Friday, March 04, 2011


By Ann Coulter
March 2, 2011

As Obama rakes in historic campaign contributions from Wall Street money, liberals claim Republicans are beholden to "the rich." However that may be, it is far more true, and far less remarked upon, that the Democratic Party is the party of public sector unions.

And now, the nation watches helplessly as public sector unions and their Democratic allies say to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Nice state you got there, governor. Be a shame if something bad happened to it.

For Democrats, the purpose of government is to generously provide jobs for people who otherwise couldn't be hired -- because their skills, attitude or sense of entitlement are considered undesirable in the private sector. And no, I'm not just talking about Barack Obama.

Democrats use taxpayer money to fund a government jobs program, impoverishing the middle class and harming the people allegedly helped by the programs -- but creating a vast class of voters who owe their jobs to the Democrats.

This is a system designed to ratchet up costs. Look at the history of every entity where public employees have unionized, and you will find that not only are government workers paid more, but there are also a lot more of them doing a lot less useful work.

There could be two students per class, and the Democrats would still be campaigning for "smaller class size," so that the government would be required to hire more public school teachers to staff classes with one student. For Democrats, the purpose of public education in this country is not to teach children; it's to create jobs for "educators."

Forget the nonsense about working men with dirt under their fingernails, slugging it out at dangerous jobs with a heartless management riding them to get more production at lower wages –- those guys are what liberal journalist Harold Meyerson calls "dead weight."

We're talking about government employees, most of whom -- when they show up to work at all -- sit in comfortable, air-conditioned offices, kick off at 3 p.m., are entitled to endless sick days, personal days and holidays, whose performance can never be evaluated and who retire at age 50. (Again, I'm not focusing just on Barack Obama here.)

Government employees are even worse than welfare layabouts. In a triple-whammy for the taxpayer, they are: (1) hideously expensive, (2) impossible to fire, and (3) doing things you don't want done at any price.

Hey, guess what? I'm from the government, and I can burn down your garage for $300!


OK, fine, I'll do it for you for $20.


OK, the guys with the matches and gasoline will be by sometime between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. one day next week.

As with so many other things, such as vegan restaurants and the crack epidemic, California leads the country in destruction by government unions.

California's civil service unions have employed all the usual thug techniques –- regular strikes (illegal until the California Supreme Court approved them in 1985), rolling strikes, the "blue flu" (cops and other public-safety workers calling in "sick") -- all of which are almost as harmful to the state as when they actually show up for work.

While taxpayers groan under their tax burdens, one group of voters is constantly lobbying for higher taxes: government employees, who are paid by the taxpayer.

When California voters approved Proposition 13 back in 1978, cutting astronomical property taxes 57 percent, the public sector unions went ballistic.

Union bigwig Ron Coleman said, "We're not going to just lie back and take it."

John Seferian, vice president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said the union should have told politicians: "Hey, we'll bring the roof down on you." (Which you have to be a member of the roofers' union to do.)

Jerry Wurf, president of AFSCME, warned that the union was "prepared for confrontation."

His solution to the ballooning cost of government employees was ... guess? That's right, it was the same as it always is: Tax the rich.

"Let the big shots pay!" Wurf said. Embodying the hopes and dreams of our Founding Fathers, Wurf said organizing government employees was part of his goal to "remake the economic and political system" in line with the vision of socialist Norman Thomas and the Young People's Socialist League.

Members of public sector unions see their pensions and benefits the way the Mafia views its "partnership" with a restaurant, as described in the movie "Goodfellas": "Business bad? F--k you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? F--k you, pay me. Place got hit by lightning, huh? F--k you, pay me."

Spoiler alert: When the restaurant owner is unable to pay his mob tribute, they burn the place to the ground.

But government employees aren't exactly like the mob. At least the Mafia guys have a strong work ethic.


Reagan-Era Paperboy

By Daniel J. Flynn on 3.4.11
The American Spectator

In 1985, everybody that I knew had a paper route. Time magazine's Tom Vanderbilt reports that paperboys have been replaced with papermen. They apparently like to be called "independent delivery contractors." Twenty years ago, Time notes, paperboys made 70 percent of newspaper deliveries. The most recent statistics show that paperboys make just 13 percent of deliveries -- and you've probably noticed that subscriptions are down.

From 1982 to 1987, I delivered the Boston Globe. For those five years, I held three different routes -- two simultaneously -- and filled in for vacationing friends atop that. Mailmen brag of neither rain nor sleet nor snow keeping them from their rounds; newspaper carriers might add Sundays and federal holidays to that list. Paperboy is a 365-day-a-year job.

Time touts lost work experience as a reason to lament the demise of the paperboy. But I didn't deliver papers as a career builder. I did it for the cash. My weekly profits, usually around $15, enabled me to purchase a road Quebec Nordiques jersey, Atari 2600 cartridges, and a bulky 4-inch black-and-white portable television whose supporting cast of ever-expiring D-batteries proved too costly for me to support. Not so frivolous, and unappreciated until a few years later, was the $5,000 college scholarship the Globe awarded for keeping a route for three years. I never got an allowance. I got a job. And when that cash in your pocket is your own, even if you're using it to obtain already-dated electronic gizmos and fashion tributes to the Stastny brothers, you know its value.

Delivery was just one way the route turned a profit. A meek fiftysomething gentleman and his burly blue-collar roommate, surely my first cognizant exposure to gay people, contracted with me to shovel them out for a generous $20 upon significant snowfalls. A senior citizen, weak with emphysema, paid me to pick him up Marlboros. It was the '80s, and they didn't card cigarette-buying nine-year-olds. He had but a few years to live, and I like to think the tobacco certainly increased the quality, if not the quantity, of his life. A shaggy customer, whose clock had stopped sometime during the previous decade, paid me $10 to help him move on a summer Saturday morning. He insisted upon finishing before that afternoon's historic event, Live Aid, which, as soon became apparent, he considered historic for reasons peculiar to him. He excitedly asked, "Do you know that Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young are reuniting this afternoon?" "No," I informed him. "Do you know that Led Zeppelin and The Who are?"

Other child-labor arrangements proved more stereotypically exploitative. An older woman believed that paying for newspaper delivery entitled her to my delivering her groceries as well. The hounding paperboy in the contemporaneous movie Better Off Dead more closely resembled a few of my customers. The call to go to the store rudely interrupted driveway basketball games, homework, and would-be record scores in Demon Attack. The unpredictability of the imposition haunted me. The 35-cent tip acted more as irritant than salve. For slightly more money, she employed me to remove crumbly insulation around pipes in her basement. Only later did I realize what she had then known: I had extracted more than my weight in asbestos.

Bad customers didn't tip; worse ones avoided paying altogether. Fourth-graders aren't very difficult to bowl over. Collection could be more negotiation session than straight receipt of payment. "Oh, goodness, no. Four weeks? You must be mistaken. Here's two weeks." The Globe didn't absorb the losses. The paperboy did. Shouldering the costs of sweet old-lady scofflaws fostered a healthy childhood habit of saying "no" -- half as long as a four-letter word but twice as offensive to adults.

So when a wealthy young customer -- in the vernacular of the times, a Yuppie -- avoided me for several months, and then declared that my tardy delivery justified non-payment, I pled with the paper office to cut the surly, stingy, and unstable woman from my rolls. "Make one last effort to collect," they directed. Over my objections, I did. She proceeded to swear at me, hit me, and dig her nails deep into my neck. The Globe not only dropped her form my rolls, they flagged her to never receive home delivery again.

The delivery "death penalty" was the least of her problems. In a Henry II-St. Thomas Becket moment, I relayed my story of woe to several enthusiastic listeners. These principled hooligans, fond of hurling broken spark plugs at windows and reenacting Neil Armstrong's moonwalk on parked automobiles, paid restitution. Their loyalty -- even if more to hooliganism than to me -- touched. The paperboy gets paid one way or another.

Despite the drawbacks, routes were sought after. I inherited my primary route from an older brother. I bequeathed it to a younger brother. Occasionally, carriers sold their routes. Now, you literally can't pay a kid to deliver newspapers.

That's too bad. Much of what parents protect children from turn out to be what they need most. Paper routes ensure outside activity every day, responsibility, independence, and familiarity with neighbors. The forced neighborhood interactions included a few children of the 19th century, shut-ins shut off from departed friends and spouses, whose time spent with a child of the late 20th could make a week -- for me at least.

Alas, overprotective parents aren't the sole, or even primary, issue explaining the decline of the paperboy. People don't read newspapers in the religiously observant way that they once did. A byproduct of an uninformed citizenry is an uninformed kidizenry. More than instilling self-sufficiency or a sense of duty, a paper route produced a literate, worldly kid who read the product he delivered. Is it a coincidence that Matt Drudge, Matt Lauer, and Tom Brokaw delivered the news before they delivered the news?

Victrolas, telegraphs, duels, and other such atavisms generally go out of style because society progresses. Paperboys have faded into yesterday because society has decayed.

- Daniel J. Flynn, the author of A Conservative History of the American Left, blogs at

Mexico Lost

By George H. Wittman on 3.4.11
The American Spectator

Soldiers arrive to secure and area where the bodies of two men were found in Acapulco, Mexico, Sunday, March 14, 2010. Nine people were killed in a gang shootout early that Sunday in Acapulco. (AP)

The Mexican drug cartels up to last year had avoidedscaring the tourists: no battling in Cancun -- at least not right in the resort areas themselves -- no shooting in Acapulco; and so on. That's over now. At the height of this year's February tourist season, 15 taxi drivers and a few passengers were killed in Acapulco. This followed a mid-January slaughter of 31 in that resort area. The year before in March a total of 17, including 6 police, were assassinated in what has been referred to as Mexico's Pearl of the Pacific. The drug cartels are no longer honoring their deals with the resort owners.

According to local journalists, the taxi drivers in years past acted as the eyes and ears of the police. It was a convenient arrangement. The cops were able to keep a discreet eye on the always vulnerable but wealthy tourists, and at the same time the taxi drivers received some protection for their "guide" activities in recommending everything from high stakes poker games, incidental drug availability and, of course, prostitutes. It was all quite circumspect and traditional to resort communities in many parts of the world. The drug gangs took them over and the result has been taxis are now the couriers-of-choice -- and fair game.

The resort owners of Cancun employed the same local toughs who later became the soldiers of the cartels to provide protection for their guests from traveling scam artists, thieves, and that part of the underworld that preyed on Cancun's seasonal target of students on school break. The arrangement took a great weight off the job of the underpaid local police and provided useful local employment. Now drug trafficking has increased employment, but also local insecurity and premature death among the formerly ubiquitous "beach boys." Two were killed in January. Nonetheless Cancun remains Mexico's preferred beach resort, if one doesn't mind vacationing under the protection of Los Zetas.

The cartels have destabilized the entire "hand-in-glove" system that had existed for years between law enforcement, the holiday industry, and the security provided by traditional Mexican organized crime. If the Corleone family actually had existed outside of their Hollywood creation, they would have lamented the fact that the drug cartels were "ruining the neighborhood."

The real test will come in the next month as American college students begin their annual Spring break. The Cancun hotel association is doing everything it can to create a secure environment, but the cartels are just not playing ball. The government of Felipe Calderon, as previous Mexican administrations before him, counts on the tourism industry for a major portion of their yearly service sector income and employment. The impact of the ongoing drug wars now adversely affects broad areas of society, even as the profits continue to buoy up investments.

When 30,169 people are killed as a result of drug wars in the four years of a presidential administration (Mexican Govt. statistics 2006-2010, including 12,456 Jan.-Nov. 2010), there must be a recognition that a civil war exists. And yet Mexico is still treated as a friendly neighbor with an unfortunate problem by the White House. The Mexican government may be quite correct when it points to the U.S. narcotics consumer as the reason for the scope of the illicit trade, but it is also true that Calderon encourages the Obama Administration to pretend there is no connection between the cartels' smuggling of humans and drug trafficking.

The latest example of purposely unexplored action has been the movement in Pima County, Arizona to secede from Arizona in order to establish a 51st state on the Mexican border. Apparently, certain Pima County authorities want to ensure freer access for all goods and human travel between the two countries. To suggest that this initiative is unconnected to the conflict over illegal immigrants challenges the public's intellect.

Another puzzle was created recently when the combined forces of ICE, FBI and DEA acted in swift response to the killing in Mexico of ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata and wounding of his companion S.A. Victor Avila. The result of this joint task force operation in a matter of a few days was the arrest of more than 100 people, the seizing of $4.5 million in cash and sizeable quantities of meth, cocaine, heroin and marijuana in several hundred locations around the U.S. Los Zetas members are the prime candidates for the shooting and it is presumed that those arrested in the raids principally had connections to this group.

