Under the Perfect Sun

Zen and the Art of Baseball

March 31, 2014 by Jim Miller

IMG_4475By Jim Miller

It’s spring and opening week is here and that makes me very happy. Baseball helps me live. It’s perhaps the best American manifestation of the kind of daily ritual that enables us to achieve a small portion of the balance and harmony we need to provide ballast against the chaos of the world.

Whether it’s playing the game or simply contemplating it, baseball provides one with precisely the kind of focused yet purposeless activity that can take you out to the ballgame and into the heart of the moment.

It’s the stillness at the heart of the game that I love, the empty space out of which motion and grace emerge–the pregnant nothing that gives birth to the artful something. And baseball, like art, is gorgeously useless and inefficiently slow.

Perhaps that slowness is why baseball has given ground to the more brutal, time-driven, managerially efficient game of football. We go from the Taylorized, competitive realm of the corporate world to a gladiatorial weekend on the gridiron that celebrates many of the same values.

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Notes from the Class War: Killing “The Year of the Populist” in the Crib?

March 24, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

democratic-party-where-are-youRecently, in “Neoliberalism and Its Discontents: What’s Left Beyond More Impoverished Choices?”, I continued my analysis of the national debate that followed the publication of Adolph Reed’s sharp criticism of what qualifies as the “left” in the contemporary American political landscape.

After that column was posted, Reed wrote yet another piece in American Prospect, this time responding to Harold Meyerson’s dismissal of his call for a left less tethered to a Democratic Party increasingly colonized by Wall Street and other corporate interests.

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What’s Left: Surrender or Resurgence?

March 3, 2014 by Jim Miller

education01By Jim Miller

Just when you thought the Obama administration’s education policy couldn’t get any worse, it did.

Last week Obama nominated founder and CEO of New Schools, Ted Mitchell, to the second highest post at the Department of Education.

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The “Alvarez Effect” and the Future of San Diego

February 17, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Alvarez14DNobody thought this was going to be easy.

Back in July, at the height of the Filner debacle, I predicted a dire outcome, noting that “in a recall or special election in an off year, the electorate is guaranteed to be more conservative and definitely not favorable” for a progressive replacing Bob Filner because, “Faulconer would have a huge fundraising advantage garnering support from all the usual suspects downtown and benefit from an energized base geared up to hand it to the liberals, unions, minorities, and other foul ‘special interest groups’ that they’ll blame for bringing us the evil that was Bob Filner. With the Democrats dispirited, humiliated and divided, it might not even be much of a fight.”

As it turned out, David Alvarez stepped up and offered progressives hope, and the labor movement surprised everyone by actually being able to raise more money than the Faulconer forces. Sadly, on Tuesday, many of us were crying in our beer instead.

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In the Battle for the Soul of San Diego David Alvarez Stands for All of Us

February 10, 2014 by Jim Miller

1658660_769012429793127_570456494_oBy Jim Miller

San Diego is on the national stage again.

As the final week of the dead heat mayoral showdown unfolded, Politico reported on “the battle for San Diego,” the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters pondered whether the race would be a harbinger of things to come in California politics, and the New York Times covered “a battle of ideology in a city unaccustomed to that sort of election,” astutely noting, as I did here at the San Diego Free Press during the primary, that this contest is “a test of whether yet another big-city Democrat can be elected by riding a wave of populism, much as Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York did last fall.”

And that test is happening because last November David Alvarez defied the pundits and political insiders and beat the prohibitive favorite, Nathan Fletcher, in the race to face Kevin Faulconer in the run-off to be San Diego’s next mayor. This was a seminal moment for San Diego—perhaps the biggest political upset in the history of the city.

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Mayoral Race Polling, Pensions, and Plutocracy

January 27, 2014 by Jim Miller

yo voteBy Jim Miller

Last week a new poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) funded by the Democratic Party came out that showed the race to become San Diego’s next mayor a dead heat with Alvarez at 46% and Faulconer just behind with 45%.

In another poll, Latino Decisions and the Latino Victory Project appraised Latino voters on the race and got radically different results than both the earlier Survey USA/UT-SD poll, a Republican Party poll , and the more recent PPP effort showing that Alvarez leads 75%-10% among Latino voters.

