Columns

A Vacation of Joy and Misery and Hope

July 27, 2016 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

Ernie McCray (in Arles?)

Maria and I just spent 38 days in Europe with a stop in Philly on the way home, a vacation that had a combination of both joy and misery and ended with notions of hope.

It began with a man driving us from the Madrid-Barajas Airport to our hotel, talking about politics all the while. He wanted us to know that Spaniards, as we Americans do, have a few Donald Trumps around town. He had a lot to say about our president, a man he admired “for how he stepped up and got the U.S. out of the recession.” He finished his praise with “Great man, that Obama.”

All that made us feel very welcomed and eager to explore the city. As soon as we got our luggage in the room we strolled along streets and plazas built a very long time ago, and dined on the tastiest of tapas. We got a good nights sleep and got up the next morning in an easygoing mood, ready to take in as much as we could.

Then came Orlando, news that weakened our knees. Our tragedies, kind of, I think, seem even more dismal when you see them from far away, in another culture. You kind of feel that it reflects on you in some way.

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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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Bush League Nation – 2016 Summer Chronicles 4

July 11, 2016 by Jim Miller

The Modesto Nuts. Now THAT's baseball!

By Jim Miller

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is in San Diego and despite the glaring lack of Padres on the team, many local and visiting fans will be taking in the pricey spectacle in all its corporate glory (confession: I will be there). With a huge Fan Fest, the Home Run Derby and the main event itself, San Diego will be baseball central for the week, at least on paper.

But if you really want to get to the heart of the game, I suggest you go bush league.

One of my favorite places to see a baseball game is in Arcata, California up in the Redwood Empire where the Humboldt Crabs have played in the same collegiate summer league since 1945.

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“I’m Just Saying … What about All the Lonely People with No One to Celebrate With?””

July 5, 2016 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for “I’m Just Saying … What about All the Lonely People with No One to Celebrate With?””

By Judi Curry

This should not be construed as a “poor me” article. It isn’t meant to be seen that way; rather it should be an insightful message to those more fortunate to have people around them that care, that are concerned, and are aware of mental status.

The Fourth of July. It used to be such a fun day when my husband was alive. We did all of the things that people do on the fourth; BBQ, watch the fireworks, and, when legal, even had our own show. Frequently we would take the boat out and catch some fish for homemade ceviche or sushi.

He’s been gone almost seven years now and the Fourth of July is only another day; a day of keeping my dog calm because of the assh*les that insist on shooting off fire crackers all day by the beach. Shadow doesn’t mind the fireworks – Sea World in their infinite wisdom of continuing with their polluting noisy 9:50 pm show – has allowed him to become somewhat immune to the percussion’s he feels every evening. Oh yeah, he still tries to get away from it, but he is much better than my other dogs that tried to get under the carpet to hide.

No, this is not about Shadow, but about all of the lonely people that have no one to celebrate with.

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In the Dark Forest of the Self – 2016 Summer Chronicles #1

June 20, 2016 by Jim Miller

dark forestBy Jim Miller

Summer is here and it’s time to take a break from my usual column and stretch the form a little with some chronicles. As I explained last year, the chronicle is a literary genre born in Brazil:

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.”

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Ice Cream Parlor Review: Hammonds

June 14, 2016 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for Ice Cream Parlor Review: Hammonds

A Quick and Icy Review

Hammonds Ice Cream
3740 Sports Arena Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92110
858-717-5063

Hitomi and I were out shopping and I asked her if she was hungry. When she said “yes” I decided we would go to Phil’s BBQ since she had never been there. It was 3:00pm on a Sunday afternoon.

Needless to say that the line was around the building and when I called them to see how long it would take for “take out” I was told 30-45 minutes. Too long for us on both accounts.

I remembered that Hammonds Ice Cream had opened up a few weeks ago and since it shares the parking lot with Phil’s decided to go there. And I realize that this review will not be popular with a lot of folks, but the scars have healed from the Liberty Public Market so am ready for the onslaught of comments about this one.

The offerings of ice cream were numerous, and on paper – or on the board – they looked delicious. It was difficult to make a decision.

Hitomi loves coconut so she decided to have the coconut/pineapple ice cream on a regular cone.

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Is Tragedy in Ocean Beach Over the Weekend Linked to Multitude of Alcohol Establishments?

June 13, 2016 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for Is Tragedy in Ocean Beach Over the Weekend Linked to Multitude of Alcohol Establishments?

