Inequality in America: Incomes Collapsing for Bottom 50% as Top 1% Soars

February 20, 2017 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

While most of us were busy watching the Trump administration and their crack team of “populist” millionaires light the world on fire, a new study released by Thomas Piketty, Facundo Alvaredo, Lucas Chancel, and Emmanuel Saez underlined the fact that the steep costs of our historic level of economic inequality are being borne by those at the bottom of the economic system, particularly here in the United States.

As the Market Watch story on this new research outlined:

In the U.S., between 1978 and 2015, the income share of the bottom 50% fell to 12% from 20%. Total real income for that group fell 1% during that time period.

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Hiking as Resistance

February 13, 2017 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Over the last few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at a variety of forums along with folks from other activist groups about what needs to be done in the age of Trump. During one of these events at Grossmont College, I was struck by something a colleague of mine who leads nature expeditions for the Sierra Club said about his students and their relationship or lack thereof to the natural world.

Ten years ago, he observed, about half of the students he dealt with had had some experience hiking in the backcountry, roaming the desert, or visiting a state or national park, but that number has been consistently shrinking over the last decade or so.

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How Not to Be the Resistance: Local San Diego Democratic Party and Union Leaders Fail Early Test

February 6, 2017 by Jim Miller

Head of Democratic Party Bashes Unions … While American Federation of Teachers Joins Calls for Kasparian to Take Leave of Absence

By Jim Miller

Last week I dedicated my column to outlining how, despite the emergence of inspiring protests in the streets and amongst the progressive base, many key Democratic figures in Congress and in the national leadership of the building trades unions still didn’t seem to understand what time it was. Sadly, it only took a few more days to see a couple of stunning examples of how not to be the resistance right here in San Diego.

On January 26th, Jessica Hayes, the newly elected chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, took advantage of her presence at a forum hosted by the Democrats for Equality entitled “#The Resistance: Women Lead the Way” to attack not the dangerous plutocrats running the country, but a key element of the Democratic base: unions.

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Feckless Democrats and Business Unionists Fail Early Trump Era Tests

January 30, 2017 by Jim Miller

Making Deals with the Devil

Feckless Democrats PoliticianBy Jim Miller

As inspiring as the big marches were last week, it didn’t take long for evidence to emerge that there are still plenty of folks in the Democratic party and elsewhere who just don’t get what time it is.

As I noted in a post I wrote on Martin Luther King Jr. day, it was dismaying to see prominent Democrats like Senator Cory Booker and twelve of his Big Pharma funded friends vote against Bernie Sanders’ effort to reduce prescription drug prices before the inauguration.

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With Betsy DeVos the Final Assault on Public Education Is On

January 23, 2017 by Jim Miller

public education

By Jim Miller

During the halcyon days of the Trump transition period, the Education Committee confirmation hearing of Betsy DeVos stood out as perhaps the most jarring example of the craven cynicism that defines the new regime.

The headlines said it all, with nearly every major media outlet noting DeVos’s scant qualifications and terrible performance with extreme skepticism. The New York Times expressed “Big Worries About Betsy DeVoswhile the New Yorker outlined “Betsy DeVos and the Plan to Break Public Schools.”

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Where Do We Go From Here? – Lessons from Martin Luther King Heading Into the Trump Era

January 16, 2017 by Jim Miller

“A nation or a civilization that continues to produce softminded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Strength to Love

By Jim Miller

A few years ago, I made use of this space on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to discuss my favorite speech of his, “Where Do We Go From Here?” and ponder its relevance to the present:

When dealing with the issue of poverty, King notes that, “We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

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Big Questions Loom for Local San Diego Labor in 2017

January 10, 2017 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

2017 awaits us fierce as a tiger with major assaults looming on multiple fronts. As I have written here quite recently, it is not an overstatement to say that we face existential threats . With so many things to worry about in the near future, what should labor and progressives be focusing on in anticipation of the coming storm?