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David Alvarez is the Living Embodiment of King’s Dream; Faulconer, Its Antithesis

January 20, 2014 by Jim Miller

mlk basic incomeBy Jim Miller

This year our ritual celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes in the midst of a contentious mayoral election. And while some might try to bracket this year’s remembrance off from the ugly fray, that would be a mistake. As I noted in an earlier column on this subject, remembering “a sanitized version of King as a vanilla saint who called on us to just move beyond our differences does a disservice to him and his legacy” because “[o]ur collective remembrance of MLK is most useful when it troubles us.”

And King would be deeply troubled to see where we are today nationally and locally. Yes, the man who said, “one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring” would be profoundly disturbed by the fact that we are living in an era of historic economic inequality.

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Kevin Faulconer, Man of the People?

January 13, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

Meet Kevin Faulconer, man of the people. He’s running glossy commercials about how he’ll be “a mayor for all of us” and talking as if he’ll be the guy who will focus on neighborhoods that “have been under-served by this city for too long.”

His website and ballot statement have been scrubbed of any unpleasant reminders that he is a Republican backed by San Diego’s traditional power brokers, and he just can’t stop reminding us that there is “no such thing as a Democratic or Republican pothole.”

Like the Republicans at the national level who have decided that they can claim poverty as an issue while refusing to raise the minimum wage, extend unemployment benefits, or stop cutting services to the poor, Faulconer seems to think ….

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San Diego’s Unlucky 2013: The Year That Can’t End Fast Enough

December 30, 2013 by Jim Miller

2013 handsBy Jim Miller

…the emergence of the local plutocracy’s strategy of rule by ballot initiative is a genuine threat to our local democracy

Last year, I rang out the New Year with a list of the best in San Diego culturally and politically in 2012. This year begs for a grimmer assessment. Better yet, politically, 2013 deserves to be tossed from the house with the caveat that it not let the door hit it in the ass on the way out.

It would be tempting to do a bottom ten list as there are so many deserving candidates in all quarters, but let me just reiterate what I wrote last summer, that much of what we saw transpiring in our fair city brought to mind Mark Twain’s pithy assessment of “the damned human race”:

I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the lower animals (so-called), and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me. For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that the theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals.

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Merry Christmas, Sex Pistols Style

December 23, 2013 by Jim Miller

sexpistols huddersfieldBy Jim Miller

Every holiday season one of my favorite tasks is collecting and delivering all the toys donated by my union brothers and sisters in the American Federation of Teachers to the Labor Council office for the annual toy drive. My union, along with many other San Diego locals who participate in this annual ritual, do so in order to help out the families of unemployed workers struggling during the holiday season.

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On Black Friday: I Would Prefer Not To

December 2, 2013 by Jim Miller

walmartBy Jim Miller

As the Salon story reposted here on Black Friday noted there were about 1,500 protests around the country on our annual day of consumer madness mostly designed to shine a light on the horrendous corporate practices of Walmart, America’s beloved externalizing machine. While Walmart’s propaganda insists that the company is a provider of good jobs and many benefits to our communities, the facts suggest otherwise.

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Redemption Time: Alvarez Beats the Odds and Keeps Hope Alive

November 25, 2013 by Jim Miller

Alvarez megaphone

By Jim Miller

Last Tuesday, fortune favored the bold. David Alvarez defied the pundits and political insiders and beat the prohibitive favorite, Nathan Fletcher, in the race to face Kevin Faulconer in the run-off to be San Diego’s next mayor. This was a seminal moment for San Diego—perhaps the biggest political upset in history of the city.

It just wasn’t supposed to happen.

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Fletcher Floundering, Alvarez Ascending, and Other Tales of Fear and Loathing from the Campaign Trail

November 11, 2013 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

alvarez jim 1This just in: it appears that Nathan Fletcher’s claims of inevitability have evaporated as the race to meet Kevin Faulconer in the run off is a dead heat leaning Alvarez heading into the last week. The internal polling in all three camps shows Faulconer having consolidated the Republican vote as Fletcher’s early name ID-fueled lead has collapsed, and Alvarez has continued to steadily trend upwards.

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San Diego’s Mayor Race: Are Dems Who Support David Alvarez Akin to a “Tea Party of the Left” or More Like New Yorkers Who Support De Blasio ?

October 14, 2013 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for San Diego’s Mayor Race: Are Dems Who Support David Alvarez Akin to a “Tea Party of the Left” or More Like New Yorkers Who Support De Blasio ?

