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Ending the Cold War: the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush Posted - Oct 14, 2018
When he entered office, Ronald Reagan was alone among his White House staff in believing the Soviet Union was on the brink of collapse. To those in the know, Reagan’s opinion seemed pure fantasy. As it turned out, he was right. When he left office eight years later, Reagan proudly announced that the Cold War was over. Yet, it hadn’t quite come to pass. Under his successor, George H. W. Bush, it did. Below is an account of both presidencies.

40. RONALD REAGAN (1981 - 1989)

Ronald Reagan was something of an enigma. People close to him admitted they never really knew him, including his four children to whom he was emotionally distant. He was a conservative who as governor of California and as president of the United States proved to be more moderate than conservative. A fierce anti-communist, he was nearly alone in believing the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse. Such thinking led him to an improbable alliance with Mikhail Gorbachev that would end the cold war. A fiscal conservative he may been but the national debt tripled under his administration. This is the Ronald Reagan who emerges in the pages of Jacob Weisberg’s marvelous biography of Reagan's presidency, a B-actor and decided optimist who was more pragmatist than conservative, whose uncanny insight into human nature changed the course of history.

Entering office, Reagan’s view of the Soviet Union was that the Soviet system was vulnerable not in some vague, long-range historical sense, but right then, right now. It was a gut feeling he had that no one else shared at the time. Indeed, the Republican hardliners—Al Haig, Richard Pipes, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, Dick Cheney—thought him naive. “Communism is neither an economic or political system—it is a form of insanity—a temporary aberration which will one day disappear from the earth because it is contrary to human nature,” Reagan wrote in 1962. Now, as president, he believed the time had come. What he needed was someone in the Kremlin and someone in the White House to share his view. The someone in the Kremlin turned out to be Mikhail Gorbachev, and the someone on his staff was Secretary of State George Shultz.

There to encourage him was a writer familiar with the Soviet Union, Suzanne Massie, whom he invited to the White House 17 times after their initial meeting. Says Weisberg: “Massie humanized the enemy for him, teaching him always to distinguish between the great-souled Russians and the dingy Soviets.” The rest, as they say, is history. Reagan met with Gorbachev several times developing a bond of trust and friendship between them that resulted in a number of break-though agreements. “Thus did the Cold War pivot from mutually assured self destruction to mutually supported magical thinking,” writes the author. At the same time, the Soviet Union began to unravel. The tipping point came in 1987, when Reagan spoke at the Berlin Wall, where the Soviets had divided the East from the West. In words Reagan himself had written—words he had resisted pressure to remove from his speech—he said: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” By the end of his presidency Reagan was able to announce that the Cold War was over. The Berlin Wall came down after he left office, in late1989.

The recession Reagan inherited upon entering office yielded to a number of economic stimuluses, including tax cuts and funding the revitalization of the military. Years of economic growth and prosperity followed as the national economy grew by one third—but at a cost. Running for president, Reagan had accused the Democrats of a seemingly mindless policy of “tax and spend.” Reagan’s answer, termed supply-side economics, was to “borrow and spend” which by the time he left office had tripled the national debt. During his tenure, he raised taxes four times.

Reagan entered office with the expressed purpose of shrinking government. In fact, he didn’t succeed in eliminating a single major program. Americans may have wanted less government as Reagan had insisted, but they also wanted national security to protect against terrorism, generous social security benefits at an early retirement age, medicare, federal highways, a vast system of national parks, subsidized mortgages and college student loans. The time for turning back the clock to the simpler time Reagan envisioned, had long since passed by the time he entered the White House. While a conservative, Reagan was not above reaching compromise agreements with liberal Democrats in Congress to achieve his legislative agenda. Two of his three Supreme Court appointments were moderates.

The blot on the Reagan presidency was the Iran-contra affair, in which Reagan’s lieutenants sought to evade a law forbidding U.S. aid to contras, the anti-communist fighters in Nicaragua. The result hoped for was the release of hostages being held by Iran. The affair went public, with Reagan having to go on TV to deny he had any prior knowledge of an arms-for-hostages deal being negotiated by members of his administrations. A congressional investigation concluded that Oliver North and others had acted as a secret cabal following what they believed to be Reagan’s wishes. “When exposure was threatened, they destroyed official documents, lied to Cabinet officials, to the public, and to elected representatives in Congress,” the report said. Left unanswered was the question of Reagan’s culpability.

