Columns

Hey, American Labor! Listen to the Next Generation on the Green New Deal

March 18, 2019 by Jim Miller

 

Labor Needs to Listen to the Next Generation and Help Craft a Green New Deal with Strong Labor Provisions

By Jim Miller

Young people across the world are making sure their voices are heard. I was proud of my son, his friends, and their classmates last week when they walked out of San Diego High School to participate in the Global Climate Strike during which over a million students worldwide in two thousand locations across one hundred and twenty-five countries stood up to call for urgent climate action .

Moments like these serve as lights in the greater darkness.

And that darkness has been brought to us not just by the current occupant of the White House, but by years of inaction by previous generations of adults in power who have failed to have the vision

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‘Standing With Our Muslim Brothers and Sisters’

March 18, 2019 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray – Posted on March 15, 2019 on Facebook

I had no idea
when I opened my eyes
on this beautiful day
that I would,
a bit later,
at midday,
be standing with a number
of loving peace seeking folks,
shaking our heads,
pledging, in our sadness,
to stay the course
against the madness
that brought us together
on this ill fated day:
our Muslim brothers and sisters
in New Zealand

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Might Reparations Lead to Us Living in Harmony?

March 14, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Tried to wax eloquently recently
about reparations,
speaking of it as
a “The checks in the mail”
kind of operation
but now I’m thinking
Reparations?

In this nation?
as I take into consideration|
that Americans
have shown neither the skills
or the will,
by any stretch of the imagination,
to have anything near a genuine
social or political
conversation
focused on bettering human relations,
especially one
regarding compensation
or a people’s history
of pain and suffering
and humiliation.

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From Super Bloom to Super Bust: The Water Crisis that Could Kill Borrego Springs

March 11, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

The formal beginning of spring is just around the corner, but an unusually wet winter already has visitors flooding into Borrego Springs in search of desert sunflowers, verbena, lupine, poppies, and primrose.

Thanks to a chain of storms, the desert is green and bursting with the promise of a rare “super bloom” that will likely carpet its floor with wildflowers in and around Anza-Borrego State Park. For local Borrego Springs businesses and hotels, this event is an economic boom that floods the town with a wave of commerce and full hotel rooms.

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Taking on Superbugs

March 5, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I turned to page 57 in People Magazine and looking back at me were the smiling faces of friends of mine, Tom Patterson and Steffanie Strathdee. They’re a husband and wife team of AIDs epidemiologists at UCSD who have traveled the world studying and researching and seeking ways to control diseases.

On occasion they have suffered from weird viruses and bugs and the like and weathered the storm and moved on to the next mission.

But the reason they were a story in a national publication is because of what happened to them on a trip to Egypt where they were enjoying themselves, just living the life, visiting the pyramids, sailing down the Nile.

Then Tom suddenly started heaving violently.

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The System Is Rigged Because We Allow the Rich to Rig the Discourse

March 4, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

In my last column on the rocket-speed escalation of economic inequality in the United States, I noted how one of the central problems we face is that “the current neoliberal ideological hegemony finds basic economic justice unimaginable.”

Of course, America is a capitalist country where the interests of the powerful shape the ideological landscape, but there have been moments in our history when counterhegemonic forces and ideas have opened space for more egalitarian thinking and politics. For instance, the rise of both the labor and civil rights movements pushed back against and altered the status quo as have other, more short-lived but still significant eruptions of dissent. Indeed, just last week, public school teachers in Oakland

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Got to See My Color, Man!

February 26, 2019 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

“When I see a person
I don’t see color”
I heard a man say.
And I thought
what I usually think
as I listened to him that day:
I wondered, then,
how could he not see
the color of my skin,
my dark brown pigmentation
like a chocolate milk shake
or a cocoa colored
birthday cake
or a blend
of some kind of fine coffee
that a master barista might make…

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When Will We Finally Find the Courage to Challenge the Status Quo?

February 25, 2019 by Jim Miller

The Wages of Inequality Continue to Grow, Year after Year

Over the last few weeks, the national political discourse has been chock-full of ridiculous handwringing in what stands in for progressive circles over whether Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and “the left” will push the Democrats beyond what whoever the pundit of the moment is deems the “acceptable” political boundaries.

Apparently, Trump can flirt with authoritarianism, push the world toward ecocide, and lie through his teeth every day but Democrats cross the line when they fail to properly genuflect before our plutocratic masters.

