Under the Perfect Sun

Are We Witnessing the End of Public Education as We Know It? — Part One

June 26, 2017 by Jim Miller

Public Education

By Jim Miller / Kelly Mayhew

These are dire times for public education. With Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education leading the charge for big budget cuts, charter schools, and a radical privatization agenda, the possibility that free quality public education for all in America could soon be a thing of the past is real.

One would think that such clear and present danger to a cornerstone of our democracy coming from the right would unite Democrats behind the mantle of defending public education.

Sadly, however, that is not the case as even now, in the face of this assault, we see Democrats lining up with the billionaire-funded charter school lobby to wage holy war on teachers’ unions in name of making it easier to get rid of “bad teachers” to save the children.

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The Top 5 Stories Getting Buried by the Trump Carnival

June 19, 2017 by Jim Miller

Carnival

By Jim Miller

Trump is a train-wreck, I know.

But while the pathetic carnival that is the White House continues to distract and horrify Americans, some hugely important news is getting lost in the din.

Here are a few of the stories that should be getting equal time but have been drowned out by the drama of the Disaster in Chief.

1. American public education is under an unprecedented assault.

Through a combination of budget cuts and calculated policies to encourage rapid and wide-ranging charterization, the Trump administration’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is no joke when it comes to seeking to “disrupt” public education and …

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Fear and Loathing in America

June 14, 2017 by Jim Miller

LoathingBy Jim Miller

A couple of weeks ago I saw Dead and Company open their tour in Las Vegas. The trip was filled with a bit of personal nostalgia for the many other times I came see the Grateful Dead play two or three show runs there before Jerry Garcia died.

Of course, all of those trips, taken with friends steeped in the larger history of the band, were full of easy, ironic references to Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where he tells the tale of his own savage journey into the Heart of the American Dream.

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Why the ‘San Diego Free Press’ Matters Now More Than Ever

June 5, 2017 by Jim Miller

Free Press
Editor’s Note: The San Diego Free Press is five years old this week. This is one in a series of posts reflecting on the paths we’ve traveled.

By Jim Miller

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the San Diego Free Press and that’s something to celebrate. I first started writing for the OB Rag and then subsequently became part of the birth of the SD Free Press because I loved the way that those outlets both paid homage to the legacy of San Diego’s countercultural press and continued its legacy into the digital age.

As part a key part of the local New Left and counterculture in the sixties and early seventies, Doug Porter, Frank Gormlie, and others offered a space for radical voices and cultural threads that were not acceptable in the mainstream, commercial media of the time.

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What’s the Matter with San Diego Labor (Part 3): A Divided Movement Hurts Us All

May 30, 2017 by Jim Miller

South Bay Democrats Show the Way with Resolution in Support of a United Labor Movement

By Jim Miller

Last week, the first meeting of the newly reorganized San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council was a refreshingly upbeat gathering as the local movement recommitted itself to weathering the storm and reinventing the Labor Council as a far more democratic and activist organization that will do everything it can to engage union members and organize the unorganized.

One of the most encouraging moments of the night came when Doug Moore of the United Domestic Workers spoke about the pressing need to rebuild real, less transactional relationships with our allies in the community. This is a very good thing.

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What’s the Matter with Labor in San Diego?

May 15, 2017 by Jim Miller
…there is no great philosophical debate over principle at stake here in San Diego. In fact, principle or coherent strategic thinking has nothing to do with the current state of affairs at all.

laborBy Jim Miller

In one of my first columns of the year, I made a plea that San Diego labor should not allow itself to be distracted by the trials and tribulations of Labor Council President Mickey Kasparian.

With everything from a looming anti-labor shift on the Supreme Court and at the National Labor Relations Board, to “right to work” legislation in Congress along with a host of other perils, I argued that the Trump era simply holds too many dangers for labor to get bogged down in the petty drama surrounding one leader

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Remembering Who Brought Us the 8-Hour Day, Resisting Trump, and Fighting for a Just Future

May 1, 2017 by Jim Miller

9:00 AM to 2:00 PM Teach-in, Rally and March at San Diego City College
3:00 PM Rally at the Federal Building
4:00 PM March to Chicano Park followed by Rally in Chicano Park

By Jim Miller

May Day

Usually May Day comes and goes with a small march that most people barely notice. Indeed, most Americans don’t know much about May Day and if they do, they associate it with the state sponsored holiday in the former Soviet Union.

The truth of the matter is, however, that May Day has deep American roots. It started in 1866 as part of the movement pushing for the 8-hour day.

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Plant the Seeds for a Progressive Future in San Diego: Support Students for Economic Justice

April 17, 2017 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

In the age of Trump I have heard many a progressive ponder: “What went so wrong?” How in 2017 can we be fighting and, in many cases, refighting battles over basic economic rights and civil liberties? Whatever happened to women’s rights? How can we still be arguing about whether or not climate change exists? How did things get this bad?

In the political realm, as I have written here many times, a big part of the problem is that the Democrats have no bench of talented, young candidates. Indeed, rather than appealing to young voters and activists, it sometimes seems like the party is bent on alienating them. We saw this with the disdain heaped upon the idealism of millennial Sanders supporters in some quarters, and we can still see it in the national party’s frustrating inability to reinvent itself by bringing in new energy.

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The American Epidemic of Quiet Desperation Continues Unabated

April 3, 2017 by Jim Miller

Quiet Desperation

By Jim Miller

America is an increasingly unhappy place and much of what we are currently doing politically is bound to make us feel worse. And while our malaise is surely not just the product of the Trump presidency, it is highly likely that his policies will continue our negative trajectory.

