Columns

Still Smiling as I Look Back at 2014

January 6, 2015 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray
unnamedWhen I reflect on the last piece I wrote, “A Holiday Season with Tamales and Smiles,” I realize that pretty much all of 2014 was a year of smiles for me.

The year got off to a running start, moving like water rushing from a stream to a river to the ocean. Time truly does move fast…

Family wise, there was much to smile about as all my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, on the whole, appeared to be moving along in life rather nicely. My granddaughter, Kinya, whom I rarely see, and her children, visited in the summer from Memphis, Tennessee, and being around them made smiles come easily. Lyric, my youngest grandson, turned one, and I can’t be around him for a second before he elicits a smile from me…

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Not So Happy New Year: Obama Pushing Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2015

January 5, 2015 by Jim Miller

TPP_finalBy Jim Miller

Last week, I wrote about Project Censored’s Top 25 most underreported stories, one of which was “Wikileaks Revelations on Trans-Pacific Partnership Ignored by Corporate Media.”

Coming in at number three on their list, Project Censored notes that what is important about this story is that :

Eight hundred million people, and one-third of all world trade, stand to be affected by the treaty—and yet only three people from each member nation have access to the entire document. Meanwhile, six hundred “corporate advisors,” representing big oil, pharmaceutical, and entertainment companies, are involved in the writing and negotiations of the treaty.

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Stumps Market Gets the Widder Curry’s Goat

December 30, 2014 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for Stumps Market Gets the Widder Curry’s Goat

Doesn’t take much to get my goat any more.

And it has nothing to do with the amount of time I am spending in North Dakota with Cowboy and his herd of goats. No, in this case it has to do with a stupid “rule” that might make a difference in my shopping habits. This is what happened.

I have shopped at Stumps on Voltaire for years. I like their meat, deli and produce departments. I seldom purchase the regular staples, because their prices are higher than I pay at Ralphs or Vons. But their meat is exceptionally tasty; and their prices are better than the other supermarkets.

Over the past years, Stump’s has offered incentive programs that I have taken advantage of – items like Tupperware containers (or similar). Apparently, Stumps now – after a hiatus of many months – has brought back a new incentive program – Chicago Cutlery. …

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The Most Important Stories the Corporate Media Didn’t Tell You in 2014

December 29, 2014 by Jim Miller

Media LiesBy Jim Miller

We live in troubled times but are increasingly ill equipped to deal with them. The average American is awash in a sea of ghastly, contextless headlines punctuated by inane trivia and pointless titillation. Somewhere between the latest massacre and Kim Kardashian’s most recent booty shot we got lost.

Indeed, some studies have even shown that the more news we consume the less we actually know. That’s because so much of what we have come to think of as “news” is really a form of corporate propaganda, a depthless mass of factoids designed to not interfere with the bottom line. Thus we know less as we amuse ourselves to death.

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Restaurant Review : Fig Tree Café at Liberty Station

December 29, 2014 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for Restaurant Review : Fig Tree Café at Liberty Station

Fig Tree Café
Liberty Station
2400 Historic Decatur Road
Suite 103

San Diego, California 92106
619-821-2044

Every Christmas season I go out to breakfast with two friends – Nancy and Stewart – and this year was no exception. We were deciding between the “Little Lion” and the “Fig Tree Café” this year and because Nancy and Stewart had been to the Fig Tree for their $5 breakfast special we decided to go there. Alas, the special was not available for the “holiday” – even though it was now Friday following Christmas. We ordered from the regular menu.

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On Torture: Deeper into the American Heart of Darkness

December 15, 2014 by Jim Miller

torture bedBy Jim Miller

A couple of weeks ago I evoked Joseph Conrad’s classic critique of colonialism when discussing the disposability of black and brown lives in the wake of Ferguson and our collective ability to dehumanize or “thingify” black and brown people at home and abroad.

As I observed then, “in Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness we are taken on a journey into the core of the European colonial enterprise. And while the naïve reader may expect an adventure in the ‘savage’ world of Africa, what one quickly discovers is that it is the ‘hollow men’ of Europe bent on the ruthless exploitation of the land and the people who are the real savages, whose moral emptiness and desire to ‘exterminate the brutes’ is the actual horror.”