Meanwhile, America’s moneyed elite are laughing all the way to the bank. The rich are getting richer so fast that it’s hard to keep up with them.

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Reparations Are Way Overdue

February 21, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Every now and again
in this nation,
talks of reparations
enter into our conversations
and some folks
are saying
that such
could cost trillions
by some calculations,
implying it would be
too costly.

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It’s Not Those Pushing the Green New Deal Who are Naïve About Our Current Crisis

February 18, 2019 by Jim Miller

The Moderate Threat to Climate Action

By Jim Miller

As heartening as the emergence of the Green New Deal as a political rallying cry and litmus test of sorts for the early field of Democratic presidential candidates is, the predictably negative response in other quarters is equally dismaying.

Of course, the most obvious naysaying comes from the Republicans and the rightwing media following the lead of a president who suggests that snowstorms and cold weather are evidence that climate change isn’t happening.

But that’s not the real problem.

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The Windoms of the Dusty Cotton Fields of Mississippi

February 15, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I look at a picture of my cousin, Pearlie Mae, and me, thinking how proud she would be of her grandchild, Renee Purdie, who’s written a collection of poetry she’s calling “Pieces of Me: Love, Lust and Lentils.”

She’d literally glow seeing how this young woman is blossoming as a human being, writing poems that touch the heart.

Like Pearlie Mae and me, she is a descendant of the Windoms of the dusty cotton fields of Mississippi. She’s one of our family tree’s many beautiful flowers who’ve risen above what society expected of us, and managed to do well in life, learning and giving, far and wide, some of us landing in Tucson.

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Fear of a Socialist Planet: From Davos to D.C. to the Democratic Party, a New “Red Scare” Emerges

February 11, 2019 by Jim Miller

Last week in the State of the Union, Trump unveiled one of the pillars of his re-election campaign in the midst of his speech:

“America will never be a socialist country.”

While this line of attack is clearly a predictable jab at the rising popularity of policy ideas promoted by Democratic Socialists Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez like free college, Medicare for all, and raising taxes on the rich, it also reveals a rising fear on the part of the global elite that a populist left might be far more dangerous to their interests than the current brand of extreme rightwing populism in the United States and elsewhere across the globe.

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A Friend Makes Me Feel Like I’ve Lived in a Dream

February 6, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I just finished “Platitudes and Attitudes,” a little book that was written by a dear lifelong friend, Shirley Robinson Sprinkles, “Shirlgirl.”

Shirley and I grew up in Tucson, Arizona in the 40’s and 50’s and as I read the “random thoughts and memories” that she had collected over the years, I was transported back in time, like in a dream.

She’d mention a street and I could see myself riding my bicycle down that street, popping a wheelie, with my levi’s ripped at the knees (light years before that was cool).

She’d describe an event, and I was there (trying to be cool).

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Hawaii Still on My Mind With the Obamas in the Picture This Time

February 4, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve been home for a while but I’ve still been reflecting on my recent trip to Hawaii, on, in part, how although I had a wonderful time I also had other things on my mind.

Like, I thought about my daughter, Debbie, who would have turned 61 on January 4th, one afternoon in the darkness of a Big Island porch with my mind going back and forth about a number of things, then, because it was such a beautiful day,

I went on a little hike with Maria and Glen, our host and friend, and soon my mind, caught up in the beauty of the people with me and the beauty around me, was back to the nice place it had been before my moments of grief set in. But my spiritual nature was very much alive on that trip, and it was intensified when I picked up the paper one day and read that Barack Obama was in town, Honolulu, his town, home,

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Labor Council in San Diego On Board With the Green New Deal

February 4, 2019 by Jim Miller

The San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council Passes Resolution in Support of a Green New Deal

Sometimes the unexpected happens. Last year, during one of her first visits to the Capitol as a newly elected member of the House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made headlines by joining a group of young activists from the Sunrise Movement protesting outside Nancy Pelosi’s office and calling for a Green New Deal. Since that time, Pelosi has formed a committee to address the idea, but, even more importantly, a Green New Deal has emerged as one of the key progressive talking points in the early days of the Democratic presidential race, forcing even some reluctant candidates to at least give it a nod.

Not surprisingly, probable candidate Bernie Sanders is at the front of the line, but he has been joined by Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and even some less likely suspects who despite their “centrism” seemed to feel it necessary to voice qualified if grudging support to some form of a Green New Deal.

