In Memoriam

In Memoriam

A Tribute to Seymour Tabin, 1918-2015

By 5.5.15

My grandfather was born in a dangerous world.

It was 1918, the First World War was raging, and the Spanish flu pandemic was claiming lives by the tens of millions. But he was armed with his keen intelligence and the values instilled by his hard-working immigrant parents. He excelled academically and went to college. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago, where he went on to law school and Law Review. He fell in love and married, and just as his legal career was beginning and he was ready to start a family, his country was drawn into another world war.

A few months after Pearl Harbor, figuring there would be a draft, he decided that he’d like to be a naval officer. As he told the story to me, the recruitment officer, perhaps in denial about the manpower the Navy would need for the undertaking ahead, was lukewarm about accepting him at first, and was struck by his persistence. He didn’t know he’d been accepted until he got an envelope in the mail addressed to Ensign Seymour Tabin.

In Memoriam

Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015)

By 3.25.15

It is not often that the leader of a small city-state — in this case, Singapore — gets an international reputation. But no one deserved it more than Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of Singapore as an independent country in 1959, and its prime minister from 1959 to 1990. With his death, he leaves behind a legacy valuable not only to Singapore but to the world.

Born in Singapore in 1923, when it was a British colony, Lee Kuan Yew studied at Cambridge University after World War II, and was much impressed by the orderly, law-abiding England of that day. It was a great contrast with the poverty-stricken and crime-ridden Singapore of that era.

Today Singapore has a per capita Gross Domestic Product more than 50 percent higher than that of the United Kingdom and a crime rate a small fraction of that in England. A 2010 study showed more patents and patent applications from the small city-state of Singapore than from Russia. Few places in the world can match Singapore for cleanliness and orderliness.

In Memoriam

An Eagle and a Giant

By 3.24.15

In the week that a talented, 24-year-old linebacker retired from pro football because he didn’t want to risk serious injury, we learn of the death Saturday of Chuck Bednarik, the NFL’s last 60-minute man. Taking the opposite approach from that of young Chris Borland, now a former San Francisco 49er, Bednarik said in retirement that he wished he could have played until he was 65. “That would have been just long enough,” he said. 

Bednarik, 89 at his passing, only missed three games in his 14 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. In most of those games he played center on offense and linebacker on defense. He also played some on special teams, including punting. He made the Pro Bowl eight times during his career and played on the Eagles’ last NFL championship team in 1960.

Bednarik was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1967, the first year of his eligibility. Coaches and sportswriters now give the Chuck Bednarik Award to their pick for the best collegiate defensive player of the year. The Eagles retired Bednarik’s uniform number 60 in 1987.

In Memoriam

Funeral Homily for Stan Evans

By 3.18.15

Stan Evans has gone home to God. It is truly the end of an era. We have bid farewell to giants like Barry Goldwater and Bill Buckley. Now we commend to God a great journalist, a great thinker, a wonderful raconteur, and our good friend: M. Stanton Evans.

Everyone in this church has a story or many of them about Stan Evans. Since I’ve got the pulpit, I will tell you how we met:

It was at Columbia University in New York City during one of our periodic upheavals. Stan showed up to report the story. He wanted to get in touch with campus conservatives, and I was the Chairman of Columbia Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). He ended up staying with my good friend Michael Kogan. A graduate student in Philosophy, he was our elder statesman. Stan not only reported, he gave us encouragement and hope. We felt that we were part of something greater, and it was clear that Stan Evans truly was a mentor and guide.

In Memoriam

Men Like Stan Evans

By 3.9.15

“I need to call Stan,” I told my kids as I dropped them off. It was Sunday, which was always a good day to reach Stan Evans. When he needed me, he usually called on Sunday evenings. And when Stan wanted to talk, he kept calling until he got you. He was conservative all right—so much so that modern technologies like voicemail and (most of all) email were not options.

No, Stan preferred old stuff, especially Cold War documents on yellowed, wrinkled paper, listing names of so-called “progressives” who, Stan slowly confirmed year after year, were often not merry liberals but closet communists doing the dirty work of Moscow. And yet through it all—the documents and double-dealing and deceit—Stan always maintained his renowned humor. “Happiness is finding a declassified list of closet communists,” he once told me with a laugh.

Now, it was February 8 (which I know from my phone log), and I needed to call Stan.

