Columns

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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Marshall Tuck: The Republicans’ Trojan Horse

October 8, 2018 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

In last week’s column, I wrote that “the future of public education and the heart and soul of progressive California” were at stake in the Superintendent of Public Instruction race. What makes this race so important is that it represents an attempt by moneyed interests and forces on the right to play in Democratic politics through the use of stealth and dishonesty. Indeed, if you like the way the Lincoln Club intervenes in and tries to upset the Democratic apple cart in races here in San Diego, you’ll love how the right is trying to game California’s Democratic voters in this contest.

It’s so bad, that the state party came out with this extraordinary assertion last May leading up to the primary in response to Tuck’s refusal to disavow his Republican allies:

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When I Think of the Wall

October 3, 2018 by Ernie McCray

View along portion of U.S.-Mexico border wall

When I think of the wall
I see in my mind,
first of all,
people on my side of the wall,
people who,
when all is thought through,
appraising all of humanity,
live relatively comfortably,
in possession of all kinds of
certificates and degrees
from preschool
to PhDs,

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Why Electing Tony Thurmond as Superintendent of Public Instruction Is the Most Important Race in California

October 2, 2018 by Jim Miller

Andrea Gabor’s After the Education Wars: How Smart Schools Upend the Business of Reform, thoroughly exposes the fact that over the last twenty years or so, “the billionaire boys club has favored a punitive, hierarchical, undemocratic, one-size fits all approach that has hurt students more than it has helped them.”

These corporate education reformers come to the table with an endless supply of money and a set of prejudices that favor:

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Reflections on Keeping Loved Ones From Taking Their Lives

September 19, 2018 by Ernie McCray

I remember back, maybe
when I was in junior high,
neighbors talking in hush-hush tones
about a man
who had drowned himself
in the night.
“Hey, why y’all whispering?”
I wanted to know,
all wide-eyed
and mystified
and horrified.
“Shhh, boy, he died of suicide.”

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A Blue Wave is Not Enough: Progressives Need to Win the Long War for Democracy

September 17, 2018 by Jim Miller

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to the La Mesa-Foothills Democratic Club about the Lincoln Club and the history of the American Right. In that presentation, I noted how the ultimate aim of the Right was to dishonestly promote deeply unpopular policies through stealth politics that take advantage of the general public’s naiveté about their agenda.

Locally, groups like the Lincoln Club do their best to intervene in Democratic primaries and shift the landscape in their favor so they can win elections and promote policies that further enrich the elite. As I have written in this space, that’s how San Diego’s “shadow government” has rolled for decades.

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Everybody Wants to Be Listened To

September 11, 2018 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I don’t remember how I first got on Facebook. But I’m glad I did because it’s worked for me.

I’ve learned to just scroll past all the ads and fabrications and fake news and the like and get right at what’s up with my “friends” who are mostly people I’ve known for some time and people who became my friends through them.

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San Diegans in America’s Finest Tourist Plantation Struggle to Make It … But Nobody’s at the Barricades

September 10, 2018 by Jim Miller

Speaking to the Anger Beneath the Postcard?

It should come as no surprise to anyone who ventures outside San Diego’s hermetically sealed and relentlessly marketed image of itself as a carefree paradise by the sea that the reality of our city is quite different than the happy fantasy.

A recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) confirmed this when it released a report that noted of America’s Finest City, “45% of San Diegans fall into an auspicious category: people who work full time and still struggle with poverty.”

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Lessons for 2018: Labor Solidarity Works!

September 4, 2018 by Jim Miller

It has been the worst of times and the best of times for the American Labor Movement in 2018.

Economic inequality has continued to spiral out of control as policy coming out of Washington, DC designed to tilt the scales in favor of the rich and corporations weakened the rights of working Americans at every turn.

At the Supreme Court level, anti-labor justices joined the assault against labor and undermined public sector unions’ rights to collect dues.

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From Rough Seas to Pleasant Memories

August 31, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Painting of a storm-tossed ship at sea

By Ernie McCray

There have been moments
in mourning
the loss of my son
that I’ve felt like a boat
being battered in rough seas,
swirling and whirling
in pounding
un-relenting waves,
and then there comes
a little break
as the waters, seemingly,
hurl me towards the shore,
and a memory,
like one I had the other day,

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Time Should be Running Out for the President and His Republican Cronies

August 28, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I began this writing a day after one of the president’s thuggish friends, a man who led his campaign, was found guilty of several counts of fraud, and his personal lawyer and “fixer” pleaded guilty to illegal payments under his direction.

