Friday, November 14, 2014
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Economic factors will make the Chinese ignore it, and should do the same for the U.S.
November 12, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) poses for photographs with China's President Xi Jinping (C) and Xi's wife Peng Liyuan during the APEC Welcome Banquet at Beijing National Aquatics Center, or the Water Cube, in Beijing, November 10, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/KIM KYUNG-HOON
When the United States and China announced a surprise carbon-emissions deal, the environmental Left squealed in delight. Al Gore declared it “groundbreaking progress from the world’s largest polluter” (i.e., China), while John Kerry patted himself on the back in the New York Times, gushing about how “the world’s most consequential relationship has just produced something of great consequence in the fight against climate change.”
Despite the extraordinary fanfare, there’s abundant reason for skepticism. Though the announcement is politically expedient for both Barack Obama and Xi Jinping, China almost certainly won’t take significant steps to reduce carbon emissions.
That’s because the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist party’s government rests squarely on economic development. Energy — often produced by dirty coal — allows that economic development to occur, lifting millions out of hand-to-mouth poverty.
But China remains a developing country, and it will stay that way for quite some time. In 2010, the World Bank estimated that more than one Chinese person in five survives on less than $2 a day, using 2005 international prices. And just a few months ago, Chinese premier Li Keqiang estimated that 200 million Chinese continue to live on $1.25 a day or less.
“The biggest difficulty is that the demand [for energy] will still be there,” Wang Yi, a climate-change expert at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the New York Times. “Urbanization won’t be completed, industrialization won’t be over and there will still be these large regional disparities. The eastern regions will be quite developed, but there will still be poverty in the center and west.”
Also consider 2012 estimates from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences suggesting that the number of “mass incidents” — CCP-speak for protests — regularly exceeds 100,000 a year. Much of the unrest centers on economic dissatisfaction. And many of the most noteworthy incidents, including a knifing at the Kunming train station and a car explosion at Tiananmen Square, occurred or originated in the impoverished central and western regions.
China’s ruling class cares far less about carbon emissions — or about the international community’s opinion, for that matter — than it does about maintaining its chokehold on power. So don’t expect it to gamble economic progress on lofty environmental goals.
At the same time, Chinese frustration with constant smog, heavy pollution, and environmental recklessness is also growing, so Beijing benefits politically from agreeing to far-off carbon-emissions reductions. The announcement gives the illusion that China’s official environmental policy is gradually improving.
In reality, Beijing hasn’t actually agreed to much: It will try to “stop increasing” carbon emissions by 2030 — which is a slanted way of saying its emissions will continue to grow for another 16 years — and derive 20 percent of its energy from renewables by then, up from about 10 percent now. Though these goals may be codified into Chinese law, the CCP does not have a reputation for respecting the rule of law. And the United States and the international community won’t have any way of enforcing these goals. No wonder Reuters called it a “largely symbolic plan.”
The Obama administration and its allies in Congress surely know all of this, but they don’t care. The deal, realistic or not, offers a valuable talking point for ramming through radical environmental policy.
Critics of the president’s environmental policies have noted that even the most stringent emissions reductions from the First World won’t have much of an impact unless the developing world also cuts back. The environmental Left is marketing the new U.S.–China deal as a way to eliminate that objection and plow forward with the president’s hardline proposals for carbon regulations.
“Now there is no longer an excuse for Congress to block action on climate change,” Senator Barbara Boxer said in today’s New York Times. “The biggest carbon polluter on our planet, China, has agreed to cut back on dangerous emissions, and now we should make sure all countries do their part because this is a threat to the people that we all represent.”
Boxer ignores the myriad other valid objections to the Obama administration’s proposed regulations, which seek to cut carbon emissions 30 percent from their 2005 levels by 2030. In reality, it’s bad policy because, despite enormous economic cost, it would yield very few environmental benefits.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has estimated that these rules would cost $51 billion, as well as 224,000 jobs, every year between now and 2030. And a recent NERA Economic Consulting study puts the cost even higher — as much as $73 billion a year — while also predicting double-digit price hikes on utility bills in all but seven states. Notably, the EPA failed to mention what such stringent policies would accomplish: They’d cut global temperatures by less than two-hundredths of a degree Fahrenheit.
In other words, these costly regulations are largely symbolic — as is the U.S.–China emissions deal. Both underscore how fundamentally divorced from reality the president’s climate-change aspirations really are.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
The New York Times wants you to believe Team Clinton considers the midterms a win for her.
