Values, Isms and our Human Spirit

When I hear the word “communism”, I think “community”. I like living in a community, among other people. I do not need to become a communist to like community.

When I hear the word “socialism”, I think “society”. I live in one. How about you? America has built a pretty wonderful, imperfect, evolving society. Canada too, plus I’m sure there many others that I have not visited yet. I do not need to become a socialist to like society.

When I hear The word “conservatism”, I remember the wisdom of my grandfather, who encouraged me to act with thoughtful intention, to save and spend wisely – in short, to conserve. I remember my high-school track coach, who reminded me to pace myself as I rounded the oval for the second or third time. I think of all the wonderful places that caring people have preserved for future generations – a pristine mountain lake, unspoiled forest or ancient native dwelling.

When I hear the word “progressivism”, I think “progress”. I like making progress, especially in those goals I’ve set for myself. Regressing – going backwards – is not an option for me, but sometimes standing still is fine while I catch my breath.

Regarding politics, our current American debate boils down to whether we live in a Republic or a Democracy. Exploring the roots of these ‘isms’, the answer clearly is both.

The Latin root for “republic” is “res publica” – a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter” and not the private concern or property of the ruling entities. Similarly, the Greek / Latin root for “democracy” is “demos kratos”, literally government “powered by the people”. In this light, our national differences are really in the ‘isms’ that our major parties have created, and not the underlying values of either system.

I’ve committed to always seek the truth behind the ‘isms’, or as we used to say, to respectfully question authority. The ultimate truths are innate, and constraining them under the weight of one group’s ‘ism’ is akin to giving one’s soul away. Thankfully, we cannot actually do this, although too often we try.

That’s the beauty of the human spirit; it is always right there waiting for us whenever we come up for air.


Limbaugh: We Can Respond to Fear With Love

Like so many others, I am dismayed by Rush Limbaugh’s highly inappropriate on-air comments regarding Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke and the recent congressional hearings on women’s contraception.

Although my first impulse is to jump on the “Dump Rush” bandwagon, I strongly believe that any response must come from my best intentions, regardless of how I may feel about the offense or the offender. I needn’t jump into the mud to cleanse the river.

So while my name may not show up on the edgier petitions circulating the Internet, nonetheless I intend to make informed choices about what radio stations and sponsors’ products to avoid, and to share my feelings with others.

Another story reminds me that opportunities for healing and redemption can spring from the most surprising circumstances. Montana Federal Judge Richard Cebull last week was caught emailing a very tasteless, racially charged joke about President Obama’s parents and mixed ethnicity to associates. Cebull has since apologized without excuse or condition, and publicly asked the Chief Justice of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to conduct a full internal investigation of his misconduct, saying “I waive any confidentiality as to making this request or to the existence of any proceedings that may ensue from it.” [1] He knows this will likely end his judicial career, yet he appears willing to accept this as a rare life-changing opportunity.

I sincerely hope so. And likewise, if Rush Limbaugh’s actions cause an end to his broadcasting career, I wish him the courage to face the music and make something positive from it, for himself and our greater community.


  1. Judge Richard Cebull apologizes to Obama

Renewable Energy: Getting Started

An important key to renewable energy is to start with conservation, which does not necessarily mean doing less, but doing it much more efficiently.

I think the fear of having to “do with less” is what keeps some people from embracing alternatives. Ironically, in one hundred years, history may look back at today’s petrochemical grid as the brief, unfortunate alternative to what otherwise have been centuries of smart, renewable energy practices.

Doing with less is not necessary. Take for example the $8 tire gauge that some on the right so ridiculed in 2008. While I briefly am $8 poorer, I can save hundreds in fuel costs if I buy and use one, which means I can actually drive more for the same amount of money if that’s what I really want to do.

My advice to anyone considering solar is to start by redesigning one’s energy footprint – buy a tire gauge, re-glaze the windows, insulate the attic – and then consider buying a much more affordable solar energy system to serve reduced needs. Maximum value; minimum sacrifice.

Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!

I had a wow moment while responding to someone’s blog post today. The writer described the invisible hand of capitalism as a better alternative to having countless flawed humans in public service scrambling to enact their individual views of what’s best for everyone. I interpreted his opinion essentially as:

The role of perfect capitalism is to socialize human frailty.

