Saturday, October 31, 2015

Frank Sinatra: “In the Cool, Cool, Cool, of the Evening”

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

Royals Come from Behind to Beat Mets 5-3; Go Ahead 3-1, One Game Away from Taking World Series

By Nicholas Stix

Rookie Mets hurler Steven Matz stood to win the game, and knot the series at two games apiece, but it was not to be. A series of collapses gave the game away.

Mets set-up man Tyler Clippard got the first batter in the eighth, before walking two consecutive hitters, including Lorenzo Cain, whom he had had down 0-2. Mets skipper Terry Collins removed Clippard at least one hitter too late. Mets closer Jeurys Familia induced a ground ball, but second baseman Daniel Murphy butchered it, game tied. Familia then gave up two consecutive singles. 5-3, Royals.

In the bottom of the ninth, after David Wright went down swinging at a breaking ball in the dirt from Royals’ closer Wade Davis, Daniel Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes hit consecutive singles. However, Mets slugger Lucas Duda then hit a soft line drive right into the glove of Royals third baseman Moustakas—he’s Greek to me—and Cespedes, paying no attention to the play in front of him, blindly ran towards second. By the time Cespedes noticed what had happened, it was much too late. As announcer Joe Buck said, he “was out by a mile.”

Ramirez Cartoon: Trick or Treat at the Haunted House, aka the “Obama” White House

Breaking News Alert: Mass Murder in Colorado Springs! Gunman Murdered 3 Today in Downtown, but Has Since been Neutralized

By Nicholas Stix


The Genius of Ta-Nehisi Coates


The color of genius

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

Ta-Nehisi Coates: The New Messiah

By Jared Taylor
July 31, 2015
American Renaissance

His new book is even worse than you think.

[I fear Jared is going to get himself arrested, uttering such impure thoughts in public about a future Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner!]

A new book by the black author Ta-Nehisi Coates has touched off a contest to see who can say the most star-struck, admiring things about him. Between the World and Me is a short, mostly autobiographical book about race, racism, and white people, written as a letter to Mr. Coates’s 14-year-old son, Samori (named for Samori Touré, a 19th-century West African who fought French colonizers).



Publishers Weekly set the tone: “Coates’s compelling, indeed stunning, work is rare in its power to make you want to slow down and read every word.” Slate predicted that the book is “destined to remain on store shelves, bedside tables, and high school and college syllabi long after its author or any of us have left this Earth.” Vogue wrote: “[I]t’s hard to think of a book that feels more necessary right now. Urgent, lyrical, and devastating in its precision, Coates has penned a new classic of our time.” Vice, which I thought tried to stay out of stampedes, assured us that the book is “as important and necessary as everyone says it is.” David Brooks, the New York Times’s lap-dog conservative wrote: “Between the World and Me, is a great and searing contribution to this public education. It is a mind-altering account of the black male experience. Every conscientious American should read it.” The Atlantic published an 8,500-word excerpt.

When the Economist complained that the book’s writing was “loquacious, repetitive, at times self-indulgent,” Salon wrote an entire article just to blast the review. The more obedient Denver Post called the book “a riveting mediation on the state of race in America,” and the New York Observer wrote that “Mr. Coates is the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States.”

What are we to make of this prodigy who outshines Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, and Jason Riley–and Cornell West and Toni Morrison (of course, no white person could ever be the best writer on race)? Between the World and Me is shockingly, appallingly bad. It is full of willful blindness, and shows a contempt and even hatred for whites that goes well beyond orthodoxy. There can be no common ground with any black who sees the world as Mr. Coates does. I don’t know whether his white admirers actually believe his poisonous raving or are simply indulging the Negro du jour, but there is no common ground with lunatics or cowards, either.


Michael Brown

The book begins with the moment the Ferguson grand jury refused to indict Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot Michael Brown. Coates writes to his son:

You stayed up till 11 p.m. that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, “I’ve got to go,” and you went into your room, and I heard you crying. I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you. I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay.

Why was Samori crying? Because he believed Darren Wilson had gotten away with murder. I suppose he believed Brown was “shot like an animal” as early “witnesses” claimed. Whatever he believed, for Coates not to comfort his son was child abuse. By then, we knew that Brown was stoned on marijuana, had just committed a robbery, attacked Officer Wilson, and tried to wrestle away his gun. It would have been immensely comforting to young Samori to be told anybody who does that–black or white–has a good chance of being shot, and if you don’t do those things the police usually leave you alone.

But, no, Mr. Coates didn’t say any of those things. Instead, just a few passages later, he writes that when police kill blacks there is “nothing uniquely evil” about it. They “are merely men enforcing the whims of our country, correctly interpreting its heritage and legacy. This legacy aspires to the shackling of black bodies.” If racist police were evil men, we could fire them, jail them, and hire police who were not evil, but America is much worse than that. The police have simply absorbed the “heritage and legacy” of America and therefore think no differently from slave drivers. “[Y]ou know now, if you did not before, that the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body.” That is because:

this was the year you saw Eric Garner choked to death for selling cigarettes; because you know now that Renisha McBride was shot for seeking help, that John Crawford was shot down for browsing in a department store. And you have seen men in uniform drive by and murder Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old child whom they were oath-bound to protect.

Eric Garner was not, of course, “choked to death for selling cigarettes,” and it is wildly irresponsible to tell anyone–especially a child–that he was. He was taken down in a choke hold because he was resisting arrest–his ninth for the same crime–and died later in an ambulance of cardiac arrest. He weighed 350 pounds and had such bad asthma he couldn’t walk a city block without stopping to rest. The coroner reported that the cause of death was “compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”


Eric Garner

Eric Garner


Nor was Renisha McBride “shot for seeking help.” She crashed her car in the middle of the night and was described by a witness as “discombobulated.” At 4:30 in the morning, she banged on the door and the window of a white man’s house and frightened him. Yes, he shot her dead, but Mr. Coates fails to mention that he was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison for it. It would be tedious to annotate the rest of Mr. Coates’s outrageous examples.

But this is the first lesson for young Samori: that racism is deep in the soul of white America and always lies in wait for black men, “that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this.”

After this horrifying lecture on the nature of whites, we should ask 14-year-old Samori how many of the 2,491 black people murdered in 2013 were killed by whites. Eighty percent? Ninty percent? The true figure is 7.6 percent, and probably at least half of those “whites” were Hispanic.

But Mr. Coates would blame that on racism, too. He writes that he grew up in an all-black part of Baltimore, and was therefore “naked before the elements of the world, before all the guns, fists, knives, crack, rape, and disease.” The streets were so dangerous that “fully one third of my brain” was constantly devoted to physical safety. “[T]he only people I knew were black, and all of them were powerfully, adamantly, dangerously afraid.” Mr. Coates is not so idiotic as to claim that they were afraid of white people; they were afraid of each other.

But the problem was not each other. The problem was the existence of a different world that the young Mr. Coates glimpsed only through the television set:

There were little white boys with complete collections of football cards, their only want was a popular girlfriend and their only worry was poison oak. That other world was suburban and endless, organized around pot roasts, blueberry pies, fireworks, ice cream sundaes, immaculate bathrooms, and small toy trucks that were loosed in wooded backyards with streams and endless lawns.

The young Mr. Coates knew his world was different from that world: “I knew that some inscrutable energy preserved the breach and I felt in this a cosmic injustice, a profound cruelty.” And since he learned in school that the United States was founded on violence and expropriation–all school children learn that–he came to understand that “the violence that undergirded the country . . . and the intimate violence of the streets were not unrelated. And this violence was not magical, but was of a piece and by design.” It was by design! White people make black people kill each other.

Now, he writes, when he thinks back on the terrified, violent blacks of his childhood, “all I see is them girding themselves against the ghosts of the bad old days when the Mississippi mob gathered ’round their grandfathers so that the branches of the black body might be torched, then cut away.” Blacks kill each other because they are marionettes, still dancing on the strings pulled by long-dead white people who might have lynched a few of their ancestors.