In Memoriam

Adios, Señor White Sox

By 3.3.15

So far, 2015 has been hard on Chicago baseball greats, and on true gents of the Second City. Just five weeks after the death of “Mr. Cub,” aka Ernie Banks, we have the sad news of the weekend death of Minnie Minoso, Mr. White Sox.

The two recently departed stars (comet in Minnie’s case) had a lot in common. Both the first blacks on their Major League teams. Both exceptional players. Both cheerful men who loved baseball and understood at the deepest level that the game is supposed to be fun for players and for fans. Both men loved their adopted city of Chicago and were much loved in return by Chicagoans, a tough audience by any measure. Both are now gone, but neither will be forgotten. Both have statues of themselves outside of their respective ball yards.

In Memoriam

R.I.P. Rocky Bridges

By 2.6.15

It took more than the Ted Williams, Stan Musials, Duke Sniders, Mickey Mantles, and Willie Mays of the world to make the 1950s a golden-era for baseball. “The Show” could not have gone on without the less-talented, the utility guys, the players to be named later. Guys with names like Hobie Landrith, Wayne Terwilliger, Joe Ginsberg, and Sammy Esposito. They too serve who only hit .207 and play in 30 games.

Young fans of the “Game of the Week” with Dizzy Dean and collectors of baseball cards during that idyllic decade remember these C-list spear-carriers. One of my favorites from this lot was Rocky Bridges. Bridges managed to stay in the major leagues for 11 years on minimal talent. He stayed in the game long after his playing days, coaching in the bigs for a few years and managing in the minor leagues for a few decades.

Word has just reached me that Rocky Bridges (and isn’t that a great baseball name?) died January 27 morning of natural causes in his adopted home of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He was 87 and is survived by two sons, a daughter, and a brace of grandchildren. His wife, Mary, died in 2008.

In Memoriam

The Death of Marcus Borg, Christian Panentheist

By 1.27.15

The heterodox theologian and controversialist Marcus Borg, who died recently at age 72, has been eulogized in countless blogs and articles by admirers acclaiming his spiritual insights. Others, including some theological traditionalists, have recalled him personally as kind, thoughtful, and gracious. Doubtless he was cherished by his many grieving friends and family, and may God comfort them all in their loss.

Unfortunately, Borg did not believe in the kind of personal deity, or “supernatural theism” as he derided it, who provides this kind of direct comfort to individuals. Instead, he advocated an impersonal deity understood through panentheism (distinct from straight pantheism), which asserts that all creation is a part of God. As professor at Oregon State University, and as scholar at the once widely publicized Jesus Seminar, he specialized in deconstructing traditional Christian beliefs about God, Christ, and the Bible.

In Memoriam

Doubleheaders in Heaven Now

By 1.26.15

Life is not fair, as all adults know. Many examples are put forward to illustrate this melancholy truth. For baseball fans of a certain age the argument-ender on this one is the sad fact that Ernie Banks never got to play in a World Series. In fact, one of the best players of the fifties and sixties never played in any post-season game, as most of his Hall of Fame career came before Major League Baseball went to the multi-layered post-season series format. And save for 1969, Banks’s Chicago Cubs never got past Labor Day anywhere near the top of the National League heap, or with a shot at getting there (for most years, make that Independence Day).

In Memoriam

Henry Manne: He Was Law & Economics

By 1.19.15

I first heard Henry’s name at Harvard Law School, in Victor Brudney’s Corporate Finance class. Brudney was a demanding teacher in the (Paper Chase) Kingsfield mold, and as he incorporated ideas from the finance literature in his course he had the reputation of being conservative. Not that he really was right of center. “If you think I’m right-wing, you should see this guy Manne,” he told us.

Henry Manne, you see, had written a book to defend insider trading, and that had brought down on him the wrath of the entire legal establishment. They couldn’t tell you what was wrong with insider trading, mind you, but they didn’t need to. They just knew! But while they had passion on their side, Henry had reason, the intelligence and knowledge of economics that could demonstrate just how impoverished their ideas were.

Henry was the true founder of law-and-economics, one of the most consequential schools of thought in the last 100 years. Forget literary deconstruction, feminism, gender studies, fads devoid of content or rigor. Law-and-economics has transformed the legal academy, judging, and the rules we live by. And it started with Henry.