Under the Perfect Sun

Donna Brazile Is Still Right: the Culture of the Democratic Party Needs to Change

November 13, 2017 by Jim Miller

Last week brought welcome news for those of us looking for some light at the end of the tunnel as we close in on the first year of the Trump era when voters repudiated Republican rule by handing resounding victories to Democrats in Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere around the country.

While this is clearly a morale booster for beleaguered progressives, let’s hope that it does not stop folks from continuing to ask the hard questions that need to be answered if we truly want to change the course of the country from the dangerous path we are on.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Education in the Trump Era: Bad for Your Mental Health

November 6, 2017 by Jim Miller
Graphic illustration resembling neural network filled with cognition related words

Fear and loathing in the classroom? Not exactly, but things aren’t that great either. According to a new study released last week by my union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the advocacy group the Badass Teachers Association (BAT), educators are feeling significantly more stressed these days.

As Education Week reports, “The survey found that educators find work to be stressful 61 percent of the time—and nearly a quarter of respondents said work was ‘always’ stressful. Meanwhile, workers in the general population report that work is stressful 30 percent of the time.”

Read the full article → 0 comments

Republicans Try to Squelch Nathan Fletcher’s Bid for San Diego Supervisor With Jim Miller’s Old Quotes

October 30, 2017 by Jim Miller

 

By Jim Miller

Will Nathan Fletcher ride in on a magic carpet to the Board of Supervisors?

Tomorrow is Halloween. Are we in for something scary?

Not really.

While the vast majority of people in San Diego are not paying the least bit of attention to local races heading into 2018, there has been quite a bit of petty drama surrounding the San Diego Board of Supervisors District 4 race in recent weeks.

It appears that local Republican operatives have decided to kill Nathan Fletcher’s most recent political aspirations

Read the full article → 0 comments

Mel Freilicher’s ‘American Cream’: Rewriting the Radical Past to Redeem the Future

October 23, 2017 by Jim Miller

Mining the Heart of the American Left to Address Today’s Bleak Realpolitik

Mel Freilicher will be reading and discussing “American Cream” in San Diego City Works Press’ Release Event at Verbatim Books, located at 3793 30th Street in North Park, on Friday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m.

Longtime San Diego resident, writer, educator, and activist Mel Freilicher was the editor of the regional literary journal Crawl Out Your Window for 15 years and taught at San Diego State and in UCSD’s literature department for several decades. In addition to this, Mel has published in a wide range of publications and anthologies including two chapbooks on Standing Stone Press and Obscure Publications.

Read the full article → 0 comments

The New Democrats Crab-Walking with the Radical Right, San Diego Style

October 16, 2017 by Jim Miller

Last week in the second part of my review of Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America,” I noted how the complicity of neoliberal Democrats with the aims of the Right is one of the reasons why fighting the Koch brothers of the world has been so difficult.

Thinking they are reasonably compromising or engaging in a savvy war of position, these Democrats are instead simply crab walking us over a cliff.

Read the full article → 1 comment

Democracy in Chains: Crab-Walking Our Way Over a Cliff — Part II

October 9, 2017 by Jim Miller

Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America is disturbing reading. Last week, I outlined how she exposes the missing link of the Right’s plan to “save capitalism from democracy—permanently.” As centrally important as it is to understand that basic premise of the Right’s agenda, it is equally valuable for progressives to learn precisely how and why that is the case and what, ultimately, the end-game looks like.

Read the full article → 1 comment

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America – Part I

October 2, 2017 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America” is the single most important new book for progressives to read this year if they want to understand how we got to the dark moment of the present.

As I noted in my recent column on the right-wing assault on public sector unions, MacLean takes us to the roots of the current crisis via an intellectual history of James McGill Buchanan, the thinker whose work, more than anyone else’s, informs the machinations of the Kochtopus, that shadowy network of interlinked billionaire-funded right-wing think tanks driving American politics.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Lessons from Naomi Klein: Learning How to Resist Trump’s Shock Politics

September 25, 2017 by Jim Miller

Part Two

Last week, I discussed what I see as the first central lesson of Naomi Klein’s new book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need—that Donald Trump represents nothing new in American politics but rather, is the logical extension of decades of terrible ideas and policies. Today I’ll focus on the second key lesson of Klein’s work.

Neoliberal Incrementalism Brought to You by Democrats Is Not Enough

Read the full article → 0 comments

Learning How to Resist Trump’s Shock Politics

September 18, 2017 by Jim Miller

Lessons from Naomi Klein – Part One

Last week at the San Diego Free Press, Sharon Carr provided a nice overview of Naomi Klein’s new book No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. These next two weeks, I’d like to follow up Ms. Carr’s good work by underlining what I see to be the two central insights in Klein’s book and why they matter.

