Sunday, April 30, 2006

Milblogs - citizenship

Each week Freedmanslife brings you a posting from the fascinating world of the Milblog (military weblog). This week's article comes from A Mobilized Year, and is another fine example of how Coalition troops actually have two brain cells to rub together, contrary to popular belief. It also shows a commitment to passing certain values on to Iraq, other than a mere pimp-whore relationship for their natural resources...


"I hereby declare, on oath,
-that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen;
-that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic;
-that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;
-that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law;
-that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law;
-that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and
-that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion;
so help me God."
It was a proud day when I heard that the other week. It’s the oath to become a citizen of the United States. Almost sixty U.S. Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen who were born in such places as the Bahamas, Ecuador, Mexico, Nigeria, Romania, India, Trinidad & Tobago, Antigua, Ghana, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Germany, Poland, Vietnam, Burma, and more than a dozen other countries, took that oath to become Naturalized U.S. Citizens.

The oath itself has been of some controversy over the years (wouldn’t you expect any type of oath to be in a pluralistic society?). The line "so help me God" is optional and, as you might have guessed, sometimes the lines "that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law;" and “that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law;” are omitted as well, if the prospective citizen can prove such commitments are in violation of his or her religion.

Naturalized citizens and natural-born citizens (those who became citizen at birth) share the exact same rights as citizens, except that only natural-born citizens can become U.S. President (sorry Arnold). Compare that with the 18 levels of citizenship that I’m told exist in Kuwait.

After years of attempting to become a U.S. citizen, one of my soldiers was granted his wish. He’s told me stories of his life growing up in Kenya and his struggles since he entered the United States in the mid-90s. The possibility of deportation proceedings was looming when we got the notice of our mobilization to the Middle East. Even though this soldier had a wife and child in the United States that he would have to leave for more than a year, he was very pleased when we got the mobilization order because he knew it created a clear route to citizenship and long-term stability for his young family.

Experiencing with my soldier the wonders of gaining citizenship has helped shape some of my thoughts on the immigration issues that seem so controversial now back in the States. I don’t pretend to have the answers for all the complicated immigration questions and issues that our representatives currently face. However, I am pleased that we as a nation face them though because it shows that we are a great nation worthy of immigration. It is also another opportunity for us to do what is right and demonstrate to ourselves and the World that we adhere to the principles upon which we were founded and for which we stand.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Apprentice: cruising out of contention

At last the ghastly, slippery, lying rascal Syed is removed. No question that this was a deserved firing, for a shocking performance with a series of comical errors and further questions raised over the man's integrity, with his idea of "losing" some incomplete entries to a prize raffle.

More's the pity, because next week is the episode where the remaining contestants go through a series of extremely tough interviews in which their weaknesses and embellishments are exposed, and it would have been fun to watch some of Sugar's East End lobbes friends cutting Syed down to size.

So in this episode, the candidates were flown to Istanbul to join a cruise ship and put on some entertainments for the guests, with the winner being decided on the teams' ability to make money and impress the ship's crew with their customer service. Paul, Michelle and Ansell went for a classic cruise idea, pitched at the right level for their audience, concise and easy to explain, and most importantly manageable in the execution: a series of dance lessons culminating in a dance-off with prizes galore.

Syed, as ever, decided to be a bit smart, and went for a golf event, with the idea of driving the balls off the side of the ship. When this was vetoed for obvious reasons like international maritime law, he looked at catching the balls with some tennis netting but the holes were too big, and then resorted to a series of big white bedsheets, which flapped in the breeze like a big Persil ad. Eventually he was put out of his misery by some senior crew, so he and team-mate Ruth fell back on a convoluted set of deck games and activities.

The rest is pretty self-explanatory - a man who couldn't work out where Wandsworth Bridge was and brought the wrong keys to a flat letting in the last task was hardly going to be able to flit between several simultaneous activities on an enormous cruise ship, let alone do so when Ruth had realised after seeing the other team in action that she was going to be on the losing team and should cut Syed adrift.

Meanwhile, one of the series' most memorable moments came with Paul's magical on-board TV ad, complete with snake-hipped boogying of a disconcertingly sexy level only previously witnessed by Bausch, Young One and friends in Whiskey A GoGo on a Freedmanslife night out over Pesach after your esteemed blogger was on his 6th treble vodka and orange.

So Ruth held her nerve in the boardroom whilst Syed's usual blend of sycophancy, finger-wagging and patronising of opponents finally proved not to be enough. After a lot of grunting and squeezing, the Big Koala finally dislodged Syed from his toches and sent him on his way. Next week we will see the remaining 4 being grilled by Sugar's friends, and last season 2 were dismissed at this stage. The bookies' favourites would surely be Michelle and Ansell, but by the looks of the trailer, Ruth and Paul are not going to emerge unscathed either.

