1. Actually, we have moved. Catch up with us here. The actual address is http://avanneman.tumblr.com/

    The new Literature R Us is still a work in progress, but I've decided that if I waited until it was finished, well, that would be too long. If you have a wide screen, you make have columns of text overlapping. Adjust the size of your window until things look better. You'll see links to my two dead tree books, Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat of Sumatra and Sherlock Holmes and the Hapsburg Tiara (also available in an unabridged audio verson), plus a free ebook, Three Bullets, a recreation/updating of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe. I pan to be adding links for new, nonfree ebooks in the near future, once I get the hang of this self-publishing thing.

    So head over to Tumblr for cartoons, tunes, and commentary, five days a week, 99% of the time.

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  2. What’s Obama’s problem? The Wash Post’s Dana Milbank “explains”:
    In one account of what even administration officials acknowledge is a debacle, the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama’s policy advisers were aware long ago that the president’s promise that “if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it” wouldn’t hold up. “White House policy advisers objected to the breadth of Mr. Obama’s ‘keep your plan’ promise,” the Journal reported, citing a former senior administration official. “They were overruled by political aides,” the former official said. The White House said it was unaware of the objections.”

    I admit that I find this confusing. White House policy advisors tell White House political aides that the president shouldn’t be saying “if you like it you can keep it,” and the “White House” says “it” didn’t know about this. Hmmmmm.

    Well, I think we can skip all this “who knew” jive. President Obama is renowned for his detailed grasp of policy issues. Anyone reading liberal outlets has known for several years that one of the goals of the Affordable Care Act was to force insurers to stop selling what liberals regarded as “crappy,” useless catastrophic insurance packages that did not help pay for routine health maintenance procedures, which is what liberals mean by “health care.” And surely Obama knew this too. And surely what Obama “meant” was, “if you have a decent health care plan, you can keep it. If you don’t, we’ll force your insurer to give you one.”

    Obama and his aides might have figured that some people would not benefit from this favor they intended to provide. Some people with catastrophic insurance might be actually suffering from a catastrophic illness, and might in fact be receiving high-quality, low-cost care. For such people, the loss of their crappy insurance plan might mean, well, death.

    So maybe both Obama and his advisors should have thought a little more than they did. But to claim that Obama didn’t know that what he was saying was nothing more than a deliberate half truth is a lie.

    Milbanks is even more laughable when he expands his bubble theory to “explain” the war in Iraq. Supposedly, late in his presidency, Dub-Ya complained to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Admiral Mike Mullen that “when I made the decision on Iraq, I went around the room to everybody at that table, every principal. ‘You in? Any doubts?’ Nothing from anybody.”

    If George really said that, my opinion of him just sunk a couple of inches. Really, George? You tell your staff that quote “I’m going to kick Saddam Hussein’s motherfucking ass all over the Middle East” and then you expect someone to pipe up and say “Golly gee, Mr. President. If you did that, you’d be making a huge mistake?” It’s a matter of record, which Milbank surely ought to know, that people in the Bush Administration who cast doubt on the invasion of Iraq were either silenced or bounced. The notion that Bush was failed by his advisors is nonsense.

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  3. Monk’s tune dedicated to his wife, played first by Jason Moran (piano), Tarus Mateen (bass), and Nasheef Waits (drums) and then by Mark Turner (sax), David Virelles (piano), Ben Street (bass), and Paul Motian (drums). Posted by netta07a


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  4. The severe embarrassment on the “Left” by the Obama Administration’s disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act has taken a variety of forms, from the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” approach advocated by Joan Walsh at Salon, aka “The first rule about the Affordable Care Act is ‘Don’t talk about Affordable Care Act’; “The second rule about the Affordable Care Act is ‘Don’t talk about Affordable Care Act,’” which is both cumbersome and self-defeating, to Mike Konczal’s “Back to the New Deal” approach, advocated, quite appropriately enough, at “Next New Deal: the blog of the Roosevelt Institute.”

    According to Mike, “My man Franklin Delano Roosevelt may not have known about JavaScript and agile programming, but he knew a few things about the public provisioning of social insurance, and he realized the second category, while conceptually more work for the government, can eliminate a lot of unnecessary administrative problems.” Mike’s “second category” social insurance is universal, mandatory, and federally run, as opposed to the ACA’s triple-layered compromise half of this and half of that won’t everyone please be a good sport and help us out with this thing, which, as the Washington Post has amply documented, allowed an hysterical right-wing backlash to half rip the entire program to pieces.