A Tragedy Over the Weekend

A sad incident took place over the weekend in Ocean Beach. The information I have is second hand, but several people that I talked to gave me the same version of the incident.

Apparently a man was walking his dog and crossed the street at Newport and Sunset Cliffs. A man driving a jeep made an erratic left hand turn and almost hit the man.

The pedestrian, apparently scared and angry, yelled at the driver and kicked at the car. (One person told me he made contact with the car; another wasn’t sure.)

The driver swerved to the curb and pulled over and he jumped out of the car, screaming and threatening the pedestrian. The pedestrian dropped the leash of his dog and told him to run away.

The driver got back into his car, after yelling more threats. The dog was scared and as he was running away, got hit by a car.

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Dream Big: Why Voting for Sanders Still Matters, Despite the Electoral Math

May 31, 2016 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

bernie sanders big ideaWhat struck me the most about the recent Sanders rally in National City was how much the crowd embodied the notion of the beloved community.

As opposed to the corporate media caricature of Sanders’ supporters as a group of mostly angry, white “Bernie bros,” this huge gathering of over ten thousand people was diverse in age, gender, sexuality, race, and class.

It was also a kind, gentle crowd that fell silent when Sanders, in a moving gesture, stopped his speech when …

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We’ve Got to Get Out and Vote Folks!

May 31, 2016 by Ernie McCray

People lined up to enter building to vote

By Ernie McCray

What’s up with us liberals? We’ve freaked out over a chair supposedly being thrown in protest of shenanigans involving voting in Nevada. And we’re beside ourselves that Hillary got booed and hissed by folks whom we say “aren’t really democrats.”

I don’t like all that but I’ve learned over the years that politics can get rather mean and we democrats are proving that based on how we’re treating each other just discussing matters I’ve just described: talking to each other in caps and exclamations, littered with a few vulgarities.

Shouldn’t we be celebrating a campaign that’s been marvelous if, for no other reason, because of the important questions that are being raised regarding and by two very passionate democratic candidates?

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Restaurant Review – “Coasterra” on Harbor Island

May 25, 2016 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for Restaurant Review –  “Coasterra” on Harbor Island

Restaurant Review – “Coasterra”
880 Harbor Island
San Diego, CA 92101
619-814-1300

A wonderful friend of mine that has been sick for some time is on the road to recovery and suggested that we go celebrate her wellness by going out to lunch to a restaurant that neither of us had ever been to. She suggested “Coasterra” – the “Modern Mexican” restaurant where the Reuben E. Lee used to be “docked”at the eastern tip of Harbor Island. (Except that this restaurant is firmly planted on the ground; it does not sway with the tide!)

When we pulled into the parking lot the view was breathtaking; and when asked if we wanted to eat inside or outside “ . . . in our heated patio” – we opted for outside, in spite of it drizzling and somewhat overcast. We never felt cold, and when the drizzle subsided the sun came out and treated us to a gorgeous sight.

We were immediately served salsa and chips, and the only comment both Mary and I made was that the salsa was tasty – not spicy at all. (I, personally, would have liked a little more “kick.”)

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“Eleanor’s Story”: A Book and a Stage Production Not to be Missed

May 24, 2016 by Ernie McCray

p_2256_i_6661656By Ernie McCray

I met a woman named Eleanor Ramrath Garner early in April at a nice party at a beautiful Del Mar home with a wonderful view on a warm inviting sunny day.

The gathering had everything I like: delicious food; refreshing drinks; interesting witty people, scholars all, practically, filled with colorful stories to tell and they didn’t mind telling them.

Some of them had written doctoral studies and books and essays for professional publications. Eleanor happened to mention that she was an author. She didn’t say what her book was about but something about her made me want to read it. So I looked for it on Amazon.

And there it was: “Eleanor’s Story, an American Girl in Hitler’s Germany.” I clicked on “See a random page” and a picture appeared of Eleanor’s little brother and sister on Christmas Day in 1945 with the words “This was our best Christmas ever because we had survived the bombings, the Battle of Berlin, and hunger.”

I was sold.

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On Dark Patches and Redemption

May 23, 2016 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for On Dark Patches and Redemption

By Jim Miller

Despite all our best efforts, things don’t always go the way we would hope. Sometimes we are stunned by the unexpected bad turn and left groping for answers.