I think this is the point for a long overdue introduction of the surprise candidates: the pizza chef from Episode 4, Donald Trump from the US series to show Sugar how it's done, and of course Freedmanslife himself, to show Donald and the pizza chef how it's really done.

By the way, the Sunday Times reported that Tuan had been hard done by, as one of the deals for the other team fell through the morning after the task ended, so Tuan's team should have won, and we would probably have been rid of Michelle instead.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

How Europe Died

Tonight is Yom HaShoah, the "real" Holocaust Memorial Day where we commemorate the Holocaust of the Jews because of its uniqueness in its methods and purpose, and what it means for the world, without politicking, hijacking and boycotting. This article is from September 2005, with compliments to Gates of Vienna and FrontPage, by Sebastian Villar Rodriguez.

Europe died in Auschwitz

I was walking along Raval (Barcelona) when all of a sudden I understood that Europe died with Auschwitz. We assassinated 6 million Jews in order to end up bringing in 20 million Muslims!

We burnt in Auschwitz the culture, intelligence and power to create. We burnt the people of the world, the one who is proclaimed the chosen people of God. Because it is the people who gave to humanity the symbolic figures who were capable of changing history (Christ, Marx, Einstein,
Freud...) and who is the origin of progress and wellbeing.

We must admit that Europe, by relaxing its borders and giving in under the pretext of tolerance to the values of a fallacious cultural relativism, opened it's doors to 20 million Muslims, often illiterates and fanatics that we could meet, at best, in places such as Raval, the poorest of the nations and of the ghettos, and who are preparing the worst, such as the 9/11 and the Madrid bombing and who are lodged in apartment blocs provided by the social welfare.

We also have exchanged culture with fanaticism, the capacity to create with the will to destroy, the wisdom with the superstition. We have exchanged the transcendental instinct of the Jews, who even under the worst possible conditions have always looked for a better peaceful world, for the suicide bomber. We have exchanged the pride of life for the fanatic obsession of death. Our death and that of our children.

What a grave mistake that we made!

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Apprentice: Tuan down, four to go

Another lightweight bit the dust this week, albeit one of my favourites. Nice-guy Tuan, who has made the triple mistakes of showing emotion, having integrity, and not being a great salesman, was duly axed by the Big Koala.

This week's task saw our intrepid 3 (plus 1 bullshitter and 2 lightweights) on a mission to let out flats in Clapham and Battersea. This was yet another selling task - continuing the disappointing trend of similar tasks we have seen in the series so far, which have failed to challenge most people to demonstrate a breadth of skills.

On the winning team, a combination of Paul, Ansell and Michelle sold 2 flats each, despite Paul's slow start and some masonry falling on his head fairly early on, plus his tantrums about how "there aren't enough variables" for him to be able to sell well. And we thought we had got rid of the management-speak with Mani and Alexa...

The losing team was made up of Tuan, the slimy Syed, and the dark horse of the series, Ruth, who is closing ground on Paul as the favourite. Once again, Ruth stole the show with her excellent patter, straightforward manner and ability to switch seamlessly between smiley sales face and evil rottweiler face, depending on whether she was dealing with the public or some irritating fellow team member.

Tuan took 4 viewings but seemed lethargic throughout, and retired to the back-room to provide support. The trouble was that Ruth seemed to be doing just dandy on her own, selling 5 flats, and by her own admission looking out for herself in the process, and Syed is - in Sharon's only memorable contribution - "an arrogant wanker", who managed to stand under a railway bridge instead of Wandsworth Bridge (that big thing spanning the Thames), thus missing one appointment, and brought the wrong keys to another.

By the time they made it to the boardroom, Tuan had clearly decided that he could not bear to be around the ethically-challenged Syed (even Nick and Margaret labelled him a "liar"). So he said to Sir Alan that there was a straight choice between an outright liability with occasional moments of brilliance, and an ok candidate with plenty of potential but no foot-in-mouth syndrome. Typically of the Big Koala, he chose the liability.

Whether this is because he sees himself in Syed (who certainly sees himself in Sir Alan, or at least certain parts of his anatomy by all accounts), or because the producers need Syed in to maintain ratings, or even due to Tuan's obvious disillusionment with the process, Sir Alan plumped for a candidate so lacking in integrity that one of the commentators on "You're Fired!" said that if he was ulitmately hired, she would refuse to do business with Sir Alan because of the pall cast over his own morals.

Luckily for that particular panellist, I have already submitted my application for next season's Apprentice, but have completed it on the basis that I am being taken on to sit in Sir Alan's position. He seems to be getting increasingly bored with the process, and his decision-making is somewhat illogical. We all know that Ansell and Michelle will be the next out, then finally Syed will get the chop when even the producers cannot sustain him any longer, and it will come down to Ruth and Paul.

