Under the Perfect Sun

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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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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Kevin Faulconer’s War on the Poor

August 11, 2014 by Jim Miller

war on the poor2By Jim Miller

Despite the fact that 63% of San Diegans support raising the wage, Mayor Faulconer vetoed San Diego’s minimum wage ordinance, definitively proving that he is more loyal to local plutocrats than to the people of the city, particularly those who work hard for very little.

Yes, with a stroke of the pen, Kevin Faulconer denied a raise to 172,000 people and took away earned sick days for even more local workers, a move that disproportionately affects women and people of color. Just as one could begin to feel good about the fact that our city did the right thing and stood up for those of our friends and neighbors who are most in need of a hand up, Mayor Faulconer struck them down.

When it was time to love his neighbors, he slammed the door in their faces. Rather than living with a more than reasonable compromise that will help rather than harm the local economy, he chose to declare war on the poor instead.

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Lessons for a New Gilded Age: Labor Studies Courses at City College

July 28, 2014 by Source

history-labor-unionsBy Kelly Mayhew

There’s been a lot of discussion of economic inequality recently in wake of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

As many economists have observed, American workers are more educated and more productive than ever and are driving record profits for corporations while they’re seeing their wages stagnate or decline as the wealth accumulated by the top 1% of earners has skyrocketed. Robert Reich has been on a crusade to emphasize the historic importance of our current economic inequality crisis, and people like Paul Krugman have noted that we are living in “a new gilded age.”

Here in San Diego we are in the midst of seeing this writ large as the battle to raise the minimum wage rages on with a community-labor alliance advocating for the rights of low-wage workers while the city’s economic elite push back hard.

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After the Minimum Wage Win: the Battle Continues

July 21, 2014 by Jim Miller

Closeup of business people standingBy Jim Miller

San Diego’s progressive community got a well deserved shout-out last week in the national media with The Nation praising the good work of our city’s “expanding progressive base.”

More specifically, the article noted that the local movement to raise the minimum wage was comprised of many of the same folks who formed the community-labor alliance behind the David Alvarez mayoral campaign:

That coalition, Raise Up San Diego, includes the Center for Policy Initiatives as well as labor unions, immigrant rights groups and service providers.

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What Kind of City Is San Diego? It’s Time to Raise the Minimum Wage

July 14, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

raise min wageThe San Diego City Council will consider today whether to pass an ordinance or put forth a ballot measure to increase the city’s minimum wage and provide earned sick days for local workers.

Since the last time I wrote on this subject in late April, the original proposal of raising the minimum wage to the local Self-Sufficiency Standard of $13.09 with five earned sick days has been significantly lowered in order to address the concerns of opponents.

The current proposal keeps the initial five earned sick days but now only raises the minimum wage to $9.75 in 2015 …

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What the Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn Decision Means for Workers and American Democracy

July 7, 2014 by Jim Miller

David Sachs/SEIU via Equal Times

By Jim Miller

After last week’s slew of bad Supreme Court rulings much of the media attention rightfully went to the horrendous “Hobby Lobby” case where the rights of corporations were deemed more important than the rights of women.

But there was another big decision where the Supreme Court surprised some observers and ruled narrowly on Harris v. Quinn, the case which could have gutted public sector unions and virtually wiped out their ability to play in American politics by ending all public sector unions’ ability to collect agency fees. As the Daily Kos noted of the case:

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San Diego Grit: Remembering Tony Gwynn

June 23, 2014 by Jim Miller

IMG_20140619_142336_131By Jim Miller

Tony Gwynn died last week and it stopped me. In part it was because he died too soon at 54, only four years older than me and many of my friends who grew up watching and admiring his skill as a player. As is always the case when someone who has been a part of your collective experience goes, there is a new hole in your life, that sense that something’s missing that won’t come back except as a ghost, a haunting memory.

But it was more than that. With the death of Gwynn, San Diego lost the last of his kind, a Southern California product who went to school at SDSU, came up with the Padres, and stayed here for his entire career, …

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What’s Wrong with the Recent Court Decision for Teachers

June 16, 2014 by Jim Miller

BlueRobot / Foter / Creative Commons AttributionBy Jim Miller and Kelly Mayhew

Last week’s decision in the Vergara v. the State of California lawsuit that undermined tenure and seniority rights was a profound slap in the face to teachers who have committed their careers to improving the lives of our children. It was yet another significant victory for those who are seeking to impose corporate education reforms by pitting teachers against children in a cynical, destructive, and utterly counterproductive fashion.

As tenured professors in the community college system, union members, and parents of a child in California’s public school system, we have a unique perspective on this matter. …

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June Gloom: Inequality for All, Really

June 9, 2014 by Jim Miller

plutomoney-470x219By Jim Miller

“When you skip voting it’s not rebellion, it’s surrender.”