This justifies a cold hatred for today’s whites. Mr. Coates writes that he was indifferent as the Twin Towers crumbled after the September 11 attacks. The policemen and firemen who died “were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which could–with no justification–shatter my body.” It’s hard to imagine firemen “shattering black bodies,” except that for Mr. Coates, all whites are in the business of shattering black bodies: “In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body–it is heritage.”

As you may have noted, all this comes with an odd vocabulary. Mr. Coates has an almost prurient interest in black “bodies,” as in, “ ‘White America’ is a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies.” (“Exclusive power”? Why are almost all blacks killed by other blacks?)

To say black and brown “bodies” rather than “people” is new-fangled lefty-talk. There is almost no jabber about “white bodies.” You have to be oppressed to have a “body.” The fashion may date back to the famous 1971 feminist book, Our Bodies, Ourselves, that actually did talk about women’s bodies, but it appears that talking about enslaving or shattering black “bodies” is a way of implying that the souls in those bodies are unscathed. In any case, titles such as Killing the Black Body and Black Bodies, White Gazes, are a sure sign of anti-racist virtue, and Mr. Coates’s book is stuffed with virtue.

It also half-embraces the idea that race is a social construct. Mr. Coates describes a scene: “Families, believing themselves white, were out on the streets. Infants, raised to be white, were bundled in strollers.” Mr. Coates often writes about people “who believe they are white”–but never about people “who believe they are black.” Blacks are real people with a genuine identity: “I knew that we were something, that we were a tribe–on one hand, invented, and on the other, no less real.” Or again: “They made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.”

Whites, however, have no identity other than rapaciousness and cruelty: “[T]he power of domination and exclusion is central to the belief in being white, and without it, ‘white people’ would cease to exist for want of reasons.” Think about that. The only thing that makes white people white is “domination and exclusion;” other than that they have no reason even to exist. What white people would become without “domination and exclusion” Mr. Coates does not say.

Whiteness is a dream of the people who believe they are white:

I have seen that Dream all my life. It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is tree houses and the Cub Scouts. And for so long I have wanted to escape into the Dream . . . . But this has never been an option, because the Dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies.

In other words, everything that makes white people white and that makes their lives desirable is built on the mangled bodies of blacks. This is breathtaking. Does Mr. Coates really believe that without black bodies to mangle whites would never have had block associations and nice lawns? How did Canadians and New Zealanders and Swedes build pleasant lives without black bodies to mangle? And why do so many American whites fail to have nice lawns and tree houses despite all those black bodies available for mangling? What losers they must be. But Mr. Coates’s point is that only insofar as whites live in viciousness are they white at all. He continues, addressing his son:

[W]ithout the right to break you they must necessarily fall from the mountain, lose their divinity, and tumble out of the Dream. And then they would have to determine how to build their suburbs on something other than human bones, how to angle their jails toward something other than a human stockyard, how to erect a democracy independent of cannibalism [sic].

Does Mr. Coates really believe that without black bodies to mangle, whites would shrivel up in disappointment and lead miserable lives? Can he really be so stupid? In any case, Mr. Coates tells his son to give up any hope that whites can ever shake off cannibalism and be cured:

I would like to tell you that such a day approaches when the people who believe themselves to be white renounce this demon religion and begin to think of themselves as human. But I can see no real promise of such a day.

And it’s not just the United States that whites are befouling. In his commentary on Between the World and Me, black author Greg Howard, summarizes what he considers to be Mr. Coates’s most important point: The only thing that will ever cure rapacious white people is their own extinction after they have plundered the entire planet. Mr. Howard also notes that white supremacy is “the most destructive force in the world.” What a mercy it would be if this miserable tribe of people who think they are white died out or were exterminated.


Fevered corners of the Internet

Between the World and Me is the sort of rubbish that should be lost in the fevered corners of the Internet, along with The Isis Papers and books that claim Western Civilization was stolen from Africa. Instead, Mr. Coates has been treated as if he were the Second Coming.

When they even dare to question his lurid claims, whites assume a sickening, cringing tone. David Brooks writes:

Am I displaying my privilege if I disagree? Is my job just to respect your experience and accept your conclusions? Does a white person have standing to respond?

Is this man a eunuch? What explains this lickspittle state of mind? After a few quibbles with some of Coates’s viciousness, Mr. Brooks concludes: “Maybe the right white response is just silence for a change. In any case, you’ve filled my ears unforgettably.”

National Review’s Rich Lowry, of all people, seems to be the only white man willing to point out that Mr. Coates is peddling a “toxic worldview.”

Since the United States is so loathsome, you might expect Mr. Coates to be planning a getaway, and you’d be right. But he’s not going to Africa. He’s going to France! Blacks who hate white people never seem to get enough of us. No doubt he will write nasty things about the French, but they won’t pay any attention to him, so he’ll be back. He’s only 39, so he’ll be around a long time.

If Between the World and Me is being shoved down undergraduate throats long after I’m dead, I’m glad I won’t be around to see it, but I think the chances of that are slim. The people reviewing this book may be fools and toadies, but not every college student is. What is the instructor going to say when someone in class shows him the Department of Justice report that completely exonerates the officer who shot Michael Brown? Someone will also look up Eric Garner, and find out that a black officer ordered his arrest and that a black sergeant supervised it. He will find out that nine of the 23 grand-jury members who refused to hand down an indictment in the Garner case were non-white, and that five were black.

Let’s not forget what allegedly sent Dylann Roof over the edge. He looked up the facts about Trayvon Martin on Wikipedia, and discovered that Martin was not a racial martyr but a thug. Anyone who assigns this book to students is setting them up for equally jarring surprises.

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

Of course, a lot of black people think like Ta-Nehisi Coates. They think whites are immensely powerful, deeply evil, and do awful things to black “bodies.” Fools in the media promote this dangerous nonsense, but most blacks will believe it for as long as they live inferior lives–and there’s no end to that in sight.

This book and the reaction to it are yet more evidence that blacks and sensible whites live in different mental worlds. They should formalize the break and separate.

There are No Races, Except for Those Who Work Hard


Melissa Tampon-Perry, whom the Great Ta-Nehisi has lauded as America’s greatest intellectual


Free Rapes! Get Your Free Rapes! (Norway)

By Nicholas Stix

At Vox Day/Vox Popoli.

How Ambitious, Entrepreneurial Nigerians are Making Toronto a Much More Interesting, Vibrant, Diverse Place!


Instead of practicing Nigerian internet fraud in Nigeria, this man is alleged to have practiced Nigerian internet fraud in Toronto.

Excerpted by Nicholas Stix

“A little while ago I sent you a link to an old Doug Saunders column where he said Canada needed a million poor African immigrants. Saunders claimed Africans who moved to Spain had found work.

“I wondered how this could be true given Spain’s poor economy and high unemployment. I think I have stumbled on to the answer to my own questions. It seems African migrants, at least those from Nigeria, are much more ambitious and entrepreneurial than I had suspected….”

[Read the whole thing at VDARE.]

Hungary Never Got the Memo that Fences Can’t Stop Invaders; It’s Having Huge Success Blocking Jihadis!

By Reader-Researcher RC


Friday, October 30, 2015

Frank Sinatra: “It was a Very Good Year”

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix


“Shotguns, and Pistols, and Rifles and Ammo”: A Few of Austrians’ Favorite Things!



By Nicholas Stix



One of Moslems’ favorite things

The Mets Beat the Royals 9-3 at Corporate Field, to Reduce Kansas City’s World Series Lead to 2-1, with Game Four Tomorrow

By Nicholas Stix

Rookie phenom Noah "Thor" Syndegaard got the victory, and Giordano Ventura got the loss. Mets captain David Wright knocked in four runs on a home run and a single, and Curtis Granderson hit a two-run home run.

Wright partially redeemed himself for the 14-inning error that cost his team game one.

