Friday, November 14, 2014

Today's Tune: Sturgill Simpson - The Promise

The Gruber Confession

By Charles Krauthammer

November 13, 2014

It’s not exactly the Ems Dispatch (the diplomatic cable Bismarck doctored to provoke the 1870 Franco-Prussian War). But what the just-resurfaced Gruber Confession lacks in world-historical consequence, it makes up for in world-class cynicism. This October 2013 video shows MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber, a principal architect of Obamacare, admitting that, in order to get it passed, the law was made deliberately obscure and deceptive. It constitutes the ultimate vindication of the charge that Obamacare was sold on a pack of lies.
“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” said Gruber. “Basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.” This was no open-mic gaffe. It was a clear, indeed enthusiastic, admission to an academic conference of the mendacity underlying Obamacare.
First, Gruber said, the bill’s authors manipulated the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which issues gold-standard cost estimates of any legislative proposal: “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes.” Why? Because “if CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.” And yet, the president himself openly insisted that the individual mandate — what you must pay the government if you fail to buy health insurance — was not a tax.
Worse was the pretense that Obamacare wouldn’t cost anyone anything. On the contrary, it’s a win-win, insisted President Obama, promising that the “typical family” would save $2,500 on premiums every year.
Skeptics like me pointed out the obvious: You can’t subsidize 30 million uninsured without someone paying something. Indeed, Gruber admits, Obamacare was a huge transfer of wealth — which had to be hidden from the American people, because “if you had a law which . . . made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed.”
Remember: The whole premise of Obamacare was that it would help the needy, but if you were not in need, if you liked what you had, you would be left alone. Which is why Obama kept repeating — PolitiFact counted 31 times — that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”
But of course you couldn’t, as millions discovered when they were kicked off their plans last year. Millions more were further shocked when they discovered major hikes in their premiums and deductibles. It was their wealth that was being redistributed.
As NBC News and others reported last year, the administration knew this all along. But White House political hands overrode those wary about the president’s phony promise. In fact, Obama knew the falsity of his claim as far back as February 2010, when, at a meeting with congressional leaders, he agreed that millions would lose their plans.
Now, it’s not unconstitutional to lie. Nor are laws enacted by means of deliberate deception thereby rendered invalid. But it is helpful for citizens to know the cynicism with which the massive federalization of their health care was crafted.
It gets even worse, thanks again to Gruber. Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case claiming that the administration is violating its own health-care law, which clearly specifies that subsidies can be given only to insurance purchased on “exchanges established by the state.” Just 13 states have set up such exchanges. Yet the administration is giving tax credits to plans bought on the federal exchange — serving 37 states — despite what the law says.
If the plaintiffs prevail, the subsidy system collapses and, with it, Obamacare itself. Which is why the administration is frantically arguing that “exchanges established by the state” is merely sloppy drafting, a kind of legislative typo. And that the intent all along was to subsidize all plans on all exchanges.
Re-enter Professor Gruber. On a separate video in a different speech, he explains what Obamacare intended: “If you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.” The legislative idea was to coerce states into setting up their own exchanges by otherwise denying their citizens subsidies.
This may have been a stupid idea, but it was no slip. And it’s the law, as written, as enacted and as intended. It can be changed by Congress only, not by the executive. Which is precisely what the plaintiffs are saying. Q.E.D.
It’s refreshing that “the most transparent administration in history,” as this administration fancies itself, should finally display candor about its signature act of social change. Inadvertently, of course. But now we know what lay behind Obama’s smooth reassurances — the arrogance of an academic liberalism, so perfectly embodied in the Gruber Confession, that rules in the name of a citizenry it mocks, disdains and deliberately, contemptuously deceives.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Obama’s Bogus Climate Deal with China

Economic factors will make the Chinese ignore it, and should do the same for the U.S. 

