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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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‘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

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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

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‘Reclaiming Our Stories 2’: City Works Press Presents More Voices From Southeast San Diego

March 9, 2020 by Jim Miller

San Diego City College Release Events: Tuesday 3/10 at 12:45 in MS 140 and Wednesday 3/18 at 11:10 in MS 162

San Diego City Works Press is proud to announce the release of Reclaiming Our Stories 2.

Reclaiming Our Stories 2 is the sequel to San Diego City Works Press’s wildly successful Reclaiming Our Stories: Narratives of Identity, Resilience and Empowerment that went through multiple print runs. As editors Khalid (Paul) Alexander, Manuel Paul López, Darius Spearman, and Ebony Tyree put it in the introduction to this anthology, Reclaiming Our Stories 2 is in –

the tradition of a literature—beginning with the slave narrative—that counters hegemony and white supremacy. These stories offer a glimpse into the lives of real people in their own words; they put a human face to members of our communities who have been marginalized, labeled as criminals, and discarded by our society.

Most of the authors are first-generation college students who have all survived and continue their struggle to overcome the constant challenges of being Black, Brown, and poor in San Diego.

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3 Most Key Votes for San Diego’s Primary: Yes on ‘A’, Georgette Gomez and Bernie Sanders

March 2, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

March 3rd is primary day, and if you’ve been too busy to pay much attention, here, in my estimation, are the three most important things progressive San Diegans can do in tomorrow’s election:

Vote Against Sprawl and for Development that Will Help us Fight Climate Change in San Diego County, Vote Yes on A

As I wrote last fall about this measure, despite all the developer money and political muscle against it:

This much-needed measure will prevent sprawl by giving San Diego County residents a voice in how and where development happens in our region. If passed, it would require voter approval of changes to San Diego’s General Plan that would increase housing density in rural and semi-rural areas.

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Facts We Hate

February 24, 2020 by Jim Miller

In Our Moment of Profound Ecological Crisis and Historic Economic Inequality, Sanders is Our Best Hope for a Just and Sustainable Future

By Jim Miller

Last week in the midst of Trump’s revanchist frenzy and the “centrist” anxiety attack in progress that is the Democratic Presidential primary race, a small story in the Guardian noted the release of a statement by 23 former foreign ministers calling for urgent action on the climate crisis and the dramatic loss of biodiversity now in progress.

In advance of a meeting in Rome to begin negotiations on a Paris-style agreement on preserving the natural world, these international leaders starkly observed that, “Humanity sits on the precipice of irreversible loss of biodiversity and a climate crisis that imperils the future for our grandchildren and generations to come. The world must act boldly, and it must act now.”

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Will Georgette Gomez Cut through the Wall of Sara Jacobs’ Paid Ads or Will Jacobs Buy Her Way into Congress?

February 17, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Will Sara Jacobs Be Able to Buy Her Way into Congress or Will Georgette Gomez Cut through the Wall of Paid Advertisements?

If it seems like you can’t keep up with the depressing news about American politics or even try to escape it by watching something else without seeing a Sara Jacobs for Congress commercial, you aren’t crazy.

By this point in the election cycle, I find myself wanting to throw my shoe at the TV every time it tells me that teachers love Jacobs (even though they have endorsed Georgette Gomez) or that she wants to work across the aisle to solve problems (centrist pablum alert). It’s just that pervasive — so much so that the other candidates in the race are practically invisible.

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Bloomberg Isn’t Here to Save Our Democracy, He’s Part of What’s Wrong with It

February 10, 2020 by Jim Miller

by Jim Miller

After the Iowa debacle ended with an embarrassing mess that left Sanders and Buttigieg on top of the wreckage with Joe Biden struggling for air underneath it, a good number of corporate media pundits and panicked Democrats have been learning to love Mike Bloomberg.

Their lack of confidence in the inexperience of Mayor Pete, whose polling plummets once the primaries move to states with people who aren’t white, combined with their fear of a Democratic Socialist frontrunner has them pining for a billionaire savior.

