Under the Perfect Sun

Summer Chronicles #2: That Music You Are Hearing is the Grateful Dead

June 29, 2015 by Jim Miller

TranslucentBy Jim Miller

Gary Snyder is a courage teacher. His fine new book of poems, This Present Moment, is a meditation on wonder and impermanence. In it, for instance, we learn to value our laptops –

“Because whole worlds of writing can be boldly laid out and then highlighted/and vanish in the flash at ‘delete,’/so it teaches of impermanence and pain.”

And it’s true, the miracle of creation that comes out of “a formless face/which is our Original Face,” but as soon as the words are formed the self who made them is no longer there.

Still there is beauty, and moments of grace are there to be found and cherished in “the morning and night coming together,” the “glacier scrapes across the bedrock,” and “the deep dense woods.” You just need to follow “the shining way of the wild” and “hang in, work it out, watch for the moment.”

Snyder takes us on a world tour in this collection from the glories of the High Sierras to the gorgeous landscapes of the Italian countryside, from the Eiffel Tower to his wife’s cremation.

A Buddhist, Snyder knows that to love anything–from a gorgeous sunset to a lifelong partner–is to invite loss and intense suffering: “This is the price of attachment,” he tells us, but it is still “Worth it. Easily worth it.”

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Summer Chronicles #1: The Day After Father’s Day

June 22, 2015 by Jim Miller

sad-fathers-dayBy Jim Miller

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.”

What Lispector left us with is an eccentric collection of “aphorisms, diary entries, reminiscences, travel notes, interviews, serialized stories, essays, loosely defined as chronicles.”

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The Clinton Playbook: Taylorism on the Campaign Trial

June 15, 2015 by Jim Miller

taylorism

By Jim Miller

One of the more interesting pieces amidst the glut of ridiculously early pre-primary news stories floating around the Internet and social media was Ruby Cramer’s largely laudatory profile of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook.

Wonder boy Mook, the story tells us, is all about “a ‘new kind of organizing’” that was “going to change politics.”

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The Fight for Progressive Tax Reform Continues: It’s Time to Make It Fair

May 18, 2015 by Jim Miller

MIF Logo1By Jim Miller

When Proposition 13 was first approved by voters in 1978 it was sold as a protection for single-family homeowners. But what voters were not told is that Prop. 13 contained giant loopholes that allow big corporations and wealthy commercial property owners to avoid paying their fair share of local property taxes.

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Turning 50

May 11, 2015 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for Turning 50

By Jim Miller

Last week I turned fifty, and someone asked me what was the most important thing I had learned in half a century of life. I sighed. Never having been one to make too much of personal landmarks, my response was that this was just another day.

And now that that day and that question are already past, what matters most is the unspeakable beauty of this second as my fingers touch the keyboard, and I breath in and out and listen to the sound of my son singing in the background, my wife talking to the cat, and the birds chirping in the branches of the tree outside my window.

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It’s the Neoliberalism, Stupid

May 4, 2015 by Jim Miller

Photo by Keith Allison

By Jim Miller

Last week when the Baltimore Orioles played a game without fans in Camden Yard, there was much media coverage marking how the surreal event was unprecedented in American sports.

Perhaps, but it was not completely without precedent globally as the 1987 soccer match played to an empty stadium in Madrid, Spain came before it.

On the occasion of that strange contest, French social theorist Jean Baudrillard observed that “thousands of fans besieged the stadium but no one got in” and that this punishment of unruly soccer fans did much to –

“exemplify the terroristic hyperrealism of our world, a world where the ‘real’ event occurs in a vacuum, strippedof its context, visible only from afar, televisually.”

Maybe, Baudrillard wryly predicted, the game in Madrid was a harbinger of a future where no one would actually participate in such happenings “but everyone will have received an image of them.”

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Is San Diego Up for the Challenge of Marrying Environmental and Economic Justice?

April 27, 2015 by Jim Miller

“A beautifully sustainable city that is the playground of the rich doesn’t work for us.”

one new yorkBy Jim Miller

Some of the best political news in America in quite a while happened last week in New York City. While much of the country is still under the sway of the climate-change denying right and thus fiddling while the world burns, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio came out with precisely the kind of bold, visionary plan that we need to address not just the existential threat of climate change but the equally pressing and dangerous trend toward deepening economic inequality.

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Taxes and Inequality in California: Who Pays a Bigger Share?

April 20, 2015 by Jim Miller

cal tax formBy Jim Miller

Last week was Tax Day and with it came the annual ritual of bemoaning our ever-rising taxes and complaining about the endless growth of big government.

Indeed just a few days after Tax Day, I gave a talk at a local college on the history of income inequality and workers’ struggles in which I made a comparison between the stark odds workers face today in the Fight for $15 with the similarly steep hill they faced 100 years ago before the rise of the American Labor Movement and the reforms that came with the New Deal.

As is usually the case, however, a few folks in the audience just could not get their heads around the idea that it was not all government’s fault.

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Teachers and Students Fight for 15

April 13, 2015 by Jim Miller

faculty forward

By Jim Miller

I have noted in this column that, “most colleges in America run on the backs of adjunct instructors who don’t receive the same pay for the same work as do the shrinking pool of full-time faculty” and that the “Exploitation of contingent labor is not just a problem for employees at Starbucks, Walmart, and fast food chains where workers are fighting for $15 an hour; it is an epidemic in the academy as well.”