    But Mike should know a little bit more about his man Franklin Delano. It’s hardly a secret that the original Social Security Act was far from universal. In fact, it deliberately ignored the people who needed it the most—the millions of black and white sharecroppers in the South, and the mostly white itinerant “hired men” of the North, as well as family servants, who were much more common then than now (because so many people were so poor, help was much more “affordable”). These people, and most of the others at the bottom of the economic ladder, were deliberately written out of the act, first because they were largely disenfranchised, either formally or informally, and second because FDR did not want to antagonize small farmers and the middle class in general. The political basis of the Roosevelt Coalition was largely southern small farmers and the small businesses economically dependent upon them, and northern factory workers, who could be organized politically either through their unions or the big city Democratic machines.

    Roosevelt knew that expecting southerners to pay FICA taxes for their tenant farmers—black ones, in particular—would have been politically disastrous. So he turned his back on the blacks, both in writing the Social Security Act and in shutting down “relief”—principally Harry Hopkins’ WPA—after winning re-election in 1936. The reduction in federal spending, coupled with the deflationary effects of the Social Security Act itself—money was coming into the federal government but nothing was going out in the form of benefits—helped push the country into severe recession, from which it was only rescued by the start of World War II.

    In fact, Obama should have studied the New Deal—the real New Deal—more carefully as well. He might have noticed how cunning, cautious, and even callous the real Roosevelt could be. Two generations of Democrats have pursued universal health care because it was “right.” They should have noticed that most Americans already have health care, and that for them health care “reform” means “more for less,” when, in fact, most of us are getting heavily subsidized health care already, either through our employers or through Medicare.

    Obama sought to thread the needle by balancing the costs of expanded health care by substantial savings via “rationalization” of delivery of services. He should have known that 1) savings achieved via bureaucratic reform never, ever match the goals of the planners, and that 2) health care is something about which people are aggressively irrational—because they want to be told that they will, in effect, live forever, which ain’t going to happen any time soon.

    Democrats should not have to ask Republicans permission to enact social reforms. But a more modest program would not have provoked the wave of outrage that the Republicans rode to power in 2010. Absent that opposition, the implementation of a more modest program also would have been achieved much more smoothly. Liberals like both Mike and Barack tend somehow to think that the existing Social Security program sprang full-blown from Eff-Dee’s forehead, like Athena born of Zeus. In fact, Social Security today is the result of more than fifty years of “reform,” pushed along by an ever-growing political alliance of recipients.


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  5. Over at Slate, Dave Weigel devotes about ten column inches to letting Chris Christie tell us how much black folks love him, followed by about three column feet about how Big Chris is going to stomp, stomp, stomp his hapless Democratic opponent into the ground.

    Which is surely, surely, surely true. But then Dave ends his piece with the following:
    Christie is telling crowds that they really should consider voting for more Republicans, if only to send a message. “If you reward bad behavior, just like what happens with kids, you’ll get more bad behavior,” he says in Somers Point. “If you reward good behavior, you’ll get more good behavior. You know, Tuesday night, America’s watching. America’s watching and they want a new signal of hope for the country’s future, after all the dysfunction in Washington, D.C. They’re gonna look to New Jersey for that hope, and we’re gonna provide it to them on Tuesday.”

    I look around the room and see more than one grown man daubing away tears at what Christie’s just said about their state. Voter Jim Logan pulls me aside.

    “Only Ronald Reagan could have given a speech like that,” he says. “That last sentence? Yeah, he’s running.”

    Didn’t Dave see at least one grown man laughing his ass off at such self-promoting crap? Perhaps even more to the point, hasn’t Dave read all the advance chatter from Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s sure to be best-selling campaign pot boiler Double Down about the “garish controversies” swirling about the big guy’s big butt?

    According to Peter Hamby’s review of DD, when Team Romney began to consider, unenthusiastically, to be sure, the possibility of choosing Christie as Romney’s running mate, they came up with a serious can of worms: “a Justice Department investigation into his free-spending ways as U.S. attorney, his habit of steering government contracts to friends and political allies, a defamation lawsuit that emerged during a 1994 run for local office, a politically problematic lobbying career that included work on behalf of a financial firm that employed Bernie Madoff.”

    There’s no doubt that Christie’s “Who’s Your Daddy?” shtick is box office in Jersey, but how’s it going to sell in South Carolina? What about that Muslim judge he appointed? What’s his stand on immigration, or, as they like to call it down south, furriners? How good are the odds that Chris Christie is just the latest in the long line of Great Moderate Republican Hopes who get their asses handed to them when they come up against the true believers who own the Republican Party? I’d say, pretty damned good.

