12. Allan Gerson, June 19, 1945-Dec 1, 2019, of Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease Allan Gerson Made Libya Pay for Pan Am 103 Bombing By James R. Hagerty | WSJ
Creative lawyer helped win $2.7 billion in damages, in what started out as a quixotic quest
After the terrorist bombing of Pan American Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, lawyers for some of the 270 people killed did the obvious: They sued Pan Am for alleged negligence in allowing the bomb to be smuggled onboard.
Allan Gerson, an expert in international law who died Sunday of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease at age 74, had another idea. In a New York Times op-ed article in July 1992, Dr. Gerson proposed that the Libyan government, suspected of involvement in the attack, should pay damages to relatives of the victims. The idea seemed preposterous. How was Libya, which denied involvement, to be forced to pay?
Yet Dr. Gerson and other lawyers in 2003 won an agreement requiring Libya to pay $2.7 billion, or $10 million per victim. Dr. Gerson, whose hobbies included photography and designing jewelry, credited his offbeat approach to the law. “I look for solutions that lie outside the ordinary way of doing things,” he once said.
Bruce Smith, a former Pan Am pilot whose wife, Ingrid, died on Pan Am 103, saw Dr. Gerson’s op-ed and hired him to pursue a case against Libya. Dr. Gerson’s initial hope was that the United Nations Security Council could create a commission to seize Libyan assets and use them to compensate victims of the bombing. He couldn’t persuade the U.S. government to pursue that approach.
Dr. Gerson then filed a U.S. federal court suit against Libya, but that failed after Libya, as expected, invoked the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which protects governments from lawsuits.
So Dr. Gerson, working with another lawyer, Mark Zaid, pushed the idea of an amendment to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to permit lawsuits in certain cases against governments deemed to be sponsoring terrorism. The amendment was enacted in 1996. That made the lawsuit credible, and lawyers for other victims joined Dr. Gerson in his case against Libya. The Libyan government, eager to re-establish normal relations with the U.S. and other nations, finally agreed to a settlement. . .
Read the entire obituary in the WSJ at https://www.wsj.com/articles/allan-gerson-made-libya-pay-for-pan-am-103-bombing-11575483309
James R. (Bob) Hagerty, who is based in Pittsburgh, writes obituaries for The Wall Street Journal. Over the past 30 years, he also has worked as a reporter, editor and bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal and the International Herald Tribune in Hong Kong, London, Brussels, Paris, Atlanta and New York. He holds a B.A. degree in economics from the University of North Dakota. He served as managing editor of The Wall Street Journal’s Asian edition (1994-98) and London bureau chief of The WSJ (2000-03).
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Psychology Professor, Susan Wheelan, 1947 to Oct. 26, 2019
Susan Wheelan devoted much of her career to studying groups of people thrown together to work as teams at businesses and other organizations.
A psychology professor at Temple University, she cataloged the many ways teams can grow dysfunctional. She also devised methods to deal with conflicts and make teams more productive.
Her 1999 book. “Creating Effective Teams,” features guidance for people stuck on teams beset by bickering, sulking and finger-pointing.
When groups first form, she wrote, interaction tends to be polite, and members defer to the leader. Then comes a second stage, in which members discover they aren’t on the same page and squabble about goals and procedures.
Dr. Wheelan saw this conflict as necessary to work through differences and establish a climate in which members feel free to express disagreements. Some teams get stuck in this stage, however, partly because members blame one another rather than searching for ways to accommodate differing views.
Patience is a must, she wrote. Typically, groups need at least six months to reach a stage at which they can be highly effective. . .
She was skeptical about such team-building exercises as rock climbing, playing basketball while riding donkeys or “anything that involves sharing feelings you don’t want to share.”
Dr. Wheelan founded a company, GDQ Associates Inc., providing consulting services. Two psychologists in Sweden, Maria Akerlund and Christian Jacobsson, now provide services based on her research through their company, GDQ Associates AB.
Susan Alberta Wheelan was born April 30, 1947, in Providence, R.I. Her mother was a social worker, and her father worked in a post office. As a young adult, she briefly considered becoming a Roman Catholic nun. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Stonehill College in 1969 and went on for a master’s degree at what is now Eastern Connecticut State University and a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin.
At Temple University, she became a full professor and won a Great Teacher Award in 1992.
When teams don’t work, she wrote, members often blame the leader or other members considered troublesome. Those blame games are so common that “it seems as if every group, on every continent, contains an incompetent, evil or mentally unbalanced member,” Dr. Wheelan wrote. “This is simply not the case.”
She added: “Most groups contain people who are trying to do a good job. They may not know how. They may not be socially skilled, but they are trying.” She advised team members to examine factors other than personalities that might be blocking progress.
For those whose views came under attack, she had this advice: Don’t take it personally. Nor should group members expect to reach perfect harmony. A group’s success, she wrote, didn’t depend on members liking one another.
She also favored allowing members of a group to revive discussion of issues that others thought were already resolved. That can help ensure all members understand and accept the same goals, she wrote.
In the mid-1970s, Dr. Wheelan moved into a row house in South Philadelphia. Next door was a 14-year-old girl, Renaya Furtick, whose mother had died and whose father was absent. Renaya was skipping school and experimenting with marijuana. Dr. Wheelan befriended her, persuaded her to resume her studies, and eventually became her mother through adoption. Renaya Furtick Wheelan earned a doctorate in psychological studies at Temple and now helps women in prison prepare for life on the outside.
“She kept telling me, ‘You are worthy and you can do this,’” Dr. Furtick Wheelan said.
The Butcher of Beijing
Obituary: Li Peng died on July 22nd. He was 90.
China’s prime minister in 1987-98, who became the public face of the Tiananmen massacre.
The Economist | Print edition | Obituary | Jul 25th 2019
His diary entry for April 27th 1989 recorded the moment when the trouble touched Li Peng directly. On his way home from his prime ministerial office in Beijing, his car was blocked by student protesters. His driver and bodyguards—and he was glad to have both at that moment—had to find another way round. . .
Nobody had come to beat up and drag away the protesters, as had happened during the only previous outbreak of large-scale unrest on that vast plaza during Communist rule. That was in 1976. . . Now, 13 years later, many Chinese were allowing themselves to believe that the party might at last be about to take off in a new political direction, one more open to dissent. This Li could not allow. He would rather die, he wrote in his diary, than let the protests get out of hand. . .
Richard M. DeVos, Founder of Amway March 4, 1926 ~ September 6, 2018 (age 92)
Amway co-founder and Orlando Magic Senior Chairman Richard M. DeVos died September 6, 2018, at his home in Ada, Michigan. He was 92.
Rich was known globally for his business achievements and locally in West Michigan and Central Florida for his community leadership and giving, but often referred to himself simply as “just a sinner saved by grace in Christ Jesus.”
Born March 4, 1926, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Rich graduated from Grand Rapids Christian High School in 1944 and attended Calvin College before serving in the Army Air Corps from 1944 to 1946. In 1953, he married the former Helen J. Van Wesep, who passed away on October 18, 2017.
His early ventures with business partner Jay Van Andel included a flight school and one of the first drive-in restaurants in Michigan. In 1949, the duo became distributors for Nutrilite, which sold vitamin supplements. Their experience with that company inspired the founding of Amway in 1959 in the basements of their homes in Ada, Michigan.
