Excerpts From Sunshine/Noir II: Excavating San Diego Noir — A Jumping-Off Place

November 24, 2015 by Jim Miller

san diego noir

By Jim Miller

In Mike Davis’s seminal discussion of noir in City of Quartz he defines the genre as “a fantastic convergence of American ‘tough-guy’ realism, Weimar expressionism, and existentialized Marxism—all focused on unmasking a ‘bright, guilty place.’”

Born in the minds of the “Depression-crazed middle classes” of southern California, the “nightmare anti-myth of noir” trafficked in alienation and a distrust of the morality of capitalism. More specifically, Davis notes how “noir everywhere insinuated contempt for a depraved business culture while it simultaneously searched for a critical mode of writing or filmmaking within it.”

Thus in the “through-the-glass-darkly” novels of this new genre, early noir writers created “a regional fiction obsessively concerned with puncturing the bloated image of Southern California as the golden land of opportunity and the fresh start.” In so doing, they transformed “each charming ingredient of the booster’s arcadia into a sinister equivalent.”

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Clinton and the New Democrats’ Tired Third Way

November 23, 2015 by Jim Miller

dem socialismBy Jim Miller

Recently I noted how movements like the Fight for $15 and the insurgent Bernie Sanders campaign have revealed a widespread thirst for an overtly left politics that makes the battle against the billionaire class a central rallying cry.

Indeed, Sanders has continued to force Hillary Clinton to tack to the left on multiple issues, and he has had a genuinely transformative impact on the national political discourse by unashamedly bringing democratic socialism to the stage.

This is why Harold Meyerson argues that the Sanders’s campaign represents “the largest specifically left mobilization—and by ‘specifically left’ I mean it demands major changes in the distribution of income and wealth and major reforms to U.S. capitalism—that the nation has seen in at least half a century.”

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America’s Same Old Sad Story: Why the White Working Class is Killing Itself

November 16, 2015 by Jim Miller

despairBy Jim Miller

Last week brought us the stark news that America’s middle-aged white working class is killing itself.

Princeton economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case released a report documenting that:

The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.”

And strikingly, “rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse: alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.”

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Fighting for More than $15

November 9, 2015 by Jim Miller

Teachers, Students, and Community Fight for $15 and More

3:00 Rally and March on Tuesday Nov. 10th at City College near Park and B

f4f strike poster nov 10By Jim Miller

For progressives it is the worst of times and the best of times. As I noted on Labor Day, the American labor movement faces an existential crisis in the form of a looming Supreme Court decision that may essentially make the whole country “right to work” as the trend toward greater income inequality continues unabated.

Our sitting Democratic President has made pushing a terrible neoliberal trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, one of his legacy items, and the news on climate change seems to get worse by the day as our leaders bicker over half measures.

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The Day After the Day of the Dead

November 2, 2015 by Jim Miller

day of the dead robot

By Jim Miller

It’s the day after the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday which traditionally is both a time of remembrance of lost loved ones and a moment when the dead mock the pretenses of the living. Death is the leveler of rich and poor, proud and humble.

It reminds us that, in the end, all our bones are equal.

As Octavio Paz observes in “The Day of the Dead” from his classic book The Labyrinth of Solitude, “Death is a mirror which reflects the vain gesticulations of the living. The whole motley confusion of acts, omissions, regrets and hopes which is the life of each of us finds in death, not meaning or explanation, but an end.”

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Inequality for All in America’s Higher Education System

October 26, 2015 by Jim Miller

equity logoBy Jim Miller with Ian Duckles

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing Thomas Piketty speak on economic inequality at UCSD.

In his talk, Piketty hit on the central themes of his seminal work, Capital in the Twenty-First Century: how our current level of economic inequality is now back to where it was before the “great compression” of the mid-twentieth century when union density, progressive taxation, and educational policies helped produce the high point of the American middle class.

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Bad News Not Reported: The Drift Toward Global Plutocracy Continues Unabated

October 19, 2015 by Jim Miller

plutocracy1-300x162By Jim Miller

Recently Thomas B. Edsall penned an interesting column in the New York Times asking “How Did the Democrats Become the Favorites of the Rich?” where he observed that while the gulf between the two parties is still very wide on many social issues, on economic issues, Democrats have “inched closer to the policy positions of conservatives, stepping back from championing the needs of working men and women, of the unemployed and of the so-called underclass.”