By Jim Miller

After my last column on the perils of Carl Luna’s characterization of progressives supporting Democratic mayoral candidate David Alvarez as the “Tea Party of the Left” I got a response from Luna.

In his comment to my article posted at the OB Rag, he stood by his analogy “that those in the Democratic camp who hold that there are ‘true’ progressives (aka those they agree with) and DINOS are in danger of going down the Tea Party rabbit hole—like the Occupy Wall Street people run wild. (Except that Tea Party has 90 seats in Congress—OWS zero).”

This was prefaced by a reminder that, “the point of elections is to win.”

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For Fletcher, History is the Narrative that Hurts

October 7, 2013 by Jim Miller

confusedBy Jim Miller

To the surprise of many over the last couple of weeks, San Diego’s Labor Council, the San Diego Democratic Party, San Diego Democrats for Equality, Progressive San Diego, the Environmental Health and Justice Campaign, and a host of other local progressives have all lined up to endorse David Alvarez for Mayor.

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Local Author Mel Freilicher Reads from his New “Encyclopedia of Rebels”

September 30, 2013 by Jim Miller

Wednesday, October 2nd at 7pm at DG Wills Book Store
Encyclopedia of Rebels cover hi resBy Jim Miller

San Diego City Works Press is proud to announce the publication of The Encyclopedia of Rebels by local author and UCSD writing teacher, Mel Freilicher. The book plays with the intersections between history, fiction, memoir, fantasy, and mystery. As Pulitzer Prize winning poet Rae Armantrout puts it, “You could call this both an outrageous comedy and a credible look at the world we live in.”

Mel Freilicher will read from his new book this Wednesday, October 2nd, at 7 PM at D.G. Wills Book Store at 7461 Girard Ave in La Jolla as part of the San Diego City College International Book Fair.

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Fletcher Versus Alvarez: The Battle for the Soul of San Diego’s Democratic Party

September 23, 2013 by Jim Miller

democratic-party-where-are-youby Jim Miller

This last week marked the two-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, a political happening that finally put the issue of economic inequality in the spotlight and started a national discussion about money, class, and political corruption. That movement was largely brought to us by young people, Millennials mostly, whose view of mainstream politics is justifiably jaded.

As Peter Beinart recently pointed out, “Compared to their Reagan-Clinton generation elders, Millennials are entering adulthood in an America where government provides much less economic security. And their economic experience in this newly deregulated America has been horrendous.”

And this experience has been made worse by bankrupt politics that pits what Beinart rightly characterizes as “a procapitalist, anti-bureaucratic Reaganized liberalism” that is “inclined toward market solutions” to everything against a radicalized “right wing populism”:

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The San Diego Labor Council’s Choice: David Alvarez

September 9, 2013 by Jim Miller

AlvarezBy Jim Miller

Last Friday evening, after five grueling hours of candidate interviews and spirited debate, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council overwhelmingly endorsed David Alvarez for mayor.

This decision came after weeks of intense lobbying on the part of former labor leader Lorena Gonzalez, who, along with other powerful Democratic power brokers and money people were seeking to clear the field of genuinely progressive candidates in order to anoint Nathan Fletcher as the “only choice.”

Indeed, while Democratic money bundler Christine Forrester was writing to her well-heeled contacts praising Fletcher as “an astute business leader, worthy of representing and evolving Qualcomm’s business interests” and someone “well-suited to find common denominators between left and right” in order to create a “bipartisan platform from which San Diego can soar,” Gonzalez was repackaging him as a working class hero about whom she said to her list of labor folks, “the more he learned about economic justice issues, the better champion he became.”

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A New Day at San Diego’s City Hall?

September 5, 2013 by Ernie McCray

San Diego City Hallby Ernie McCray

The other night while watching tv I heard interim San Diego Mayor, Todd Gloria, mention that it’s “A new day at City Hall.”

Well, I’ve witnessed many a “new day” in my life and what’s going on today in City Hall doesn’t look anything like any one of those days to me. Instead, it looks like the same old same old to the millionth degree.

Oh, but there was a new day at City Hall. Not too long ago. And it wasn’t like any “new day” I have ever experienced before. It was something to behold. True blue. I mean no mayor, as in none, before Bob Filner, had ever cited visions for our city that coincided with mine, a vision that included people like me, many of us South of 8, activists, artists, performers, non-profit folks and business folks of common means, all trying to meet our community’s needs.