That was the apt Facebook meme doing the rounds last week after a brutal primary election where a pathetically low turnout led to a very good night for Republicans and the corporate interests they represent. Of course this was not at all unexpected as June primaries have always been lethargic affairs, but this one was even more embarrassing.

Indeed, with labor significantly depleted after losing a big mayoral special election and fractured local Democrats still reeling, the right saw an opportunity to go for the kill and they did, outspending the Democrats in nearly every race and burying the community of Barrio Logan under a mountain of corporate-funded bullshit.

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Five Reasons to Vote on June 3rd

June 2, 2014 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for Five Reasons to Vote on June 3rd

By Jim Miller

What if they had an election and nobody came?

That’s the feel that this June’s primary has to it and, after a nasty and seemingly unrelenting political year from the Filner scandal on, it’s understandable that folks are burned out and/or disgusted enough to stay home.

Nevertheless, while most San Diegans are meeting tomorrow’s election with a collective shrug, there are a number of things at stake that will affect our lives and the future of our local and statewide democracy in important ways.

Here are a few key areas that should motivate progressives to get to the polls: jpallan via flickr

1) The balance of power in the city is at stake.

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San Diego City Works Press Calls for Submissions for Its Anthology – “Sunshine/Noir II” – Writings from San Diego and Tijuana

May 27, 2014 by Jim Miller

SDCWPBy Jim Miller

San Diego City Works Press is soon approaching its 10-year anniversary. SDCWP is run by a 100% non-profit collective and is the only small literary press in San Diego that focuses primarily on the publication of local writers with an emphasis on our region that moves beyond the postcard version of our reality.

In an era where commercial forces and hegemonic instrumentality are drowning out what remains of literary culture, we have persisted against the odds. We invite all interested parties to be a part of our beautifully useless endeavor.

To celebrate our anniversary, we are putting together a second edition of our first anthology, Sunshine/Noir II. All local writers are encouraged to submit work for consideration.

See the relevant details inside:

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What’s at Stake With Propositions B and C?

May 12, 2014 by Jim Miller

“Everyone who wants to preserve community control over the planning process should be afraid because your community will be next!” –Georgette Gomez, Associate Director of the Environmental Health Coalition

EHC SpeakerBy Jim Miller

As we head toward the June 3rd election, the same corporate interests who spent big money to fund a petition drive based on lies to force a vote on the Barrio Logan Community Plan are now funding an equally dishonest campaign to defeat it.

As the San Diego Reader recently noted, the No on B and C Campaign’s sleazy tactics include teaming former mayor and current corporate front man Jerry Sanders up with a “crooked ex-admiral” to repeat the same bald-faced lies about how the Barrio Logan Community Plan will kill jobs and drive the Navy out of San Diego.

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Remember the Folks Who Brought You the 8-Hour Day?

May 5, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

8hours1Last week, May Day came and went and, while there was a small march downtown, most people barely noticed. 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.

As historian Jacob Remes reminds us:

The demand for an eight-hour day was about leisure, self-improvement and freedom, but it was also about power. When Eight Hour Leagues agitated for legislation requiring short hours, they were demanding what had never before happened: that the government regulate industry for the advantage of workers.

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Raise Up San Diego – Do the Right Thing About the Minimum Wage

April 28, 2014 by Jim Miller

raiseuplogoBy Jim Miller

These are still tough times for most working people in the United States. We are in the midst of a new Gilded Age of historic economic inequality. The rich are carving out a bigger slice of the pie at the expense of nearly everyone else in America. As I noted in my column last week, corporate profits are at their highest level in 85 years and employee compensation is at the lowest level it has been in 65 years.

And this is happening despite the fact that the average American worker is more educated and more productive than ever before. The result of all this is a declining middle class, economic instability, and the hijacking of our democracy by moneyed interests.

Here in San Diego, we have one of the highest costs of living in the United States, ….

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Zen and the Art of Baseball

March 31, 2014 by Jim Miller

IMG_4475By Jim Miller

It’s spring and opening week is here and that makes me very happy. Baseball helps me live. It’s perhaps the best American manifestation of the kind of daily ritual that enables us to achieve a small portion of the balance and harmony we need to provide ballast against the chaos of the world.

Whether it’s playing the game or simply contemplating it, baseball provides one with precisely the kind of focused yet purposeless activity that can take you out to the ballgame and into the heart of the moment.

It’s the stillness at the heart of the game that I love, the empty space out of which motion and grace emerge–the pregnant nothing that gives birth to the artful something. And baseball, like art, is gorgeously useless and inefficiently slow.

Perhaps that slowness is why baseball has given ground to the more brutal, time-driven, managerially efficient game of football. We go from the Taylorized, competitive realm of the corporate world to a gladiatorial weekend on the gridiron that celebrates many of the same values.

