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Trevor Stone's Journal
Those who can, do. The rest hyperlink.
Conference on World Affairs 2009 
14th-Apr-2009 01:40 pm
Trevor glowing grad macky auditorium
Last week was my favorite week in Boulder: Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado. I missed several interesting panels due to sleeping in until 10 AM and because I had to finish moving out of my apartment, but I managed to make it to a dozen or so. I took notes at some panels, at others I just listened. The latter were often more enjoyable, but correlation is not causation. Questioning parentheticals indicate places where my notes and my week-older brain don't connect.
KEYNOTE: Twenty-first Century International Relations - Chuck Hagel (former U.S. Senator from Nebraska)
A former Senator, Chuck Hagel is pretty boring. I remember him opening with a few lighthearted remarks about the CU-Nebraska football rivalry. I have vague recollections of notes about U.S./Russian relations, the Middle East, and the financial crisis. At least I was able to enjoy the morning sun on the Macky porch.
Energy Conservation is a Waste of Time: Deidre McCloskey, Jennifer Nordstrom, Bill Reinert, Seth Shostak
Jennifer Nordstrom (coordinator for Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free campaign):
  • According to her organization's report, it's technically and economically feasible to stop using fossil fuels and nuclear power within 40 years.
  • In response to a question, she said the study doesn't assume that humans get more virtuous and naturally conserve more.
  • Energy conservation doesn't necessarily connect to time. Some energy-saving measures take just as much time as the less-efficient ones (like putting on your seatbelt before starting the car).
  • Environmentalist habits develop when you're being raised. At the end, I asked what we can do to increase the environmentalist habits of young people, and a couple panelists said it's largely already been done. I think there are clearly some improvements that can be made, though.
  • Efficiency and conservation are different. Efficiency is largely in the hands of designers, manufacturers, and other big parties, and engineers are hard at work. Conservation is about both individual choices and sociopolitical decisions. This was an important theme throughout the panel.
Seth Shostak (SETI astronomer and inventor of the electric banana):
  • "Energy conservation (to save the planet?) is like using Nutrisweet to lose weight."
  • The world runs at 15 terawatts; the U.S. uses 20-25% of that. The average U.S. citizen runs at 12 kilowatts, the rest of the world averages 2 kilowatts.
  • If we doubled everyone's gas mileage, the world would save 3% of their energy usage.
  • Car carbon dioxide emissions are a bigger problem than gas usage.
  • Almost all energy use ends up as heat in the atmosphere.
  • If we get to the point where we're using around 10% of the energy we receive from the sun, we're fucked.
  • A sunshade the size of the beltway (aka Washington, DC) would repel more heat than a lot of major conservation measures could reduce.
  • A (somewhat facetious?) proposal to reduce heat absorption: switch to white streets with black lines.
  • Noted that U.S. per capita energy use hasn't gone up significantly in 30 years. Our population, of course, has.
  • We could save a lot of energy by not letting anyone move north of Indiana (have to run heaters a lot) or south of Oklahoma (have to run AC a lot).
Bill Reinert (national manager of advanced technology for Toyota):
  • Due to quality issues (I haven't had any problems with mine) and mercury contents of compact fluorescent lightbulbs, people are hoarding incandescents like ammo.
  • With a new energy-saving technology, we only get one chance to do it right -- if people hate it at first, it won't work in the long run.
  • Our alternate fuel supply is insufficient to cover the loss of oil -- conservation is key.
  • Asked if the country would be better off if Jimmy Carter had been reelected, he responded that Carter had lots of good ideas, but he fell in love with specific technology (which is a problem when that tech doesn't quite work out) and didn't properly get the public excited about energy change initiatives.
  • Asked why gas milage on new cars isn't much higher than it was 15 years ago, he said that one big reason is that car safety features (air bags etc.) add a lot of mass to the car which makes efficiency harder.
  • He also noted that diesel cars (which often have very high MPG ratings) have trouble meeting environmental rules.
Deidre McCloskey (Chicago-school economist and multi-disciplinary faculty at U.I. Chicago):
  • Conservation is based on moral values (efficiency isn't necessarily).
  • The Great Depression generation internalized the view that saving things is good.
