Category: Free Speech

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Yeah, Let’s Lower Old Glory to Honor Them

Since the disastrous defeat in Afghanistanself-imposed, but denied, by the current Administration in Washington, D.C.—I have observed a number of American flags flying half-mast in my neighborhood of University Heights. The question: Why aren’t they all?

San Diego is still very much a military town, and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is located in the Northern section of the county. Nine Marines and a Sailor stationed there were killed in the Kabul Airport bombing about 10 days ago. The White House ordered half-staff flags for the fallen heroes—yeah, let’s lower Old Glory to honor them. So why are only a few of my neighbors doing so—again, remembering the area’s military heritage, the Navy, especially.

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Graffiti? Message? Warning?

What a surprise is this. While walking in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood today, I spotted the oddest thing: The pictured graphic and text on a utility pole at Monroe and Utah. Is that sign meant to alert Antifa members? During last year’s racial riots and protests, I frequently passed persons all-black-clad—the group’s de facto uniform—hanging about some University Heights streets, presumably waiting for rides.  Seeing such scribbling, self-labeled anti-fascists would know where to gather—or maybe the scrawling is nothing more than graffiti.

I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/640 sec, 28mm; 2:47 p.m. PDT. In post-production, I over-saturated purple and red; sunlight had faded both colors.

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The Question is Why?

If I rightly recall from past signage, the same neighbor also believes that the U.S. government was behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Looking at this simple statement, perhaps he is among conspiracy theorists convinced that SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)/COVID-19 vaccines also inject nanites. If I could be so bold to suggest: Should Deep State operatives really want to track you, the 4G or 5G smartphone already carried would be more than sufficient. My question: What makes you (or me) so important that anyone would bother?

We already live in a surveillance society. If not cameras from any other house, it’s Facebook, Google, your Internet Service Provider, or a host of other online entities watching—and creating profiles about you. Because bungling bureaucracy is so certain, I would welcome government snooping over the efficiencies of high-tech money-grubbers committed to turning you (or me) into a profitable commodity. Suddenly, writing this paragraph, I am convincing myself that “No 4G/5G Here”—or any Internet access—has merit. Or maybe it’s time to install the VPN software that I licensed long ago but never activated. 🙂

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The Discarded Sentiment

What demonstration marched through the neighborhood unbeknownst to me? While walking with my wife through the alley separating Alabama and Florida streets, I stopped to wonder about the forlorn placard that is the Featured Image. I captured a single photo using Leica Q2. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 4:33 p.m. PDT, today.

The message piqued my interest—and as a photographic object, I liked the mood created by bands of light shining through the fence. For your edification (and mine), according to Wikipedia: Yellow Peril “is a racist color-metaphor that represents the peoples of East Asia as an existential danger to the Western world”. Yikes!

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A Plea for Continued Relevance

On March 1, 2021, as I walked along University Ave. in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, a huge banner beckoned my attention. I frequently see signs like this in apartment and house windows but nothing this large nor with Still added. I used iPhone XS to snap the companion to the Featured Image, which I captured the next day with Leica Q2 Monochrom. Vitals for the smartphone shot, which is composed as taken: f/2.4, ISO 16, 1/761 sec, 52mm (film equivalent); 9:05 a.m. PST. For the camera, aperture manually set: f/8, ISO 200, 1/400 sec, 28mm; 10:27 a.m.

Why is such a banner, with Still added, seen as necessary? The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin is underway in Minneapolis. He is implicated in the death of George Floyd, whose alleged homicide sparked racial riots and protests in the city and across the country—with loud voices crying “defund the police” and “no justice, no peace”. Nearly ten months later, Americans have largely stopped rallying for racial reckoning—and the organization that gathered them before isn’t yet, if it ever will, marshaling masses together. Black lives still matter, but the movement apparently does not.

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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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Should THIS Surprise Me?

Shirley Ann Place is a seemingly sleepy converted alley between Louisiana and Texas Streets lined with historic Spanish-style cottages. While walking along there a few weeks ago, I sensed tension in the air and saw its manifestation in competing Black Lives Matter signs and American flags—but not both on the same building. Citizens chose to voice whom or what they supported by the icon displayed; for some people, nothing whatsoever. The pattern was undeniable and it is consistently observed across the San Diego neighborhood of University Heights.

Except that the displays of support along Shirley Ann Place felt more combative—stakeholders, something like a Hatfields vs McCoys feud. Black Lives Matter isn’t just a slogan—it refers to an organization with political ambitions that would upend American society. Presumably, flag wavers express patriotism and their stand against radicalism. That said, nothing surprised me more than meandering by yesterday and seeing BLM spray-painted on the Stars and Stripes.

