An odd reason for non-conscription

A brawny 5ft 9in, Franzese had frequent brushes with the law in his youth. He was drafted into the US army during the Second World War but discharged after an internal evaluation described him as “psychoneurotic with pronounced homicidal tendencies”.

Great qualifications for a mafiosi and you’d sorta think they’d find a use for them in a war.

Ah, yes, but we had equality! And free health care!

Most Albanians view Hoxha’s 40-year rule, when the country was cut off from the world much as North Korea is now and a pervasive secret police clamped down violently on dissent, as a dark period in its history that caused widespread misery and triggered a massive exodus after communism collapsed.

But Nexhmije Hoxha, who was jailed for nine years for embezzlement soon after Albania became the last country to topple communism in 1990, stayed loyal to his memory.

“When the standard of living was compared to the west, it can be considered modest, but there was an egalitarian spirit,” she said in a 2008 interview.

Few would – or do – defend Albania’s lost years on the basis of that headline.

It’s disgusting how many defend Cuba’s on that same basis.

Cliche spotting

He collected ceramics and for many years had a house in Tangiers.

Oh aye?

Although West never stopped indulging in what he called the “rough trade” and had a fondness for S&M and threesomes,

North Africa was, for a time, something of a cliche among that set.


When Ladysmith Black Mambazo came on stage, Mandela, seated in the Royal Box, rose to his feet and started swaying and clapping. The Duke of Edinburgh joined in followed by the Queen who, as a newspaper report the next day put it with considerable understatement, “has seldom been known to boogie in public”.

And this is lovely:

“Singing cleanses the soul,” he said. “It is my prayer and my comfort. There is nothing else.”

There’s many a musician who would take that to be buried to.

Nil nisi etc

Americans can really be funny about reporters:

The Washington Post has suspended a journalist after she tweeted about Kobe Bryant’s historical sexual assault case shortly after the basketball player and his daughter died in a helicopter crash.

Felicia Sonmez was put on leave after posting a link to an article about the 2003 rape allegation against the former LA Lakers player, with the newspaper saying her “poor judgment” in sharing the story had undermined the work of her colleagues.

The incident raises questions about how to deal with the media legacies of much-lauded individuals and which aspects of their lives to highlight in the immediate aftermath of their deaths.

But we know the answer to this. Nil nisi etc. We at least let the body cool – bad taste there Worstall – before pointing out the flaws. More traditionally, the dead are perfection until the coffin’s in the ground, that’s when we’re allowed to start pissing into the grave.

There are exceptions, true, such as after a good hanging but that is the general rule. Simply good manners. And she’s not shown any, therefore the suspension.

Har, Har, Har

A little jokule in the obituary:

In 2013 Acorah, whose cars included a Triumph sports car and a Jaguar, was banned from driving for 28 months after crashing one of them, possibly under the influence of spirits.

Oh, tee, hee, eh?

And, of course, this had to be said:

Despite his psychic gifts Acorah, a compulsive smoker who kept various cats and dogs and wore a red-and-gold ring, was as vulnerable to mishaps as any other entertainer. On one occasion in 2013 he was forced to cancel a show in Dunfermline on his Eternal Spirits tour because of what the theatre described as “unforeseen circumstances”. As one annoyed fan told The Sunday People: “You would think he would have seen it coming.”

Quite right

“It is patronising and implies that my books, which are easy to read, must be easy to write,” she said, pugnaciously adding: “Nobody calls Agatha Christie ‘cosy’. To keep up writing in clear, well-balanced sentences takes a lot of hard work and if anyone doesn’t want a Glasgow kiss, swallow that opinion and put it where the sun don’t shine.”

Sir Jonathan Miller

“I’m simply not interested in belonging to a race,” he once said. “I’m English.”

Yes, that’s very good. And this is fun:

For a man best known for his inspired interpretation of opera, he could not read music.

Council flat available in Bloomsbury

For most of his married life he lived in a council flat opposite the British Museum in Bloomsbury.

MP married to a Fellow at UCL.

In current money, what? £150k a year as a couple, more? And we should all be righteously paying for them to have a nice council flat in the middle of fashionable London, should we?

To say nothing of how he got it – by being on he local council of course.

Seems entirely fair

Barrie Masters was born in 1956 in Rochford, Essex, one of four children to Margaret, a hospital orderly, and Barry, a mechanic. He was educated at King Edmund secondary school and misspent his youth in boxing gyms and youth clubs around Southend and Canvey Island. “It was as boring as Belgium. It was dreadful. That’s why we started a band,” he later said.