Let me start by saying that our first order of business should definitely not be whether you are with or against the imperiled San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council President.

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My New Year’s Resolution for 2017: Abandon Hope

January 2, 2017 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Abandon HopeThe era of hope is over. We are done with the messianic rhetoric about the arc of history bending toward justice and the false notion that, despite all signs pointing to the contrary, we were making real progress toward the grand goals of addressing the deep inequities in our society or moving toward a more sustainable future and becoming more just. We weren’t.

We bought hope and got polite neoliberalism with some padding on its sharp edges, and the delusion that we were better than we are.

Now the gloves are off and the wolves’ teeth are bared. There is no pretty bullshit to mask the fact that the future is grim and the worst are full of passionate intensity. Being responsible and respectable won’t save us; neither will looking to make a deal with the devil.

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Progressive Stocking Stuffers for the Impending Trump Era

December 19, 2016 by Jim Miller

A Handful of the Most Important and Interesting Books of 2016

By Jim Miller

If you just can’t bring yourself to give up on the sordid consumer frenzy and go all in for a Buy Nothing Christmas, then perhaps getting your loved ones a few good books to help them navigate the dark near-future is the next best thing.

Here is my annual list of a handful of some of the most instructive stand-out books of 2016:

1. Back in the Spring, I wrote the following about Thomas Frank’s Listen, Liberal Or What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?:

Thomas Frank has written the most important political book of 2016,

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San Diego Labor Opposes Dakota Access Pipeline

December 12, 2016 by Jim Miller

nodapl02 DAPLBy Jim Miller

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the heroic struggle against it have ignited a big battle inside of American labor. Earlier this fall an excellent article in Common Dreams outlined the split over DAPL at the national level with key trades unions and AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka backing the pipeline and criticizing the protests while other large national unions were issuing statements supporting the Standing Rock resistance.

Here in California and elsewhere, Trumka’s letter in support of the pipeline received strong condemnation.

For instance, a response to it that I penned as chair of the California Federation of Teachers Climate Justice Task Force challenges the AFL-CIO leader in the strongest possible terms:

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Will the Trump Presidency be an Extinction Level Event for Labor? We Better Hope Not

December 5, 2016 by Jim Miller

Unions vs Trump Presidency

By Jim Miller

Last week in the bluntly titled “Trump Presidency Could Kill Labor Unions,” distinguished journalist Harold Meyerson ponders the possibility that the 2016 Presidential election was “an extinction-level event for American labor.”

Noting the sad fact that a high percentage of union households (about 43 percent nationally) went for Trump, Meyerson wastes no time in outlining what the costs will be for working class folks in America:

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From Mission to Microchip: An Interview with California Labor Historian Fred Glass. Part 3

November 28, 2016 by Jim Miller

California LaborBy Jim Miller

It seems like a million years ago now, but back in my Labor Day column, I gave a shout out to Fred Glass’s seminal new labor history of California, From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement. As Glass notes in his introduction, his history of working people in the Golden State is much broader than a narrow chronicle of unions:

California labor history doesn’t begin and end with union membership. Forming and maintaining unions is one part of a broader story, …

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It Really Is the End of the World as We Know It

November 21, 2016 by Jim Miller

End of the World

Physics Doesn’t Care About Politics or Whether Anyone Believes in Science

By Jim Miller

A little less than two weeks before the election, the Guardian was one of the only media outlets to note the release of a devastating report by the Living Planet Index that outlines how, “The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends.”

One might think that such stark news would have trickled into the Presidential race, but, given the debased nature of the contest and the pathetic state of the national corporate media, it was nowhere to be seen in the slime fest that was the 2016 election.

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You Want It Darker: Why Trump and What Next?

November 14, 2016 by Jim Miller

trump-enters-2 what next

By Jim Miller

I spent the days after the election, one that I too had hoped and predicted that Clinton would win, mourning and comforting despairing friends, colleagues, and students afraid of what the future will bring.

