Saturday, March 28, 2009

Put People First March Londoners Speak to G20 Leaders March 28, 2009

March 28, 2009, 6:03 pm

I'm very cheered to hear about 35,000 marchers in the Put People First March in London March 28, 2009, gathered together to tell G20 leaders meeting this week in the city that Jobs, Justice, and Climate should be the priority of the G20 meetings.
The march was organized by over 100 trade unions, church groups, charities, and environmental groups aimed at speaking to G20 leaders. The photos on the Guardian newspaper website for March 28, 2009, are stunning.

It's good to see English-speaking people use their free speech to articulate what is important to them and to tell G20 leaders the priorities of people on the streets. It was a very peaceful but huge march. The organizers had hoped for 10,000 but 35,000 came.

The London march comes just after this huge but peaceful general strikes in FRances, so both France and England are beacons of hope. Also, people in the French Carribean Island of Guadalupe had a 44-day general strike which they one to improve their wages, another hopeful sign. Amy Goodman had a good report on her show last night on the Guadalupe general strike.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Obama's Policies Are Like Herbert Hoover's

In September, 2008, when Bush’s Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson proposed the first giveaway of $800 billion to the banks I started writing articles against the giveaway as 99 out of 100 U.S. citizens were against the giveaway. Unfortunately, Obama has supported the first giveaway to the banks of $800 billion and then given away TRILLIONS more to the banks and AIG.

Let’s look at figures showing how the U.S. people are doing in the last six months. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the overall unemployment rate has risen from 6.0% in the third quarter (May-July) 2008 to 8.1% in February 2009. For blacks, the unemployment rate has risen from 10.7% in May-June 2008 to 13.4% in February 2009. For Hispanics, from 7.8 % in May-June 2008 to 10.9%. In Los Angeles, California, where I live, the Los Angeles Times reported that the overall unemployment in February 2009 for California was 10.5% while in Los Angeles County it is 10.9%.These are the worse unemployment numbers for the U.S since 1982-3.

As for foreclosures, the U.S. Foreclosure Market Report reported in 2008 foreclosures in the United States were a 81% increase over foreclosures in 2007 and 225% increase over foreclosures in 2006. From January 2009 to February 2009 foreclosures increased 6%. The U.S foreclosure rate of February 2009 forclosures increased 30% over February 2008 rates.

Declining real estate prices cause declines in school budgets. In Florida, the huge decline in real estate prices have meant a 20% decline in school budgets, so teachers get laid off. That pattern is appearing nationwide as declining real estate prices mean less funds for school budgets meaning over 400,000% teachers nationwide have gotten layoff notices this spring.

February 17, 2009, Obama’s $787 stimulus package was passed. According to CNN Money February 17, 2009, “The official benchmark estimates from the White House: 3.5 million jobs will be created or saved over the next two years, and over 90% of them will be in the private sector.” So the White House plans the $787 billion stimulus package to generate the federal government hiring a mere 350,000 people over the next 3 years.

Economist such as Mark Zandi, chief economy at Moody’s, disagrees, with White House estimates: “Indeed I expect the economy to lose another 3 million jobs with stimulus but over 4 million without it." So the U.S. economy could shed another 3 million jobs in the next 2-3 years. Most of the Obama stimulus spending on jobs in transportation or construction or updating health records won’t take place until 2010. If Zandi is right, the economy twill shed 3 million jobs throughout 2009 and 2011 while the government hires 350,000 people. That’s s really bleak unemployment outlook.

Obama has not imitated FDR in his economic stimulus program but Herbert Hoover in letting the masses of U.S. citizens lose their jobs , their homes and teachers for their children. FDR, in contrast, ordered in 1933 Harry Hopkins to have the government hire 4 million people; by January, 1934 Hopkins had hired 4 million people on government programs. According to National Review online FDR reduced unemployment from 33% in 1933 to 7% in 1936 to 3% in 1940 to 0.5 % in 1942. Another economist James K. Galbraith says, “The Roosevelt administration reduced unemployment from 25 per cent in 1933 to 9 per cent in 1936.” The federal government from 1934-1940 was the largest employer in the country.

What did all these people working for the federal government do? James Galbraith said that the workers on federal projects “built or renovated 2,500 hospitals, 45,000 schools, 13,000 parks and playgrounds, 7,800 bridges, 700,000 miles of roads, and a thousand airfields. And it employed 50,000 teachers, rebuilt the country's entire rural school system, and hired 3,000 writers, musicians, sculptors and painters, including Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. Obama is not following FDR but in following Hoover in letting millions go unemployed along with a paltry stimulus with a tiny amount of jobs.