Carl Pike, assistant special agent of the DEA Special Operations Division, said the raids were designed "to disrupt drug trafficking operations in the U.S." It is obvious that the entire operation was definitely "personal not business" -- all of which is quite understandable. The question arises, though, of how more effective similar activities could be if the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, unleashed her considerable anti-drug trafficking forces on a regular basis rather than restricting such actions to such a "personal" reaction to one agent's tragic death.

The Homeland Security department has allowed false stories to be perpetuated such as the reverse traffic in guns from the U.S. to Mexico. Why is that? It has turned out that detailed analysis by the independent STRATFOR group indicated that the figure of 90% of smuggled guns into Mexico was in itself off by 90%.

It's about time the Obama Administration accepted its responsibility to correctly identify the scope of the issue and protect the American public from the dangers that Mexico's economic and human turmoil brings. While this may be seen as a political problem, it is even a greater issue of governmental ethics. Get some backbone, Washington! The time for symbolic action is over. That is the real way to honor Jaime Zapata.

George H. Wittman writes a weekly column on international affairs for The American Spectator online. He was the founding chairman of the National Institute for Public Policy.


Thursday, March 03, 2011

Lessons Of The Fight Game

Sports Illustrated
March 07, 2011

Steve Farhoo and Nick Charles

Today is a good day. Nick Charles never knows when the good days will come, but he tries to embrace them. "Let's go for a walk," he says. We walk together unsteadily along the streets of downtown Santa Fe. People look over sometimes, but not because they recognize him. His face has hollowed. His hair was lost to chemotherapy. Every now and again, he bumps into me. The walking makes his breathing heavy.

"You know," he says, not unhappily, "I once did roadwork with Muhammad Ali."

Charles has lived a sports life. He sat ringside when Buster Douglas floored Mike Tyson. He stood on the sidelines while Joe Montana led the 49ers on a last-minute Super Bowl drive. He anchored coverage of the first Goodwill Games in Moscow, and became so close to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner that the Boss insisted on identifying himself by a spy name when calling with tips. Steinbrenner chose "Tom Turner."

Charles is 64 years old. He was the original sports anchor at CNN, in 1980, so long ago that when he called Tigers manager Sparky Anderson and introduced himself, Sparky said, "CNN? F--- you, I don't need a car loan," and slammed down the phone. He worked alongside Fred Hickman for 17 years, and together they battled to keep up with ESPN and SportsCenter. "I never liked all that ratings business," he says. "But we held our own for a long time."

The sun seems to gleam especially bright over downtown Santa Fe's low-slung cityscape. It is early afternoon and the air is crisp, and Charles does not want the walk to end. He knows it must. "Sure, it's corny to say that the lesson is we should embrace every minute," he says. "But what else is there? This is a beautiful world."

Nick Charles will die soon. He does not hide from it. When we pass a pretty little Spanish cemetery, he says that he considered being buried there. When he talks about how much he'd like to cover one more fight for television, he smiles and admits it probably won't happen. "It's O.K.," he says. "I've covered a lot of fights."

The doctors found Stage 4 cancer in his bladder in August 2009. By then the cancer had already spread into his lungs. No operation could help him. At first, the highest concentration of chemo seemed to subdue the cancer cells. Seven months later the doctors said the cancer had "come back with a vengeance." Charles noticed that it sounded like something a boxing announcer might say.

By Christmas of 2010, he knew that the fight was over. The doctors said that one more terrifying round of chemo offered a small chance to extend his life by a couple of months. Charles said no. "Remember the look on Thomas Hearns's face when he realized that no matter what he did, he could never slow down Marvin Hagler?" he asks. He decided then that he would spend the last few months fighting a different fight.

"I want to feel everything," he says.

He was born Nicholas Charles Nickeas and grew up in Chicago's inner city, a cab driver's son. It was a childhood of mustard sandwiches and cold nights with the heat off. It was a childhood that taught him to love self-made people. This, he feels, is what drew him to boxing. From 2001 through '10 he covered boxing almost exclusively—first for Showtime, and then for Bob Arum's Top Rank. "You know why I love boxers?" he asks as he looks out his living room window at the peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. "I love them because they face fear. And they face it alone. They came from nothing."

He says this without tears. He almost never cries. People marvel at this. Charles says he stays positive because he has no unfulfilled longings. "I've seen Paris," he says. He rereads his favorite books and watches sports with the sound down ("I want to make my own observations," he says), and discusses the news with his wife, Cory, who is a senior director for CNN International. He gets e-mails and phone calls from friends. Two weeks ago Mike Tyson called, as he often does. "On the other side," Iron Mike said, "I want to hang out with you."

There are fewer good days. "I hope," he says, "that I go to sleep and just don't wake up." This too he says with the same strong voice that once told America about Super Bowl quarterbacks and Kentucky Derby thoroughbreds.

He cries only when talking about Giovanna. She is his youngest daughter, and she turns five this month. Charles has three other children from two previous marriages, but the divorces were painful, and sports were all-consuming, and he did not spend much time with them. "I have regrets," he says. He has given his life to Giovanna. He spends every good moment playing with her and talking with her and watching Barbie movies with her.

"I'm sorry," Nick Charles says again and again because now he is crying, crying hard, and he says he has never been to Disneyland but will take Giovanna this month, if he lives long enough. He smiles as he considers how silly that sounds, like a sports cliché: "I'm going to Disneyland."

"She is strong," he says. "She will be O.K. when I'm gone. I know it." And he is quiet for a long time as he stares out the window at the mountains and then abruptly changes the subject. He talks about how much he likes watching sunsets. He says that sunsets in Santa Fe last almost forever.

Talk Back

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Nick Charles: Lead Pipe Cinch

By Keith Olbermann
Posted on March 3, 2011

Fred Hickman and Nick Charles

The first time I was ever on television, the first time they paid me to do that, something went really wrong. In 1981, the cameras used by reporters in the field were still vulnerable to the powerful radar systems at airports. Thus you can guess what happened we went out to the stadium next to LaGuardia in New York to do a story about the second chance afforded to the hapless New York Mets by the “split season” adopted by baseball in the wake of that summer’s player strike.

Nearly everything we shot, including most of my first-ever interview (Mets manager Joe Torre), turned out to have radar stripes and waves over the pictures, and air traffic controller growls over the audio. That’s right: it seemed like my future friend Torre was trying to land Pan Am’s 2:28 from Detroit. So what was supposed to be a two-minute report written and narrated by me in the field, was instead turned into what we could salvage: thirty ‘clean’ seconds of Torre answering one of my questions, edited to another ten seconds of Torre answering another one of my questions. The three usable seconds or so of the “cut-away” of me listening to Torre speaking, were shown over the point at which Torre’s two answers were butted together.

Nobody told the anchor of the broadcast for which I was free-lancing, CNN Sports Tonight. Nick Charles only knew there was a 40-second sound bite of Joe Torre in the middle of his story about the baseball season resuming. Out of nowhere, he saw some kid he didn’t know, with a big mustache and bigger glasses, nodding (nodding just once, because all the rest of the tape of me nodding had radar sweeps over it). I watched the show that night and Nick looked like there had been some kind of technical snafu. Or perhaps some strange kid had managed to cut in to CNN’s feed to get himself shown on television for three seconds. Nick Charles did not look happy.

Nick often did not look happy, on-air or off, but as I would come to quickly learn, his was a practiced dyspepsia, a studied world-weariness that had given him a gravitas that exceeded his 34 years, and had already made him a success in the Baltimore and Washington markets while most of the rest of his CNN Sports columns had come no closer to Baltimore and Washington than what they read on the backs of their baseball cards. Nick was our star and our credibility, literally the anchor that let punk kids like me and Fred Hickman and Gary Miller, and later Dan Patrick, learn our craft in front of the eyes of viewers who probably often looked at us the way Nick looked at me that first night when I suddenly showed up in the middle of his Joe Torre soundbite. Dan and I would later entertain each other at ESPN by doing impressions of Nick’s favorite expressions like “lead-pipe cinch” and his gloriously written reports from The Kentucky Derby (“the powerful, lunging thighs of a champion”).

When I went to work full-time for CNN out of New York about six months later, I came to know Nick, mostly second-hand (“Nick liked your piece last night. He said it didn’t suck like the other ones had. But you have to remember if he didn’t like you he wouldn’t even bother to say the other ones sucked”) and then by phone. That terrifying stare, or its phone equivalent, the pause, proved to be a small part blunt criticism (“Pizza? In our office? Seriously? You still in college when you’re not doing this?”) and a large part growling affection (“When I was your age I called everybody Sir. Of course when I was your age I also couldn’t have written a script as good as that”).

I bonded with Nick on a couple of nights when CNN sent me into Times Square to get him a newspaper. You read right. In the pre-internet days, The New York Times would print the “bulldog” edition and it would hit the streets, especially the ones nearest its own offices, between 10:00 PM and 12:30 AM. Exactly which story Nick needed to know about in ‘tomorrow’s Times’ I don’t remember (I think it had something to do with Bobby Knight) but the twenty minutes I spent in the payphone in the middle of the war zone there while I waited for it to come out, I remember perfectly, because when I called in to Atlanta to say the paper was still not on the newsstands, Nick came on and babysat me until it did. “You’re from New York and you don’t know Rule One? Rule One is, if you’re in a phone booth in Times Square and you’re actually talking to somebody, the drug addicts are far less likely to try to kill you because they’re afraid you’ll be able to give a description of them to the guy you’re talking to.”

When The Times turned out to have not run the story that night, I got back on the phone with Nick and he swore profoundly, and thanked me. And promptly sent me back in to Times Square the next night to do the whole thing over again. “We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” he said with an evil laugh. Then, “hey…what are you wearing? Huh?”

As Joe Posnanski bluntly writes on the back page of Sports Illustrated this week, “Nick Charles will die soon.” He was diagnosed with Stage 4 bladder cancer in August of ’09. There have been some improvements since, but we’ve all known what was coming and I know a lot of us did our interviews nearly a year ago with CNN about Nick and how he influenced our careers and supported us and led us in that way that makes you not notice he was doing anything until years later and how some of his ‘kids’ like Dan and me moved on to compete with him from ESPN in the ’90s and he never expressed anything but pride. I don’t know of any of these interviews that were completed without tears. Joe tells Nick’s story beautifully and simply, and I urge you to read it. I did. I will not be able to read it a second time.

Jihad in Frankfurt

By Robert Spencer
March 3, 2011

A policeman armed with a machine gun patrols at Terminal 2 of the airport in Frankfurt/M., western Germany. German authorities said Thursday they suspected a Kosovan man arrested over the fatal shooting of two US airmen was an Islamic extremist, but played down fears he was part of a cell.
(AFP/DPA/Frank Rumpenhorst)

Like so many jihad plots and actual jihad attacks and attempted attacks these days, the jihad murder of two U.S. airmen and the wounding of two others outside the Frankfurt Airport in Germany Wednesday was initially dismissed as having nothing to do with terrorism. According to the German news agency DAPD, Boris Rhein, the interior minister for the German state of Hesse hurried to the airport and almost immediately declared that there were no indications that the shootings had been a terror attack.

One wonders what actually would constitute a terrorist attack for such analysts. Would the murderer have to announce that he was about to carry out a terrorist attack before he started shooting? Would he have to be carrying an al-Qaeda membership card? In the case of the Frankfurt Airport shooting, there were, in fact, numerous indications that this was a jihad attack. The murderer was Arif Uka, a Kosovar Muslim. Despite widespread assumptions among American analysts that Kosovar Muslims are mostly moderate, secular, peaceful, Westernized, and grateful for U.S. intervention on their behalf, in reality al-Qaeda and other jihad terror groups have been active in that region for over a decade.

And even aside from the possibility of an actual link to al-Qaeda, Muslim hardliners have been streaming into Kosovo and the neighboring regions for just as long, and have been challenging on Islamic grounds the relatively secularized and non-combative Islam of the native Muslims. What’s more, Arif Uka is twenty-one years old and lives in Frankfurt, which has long been a hotbed of jihad activity in Germany.

As Uka opened fire, he shouted “Allahu akbar,” the universal cry of jihadis worldwide which Muhammad Atta reminded his fellow 9/11 hijackers to shout as they began operations, since, he said, the sound of it struck terror into the hearts of unbelievers. Another report suggests that he shouted “jihad, jihad.”

Nor would this be the first jihad attack against Americans by a Kosovar Muslim. Stratfor Global Intelligence reports: “A number of Albanian individuals were part of the Fort Dix plot in the United States in 2007. U.S. authorities broke up a militant cell in North Carolina that involved an individual of ethnic Albanian origin. In 2009, a U.S. citizen of Albanian descent from Brooklyn, New York, tried to go to Pakistan for militant training.”