Through Amway they offered people the opportunity to own a business and achieve through their own efforts. Today Amway is the world’s leading direct selling business.
Rich was Amway president from the company’s founding until 1993, when he was succeeded by his son, Dick, and in 2002 by his son, Doug. Rich served on the company’s board of directors until his death.
A motivational speaker who inspired audiences around the world, Rich encouraged people to set big goals and work hard to achieve them. His most famous speeches included “Try or Cry,” “The Three A’s,” “Life Enrichers,” and the award-winning “Selling America.”
He wrote five books: BELIEVE! Compassionate Capitalism, Hope From My Heart, Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People, and Simply Rich. Simply Rich is a memoir reflecting on his work, faith, family, and the core values he held onto from his humble, Christian upbringing through his success as co-founder of Amway.
The DeVos family purchased the Orlando Magic in September 1991. The Magic’s mission is to be world champions on and off the court, delivering legendary moments every step of the way. The Magic have won five division championships (1995, 1996, 2008, 2009, 2010) and had seven 50-plus win seasons, while capturing the Eastern Conference title in 1995 and 2009. In 2016, Mr. DeVos was inducted into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame.
Rich gave his time and leadership to many organizations and causes. As chairman of the New Grand Rapids Committee in the 1970s, he helped lead the city’s revitalization and later spearheaded projects to improve his hometown through higher education, health care, economic development, and the arts. His leadership roles included serving as chairman, Butterworth Health Corp.; director, Spectrum Health; director, Heart of West Michigan United Way; president, Junior Achievement of Grand Rapids; and as a member of the board of trustees for the Gerald R. Ford Foundation. . .
A major supporter of the Republican Party, Rich was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Presidential Commission on AIDS, and he was finance chairman for the Republican National Committee and a member of the Advisory Board for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Through the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Rich and his late wife, Helen, supported hundreds of Christian churches and ministries, with an emphasis on alleviating human suffering and strengthening community. In addition, they supported important community projects such as the DeVos Performance Hall and DeVos Place, which served as catalysts for growth. Areas of particular passion included The Grand Rapids Christian Schools, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, and the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative. They said they were inspired to give because of their Christian faith and a responsibility to be good stewards of the financial resources God had given them.
Rich was recognized with numerous national honors including the Direct Selling Association Hall of Fame and Lifetime Achievement Award, Sales and Marketing Executives International Academy of Achievement, Junior Achievement National Business Hall of Fame, Norman Vincent Peale Award for Positive Thinking, Horatio Alger Association Horatio Alger Award, and, with Helen, the Philanthropy Roundtable William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership. He was awarded 14 honorary doctorate degrees.
A member of LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Rich served as an elder and active member. He also was a former member of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Rich was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Helen, and is greatly missed by their children and spouses Dick and Betsy (Secretary of Education), Dan and Pamella, Cheri, and Doug and Maria; . . . He also is survived by two sisters, Bernice Heys and Janice (Bob) Courts.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to Grand Rapids Christian School Association, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church, or Prison Fellowship Ministries.
You may review further details about his life, as a man of faith, as an entrepreneur, his legacy and his speeches by visiting www.RichDeVos.com.
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Manhattan’s longest-serving district attorney, died on July 21st
Robert Morgenthau The long arm of the law, who made New York a safer place, was 99
If YOU ASKED Robert Morgenthau which of his prosecutions he was proudest of, you might expect him to give a half-smile, pause to knock out his cigar in the brown glass ashtray, and in his usual soft growl—a strange blend of modest, clipped patrician and Noo York—reply that it was his pursuit of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. He trailed this shady outfit, laundromat of choice for narcos, terrorists and dictators, for years, before nailing it for fraud in 1991 with losses then estimated at $15bn; [This was an estimate at the time of the bank’s indictment in 1991. The known figure to date is $8.4bn.] the bank was forced to close and forfeited all its assets. It was the biggest bank-fraud prosecution in world financial history, spanning 76 countries, and if you wondered what a DA from Manhattan was doing in it, his answer came with more than a half-smile: “The long arm of the law.”
However, it was not the case he took most pride in. He was shyly proud of them all—3.5m prosecutions, he reckoned, over the 35 years he had presided over the DA building at the edge of Chinatown, from his desk with the famous five Rolodexes. He had gone after rapists, extortioners, drug-dealers, “Teflon John” Gotti, John Lennon’s killer and the CEO of Tyco International, who had drained his company of $100m. These raps stood out in a docket crowded with the usual misdemeanors of a huge, close-packed city. But every crime mattered equally to him because it mattered equally to the victim, whether millionaire investor or some poor woman fretting that drugs were being sold on her street. Anyone joining his team of prosecutors knew that this was the Boss’s bottom line.
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And every malefactor needed to fear the interest of the DA’s office. No one was too rich, middle-class or well connected to escape his hawkish eye. If he thought a case could be brought, he would bring it, no matter what the public or any power group thought. If a teenager could be prosecuted for breaking into a grocery store, you also had to prosecute those comfortable people who put their money offshore and paid no taxes.
Yet this was not the situation when he arrived in the job in 1975. The DA’s office was a mess, as the whole city was, near-bankrupt, filthy and battered by violent crime. He immediately took on more prosecutors, streamlined their jobs so that each of them handled a case from start to finish, hired minorities and women, expanded the homicide department and brought in as many new evidence-testing techniques as scientists could invent. He added 34 more units, including identity theft, consumer affairs, “cold” cases, Asian gangs and firearms trafficking. By the time he left, having seen out 16 police commissioners, his team had swelled to nearly 500 prosecutors with a budget of $75m—and murders in Manhattan had dropped from 642, when he started, to 58. Thanks to “Morgy”, as the tabloids liked to call him, the city felt safe, and New Yorkers rewarded him with landslides whenever his job came up.
He also brought in a rackets bureau, along with a crowd of accountants to track down financial crimes. In his previous job, as federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York (where he indicted no fewer than 150 mobsters, including Anthony (“Tony Ducks”) Corallo, whose very nickname boasted how slippery he was), he had set up a unit to investigate Wall Street. It was long overdue. As DA he spent a third of his budget in pursuit of money-launderers and stock manipulators, not forgetting those clean-looking tax lawyers and corporate accountants. His team had to act like vacuum cleaners, sucking up every least scrap of evidence, and like bully boys, threatening small fry with certain jail-time to persuade them to co-operate, which might land even bigger fish.
Some thought he was biased politically. He was a liberal Democrat, after all, a Kennedy appointee (as well as a Kennedy friend, from the days when he and Jack, two wealthy young scions of east-coast political dynasties, had raced sailing boats off Cape Cod). As such he twice ran briefly for governor of New York, but felt too awkward to shine on the stump. He supported gun control, never sought the death penalty and spent much of his time, pro bono, helping immigrants avoid deportation: good Democratic causes. But people’s politics had no importance. Justice did.
His success rate was impressive. Three-quarters of his cases ended in convictions. . .
He liked to get convictions. Any DA did. Yet he didn’t count them up like notches on a gun, because he cared about justice more. . .