41. GEORGE H. W. BUSH (1989 - 1993)

George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States, is our most under-rated of recent presidents. In a recent poll of historians, Bush 41 was placed 21st—middling rank. His accomplishments, particularly in foreign affairs, would suggest a higher ranking. He skillfully judged the dissolution of the Soviet Union and bucked the advice of foreign policy hard-liners by not interfering, believing (correctly) the failed Soviet system would collapse under the weight of its massed ineptitude and release Eastern Bloc countries from its iron grip.

He forged a coalition of some 30 nations to halt and repel the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. And he intervened successfully in the arrest of Manuel Noriega, drug trafficker and corrupt dictator of Panama. Where Bush comes up short is with his management of the U.S. economy, which cost him a second term as president. In fact, the economy was recovering at the time, but Bush failed to get this message across to voters. If he had a failing, it was his modesty—an unwillingness to blow his own horn.

Bush was tagged as being a wimp, which couldn’t have been farther from the truth. In fact, he was a bonafide war hero. In World War II, as the youngest Air Force pilot stationed in the Pacific, he flew 58 missions and made 126 carrier landings. On his 50th mission his plane was severely damaged by shrapnel. Displaying true grit under fire, he completed his bombing run before having to bail out. After his discharge from service in 1945, he attended Yale, then moved to Texas where he became a self-made millionaire in the oil business before the age of 40. After that, he focused on politics. He served two terms in the House of Representatives but lost twice running for the U.S. Senate. All the while he made friends with people in high places. President Richard Nixon appointed him Ambassador to the United Nations and then chairman of the Republican National Committee. President Gerald Ford appointed him Envoy to China and then Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. However, these were merely consolation prizes, after having been turned down by both Nixon and Ford as a potential running mates. In 1980, at long last, he got the nod, as Ronald Reagan’s running mate. He served under Reagan for two terms, before turning his attention to the prize he had wanted all along—the presidency. He was elected in 1988, as the Cold War was coming to end.

Bush exhibited what his biographer calls “unexpected greatness” in keeping the drama of Eastern Europe’s Revolution from cascading into a broader East-West crisis. Bush kept his head and refrained from inflammatory rhetoric. He avoided rubbing Moscow’s nose in the reality of its collapsing empire and went out of his way to engage America’s former enemy in the responsible management of the Cold War’s end, masterfully so in negotiating German reunification and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from central Europe. In the Middle East, meanwhile, Bush was masterful in building a coalition of nations against Saddam Hussein’s hostile invasion of Kuwait. Military action was swift, well-coordinated, and stunningly effective in driving out Iraq’s famed Republic Guard. Thanks to broad world support, the U.S. military actually had a cash surplus at the close of the war. Also, it was the U.S. military’s first victory since World War II.

Where Bush had trouble was in dealing with the slumping economy, and with a growing faction of doctrinaire conservatives who couldn’t see the forest for the trees by refusing to compromise with the leader of their own party. Led by Newt Gingrich, rather than supporting the president’s economic policies and thereby helping him get re-elected, they fought him and helped elect Bill Clinton instead. Writes the author: “Bush’s problem was that while he was held responsible for the financial mess left by Reagan, no one seemed to give him credit for trying to fix it.” The growing conservative movement led to the candidacy of Patrick Buchanan— who tried and failed to take the Republican Party’s nomination away from Bush—and to the candidacy of quirky independent candidate Ross Perot. As a result an impression was created that the nation lacked genuine leadership under President Bush. Partly to blame was his lack of charisma as a public speaker, and a voter base that had never been strong. According to his biographer, Bush’s support among voters “was as shallow as it was wide.” As a leader, his effectiveness was in one-to-one conversations in the perennial “smoke-filled rooms” where decisions are made and consensus reached. On the campaign stump, however, his speeches lacked the passion that drives voters to the polls on election day. By the Fall of the 1992, the economy was in recovery but Bush failed to get this message across. His campaign rhetoric was measured, reasonable, and calm, but out of touch with voter sentiments, while Clinton empathized with unhappy voters (“I feel your pain”), striking again and again at where Bush was weakest. “It’s the economy, stupid,” Clinton reminded his staffers. When it counted most, Bush would not get down and dirty as politicians so often do when elections are closely contested, and it cost him dearly–a second term as president.

