Who Owns America? Not You

April 21, 2014 by Jim Miller

Oligarchy 1“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” –Louis Brandeis

By Jim Miller

In the wake of the McCutcheon decision, there was a brief flurry of outrage about the growing power of moneyed interests in our politics, but it predictably ebbed. One might reasonably argue that this is because the American public has become immune to such bad news.

Indeed, a cursory survey of the media over the last couple of weeks alone is enough to give any concerned citizen a depressing snapshot of where we are now with regard to wealth versus commonwealth.

The New York Times reports that “Corporate Profits Grow and Wages Slide” noting that, “Corporate profits are at their highest level in at least 85 years. Employee compensation is at the lowest level in 65 years.”

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“Taxifornia” Dreaming: Who Really Pays Taxes in California?

April 14, 2014 by Jim Miller

California-300x300By Jim Miller

Tomorrow is tax day, and we are likely to hear the usual histrionics from the pity the millionaire crowd about how the draconian taxes on the affluent and businesses in “Taxifornia” are killing growth and jobs and driving folks out of the state.

There is only one problem with this—it’s not true. Indeed, far from the socialist hamlet that the anti-tax zealots like to portray us as, California’s tax system is still more regressive than progressive.

This is documented in the California Budget Project’s (CPB) Annual report “Who Pays Taxes in California?” that shows that, “Contrary to the oft-repeated claim that high-income Californians pay an unfair amount of taxes, it is actually California’s low-income households who pay the largest share of their incomes in state and local taxes.”

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Zen and the Art of Baseball

March 31, 2014 by Jim Miller

IMG_4475By Jim Miller

It’s spring and opening week is here and that makes me very happy. Baseball helps me live. It’s perhaps the best American manifestation of the kind of daily ritual that enables us to achieve a small portion of the balance and harmony we need to provide ballast against the chaos of the world.

Whether it’s playing the game or simply contemplating it, baseball provides one with precisely the kind of focused yet purposeless activity that can take you out to the ballgame and into the heart of the moment.

It’s the stillness at the heart of the game that I love, the empty space out of which motion and grace emerge–the pregnant nothing that gives birth to the artful something. And baseball, like art, is gorgeously useless and inefficiently slow.

Perhaps that slowness is why baseball has given ground to the more brutal, time-driven, managerially efficient game of football. We go from the Taylorized, competitive realm of the corporate world to a gladiatorial weekend on the gridiron that celebrates many of the same values.

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Notes from the Class War: Killing “The Year of the Populist” in the Crib?

March 24, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

democratic-party-where-are-youRecently, in “Neoliberalism and Its Discontents: What’s Left Beyond More Impoverished Choices?”, I continued my analysis of the national debate that followed the publication of Adolph Reed’s sharp criticism of what qualifies as the “left” in the contemporary American political landscape.

After that column was posted, Reed wrote yet another piece in American Prospect, this time responding to Harold Meyerson’s dismissal of his call for a left less tethered to a Democratic Party increasingly colonized by Wall Street and other corporate interests.

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Rebel Green and Bacchanalia: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

March 17, 2014 by Jim Miller

st patrickBy Jim Miller

Today lots of people will try to skip out of work early to grab a pint of Guinness at a bar or perhaps find something green to wear whether they are Irish or not. St. Patrick’s Day, for most of us, is just a fun day to party, watch a parade, or listen to some Irish music. For better or worse, even if we aren’t getting drunk, we don’t think that much about it. Nonetheless, there are still some interesting bits of history behind the holiday.

The actual origins of the “Wearing of the Green” are political, dating back to 1798 when Irish soldiers wore green …

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Neoliberalism and Its Discontents: What’s Left Beyond More Impoverished Choices?

March 10, 2014 by Jim Miller

vote hereBy Jim Miller

The debate rages on. Last week after I spent the final part of my column addressing Adolph Reed’s provocative Harper’s piece on the dismaying state of American politics, “Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals, the argument just kept going across the national progressive media landscape.

