Category: Ethics

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It’s a Cultural Cold War

The United States continues to seek new punishments against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, which started on Feb. 24, 2022. Americans rally to the cause with good intentions that may not mean much and that may do more harm than good. For example, pouring out Vodka and evoking spirit (no pun intended) of the Boston Tea Party accomplishes what?

As Dan Kois writes for Slate: “Stop Boycotting Random Russian Things. You are not stopping the war in Ukraine”. Nutgraph: “It is dumb to boycott things that have no actual connection to Vladimir Putin or even, in some cases, to Russia. But it’s also foolish to demonize every vestige of Russian culture, and ordinary Russian citizens, and Russians abroad, as a result of a catastrophic war launched by a despot”.

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The Law of Unintended Consequences

I came upon the strangest circumstance today: Firemen rushing into a home with water hoses to put out nothing. The residents hadn’t called for emergency services, and they were surprised to be cleared out onto the street. The Featured Image, taken quickly using iPhone 13 Pro, shows some of the gallant first responders after everyone realized that a bystander had badly blundered.

This, ah, older gentleman observed what he thought was smoke coming out of a vent, which is why he rang 911. What he really saw: Steam from someone showering. Whoops. My first inclination would be to bang on the door yelling “Fire!” Wouldn’t you? Maybe he did but there was no response because the person was in the shower and she couldn’t hear him.

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Russia Roars, and It’s War

Russia’s incursion into neighboring Ukraine began in the wee hours local time there. I started seeing news stories early last night; California is about 10 hours behind. A tumultuous day of military advancement, impotent response from the U.S. President, and relentless news commentary, editorialization, and misinformation followed.

I watch and wait, understanding that Russian leader Vladimir Putin acts now for many reasons—perceived, and real, ineptitude of American leadership is among them. The troop withdrawal debacle in Afghanistan demonstrated U.S. military weakness, including decision-making capabilities of the Commander-in-Chief. Surely, Putin—and other autocrats—calculate opportunity.

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The Humiliation Games

On the same day the 2022 Olympics opened, February 4, I passed by something appropriate and timely: discarded pair of thirtytwo brand snowboarding boots. Their abandonment, along the North Avenue alley in San Diego’s University Heights neighborhood, could be a metaphor for what’s being chucked away in Beijing right now: fair competitive spirit, human dignity, and truthfulness. It’s all humiliating.

Let me count the ways: Humiliating that, because of surveillance, athletes were instructed to bring burner phones to China—and, for their own safety, not to publicly criticize the host nation. Humiliating that China presented as propaganda a token Uyghur during the opening ceremony; what genocide? Humiliating that Russian President Vladimir Putin joined Chinese President Xi Jinping, while Western nations, including the United States, chose not to send diplomatic delegations. Humiliating that Chinese officials dragged away a Dutch reporter during a live broadcast. Humiliating that athletes quarantined for positive SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 are mentally and physically impaired by poor food quality and living conditions. Humiliating, and convenient, that some foreign gold medal contenders test Coronavirus positive and can’t compete. Humiliating that most NBC Sports commentators and hosts are broadcasting from the United States rather than China.

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Is God Inclusive?

This post is sure to stir up trouble. I write sparingly about politics and rarely about religion because the topics are metaphorical loaded automatic assault weapons ready to blast endless emotional rounds of ammunition. Retaliation is swift. You can’t duck fast enough or return fire in the way of meaningful discussion. For too many people, conversation isn’t an option. To them, you are offensive and wrong. So safety is measured in silence before the easily offended.

But I uncharacteristically wonder outloud about faith, sparked by the Featured Image, which I captured on Nov. 20, 2021 using iPhone 13 Pro. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 32, 1/1167 sec, 13mm; 12:45 p.m. PST. The church, located in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, has long puzzled me because of the six doors and what their combined colors represent. I had thought the canonized Bible—the same book the congregation presumably reads—prohibits behaviors and lifestyles which the institution embraces.

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Pedal the Pacific

Is it irony that an organization that cycles for its cause advertises on the side of a van? Maybe somebody will get the message about “trafficking” when stuck in rush-hour traffic beside the vehicle—or perhaps consider that an unmarked, white, windowless van could be carrying sex-trafficked men, women, or kids. Shiver the thought.

The group explains its mission: “Pedal the Pacific exists to educate all people about sex trafficking. We use bikes as a platform to raise awareness, educate peers, fundraise for leading nonprofits, and develop leaders who believe that no voice is too small to make a difference”.

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Okay, They Can’t Both Be Right

Or am I missing something super obvious here? Take a look for yourself: CNBC; New York Post. The funny thing: Both news stories cite the same study but choose to frame the findings differently. Specifically, in presenting their opposing viewpoints, CNBC and New York Post link to different Tax Policy Center datasets—here and here, respectively.