Barack Obama quickly issued a statement saying, “I want everybody to understand that we will spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place, and in working with German authorities to ensure that all of the perpetrators are brought to justice.” Yet it is absolutely certain that if Arif Uka turns out to have been a pious, devout Muslim who read the Qur’an and cited it as a justification for the idea that Muslims have a responsibility to fight against infidels, that is one lead that Barack Obama will not follow up. No matter how many Muslim gunmen shout “Allahu akbar” as they open fire on non-Muslims, at this point the dogmatic lines have been drawn: analysts in the top military and intelligence posts in the U.S. and Europe understand that Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists, and they have been taught to understand that that fact somehow frees them from the obligation of understanding the enemy’s belief-system and formulating effective ways to combat it.

The script has long been written. The characters are cast. With every new jihad plot, all the media, government and law enforcement officials, and Islamic leaders need to do is fill in the blanks. In fact, I even pasted sections of this article in from older articles on earlier jihad attacks, including those previous three sentences and much of the lead paragraph – because the story never changes. All one need do is fill in the blanks in the template. In fact, Islamic groups in the U.S. have been shown to do this in the other direction, when a few years ago a template was found for condemnations of jihad terror attacks and protestations that they had nothing to do with the Islamic doctrines that their perpetrators avowed as their primary inspiration.

And so everyone follows his own template: Islamic groups issue their pro-forma condemnations of the latest jihad terror attack, which never seem to lead to any honest or forthright examination of the texts and teachings of Islam that inspire Muslims to shout “Allah akbar” and murder infidels. Government and law enforcement officials publish their expressions of outrage and vows to track down the perpetrators and punish them to the full extent of the law – vows that are rendered somewhat hollow by their consistent and essentially unanimous unwillingness to look honestly at the ways in which such attacks are inspired by Islamic teachings. This in turn prevents them from adopting any realistic measures to prevent such attacks in the future.

And I myself, as the writer of this article, have so many articles that I have written in the past about jihad terror plots or successful attacks, and the obfuscation and denial that followed in the wake of them, that I can use – and have used in this piece – to skewer yet again that obfuscation and denial, and to ask how many more innocent non-Muslims are going to have to be murdered before the elites in politics and the media begin to examine the problem of Islamic jihad seriously and honestly.

But really, how many more times must these templates be used? How much more murder and Allahu-akbaring must there be before American and European officials begin to take a hard look at immigration policies, at the short-sighted realpolitik it has pursued in the Balkans so as to create an Islamic supremacist beachhead there, and at multiculturalism itself. Several European leaders recently conceded that multiculturalism was a failure; this was a positive step, but so far none of them have actually done anything to roll back its deleterious effects.

The European Union and the United States have a great deal of work to do if they wish to make sure that there are no more jihad attacks like the one that Arif Uka perpetrated on an airport bus in Frankfurt on Wednesday. But there is still no clear, unambiguous indication that they really do have any serious interest in taking the necessary steps to protect their citizens from such random jihad violence, or even to preserve their free societies. Such steps would require no setting-aside of the legal rights that any citizen of an E.U. country or the U.S. enjoys; but they would certainly require the discarding of assumptions that are as tightly held as they are howlingly false.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Bernard Nathanson, 1926-2011

Much to Atone For

The Weekly Standard
Mar 7, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 24

Back-alley butchers. That was the catchphrase. And 10,000 women a year killed in illegal abortions, that was another. Coat hangers were what those butchers used to perform their grisly trade, and the only thing American women wanted was medical safety on the rare occasions when they made the agonized choice to abort their fetus. Not their unborn child. Fetus was the more scientific word, the true medical term, and besides, the argument wasn’t really about abortion. It was about choice​—​and who could be against that?

All these old slogans from the 1960s and 1970s, all these statistics, all these ways of framing the issue: One man, a doctor in New York named Bernard Nathanson, had a hand in concocting nearly every one of them. Sometimes, as in the claim of thousands dead from illegal abortions, they were complete fabrications. Other times, they were mere exaggerations. But always Dr. Nathanson was involved. “I am one of those,” as he later wrote, “who helped usher in this barbaric age,” and he spent the last 30 years of his life trying to atone for it.

His journey began with personal experience. Born in 1926, Nathanson was in medical school in Canada in 1949 when his girlfriend told him she was pregnant. Appropriating money from his father, he paid for her illegal abortion. The experience​—​and the desperate effort to justify what he had done​—​led him by the mid-1960s to become one of the nation’s most prominent advocates for legalized abortion.

Those were strange days for medicine, and Bernard Nathanson was in the midst of it all. In February 1969, then 42 years old, he addressed the conference that would soon develop into the largest pro-abortion lobbying group in the country, NARAL​—​the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. “We’re interested in the poor people who have had to use the back-alley butchers in the past,” he announced, and he showed it by doing such things as picketing his own Manhattan hospital. In 1970, New York enacted what was then the most permissive abortion law in America, and Nathanson promptly opened what he called the “Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health.” What it was, in fact, was a straightforward abortion practice, and over the next few years he oversaw 75,000 abortions​—​and performed 5,000 himself, including one on a mistress carrying his own child.

Not a violent man​—​he was, in fact, a slight figure, blinking through his owlish glasses​—​Bernard Nathanson nonetheless always described himself as an extremist and a militant. Just as an early experience of abortion radicalized him, so later experience radicalized him again. All the blood he saw as he worked, together with the emerging clarity of ultrasound pictures, eventually convinced him that the fetus was what he had once denied it to be: a living child.

He performed his last abortion in 1979, and by 1985 Nathanson had emerged again as a national spokesman​—​but this time on the pro-life side. He proved just as radical in his new cause, and perhaps it’s not surprising that, upon his conversion to Catholicism in 1996, he chose for his godmother not one of the movement’s intellectuals but one of its fighters: Joan Andrews Bell, who had spent more than a year in jail for blocking abortion clinics. In the mid-1980s, Nathanson provided the narration for The Silent Scream, the graphic film of an abortion that President Reagan screened in the White House to much outrage in the nation’s press.

“I know every facet of abortion,” he wrote. “I helped nurture the creature in its infancy by feeding it great draughts of blood and money; I guided it through its adolescence as it grew fecklessly out of control.” That was in his 1996 autobiography The Hand of God​—​and yet, it is a book less about abortion than about the theological narrative he came to see had shaped his life.

Born to a doctor father in a secular Jewish family, Nathanson had always assumed that rationality required the rejection of God. But something in the pro-life fight brought him to faith. He didn’t reject abortion because he was Catholic. He became a Catholic because the struggle against abortion exposed him to serious believers, for the first time in his life. “We systematically vilified the Catholic Church and its ‘socially backward ideas,’ ” he explained about his early days with NARAL. In the final years before his death on February 21 at age 84, he had become an apostle for those same ideas.

Bernard Nathanson was a very American kind of figure​—​a man filled with equal portions of eccentricity and greatness, and both deriving from the same source: his incapacity to live without a defining purpose. He wanted to believe in the goodness of abortion, and so he threw himself, body and soul, into the work. And when he realized it was just a business, and when he couldn’t any longer avoid seeing the children on whom it is performed, he reclaimed himself, body and soul again, by plunging into the fight against abortion.

It’s hard to praise the life Bernard Nathanson led, striding across the stage of America’s public struggles. But it was always a big life. And, in the end, a redeemed one.

Joseph Bottum is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.

Libya’s Makeover

The Libyan people are no more our ally than Qadaffi.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
March 2, 2011 4:00 A.M.

Condoleezza Rice meets with Moammar Qaddafi in September 2008.

‘The relationship has been moving in a good direction for a number of years now, and I think tonight does mark a new phase,” said Condoleezza Rice. President Bush’s secretary of state was taking time out from inventing the 70 percent of Palestinians who just want to live side-by-side in peace with the Zionist entity in order to reinvent Moammar Qaddafi.

It was September 2008, and the Freedom Agenda was in full swing, with a few hiccups: Hamas taking over Gaza, Hezbollah strangling what passed for the government of Lebanon, al-Qaeda reassembling in Pakistan, the Taliban resurging in Afghanistan, and, in Iraq, the usual: Shiites killing Sunnis, Sunnis killing Shiites, and everyone killing Americans when they weren’t busy chasing any remaining non-Muslims out of the country. What better time to see Colonel Qaddafi, heretofore a barbaric mass-murderer, as the proverbial leopard who’d changed his spots?

In reality, it had been the swift military rout of Saddam Hussein that induced Qaddafi to renounce (or claim to renounce) his ambition to develop weapons of mass destruction in late 2003. But once the hard-power promise of the Bush Doctrine gave way to the belief that thugs could be democratized into submission, the wily old terrorist found a system he could game. And game it he did.

I didn’t buy the remaking of Qaddafi then, and I don’t buy the remaking of Libya now. That puts me among a breed that, if news accounts are to be believed, is increasingly rare: I don’t care about the Libyan people — I’m sorry, I mean the “brave Libyan freedom fighters.”

Yes, yes, I know: We are not supposed to look at Libyans now as they appeared the last time we took notice: a cheering throng greeting Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie terrorist, whom the Obama administration was cajoled into ignoring when the Brits orchestrated his release from jail to appease our spot-shorn leopard. Nor are we supposed to register that Qaddafi’s main opponents in this 97 percent Muslim country are Islamists who have about as much use for us as they do for Colonel Crazy. No, this is to be the desperately wished-for Arab awakening, so we are to take the Libyans as noble secularists who just want to throw off the yoke of tyranny and establish democracy (and never you mind the sharia).

Eager to get with the program, newspapers, blogs, and television reports tell us that Qaddafi has been America’s incorrigible enemy for 30 years. The problem is, if your memory actually goes back more than ten minutes, you may recall that the same media outlets only recently pronounced Qaddafi downright corrigible.

And why not? After all, that was how the State Department saw it. As if history had never really happened, we agreed to let the strongman receive an ebullient Secretary Rice (“my darling black African woman,” as Qaddafi called her) in the very Bab al-Azizia compound that President Reagan had ordered bombed in retaliation for Libya’s 1986 terrorist attack on a Berlin disco. Qaddafi had targeted American servicemen and managed to kill two of them while maiming hundreds of other victims.

Had Qaddafi really changed in the ensuing 22 years? He arrived at the 2008 love fest arrayed in one of his lunatic costumes. The room, a smitten Associated Press reported, was “redolent of incense.” The dictator couldn’t gush enough over “Leezza,” being especially “proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders,” as he had told al-Jazeera in a 2007 interview.

That is, nothing had changed. Qaddafi was the same old “mad dog of the Middle East,” the title President Reagan aptly bestowed on him in 1986 — even before the strongman ordered the bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103, murdering 259 people onboard (including 189 Americans) and killing eleven more when the wreckage landed on the small Scottish town of Lockerbie. In 2008, just as in 1988, Qaddafi was the same dyed-in-the-wool terrorist he is today, the kind with whom the Bush administration occasionally professed to know you don’t negotiate. The kind you regard as an enemy, not a rehabilitation project.

But when you are determined to see policy success rather than reality, everything is made to look different. By 2008, the Bush Doctrine was no longer about bludgeoning terrorists into submission and squeezing their state sponsors until they said “Uncle.” That was so retro, so 2001. Now, the goal was to show real political progress in the Middle East. So Colonel Crazy wasn’t a terrorist anymore. He was rebranded an ally in the War on Terror. And hey, enemy schmenemy: “I’ve said many times,” Secretary Rice declaimed, “the United States . . . doesn’t have any permanent enemies.” The Libyans — just like us, according to Rice — had “learned the lessons of the past.” That’s why we were now so ready to “talk about the importance of moving forward.”

And did Qaddafi ever know how to move forward, to bank on our bottomless capacity to overpay for dubious concessions. In 2004, President Bush began removing sanctions and unfreezing assets. By 2006, diplomatic relations were restored and the regime — for which terrorism and a hammerlock on national oil riches were the keys to remaining in power — was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Announcing these developments, in exchange for which the U.S. demanded exactly nothing in the way of authentic democratic reform, the State Department lauded “Libya’s continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism” and its “excellent cooperation” against the “global threat faced by the civilized world.” Oh, sure, Qaddafi’s regime was still, shall we say, “restrictive” — the gentle term State used in asking Congress to open the foreign-aid spigot. But soon, with all the Western guidance Qaddafi was anxiously soaking up, Libya would be a “developing” country. After that, the sky was the limit, and no need to spoil the mood by mentioning the alarming number of Libyans who were crossing Syria to wage jihad against American troops in Iraq.

Finally, to further grease the wheels for Secretary Rice’s historic visit with our new ally, the administration agreed to pay Libya reparations. Yes, you read that correctly. This was for what Qaddafi claimed were damages sustained in Reagan’s 1986 bombing campaign. Drawing a moral equivalence between (a) the comeuppance served up by the United States for a savage attack on our troops and (b) Qaddafi’s mass-murder of innocents in a plane bombing, David Welch, the State Department’s assistant secretary for near-east affairs, cooed that now “each country’s citizens can receive fair compensation for past incidents.” Incidents? Yes, that’s what historic atrocities become when we pretend our enemies are our friends.