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  6. Legal humor here.

    “Presumably, it’s attached to something bigger than the house. Otherwise, it would make no sense.”

    “I told you they were your kind of people.”

    “I don’t know why they don’t get rid of that. We haven’t had a theft since the Johnsons back in 2008.”

    “Too pre-war to live, I’d say.”

    “Well, who would want to live in a neighborhood where a thing like that improves property values?”

    “Okay, I’m not just saying that the Johnsons had theirs galvanized. I’m saying that we ought to have ours galvanized.”

    “No, Godzilla couldn’t bite through that mother. Because Godzilla doesn’t exist.”

    “Are we supposed to ask about it, or are we not supposed to ask about it?”

    “Well, even if it were asleep, you could hear it snoring. Good lord, a dog that size, you could hear it breathing. You could hear it not breathing.”

    “Of course, there’s the whole weakest link thing.”

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  7. When will the lion lie down with the lamb? Well, not any time soon. When will Israel lie down with Saudi Arabia? Well, right about now, judging from “warnings” emerging from neo-con windbags gods like Charles “Krautman” Krauthammer, who says that the failure of President Obama to intervene in Syria, plus his obvious desire to cozy up to Iran, has to make the Saudis “wonder what kind of friend is the United States and can they survive the American friendship.” Meanwhile, Lee Smith, less hampered by divinity, is already flat-out advocating an alliance: “in the wake of a bad American deal with [Iranian President] Rouhani, the Israelis may come in quite handy [for the Saudis], as the only local power capable of standing up to a nuclear-armed Iran or stopping the Iranian nuclear program in its tracks.” Paul Wolfowitz, prescient as always,* was making nice with the Saudis waaay back in April of this year.

    Why are the leading citizens of AIPAC Nation suddenly liking the Saudis, a nation that has spent untold billions on vicious anti-Semitic propaganda over the past few decades and teaches its kids that Jews are “apes”? Well, obviously, they like part of the tune the Saudis are whistling—heavy U.S. involvement in the Middle East to “reform” Syria and deter Iran. But that, of course, is exactly what President Obama is not fixin’ to do.

    It will probably never be known if the president’s decision to allow Congress to decide if the U.S. would bomb Syria was guileless or guileful. It’s very hard to believe that the last-minute, “Putin to the rescue” finale was planned in any way, but it all worked out splendidly for the president. By allowing the Tea Party caucus to attack the idea of U.S. intervention in the Middle East as a means to attacking him (which they will always do as a matter of reflex), Obama strengthened the anti-intervention wing of the Republican Party in an extraordinary manner. Old Bull John McCain suddenly sounded like an old man who needed a nap and a sedative.

    Obama topped that by suddenly embracing the new president of Iran, a stunning move that I think no one would have predicted only a few months ago. Back in 2011, the question seemed to be how long can Obama avoid being pressured into bombing Iran. Two years later, we’re taking them out to lunch.

    Okay, things haven’t gone that far. A real deal with Iran is probably beyond the president’s grasp. The Tea Party is going to oppose pretty much anything the president proposes, and the sanctions legislation enacted back in the days when AIPAC determined U.S. Middle East policy forms a powerful barrier to any agreement. But to hear Charles Krauthammer saying how awful it is that Obama is being so mean to our good friends the Saudis, well, that’s rich.
    *Okay, not always.


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  8. I should probably stop using so many parentheses and exclamation points in my heads, but when they fit they fit, you know what I mean? Actually, the fact that there isn’t going to be any grand budget deal growing out of the Tea Party’s “shut it down” fiasco is becoming so obvious that I scarcely even need to write this post, but for a brief shining moment it seemed that Paulie’s Oct. 8 thumb-sucker on fiscal matters for the Wall Street Journal had once more made him the hero of the Acela crowd, and, if even one dying ember of that fantasy yet remains, I’d like to stamp it out.

    There seems to be a compulsion among “serious” people to believe that President Obama represents an extreme in the current “crisis,” which really isn’t all that bad. He doesn’t. If anything, in his eagerness to do Wall Street’s bidding, which is, fortunately, not quite the same thing as the Wall Street Journal’s bidding, the president is pretty much right of center. It’s just that the Republicans aren’t at the table at all. Basically, they’re in another world. The president wants to deal, but all they want to do is play video games.