In essence, Klein’s book is centered on two key points: 1) Despite all the drama and spectacle, Trump is nothing new; and 2) Neoliberal incrementalism is a dead end and we require bolder vision and practice to win the world we need. This week, we’ll consider the first proposition.

Read the full article → 0 comments

The War on Public Sector Unions Is a War on Progressive Politics and Democracy Itself

September 11, 2017 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

As the Trump circus keeps people focused on daily scandals along with assaults on immigrants, transgender folks, and a myriad of other battles, the right is busy trying to quietly win the long war. Last week in my Labor Day column, I noted how the upcoming Janus v. AFSCME decision will help make it possible to gut public sector unions and the labor movement as a whole in order to change the power structure of the entire country and rig American politics in favor of the interests of the rich and our corporate oligarchy.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Higher Education and the American Political Imagination

August 21, 2017 by Jim Miller

As I enter my thirtieth year as a professor at a public college of one kind or another, I’m used to the constant political fray that comes with being in the middle of funding battles, debates about education reform, and the culture wars, but this may be the first time in my long career that I have begun a new semester with the knowledge that a large number of Americans no longer see higher education as a public good.

Over the summer, the Pew Research Center released an interesting poll that helps explain where we are at this political and cultural moment in America. The survey revealed that most Republicans now believe that institutions of higher education have an adverse effect on the United States.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Beauty in the Age of the Anthropocene: Summer Chronicles #6

August 14, 2017 by Jim Miller

We live in a world of profound beauty and horror. One can turn on the news and view famine, war, and terror attacks and then stroll down the street to the park and revel in a glorious summer day.

Of course, it must be said that this is evidence of our privilege as citizens of the first world nation where we live in relative comfort compared to our fellow humans and across the globe, millions of whom don’t have enough to eat or have been forced to flee their homes due to circumstances beyond their control.

Here in San Diego, our own homeless are

Read the full article → 0 comments

Summer Chronicles #5: Two Conversations

August 7, 2017 by Jim Miller

Two recent conversations that stayed with me for some reason.

One was with a man who told me that he knew what it was like to feel so empty that the fragile construct that was him, his identity, could fall apart at any moment. He knew this, of course, because that is what happened to him. He had a breakdown; he broke down and the pieces of him fell off, down on the ground all around him — inexplicable shards of what used to be that thing he called himself.

It is remarkable when someone tells you such a thing. I was struck by the courage of the confession and also by the rawness of the moment, the trembling intensity that accompanied the admission and the heightened anticipation of what I don’t know.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Summer Chronicles #4: Crossing Coronado Ferry

July 31, 2017 by Jim Miller

One of the great pleasures of San Diego in the summer is joining the gaggle of tourists and bike riders for the short trip across the bay from downtown to Coronado.

Like Allen Ginsberg who, in his poem “A Supermarket in California,” touches on Walt Whitman’s book and feels absurd–but wanders through the aisles dreaming nonetheless—I stand in line with young couples holding hands and whole families grinning and gabbing in the midday sun and muse about that which connects us all without our knowing it.

Read the full article → 3 comments

The Utopia of the Next Moment: Summer Chronicles # 3

July 24, 2017 by Jim Miller

What would we do without wishful thinking?

Not much apparently. According to some of the most recent science on the way our brains work, the Zen Buddhists and psychoanalysts are up against it. No matter how much we try to focus on the present, we’ll be pulled away by the Utopia of the next moment.

As a New York Times piece on some of the most recent science of the brain explained:

[I]t is increasingly clear that the mind is mainly drawn to the future, not driven by the past. Behavior, memory and perception can’t be understood without appreciating the central role of prospection. We learn not by storing static records but by continually retouching memories and imagining future possibilities. Our brain sees the world not by processing every pixel in a scene but by focusing on the unexpected.

Read the full article → 0 comments

The Wilderness of Silence : Summer Chronicles #2

July 17, 2017 by Jim Miller

Our noise is everywhere. Just try to sit for a moment in your house and experience a moment without some kind of artificial noise, whether it be passing traffic, the sound of your neighbor’s television or stereo or the now nearly ever-present buzzing of somebody’s ear buds.

But let’s say you want to head out beyond the sprawling reach of the homogenous exurban landscape, past even the glow of the Walmart on the edge of Small Town, Anywhere to what is left of the great American wilderness.

Any peace there?

Apparently not, according to the most recent research on our never-ending din.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Summer Chronicles #1: When Things Fall Apart

July 10, 2017 by 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 when I started this summer series a couple of years ago, 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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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 …

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.”

Read the full article → 0 comments

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

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 0 comments

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.

Read the full article → 6 comments