Democrats Finally Tell Us The Truth About Obamacare

It's not policy, it's morality

 12, 2014 By 

Jonathan Gruber speaking before a University of Pennsylvania crowd at last year’s Annual Health Economists’ Conference
Are any of the things that the Affordable Care Act’s loquacious architect Jonathan Gruber has been caught saying really that shocking? Did anyone truly believe that Obamacare was primarily about bending cost curves, lowering deficits, or easing the growing premiums of middle-class families? Did anyone but the most zealous disciple ever accept that this was about anything other than expanding Medicaid and creating bureaucratic mechanisms to better control the insurance market?
“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes,” Gruber explained to academics last year. “If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that.”
You might remember that the Senate kept massaging its “conceptual” language until the CBO’s estimate met every one of President Barack Obama’s preconditions for passage, bringing the price tag under a trillion dollars and allowing advocates to maintain the ludicrous fantasy that Obamacare would pay for itself. As Gruber notes, a lack of transparency is always helpful when taking advantage of “the stupidity of the American voter.” Well, even with so much obscured, the law had to be crammed through Congress. And by now there is no sentient being on the planet who doesn’t understand that the administration’s initial numbers were fraudulent. (Okay, maybe one.)
But Gruber also implicitly admits the first eternal truth of all liberal experiments: money is no object. It is the moral objective that matters most. And now, when all the rosy charts from explainer sites are exhausted and all the pundits who’ve endlessly repeated that “Obamacare is working” have failed to move polls in their direction, we are left with another unadorned truth. If you dispute that government is the best way to underwrite decency, you are cruel, depraved, and possibly an accessory to murder.
“All I know is that it’s important for people to have health insurance,” Maine’s Angus King tells a Fox News host who asks him a completely legitimate question about the corruption that helped get Obamacare passed. “Are you that cruel?” he asks in an attempt to circumvent answering for the lies and ineptitude that made the legislation possible.
Now that the Supreme Court has issued a writ of certiorari in King v. Burwell, you can imagine there’s some serious concern about the future. We might soon find out that the Internal Revenue Service violated the law when it allowed subsidies to be available for insurance policies purchased on the federal exchanges rather than only participating state exchanges. There is plenty of evidence to suggest this was done on purpose in an effort to pressure more states to participate, but there seems to be legitimate arguments on both sides. The idea that it was a typo, though repeatedly endlessly, has long been debunked.
That hasn’t stopped intellectuals like Paul Krugman from offering his thoughts on cruelty:
So let’s be clear about what’s happening here. Judges who support this cruel absurdity aren’t stupid; they know what they’re doing. What they are, instead, is corrupt, willing to pervert the law to serve political masters. And what we’ll find out in the months ahead is how deep the corruption goes.
Let’s ponder that statement for a moment: Does Krugman believe that Supreme Court justices with lifetime appointments—judges whose ideological temperament have been fairly consistent for 20, 30, 40 years—are willing to sell their decisions to serve some nameless political master? I suppose the only question is how deep the intrigue goes! Now, Krugman might be a sincere conspiracy theorist or maybe he’s just a dishonest partisan, but he offers us another truth: there is no difference between acts of corruption and opposition to legislation he favors.
We see this kind of morally self-affirming position quite often these days. In The New Republic, after offering an array of comforting possibilities onHalbig, some of them plausible, Brian Beutler explains:
Irrespective of the legal questions, and questions about judicial temperament, the justices will be made well aware of the fact that a knee-jerk ruling in favor of the challengers will kill people.
One imagines that any ruling that inhibits Progressive policy is knee-jerky to the staff writers at The New Republic, but surely somewhere there are still people who believe the Supreme Court should concentrate on the constitutionality of laws rather than worrying about the imaginary genocides cooked up in the minds of guilt-tripping pundits.
And after tweeting along similar lines, Jonathan Chait walked back his initial hyperbole somewhat to claim that, although conservatives may not be murderers exactly, they would be guilty of allowing real-life collateral damage.
It must have been truly shocking for these pundits to learn that around a million Americans had committed suicide over the past year. Seven million Americans currently have private coverage on the subsidized exchanges, which is down from 8 million that took the time to pick plans last enrollment.
(By the way, we can already start blaming the Supreme Court for this bloodbath. You might also have seen this column by Dana Milbank that contends Obamacare numbers are falling because “the looming possibility that the high court will strike down the law will probably deter those who are considering signing up for its coverage.” Boy, I really need insurance for my family, but you know, with the prospect of the court granting cert on King v. Burwell in a few months I don’t know what to do!)
If the John Roberts court finally nullifies Obamacare, will they alone be responsible for the coming genocide? Will legislators and politicians who crammed through terribly written legislation bear some of the burden? Republican leadership? Or is the mortal sin of resisting Progressive policy going to be on the heads of all 51 percent of Americans who dislike Obamacare?  Well, whatever the celestial implications are, at least we can stop pretending the Left is debating policy anymore.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Spinning for Hillary