Had the Mets lost tonight, it would have all been over, but the shouting.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Black Genius: The Heritage of Ta-Nehisi Coates

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix


Oppressor and oppressed—but who is who?


The Heritage of Ta-Nehisi Coates

By Helen Andrews
August 12, 2015
The Federalist

When he set out to interview James Baldwin for his oral history of the civil rights movement, Who Speaks for the Negro? (1965), Robert Penn Warren knew that the challenge would be to get any straightforward answers out of him. “In general, in Baldwin’s utterances, written or spoken,” he explained, “there is a tendency to pull away from the specific issue which might provoke analysis, toward one more general … toward the absolute, the eschatological.” Forewarned is forearmed, but in this case it was not enough: Baldwin’s pivot maneuver was invincible. “For example, when I asked him about the obligation of the Negro, he countered by saying he wasn’t sure what a Negro is. What is a Negro?” With quiet amusement, Warren admitted, “That is, indeed, a more charged and fascinating question than the one I had asked.”

That Ta-Nehisi Coates has the same ultra-macroscopic tendency as his hero can be seen in the highly recognizable style of conclusion with which he often ends his blog posts at The Atlantic: short, sweeping, indefinite, ponderous. Like Baldwin, Coates prefers to back up from the original question so far that, by the time he is finished, he is off in the exosphere:

Aren’t all nations problems? Aren’t all families? Aren’t all people?

Likely the fight was always muddy and dizzying. Likely nothing was ever clean.

We don’t always get to choose the means through which we acquire knowledge. Ignorance is not a weapon.

Those kickers come from posts about civic virtue, The Bell Curve, and Aaron Sorkin—the reader can guess which is which.

The Close Connection Between Coates and Baldwin

Coates’s new book, Between the World and Me, is full of the same sort of pronouncements: “The entire narrative of this country argues against the truth of who you are.” “You have to make your peace with the chaos.” “The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me.” But beneath the orotundities, there is a thesis, which, whatever else you want to say about it, is not at all vague. He believes that white Americans lead a charmed life, which he calls the Dream, which is sustained by the deliberate “plunder” (his self-proclaimed buzzword) of black Americans. The mechanics of this plunder are subtle:

I came to see the streets and the schools as arms of the same beast. One enjoyed the official power of the state while the other enjoyed its implicit sanction. But fear and violence were the weaponry of both. Fail in the streets and the crews would catch you slipping and take your body. Fail in the schools and you would be suspended and sent back to those same streets, where they would take your body. And I began to see these two arms in relation—those who failed in the schools justified their destruction in the streets. The society could say, “He should have stayed in school,” and then wash its hands of him.

“No one directly proclaimed that schools were designed to sanctify failure and destruction,” he admits. The word that comes next is “But.”

This, too, is pure Baldwin. “Black people were killing each other every Saturday night out on Lenox Avenue, when I was growing up,” Baldwin wrote in 1970,

and no one explained to them, or to me, that it was intended that they should; that they were penned where they were, like animals, in order that they should consider themselves no better than animals. Everything supported this sense of reality, nothing denied it; and so one was ready, when it came time to go to work, to be treated as a slave.

Since the end of Jim Crow, authors who have asserted that white America is not just misguided but actively wicked in its dealings with black America have tended to grow hazy when it comes to what benefit, exactly, white America derives from this villainy. Here we see why: Generally it is the least plausible link in an already tenuous logical chain. In Baldwin’s case, one can only say that if there was a conspiracy to make diligent worker bees of black urban males, it has not gone to plan. In the annals of cui bono, this ranks with the time the head of SNCC said we were in Vietnam “for the rice supplies.”

With Coates, the central weakness of his argument is that everything always comes back to the violence of ‘the streets.’

With Coates, the central weakness of his argument is that everything always comes back to the violence of “the streets.” School, to him, is just a meaningless hurdle designed to furnish a pretext for white indifference to that violence. The “daily everyday violence that folks live under” puts the April 2015 riots in Baltimore beyond condemnation. What “daily everyday” violence, and at whose hands? That the perpetrators are mostly young and black can be surmised from the list of little violence-avoiding choices that, Coates says, tyrannized his mental life as a child—what to wear, where to sit at lunch, what route to take to and from school, with what friends from what neighborhoods. Then there is this story he tells about his mother:

When your grandmother was sixteen years old a young man knocked on her door. The young man was your Nana Jo’s boyfriend. No one else was home. Ma allowed this young man to sit and wait until your Nana Jo returned. But your great-grandmother got there first. She asked the young man to leave. Then she beat your grandmother terrifically, one last time, so that she might remember how easily she could lose her body.

And here the weakness becomes plain, because the connection that Coates keeps trying to insinuate into existence between the black violence he has observed and the white menace he has postulated just snaps. White supremacy did not invent the rule that young women should generally keep male callers on the doorstep when they are home alone. The danger against which this rule is a precaution is not a racial one.

Once the reader pulls on this string, the whole web starts to unravel, because the connection between white supremacy and the other violence Coates describes is not very well substantiated either. If suburbia is to blame for young Ta-Nehisi getting beat up on his way home from school, it is only in the most abstract, cosmic sense. And at what metaphysical remove does it become fair to write, as Coates does, that the Baltimore street toughs of his youth “in their large rings and medallions, their big puffy coats and full-length fur-collared leathers … their armor against their world,” were “girding themselves against the ghosts of the bad old days when the Mississippi mob gathered round their grandfathers”? A damned rarefied one—the same one from which Baldwin blamed white people for the assassination of Malcolm X because “whoever did it was formed in the crucible of the American Republic.”

The Invisible Victims of Progressive Policy

But abstract, cosmic blame is just what Coates refuses to be satisfied with. His case is grounded in policy, as he often reminds us. He is not speaking metaphorically when he says that America has grown rich by seizing black people’s wealth. His favorite example is redlining, which kept government-backed mortgages out of black neighborhoods in the decades between the New Deal and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The main character of Coates’s famous “Case for Reparations” article is a 91-year-old Chicagoan named Clyde Ross, whose inability to get a federally insured home loan in the 1960s led him to buy a house “on contract,” an arrangement where one missed payment could leave a person with no equity and no house. Coates is eloquent on the toll this took on Ross, who worked second and third jobs to keep up his payments: “Money and time that Ross wanted to give to his children went instead to enrich white speculators.”

The fears that sent the Pearlmans running from their home on Kerwin Street were not self-generated, nor did they come from the scare tactics of real-estate blockbusters.

Since Coates is interested in housing policy and in sad stories, I wonder what he thinks of the fate of Saul and Gertrude Pearlman, two of the tens of thousands of Jews who vacated the neighborhoods of Dorchester and Mattapan (or “Murdapan,” as it has come to be known) in the wake of the federal government’s decision to make it easier rather than harder for black buyers to get home loans—a policy reversal which Coates has not troubled to note, as far as I can see. Beginning in 1968, the city of Boston put a private consortium, the Boston Banks Urban Renewal Group, in charge of implementing this new federal policy, and B-BURG took to it with a zeal born of avarice and fear. (In the wake of the King assassination riots, the business community were “shaking like quivering boys,” Mayor Kevin White later recalled.) Within five years of receiving their first batch of subsidized B-BURG homeowners—half of whom would soon lose their houses to foreclosure or abandonment, and some of whom never made a single payment on their loans—the formerly thriving neighborhoods of Dorchester and Mattapan went from having 40,000 Jews to fewer than 2,500.[1]

In his book, Coates cavalierly attributes “white flight” to “self-generated fears that compelled the people who think they are white to flee the cities and into the Dream.” The fears that sent the Pearlmans running from their home on Kerwin Street were not self-generated, nor did they come from the scare tactics of real-estate blockbusters. They came from experiences like being trussed up for hours while intruders with hunting knives ransacked their home for nonexistent valuables, and from hearing their kindhearted black neighbour say, “You’re older, Jewish, and vulnerable. It’s over for you here.”

