Vote Yes on Proposition 15: Ignore the Corporate Lies and Put Our Schools and Communities First

September 28, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

With the economic and budgetary crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are anxious about upcoming budget cuts at the state and local levels that will harm education and local services. It can be a helpless feeling waiting for the shoe to drop, but, in this case, with Proposition 15 on the ballot this November 3rd, there is something we can do about it—pass Prop 15 and bring billions of dollars of new, ongoing revenue into the system.

Proposition 15 will require that commercial property valued at more than $3 million be reassessed at fair market value every three years.

  • This closes a loophole that large corporations have used for decades to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes.
  • The richest 10% of corporate properties will provide 92% of the revenue.
  • Prop 15 specifically exempts all residential properties and agricultural land, maintaining full Prop 13 protections for homeowners, renters, and agriculture.

Thus, when opponents of Prop 15 talk about it raising property taxes on individual homeowners or crushing small businesses, they are simply lying. The truth is that huge corporate property owners who have been taking advantage of this loophole for years want to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. So corporate-funded ad campaigns are spewing falsehoods about Proposition 15 to protect the interest of companies like Chevron and the Disney Corporation.

Read the full article → 7 comments

The Billionaire Bonanza Amidst the Pandemic Exposes Greed and Political Cowardice in Washington, D.C. and California

September 21, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

As the bad news keeps rolling in for ordinary Americans with the pandemic dragging on with no real hope in sight for months at best, and any new economic relief stalled out in Congress with the Republican majority refusing to move on “blue state bailouts,” it is abundantly clear whose interests our leaders in Washington actually care about—not yours. Indeed, the wrecking crew in the White House and the Senate have never been more openly honest about their disdain for the well-being of the majority of Americans.

When it comes to emergency aid for the suffering, the response from the Republicans is resounding: F**** off and die.

Why should they be worried? 200,000 dead and counting? Big whoop. Their real base is doing just fine. As the Guardian reported last week, the rich have never had it better:

The already vast fortunes of America’s 643 billionaires have soared by an average of 29% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which has at the same time laid waste to tens of millions of jobs around the world.

Read the full article → 0 comments

The Great Dumpster Fire Of 2020: What Will Be Left Amidst the Ashes?

September 14, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

It’s that time again. The world is burning. The sky is hazy from smoke in the Southland, Bladerunner-orange over San Francisco, and a tenth of the state of Oregon is under evacuation.

I’ll try not to write the same column that I did last year during fire season.

Or the year before that.

Or the several years before that.

With the media screaming about these fires it finally seems that the “unprecedented” angle is having its last gasp. Gavin Newsom is sick of climate deniers, and the connection between the extreme heat and the fires seems to finally be unquestioned.

As I write this on a Friday afternoon, my friends and family in the Bay Area can’t leave their homes for fear of toxic air. Family in Portland are watching a megafire come their way.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Labor Day in the Midst of a National Crisis: Dreaming of a Just Recovery

September 7, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

This weekend we celebrate Labor Day, but how many of us have any idea where the holiday came from or what it celebrates?

The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5th, 1882 in New York City and was proposed by the Central Labor Union (CLU) at a time when American workers were struggling for basic rights such as the eight-hour day. The CLU moved the “workingman’s holiday” to the first Monday in September in 1883 and urged other unions to celebrate the date as well. The movement grew throughout the 1880s, along with the American labor movement itself with 23 states passing legislation recognizing Labor Day as a holiday. By 1894 Congress followed suit and Labor Day became a national holiday.

Read the full article → 0 comments

What Rough Beast Slouches Toward the White House to Be Reborn? Thoughts on the Contemporary Republican Party and the Future of America

August 31, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

It’s hard to know where to start. What did we learn from the GOP convention last week?

Nothing new.

We already recognize, to paraphrase Yeats, what rough beast is slouching toward the White House to be reborn. Other than heedless deregulation and reactionary white nationalism, Trump’s Republican party doesn’t actually stand for anything.

Of course those two things are of central importance for the shadow government of the radicalized rich who are the only real beneficiaries of the last four years

Read the full article → 4 comments

A Tale of Two Convention Weeks: Biden Acceptable Under the Circumstances?

August 24, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

As we gear up for the horror show that will be the Republican National Convention, a few thoughts on last week’s Democratic affair.

Those of us who, like me, think it is imperative to defeat Donald Trump in the upcoming election, breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday when Joe Biden delivered the speech of his lifetime and signaled that he might just see himself as a candidate on the cusp of a New Deal moment. Clearly, he is right to view the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent economic disaster as a moment of profound threat and opportunity.