In a sharp rebuttal to …

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What’s Left: Surrender or Resurgence?

March 3, 2014 by Jim Miller

education01By Jim Miller

Just when you thought the Obama administration’s education policy couldn’t get any worse, it did.

Last week Obama nominated founder and CEO of New Schools, Ted Mitchell, to the second highest post at the Department of Education.

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Ghosts of City Heights Past: Chaos, Wonder, and Love

February 24, 2014 by Jim Miller

http://volitaire.deviantart.com/

By Jim Miller

In my first novel, Drift, there is a passage where the main character, Joe, is driving through City Heights pondering the poetry of the streets.

He notes the “funky majesty” of a store front church sandwiched between a pharmacy and a liquor store and revels in the cacophony of signs in Vietnamese, Spanish, English, and more while he loses himself in the street life passing by as “everything bled together seamlessly in the twilight and became part of the mystic fabric of impending night.”

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The “Alvarez Effect” and the Future of San Diego

February 17, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Alvarez14DNobody thought this was going to be easy.

Back in July, at the height of the Filner debacle, I predicted a dire outcome, noting that “in a recall or special election in an off year, the electorate is guaranteed to be more conservative and definitely not favorable” for a progressive replacing Bob Filner because, “Faulconer would have a huge fundraising advantage garnering support from all the usual suspects downtown and benefit from an energized base geared up to hand it to the liberals, unions, minorities, and other foul ‘special interest groups’ that they’ll blame for bringing us the evil that was Bob Filner. With the Democrats dispirited, humiliated and divided, it might not even be much of a fight.”

As it turned out, David Alvarez stepped up and offered progressives hope, and the labor movement surprised everyone by actually being able to raise more money than the Faulconer forces. Sadly, on Tuesday, many of us were crying in our beer instead.

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In the Battle for the Soul of San Diego David Alvarez Stands for All of Us

February 10, 2014 by Jim Miller

1658660_769012429793127_570456494_oBy Jim Miller

San Diego is on the national stage again.

As the final week of the dead heat mayoral showdown unfolded, Politico reported on “the battle for San Diego,” the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters pondered whether the race would be a harbinger of things to come in California politics, and the New York Times covered “a battle of ideology in a city unaccustomed to that sort of election,” astutely noting, as I did here at the San Diego Free Press during the primary, that this contest is “a test of whether yet another big-city Democrat can be elected by riding a wave of populism, much as Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York did last fall.”

And that test is happening because last November David Alvarez defied the pundits and political insiders and beat the prohibitive favorite, Nathan Fletcher, in the race to face Kevin Faulconer in the run-off to be San Diego’s next mayor. This was a seminal moment for San Diego—perhaps the biggest political upset in the history of the city.

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Faulconer’s Fantasy History TV Ad: “Times When Union Cronies Ruled San Diego”

February 3, 2014 by Jim Miller

Faulconer is hoping that you just won’t remember that the pension scandal occurred under a Republican mayor

rewrite-historyBy Jim Miller

As we head down the stretch run of the campaign to elect San Diego’s next mayor, Kevin Faulconer’s anti-union hysteria has reached critical mass.

In his latest TV ad a very serious woman’s voice warns us that despite the fact that “We need progress in San Diego,” David Alvarez wants to “take us back to times when union cronies ruled San Diego.” She goes on to warn us that Alvarez is being brought to you by “union bosses” who want “lavish pensions” and “no accountability” while “streets crumble” and “neighborhoods suffer.”

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Mayoral Race Polling, Pensions, and Plutocracy

January 27, 2014 by Jim Miller

yo voteBy Jim Miller

Last week a new poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) funded by the Democratic Party came out that showed the race to become San Diego’s next mayor a dead heat with Alvarez at 46% and Faulconer just behind with 45%.

In another poll, Latino Decisions and the Latino Victory Project appraised Latino voters on the race and got radically different results than both the earlier Survey USA/UT-SD poll, a Republican Party poll , and the more recent PPP effort showing that Alvarez leads 75%-10% among Latino voters.

