Columns

Surviving 2017 – Looking Like a Palm Tree Bent Over By the Wind

January 15, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Lone slightly leaning palm tree in grassy plain, cloudy skies, mountain range in distance

I am so glad to say “Good riddance” to 2017 because it was a bit unearthly to me.

I mean, on top of being barraged by all the abject buffoonery in D.C. that was unleashed by that fool who occupies the presidency, I had to go around most of the year looking like a palm tree bent over by the wind.

All due to some life-threatening vicious form of bacteria that found its way into my body and started whacking away like a field hand taking a machete to the stems of sugarcane, devastating my belly and tightening and weakening my muscles, making an absolute wreck of my lifelong bad back. It made standing and walking upright kind of an aerobic exercise that took all my might.

And let me tell you, trying to struggle to get your health back in a world that’s out of whack isn’t easy by any means.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Love and Resistance: Lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 15, 2018 by Jim Miller

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and, for those of us who deeply value his legacy, it’s hard not to greet the first official King holiday of the Trump era with a deep sense of painful irony. As I wrote last year at this time on the eve of his inauguration:

Today we are at [a] dead-end with Trump’s administration full of revanchist billionaires, right-wing demagogues, and military strongmen representing the triumph of market fundamentalism married to racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and authoritarian militarism. Simply put, in Trump Nation, King’s “triple evils” [of racism, economic injustice, and militarism] are akin to the holy trinity.

Unfortunately, the last year has done little else but confirm this proclamation, making this year’s remembrance especially important. For King’s critique of American society is now even more relevant than it has been in the decades since his death—it haunts us like a ghost.

Read the full article → 1 comment

Reflections on 2017: The Year of Generalized Rage

January 8, 2018 by Jim Miller

My first column back after the holiday hiatus comes in the wake of all the usual end-of-the-year media ruminations on the significance of 2017, most of which focused on a notable person, seminal event, a list of significant trends, etc. While there were many astute observations to be found, the one thing that stood out to me as definitive of 2017 was not a person, place, or thing, but the phenomenon of generalized rage.

In his most recent book, Requiem for the American Dream: The Ten Principles of the Concentration of Wealth and Power Noam Chomsky describes the phenomenon that more than anything else defines the Age of Trump:

Read the full article → 0 comments

A New Years Wish for My People

December 29, 2017 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I dream a New Years Wish for my fellow black brothers and sisters, one steeped in my yearning for a country that truly is committed to the mythical land of “liberty and justice for all” we Americans pledge loudly and proudly in classrooms and public gatherings.

I just wish we actively pursued such ideals.

Now, I realize that we, like all other “individual” citizens of the country, can rise and shine and fulfill the loftiest of hopes and dreams.

We can find ample proof of that in our history as we’ve accomplished a little of everything. We’ve won Nobel Peace Prizes and journeyed beyond earth’s skies into outer space.

Read the full article → 1 comment

Progressive Stocking Stuffers for Year Two of the Trump Era: Reading for Dark Times

December 18, 2017 by Jim Miller

If you just can’t bring yourself to give up on the sordid consumer frenzy and go all in for a Buy Nothing Christmas, then perhaps getting your loved ones a few good books to help them navigate our dark times is the next best thing.

Here is my list of a handful of some of the best books of the last awful year:

As I noted in my first column on this fine book, “Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America is the single most important new book for progressives to read this year if they want to understand how we got to the dark moment of the present . . .

Read the full article → 1 comment

California’s Burning: What Will Rise from the Ashes?

December 11, 2017 by Jim Miller

Welcome to the future.

That’s the thing I’ve been thinking to myself as the frenetic news cycle over the past year has veered from political chaos to natural disaster and back again in a vertigo-inducing downward spiral. Increasing social division domestically as the rich pillage the rest of us, the intensified threat of international conflict, the brazen plundering of the commons, and utter disdain for the natural world amidst a myriad of sexual harassment scandals and horrifying mass shootings are punctuated by catastrophic natural disasters from the epic fires to supercharged hurricanes and yet more fearsome firestorms.

Reality is exceeding the capacity of our dystopian imaginations.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Taxing Our Democracy: The GOP Plan is Part of a Larger Assault on Democratic Institutions

December 5, 2017 by Jim Miller

Back during the halcyon days of the Obama administration, political scientists Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University published a seminal study on American democracy that illustrated that:

Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. .

