Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Make mine a Gibson (please don't)

    Jenni Frazer
    May 26, 2009

    It seems only yesterday — in fact it was just over three years ago — that columnists and commentators were falling over themselves to badmouth Hollywood bad boy Mel Gibson. Gibson, it will be remembered, had fully illustrated the reality of "in vino veritas" by indulging in an antisemitic tirade when pulled over by the police for being drunk.

    I recall at the time forecasting that it wouldn't take long before Hollywood would re-clasp Gibson to its bosom since he is, of course, fabulously wealthy.

    And so it proved today as chat-show host Jay Leno was all over Gibson like a rash, the occasion being manly congratulations on the film star having got his Russian girlfriend pregnant. Lest it be forgotten, Gibson, though in the throes of divorce, is still married and has seven children with his wife.

  • A political kicking

    Stephen Pollard
    May 25, 2009

    As Peter Hoskin writes at Coffee House: Wow.

    Here's the footage of Andrew MacKay getting a real kicking from his constituents last week. It's visceral. 

    If Julie Kirkbride is getting anything like that treatment on her patch, she's toast.

  • The Pope Revisited

    Simon Rocker
    May 21, 2009

    Pope Benedict XVI may have made no faux pas during his visit to the Middle East but you might have got the impression that he had a rather cool reception in Israel. There were various gripes – eg “Survivors angered by Pope's ‘lukewarm’ Yad Vashem speech”.

    However, one rabbinical interfaith expert, Rabbi David Rosen (chairman of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations) said there was an “amazing disparity” between what actually happened there and some of the press coverage.

    It was a “great visit” and “certainly a great contribution for Catholic-Jewish relations,” he told a breakfast briefing today for the Council of Christians and Jews during a stopover in London.

  • The evil done

    Stephen Pollard
    May 20, 2009

    Oliver Kamm rightly points out, with regard to child abuse in Ireland, that

    The word "scandal" is often overplayed. But in this case, it is scarcely
    adequate to the evil that the Roman Catholic Church - not just some
    individual, errant priest - has done.

    Precisely. That is why I have always felt it repugnant, given his behaviour, that a man such as the former Cardinal, Cormac Murphy O'Connor, should have offered moral lessons to the rest of us. As a BBC profile put it:

  • Esther's manifesto (probably)

    Alex Kasriel
    May 20, 2009

    Esther Rantzen is strongly considering standing as MP in Luton South.

    This is a brilliant idea. The 68-year-old has a very good chance of winning especially at a time when the rest of the MPs are about as popular as a food free wedding.

    She may not have won the public vote during appearances on various reality TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing and I'm a Celebrity...Get Me out of Here! but she was not unpopular. And the skill set of the former That's Life! star and ChildLine founder, is far more suited to politics.

  • Boycott the boycotters

    Marcus Dysch
    May 20, 2009

    The capitulation by organisers of the Edinburgh Film Festival is, I think, more shocking than most examples of the Israel boycott we’ve previously seen.

    Had the organisers decided off their own backs to not accept the Israeli Embassy’s money to fly in director Tali Shalom Ezer it would have been bad enough.

    But to so openly base the decision on the ramblings of Ken Loach almost beggars belief.

  • Grauniad nonsense

    Stephen Pollard
    May 20, 2009

    I have a penchant for flawed statistics. There's a cracker in today's Guardian:

    Only 6% of film directors are women, so Jane Campion is calling for an army of tough new recruits.

    Do I need to point out that this is drivel?

  • Circus, circus...

    Jenni Frazer
    May 20, 2009

    A couple of months ago my niece got married. It was a beautiful and generous simcha; naturally enough, there were many people there I did not know, most of whom, I assumed, were from the bridegroom's side. Walking through the reception area's acres of carpet I all but stumbled on a strange woman in a powder-blue suit, a handbag at her feet. She was juggling.

    No-one seemed to know who she was; eventually it emerged that she was a neighbour of the groom and that she, er, enjoyed simchas.

    So far, so bizarre. Last night I drove past Hampstead's Whitestone Pond, which for the last six weeks or so has been drained back to the concrete while various workmen stand around and suck their teeth a lot, and the poor ducks who usually live there flap about, distressed that their usual feeding place has evaporated.

  • George Baker

    Stephen Pollard
    May 19, 2009

    The 6.10 at Leicester is not usually history making. Very little in Leicester is, today.

    (I once arrived a couple of hours early for a conference in Leicester. With time to spare, I asked the woman at the reception desk where I should go. I was thinking of perhaps visiting Simon de Montfort's grave. She looked at me and said, deadpan: "Get the train to London and back".)

    But today, in the 6.10 race at Leicester, something unique will happen. A two year old called George Baker will run, trained by George Baker, and ridden by another George Baker.

  • Bombing civilians

    Simon Rocker
    May 19, 2009

    In any modern war zone, whether it's Afghanistan, Gaza or Sri Lanka, armies confront  the problem: how far to go to minimise casualties to civilians when pursuing fighters in their midst.

    There's a thoughtful essay on the subject from Avishai Margalit and Michael Walzer in the New York Review of Books, who take issue with arguments that the safety of soldiers takes precedence over civilians on the enemy side.

    They write: "Conduct your war in the presence of noncombatants on the other side with the same care as if your citizens were noncombatants."