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David Alvarez is the Living Embodiment of King’s Dream; Faulconer, Its Antithesis

January 20, 2014 by Jim Miller

mlk basic incomeBy Jim Miller

This year our ritual celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes in the midst of a contentious mayoral election. And while some might try to bracket this year’s remembrance off from the ugly fray, that would be a mistake. As I noted in an earlier column on this subject, remembering “a sanitized version of King as a vanilla saint who called on us to just move beyond our differences does a disservice to him and his legacy” because “[o]ur collective remembrance of MLK is most useful when it troubles us.”

And King would be deeply troubled to see where we are today nationally and locally. Yes, the man who said, “one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring” would be profoundly disturbed by the fact that we are living in an era of historic economic inequality.

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Kevin Faulconer, Man of the People?

January 13, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Meet Kevin Faulconer, man of the people. He’s running glossy commercials about how he’ll be “a mayor for all of us” and talking as if he’ll be the guy who will focus on neighborhoods that “have been under-served by this city for too long.”

His website and ballot statement have been scrubbed of any unpleasant reminders that he is a Republican backed by San Diego’s traditional power brokers, and he just can’t stop reminding us that there is “no such thing as a Democratic or Republican pothole.”

Like the Republicans at the national level who have decided that they can claim poverty as an issue while refusing to raise the minimum wage, extend unemployment benefits, or stop cutting services to the poor, Faulconer seems to think ….

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“The Inequality Crisis” in New York City and San Diego: A Tale of Two Cities

January 6, 2014 by Jim Miller

rentistoohighBy Jim Miller

At the national level, there are signs that 2014 might be a hopeful one for progressives. In New York City Bill De Blasio was sworn in as mayor pledging to fight the “inequality crisis” with a bold progressive agenda addressing housing, education, and economic opportunity at all levels: “When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it. We will succeed as one city.”

Many in the national press are pointing to De Blasio’s victory along with the momentum the living wage movement is gaining in cities like Seattle, and buzz around the effort to draft Elizabeth Warren to run for President as evidence of a shift in the national narrative about the question of inequality that bodes well for progressive populism and the country as a whole.

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San Diego’s Unlucky 2013: The Year That Can’t End Fast Enough

December 30, 2013 by Jim Miller

2013 handsBy Jim Miller

…the emergence of the local plutocracy’s strategy of rule by ballot initiative is a genuine threat to our local democracy

Last year, I rang out the New Year with a list of the best in San Diego culturally and politically in 2012. This year begs for a grimmer assessment. Better yet, politically, 2013 deserves to be tossed from the house with the caveat that it not let the door hit it in the ass on the way out.

It would be tempting to do a bottom ten list as there are so many deserving candidates in all quarters, but let me just reiterate what I wrote last summer, that much of what we saw transpiring in our fair city brought to mind Mark Twain’s pithy assessment of “the damned human race”:

I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the lower animals (so-called), and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me. For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that the theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals.

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Merry Christmas, Sex Pistols Style

December 23, 2013 by Jim Miller

sexpistols huddersfieldBy Jim Miller

Every holiday season one of my favorite tasks is collecting and delivering all the toys donated by my union brothers and sisters in the American Federation of Teachers to the Labor Council office for the annual toy drive. My union, along with many other San Diego locals who participate in this annual ritual, do so in order to help out the families of unemployed workers struggling during the holiday season.

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Selling Kevin Faulconer: The Big Bamboozle

December 16, 2013 by Jim Miller

They want you to glare at the union worker asking for a cookie while they walk away with the whole jar.

By Jim Miller

free-cheese-trapLast week over at the SD Rostra they posted an interesting commentary entitled “Electing Kevin Faulconer: Make a Clear Distinction on Fiscal Conservatism” that outlined the path to a Republican victory. While not particularly surprising, the strategy suggested there is revealing in some important ways.