With Trump riding high on his post-impeachment acquittal and the Democratic party not looking ready for prime time, many in establishment circles as well as fearful liberals terrified of the prospect of Trump’s re-election are finding solace in Bloomberg …

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Impeachment, the Centrist Delusion, and the Democratic Primary

February 3, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

If there is one thing the impeachment trial has taught us, it’s that anyone who thought there would be enough fair-minded Republicans to even allow witnesses to testify was painfully naïve. This whole thing was over before it started.

What are the lessons? Newsflash: the contemporary Republican party doesn’t care about bipartisanship or even truth or basic decency. If you are not on team Trump, their mission is defame and defeat you, pure and simple. In sum, reasonable NPR listening Democrats, your friends across the aisle mean you ill.

And none of this should come as even the slightest bit of a surprise as the hard-right, dark money forces that own the Republican party have been playing for keeps and winning for years.

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Union Density Continues to Decline: What Does this Mean for American Democracy?

January 27, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

If you’ve been paying attention to the news about labor over the last year or so, you’d think we were in an era of a resurgent union movement. We’ve seen a wave of inspiring, militant teachers’ strikes from West Virginia to Los Angeles along with a successful autoworkers’ strike against General Motors and lots of other signs of life from grocery workers’ actions to pushes for minimum wage increases across America. Unfortunately, the latest numbers on union membership paint a more disappointing picture.

As the Washington Post reported last week:

Union membership in the American workforce was down to 10.3 percent from 10.5 percent in 2018, according to statistics released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The continued slide shows how energy and momentum around the labor movement is not translating into equivalent growth for unions, whose memberships have fallen sharply as a percentage of the U.S. workforce over the past roughly 40 years. In 1983, unions represented about 1 out of 5 workers; now it’s 1 in 10 workers.

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This Martin Luther King Jr. Day Is Not a Day to Celebrate.

January 20, 2020 by Jim Miller

The United States at Present is an Affront to the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

By Jim Miller

With the election of Barack Obama, many hoped that the United States had finally taken a decisive step away from its racist past and was perhaps on the road to more fully embodying Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a truly democratic and racially and economically just America.

Sadly, only a few years after the end of Obama’s tenure, it’s clear that nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than bending the arc of history toward justice, it seems that the first black president’s two terms, politically moderate as they turned out to be, ironically did much to fuel the fire of white backlash and emboldened reactionary plutocrats to roll back the clock in a myriad of other ways as well.

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Looking Backwards: Taking Stock of the 10 Key Moments and Trends of the Last Decade

January 13, 2020 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

I took a week off from my soapbox for some holiday traveling and came home to a world on the brink of spiraling into a dangerous new global conflict. It wasn’t surprising.

In fact, crisis-all-the-time is our new normal, the zeitgeist of our era. While it would be easy to point to Trump as the central player in our increasingly overwrought national drama, the fact is that many of the trends that helped to shape the present preceded his presidency.

Thus, as we head into a new decade with the future on the line like it never has been before, it might be useful to consider some of the key moments of the last ten years along with the social, political, and economic forces that fostered them.

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Censored 2019: The Top 5 Most Under-Reported Stories of the Year

December 30, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Annually, Project Censored releases a list of the most under-reported stories of the year. In the past, their endeavor sometimes got pushback from defenders of the corporate media who claimed that their version of “censorship” was too loose or that it implied a corporate conspiracy that doesn’t exist. As I wrote in this space before, both of those criticisms fall flat.

Why?

Project Censored’s definition of censorship is a nuanced one:

We define Modern Censorship as the subtle yet constant and sophisticated manipulation of reality in our mass media outlets. On a daily basis, censorship refers to the intentional non-inclusion of a news story – or piece of a news story – based on anything other than a desire to tell the truth.

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Three Literary Stocking Gifts for Year Three of the Trump Era: Reading for Dark Times

December 23, 2019 by Jim Miller

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 (from local bookstores) to help them navigate our dark times is the next best thing.

Here are three notable political books of 2019 that flew further under the radar than they should have:

Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America
by Christopher Leonard.

Building on the excellent work done by Jane Mayer in Dark Money and Nancy MacLean in Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, Christopher Leonard outlines seven years of research into how the Kochtopus was born and grew into a nightmare for American democracy.

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