    Let’s recall that Ryan’s original budget called for no cuts at all, ever, to Social Security, and no cuts to Medicare benefits ever for anyone 55 or over, while at the same time counting on the Medicare savings envisioned by the Affordable Care Act. When Ryan became Mitt Romney’s running mate, the Medicare savings were discarded, and instead seniors were assured that there would be no cuts, ever, to their benefits—the same thing the Tea Party said while riding to victory in 2010. After the election, Ryan bragged about how seniors had supported the Romney-Ryan ticket. Then he put the ACA savings back in his brand new budget, and then (of course) also voted against the ACA. How many times are you going to eat that cake, Paulie?

    Earlier this year, the Republicans in the House of Representatives approved the spending targets set by Ryan’s new budget—no cuts to entitlements, “restored” spending for defense, to make up for sequestered funds, and deep cuts in domestic discretionary spending. But when it came time to vote on actual appropriations bills to make those cuts, the House leadership didn’t even bring the bills to the floor, because they knew they couldn’t pass them. Which is the real reason we had the government shutdown in the first place.

    Despite all their grand talk, the Tea Party does not want a grand bargain, because that would involve making actual cuts in Social Security and Medicare, and the geezer vote is their ace in the hole. What they really want to do is cut spending on the poor, and no one else. House Republicans did vote to split the old “farm” bill into two pieces, one for farm subsidies and one for Food Stamps, cutting Food Stamps by 10 percent while providing full funding for crop insurance subsidies for millionaires. And Ryan voted with them on this one.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has “promised” that there will be no more government shutdowns, though I don’t remember him being elected Speaker of the House, and I also notice that he didn’t quite promise not to threaten to refuse to raise the debt ceiling. I suspect that there will be a lot more sound and fury to come, signifying nothing, because that is the sum and substance of the Tea Party program.


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  9. Remember when we were told that the average retired city worker in Detroit was receiving a pension of no more than $19,000 a year? Well, it turns out that was only sort of accurate. In fact, when there was extra money in the pension system, it was paid out in the form of “bonuses to retirees, supplements to workers not yet retired and cash to the families of workers who died before becoming eligible to collect a pension,” according to Mary Williams Walsh, writing in the NY Times’ “Dealbook.” Over the past several decades, these off-the-book payments amounted around $2 billion, according to Walsh.

    When that $19,000 figure was first bandied about, I took it with a mighty draught of salt, and it turns out that I was right. In fact, I would be enormously surprised if this is the last “surprise” that the Detroit pension system has for us. It is one of the hallmarks of modern urban corruption that no one really knows what is going on. Knowledge is power, but ignorance is safety, and while the outside experts kvetch and moan, the bureaucratic moles simply move the pea under a new thimble.

    A few months ago, when the city first declared bankruptcy, Paul Krugman opined that “Detroit does seem to have had especially bad governance, but for the most part the city was just an innocent victim of market forces.” Naturally, conservatives found precisely the opposite moral: that Detroit was simply the first shoe to drop, the first of many bankruptcies fueled by Democratic profligacy, the necessary result of the marriage of high-flying liberalism and unscrupulous public unions.

    I think the conservatives are closer to the mark than Paul, but both are trying to ignore the Great American Elephant, aka “race.” Dispassionate sociological analysis may someday discover why the sixties race riots only maimed cities like Washington, DC, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, but gave Detroit an ultimately mortal wound.* In all major American cities, black crime rose enormously, but somehow Detroit always led the rest. And only in Detroit did arson become an annual ritual and inner city sport.

    It’s hard to say if Coleman Young was “worse” than Washington, DC’s Marion Berry, but DC had the ever-giving cornucopia of the federal government, and Detroit did not. And while none of Berry’s successors came close to matching his record of corruption, Young’s successors did. The level of public services in Detroit became atrocious. The city was already on life support when the Great Contraction hit. GM and (maybe) Chrysler were worth saving, but Detroit was not. Chrysler makes lousy cars, but the City of Detroit makes nothing.
    *Detroit is about 80% black, the highest percentage of any major U.S. city. Other "greater than 50%" cities are New Orleans and Baltimore (not doing terribly well) and Atlanta (54%), doing fairly well, and Washington DC (about 50%), prospering shamelessly.

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  10. Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra perform "Let's Call This," composed by Thelonious Monk, arranged by Jason Lindner, at Symphony Space at "Andy and Jerry's: A Tribute to the Gonzalez Brothers" on October 15, 2011. Special guests: Andy & Jerry Gonzalez.


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