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Sunshine/Noir II: A Continuing Exploration of Literary San Diego and Tijuana

October 12, 2015 by Jim Miller

San Diego City Works Press Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Anthology:
“Sunshine/Noir II: Writing From San Diego and Tijuana”

Friday, October 16th at the Glashaus Mainspace
1815 Main Street in Barrio Logan
Sunshine Noir IIBy Jim Miller

This fall, San Diego City Works Press marks its 10th anniversary with the release of Sunshine/Noir II: Writing from San Diego and Tijuana, an anthology of local writing about San Diego edited by Kelly Mayhew and myself.

As we note in the introduction to the anthology:

It’s been ten years since San Diego City Works Press published its first book, Sunshine/Noir: Writing from San Diego and Tijuana and, much to our surprise in many ways, we are still here.

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San Diego Democrats to Progressive Base: We’re Just Not That Into You

October 5, 2015 by Jim Miller

via Facebook

By Jim Miller

Last week over at the San Diego Union-Tribune, Logan Jenkins had some fun pondering what might happen if the “Dems go dark” this upcoming mayoral election. His conclusion? It would push Faulconer to the top-tier of Republican candidates for Governor in 2018:

And, it should be deduced, a cakewalk sweetens Faulconer’s prospects in Sacramento.

In 18 months or so, Republicans will be looking for a governor candidate who can appeal to Latinos and independents as well as the conservative base. The Democrats have a long electable bench. Republicans? Not so much.

If Faulconer is re-elected by a landslide in a major Democratic city, he’s going to rise to the top tier of the GOP’s A+ list.

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Taking the Leap: Imagine a New World

September 28, 2015 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for Taking the Leap: Imagine a New World

By Jim Miller

Last week the Pope came to America and delivered his groundbreaking message about the interrelated problems of climate change and economic inequality as well as the moral imperative to act to address them.

We heard this message at the same time we learned that we have lost half the world’s marine animals since 1970 and that Exxon’s own research had confirmed the human role in climate change decades ago even as they were heavily funding efforts to block solutions.

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Answering Earth’s Call: An Interfaith Forum on Climate Justice

September 21, 2015 by Jim Miller

interfaith treeBy Jim Miller

Drawing inspiration from Pope Francis’s encyclical, the San Diego Coalition to Preserve our Common Home (SDCPCH) is holding an interfaith forum on climate justice this Thursday, September 24th at 7:00 PM at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The SDCPCH is comprised of people from many faith traditions as well as activists from local environmental, labor, and social justice organizations.

We’re presenting this forum in the face of increasing opposition to climate action on the part of those linked to fossil fuel interests. As Joe Romm recently pointed out in Climate Progress, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and his allies now “apparently believe the role of the ‘exceptional’ and ‘indispensable’ nation is to actively work to undermine the world’s best chance to save billions of people — including generations of Americans — from needless misery.” This is, Romm rightly notes, extraordinary:

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Against Work: We Need to Stop Glorifying the Wasting of Our Lives

September 14, 2015 by Jim Miller

worked to deathBy Jim Miller

Recently the New York Times did a thorough exposé of life inside Amazon’s “bruising workplace” where the managers celebrate what they call “Purposeful Darwinism.”

The focus of the piece was not on the poor folks turning around the goods in the warehouses but on the presumably more privileged white-collar workers who are encouraged to regularly challenge and report on one another when they are not busy answering texts at 3:00 AM or pushing themselves to work 80 hours a week.

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Happy Labor Day? The Jury is Still Out

September 7, 2015 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Toward the end of June, as many liberals were cheering the Supreme Court’s unexpectedly nonpartisan legalization of same-sex marriage and its equally surprising upholding of the Affordable Care Act, they missed the signal of some potentially very bad news to come this fall.

Indeed, while it was fun to see the Republicans being frustrated by a high court of their own making, that very same court reserved the right to bring some serious pain to progressives for the long term by agreeing to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in its next session.

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Disposable People: Obama, the TPP, and the Betrayal of Human Rights

August 31, 2015 by Jim Miller

tpp slaveryBy Jim Miller

During the lead-up to the vote on the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP) that the President narrowly won, Obama and his surrogates consistently suggested that those in labor and other allied groups opposing the deal were “fighting the last war” and were against “the most progressive trade agreement the world has ever seen.” Indeed, he even went so far as to accuse critics like Senator Elizabeth Warren of “making stuff up”.

As we know, Obama defeated labor and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and, in concert with Republicans and just enough New Democrats like San Diego’s own Scott Peters and Susan Davis, he succeeded in forwarding the multinational corporate agenda.