Presumably that explains Dr. Feelgood as well.

The tedium of what came to be known as “the Essex badlands” persuaded several others to do the same and the area produced a statistically improbable number of successful 1970s groups, including Dr Feelgood and the Kursaal Flyers.

Err, yes, it does.

The line-up also briefly included the harmonica player Lew Lewis, who received a seven-year sentence for armed robbery after holding up a post office with a fake pistol and attempting to make his escape on a bicycle.

About right

The tragedy of Robert Mugabe was thus complete. He was the guerrilla hero who defeated white minority rule but went on to ruin the newly independent country he inherited. He was the supposedly model African leader who turned into a despot, the liberator who became an oppressor, crushing opponents and rigging elections. He was the professed advocate of reconciliation and national unity who might have been another Nelson Mandela but ended up pursuing the politics of hatred and division — most notably and disastrously by seizing the white-owned farms that were the mainstay of his country’s economy.

Towards the end of his rule Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of Africa, was unable even to feed its own people. Inflation briefly reached 500 billion per cent and unemployment 90 per cent. Nearly a quarter of the population, including most of the brightest and the best, left the country.

Ironies abounded. As Mugabe neared his tenth decade, life expectancy in Zimbabwe fell to the lowest in the world. An intellectual with seven degrees, Mugabe sent his children to prestigious private schools in Harare while the state education system that he had built up during his early years in office collapsed for want of funds. His supporters staged ostentatiously lavish celebrations of his birthday as millions of Zimbabweans survived on a single daily bowl of cornmeal porridge.

Under Mugabe’s grotesque misrule commercial farms reverted to vegetable patches, the lightbulb to the oil lamp, the tap to the well and the wheel to the foot. Only the abolition of the worthless Zimbabwean dollar, and a power-sharing agreement with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in 2008, halted the country’s implosion.

Almost Southern Baptist this

He was in the news again in December 1987 when speaking out against the temptations on offer at a disco to mark the forthcoming new year celebrations. “It leads to the touching between the sexes, which constitutes fornication,” Smith thundered in his church magazine. “The irrefutable truth is that rock’n’roll and fearful immorality go hand-in-hand.”

At which point we can say that the Wee Frees (actually, he moved over to the Wee Wee Frees) are less extreme than the Southern Baptists. Who are against sex because they think dancing might break out.

Seems sound

Behind the charm and ready smile Bell was a volatile and insecure man of robust, right-wing opinions. He believed in capitalism and disliked the high-minded liberalism that he claimed dominated the media and universities. He was hostile to the EU, opposed most regulation of businesses and loathed such Tory “wets” as Chris Patten, Ian Gilmour and even John Major.

Especially that last…..

Error on the Times obits page

Allied Airborne Army in 1945, taking part in tank-buster operations against retreating German forces.

Sowrey preparing to leave Aden in 1967
Sowrey preparing to leave Aden in 1967

A charismatic, moustached officer who cut a dash and enjoyed racing cars, Sowrey was a skilful flyer and flew more than 60 types of aircraft.

Well, I assume it’s an error…..

Small world

Rodham tested that friendship on Prescott’s behalf in 1997, when he arranged a White House meeting for Yuri Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow, to help to smooth the way for a plan to introduce “smart” credit and debit cards to Russia. “I just called the Russia desk at the White House, as anybody in this country can do,” said Rodham, although it is possible that being the first lady’s brother helped to get the call put through to the right person. Luzhkov’s name rang alarm bells in the Clinton entourage. He had been accused of having links to Russian mobsters and had been involved in a dispute with an American businessman who was subsequently found murdered in Moscow.

Murdered is the wrong word there. Assassinated.

Knew the bloke, vaguely. But he and his assassin (not the shooter, the guy who paid at least by all sensible accounts) were customers.

There was a joint venture which owned a hotel and there was an argument over who really, really owned it. The Russian courts said the local, the arbitration one in Stockholm the American. A terminal solution was found….. not particularly Luzhkov involved, even as he would clearly and obviously known the shooter and probably done business in other realms with him.

Just a little point about the NHS

It was while playing tennis that he first noticed signs of the cancer that would kill him. He remained stoically cheerful throughout the nine weeks of his illness.

The NHS target for cancer treatment – from GP first thinking there might be something there to starting whatever chemo or radiation or whatever – is 62 days.

8.85 weeks.

Just an interesting number.