Fight for 15 organizers will be at 4 PM at Scripps Cottage on San Diego State University’s campus, we will stand with them as teachers and students from across the city will come together with workers, community activists, people of faith, and others to call for basic fairness and economic justice for all working people.

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Baseball is Not a Metaphor

March 30, 2015 by Jim Miller

dugoutBy Jim Miller

Baseball season is here again and with it comes one of the last times in my only son’s fleeting childhood that I have the opportunity to help coach his team. This brings much joy and more suffering because, as we all know, most of the game involves failure.

When you watch young people pitch, they throw balls more often than not. And when they try to hit, they strike out a lot. It’s a house of pain.

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The Public Education Reporting Charade

March 23, 2015 by Jim Miller

What if it turned out that education reform, with its teacher-blaming assumptions, got it all wrong in the first place?

By Jim Miller

war on educationRecently, with “California’s Public Education Charade,” UT-San Diego shocked no one by publishing yet another anti-union, teacher-bashing editorial that attacks California’s “dominant Democratic Party” for believing that “what’s good for the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers is good for California. And what’s good for students, who cares?”

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The Battle Over Trans-Pacific Partnership: Elizabeth Warren Strikes Back Against the Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

March 16, 2015 by Jim Miller

stop-tpp-700By Jim Miller

Just as the folks in the New Democrat Coalition (NDC) were gearing up to marginalize the progressive wing of the Democratic Party leading up to the 2016 election, Elizabeth Warren struck back with what even CNN reported as “a push to kill major trade negotiations” being championed by President Obama and previously supported by Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton

And it’s a very good thing that Warren has elevated the debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the national media because proponents of this deal have done everything they can to keep the details secret.

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Scott Peters and the “New Democrats” Take Aim at the Warren Wing of the Party

March 13, 2015 by Jim Miller

…And Other Sordid Tales

Scott Peters Between the HeadsBy Jim Miller

This week a “right to work” bill that will gut the union movement in Wisconsin is likely to hit Governor Scott Walker’s desk and no doubt he will sign it.

While there is much discussion in Democratic circles of how Walker is doing this to position himself even more solidly on the right to please potential Republican primary voters, there is much less discussion about how this latest assault on workers’ rights helps speed the runaway train heading toward plutocracy that is the United States.

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A Call to Action on the Labor Crisis in Higher Ed: Colleges Are Running On the Backs of Underpaid Part-Timers

February 23, 2015 by Jim Miller

February 25th is National Adjunct Walkout Day

national-adjunct-day-posterBy Jim Miller

As I have noted here recently, the successful assault on public sector unionism has marched hand in hand with the surge of income inequality and the erosion of the American middle class. Of course, central to this is the ongoing war on teachers’ unions and the nationwide trend toward austerity budgets in state capitols across the country.

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Dispatches from the Class War (On You)

February 9, 2015 by Jim Miller

class-warfare-fight-backBy Jim Miller

Last July, after the Harris v. Quinn decision took the first step toward gutting the power of public sector unions in America I noted that case “pretty much guarantees that we’ll see more cases brought to the high court aiming to send American labor into a death spiral.”

As legal observers commented at the time, this Supreme Court usually moves in a two-step process, starting with a narrow decision that then sets the precedent for a broader and more extreme move to the right in a subsequent decision.

Well, the case that will provide the pretext for that radical step has made its way up the food chain and will likely be heard by America’s highest court.

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San Diego Labor Goes Green: New Environmental Caucus Formed

February 2, 2015 by Jim Miller

“Let’s be clear, climate change is the most important issue facing all of us for the rest of our lives.” –John Harrity, President of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists

green planetBy Jim Miller & Micah Mitrosky

We are facing a historic environmental crisis that threatens our present and future survival. Think Progress pithily summarized the conclusions of last year’s United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, noting that:

The world’s top scientists and governments have issued their bluntest plea yet to the world: Slash carbon pollution now (at a very low cost) or risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” Scientists have “high confidence” these devastating impacts occur “even with adaptation” — if we keep doing little or nothing.

A short list of the many catastrophic effects that unchecked climate change may bring includes severe drought, dangerous wildfires, increased disease, threatened food systems due to Dust Bowl-like conditions, ocean acidification, more global conflict over resources, economic collapse, and mass extinction.

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The State Of the Union: Obama is an Eisenhower Republican

January 26, 2015 by Jim Miller

obama-eisenhower3By Jim Miller

Last week, President Obama gave a pretty good speech in which he outlined a series of solid progressive policy proposals along with a few very bad ideas like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

What was most telling about the response to his speech, however, was how glowing the praise was in some quarters for what, in essence, was a fairly pedestrian list of things to do: …

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We Need Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Fierce Urgency of Now”: Beyond Our Current Failure of Imagination

January 19, 2015 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for We Need Martin Luther King Jr.’s  “Fierce Urgency of Now”: Beyond Our Current Failure of Imagination

By Jim Miller

It’s the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and we will be greeted, as is the case these days, with lots of empty gestures and vanilla rhetoric that erases the radical nature of King’s legacy and neuters the impact of his ideas. As I have noted in years past, King was not a moderate whose only idea was that we should all just get along and respect each other. He was a provocative thinker and activist who challenged the core values of our society both then and now.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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