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Happy Labor Day, Now More than Ever

September 2, 2013 by Jim Miller

strike1-300x225By Jim Miller

Today is Labor Day, but how many of us have any idea where the holiday came from or what it celebrates?

The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5th, 1882 in New York City and was proposed by the Central Labor Union (CLU) at a time when American workers were struggling for basic rights such as the eight-hour day. The CLU moved the “workingman’s holiday” to the first Monday in September in 1883 and urged other unions to celebrate the date as well.

The movement grew throughout the 1880s, along with the American labor movement itself with 23 states passing legislation recognizing Labor Day as a holiday. By 1894 Congress followed suit and Labor Day became a national holiday.

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The Collected Works of Our Savior Nathan Fletcher, the Magic Democrat

August 26, 2013 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

fletch1In the aftermath of the Filner resignation, a group of Democratic Party insiders and money people are continuing to run around with their hair on fire trying to anoint Nathan Fletcher as our savior and discourage other truly progressive candidates from entering the field.

Of course this includes folks like Christine Forrester, who runs a marketing consulting firm that connects businesses with hedge fund money, and former Labor Council leader Lorena Gonzalez, who has long been championing her personal friend, the former Assemblyman with an 18% labor voting record over the vociferous objections of many in labor.

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Dispatches from the Higher Education Wars: Wins for City College of San Francisco, Outsourcing Opponents, and Adult Education

August 19, 2013 by Jim Miller

students-marching-forBy Jim Miller

Last week I outlined the plight of the City College of San Francisco (CCSF) noting that CCSF had become the “Chicago of Higher Education” as the college and their community allies were engaged in a struggle to stop the loss of its accreditation at the hands of a corrupt commission that was driven by a misguided corporate education reform agenda.

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Corporate Education Reform Goes to College: San Francisco is the “Chicago of Higher Education”

August 12, 2013 by Jim Miller

Photo Jorge Lopez

By Jim Miller

This summer few people outside of the Bay Area probably noted what was one of the most important stories about higher education in America: City College of San Francisco (CCSF) is losing its accreditation.

After years of wrangling, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), one of the seven regional accreditors in the western United States whose job it is to ensure the quality of higher education programs announced that CCSF was losing its accreditation in July of 2014.

Why should you care? Because ACCJC’s decision had very little to do with the quality of instruction and much more to do with imposing a new business model on community colleges that narrows their mission and opens the door to more privatization in American higher education. And San Francisco is being used as an example to intimidate other colleges to fall in line with ACCJC’s questionable “reform” agenda. Thus, what happened in San Francisco could happen in San Diego.

The reaction to this extreme punishment for CCSF, an institution that serves 90,000 students, many of them working class, immigrant, or in adult education, and had never been sanctioned before last year, was outrage.

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Darkness Drops: Filner’s Political Death Spiral Continues and the Likely Endgame

July 29, 2013 by Jim Miller

The fun never stops in America’s Finest City.

death spiralBy Jim Miller

Last week, Irene McCormack delivered Filner the political equivalent of a deathblow. As I noted in the wake of the announcement of her case, “In contrast to the first two press conferences which I think did it the wrong way, in the press conference yesterday McCormack and Allred had fewer dramatics and more professionalism and dignity. I think McCormack deserves to be taken seriously and respected.” And she has been.

Indeed, rather than the “drip, drip, drip” I predicted two weeks ago would “surely force him out or get him recalled”, there has been a deluge.

After McCormack, six other women came out publicly with more accusations of unprofessional and inappropriate if not illegal behavior by the mayor. In the wake of these accusations, the Democratic Party abandoned him, and on Friday he announced that he is going into a treatment program rather than resigning, assuring that this nightmare saga will continue indefinitely.

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Things Fall Apart: Filner’s Betrayal and the “Political Circus”

July 15, 2013 by Jim Miller

…the real winners here are the same old downtown insiders who are busy popping champagne corks and laughing at Filner’s implosion and cheering the welcome help they are getting from unlikely sources.

Downtown-sdfpBy Jim Miller

Whatever the end result of the Filner sexual harassment scandal, it’s clear that even if the mayor beats the odds and survives, his credibility and ability to move a bold populist agenda is severely damaged.