Read the full article → 1 comment

Waiting for Dark Clouds to Lift Someday

December 1, 2017 by Ernie McCray

Black-and-white photo of landscape dominated by cloudy sky and lone telephone pole

As I go along day to day, trying to move beyond the dark clouds that hover over me, I find myself indulging in reviving a few precious memories.

I see me in chorus in junior high school. Mr. Sidney Dawson is coaxing us to “sing it like you mean it” with a soulful expression on his face as he holds his hands over his heart.

I’ll always remember the day when we showed up at the Pioneer Hotel to perform, and the bellman said, “I can’t let you colored people come through the front door.”

Read the full article → 0 comments

Will 2018 Be the Year of the Education War Inside the California Democratic Party?

November 29, 2017 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

One would think that in the midst of the Trump era, with so many threats not just to essential government policies and programs but to democracy itself, Democrats would have a pretty clear idea of who their enemy is.

A reasonable observer might also conclude that the Democratic Party in California which has, in many ways, been the vanguard of resistance nationwide would be laser-focused on not only maintaining the blue wall but on working to oust California Republicans from the House of Representatives.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Learning Courage from Thoreau in Dark Times

November 20, 2017 by Jim Miller

One of the things that I am grateful for this Thanksgiving is the fact that I am fortunate enough to teach Henry David Thoreau every fall, particularly this 200th year since the great American author’s birth.

Most of my students at City College have lived, worked, and struggled more than your average college student and, consequently, Thoreau’s call to avoid a life of “quiet desperation” speaks to them more profoundly than it might to other students from different circumstances.

Simply put, they are in a college English class reading literature because they have chosen to be there. Running against the grain of all the siren calls for a more market-based education driven by efficiency and expediency, many of my students have decided that what moves them most is to read and think and to live a life they hope will be more meaningful because of it.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Remembering Debbie

November 14, 2017 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

Debbie, my first born,
is gone, and now
is but a sweet memory for me
as I mourn.
With tears in my eyes
I reflect on our journey in life together
since she arrived,
seemingly out of the rich blue
of the Tucson skies
on January 4th, 1957,

Read the full article → 3 comments

Donna Brazile Is Still Right: the Culture of the Democratic Party Needs to Change

November 13, 2017 by Jim Miller

Last week brought welcome news for those of us looking for some light at the end of the tunnel as we close in on the first year of the Trump era when voters repudiated Republican rule by handing resounding victories to Democrats in Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere around the country.

While this is clearly a morale booster for beleaguered progressives, let’s hope that it does not stop folks from continuing to ask the hard questions that need to be answered if we truly want to change the course of the country from the dangerous path we are on.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Musings by the Widder Curry on Women Coming Out With Tales of Sexual Harassment

November 9, 2017 by Judi Curry

As I sat in the beauty shop the other day waiting to have my hair cut, I picked up a copy of the latest People magazine. On the cover was a picture of Harvey Weinstein and page after page of women talking about how he had molested, raped, threatened etc. And as I looked at the pictures – I wasn’t really interested in reading about all of their experiences – I had to sit back and reflect over my life time, because what happened to those women did not just happen to famous people; it happened, and is still happening to women all over the world.

I am getting old. Very old. But it sure doesn’t take much to remember the assaults that I faced; the threats I faced; the acts foisted upon me. And the interesting thing is that even at my age it hasn’t stopped.

Read the full article → 5 comments

Education in the Trump Era: Bad for Your Mental Health

November 6, 2017 by Jim Miller
Graphic illustration resembling neural network filled with cognition related words

Fear and loathing in the classroom? Not exactly, but things aren’t that great either. According to a new study released last week by my union, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the advocacy group the Badass Teachers Association (BAT), educators are feeling significantly more stressed these days.

As Education Week reports, “The survey found that educators find work to be stressful 61 percent of the time—and nearly a quarter of respondents said work was ‘always’ stressful. Meanwhile, workers in the general population report that work is stressful 30 percent of the time.”

Read the full article → 0 comments

Republicans Try to Squelch Nathan Fletcher’s Bid for San Diego Supervisor With Jim Miller’s Old Quotes

October 30, 2017 by Jim Miller

 

By Jim Miller

Will Nathan Fletcher ride in on a magic carpet to the Board of Supervisors?

Tomorrow is Halloween. Are we in for something scary?

Not really.