It all fell under the head of doing something useful with his life, part of a plea bargain he had made with the Almighty when, in 1944, his ship USS Lansdale had been sunk under him by German torpedoes. Once spared, he became a lawyer, then such a prosecutor that he inspired the DA hero of “Law and Order”, a hit TV series. But he might have been a farmer, for his not-so-secret other life was on his grandfather’s 270 acres of orchards upstate at East Fishkill. There he spent his summers as a boy, escaping the heat of the city, and there with the same purpose he worked later, in overalls, returning to Manhattan with eggs and hard cider to sell. The long arm of the law, which criminals dreaded, also reached to prune apple trees and pick a fruit or two. McIntosh were best. ■
This article appeared in the Obituary section of the print edition under the headline “The long arm of the law.” Read the entire obituary at https://www.economist.com/obituary/2019/08/03/obituary-robert-morgenthau-died-on-july-21st
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Franco Zeffirelli, the director of spectacular operas, plays and films Died on June 15th at 96
Obituary | The Economist | Print Edition | June 22, 2019
THE FIRST time Franco Zeffirelli felt he was a special person was in the late 1940s, when he was in his 20s. Slim, blond and blue-eyed, he could smoulder like Montgomery Clift, all charm and corner-of-the-eye looks. People panted round him to get his favours, of one sort or another. He was merely playing small roles in theatre then, and painting sets, but he began to hear a buzz about him, a murmur of “Zeffirelli!”, even from the gallery seats.
The buzz persisted, and it grew, until in his early 40s—and still very good-looking—he knew real fame. Not, however, for acting, but for a decade of sensational productions in opera, theatre and film. His “Traviata” in Dallas in 1958 crowned the career of Maria Callas, now the most tear-inducing Violetta of them all, and his “Lucia di Lammermoor” the next year at Covent Garden launched the rise of Joan Sutherland, pulling out every dramatic stop in robes that shone with blood. His staging of “Romeo and Juliet” at London’s Old Vic theatre in 1960, with very young actors, was a wild success, and the film he based on it in 1968 was loved the world over, bringing a new generation to Shakespeare. His “Taming of the Shrew” the year before was a hit too, with Richard Burton and Liz Taylor both backing it and funding it, though they were so riotous on set that he could barely direct them. And for his six-hour TV film “Jesus of Nazareth”, his take on the life of Christ—to him, his best work—stars flew in from Hollywood to beg to be cast
Opera, theatre, cinema: he could do them all. He was like a sultan with three wives, who while making love to one would think “Next time I have to try the other one.” Critics sniffed, as if a man should attempt only one thing in life. But for the public the name “Zeffirelli” was a magic thing. It meant splendour, sometimes on a massive scale: the Arena at Verona seething with white horses and Spanish dancers for “Carmen”, or “the Aida of Aidas” he staged there in 2006, with a huge gilded pyramid looming over a cast of hundreds. It meant no detail overlooked; no heartstring left untugged. “Too beautiful,” some said of his work. . . Beauty, spectacle and Zeffirelli went together.
Yet his name had once meant almost nothing. He was illegitimate, and his mother, obliged to conceal his father, had meant to call him “Zeffiretti”, little breeze, after a Mozart aria. A clerical error made him what he was. . . After his mother’s death, when he was six, a cousin he called Aunt Lide brought him up. She stayed with him like a mother until she died, perhaps the only love, . . he believed he could fully trust.
His greatest love, though, hitting him right in the forehead and the heart, was for Luchino Visconti. After they met, when he was still a bit-part actor and Luchino the leading director in Italy, Luchino got him better roles and made him his assistant on “La Terra Trema” and “Bellissima”, films in the neo-realist style. For several stormy years they lived together. He hated the word “gay” because it lacked virility, but was happy to be Luchino’s “creature”, enthralled by his talent, his teaching and his scented patrician ways. Not least, Luchino taught him how to lose his temper explosively, effectively—and then, in an instant, be charming again.
Charm certainly helped with the divas he met. He became one of Callas’s rare confidants. . . It was he who suggested that she ought to try a lighter repertoire, and who tailored her triumphant Covent Garden “Tosca” in 1964 to reflect the strains in her own love-life.
This article appeared in the Obituary section of the print edition under the headline “The pursuit of beauty”
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In Memoriam: Obituary: Charles Van Doren died on April 9th America’s most notorious quiz-show contestant was 93
The ECONOMIST | Print edition | Obituary | Apr 27th 2019
He seemed a very nervy contestant. Standing in the soundproof glass booth on the set of “Twenty-One”, NBC’s flagship quiz show during the winter of 1956-57, he’d bite his lip, furrow his eyebrows, blow out his cheeks. “Oh my goodness!” he would sigh, and then pull out a big white handkerchief and mop his face all over, taking care to pat not smear, as he’d been instructed.
Week after week he returned to grapple with questions that seemed to get ever harder: about explorers and boxing and the American civil war, about newspaper history, the boundaries of the Black Sea and what happened to the six wives of Henry VIII. As his winnings grew—to $129,000 (worth $1.2m today), more than anybody had ever won on this new Klondike, the television quiz show—America became transfixed. Nearly 50m people tuned in each week. Geritol, manufacturers of a tonic for “tired blood” and the show’s sponsors, came to believe their own punchline: “Feel stronger fast.” Women wrote to him in their thousands, more than a few proposing marriage. He appeared on the cover of Time.
The next public part he played, three years later, was even more nerve-racking. It was in Washington, DC, rather than New York. Instead of the nation, it was the eyes of the House special subcommittee on legislative oversight that were on him. “I would give almost anything I have to reverse the course of my life in the last three years,” he told the congressmen. “I have deceived my friends, and I had millions of them…I was involved, deeply involved, in a deception.” The road to perdition and back would be a long one. Charles Lincoln Van Doren was clever; no one doubted that. Few had known how deeply flawed he was.
He was born into America’s intellectual aristocracy. His mother was a novelist and former editor at the Nation; his father a beloved and respected teacher who won a Pulitzer prize for poetry and praise for a biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne. His uncle also won a Pulitzer, and his aunt was the influential books editor of the Herald Tribune. Over summer lunches at the long table in their country garden in Connecticut, young Van Dorens fought to be the first to identify lines from Shakespeare. “Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall” (“Measure for Measure”); “To do a great right, do a little wrong” (“The Merchant of Venice”).
Young Charles was a speed reader, getting through two or three books a day. His parents gave him free rein—and he ran. The High School of Music & Art in New York, a masters in astrophysics, a PhD in English, both from Columbia. “I believe nothing is of more vital importance to our civilisation than education.” He would follow his father and teach at Columbia, where they would share an office. . .
When his own promised future in television failed to materialise, he began telling anyone who would listen that the shows were rigged with the contestants given the questions in advance. No one believed him, at least not at first.
But eventually the questions grew louder. Van Doren panicked. He lied to his family, even to his lawyer. He dissembled before his superiors. He sent a telegram to the congressional committee declaring his innocence, and then for a week he vanished. He took his car up to New England and drove round aimlessly from one town to another before holing up in his parents’ country house in Connecticut. There he pondered a letter from a complete stranger, a woman who’d seen him on television. “She admired my work there. She told me that the only way I could ever live with myself and make up for what I had done—of course, she, too, did not know exactly what that was—was to admit it, clearly, openly, truly.”
Through his father (again), he found work as a jobbing editor at the “Encyclopedia Britannica”. He refused to co-operate with “The Quiz Show”, the film Robert Redford made nearly 40 years after the scandal broke. It was a long time before he taught again, but the lesson he took away lasted his whole life.