Everyone else has not been enough of a hard-bitten salesperson for Sugar; it is quite apparent that far from it being a 12-week job interview, what he really wanted was to have as many weeks as possible of seeing who could sell in a style as close to his own as possible, with some posh, articulate people thrown in as cannon-fodder.

Disappointed as I am, we are far enough in that it seems rude to stop watching now. Plus the "You're Fired!" trips (hoping to manage 2 more this series) make me feel like I have participated in my own small way. And I have been watching the American series, which is awesome, full of clever people with balanced skills and real credibility, and no shortage of totty.

Most importantly, I am warming to Trump, because he has constructive advice and criticism for all the candidates, and whilst much of what he shares is his ridiculous taste for ostentation, he is also generous with his time, experience and staff. We know Carolyn and George (their version of Nick and Margaret) far better, as do the candidates, and we also have more insight into his company and how he interacts with his staff, by seeing him at work, on walkabouts, and wheeling in Bill Rancic (series 1 winner) and his stunning daughter (she makes you want to) Ivanka, to support them.

So, best British Apprentice candidate this year? Sean, who cleverly applied for the American series and is quite a hit. Tune into NBC or wait for the Beeb to put it on late at night in between its own series - worth the effort.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Restrained after all

Seems Freedmanslife was a bit premature in predicting a proper response from Kadimah. Apparently with Sharon still vegetating, Hamas are to be held responsible but not be brought to justice as thoroughly as some of us would like. So we're going to take the low-hanging fruit of the odd Islamic Jihadi, cancel some visas and residencies of Hamasniks in territories still udner Israeli sovereignty, speed up the barrier-building, and generally needle them a bit. Not sure what the magic figure of mangled Jews is before the Islamofascists get what's coming to them, but I would have thought 1,000 families saying kaddish in 5 years might be sufficient.

The Palestinian people (yes, people - they voted in and supported terrorists in kheffiyahs and fatigues, terrorists in dapper suits, and now terrorists in robes, but still terrorists underneath) have systematically attempted to destroy Israel through a thousand small cuts.

The message of Pesach is redemption. It should have been enough - dayeinu. As yom tov finishes, we can only hope for freedom to eat lunch, take buses and go shopping in safety, and that we are delivered from the fanatics of Hamastan beyad chazakah uviz'roa netuyah - with a clenched fist and an outstretched arm.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Paul Johnson says

Here is an excerpt from a piece written by Paul Johnson in the week of the Zionism Equals Racism motion at the UN in 1975. It rings eerily true today:

"Israel is a social democracy, the nearest approach to a free socialist state in the world; its people and government have a profound respect for human life, so passionate indeed that, despite every conceivable provocation, they have refused for a quarter of a century to execute a single captured terrorist. They also have an ancient but vigorous culture, and a flourishing technology. The combination of national qualities they have assembled in their brief existence as a state is a perpetual and embittering reproach to most of the new countries whose representatives swagger about the UN building.

So Israel is envied and hated; and efforts are made to destroy her. The extermination of the Israelis has long been the prime objective of the Terrorist International; they calculate that if they can break Israel, then all the rest of civilisation is vulnerable to their assaults....

The melancholy truth, I fear, is that the candles of civilisation are burning low. The world is increasingly governed not so much by capitalism, or communism, or social democracy, or even tribal barbarism, as by a false lexicon of political cliches, accumulated over half a century and now assuming a kind of degenerate sacerdotal authority.... We all know what they are...."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Mystery Boro right-winger?

On a lighter note, I noticed that a veteran English right-winger of Spanish descent made a rare appearance for Middlesbrough in their 2-0 victory over West Ham today. Little has been seen of a player once considered a candidate to lead his country, since he was relegated in a classic victory of the new Reds against a disorganised Blues team in 1997. After that, the Blues have had a series of caretaker-managers but seem to have found a formula to challenge for the title in the 2010 season, whilst the Reds team manager's future is uncertain, even as a certain Scot who has been plying his trade on the left-wing is lined up to succeed him.

Unrestrained

Pesach is the time of year when the Jews remember how terrible it was to be slaves to other people, building their palaces and empires in return for nothing except the murder of their baby boys. And of course it it the moment we celebrate our redemption under a courageous leader with God's might behind him.

The Jews who left Egypt, the Talmud says, were only 20% of the Hebrew population (see The 80/20 Rule). The remainder stayed behind, believing that life with the Egyptians was preferable to the unknown risks of the desert, despite the miracles wrought on their behalf. On the way to the Promised Land, the tribes that attacked Israel or failed to intervene when the people were weakened, were destroyed or eternally doomed.