  • Don't just focus on saving one resource, look at all. You could raise toilet efficiency by letting strangers walk into your house and use your toilet when you aren't home.
  • We don't need to just save energy (as an end in itself), we need to save the planet and human life.
  • Alexander Kinglake suggested all churches should have a sign that announced "IMPORTANT... if true." The same can be said of energy conservation.
  • Cutting down forests in the 1880s was the right thing to do (brought prosperity, built houses, etc.). Now we can treat the forests as an amenity. Carbon dioxide may e the same: now may be the right time to industrialize, later we can treat lowering atmospheric CO2 levels as good. This is equivalent to buying an umbrella when it rains.
  • It's important to be politically flexible for changing technology. We should legislate for the next five years, not the next 30 because we can't predict what new technology will be developed.
  • In response to a question about Malthusian limits, she noted that they're true mathematically, but not necessarily relevant scientifically. Modern economic growth reduces population growth, and the maximal human capacity of earth is several dozen billion.

Winning Islamic Hearts and Minds: Ziad Asali, James Glanz, Azmat Hassan, Saad Ibrahim
I listened on the porch because this room, and the one for the panel I really wanted to see, was full. I therefore don't know who said what.
  • In Muslim countries, the longest line for visas is at the American Embassy. The perception that Muslims all hate America is therefore clearly incorrect -- many want to live here.
  • Hosni Mubarrak is the third-longest reigning Egyptian ruler.
  • Religion is just one aspect of a person. Saying someone in the Middle East is a Muslim is like saying someone in America is a Christian. It doesn't tell much of the story.
  • In many places, strict sharia law is fairly new -- in the last 20 years or so.
  • Educated, cosmopolitan Iraqis often are anti-American because of Saddam-era propaganda, but they enjoy many American things.
  • Every government in the Islamic world until the 20th Century was based on Islamic legitimacy: relation to the prophet Mohammed.
  • To reduce individuals to a single fact (being a Muslim) is a catastrophe (?) of the first kind. It's just one variable.
  • An exchange before a U.S. Congressional committee: "How do you help the moderate Palestinians?" "The same way as in the U.S.: You give pork to your constituents." "This might be the first time a Muslim has told a Jew to give pork."
  • American or international aid for rebuilding can be seen as condescending.
  • It is a fight where the West has not been perceived as helpful. (context? Iraq? more broadly?)
  • Al-Jazeera is the flip-side of Fox News: toxic public discourse.
  • The Iraq war will have nowhere near the lasting effect on Muslim consciousness as the Palestine conflict.
  • Palestine is a problem of dignity and real estate. The latter is much easier to solve.
  • Only Arabs and Muslims can change the bad Arabs and Muslims.
  • Need to win the hearts and minds between the North (developed world) and the South (developing world).
  • The U.S. should take a neutral position on issues like Kashmir and Chechnya.
  • Everyone who supports an Israeli/Palestinian compromise must link arms with anyone who shares that position on any side. Pro-Israel peace groups and pro-Palestinian groups must work together.

Yes, The UN Can!: Timothy Wirth (leader of the U.N. foundation, former U.S. Senator from Colorado)
  • Tim's often asked if he misses elected office. The answer is largely "No" because of all the fundraising, partisan ship, and increasing congressional irrelevance. These days, he misses it a little more.
  • The U.S. finally agreed to join the Human Rights Council.
  • The U.N. Foundation was set up with $1 billion from Ted Turner when he learned that a citizen could not pay off the sovereign debt of the United States. Initially, the organization would use $100 million per year for ten years and then go away. They decided it was really hard to spend that much money, so they reorganized to use less of Ted's money each year and get funding from other sources as well.
  • Unlike most similar organizations, they're not set up as a grant-making organization. They focus on "problems without passports" that flow across state lines. They design campaign strategies for dealing with such problems.
  • Private organizations often find the U.N. hard to work with directly, but can work well through intermediate organizations like the foundation.
  • The three main priorities are children's health, reproductive health and population, and the environment with a climate change focus.
  • Children's health: Polio, measles, malaria, etc. Working to get Saudi money and energy to fight Polio. (Only remaining countries with Polio are Muslim: northern Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India.)
  • Groups have achieved a 90% reduction in measles in Africa.
  • Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Riley thought up a program called "Nothing But Nets" to fund mosquito nets for the developing world and called the UN Foundation to see if they'd run it. Two days later, the column ran and they raised $1.2(?) million in a week.
  • They're experimenting with mobile telephony as a component of public-health in Sub-Saharan Africa. They give Nigerian imams cellphones full of information about polio. mollybzz's friends are involved in this project.
  • Women's Health: 210 million women have no access to family planning. He mentioned Nafis Sadiq, but I can't remember what the point was.
  • Several questions focused on U.N. changes and reforms.
  • The new U.N. must be able to pivot rapidly and work on problems without passports.
  • Any bureaucracy is difficult, not just the U.N.
  • Is the U.N. Secretary-General empowered to be a general or a secretary?
  • Everyone likes security council enlargement in the abstract, but when specifics come up, everyone has objections. The obvious candidates for permanent membership are Japan, India, Brazil, and (perhaps more distantly) Germany. The U.S. would accept Japan but veto India and Brazil. China would veto Japan. There are objections from neighbors: Pakistan, Argentina, etc.
  • Everyone knows how important water is, but it's been hard to do anything about it. The U.N. Foundation spun off a group to deal with it specifically.
  • U.N. has been wrestling with the "responsibility to protect." This wasn't followed in Rwanda, but it was in Bosnia. It's been hard to make it happen in Darfur, in part because it's a problem internal to one country and other countries get squeamish about that kind of intervention.
  • The U.S. doesn't contribute troops to peacekeeping missions.
  • The overriding issue in Darfur is climate change and water.
  • There are 25,000 peacekeapers committed to Darfur, but they have no maneuverability (helicopters). The U.S. and Europe have lots of helicopters, but claimed none were available. They finally got some Soviet-era machines from Ethiopia.
  • Jesse Helms and Joe Biden worked to get the U.S. debt to the U.N. debt paid off. We're now slipping back into debt.
  • Economic sanctions can work, but are overplayed. We should target sanctions: travel and banking restrictions against leaders rather than punishing the whole country.
  • They're working on sugar ethanol in the Caribbean (remember all the sugar plantations?) and West Africa. There's a native African plant that grows really well and can produce a lot of ethanol. I didn't hear its name well and I wrote it illegibly, but it looks something like "tutroth."

Cyborgs: Aliens Among Us: Michael Chorost, Andy Ihnatko, Seth Shostak, Michelle Thaller
I wasn't in a position to take notes for much of the panel, so here are some things I remember:
  • Michael Chorost, who has cochlear implants, was named the panel's "token cyborg."
  • Where do we draw the line for being a cyborg? Pacemakers? Prosthetic limbs? Eyeglasses?
  • There may be a meaningful distinction between restorative wetware and enhancing wetware. The former includes lasik surgery, prosthetic limbs, and other technology to make a part of your body function more normally. The latter would include surgery to make you see farther, components to make you stronger or faster, etc. Maybe we don't want to call the former a cyborg, but we do want to label the latter.
  • Andy noted that technology gets better quickly, but upgrading a body modification is difficult. Therefore, he doesn't get laser eye surgery and instead gets new eyeglass technology every five years or so.
  • Michelle talked about the fear that the cyborgs will enslave or kill the normal humans like in a sci-fi movie. She figured that a bunch of super-smart cyborgs would be about as interested in ordinary humans as we are interested in lions. Since we're on a different level, we don't see lions as a threat. (This seems to brush away the number of predators humans have killed and how we routinely commandeer other species' habitats.)
  • mollybzz asked what's different about hacking your body with mechanical devices (chip implants and the like) versus hacking your brain with chemicals like anti-depressants or caffeine. The panelists didn't really run with the idea.

ARIA - Words and Rhythm: Rony Barrak
Rony is a fantastic darbouka (= dumbek = Arabic tabla) player from Lebanon. He mixed discussion and question answering with playing. There were a lot of heads in the way, but I saw some hand techniques I hadn't seen in my hippy pagan drum circles. I tracked him down later and learned that the main move I was seeing was to have the thumb in front of the palm and then strike the head with the thumb followed by loose fingertips. The event was billed as bilingual in English and Arabic and he began by introducing himself in Arabic, but only one question was asked in Arabic and he answered in English.