Biden is similarly spot on to point to the climate crisis and what we need to do to address it

Read the full article → 2 comments

Going Back to School in the Midst of a Global Pandemic:  Fear, Loathing, and ‘Virtual’ Learning

August 17, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

It’s hard to imagine a worse way to start a school year, from top to bottom. As with his dreams of a glorious economic “reopening,” President Trump’s authoritarian fantasy of forcing the nation’s return to school has backfired in a big way, with polls everywhere showing a majority of parents and students unhappy with the idea of being bullied into the classroom whether that be in K-12 or higher education.

Also, it turns out, that many local school districts have refused to play along, listening to public health experts rather than the go-back-to-work-and-die crowd. In places where schools have reopened, we were immediately greeted with outbreaks of COVID-19.

Read the full article → 2 comments

What Should Post COVID-19 Crisis America Look Like?

August 10, 2020 by Jim Miller

The American Federation of Teachers Lays Out a Bold Vision of a Just Recovery as San Diego Green New Deal Alliance Launches

By Jim Miller

This summer I was proud to see that my national union, the American Federation of Teachers, was thinking big at its biennial convention in late July. Clearly, the activist spirit sweeping the country was in the (virtual) air.

Building on some of the work my brothers and sisters and I did here in San Diego along with others in our statewide union, the national AFT followed the lead of California and passed both a resolution endorsing the Green New Deal and a wide ranging call to move beyond the necessary but narrow bread and butter response we have seen from the national and local AFL-CIO to thinking comprehensively about how we should pivot and seize the opportunity that this crisis presents to build a better future.

The resolution in support of a Green New Deal calls on the 1.7 million members of the AFT

Read the full article → 0 comments

‘It’s Alright. We’re All Dying’: Summer Chronicles 2020 #7

August 3, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

“It’s alright. We’re all dying.”

This is the feeling I get while consuming American media and walking the streets of downtown San Diego in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. I said these words to myself the other day as I made my way around a pack of maskless tourists by the harbor, heedlessly ignoring any need to be concerned about their health or that of anyone else’s.

On this particular date, we were experiencing what was a record number of new COVID-19 cases but that was no reason to interfere with vacation nation. We’re all dying, but it’s alright.

That was the refrain in Michael Ventura’s classic 1980s essay, “Report from El Dorado,” where he brilliantly outlined American media’s schizophrenic character. As Ventura puts it:

Media keeps saying, “It’s all right” while being fixated upon the violent, the chaotic, and the terrifying. So the production of media becomes more and more schizoid, with two messages simultaneously being broadcast: “It’s all right. We’re dying. It’s all right. We’re all dying.” The other crucial message — “We’re dying” — runs right alongside “It’s all right.”

Read the full article → 0 comments

Baseball in the Summer of Dread: Summer Chronicles 2020 #6

July 27, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

The pandemic belongs to Swole Daddy. In case you missed it, Swole Daddy is the mascot of the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). He is, as his name aptly signals, the super buff cartoonish dinosaur who joins the cheerleaders on top of the dugout in the empty ballpark during games. Actually, his name is Sseri, but “Swole Daddy” took off on social media and it stuck.

“We love you, Sexy Dino,” the meme exclaims. Yes, a jacked dinosaur wearing a necklace is as good as it gets this year, really.

As FiveThirtyEight recently noted, statistically speaking, the NC Dinos may just be the best KBO team to ever take the field at this point in the season. That’s the kind of thing you learn if you take a few moments off from obsessively checking the daily polling and political punditry on the site and scroll over to their sports analysis. Here is where sports and politics meet: in the strange alchemy of the daily numbers. They create their own reality as they seek to document it. The tool of measurement grants an aura to that which can be quantified and reified.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Underneath the Flotsam of the World: Summer Chronicles 2020 #5

July 20, 2020 by Jim Miller

so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens

–“The Red Wheelbarrow,” William Carlos Williams

By Jim Miller

So much depends on the first step out of bed, the first sip of coffee, holding the morning silence for as long as you can. The chair where you sit, the angle of the morning light, letting the moment unfold on its own. Don’t look at the phone, don’t turn on the radio or TV, never start staring at screens. Morning is only morning when you own the time, when you wake up on your own terms and don’t give your day away before you’ve even started to live it.

