Friday, March 29, 2013

The Rights of the Unborn

Question: Do we, the living, have any moral, ethical, or legal responsibilities to the unborn? Are any rights conveyed to the unborn?

Before you ask, no, this is not an essay on abortion. I'll save that for another day.

I'm talking of children yet conceived. My grandkids, perhaps, or the children who will walk this Earth in 100 years. What obligations do we have to the millions who don't exist yet, not even in the twinkle of someone's eye? Those children have no say at all and certainly no vote except by proxy through us: the living.

I've been thinking of this question within the context of our debate on energy policy and how it relates to future economic prosperity, national security, and ecological and environmental justice.

I've been thinking of this question because the environmental movement, as currently oriented, has largely failed. It has focused largely on the specific concern of global warming, no small concern of course, but in doing so has not convincingly incorporated other, related issues -- economic prosperity, national security, and more broadly ecological and environmental justice -- in a coherent philosophy of what humanity could become.

Recently we have focused on Keystone XL as a rallying point. A line in the sand, if you will. In spite of some good energy and well articulated science, we have failed to effectively move public opinion and Obama is likely to sign off on the project. There was a recent piece on Huffington Post regarding  recent research that "[c]limate activists' strategy of barraging people with information about the consequences of climate change could end up hurting the cause."

We risk losing the message and the movement.

If history teaches us anything it is that cultures come and go. Eventually what we know as our current society will be different. Environmental catastrophe or not. Rather than fear a scary future, can we create a human future where all  enjoy "freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, and freedom from want?"

After Amy died, and in the months, now years, since, I realized something about the power of human love. How transformational it truly is. It is our unique gift and quality only we humans enjoy. A gift not to be squandered. And to fully manifest love, at a minimum, requires those four freedoms. Only once those basic humans freedoms are realized can we begin to do the work we humans are charged with: To fully love and be loved fully.

If we don't ensure such a world where our children's, children, can love and be fully loved, then what is the point? I created a citizen petition on Whitehouse.gov regarding Keystone XL where I tried, perhaps less than perfectly, to connect these dots in the few words allotted, and propose a way to change the discussion. To move the debate forward.

So I'll answer my earlier question: Yes, we the living, have moral, ethical, and legal responsibilities to the unborn, or at least should. Decisions we make and actions we take today, in our own self-interests, ought not compromise nor undermine the self-interests of humans 1, 10, 100, even 1000 years from now.

They have a right to love and be loved.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Death and Taxes (again)

I shouldn't be surprised anymore. It's been almost three years. But this is a good one. Take this example from a popular tax software package. I won't use it's name, but it rhymes with "BlurboFrax." (By the way, I'm a big fan of BlurboFrax!).

Good News! I'm a qualifying widow(er).

Not only am I a qualifying widow(er), I'm an IT guy. I've written software and led teams and I can just imagine how this funny little message slipped through the analysis and the usability research. Likely whomever led final acceptance testing was considering messages in relation to possible return  how much money you get back not so much about anything else. And if the user of the software can claim qualifying widow(er) status, it helps. Just like if you can check the exemption box that you are blind. Good news!

I wonder what BlurboFrax and the IRS would consider great news?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tar Sands, Ho! (Part 1)


Dear all,
Please sign my petition on Whitehouse.gov urging the Obama Administration to use its taxing authority on Keystone XL to convert tar sands into wind power!  Think it can’t be done? Read the petition! I need 150 signatures for the petition before Whitehouse.gov will make it public, then 100,000 signatures by April 23, 2013 to force the administration to respond. Will you join me? Links are below and share, share, share! Make this go viral!

Short URL: http://wh.gov/HiSC


Save and Share this URL:
https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/1-okay-fine-approve-keystone-xl-2-tax-tar-sand-oil-3-buy-alberta-4-build-wind-farms-5-send/spK0qN6J

And stay tuned for more on this most important issue.

Thanks,
John

Monday, March 18, 2013

Train of Thought


Big list. Lots of errands. Day off. Gonna catch-up! All perfectly timed. Wake up. Check email. Grab coffee. Get dressed. Kids ready for school. Running late. Drive to elementary school. Meeting with school counselor. Goes well. Run back home, grab book and old cable converter box. Gotta get downtown to return it to save monthly rental fee I’ve been paying for over a year! Then to a lunch meeting elsewhere downtown. Gonna take Metro. Drive to Ft Totten. No parking. Drive back to Takoma. Street parking. I have no quarters. Pay by phone! Phone registration fails. Download app. Register again. Pay! Okay. Here we go. Into the station. Swipe my Fare Card. Up the escalator. Just missed the train. Shit. Look at watch. Still running late.

Was she running late? It happened at 10:20 a.m. Why then? Did she just miss the train? Or did she race to catch it just before it left?  

Train arrives. Get on. Find seat. Deep breath. Pull out book. Read. Train arrives: Metro Center. Get off. Study map. Fast walk to the exit. Swipe my card and up the escalator. On 13th Street. Orient myself then walk a half block to F Street. Red light. Waiting at crosswalk. Waiting. Green. I start walking.

That’s what she did. Downtown, heading to work. In the crosswalk with a green light. I calculate in my head. 1 month and 11 more days then it'll be 3 years.

