Columns

On the Corner of Rhythm and Rhyme

March 31, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

To ease my mind in my isolation from humankind, I’ve been basking in memories of better times in my life and I don’t recall ever having more fun than I had at the San Diego Fringe Festival in 2014 – narrating “On the Corner of Rhythm and Rhyme” as a brilliant company of tap dancers, the California Rhythm Project, brought my words to life as they danced to my vocalizing and, in-between some lines, tapped to music, then back to my poetry, in an urban streetscape setting, kicking it off with:

There’s a corner
unlike any other corner
you could ever
conceive in your mind.
The Corner of Rhythm and Rhyme.
And it’s just that, rhythm and rhyme,
big time,
cuz, when your feet
step on the concrete
on the Corner of Rhythm and Rhyme,

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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.” Instead of band aids, I noted, “the only effective answer is massive government action and spending on things that will help protect the health of Americans and save them economically in a bottom up fashion.”

Of course, what we got from Congress was bailouts and band aids,

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Living Through a Real Nightmare Everyday

March 26, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Had a fright
in my sleep
the other night,
dreaming one of those dreams
where you’re
fighting for your life
but you can’t move
or scream
and suddenly you
spring to
an up position in your bed,
saying to yourself,
in relief,
“Oh, thank goodness
that was a dream.”

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Are We Engaging in Social Change? 

March 23, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

This COVID-19 thing
is so far beyond
anything I’ve ever seen,
disease-wise,
and I’ve
been around a
health scare or two,
born to a mother
who, because she
had lost a lung to TB,
raised me
to practically seek cover
when someone coughs
or happens to sneeze,
to not, for goodness sake,
ever eat off somebody’s plate
or take a sip of their soda or shake…

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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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No Hunches, Please, as We Fight a Dreadful Disease

March 17, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

One never knows what life
might bring,
like this coronavirus thing,
a deadly disease
that has rolled up its sleeves
and got people shaking at their knees
afraid of themselves
if they cough or sneeze,
hording toilet tissue
as if it’s the answer
to being at ease

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In a Black History State of Mind in the Time of Virus

March 16, 2020 by Ernie McCray

(With a Little Help from Coretta Scott King)

by Ernie McCray

I had a very nice time, a little while ago, on an exceptionally lovely Saturday afternoon at “A Gospel Brunch” at the Educational Cultural Complex, “ECC” – a place that means a lot to me, personally.

We were there to celebrate Coretta Scott King and her contributions to keeping Martin’s dream, for social justice and inclusion for all, alive.

I arrived in a Black History state of mind, playing in my mind, some of the wonderful experiences I’ve had at ECC, acting on the stage, a wonderful space that will be renovated from part of the proceeds from the day, or addressing a class or reading my poetry and attending special occasions like on this day.

I kind of felt that I was in a fantasy world, in a way, sitting among so many friendly smiling faces, enjoying a mimosa and some down home southern cooking – just appreciating, for one thing, that for three days in a row, I had been to ceremonies where San Diego Black History was being kept very much alive – beyond February.

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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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What is the Change the Democratic Party Wishes to See?

March 4, 2020 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I look at the Democratic Party and I just have to shake my head – for how it holds back from doing truly great things.

But I happen to be a democrat. And that’s not because of the party itself, but because of my experiences with so many individual democrats over the years.

I mean they’ve been in the vast majority of people whom I’ve marched with, in my activism, carrying signs ranging from “Free Huey!” to “Give Peace a Chance,” chanting questions about what we wanted and when we wanted it, with the answer always being: “Now!”

Democrats are my peeps. But the Democratic Party? That’s a whole other thing.

The democrats I’ve been in the streets with are both dreamers and doers, folks who really adhere to Mahatma Gandhi’s hope inspiring point-of-view that “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

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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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Citizens Born Here Whom We Should Hold Dear

February 21, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

The very words,
Muslim
and Islam,
conjure in some minds
visions of violence
and terrorism,
an archaic people
wishing hell and damnation
in the form of a jihad
upon our nation.

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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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Seeing and Hearing Evil and Speaking to What We See and Hear         

February 4, 2020 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I look at my country aghast,
as a president
who’s barren of
any sense of morality
makes a mockery
of our Constitution
and our democracy,
crippling concepts of justice
and liberty
just as sure as he breathes,
while our republican senators,
spineless
without integrity,
irresponsibly
turn a blind eye to his sins
like the iconic three monkeys
who see no evil,
hear no evil
and speak no evil,

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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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Responding to Greta in a Different Way

December 24, 2019 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old Swedish girl, travels across the Atlantic Ocean to Lower Manhattan, in a sailboat, to save our world from the deadly forces of climate change.

For such a risk-taking endeavor she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”

And our president, instead of offering her a High-Five, gets up at five and tweets that this wonderful girl is ridiculous and angry and needs to go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend and “Chill.”