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Notes from the Class War: Killing “The Year of the Populist” in the Crib?

March 24, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

democratic-party-where-are-youRecently, in “Neoliberalism and Its Discontents: What’s Left Beyond More Impoverished Choices?”, I continued my analysis of the national debate that followed the publication of Adolph Reed’s sharp criticism of what qualifies as the “left” in the contemporary American political landscape.

After that column was posted, Reed wrote yet another piece in American Prospect, this time responding to Harold Meyerson’s dismissal of his call for a left less tethered to a Democratic Party increasingly colonized by Wall Street and other corporate interests.

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What’s Left: Surrender or Resurgence?

March 3, 2014 by Jim Miller

education01By Jim Miller

Just when you thought the Obama administration’s education policy couldn’t get any worse, it did.

Last week Obama nominated founder and CEO of New Schools, Ted Mitchell, to the second highest post at the Department of Education.

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The “Alvarez Effect” and the Future of San Diego

February 17, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Alvarez14DNobody thought this was going to be easy.

Back in July, at the height of the Filner debacle, I predicted a dire outcome, noting that “in a recall or special election in an off year, the electorate is guaranteed to be more conservative and definitely not favorable” for a progressive replacing Bob Filner because, “Faulconer would have a huge fundraising advantage garnering support from all the usual suspects downtown and benefit from an energized base geared up to hand it to the liberals, unions, minorities, and other foul ‘special interest groups’ that they’ll blame for bringing us the evil that was Bob Filner. With the Democrats dispirited, humiliated and divided, it might not even be much of a fight.”

As it turned out, David Alvarez stepped up and offered progressives hope, and the labor movement surprised everyone by actually being able to raise more money than the Faulconer forces. Sadly, on Tuesday, many of us were crying in our beer instead.

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In the Battle for the Soul of San Diego David Alvarez Stands for All of Us

February 10, 2014 by Jim Miller

1658660_769012429793127_570456494_oBy Jim Miller

San Diego is on the national stage again.

As the final week of the dead heat mayoral showdown unfolded, Politico reported on “the battle for San Diego,” the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters pondered whether the race would be a harbinger of things to come in California politics, and the New York Times covered “a battle of ideology in a city unaccustomed to that sort of election,” astutely noting, as I did here at the San Diego Free Press during the primary, that this contest is “a test of whether yet another big-city Democrat can be elected by riding a wave of populism, much as Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York did last fall.”

And that test is happening because last November David Alvarez defied the pundits and political insiders and beat the prohibitive favorite, Nathan Fletcher, in the race to face Kevin Faulconer in the run-off to be San Diego’s next mayor. This was a seminal moment for San Diego—perhaps the biggest political upset in the history of the city.

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Mayoral Race Polling, Pensions, and Plutocracy

January 27, 2014 by Jim Miller

yo voteBy Jim Miller

Last week a new poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) funded by the Democratic Party came out that showed the race to become San Diego’s next mayor a dead heat with Alvarez at 46% and Faulconer just behind with 45%.

In another poll, Latino Decisions and the Latino Victory Project appraised Latino voters on the race and got radically different results than both the earlier Survey USA/UT-SD poll, a Republican Party poll , and the more recent PPP effort showing that Alvarez leads 75%-10% among Latino voters.

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David Alvarez is the Living Embodiment of King’s Dream; Faulconer, Its Antithesis

January 20, 2014 by Jim Miller

mlk basic incomeBy Jim Miller

This year our ritual celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes in the midst of a contentious mayoral election. And while some might try to bracket this year’s remembrance off from the ugly fray, that would be a mistake. As I noted in an earlier column on this subject, remembering “a sanitized version of King as a vanilla saint who called on us to just move beyond our differences does a disservice to him and his legacy” because “[o]ur collective remembrance of MLK is most useful when it troubles us.”

And King would be deeply troubled to see where we are today nationally and locally. Yes, the man who said, “one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring” would be profoundly disturbed by the fact that we are living in an era of historic economic inequality.

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Kevin Faulconer, Man of the People?

January 13, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Meet Kevin Faulconer, man of the people. He’s running glossy commercials about how he’ll be “a mayor for all of us” and talking as if he’ll be the guy who will focus on neighborhoods that “have been under-served by this city for too long.”

His website and ballot statement have been scrubbed of any unpleasant reminders that he is a Republican backed by San Diego’s traditional power brokers, and he just can’t stop reminding us that there is “no such thing as a Democratic or Republican pothole.”

Like the Republicans at the national level who have decided that they can claim poverty as an issue while refusing to raise the minimum wage, extend unemployment benefits, or stop cutting services to the poor, Faulconer seems to think ….

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