While the vast majority of people in San Diego are not paying the least bit of attention to local races heading into 2018, there has been quite a bit of petty drama surrounding the San Diego Board of Supervisors District 4 race in recent weeks.

It appears that local Republican operatives have decided to kill Nathan Fletcher’s most recent political aspirations

Read the full article → 0 comments

Call to Action: We Need Transparency, Not Secrecy, in Selecting New San Diego Police Chief

October 24, 2017 by Ernie McCray

In the next few months we will have a new San Diego Chief of Police and I hope that whoever gets the job can do something, for me, no one has been able to do: create an environment wherein I don’t find myself squirming a bit every time a police officer rolls up behind me or next to me. I just can’t help it, though, with my life’s experiences.

Now, hey, don’t get me wrong, I’ve known some good police officers — parents at my schools, guys I grew up with, dudes I’ve toked and toasted with, played ball with — it’s just that the bad seeds among them can be downright scary at times.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Restaurant Review: Meechai Thai Cuisine in the Midway

October 23, 2017 by Judi Curry

Restaurant Review

Meechai Thai Cuisine
3960 W. Point Loma Blvd. #4
(Midway Town Center at Sports Arena)
San Diego, CA 92110
619-224-4871

On the one day of the week that the weather changed from 80 degrees to 68 degrees, windy, and wet, was the one day that the Widows were getting together for lunch. So it was left up to me to find a place and I remembered going to the Meechai 25 years ago. I wondered how much it had changed over the years.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that not much has changed.

The ambiance was inviting; the seating was cozy; and Janet, the server, was the same server from many years ago. What probably has changed was the menu.

Read the full article → 2 comments

Mel Freilicher’s ‘American Cream’: Rewriting the Radical Past to Redeem the Future

October 23, 2017 by Jim Miller

Mining the Heart of the American Left to Address Today’s Bleak Realpolitik

Mel Freilicher will be reading and discussing “American Cream” in San Diego City Works Press’ Release Event at Verbatim Books, located at 3793 30th Street in North Park, on Friday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m.

Longtime San Diego resident, writer, educator, and activist Mel Freilicher was the editor of the regional literary journal Crawl Out Your Window for 15 years and taught at San Diego State and in UCSD’s literature department for several decades. In addition to this, Mel has published in a wide range of publications and anthologies including two chapbooks on Standing Stone Press and Obscure Publications.

Read the full article → 0 comments

The New Democrats Crab-Walking with the Radical Right, San Diego Style

October 16, 2017 by Jim Miller

Last week in the second part of my review of Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America,” I noted how the complicity of neoliberal Democrats with the aims of the Right is one of the reasons why fighting the Koch brothers of the world has been so difficult.

Thinking they are reasonably compromising or engaging in a savvy war of position, these Democrats are instead simply crab walking us over a cliff.

Read the full article → 1 comment

Democracy in Chains: Crab-Walking Our Way Over a Cliff — Part II

October 9, 2017 by Jim Miller

Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America is disturbing reading. Last week, I outlined how she exposes the missing link of the Right’s plan to “save capitalism from democracy—permanently.” As centrally important as it is to understand that basic premise of the Right’s agenda, it is equally valuable for progressives to learn precisely how and why that is the case and what, ultimately, the end-game looks like.

Read the full article → 1 comment

Notions of Love Rising Out of the Darkness in Las Vegas

October 3, 2017 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I just left Vegas a few days ago, with very fresh memories of how loud and all aglow it was, which makes it particulary difficult for me, in these moments, to fathom a man mowing down people who are having a good time as though they were foes on a battlefield.

Such a tragedy tears at your heart and it came at a time when we Americans are already suffering as we seem to be spinning aimlessly away from embracing each other as fellow citizens.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America – Part I

October 2, 2017 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America” is the single most important new book for progressives to read this year if they want to understand how we got to the dark moment of the present.

As I noted in my recent column on the right-wing assault on public sector unions, MacLean takes us to the roots of the current crisis via an intellectual history of James McGill Buchanan, the thinker whose work, more than anyone else’s, informs the machinations of the Kochtopus, that shadowy network of interlinked billionaire-funded right-wing think tanks driving American politics.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Lessons from Naomi Klein: Learning How to Resist Trump’s Shock Politics

September 25, 2017 by Jim Miller

Part Two

Last week, I discussed what I see as the first central lesson of Naomi Klein’s new book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need—that Donald Trump represents nothing new in American politics but rather, is the logical extension of decades of terrible ideas and policies. Today I’ll focus on the second key lesson of Klein’s work.

