What, if anything, should a moral, liberal-minded person think about the hacking of the infidelity website Ashley Madison? And by ‘liberal-minded’, please note, I do not mean ‘Liberal Democrat-minded’, for such a person would perhaps merely think ‘Can I still join?’ and ‘I wonder if my wife is already a member, though?’ and ‘But will I find anybody prepared to do that thing I like with the pillow and the chicken?’
Rather, I mean somebody who believes in the sometimes jarring moral precepts that ‘People should be free’ and ‘People should not be a bit of a scumbag’.
Housing associations are a bit like Network Rail. They are what Tony Blair christened his ‘Third Way’ between capitalism and socialism, in the hope they would combine the best elements of both. Instead, they combine some of the worst: public sector lethargy and private sector greed.
According to a forthcoming investigation by Channel 4 News, 40 housing association executives are paid more than the Prime Minister for managing a pile of ex-council houses given to them on a plate and which were once managed by a clerk of works and a team of rent-collectors on no more than £30,000 a year.
One of the great moments of my student life was opening the door and seeing visitors step back, shocked. I’d shaved my hair off to an eighth of an inch. It felt like velvet but looked spiky and hard. It was all down to Ulrike Meinhof, co-founder with Andreas Baader of the Red Army Faction, who’d just hanged herself in Stammheim prison, in Germany.
My friends liked my haircut as we conflated Ulrike the martyr with images of a mullet-haired Jane Fonda raising her fist against the US army on behalf of the tortured Viet Cong.
So farewell, Yanis Varoufakis. You used to be Greece’s finance minister. Then you resigned, or were you sacked? You took control of the Greek economy six months ago when it was growing. Yes, honestly! Growth last year ran at 0.8 per cent, with forecasts of 3 per cent this year. The government had a primary budget surplus. Unemployment was falling. Until you came along.
Varoufakis was a product of British universities.
Not content with Facebooking our every foible, Instagramming the births of our children and live-tweeting our daily lives, more and more of us are now making a public spectacle of dying. We’re inviting strangers not merely to ‘like’ expertly filtered photos of our breakfasts, but to admire the way we peg out. Nothing better captures the death of privacy than this publicisation of death.
It began with the literary set.
It’s not quite as bad as we feared: Sealed Air, the company in New Jersey that makes bubble-wrap, is not yet discontinuing poppable bubble-wrap. But its newly designed sibling, non-poppable bubble-wrap, surely spells the end for the real thing: it’s cheaper to ship, because it leaves the factory airless and thus can be ‘flat-packed for your convenience’. The companies who receive it will need to buy an expensive pump to fill the reams of polythene with columns of air, and that air will be beyond the popping power of human fingertips.
François Hollande appears to have been consigned to the political mortuary. The first Socialist French president since François Mitterrand has been more unpopular than any of his predecessors in office — his approval rating sank to 13 per cent towards the end of last year.
His style of government has been ridiculed. His private life has been the subject of mockery. He is compared to a hapless captain of a pedalo navy or a wobbly French pudding, a Flanby.
The British have always been in love with Florence. First visits cannot disappoint. One friend recalls being herded around as a schoolgirl, unexpectedly coming face to face with the replica of Michelangelo’s David in the Piazza della Signoria and fainting right there in the street. Return visits can be just as stunning.
You can fly in to Pisa or to Florence airport, which receives an increasing number of flights.