In the old Soviet Union, Kremlinologists would read the state party newspaper Pravda not so much for the news it contained, but to glean what the commissars wanted readers to believe the commissars were thinking. The closest we have to that in America is the New York Times.
Obviously, it’s not a state organ, and there are many fine journalists there, but it does play a similar role for the Democratic party, often reporting less on what Democrats actually think and more on what Democrats want readers to believe is the current state of Democratic thinking.
Two days after the midterm Democratic Götterdämmerung, Team Clinton let it be known that it thinks the election was good news for it. “Midterms, for Clinton Team, Aren’t All Gloom,” proclaimed the understated headline in the Times.
“A number of advisers saw only upside for Mrs. Clinton in the party’s midterm defeats,” reports Amy Chozick. There’s no mention of any advisers seeing a downside. Indeed, a few sentences later, Chozick tells us there is a “consensus . . . among those close to Mrs. Clinton that it is time to accelerate her schedule.”
“In many ways,” Chozick continues, “Tuesday’s election results clear a path for Mrs. Clinton. The lopsided outcome and conservative tilt makes it less likely she would face an insurgent challenger from the left.”
Maybe it’s true that that there is a silver lining for Hillary Clinton in the shellacking her party took last week. Maybe her ineffective stumping for Democrats means nothing. Maybe a 17-percentage-point loss for putative Clinton Democrat Mark Pryor in Clinton’s home base of Arkansas is a blessing in deep, deep, deep disguise. Maybe the staggering indifference of the Democratic coalition of young people and minorities on display last week is proof that they are really just husbanding their voting energies for 2016. And maybe the fact that the “war on women” shtick proved as stale as a 1980s sitcom catchphrase is irrelevant for a candidate so invested in her gender.
But the notion that this monumental rebuke of Clinton’s party, and the administration she served in, amounts to an unambiguous Clinton win invites many to ask, “What you talkin’ ’bout, Hillary?”
You can always tell you’re being spun if the opposite facts would yield the same result. Does anyone doubt that if the Democrats Clinton vigorously campaigned for had held on to the Senate, the same people would be telling the New York Times that the election results were a boon for Clinton? If the midterm results are scaring away potential left-wing insurgents, why is Clinton Inc. expediting its schedule? Shouldn’t the lack of a challenger make it easier for Clinton to lay low for a while longer?
Not according to this alleged consensus among her brain trust.
Chozick quotes from a “Ready for Hillary” fundraising email: “Now more than ever we need to show Hillary that we’re ready for her to get in this race. America needs Hillary’s leadership.”
Ah, so at a time when an unpopular president — in profound denial about what the voters were saying on Election Day — is tarnishing the whole Democratic brand, it makes irrefutably good sense for Clinton to further merge her own brand with her party’s?
How will President Obama respond to the notion that Clinton must now assume the mantle of leader of her party, never mind the nation? What, exactly, can an out-of-work politician do that will actually provide tangible proof of her “leadership”? How will it help Clinton to distance herself from an incumbent president still popular among the base voters she will inevitably need in 2016?
Frankly, I have no idea.
Although Obama and much of the media establishment are convinced that the midterms were a revolt against, variously, Washington, incumbents, gridlock, and/or obstructionism, the actual election returns were almost uniformly about throwing out incumbent Democrats, reelecting “obstructionist” Republicans, or electing a new generation of Republicans who vowed to stand up to Obama.
I think it’s obvious Democrats could use a fresh face or at least a politician more adept at navigating such problems. The consensus thinks differently — or at least wants you to think it does.
— Jonah Goldberg is a senior editor of National Review and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail email@example.com or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2014 Tribune Content Agency, LLC
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
The Khorasan group, moderate rebels, and other mythical creatures
Syrian rebels (AFP Photo/Aamir Qureshi)
Since the outbreak of the latest Middle East war a few years back, we have been chronicling the Washington political class’s Syria Fairy Tales. In particular, there is the story line that Syria is really teeming with secular democrats and authentic moderate Muslims who would have combined forces to both overthrow Assad and fight off the jihadists if only President Obama had helped them. But his failure to act created a “vacuum” that was tragically filled by Islamist militants and gave rise to ISIS. At this point in the story, you are supposed to stay politely mum and not ask whether it makes any sense that real democrats and actual moderates would agree to be led by head-chopping, mass-murdering, freedom-stifling sharia terrorists.