Were the Jews of Mattapan “plundered”? What about the victims, direct and indirect, of the Community Reinvestment Act, the debauch of credit standards in the housing market, the racial quotas imposed on the mortgage giants, and all of the other programs that it was hoped would close the black–white gap in housing wealth which, Coates may be surprised to learn, he is not the first person to notice? That the federal government took from the Pearlmans something of great value is impossible to deny; whether it was of greater value than what was taken from Clyde Ross is impossible to say. Nevertheless, I would refrain from using Coates’s favorite word in this context, if only because I cherish hopes of maintaining some boundaries to its definition.

Beware Coates’ Campaign of Deception through Diction

The danger in allowing “plunder” to become a nonsense term is foreshadowed by the fate of its cousin epithet “neo-colonialism.” Because “neo-colonial” has no stable definition—it could describe literally any interaction between the West and the Third World—African despots have used it to condemn anything they don’t like. With this magic word, it is possible to cancel entire investment projects, send aid shipments back, put inconvenient charity groups on planes home. The word’s flexibility also means that rulers can refrain from applying it to exploitative things that they do like, including some of the less savory Chinese operations on the continent. The word “neo-colonialism” thus becomes what every word becomes when it is subordinated to politics: an expression of raw arbitrary power.

The word ‘neo-colonialism’ thus becomes what every word becomes when it is subordinated to politics: an expression of raw arbitrary power.

Coates uses the word “plunder” for a grab-bag of tragedies, misfortunes, and annoyances: an eviction he witnesses in Chicago, presumably over chronic non-payment of bills; the “killing fields” of inner city gang violence; the “inescapable robbery of time” in “the moments we spend readying the mask, or readying ourselves to accept half as much”; and, somewhat off-topic, “the damming of seas for voltage, the extraction of coal, the transmuting of oil into food.” But these things are not plunder.

Plunder is what Britain did to Ireland. It is what Thaddeus Stevens wanted to do to the prostrate South. (Would a Congressman Coates have opposed him?) Coates justifies his moth-antenna sensitivity to “plunder” on the logic that “there was no golden era when evildoers did their business and loudly proclaimed it as such.” But if you had asked an English parliamentarian to defend the Penal Laws, he would have freely admitted that the immiseration of the Irish was the whole point. The idea was to render them incapable of starting yet another savage civil war—not, in itself, an unworthy goal, though the means were unacceptable. Nor did Thad Stevens consider “confiscation” a slur. Plunder is a venerable and useful concept. In Coates’s hands, it is a stick to beat his enemies with.

It may be that Coates is not familiar with all of this history. There is quite a lot of history he doesn’t know, by his own admission. In December 2012, it notoriously came up in an interview that Coates had never heard of Saint Augustine—which would have been fine, except that earlier that very day he posted an item on his blog arguing that Christian holidays are no less “made-up” than Kwanzaa. People who have never heard of Augustine are not necessarily ignorant in an objective sense. They may not even be ignorant in the contextual sense that they should not be senior editors of national magazines. But people who have never heard of Augustine probably should not go around pronouncing on the made-up-ness of Christmas and Easter. (This gap may also help explain Coates’s surprise at the Christian forgiveness on display in Charleston.)

Coates sometimes wields old quotations the way fundamentalists wield Bible verses, as if the words themselves had incantatory power.

Then again, an autodidact’s knowledge is always irregular, and even his critics must allow that Coates’s willingness to admit what he doesn’t know is one of his most admirable qualities. Another is contagious enthusiasm, also an amateur’s virtue. But Coates has the flaws as well as the gifts of a born autodidact. His veneration of primary sources verges on the superstitious, and he sometimes wields old quotations the way fundamentalists wield Bible verses, as if the words themselves had incantatory power. In just two years Coates cited Mississippi’s secession ordinance seven times on his blog, always by way of proving that the Civil War was about slavery—which it was, but one paragraph from a fundamentally propagandistic document is not quite the debunking Coates made it out to be. Why assume that Confederates would pour out their innermost motivations, shorn of all politically motivated misdirection, into this particular document? Coates does not explain. For him it is enough that the words are “what actual Confederates were saying.”

There is one quotation from John C. Calhoun that Coates uses over and over again in the same fashion—in his book, in the “Reparations” article, in his blog series on the Civil War:

With us the two great divisions of society are not the rich and poor, but white and black; and all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals.

Why has Coates fixated (if that is not too strong a word) on this quotation in particular, as if there were not a hundred other racist Calhoun quotes to choose from? Perhaps because it shows Calhoun trying to substitute race for class, and that is precisely Coates’s own game. Like the Fanonists of his father’s generation, who cast the Third World in the role of the proletariat, there is something distinctly Marxist about Ta-Nehisi Coates. You can hear it in his harping on “plunder” and exploitation, in his hard-nosed rejection of bourgeois sentimentality, in his conviction that all suffering is the product of some elite class’s self-serving design, and more recently in his aggressive atheism.

The adulation Coates receives from the mainstream press proves we have lost our collective antibodies to the most destructive ideology of the twentieth century.

If you ever want to send a chill up your own spine, replace “black people” with “the working class” in one of Coates’s angrier effusions. “The Dream rests on the worker’s back, the bedding made from our bodies … The Dreamers accept this as the cost of doing business, accept the bodies of the working class as currency … The worker is naked before the elements of the world, and this nakedness is not an error but the correct and intended result of policy.” It is no coincidence, comrade! This is why the adulation Coates receives from the mainstream press is so disturbing: not because a fashionable pundit is being praised out of proportion to his talent—that happens all the time—but because it proves we have lost our collective antibodies to the most destructive ideology of the twentieth century. Have the Atlantic readers who find “plunder” such an interesting concept never heard the lyrics to “Solidarity Forever”? (“They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn …”) Do they not remember how that story ends?

This legacy casts an ominous shadow over the most remarked-upon anecdote in Between the World and Me, the story of the woman who pushed Coates’s son on an Upper West Side escalator:

You were almost five years old. The theater was crowded, and when we came out we rode a set of escalators down to the ground floor. As we came off, you were moving at the dawdling speed of a small child. A white woman pushed you and said, “Come on!” Many things now happened at once. There was the reaction of any parent when a stranger lays a hand on the body of his or her child. And there was my own insecurity in my ability to protect your black body. And more: There was my sense that this woman was pulling rank. I knew, for instance, that she would not have pushed a black child out on my part of Flatbush, because she would be afraid there and would sense, if not know, that there would be a penalty for such an action. But I was not out on my part of Flatbush.… I turned and spoke to this woman, and my words were hot with all of the moment and all of my history. She shrunk back, shocked.

“She would not have pushed a black child out on my part of Flatbush.” He does not say that she would not have pushed him if he’d been white, but that she would not have pushed him if they’d been in his neck of Brooklyn. Why? “Because she would be afraid.” Afraid of what? Of getting her head kicked in, presumably. Something about the way Coates contemplates this possibility suggests that, for all his protestations, he quite likes the idea that other people’s lives should be hemmed in by this kind of “penalty.” Maybe virtue without terror is impotent after all. “In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage,” Coates writes. I will stack America’s ideological heritage against his any day, in any measurement he chooses—but most especially in bodies destroyed.

This article is reprinted with permission from The University Bookman.

Photo 2/26/13 -- Brookline, MA

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic senior editor and author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle lectures on The 150 Year War: Race and Emancipation in the Age of Obama at the African American Studies Program.
Photo by Cydney Scott for Boston University

Helen Andrews is a policy analyst at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney, Australia, and she has written for National Review, First Things, and several other publications.

St. Louis Blues



At Countenance, the Beat of St. Louis, of course.

Borders, Laws, and Self-Interest: Donald Trump’s Position Paper on Immigration (Complete Version!)

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again

The three core principles of Donald J. Trump's immigration plan

When politicians talk about “immigration reform” they mean: amnesty, cheap labor and open borders. The Schumer-Rubio immigration bill was nothing more than a giveaway to the corporate patrons who run both parties.