This article appeared in the Obituary section of the print edition under the headline “American Icarus”
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Charles Van Doren died on April 9th
America’s most notorious quiz-show contestant was 93
He seemed a very nervy contestant. Standing in the soundproof glass booth on the set of “Twenty-One”, NBC’s flagship quiz show during the winter of 1956-57, he’d bite his lip, furrow his eyebrows, blow out his cheeks. “Oh my goodness!” he would sigh, and then pull out a big white handkerchief and mop his face all over, taking care to pat not smear, as he’d been instructed. (more…)
Andrew Marshall – The Pentagon’s longest-serving Strategist
The Pentagon’s longest-serving strategist, for more than four decades, died on March 26th, aged 97
AT THE HEART of many a large and ambitious empire sits one man who is not the ruler, though the ruler often listens to him; and who runs no department, though his faithful followers are found all through government. He is rarely seen in public, publishes very little, avoids journalists, sits silently through meetings, and yet steers the country. For more than four decades, America’s version of this inscrutable figure was Andrew Marshall. (more…)
Maestro and Music
The conductor, pianist and composer was 89
The Economist | Print edition | Obituary | Mar 7th 2019
WHEN CRITICS had a go at André Previn in his heyday, the word “showman” was an easy gibe. The maestro seemed bigger than the music, and that was no surprise. After all, his background was in Hollywood scores, turning out reams of stuff for Lassie to bark at or Debbie Reynolds to talk over. Some of that glitz and schmaltz seemed to hang around in his gentle American voice, as well as in his soft spot for Rachmaninov and the too-lush sound of his string sections. In his spare time, for many years, he played jazz with his own trio in smoky dives. He liked television and was often on it in Britain in the 1970s, presenting orchestral music as light entertainment and even as comedy. The conductor at various times of several of the world’s great orchestras, the London Symphony, the London Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Vienna Philharmonic, took a lifetime to shed that label of lightweight Los Angeles Romanticism. (more…)
To the Heights of Parnassus Obituary: Marcel Azzola died on January 21st
France’s most doughty champion of the accordion was 91
The Economist | Print edition | Obituary | January 26th 2019
THE HISTORY of the accordion is not a happy one. For decades serious musicians have mocked it as the discordant, breathy, vulgar voice of peasants, clowns and fairground hucksters: an endlessly jovial or sentimental repertoire of folksy tunes. The wheeze of this “piano with braces” has become the sound people dread to hear in restaurants or at railway stations, accompanied by the hopeful chink of coins in a hat. So when Marcel Azzola was asked, in September 1968, to play his accordion to accompany Jacques Brel, the great Belgian chansonnier, at a recording of his song “Vesoul” (listen here), he was hardly surprised by a line in the lyrics: “I can’t stand accordions.” (more…)
Caroline Hunt, Heiress to Oil Riches, died Nov. 13, 2018, in Dallas
Daughter of Oil Tycoon H.L. Hunt, Owned Luxury Hotels
and Clung to Frugal Habits
She led Bible study group and advised:
‘Never get emotionally attached to any one line of business’
By James R. Hagerty | WSJ | Nov. 23, 2018
Caroline Rose Hunt, who inherited hundreds of millions of dollars, overcame an advantaged upbringing to lead a surprisingly quiet and productive life. (more…)
Carlene Roberts, vice president of American Airlines in 1951
Carlene Roberts Rose Into Management When Female Executives Were Nearly Unknown
JOURNALISTS IN 1950S NOTED THE AIRLINE VICE PRESIDENT AS MUCH FOR LOOKS AS SKILLS; ‘A VERY HOT-LOOKING DISH’
By James R. Hagerty | WSJ | Nov. 9, 2018
When Carlene Roberts was named a vice president of American Airlines in 1951, newspapers treated her as a freakish phenomenon—a female executive. They were as likely to comment on her looks as on her skills as a lobbyist overseeing the airline’s Washington, D.C., office.
Ms. Roberts was “as glamorous as they come,” gushed a columnist in the Miami News. She was “a very hot-looking dish,” reported a Washington columnist. In the Los Angeles Times, Dorothy Chandler described her as petite, brilliant, feminine and quick-witted. The writer added: “An Oklahoma girl, she started up her ladder to fame by the secretarial approach. Girls, take note and work on that shorthand.” (more…)
Wanda Ferragamo, who expanded family shoe business into a fashion empire, dies at 96
Wanda Ferragamo, who took over her husband’s shoe-design and manufacturing business after his death and, with the help of her six children, expanded the company of Salvatore Ferragamo into a global fashion empire, died Oct. 19 at her home in Fiesole, Italy. She was 96.
Mrs. Ferragamo had no experience in business or in designing shoes when her husband, more than 20 years her senior, died in 1960. She had six children, the youngest of whom was 2, when she assumed the presidency of the company her husband had founded.
“In those early days I felt an energy like a lion,” Mrs. Ferragamo told People magazine in 1983. “Everyone was surprised, but I realized it was no use to be alone crying about my destiny. I wanted to keep alive all the efforts my husband made.”
Salvatore Ferragamo learned the cobbler’s trade as a boy in Italy, making his first pair of shoes for his sister when he was 9. He later moved to the United States, working in Boston and later in Hollywood, where his elegant designs for women’s shoes became renowned during the early years of moviemaking. (more…)
William Kistler Coors, 1916 to 2018
Monday’s New York Times obituary by Robert McFadden for American beer pioneer William Coors (of the brewing company that carries his name) violated the usual tasteful norms for an obit, starting with the headline and the text box: “William Coors, Ultraconservative Leader Of Brewery Based in Colorado, Dies at 102.” (more…)
Sir Charles Kao: Fibre optics genius passes away 26 September 2018
Tributes have been paid to Sir Charles Kao, the scientist whose work in Essex “transformed the world”.
Sir Charles, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics, died in Hong Kong on Sunday, aged 84.
Sir Charles Kao received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from University College London in 2010
In the 1960s, he worked at Standard Telephones and Cables in Harlow and it was here that he laid the groundwork for fibre optics, making inventions such as the internet possible. (more…)
John Sidney McCain III – 1936-2018 | JohnMcCain.com
Senator John McCain‘s remarkable record of leadership embodies his unwavering lifetime commitment to service. The son and grandson of four-star admirals, he was raised in the navy and in a tradition of military service that began before the American Revolution.
Senator McCain graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958, and served as a Naval aviator for 22 years, including in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
On October 26, 1967, during Senator McCain’s 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam, a missile struck his plane and forced him to eject, knocking him unconscious and breaking both his arms and his leg.
Senator McCain was taken as a prisoner of war into the now-infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” where he was denied needed medical treatment and subjected to years of torture by the North Vietnamese. He spent much of his time as a prisoner of war in solitary confinement, aided by his faith and the friendships of his fellow POWs. (more…)
Iconoclast, Legendary CEO Marchionne Dies
Wednesday, July 25, 2018, age 66
Posted on July 25, 2018
In 2009, in his first address to employees at Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne invoked the Zulu greeting “sawubona.”
It means “I see you.” And the traditional response is “sikona,” or “I am here.”
“The sequence of the exchange is important,” Marchionne said. “Until you are seen, you do not exist. From my end, I can simply tell you that I see you. I am glad you are here.”
They were glad he was there, too.
Charles Krauthammer, MD
When Charles Krauthammer died last week, tributes poured in from colleagues and fans of every ideological persuasion. It’s hard to think of another contemporary commentator or journalist who inspired such widespread, bi-partisan, affectionate regard.