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Going Postal

Among Americans, few institutions, and the services provided, are as meaningful as the United States Post Office. The Second Continental Congress created the U.S. postal system on July 26, 1775—nearly a year before the Colonies formally declared national independence from Britain—and chose Benjamin Franklin as the first postmaster general. Living generations, even the youngest among them, share some emotional experience from receiving, or sending, mail. The card from grandma is a tangible expression of her love for you. Delivery of an online-ordered package—and every other one before it—is a moment of anticipation and joy. Feelings about the mail are entrenched, and within our society they are universally shared.

We put faith in the Post Office and its capacity to deliver our mail. But now, Democrat politicians and their supporters assert that our faith is misplaced—that we cannot trust the USPS, because the Trump Administration conspired to  disrupt postal operations to tamper with this year’s Presidential election. The allegations exploded like a supernova—seemingly from invisibility—not long after the President raised concerns that universal mail-in ballot initiatives, like the one here in California, would lead to voter fraud. Trump’s Democrat rivals assert that cost-cutting streamlining of postal operations and recent slowdown of mail processing are evidence of his interference to steal your vote.

It’s non sequitur. One thing has little to do with the other. Donald Trump is a longstanding critic of the USPS as it exists today—way before the brouhaha about mail-in ballots—and there are legitimate concerns that existing postal logistical capabilities and various states’ voting rules will lead to electoral chaos. But as a political maneuver, Democrats have whacked a hornet’s nest of emotional attachment to mail that already stings the President.

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Party-Pooping Politics

The first of two presidential conventions convening this month is underway. The Democrats are meeting, if you rightly can call it that, in Milwaukee, Wisc. Most of the speeches are being given individually, rather than before crowds, from remote locations, because everyone is scared into a tizzy about spreading—or worse—catching SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2); better known as COVID-19. I suppose that it would be bad form for 77-year-old Joe Biden, running mate Kamala Harris, or anyone among the party’s esteemed elite to catch Coronavirus and die. Surely members of the opposing party can hope.

Speaking of the Republicans, their greet-and-not-meet event starts on Aug. 24, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C.. Flag-waving, MAGA-hat-wearing supporters can likewise stump for their candidates, Donald Trump and Mike Pence, before televised, remotely-given speeches. Every vote counts, unless your constituents catch COVID-19 and die before Election Day; so it’s better they don’t gather together. Eh?

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The Strong Arms of Defiance

Around the corner from where was the Urban Pumpkin is the local gym, which closed during California Governor Gavin “Gruesome” Newsom’s first state-shuttering order in mid-March 2020 but has since defied the second shutdown, started July 13, that restricts indoor activities at many commercial businesses and institutions (like churches). Four days ago, San Diego County issued an order for the “immediate closure of Boulevard Fitness”; compliance “may be enforced by the San Diego Police Department”.

In meaningless sense of solidarity—the way flabby, beer-gut spectators feel good when watching their favorite sports team compete and win—I have checked daily for more than a month to see if the gym is open, silently cheering that it was. But on a Monday morning, following the “cease and desist” order, would Boulevard Fitness welcome patrons of exercise and good health?

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I Quit Nextdoor AGAIN

For the third time since joining the so-called neighborhood social network in August 2017, I write about leaving. Previously: October 2018 and July 2019. Pandemic, pets (lost ones), police, politics, and protests were all good reasons to make 2020 a grand return. Every week passes like a lifetime this year. Many of us are confined to our residences or street, because of “shelter-in-place” and “social-distancing” orders; fear of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2)—also known as COVID-19—infection; work-from-home requirements; job loss; or school closures. Nextdoor was a way to connect and to stay informed.

But, today, I unceremoniously deactivated my account, once more, because the mandatory “Good Neighbor Pledge” offends me. The thing popped up when I opened the News Feed—first time, this morning. To read, or do anything else, means acknowledging “I agree”. I don’t.

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Praise Be Citizen Journalists

On this Easter, like others, I think about resurrection—but this day, strangely, how it should apply to the news media. Three years ago, I wrote largely-overlooked ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers. The concept germinated from my June 2009 essay “Iran and the Internet Democracy“, following protests in the country that citizens documented on social media/self-publishing platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, which at the time were little more than three years old (with respect to availability to the public). I predicted that these nascent services would disrupt editorial monopolies on news and other information, which has occurred in varying degrees during the nearly eight years since.

By March 2010, a troubling trend lead me to write what would become the other genesis for the book: “The Difference Between Blogging and Journalism“. Too many news gatherers single-source blog and socially-shared posts, without independently confirming their accuracy. As I have told my reporters over the years, when working as an editor: Write only what you know to be true. If you haven’t communicated directly with the source, then you don’t know what’s true. But I am more disturbed by social media activity that mainstream media presents as news, such as stories that turn trending topics, or simply single tweets, into clickable headlines. Often they’re unconfirmed filler for driving pageviews.