Last week in my column about what motivated me to go on the March for California’s Future, I explained how the stories of my students inspired me:

As a community college professor at City College, I am particularly attuned to the painful realities of economic and racial inequality because I see the costs of poverty on a daily basis …

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Having Fun Watching my Grandson Having Fun

May 18, 2016 by Ernie McCray

Ernie McCray old hippieBy Ernie McCray

The other day, for some reason, a wonderful memory rose in my mind of times when my grandson, Marlon, was dancing on the stage at SCPA (School of Creative and Performing Arts) to the hooting and hollering sounds of girls who were swooning from the very sight of him.

As I remembered those days I couldn’t help but think about how I had never experienced anything like that. Ever. I mean I’ve wondered a few times how somebody in my bloodline came out looking as fine as he does.

Since those days, he’s evolved into ML Wilson, performer, rapper, actor, a hip-hop-beat-maker. Living in San Francisco, pursuing his showbiz dreams.

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The California Way of Poverty

May 16, 2016 by Jim Miller

Miller-marchers-walt-e1303747766621

By Jim Miller

Last week, I pondered the obscene spectacle of holding a mega-concert catering to the wealthy in the Southern California desert town of Indio where a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.

The truth is that events like this that underline the contrast between the heedless luxury of the affluent with the deprivation of the poor are not the exception to the rule, but rather, a basic fact of everyday life in our era of historic economic inequality. It’s just the way we live now.

And in sunny California, San Diego in particular, the poor are accustomed to watching the party from the outside.

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An Old Scumbag’s Take on Bernie and Hillary Unifying Their Party

May 12, 2016 by Ernie McCray

Sanders and Clinton at the Democratic Presidential debate from St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH, airing Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015

By Ernie McCray

For not supporting Hillary Clinton, people like me, including millions of young people, millennials, our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, have been described as naive-unrealistic-shallow-thinking-delusional-idiotic-scumbags – and we’ve been compared to followers of Trump.

I didn’t see it coming, at all, as the insults have come from the kinds of people with whom I’ve been associated politically my entire voting life: 57 years.

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Oligarchy Rocks at the Desert Trip Festival

May 9, 2016 by Jim Miller

raving mic

By Jim Miller

This easy life knows no pity.

Recently Nelson D. Schwartz of the New York Times did an interesting feature on luxury tourism on cruise ships, “In an Era of Privilege, Not Everyone is in the Same Boat,” that described the experience of travelers as “a money based caste system” catering to the rich rather than the unwashed masses.

While there is clearly nothing novel about elite travel, the story noted that “What is new is just how far big American companies are now willing to go to pamper the biggest spenders.”

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Book Review Of Bill Walton’s “Back From The Dead”

April 27, 2016 by Ernie McCray

backfromthedeadBy Ernie McCray

I just finished one of those books that fit the category of a book that’s hard to put down: Back from the Dead by Bill Walton, one of the truly great basketball players and human beings. On the cover one reads “Searching for the sound, shining the light, and throwing it down.” That’s Bill, for sure, as I’ve followed him since he was a kid.

I didn’t know until I read his book that he was a musician, but I’ve known for a long time that he’s someone who’s attracted to the sounds of music, that he has been a player in the Grateful Dead scene for decades. I’ve known that he’s a lifelong learner, a man who’s constantly growing and questioning and shining a light on things that need tending to in our world. And his writing details somewhat poetically how he’s “thrown it down,” all out, throughout his life, in spite of forever having to endure an almost unbelievable array of crippling injuries and intense pain.

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Experience and Explosive Situations

April 19, 2016 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

1393622639_560e2dea50Scrolling down my facebook timeline
I found that someone had written words in line
with the idea
that Hillary’s lengthy experience
in foreign policy
makes her a better choice than Bernie
for the presidency.
The words went thusly:
“Consider… North Korea hits South Korea
and Tokyo simultaneously
with ballistic nukes.
I think Hillary could deal with it.
Bernie is unproven.”
And all I could think was: “Whuuuut?”

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Listen Liberal: What’s the Matter with the Democratic Party?

April 18, 2016 by Jim Miller

listen liberal pointBy Jim Miller

Thomas Frank has written the most important political book of 2016, and one that should disturb and hopefully influence progressives for years to come. If you have ever found yourself not just horrified by the lunatic right but also frustrated by the hapless and compromised “left,” Frank is your man.