Today in Tel Aviv, a terrorist murdered 9 people taking a light lunch at a falafel store. Islamic Jihad immediately claimed responsibility whilst Fatah's Al-Aksa Martyr's Brigade chipped in with the standard libel of how it was to avenge "Israeli massacres". And of course, Sami Abu Zuhri, the official spokesman for Hamas (that's the democratically elected government of the Palestinian Authority, as funded by Russia and some of the "moderate" Gulf states), said the attack was "a natural result of the continued Israeli crimes" against Palestinians; "our people are in a state of self-defence and they have every right to use all means to defend themselves."

A report by the BBC, not renowned for balanced reporting when it comes to Israel, said:

"Well over a dozen Palestinians have died in recent weeks, nearly all of them militants. Hamas, which has carried out dozens of previous bombings, has been observing a ceasefire with Israel for more than a year. The group does nothing to stop other militant groups from attacking Israel, but the tone of the official government statement was, by Hamas standards, quite muted."

The point when even the BBC concedes that Israel has been targetting people who deserve it, whilst Hamas at best stands idly by and allows the murder of civilians eating their lunch, is the moment that we should all stand up and take note.

Hamas calls it self-defense. Now they will learn what self-defense looks like. As far as Freedmanslife is concerned, and we imagine the newly sworn-in Kadimah government too, this reaction is tantamount to casus belli. An elected government permits terrorists to act unimpeded from its soil and justifies its actions in this way. But how long before the West buckles and starts talking to Hamas, reopening the flow of cash and kind that funds more lunch-queue bombings?

These animals deserve to be caged. Democracy, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, is where 2 wolves and a sheep vote on what to have for lunch. In the Palestinian democracy, the wolves are in power and are happy to sacrifice the sheep at the altar of world opinion. Now is the moment for us to eliminate the wolves, and go after the wolves who hide in sheep's clothing amongst the flock.

Those of you who are Jewish must now choose the path of the 20% and not that of the 80%.

Those of you who are not, this is still your battle. Standing with us, like the Irish at Cable Street, like Orde Wingate in Mandate Palestine, like Raoul Wallenberg at Budapest Station, you can fight this scourge before it visits your own streets with a ferocity of a hundred Madrids, Londons and New Yorks. Ignore the moral equivalences and shoddy reportage of the Independent, Guardian, BBC and Channel 4. Understand that Israel is the canary in the coalmine, and that your governments must continue to shun any elected leadership that preaches or permits terrorism.

Pandering to them does nothing except encourage them along the same path. Your failure to recognise this will come at an unimaginably heavy price.

So whilst the other side use terror or the threat of violence to get you to support their cause, Freedmanslife asks you politely to use your heads and take a longer view. We Jews have a funny habit of surviving while great nations crumble into dust. It's a good bet that standing by our side will do you a favour in the long run.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Milblogs - a new weekly post

Regular Freedmanslifers will know that this is not a blog for the faint of heart or the left of wing. So a new theme is to be introduced to Freedmanslife. Each week we will feature an article from the fascinating world of the Milblog (military weblog); the best insight on what the Evil Crusade on Iraq is really like for the naive liberal pansies who like their petrol cheap and their trains in one piece but don't want their names sullied by the nasty process of securing these simple desires.

This week, an excerpt from one of the classics, A Bountiful Life.

The Coin

It’s a smaller aircraft with only two rows of seats, two seats per row, and a narrow aisle up the middle. I take an empty seat next to a woman who is older than I. She is attractive in a distinguished, southern way.

We exchange courtesies but otherwise do not talk. I notice out of the corner of my eye that people are looking at me.

There is a quick, steep takeoff, and we climb to cruising altitude. Looking out the window I am surprised at the number of other aircraft in the vicinity. Its just like a converging freeway with multiple lanes of outgoing and approaching jets.

I settle in to my seat, but cant sleep. Its early afternoon and the sun is still shining brightly, penetrating the aircraft with beams of light coming through the small windows.

Finally, the woman next to me speaks, asking me if I am returning from Iraq. I answer her, telling her yes, I am on leave and the sand of Iraq is still on my boots. She asks me if its ok for her to ask me questions which is fine with me I respond. From there starts a conversation that lasts two full hours at least.

She asks me if we need more troops in Iraq. I inform her that no we do not and if anything we need less, but to tell her friends that we need more porta-potties and to call their congressmen.

She is from Atlanta, her husband is retired and they travel. She is going to get her mother who lives near me, and take her back to Atlanta for the winter.

I talk of the reception in Atlanta and she tells me the people there are shy and do not know what to say to me.

I tell her of ambushes, being mortared, friends injured and killed. I tell her of the Iraqi people, how friendly they are, patient, generous, and quick to smile.

I am like a dam that has burst. We talk nonstop, and later I will be grateful for that.

When the plane begins its descent, we fasten our seatbelts and prepare to land. I see her reach for her handbag and pull out what appears to be a ten-dollar bill. I think I know what is coming and feel myself become embarrassed. I can feel myself begin to say no.