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What a Difference a Few Decades Make – An Interview with Kevin Beiser, President of School Board

December 9, 2014 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for What a Difference a Few Decades Make –  An Interview with Kevin Beiser, President of School Board

By Judi Curry

I spent a delightful morning with Kevin Beiser, the San Diego Unified School Board President and he had many positive things to say about what has happened in the district since he has been on the board.

As a public school teacher beginning my career in the early sixties, I have seen the pendulum swing many ways in the past fifty years. (Fifty Years! My God!)

Perhaps one of the biggest swings was from the Professional Organizations of the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the National Education Association (NEA) to the American Federation of Teachers – AFT –and other labor organizations. As a member of “management” later in my career, I have been disillusioned with professionals (educators) belonging to labor organizations, …

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Maria and Me, Living a Life of Love In Our Seventies

December 8, 2014 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

Maria and meI recently wrote about a few wonderful things in my life for which I’m grateful, and I’m still in a thankful frame of mind, thinking, particularly, of Maria Ester Nieto Senour, that super-fine sweetheart of mine. I’m so thankful for having someone to age with me as my everyday valentine.

I don’t know where in the arc, of the amazing occurrences in the cosmos, Maria and I began heading in each other’s direction. But I’m glad it happened.

I do know, though, that there was a time, beginning in July of 2009, that I was as low as a man could be …

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Feeling Grateful and Giving Thanks

November 26, 2014 by Frank Gormlie

By Ernie McCray

Giving Thanks

Last Saturday was a very pretty day and to celebrate the beauty of it all I took off on a walk at a nice steady pace. As I moved along I gave thanks to the very universe for my being able to take in such a sparkling day up and about on my old size 14 feet.

I thought of so many things I’m grateful for: a great childhood, athletic glory, a marriage that thrilled my soul until my soul-mate passed away and then another fine woman came my way; children, grand children, great-grand-children, leading positive lives; college degrees; having traveled to exotic places overseas.

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Thanks for Nothing (and Everything): On Walmart, Black Friday, and Thich Nhat Hanh

November 24, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

walmart binsIt’s Thanksgiving week and Walmart is getting ready to ruin the party by asking nearly one million of its workers to come in on the holiday to get a jump-start on the Black Friday consumer frenzy. Given its size and influence, Walmart’s move, if successful, is likely to set a trend in the industry and wreck Thanksgiving for millions more underpaid service sector workers in the future.

Fortunately, OUR Walmart is responding in kind by promising the biggest Black Friday Strike ever with allies in labor and the community promising to join hands with them in their protest. As Think Progress recently reported:

Workers have gone on strike and protested for the past two Black Fridays.

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Tears for Justice, Peace and Compassion

November 24, 2014 by Ernie McCray

Justice...By Ernie McCray

I found myself, a day or so ago, kind of tearing up, thinking about a passage I had read in “Just Mercy,” a story of justice and redemption, or better yet, the lack thereof.

Bryan Stephenson, the author of this incredibly revealing narrative about the inequities in our justice system, says, concerning a man who was less than a day away from being executed unbelievably wrongfully, “Why do we want to kill all the broken people? What is wrong with us, that we think a thing like that?”

I’d say that we can entertain such thinking because we have no real values of any substance to guide us as a society. Oh we have documents that say we’re high on freedom of speech and freedom of religion and so on and so on and we sing:

America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
from sea to shining sea.

But do we really honor such thinking? Not by a long-shot.

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Post Election Notes from the Left Coast: Apocalypse Now? Just Say No

November 10, 2014 by Jim Miller

Creative Commons image by Kevin Crumbs

By Jim Miller

Last week progressives in California rightfully felt a bit relieved that their state served as a seawall against the ocean of red that washed across America. Outside of our reactionary little backwater here in San Diego where Carl DeMaio can pretend to be moderate and almost win despite multiple scandals, there were bright spots in the rest of the state …

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#Dear Congress

November 5, 2014 by Ernie McCray

For Al JareezaBy Ernie McCray

Al Jazeera America inquired “If you could ask Congress to take on one thing – one policy, one issue, one bill, one idea, one principle – what would it be and why?”