Where I teach at San Diego City College, the majority of the students are part of the America that Trump hates. There is terror at the thought of family members being deported, unease at the prospect of discriminatory policies based on religion, race, gender, and sexuality, and fear of a cynical climate-denying opportunist bent on sealing the fate of the endangered natural world.

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Some Good Things Procrastinating Progressives Can Do Down Ballot

November 7, 2016 by Jim Miller

procrastinating -meter

By Jim Miller

Greetings procrastinating progressive poll voters! After you are done voting against Donald Trump and attending to all the high profile races that have received plenty of attention elsewhere, there are a myriad of other issues to decide. Here is my list of good things progressives can do down ballot:

*Vote to Fund Education and Elect Actual Educators to School and College Boards: Of course, the central statewide ballot measure to vote for is Proposition 55, which extends Proposition 30’s taxes on the wealthiest Californians while leaving the sales tax behind.

If you value public education, this is an obvious vote. For more on Prop. 55 see my column here.

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Against Measure A – the Transportation Justice Argument

October 31, 2016 by Jim Miller

environmental Justice Pollution in San Diego communities

By Diane Takvorian

Voters Should Reject Measure A- This year San Diego voters have an opportunity to take a critical first step towards bringing San Diego into the 21st century. Right now, San Diego has an outdated and obsolete transportation system. Measure A will perpetuate that system for another 40 years!

Two generations of San Diegans will be stuck with this backward system instead of clean and just transportation if voters don’t give a resounding NO to Measure A on November 8.

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Why Measure A is Bad on Climate and Bad for the Region

October 17, 2016 by Jim Miller

San Diego coast satellite

Flawed Transportation Plan Underlies Measure A

By David Harris, SD 350 and Ruben Arizmendi, Chair, Sierra Club San Diego

Why are most labor unions, numerous environmental groups, and several local elected officials opposing the proposed ballot measure that would utilize a half-cent sales tax increase to improve roadways and public transit? Aren’t we all tired of driving on deteriorated roads and congested freeways?

Yes, of course, but looking beyond the potholes and into the future, we need to ask what should our transportation system look like 20 or 40 years from now?

Measure A on the November ballot follows the “planning as usual” approach. It gives allocations of funding to every city but fails to address our long-term transportation problems. This measure does not substantially decrease greenhouse gas emissions that are already endangering our quality of life; nor does it create a more efficient system to meet the mobility needs of a growing population.

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Vote No on Measures A and B for a Sustainable Future for San Diego

October 10, 2016 by Jim Miller

San Diego County Photo Sustainable future

By Jim Miller / Jana Clark

Much of the reporting on the early campaign surrounding Measure A is falling victim to the proponents’ attempts to greenwash their deeply flawed measure.

They are doing this by representing a few astroturf “environmental” organizations in league with big money from corporate interests and a handful of unions doing the bidding of downtown insiders as a “split” in progressive circles.

This is unfortunate as the fact of the matter is that the opposition to Measure A by the Quality of Life Coalition represents a historically significant new alliance between progressive labor and nearly all of the local environmental organizations doing serious work around climate.

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From Mission to Microchip: An Interview with California Labor Historian Fred Glass. Part 2

October 3, 2016 by Jim Miller

California Labor

Here’s Part 1

By Jim Miller

In my Labor Day column , I gave a shout out to Fred Glass’s seminal new labor history of California, From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement. As Glass notes in his introduction, his history of working people in the Golden State is much broader than a narrow chronicle of unions:

To learn more about this story and what about it is most important, I am pleased to present the second installment of my three-part interview with Fred Glass, author, teacher, union member, and long-time Communications Director for the California Federation of Teachers.

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San Diegans: Just Say NO WAY to Measure A

September 26, 2016 by Jim Miller

It’s All About the Climate and Our Children’s Future

By Jim Miller, Nicole Capretz, and Nick Segura

Measure ASan Diego does not have a history of visionary regional planning, but the woefully inadequate Measure A would take our city to a new low by ensuring decades more of inadequate efforts to address both our infrastructure needs and climate change.