She turns to me and begins to explain that there is a radio talk show host in Atlanta that has told his audience that if they want to thank a soldier for his or her service, to buy them and their family a meal. Her hand reaches out offering the bill, and she asks me to take it. I refuse and tell her I cannot, that serving my country and its people has been a privilege and an honor. She persists and I remember something a speaker once talked about from the podium, about how to take a compliment or thank you with grace, and to humbly accept and simply say thank you in return. I take the bill from her hand, tell her thank you so much, and begin to refold it to stick it in my pocket. It’s a one hundred dollar bill.

Without thinking I reach into my pocket and take out a campaign coin that I have carried everywhere in Iraq. It has been with me through everything I have gone through. I tell her of the time-honored tradition of “coining” in the Army, where a soldier gives his or her unit coin to another as a gift. Coins are prized, are not easy to come by, and it is considered an honor to be given one.

I hand her my Iraq campaign coin and tell her to keep it forever.

When I get off the plane she walks ahead of me, then disappears into the crowd. I wish I had said goodbye better, but then think perhaps we parted ways perfectly.

I stop and search, and see my family by the windows waiting for me.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Apprentice: Scamstrad

Deary, deary me. Perhaps they issued a different version for the viewing public here in Occupied North Jaffa. Did the Big Koala really just fire Sharon and not Syed? Luckily Amstrad's share price is not indexed against the logic of his decisions on The Apprentice. But I do feel like there is some insider dealing that is maintaining Syed's stock artificially high.

This was a doddle of a task that Syed made a meal of. Pick a couple of items from an array of new designs and inventions, and go sell as many of 'em as possible to trade buyers. First principles here, if you have any business acumen:

1. Choose items that are easy to carry, set up and explain to the punter.
2. Ensure that your items are actually available to market immediately.
3. Either pick two items from the same category so you can make a single pitch, or split your team and go for two markets.
4. Understand that the key is overall income - selling 10 products at £1000 will trump a sale of 1000 products at £9.99, so think about what people will commit to on the spot.
5. Stick to the brief, do not try and make unrealistic sales to huge bureaucratic companies.
6. Get a grasp that there are rules, and they cannot be broken too often without consequences.

Syed botched up on every count here, which was bad in its own right but when you also consider he was the project manager, there should be no question that Sugar's verdict was a big fat finger pointing in his direction. Unfortunately, Syed is only too aware that Sugar has a "hole in [his] bloody arse" because that's usually where his tongue is. So much for "I don't like arse-lickers", eh.

Despite the constant interruptions and having to tell him to shut up several times, despite being a lousy salesperson and frequent liar, despite being late and unapologetic, despite vindictively trying to get Tuan and Sharon fired for playing wingman to his and Paul's sales efforts, Syed was kept in.

And so poor Sharon is back off to Scotland to see her wee bairns. Not a moment too soon; she was fragile, feeble and out of her depth. But as so often with Sir Alan, his decision to fire her this particular week beggared belief. The best moment of her entire stay was on departure, when she turned around to Syed on exiting and told him he was an "arrogant wanker". Spot on.

Unfortunately, it seems this is a trait with appeal to the prospective employer.

With this in mind, I have applied to the next series of The Apprentice, but have made it clear I have no wish to work with the muppets, and am actually looking to sit in Sir Alan's chair. High time the audience came to believe in the integrity of the boss, and not think it might be compromised by the producers whispering in his ear what might be best for viewing figures.

Oh, and as a runner-up prize, I proposed that I might be willing to accept a regular guest panellist job on You're Fired, because that Felicity Lee is a dish. Please write in and support the campaign to have Freedmanslife as a regular feature of The Apprentice III. I promise my dictatorship shall be benign.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Shalom from Cabal Central

Quick hello from Tel Aviv, nerve centre of the great Zionist - Jewish - Freemason - NeoCon - Bilderberger - Big Oil - Military Industrial Complex conspiracy. How is the world today? Have we controlled the weather nicely where you are? If you are Jewish, have you managed to make your Pesach matzah yet? What with the secularization of the Christian world, we know that WASP children are no longer considered kosher.

And there's a shortage of Muslims this year because we screwed up the supply chain with our carpet-bombing of Iraq and nuking Iran (doh, that's next year). The Big Green Lizard Rabbinate has however assured us that crushed Gitmo prisoners will be acceptable for the preparation of shemura matzot, provided you pick out the bits of orange jumpsuit, as these are chametzdik.