Read the full article → 0 comments

The Deep Desert of Summer: Summer Chronicles 2020 #4

July 13, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Silence lives inside the heat. That’s the feeling you get when you drive to the desert and park your car by the side of the road to hike in the morning. You need to keep track of the time so you don’t hike so far that it hits 100 degrees before you return. Even if you don’t get lost, that kind of heat for too long is what makes the desert dangerous in the summer. So, you’re careful but you still go, out toward the hills on a warm morning.

The nice thing is that the further you get from the road, the more distant the sound of the occasional passing car or truck, although this time of year there aren’t many. Then there is nothing but the hum of insects and your feet on the rock and sand.

Step, step, step. One foot after the other in your own particular rhythm.

As you walk you go deep inside yourself even as you lose yourself in the vastness of blue sky and the bright sun flaring off the mountainside in the distance.

Read the full article → 0 comments

You Are Already Where You Want to Be: Summer Chronicles 2020 #3

July 6, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

You already are where you want to be. Forget the story in your head and the world of screens. Wake up at dawn and hit the street early before the masses crowd the sidewalks and go. Anywhere, everywhere, just walk. This is the ritual of the moment.

In my neighborhood, it means learning the landscape of yards — lush green garden boxes, forests of sunflowers, clusters of cacti on the edge of a canyon. Relearn how to look and listen, see the things you never see. What is most important is what happens to be there at the dead end of the unpaved alley.

Read the full article → 2 comments

Summer of the Black Veil: Summer Chronicles 2020 #2

June 29, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

It’s the summer of the black veil, and a good number of us are none-too-happy about it. While many understand it as a reasonable public health mandate that serves to protect others, and, in fact, makes it possible for us to be more in the world during a pandemic with less fear of doing potential harm, others see it as an instrument of oppression. Of course, the obvious explanation for this response is the facile politicization of masks in the service of Trumpism, but could there be something deeper going on as well?

If we go back to the 1917 flu pandemic, we know that anti-mask politics in the service of “freedom” were evident then even as many more people died than have at present, so there is a precedent for the current derangement. But perhaps, at another level, the fear of the mask speaks to a profound American aversion to any sort of emblem of isolation.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Summer Chronicles 2020 #1: Hope Is in the Streets

June 22, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Hope is in the streets. In the midst of a pandemic that brought an economic collapse during which a series of police murders inspired an international wave of protests, a new era is being imagined, one that would rise out of the ashes of a dying, corrupt order. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Yes, the ugliness is still very much with us in all its myriad forms, but amidst the teargas, rubber bullets, fascist tweets, and posturing, the young are demanding the impossible. What is wonderful about this is the fact that they don’t care what those who “know better” are telling them. They don’t care about what’s realistic or likely to move the needle in the November election. And they certainly don’t care whether you approve of their rhetoric and demands.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Hey California Democrats in Sacramento! Do the Right Thing and Tax the Billionaires

June 15, 2020 by Jim Miller

California Dems Need to Avoid Catastrophic Cuts to Education and Vital Social Services

By Jim Miller

The COVID-19 crisis and subsequent economic collapse along with the national uprising against police brutality and systemic racism have cast a glaring light on the nature of American inequality on the healthcare, criminal justice, and economic fronts. It has never been clearer that as most Americans struggle, the elite thrive. As a recent Forbes piece put it back in April, “Billionaires are Getting Richer During the COVID-19 Pandemic While Most Americans Suffer”:

According to the Institute for Policy Studies, billionaire wealth has boomed, while over 26 million people have filed for unemployment since mid-March. The percentage of taxes paid by billionaires has fallen 79% since 1980.

Read the full article → 1 comment

A Voice from the Frontlines of the George Floyd Protests – Interview with Khalid (Paul) Alexander of Pillars of the Community

June 8, 2020 by Jim Miller

Alexander Is the Founder and President of Pillars of the Community

By Jim Miller

As the activism and protests in response to the murder of George Floyd intensified both nationally and locally last week, I thought I would check in with my City College colleague and community activist Khalid (Paul) Alexander, whose work with Pillars of the Community (insert link: https://www.potcsd.org) puts him in the heart of the struggle to break down institutional racism in the criminal justice system and elsewhere in San Diego on a daily basis. Here he speaks to the work of his organization and the deep inequities Pillars of the Community is struggling to address.

Question: Tell me about Pillars of the Community? What kind of organization is it? What inspired you to found it? What kind of work do you do in the community?

Answer: Pillars of the Community is an organization dedicated to advocating for people who are negatively targeted by law enforcement. We do this advocacy through community building and policy work.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Some Thoughts on the Murder of George Floyd

June 1, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Watching Minneapolis burn and the country explode in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police in the midst of a global pandemic and subsequent economic depression that have both disproportionately harmed black and brown working-class folks was one of those moments that makes America’s brutality painfully clear — yet again.