Sadly, Measure A is not up to the transportation and climate justice challenges of the present and would guarantee a future for our city that would leave us with no solutions for climate change or traffic congestion while increasing pollution, poisoning our children, and turning a deaf ear to the needs of beleaguered communities of color.

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From Mission to Microchip: An Interview with California Labor Historian Fred Glass – Part 1

September 19, 2016 by Jim Miller

mission-to-microchip-cover CaliforniaBy Jim Miller

In my Labor Day column , I gave a shout out to Fred Glass’s seminal new labor history of California, From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement. As Glass notes in his introduction, his history of working people in the Golden State is much broader than a narrow chronicle of unions.

To learn more about this story and what about it is most important, I am pleased to present the first installment of my three-part interview with Fred Glass, author, teacher, union member, and long-time Communications Director for the California Federation of Teachers.

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Obama’s Most Impressive Legacy? Preserving Wilderness

September 12, 2016 by Jim Miller

National Parks Wilderness

By Jim Miller

President Obama’s recent stops in Lake Tahoe and Hawaii highlighted his conservation efforts, and while these activities have not received as much coverage as they deserve, one might reasonably argue that conservation and the preservation of endangered wilderness is the President’s most impressive legacy.

As the New York Times reported,

“Obama has visited more than 30 national parks and emerged as a 21st-century Theodore Roosevelt for his protection of public lands and marine reserves. His use of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which gives a president unilateral authority to protect federal lands as national monuments, has enabled him to establish 23 new monuments, more than any other president, and greatly expand a few others.”

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Happy Labor Day, California Style

September 5, 2016 by Jim Miller

Labor Day Cardiff Kook

By Jim Miller

Last year my Labor Day column, “Happy Labor Day?: The Jury is Out,” began by starkly pondering the potentially devastating effects a bad Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association ruling at the Supreme Court might have had not just on public sector unions but on the labor movement as a whole.

Later, in the same column, I looked more hopefully at the potential for organizing contingent workers, like those involved in the Fight for $15 movement.

The twelve months that followed that column brought good news for labor on multiple fronts. First, with the long, strange journey of the Friedrichs case that came to the Supreme Court with a good chance of passing before everything was turned upside down by Justice Scalia’s death, a 4-4 split decision that was a victory for unions, and finally the Court’s refusal to rehear the case.

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A Long Hot Summer: Where’s the Love in the Anthropocene?

August 29, 2016 by Jim Miller

Geological_time_spiral-for-HOP-for-web_0

By Jim Miller

One of the more thought-provoking books I read this summer was Love in the Anthropocene, a collection of stories by Dale Jamieson and Bonnie Nadzam. As the title suggests, the tales in this volume are about what the world is becoming and will be as a result of climate change.

Interestingly the world Jamieson and Nadzam depicts is not a Hollywood-style apocalyptic landscape, but an earth largely bereft of natural environments, where zoos house the last animals, natural food is rare, cities have adjusted to catastrophic weather, and those fortunate enough to live inside the bubble of “civilization” are surrounded by vast discarded populations who are left to tough it out on the outskirts of “normal life.”

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Why We Need to Pass Proposition 55 in November 2016

August 22, 2016 by Jim Miller

brown prop 30

By Jim Miller

As many of us in education circles remember, before the passage of Proposition 30 in 2012, the funding situation for schools and colleges in California was dire.

The question was not IF there were going to be cuts, but rather, how large they would be and how much damage they would do to our students, our profession, and to the communities we serve.

But fortunately, in the wake of the Great Recession and the Occupy movement, the questions of economic inequality and social justice were in the air and we in the California Federation of Teachers, along with our community allies, were able to muster a successful campaign first for the Millionaire’s Tax and then for the passage of Proposition 30, the compromise measure that was forged with Governor Brown.