They then recommend that contributors start their “one thing” request with: “#Dear Congress…” and submit a picture of themselves holding the message.

So I sent:

“#Dear Congress, I want you to …”

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A Feeling of Satisfaction As the Widder Curry Finishes Her 3rd Cookbook

November 3, 2014 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for A Feeling of Satisfaction As the Widder Curry Finishes Her 3rd Cookbook

For the last 2 years, I have been working on my third, and final cookbook.

How fitting it is to think that I finished it on the 5th anniversary of my husband’s death and received it today, his 87th birthday.

In between writing the book, I was also writing for the San Diego Free Press and the OB Rag; volunteering as a “Front Office Manager” for the Moxie Theatre of Performing Arts every now and then; critiquing restaurants; and seeking other diversions to keep my sanity after a 46 year marriage.

Many of you are aware that I also run and own my own “Jamming” business, making unusual jams with wines and champagne

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3 Critical Votes Where You Can Make a Positive Difference on November 4th for California and San Diego

November 3, 2014 by Jim Miller

go voteBy Jim Miller

Most political observers are predicting bad results for the Democrats at the national level, but there are a few important races where progressives might be able to win key victories that will have a real effect here in California and a number of largely ignored down ballot contests where we can elect solid people while keeping some dangerous, incompetent characters out of public office.

More specifically, tomorrow we can:

1) Take a significant step away from the colossal stupidity of the last several decades of the war on drugs, senselessly draconian three strikes laws, a ballooning prison industrial complex, and surging economic inequality by passing Proposition 47. …

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How Many Times Did You Flush The Toilet Today?

October 31, 2014 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for How Many Times Did  You Flush The Toilet Today?

Do We Want Neighbors Spying On Each Other?

Really, how many times did you flush the toilet today?

I remember reading Orwell’s “1984” many years ago, and laughing as I read page after page of things that I thought were impossible to occur during my lifetime. After all, who expected to have drones following your every move; computers able to pinpoint just where you were standing in the Universe. Well, another joke on me!

I have been accepting of most of the “1984” happenings, but I think the one thing happening now that really ticks me off is the offer of an “App” that you can use to report that your neighbor is using too much water.

Neighbors spying on each other?

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Restaurant Review: The Old Venice in Point Loma

October 30, 2014 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for Restaurant Review: The Old Venice in Point Loma

Old Venice
2910 Canon Street
San Diego, CA 92106
619-222-5888

A friend and neighbor – Jim – called me a few days ago and wanted to take me out to dinner as a thank you for taking care of his house while he was away. He suggested a new restaurant in Ocean Beach, but when I looked at the menu, even during “restaurant week” I felt it was too expensive for what was being offered. I said I would go with him, but not to the restaurant he chose. He didn’t care where we went so I looked thought those listed that were under $35. The “Old Venice” restaurant was listed at $25 per person, and had a nice selection of items. It seems to me that I reviewed this restaurant before but it was at lunch time, so I felt this time would still be a review of a what was being offered.

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Goodbye San Francisco Bay Guardian; Hello Wankergate

October 27, 2014 by Jim Miller

Bay Guardian Front PageBy Jim Miller

Recently, California lost one of its last remaining, genuinely progressive weeklies, the San Francisco Bay Guardian. As [people.power.media] tells the story:

The San Francisco Bay Guardian, the prize-winning newspaper and progressive voice, was shut down immediately by the San Francisco Media Company, after 48 years of “printing the news and raising hell.”

No warning for staff, just pack your boxes and get out. Boom. This historic independent newspaper, so long a pivotal force in San Francisco progressive politics and culture was suddenly treated as a corporate portfolio item, and lopped off the balance sheet . . .

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Utopia Revisited: Rethinking the Response to Faulconer’s Climate Action Plan

October 20, 2014 by Jim Miller

climate action plan sdBy Jim Miller

Since I last wrote on the People’s Climate March in late September, the grim environmental news has just kept coming in, whether it’s the revelation that September was the warmest month ever on planet earth, the Stanford study linking California’s grueling drought to climate change, the World Wildlife Federation report that the earth has lost half of its wildlife in the last fifty years, or the unpleasant surprise that, “In what could be termed as the worst effect of degrading climatic conditions and global warming, a new study has showed that fish in large numbers will disappear from the tropics by 2050”—it just doesn’t let up.