As the Guardian recently reported, “Happiness in the US is declining and is expected to continue on a downward path, with Donald Trump’s policies forecast to deepen the country’s social crisis.”

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Hungry and Homeless in College

March 27, 2017 by Jim Miller

homeless college

By Jim Miller

Over the more than two decades I have spent teaching at the college level, the vast majority of that time at San Diego City College, I have seen a little bit of everything. From the homeless student sleeping in Balboa Park who ended up at USC to the single mother living in her car with her kids who still got every assignment in on time before transferring to SDSU, there have been far too many stories of triumphs against all odds for me to recount.

Along with those stories come sadder tales like the cab driver supporting his family who almost finished but got knocked out of the game by an unexpected financial challenge

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A Deeply Immoral Budget

March 20, 2017 by Jim Miller

budgetBy Jim Miller

They say that budgets are moral documents, and if that is the case, then the Trump administration just released the most immoral budget in the history of the United States.

While there are many things to condemn in Trump’s depraved plan, starting with the way it pays for a completely unnecessary, massive increase in funding for the military industrial complex by eviscerating programs that help the poor, fund education, and maintain the social fabric of the country, there is still something worse than all that contained within it.

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Where’s The Love? Dehumanization, American Style

March 13, 2017 by Jim Miller

dehumanizationBy Jim Miller

The last time I saw Hunter S. Thompson speak before he died, he threw out a good line about how in the post-AIDS world, the New Right began to flourish because people were afraid to touch each other.

And how Thompson mused, can we ever expect people to stand together in any other way when they are afraid to do that?

Now, years later, what seemed like a bit of insightful hyperbole appears to be backed up by social research.

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The National Democratic Party Is Missing in Action

March 6, 2017 by Jim Miller

DemocraticBy Jim Miller

Many progressives were upset after the national Democratic party leadership recruited Obama’s Labor Secretary Tom Perez to block Minnesota’s Keith Ellison in the race for DNC chair and even more dismayed when Ellison lost very narrowly in the second round of voting.

While Perez immediately made Ellison Deputy Chair and did what he could to foster unity, it was evident to numerous observers that putting in a guy who, despite a pretty solid record on policy, supported the TPP and clearly represented the interests of the Clinton wing of the party was a mistake.

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The Real Fake News

February 27, 2017 by Jim Miller

Fact-checking is a feeble response in a world where what we think we see and know is more important than the actual truth.

Fake News 1 and 2By Jim Miller

Donald Trump’s continued attacks on the American news media as “the enemy of the American people” have generated quite a stir in mainstream media circles as one might expect.

And surely there is good reason to be disturbed by this administration’s punitive stance towards the press.

But what virtually none of the analysis of Trump’s attacks on “fake news” or Steve Bannon’s assaults on what he calls “the corporatist global media,” which both he and the president label “the opposition,” note is the irony that while the new regime is attacking the power of the corporate media, they are also busy installing corporatists in nearly every position of power and pushing an agenda that is every right-wing billionaire’s wet dream.

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

February 20, 2017 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

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

As the Market Watch story on this new research outlined:

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

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Hiking as Resistance

February 13, 2017 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

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

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

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

February 6, 2017 by Jim Miller

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

By Jim Miller

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

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

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Feckless Democrats and Business Unionists Fail Early Trump Era Tests

January 30, 2017 by Jim Miller

Making Deals with the Devil

Feckless Democrats PoliticianBy Jim Miller

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

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

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My New Year’s Resolution for 2017: Abandon Hope

January 2, 2017 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

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

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

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

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Censored 2016: Underreported Stories of the Year

December 27, 2016 by Frank Gormlie
Thumbnail image for Censored 2016: Underreported Stories of the Year

By Jim Miller

Project CensoredIn my final column of 2015, I wrote about the most underreported story of the year according to Project Censored’s annual list: “2016 will be the year when half of the world’s wealth will be controlled by the top 1%.” After reporting the dismaying details of that story, I ended with the following analysis:

So putting this all together, we are just about to end a year where we learned that global plutocracy is becoming more and more firmly entrenched and that the beneficiaries of that very system are not just responsible for an immoral level of economic inequality and human suffering but also for speeding us toward an apocalyptic end to the climate crisis.

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Progressive Stocking Stuffers for the Impending Trump Era

December 19, 2016 by Jim Miller

A Handful of the Most Important and Interesting Books of 2016

By Jim Miller

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

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

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

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

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San Diego Labor Opposes Dakota Access Pipeline

December 12, 2016 by Jim Miller

nodapl02 DAPLBy Jim Miller

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

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

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

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

December 5, 2016 by Jim Miller

Unions vs Trump Presidency

By Jim Miller

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

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

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

November 28, 2016 by Jim Miller

California LaborBy Jim Miller

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

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

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Some Good Things Procrastinating Progressives Can Do Down Ballot

November 7, 2016 by Jim Miller

procrastinating -meter

By Jim Miller

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

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

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

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

October 10, 2016 by Jim Miller

San Diego County Photo Sustainable future

By Jim Miller / Jana Clark

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

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

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

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

October 3, 2016 by Jim Miller

California Labor

Here’s Part 1

By Jim Miller

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

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

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

September 19, 2016 by Jim Miller

mission-to-microchip-cover CaliforniaBy Jim Miller

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

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

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Obama’s Most Impressive Legacy? Preserving Wilderness

September 12, 2016 by Jim Miller

National Parks Wilderness

By Jim Miller

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

As the New York Times reported,

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

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Happy Labor Day, California Style

September 5, 2016 by Jim Miller

Labor Day Cardiff Kook

By Jim Miller

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

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

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

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