San Diego Reader
Unchurched Print E-mail

20210901(San Diego Reader September 1, 2021)

In 2011, Colby Martin, an assistant pastor in a Gilbert, Arizona, evangelical church near Phoenix, was summoned one day to a board meeting of the elders. The concern was a Facebook post Martin shared about President Obama lifting the ban on “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military regulation by which an LGBTQ person keeps that fact private. To the post, Martin appended six words: “I’m glad this day finally came.” Martin, who is 39 and met me for breakfast in Del Cerro, possesses a confessional well-being, equal parts vexed and resolute. Rigorously thoughtful, he took his time with my questions, waiting a bagel slathered with cream cheese. For those six words, a storm blew in. Further comments on Facebook hatched his superiors’ suspicions, and he was called on the carpet.

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Certainty Makes You Stupid Print E-mail

20210630(San Diego Reader June 30, 2021)

Sign of the Times: The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity by Carlo M. Cipolla, written and published privately in 1976 and reissued in April, is a sudden bestseller. Hardly unexpected, given the idiocy these days. If you’ve read this tiny masterpiece, you have a framework for labeling stupidity a syndrome, one with symptoms that are clearly expressed in both individuals and groups. Indeed, the condition may be worth an entry in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, psychiatry’s etiological bible. As one reviewer has written, “Idiots suffer from a disease that has no cure.” But a cure aside, classifying a disease should lead to treatment. Some researchers see parallels between medicalizing things like racism and mass shootings as public health crises and — wish upon a star — the remediable disorder of stupidity.

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Fraudsters Print E-mail

20210506(San Diego Reader May 6, 2021)

White-collar criminals come in all sizes and styles but they share an overarching motive: to steal money. Anyone’s stash will do. According to the FBI, they are experts at “deceit, concealment, [and] violation of trust.” Of the lot, the most complex to prosecute and the likeliest to weasel a light or “deferred” sentence are the fraudsters whose open secret is to appear legitimate, the neighborly crook, the good egg from church. Money launderers, work-site embezzlers, pyramid scammers, phony security traders—nice folk like Gina Champion-Cain. The latest basket term for crimes perpetrated on the near and maybe dear is “affinity fraud,” tricking those the swindler knows, often intimately.

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Time & Tide Waits on No One: Beach Erosion Print E-mail

20210113(San Diego Reader January 13, 2021)

The Sand at Encinitas

Jayme Timberlake—tide-watcher, restoration ecologist, avid surfer—light-foots it down Encinitas’s iconic Stone Steps. She’s barefoot, kicking off her shoes and leaving them on the sand-dusted floor of her truck cab. Desk-chained me follows, white legs and black tennies. We gaze up at the sentinel sandstone cliff-backs beside us and their telltale, sharp-edged furrows or rills of erosion. The sight feels perilous: 100-foot escarpments, topped by private homes, the occasional railroad-tie buttress, and a rare American flag—as if signaling to offshore pirates their onshore enemy.

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Here's That Rainy Day: Hard Times for San Diego County Cities Print E-mail

20200806(San Diego Reader August 6, 2020)

San Marcos City Manager Jack Griffin begins his annual June letter to the mayor and city council, “It is kind of my pleasure to submit the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Operations and Maintenance Budget.” That “kind of” summarizes the sour monetary mood facing San Diego’s 17 county cities and their managers in the new pandemic normal. The economic pain of dwindling revenue varies by city and its relative affluence, but the losses are universal. Since March, taxes on hotels, entertainment, bars and restaurants, even car sales and pot shops, typically about a third of a city’s spending base, have fallen—and, as people remain largely at home, will continue to fall.

As a result, most previously funded departments and staff, though spared, are being pared: social services snipped, capital projects deferred, full- and part-time workers furloughed or laid off, new hires frozen, libraries closed, recreation programs reduced, street repairs delayed, and parks dark. No municipality can cut salaries and benefits for firefighters and police; cities are contractually bound.

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To Play With Reptiles All Day Print E-mail

20200729(San Diego Reader July 29, 2020)

To hold a small Anaconda, it’s best to spread your hands out like spatulas and let the snake lie there, feeling supported. If the serpent doesn’t feel buoyed in your hands, it will squirm and droop like it’s upside down, which, from its spatial orientation, it is. The snake has a belly—the lighter colored half underneath—and the belly wants to be down, if not on the ground, then grounded. Otherwise, it curls and twists, not because it has it in for you (revenge!) but because the creature is trying to get away, that is, out of midair and back to the security of its burrow or enclosure. Once you brace the writhing beast from below, snake and handler calm down—find, as it were, common ground.

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This South Bay Sentinel: On Paradise Hills Print E-mail

20200123(San Diego Reader January 23, 2020)

Origin • Guy Preuss is an affable, tanned, retired Navy Master Chief, a Vietnam vet. As the 30-year self-described “temporary” president of the local village council and the chair of the planning committee, he does what most people these days don’t do: Stay put, stay committed, stay the course for his sake and that of his long-loved, iconic suburb, Paradise Hills. He’s lounging with me on the screened-in porch of his doodad-crammed bungalow, which he bought in 1977; I can see out back to an over-chlorinated pool that’s darkened by towering jungle growth. After I loudly repeat my initial question, he says he’ll be glad to tell me the town’s creation myth, but he’s got to run and get his hearing aids.

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