If you want to feel good about “your side” but are still troubled by the fact that economic inequality remains at historically high levels despite the last eight years of Democratic Presidential rule, Frank has some uncomfortable truths for you to ponder.

And it’s not just about those damn Republicans.

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Change We Can Believe In

April 13, 2016 by Ernie McCray

3040901870_561e28c135_oBy Ernie McCray

Obama first sold young people
on “Change we can Believe In”
and now Bernie
has them thinking along those lines again
in deeper ways
and I love watching their faces
at his rallies when he says to them
“Change comes from the bottom to the top.”
Their faces light up
as he teaches them how
they might best proceed
as they strive to meet
their world’s desperate needs.

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Restaurant Review – Sushi Pho Sure in the Midway District

April 12, 2016 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for Restaurant Review – Sushi Pho Sure in the Midway District

Sushi Pho Sure
3944 W. Pt. Loma, Suite D & E
San Diego, CA 92110
619-223-7624

Many years ago when my husband was still alive, we ate frequently at the Kobe Udon in the Longs Shopping Center.(Midway Towne Center). Kobe Udon is no more, nor is Longs, but “Sushi Pho Sure” is in the same location that Kobe Udon was those many years ago. Since Hitomi and I were going to shop at the Grocery Outlet we decided to try out the restaurant and see how it compared to “Seaside Pho & Grill”, which we reviewed several weeks ago.

I had hoped that they had continued with the Udon that I always enjoyed at Kobe’s, but they had not. The menu is extensive, in that there are many varieties of sushi and sashimi available. (Maki sushi; specialty sushi; Hand Rolls; Nigiri sushi; Special sushi’s, etc.) Their prices were also reasonable starting at about $3.85 for a 5 piece hand roll. In fact, all of their prices were very reasonable, from their starters at $1.00 – egg roll – to $5 for many of their items. I didn’t see anything on the menu more than $10.

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The New Liberty Station Public Market – Our Widder Curry Takes Her First Look

April 6, 2016 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for The New Liberty Station Public Market – Our Widder Curry Takes Her First Look

Liberty Public Market
Liberty Station
2820 Historic Decatur Rd.
San Diego, CA 92106

As a recognized “foodie” I have anxiously awaited the opening of the Liberty Public Market. The one thing I miss most about living in the Bay Area is the “Berkeley Bowl” – a converted bowling alley turned into a multitude of food shops. From all I had heard, this new venture was a cross between the Bowl and the Seattle “Pike Place Market.” Even at my age I have not yet learned not to expect too much.

My friend Irene and I decided to take a look at this new venture on a Friday morning during the first week it was opened. Parking was relatively easy – but we noted it was packed when we left shortly after noon. We also found that most of “stores” did not open until 11:00am. But that suited our purpose, because we were just “lookie-loos” this first time around. Unfortunately, it might just be my “last time around.”

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Restaurant Review – Seaside Pho & Grill in Point Loma

April 4, 2016 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for Restaurant Review –  Seaside Pho & Grill in Point Loma

Seaside Pho & Grill
1005 Rosecrans St., #101
San Diego, CA 92106
619-487-9844
www.seasidepho.com

I have lived in San Diego a long time. Except for a few months when my husband and I lived in Chula Vista while looking for a permanent place, over 45 of those years have been in the Pt. Loma/Ocean Beach area. I have watched restaurants come and go; some quickly; some stay for a while.

“Seaside Pho & Grill” has located in a spot that has had two other restaurants there over the years. The first restaurant that I was aware of was “La Playa.” It was one of the first reviews I ever did and that was in 2010. Unfortunately it closed a year or so later. The next restaurant to open in that spot was “Gabardine” in 2012, and it closed its doors in 2014. Both restaurants had wonderful food and Brian Malarkey is an experienced restaurateur. Yet, it was not successful.

Now comes “Seaside Pho & Grill.” It is owned by a married couple – Thuy Nguyen and Waco Williams. The majority of recipes on the menu are family recipes from Thuy. (She was not there when my Japanese student Hitomi and I ate there recently, but Waco was and we had a delightful time talking to him after our meal.) Waco told us that the “Garlic Butter Wings” was an original recipe from Thuy’s grandfather!

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Go Padres! “Vivas to Those Who Have Failed!”

April 4, 2016 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

in the standsToday is opening day and with it, if history is our guide, what is most likely another season of futility is born. Having grown up a Padres fan, this is par for the course as the Pads have only gone to the postseason five times and have a meager .463 winning percentage over the life of the franchise.