But now the enemy who became a friend has become an enemy again. Of course, he never changed — we did. He just used the largesse and support we provided him to tighten his grip on the throne. Are you surprised?

Evidently, the State Department is. Secretary Rice’s successor, Hillary Clinton, suddenly wants Qaddafi gone yesterday. That’s after only weeks of rampage during which her boss, President Obama, couldn’t bring himself to utter a negative word about Qaddafi. In retrospect, maybe the president has decided that the lack of shovel-ready projects was not a good reason for him to use more U.S. taxpayer funds to stimulate “charities” run by the Qaddafi family.

In any event, guess who else wants Qaddafi gone tomorrow? None other than Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s sharia compass, who is still tingling from his recent, triumphant return to Egypt, right across the border from Eastern Libya, where Qaddafi’s fiercest opposition just happens to be. He did make time, though, to issue a fatwa last week calling for the Libyan despot’s assassination.

Not to worry, though. We have it on good authority (the U.S. government) that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “largely secular” organization, with a real passion for democracy. Perhaps if one of the Libyan secularists is moved to carry out the fatwa — which, of course, should be understood as a strictly secular edict — Secretary Clinton could find a new friend of America in Sheikh Qaradawi. They say Bab al-Azizia is lovely this time of year.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

Green boondoggles

New York Post
March 2, 2011

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Orion Energy Systems founder and CEO Neal Verfuerth tours the company in Manitowoc, Wis. , Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011. Orion Energy Systems makes high-efficiency lighting and renewable solar technology for businesses. (AP)

President Obama hasn't abandoned his jobs-killing global-warming agenda, just wrapped it in the rhetoric of "clean energy." And that may be enough to get Republicans to sign on.

That "clean energy" is code for "anti-warming" is obvious, given that even Environmental Protection Agency numbers show that virtually all emissions have dropped dramatically in recent decades -- except for greenhouse gases.

To cut those, Obama's budget aims to hike Department of Energy spending by 12 percent from 2010 levels. He proposes $8 billion more for various clean-energy programs -- on top of the $30 billion "invested" via the 2009 stimulus. Even that's only the tip of the iceberg.

To pay for it all, Obama would stick it to Big Oil. He wants to eliminate $43 billion in oil-tax breaks over 10 years. That would be fine if he were aiming for a "level" energy market, with the government playing no favorites; in fact, he's just looking to divert the subsidies to his favorites.

Despite his talk of promoting nuclear power, the president's budget cuts support for it by 0.6 percent from 2010 levels. The big winners are -- surprise! -- solar (88 percent rise), biomass and biorefinery (57 percent), geothermal (136 percent) and wind (61 percent).

Obama is also doubling the budget of the Advanced Research Projects Agency to encourage R&D on renewables. That's because progressives are suddenly convinced (thanks to "Where Good Technologies Come From," a paper by the Breakthrough Institute) that the basic research for nearly every major technological invention -- blockbuster pharmaceuticals, high-yield crops, the Internet -- has been the result of government funding.

Pumping money into pie-in-the sky energy projects has been a perennial presidential project since Jimmy Carter. But Obama has a new wrinkle: The White House believes that past pushes for alternative fuels failed (despite subsidies) because they did nothing to ensure a market for the new products. So Obama has decreed that he wants 80 percent of America's energy to come from clean sources by 2035.

That won't happen automatically, so the Center for American Progress (the Obama White House's unofficial think tank) argues for a federal "35 by 35" standard -- mandating that 35 percent of America's energy come from renewables by 2035. This means the feds would force all utilities to generate more than a third of their electricity from renewables -- a guarantee of far higher prices.

A Heritage Foundation study found that even a scaled-down version of the plan, a 22.5 percent renewable standard by 2025, would bump household-electricity prices 36 percent and industry prices 60 percent by 2035 -- producing a net GDP loss of $5.2 trillion between 2012 and 2035.

So much for green growth and jobs.

Obama also means to make America's transportation oil-free to ensure a low-carbon future for mankind. To this end, he wants a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

So, while low-income families face a cut in heating assistance from Uncle Sam (and higher electric bills), rich people would get $200 million for a $7,500 tax rebate to use toward each $40,000 Chevy Volt.

Obama also wants a $4 billion downpayment toward a six-year, $53 billion plan to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. In fact, his own transportation secretary admits that this can't be done for less than $500 billion.

Obama has no political capital left to pursue grand global-warming schemes, so he is taking an incremental, piecemeal approach. Once these programs are in place, the constituency of activists and industry they'll spawn will use their very failure to argue for their expansion.

You'd think that Republicans would have nothing to do with this. But unlike global warming, clean energy polls well. So virtually no Republican has denounced it.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) actually supports a renewable standard. Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has committed only to examining Obama's energy budget "line by line" -- not killing it.

Global warming is a dying cause because the costs of the favored "fixes" for the problem vastly outweigh the supposed benefits -- and China and India aren't going to stop industrializing, and stay poor, simply to please Western elites. Republicans should wake up and not let Obama use the guise of clean energy to keep the anti-warming crusade alive.

Shikha Dalmia is a Reason Foundation senior fellow.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Today's Tune: Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues

Jane Russell: 1921 - 2011

Jane Russell dies at 89; screen siren had sensational debut in 'The Outlaw'

Her provocative performance in the 1943 Howard Hughes film — and the publicity shots posing her in a low-cut blouse while reclined on a stack of hay bales — marked a turning point in moviedom sexuality. She became a bona fide star and a favorite pinup girl of soldiers during World War II

By Claudia Luther, Special to the Los Angeles Times
8:30 PM PST, February 28, 2011

Jane Russell, the dark-haired siren whose sensational debut in the 1943 film “"The Outlaw"” inspired producer Howard Hughes to challenge the power and strict morality of Hollywood's production code, has died. She was 89. (File photo / February 27, 2011)

Jane Russell, the dark-haired siren whose sensational debut in the 1943 film "The Outlaw" inspired producer Howard Hughes to challenge the power and strict morality of Hollywood's production code, died Monday at her home in Santa Maria, Calif. She was 89.

Russell, who would later turn her sexy image to comic effect in films with Bob Hope, Marilyn Monroe and other major stars, had respiratory problems and died after a short illness, her family said.

Russell's provocative performance in "The Outlaw" — and the studio publicity shots posing her in a low-cut blouse while reclined on a stack of hay bales — marked a turning point in moviedom sexuality. She became a bona fide star and a favorite pinup girl of soldiers during World War II. Troops in Korea named two embattled hills in her honor.

She went on to appear in 18 more films in the 1940s and '50s and, though only a few were memorable, she remains a favorite from the era for her wry portrayals of sex goddesses who seem amused by their own effect.

"Such droll eroticism is rare in Hollywood, and we are lucky that she was allowed to decorate so many adventure movies," film historian and critic David Thomson wrote of Russell, whom he called "physically glorious."

Among Russell's better films are "The Paleface," in which she plays the spirited Calamity Jane opposite Hope's feckless dentist in a spoof of "The Virginian"; and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," a musical in which she is brunet gal pal Dorothy to Marilyn Monroe's gold-digging Lorelei Lee. In the latter, the two stars perform a razzle-dazzle production number of the Jule Styne-Leo Robin hit song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."

Russell appeared in a few films in the 1960s and ended her movie career in 1970 playing Alabama Tigress in "Darker Than Amber," a film version of John D. McDonald's mystery novel. She replaced Elaine Stritch in "Company" on Broadway for several months in 1971, but her career after that was mostly limited to nightclub, stage or other live appearances.

To later generations, Russell — who once famously had a brassiere designed for her by Hughes — was known as the "bra lady" for her role as a spokeswoman for Playtex bras for "full-figured women."

Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell was born June 21, 1921, in Bemidji, Minn., and moved to Southern California with her family as an infant. After graduating from Van Nuys High School, she was working as a part-time model and receptionist when her photo was noticed by a casting agent working for Hughes. The mogul was conducting a nationwide search for a beauty with ample breasts for the part of Rio McDonald, who falls for Billy the Kid in "The Outlaw."

One audition got Russell the part.

Hughes, who took over direction of the film from Howard Hawks, made it his personal business to make the most of his discovery's assets. He even had his engineers design a special "cantilever" bra with no noticeable seams that would expose more of her breasts than conventional undergarments. Russell said she found his contraption "ridiculous" and wore her own bra.

"He could design planes, but a Mr. Playtex he wasn't," Russell wrote in her 1985 autobiography, "Jane Russell: My Past and My Detours."

Jane Russell, right, and Marilyn Monroe perform "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" from the 1953 film "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." (20th Century Fox)

On seeing the results of Hughes' efforts in 1941, Joe Breen, who enforced the production code, was appalled, saying he had "never seen anything quite so unacceptable as the shots of the breasts of the character of Rio," which were "shockingly emphasized and, in almost every instance, are very substantially uncovered."

He ordered Hughes to delete dozens of shots of Russell's bosom. Hughes not only refused but played up the resulting controversy to publicize the film. He issued Russell-in-the-haystack posters with such lines as "How Would You Like to Tussle With Russell?" and "Mean! Moody! Magnificent!" In one publicity stunt, a skywriter wrote "The Outlaw" in the sky and then carefully drew two circles with a dot in the center of each.

Hughes also dreamed up the line: "What are the two reasons for Jane Russell's rise to stardom?" (Comedian Hope later used a variation, introducing the actress as "the two and only Jane Russell.")

The film was released briefly in 1943, then withdrawn while Hughes considered revisions and maximized the publicity. It was released more widely in 1946 without code approval. The film was "not a bore," a Los Angeles Times reviewer wrote, assuring readers that while Russell's character was incidental to the story line, "the exploitation of [her] physical attractions is as insistent as advertised."

Drawn by the film's notoriety, moviegoers flocked to see it. It had made millions of dollars by the time censors approved it in 1949. As James R. Petersen wrote in Playboy magazine in 1997, "Hughes showed that a film could ignore the code and make a profit." Other challenges to the code followed —including, notably, director Otto Preminger's "The Man With the Golden Arm" and "The Moon Is Blue" in the 1950s. In the late 1960s, the code was replaced by the Motion Picture Assn. of America's ratings system, which permitted the release of explicitly sexual or violent movies as long as audiences were restricted on the basis of age.

Hughes' famed battle with the code was portrayed in "The Aviator," Martin Scorsese's 2004 biographical film that starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes. In the film, Hughes appears before the enforcer of the production code armed with close-up pictures of Russell's and other prominent bosoms of the day.

Russell cooperated in Hughes' publicity campaign, but drew the line at blatantly revealing pictures.

Deeply religious throughout her life, she looked back with regret at the unrelenting attention devoted to her bounteous figure, calling it "Hollywood gook."

Although she grew to despise the provocative pictures that had made her a star at 19, she succumbed to her publisher's pressure to use one of the sultriest on the cover of her autobiography.

In her personal life, counter to her rather rowdy public image, Russell was a political conservative and a born-again Christian years before the phrase became popular. She once promoted the use of the Bible in public schools.

She and her first husband — Van Nuys High School sweetheart Bob Waterfield who went on to become a football star for UCLA and the Cleveland (later Los Angeles) Rams — were married for 23 years until they divorced in 1967. They adopted three children — Tracy, Thomas and Robert (Buck) — who survive her, along with six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Russell recounted in her autobiography that before her marriage to Waterfield she had had a botched abortion, which she thought might have affected her ability to have children. The couple's difficulties in adopting inspired her to form the World Adopting International Fund, which helped place tens of thousands of children with adoptive families. The organization closed in 1998.

Finding homes for orphans became a full-time job for Jane Russell, here in 1959 with youngsters Andy Kenny and Yoko Todd and artist Jeanette Whiteaker. (AP)

After she and Waterfield divorced, Russell married actor Roger Barrett, who died of a heart attack three months after their 1968 wedding. Her marriage in 1974 to John Calvin Peoples, a real estate businessman, lasted until his death in 1999.

After her third husband's death, Russell moved from their Montecito estate to Santa Maria, home to her youngest son and his family. By 2006, macular degeneration had begun claiming her sight.

At 84, silver-haired and still statuesque, she regularly performed in a 1940s-style revue that she staged with friends on a tiny stage at the local Radisson Hotel, far from Las Vegas, where she made her singing debut in 1957.

In summing up her film career, Russell wrote in her autobiography that she never got to make the kinds of movies she would have liked to.

"Except for comedy, I went nowhere in the acting department," she said. "I was definitely a victim of Hollywood typecasting."

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. March 12 at Pacific Christian Church 3435 Santa Maria Way, Santa Maria.

Luther is a former Times staff writer.