In point of fact, there simply have never been enough pro-Western elements in Syria to win, no matter how much help came their way. There was never going to be a moderate, democratic Syrian state without a U.S. invasion and occupation for a decade or more, an enterprise that would be politically untenable — and, as the Iraq enterprise shows, unlikely to succeed. The “moderate rebels” had no chance against Assad unless they colluded with the Islamist militants, who are vastly superior and more numerous fighters. And they would have even less chance of both knocking off Assad and staving off the jihadists.
The Obama administration and the Beltway commentariat have done their best to obscure these brute facts. Their main tactic is to exploit the American public’s unfamiliarity with the makeup of Syria. Obama Democrats and much of the Beltway GOP continue to invoke the “moderate Syrian rebels” while steadfastly refusing to identify just who those purported “moderates” are. They hope you won’t realize that, because of the dearth of actual moderate Muslims and freedom fighters, they must count among their “moderate rebels” both the Muslim Brotherhood (which should be designated as a terrorist organization) and various other Islamist factions, including . . . wait for it . . . parts of al-Nusra — i.e., al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise.
We’ve also noted that a new wrinkle has recently been added to the Beltway’s Syria Fairy Tales: Obama’s Khorasan Fraud. In a desperate attempt to conceal the falsity of Obama’s boasts about destroying what is actually a resurgent al-Qaeda, the administration claimed that the threat to America that impelled Obama to start bombing Syria was not ISIS (supposedly just a “regional” threat), not al-Qaeda (already defeated, right?), but a hitherto unknown terrorist organization called the “Khorasan group.”
To the contrary, the Khorasan group, to the extent it exists at all, has never been a stand-alone terrorist organization. It is an internal component of al-Qaeda — specifically, an advisory board (or, in Islamic terms, a shura council) of al-Qaeda veterans who advise and carry out directives from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s emir. During the fighting in Syria, some of these operatives were sent there by Zawahiri to conduct operations under the auspices of al-Nusra. These operations have included jihadist activity against both the United States and Assad allies, plus negotiations for a rapprochement with the Islamic State (or ISIS). The limited success of those negotiations has led to fighting among the jihadists themselves.
The ball to keep your eye on here is al-Qaeda. The al-Nusra terrorist group is just al-Qaeda in Syria. Even ISIS is just a breakaway faction of al-Qaeda. And the Khorasan group is just a top-tier group of al-Qaeda veterans doing al-Qaeda’s work in conjunction with al Nusra — i.e., al-Qaeda.
The Obama administration disingenuously emphasizes these various foreign names to confuse Americans into thinking that there are various factions with diverse agendas in Syria — that al-Qaeda is no longer a problem because Obama has already dealt with it, and what remains are sundry groups of “moderate rebels” that the administration can work with in the effort to vanquish ISIS. Meanwhile, you are supposed to refrain from noticing that Obama’s original Syrian project — remember, he wanted Assad toppled — has given way to fighting ISIS . . . the very Sunni jihadists who were empowered by Obama’s lunatic policies of (a) switching sides in Libya in order to support the jihadists against Qaddafi and (b) abetting and encouraging Sunni Muslim governments in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey to arm Sunni militias in the fight against Assad — those militias having all along included al-Qaeda elements, some of which split off to become ISIS and now threaten to bite off the very hands that once fed them.
If you thought the Khorasan fraud was just a passing fad to get Obama through the initial stages of trying to rationalize his incoherent Syria air campaign, think again.
You see, Obama continues to have a problem. Everyone knows that ISIS, the main target of U.S. bombings in Syria and Iraq, cannot be defeated — or even stalled much — by a mere air campaign, which has been half-hearted at best anyway. Ground forces will be needed. So the administration and Washington’s foreign-policy clerisy keep telling Americans: Never fear, there is no need for U.S. ground troops, because we can rely on “moderate rebels” to fight ISIS. But the so-called “moderates” Obama backs have been colluding with al-Qaeda (i.e., al-Nusra) for years — at least when not being routed by al-Qaeda/al-Nusra.
Now, the sensible thing at this point would be to concede that there are no viable moderate forces in Syria, and that it would be folly for us to continue pretending those forces either exist or will materialize anytime soon. But no, that would be honest . . . which is not the Obama way — nor, frankly, is it the Washington way — to end our willful blindness to the lack of moderation among Middle Eastern Muslims.
So if honesty is not an option, what to do? Simple: Let’s just pretend that al-Nusra — part of the al-Qaeda network we have been at war with for 13 years — is, yes, moderate!