Back on the curb and down the sidewalk. Pull open the glass door and into RCN office. No line! I turn in the old converter box and get a receipt. Quick and painless. Very pleasant and I reclaim a few lost minutes. Back across the street at the crosswalk with the light and I remember.

Remember: It was fast. No suffering. That's what they told you. Maybe she didn’t even know. 

It's chilly. Feels damp like it should have snowed like they said it would but didn't. Down the escalator, swipe the fare card and onto the platform. Look at watch. I’m now just ahead of schedule. Deep breath.  I pull out the book and read a page. Another page. A woman in a in a black skirt with black stockings walks by.

She often wore skirts and black stockings. What did she wear that day? Probably a skirt. But I can’t remember. I don’t even know. I didn’t get her clothes back. I bet it was a skirt.

Train arrives. Only three stops to my next meeting. Lunch meeting with a dear friend to discuss a book project and to ask him to be one of my three Best Men. I read some more of my book. NoMa-Gallaudet. I’ve never been to this stop before. New. Slightly different architecture. Down the stairs, swipe my card, then half a block to our rendezvous restaurant.

Good lunch. We catch-up. Down to business. We talk serious and silly. We laugh at ourselves. We finish and say goodbye. Back to metro. Swipe my card, up the stairs, and wait on the platform. I position to get on the last car to be closer to the escalator. Look at the status sign: 7 minute wait. Read my book. Train arrives. Get on. Find seat. Stare out the window. Arrive at Takoma. Off the train, to the end of the platform, down the escalator, then swipe my card. Walk down the street to my car. Get in. Turn on ignition and head on to the next thing.

Just another day.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Last Night

Last night I attended a meditation class. I used to attend one semi-regularly some years ago, then fell out of practice. I’ve wanted to start again for some time. A few months ago I had learned of a Monday night meditation but it took until last night to finally go. It’s held in a lovely, old Episcopal church on Capital Hill. I had never been there before and didn’t know anyone. I had that subtle nervous feeling I get anytime I venture out to something new and different. Luckily I gave myself enough time to get lost and turned around, which I did. I asked someone for help, was re-oriented, and made my way to the nave where about 50 where gathering. I sat down and took a deep breath.

After a 30 minute meditation we listened to some readings then had a discussion.  One theme of the evening was how to take the practice (meditation, mindfulness, compassion) into the world. I shared with the gentleman sitting next to me how easy it is for me to become frustrated to the point of losing hope. Global warming or our seemingly ongoing petty-debating in national politics. So many big problems go unattended while we squabble like kindergartners. I want to do good in the world, I told him, but often feel like I am just butting my head against a big wall.

“When I feel that way,” he said, “I think of a small waterfall landing on a rock. Each drop of water may not seem like much, but over time it will cut a smooth groove in the rock.”

Sometimes I am in the right place and the right time.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Winter Forward


“What’s wrong with you? It’s easy to understand!”
“Shut-up! I still don’t get it. If we loose an hour, why is the clock ahead?”
“Well its because that hour disappeared last night. At two o’clock when you were sleeping. Gosh.”
“I still don’t get it! You said we spring forward.”
“Well we do! But you get the hour back in the fall. That’s why it’s fall backward. Duh.”
“Shuddup!”
“No, you shuddup”
“Well, it's stupid. And it’s not even spring forward ‘cause it’s still winter.”
“Well, so what if it is. It’s stupid to say ‘winter forward.’”
“But why Sunday? Why do we loose an hour on Sunday? That’s so not fair. They should do it when we are in school.”
“Yeah! That would be totally better. They could set the clock ahead at 2 o’oclock tomorrow afternoon then we could just go home.”
“Told you!”
“Fine!”

Often the genius of a 10-year-old and 7-year-old isn’t immediately obvious. Often, like tonight, it sneaks up from seemingly nowhere. What I thought would deteriorate into a shouting match at the dinner table became a revelation. Of course! Daylight Savings Time should begin in the middle of the day on a Monday. It is 'so not fair' to loose that precious hour on Sunday, our alleged and former day of rest. Shifting it to the next Monday makes so much more sense.

I’m sure plenty of economists and politicians and business people can give good reasons for why a midday clock shift is impractical, but I say, let’s take the lead from our children! After all, the future resides with them, not us.

There has been some noise in the media of late regarding Daylight Savings Time. I have not really paid attention and have not done the research, but that won't stop me from having an opinion! The original notion that it saved energy, I believe, is no longer as relevant nor obvious. It is good for retailers and sports, apparently. But it messes up our sleep for a couple days as we adjust.  And tonight two boys I know will not be ready to go to sleep when they should and will be tired tomorrow. I don't need that.

Personally, I don’t have a strong opinion. I really don’t like losing the hour we lost today but I’m already planning how I’ll use the extra hour I get in November. I like falling back.

So, when I’m polled, I’ll tell them Daylight Savings time should stay and it should begin on a Monday. At about 2pm. During school. Just ask my 10 and 7 year olds for details.

Update: Rather than get the extra hour on November 3rd, the 10 and 7 year old decided it would be better to do it on October 31. At 7pm. Right in the middle of Trick-or-Treating! Yeah! That would be awesome!