• Obituary,  Stateside

    RIP John McCain

    A brave and patriotic and decent man, dead at 81. For all my political disagreements with McCain, two things stand out for me about him: — His refusal to accept early release from his six-year imprisonment in North Vietnam until all his fellow American POWs were freed. — This moment from his 2008 campaign for President:

  • Music,  Obituary

    RIP Chuck Berry

    Dead at 90. I never saw him perform live, but what would rock and roll have been without him and Little Richard? Could the Beatles and the Stones have even existed? Ninety percent of what came after Berry and Richard has been forgettable dross in comparison. Not just great musicianship and great songs, but some of the smartest lyrics ever. One of my many favorites:

  • Israel,  Obituary

    Shimon Peres z”l

    Shimon Peres, who made aliyah with his family to pre-state Palestine in 1934 and whose life in many ways embodied the history of modern Israel, has died at the age of 93. After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Peres became acting prime minister of Israel. The following year, in the one and only Israeli election with separate voting for prime minister, I was proud to vote for Peres. But he very narrowly lost to Benjamin Netanyahu. Peres’s loss can probably be traced to the dashing of hopes for peace with the Palestinians in the months leading up to the election. Ironically it may have been Peres’s approval of…

  • Obituary,  Sports

    Remembering Muhammad Ali

    “I am the greatest. I am the king of the world.” “Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee.” “Rope-a-dope.” (The strategy of leaning back in the ropes and letting your opponent wear himself out before going in for the knockout.) “The Ali Shuffle will make you hustle.” (My brother used to say this a lot, for some reason.) All these phrases are lodged in my brain, probably for the rest of my life, thanks to the great Muhammad Ali, who died Thursday at 74. There’s never been anyone remotely like him. Like many people, I suppose, I have a slightly shameful fascination with boxing. While fully grasping the horrible…

  • Music,  Obituary

    RIP Merle Haggard

    Dead at 79. He is remembered for “Okie from Muskogee,” a reactionary song which I happen to like very much. He was an unashamed American patriot. But I’m especially fond of his part in “Pancho and Lefty” with Willie Nelson. And I appreciated his cover of Woody Guthrie’s angry, class-conscious “Jesus Christ”– where he left no doubt whose side he was on. Update: Stuart Elliot wrote at New Appeal to Reason: After his tremendous hit “Okie from Muskogee” which was released in September 1969, spent 4 weeks as Number One on the Top Country list, and named the Country Music Association Single (and album) of the Year in 1970, Merle…

  • Comedy,  Obituary

    RIP Bob Elliott

    Bob Elliott, who with his late partner Ray Goulding formed the comedy duo of Bob and Ray in the 1940s and continued performing for decades, has died at the age of 92. One of their classic deadpan routines involved an interview about Komodo Dragons (Bob is the interviewee). I’m sure we’ve all had conversations that went something like this:

  • Obituary,  Stateside

    RIP Frances Kelsey

    Those who rail in general against “excessive government regulation” might want to take a moment to remember Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, the meddlesome government bureaucrat who resisted corporate pressure and blocked widespread distribution of thalidomide in the US to pregnant women– thus likely preventing tens of thousands of horrible birth deformities.

  • Music,  Obituary

    RIP Theodore Bikel

    Theodore Bikel, who died Tuesday at the age of 91 after a very full (and politically active) life, was known for many things, especially his numerous portrayals of Tevye in productions of “Fiddler on the Roof.” But I will always remember him as a continuously-heard voice from my childhood; the wonderful album of worldwide folk songs (several from Israel) he recorded with the Israeli singer Geula Gill was in constant rotation in my household for years. Even though only one of the songs was in English (“Oleana“), I also loved the songs I couldn’t make heads or tails of. (Mary Hopkin borrowed one of the melodies for her hit song…

  • History,  Obituary

    RIP Nicholas Winton

    I hope the life and achievements of Nicholas Winton, who died at the age of 106, are getting full recognition in the British media. Winton was belatedly recognized for his role in helping to rescue and find families for at least 669 Jewish children from Nazi-controlled Czechoslovakia in the months before the outbreak of World War II. “I called myself Honorary Secretary of the Children’s Section of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia,” Mr. Winton told The Washington Post in 1989. “The other people,” he added, referring to government bureaucrats and others confronted with his doggedness, “they just called me a bloody nuisance.” …He wrote letters to government leaders…

  • Labour Party,  Obituary

    Remembering Roy Mason

    Guest post by Sackcloth & Ashes On 20th April 2015 Roy Mason, the former Labour MP for Barnsley (after 1983 Barnsley Central) and a minister in the Wilson and Callaghan governments, died aged 91. The phrase ‘the last of his kind’ is a cliché, but in his case it is sadly true. Mason was a former miner and an NUM official who represented his Barnsley constituents from 1953 to 1987 (after which he was ennobled), and in his political career he is best known for his stint as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 1976 to 1979. His life and career are well summarised here and in this very…