What we need now is a program like FDR’s that will hire 3 million people to do exactly what the WPA and CCC did in the 1930s: build bridges, roads, schools, parks, post offices etc. I’m looking for a demonstration to go to in Los Angeles to voice my opposition to Obama’s paltry stimulus and to ask for a jobs program to hire not 350,000 but 3 million in the next six months. Be like FDR! Hire 3 million people now!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Iraq War Started Six Years Ago

I was one of millions who was busy protesting the Iraq War six years ago before it started, so now thinking back all those memories came back. We started the protests in January, 2003, when the federal government rounded up thousands of Muslim men because of alleged violations of immigration rules. Immediately a protest was called at the West Los Angeles federal building the day it rained. The protest was held despite the heavy rain. When I got there hundreds were lined up on Wilshire Building holding up umbrellas, trying to shield each other from the pelting rain. It was an extremely friendly picket line as we all suffered in the rain, all tried to help one another keep dry.

People around Los Angeles neighborhoods were holding Friday evening picket lines, so I joined mine in Silverlake/Los Felix where Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards meet Virgil Avenue. When I got there around six about 50 people stood at the intersection holding up picket signs, and some of the bus drivers saluted as they drove by. I started photographing the anti-war movement that evening. A mother and father brought their two young children--about four and six--gave them picket signs, so all four lined up along Wilshire Boulevard. I returned again to picket the next week.

Then just before the war started millions marched against the Iraq War. Our big march in Los Angeles was through Hollywood, starting at the subway station at Hollywood and Vine. I went with a friend, and by the time we got to Hollywood and Vine we had to wind our way through a big crowd. My friend who spoke Spanish picked up a sign "No mas guerra" no more war. When this huge march of 30,000 started down Hollywood Boulevard it was just amazing as this was the largest march I had even been on and we took over the whole large boulevard for blocks on blocks. The hit of the march was the Butoh dance troup "Corpus delecti" all in white rags and white power who came at the end dancing the corpse or showing in their dance the sufferings of the dyinng in this war we hoped to stop. We believed for a moment with all those millions marching we really could stop the tide of war.

Bush kept on his juggernaut for war, so then with war only days way I participated in the candlelight vigils held around the world. Our candlelight vigil was at Echo Park Lake and about 200 showed up at 7:00 holding candles as we marched around the dark lake. Still I guess we hoped upon hope we could still despite all the evidence stop this war if kept marching if we kept marching. After we finished circling the small lake, we milled around . Pastor David Farley from the Echo Park Methodist Church was there with his flock. Some left their candles on the stop to burn through the night.

Bush started bombing on March 19, 2003, so I went with my camera to the West Los Angeles federal building for the protest . In big events it is inevitable that there will be a protest at the federal bulding. Sure enough, hundreds were there on all sides of the huge intersection holding up anti-war picket signs along with hundreds of police. I was on the northwest corner with my camera watching UCLA students march into the middle of the intersection and sit down against the war. I didn't have a telephoto lens, couldn't get a good shot in the dusk so I just watch the police march up to the sitting students and arrest them. US planes were bombing Iraq. We had failed to stop this war. All I had left was a lot of photos, a lot of memories, a lot of sadness.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

In Memory of Kalman Bloch

Thursday night I heard that my family's friend Kalman Bloch has just died. Kalman was partner of my mother's close friend Molly Zucker. Kalman is a classical clarinet player. Though over ninety, Kalman had been active playing his clarinet in public performances, social gatherings, and family gatherings. He was like a musical uncle to me.

My family is not musical and nobody plays an instrument. I grew up a rock 'n roller, listening only a little to classical music. Kalman once told me that musicians put all their emotions into playing classical music. I was stunned, thinking that classical music was just like rock 'n roll: emotions put into sounds. Another time Kalman played a Brahms dance. I had always thought Brahms the most boring of composers, but because it was Kalman, I actually listened to the lively dance music--Kalman helped me to enjoy Brahms for the first time.