Jane Russell, Sultry Star of 1940s and ’50s, Dies at 89

The New York Times
March 1, 2011

Jane Russell stands next to a movie still of her and Robert Mitchum at her home near Santa Barbara in 1999. (Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

Jane Russell, the voluptuous actress at the center of one of the most highly publicized censorship episodes in movie history, the long-delayed release of the 1940s western “The Outlaw,” died on Monday at her home in Santa Maria, Calif. She was 89.

The cause was a respiratory-related illness, her daughter-in-law, Etta Waterfield, said.

Ms. Russell was 19 and working in a doctor’s office when Howard Hughes, returning to movie production after his aviation successes, cast her as the tempestuous Rio McDonald, Sheriff Pat Garrett’s girlfriend, in “The Outlaw,” which he directed.

A movie poster — which showed a sultry Ms. Russell in a cleavage-revealing blouse falling off one shoulder as she reclined in a haystack and held a gun — quickly became notorious and seemed to fuel movie censors’ determination to prevent the film’s release because of scenes that, by 1940s standards, revealed too much of the star’s breasts. The Roman Catholic Church was one of the movie’s vocal opponents.

Although the film had its premiere and ran for nine weeks in San Francisco in 1943, it did not open in New York until 1947 and was not given a complete national release until 1950. Critics were generally unimpressed by its quality, but it made Ms. Russell a star. The specially engineered bra that Hughes was said to have designed for his 38D leading lady took its place in cinematic history, although Ms. Russell always contended that she never actually wore it.

She went on to make some two dozen feature films, all but a handful of them between 1948 and 1957 and many of them westerns.

In the western comedy “The Paleface” (1948), she played Calamity Jane opposite Bob Hope, with whom she also starred in “Son of Paleface,” the 1952 sequel. In the musical comedy that she called her favorite film, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953), she starred with Marilyn Monroe as one of two ambitious showgirls. Her numbers included “Two Little Girls From Little Rock,” one of several duets with Monroe, and the comic lament “Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love?” Two years later she starred with Jeanne Crain in “Gentlemen Marry Brunettes,” a sequel of sorts, set in Paris.

A number of her movies were musicals, and singing became a large part of her career. She first appeared in Las Vegas in 1957 and was performing in musical shows at small venues as recently as 2008. Although she did considerable stage acting over the years, her sole Broadway appearance was in 1971 in the Stephen Sondheim musical “Company,” in which she replaced Elaine Stritch as the tough-talking character who sings “The Ladies Who Lunch.”

Promo shots and poster from Howard Hughes' film "The Outlaw"

Ms. Russell was best known in the 1970s and ’80s as the television spokeswoman in commercials for Playtex bras, which she promoted as ideal for “full-figured gals” like her.

Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell was born on June 21, 1921, in Bemidji, Minn., the daughter of Roy and Geraldine Russell. Her mother had been an aspiring actress and a model. “The Girl in the Blue Hat,” a portrait of her by the watercolorist Mary B. Titcomb, once hung in the White House, bought by President Woodrow Wilson.

When Jane was 9 months old, before her four brothers were born, her father moved the family to Southern California to take a job as an office manager. He died when Jane was in her teens.

After high school, Jane took acting classes at Max Reinhardt’s theater workshop and with Maria Ouspenskaya. She did some modeling for a photographer friend but was working in a chiropodist’s office when a photo of her found its way to Hughes’s casting people.

In 1943 she married her high school sweetheart, Bob Waterfield, a U.C.L.A. football player who became the star quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams. They adopted a daughter, Tracy, and two sons, Thomas and Robert. (After a botched abortion before her marriage, Ms. Russell was unable to have children. She later became an outspoken opponent of abortion and an advocate of adoption, founding the World Adoption International Fund in the 1950s.)

She and Mr. Waterfield divorced in 1967 after 24 years of marriage. The following year she married Roger Barrett, an actor, who died of a heart attack three months after the wedding.

In 1974, John Calvin Peoples, a real estate broker and retired Air Force lieutenant, became her third husband, and they were together until his death, in 1999. Ms. Russell had had previous problems with alcohol, but they became worse after she was widowed again; her grown children insisted that she undergo rehabilitation at the age of 79.

She also turned to conservative politics in her later years.

“These days I’m a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot, but not a racist,” she told an Australian newspaper, The Daily Mail, in 2003. Bigotry, she added, “just means you don’t have an open mind.”

By the time she married Mr. Peoples, her acting career was all but over. After appearing in three movies in the mid-1960s, she had a small role in her last film, “Darker Than Amber,” a 1970 action drama starring Rod Taylor. She did relatively little television, but her final screen role was in a 1986 episode of the NBC police drama “Hunter.”

Her children survive her, as do 8 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Ms. Russell was very public about her religious convictions. She organized Bible study groups in Hollywood and wrote about having experienced speaking in tongues. In her memoir, “My Path and My Detours” (1985), she described the strength she drew from Christianity.

A higher power was always there, she wrote, “telling me that if I could just hold tough a little longer, I’d find myself around one more dark corner, see one more spot of light and have one more drop of pure joy in this journey called life.”


Monday, February 28, 2011

The Order of Grace: The Ennobling Fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien, Part 2

by Leo Grin
February 28, 2011

In 1944, J.R.R. Tolkien was tickled to receive a charming letter from a twelve-year-old Yankee praising The Hobbit, released seven years prior. It was, said the lad, “the most wonderful book I have ever read. It is beyond description. Gee Whiz. . . . ”

“It’s nice to find that little American boys do really say ‘Gee Whiz’,” the author joked to his son Christopher when he mentioned receiving the note. But surprisingly, his prevailing mood was somber:

I find these letters which I still occasionally get. . . make me rather sad. What thousands of grains of good human corn must fall on barren stony ground, if such a very small drop of water should be so intoxicating! But I suppose one should be grateful for the grace and fortune that have allowed me to provide even the drop.

Those are words, humble and true, that evoke the New Testament, conjuring an image of lost souls looking to quench an almost spiritual thirst. At the very time he wrote them, Tolkien was already deep into the agony and the ecstasy of the creation of The Lord of the Rings, and the intersection of the literary and the spiritual was on his mind. “God bless you beloved,” he told his son by way of signing off, but then tagged on a final, lingering question, one weighing heavily on his work: “Do you think the ‘Ring’ will come off, and reach the thirsty?”

It should be clear now to even the dimmest of critical bulbs that Tolkien’s own craving for heroic romance was hardly unique. Millions of others, equally parched in the modern world, were in dire need of the potent drought he was brewing. After The Lord of the Rings finally appeared, it inspired fan letters from grown adults that matched the enthusiasm of the little boy writing from America decades earlier. In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien we are mostly denied the original missives, but can frequently read Tolkien’s reactions to them.

To one fan, a Mrs. Carole Batten-Phelps, Tolkien said:

You speak of “a sanity and a sanctity” in the L.R. “which is a power in itself.” I was deeply moved. Nothing of the kind had been said to me before. But by a strange chance, just as I was beginning this letter, I had one from a man, who classified himself as “an unbeliever, or at best a man of belatedly and dimly dawning religious feeling. . . . but you,” he said, “create a world in which some sort of faith seems to be everywhere without a visible source, like light from an invisible lamp.”

That’s a fascinating comment, not only because it’s indisputably true, but for what it says about the genre of fantasy fiction at its very best. So many dismiss fantasy in general and Tolkien in particular as shallow children’s fairy tales, with simplistic nursery-rhyme notions of good and evil, and all of it of little relevance to the modern adult world. And yet here are grown adults, intelligent and erudite, who clearly were affected on some bedrock level by The Lord of the Rings. They speak of a sort of comfort, as if reaching a port in the storm of Life, battered and weary, and of being nourished and refreshed by a Power, “some sort of faith,” a Light “from an invisible lamp,” a “sanity and a sanctity.”

There’s been any number of analyses which attempt to discover and unearth the hidden roots of Tolkien’s genius. The author himself disliked academic dissertations, seeing them for what they usually are: examples of the writer trying to preen and peacock his intellectual superiority over the reader, not by understanding or empathizing but by dissection and vivisection. It’s the difference between a critic taking his audience into a golden field and inviting them to share his wonder at the butterflies coloring the skies with beauty and life, and a grumpy collector showing you a scrapbook filled with those same butterflies pinned and cataloged in monotonous order. Both methods address the same subject — but which truly captures their nature, and is a more accurate representation of Life and Creation?

Tolkien’s work steadfastly resists deconstruction because so much of its power isn’t physical or tangible, and hence cannot be pinned or cataloged or dipped into academic and postmodern formaldehyde. It is spiritual, ethereal, concerned not so much with plot as with Purpose. One of Tolkien’s friends, a priest, read portions of The Lord of the Rings in typescript and told the author that he distinctly felt what he called the “order of Grace” in the tale. The phrase left Tolkien quietly overjoyed.

Lying at the center of this Order, holding it all together like divine mortar, is heroism. Tolkien himself was often moved by scenes he wrote displaying his characters’ “physical resistance to evil,” reverently calling their actions nothing less than “a major act of loyalty to God.” This loyalty, equal parts physical and spiritual, was in turn something that he believed “only becomes a virtue when one is under pressure to desert it.” The world of The Lord of the Rings is filled with great temptations of a sort that don’t lead directly to evil per se, but that lead to the abandonment of the physical resistance — the pain, the suffering — that Tolkien considered so central to his notions of true heroism.

When viewed in this fashion, heroism becomes the heritage not only of the strong and mighty and scary-smart — in fact, frequently it is they who most easily give in to the temptations of power. It should be remembered that among the greatest tragedies of Middle-earth is that even such monstrous villains as Morgoth and Sauron were once forces of great good in the world, veritable angels who ultimately allowed themselves to be corrupted into Lucifers by their anti-heroism, i.e. their disloyalty to God. Much the same can be said of Saurman and the Ringwraiths — all tempted into sowing the seeds of their own undoing.

Conversely, many of the greatest heroes of Tolkien’s legendarium are Hobbits and men who, compared to immortal Elves wielding rings of power from the safety of their forested fastnesses, are weak and low and even wretched. And yet by their “physical resistance to evil” they manage to save the world. “The ennoblement of the ignoble I find specially moving,” Tolkien once wrote. “. . . .I love the vulgar and simple as dearly as the noble, and nothing moves my heart (beyond all the passions and heartbreaks of the world) so much as ‘ennoblement’.”

His use of the word “vulgar” here is interesting. He of course did not mean dirty language or nudity, but common or simple. Middle-earth is a world that rocks to what Tolkien described as “unforeseen and unforeseeable acts of will, and deeds of virtue of the apparently small, ungreat, forgotten.” He was enchanted both in fiction and in life by how ordinary people, through even the most seemingly minor acts of charity, pity or goodwill, could create earth-shaking effects that redounded to the good of Good, and of humanity.

This, of course, immensely echoes Christian, and particularly Catholic, teachings. “Pity,” for instance — which Tolkien once reverently described as “a word of moral and imaginative worth” — appears in the Douay-Rheims Bible no less than fifty times. “Without the high and noble,” Tolkien believed, “the simple and vulgar is utterly mean; and without the simple and ordinary the noble and heroic is meaningless.” The Lord of the Rings is awash in this symbiotic interplay between nobility and vulgarity — it is in fact a large part of its overall charm.

Perhaps Tolkien had such affection for the vulgar becoming noble because he felt that he was once vulgar himself, a “grain of good human corn” who was only spared the fate of spiritually perishing on “barren stony ground” by an act of common, unsung heroism that would both haunt and inspire him for his entire life.


Crying farewell, the Elves of Lórien with long grey poles thrust them out into the flowing stream, and the rippling waters bore them slowly away. The travelers sat still without moving or speaking. On the green bank near to the very point of the Tongue the Lady Galadriel stood alone and silent. As they passed her they turned and their eyes watched her slowly floating away from them. For so it seemed to them: Lórien was slipping backward, like a bright ship masted with enchanted trees, sailing on to forgotten shores, while they sat helpless upon the margin of the grey and leafless world.


“I am one who came up out of Egypt,” Tolkien once wrote. Few people now remember that Tolkien, one of the best-known Catholics of the twentieth century, was not born into the faith.

When he was a young boy, Tolkien’s widowed mother forsook her Baptist heritage and converted to Catholicism in the face of vociferous condemnation from her family. Outraged, they proceeded to cut the desperate, ailing woman off from all financial assistance, leaving her to linger and struggle on for a few more years, all the while steadfastly refusing to recant her religious conversion. She finally died of diabetes at the tragically young age of thirty-four, but not before impressing on her sons the depth of her new-found faith, and not before making arrangements that her two orphaned boys would be taken in by a kindly Catholic priest, sent to college via his auspices, and raised within the mental Lórien of the Catechism and Holy Sacraments.

