we just throw up our hands and walk away?
What's going wrong?
Are we sending all the wrong signals?

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Only one course of action will prove victorious in the Middle East. Appeasement and conciliation will not work. Promoting free elections will not be enough. There is only one thing we can do if we want to win – and, in winning the peace, set the stage for real freedom in the region.

We've got to destroy the bad guys.

It seems obvious. But in the 21st century, it seems preposterous. It seems cruel. It seems barbaric. It seems uncivilized.

That's because people have short memories.

It didn't seem preposterous, cruel, barbaric and uncivilized when we were fighting for our lives against the Nazis and imperial Japan to do whatever it required to win. And it is no more preposterous, cruel, barbaric and uncivilized to destroy evil people and evil regimes now.

I say this as an American of Arabic heritage and a journalist who has covered this part of the world for 25 years. It's time to stop pussyfooting around and destroy the enemy. Yes, in the short run, it will mean more lives lost. In the long run, it is our only chance for peace and freedom and the preservation of many more innocent lives.

There has been a lot of talk about spreading "democracy" in the Middle East and around the world.

"Democracy" is not the answer. "Democracy" should not be the goal. But free republics that respect the rule of just laws and the will of the people are the answer. Israel can be counted among those – perhaps the only one in the Middle East. That's why it should not be carved up and reduced in size as a means of achieving peace.

Israel needs to follow a course of protecting its own national security. It needs to adopt sane policies of protecting the lives of civilians. Jews and Christians have only one place in the Middle East where their lives and rights are respected. It is the nation of Israel. To ignore this fact is to place the lives and rights of Jews and Christians in greater jeopardy.

There's an old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That is exactly what Israel has been doing in the Middle East for too long. It's time for Israel to wake up – before it's too late.

It's also time for some new thinking in Washington.

No more concessions. No more appeasement. No more giveaways. No more invitations to further violence. No more incentives to terrorism. No more encouraging vile hatreds. No more self-flagellation.

The same rules should apply in Israel and Iraq – and certainly in Iran as well.

It's time to seek out the bad guys and destroy them. There is no substitute. We cannot win the wars in the Middle East with peace talks and treaties and accords.

That's my peace plan. Does anyone have a better idea?

Joseph Farah is founder, editor and CEO of WND and a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. His latest book is "Taking America Back." He also edits the weekly online intelligence newsletter Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin, in which he utilizes his sources developed over 30 years in the news business.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Apprentice: 9 out of 10 cats

The second episode of The Apprentice was on last night, along with BBC Three's new accompanying programme "You're Fired!", presented by the excellent and occasionally very cutting Adrian Chiles. It seems that the candidates themselves have not been allowed to see the finished footage until the same week as the viewing public, and the "You're Fired!" show is then filmed the day before the broadcast, rather than back in the autumn when the core series was produced. This adds the benefit of hindsight but retains some of the surprise value when the candidates see what the others have been saying about them. I strongly recommend this additional half-hour for further chances to see gobby Saira babbling happily (she seems to suffer a serious loser-denial complex), and for the hilarious psycho-analysis of the flopped candidates.

So, a synopsis of Episode 2. Each team had to prepare and pitch a Great Ormond Street charity fundraising calendar, to Harrods, Virgin Megastore and the Calendar Club. The girls, led by Nargis, chose a cat theme whilst the boys, led by Sam, chose a baby theme. The boys won, despite only being picked up by one buyer against the girls' three. Cue crying from Jo, Sam and Tuan, and the startling realisation on watching "You're Fired!" that Nargis is actually quite fit, when she's not flustered and exhausted.

My view is that the boys won by default because the idea of choosing a cat theme for a children's charity was obviously flawed, and then Nargis's delivery of the presentation was so painful that is was clear the biggest sale she had closed until then in her day job as a pharmacist, was flogging some paracetamol to go with someone's prescription. The normally impassive Nick Hewer rolled his eyes each time she delivered the excruciating "did you know that there are 6m cat owners in Britain and 1/3 of them are in London?".

Better still was the halting delivery of each dull statement and the barking of "I haven't finished" at the poor buyers. And I actually paused the show to wet myself laughing at the showdown staring contest when she demanded that they name a price, after they had asked her how much the calendars cost.

Other highlights included the tantrums of the infernal Jo, and the un-macho weepy moments of Tuan and Sam, and Ruth's hilarious statement in thick Brummie about how "people in Birmingham won't be buying it just because it's Great Ormond Street, they will be buying it because its got kittens in there." Good to see their priorities are right.

I will hold back on my criticism of Jo until she gets fired, which cannot be too far away. In the meantime, as someone who spends about 70 hours a week working in business, I think the show's cast is totally unrepresentative:

A. Business is vastly male-dominated, except in the HR function, which is chock-full of women like Jo.
B. Sadly, it is also much whiter - out of 14 people there are 3 Asians, 1 Black and a Vietnamese, ie more than a third.
C. There are only two Jews (Alexa and Sam), whilst everybody knows that in the real world Jews control everything. Of course this is offset by Sugar himself...

Please, please, please, can I finally get some conversation going on Freedmanslife - any views and feedback on the show is welcome here - let's get a proper forum going. And then I can fire one of you each week for the most inane remarks.