CWA Notes 2017

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017 12:21 am
flwyd: (Trevor glowing grad macky auditorium)
I made it to eight panels at this year's Conference on World Affairs at CU. Back in college, I would skip most of my classes during CWA week and listen to at least 20, but recently I just pop in for a few interesting talks. Some interesting notes:
Hurricanes! )
Refugees: Crisis? )
Ambassador to Vietnam )
From China with climate data )
Politics, comedy, and lady parts )
Revelations of Art and Symbolism )
Equal opportunity Internet access )

Wow, that took a long time. I typed notes on a tablet during the conference, but it would've been hard to interpret. Retranscribing and contextualizing involved a lot more time-consuming typing than I expected.

flwyd: (McCain Palin Abe Maude Simpsons)
Today's Conference on World Affairs Howard Higman Memorial Plenary was by former South Carolina congressman Robert Inglis, who is now the executive director of, a site and nonprofit organization run by conservatives concerned about climate change focused on swaying other conservatives about the issue. The talk was entitled "How Free Enterprise Can Solve Climate Change" (video here) but it wasn't so much an economics presentation as a discussion about what it would take to convince conservatives (and particularly conservative U.S. politicians) to implement a carbon tax. In particular, he argued that for the right wing to buy in, it needs to be a revenue-neutral, border-adjusted carbon tax.

Revenue-neutral means the money earned by the tax needs to be offset by cutting taxes somewhere else. The plan needs to be revenue-neutral because you can't get the Republican party to agree to a carbon tax which will also increase the size of government.

Border-adjusted means that an import tax on carbon would be imposed if the goods came from a country which didn't tax carbon at the source of production. The border adjustment is important because it would let individual countries set up taxes on their own (without requiring worldwide coordinated government action), but would make American-made goods which paid the carbon tax (or were developed with cleaner technology) competitive with foreign-made goods from countries which use cheap but dirty production methods.

The focus wasn't so much on the mechanics of how such a scheme might be implemented, but rather on how climate change believers might effect action on the issue through a congress whose position over the last two decades has ranged from skeptical to hostile. Speaking to a Boulder audience dominated by folks on the left, Inglis talked about how to frame the conversation in terms that a conservative (like your uncle Charlie at the holidays) can support. Inglis's own history went from opposing climate change legislation based on no knowledge except that Al Gore supported it (mid-90s) to introducing a bill which would tax carbon and cut payroll tax (2009). The bill died, and he was thanked for his efforts by being defeated by the Tea Party in the 2010 primaries.

Inglis's biggest topic of framing was on tax. A plan that sets out to make things like manufacturing and driving more expensive is on shaky ground with Republicans already; if it sends more money to Washington, they'll stop listening. He wasn't especially particular about the way in which taxes were reduced, though he called out a corporate income tax reduction as a particularly attractive option for swaying Republican lawmakers. He said that many liberals seemed unwilling to reduce corporate income tax in exchange for a carbon tax and he questioned how much those liberals were truly convinced that climate change was the most important issue of the generation. (One could play the same trick on any number of issues: offer to cut income tax but make it revenue-neutral by imposing a tax on firearms and ammunition and see how committed conservatives are to income tax reduction.)

Of the revenue-neutral schemes Inglis mentioned: payroll tax, income tax, or a dividend, I think the latter is best-suited to balance a carbon tax. If the dividend were distributed equally to all American citizens, it would be a much more progressive tax benefit than cutting the corporate rate. Furthermore, an annual cash payment to everyone, even if they are currently unemployed and thus not paying much payroll tax, would help people cover the costs of increased energy bills, buy a more energy-efficient car, move away from rising sea levels, or otherwise cope with the new world of climate change.

I asked Inglis about the details of border-adjustment and whether it would account for non-tax incentives which lower the price of carbon production like foreign aid to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela or governmental policies by a country like China which provide polluting industries with benefits like unrestricted access to land or other perks. Inglis wasn't concerned with internalizing all externalities, and he also said the import duty would be based on the carbon content of an American-equivalent product, meaning that as American production becomes less-polluting, carbon-derived imports will get cheaper. I'll let the economists hammer out the details on this front, though.

I think Inglis's most important focus isn't on the policy specifics, but on reaching out to Republicans and conservatives as one of their own. He (and the folks republicEn can gather to their rallying call) can speak the free enterprise orthodoxy lingo that progressives aren't as fluent in and he can appeal to them from heart-felt religious conviction grounds upon which even religious liberals, let alone secular scientists, don't stand. (This isn't to say that religious liberals don't have religious conviction, but that their dogma has evolved so significantly from conservative religious dogma that attempts at convergence mostly end in a lot of barking.)

Unfortunately, the opportunities for reasonable and rational engagement across ideological lines seems to be shrinking faster than polar ice caps. In the past, the stereotypical conservative uncle Charlie and liberal niece Linda listened to similar news sources and spent time with overlapping sets of people and so could converse with a shared view of consensus reality. Today's media (broadcast and social) is so specialized that it seems difficult for folks on either side of the spectrum to agree on terminology and facts, let alone discuss a policy approach with a cool head. And it seems like at a holiday gathering that Linda's mostly on defense in response to Charlie's rants about gays or immigrants or guns tough to even start a conversation about sea level rise and crop failure. If instead of a holiday, Linda tries to start the conversation on Facebook, it's easy for Charlie to glance at the subject and skip right over it, avoiding discomfort and hitting the Like button on an inspirational message in a colorful font. Meanwhile, broadcasters and publishers can get more advertising eyeballs if they present the "opposing" side as other or untouchable, which puts politicians interested in collaboration in danger of being scorned by their in-group.

Climate change is a global problem and it needs pan-ideological work to address it. Unfortunately, building a coalition ain't what it used to be.
flwyd: (Trevor glowing grad macky auditorium)
Key takeaways from Intuition, Technology, and Communication at The 2010 Conference on World Affairs.