Anyway, I thought you might like to read this article by Mark Steyn, who for some reason has exposed our plot to the wider world in seeking to silence Mr Dalyell, in his piece Tam is talking a lot of cabals about sinister controllers:

Frankly I was relieved to hear from Tam Dalyell that Tony Blair is secretly controlled by a cabal of Jewish advisers. Cabal-wise, that takes the heat off George W Bush, who's secretly controlled by so many cabals he's juggling his schedule as frantically as Jack Lemmon in a 1960s sex comedy. The President is apparently simultaneously secretly controlled by a cabal of sinister Jews, a cabal of fundamentalist Christians, a cabal of Texas oil barons, and a cabal of devious "neoconservatives", who are also Jews but, demonstrating the cunning one traditionally associates with the Hebrew, have taken to going around under a new name to confuse those not as eagle-eyed as Tam.

But if I had to name my all-time favourite cabal to which Bush is in thrall it would have to be the one revealed in a long think-piece in the Boston Globe the other week. The Globe identified the various murky figures who've been the most assiduous promoters of the new American imperium: David Frum, the Bush speechwriter who coined two thirds of the phrase "axis of evil" (his original idea was "axis of hate"); Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post; Michael Ignatieff of Harvard; and Mark Steyn, some loser with a Brit newspaper.

And what do all these unsavoury characters have in common? Circumcision? Gefilte fish? No; as the Globe noted, "Frum, Steyn, Krauthammer, and Ignatieff all hail from Canada".

A cabal of sinister Canadians? Oh, sure, go ahead, scoff. But, if Tony Blair is under the control of a cabal of sinister Jews, what you really need to ask yourself is what cabal is the cabal of sinister Jews under the control of? That's where poor Tam's conspiracy theories are so old hat (it's a homburg). At least in the club of sinister Canadians we operate a restricted membership: only Canadians need apply. By contrast, Tam's cabal of sinister Jews is headed by who? A troika - Lord Levy, Mr Mandelson, Mr Straw? - that includes only one bona fide Jew and has to make up the numbers with guys who've got a Jewish grandparent and a couple of Mel Brooks videos: depending on how you look at it, Tam's conspiracy has either revived the expansive Third Reich definition of Jewishness or it's the Irish World Cup team of cabals.

But the real question the Father of the House ought to ponder is, if Tony Blair is so unimportant that the cabal secretly controlling him can be left to a bunch of ersatz Jews, what are all the real Jews up to? Who are they secretly controlling? Are they the ones who've been driving poor old Margaret Drabble loopy, perhaps through radio waves emitted from secret antennae implanted in their hooked noses? Just a thought.

And back at the White House it's cabal gridlock. You turn up and say, "Hi, it's the cabal of sinister Canadians. We've got an appointment at 10 with the President." And the secretary says, "Sorry, his 9.30 cabal is running late." And you begin to wonder why, if George W Bush has such a small brain, so many cabals are required to secretly control it. And you sit in the anteroom twiddling your thumbs and the clock ticks on and the cabal of Big Oil arrives, all wearing their ten-gallon hats. In Texas, they used to have a saying: He's all hat and no cattle. Now they say he's all hat and no cabal, a dismissive reference to the only three Hasidic Jews in the Lone Star State who aren't controlling a G7 head of government.

Meanwhile, my colleague Boris Johnson has uncovered an even more artful cabal. The other day in these pages, he suggested that the President, if only in terms of the fine art and antiquities section of his brain, was being secretly controlled by a lobby group called the American Council for Cultural Policy, who'd leant on Bush to facilitate the looting of the Baghdad Museum in order to deliver the Iraqi people's birthright to "the guest washrooms of Floridian real estate kings".

I don't know what Boris has against Florida estate agents - possibly he was on the wrong end of some timeshare deal - but his Dalyell-like conjuring of a cabal of sinister Sunshine State realtors all singing Rosemary Clooney's classic "Cabal-a My House" is so delightful it seems a shame to point out that the great sack of Baghdad is as mythical as the great Jenin massacre of exactly a year ago. The number of missing Baghdad antiquities has now been revised down from 170,000 to somewhere between 25 and 38 - in other words, between 169,962 and 169,975 less than was originally claimed. Are the media being secretly controlled by a cabal of Jews who enjoy making 'em look like idiots every spring?

"The Jew is everywhere," observes Scudder in John Buchan's Thirty-nine Steps. "If you're on the biggest kind of job and are bound to get to the real boss, 10 to one you are brought up against a little white-faced Jew in a bath-chair with an eye like a rattlesnake."

But, of course, Buchan was Governor-General of Canada. If you get my drift.

The 80/20 rule

This article appeared last Pesach on ShrinkWrapped, entitled "20%: On Action and Passivity" - I think it is well worth a read ahead of Wednesday night's Seder feast.