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Why Teach? In Defense of the Public Good

August 24, 2015 by Jim Miller


By Jim Miller

These days it seems a new school year can’t start without being greeted by yet another pronouncement that my profession and/or higher education itself is heading for the dustbin of history.

Last year around this time, I pondered the proclaimed death of the English major and this year the front page of the most recent issue of Harper’s is bemoaning “The Neoliberal Arts: How College Sold Its Soul.”

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Ready for the Revolution? Clinton, Sanders, #BlackLivesMatter and Other Tales from the Campaign Trail

August 17, 2015 by Jim Miller

hillary clinton photo

By Jim Miller

Last week, Hillary Clinton paid a visit to her base in San Diego at a breakfast fundraiser in the home of Qualcomm executive Irwin Jacobs, which was billed as “A Conversation with Hillary.” Clinton arrived in a motorcade with two San Diego police cars and entered through the back door.

Of course, to be part of the conversation, you had to drop $1,000 to $2,700, the maximum contribution for an individual allowed under federal law.

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Staring Over the Brink: Obama, Brown, and High Stakes Climate Politics

August 10, 2015 by Jim Miller

on the brink 2By Jim Miller

President Obama made big news last week when he unveiled his plan to significantly reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants as part of his strategy to address the climate crisis. His speech was urgent, moving in fact, and showed that, at least rhetorically, he is committed to making this part of his legacy:

[W]e’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it. And that’s why I committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge, because I believe there is such a thing as being too late.

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Ten Moments in Places that No Longer Exist in Downtown San Diego – Summer Chronicles #7

August 3, 2015 by Jim Miller

The maps of our memories fray like fine gauze

open signBy Jim Miller

We are where we are from. Place, our place or “home,” gives us a sense of rootedness and identity, but it is also transient, always moving and changing as we ride the river of time and space.

Some places are fundamentally grounded in a central idea of what “home” is, of what defines a locality—the people in such places hold fast, perhaps futilely, to some notion of what it means to be there.

Not us though, not here in San Diego where history and tradition outside of empty tourist spectacles are cast off like a snakeskin and our sense of place is transformed by the whims of boosters and marketing schemes, sometimes erasing whole communities in the service of civic marketing.

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Summer Chronicles #6: Lost in the Woods

July 27, 2015 by Jim Miller


By Jim Miller

Every year I make an effort to find my way to the deep woods. Living in California, we are lucky to have access to some of the world’s precious dwindling areas of real wilderness, including the last vestiges of old growth redwoods.

There, if you are intrepid enough to get out of your car and go a few miles past the first markers, you can still lose yourself in the ancient forest. Take a difficult trail and, after a while, you just might find yourself alone with the tall trees, banana slugs, birdsong, and bear scat.

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Field Guide for Getting Lost in San Diego – Summer Chronicles #5

July 20, 2015 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for Field Guide for Getting Lost in San Diego – Summer Chronicles #5

By Jim Miller

Back in 2011, at the OB Rag, I did a column where I had some fun applying the idea of psychogeography to our fair city and played with the notion of the dérive observing that,

“The purpose of dérive is to detourn the calculated space of the city, to turn it around and reclaim its lost meanings.

The Situationists wanted to see how certain neighborhoods, streets, buildings, or other spaces ‘resonated’ with states of mind or desires.

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Summer Chronicles 4: Mourning Time: Animals Are Passing From Our Lives

July 13, 2015 by Jim Miller

extinctionBy Jim Miller

Last summer about this time, I did a couple of pieces about the clear prospect that we are in the midst of the sixth extinction. Since then, the news has continued to get worse, with a recent study showing that the current rate of extinction is ample cause for alarm.

In “Vertebrate Biodiversity Losses Point to a Sixth Mass Extinction” published in Biodiversity and Conservation Malcolm McCallum summarizes recent findings succinctly when he writes that “the great speed with which vertebrate biodiversity is being decimated are comparable to the devastation of previous extinction events.”

More concretely, that means we have bid adieu to:

  • the Golden Toad,
  • the Baoji Dolphin,
  • the Hawaiian Crow,
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Summer Chronicles #3: The Wonders of the Invisible World

July 6, 2015 by Jim Miller

subatomic particle2By Jim Miller

Just when you think you can go about your daily routine unmolested, you come across an article while you are having your morning cup of coffee telling you that, “Scientists show that future events decide what happens in the past.”

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Summer Chronicles #2: That Music You Are Hearing is the Grateful Dead

June 29, 2015 by Jim Miller

TranslucentBy Jim Miller

Gary Snyder is a courage teacher. His fine new book of poems, This Present Moment, is a meditation on wonder and impermanence. In it, for instance, we learn to value our laptops –

“Because whole worlds of writing can be boldly laid out and then highlighted/and vanish in the flash at ‘delete,’/so it teaches of impermanence and pain.”