What earned him this special place in the worlds of media and politics?
First, Krauthammer’s columns unmistakably reflected his character—brilliant, reasonable, witty, warm and utterly sincere. Those of us who were privileged to know him well could recognize the real Charles in every sentence he published.
Second, the public marveled at his heroic personal story: a quadriplegic from age 21, he never allowed his physical limitations to interfere with his positive, passionate life.
In today’s world, even when you agree with a politician it’s commonly hard to respect him. But with Krauthammer, even when you disagreed with him, you had to admire him.
Tom Wolfe The man in the white suit
AT SOME convenient point in any morning, Tom Wolfe would put on his working clothes. Over a silk shirt, maybe ultramarine, maybe striped, he knotted a silk tie. A proper Windsor knot! No plastic cheaters, like Marshal McLuhan! Then a perfectly tailored white suit of linen or silk tweed…with double-breasted vest…dark blue trim of the matching square peeking from the breast pocket… cream socks . . . leather spectator spat boots…the summer passeggiata gear of Richmond, Virginia, his home town, transposed to New York. A glance in the mirror—the face fine, a china doll’s, with hardly a suggestion of shaving. The underlip puppet-stiff, but the hair floppy in the English style, falling almost to the intertragic notch of his ear. (more…)
Barbara Pierce Bush
June 8, 1925 – April 17, 2018
Barbara Pierce was born to Marvin and Pauline Pierce in Flushing, Queens of New York City. Her father was president of the McCall Corporation, which published the well-known magazines McCall’s and Redbook. Growing up in an Episcopalian family in the bedroom community of Rye, New York, Bush was an athletic and witty child who loved—above all things—to read. (more…)
Remembering Peter G. Peterson
The Concord Coalition mourns the loss of its founding President Peter G. Peterson, who died today (Tuesday, March 20, 2018) at the age of 91. Executive Director Robert L. Bixby issued the following statement:Pete Peterson lived the American Dream. As a depression-era child of Greek immigrants, Pete rose from dishwasher at his parents’ diner in Kearney, Nebraska to become one of the nation’s top business leaders, a presidential cabinet member and a best-selling author. (more…)
Billy Graham (“I detested going to church”) 1918 –2018
Evangelist Billy Graham died today at 7:46 a.m. at his home in Montreat. He was 99.
In 1973, Graham addressed more than one million people crowded into Yoido Plaza in
Seoul, South Korea—the largest live audience of his Crusades.
Throughout his life, Billy Graham preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to some 215 million people who attended one of his more than 400 Crusades, simulcasts and evangelistic rallies in more than 185 countries and territories. He reached millions more through TV, video, film, the internet and 34 books. (more…)
Barefoot to Billionaire
Gave $1.5Billion to find cures for cancer through genetics.
Jon M. Huntsman Sr. Created Clamshell Hamburger Package and Funded Cancer Research
Founder of the company that became Huntsman Corp.
worked in the White House in the early 1970s
Jon M. Huntsman Sr. made his fortune partly by creating the clamshell packaging used for Big Macs and over his lifetime gave away what his family tallied as more than $1.5 billion to humanitarian causes, notably by making it his mission to find cures for cancer through genetics.
The founder of chemical maker Huntsman Corp. and former aide to President Richard Nixon died Friday at his home in Salt Lake City. He was 80. His family said he died of “long-term health challenges.” (more…)
Bernard Bond McGinity, M.D.
December 1, 1928 – January 20, 2018
Dr McGinity was born in Wallasey, England on December 11, 1928. Passed away on January 20, 2018 at the age of 89 surrounded by his family. Bernard was preceded in death by his devoted wife of 56 years, Arlene. He will be lovingly remembered by his sons, Brian and Michael and daughter Teresa (Bryan). (more…)
Sound of Music’ Actress Heather Menzies-Urich Dead at 68
Heather Menzies-Urich, who played Louisa in The Sound of Music died on Sunday, December 24, 2017
The widow of Vegas actor Robert Urich, who died in 2002, had recently been diagnosed with cancer, Variety reports.
Her son Ryan Urich said his mother died on Christmas Eve, surrounded by her children and family members.
“She was an actress, a ballerina and loved living her life to the fullest,” her son said in a statement to Variety. “She was not in any pain but, nearly four weeks after her diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, she had enough and took her last breath on this earth at 7:22 p.m.” (more…)
Charles Manson Dies at 83
Wild-Eyed Leader of a Murderous Crew
The Tate-LaBianca murders
Charles Manson, one of the most notorious murderers of the 20th century, who was very likely the most culturally persistent and perhaps also the most inscrutable, died on Sunday in a hospital in Kern County, Calif., north of Los Angeles. He was 83 and had been behind bars for most of his life. (more…)
Life of Luther – 1483 – 1546
The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
October 31, 1517 to October 31, 2017
Martin Luther was born in Eisleben Germany in 1483, nine years before the discovery of America. His father Hans Luther was a rather prosperous miner and his mother, Margaretta, was a strict disciplinarian. Because his son was so brilliant, Hans enrolled Martin at the University of Erfurt to study law.
On returning to the university, after a visit home, a lightning bolt knocked him to the ground. Thinking this was a sign from God, Luther cried out, “Save me, St. Anne!” “I will become a monk!” He sold his law books and entered the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt.
His father Hans was furious, hoping to have a wealthy lawyer in the family. Martin didn’t want to displease his father, but only to lead a holy life to obtain forgiveness and go to heaven. Martin prayed long hours, worked hard, studied constantly. He was surprised and saddened that the harder he tried to keep God’s commandments perfectly, the more he felt like a failure.
The monastery thought that maybe it would help to send Brother Martin to Rome, the church’s headquarters. But when he saw how worldly and sinfully the leaders behaved, his despair deepened.
Vera Rubin Opened Doors in Astronomy, and for Women
Vera Rubin, 88, Dies; Opened Doors in Astronomy, and for Women
By DENNIS OVERBYE DEC. 27, 2016
Vera Rubin, who transformed modern physics and astronomy with her observations showing that galaxies and stars are immersed in the gravitational grip of vast clouds of dark matter, died on Sunday in Princeton, N.J. She was 88.
Her death was announced by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, where she had been a longtime staff astronomer.
Dr. Rubin, cheerful and plain-spoken, had a lifelong love of the stars, championed women in science and was blunt about the limits of humankind’s vaunted knowledge of nature. (more…)
William Frasier Fortner, Col, USAF, Ret
Colonel William Frasier Fortner II
1942 – 2017
The Hero’s Legend
[William Frasier Fortner made an appt in my office in October 2001. He stated that he had no medical problems and was just evaluating this office and our relationship to his several consultants. He returned for annual examinations yearly through 2015 when this office closed at my retirement. He came by the office a number of times between his annual exams to tell his favorite story and deliver his favorite drink. Many times, he called to tell his latest story on the phone which always brightened up the day for my wife and me. He was a B52 pilot. I had served at Mather AFB which had a Sac Bomb wing. I saw B52’s take off every morning. I had the privilege of sitting in the IP seat on a 14-hour mission across N. America with the two pilots in front of me and two Navigators behind me. His wife Catherine, a 747 pilot, was usually with him on his appointments. I called his home in September 2017 for disposal of his x-rays. His wife informed me of his death and that the memorial would be that week in his school auditorium. It was a pleasure to meet his family and see the parade of military service men, many in uniform, paying their respects and citing a number of remembrances. It was truly a privilege to serve such an honorable American, an Air Force Colonel and a 52 pilot.] (more…)
John Skinner, Trumpet Player
Carmichael-based John Skinner was an iconic Sacramento band-leader.