I remember going about 10 years ago with my mother to hear Kalman play at the anniversary of Skylight bookstore. I, the rock 'n roller, listented with great joy to Kalman play in a clarinet quartet all these classical clarinet pieces. I didn't even know that the clarinet had all this music. Another time I went with my mother to Kalman's house for Thanksgiving. The dinner was excellent, but even better than the food was Kalman after dinner begin to play Hebraic melodies. Then his daughter Michele, who played in the Los Angeles Philarmonic, started spinning Gershwin out of her clarinet. I felt this was one of my greatest Thanksgivings listening to the two of them play. I invited Kalman to my garden birthday party once, and he played a Debussy piece which he dedicated to me. I was very touched because nobody had ever dedicated a music piece to me before.

I often tell my students what I call the Kalman Bloch story he told us once over dinner. In the depths of the Depression in 1936 he was studying clarinet in New York with Simeon Bellison, the first clarinetist of the New York Philarmonic. He was soon going to be needing a job, and thought it was impossible to get a job playing music, so he should start studying to be a dentist. Even in the Depression people needed dentists. His teacher told him to send out 100 resumes to orchestras all over the United States, which he did. He only heard back from one: the Los Angeles Philarmonic gave him an audition. Being poor he couldn't afford to travel to Los Angeles, but then he got lucky. His brother had gone to Los Angeles where he had gotten engaged to a young woman. Soon his brother would have a L.A. wedding, so his family decided to all go to the wedding. He wrote the Los Angeles Philarmonic to ask for his audition. In Los Angeles, he did the audition, was hired, and started in 1937.

He taught clarinet to many students including his daughter Michele who became co-principal clarinetist of the Los Angeles Philarmonic. So the Block family for 70 years has been working for this orchestra. I tell my students this because if there was a job for Kalman in 1937, there is a job for you now!

Kalman has enriched so many lives with his music. He will be missed.

Here is a snippet of Kalman playing Glick's "Circle Dance" and Hebraic melodies from Garageband;

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

UC Berkeley physical education classes cut

Last weekend in Berkeley I heard that that jobs of physical education instructors at UC Berkeley are under attack. The Daily Californian, the student newspaper, said, "next fall, the program is set to lose half of its courses and reduce most of its faculty to half-time, prompting backlash from instructors and students."

Students started a letter writing campaign to protest the cuts, are circulating a petition, and also have started a Facebook group. Also, an Associated Student's bill criticizing the cuts was introduced to the student government.

Sue Johannesen, a fitness instructor, said 4,300s students tried to sign up for physical education classes but were rejected "due to limited capacity of the classes." Dance instructor Jason Britton said "the cut will slash his classes-- and perhaps his income--in half may force him to look for outside work."

Mark Schlissel, Dean of the Division of Biological Sciences, heads the division overseeing physical education. After the administration imposed $250,000 cuts to the Division of Biological Sciences, Dean Schlissel chose to cut physical education because the chancellor "recommended that academic programs be spared." UC Berkeley has been cut this year "$65-75 million."

At the same time Chancellor Birgeneau is encouraging students to attend"Mind-Body Week" March 9-16 to participate in lectures, activities, and workshops that improve the mind and body. Surely, physical education classes are part of part of improving the mind and body that Chancellor Birgeneau thinks are so important.

When I went to UC Berkeley, I took Advanced Modern Dance all four years, and the classes were my salvation. I felt encouraged by these dance classes more than any other classes that I took, and started me on a lifetime of always exercising, so the dance classes had a lasting impact on my life. I think that the physical education classes are utterly necessary and shouldn't be cut and that all the instructors should work full-time.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Los Angeles Bike Summit

Los Angeles is having a bike summit this weekend. It's hard biking in Los Angeles and bicyclers need more rights. Also, there are too many cars and the city has the worst traffic in the nation. Here's the information;

Los Angeles Bike Summit:

Bike Summit LA Home - Bike Summit LAL.A. BIKE SUMMIT
Saturday March 7, 2009 from 9am to 4pm
Los Angeles Trade Tech College


Please Pre-Register by Monday February 23rd to reserve lunch

The Bike Summit says, "In Southern California, the growth and interest in bike riding and bike advocacy has increased to the point that the movement could significantly benefit from the formation of a common agenda. Bike organizations, including policy and grass roots groups, need to present a stronger, more unified front and a shared vision by combining communication, outreach, research and educational resources. This partnership will help to not only strengthen the presence of biking as an alternative to driving and a source of physical activity, but will help to create a more livable and sustainable region.

The Los Angeles Bike Summit is the next step to facilitate this discussion and collaboration of bike organizations, support groups, and advocates."