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The People's Attorney
Posted - Oct 07, 2018
In a world rife with political cynicism, reading a biography of Louis Brandeis is a refreshing experience. Here is proof that one man committed to the best in humanity can make a difference. The author, Jeffrey Rosen, is a clear and focused writer who examines Brandeis’ remarkable life (1856-1939) in a mere 206 pages. The book, entitled “Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet,” concentrates on three aspects of his public career: (1) as a crusader against “the curse of bigness” in both business and government, (2) as a Supreme Court Justice committed to individual rights, and, (3) later in life, as a leader of the Zionist movement.

Like many exceptional people, Brandeis had exceptional parents. While Jewish, his parents insisted on rigorous moral standards but not on organized religion. His mother, Frederika, in her “Reminiscences,” explained why she chose to raise her four children this way: “Love, virtue, and truth are the foundation upon which the education of the child must be based. They endure forever. . . . And this is my justification for bringing up children without any definite religious belief: I wanted to give them something that neither could be argued away nor would have to be given up as untenable, namely a pure spirit and the highest ideals as to morals and love.”

Brandeis was incredibly bright. At the age of 20, he graduated from Harvard Law—first in class—with the highest marks ever achieved in the history of that school. Said a classmate: “The professors listened to his opinions with the greatest deference. And it is generally correct.” As an attorney, Brandeis invented the “Brandeis Brief”—a comprehensive collection of empirical studies designed to persuade judges about the importance of facts as opposed to legal precedent and long-winded arguments. The Brandeis Brief would later transform civil rights litigation—and inspire both Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in their arguments for equal rights for African Americans and for women—by introducing the idea that constitutional decisions should be informed by facts and evidence rather than purely deductive analysis.

Thanks to a prosperous legal practice in Boston, Mass., Brandeis became financially independent, allowing him to pursue his real interest, social reform, and take on numerous pro bono cases. As a result, he was soon known as “the People’s Attorney.” He wrote two books that garnered national attention: “The Right to Privacy” (co-written with his law partner Samuel Warren) and “Other People’s Money And How Banks Use It.” Several of the reforms that Brandeis advocated in “Other People’s Money” would eventually become law, including the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act.

As an advisor to President Woodrow Wilson, Brandeis was instrumental in framing The Federal Reserve System. As a progressive, he targeted business monopolies that destroyed competitive balance in the marketplace. He also attacked how Big Business hoarded capital and power among the management elite, thus keeping democracy out of the workplace (in conflict with the nation’s democratic principles). Brandeis’ goal was to see management and labor problem-solve together in true democratic spirit, thus making him an early advocate of what later would be called “quality circle management” (as adopted by the Ford Motor Company in the 1990s, which made Ford the leader in quality and in sales and profits). Brandeis also denounced what he called “interlocking directorates” whereby financial oligarchs such as George F. Baker, chairman of the board of the First National Bank, who also served as one of the directors of 22 railroad and industrial corporations whose securities the First National Bank underwrote, guaranteed, or distributed. Said Brandeis: such practices “tends to disloyalty and to violations of the fundamental law that no man can work for two masters.”

In 1916, President Wilson appointed Brandeis to the Supreme Court where he wrote landmark court opinions concerning free speech, freedom from government surveillance, and freedom of thought and opinion. Brandeis’ opinion in Whitney v. California offered a unique philosophical justification for free speech that in the process (according to the author) achieved a kind of constitutional poetry: “Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the state was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth. . . .”

From indifference about Judaism to becoming a crusader for Zionism concerns the final third the book. By his own account, Brandeis had come to Zionism through Americanism. In particular, he was influenced by the work of Horace Kallen, the leading American theorist of cultural pluralism. Hugely influenced by the writings of Thomas Jefferson, Brandeis concluded that Zionism would extend the Jeffersonian values of liberty and equality to all members of a self-governing Jewish state. As the leader of the Zionist movement, he convinced Woodrow Wilson and the British government to recognize a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Conclusion: This is a remarkable biography of a remarkable American who advanced democracy on several fronts and made America a freer and better place to live–for common people, regardless of race or gender.

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Speaking Freely: Whitney v. California and American Speech Law
Posted - Sep 30, 2018
At the heart of Whitney v. California is the story of two remarkable people. One was a wealthy heiress concerned with the deplorable working conditions and minuscule pay of factory workers across the country, and the other was a Supreme Court justice devoted to protecting the right of free speech. In 1920, Anita Whitney, a “patrician radical,” was prosecuted in a California court for criminal syndication, and appealed her case all to the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where, in a landmark opinion, Justice Louis Brandeis argued that freedom of speech is an essential precondition of democracy.