But wait a second? How can we possibly pull that off when we know al-Nusra/al-Qaeda is also plotting to attack the United States and the West?
Easy: That’s why we have the “Khorasan group”!
I kid you not. Even as al-Nusra/al-Qaeda mow down any “moderate rebels” who don’t join up with them, the Obama administration is telling Americans, “No, no, no: The al-Nusra guys are really good, moderate, upstanding jihadists. The real problem is that awful Khorasan group!”
Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio have the story at The Long War Journal:
CENTCOM draws misleading line between Al Nusrah Front and Khorasan Group
US Central Command [CENTCOM] attempted to distinguish between the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, and the so-called Khorasan Group in yesterday’s press release that detailed airstrikes in Syria.
CENTCOM, which directs the US and coalition air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, denied that the five airstrikes targeted “the Nusrah Front as a whole” due to its infighting with the Syrian Revolutionaries’ Front, but instead claimed the attacks were directed at the Khorasan Group.
“These strikes were not in response to the Nusrah Front’s clashes with the Syrian moderate opposition, and they did not target the Nusrah Front as a whole,” CENTCOM noted in its press release.
The CENTCOM statement goes a step further by implying that the Al Nusrah Front is fighting against the Syrian government while the Khorasan Group is hijacking the Syrian revolution to conduct attacks against the West.
“They [the US airstrikes] were directed at the Khorasan Group whose focus is not on overthrowing the Assad regime or helping the Syrian people,” CENTCOM continues. “These al Qaeda operatives are taking advantage of the Syrian conflict to advance attacks against Western interests.”
Read Tom and Bill’s entire report, which sheds light on the web of jihadist connections.
Understand, the Khorasan group is al-Nusra, which is al-Qaeda. The “moderate Syrian rebels” are neither moderate nor myopically focused on Assad and Syria. (Indeed, Syria does not even exist as the same country anymore, now that ISIS has eviscerated its border with Iraq while capturing much of its territory.) The overarching Islamic-supremacist strategy of al-Qaeda has never cared about Western-drawn borders. The ambition of al-Qaeda, like that of its breakaway ISIS faction, is to conquer both the “near” enemies — i.e., the Middle East territories not currently governed by its construction of sharia — and the West. Al-Qaeda (a.k.a. al-Nusra, a.k.a. the Khorasan group) wants to overthrow Assad, but it still regards the United States as its chief nemesis.
The Khorasan group exists only as an advisory group around Zawahiri. The Obama administration’s invocation of it to divert attention from al-Qaeda and launder al-Nusra into “moderate Syrian rebels” is sheer subterfuge.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.
‘I could take that there tape-recorder and shove it up your …’ As the country star prepares for the release of his new album Rock & Roll Time, here’s an interview originally published in Country Music in October 1979
By Nick Tosches
14 October 2014
Jerry Lee Lewis performs at the Rainbow theatre in London, England in December 1978. Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns
By Nick Tosches
14 October 2014
Jerry Lee Lewis performs at the Rainbow theatre in London, England in December 1978. Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns
Dressed like a side-street gambler from the days when chrome was chrome, Jerry Lee Lewis sits in the dressing room of the Palomino Club, holding loosely in his lap a half-drained quart of Seagram’s like the unglowing sceptre of an ancient fading kingship.
He looks mean. But not as mean as last night, when he straightened out that chump in the audience with one fast, cruel line; when he threw that swaggering record-company lifer from his dressing room; when, at night’s end, he dared any man present to lift a hand against him. I tried to talk to him last night, but he was in too dark a mood. “What’s the weather gonna be like tomorrow in China?” he asked me. I told him I didn’t know, didn’t care; and he snarled his disgust. “Where do you wanna be buried?” he asked me. “By the ocean,” I answered. That was better. He nodded his indulgent approval. And so it went last night. Toward the end, he would talk of nothing but the Bible. At the end, he would talk of nothing at all.
But, yes, tonight the Killer is in a better mood. He hasn’t thrown anyone out of his dressing room, nor threatened anyone’s life, nor cussed anyone too badly. Not yet, anyway. He looks at the tape-recorder I have set before him the way a man might look at a snake, trying to decide if it’s venomous. He takes one of my cigarettes and starts smoking it. I say something:
NT: Yesterday we were talking about the Bible, and you said that your favourite book was Revelations.