The New York Times wants you to believe Team Clinton considers the midterms a win for her. 

Getty Images

In the old Soviet Union, Kremlinologists would read the state party newspaper Pravda not so much for the news it contained, but to glean what the commissars wanted readers to believe the commissars were thinking. The closest we have to that in America is the New York Times
Obviously, it’s not a state organ, and there are many fine journalists there, but it does play a similar role for the Democratic party, often reporting less on what Democrats actually think and more on what Democrats want readers to believe is the current state of Democratic thinking.

Two days after the midterm Democratic Götterdämmerung, Team Clinton let it be known that it thinks the election was good news for it. “Midterms, for Clinton Team, Aren’t All Gloom,” proclaimed the understated headline in the Times.

“A number of advisers saw only upside for Mrs. Clinton in the party’s midterm defeats,” reports Amy Chozick. There’s no mention of any advisers seeing a downside. Indeed, a few sentences later, Chozick tells us there is a “consensus . . . among those close to Mrs. Clinton that it is time to accelerate her schedule.”

“In many ways,” Chozick continues, “Tuesday’s election results clear a path for Mrs. Clinton. The lopsided outcome and conservative tilt makes it less likely she would face an insurgent challenger from the left.”

Maybe it’s true that that there is a silver lining for Hillary Clinton in the shellacking her party took last week. Maybe her ineffective stumping for Democrats means nothing. Maybe a 17-percentage-point loss for putative Clinton Democrat Mark Pryor in Clinton’s home base of Arkansas is a blessing in deep, deep, deep disguise. Maybe the staggering indifference of the Democratic coalition of young people and minorities on display last week is proof that they are really just husbanding their voting energies for 2016. And maybe the fact that the “war on women” shtick proved as stale as a 1980s sitcom catchphrase is irrelevant for a candidate so invested in her gender.

But the notion that this monumental rebuke of Clinton’s party, and the administration she served in, amounts to an unambiguous Clinton win invites many to ask, “What you talkin’ ’bout, Hillary?”

You can always tell you’re being spun if the opposite facts would yield the same result. Does anyone doubt that if the Democrats Clinton vigorously campaigned for had held on to the Senate, the same people would be telling the New York Times that the election results were a boon for Clinton? If the midterm results are scaring away potential left-wing insurgents, why is Clinton Inc. expediting its schedule? Shouldn’t the lack of a challenger make it easier for Clinton to lay low for a while longer?

Not according to this alleged consensus among her brain trust.

Chozick quotes from a “Ready for Hillary” fundraising email: “Now more than ever we need to show Hillary that we’re ready for her to get in this race. America needs Hillary’s leadership.”
Ah, so at a time when an unpopular president — in profound denial about what the voters were saying on Election Day — is tarnishing the whole Democratic brand, it makes irrefutably good sense for Clinton to further merge her own brand with her party’s?

How will President Obama respond to the notion that Clinton must now assume the mantle of leader of her party, never mind the nation? What, exactly, can an out-of-work politician do that will actually provide tangible proof of her “leadership”? How will it help Clinton to distance herself from an incumbent president still popular among the base voters she will inevitably need in 2016? 
Frankly, I have no idea.