Say what?

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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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Thoughts of My Generation Brought to Light by a Cartoon About a Quarterback

December 17, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

A high school classmate of mine likes to share his MAGA influenced leanings on my Facebook timeline.

Like the other day he sent me a meme with Colin Kaepernick saying “I’m kneeling to protest injustice against Black men in America!”

In the moment I read that I couldn’t help but glow inside, so grateful for this new generation of freedom fighters.

Then, a cartoon character, Charlie Brown, says “That’s odd. You joined Islam, a religion that still owns black slaves, and you don’t protest against that.”

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It’s Not Time to Vote for the Rich or their Apologists, It’s Time to Tax Them

December 16, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

There’s been a wave of pushback of late against progressive calls for big structural change. Corporate media pundits and neoliberal Democrats alike have been raising the alarm that America is not ready for bold policy when it comes to economics, healthcare, the environment, or anything else.

At the heart of much of this is the contention that it’s all too expensive and the Republicans will scare suburbanites into voting for Trump with cries of socialism and high taxes. Whatever we do, the argument goes, we need to beat back Warren and Sanders so Mayor Pete, Joe Biden, or maybe even Michael Bloomberg can come in and save the day with a healthy dose of “centrism.”

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Underneath Impeachment: 25 Random Headlines from Last Week

December 9, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Her Heart Stopped for 6 hours. Now She’s Ready to go Back to Work

Fractured Forests Are Endangering Wildlife, Scientists Find

Killer Heat: US Cities’ Plans for Coming Heatwaves Fail to Protect the Vulnerable

Eight-Year-Old Girl Strip-Searched Before Visiting Father at Prison

No Sex in the Bunkbeds!: Tales from the Most Intimate Sharing Economy Start Up Yet

Google’s Anti-Worker Actions Evoke IBM’s Racist Past

This Has Been the Warmest Decade in Earth’s History

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Basketball Has Been Very Good to Me

December 4, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Late in the morning, on Thanksgiving Day, I turned the television on, thinking, in that moment, of what I’m thankful for: my beautiful children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, my sexy woman, my wonderful friends, my health, my pension, so many things…

The first image I saw when my TV came on was a basketball player, dribbling right at a defender and suddenly, ever so smoothly, with grace, pulled up and sunk a jump shot right in the defender’s face.

That very shot was always money in the bank for me back in my playing days.

And, in the blinking of an eye, I was reminded of something else I’m thankful for: the role basketball has played in my life.

I mean basketball in many ways probably saved my life – from the front end, giving me a kind of spiritual place to go to, a place where I would get caught up in the sound of a ball being bounced smartly on a gym floor, where I could hear my and my teammates’ pounding feet as we hustle down the court to the rhythm of a fast-break being nicely run, on its way to being complete – when all that was going on, old Jim Crow and the other manifestos of racism in America were screened out of my mind much as a dense cloud hides the sun.

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After Black Friday

December 2, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Nowhere to go, nothing to acquire. That’s the endgame.

As is the tradition in my house, we spent Black Friday in the desert wandering in search of Nothing. It’s been both a way to escape the toxic insanity of the soul-crushing consumer frenzy that defines what we call the holidays and how we teach our kid that life is about people and experiences, not buying more shit.

This idea is by no means original to us but comes out of the post-Situationist ethos of folks like those who founded Adbusters and other proponents of Buy Nothing Day, the international protest against over-consumption that encourages us all to enjoy what they call:

[A] day where you challenge yourself, your family and friends to switch off from shopping and tune into life. The rules are simple, for 24 hours you will detox from shopping and anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending!

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True or Not So True? That’s the Question.

November 26, 2019 by Judi Curry

Dispelling the Rumor Around Showering and Doing Laundry On Same Day

By Judi Curry

The last few days have seen comments on Next Door that pertain to Senate Bill 606 and Assembly Bill 1668 –the legality of showering and doing laundry on the same day, beginning January 1, 2020.

It is amazing how difficult it has been to check this out and see if it is true – or false. The best that I can tell is that former Governor Jerry Brown did sign these bills, but it is a falsehood about residents being penalized for showering and doing laundry on the same day.

The legislation imposes restrictions on water use on cities, water districts and some larger agricultural water districts. There is no truth to the rumor that California residents have been limited to

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Thanksgiving and American Mythology

November 25, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

As we head into the holiday season in the midst of one of the most divisive cultural and political moments in U.S. history, many people might be looking to the long American tradition of Thanksgiving as a moment of solace that evokes national unity.

Unfortunately, just like the wholesome fantasies of the Golden Era of bipartisanship that never existed being sold in some political quarters, the story of the first Thanksgiving is equally mythological. It’s not just that tales of the first Thanksgiving that many of us learned in school or around our family dinner tables are largely inaccurate,

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