What, according to our friends on the right, needs to be done?

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“The Defining Challenge of Our Time”: Four Things Obama Should Do To Really Start Addressing Inequality

December 9, 2013 by Jim Miller

Obama_inequalityspeechBy Jim Miller

Just as he did last summer during the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, President Obama addressed the issue of economic inequality last week during a speech on the minimum wage and health care, which he delivered in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Washington D.C. His message was stark and pointed as he told the crowd that, “The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American dream, our way of life and what we stand for around the globe.”

Sounding a populist note, Obama decried the fact that American workers at the bottom end of the pay scale are continuing to “work their tails off and …”

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On Black Friday: I Would Prefer Not To

December 2, 2013 by Jim Miller

walmartBy Jim Miller

As the Salon story reposted here on Black Friday noted there were about 1,500 protests around the country on our annual day of consumer madness mostly designed to shine a light on the horrendous corporate practices of Walmart, America’s beloved externalizing machine. While Walmart’s propaganda insists that the company is a provider of good jobs and many benefits to our communities, the facts suggest otherwise.

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Redemption Time: Alvarez Beats the Odds and Keeps Hope Alive

November 25, 2013 by Jim Miller

Alvarez megaphone

By Jim Miller

Last Tuesday, fortune favored the bold. David Alvarez defied the pundits and political insiders and beat the prohibitive favorite, Nathan Fletcher, in the race to face Kevin Faulconer in the run-off to be San Diego’s next mayor. This was a seminal moment for San Diego—perhaps the biggest political upset in history of the city.

It just wasn’t supposed to happen.

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Fletcher Floundering, Alvarez Ascending, and Other Tales of Fear and Loathing from the Campaign Trail

November 11, 2013 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

alvarez jim 1This just in: it appears that Nathan Fletcher’s claims of inevitability have evaporated as the race to meet Kevin Faulconer in the run off is a dead heat leaning Alvarez heading into the last week. The internal polling in all three camps shows Faulconer having consolidated the Republican vote as Fletcher’s early name ID-fueled lead has collapsed, and Alvarez has continued to steadily trend upwards.

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Project Censored 2012-13: The Human Costs of Corporate Propaganda

October 21, 2013 by Jim Miller

blah blahBy Jim Miller

Projected Censored recently released their list of the “Top 25 Most Censored Stories of 2012-13.” As I noted in a column about last year’s list, Project Censored’s definition of censorship is a nuanced one:

We define Modern Censorship as the subtle yet constant and sophisticated manipulation of reality in our mass media outlets. On a daily basis, censorship refers to the intentional non-inclusion of a news story – or piece of a news story – based on anything other than a desire to tell the truth. …

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San Diego’s Mayor Race: Are Dems Who Support David Alvarez Akin to a “Tea Party of the Left” or More Like New Yorkers Who Support De Blasio ?

October 14, 2013 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for San Diego’s Mayor Race: Are Dems Who Support David Alvarez Akin to a “Tea Party of the Left” or More Like New Yorkers Who Support De Blasio ?

By Jim Miller

After my last column on the perils of Carl Luna’s characterization of progressives supporting Democratic mayoral candidate David Alvarez as the “Tea Party of the Left” I got a response from Luna.

In his comment to my article posted at the OB Rag, he stood by his analogy “that those in the Democratic camp who hold that there are ‘true’ progressives (aka those they agree with) and DINOS are in danger of going down the Tea Party rabbit hole—like the Occupy Wall Street people run wild. (Except that Tea Party has 90 seats in Congress—OWS zero).”

This was prefaced by a reminder that, “the point of elections is to win.”

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For Fletcher, History is the Narrative that Hurts

October 7, 2013 by Jim Miller

confusedBy Jim Miller

To the surprise of many over the last couple of weeks, San Diego’s Labor Council, the San Diego Democratic Party, San Diego Democrats for Equality, Progressive San Diego, the Environmental Health and Justice Campaign, and a host of other local progressives have all lined up to endorse David Alvarez for Mayor.