The two headlines, and the reports themselves, are an excellent case study for how data is subjectively presented by the so-called mainstream media—or any other organization with some measure of partisan political leanings. The network is notoriously liberal and pro-Biden. The newspaper is arguably conservative and more critical of old Joe.

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Parents Protest San Diego School District Vaxx Mandates

Late afternoon, my wife asked: “What is all that honking?” Annie was right. Car horns could be heard in the distance, occasionally and repeatedly tooting. We turned to one another flummoxed over the sudden roar of cheering that reminded of sporting events. What was going on nearby—and where? I left to find out, following the sounds that piqued our mutual curiosities.

Our University Heights apartment is located about .8-kilometer (one-half mile) walking distance from administrative offices for San Diego Unified School District, where a sizable crowd had gathered with picket signs. As I arrived, a woman’s voice bellowed over loudspeakers advocating against vaccine mandates and for parents’ rights to choose for their children—not the government nor SDUSD. What I didn’t understand: The school board scheduled a 5 p.m. PDT meeting to vote on a proposal requiring staff and some students to be vaccinated. How ironic: They cowered in isolation via Zoom, while parents protested in person.

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The Bicycle

My wife typically goes to bed and rises earlier than do I. When getting up to feed the cats, Cali and Neko, Annie saw bicycle handlebars sticking up behind a parked car; about 3:30 a.m. PDT. She assumed that one of the apartment building’s other tenants had a visitor who left the bike locked on the sidewalk. But daylight revealed a wayward fixed-speed roadster, apparently abandoned and unlocked. We both wondered where it came from and how in a neighborhood rife with bicycle thieves no one had ridden off with the thing.

Someone stole two of our then three bikes from a locked garage, in February 2010. Annie sees frequent posts on Nextdoor about bikes taken from behind locked fences or about neighbors reporting random two-wheeler chop shops. We wondered where the women’s rider came from. Perhaps someone, ah-hum, borrowed—then abandoned—it?

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Pandemic Pollution

What a difference a year makes. In April 2020, when SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2), which causes COVID-19, seemed so dire and face masks were so difficult to find, I wrote about the perils of not wearing one—illustrated with a rare, discarded protective covering. Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks, or social distance, in most situations—meaning: “except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance”.

Long before the unexpected change to pandemic public policy, just two days ago, face masks could be found littered all about the County. San Diego Union-Tribune spotlighted the debris along beaches in July 2020; early last month, ABC News reported that “discarded masks litter beaches worldwide, threaten sea life“; the local CBS affiliate, reporting about the April 24, 2021 “19th-annual ‘Creek to Bay Clean-up'”, explained that there has been a surge in ‘single-use plastics”— and the “biggest offender? PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], especially masks”.

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Everything You Need to Know About Facebook in One Popup

On Feb. 23, 2021, a news story from BBC Online about an explosion following the collision of a freight train and 18-wheeler riveted my attention. An early version of the report offered video footage embedded from Facebook (additional media is available in the linked version that you can click). I tapped the play icon on my tablet, which got the video going but also an overlaying message requesting permission for the social network “to use cookies and website data while browsing BBC.com”. Hell no, FB CEO Mark Zuckberg’s zombie-bots aren’t allowed to track my activity. Give blanket permission for all the Beeb? Eh, no.

Dirty bird! Pressing “Don’t Allow” stopped the video playing. Not once, but every time—and I confirmed the behavior on my laptop browser today. If you think the Internet is free, I got some swamp land in Florida to sell you right now. I don’t own it and you wouldn’t want it, but if you’re gullible enough to think social networks and other content-rich sites give you something free without taking something more, let’s you and I make a swamp deal. You are tracked, your browsing behavior is catalogued, and advertisements are targeted based on your online activities. That’s the Facebook Way.

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Message to the Homeless?

While walking with my wife along Panorama Drive, in San Diego’s University Heights community, we passed by a sign that I ignored, then turned back to capture. What does “dumping” mean, I wonder. Could it be throwing garbage into the canyon, which access would be difficult but possible from that location? Or could it refer to the business that people do when they need to, ah, relieve themselves?

Pricey Panorama, where are some of the costliest homes in UH, would be one of the neighborhood’s least welcoming of the homeless—and more are seen in the area everyday, although likelier two to three blocks closer to El Cajon Blvd. And, yes, they are known to “dump” in unexpected places. With SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 restrictions keeping eatery dining rooms closed and most retailers barring bathrooms to the public, everyone is limited on where to go when nature calls. So I got to wonder, who is the sign meant for?