Throughout a long life filled with many disappointments and temptations, Tolkien remained ever grateful that his mother had, to the point of death, gifted him with the “sudden and miraculous experience” of being thrust into “a Faith that has nourished me and taught me all the little that I know.” By 1941, already neck-deep in the composition of The Lord of the Rings, he was able to write to his son Michael with conviction that, “Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament…..There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth.”

Romance, glory, honour, fidelity. On the surface, the words evoke Arthurian legends and other warrior tales of heroic deeds more than Catholic piety. But, as usual, Tolkien chose his words carefully. It was because his mother left him with a priest that he met the woman who would become his beloved wife. He would also, while under the care of that priest, attend college, discover philology, and ultimately become the man who would pen the grand tales that today loom like a monolith over the genre of fantasy fiction.

It strikes me that a lot of what our fallen fantasists do these days is as artistically disingenuous as it is morally bankrupt. They claim to be moving the genre forward into refreshingly uncharted territory, and yet virtually everything they do bears the foul-stenched hallmarks of a knowingly maledictory reaction backward to Tolkien and Howard. They consciously use anti-heroics to drain their fictional worlds of virtues like charity, pity, and goodwill, until their tales become metaphorical Death Valleys in which Tolkien’s “grains of good human corn” perish on the “barren and stony ground.” Having done this, they then claim that The Thirst of Tolkien’s fancy is just a myth perpetuated by out-of-touch conservatives wistfully pining for a time that never was.

And yet all the while, the thirsty seek.

Speaking of his characters, both the noble and the vulgar, Tolkien once humbly proposed that, “I lack what all my characters possess (let the psychoanalysts note!) Courage.” But that is not true. He had the courage to spend decades creating a mythology few seemed ready to embrace, and which many were wont to criticize. Just as heroes are ennobled by their courage and convictions, and readers by savoring the tales of their exploits, so too are writers ennobled by telling those tales so beautifully, and by satiating — one precious drop at a time — the eternal thirst that is the bane of good men.

“It remains an unfailing delight to me,” Tolkien admitted, “to find my own belief justified: that the ‘fairy-story’ is really an adult genre, and one for which a starving audience exists.” From a small, vulgar American child going “Gee Whiz!” to a spiritual woman looking for “sanity and sanctity,” from an honest unbeliever’s relishing of the faith that shines out from The Lord of the Rings “like light from an invisible lamp,” to a perceptive English priest savoring the tale’s innate “order of Grace,” all confirm Tolkien’s belief, and drown out the mewling of those unfortunates too irredeemable to realize it.

To Be Continued. . . .

Author's Archive:

Duke Snider: 1926 - 2011

Duke of Flatbush, a Brooklyn Icon

The New York Times
February 27, 2011

Duke Snider, holding a cake for his 24th birthday, receiving a kiss at Ebbets Field in 1950. (AP)

“Willie, Mickey and the Duke,” the Terry Cashman song about three center fielders, defined New York baseball in the ’50s.

For old times’ sake, Willie Mays returned recently to the Harlem streets above the old Polo Grounds where he made that over-the-shoulder catch for the Giants in the 1954 World Series, but Mickey Mantle is mentioned mostly as a revered name in Monument Park at the new Yankee Stadium. And now Duke Snider is gone too, dead at 84, but still cherished by anyone who saw him play for the Dodgers in Brooklyn.

They don’t make center fielders like that anymore. With the big ballparks now, most center fielders are gazelles who can chase down balls lined into the gaps and hit for average, if they hit at all. Willie, Mickey and Duke not only were sluggers, they could also run.

Over their careers, Mays and Mantle each earned adulation as arguably the best baseball player ever. Snider never did, but for a time in the ’50s the Duke of Flatbush was better than either of them. He hit 407 home runs, almost all for the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, and a few for the Mets and the Giants at the end. But in the ’50s he hit more home runs than Mays or Mantle or anybody else in the big leagues.

Duke had it all: a sweet swing, a bazooka arm, springs in his legs. He also had the luck of being virtually the only left-handed slugger in a lineup dominated by right-handed hitters like Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo. As a result, Snider usually was swinging against right-handed pitching.

Then again, he didn’t really have it all. As he often acknowledged, he had a “big mouth” that tarnished his image and his popularity. After being booed at a game at Ebbets Field one night, he snapped that Brooklyn fans “don’t deserve a pennant.” That prompted even more boos the next night. He later put his name on a Collier’s article confessing that he played baseball only for the money, that he would rather be in California on his avocado farm not far from Los Angeles.

He did return to California, when the Dodgers moved there after the 1957 season, but after having bombarded Bedford Avenue beyond the 40-foot-high right-field screen at Ebbets Field, he had to cope with the faraway right-field fence at Memorial Coliseum, a stadium built for the track-and-field events at the 1932 Olympics.

When Mays arrived at the Coliseum with the San Francisco Giants in 1958, he chirped how the Dodgers had taken “the bat out of Duke’s hands,” the bat that had hit 40 or more homers a year for five consecutive seasons when 40 home runs was an achievement. By the time the Dodgers moved into their Chavez Ravine palace in 1962, and later with the Mets and the hated Giants, he was never the same hitter who stroked four home runs against the Yankees in the 1952 and 1955 World Series.

As a youngster in Compton, Calif., he got his nickname from his father. The nickname fit a center fielder who was Dodger royalty and arguably a better fielder than Mays or Mantle.

In a 1954 game at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, he made a catch that his teammate and roommate Carl Erskine has always described as “the greatest I ever saw.” With two on, two out and the Dodgers protecting a one-run lead, Willie Jones hit a soaring drive toward the left-center-field stands. Running to his right, Snider climbed the wall like Spider-Man, stretched his left arm and snagged the ball.

“I figured I had about four steps to the wall,” he said that day. “After four steps, I jumped. My right foot dug into the wall. It’s wood. Then my left knee scraped the wall and I turned my body. All I know is that the ball was in the webbing when I came down.”

He would be a $20-million-a-year player now, but he and Robinson were the highest-paid Dodgers at about $40,000 a year. That magazine article about playing for the money would haunt him in 1995 when he pleaded guilty to tax-fraud charges for not reporting thousands of dollars to the Internal Revenue Service for income from baseball memorabilia shows from 1984 to 1993. He reportedly received a total of more than $100,000 from the shows. He did not receive jail time.

“We have choices to make in our lives,” he said at the time, “and I made the wrong choice.”

But for all his wrong choices, he’ll always be the Duke of Flatbush to anyone who rooted for the Dodgers in Brooklyn, the Duke who was so proud of having hit the last home run at Ebbets Field, the Duke who didn’t need his real name (Edwin) to be part of a song title.

Memory of Snider lives on

New York Post
February 28, 2011

Duke Snider and Mickey Mantle pose together before game 2 of the 1955 World Series.

MIAMI -- If you were one of the lucky ones who spent your summers with the "Boys of Summer," you remember Duke Snider. You remember the sweet left-handed swing, and balls that soared over the right-field screen at old Ebbets Field and landed on Bedford Avenue. You remember the way he would chase baseballs to the wall of the oddly-crafted outfield fences.

You remember when Next Year finally arrived, in 1955, the year the Duke of Flatbush had his greatest season, 42 homers and 136 RBIs and 104 walks, a 1.036 OPS before anyone knew enough to calculate OPS, then four more homers and seven more RBIs in the World Series, when the Bums finally beat the Yankees.

"If I live to be 100 years old," he said in 2002, "I'll always be able to remember what it felt to be young and a ballplayer in Brooklyn, N.Y., and I'll always remember what it meant to be a champion of the world there."

Snider died yesterday at 84 of natural causes, and his passing extinguishes another light from the old Brooklyn landscape, a power that lived for decades after the Dodgers abandoned the borough. He was a high school classmate of late NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle's, a Californian who found a home in Brooklyn before going back again. And he lives, even this morning, in the memories of the lucky ones who were there.

Terry Cashman was there. Cashman, out of Hillside Avenue in Washington Heights, was a cop's son who was partial to the neighborhood Giants of the Polo Grounds, but embraced everything about New York City's role as the capital of baseball in the 1950s.

Cashman played a little minor league ball in the Tigers organization, wound up a big-time music executive, co-wrote the hit "Sunday Will Never Be the Same," for Spanky and Our Gang, became the producer for Jim Croce. And in 1979 or so, a Mets exec named Thornton Geary rang him up.

"I have a photograph you really need to see," said Geary, the Mets' vice president for communication.

It was a beauty, taken at Old-Timer's Day at Shea Stadium a few years earlier, a picture of New York's four greatest center fielders taken from the back, so instead of faces you saw Joe DiMaggio's 5, Mickey Mantle's 7, Willie Mays' 24. And Duke Snider's 4.

"I need that picture," Cashman told his friend.

"Take it," Geary told him. "It's yours."

"No," Cashman said. "I need to own it."

So he did. Cashman was by then just as likely to be found with his nose buried in "The Baseball Encylopedia" as in a stack of sheet music, balancing his two loves. He contacted the photographer, bought the negatives, printed copies for friends, and hung one in his own East Side apartment.

That picture was staring at him the night he came home from work a few years later, looking to scare up a B-side for a baseball song he was producing. It was on his mind as he drifted off to sleep, as the mysteries that allow gifted people to create music out of nothing went to work inside his brain.

In the morning Cashman woke up and grabbed his guitar. Twenty minutes later, "Talkin' Baseball" was finished. That was 1981. Thirty years later, "Willie, Mickey and the Duke" remains one of the catchiest choruses of any song, played still in every stadium where baseball is, a song that is more than a song, but a slice of an America we still yearn for, even those of us not yet born when Casey was winnin', when Hank Aaron was beginnin'.

"It was a part of my heart," Cashman told me not long ago, "but I think it reflected what was in a lot of people's hearts, too."

He smiled.

"Our memories," he said, "don't die. Thank goodness for that."

Duke Snider, Dodger Hall of Famer, dies at 84

Duke Snider, an eight-time All-Star, was a Dodger in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. One of the 'Boys of Summer,' he helped the team to Brooklyn's only World Series title as well as six National League championships.

By Mike Kupper, Special to the Los Angeles Times
February 28, 2011

In Brooklyn's dugout: From left, Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Preacher Roe, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges and Duke Snider.

Duke Snider, one of the Brooklyn Dodgers' "Boys of Summer" and among a celebrated trio of New York center fielders in the 1950s, died Sunday. He was 84.

Snider died at Valle Vista Convalescent Hospital in Escondido, the Dodgers announced. No cause was given.

The Duke of Flatbush, a smooth-fielding outfielder and, thanks to his prowess as a home-run hitter, a fan favorite in Ebbets Field, was a Dodger, both in Brooklyn and his native Los Angeles, for 16 of his 18 years in the major leagues. A Hall of Fame member, the eight-time All-Star helped the Dodgers to six National League championships, and Brooklyn's only World Series title, in his first 11 seasons, providing Dodger power from the left side of the plate.

"He was an extremely gifted talent and his defensive abilities were often overlooked because of playing in a small ballpark, Ebbets Field," Dodgers' broadcaster Vin Scully said Sunday in a statement. "When he had a chance to run and move defensively, he had the grace and the abilities of DiMaggio and Mays and of course, he was a World Series hero that will forever be remembered in the borough of Brooklyn. Although it's ironic to say it, we have lost a giant."

Snider hit 40 or more homers in five consecutive seasons and during the decade of the '50s led all major leaguers in home runs, 326; runs batted in, 1,031; runs scored, 970; and slugging percentage, .569. He finished his career with a lifetime batting average of .295 and 407 home runs, 389 of them as a Dodger, still the team record. He is the only player to have twice hit four homers in the World Series, matching his 1952 feat in '55, the year the Dodgers won the Series and he was named major league player of the year by the Sporting News.

He hit the last home run in Ebbets Field and had the first hit in Dodger Stadium, a single on opening day in 1962, and was part of the 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers team that beat the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.

"When you saw him play, the guy could hit, he could run, he could throw, he could field," former Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said Sunday. "He was one of the great, great players of our time."

In a simpler but more demanding era — there were only 16 major league teams when he broke in, eight each in the National and American League — Snider was a star among stars, both on his own team and in the Big Apple. Among his Brooklyn teammates were Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella. Walter Alston, another Hall of Famer, was the manager, and a couple of young pitchers, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, were showing promise.

And New Yorkers carried on a running argument as to who was the best center fielder in town, Willie Mays of the Giants, Mickey Mantle of the Yankees or Snider. Songwriter-singer Terry Cashman extolled them in his 1981 recording "Willie, Mickey and the Duke," also known as "Talkin' Baseball."

From 1954 through '57, when Mays, Mantle and Snider all played full seasons in New York, Snider led the two others in both home runs and RBIs.

"They used to run a box in the New York papers, comparing me and Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays," Snider recalled for the New York Times in 1980. "It was a great time for baseball."