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Notes on the Dog Days of Summer: It’s Already Over for Trump

August 15, 2016 by Jim Miller

Image by Thierry Ehrman on Flickr.

By Jim Miller

In late July, I was at the American Federation of Teachers convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota watching Hillary Clinton address a hall of thousands of educators as a handful of #Black Lives Matters and assorted other protesters tried, unsuccessfully, to disrupt her speech, which inspired a few angry delegates to start yelling, “Get them out! Arrest them!” until a wiser soul chimed in with, “Aren’t we supposed to be different than Trump?”

For the most part, Clinton’s speech was a laundry list of interest group button-pushing, but I was pleased to see how far the primary seemed to have forced her to adopt Sanders-like positions and rhetoric on things like affordable higher education.

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Summer 2016 Chronicle 8: Walking With a Fiery Love

August 8, 2016 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

walking pathFor better or worse, I have always favored sacrificing money for owning as much of my time as possible, stealing it from those who would suppose my life was better spent doing their business or serving some purpose that someone has deemed to be more important than my petty little existence.

Because of this, I love to walk. Walking is free and fundamentally grounded in the world. When you walk unencumbered you are present and open. With each step you take, you are more alive.

Of course this is a Romantic notion with a capital “R,” but as I enter middle age, I find that nursing the part of myself that still knows how to dream is neither impractical nor immature. It is, in fact, crucial to staying alive rather than dying while I’m still breathing.

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Outside Spaces, Hacienda del Sol, Cocktails, and Eternity – 2016 Summer Chronicles 7

August 1, 2016 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

roadrunnerAs I noted last week in my reminiscence about my Ocean Beach hideaway, the contemplation of outside space is sometimes intensified when put in sharp contrast with a small inner space.

And the quality of immensity that comes with this is, à la Bachelard, a kind of meditation –

“Far from the immensities of sea and land, merely through memory, we can recapture, by means of meditation, the resonances of this contemplation of grandeur.”

So if the sea provides local access to immensity on the coast, the Anza Borrego Desert is the home of our immensity of land. Vast, varied, and full of wonder, the largest desert state park in the United States covers 600,000 acres from the Lagunas to the lowest point of the floor below sea level. While lovely during the periods of spring wildflower bloom, one might best experience the solitary heart of the desert during the peak of the scorching summer heat.

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Outside Spaces, the Bold Vista of Ocean Beach, and Other Wonders : 2016 Summer Chronicles 6

July 25, 2016 by Jim Miller

sunset in OBOne of the great pleasures of my life to date was having access, for a period of several years, to a dingy little studio by the sea in Ocean Beach.

It was so small that when you rolled out the futon, it took up the entire room. The kitchen was too tiny for a dinner table, the hot water frequently didn’t work in the bathroom, and the constant noise and pot smoke from the neighbors streamed through the cracked, paper-thin walls.

It was paradise.

The saving grace, no, the miracle, of this claustrophobic hovel was that you opened the door to the ocean and within a few steps you arrived at a disheveled patio full of rusty tables and moldy plastic chairs overlooking the cliffs and the pounding surf below. As with the dramatic difference between the cell-like studio and the big blue sea, on the patio, the juxtaposition of grit and grandeur was striking, and somehow perfect.

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The Spaces We Live In – 2016 Summer Chronicle 5

July 18, 2016 by Jim Miller

houseBy Jim Miller

Where we live is who we are. Surely, the country, state, city, and neighborhoods we occupy profoundly shape us, but does not the house craft our being in the most intimate of ways?

Gaston Bachelard observes in The Poetics of Space:

For our house is our corner of the world. As has often been said, it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word.”

Hence, the kind of space we choose to live in has a particularly profound impact on our identity. Bachelard again notes,

Thus the dream house must possess every virtue. However spacious, it must also be a cottage, a dove-cote, a nest, a chrysalis. Intimacy needs the heart of a nest.”

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