In the same week that one of the Trump administration’s economic advisors caused a minor uproar by dehumanizingly referring to his fellow Americans as “human capital stock”, we see the President of the United States race past his nanosecond of concern for the Floyd killing to threaten protesters with “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Welcome to the United States of Disposable People.

Back in 2014 in the wake of the Michael Brown murder, I observed in this space that the dehumanization that makes racist police murders possible is linked to the economic system that reduces people to objects in the marketplace, and I quoted one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speeches that questioned our society as “an edifice which produces beggars”:

Read the full article → 1 comment

Remember the Dead this Memorial Day – and Fight for the Living

May 25, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

This Memorial Day it’s time we properly mourn the dead. In the midst of a pandemic that the President has told us is a war against an “invisible enemy,” we are, as of this writing, closing in on 100,000 American dead. But as we mourn the scores of our fellow Americans, who the President has called “warriors” in this grand battle, we need to also remember that most of them didn’t have to die.

Rather than inevitable losses, the tens of thousands of our fellow citizens who have passed in only a few months are unnecessary casualties. As the New York Times reported last week:

If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak, according to new estimates from Columbia University disease modelers.

Read the full article → 0 comments

The ‘Screen New Deal’? Disaster Capitalism Eyes the Education World in the Midst of the COVID-19 Crisis

May 18, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Very hard times are here for our schools and colleges. As expected, the California budget is a train wreck and social services and education will be losing billions of dollars for the coming year at least. To make matters worse, the Republicans in Congress want to starve the states in the midst of the building COVID-19 depression, but that’s just fine with the lords of the tech world. They’ll be turning lemons into extremely profitable lemonade in short order if they have their way.

In fact, NYU Business Professor Scott Galloway predicts in a New York Magazine interview that “the coming disruption” in higher education will enable a handful of elite cyborg universities to monopolize education as the top tier universities prosper and grow by offering vastly expanded online options under their brand, while “second tier colleges” slowly perish.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Empowering America to Death

May 11, 2020 by Jim Miller

The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Agenda is on Full Display

It’s easy to stay outraged these days, whether it’s reading about the COVID-19-infected leader of the “ReOpen NC” protests whining about her “rights” being violated by quarantine, the “COVID Mary” of Louisville being arrested after going to the grocery store while knowingly infected, or the knucklehead owner of the Orange County bar who defied state pandemic restrictions, opened up, and told the TV news that everyone would be OK because, “on a sunny day like this, I don’t feel like anybody’s at risk.”

At present, it appears there is an endless well of dangerous idiocy.

And when you watch the Trump Administration ignoring their own guidelines as White House aides get sick and the national response slides into a chaotic patchwork quilt of ineffective policies, one might just conclude that we are dealing with a tragic case of national incompetence.

Read the full article → 1 comment

‘Stay Classy San Diego’ and Other Sordid Tales of the Pandemic

May 4, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

The lunacy just keeps coming with the President’s corporate-funded brown shirts staging armed astroturf protests in Michigan and unarmed displays of batshit crazy elsewhere across the country, angrily agitating for an end to state governments’ oppressive attempts to keep more people from dying. Doug Porter ably outlined some of the key aspects of these festivals of hysteria and hate last week in his blog , [Ed.: here on the OB Rag as well] but I think what we are seeing is a phenomenon that is both a transparent bit of obscene political theatre and a manifestation of a much deeper pathology.

Back in the beginning of 2018, I observed in this space that the previous year had been a time of “generalized rage,” as Noam Chomsky aptly puts it. For Chomsky, the collapse of belief in American institutions of all sorts has produced a nihilistic disillusionment that has led to a generalized rage that effectively erodes all the bonds of solidarity

Read the full article → 4 comments

May 1st – A Day to Remember the Folks Who Brought You the 8-Hour Day

May 1, 2020 by Jim Miller

Originally posted April 29, 2019

By Jim Miller

The majority of Americans don’t know much about May Day or they simply associate it with the state sponsored holiday in the former Soviet Union. For the most part, it’s lost down the memory hole. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover a whole forgotten history of American workers and their struggle for basic dignity and rights in the workplace and in society.

The truth of the matter is 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

Republicans to America: Go Back to Work and Die

April 27, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

The battle is on in earnest. Last week, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said it out loud: drop dead blue states. More specifically, McConnell took a strong stand against providing any more financial relief to devastated states and local governments in the midst of a pandemic that has caused the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Instead, the Senate leader suggested, states should just consider bankruptcy.