Although Obama and much of the media establishment are convinced that the midterms were a revolt against, variously, Washington, incumbents, gridlock, and/or obstructionism, the actual election returns were almost uniformly about throwing out incumbent Democrats, reelecting “obstructionist” Republicans, or electing a new generation of Republicans who vowed to stand up to Obama.

I think it’s obvious Democrats could use a fresh face or at least a politician more adept at navigating such problems. The consensus thinks differently — or at least wants you to think it does.

— Jonah Goldberg is a senior editor of National Review and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2014 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Beltway’s Syria Fairy Tales

The Khorasan group, moderate rebels, and other mythical creatures 

Syrian rebels (AFP Photo/Aamir Qureshi)

Since the outbreak of the latest Middle East war a few years back, we have been chronicling the Washington political class’s Syria Fairy Tales. In particular, there is the story line that Syria is really teeming with secular democrats and authentic moderate Muslims who would have combined forces to both overthrow Assad and fight off the jihadists if only President Obama had helped them. But his failure to act created a “vacuum” that was tragically filled by Islamist militants and gave rise to ISIS. At this point in the story, you are supposed to stay politely mum and not ask whether it makes any sense that real democrats and actual moderates would agree to be led by head-chopping, mass-murdering, freedom-stifling sharia terrorists.

In point of fact, there simply have never been enough pro-Western elements in Syria to win, no matter how much help came their way. There was never going to be a moderate, democratic Syrian state without a U.S. invasion and occupation for a decade or more, an enterprise that would be politically untenable — and, as the Iraq enterprise shows, unlikely to succeed. The “moderate rebels” had no chance against Assad unless they colluded with the Islamist militants, who are vastly superior and more numerous fighters. And they would have even less chance of both knocking off Assad and staving off the jihadists.

The Obama administration and the Beltway commentariat have done their best to obscure these brute facts. Their main tactic is to exploit the American public’s unfamiliarity with the makeup of Syria. Obama Democrats and much of the Beltway GOP continue to invoke the “moderate Syrian rebels” while steadfastly refusing to identify just who those purported “moderates” are. They hope you won’t realize that, because of the dearth of actual moderate Muslims and freedom fighters, they must count among their “moderate rebels” both the Muslim Brotherhood (which should be designated as a terrorist organization) and various other Islamist factions, including . . .  wait for it . . . parts of al-Nusra — i.e., al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise.

We’ve also noted that a new wrinkle has recently been added to the Beltway’s Syria Fairy Tales: Obama’s Khorasan Fraud. In a desperate attempt to conceal the falsity of Obama’s boasts about destroying what is actually a resurgent al-Qaeda, the administration claimed that the threat to America that impelled Obama to start bombing Syria was not ISIS (supposedly just a “regional” threat), not al-Qaeda (already defeated, right?), but a hitherto unknown terrorist organization called the “Khorasan group.”

To the contrary, the Khorasan group, to the extent it exists at all, has never been a stand-alone terrorist organization. It is an internal component of al-Qaeda — specifically, an advisory board (or, in Islamic terms, a shura council) of al-Qaeda veterans who advise and carry out directives from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s emir. During the fighting in Syria, some of these operatives were sent there by Zawahiri to conduct operations under the auspices of al-Nusra. These operations have included jihadist activity against both the United States and Assad allies, plus negotiations for a rapprochement with the Islamic State (or ISIS). The limited success of those negotiations has led to fighting among the jihadists themselves.

The ball to keep your eye on here is al-Qaeda. The al-Nusra terrorist group is just al-Qaeda in Syria. Even ISIS is just a breakaway faction of al-Qaeda. And the Khorasan group is just a top-tier group of al-Qaeda veterans doing al-Qaeda’s work in conjunction with al Nusra — i.e., al-Qaeda.