JLL: That isn’t what I said. I said from Genesis to Revelation. Take it as a whole. It’d be hard to choose a favourite book in the Bible. Lord, there’s so many great books. I studied it, studied it all my life. Greatest history book in the world, if you take it word for word, from Genesis to Revelation. All the way. Don’t leave nothin’ behind. Don’t skip over here and skip back over there, take what you want, leave what you want. That ain’t the way God intended it to be read.
NT: Haven’t you ever run across anything in the Bible that you can’t understand?
JLL: You know why you don’t understand it? Cuz you’re lookin’ for an easy way out. Now, if you can show me somethin’ in there that’ll show me how to get outta this thing without burnin’ my ass off in hell, I wanna know where it’s at. You and me, we’re gonna burn in hell. We’re in trouble. We’re sinners, goin’ to hell.
NT: I ain’t so sure about that. You really think we’re goin’ to hell?
JLL: Straight as a gourd. I think we’ve been extended long enough. We’ve been smiled upon quite a bit. The time is near.
NT: How near, Killer?
JLL: Well, nearer than you think. We don’t have the promise of the next breath. We’re goin’ to hell. Fire and brimstone. The fire never dies, the burnin’ never dies, the fire never quenches for the weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth. Yessir, goin’ to hell. The Bible tells us so.
NT: Ain’t nobody going to heaven?
JLL: Very few, very few. It’s a hard place to get to, son. Can’t get there through the Palomino Club, that’s for sure. Church can’t get you to heaven. Religion can’t get you to heaven. Ain’t no such thing as religion anyway. The Bible never speaks of religion; it speaks of salvation.
NT: Next week, Jackson Browne and a bunch of other singers are going to perform at an anti-nuclear rally, nearby in San Luis Obispo. How do you feel about people who combine music and politics?
JLL: Bunch of damn idiots.
NT: So you don’t figure on playing at any anti-nuke shows in the near future.
JLL: To hell with ’em all! Blow ’em all up! Blow everybody clear to hell! Get it over quick! Just don’t kill no alligators in Louisiana. Leave them alone. I married a few of ’em.
NT: Did you keep the hides?
JLL: They damn near got my hide.
NT: Have you ever thought of producing your own records?
JLL: Every record I ever done, I produced. All them cats ever did was follow me around in the studio, try to keep up with me. Who would you vote for, me or Linda Ronstadt?
NT: I never voted in my life. Never will.
JLL: Well, son, what if you had to vote?
NT: I wouldn’t vote for either of you fools, that’s for sure. What could force me to vote?
JLL: Cat with a hide-whip standin’ over ya, whuppin’ ya on the butt with it.
NT: Hell, I’d vote for him.
JLL: That’s sharp. You’d vote for me, then.
NT: Anything you say, Killer. Somebody was telling me the other day about your pushing a piano into the ocean.
JLL: You’re damn right I did. That was in Charleston, South Carolina, a while back. I pushed it outta the auditorium. I pushed it down the street. I pushed it down the pier. Pushed it right into the ocean. Don’t rightly recall why I did it. The piano musta been no good. I just started pushin’ it and it built up steam. Conway Twitty was standin’ there starin’. I don’t think they ever redeemed that piano. I think Jaws got a hold of it.
NT: You’ve been married five times now…
JLL: That’s my goddam business.
NT: … Do you know any more about women now than you did the first time you got married?
JLL: A skirt’s a skirt.
NT: Is that knowledge gonna lead to a sixth marriage?
JLL: I don’t know, son. Maybe God intends for me to live out my life alone.
NT: Have you ever thought of getting into real acting?
JLL: I don’t want no part of it. I hate it. Actors work hard at their job, like I do. But I never did care about actin’. That’s somethin’ I just never did wanna get into. There’s been some great actors, though. Humphrey Bogart, Charles Laughton, Robert Mitchum. I like watchin’ them old movies. I’d hate to take that part of my life away. I like to sit back and watch them suckers, enjoy ’em, knowin’ I don’t have to be in ’em. Take them guys, Abbott and Costello. They were sharp, very sharp. Singin’, dancin’, duckin’ under water, talkin’, or what; it made no difference. They had it, boy, they truly did.
NT: Do you think you might have missed out on much if you had remained down in Ferriday, Louisiana?
JLL: I really don’t know. I never thought about it, Killer. Hand me back my whiskey. Buncha damn drunkards around here. Y’know, one of them things (points to the recorder) can get a man buried. Could get a man killed. A man be sayin’ somethin’ drinkin’, somebody take that tape and use it against him. Get ’im killed. (Sings:) I’ll be here, son, when you’re gone… Know what I think’s your problem? You want your cake and eat it, too.