How the Spirit Moves Me: Margot Adler, Roberta Baskin, Johathan Granoff
I was mostly there to see Adler. The other two tended to make broad statements that sound nice, but don't have strong grounding in fact. Margot Adler (author of Drawing Down the Moon, a seminal book describing many facets of the neo-pagan movement):
  • A recent Newsweek(?) survey found that 15% of Americans say they have no religion. An annoyed evangelical priest said "We've come to a world with spirituality but not religiosity." Margo (and much of the audience) was quite pleased.
  • When she was a kid, Margot attended a Beltaine ceremony and "knew she was a ritual junky for life."
  • There weren't a lot of powerful female images in the 1950s, so she turned to Athena and Artemis.
  • She referenced the book Dark Green Religion.
  • She was seeking something that still honoored the rationalist, scientific part of her.
  • The sacred is all around us. It's not based on believing, but based on doing.
  • Neo-pagan practices aren't the old ways, they're reinvented.
  • If you go back far enough, everyone's ancestors were pagan. For some folks (Jews, for instance), it's a long way back.
  • Her pathway to spirit is chant. We are using song in this culture to create our new cathedrals; the candles are lighters at rock concerts.
  • I asked "When Drawing Down the Moon was published, many pagans were underground and practiced under assumed names. How has public perception of pagans changed in the last 25 years?" She responded that for one, we no longer only get written about on Halloween. Paganism is now multi-generational: first there were a lot of marriage ceremonies, then a lot of Wiccanings (like a Christening), now a lot of rituals about death and dying. It's more mainstream, with all the good and bad that entails.
  • Asked how the spirit moved the panelists to come to CWA, Margot said that on a panel in 1979, she and her husband committed to not have kids. Now they have an 18-year-old son, and made that decision in large part because of so many years they spent with their CWA host family's kids.
  • In response to a question about psychedelic substances, she said when they're used, they should be used within traditions.
  • Someone talked about regular visits to a Ghanian village where soothsayers have a lot of power. They decided that twins were evil, so villagers are often commanded to kill twin babies. Margot noted that not all pagans are wonderful. Witchcraft is usually seen as evil, even within the community, so she recommended talking to villagers about how they felt about the soothsayers. She stressed the importance of having changes come from the community, not as an imposition from a westerner.
Jonathan Granoff (president of the Global Security Institute and a spiritualist):
    The spirit of love causes our heart to beat.
  • Much of our dissatisfaction comes from what happened "then" and what will happen "later." The former is a cashed check, the latter is a promissory note. Only the present is cash in hand.
  • We have art without beauty, law without justice, weapons without security, philosophy about philosophy, economy about economy (high finance), cities without transcendence, and expansion of consciousness without conscience.
  • The purpose of life is to become human, not to become busy.
  • We are breathed by the divine.
  • We are doing Genesis in reverse. (I think this was a reference to destroying myriad creatures, eliminating the difference between light and dark...)
  • The hand without the heart is dangerous.
  • He doesn't like "being spiritual" because it implies that someone isn't spiritual.
  • We are all native on this planet.
Roberta Baskin (investigative journalist):
  • She doesn't go through a day without using the word "synchronicity."
  • She founded a journalist group called Images and Voices of Hope.
  • Our biggest export is media.
  • She referenced the positive psychology movement.
  • She talked about her friend, a Cambodian-American who came to the U.S. when she was 10, fleeing the Khmer Rouge. Roberta traveled with her to visit her sister in Cambodia. She couldn't read, was in an arranged marriage, had four kids, and lived in rural poverty. But the sister said she didn't want to come to America; she loved her life: four great kids, was revered in the community, etc.
  • "I was recently fired. I'm a recovering journalist."

Walter Orr Roberts Distinguished Lecture - Climate Threat to the Planet: Implications for Intergenerational and Environmental Justice: Jim Hansen
Hansen is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He testified before congressional committees in the late 1980s about global warming. His talk had a lot of slides, some of which were fairly dense. I hope I collected enough notes to make it coherent. The full slides and other publications are on his website.
  • There's a gap between what's understood (in science) and what's known (by the public and policy makers).