The Obama administration disingenuously emphasizes these various foreign names to confuse Americans into thinking that there are various factions with diverse agendas in Syria — that al-Qaeda is no longer a problem because Obama has already dealt with it, and what remains are sundry groups of “moderate rebels” that the administration can work with in the effort to vanquish ISIS. Meanwhile, you are supposed to refrain from noticing that Obama’s original Syrian project — remember, he wanted Assad toppled — has given way to fighting ISIS . . . the very Sunni jihadists who were empowered by Obama’s lunatic policies of (a) switching sides in Libya in order to support the jihadists against Qaddafi and (b) abetting and encouraging Sunni Muslim governments in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey to arm Sunni militias in the fight against Assad — those militias having all along included al-Qaeda elements, some of which split off to become ISIS and now threaten to bite off the very hands that once fed them.

If you thought the Khorasan fraud was just a passing fad to get Obama through the initial stages of trying to rationalize his incoherent Syria air campaign, think again.

You see, Obama continues to have a problem. Everyone knows that ISIS, the main target of U.S. bombings in Syria and Iraq, cannot be defeated — or even stalled much — by a mere air campaign, which has been half-hearted at best anyway. Ground forces will be needed. So the administration and Washington’s foreign-policy clerisy keep telling Americans: Never fear, there is no need for U.S. ground troops, because we can rely on “moderate rebels” to fight ISIS. But the so-called “moderates” Obama backs have been colluding with al-Qaeda (i.e., al-Nusra) for years — at least when not being routed by al-Qaeda/al-Nusra.

Now, the sensible thing at this point would be to concede that there are no viable moderate forces in Syria, and that it would be folly for us to continue pretending those forces either exist or will materialize anytime soon. But no, that would be honest . . . which is not the Obama way — nor, frankly, is it the Washington way — to end our willful blindness to the lack of moderation among Middle Eastern Muslims.

So if honesty is not an option, what to do? Simple: Let’s just pretend that al-Nusra — part of the al-Qaeda network we have been at war with for 13 years — is, yes, moderate!

But wait a second? How can we possibly pull that off when we know al-Nusra/al-Qaeda is also plotting to attack the United States and the West?

Easy: That’s why we have the “Khorasan group”!

I kid you not. Even as al-Nusra/al-Qaeda mow down any “moderate rebels” who don’t join up with them, the Obama administration is telling Americans, “No, no, no: The al-Nusra guys are really good, moderate, upstanding jihadists. The real problem is that awful Khorasan group!”

Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio have the story at The Long War Journal:
CENTCOM draws misleading line between Al Nusrah Front and Khorasan Group 
US Central Command [CENTCOM] attempted to distinguish between the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, and the so-called Khorasan Group in yesterday’s press release that detailed airstrikes in Syria. 
CENTCOM, which directs the US and coalition air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, denied that the five airstrikes targeted “the Nusrah Front as a whole” due to its infighting with the Syrian Revolutionaries’ Front, but instead claimed the attacks were directed at the Khorasan Group. 
“These strikes were not in response to the Nusrah Front’s clashes with the Syrian moderate opposition, and they did not target the Nusrah Front as a whole,” CENTCOM noted in its press release. 
The CENTCOM statement goes a step further by implying that the Al Nusrah Front is fighting against the Syrian government while the Khorasan Group is hijacking the Syrian revolution to conduct attacks against the West. 
“They [the US airstrikes] were directed at the Khorasan Group whose focus is not on overthrowing the Assad regime or helping the Syrian people,” CENTCOM continues. “These al Qaeda operatives are taking advantage of the Syrian conflict to advance attacks against Western interests.”
[Emphasis added.]

Read Tom and Bill’s entire report, which sheds light on the web of jihadist connections.