And it’s true, the miracle of creation that comes out of “a formless face/which is our Original Face,” but as soon as the words are formed the self who made them is no longer there.

Still there is beauty, and moments of grace are there to be found and cherished in “the morning and night coming together,” the “glacier scrapes across the bedrock,” and “the deep dense woods.” You just need to follow “the shining way of the wild” and “hang in, work it out, watch for the moment.”

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Summer Chronicles #1: The Day After Father’s Day

June 22, 2015 by Jim Miller

sad-fathers-dayBy Jim Miller

In the summer of 1967, the great Brazilian writer, Clarice Lispector, began a seven year stint as a writer for Jornal de Brasil [The Brazilian News ] not as a reporter but as a writer of “chronicles,”a genre peculiar to Brazil.

As Giovanni Pontiero puts it in the preface to Selected Chrônicas, a chronicle:

“allows poets and writers to address a wider readership on a vast range of topics and themes. The general tone is one of greater freedom and intimacy than one finds in comparable articles or columns in the European or U.S. Press.”

What Lispector left us with is an eccentric collection of “aphorisms, diary entries, reminiscences, travel notes, interviews, serialized stories, essays, loosely defined as chronicles.”

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The Clinton Playbook: Taylorism on the Campaign Trial

June 15, 2015 by Jim Miller


By Jim Miller

One of the more interesting pieces amidst the glut of ridiculously early pre-primary news stories floating around the Internet and social media was Ruby Cramer’s largely laudatory profile of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook.

Wonder boy Mook, the story tells us, is all about “a ‘new kind of organizing’” that was “going to change politics.”

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The Pain of Neoliberalism : Corporate Trade Deals and the Death of Tenure

June 8, 2015 by Jim Miller

Keanu_What_If_Neoliberalism_Is_WrongBy Jim Miller

Depending on how things line up, this week may be when we learn whether or not the House of Representatives delivers Obama a win on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a bipartisan effort that will more thoroughly enshrine a neoliberal structure in U.S. law in the service of bolstering corporate control of our democracy.

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership Vote: A Character Defining Moment

June 1, 2015 by Jim Miller

enjoy poverty

By Jim Miller

A couple of weeks ago, Bill McKibben penned a very sharp editorial in the New York Times in response to the Obama administration’s choice to allow drilling in the Arctic noting that,

“The Obama administration’s decision to give Shell Oil the go-ahead to drill in the Arctic shows why we may never win the fight against climate change. Even in this most extreme circumstance, no one seems able to stand up to the power of the fossil fuel industry. No one ever says no.”

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The Fight for Progressive Tax Reform Continues: It’s Time to Make It Fair

May 18, 2015 by Jim Miller

MIF Logo1By Jim Miller

When Proposition 13 was first approved by voters in 1978 it was sold as a protection for single-family homeowners. But what voters were not told is that Prop. 13 contained giant loopholes that allow big corporations and wealthy commercial property owners to avoid paying their fair share of local property taxes.

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Turning 50

May 11, 2015 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for Turning 50

By Jim Miller

Last week I turned fifty, and someone asked me what was the most important thing I had learned in half a century of life. I sighed. Never having been one to make too much of personal landmarks, my response was that this was just another day.

And now that that day and that question are already past, what matters most is the unspeakable beauty of this second as my fingers touch the keyboard, and I breath in and out and listen to the sound of my son singing in the background, my wife talking to the cat, and the birds chirping in the branches of the tree outside my window.

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It’s the Neoliberalism, Stupid

May 4, 2015 by Jim Miller

Photo by Keith Allison

By Jim Miller

Last week when the Baltimore Orioles played a game without fans in Camden Yard, there was much media coverage marking how the surreal event was unprecedented in American sports.

Perhaps, but it was not completely without precedent globally as the 1987 soccer match played to an empty stadium in Madrid, Spain came before it.

On the occasion of that strange contest, French social theorist Jean Baudrillard observed that “thousands of fans besieged the stadium but no one got in” and that this punishment of unruly soccer fans did much to –

“exemplify the terroristic hyperrealism of our world, a world where the ‘real’ event occurs in a vacuum, strippedof its context, visible only from afar, televisually.”

Maybe, Baudrillard wryly predicted, the game in Madrid was a harbinger of a future where no one would actually participate in such happenings “but everyone will have received an image of them.”

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