If capitalism were executed perfectly by perfect humans, with no lobbyist-driven barriers to anyone entering the market with a new 200 MPG car or a shinier pet rock, the invisible hand would accommodate people’s willingness to buy either product, “flawed” or not. In short, capitalism would ensure that we all bask in the glories and share in the pains of our collective human decisions.

Okay I get that, but there are no assurances that capitalism will ever be perfectly executed. Both public and private systems hire from the same pool of flawed humanity, and we have ample evidence of what can happen when greed and fear enter the picture, regardless.

Our “flawed” willingness to buy into the heavily protected oil industry has created a situation where producers can expect the public to shoulder their ecological disasters simply as our share of the cost of doing business, which under pure capitalism could not be further from the truth. Under pure capitalism, today there would likely be no more BP.

So to me, the bigger question is this:

Is capitalism-as-great-equalizer really how we want to conduct our human affairs? My love of the human spirit tells me there are much better ways for us to go than by delegating pure capitalism, if we can ever get there, to Gort-like [1] enforcer status.


  1. Klaatu (The Day the Earth Stood Still)

Where Invention Comes From

An epic struggle between the Titans of Old and New is brewing in Hollywood, with Adobe and Apple cast in starring roles.

Earlier this year, Apple surprised the industry with its newest version of Final Cut Pro X for professional video editors, i.e. moviemakers. As is their wont, Apple “thought different” about what video editing could be and thoroughly redesigned the workflow. Many decried their heresy in challenging the old metaphor, and Adobe took advantage by offering Apple customers a steep discount for switching over to their more traditional Premiere product.

To date, Apple has not backed down, and some open-minded bloggers [1] have rightly noted Apple’s long history of successfully thinking outside the box. In fact, the original text from Apple’s Think Different ad campaign from 1997 speaks volumes about their most recent announcement:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. [2]

Beyond this debate about video editing tools, Apple’s quote says a lot about where true invention comes from. Companies like Tesla recently achieved recognition as America’s 4th automaker (alongside GM, Ford and Chrysler), not by timidly playing by old internal-combustion-engine rules, but by taking a big chance with a pricey, electron-sipping concept car that caught many peoples’ attention. [3]

I think this story can be applied closer to home, in the small decisions any of us may make about starting a new business, exploring a different country, choosing a college major or even applying paint to canvas. I like to remember that not so many years ago, in the grand scheme of things, the world was decidedly flat.


  1. Former Avid employee on Final Cut Pro X (MacDailyNews)
  2. Think Different (Wikipedia)
  3. Tesla Going For Broke Or Big Time (Edmunds)

Celebrating Every Person

It is very challenging to keep government and faith in proper relationship with each other. Our Constitution mandates separation, while our leaders present a tapestry of faiths – subtle perhaps like Lutheran versus Methodist – or vivid like Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Deist and so on.

Independent of how one may feel about gay rights issues, the core message of Steve Simon’s statement is one of understanding and compassion as mandatory for our healthy society, and I wholeheartedly agree. For personal reasons he chose to reference his own faith, while delivering this truly universal message:

There is a place – and arguably a “purpose” – for everyone in our society that transcends any one belief system that may try to describe it. This to me is what a celebrating wonderful life is all about.


Why Does God Keep Making Gay People? | MoveOn.Org

H.R. 358 Is More Misguided Meddling

H.R. 3 is bad enough, but H.R. 358 takes the debate to a whole different level. In this one, bill sponsors clearly target all women’s health services:

Protect Life Act – Amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to prohibit federal funds from being to used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services.

And while we’re at it, this bill, brought to you by the same republican party that last year decried government-run healthcare and “death panels”, offers the following:

Requires any qualified health benefit plan offered through an Exchange that includes coverage for abortions to also offer a qualified health benefit plan through the Exchange that is identical in every respect except that it does not cover abortions.

Does anyone else have a problem with this? The GOP’s version of big government would tell insurers exactly how they must structure their plans, and in the process create a real disaster scenario for any individual opting for the plan that includes a legally sanctioned procedure that the sponsors personally disagree with.