Intuition is a human skill for coming to a conclusion given all the varied data we've gathered. Technology provides us with a lot more data so hopefully humans can have better intuitions. For instance, a human with a laptop and a chess program can beat a chess supercomputer that a human alone cannot beat.

Intuitions are often culturally conditioned. American intuition when the phone rings is to answer it. Russian (Soviet?) intuition when the phone rings is not to, because it's probably someone who wants you to fix something.

The most useful recordings for building Roger Ebert's new TTS voice were commentary tracks from DVDs. Future movie commentaries will literally be recycled from his old movie commentaries.

There are TTS systems that let you add markup for inflection, but it makes typing even slower, you'll far further behind in the conversation. What if there were Unicode characters that indicated sense and emotion? ;-) is okay at indicating irony and ALL CAPS can do emphasis, but there's a lot more nuance that could be added.

Some of the best writers are lousy face-to-face conversationalists.
flwyd: (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 )
Winning Islamic Hearts and Minds )
Yes, The UN Can! )
Cyborgs: Aliens Among Us )
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 )
Climate Threat to the Planet: Implications for Intergenerational and Environmental Justice )
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."

The Global Society: What the Economic Crisis Has Taught Us )
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.

flwyd: (xkcd don quixote)
My last day of work was April 3rd. I spent most of it answering last minute questions and helping my manager prepare a presentation on the progress made on my project. Several people sent me a "Thanks and goodbye" email, but by the time I had a chance to read them, my domain account had been disabled and I couldn't see what they'd said.

I picked up [ profile] mollybzz as she arrived from Sam Clam's Disco and returned to work for pies, beer, and several hours of game playing. Hungry Hungry Hippos was a big hit among adults, but made it hard to explain Bang! to the other side of the room. My manager told the story of when I arrived for my first day of work and the hardware director said "Hey, there's a homeless guy looking for you." A coworker gave me a beanie with a propeller, which was pretty entertaining.

I'd set up a "final walk-through" meeting with my landlord for 2pm on Sunday. Come 1pm there was still an impressively large amount of crap still in my apartment, so I rescheduled, took a few more loads to storage, and set off for game day in Boulder, pawning off a stick of butter, a can of spam, a can of imitation prok, and preserved duck eggs on the hosts. My parents provided a tasty dinner and a new mattress. A long but not fully refreshing night followed.

Last week consisted of Conference on World Affairs panels, moving stuff from my apartment to storage, running into old friends, and sleeping until 10 AM. It was like being in college again, but without the homework. Such fun! I miss being at work a bit, but walking around town in the middle of the day is a pleasure I haven't had enough of in the last five years.

I leave for Guanduras (or possibly Guanduraugua) in four days. I need to get a backup battery and extra CF card for my camera, do a test packing, pay my KGNU pledge, deal with random crap I brought back to the house, see Watchmen, write my notes from CWA, upload pictures from the last few months, get my second Hep B shot... oh, and come up with something resembling a travel plan.

I'll post from the road when I can, but you'll have to wait until late June for pictures. I hope you all have a wonderful spring!
flwyd: (Trevor shadow self portrait)
Tree Blossoms at NightIn April, it may snow on Easter, but the next day the white is all gone, leaving a bed of green. The sun brings warmth, the clouds puff along. The only thing that would make it better is if I were enjoying that spring feeling while eating Illegal Pete's or Kim to Go on the Norlin Quad between two panels at the Conference on World Affairs. This featured photograph (and this icon) came out of wandering campus after the jazz concert three years ago. If you've got any free time in the vicinity of Boulder this week, stop by campus for an hour or two. You can even participate in A Moment NOT of Silence in Honor of Molly Ivins (Feel free to bring pots and pans to bang!).

I'd take the week off to play with the minds, but I'm saving that time for a week and a half visit to northern California for Zane's and Michelle's preception and ring ceremony. I need to start making firm plans for the last week of June and first couple days of July. In addition to cavorting on the shore and woods with friends old and new I hope to spend some time in the Bay Area. If I get my act together, maybe I can interview and/or meet with folks from Google or Apple and see if those would be the good places to further my professional development. I have a strong desire to work on fundamental and fascinating things with a bunch of people who are smarter than me. The fact that I've never visited San Francisco should also be rectified.

I'm also saving a week of vacation for Burning Man, but I haven't made any positive movements in that direction like buying a ticket. I totally dig this year's theme (The Green Man), but nothing has particularly grabbed me yet. Maybe I should seek out a camp to adopt me. In exchange I'll bring a lack of words.

Your assignment this week is to get outside and frolic. Then continue the habit for the next six months.

Estudious Nostalgia

Tuesday, April 11th, 2006 11:57 pm
flwyd: (tell tale heart)
I took the day off work today to attend the Conference on World Affairs. I miss being a student, hanging around outside in the middle of the day... engaging in wide-ranging discourse... walking from one interestingly architected building to another... absent-mindedly staring out the window and admiring the beautiful people... working on a project until 3 AM and then getting up for class at 11... reading on the bus... walking to the creek late at night... engaging in political discourse through sidewalk chalk...
flwyd: (Default)

Last week (4/8-4/12) was my absolute favorite week of the year. I laughed much more than usual. My brain got stimulated in unusual directions. I got up before 9 am for five days straight. What provoked this? The 54th Annual Conference on World Affairs. This brain dump is somewhat after the fact, because I put off everything that could be put off last week, so had a major crunch the past four days. What follows is a collection of notes (some to myself), insights, humorous or thought-provoking one-liners, and stories from memory. As a reward for reading through the whole thing, you get to learn second-hand about lots of details in Mulholland Drive.

Separate for your convenience )

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