Under the Perfect Sun

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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Why We Need to Pass Proposition 55 in November 2016

August 22, 2016 by Jim Miller

brown prop 30

By Jim Miller

As many of us in education circles remember, before the passage of Proposition 30 in 2012, the funding situation for schools and colleges in California was dire.

The question was not IF there were going to be cuts, but rather, how large they would be and how much damage they would do to our students, our profession, and to the communities we serve.

But fortunately, in the wake of the Great Recession and the Occupy movement, the questions of economic inequality and social justice were in the air and we in the California Federation of Teachers, along with our community allies, were able to muster a successful campaign first for the Millionaire’s Tax and then for the passage of Proposition 30, the compromise measure that was forged with Governor Brown.

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Summer 2016 Chronicle 8: Walking With a Fiery Love

August 8, 2016 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

walking pathFor better or worse, I have always favored sacrificing money for owning as much of my time as possible, stealing it from those who would suppose my life was better spent doing their business or serving some purpose that someone has deemed to be more important than my petty little existence.

Because of this, I love to walk. Walking is free and fundamentally grounded in the world. When you walk unencumbered you are present and open. With each step you take, you are more alive.

Of course this is a Romantic notion with a capital “R,” but as I enter middle age, I find that nursing the part of myself that still knows how to dream is neither impractical nor immature. It is, in fact, crucial to staying alive rather than dying while I’m still breathing.

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Outside Spaces, Hacienda del Sol, Cocktails, and Eternity – 2016 Summer Chronicles 7

August 1, 2016 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

roadrunnerAs I noted last week in my reminiscence about my Ocean Beach hideaway, the contemplation of outside space is sometimes intensified when put in sharp contrast with a small inner space.

And the quality of immensity that comes with this is, à la Bachelard, a kind of meditation –

“Far from the immensities of sea and land, merely through memory, we can recapture, by means of meditation, the resonances of this contemplation of grandeur.”

So if the sea provides local access to immensity on the coast, the Anza Borrego Desert is the home of our immensity of land. Vast, varied, and full of wonder, the largest desert state park in the United States covers 600,000 acres from the Lagunas to the lowest point of the floor below sea level. While lovely during the periods of spring wildflower bloom, one might best experience the solitary heart of the desert during the peak of the scorching summer heat.

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Outside Spaces, the Bold Vista of Ocean Beach, and Other Wonders : 2016 Summer Chronicles 6

July 25, 2016 by Jim Miller

sunset in OBOne of the great pleasures of my life to date was having access, for a period of several years, to a dingy little studio by the sea in Ocean Beach.

It was so small that when you rolled out the futon, it took up the entire room. The kitchen was too tiny for a dinner table, the hot water frequently didn’t work in the bathroom, and the constant noise and pot smoke from the neighbors streamed through the cracked, paper-thin walls.

It was paradise.

The saving grace, no, the miracle, of this claustrophobic hovel was that you opened the door to the ocean and within a few steps you arrived at a disheveled patio full of rusty tables and moldy plastic chairs overlooking the cliffs and the pounding surf below. As with the dramatic difference between the cell-like studio and the big blue sea, on the patio, the juxtaposition of grit and grandeur was striking, and somehow perfect.

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The Spaces We Live In – 2016 Summer Chronicle 5

July 18, 2016 by Jim Miller

houseBy Jim Miller

Where we live is who we are. Surely, the country, state, city, and neighborhoods we occupy profoundly shape us, but does not the house craft our being in the most intimate of ways?

Gaston Bachelard observes in The Poetics of Space:

For our house is our corner of the world. As has often been said, it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word.”

Hence, the kind of space we choose to live in has a particularly profound impact on our identity. Bachelard again notes,

Thus the dream house must possess every virtue. However spacious, it must also be a cottage, a dove-cote, a nest, a chrysalis. Intimacy needs the heart of a nest.”

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Bush League Nation – 2016 Summer Chronicles 4

July 11, 2016 by Jim Miller

The Modesto Nuts. Now THAT's baseball!

By Jim Miller

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is in San Diego and despite the glaring lack of Padres on the team, many local and visiting fans will be taking in the pricey spectacle in all its corporate glory (confession: I will be there). With a huge Fan Fest, the Home Run Derby and the main event itself, San Diego will be baseball central for the week, at least on paper.

But if you really want to get to the heart of the game, I suggest you go bush league.

One of my favorite places to see a baseball game is in Arcata, California up in the Redwood Empire where the Humboldt Crabs have played in the same collegiate summer league since 1945.

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In the Dark Forest of the Self – 2016 Summer Chronicles #1

June 20, 2016 by Jim Miller

dark forestBy Jim Miller

Summer is here and it’s time to take a break from my usual column and stretch the form a little with some chronicles. As I explained last year, the chronicle is a literary genre born in Brazil:

In the summer of 1967, the great Brazilian writer, Clarice Lispector, began a seven-year stint as a writer for Jornal de Brasil [The Brazilian News] not as a reporter but as a writer of “chronicles,” a genre peculiar to Brazil.

As Giovanni Pontiero puts it in the preface to Selected Chrônicas, a chronicle, “allows poets and writers to address a wider readership on a vast range of topics and themes.

The general tone is one of greater freedom and intimacy than one finds in comparable articles or columns in the European or U.S. Press.”

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Dream Big: Why Voting for Sanders Still Matters, Despite the Electoral Math

May 31, 2016 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

bernie sanders big ideaWhat struck me the most about the recent Sanders rally in National City was how much the crowd embodied the notion of the beloved community.

As opposed to the corporate media caricature of Sanders’ supporters as a group of mostly angry, white “Bernie bros,” this huge gathering of over ten thousand people was diverse in age, gender, sexuality, race, and class.

It was also a kind, gentle crowd that fell silent when Sanders, in a moving gesture, stopped his speech when …

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On Dark Patches and Redemption

May 23, 2016 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for On Dark Patches and Redemption

By Jim Miller

Despite all our best efforts, things don’t always go the way we would hope. Sometimes we are stunned by the unexpected bad turn and left groping for answers.

Last week in my column about what motivated me to go on the March for California’s Future, I explained how the stories of my students inspired me:

As a community college professor at City College, I am particularly attuned to the painful realities of economic and racial inequality because I see the costs of poverty on a daily basis …

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