The author of "Speaking Freely: Whitney v. California," Philippa Strum, recounts their remarkable stories in this very readable book that belongs on the same shelf with “Gideon’s Trumpet” and “Civil Rights on Trial: New York Times v. Sullivan.” Writes the author: “We may think of law as a matter of courts and judges and doctrines, but it begins as the story of human beings and their attempts to make sense of and to organize their world.” If you have but the slightest interest in the First Amendment or what it means to be an American, I heartily recommend this book. The following is from my review for Amazon.com.

Born in 1867 to a well-to-do California family, neither wealth nor a Wellesley College education brought satisfaction to Anita Whitney. Horrified by what she saw in the slums of Chicago, New York and Boston, she became depressed. Wanting to do something about the plight of workers and their families—many of them ill-housed, ill-clad and malnourished immigrants—she tried social work and concluded that social work alone was not enough. Believing they offered tangible solutions, she joined the Socialist Party in 1914, and moved from its left-wing faction into the Communist Labor Party in 1919. She also identified with but did not join the ultra-radical Industrial Workers of the World (the I.W.W., also known as “the Wobblies”). This was the period of the Red Scare during and after Word War I, when it seemed a communist lurked in every shadow and revolution was imminent. Worker unrest was common and often spilled over into riots and violence, including the bombing of the Los Angeles Times Building, which was blamed on the Wobblies. It was in this climate of fear that the California legislature passed a bill that criminalized any spoken, written, or printed words as well as “personal conduct” that “advocates, teaches or aids and abets criminal syndication.”

In Oakland, where she lived, Whitney was identified as a Wobbly and watched closely by police. After giving a speech in a downtown hotel to the League of Americans (on “The Negro Problem in the United States”), she was promptly arrested and ordered to stand trial on five counts under the criminal syndication act. The trial that ensued was “a mockery of due process,” writes the author. Whitney was convicted and ordered to serve from one-to-seven years in the notorious San Quentin state prison. The verdict was appealed, but each of the appellate courts affirmed the trial court’s verdict. The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments twice before agreeing to review the case.

Enter Louis Brandeis. He, too, was concerned with the woeful working conditions and minuscule pay of factory workers across the country. Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court, he performed free legal services for those who could not afford an attorney, which earned him the sobriquet, “The People’s Lawyer.” Not knowing about Whitney’s arrest but well aware of the popular panic and government crackdown, he was appalled by the events sweeping the nation, and compared the Red Scare to the reign of terror led by the Spanish Inquisition official Tomas de Torquemada. He told a law clerk he was “simply deeply humiliated and filled with a sense of sin that we with the greatest possibilities of any people should waste ourselves on these age-old methods of oppression.”

As Whitney’s case moved through the appellate court system, Brandeis was retooling his ideas about free speech. His changing view can be traced in the minority opinions of Shaefer v. United States, Pierce v. United States, Gilbert v. Minnesota, and Milwaukee Publishing v. Burleson. In the book, Chapters Five (“Thinking Through Free Speech”), Six (“Public Discussion Is a Political Duty”) and Seven (“How Free Should Speech Be?”) analyze the evolution of Brandeis’ thinking. Whitney v. California proved to be the culmination of Brandeis’ analysis.

The High Court ruled against Anita Whitney and, ironically, Brandeis’ opinion concurred with that ruling. Why? Because Whitney’s lawyers had not argued that the statute was an unconstitutional infringement on speech that presented no clear and present danger to the state, which were the grounds on which Brandeis’ would have overruled the conviction. That being the case, he felt constrained to follow the Court’s rule that it would not decide a case on the basis of an argument not made by the defense attorneys. However, that did not stop him from writing an eloquent defense of speech that was so pervasive the governor of California cited it in pardoning Whitney.

Writes the author: “The Whitney v. California opinion is an extraordinary expression of faith in ideas and, equally, in the assumption that ultimately people will choose wisely in a democratic state that encourages the articulation of ideas. Brandeis believed absolutely in airing all ideas. Nonetheless, what his opinions in these cases demonstrate is his certainty that the channels of communication had to be open to even the most heinous ideas, for only through education and free discussion could such ideas be negated.”