The Passover Holiday, celebrated by Jews around the world, has just ended. This Holiday represents a central myth of the Jewish people, that "we were slaves in Egypt and God brought us out" to freedom. Furthermore, we are instructed:

In each and every generation, a person is obligated to regard himself as though he actually left Egypt. As it says: "You shall tell your son on that day, 'It is because of this that God took me out of Egypt.'" (Exodus 13:8)

It is a powerful myth of a persecuted people being freed by the intercession of their God. In my research into the meaning of Passover, how it might still be relevant today, and what gives it the emotional resonance it still has, I came across a comment I had never seen before. This comes from Rabbi Stephen Baars, writing on Assimilation Then and Now:

The Talmud records that in actuality, only 20 percent of the Jewish people left Egypt. The other 80 percent did not identify strongly enough with the Jewish people's role and goal. They were too assimilated and immersed in Egyptian society. So they stayed behind.

Passover this year, fell on the 62nd anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, a doomed rebellion carried out by the 60,000 Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto who remained of the original 300,000. For a painful, very human description of the day to day evolution of the uprising, take a look at "The Ghetto Fights," by Marek Edelman, published in a pamphlet called "The Warsaw Ghetto: The 45th Anniversary of the Uprising". (Hat tip to Horsefeathers).

I was struck by the same 20% occurring in the Exodus story and in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

Rabbi Baars suggests that those who stayed behind were assimilated and thus unable to imagine a life of freedom; further, in this case freedom meant the unknown. He added:

The Haggadah is focusing us on the fact that our ancestors were among the group that had the courage and foresight to leave.

It is always difficult to make changes. We may feel that freedom is too elusive, that we don't have the drive, stamina and determination to make bold decisions. The Haggadah reminds us that we are part of the group that left. It is in our blood. We have the ability to make dramatic changes. If we so desire.

I do not think this explanation does justice to those forces which tend to always support the status quo. I wrote in an early post that all living creatures tend toward conservatism (ie, they resist change). This is the nature of Homeostasis and Conservatism. Why would 80% of the Hebrews remain in Egypt? Even after being warned that more terrible plagues were on the way, they remained. How could it be that three and a half millennia later, 80% of the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto were shipped out to concentration camps, even in the face of rumors and stories of horrors (most of which people couldn't allow themselves to believe) before the remaining 20% fought back?

It is all too human to refuse to see the danger right in front of us. Few of us can look into the face of evil and not be terrified. Perhaps we should not wonder so much about the intellectual gymnastics of those who invent paranoid fantasies to blame us for our problems (take a look at Dr. Sanity's post and this Daily Standard article by Paul Mirengoff of Powerline), better we should marvel that a majority of Americans were able, after the horrors of 9/11 and with the promise of worse still to come, to stand up and face the evil. More than 50% of us voted to re-elect the President who would have us continue the struggle rather than try to pull the covers over our heads and hope the monsters would go away and leave us alone.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I like it cos I agree with the politics

On the flight out from London to Zionist-Occupied Palestine (Tel Aviv to you), I had 2 hours of my life stolen by George Clooney. This may be most women's ultimate fantasy but it was not a pleasure for me. Syriana has to be one of the most over-rated films of the last year. It has a meandering plot with strings that either do not tie together or do so with no explanation. For anyone expecting a version of Traffic that swaps white powder for black liquid, you will be sorely disappointed.

The acting and casting is very good, but in general there are some gross over-simplifications and the constant bouncing between 3 or 4 parallel plotlines means that none of them have enough depth to be properly understood.

It seems quite clear to me that the film's popularity and award-winning success is because this film takes a big swipe at the evils of Big Oil and their Republican neo-con hawk friends in the US government, assisted by those nasty unreforming Arab dictators who are a minority propped up by the needs of the American military-industrial complex. The suicide-bombers in the film are shown to be nice, sweet boys indoctrinated by a pleasant man with his heart in the right place, and the real hero is the noble Arab prince who just wants what is best for his country and is stymied by the Machiavellian behaviour of the CIA and their powerful friends.

This is all such flimsy drivel that it beggars belief. Some tepid films have been showered with rewards before because they have been grandiose and used cutting-edge technology, such as Titanic, which was all too predictable and sentimental but had stupendous special effects and some fine acting, along with an eye for detail. That is understandable.

But Syriana does not have these saving graces. So I conclude that people are recommending it to their friends and the Oscar nominations panel on the grounds that "I like it because I agree with the politics... and you will too." Shameful.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Apprentice: Top Shop Flop Dropped

So the only Jew left standing on The Apprentice is now the sorcerer himself. Freedmanslife has known this since Monday, when Veggie Tuna, Freedmansister and Freedmansistersboyfriend joined me for our second visit to "You're Fired!"

Samuel, Samuel, Samuel. What were you thinking, wearing that checked shirt outside Top Shop? And what on earth was that coat you were wearing at the end?

This week's task consisted of the two teams using their pitches in a flagship Oxford Street store to each sell 2 of the 4 main ranges on offer.