  • We have a planetary emergency. Climate has inertia (it's hard to change direction), and there are tipping points that will be very hard to recover from.
  • We've already passed the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is around 350 parts per million. This is fortunately reversible.
  • The problem is not (just) the previous U.S. administration. There's a global problem of greenwashing -- giving lip service to the environment, but not enacting substantive policies.
  • There's a gap between rhetoric -- the planet is in peril -- and reality -- major players only talk about small changes to business as usual. Greenwash is winning.
  • There's a feedback cycle at higher latitudes. As they warm, ice melts which results in more warming.
  • There have been larger changes in global temperature in the Earth's history. These have largely been caused by small perturbations in the planet's orbit and tilt (± 1°).
  • Climate change is accounted for by changes in ice sheets and sea level (a change of around 110 meters) and greenhouse gas. Humans have taken over the atmospheric composition.
  • Global temperature peaked 50 million years ago; the planet was ice-free. Carbon dioxide was about 1000 ppm. The sun is now .4% brigher, which produces an additional 1 Watt per meter squared. Carbon dioxide changes account for 10 Watts per meter squared.
  • India's collision with Asia reduced a CO2 source and increased the CO2 sink (carbon flowing down rivers into oceans, I think) at the rate of .0001 ppm per year.
  • Human-made rate of CO2 change is around 2 ppm per year. Past climate changes were much slower than what we're doing.
  • At the framework convention on climate change, everyoen agreed to fight what's dangerous, but they didn't define what's dangerous.
  • Historically, a big climate change leads to loss of half the planet's species. It also leads to a loss of ice. We may have passed the arctic sea ice tipping point, but may be able to reverse that trend.
  • Gravity-sensing satellites can detect a chance in the mass of ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica.
  • Scientists commonly think we'll get one meter of sea level rise this century. We need to reduce atmospheric CO2 to 300 ppm to avoid this.
  • With global warming, the latitudes for the subtropics expand. Lakes Powell and Mead are around half full, and it will be tough to get them back to capacity.
  • Disappearing glaciers causes big problems for the freshwater supply from rivers. The Ganges, for instance, is largely fed by Himalayan glaciers that may be gone in fifty years.
  • Climate change puts stress on coral reefs by increasing acidity.
  • When we burn fossil fuels, a lot of the greenhouse gasses get quickly reabsorbed. But this is an exponential decay process, so it takes a long time for all of the pollutants to leave. We therefore cannot burn all of the fossil fuels, particularly coal, that the planet could provide.
  • If we phase out non-sequestering coal plants, CO2 will peak at around 450 ppm and come back below 350 soonish.
  • As long as fossil fuels are the cheapest source of energy, we won't solve the problem. We should put a price on carbon emissions.
  • "Cap" and trade is really tax and trade. It allows speculation and volatility. It's ineffective in reducing emissions. Even the countries who best executed their Kyoto targets used escape valves by planting trees and other accounting loopholes that don't actually reduce emissions.
  • Jim recommends a carbon tax with 100% dividend. THe dividend would automatically go into a bank account or debit card of the citizens to the tune of $250 per month per adult legal resident. (This is similar to the money Alaskans receive in exchange for energy extraction.) The tax would be applied at the first sale or port of entry to keep things simple and hard to circumvent. To implement this, we'd need the U.S., the E.U., and China to agree. We'd then apply a duty to products of countries who don't participate.
  • Technical priorities should be
    • Energy efficiency. Don't let utilities make more money for using more fuels.
    • Renewable energy.
    • An improved power grid.
    • Fourth-generation nuclear power if needed and if it can work. Two technologies in development are an integral fast reactor and a liquid fluoride thorium reactor. These are 99+% efficient; current generation nuclear power is 1% efficient. They therefore don't have much of a nuclear waste storage problem.
    • Carbon capture and sequestration.
  • We don't have empirical evidence for historic rapid warming. We do for rapid cooling -- volcanoes and asteroids.
  • We need to replace base-load power. We must remove coal.

ARTFUL DUET - Rhythm: Rony Barrak and Shodokeh.