Actually, Snider's entire career was a great time for baseball. He came up as a highly touted prospect in 1947. "His swing is perfect," Branch Rickey observed upon signing him as a 17-year-old. "And this young man doesn't run on mere legs. Under him are two steel springs." He left the game as a player for the ages.

Like Mantle, whose father began grooming him for baseball stardom as a child, Snider had a parental push. Born Sept. 9, 1926, the only child of Ward and Florence Snider, young Edwin Donald Snider grew up in Compton with a bat in his hands. In his book, "The Duke of Flatbush," written with Bill Gilbert, Snider recalled his father instructing him to bat left-handed, even though he was a natural right-hander. His father pointed out that many ballparks had short right-field fences, that there was a preponderance of right-handed pitchers in the majors and that left-handed batters were two steps closer to first base.

"We argued about the switch loud, long and often because it was awkward," Snider wrote. "When our backyard arguments reached their loudest, Mom would call out, 'You two children behave out there.' "

Snider also had his father to thank for his nickname. The elder Snider began calling his son Duke as a child, and the kid never objected. " 'The Duke of Flatbush' sounds a lot better than 'The Edwin of Flatbush,' " he often said.

After he graduated from Compton High School, Snider signed with the Dodgers as an amateur free agent. He served in the Navy on a submarine tender in the Pacific from 1944 to 1946.

Snider's debut with the Dodgers, on April 17, 1947, was especially memorable, but not for anything he did. That also happened to be the day that teammate Robinson got his first base hit, two days after he broke baseball's longtime color barrier.

"I was in such complete awe of everything going on, I didn't totally appreciate the significance of the event," Snider told the San Diego Union-Tribune's Bill Center in 2004. "I didn't realize until later … how important it was."

After two seasons of part-time play — and learning the strike zone — Snider became a Dodger regular in 1949, then blossomed in 1950, hitting .321 with 31 homers and 16 stolen bases. That was also the season that he stamped himself as a center fielder to be reckoned with.

In the ninth inning of the second game of a late-season Sunday doubleheader in Philadelphia, the Phillies' Willie "Puddin' Head" Jones approached the plate with the potential tying and winning runs on base, then swatted what seemed to be a home run, a rising line drive.

Snider raced to the base of a wooden fence in Shibe Park, climbed it and, somehow, made the catch.

"I ran over and jumped and my spike caught in the wood," Snider recalled for the Vero Beach Press Journal in 1999. "I went up and caught it backhanded. I turned my right hand into the wall so the force of me going into the wall wouldn't knock the ball out of my glove."

Said teammate Ralph Branca, "The next day I went out [to look at the fence] and his spike marks were, like, 5 1/2 feet high on the wall."

"I would love to just have a picture of the catch," Snider told the Los Angeles Times in 2000, but none exists. Televised baseball games, except for the World Series, were a rarity in those early TV days, and the newspaper photographers had already left to process their film.

The "Whiz Kids" Phillies went on to win the National League pennant that year but, coincidentally or not, from the time Snider became a regular, Brooklyn was the team to beat in the NL. The Dodgers won pennants in 1949, '52, '53 — that was "The Boys of Summer" team memorialized by Roger Kahn in his 1971 book of the same name — '55 and '56.

It was their misfortune, though, that up in the Bronx, the Yankees were in their heyday. The Yankees beat the Dodgers in the Series each of those years, except '55, when Snider hit .320 with four homers and seven RBIs in seven games.

"We didn't think the Yankees were any better than we were in any of the years that we played them," Snider told the New York Post in 2005. "We thought we were as good as they were, but they won."

Snider moved with the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1958 and spent five more seasons with them — he hit .308 with 23 homers and 88 RBIs for the '59 World Series title team. But his left knee was bothering him — he eventually needed surgery — and his most productive years were past.

Until Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, the club played at the Coliseum, notorious for its short left-field fence but equally notorious for its vast right field, Snider's home-run target area. In Ebbets Field, it was 297 feet down the right-field line. In the Coliseum, it was 390, extending to 425 in center.

"There was an awful lot of territory out there," Snider said. "It just was not fair."

Snider's powerful throwing arm served him well in the cavernous Coliseum, however, and prompted teammate Don Zimmer to try to cash in on it. He bet teammates $400 that Snider could throw a ball out of the Coliseum, intending to split the winnings with Snider, who almost made it on his second try.

Instead, though, he heard an ominous "pop" in his elbow, had to miss a game because of the strain and was fined $200 by General Manager Buzzie Bavasi. Having come so close, though, he told Zimmer to hold the money, then on the last day of the 1958 season, did indeed throw a ball from the Coliseum into Exposition Park. Snider collected his $200 from Zimmer. And Bavasi, unaware of the successful try and remorseful about the fine, gave Snider his $200 back.

"So I got $400 out of the deal," Snider recalled years later.

Snider finished his Dodger career in 1962, then spent a quiet season with the New York Mets and another equally quiet one with the San Francisco Giants.

After his playing days, he managed for 3 1/2 seasons in the minor leagues, then had a second career as a broadcaster for the Montreal Expos before retiring to his home in Fallbrook, where he had an avocado ranch. He was sentenced to two years' probation, fined $5,000 and was required to pay about $30,000 in back taxes in 1995 after pleading guilty to failure to report income from card and memorabilia shows.

Snider is survived by his wife, Bev — they married in 1947 — sons Kevin and Kurt, daughters Pam Chodola and Dawna Amino, and 10 grandchildren. Services are pending.

Kupper is a former Times staff writer

Times staff writer Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

He Sure Was Artful as a Dodger

By Jim Murray
Los Angeles Times
August 30, 1988


(Associated Press / October 6, 1952 )

Brooklyn Dodgers center fielder Duke Snider holds one bat for each of the four home runs he hit in Game 6 of the 1952 World Series against the New York Yankees.

If you had to be a ballplayer, the ballplayer you'd want to be is Duke Snider.

Probably, no more graceful player ever stepped into a batter's box. No one swung at a ball with the purity of form of Duke Snider. What Sam Snead was to golf, he was to baseball. They used to stop what they were doing on the field to watch Duke Snider take batting practice.

The swing was level and graceful and pretty. If you put it to music, it would be Beethoven. If you painted it, it would hang in the Louvre. If Baryshnikov were a baseball player, this is what he would look like.

The Duke was never off balance, out of sync. This is the way you would teach kids to swing. The Duke not only looked good striking out, he looked good popping up.

He was just as good in the outfield. He played center field as if he owned it. Duke ran up walls, dived in the grass and never even seemed to get his uniform dirty. He was so good, he played the position in New York at the same time as Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and some people weren't sure who was best.

He probably should have been a New York Yankee, because he was the nearest thing to Joe DiMaggio in style and grace. Except that Joe used to play the game with this glacial ease and detachment. Duke was more temperamental. Duke was right where he belonged--Ebbets Field. Duke was a California beach boy--but he had a lot of Brooklyn in him.

Ebbets Field was baseball's Disneyland in those days, a riot of brass bands and brassier customers, noisy, contumelious. They loved Duke Snider there because he was this great, gifted ballplayer who seemed to chafe under the constraints of "normal" behavior the same as they did.

Duke once took to the public prints in a moment of pique to denounce the fans of Brooklyn as undeserving of the Dodgers. There was a time when this would have been true. Nobody deserved the Dodgers of the 1930s, who were a happy-go-lucky bunch of foul-ups whose specialty seemed to be passing each other on the basepaths.

The fans of Brooklyn forgave the Duke. They liked their ballplayers cantankerous and unpredictable. They left seriousness of purpose to the Yankees. "Bed-f-u-u-d Avenya, Duke!" they screamed when Snider came to bat, and that was his signal to park one over the 40-foot high right-field screen and out onto the street that ran behind it.

The Duke often obliged. Five years in a row, he hit 40 or more homers. When he didn't hit it over that fence, he hit it onto it. He hit .321, .303, .336, .341 and .309 in his good years, drove in more than 100 runs 6 times and led the league three consecutive years in runs scored.

He was so good, people were always wondering why he wasn't better. Branch Rickey, the best judge of baseball talent who ever lived, drooled when he saw the young Snider.

A dedicated gimmickry artist, Rickey put Snider to work with an umpire, pitcher and catcher, under instructions not to swing at the ball but to learn the strike zone. Snider merely ended up arguing with the umpire. Then, he went back to his old free-swinging self.

Said Duke of the ump: "That might be his idea of a strike--but he doesn't have to hit it!"

The Duke once explained his intransigence by saying that he was an only child, so what did you expect? That made perfect sense to Brooklyn. The Duke went back to pouting if he felt like it.

He has told his colorful story in a new book, "The Duke of Flatbush" (Zebra Books), out in the book stalls this week. It is a valentine to the Dodgers of another time, another place, another world we'll never see again.

It is a matter of some astonishment to Duke at how well they still remember him adoringly in that part of the world. "I have a book-signing and there are lines clear around the building," he marvels.

"People come up to you and say, 'I can remember it as if it were yesterday. You were in center field and Whitey Lockman hit this long, high drive and you caught it behind your back.' It's been 30 years and they talk of it as if it were yesterday."

In Brooklyn, they can never forget "the Dook." But, one of the ironies of baseball history is that, when the Dodgers moved back to what was Duke's home area--he grew up in Compton--they didn't do their star slugger any favors. Bedford Avenue was no longer a nice, friendly 340 feet away. "Bedford Avenue" was out in the upper reaches of the Coliseum, half a county away.

"You had to hit it through two ZIP codes," Snider recalls. "It was 440, 420, 460 out there--an awful lot of 4s.

"But, by then, I'd had three knee injuries and surgeries." The once- gorgeous swing looked less like a Rembrandt and more like a comic strip.

"The team changed its character when it came to L.A., all right," the Duke was recalling as he sat at breakfast the other morning. "But, you know they talk of great baseball teams and they talk of the 1927 Yankees and the Gashouse Gang and all, but the team we had in Brooklyn in the '50s was as good a baseball team as ever assembled.

"I mean, we lost some close Series to the Yankees, but who talks about those Yankees? People still talk about the Dodgers. Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Carl Furillo, Pee Wee Reese and Junior Gilliam. And we had Preacher Roe and Don Newcombe and Carl Erskine and Joe Black and Clem Labine on the mound. We were America's team!"

It was baseball royalty. And in center field, they had the archduke.

Duke Snider was No. 3 in New York but should be No. 1 in Dodgers hearts and history

Overshadowed by Yankees' Mickey Mantle and Giants' Willie Mays while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947-57, Snider, who died Sunday at 84, nonetheless quietly and humbly played his way into the Hall of Fame and was a key figure in Dodgers' transition from East Coast to L.A.

By Bill Plaschke
Los Angeles Times
6:25 PM PST, February 27, 2011

Dodgers captain Duke Snider welcomes fans to the team's new stadium in Chavez Ravine. (Los Angeles Times / April 9, 1962)

In the most memorable line in one of the most memorable of baseball songs, he was third.

Willie, Mickey and the Duke.

On most lists of the greatest Dodgers in franchise history, he is also third.

Jackie, Sandy and the Duke.

After his death by natural causes Sunday at age 84, shouldn't it finally be time for Duke Snider to stand alone?

"He played every day, he did the job he was supposed to do, and did it better than anyone," said former Dodgers teammate Don Newcombe. "That's enough, isn't it?"

It was more than enough, Snider quietly carving a legacy as perhaps the greatest Dodgers position player ever, one of the team's greatest ambassadors, and a star who helped carry the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.

The Hall of Fame center fielder's accomplishments might not fit neatly into a song, but they are indelibly etched into a Dodgers culture that he was still actively nurturing as recently as two winters ago.

The team was holding a rookie seminar at Dodger Stadium, and Snider, although ailing and confined to a wheelchair, traveled from San Diego to talk to the kids.

"You have to learn to hate Halloween," he told the wide-eyed youngsters.

One of them had the nerve to ask why.

"Giants colors," he said.

Even though Snider spent his retirement in San Diego County, he was always happy to hang out at Chavez Ravine, his presence an important symbol of those days when the players really did play for the name on the front of their shirt.

"You cannot underestimate the impact Duke Snider has had on Dodger history, from Brooklyn to Los Angeles," said Dodgers historian Mark Langill. "He is one of the links that will live forever."

Snider probably will forever lead the franchise in home runs (389), RBIs (1,271) and extra-base hits (814), yet one of his greatest achievements was simply being in the lineup for the opening of Dodger Stadium in 1962.

Driving to the ballpark that day, the tailpipe on his car fell off. He pulled over, picked it up, and promptly burned his hand. Worried that manager Walter Alston would bench him, he played that day with a batting glove covering the burned hand.

Snider is also known for hitting four homers in the World Series twice, including leading Brooklyn to its 1955 championship, yet he would openly scoff at those who would laud his simple ability to put a bat on a baseball.