In a moment of remarkable candor, McConnell outlined his view on a rightwing radio show. As the New York Times reported :

“I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated,” Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said in an interview with the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.”

Read the full article → 0 comments

San Diegans to Unite in Virtual Climate Uprising on 50th Anniversary of Earth Day – Wed., April 22

April 20, 2020 by Jim Miller

Wednesday, April 22nd from 12 noon to 7 pm

By Jim Miller

This week is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The first Earth Day in 1970 was born after United States Senator Gaylord Nelson witnessed the horrible damage caused by a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara and was moved to try to harness the energy of the student movements of the sixties by creating what he called “a national teach-in” on the environment.

Consequently, on April 22nd of 1970, 20 million Americans took part in the first Earth Day with groups that had been separately fighting for clean air and water, wildlife protections, and a host of other environmental causes coming together to make a national statement.

In the wake of the first Earth Day, the United States saw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air and Water Acts as well as the Endangered Species Act.

Read the full article → 0 comments

San Diego Green New Deal Alliance Calls for More Relief and a Just Recovery

April 13, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

For the last several months, a coalition of labor, community, and environmental groups have been meeting to help forge an alliance in support of a local version of the Green New Deal.

In the midst of this process, we have all been hit with the COVID-19 crisis, and, as we watched the disaster capitalists seeking to turn this dire moment into an opportunity to profit, we were moved to suggest a better way forward.

It is clear to many of us doing this work that the lack of preparedness by the federal government, the science denial, the inadequate response to the health and economic needs of everyday Americans, and the deep inequities that this crisis exposed foreshadow what will be an even more catastrophic failure if we are unable to marshal the will and resources necessary to address the coming climate crisis. We must do much better.

Read the full article → 2 comments

The Radical Uncertainty of Now: Love in the Time of Pandemic

April 6, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

When everything is disrupted and normal routine falls apart, sometimes we are able to see things more clearly. In the midst of this pandemic, what I am reminded of is the fundamentally transitory nature of everything that is. Of course, at base, what a plague rudely brings to the forefront of one’s consciousness is that death is our final appointment. No matter what we do, however much money we make or recognition we receive, in the end, we are just dust.

Ancient wisdom traditions have known this for a long time. As one Buddhist formulation puts it:

I am subject to aging. There is no way to avoid aging.

I am subject to ill health. There is no way to avoid illness.

Read the full article → 0 comments

In the Midst of this Disastrous Failure of Public Policy – ‘There Should Be Shame’

March 30, 2020 by Jim Miller

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is Right

By Jim Miller

Last week in the lead up to the passage of the massive stimulus bill by Congress, I argued that “Whichever package emerges today from the Congress will not be nearly enough to help the majority of Americans weather this crisis. Trump’s hesitance to use the tools of government to take more effective collective action is a predictable product of thirty years of rightwing ideological assault against not just ‘big government,’ but the government period.”

Read the full article → 5 comments

Enter the Disaster Capitalists

March 23, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

We’ve seen this before: crisis as opportunity. Whether it be the ways the right-wing and corporate America took advantage of 9/11 to shape economic policy and the political landscape in their favor, the shameless opportunism in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, or the host of other ways that American society has been transformed for the worse by the power elite over the last few decades.

Here we go again.

As Naomi Klein commented last week :

Look, we know this script. In 2008, the last time we had a global financial meltdown, the same kinds of bad ideas for no-strings-attached corporate bailouts carried the day, and regular people around the world paid the price. And even that was entirely predictable.

Read the full article → 6 comments

American Fecklessness in the Time of Pandemic

March 16, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

After waiting a week for California’s and San Diego’s glacial election returns, I had planned to write a post-election column. Then the COVID-19 pandemic got real and everything changed. As a professor at San Diego City College and as the father of a high school student, I was thrust into the chaos that “social distancing” brings to educational institutions and family.

In between planning for teaching virtually for three weeks (or perhaps the rest of the semester) and dealing with the contradictory stew of confusion, panic, fear, hostility, sadness, as well as with the personal courage, compassion, and community solidarity that arose all around me, I talked to friends and family who were slow to respond and watched their retirement and/or college funds collapse before they had time to act as the stock market went on its manic roller coaster ride.

Poof! the markets were gutted. Would they come back in time? Nobody knows.

As for my working-class students, mostly of color, the scary thing was not the stock market, but their lack of healthcare and their need to work

Read the full article → 5 comments