Middle Eastern drumming meets a human beat box. This was the most fun panel I attended. Rony started by saying he felt uncomfortable because Shodokeh was there, so he pulled on a CU hoodie and put on a backwards baseball hat. The PA system cut out as they started performing, but I could still hear in the back. They took turns leading, playing back and forth with intricate rhythms. At one point, they switched and Rony took the beat box role (he can do a drum kit, but doesn't have the full range) while Shodokeh played around on the drum. Rony also played a coffee mug and some clay flower pots. At the end, they got the audience into a human percussion piece, with one group snapping, one group stomping, one group clapping, and one group doing a vocal high hat.
Comedy: A Laughing Matter: Rony Barrak, Robert George, Andy Ihnatko, Terry McNally
I didn't take notes, so I don't remember Rony and Terry's parts very well. Robert George (black Republican stand-up comedian, columnist, New York Post editorial page editor):
  • Some comics have worried that Obama is too hard to poke fun at because he sets himself up as very serious, compared to Clinton and Bush. Robert's found that Obama works well as a setup to a punchline. For instance:
  • Some racial stereotypes are getting reversed. All of Obama's white cabinet appointees seem to file their taxes on colored people time.
  • Some stereotypes remain. Would the media be so obsessed about the size of any other president's stimulus package?
  • Maybe Barack will replace the N-word. "Baracka, please!" "Word up, my baracka!" And white people trying to be hip will call each other "Caracka!"
Andy Ihnatko (tech columnist and über-geek):
  • Comedy that spreads easily because we can repeat it (think Bill Cosby and George Carlin) and comedy that is hard to convince other people to listen to because delivery is so important. In the latter category, he mentioned a couple modern comics and the old team of Bob and Ray.
  • He couldn't figure out why he doesn't like Family Guy but loves Monty Python's Flying Circus, even though they have very similar elements.
  • Rather than trying to be a comedian, he uses comedy for his own purposes. Usually starts a column off with a joke to grab the reader's attention, because the actual subject of a tech column can sound pretty boring.
  • Noted that your two color choices for the Microsoft Zune are black and "diarrhea brown."

PLENARY - The Global Society: What the Economic Crisis Has Taught Us: Michael Elliot
Elliot is a British-born New Yorker ad editor of Time International.
  • Last year's lecture's theme was that you (particularly the U.S.) can't be a leader without followers.
  • Obama arrived at the G20 conference claiming to be a peer.
  • When the global economy grows again, it will be very different. It will be more Asian-centered. It will be in a new political environment: populism, trade restrictions/protectionism are in danger of making things worse. Growth needs to be based on better values: sustainability as a watchword. Control can't be left with states (= countries). States are inventions of the mind. No state acts, just individuals making decisions.
  • Not everyone is yet in the global society.
  • The global society is not new. Europeans were all over the place in the 1600s. But now it's different.
  • There's new technology. Airplanes are a disruptive technology that shrunk the world.
  • There's now global business and finance led by a massive change in technology and communication.
  • Multinational corporations are now very prominent and are at the level of states.
  • There are now supply chains connecting Guangdong, China to your local Wal-Mart.
  • With the global flow of capital, quite small groups of people have the ability to upend the world economy.
  • There are two types of migration. Temporary migration (tourism) has (Michael feels) an underappreciated effect on the global society. Permanent and semi-permanent migrants changed the world in ways Americans don't generally notice. Every city around the world is now an immigrant city, not just New York. Remittence flows are a big deal, trading talent for cash.
  • Religion has become jumbled as it moved out of the heartland. Islam moved into Western Europe, Africa, the U.S. Pentecostals have had a similar story. Islam spread a global society from the 7th through 12th Centuries. Christian missionaries (Jesuits) in the age of exploration did too. China-India trade links follow Buddhist trails.
  • Culture: music, sports, food, TV, and the Internet disperses culture globally. A documentary on Africa led to Band-Aid and Live-Aid which led Bono to get involved in raising awareness of hunger and poverty which leads to...
  • The global culture is not mediated by states; it's often shaped well below the state level.
  • The U.N. and other current global bodies are inadequate for dealing with today's global structure. But don't conclude that no international structural regime can do it.
  • Some values for the global society:
    • We should value inclusion and not be top-down.
    • We should value intergenerational equity. (I think this was particularly relevant for things like climate change.)