Understand, the Khorasan group is al-Nusra, which is al-Qaeda. The “moderate Syrian rebels” are neither moderate nor myopically focused on Assad and Syria. (Indeed, Syria does not even exist as the same country anymore, now that ISIS has eviscerated its border with Iraq while capturing much of its territory.) The overarching Islamic-supremacist strategy of al-Qaeda has never cared about Western-drawn borders. The ambition of al-Qaeda, like that of its breakaway ISIS faction, is to conquer both the “near” enemies — i.e., the Middle East territories not currently governed by its construction of sharia — and the West. Al-Qaeda (a.k.a. al-Nusra, a.k.a. the Khorasan group) wants to overthrow Assad, but it still regards the United States as its chief nemesis.

The Khorasan group exists only as an advisory group around Zawahiri. The Obama administration’s invocation of it to divert attention from al-Qaeda and launder al-Nusra into “moderate Syrian rebels” is sheer subterfuge.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

The gospel according to Jerry Lee Lewis – a classic interview

‘I could take that there tape-recorder and shove it up your …’ As the country star prepares for the release of his new album Rock & Roll Time, here’s an interview originally published in Country Music in October 1979

By Nick Tosches
14 October 2014

Jerry Lee Lewis performs on stage at the Rainbow Theatre in London, England in December 1978. (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns)
Jerry Lee Lewis performs at the Rainbow theatre in London, England in December 1978. Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns

Dressed like a side-street gambler from the days when chrome was chrome, Jerry Lee Lewis sits in the dressing room of the Palomino Club, holding loosely in his lap a half-drained quart of Seagram’s like the unglowing sceptre of an ancient fading kingship.
He looks mean. But not as mean as last night, when he straightened out that chump in the audience with one fast, cruel line; when he threw that swaggering record-company lifer from his dressing room; when, at night’s end, he dared any man present to lift a hand against him. I tried to talk to him last night, but he was in too dark a mood. “What’s the weather gonna be like tomorrow in China?” he asked me. I told him I didn’t know, didn’t care; and he snarled his disgust. “Where do you wanna be buried?” he asked me. “By the ocean,” I answered. That was better. He nodded his indulgent approval. And so it went last night. Toward the end, he would talk of nothing but the Bible. At the end, he would talk of nothing at all.
But, yes, tonight the Killer is in a better mood. He hasn’t thrown anyone out of his dressing room, nor threatened anyone’s life, nor cussed anyone too badly. Not yet, anyway. He looks at the tape-recorder I have set before him the way a man might look at a snake, trying to decide if it’s venomous. He takes one of my cigarettes and starts smoking it. I say something:
NT: Yesterday we were talking about the Bible, and you said that your favourite book was Revelations.
JLL: That isn’t what I said. I said from Genesis to Revelation. Take it as a whole. It’d be hard to choose a favourite book in the Bible. Lord, there’s so many great books. I studied it, studied it all my life. Greatest history book in the world, if you take it word for word, from Genesis to Revelation. All the way. Don’t leave nothin’ behind. Don’t skip over here and skip back over there, take what you want, leave what you want. That ain’t the way God intended it to be read.