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Reflections of Love

October 17, 2014 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I was asked to write something that rhymes for Steve, a friend of mine, who was celebrating entering his 70’s and these words came to me:

Love SignIn a spirit of love,
with feather weight ease,
I say to my dear friend, Steve,
who has just turned 70,
that he
has reached an age
where you can truly
do or say pretty
much anything
you damn well please.
Cuz the world doesn’t
give a hoot
about an old-assed coot.

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“I’m Not the Least Bit Grateful for Being Smacked on My Behind!”

September 30, 2014 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

Woman spanking child

It seems the NFL, of all institutions, is drawing our attention to social situations in our society that we’ve generally overlooked for far too long: domestic violence and corporal punishment when it comes to disciplining our children.

Regarding the latter of these matters, I’ve been in several conversations lately where someone expressed how “grateful” they were for their parents taking the belt to their behind.

It did them no harm, they say, and it made them the person they are today -

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Ocean Beach Restaurant Review : “Taika Sushi”

September 29, 2014 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for Ocean Beach Restaurant Review : “Taika Sushi”

Restaurant Review:
“Taika Sushi”
4953 Newport Ave.
Ocean Beach, CA 92107
619-221-1288
http://www.taikasushi.com/ menu-2

It is amazing to me that one block in Ocean Beach can support three Japanese restaurants. But that seems to be the case, with the newest, “Taika Sushi” filled to capacity Friday evening at 6:45pm. I had wanted to try the restaurant ever since it opened, and particularly after reading a review by [Reader writer] Mercy Baron but it just never happened. Until last night.

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San Diego City Works Press, Sunshine/Noir II: Writing from San Diego and Tijuana

September 29, 2014 by Jim Miller

cityworks

November 1st Deadline Approaching

By Jim Miller

San Diego City Works Press is still accepting submissions for Sunshine/Noir II until November 1st. In particular we are looking for creative non-fiction pieces about underrepresented communities in San Diego and generally uncovered topics with regard to life in our region. We are also looking for good fiction, poetry, and artwork that runs against the grain of San Diego’s official story.

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America’s First Banned Book and the Battle for the Soul of the Country

September 22, 2014 by Jim Miller

New English Canaan CoverBy Jim Miller

It’s Banned Books Week and what better way to kick it off than with a salute to America’s first banned book: Thomas Morton’s New English Canaan published in 1637? New English Canaan is a three-volume affair containing Morton’s sympathetic observations about Native Americans along with a celebration of the beauty of the natural world and a fierce satire of the Puritans.

While some scholars point to other books such as John Eliot’s The Christian Commonwealth (written in the late 1640s) or William Pynchon’s The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption (1650)as the first books to be banned by the Puritans for theological or historical reasons, Morton’s New English Canaan precedes both of these texts and the conflict surrounding it is far more important and illustrative with regard to the political and cultural history of the United States.

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The People’s Climate March – What Will It Take to Save the Planet?

September 18, 2014 by Jim Miller

ClimateMarchBadgeBy Jim Miller and Kelly Mayhew

This coming Sunday, September 21st, is the People’s Climate March in New York City, here in San Diego, and elsewhere around the world.

The organizers hope that it will be “an unprecedented citizen mobilization” occurring “[a]s world leaders meet at the United Nations climate change summit” while marchers demand “the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change;…”

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Vote Yes on Proposition 47: The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act of 2014

September 3, 2014 by Ernie McCray

To end felony sentencing for drug possession and petty theft crimes

By Ernie McCray

If “Yes on 47″ passes, California will be the first state to end felony sentencing for drug possession and petty theft crimes. This would permanently reduce incarcerations and shift one billion dollars, over the next five years, from state corrections to K-12 school programs and mental health and drug treatment. I love the sound of that. And it’s about time we get our minds off punishing people and focus on helping them become better human beings.