I can imagine an insurer saying, “fine, we’ll do it your way but we’re going to allow our subscribers to jump between Plan A and Plan B without restriction.” And I can imagine those same members of Congress immediately drafting legislation to prohibit individuals jumping between Plan A and Plan B. This clearly, painfully points toward the government interference that ironically the GOP was warning us about.

It is time for all of us to pay close attention to the proverbial men behind the curtain.


H.R. 3 Is Misguided Meddling

Here’s the problem with H.R. 3: No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act that is pending in the U.S. House. Alright, arguably there are many problems with this, but here’s the big one:

[H.R. 3] disallows any tax benefits for amounts paid or incurred for an abortion or for a health benefits plan that includes coverage of abortion (my bold), including any medical deduction for such amounts or any credit for such an employer-sponsored plan.

First of all, abortion is a legally established procedure that the bill sponsors seek to penalize. Second, to exclude or limit funding for all healthcare services if the targeted organization lists legalized abortion as one of them, whether used or not? No reimbursements for mammograms, pap smears or other basic services?

That goes way beyond human decency and in my view, way beyond the abortion debate, regardless of which side of the debate you’re on. It’s one thing to persecute a specific action (in this case legal abortion) and quite another to punish or ruin an organization for offering a legal procedure that one doesn’t personally agree with.

If H.R. 3 manages to pass, my heart goes out to those predominantly frightened republican men who have no business legislating women’s personal health choices. If it gets that far, I hope the federal courts very quickly smack down H.R. 3 as the truly misguided piece of legislation that it is.


Why Seattle?

Reprint: Published originally on, September 2006.

Three years ago I wrote about idyllic life in Eugene, Oregon, which it was. Now I’m back in Seattle, musing and writing about all this contagious energy. Since leaving the corporate world a few years back, I’ve spent many moments grasping at the delicate balance between nature and community… between sustainability and energy.
Eugene is the kind of place one can settle into. About it I once said, “the basics are all here for comfortable, sustainable life.” But it’s hard to settle in Seattle. This is the place where one has to look both ways just to keep up. In Seattle, I’ve seldom met anyone who is not totally committed to their personal chase scene – pursuing careers and hobbies to the max.

In Eugene I loped along the bicycle trails at 15 miles per hour, dressed a bit better than most in my ripped cycling shorts and old Bell helmet. Now in Seattle, I’m lapped by serious bikers, one after another on the Burke-Gilman, in their high performance color-coordinated outfits and 20-pound street bikes. Now I’m pushing 18 miles per hour with the goal of being passed just a bit less often.

This contagion may get me to 20 miles per hour someday. Maybe I’ll trade my old Cannondale for a serious bike. But you’ll never see me in color coordinated spandex. It’s still the balance of nature (this time human) and community.

Applauding the Treeless Magazine

Rupert Murdoch’s new eMag The Daily launched today for the Apple iPad. So far so good, in my opinion. Assuming top-notch content, the subscription model looks fairly reasonable at $40 per year or $1 per week, especially for devices like the iPad that will eventually retire the printed mag. But here are three points of caution for this to work in the long run:

  1. The publisher must guarantee full access to previously purchased content, with reasonable guidelines for Fair Use similar to existing paper media. I should be able to save my purchased content offline and cut/paste as needed when referencing an article in my work, with proper bibliographic entry of course.
  2. At $40 per year, advertising must be kept to a comfortable minimum. Like current paper mags, if it gets to the point that much of the content is advertising, I should not have to pay again for this. In other words, if advertising goes up, the price goes down.
  3. I must have control over how my my personal information is shared. For example, my subscription billing and contact info must remain private if I so choose. Also, while it’s reasonable for The Daily to collect general viewing statistics to ensure quality content, these should not be associated with a specific subscriber. My preferences in reading news, weather or sports are mine alone.

I can only assume that mistakes will be made along the way. But as a starting point, the move from print to screen really is an opportunity for publishing to evolve – to bring what has worked across the divide while discovering new and better ways to do things. I wish Murdoch and others much success in making a sustainable and respectful business transition.


The Daily for iPad Arrives, New iOS Subscription Billing Included: Apple News

Stanford Copyright & Fair Use – Fair Use