Real immigration reform puts the needs of working people first – not wealthy globetrotting donors. We are the only country in the world whose immigration system puts the needs of other nations ahead of our own. That must change. Here are the three core principles of real immigration reform:

1. A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border.

2. A nation without laws is not a nation. Laws passed in accordance with our Constitutional system of government must be enforced.

3. A nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation. Any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans.

Make Mexico Pay For The Wall

For many years, Mexico’s leaders have been taking advantage of the United States by using illegal immigration to export the crime and poverty in their own country (as well as in other Latin American countries). They have even published pamphlets on how to illegally immigrate to the United States. The costs for the United States have been extraordinary: U.S. taxpayers have been asked to pick up hundreds of billions in healthcare costs, housing costs, education costs, welfare costs, etc. Indeed, the annual cost of free tax credits alone paid to illegal immigrants quadrupled to $4.2 billion in 2011. The effects on jobseekers have also been disastrous, and black Americans have been particularly harmed.

The impact in terms of crime has been tragic. In recent weeks, the headlines have been covered with cases of criminals who crossed our border illegally only to go on to commit horrific crimes against Americans. Most recently, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, with a long arrest record, is charged with breaking into a 64 year-old woman’s home, crushing her skull and eye sockets with a hammer, raping her, and murdering her. The Police Chief in Santa Maria says the “blood trail” leads straight to Washington.

In 2011, the Government Accountability Office found that there were a shocking 3 million arrests attached to the incarcerated alien population, including tens of thousands of violent beatings, rapes and murders.

Meanwhile, Mexico continues to make billions on not only our bad trade deals but also relies heavily on the billions of dollars in remittances sent from illegal immigrants in the United States back to Mexico ($22 billion in 2013 alone).

In short, the Mexican government has taken the United States to the cleaners. They are responsible for this problem, and they must help pay to clean it up.

The cost of building a permanent border wall pales mightily in comparison to what American taxpayers spend every single year on dealing with the fallout of illegal immigration on their communities, schools and unemployment offices.

Mexico must pay for the wall and, until they do, the United States will, among other things: impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages; increase fees on all temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats (and if necessary cancel them); increase fees on all border crossing cards – of which we issue about 1 million to Mexican nationals each year (a major source of visa overstays); increase fees on all NAFTA worker visas from Mexico (another major source of overstays); and increase fees at ports of entry to the United States from Mexico [Tariffs and foreign aid cuts are also options].  We will not be taken advantage of anymore.

Defend The Laws And Constitution Of The United States

America will only be great as long as America remains a nation of laws that lives according to the Constitution. No one is above the law. The following steps will return to the American people the safety of their laws, which politicians have stolen from them:

Triple the number of ICE officers. As the President of the ICE Officers’ Council explained in Congressional testimony: “Only approximately 5,000 officers and agents within ICE perform the lion’s share of ICE’s immigration mission…Compare that to the Los Angeles Police Department at approximately 10,000 officers. Approximately 5,000 officers in ICE cover 50 states, Puerto Rico and Guam, and are attempting to enforce immigration law against 11 million illegal aliens already in the interior of the United States. Since 9-11, the U.S. Border Patrol has tripled in size, while ICE’s immigration enforcement arm, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), has remained at relatively the same size.” This will be funded by accepting the recommendation of the Inspector General for Tax Administration and eliminating tax credit payments to illegal immigrants.

Nationwide e-verify. This simple measure will protect jobs for unemployed Americans.

Mandatory return of all criminal aliens. The Obama Administration has released 76,000 aliens from its custody with criminal convictions since 2013 alone. All criminal aliens must be returned to their home countries, a process which can be aided by canceling any visas to foreign countries which will not accept their own criminals, and making it a separate and additional crime to commit an offense while here illegally.

Detention—not catch-and-release. Illegal aliens apprehended crossing the border must be detained until they are sent home, no more catch-and-release.

Defund sanctuary cities. Cut-off federal grants to any city which refuses to cooperate with federal law enforcement.

Enhanced penalties for overstaying a visa. Millions of people come to the United States on temporary visas but refuse to leave, without consequence. This is a threat to national security. Individuals who refuse to leave at the time their visa expires should be subject to criminal penalties; this will also help give local jurisdictions the power to hold visa overstays until federal authorities arrive. Completion of a visa tracking system – required by law but blocked by lobbyists – will be necessary as well.

Cooperate with local gang task forces. ICE officers should accompany local police departments conducting raids of violent street gangs like MS-13 and the 18th street gang, which have terrorized the country. All illegal aliens in gangs should be apprehended and deported. Again, quoting Chris Crane: “ICE Officers and Agents are forced to apply the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Directive, not to children in schools, but to adult inmates in jails. If an illegal-alien inmate simply claims eligibility, ICE is forced to release the alien back into the community. This includes serious criminals who have committed felonies, who have assaulted officers, and who prey on children…ICE officers should be required to place detainers on every illegal alien they encounter in jails and prisons, since these aliens not only violated immigration laws, but then went on to engage in activities that led to their arrest by police; ICE officers should be required to issue Notices to Appear to all illegal aliens with criminal convictions, DUI convictions, or a gang affiliation; ICE should be working with any state or local drug or gang task force that asks for such assistance.”

End birthright citizenship. This remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration. By a 2:1 margin, voters say it’s the wrong policy, including Harry Reid who said “no sane country” would give automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants.

Put American Workers First

Decades of disastrous trade deals and immigration policies have destroyed our middle class. Today, nearly 40% of black teenagers are unemployed. Nearly 30% of Hispanic teenagers are unemployed. For black Americans without high school diplomas, the bottom has fallen out: more than 70% were employed in 1960, compared to less than 40% in 2000. Across the economy, the percentage of adults in the labor force has collapsed to a level not experienced in generations. As CBS news wrote in a piece entitled “America’s incredible shrinking middle class”: “If the middle-class is the economic backbone of America, then the country is developing osteoporosis.”

The influx of foreign workers holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and makes it difficult for poor and working class Americans – including immigrants themselves and their children – to earn a middle class wage. Nearly half of all immigrants and their US-born children currently live in or near poverty, including more than 60 percent of Hispanic immigrants. Every year, we voluntarily admit another 2 million new immigrants, guest workers, refugees, and dependents, growing our existing all-time historic record population of 42 million immigrants. We need to control the admission of new low-earning workers in order to: help wages grow, get teenagers back to work, aid minorities’ rise into the middle class, help schools and communities falling behind, and to ensure our immigrant members of the national family become part of the American dream.

Additionally, we need to stop giving legal immigrant visas to people bent on causing us harm. From the 9/11 hijackers, to the Boston Bombers, and many others, our immigration system is being used to attack us. The President of the immigration caseworkers union declared in a statement on ISIS: “We've become the visa clearinghouse for the world.”

Here are some additional specific policy proposals for long-term reform:

Increase prevailing wage for H-1Bs. We graduate two times more Americans with STEM degrees each year than find STEM jobs, yet as much as two-thirds of entry-level hiring for IT jobs is accomplished through the H-1B program. More than half of H-1B visas are issued for the program's lowest allowable wage level, and more than eighty percent for its bottom two. Raising the prevailing wage paid to H-1Bs will force companies to give these coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the U.S., instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas. This will improve the number of black, Hispanic and female workers in Silicon Valley who have been passed over in favor of the H-1B program. Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Senator, Marco Rubio, has a bill to triple H-1Bs that would decimate women and minorities.

Requirement to hire American workers first. Too many visas, like the H-1B, have no such requirement. In the year 2015, with 92 million Americans outside the workforce and incomes collapsing, we need companies to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed. Petitions for workers should be mailed to the unemployment office, not USCIS.

End welfare abuse. Applicants for entry to the United States should be required to certify that they can pay for their own housing, healthcare and other needs before coming to the U.S.

Jobs program for inner city youth. The J-1 visa jobs program for foreign youth will be terminated and replaced with a resume bank for inner city youth provided to all corporate subscribers to the J-1 visa program.