NT: Haven’t you ever run across anything in the Bible that you can’t understand?
JLL: You know why you don’t understand it? Cuz you’re lookin’ for an easy way out. Now, if you can show me somethin’ in there that’ll show me how to get outta this thing without burnin’ my ass off in hell, I wanna know where it’s at. You and me, we’re gonna burn in hell. We’re in trouble. We’re sinners, goin’ to hell.
NT: I ain’t so sure about that. You really think we’re goin’ to hell?
JLL: Straight as a gourd. I think we’ve been extended long enough. We’ve been smiled upon quite a bit. The time is near.
NT: How near, Killer?
JLL: Well, nearer than you think. We don’t have the promise of the next breath. We’re goin’ to hell. Fire and brimstone. The fire never dies, the burnin’ never dies, the fire never quenches for the weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth. Yessir, goin’ to hell. The Bible tells us so.
NT: Ain’t nobody going to heaven?
JLL: Very few, very few. It’s a hard place to get to, son. Can’t get there through the Palomino Club, that’s for sure. Church can’t get you to heaven. Religion can’t get you to heaven. Ain’t no such thing as religion anyway. The Bible never speaks of religion; it speaks of salvation.
NT: Next week, Jackson Browne and a bunch of other singers are going to perform at an anti-nuclear rally, nearby in San Luis Obispo. How do you feel about people who combine music and politics?
JLL: Bunch of damn idiots.
NT: So you don’t figure on playing at any anti-nuke shows in the near future.
JLL: To hell with ’em all! Blow ’em all up! Blow everybody clear to hell! Get it over quick! Just don’t kill no alligators in Louisiana. Leave them alone. I married a few of ’em.
NT: Did you keep the hides?
JLL: They damn near got my hide.
NT: Have you ever thought of producing your own records?
JLL: Every record I ever done, I produced. All them cats ever did was follow me around in the studio, try to keep up with me. Who would you vote for, me or Linda Ronstadt?
NT: I never voted in my life. Never will.
JLL: Well, son, what if you had to vote?
NT: I wouldn’t vote for either of you fools, that’s for sure. What could force me to vote?
JLL: Cat with a hide-whip standin’ over ya, whuppin’ ya on the butt with it.
NT: Hell, I’d vote for him.
JLL: That’s sharp. You’d vote for me, then.
NT: Anything you say, Killer. Somebody was telling me the other day about your pushing a piano into the ocean.
JLL: You’re damn right I did. That was in Charleston, South Carolina, a while back. I pushed it outta the auditorium. I pushed it down the street. I pushed it down the pier. Pushed it right into the ocean. Don’t rightly recall why I did it. The piano musta been no good. I just started pushin’ it and it built up steam. Conway Twitty was standin’ there starin’. I don’t think they ever redeemed that piano. I think Jaws got a hold of it.
6/14/58 Memphis, Tennessee:  Rock 'n' roll singer Jerry Lee Lewis and his 13-year-old wife, Myra, get set for a motorcycle ride
Original caption: 6/14/58 Memphis, Tennessee: Rock ‘n’ roll singer Jerry Lee Lewis and his 13-year-old wife, Myra, get set for a motorcycle ride Photograph: Bettmann/CORBIS