Hence, San Diego’s first truly progressive mayor may have squandered the opportunity to be a transformative figure, the progressive fighter and game changer we had hoped he would be. Worst of all by engaging in abusive behavior towards women, Filner has betrayed the core principles of any progressive politics by failing to respect the civil rights and humanity of women. We don’t need to hear all of the details to know that this is true–he has admitted as much himself.

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Is Your Vacation Stealing Your Life?

July 10, 2013 by Jim Miller

Flipped copy of molokai-e1373298775606-300x225By Jim Miller

Upon returning from my travels it was with some amusement that I noted the tag at the end of my “greatest hits” series of columns in June: “We’re re-running some of the best of his columns while Jim takes this ‘vacation’ thing we keep hearing about.” I was amused because I hate “vacations.”

Hate vacations? What am I crazy? No, not crazy just not a fan of the way our consumer culture steals our lives and sells them back to us. As Michael Ventura notes in his seminal essay, “Report from El Dorado”:

Our idea of “a vacation” is an idea only about 100 years old. To “vacation” is to enter an image. Las Vegas is only the most shrill embodiment of this phenomenon … People come here to step into an image, a daydream, a film-like world where “everything” is promised.

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Why Can’t Mayor Filner Just Be Nicer?: Corporate News as Propaganda, San Diego Style

July 1, 2013 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

sdfp media_hide_truthIn this final installment of Under the Perfect Sun media critique greatest hits, I apply the propaganda model to San Diego’s media scene.

Interestingly, it should be noted that while the local press have largely continued the Filner as disruptive narrative cited here, articles in theNew York Times and Los Angeles Times have recently presented a much prettier picture of Filner as a game changing mayor on multiple fronts. This is surely an embarrassing development in the House of Manchester, but don’t expect that to change the party line.

As the historic battle between Mayor Filner and San Diego’s big hoteliers over the tourism marketing deal unfolds, it’s clear where the lines are drawn.

On one side, you have a new strong mayor who is committed to ending business as usual in San Diego and on the other, you have folks like Terry Brown, chairman of the San Diego Tourism Marketing Association who, as Matt Potter at The San Diego Reader has pointed out, is a big time Republican funder …

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Beyond the “Conservative Entertainment Complex”

June 17, 2013 by Jim Miller

gobbelsBy Jim Miller

In this column that originally ran in December of last year, I discuss “the conservative media entertainment complex” as conceived of by former Bush propagandist David Frum and note that he only touches on the tip of the corporate media propaganda iceberg. What follows this is a beginners primer on how to decipher corporate media propaganda.

In the weeks following the election, David Frum made waves by explaining the shock in conservative circles over Romney’s loss with a bit of interesting media criticism: “Republicans have been fleeced and exploited and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex.”

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San Diego’s Left Found a Haven in Golden Hill During the 1970s

May 28, 2013 by Jim Miller


By Jim Miller

In the first part of my interview [at the San Diego Free Press] with Peter Zschiesche, he discussed Golden Hill past and present and described what he calls “the Golden Hill vibe.” Much of that feeling came out the politics and culture of the late sixties and early seventies. In this second and final installment of our interview, Peter talks about that time period and outlines some of the key places and players that made Golden Hill a vital, progressive community.

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Labor Bashing and Lincoln Club Love : the Last Refuge of Losers and Scoundrels in San Diego Democratic Politics

April 29, 2013 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for Labor Bashing and Lincoln Club Love : the Last Refuge of Losers and Scoundrels in San Diego Democratic Politics

Local Races in Assembly District 80 and City Council District 4

By Jim Miller

Before I devote the month of May to the San Diego Free Press’s upcoming focus on my Golden Hill neighborhood, recent events compel me to do one last column on the special elections in Assembly District 80 and City Council District 4.

The 80th California Assembly District: Lorena Gonzalez vs Steve Castaneda

In the race to replace Ben Hueso in the 80th it shouldn’t be shocking that Lorena Gonzalez’s opponent has attacked her for being a “union boss” except for the fact that that charge was hurled at her not from a Republican but from fellow Democrat, Steve Castaneda. Indeed, Mr. Castaneda, who would surely have taken labor’s endorsement if offered, was far too quick to turn to cartoon like right-wing anti-union stereotypes. This should tell us all we need to know about this variety of Democrat.

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