In the Epilogue, the author concludes: “Free speech became something of a mantra for Anita Whitney and, as well, for Louis Brandeis. In their very different ways they played a major role in creating the speech jurisprudence that is now one of the hallmarks of the American political system. One can only imagine that they would both be pleased.”

I also recommend you read “Brandeis on Democracy” (edited by the author) which includes Brandeis’ complete concurring opinion written for Whitney v. California.

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Sleepers in the Sinatra Canon
Posted - Sep 23, 2018
Frank Sinatra was not easily defeated, not by critics, not by a case of tired vocal chords, and not by slumping record sales. What follows are reviews of four overlooked albums that attest not to his art but to his perseverance.

(1) SINATRA SINGS GREAT SONGS FROM GREAT BRITAIN (1962)

Even on a bad day, Frank Sinatra shines. This is a lovely LP, somewhere between the autumnal feel of "The Turning Point" and the lush romanticism of "The Concert Sinatra.” All three albums were recorded within the same year and feature some of Sinatra's best ballad work. Yes, Sinatra's voice was a bit tired from touring Europe when he entered a London studio to record "Great Songs," but the tired vocal chords add rather than detract from the melancholy mood of the songs, particularly with "Now is the Hour" and "Garden in the Rain." As always, Sinatra's delivers the goods, plumbing the emotional depths of each song and making it vibrant and alive. The key is the gorgeous string arrangements. Arranger Robert Farnon, who arranged the music for "Great Songs," was a big fan of Axel Stordahl, Sinatra's arranger from the Columbia years. In some ways, Farnon surpasses him, with string writing that is positively heavenly. As the liner notes attest, Sinatra and Farnon constituted a mutual admiration society. Among my favorites cuts are "The Very Thought of You" (one of Sinatra's rare attempts at covering a Nat Cole song), "If I Had You" and "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.”

(2) THE CONCERT SINATRA (1962)

Leave it to Frank Sinatra, to hire a 100-piece orchestra for a concert for a half-dozen close friends, and perform a set devoted exclusively to the grandly romantic show tunes of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Rodgers and Hart. In fact the intended audience was the record-buying public, who somehow missed this great album when it arrived in record stores in the Fall of 1962, an album that was arranged and conducted by incomparable Nelson Riddle, and performed by the cream of Hollywood's high-brow musicians, most of whom were on sabbatical from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. You want Broadway songs that uplift and inspire? This album is loaded: "I Have Dreamed," "My Heart Stood Still," "Lost in the Stars," "Ol' Man River," "You'll Never Walk Along," "This Nearly Was Mine." Grandiloquent is the word for it.

(3) FRANK SINATRA: A MAN ALONE, THE SONGS OF ROD McKUEN (1969)

The album is entitled “A Man Alone”—not “Sinatra Sings Rod McKuen.” There is a difference. The key to appreciating the singular specialness of Frank Sinatra is that when a song means something to him—when he makes a connection with the words on some personal level—the song becomes his own. That’s why Sinatraphiles—and I am one—are so devoted to his music. When Sinatra is given lyrics that matter to him, no one can match him. That’s why this album is special—Sinatra was into the lyrics. Rod McKuen supplied the words, but Sinatra gave them meaning. In the end, the vision is Sinatra’s alone.

About the words—not everyone loved Rod McKuen’s poetry and music, it just seemed that way back in the ‘60s when this album was made. Obviously, Sinatra was moved by McKuen’s poetry on some fundamental level. The two met at a party. One thing led to another and Frank asked the "paperback poet" to write the lyrics for an entire album devoted to being single and alone. As always, Sinatra rehearsed at home with pianist Bill Miller–to take possession of the mood the words evoked. "The prince of pop charts," Don Costa, supplied arrangements suitable to the mood, and the album was recorded in three sessions. Not everyone knew what to make of it. The music was decidedly low wattage, and some of the lyrics were spoken. Ring-a-ding-ding it was not. Nor was it the suicide music of “No One Cares” and “Where Are You.” The music was deeply intimate and personal. The man singing was alone but not lonely. If his heart was broken, he was over it. He was wistful about lost loves as opposed to brooding over them. “A Man Alone” is unique in the Sinatra canon. That said, record sales were dismal in the U.S. but overseas the English people loved it. Today, “A Man Alone” is earning a grudging respect among Sinatraphiles and finding a place at last on the shelf with, among other recordings, “A Swingin’ Affair,” “Only the Lonely,” and “September of My Years.”