Carmichael, CA (MPG) – Carmichael resident and musical legend John Skinner died last weekend. He was 71.
For decades, the trumpeter powered the most go-to band organization in Sacramento. An Air Force veteran and airline pilot, Skinner juggled two long and successful careers. He was also a champion for music education and supported many local community causes. “Johnny Trumpet” (as he jokingly dubbed himself) had fronted bands since teenage days as a trumpet prodigy in Orland CA. His bands also backed shows with show-biz giants like Ray Charles, Luciano Pavarotti and Ann Murray.
In recent years, mobility issues forced the leader offstage. His popular Skinner Band nevertheless played on, with Skinner cracking the whip from the sidelines. At a Carmichael Park concert this month, he was greeted affectionately by hundreds of fans. Playing his trumpet from the audience, Skinner performed a vibrant final solo. (more…)
Richard Wesley Rowland
Richard Westley Rowland | 1943 – 2017
Served as a Navy Frogman in 1960-61 (Which later became the Navy Seals)
Rowland was a warrior who survived the jungles of Vietnam, three bullet wounds, was captured, escaped, served time in America’s most notorious prisons and served on Big Oil boards. Abandoned as a toddler, Richard Rowland learned woodsman skills from the man who raised him in the California Sierra Nevada foothills.
Rowland was a war-baby born in 1943 in Oakland, CA. He didn’t know his mother; she abandoned him when he was a year old. She handed him over to the woman who babysat for her. Richard didn’t know his father either; he was away in the service. Richard was gone by the time he returned home. (more…)
The Voice of Viet Nam
Trinh Thi Ngo (“Hanoi Hannah”), broadcaster for Voice of Vietnam, was 87
THE voice was faint, for the signal was weak between Hanoi and the Central Highlands.
The Economist | From the print edition | Oct 13th 2016
Nonetheless, at 8pm Saigon time, after a day spent avoiding mantraps and pursuing the ever-elusive Vietcong, GIs would try to unwind by listening to the young woman they called “Hanoi Hannah”. As they cleaned their rifles, smoked herbs and broke out a beer or two, their precious radios, strapped up for protection with ragged black tape, crackled with tones that might have been those of a perky high-school cheerleader. “GI Joe, how are you today?” asked the sweet-sounding girl, of men to whom any girl would have sounded sweet. “Are you confuse d? Nothing is more confused than to be ordered into a war to die or be maimed for life without the faintest idea of what’s going on. You know your government has abandoned you. They have ordered you to die. Don’t trust them. They lied to you.”
The Unknown Warrior
Obituary: Ernst Neizvestny died on August 9th
The sculptor, artist, philosopher and defier of the Soviet regime was 91
The Economist | Print Edition | August 20, 2016
THE two men were about the same size, sturdy and short. Both had fought in the Great Patriotic War, worked in foundries; they could knock each other out. One was broad-faced, gap-toothed and almost bald; the other was swarthy, with bushy black brows and hair. The bald man, Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, was shouting “Filth! Dog shit! Disgrace!” at the paintings on display, that day in 1962, on the walls of the Manege Gallery beside the Kremlin. The swarthy one, Ernst Neizvestny, had his answer ready: “You may be premier and chairman, but not here in front of my works. I am the premier here.”
Intriguing for peace
HE OUTLIVED all his country’s other founding fathers, but failed in what he most yearned for: to lead it into a lasting peace. Missed opportunities dogged Shimon Peres’s career. He gained the highest offices—prime minister, twice, and president—but the political arithmetic invariably went against him. His forte was foreign policy, but his political nemesis, Menachem Begin, signed the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, and his arch-rival, Yitzhak Rabin, got most of the plaudits for Israel’s deal in 1993 with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.
Mr Peres’s imprint was lasting, nonetheless. As a precocious young civil servant, he brokered arms deals which helped his uniformed counterparts to get the weapons they needed. He circumvented arms embargoes with creative ruses, such as buying warplanes as, purportedly, film props, and cannily found leaky frigates and rusty tanks in places where they were no longer needed. He bargained hard, shaming rich countries for charging full price to tiny, beleaguered Israel, and cajoling rich sympathisers. It meant breaking a lot of rules. Jimmy Hoffa, boss of America’s Teamsters union, became a friend, and Israel’s rapprochement with West Germany was cemented with marathon drinking sessions with the arch-conservative Bavarian, Franz-Josef Strauss.
The discomfort of words
Geoffrey Hill, an English poet, died on June 30th, aged 84
The Economist | From the print edition | Jul 30th 2016
IT WAS, he said, like falling in love. When Geoffrey Hill was ten years old he was given a Victorian anthology of English poetry, an award to mark his punctilious attendance at the Sunday school of his local church. It was filled with the kind of high-flown, sentimental stuff he would later scorn. But for the child of a village policeman who had left school at 13, the poetry of past lives suddenly seemed a revelation—and led to his eventual vocation.
The Inarticulate Society
Notable & Quotable: Florence King
From a 1995 Journal review of the book
‘The Inarticulate Society: Eloquence and Culture in America.’
From “Dan Rather and Other Enemies of Civilization” in the July 31, 1995, Journal, a review of Tom Shachtman’s book “The Inarticulate Society: Eloquence and Culture in America” by writer Florence King, who died Jan. 6 at age 80: WSJ | Jan 14, 2016
The book’s pièce de résistance is Mr. Shachtman’s sardonic tracing of the decline and fall of TV news, and how it has destroyed eloquence.
On Aug. 29, 1963, the “CBS News With Walter Cronkite” aired its first half-hour edition. Everyone sounds like an Oxford don, speaking in complete sentences with so many dependent clauses that they have to take a breath before the end. There is almost no action footage or graphics, and the uncreative commercials, mostly written testimonials, always parse.
The edition of Oct. 27, 1972, was Mr. Cronkite’s first lengthy perspective on Watergate. We see more graphics, visual aids and film; one-breath sentences now prevail, but they are still complete, except for the serpent in the garden, Dan Rather, who reports from the White House: “Nine vetoes today, more promised tomorrow.” . . .
On Nov. 9, 1989, “The CBS News With Dan Rather” features the collapse of German communism and English metaphor. “The Berlin Wall is still standing, but it doesn’t stand for much,” Dan begins, explaining against a backdrop of busy visuals that the world is “racing to stay ahead of the curve of history.” Cut to George Bush, who says, “I’m not going to hypothecate that it may—anything that goes too fast . . .” Then back to Dan for the final word: “The Berlin Wall is obsolete tonight.” The commercials are frantic, and the show ends with an invitation to join Dan later on “48 Hours” for a discussion of sex and teenagers. . .
His solutions are impossibly idealistic—hire only well-spoken baby sitters, give networks tax writeoffs for cultural programs that do not get high Nielsen ratings—but one at least filled me with venomous glee: “Among the first orders of business ought to be the abolition of teachers’ colleges and teaching degrees.”
This book review is found at http://www.wsj.com/articles/notable-quotable-florence-king-1452815618 .
Jo Cox, The First British MP To Be Murdered Since 1990
She wasn’t a TV Star and wouldn’t dress like one.