One of the more popular photos lining the walls of Dodger Stadium is a shot of Snider swinging, but every time he walked past the photo, Duke would flinch.

"He would look at it, shake his head, and say, 'That was a foul ball,' " Langill recalled.

Growing up in Compton, Edwin Donald Snider was nicknamed "Duke" by his father because he strutted around as a child, but he acted like anything but royalty.

When playing for Brooklyn from 1947 to 1957, he was considered only the third-best center fielder in New York behind Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, yet he never complained. Coming to Los Angeles with the Dodgers in 1958, his left-handed hitting stroke was handicapped by the distant right-field fence at the Coliseum, 440 feet from home plate, but he was never bitter.

He should have been most valuable player in 1955 but lost in a close race with teammate Roy Campanella after a voter inadvertently left Snider's name off the ballot. Even when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, it was a struggle, with voters electing him in his 11th year of eligibility.

"Yet hanging around him, he always was the nicest, most unassuming of stars," Langill said. "He was always truly just happy to be a Dodger."

When the Dodgers retired his number in Los Angeles in 1980, the guest of honor was more impressed with the honored guests.

"Whenever we talked about that ceremony, all he could talk about was how Kareem Abdul-Jabbar asked for his autograph," Langill said. "He was always amazed that people considered him something special."

In 1995, Snider pleaded guilty to federal tax charges for not claiming money from autograph shows, and was sentenced to two years' probation and fined $5,000, but he kept coming to Dodger Stadium and never stopped supporting the franchise to which he felt eternally indebted.

Snider's Hall of Fame speech in 1980, which was barely nine minutes long, was more revealingly powerful than any Snider swing.

He talked about how his wife, Beverly, loved Ted Williams. He introduced his family. He mentioned his high school coaches. He lauded his parents.

He told stories about his teammates. He thanked the folks who drove down from Montreal, where Snider was a broadcaster. He pretty much talked about everyone but himself.

"It's a little tough even getting up here," Snider said at the end of the speech. "I'd like to thank God for including me in his master plan . . . being a Brooklyn Dodger and Los Angeles Dodger."

The baseball bond between the two cities is stretched even thinner today, one more link broken, one more landmark gone. The Dodgers will sorely miss the quietest Duke, the littlest prince, sometimes buried in history, but always second to none.

Snider's regal path to Brooklyn started in Los Angeles

By Bob Keisser
Long Beach Press-Telegram
February 28, 2011

He played at the Los Angeles Coliseum with the Dodgers in 1958, though he didn't play as much as squint at the right-field fence, which seemed closer to the Harbor Freeway than home plate.

He was there when Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, but just for that year before he took a victory lap in New York with the Mets and then, clothed in irony, a final year in a San Francisco Giants uniform.

He spent most of his career in Brooklyn, where he earned the "Duke of Flatbush" nickname, where he was one of the "Boys of Summer," where he won the 1955 World Series, Brooklyn's one and only, and where he became part of the New York center-field trilogy of "Willie, Mickey and the Duke."

The passing of Duke Snider on Sunday morning at 84 is one of those moments when everyone associated with the national pastime feels some ache, be it a tear or a twinge. Baseball has lost a Hall of Famer and a two-coast icon who hit .295 with 407 home runs in his career, but his passing also means all seven everyday starters for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1949 to 1957 have died: Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Billy Cox, Carl Furillo and now Duke.

It all started here.

Duke Snider was born in Boyle Heights, was a resident of Lynwood and then Compton, and a regular on all the ball fields from the South Bay to Long Beach to South Los Angeles.

He went to Compton's Washington Elementary, Enterprise Junior High and eponymous high school, where he was a three-sport star who pitched a no-hitter, quarterbacked a win over Poly with a late, long touchdown pass, and led the Coast League in scoring in basketball.

He played summers with semipro teams out of Compton and Montebello. His Dodgers tryout in 1943 was held at Rec Park in Long Beach, the old dusty field that now is Blair Field. If you dig through newspaper archives deep enough, you'll find a few stories on Duke Snider's high school exploits were written by a schoolmate and close friend from Compton who grew up to be NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle.

"We played all over, most often at Compton Crestview Park, which became Gonzalez Park," Snider said in an interview when the Dodgers honored the 50th anniversary of the 1955 team. "I played on the same semipro team out of Montebello as Gene Mauch, and in youth leagues in Compton and Long Beach. Even during the offseason, I'd play Sunday doubleheaders all over the area."

His years in Brooklyn were epic. He hit 316 home runs in his career there - nine years full-time, parts of two others - including 40 or more five straight years (53-57), an achievement neither Willie Mays nor Mickey Mantle ever matched.

He scored 100-plus runs six times and had 198 or more hits three times. He is the first National League player to hit four home runs in a World Series. He did it twice - 1952 and 1955 - the only player to do that. His 11 career World Series home runs is still the NL record and fourth all-time behind guys named Mantle, Ruth and Gehrig. He ranked eighth all-time in home runs when he retired.

Los Angeles never got to see the Duke Snider who played in Brooklyn. He was just 31 when the team moved to L.A. and the Coliseum. People joked about the short Chinese Wall in left field, but the real joke was on Snider.

He didn't see the park layout until Opening Day - 425 feet to dead center field, expanding to 440 feet in right center and then 395 in straightaway right, before a quick ducktail to the foul pole that seemed to smirk at him when he played right field. Willie Mays saw it and said "Duke, they buried you."

Snider hit just 15 home runs in 1958, and not one of them to right field at the Coliseum, an epic statistical anomaly.

If the Dodgers had never moved, or the right-field dimensions weren't so absurd, Snider probably would have 500 career home runs rather than the 407 he ended with. But he never blamed the stadium.

"The Coliseum did take some away. I hit a lot of 400-foot outs," Snider said. "But I can't look at it that way. I lost a lot more to my knee injuries. If I had stayed healthy and been able to play every day until I was 37 instead of sporadically as I did, I might have reached those numbers. In 1958, I was probably 70 percent of the player I was in 1957.

"Injuries are part of the game. Mickey Mantle would have had more if not for a bad knee, and Sandy Koufax's career was cut short by arthritis. I think my numbers are pretty good given what I dealt with those last years."

The fences were moved in a bit in 1959, and Snider hit .308, had .400 on-base percentage, hit 23 home runs and drove in 88 runs to help the Dodgers win their second World Series and first in Los Angeles.

The "Duke of Compton" helped plant the seeds of success that made the Dodgers as beloved here as they were in Brooklyn.

"He was an extremely gifted talent and his defensive abilities were often overlooked because of playing in a small ballpark, Ebbets Field. When he had a chance to run and move defensively, he had the grace and the abilities of DiMaggio and Mays," Vin Scully said through the Dodgers. "He was a World Series hero that will forever be remembered in the borough of Brooklyn. Although it's ironic to say it, we have lost a giant."

Photo: Getty Images

At his peak, the Duke was right there with Willie and Mickey

Cliff Corcoran > INSIDE BASEBALL
February 27, 2011

Duke Snider, the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Famer who passed away on Sunday, will forever be remembered as part of New York's great center field triumvirate of the 1950s along with the Giants' Willie Mays and the Yankees' Mickey Mantle.

Being one third of Willie, Mickey and the Duke, as well as one of Brooklyn's iconic "Boys of Summer" has given Snider a place very near the heart of the game, a legacy his 407 career home runs and 2,116 career hits otherwise might not have. At the same time, being widely and correctly regarded as the least of that center field trio has caused some to forget just how great a player Snider was at his best.

During the peak of their rivalry, the gap between Snider and his crosstown counterparts was slight. Mantle and Mays were rookies in 1951, and because Mays lost all but 34 games of the 1952 and 1953 seasons to military duty and the Dodgers and Giants moved to California after the 1957 season, the era of Willie, Mickey and the Duke really only spanned the 1954 to 1957 seasons. Here are how those three Hall of Famer's performed during those four seasons (using their seasonal averages in counting stats):

Mickey: .330/.453/.625 (192 OPS+), 38 HR, 106 RBI, 126 R, 10 SB, 2 MVPs, 1 championship

Willie: .323/.397/.627 (167 OPS+), 41 HR, 104 RBI, 114 R, 28 SB, 1 MVP, 1 championship

Duke: .305/.403/.616 (160 OPS+), 41 HR, 115 RBI, 112 R, 5 SB, 0 MVP, 1 championship

Snider doesn't miss by much in the rate stats and is right there with Mays and Mantle in his counting numbers. He wasn't as fast as the other two (who was?) and had a hard time in the MVP voting thanks to a blown vote in 1956 (when he led the league in on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, OPS+, home runs, walks, and intentional walks but inexplicably finished 10th, behind four teammates), the presence of Mays and Hank Aaron, and the fact that he was teammates with a catcher in Roy Campanella who put up comparable numbers. Still, he finished second in the voting in 1955, fourth in 1954, and third in 1953. In 1955 he was named the Sporting News Player of the Year, an award then given to just one player in all of baseball. Mays won the award in 1954. Mantle won in 1956.

Snider's 1953 season, omitted above, was significantly better than his 1957 season. If we instead isolate the four years from '53 to '56 for Snider we get this line: .320/.415/.626 (165 OPS+), 42 HR, 123 RBI, 122 R, which puts him right there with Mays. Still, Mays has the edge in the park-adjusted OPS+. That points to the fact that Brooklyn's Ebbets Field was a great park in which to hit during those seasons, but Snider didn't just get fat on home cooking. Here are his road splits during that four year peak:

1953: .318/.401/.574
1954: .369/.452/.683
1955: .276/.388/.545
1956: .276/.405/.545

Bearing in mind that most hitters hit better at home, there's nothing there to support the criticism of Snider as a park-created phenomenon.

Snider was a great player, pure and simple. He didn't have the speed of Mays or Mantle, but he did everything else extremely well. He hit for average (.295 career, over .300 seven times, over .320 three times), had great power (he hit 40 home runs five years in a row from 1953 to 1957 -- only Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez, and Sammy Sosa have surpassed that streak -- and he slugged .600 three times and also led the league at .598 in 1956), got on base (.380 on-base percentage career with three full seasons over .400, another with a league-leading .399 OBP, and two shortened seasons over .400), and despite his modest speed, he was regarded as an outstanding center fielder. Snider never won a Gold Glove, but that was largely because the Gold Glove award wasn't introduced until 1957, his last great season, and for the first four years of its existence, the voters only selected one player from each outfield position, leaving Snider in Mays' shadow again.

Snider's position was every bit as significant as how well he played it. In 2010, the only positions to offer less offense than center field were shortstop, catcher, and second base. As's Joe Posnanski recently realized, the only center fielders to be voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America since Snider in 1980 (Mays was elected in 1979) were Kirby Puckett and Andre Dawson, the latter of whom actually played more games in right field, and neither of whom could match Snider's all-around offensive game at his peak. In fact, the list of major league center fielders who hit like Snider at his peak is short: Mays, Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Ken Griffey Jr., Hack Wilson, and perhaps Jim Edmonds. You can throw in Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker from the dead-ball era if you wish. Still, that's at most nine men, including Snider, in the 140-year history of the major leagues.

Snider's ultimate shortcoming was his early decline, brought about by a combination of a bad knee and unfavorable West Coast ballparks. Snider was just 31 when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. In his final season in Brooklyn, he hit .274/.368/.587 with 42 home runs and 92 RBIs, below his usual standard, but still worthy of a few down-ballot MVP votes. In 1958, the Dodgers jerry-rigged Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for baseball, erecting a fence that was 390 feet from home in right field (picture Fenway Park's right field, but moreso). Snider hit .331/.407/.573 on the road that year, but just .294/.335/.441 at home and saw his overall home run total drop to just 15. The Dodgers brought the fences in nearly 60 feet in 1959, and Snider rebounded with a .308/.400/.535 performance, helping the Dodgers to a second world championship, but by then his knee had forced him to split his time between center and right fields and reduced his overall playing time.

Snider never had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title after the Dodgers left Brooklyn and would never reach 20 home runs again after 1959. Though for reasons less significant than Jackie Robinson's retirement or Campanella's car accident, Duke Snider left his best baseball in Brooklyn. That kept him from keeping pace with Mays and Mantle in the 1960s, but also stoked his legend as the Duke of Flatbush, the Silver Fox that helped lead Brooklyn to five pennants and their only ever world championship, who twice hit four home runs in a single World Series, twice hit two homers in a single World Series game, just missed a home run down the line in Don Larson's perfect game, a game in which he also made a tremendous catch in center field, and hit .324/.391/.686 in the 1952, '53, '55, and '56 World Series combined. Duke Snider was no third wheel in that famous Gotham triumvirate. At his best, which he was during those years, the Duke deserved to be included alongside Willie and Mickey, as he always will be.