They are, in short, losers.

So why go? Why will I be sitting in the stands this afternoon as the Padres take on the Dodgers hoping against hope that the outcome will be different?

Sports psychologists inform me that my addiction to losing baseball might have some rough consequences. As Larry Stone reports in “The Psychology of Being a Sports Fan,” researchers have found that When your team loses, it’s like you lose a part of yourself, because your identity is so merged with the identity of the team and the fan community . . . Sports in the U.S. makes such a difference in people’s lives, a loss can be distressing.”

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A New American Majority in San Diego?

March 7, 2016 by Jim Miller

Brown is the New WhiteBy Jim Miller

Last week I had the pleasure of going to see a talk at Alliance San Diego by Steve Phillips, author of Brown is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority.

The central point that Phillips makes is that, at present, we already have a new American majority of 51% of the electorate comprised of progressive people of color and like-minded whites.

The problem we face, Phillips argues, is that we are failing to mobilize that majority because many in the consultant class and the upper reaches of the Democratic Party don’t believe the numbers and/or are stuck in an old pattern of chasing after the elusive “swing voter” typically identified as white who could be persuaded to vote for a Republican or a Democrat.

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Where is the Climate Crisis in Our National Discussion About the Future of the World? – The Stunning Moral Failure of the Presidential Debates

February 29, 2016 by Jim Miller

Climate-Crisis-300x204By Jim Miller

If you are an observant reader you might have noticed that last week, amidst the usual banal political commentary surrounding the Presidential race, the New York Times matter-of-factly reported that, “Seas are Rising at Fastest Rate in Last 28 Centuries”.

If you managed not to spit out your coffee, you read the alarming news that:

The worsening of tidal flooding in American coastal communities is largely a consequence of greenhouse gases from human activity, and the problem will grow far worse in coming decades, scientists reported . .

Those emissions, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, are causing the ocean to rise at the fastest rate since at least the founding of ancient Rome, the scientists said.

And if that didn’t send you into a morning funk, you might have …

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Restaurant Review: Kanda Thai Cuisine in the Midway District

February 26, 2016 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for Restaurant Review:  Kanda Thai Cuisine in the Midway District

Restaurant Review:

Kanda Thai Cuisine
3545 Midway Drive #M

It seems that I am still celebrating my birthday last week, because my friend Mary wanted to treat me to a special birthday. I really wanted to have good Chinese food in a restaurant, but could not find any locally that have good reviews. I had a coupon for the “Kanda Thai” restaurant in the same location that another Thai restaurant was at only six months ago and we decided to try it. (It is interested to note that our waitress told us that the “Kanda” is owned by the same owner that owned the now defunct “Thai Time II.”)

The coupon stated that it was their “Grand Opening” but when we asked the waitress how long they had been there the answer was six months. This is important because of several things that occurred during our meal.

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America Was Great at One Time?

February 15, 2016 by Ernie McCray
Thumbnail image for America Was Great at One Time?

America Was Great at One Time?

by Ernie McCray

Making America great again
sure sounds like something worth doing.
But the word “again,”
implies that America must have been
great somewhere along the line –
and when I run the feasibility of that
through my long-active mind,
having not been deaf or blind
in my time,
a couple of questions come to mind,
on the fly.
Like:
“When was the country ever great?”
And “Where in the hell was I?”
Really.
Oh, there is greatness all over the place
in the USA.
Great things: art, music, science, who’s going to argue with that?
Great human beings: who can beat Lincoln, Cesar, Fannie Lou and folks like that?
Great opportunities: in this country you can reach for the moon and places like that.
But, just speaking for me,
I have had to sit at the back of the bus,

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Pragmatic Realist: Dissing the Era of Big-Program Liberalism a Cover for Attack on Bernie

February 15, 2016 by Jim Miller

(Salvador Dali)

By Jim Miller

Last week, in a New York Times editorial, Mark Schmitt joined the chorus of clear-eyed “realists” chiming in against Bernie Sanders’ bold agenda in “Is the Era of Big-Program Liberalism Over?”

While acknowledging the political appeal and strategic advantages of universal programs, Schmitt argued that, given the presumably inevitable constraints of the present, the future belongs to an incrementalism that is “most interesting and novel for the absence of big, universal programs that require legislative action.”

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