Passings

Alan Abelson

There are three passings from the past week to note.  The first is Alan Abelson, the long time “Up and Down Wall Street” columnist for Barron’s.  I never met him, but, as with any favorite writer, you came to feel almost like you knew him every Saturday morning when Barron’s landed on the doorstep.  He’s the reason I first started reading Barron’s more than 20 years ago.  There was no one who could bring such ferocious wit to bear on mere financial news, with the partial exception of James Grant, who is something of an Abelson protégé, having begun his career at Barron’s.  Indeed Abelson’s style is one of the models for some of my posts here on Power Line, though I flatter myself to suppose I can carry off the ironic wit that used to sparkle in nearly every paragraph of his great columns.  Randall Forsyth offers a nice recollection of Abelson this week, with some examples of why he was incomparably great, and Barron’s president Edwin Finn adds a few thoughts of his own.

Herb Romerstein

The second person who deserves notice is Herb Romerstein.  Romerstein was one of the many unsung heroes of the Cold War, the long time senior staff member of the House Intelligence Committee, but much more beyond that.  I met Herb when I was working for M. Stanton Evans (his co-author of Stalin’s Secret Agents, noticed here on Power Line back in November) in the early 1980s.  Herb was a repository of knowledge about Soviet intrigues against the West that the media and liberals willfully ignored.  He published one of the first books about the contents of the Venona papers that confirmed Alger Hiss’s guilt, among other things. Paul Kengor offers a worthy reflection of Romerstein at The American Spectator.

The third figure is Harry Neumann, the long time professor of philosophy at Scripps College.  I studied some with Neumann in graduate school, and there was no one like him.  He was perhaps the world’s only open and honest nihilist.  But he believed that nihilism should be faced directly, rather than sugarcoated with cowardly liberal sentimentality.  As such he detested the modern left, who behave as through moral right and wrong are real (at least the politically correct forms of right and wrong, like the wrongs of sexism and racism) while their teaching implicitly undermines the ground of all moral judgment on every turn.  The woodcut of Neumann here is stylized after one of his favorite pieces of art, Max Beckmann’s 1922 self-portrait.  Thomas Krannawitter offers a recollection and summary of Neumann, including this:

Professor Neumann helped students of politics understand the true, real, primordial ground of politics, always and everywhere. He helped students of philosophy understand the genuinely radical nature of philosophy. And he helped some understand the intrinsic, always problematic relationship between the two.

For a flavor of Neumann, see this article from Modern Age on “What Is Bigotry?” (PDF file).

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