Category: Ethics

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Death of a Republic

Foreshadowing is a common storytelling technique. Perhaps in a movie with what I call a “French ending”, the handsome hero stubs his toe early on, only to later die of blood infection. A different kind cuts across genres: In the classic trope from American cinema, a sidekick is introduced with intriguing backstory and quickly developed character, which signals that his or her death is imminent.

My question: What does a hearse parked across from the polling place in North Park foreshadow? The death of our constitutional republic? Or of democracy, if you prefer? Judging by the advanced ages of the people choosing to vote in person, on-call ambulance wouldn’t be unreasonable precaution. Hearse is a bit much, but, hey, surely someone will croak while voting somewhere. “Be prepared” is the Boy Scot motto and that of undertakers everywhere.

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A Solitary Sign

This is different and, honestly, refreshing. In my San Diego neighborhood of University Heights, We Believe signs are almost always some variation of rainbow color text on black background professing sentiments like “love is love”; “black lives matter”; and “science is real”—among others.

Today, along Shirley Ann Place, my wife and I passed a placard seemingly meant as an antidote to the others. Given the community’s liberal leanings, and the plethora of the other signs, I must admit surprise seeing one so blatantly contrary. We live where views dissident to progressive feelings-based beliefs and values simply are not tolerated.

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Voting Integrity, Seriously?

Before SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 provided California with the excuse to issue mail-in ballots, voting was straightforward: The County assigned a polling place, where you would go to vote. Volunteers had a list of registered citizens from which your name would be checked off and then you would do your civic duty. Simple. Straightforward.

In 2020, I chose to vote in person—and I brought along my mail-in ballot, which would have been accepted had I not requested to vote onsite. After confirming my identity, the election volunteer provided ballot and place to vote. Simple. Straightforward. But the experience my wife and I had voting today was nothing like this or during elections 2021 and 2022. By every measure, looks to me like the polling place process is engineered to deter in-person voting.

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What’s More Inclusive Than Welcome?

On July 14, 2023, as the prideful descended upon San Diego for the annual alphabet-letter parade the next day, I stopped with my wife to gawk at the fence, along Adams Ave. in University Heights, that is subject of the Featured Image.

The “Welcome” sign and homage to the “brave”, along with an American flag out of frame, stood starkly—proudly and patriotically—in contrast to the many rainbow flags we encountered nearby along Panorama Drive. (Say, why do these banners have six colors when the real deal in the sky is seven?)

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Come and Get Me, Apple

If you believe Wired story “Apple Is Taking On Apples in a Truly Weird Trademark Battle“—and I do—the company is running about the globe seeking the “rights to the image of apples”.

One court case could cause big problems for 111-year-old the Fruit Union, according to reporter Gabriela Galindo, who writes: “The oldest and largest fruit farmer’s organization in Switzerland worries it might have to change its logo, because Apple, the tech giant, is trying to gain intellectual property rights over depictions of apples, the fruit”.

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Relic of the Fourth Estate

Since June 6, 2023, I have made several concerted efforts to write this post. Each time, I ran aground. This instance is no exception, because I cannot conceptualize what needs to be stated. So, simply: Journalism is dead. News reporting as I once knew it is no more. Reporters don’t properly source. They editorialize and subjectify the news. Advocacy replaces objectivity.

That’s what makes the Reporter / Journalist / Correspondent @Work Android Collectible iconic. He marches along carrying his smartphone, microphone, and Leica rangefinder (see the red dot on the camera). He is intrepid and valiant. He seeks the truth, and knows that it demands trudging out into the field and documenting events and speaking to real people. He doesn’t mine Google, Instagram, Reddit, or any other online resources.

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Bon Appétit!

In April 2016, I started to write “Why is Hollywood Obsessed with Viral Armageddon?” In June 2017, I shot a photo to illustrate the post, which wasn’t finally finished until March 2021—nearly a year after the World Health Organization declared  SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 to be a pandemic.

San Diego’s Museum of Us exhibit “Cannibals: Myth & Reality” must be ongoing because I came upon the same sign still in place six years later—as you can see from the Featured Image, captured using Leica Q2 Monochrom, on April 20, 2023. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/160 sec, 28mm; 3:23 p.m. PDT.

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Is Theft Really This Bad?

Welcome to Target in San Diego’s Mission Valley, where toothpaste is kept under lock and key. Apparently, the tubes are a high-theft item, right up there with body lotion and shaving cream. No problem, flat-screen televisions are grab and carry, and maybe an employee will notice—or maybe not. Why let loose the big-ticket item and secure the smaller one? That’s a good question.

One sales associate told me: During the time of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19  consumer and commercial restrictions, the retailer had trouble stocking some personal care items, presumably because of ongoing supply-chain problems. But the bigger culprit turned out to be shoplifters—something that locked up stock quickly made clear.

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For the Survivors

While driving through Escondido, Calif., I came upon the most unusual sight: A vast garden of kids’ windmills—pinwheels, if you prefer—planted upon a grassy enclave. Later, I walked over to the intersection, where they were: Citracado Parkway and Autopark Way.

What were they for? I wondered. The answer is on the sign that is more readable in the second photo: “April is child abuse prevention & sexual assault awareness month. These pinwheels represent each survivor Palomar Health served last year”.

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Our Daughter’s New Smartphone

From my perspective, the police violated our daughter’s Fourth Amendment protections when seizing the iPhone 13 Pro that she inherited from me as a 2022 Christmas present. The story: Parents of the household where she visited handed over the device when asked. But it wasn’t theirs to give, nor the cops to take. Our only child couldn’t, and so didn’t, authorize the seizure. Justification: A sergeant, and later detective, told me they sought evidence of a crime against our daughter, the victim.

Law enforcement’s fishing expedition deprives the device’s owner as she recuperates from a double stroke caused by oxygen deprivation and prepares to go to an acute rehabilitation facility sometime soon. She wants her iPhone, and the detective doesn’t respond to my calls. We even had tentatively scheduled a meeting whereby we would discuss possible passcodes to unlock the device. That was before our girl made massive strides unthinkable the day of the proposed meetup to which he didn’t show.

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No Christmas Cheer Here

One of the nearby assuredly festively-decorated houses isn’t this Christmas season. You can get a sense of what’s typical from the profile of Queenie, who joined my “Cats of University Heights” series in December 2021. Sadly, she vanished last month, and her owner assumes coyote.

Sad as that may seem, the family suffered another emotional assault a month earlier, when the homeowner came home to find that the four towering palms outside her house had been marked for removal (e.g. clearcutting). Reportedly, San Diego Gas and Electric ordered the curbside destruction.

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And That’s the Ugly Truth

Mr. and Mrs. Uglydoll permit a moment of privacy invasion, for this Featured Image captured on July 2, 2017 using Leica Q. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/4, ISO 160, 1/60 sec, 28mm; 2:58 p.m. PDT. Consider the stuffed couple as a placeholder, while I am off absorbing explosive news. Short explanation about what:

One of my favorite journalists is Matt Taibbi. I subscribed to Rolling Stone because of his news reporting and stopped when he left. I now proudly support his Substack—all while wishing that I could still write as voluminously as he does or with even 10-percent his cynicism, pragmatism, sarcasm, and witticism. Tonight, he dropped the equivalent of an informational atomic bomb on Twitter about Twitter.