Neoliberal Incrementalism Brought to You by Democrats Is Not Enough

Read the full article → 0 comments

Seeking Equality with a White-Supremacist-in-Chief in the White House

September 21, 2017 by Ernie McCray

Woman holding sign reading "Super Callous Fragile Racist Sexist Nazi POTUS"

By Ernie McCray

Some dude on television was trying to make a case that the president is not a white supremacist.

But, hey, I’ve dealt with white supremacists for 79 plus years and I have to say that Donald J. Trump is not only one, he’s the best example of such a being I have ever seen.

Take what he did with Jemele Hill, the ESPN sportscaster, my latest hero. She called him out on his white supremacism and he wants her fired and wants the network to apologize to him for her “untruth.” Scratch the prefix “un” and you see what he really wants her to apologize for.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Learning How to Resist Trump’s Shock Politics

September 18, 2017 by Jim Miller

Lessons from Naomi Klein – Part One

Last week at the San Diego Free Press, Sharon Carr provided a nice overview of Naomi Klein’s new book No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. These next two weeks, I’d like to follow up Ms. Carr’s good work by underlining what I see to be the two central insights in Klein’s book and why they matter.

In essence, Klein’s book is centered on two key points: 1) Despite all the drama and spectacle, Trump is nothing new; and 2) Neoliberal incrementalism is a dead end and we require bolder vision and practice to win the world we need. This week, we’ll consider the first proposition.

Read the full article → 0 comments

The War on Public Sector Unions Is a War on Progressive Politics and Democracy Itself

September 11, 2017 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

As the Trump circus keeps people focused on daily scandals along with assaults on immigrants, transgender folks, and a myriad of other battles, the right is busy trying to quietly win the long war. Last week in my Labor Day column, I noted how the upcoming Janus v. AFSCME decision will help make it possible to gut public sector unions and the labor movement as a whole in order to change the power structure of the entire country and rig American politics in favor of the interests of the rich and our corporate oligarchy.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Pillars of the Community: Seekers of Unity in a Climate of White Supremacy

August 23, 2017 by Ernie McCray

Group of people gathered in front of mural

I heard talk on TV about people being “stunned” that the president would say that both sides were at fault when he had “rebuked” (if you really want to call it that) the white nationalists’ stunningly violent and reckless behavior in Virginia just the day before.

Stunned about what? I would have been stunned if he hadn’t taken his words back. What happened was the dude desperately had to get back to his true self, back to speaking from the dark places in his mind.

And the way his mind works

Read the full article → 0 comments

Higher Education and the American Political Imagination

August 21, 2017 by Jim Miller

As I enter my thirtieth year as a professor at a public college of one kind or another, I’m used to the constant political fray that comes with being in the middle of funding battles, debates about education reform, and the culture wars, but this may be the first time in my long career that I have begun a new semester with the knowledge that a large number of Americans no longer see higher education as a public good.

Over the summer, the Pew Research Center released an interesting poll that helps explain where we are at this political and cultural moment in America. The survey revealed that most Republicans now believe that institutions of higher education have an adverse effect on the United States.

Read the full article → 0 comments

Beauty in the Age of the Anthropocene: Summer Chronicles #6

August 14, 2017 by Jim Miller

We live in a world of profound beauty and horror. One can turn on the news and view famine, war, and terror attacks and then stroll down the street to the park and revel in a glorious summer day.

Of course, it must be said that this is evidence of our privilege as citizens of the first world nation where we live in relative comfort compared to our fellow humans and across the globe, millions of whom don’t have enough to eat or have been forced to flee their homes due to circumstances beyond their control.

Here in San Diego, our own homeless are

Read the full article → 0 comments

Summer Chronicles #5: Two Conversations

August 7, 2017 by Jim Miller

Two recent conversations that stayed with me for some reason.

One was with a man who told me that he knew what it was like to feel so empty that the fragile construct that was him, his identity, could fall apart at any moment. He knew this, of course, because that is what happened to him. He had a breakdown; he broke down and the pieces of him fell off, down on the ground all around him — inexplicable shards of what used to be that thing he called himself.

It is remarkable when someone tells you such a thing. I was struck by the courage of the confession and also by the rawness of the moment, the trembling intensity that accompanied the admission and the heightened anticipation of what I don’t know.

Read the full article → 0 comments