    • We should value participation.
    • We should value accountability. We must deal with anger, e.g., populist anger at banks and leaders for the economic crisis.
    • We should value sustainability. We can't build a 21st Century economic model on the 1945 model. Resources are very different now.
  • I asked if the global society rises and falls together, or if it's well diversified (in the economic sense). He responded by referencing Obama's comment at the G20 summit: it was a lot easier to come up with a plan for the global economy when it was just Churchill and Roosevelt meeting over brandy. There are lots of models to be modern, which is good for diversification.
  • An old lady asked "What can America learn from 3rd world countries? And can we reduce health care costs by not keeping old people alive?" Michael responded by talking about oversaving in Asia and overspending in America. In China, a sense of family encourages people to save and there are Confucian traditions of looking after the family. But due to these traditions, China hasn't really developed safety net systems.
  • Someone asked about 0% growth versus continuous growth. Michael said that 0% growth is fine if you don't want your children to be better off than you are. This is a problem in China and India. "Continuous growth hasn't caused problems we can't solve so far."
  • Someone asked about inflation (in regards to stimulus spending). Michael said we don't have visibility on it yet.
  • Someone asked if she should shop at Wal-Mart (a hot subject in Boulder). He said you have to examine your own conscience and budget.
  • Someone asked about different metrics for prosperity. Michael said there have been a variety of proposals, including Bhutan's Gross National Happiness. Stiglitz talked about working with (illegible) to incorporate health and longevity in GNP.

ARTFUL DUET - Baltimore Beatboxer Meets Reno Cowboy Poet: Shodokeh, Hal Cannon
A mix of questions and performance, the two were unsure how things would work out. It's harder for a beatbox to improv with folk singing and guitar than with Middle Eastern drums, but it was still fun and interesting. Shodokeh made lifting-a-needle-from-vinyl sounds to playfully tell a woman to stop suggesting they skip questions and just play.
Molly Ivins Freedom Fightin' Memorial Plenary - 1968-2008 How Barack Obama Completed the Unfinished Journey of Robert Kennedy: David Bender.
Bender is the host of Air America's "Politically Direct" show. He dropped out of 7th grade to work on Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.
  • He started by quoting Molly Ivins: "Obama is the only Democrat with any Elvis in him."
  • Obama also completes the journey of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eugene McCarthy.
  • He also invoked influential assassinated progressive leaders Al Lowenstein and Harvey Milk.
  • Many people's political journey ended with the RFK assassination and didn't begin again until Obama.
  • Al Loweinstein said "Bobby Kennedy's loss was the only one that gets harder over time."
  • David was an advisor to Ted Kennedy on gay and lesbian issues in 1980. Ted started on shaky footing, saying "I support the rights of everyone who has a sexual orientation." He got better over time.
  • While looking for a transcript of RFK's speech after MLK was assassinated, David found this YouTube montage and felt that showing it would be better than anything he could say about Bobby Kennedy. It's very moving: take six minutes and watch it.

Cinema Interruptus: "Chop Shop:" Ramin Bahrani, Roger Ebert, Jim Emerson
Due to health issues, a few years ago, Roger Ebert had to take a leave of absence from the CWA after 38 years of analyzing movies a shot at a time. He returned this year, though he can no longer speak. He made a few announcements through his new voice synthesizer (dubbed Sir Lawrence for the booming British accent), but most of his participation was in the form of notes passed to Jim Emerson, fellow film critic, who's taken up the Cinema Interruptus mantle. For the first time, the director of the film (Ramin Bahrani) participated in the analysis. This provided a lot of interesting insights like how many takes a shot took, how a purse-snatching scene was filmed in a live crowd and most folks didn't do anything (one guy tried to chase the kid down, squirting him with a water bottle), and whether an insight into the plot was placed intentional or inferred by the audience.

Cinema Interruptus was curtailed to three days instead of the usual four, but with Roger unable to speak, things went quicker than I remember. I missed the first day, but got a lot out of the remaining two days. I recommend the movie; it's about a brother and sister trying to get by in an industrial neighborhood in Queens. It's got sad parts, it's got sweet parts, it all feels real. It's got a very beautiful ending.

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