Refugee program for American children. Increase standards for the admission of refugees and asylum-seekers to crack down on abuses. Use the monies saved on expensive refugee programs to help place American children without parents in safer homes and communities, and to improve community safety in high crime neighborhoods in the United States.

Immigration moderation. Before any new green cards are issued to foreign workers abroad, there will be a pause where employers will have to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers. This will help reverse women's plummeting workplace participation rate, grow wages, and allow record immigration levels to subside to more moderate historical averages.

Frank Sinatra + Mark Steyn = Magic


"Blue-blooded girls of independent means... Frank with Grace Kelly"

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

For a profile to do justice to a towering a figure, the writer must be the subject’s literary equivalent. When it comes to politics, Mark Steyn is the greatest wit in the business, but his grit factor is erratic. However, what I’ve so far seen of his work as an entertainment writer, is without peer.

It Was a Very Good Year

By Mark Steyn
Sinatra Song of the Century #1

By Ervin Drake
Steyn's Song of the Week
January 5, 2015


Frank Sinatra was the most influential popular singer of the 20th century – not just because of a six-decade career of big hit records, but because his taste in music and the longevity of his success helped shape and expand the American Songbook. Not all icons survive death: I think of Leonard Bernstein or Bob Fosse, both at their passing the most celebrated practitioners in their respective fields, or Bing Crosby, the biggest selling recording artist of all time at the time he left us, and these days little more than a guy who gets played on the holiday channels in the month before Christmas. Either because of inept stewardship of the legacy, or a reputation that depended on live presence to maintain the conceit, or a combination of both, even the most dominant pop culture celebrity can dwindle away to the point where a decade later on no-one can quite recall what all the fuss was about. With Frank Sinatra, the opposite seems to have happened. When the gravelly old bruiser of the global stadium tours finally expired in 1998, it made it easier for a younger generation to see the man in his prime: the best singer of the best songs by the best writers in the best arrangements. Just about everything short of his morning mouthwash gargles has been excavated, digitally remastered and released on CD. And, if that's not enough, younger fellows like Michael Bublé and Robbie Williams can build huge careers on what are essentially karaoke performances of Sinatra staples, relying on the sheer power of his charts for "Come Fly With Me", "For Once In My Life", "One For My Baby" to deflect just enough retro-cool their way.

He was born into an Italian immigrant family in Hoboken, New Jersey in December 1915. So, to mark this centenary year, we're celebrating Sinatra's art with one hundred of his songs, from his earliest hits through to the barnstorming showstoppers of his final years on tour in the Nineties - twice a week from now through to the anniversary of his birth on December 12th. From "Night And Day" to "New York, New York", "The Lady Is A Tramp" to "One For My Baby", these hundred songs are simultaneously a portrait of one man's legend, the times he lived, and a century of American popular music. Here's what I wrote in Mark Steyn From Head To Toe:

"Rock'n'roll people love Frank Sinatra," said Bono at the 1994 Grammy Awards, "because Frank Sinatra has got what we want. Swagger and attitude. He's big on attitude. Serious attitude. Bad attitude. Frank's the Chairman of the Bad." If only 20 per cent of the gossip is true, it was an amazing life... But what's even more amazing than the life is that the records live up to it, and then some. The swagger and attitude, the chicks and mobsters are the incidental accompaniment; the real drama is in the songs.

So these are the songs: some are by famous men - Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart; others are by obscure figures like E A Swan or Joseph Myrow, whose names live on in one outstanding 32-bar contribution that Sinatra noticed and chose to keep alive; some of these songs are numbers written for Frank that he made into standards; others are from forgotten shows and films from a generation earlier that survived because of his championing of them. Indeed, the very notion of a standard - a song that transcends mere Hit Parade ranking and can be re-investigated in different styles over and over across the decades - is one of Sinatra's great contributions to American popular music. Just ask Bob Dylan, whose own album of Sinatra "uncover versions" (as he calls them) is about to be released.

So where to start?

When I was seventeen

It Was A Very Good Year...

Too obvious a number to launch a retrospective with? This song looks back, but without the foursquare bombast of "My Way". It conjures the women, too. And it ties it all together in a very Sinatra metaphor: life as a wine cellar, full of vintage years - a little more rarified than the last guy in the barroom at quarter to three dropping another nickel in the jukebox to hear one last saloon song for long lost losers, but still brewed from the same basic ingredients - and with the perspective of a lifetime, too. They used it for a stylish biographical montage for Frank's 80th birthday TV tribute in 1995: "small-town girls ...on the village green" (well, Frank and his childhood sweetheart in Hoboken) and then "city girls who lived up the stair" (all those bobbysoxers lined up at the Paramount)... It's about the only bit of the show that doesn't prompt a "What the hell were they thinking?" I mean, a rap tribute from Salt'n'Pepa? Hootie and the Blowfish doing "Lady Is A Tramp"? Most of the all-star gala's "stars" were where-are-they-now? queries ten minutes after airtime. But Sinatra endures, and "It Was A Very Good Year" captures his audacity. Half-a-century after its recording, it seems entirely natural, made for Frank. But it wasn't, and it took a happy accident and a transformative arrangement to match the song to the singer.

The composer of "It Was A Very Good Year" is a fellow called Ervin Drake. I met him many years ago at a little gathering in the Ascap rotunda, home of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. In a room full of bluechip songwriters, almost all of them had had their songs sung by Sinatra. They were saluting Jerry Herman, author of "Hello, Dolly!", which Frank recorded with Count Basie in a Quincy Jones arrangement as a goofy tribute to his chum Louis Armstrong. Burton Lane took to the piano bash out the tune and Sammy Cahn sang the inevitable special lyrics ("Hello, Jerry!") . Lane's "Old Devil Moon" is one of the highlights on Sinatra's Songs For Swingin' Lovers, and Cahn was the guy who wrote "The Tender Trap", "Come Fly With Me", "All The Way", "My Kind Of Town", and the other signature songs that defined Frank's persona in the Fifties and Sixties. Among the others present were Comden & Green, writers of "New York, New York", which Sinatra sang on screen in On The Town, and Sammy Fain, composer of "I'll Be Seeing You", one of the über-standards which Frank got in on the ground floor of, as boy vocalist with the Tommy Dorsey band in the early Forties. There was Marilyn Bergman, lyricist of "Nice'n'Easy", which Frank introduced, and Leiber & Stoller, who wrote "Kansas City", "Jailhouse Rock" and a bunch of other big rock'n'roll hits, none of which Sinatra sang. But he did do their elegaic ballad, "The Girls I Never Kissed", in the 1980s.

At one point in the evening I found myself chatting with a dapper fellow who turned out to be Ervin Drake. I knew the name but had only a hazy grasp of his catalogue, and, unlike Sammy Cahn & Co, he didn't automatically trigger any big Sinatra hits. For a moment I got him confused with his older brother Milton Drake (co-writer of our Song of the Week #72, "Java Jive"). But I recovered and began by mentioning "Quando Quando Quando", for which he wrote the English lyric. I neglected to add that the reason I knew that was his song was because I'd just done a rather vulgar parody as a spoof public service message for a BBC show. Anyway, we chatted on, and more of Mr Drake's oeuvre emerged - his first big hit "Tico Tico", a piece of exuberant Brazilian exotica for Disney's Saludos Amigos; "Good Morning, Heartache", for Billie Holiday; Juan Tizol's "Perdido", which stayed in Duke Ellington's act for decades; "I Believe", a blockbuster for Frankie Laine. For most of his early hits, he wrote lyrics only, but by the time he turned up on Broadway he was writing both words and music. He said he was planning a revival of What Makes Sammy Run?, a minor success for him in the Sixties that gave Steve Lawrence a pop hit with "A Room Without Windows". (Last I heard, Mr Drake, now just shy of 95, is still working on a revival of What Makes Sammy Run?: Everything on Broadway takes decades these days, even the revivals.)