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Hawaii on My Mind

January 29, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Maria and I just got back from Hawaii, spending time with friends on the Big Island and Oahu.

In my mind I can still see the rich colors of the rain forests and feel the warm breeze that comforted me on a walk on the beach one day and I’ll always remember sitting high above a view that literally took my breath away…

I still shiver from the experience of riding in a car, looking to see what the Kilauea volcano had left in its wake, cruising by a couple of really nice homes, and suddenly a dead end appears and before me there stands a massive mound of lava a couple of stories high that had swallowed the rest of the neighborhood we were driving through…

And minutes later we’re walking on a new black sand beach the volcano had created, as if by design, complete with a nice little wading pool just right for little children.

Out of Mother Nature’s devastating acts, there’s such beauty.

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Lessons from the LA Teachers Strike

January 28, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

After a little more than a week of striking, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) captured the public’s imagination, helped transform the national narrative about education, won a solid new contract, and positioned themselves well for the battles to come.

For those of us in education this was an inspiring moment that showed the potential for smart organizing and activism to change the game in important ways.

As I wrote last week, UTLA was taking a lead from both the social movements of the sixties and other, more recent examples of militant protests and strikes by fellow educators elsewhere in the United States from Chicago to West Virginia.

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The United Teachers of Los Angeles: Walking the Picket Line in the Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 21, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

This year the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday falls in the midst of one of the biggest teachers strikes in recent American history. And Dr. King, who gave his life while supporting a public sector sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis, Tennessee because he saw it as a model for his Poor People’s Campaign, would recognize the spirit of this strike.

By the end of his life, King, who had long supported labor, came to question not just racial injustice, but also the economic and political struggles he identified as the edifices which produce beggars in the marketplace. His call for questioning the evils of racial, economic and other forms of institutionalized exploitation led him to challenge the American power structure and the unjust business as usual of our society.

That is precisely what the teachers in Los Angeles are doing.

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I Can’t Help But Resist

January 18, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I heard a man say
we shouldn’t
resist the president
because leftwing presidents
before him committed political wrongs
in their day.

And to him I say,
hey, what somebody
did or didn’t do back in the day
has no say
in why I resist
this man
who occupies the White House today.

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Michelle Obama is Right: ‘They Aren’t That Smart’ —They’re Just Greedy

January 14, 2019 by Jim Miller

Michelle Obama caused a small stir last fall during the London leg of her book tour when she observed that her time in the highest circles of the global power elite had revealed a startling truth about our faceless masters:

“Here’s the secret: they’re not that smart. There are a lot of things that folks are doing to keep their seats because they don’t want to give up power.”

More specifically, the former First Lady observed that, “I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N.: They are not that smart.”

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We’re Still Calling People ‘Illegal’ After All These Years

January 8, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Note: I found an old piece I wrote for the San Diego Tribune in November of 1994, twenty-four years ago. The piece was about Proposition 187, a ballot measure that required me, a school principal, to rat on families who were in the country illegally. And, as I read it, I felt as though we, as a society, had been frozen in time, because what I wrote, with all the talk nowadays about caravans and building walls and such, would speak to these times:

Despite the passage of Proposition 187, my disposition remains the same. I will not, in any way, play a role in willfully hurting another person.

I have sat at the back of the bus. I’ve had someone tell me to get my “black ass” out of a hotel where there were plenty of rooms available. I’ve skaked at the rink on special “Negro” days.

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Lessons for San Diego Labor in the Wake of Mickey Kasparian’s Fall

January 7, 2019 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

One of the last bits of big local political news towards the end of 2018 was the resounding defeat of United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 135 President Mickey Kasparian along with his entire slate in their union election on the heels of two years of internal and external conflict.

After refusing to step down from his position as President of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council in the wake of multiple workplace and sexual harassment allegations in 2016, Kasparian split the labor movement, sought to divide local progressives, and fought a scorched earth campaign against his perceived enemies.

All of it ended badly with lots of damage being done along the way.

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Kindness Can Turn This Troubled World Around

December 21, 2018 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Not too long ago I had an encounter with an act of random kindness.

It went like this: I was enjoying an interesting tale in San Diego born Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ wonderful collection of short stories, “Heads of the Colored People” and a meal of scrambled eggs and ham with a buttered biscuit and jam and a Bloody Mary when I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked up and into the beautiful face of a black woman, close to my age, a woman whom I had acknowledged with a slight nod of my head as she left the café.

