Under the Perfect Sun

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Gentrifying Dystopia in Bombay Beach – Summer Chronicles 2018 #5

July 17, 2018 by Jim Miller

There’s something compelling about desolation, about lost places filled with traces of forgotten histories both personal and collective. That’s why I’ve always had a penchant for little towns around the Salton Sea, the vast, dying body of water I describe in my first novel, Drift:

It was a mistake, the product of a vulgar utopia gone awry. At the turn of the century, they dreamed of transforming the desert into a garden by bleeding nature of more than she readily offered.

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Summer Chronicles 2018 # 4: Getting Inside the Inexhaustibility

July 10, 2018 by Jim Miller

“A desire to be inside the inexhaustibility.”
–Karl Ove Knausgaard My Struggle

In Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, he writes eloquently about how writing is what helps one escape the prison of our “purely fabricated world” that gives us the feeling that “the world is small, tightly enclosed around itself, without openings to anywhere else.”

This bubble world that the construct of modern civilization has locked us into is only exacerbated by the closed feedback loop of our cell phones and social media which pretend to expand our known worlds while, in reality, deeply limiting our consciousness to a simulacrum of screens.

What does writing do? Well, as Knausgaard observes, it speaks to our desire for more,

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Summer Chronicles 2018 #2: Learning to Be No One

June 25, 2018 by Jim Miller

Alone on the plane, I had the same thought that I always do: “we could crash and my life might end at any time.” As always, images of the moments before death subsumed me. I imagined the faces of my fellow passengers contorted in horror. I heard the weeping, the screaming, the voices futilely attempting to leave last messages for their loved ones on their cellphones, all to no avail.

My fantasy was real enough that amidst a banal announcement about expected turbulence, I came close to tears as I thought of never seeing my wife or son again and went on to consider the weight of the collective losses of all the souls on the plane.

But, in this case, what used to be a source of physical anxiety gave way to a feeling of absolute groundlessness.

There is something liberating about anonymity and the small pleasure of being unrecognized in the odd womblike environment of a passenger jet.

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