NT: You’ve been married five times now…
JLL: That’s my goddam business.
NT: … Do you know any more about women now than you did the first time you got married?
JLL: A skirt’s a skirt.
NT: Is that knowledge gonna lead to a sixth marriage?
JLL: I don’t know, son. Maybe God intends for me to live out my life alone.
NT: Have you ever thought of getting into real acting?
JLL: I don’t want no part of it. I hate it. Actors work hard at their job, like I do. But I never did care about actin’. That’s somethin’ I just never did wanna get into. There’s been some great actors, though. Humphrey Bogart, Charles Laughton, Robert Mitchum. I like watchin’ them old movies. I’d hate to take that part of my life away. I like to sit back and watch them suckers, enjoy ’em, knowin’ I don’t have to be in ’em. Take them guys, Abbott and Costello. They were sharp, very sharp. Singin’, dancin’, duckin’ under water, talkin’, or what; it made no difference. They had it, boy, they truly did.
NT: Do you think you might have missed out on much if you had remained down in Ferriday, Louisiana?
JLL: I really don’t know. I never thought about it, Killer. Hand me back my whiskey. Buncha damn drunkards around here. Y’know, one of them things (points to the recorder) can get a man buried. Could get a man killed. A man be sayin’ somethin’ drinkin’, somebody take that tape and use it against him. Get ’im killed. (Sings:) I’ll be here, son, when you’re gone… Know what I think’s your problem? You want your cake and eat it, too.
NT: Sure, why not?
JLL: Damn! You just pissin’ against the wind. You gonna live, you gonna die. You got a soul, you ain’t no animal. And that soul’s goin’ to heaven or it’s goin’ to hell. There’s just two places to go. On Judgment Day, you and I are gonna have to give account for the deeds that we’ve done, the sins that we’ve –
NT: Why are you so obsessed with dyin’ and goin’ to hell. Jerry?
JLL: I’m a sinner, I know it. Soon you and me are gonna have to reckon with the chilling hands of death.
NT: Why the hell are we going to hell?
JLL: Because Satan has power next to God. We ain’t loyal to God, we must be loyal to Satan. Got to be loyal 24 hours a day, brother. There ain’t no in-between. Temptation is the lowest of sins. Jesus was tempted, but he overcome it. That’s why we’re sittin’ here now. You are what you are. You shall serve whomever you served on Earth. You can’t serve two gods. You love one and hate the other. The Bible says you cannot serve God and Mammon. Can’t serve two gods. You’ll love one and hate the other.
NT: Do you figure Elvis went to heaven or to hell?
JLL: You’re not draggin’ me into that one. I’ll tell ya, it sure is a shame. Elvis had plenty of time to prepare hisself. I talked to him quite a bit about his soul. (Starts singing Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds.) Y’know, son, there’s only been four of us: Al Jolson, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis. That’s your only goddam four stylists that ever lived. We could write, sing, yodel, dance, make love, or what. Makes no damn difference. The rest of these idiots is either ridin’ a damn horse, pickin’ a guitar, or shootin’ somebody in some stupid damn movie.
NT: What other piano players do you like?
JLL: Chuck Berry. Hell, I can’t think of any piano players. I don’t know none but myself. (Sings) “Down the road, down the road, down the road apiece....” I remember that one, the piano player who did that one. That was in 1947. Then in ’48 he came out with (Sings) “Have fryers, broilers, and good old barbecue beef... you never seen such a sight, down at the house, the house, the house of blue lights.” That’s one of my favourites, man, I swear. People don’t realise that I have been doin’ these songs ever since they were number-ones, 1947, 1948. Since I was a little child, man, growin’ up. (Sings) “Down in New Orleans where everything’s fine, all them cats are drinkin’ that wine.” I got the original record of that, Drinkin’ Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee. My cousin gave it to me many years ago. I played that sucker and played it and played it till I wore the damn thing out. It had it. But it didn’t have it like my version had it. A song can be good, but it can’t be great till I cut it.
NT: Do you ever get sick of singing Great Balls of Fire night after night?
JLL: I gotta do it. Them folks would yell for their money back if I didn’t. I mean, hell, we sold like 38, 39 million records on it. Whole Lotta Shakin’ done sold over 100 million records, if y’can believe that. The guy that wrote it, he’s been dead. They got in a big squabble over who wrote it. They don’t rightly know who wrote it. The publishin’ was all tied up. It went back into court again. Big Mama Thornton did it. She didn’t do it like I did it, though. Hell, they oughta give me credit for writin’ the damn thing. I rewrote the whole song. It’s funny that me and Elvis should have two big hit records by Big Mama Thornton. That’s strange. She’s been dead now for many years.
NT: No, she’s still alive.
JLL: Hell, no, she’s been dead for at least 20 years now, son, that’s a fact.
NT: Is it true, Jerry, that your ancestors used to own Monroe, Louisiana?
JLL: That’s a fact. Before it was Monroe. The Lewis Plantation. My great-great-grandfather owned it. He could take his fist, hit a horse, knock that horse to his knees. A hell of a man, Old Man Lewis. Then they turned his slaves loose. Hell, they got a big history, the Lewises. Wild drinkers. Wild gamblers. Sinners, all of ’em. I tell you, son. I’m a mean, mean man.
NT: It would seem like that at times.
JLL: Man, I could take that there tape-recorder and shove it up your…
NT: Why in hell would you wanna try to do something like that?
JLL: Just to prove I can.
NT: Do you really think you’re that mean, Jerry?
JLL: Hell, I don’t know. I wouldn’t think so. They say I am. They’ve always called me the Killer. I often wondered why. I think they meant it musically speakin’, not like I’d go around killin’ people. Hell, the only thing I ever killed was a Louisiana mosquito. The Killer. Lord, I hate that damn name.
© Nick Tosches, 1979