Under the Perfect Sun

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.”

Read the full article → 3 comments

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.

Read the full article → 1 comment

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 1 comment

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.”

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.”

Read the full article → 0 comments

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 …

Read the full article → 1 comment

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 …

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.”

Read the full article → 1 comment

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.

Read the full article → 5 comments

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.”

Read the full article → 1 comment

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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 …

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.”

Read the full article → 2 comments

Whither 2016 Ballot Measures?: The Oracle Jerry Brown Weighs In

January 25, 2016 by Jim Miller

Photo by Freedom To Marry

By Jim Miller

As I noted in my New Year’s column, many in California’s labor and progressive circles had high hopes for ballot measures extending Proposition 30’s taxes on the rich to fully fund education and for raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

But it did not take long for Governor Jerry Brown to rain on his presumed allies’ parade.

Read the full article → 0 comments

American Media in 2016: Those Afflicting the Comfortable Need Not Apply

January 11, 2016 by Jim Miller

NewsmanBy Jim Miller

Just before the New Year I highlighted Project Censored’s pick for the most underreported story of 2015—the fact that 2016 will be when the top 1% will control half of the world’s wealth).

In that same column I focused on two other largely ignored stories that broke subsequent to Project Censored’s annual report that also underline the perils of domestic and international economic inequality.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Censored 2015: The Most Underreported Story of the Year

December 28, 2015 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

As I wrote back in mid-October, Project Censored recently released their list of the most underreported stories of 2015. The number one story on their list features the news that 2016 will be the year when half of the world’s wealth will be controlled by the top 1%. More specifically, they document how:

According to the Oxfam report, the proportion of global wealth owned by the 1 percent has increased from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014 and is projected to reach 50 percent in 2016.

In October 2014, a prior Oxfam report, “Even It Up: Time to End Extreme Poverty,” revealed that the number of billionaires worldwide had more than doubled since the 2009 financial crisis, showing that, although those at the top have recovered quickly, the vast majority of the world’s population are far from reaping the benefits of any recent economic recovery.

Even more staggering, the world’s richest eighty-five people now hold the same amount of wealth as half the world’s poorest population. “Failure to tackle inequality will leave hundreds of millions trapped in poverty unnecessarily,” the report’s authors warned.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Three Progressive Literary Stocking Stuffers for 2015

December 21, 2015 by Jim Miller

Santa Claus w dogBy Jim Miller

It’s Christmas week and as we do every year, the grown-ups in my family are keeping up the tradition of buying nothing for each other.

But for those of you who must endure the fear and loathing of the consumer frenzy, here is my annual list of books that might serve as good stocking stuffers for the alienated progressives or other likely suspects on your list (with a special focus on some of the best work that received less attention than it deserved):

Read the full article → 0 comments

March and Rally for Climate Justice -Sat, Dec. 12

December 7, 2015 by Jim Miller

save the planetBy Jim Miller

Last week as the big climate talks kicked off in Paris it was my pleasure to co-host with Masada Disenhouse of SanDiego350 a community screening of Naomi Klein’s new film This Changes Everything.

We used this screening to help facilitate a discussion among folks from the local labor and environmental movements along with representatives from various community and student groups that was focused on the intersection between the climate crisis and the fight against economic inequality. Many folks expressed spirited opinions on how we might join the interests of the poor and workers with those fighting to save the planet.

Read the full article → 1 comment

Clinton and the New Democrats’ Tired Third Way

November 23, 2015 by Jim Miller

dem socialismBy Jim Miller

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

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

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

Read the full article → 0 comments

The Day After the Day of the Dead

November 2, 2015 by Jim Miller

day of the dead robot

By Jim Miller

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

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

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

Read the full article → 0 comments

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

October 12, 2015 by Jim Miller

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

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

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

As we note in the introduction to the anthology:

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

Read the full article → 0 comments

Taking the Leap: Imagine a New World

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

By Jim Miller

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

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

Read the full article → 0 comments

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

September 21, 2015 by Jim Miller

interfaith treeBy Jim Miller

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

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

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

Read the full article → 1 comment

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

September 14, 2015 by Jim Miller

worked to deathBy Jim Miller

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

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

Read the full article → 3 comments