We black people of a certain age do that when we catch each other’s eye, say, walking down the street or exiting a restaurant, sometimes adding a word or two: “How you doing?” or a “Hey, now” – essentially saying: “I don’t know you, but I can guess what you might have been through.”

With the way the woman was looking at me, as she stood over me, I thought maybe she was about to say something like “Don’t you remember me?” and then I was sure she was going to say “Did you drop this?” because she was handing me something.

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Should Democrats, like Superman, Seek ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’?

December 12, 2018 by Ernie McCray

I had a moment a little while ago when I was thinking about the notion that democrats, in spite of recent political victories (Yes!!!) need to come up with a message or at least a snappy meme, that resonates with voters (and more and more people are becoming so designated).

In that same moment I happened to turn the TV on and a man on C-SPAN was discussing superheroes, how they are mostly about creating a better world, citing Superman’s pursuit of “Truth, Justice and the American Way.”

That triggered in my mind, right away, long ago days, when I was all caught up in the excitement of “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!”

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Democracy Unchained: How to Win the Future

December 3, 2018 by Jim Miller

Last week in this space, I discussed how the new research on the stealth power of America’s oligarchical class continues to be a central obstacle to thoroughgoing democracy in the United States.

In that piece, I cited the work Page, Seawright, and Lacombe as well as Nancy MacLean’s work outlining how the right has managed over the last several decades to build a powerful, deeply undemocratic political network aimed at putting “democracy in chains.”

With that in mind, it was with great interest that I read MacLean’s post-election commentary in the Guardian, where she observed:

Republican party elected officials acted under pressure from the network of arch-right billionaires and multimillionaires

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‘New Deeds for New’: Young Activists and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Demand a Green New Deal

November 19, 2018 by Jim Miller

Nothing in the wake of the midterm elections made me quite as happy as the sight of the newly elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joining young climate activists who were protesting outside of Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington, D.C.

The protesters, who were part of the Sunrise Movement, put their demands bluntly: “They offer us a death sentence. We demand a Green New Deal.”

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Democrats’ Midterms Anxiety

October 29, 2018 by Jim Miller

With the midterms a little more than a week out there is a good amount of handwringing in progressive circles about whether or not the “blue wave” will actually happen.

Nervous Democrats pore over the latest posts on the polling at FiveThirtyEight, and the talking heads on MSNBC parse the current numbers, muse about the accuracy of the polling, and commiserate about their post-traumatic stress after the 2016 election.

With decision day looming, the collective anxiety is getting more and more palpable. In between ranting about Russia and the Mueller investigation, the unthinkable question is on the tip of many a liberal’s tongue: could we actually blow it again?

As of this writing, it appears that the Senate—which was never really in reach—is out of the question but

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The Trump of Pahrump, the Unholy Trinity and Other Dystopian Tales

October 22, 2018 by Jim Miller

The Trump of Pahrump is dead.

Yes, the world’s most famous brothel owner, Dennis Hof, left this world peacefully last week in bed at the Love Ranch only hours after celebrating at his birthday party/campaign rally.

The event was held to aid Hof in his quest to secure a seat in the Nevada state legislature as a Republican, a race he was heavily favored to win. Hof is best known for his HBO reality TV show about the Moonlight Bunny Ranch and his biography, The Art of the Pimp, which gleefully riffs off of the title of the President’s paean to himself.

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I Keep Thinking of Christine

October 18, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I keep thinking of Christine,
her story of a man
cupping his hand
over her mouth
so she couldn’t scream
and expose his scheme
to forcefully
have his way with her
like so many men have done
for eons
in human history.
And for decades she didn’t scream,
except for those
inaudible screams that echo in
those dark places inside
human beings
where we try to hide
pain that’s hard to confront,
to bear,

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Two New Books Explore San Diego’s Impact on the Psyche – Release Reading at Tiger! Tiger! Oct.21

October 15, 2018 by Jim Miller

San Diego City Works Press, a project of the San Diego Writers Collective, is proud to present the release reading for local novelist Josh Turner and San Diego poet, Joe Medina on Sunday, October 21, at 4:30 at Tiger!Tiger! in concert with Verbatim Books,

Baxt and Medina’s works continue the tradition of SD City Works Press of birthing first books by homegrown authors. In fact, Fall 2018 marks 13 years of publication by City Works Press. The San Diego Writers Collective is a group of San Diego writers, poets, artists, a

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