Saturday, January 30, 2010

March of the Peacocks, Dan Ellzberg on Zinn, Haiti Benefit tomorrow

I've sent emails on Howard Zinn not only as a memorial tribute, but
because his profound sense of humanity really did mean just that -
all people and all struggles for justice throughout the world, with a
remarkable gift for analysis with the language of common folk and
common sense to explain and inspire.
Click on the URL below for an insightful look at Howard by a close
friend, combining stories of two or three days showing the character
of this warm, intrepid and humble giant.


March of the Peacocks

NY Times Op-Ed: January 28, 2010

Last week, the Center for American Progress, a think tank with close ties to
the Obama administration, published an acerbic essay about the difference
between true deficit hawks and showy "deficit peacocks." You can identify
deficit peacocks, readers were told, by the way they pretend that our budget
problems can be solved with gimmicks like a temporary freeze in nondefense
discretionary spending.

One week later, in the State of the Union address, President Obama proposed
a temporary freeze in nondefense discretionary spending.

Wait, it gets worse. To justify the freeze, Mr. Obama used language that was
almost identical to widely ridiculed remarks early last year by John
Boehner, the House minority leader. Boehner then: "American families are
tightening their belt, but they don't see government tightening its belt."
Obama now: "Families across the country are tightening their belts and
making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same."

What's going on here? The answer, presumably, is that Mr. Obama's advisers
believed he could score some political points by doing the deficit-peacock
strut. I think they were wrong, that he did himself more harm than good.
Either way, however, the fact that anyone thought such a dumb policy idea
was politically smart is bad news because it's an indication of the extent
to which we're failing to come to grips with our economic and fiscal

The nature of America's troubles is easy to state. We're in the aftermath of
a severe financial crisis, which has led to mass job destruction. The only
thing that's keeping us from sliding into a second Great Depression is
deficit spending. And right now we need more of that deficit spending
because millions of American lives are being blighted by high unemployment,
and the government should be doing everything it can to bring unemployment

In the long run, however, even the U.S. government has to pay its way. And
the long-run budget outlook was dire even before the recent surge in the
deficit, mainly because of inexorably rising health care costs. Looking
ahead, we're going to have to find a way to run smaller, not larger,

How can this apparent conflict between short-run needs and long-run
responsibilities be resolved? Intellectually, it's not hard at all. We
should combine actions that create jobs now with other actions that will
reduce deficits later. And economic officials in the Obama administration
understand that logic: for the past year they have been very clear that
their vision involves combining fiscal stimulus to help the economy now with
health care reform to help the budget later.

The sad truth, however, is that our political system doesn't seem capable of
doing what's necessary.

On jobs, it's now clear that the Obama stimulus wasn't nearly big enough. No
need now to resolve the question of whether the administration should or
could have sought a bigger package early last year. Either way, the point is
that the boost from the stimulus will start to fade out in around six
months, yet we're still facing years of mass unemployment. The latest
projections from the Congressional Budget Office say that the average
unemployment rate next year will be only slightly lower than the current,
disastrous, 10 percent.

Yet there is little sentiment in Congress for any major new job-creation

Meanwhile, health care reform faces a troubled outlook. Congressional
Democrats may yet manage to pass a bill; they'll be committing political
suicide if they don't. But there's no question that Republicans were very
successful at demonizing the plan. And, crucially, what they demonized most
effectively were the cost-control efforts: modest, totally reasonable
measures to ensure that Medicare dollars are spent wisely became evil "death

So if health reform fails, you can forget about any serious effort to rein
in rising Medicare costs. And even if it succeeds, many politicians will
have learned a hard lesson: you don't get any credit for doing the fiscally
responsible thing. It's better, for the sake of your career, to just pretend
that you're fiscally responsible - that is, to be a deficit peacock.

So we're paralyzed in the face of mass unemployment and out-of-control
health care costs. Don't blame Mr. Obama. There's only so much one man can
do, even if he sits in the White House. Blame our political culture instead,
a culture that rewards hypocrisy and irresponsibility rather than serious
efforts to solve America's problems. And blame the filibuster, under which
41 senators can make the country ungovernable, if they choose - and they
have so chosen.

I'm sorry to say this, but the state of the union - not the speech, but the
thing itself - isn't looking very good.


From: Boulevard Music

Concert for Haiti

Culver-Palms United Methodist Church
4464 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City

Sunday, January 31st, 2-6 pm
Be there. Be hope.
Here's the final lineup, with a few added words:

All acoustic!
Laurence Juber (Grammy winning guitarist form Paul McCartney's Wings),
Amilia K. Spicer, Brad Colerick, Robby Longley, Freebo (Bonnie Raitt Band),
Lisa Turner, Robert Morgan Fisher, Dave Morrison Band, Blues legend Bernie
Pearl with Mike Barry, Susie Glaze & Hilonesome (award-winning bluegrass
band), Severin Browne, Duane Thorin, Michael Richards & Doctor Fun from
blues band Wumbloozo, James Lee Stanley, Dale LaDuke, Kara Grainger, Tracy
Newman, Dafni, Paul Lacques & Paul Marshall (from I See Hawks in L.A.), Sage
(Dan Brown and Kathy Jarel-Girgis), Tim Tedrow & Terry Vreeland, Matt
Cartsonis (famous film composer), Renaissance (top doo-wop vocal group),
Stephanie Bettman & Luke Halpin (top fiddle-playing vocalist on music

- - -

From: Bernie Pearl

I have been invited to perform at a "Concert for Haiti" benefit show, this
coming Sunday, January 31, at the Culver-Palms United Methodist Church, 4464
Sepulveda Bl., Culver City 90230. Admission by donation, all proceeds to
Haiti relief. Performances by many artists, TBA. Mike Barry and I will
perform in the early part of the program, before 3:00, which goes from
2:00-6:00. The church has a capacity of 300. Seating on a first-come basis.
I am always reluctant to clutter your mail boxes with promotion, but the
need to assist Haiti earthquake victims, I believe, supercedes other
considerations. Your understanding is appreciated. I hope to see you there,

Click the link for further information.

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