And then he brought up "It Was A Very Good Year", and I nearly kicked myself: Of course! Ervin Drake's all-time greatest song. Don't get me wrong, I like "Tico Tico" and "Quando Quando Quando", and I've nothing against "Room Without Windows" and "I Believe", or even "Castle Rock", a raucous Ervin Drake number Sinatra recorded back in 1951, but if I had to shave the Drake Songbook down to just one number it would be "It Was A Very Good Year".

The year he wrote it wasn't a very good year at all. Not for Drake's music. It was 1961 and he was working in television, producing specials for Nat "King" Cole, Ethel Merman, Gene Autry, Ginger Rogers, Perry Como, Eddie Cantor... He was an important figure in the industry, the chap they entrusted with prestige projects like To Mamie With Music, his 1956 birthday salute to the First Lady, Mrs Eisenhower. But in the music biz - his first love - he hadn't had a hit in eight years, not since "I Believe" (the favorite song of a First Lady-in-waiting, Lady Bird Johnson). About to leave his TV job, he swung by an old music-publisher pal to see what was happening, and his chum said he had a big star coming in to see him the following morning - Bob Shane.

Who? Well, he was the lead singer of the Kingston Trio, and the Trio were the lead stars of the folk fad. They'd had a Number One single with "Tom Dooley", and at one point in the early Sixties four of the Top Ten albums were Kingston Trio LPs. Ervin Drake didn't care for rock'n'roll but he saw no reason why he couldn't crank out a "folk song". So he went into the room next to the publisher's office, sat down at the piano and wrote:

When I was seventeen

It Was A Very Good Year

It Was A Very Good Year for small town girls and soft summer nights

We'd hide from the lights

On the village green

When I was seventeen

He finished the thing in ten minutes, although the central idea - life as a cellar of fine wine - had been kicking around in the back of his head for some time. It's not a folk song, or even a pseudo-folk song. It's what happens when a real songwriter tries writing a "folk" song. As Bob Shane was wont to complain about "Tom Dooley", "I've sung it 40,000 times. It has three chords and three verses." Sometimes they have three chords and thirty verses but it doesn't make much difference. The distinguishing feature of, say, "Lemon Tree" (another Kingston number) is the lack of narrative shape, of dramatic arc. It gets going, it chugs along, it stops. Drake imposed form on his "folk" song. Musically, it has an interesting flamenco-like structure which, in turn, suggested an unusual rhyme scheme: A/B/C/C/A/A. Drake decided to put the title on the second unrhymed line, and reprise it immediately at the start of the long third line - also most unusual. It's a folk song, so he wrote it in verse form, but not "Tom Dooley"-like, where there are three verses everybody knows and another 50 that go on forever. For Drake, each verse was, in effect, a season in the "very good year" of a man's life. So he figured the first line would set up the precise year the singer is recollecting:

When I was twenty-one

It Was A Very Good Year

It Was A Very Good Year for city girls who lived up the stair

With all that perfumed hair

And it came undone

When I was twenty-one...

That's another trick that lets you know it's a professionally crafted song: the placement of each type of girl in the middle of that long third line - "small town girls", "city girls", "blue-blooded girls"... It's the story of a man on his way up, and Drake has only a few syllables to sketch very precise worlds. He doesn't waste a word: "We'd hide from the lights/On the village green..." That pierces precisely stolen adolescent romance. Then on to the city girls "who lived up the stair/With all that perfumed hair/And it came undone..." There's a whole scenario in there. The date. The dropping off at the apartment. The "Would you like to come up?" And the hair tumbling down to let you know the evening's only just beginning. What a gorgeous, sensual image.

Whether Bob Shane appreciated all this is hard to say, but he came in the next day, heard the song, and said "Sure." And, just in case it didn't sound "folky" enough, Ervin Drake punctuated each verse with a little tweedly-dee faux-simple interlude to which the folkies could sing:

Hey nonny-non

Hey nonny nonny-non...

That was too much even for the Kingston Trio. They recorded the song in a rather stiff fashion, noticeable from Bob Shane's opening "se-ven-teen". He sings it not as two quavers and a crotchet, as Sinatra does and as the stresses would fall in spoken English, but as an evened-out triplet, as if he's declaiming some Elizabethan ballad. On the other hand, when he gets to the hey-nonny-non interlude, he whistles it, so perhaps it's more of a sea shanty. The simplicity of the guitar accompaniment is appealing, but also the problem: They simpled the song out of all its potential.

The Trio stuck it on their album Going Places and it went nowhere. Lots of other folkies did it - Chad and Jeremy, the Gaslight Singers, the Modern Folk Quartet. But they all sang it Kingston Trio-fashion and it went no more places than the original version. In 1961, Ervin Drake was 42, and it was not a very good year. His post-"I Believe" drought continued.

Four years pass, and Drake's all but forgotten the song. It's 1965, and Frank Sinatra is preparing to mark his 50th birthday. Think about that for a moment. Most celebrities don't mark 50th birthdays. By then, their drivers' licenses are shaving three or four years off, and their lifestyles are frozen around the age of 27. But Frank had decided to make an album about a man contemplating "The September Of His Years", to quote the title song he commissioned from Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. I used to think the idea was nothing more than Sinatra contrarianism: At a time when most celebs cling ever more fiercely to lost youth, he embraced premature old age. But Sinatra scholar Will Friedwald makes the point that "many of Sinatra's closest associates bought the farm while they were in their fifties". In the preceding decade, he'd lost his old boss, Tommy Dorsey; his first great arranger, Axel Stordahl; his record producer at Columbia, Manie Sachs; his longtime first violinist, Felix Slatkin - and many of the jazzers he most admired, such as Billie Holiday, died even younger. So it's entirely possible he and his arranger Gordon Jenkins were completely sincere in their intimations of mortality. It's a beautiful album: a couple of remakes - "September Song" (of course) and "Last Night When We Were Young" - and a lot of new material by fellows on the fringes of the Sinatra circle - "The Man In The Looking Glass", "I See It Now", "When The Wind Was Green", "It Gets Lonely Early"... You get the gist early - the falling leaves, the graying hair, the days dwindle down to a precious few. Yet it never wears.

Nonetheless, it wouldn't be half the album it is had not Frank chanced to be driving home through the California desert to his home in Rancho Mirage. He had the radio on, and, of all unlikely things, the disk-jockey played a four-year old Kingston Trio album track: "It Was A Very Good Year".

It's an interesting lesson in how Frank thought about music. The Kingston Trio version sounds nothing like a Sinatra song, but he heard the possibilities in it - all the possibilities, indeed, that Bob Shane missed: the loves of one's life as a series of vintage wines, recollected as if by an old oenophile wandering through his cellar. In his drearily unmusical biography of Sinatra, Anthony Summers cites the theory of the journalist St Clair Pugh that the third verse of "Very Good Year" was a conscious reference to Frank's affair a decade earlier with Gloria Vanderbilt:

When I was thirty-five

It Was A Very Good Year

It Was A Very Good Year for blue-blooded girls of independent means

We'd ride in limousines

Their chauffeurs would drive

When I was thirty-five

Oh, for heaven's sake. When Ervin Drake wrote that lyric, he wasn't writing with Sinatra in mind and he didn't know about Frank and Gloria Vanderbilt. It's the broader trajectory that parallels Sinatra's life so effortlessly: If you like, the first verse of "small-town girls and soft summer nights" is young Frankie and Nancy, his girl next door back in Hoboken; and the second verse's "city girls" are the starlets at Metro in his Hollywood days; and the third verse is Ava Gardner, Lauren Bacall and the other A-listers he graduated to in the Fifties. But it's not meant to be that specific. It's about the memory of loves as different as great wines, as intoxicating and as impermanent, save for the lingering savor of a sweet taste just beyond your tongue. By 1965, Sinatra was the acknowledged master vintner of alcohol-infused imagery, from "You Go To My Head" to "One For My Baby", and, unlike Bob Shane, he heard the poetry in Ervin Drake's words. Of Ol' Blue Eyes' record, Shane said simply, "It fit him better than me." Well, yes. But not just because Frank's nailed more chicks. In the Shane version, it is, like many folkie songs of the era, a song about singing a song. Sinatra understood it's meant to be autobiography - not necessarily his but somebody's:

But now the days grow short

I'm in the autumn of the year

And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs

From the brim to the dregs

It poured sweet and clear

It Was A Very Good Year.

