Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • The greatest book ever

    Stephen Pollard
    Jul 22, 2009

    Daniel Finkelstein posts about Obama's new role model: LBJ. I loved this:

    LBJ used to have big charts where he could know which congressman or
    senator he needed to call at every instant. He would then invite them
    to breakfast, cocktails, call them at any hour of the day or night.

    He called one senator at 3 a.m. and said to the senator, 'I hope I
    didn't wake you up,' and the senator replied, 'Oh no, I was just lying
    here hoping my president would call.'

  • They think we are all idiots

    Stephen Pollard
    Jul 22, 2009

    I was away from my pc yesterday, and thanks to the O2 network crash couldn't post from my phone, so forgive the delay in mentioning this, but...

    With a wife who is 33 weeks pregnant, I am naturally looking at all the advice regarding swine flu. I'll leave commenting on the sheer incompetence of a government which has a health secretary, a public health minister, a chief medical adviser and a health department all saying different things, and the mind-numbing crassness of the NCT advising would-be parents to wait a year or so until swine flu has passed before getting pregnant.

    Instead, I'll simply thank Sir Liam Donaldson for his advice, published on Monday, specifically directed at pregnant women:

  • Jewish cossacks

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jul 21, 2009

    Time and again in accounts of Cossack raids on their Jewish or Polish neighbours, we read of men on horseback, wielding fiery touches, setting fire to fields and crops and terrifying the local populace. I recalled these accounts with a prickle of horror when I read today's Israeli press reports of between 1,500 and 2,000 Arab olive trees being set on fire by horseback riding settlers from the ever-troublesome West Bank Jewish settlement of Yitzhar. It is from this place, you may recall, that Israel paratroopers were withdrawn a few years ago after clashes with settlers. What gives this ugly story an even uglier twist is that the settlers say their attacks are not aimed specifically at local Arabs but at the Israeli Government as a warning of what will happen if they continue to demolish illegal structures on West Bank settlements. If and when the Israel Government moves against the settlements themselves, I fear we will see battles of Jew against Jew as have not been experienced in modern history. It is a terrible prospect, made worse by the fact that one side believes it is acting in the name and with the blessing of God.

  • Never mind the kugelsack, Brüno has real chutzpah

    Marcus Dysch
    Jul 20, 2009

    If you thought the naked fight scene with Azamat Bagatov in Borat was as much as you could bear, it might be best to stay away from Brüno.

    Last night I went to see Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest offering. Arriving at the cinema I innocently wondered what could possibly be in the film to have led the classification board to give it an 18 certificate.

    An hour and a half later, and after a level of obscenity that shocked even this gritty Northerner, it was pretty obvious.

  • Help wanted

    Jenni Frazer
    Jul 20, 2009

    Now we know that the Palestinians are in trouble. I have just had an unlikely begging email asking for an immediate $3,500 to rescue someone who is - yes, you guessed it - lost in Nigeria after having been robbed in its capital, Lagos.

    Asking for help - allegedly - is none other than the thoroughly admirable Lucy, wife of Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh. In the real world Lucy divides her time between Oxford and Ramallah, working on dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians and helping Palestinian teenagers.

    Quite how Lucy Nusseibeh's name was picked to front a Nigerial email scam is a mystery. All I can say is, from knowledge, Lucy doesn't need the money - even if the Palestinian Authority does.

  • The Hizbollah ‘spy’ and the Vatican conspiracy theory

    Simon Rocker
    Jul 20, 2009

    A bizarre story from Ha’aretz.

    “The Pope and the cardinals of the Vatican help organize tours of Auschwitz for Hezbollah members to teach them how to wipe out Jews, according to a booklet being distributed to Israel Defense Forces soldiers,” it begins.

    Far-fetched? The report goes on to say that the IDF has halted distribution after doubts (not suprisingly) were cast on the veracity of the claims. A soldier is quoted as saying: “The book is distributed regularly and everyone reads it and believes it. It's filled with made-up details but is presented as a true story.”

  • A Class Act

    Stephen Pollard
    Jul 20, 2009

    It seems I am the proud author of the first book on James Purnell's shelf.

    On Saturday he told the Guardian that he had spent his time since leaving the Cabinet rearranging his books:

    In his time on the backbenches Purnell has set about arranging his
    thoughts, both literally and metaphorically – it took one weekend to
    arrange the books in his flat from A to Z (A Class Act, by his former
    cabinet colleague Lord Adonis, the transport secretary, to Emile Zola).