Details of the Act:

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Unions and the Future of American Democracy

September 2, 2014 by Jim Miller

labor movementBy Jim Miller

Over the last year, the subject of economic inequality has been in the news quite a bit with the release of Robert Reich’s spectacular documentary Inequality for All and economist Thomas Piketty’s seminal work, Capital in the Twentieth Century. The picture they paint is a grim one and new bad numbers just keep rolling in.

For instance, a few weeks ago a Russell Sage Foundation study revealed that the wealth of the typical American household has dropped nearly 20 percent since 1984 and yet another study notes that private sector wages measured in real terms have dipped 16.2 percent since their 1972 high point. In the wake of that news, another US Census Bureau report came out showing that middle class household wealth fell by 35 percent between 2005 and 2011.

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Can We Just Create a Civil Society Where Black Boys Can Feel Free to Just Be?

August 19, 2014 by Ernie McCray
Thumbnail image for Can We Just Create a Civil Society Where Black Boys Can Feel Free to Just Be?

by Ernie McCray

Michael Brown. Another black boy dead, unvalued and unloved by this society, unseen for what he is, a human being, dehumanized before he’s memorialized because we love to show a victim at his worse. They just had to show him strong arming a man for a pack of cigarillos.

So now we get away from his being shot (six times I just read) by someone paid by the citizenry to “serve and protect” and we start thinking, because of his criminal shenanigans, that maybe, just maybe, he isn’t deserving of continuing to live on earth with the rest of us.

Well, I’ve known many kids, a grandson of mine being one of them, who thought, at one time, they were slick and went off and committed some stupid crime and then went on to become outstanding human beings. Why? Because nobody killed them. My grandson spent some time in juvenile hall away from all who loved him and came out declaring “The criminal life is not for me” and went on to graduate from UCSD and learned to speak Chinese and is now embarking on a possible business venture with China. We have to give children a chance.

To borrow words from Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights hero of mine, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” of this American game where a black boy is killed and then painted in an ugly dismissive light as rationalization for the taking of his life.

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Why Read? In Defense of Uselessness

August 18, 2014 by Jim Miller

happyfaceBy Jim Miller

While I still deeply love my chosen profession of teaching after twenty-five years of work at various colleges with the last seventeen of those at San Diego City College, it’s hard not to notice the constant drumbeat of critics casting doubt on the value of my life’s work in the humanities.

Whether they be corporate education reformers bent on imposing a business model on colleges or techno-boosters with a zeal to toss all that I hold dear into the dustbin of history, there is a long line of naysayers.

As David Masciotra recently noted in “Pulling the Plug on English Departments” in The Daily Beast, “The armies of soft philistinism are on the march and eager to ditch traditional literature instruction in favor of more utilitarian approaches . . . It is easy to observe the sad and sickly decline of American intellectual life, through the cultural and institutional lowering of standards, when prestigious publications promote the defense, if not the celebration, of lower standards.”

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The Widder Curry: My Visit to Fort Rosecrans Cemetery Two Years Later

August 15, 2014 by Judi Curry
Thumbnail image for The Widder Curry: My Visit to Fort Rosecrans Cemetery Two Years Later

Note: After visiting the cemetery on Saturday, August 9th, 2014, we three widow’s were sorely disappointed in what we saw – or didn’t see, two years later. I sent this article to Doug Ledbetter, the Director of the Ft. Rosecrans and Miramar Cemeteries so that he would be aware of what I was going to write. He called me this morning – Monday, August 11th, and we discussed the conditions I have mentioned in this article. His comments to me are in italics and indented next to our concerns:

Two years ago – August 21, 2012 – I wrote my first article about the deplorable conditions of Ft. Rosecrans Cemetery. The cemetery has special meaning to me because my husband is interred there, and it will be my “home” when I leave my Pt. Loma home. Over the past two years I have written several follow-up articles about the grounds and have complimented the “new” director, Doug Ledbetter on returning the cemetery to its “pre-2012” standards.

I don’t know if it was “karma” but yesterday I received a call from Doug asking me if I had been up to the cemetery lately. I had not, but told Doug that today three of us were going to visit our husbands on Saturday because it has been a long time since we have been there.

I told him that we were looking forward to the improvements we expected to see, and I would let him know our thoughts the first part of the week.

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