NT: Sure, why not?
JLL: Damn! You just pissin’ against the wind. You gonna live, you gonna die. You got a soul, you ain’t no animal. And that soul’s goin’ to heaven or it’s goin’ to hell. There’s just two places to go. On Judgment Day, you and I are gonna have to give account for the deeds that we’ve done, the sins that we’ve –
NT: Why are you so obsessed with dyin’ and goin’ to hell. Jerry?
JLL: I’m a sinner, I know it. Soon you and me are gonna have to reckon with the chilling hands of death.
NT: Why the hell are we going to hell?
JLL: Because Satan has power next to God. We ain’t loyal to God, we must be loyal to Satan. Got to be loyal 24 hours a day, brother. There ain’t no in-between. Temptation is the lowest of sins. Jesus was tempted, but he overcome it. That’s why we’re sittin’ here now. You are what you are. You shall serve whomever you served on Earth. You can’t serve two gods. You love one and hate the other. The Bible says you cannot serve God and Mammon. Can’t serve two gods. You’ll love one and hate the other.
NT: Do you figure Elvis went to heaven or to hell?
JLL: You’re not draggin’ me into that one. I’ll tell ya, it sure is a shame. Elvis had plenty of time to prepare hisself. I talked to him quite a bit about his soul. (Starts singing Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds.) Y’know, son, there’s only been four of us: Al Jolson, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis. That’s your only goddam four stylists that ever lived. We could write, sing, yodel, dance, make love, or what. Makes no damn difference. The rest of these idiots is either ridin’ a damn horse, pickin’ a guitar, or shootin’ somebody in some stupid damn movie.
NT: What other piano players do you like?
JLL: Chuck Berry. Hell, I can’t think of any piano players. I don’t know none but myself. (Sings) “Down the road, down the road, down the road apiece....” I remember that one, the piano player who did that one. That was in 1947. Then in ’48 he came out with (Sings) “Have fryers, broilers, and good old barbecue beef... you never seen such a sight, down at the house, the house, the house of blue lights.” That’s one of my favourites, man, I swear. People don’t realise that I have been doin’ these songs ever since they were number-ones, 1947, 1948. Since I was a little child, man, growin’ up. (Sings) “Down in New Orleans where everything’s fine, all them cats are drinkin’ that wine.” I got the original record of that, Drinkin’ Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee. My cousin gave it to me many years ago. I played that sucker and played it and played it till I wore the damn thing out. It had it. But it didn’t have it like my version had it. A song can be good, but it can’t be great till I cut it.
NT: Do you ever get sick of singing Great Balls of Fire night after night?
JLL: I gotta do it. Them folks would yell for their money back if I didn’t. I mean, hell, we sold like 38, 39 million records on it. Whole Lotta Shakin’ done sold over 100 million records, if y’can believe that. The guy that wrote it, he’s been dead. They got in a big squabble over who wrote it. They don’t rightly know who wrote it. The publishin’ was all tied up. It went back into court again. Big Mama Thornton did it. She didn’t do it like I did it, though. Hell, they oughta give me credit for writin’ the damn thing. I rewrote the whole song. It’s funny that me and Elvis should have two big hit records by Big Mama Thornton. That’s strange. She’s been dead now for many years.
NT: No, she’s still alive.
JLL: Hell, no, she’s been dead for at least 20 years now, son, that’s a fact.
NT: Is it true, Jerry, that your ancestors used to own Monroe, Louisiana?
JLL: That’s a fact. Before it was Monroe. The Lewis Plantation. My great-great-grandfather owned it. He could take his fist, hit a horse, knock that horse to his knees. A hell of a man, Old Man Lewis. Then they turned his slaves loose. Hell, they got a big history, the Lewises. Wild drinkers. Wild gamblers. Sinners, all of ’em. I tell you, son. I’m a mean, mean man.
NT: It would seem like that at times.
JLL: Man, I could take that there tape-recorder and shove it up your…
NT: Why in hell would you wanna try to do something like that?
JLL: Just to prove I can.
NT: Do you really think you’re that mean, Jerry?
JLL: Hell, I don’t know. I wouldn’t think so. They say I am. They’ve always called me the Killer. I often wondered why. I think they meant it musically speakin’, not like I’d go around killin’ people. Hell, the only thing I ever killed was a Louisiana mosquito. The Killer. Lord, I hate that damn name.
© Nick Tosches, 1979