I waited a day to see how the Republicans in the Senate and the House would react, foolishly holding out that they would finally say “Enough” to the lunacy coming out of the West Wing of the White House – considering that the clock should have run out on his presidency months ago.

And all they’ve done so far is claim that a sitting president can’t be indicted when, whether that is true or not, they have the power to take him down. Like they could impeach the sordid clown.

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The Wages of Inequality Keep Growing: Only Working People’s Power Can Save Our Democracy

August 27, 2018 by Jim Miller

It shouldn’t be news to readers of the OB Rag that life here under the perfect sun isn’t always so easy, particularly for working people. Indeed, as a Bloomberg report outlined last May, “The gap between the have and have-nots in San Diego was the ninth-highest out of 100 cities between 2011 to 2016.”

As usual, this report received not much more than a shrug in the place where happy happens as we were too busy spectacularly failing to address our shameful homelessness crisis yet again while the supply of high-end condos downtown and elsewhere continues to grow. So it goes.

It’s the same old story over and over again here–and everywhere else.

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Trump Tweets While California and the World Burns

August 20, 2018 by Jim Miller

The world just keeps getting hotter, and California burns ever-more-furiously as one epic blaze after another strain not just our resources, but our ability to cognitively adjust to the fact that this is the new normal. As I wrote in response to the huge fires in Los Angeles last December, “Reality is exceeding the capacity of our dystopian imaginations.”

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Elderly Reflections on a Melancholy Day

August 14, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

You ever have one of those days
when you just
can’t shake your blues
because your soul feels so completely
battered and bruised
and defused and confused
and mis and/or overused,
seeming as though
it will never ever again
be enthused and amused?

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The Music of the Street – Summer Chronicles 2018 #9

August 13, 2018 by Jim Miller

There is music in the street. It’s easy to be enthralled by the sounds of the natural world, but urban noise frequently distresses us, disrupts our head space or intervenes into the sounds we are plugged into at the moment. But sometimes, the city bustle has its charms. So much of the urban noise that we think of as a distraction from some other narrative that has captured our attention or an intrusion into our sealed-off domestic space is seen as ugly.

But perhaps we just need to learn to listen. Is it the sounds themselves that are the issue or our reactions to them?

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‘Already Dead’: A Lunch Poem for Golden Hill – Summer Chronicles 2018 #8

August 6, 2018 by Jim Miller

On the back cover of Frank O’Hara’s classic City Lights Books collection, Lunch Poems, he defines his efforts succinctly:

Often this poet, strolling through the noisy splintered glare of a Manhattan noontide,

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Free at Last! Free at Last! – A Dad’s Reflections of a Life That Was Enough

July 30, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Guy Ernest McCray, my oldest son,
has passed away
and needless to say
that saddens me in
the deepest way.

Yet, at the same time,
knowing the grind
he had in life,
I find myself whispering to the wind
that he is now:
“Free at Last! Free at Last!”

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When the Padres Still Played Baseball in Yuma: Summer Chronicles 2018 #7

July 30, 2018 by Jim Miller

It’s the dog days of summer but it’s Spring Training all year round in San Diego as the Padres sort through their stock of minor leaguers to see who might still be around in a few years when they hope to be competitive.

That means losing a lot. Watching a good amount of losing baseball requires a different lens and an appreciation for the small things inside and outside the game.

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Thinking of Bukowski at Del Mar – Summer Chronicles 2018 #6

July 23, 2018 by Jim Miller

Every year, opening day at Del Mar brings out the beautiful people. Handsome, well-heeled (or at least trying to look that way) young men and women get dressed to the nines and parade around the track, seeing and being seen. It is a classic San Diego moment: shiny happy people in an elegant place on a perfect summer day.

Not a trouble in the world.

Until they start betting and losing and betting and losing.

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Building Trust With Police is Like Trying to Assemble a Jigsaw Puzzle

July 17, 2018 by Ernie McCray

A jigsaw puzzle depicting the word "TRUST"

Creating Commission on Police Practices Moves to Full San Diego City Council.

“Trust is the Issue” was one of our rallying cries at the City Council’s Rules Committee meeting last Wednesday, July 11.

And the committee came through, voting 3-2 to pass the idea of creating a Commission on Police Practices on to the full Council.

That sounds hopeful to me but trying to build trust with the police in San Diego, for communities of color, has been like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle. One with too many pieces – due to years of bad history.

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