Jo Cox, the first British MP to be murdered since 1990, died on June 16th, aged 41
The ECONOMIST | From the print edition | Jun 17th 2016
OUT-OF-TOUCH and self-centered at best; deceitful and crooked at worst:
Britons have developed smolderingly low opinions of their rulers.
Jo Cox—idealistic, diligent, likeable and rooted in her Yorkshire constituency—was a living rebuttal of that cynicism.
Britain’s political class is easily caricatured as an inbred elite. But she was the first member of her family to go to university. True, she found Cambridge daunting: it mattered so much how you talked and whom you knew. Other undergraduates had posh professional parents and had taken sunny gap years. Her only foreign travel had been package holidays in Spain, with summers spent packing toothpaste in the factory where her father worked; indeed she had assumed, until school pointed its head girl farther afield, that she would spend her life working there.
For all her brains and charm, Cambridge jolted her confidence—setting her back five years, she said. But when in 2015 she reached the House of Commons, mastering the ways of that self-satisfied, mysterious and privileged institution was easy.
Also unlike a stereotypical politician, she had a real life. She had been an aid worker for ten years. She had met rape victims in Darfur in Sudan, and talked to child soldiers about how they had been forced to kill their family members. She commuted to the House of Commons by bicycle, from the houseboat she shared with her husband and two young children, its view of Tower Bridge the only luxury she allowed herself to enjoy. (She wasn’t a TV star and wouldn’t dress like one, she firmly told a constituent who wondered if she might like to vary her trademark, unfussy blue blazers and red dresses.)
Principles mattered; tribalism did not. She was Labour “to the core”, but one of the most moving of many tributes after her murder was by Andrew Mitchell, her Conservative co-chair of the all-party Friends of Syria group. He called her a “five-foot bundle of Yorkshire grit”, and recalled her ferocious scolding of the Russian ambassador for his country’s role in Syria’s civil war. She and her Tory counterpart would text each other across the floor of the House of Commons, oblivious to the baying partisanship that raged about them. Other such friendships abounded. . . .
She bemoaned British foreign policy’s missing moral compass. Whereas many Labourites droned or ranted at the prime minister’s weekly question-and-answer session, she asked him, calmly and devastatingly, whether he had “led public opinion on the refugee crisis or followed it”. That unsettled Mr Cameron, and (aides now say) helped change British policy. Her plainly spoken ambition to be foreign secretary one day looked more than plausible.
Helping her constituents was her most rewarding job, yet also prompted the tragic circumstances of her death. Though Westminster and Whitehall are tightly guarded, British politicians have scant protection when they venture outside. Only a handful of senior ministers have police bodyguards. Constituents wanting to meet their representatives simply make appointments for their regular surgeries (advice sessions)—or, as in the case of Mrs Cox’s assailant, wait outside in the street.
Trust and openness come at a cost. Five politicians were assassinated during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the last of them Ian Gow, blown up by a car bomb outside his home in 1990. In 2000 a regular visitor to the Cheltenham constituency office of Nigel Jones, then a Liberal Democrat MP, entered in a frenzy, wielding a sword, wounding the lawmaker and killing his assistant, Andrew Pennington. In 2010 an Islamist extremist walked into a constituency surgery to stab and nearly kill the Labour MP Stephen Timms. A recent survey showed four out of five MPs saying that they had experienced intrusive or aggressive behaviour. Mrs Cox herself had complained to the police about abuse—although not involving the 52-year-old gardener with, seemingly, far-right views and psychiatric problems who is now charged with her shooting and stabbing. . .
Emma Morano, the oldest person in the world, died on April 15th, age 117
The Economist | Print Edition | April 27, 2017 | Obituary: Ancient as the hills
THOSE who live to be very old are never previously famous. Few in the world know them, and they know almost nothing of the world. Emma Morano had never been to Rome, let alone abroad. Her world was Pallanza-Verbania on the shores of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, stretching to Varallo Sesia in the hills, where she had family. The fading photographs she would lay out, on a lace cloth, for reporters showed herself and her siblings enjoying lunch outside, posing in Pallanza’s main square and on the lakeside promenade, all within a stroll of the tiny flat, down an alley by the church of San Leonardo, where she still lived. For her last 15 years, though she could walk, she did not leave it. (more…)
Obituary: Antonin Scalia Always right
Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court justice, died on February 13th, aged 79
The Economist | Print edition | Obituary | Feb 20th 2016
IF YOU were bold enough to ask Antonin Scalia questions, you had to be precise. Otherwise the bushy black brows would furrow, the chin would crumple and the pudgy, puckish body would start to rock, eager to get at you. Wasn’t he violently opposed to Roe v Wade, the abortion ruling? “Adamantly opposed, that’s better.” Did he have any guilty pleasures? “How can it be pleasurable, if it’s guilty?” Lesser lawyers who were vague in oral argument faced a barrage of sarcasm or, if he agreed with them, constant chiding to do better. (“That’s your strong point!”) Dissenting colleagues at the Supreme Court had their opinions described as “argle-bargle”, “jiggery pokery” and “pure applesauce”. (more…)
Obituary: Johnny Barnes And Datta Phuge
Clothed with happiness
Johnny Barnes, Bermuda’s “greeter”, and Datta Phuge, “the Gold Man of Pune”, died on July 9th and 14th respectively, aged 93 and 48
The Economist | From the print edition | Jul 23rd 2016
IN THE city of Pune in Maharashstra, in 2012, Datta Phuge conceived a desire to display something no one else had. Something, that is, made of pure gold. As founder-floater of the Vakratunda Chit Fund, a slightly slippery credit society, he had any amount of gold in his possession or on his body: rings, bracelets, coins, mobile phone. He was in the habit of wearing 7kg of it a day, here and there. He had given a heap to his wife Seema, who began to find it a little boring to wear. But since gold was his passion and his chief way of showing how happy and fortunate he was, he wanted to flaunt it still more.
After chatting it over with his friends at Ranka Jewellers, he ordered a shirt made almost wholly of gold. It comprised 100,000 spangles and 14,000 gold flowers fixed to white velvet cloth, so that it could be folded away like any other shirt. Accessories were provided, also of 22-carat gold: necklaces, cuffs and a belt. Altogether, the outfit weighed 9.5kg. It took 15 craftsmen from West Bengal, working 16-hour days, more than two weeks to create it. And it cost 1.27 crore rupees, or $250,000.
Almost 13,000 km away, across two oceans in Bermuda, Johnny Barnes in 1986 also decided to put on a prodigal display. He would stand at the Crow Lane roundabout in Hamilton, where most of the rush-hour traffic came past, and tell each passing motorist how sweet life was and how much he loved them. His days had long overflowed with happiness, in his garden and in his jobs as a railway electrician and a bus-driver, where he had taken up the habit of waving and smiling to anyone who passed as he ate his lunchtime sandwiches. He had lavished joy on his wife Belvina, “covering her with honey”, as he put it. But there was plenty left over.
For 30 years he went to the roundabout every weekday morning. He would rise at around 3am, walk two miles to his post, stay for six hours shouting “I love you!”, smiling and blowing kisses, and then walk home again. He was there in the heat, his wide-brimmed straw hat keeping off the sun, and there in the rain with his umbrella. Only storms deterred him and eventually, the creakings of old age. Over the years, he transmitted his radiant happiness to drivers hundreds of thousands of times. . .