Sinatra's singing is beautifully framed by Gordon Jenkins' masterpiece of an arrangement. Jenkins had a kind of kitschy pretentiousness that eventually found its most fantastically disastrous expression in the Future concept album of Frank's Trilogy set. Yet Jenkins was also one of the first to spot the cash-cow potential of the faux-folkie stuff. The Kingston Trio modeled themselves on the Weavers (Pete Seeger and co), and the Weavers were brought to national prominence by Gordon Jenkins. He told Decca to hire them and, when the Decca execs nixed the deal, Jenkins signed them to a personal contract he put up his own dough for. Their smash hit "Goodnight, Irene" was credited to "Gordon Jenkins with the Weavers". He'd helped invent the folk boom Ervin Drake was trying to get a piece of.

Still and all, he knew folkiness was not what "A Very Good Year" was meant to be about. He took Drake's little hey-nonny-nonny interlude - the bit the Kingston boys had whistled - and turned it into a great throbbing wail of strings and oboes. The sound was a Jenkins trademark. "He had that little thing where we used to kid," Bill Miller, Sinatra's pianist, told Will Friedwald. "He'd go from minor to major or major to minor. And right after the record date we'd all walk out singing, 'Gor-don Jen-kins'." No doubt. But "Very Good Year"'s plaintive oboe seesaw is the apotheosis of the Gor-don Jen-kins wail. And, for all the criticism of his harmonic language and his reliance on a handful of tricks, Jenkins was the greatest storyteller of Sinatra's arrangers. "Gordon's whole thing was the story," Frank's trombonist Dick Nash said. And that's what he did with "It Was A Very Good Year": he told the story.

It blew Ervin Drake away. He had no idea that Frank had ever heard of his song, never mind reinvented it. So he was on vacation in Britain when the publisher called him to say he'd received an advance pressing of a new recording of "It Was A Very Good Year" . By Sinatra. "It wasn't a great phone line," he said, "but I knew I'd heard a masterpiece, and I fell in love with it, and I've never stopped loving it."

On a TV special later that year, Sinatra, with Jenkins conducting, used "It Was A Very Good Year" as the framing material for a suite of retrospective reflections, each verse of "Good Year" punctuated by a different song - "Young At Heart", "The Girl Next Door", "Last Night When We Were Young", "Hello, Young Lovers". It's fine and effective as a one-off, but I don't think you'd want it that way on the album: "It Was A Very Good Year" is a kind of suite all to itself. As Frank introduced it, sometimes a song can be "the sum and substance of a man's life" ...but it took Sinatra and Jenkins to draw that out. "I couldn't imagine that kind of reading," said Drake. "Nobody had a mind like Sinatra ...and the ability as an actor."

The problem is the Sinatra/Jenkins transformation of the song is so awesome few other interpreters can get out of its shadow. Even William Shatner's spoken declamation isn't as fun as it might be. I would cite two recordings that manage to rise above: The first is Keely Smith's, from her Sinatra tribute album. She performs it as a salute to Frank from one of his staunchest gal pals, and turns Drake's hey-nonny-nonny and Jenkins' strings-and-oboe wail into a big brassy swinging vamp. It kicks off "A Very Good Year" as up-tempo swinger braggadocio: A lotta years, a lotta broads. Which makes a kind of sense. After all, chick-wise, if you had half Frank's memories, would you be as mournful and elegaic as Gordon Jenkins' oboe? I think not.

My second favorite post-Frank interpretation is by Homer Simpson. After being pulled over for driving under the influence, Homer decides it's time to give up his beloved Duff beer. He goes into the kitchen, pulls the six-pack from the fridge, and starts pouring it down the sink. "Well, beer," he sighs, "we've had some great times." And the music underneath goes into that Gordon Jenkins oboe obligato, setting up another bittersweet elegiac autumn-of-my-years recollections of a life lived to the full. Ervin Drake used the image of wine to evoke a man's life as a cellar of fine vintages. Homer's version uses the image of beer to evoke, well, beer:

When I was seventeen

I Drank A Very Good Beer

I Drank A Very Good Beer

I purchased with a fake ID

My name was 'Brian McGee'

I stayed up listening to Queen

When I was seventeen

To be honest, Homer's fake ID and staying up listening to Queen may approximate more closely to most youthful experience than Frank's poignant reflections on perfumed hair coming undone. But what makes the cover version one of the all-time great musical parodies is that Homer's glum recitation – life as an accumulation of banalities - is set to more or less exactly the same intense Gordon Jenkins arrangement as Sinatra's original.

As for Ervin Drake, did he have some very good years? When he was 17, or thereabouts, he fell in love with a Broadway chorus girl called Edith. But she threw him over and so he wrote "Good Morning, Heartache" as a kind of therapy. Thirty years later, in the mid-Seventies, just after his wife Ada died, Drake got a call. It was Edith. They married and lived happily ever after. Unlike "It Was A Very Good Year", the romance didn't stop at 35.

Still, when he was 46, it was a very good year. Before Sinatra's record, he was a lyricist who put words to any old tunes regardless of whether - as with "Perdido" or "Tico Tico" - anybody needed them. After Sinatra's record, nobody questioned whether Ervin Drake could write music. As for the hey-nonny-nonnies, they seem gone for good. A year or so later, Drake ran into Sinatra and asked him why he'd dumped the hey-nonny-no in favor of Jenkins' big orchestral wail. "Hey," said Frank. "Just be grateful I didn't go 'doo-be-doo-be-doo-be-doo'."

From the brim to the dregs

It poured sweet and clear

It Was A Very Good Year

Sinatra had a line he liked to use: "You gotta live every day like it's your last, because one day you'll be right." I doubt even he managed to live every single day like that, but he had more very good years than most of us.

~The above essay includes material from Mark's book A Song For The Season. "The Voice", his essay on Sinatra, appears in the anthology Mark Steyn From Head To Toe. Personally autographed copies of both books are exclusively available from the Steyn store.

~For an alternative Sinatra Hot 100, the Pundette has launched a dedicated Sinatra Centenary site, counting down from Number 100 ("In The Cool Cool Cool Of The Evening") to Number One.

Breaking News: 5 People Shot in Just Three Hours in D.C., One Woman Confirmed Dead

By Prince George’s County Ex-Pat


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cowardly, Publicity-Whoring, Soros/Evangelical Traitors Denounce Trump; They Demand that GOP, Americans, and Christianity Go Down to Dignified Defeat, Destruction, and Death, Rather than Pull Out Ugly, Bare-Fisted, Bloody-Knuckled Victory (Ann Coulter)


Evangelical "leaders" at an Evangelical Immigration Table event—funded by George Soros 

Excerpted by Nicholas Stix

As I’ve often remarked to my editor, Peter Brimelow, the Christians who founded this country were made of sterner stuff than the ones we see today, who are always in a rush to forgive monsters.

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth, but They Shouldn’t be President
By Ann Coulter
October 28, 2015, 6:12 p.m.

It took a billionaire living the glamorous New York City life to exhibit real Christian courage by going against every elite group in the nation, every media outlet, every well-heeled donor, to defend America from destruction by immigration.

Baptist leader Russell Moore [Email him] desperate for liberal approval, claims that Christian conservatives “must repudiate everything they believe” in order to support Donald Trump, who “incites division, with slurs against Hispanic immigrants and with protectionist jargon that preys on turning economic insecurity into ugly ‘us versus them’ identity politics.” (Please like me, New York Times!)….

[Read the whole Coulter, at VDARE.]