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Local Author Mel Freilicher Reads from his New “Encyclopedia of Rebels”

September 30, 2013 by Jim Miller

Wednesday, October 2nd at 7pm at DG Wills Book Store
Encyclopedia of Rebels cover hi resBy Jim Miller

San Diego City Works Press is proud to announce the publication of The Encyclopedia of Rebels by local author and UCSD writing teacher, Mel Freilicher. The book plays with the intersections between history, fiction, memoir, fantasy, and mystery. As Pulitzer Prize winning poet Rae Armantrout puts it, “You could call this both an outrageous comedy and a credible look at the world we live in.”

Mel Freilicher will read from his new book this Wednesday, October 2nd, at 7 PM at D.G. Wills Book Store at 7461 Girard Ave in La Jolla as part of the San Diego City College International Book Fair.

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Fletcher Versus Alvarez: The Battle for the Soul of San Diego’s Democratic Party

September 23, 2013 by Jim Miller

democratic-party-where-are-youby Jim Miller

This last week marked the two-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, a political happening that finally put the issue of economic inequality in the spotlight and started a national discussion about money, class, and political corruption. That movement was largely brought to us by young people, Millennials mostly, whose view of mainstream politics is justifiably jaded.

As Peter Beinart recently pointed out, “Compared to their Reagan-Clinton generation elders, Millennials are entering adulthood in an America where government provides much less economic security. And their economic experience in this newly deregulated America has been horrendous.”

And this experience has been made worse by bankrupt politics that pits what Beinart rightly characterizes as “a procapitalist, anti-bureaucratic Reaganized liberalism” that is “inclined toward market solutions” to everything against a radicalized “right wing populism”:

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Governor Brown’s Betrayal of Prop 30 Funds for Schools With Funds for Prisons Instead

September 16, 2013 by Jim Miller

Photo by Charlie Kaijo via flickr.comBy Jim Miller

Finally, there was a measure of good news for schools in California with Proposition 30 creating a budget surplus that had plugged some of the gaping holes that years of budget cuts had made in our state’s public education system.

But it didn’t take long for Governor Brown to betray us. Indeed, the Courage Campaign has done a great job in recent weeks taking the Governor to task for seeking to raid the Proposition 30 surplus to fund prison expansion.

That’s right, you heard it: prison expansion.

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The San Diego Labor Council’s Choice: David Alvarez

September 9, 2013 by Jim Miller

AlvarezBy Jim Miller

Last Friday evening, after five grueling hours of candidate interviews and spirited debate, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council overwhelmingly endorsed David Alvarez for mayor.

This decision came after weeks of intense lobbying on the part of former labor leader Lorena Gonzalez, who, along with other powerful Democratic power brokers and money people were seeking to clear the field of genuinely progressive candidates in order to anoint Nathan Fletcher as the “only choice.”

Indeed, while Democratic money bundler Christine Forrester was writing to her well-heeled contacts praising Fletcher as “an astute business leader, worthy of representing and evolving Qualcomm’s business interests” and someone “well-suited to find common denominators between left and right” in order to create a “bipartisan platform from which San Diego can soar,” Gonzalez was repackaging him as a working class hero about whom she said to her list of labor folks, “the more he learned about economic justice issues, the better champion he became.”

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Happy Labor Day, Now More than Ever

September 2, 2013 by Jim Miller

strike1-300x225By Jim Miller

Today is Labor Day, but how many of us have any idea where the holiday came from or what it celebrates?

The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5th, 1882 in New York City and was proposed by the Central Labor Union (CLU) at a time when American workers were struggling for basic rights such as the eight-hour day. The CLU moved the “workingman’s holiday” to the first Monday in September in 1883 and urged other unions to celebrate the date as well.

The movement grew throughout the 1880s, along with the American labor movement itself with 23 states passing legislation recognizing Labor Day as a holiday. By 1894 Congress followed suit and Labor Day became a national holiday.

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