The winning team had Paul on it, and this was a sales-driven task. Nuff said. Well actually, they won via some mediocre leadership from Tuan, and some PMT from Sharon who threw her toys out of the pram a few times because the boys wouldn't listen to her (judging by previous performance, not too surprising). Eventually though, she prevailed to such a degree that Top Shop reported back and said they would hire her. Well done ya wee scunner. Highlights from their team also included Syed sleazing all over the young girls in the changing rooms, although I concede that one of them was very fit indeed, and the usual plethora of smooth Paul lines (although nothing can top "the noodle is made of poodle").

Meanwhile, the other team, under Michelle's leadership, fell apart. She designated herself as the VIP dresser, sipping champagne and trying on clothes in the VIP room, and spending nearly 2 hours selling £30-worth of skirt to 3 underwhelmed BCBG teens from Paris. Ruth ballsed up by being overwhelmed when Philip Green pitched up and offered to buy £100-worth of clothes. Being full of chutzpah, I knew immediately that I would have brought him as much clothing as my puny muscles could manage.

Seeing as Ruth is a carthorse, she could have carried at least a couple of grand's worth. Instead she flapped over what outfits matched, and sold him £66-worth. Sugar commented that he would have "done a Freedman" and ramped it up - Greenie can afford it, and I expect he may get a staff discount anyway.

While this was going on, Ansell looked rather like a gay Lawrence of Arabia in his pink open shirt and kaftan, and sold a few bits, whilst generally keeping his head down and being diplomatic, a tactic which has kept him in so far and did for Tim last year.

Which leaves Samuel, the marketing expert, who thought that handing out bottled water to passers-by would in some way bring in the punters. Whilst Paul even forewent the water, the difference was he had charm and funny lines, chose his timing for when the store was quiet and the external sell was required, and accompanied key customers into the store to hand them over to the rest of his team. Samuel just looked and sounded feeble and out of place.

I thought that Michelle was lucky not to be fired, for her total lack of direction of the task, failure to adjust the team roles on the day, and overall blandness so far in the series (rumours of some canoodling with Syed apart).

But for the first time in weeks, I ultimately agreed with the Big Koala. He had warned Samuel to step up to the mark and show his skills, and had made plain his dislike for the constant hiding behind others being better salespeople. In a team of 4, everyone needed to sell.

Most importantly, I think it was a failure to transfer knowledge and skills from task to task that cost the whole team, and him in particular. In the last task, the candidates were taught about the need to "qualify the sale", the part of the interaction with the customer where you establish what they actually want from you. Yet nobody on Michelle's team had really sussed this, except for Ruth, who had already worked it out the week before in being the top saleswoman. Frankly, this underscores the point that few candidates show the learning skills that are surely required to be an apprentice.

I think the key factors Sugar might be looking for this year are cunning and a win-at-all-cost attitude. Samuel pointed out that he had felt uncomfortable selling unnecessary extras on last week's car task; that kind of honesty does not make for a "close" on a sale or a pat on the back from Sir Alan. One by one, the candidates with integrity are being knocked out, whilst the bitches, liars and manipulators are biding their time. On this logic, next to be fired will be Tuan and Sharon; then the claws will come out.

For some real Apprenticeship, check the American version, where seriously high-calibre people do much harder tasks that aren't all about selling. The bitchiness is very high, the Yankee melodrama factor is way up, Trump actually tries to teach the candidates something, and for some reason all the women are really attractive. Strongly recommended.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Send them back to Iraq

This week the Mayor of London suggested that 2 Indian-born, British-bred Jews should "go back to Iran". He then apologised to the people of Iran for associating their nation with the brothers. Now, we know that he "doesn't have an anti-semitic bone in his body" according to his Jewish deputy, Nicky Gavron. This may not come as a surprise to those who have considered him spineless in any event - he may well have no bones at all in his body, anti-semitic or otherwise.

If it's ok for Ken to make such disgusting statements, I have a similar suggestion to make. Harmeet Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember were released last week from captivity in Baghdad after a rescue effected by the SAS. In compliance with the requests of their organisation, and at great risk, they carried it out at a moment when the prisoners were unguarded, so no shots were fired.

Despite this, it took 2 days for Kember to manage a public show of gratitude to the rescuers, whilst Sooden has already gone on record to disparage them and suggest that a ransom was paid to allow the "rescue", the implication being that it was a PR coup. And the record of Christian Peacemakers as an organisation is despicable - extracts from their previous "interventions" in other locations, "Palestine" being a favourite destination, show their utter contempt for anyone but themselves and the so-called innocents they think they are protecting. No effort to understand the nuances of a conflict, no grasp of the risk that British, American (or Israeli) soldiers then have to take to ensure they are protected even as they hinder the job those forces are there to carry out.

So I say "send them back to Iraq". We don't want people like that here, undermining sensible action to support ordinary Iraqis and destroying the morale of our troops and their families. And if they are not willing to go back and spend time with those true Iraqis who treated them so well last time, then I apologise to the people of Iraq for this slight on their national character.