(4) WATERTOWN (1969)

“Watertown” was a pivotal moment in Frank Sinatra’s long career. The former boy singer of the Tommy Dorsey Band, the one-time heartthrob who left the girls swooning in the aisles at the Paramount Theater in New York City, the creator of the concept album, the former 30-something swinger and Rat Pack leader, the multi-media business mogul, and now, in the late-1960s, aging superstar, was struggling to come to grips with the growing youth market. In 1969, he spent most of the year in a Hollywood recording studio searching for something—anything—that would connect with the kids. Why he was so obsessed is a mystery. He had nothing more to prove. He was super-rich, owned a third of Warner-Reprise Records, was still very much a hot property in the movie industry, and yet here he was looking for a hit record, and making yet another “important” album, but most of all, as a singer, being relevant again. Sinatra liked to say he was a saloon singer, only he didn’t play saloons; there was no money in it. He was a pop singer who played to sell-out crowds in huge arenas like Madison Square Garden. More than that, he was an artist, with an artist’s temperament—impatient, demanding, never satisfied, forever wondering why others didn’t hear what he heard, feel what he felt, see what he saw. It wasn’t easy being Frank Sinatra. But in 1969 none of his former success mattered, and his artistic temperament cried out for something new.

When Frankie Vali of the Four Seasons suggested Sinatra work with the Four Season's songwriting team, Sinatra accepted without reservation. Recorded in July 1969, “Watertown” was the result. It was unlike anything Sinatra had ever done before. It was a series of connected stories told in song about a marriage breakup and the effect it was having on the children and on the husband/father. It wasn’t ring-a-ding-ding, but it was real, personal, as emotionally touching as any saloon album, and played to Sinatra's art as master story teller. The orchestral arrangements–at once retro and modern–were the perfect counterpoint to Sinatra, as the wounded, wizened, world-weary story-teller. The album was well-recorded and the deluxe record jacket appropriate to what was a concept album. Sinatra was proud of the album. Yet, of all the records he made at Reprise, it was by far his worst selling, with a reported 35,000 units moved. Not nearly enough to pay the studio musicians. It was also Sinatra’s last complete album before his retirement. In 1971, he decided he would be happier on a Palm Springs golf course than in the fruitless pursuit of yet another hit record. When the CD age arrived, "Watertown" was the last Sinatra album to go digital. “Watertown” is Sinatra’s lost album—misunderstood, unappreciated, neglected.

That is not the end of the story, however. In recent years, critics and buyers alike have rediscovered “Watertown” and decided it’s not so bad after all. In fact, with repeated listening, it’s actually quite good, better in fact than a number of albums Sinatra recorded in the three or four years before and after his 1971 retirement. In I998, a week after Sinatra’s death, Entertainment Weekly rated Sinatra’s entire discography, from 1939 through the Duets albums of ‘90s. The writer, jazz critic Will Friedwald, placed “Watertown” squarely in the middle of Sinatra’s 100 album discography—at number 50—ahead of “My Way,” “Softly As I Leave You,” “That’s Life,” “Ol’Blue Eyes is Back,” “L.A. Is My Lady,” “Some Nice Things I’ve Missed,” “The World We Knew,” “Cycles” and the two “Duets” albums. Throw in scores of favorable reviews on Amazon.com and “Watertown” is lost no more.

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Work of My Sons
 

Morning Softly - Water Echoes Movement
-Released in 2014. Bill made guitar riffs and synth tracks at home, got Lya Finston to write some lyrics and sing, and got Scott to provide some bass.

Morning Softly - Early Eerie Feeling
-Recorded in 2014. Songs written by Bill, at home. Synthesizers were added later. Some drumming done by Brendan Lenihan.

Scott Nisley - Brick City Skies
-Released in 2014. With his piano melodies and vocals, Scott entrusted the production of his album to several studio musicians.

The 45's - Roof-Hopping
-Recorded in 2010. A collaborative effort between Scott and Bill Nisley, Adam Sherman, and Zach Belka.


Oh, Yeah...
 

Richard Nisley's Brothers in Cars
Thanksgiving Day, 1967. From L to R: my brothers David, Charles, and Rob. Photo by John Nisley.
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