Fame came rapidly. Mr Barnes was hailed as an icon of Bermuda, and in 1998 a statue of him was put up near the roundabout. Tourists from Africa and America came to be photographed with him and to buy his dollar postcards; he once waved to the Queen of England. Mr Phuge was on all the Marathi TV channels modelling his shirt, but also had BBC reporters and Canadians lining up at his front door; they were, his wife said, “even more sought-after than royals”. . .
Drawing the moral
On the night of July 14th, on his way to a party—but not, apparently, in the shirt—he was stoned to death by “friends” to whom he owed money. Nothing could have been further from the peaceful death of Johnny Barnes, in ripe old age and in the firm conviction he was heading home. The moral of the tale seems almost too easy to draw: the selfish flaunter of happiness, weighed down by gold, came to an awful end, while the selfless one, wearing his prodigious love so lightly, was praised and lamented.
Both men, though, left behind a deficit of magic. After Mr Phuge died, no one could find the wonderful gold shirt. It was not in the house, nor at Ranka Jewellers; rumour had it that a creditor from Mumbai had taken it away. As for Mr Barnes, people searched up and down, far and wide, for the true secret of his happiness; for that, too, had disappeared with him.
Read the entire Obituary From the print edition . . .
Blessed Are The Peacemakers
Daniel Berrigan SJ, priest, poet and anti-war activist, died on April 30th, aged 94
The Economist | From the print edition | May 21st 2016
TO DO good. On every occasion to do the right thing as he saw it and Christ taught it, no matter how disruptive and no matter what the cost. This was Daniel Berrigan’s motivation. He was not concerned with the outcome of it, let alone success. A good action must go somewhere; do it, let it go. If God willed, it might mean lives saved, swords beaten into ploughshares and the world smiling with peace.
In the febrile America of the Vietnam-war years, however, it more often meant obloquy, humiliation, scorn, the hand of a federal agent on his collar. Between 1970 and 1995 he spent a quarter of his time in prison, in denim garb he liked to think of as the vestments of a new Catholic church. He was declared the enemy both of that church (by Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York) and of the state (by J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI). But then, as he liked to say, if you were serious about Jesus, you had better start considering whether you’d look good on wood.
The best act, one he wished he had done much sooner, was carried out on May 17th 1968 in a parking lot in Catonsville, Maryland. He and eight others, mostly in religious orders, one his priest-brother Philip, made a blaze there of 378 stolen files of young men about to be drafted to fight in Vietnam. The fire was set with napalm they had made at home, from soap-shards and kerosene. He apologised over the pyre for “the angering of the orderlies in the front parlour of the charnel house”; but they had not, like the government, burned children. Only papers: or, as he saw them, hunting licences to track, rape and char human beings.
This destruction of government property won him three years in jail, which he refused to accept. It was morally inconsistent to bow to an illegitimate system, so he went on the run instead, living exultantly for four months in “felonious vagrancy”, the first-ever priest on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Come, Holy Spirit! Like a Pentecost, Catonsville lit up people’s hearts, a spreading fire of protest across America. It also made him that “pumped-up absurdity”, a celebrity-priest with a bad Beatles haircut and a black polo-neck, puckishly turning up wherever trouble beckoned.
He had been warned about that. The two chief influences in his life—Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, and Thomas Merton, a Trappist philosopher—pushed him to work among outcasts and to labour for peace, but not in the public eye. His Jesuit superiors, embarrassed by his fervour, tried to restrain him by sending him abroad, to France and Latin America. Contact with worker-priests there just fired him all the more. How could he be quiet, when all around him in the 20th century men continued to ignore God’s fundamental precept, Thou shalt not kill? *How could he be invisible, when lepers, beggars and the downtrodden cried for something to be done? Outraged love drove him to be loud, turning lessons into lectures at Yale and Cornell, addressing crowds and writing 50 books, many of them poetry, as this, called “Miracles”:
Vietnam over, he did not rest. In 1980 he led a group into GE’s missile plant in Pennsylvania to attack the eggshell-thin warheads with hammers: the most violent gesture in a life dedicated to non-violence, to opening hand and heart to the enemy. He too struggled mightily to replace his own anger, “the death game”, with love. In his 80s he took part in Occupy Wall Street and marched against war in Iraq. Fearlessly he stood in the path of governments and corporations: for “powers and dominations” remained subject to Christ, to his gentleness. Day by day he listened (“Want to rap?”), shared whatever he ate and held the hands of the dying in an AIDS hospice in Greenwich Village. “Let’s re-member each other,” he would say.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
To many—to himself sometimes—it seemed odd that he was a Jesuit, submitting himself to their discipline, authority and institutional life. It did not fit with the thin boy, a poor feeder and never brawny, who had so feared his father’s heavy judgment-tread and his rages like an uncontrolled cyclone. It did not fit with his teenage suspicions of a distant, blind-as-a-bat deity, or even with his later hope that God would just stop imagining these flawed creatures called men. Oddly, though, the Jesuits had room for his sort, with only moments of squirming; and from the age of 18 his loyalty never swerved. . .
Read the entire obituary in The Economist. . .
* As a Jesuit Priest, Berrigan, should know that the Mosaic Code, Thou shalt not kill, was for all men to adhere to. But what if someone did not, then his God gave a different command in Matt 26:52, For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. And again in Romans 13:4,5: But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for “the government” beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil …”
Is the G.O.P Dying?
Everyone Knows About the G.O.P. Crackup—Everyone Except the Voters
The New yorker, MAY 13, 2016
Do Republicans really dislike their presumptive nominee?
The Republican Party is shattered. Fissured. Over. Dead. These suggestions, and more, have been inspired by the rise of Donald Trump, who has defied and embarrassed Party leaders (and pundits!) to become the presumptive 2016 Republican nominee for President. The conventional wisdom was that he would be stopped, but it turned out that no putative stopper was equal to the task, and now the Party is stuck with a candidate whom many Republicans can’t stand, one whose elevation may portend the crackup of Republicanism itself. Or so we are told.
Pierre Boulez, composer and conductor, died on January 5th, aged 90
The Economist | From the print edition | Jan 16th 2016
FEW figures were cooler or calmer than Pierre Boulez on the podium. He conducted without a baton, lifting the phrases and flicking them away with long, elegant fingers. The rest of his body did not move, impassive and commanding as a man lightly trimming a hedge; his face was a stone mask, only his darting eyes revealing how he was excavating the music, uncovering the layers and rebuilding them in structures of crystal clarity. Many said he was the finest conductor-composer since Richard Strauss. Every inch of him suggested that he was well aware of that.
Inside the statue, though, was gelignite. Music, to him, was in permanent revolution; but since there had been no proper upheaval since the Renaissance, he was leading one. For 50 years he was at war, or in a state of uneasy truce, with the musical establishment, fighting to make the deaf, incurious or plain uncultured appreciate the works of their own time. . .
Of the private Boulez, almost nothing was revealed; he was a solitary, isolated by choice and cloaking his charm, much of the time, in arrogance. His favourite mental associates were bad-boy poets, Rimbaud and Baudelaire, or abstract painters like Kandinsky, all smashers of boundaries and shockers of the status quo.
When he composed, he once explained, he dug down through layers of himself towards the “core of darkness” from which, in extraordinary flashes, his music came. Though the music might be wildly radical, this core—another paradox—would never change. Towards that unknown, like Orpheus, he made the most tumultuous and controversial journey of any modern classical musician.
Read the entire obituary. . . Economist