Inviting Aspen Again

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We did a second round of Open Space, 10am to 3pm, on the Entrance to Aspen on Saturday. Another 50 people showed up, reviewed the posters summarizing Wednesday’s conversations, posting another dozen or so issues. The focus was more squarely on asking the questions and bringing ideas that might “change the conversation” in the direction of resolution.

Where Wednesday had seemed to be focused on establishing positions, among perhaps a dozen or more different possible solutions, Saturday’s conversations were more about connecting and cross-pollinating. Several people remarked that they had changed their positions as a result of Saturday’s conversations. Skeptics from Wednesday offered that they were grateful and heartened by the quality of this second round.

Going forward, the City of Aspen will help keep the newly-spirited conversations going with a kit they call a ‘meeting in a box’ which will offer informtion, discussion questions, and citizen comment forms to anyone in town who would like to host a conversation on this 37-year-old question of what to do with the highway coming into Aspen. Then on April 12th, they’ll host and evening of keypad voting on questions that will be shaped by all this community conversing.

Saturday’s conversations were perhaps “less focused”, but that seems to be just what was needed for folks to soften their positions and start to listen and connect with others’ ideas and interests. After 26 ballot initiatives, this year might yet deliver real resolution to this question.

I worked with Claudia Haack on this one and together we wrote a nice set of finishing questions. These might be my new default set for closing circles. We asked participants to reflect on these things and then offer one short comment, maybe just one line, what might be their response to a friend asking “So what happened at that meeting, anyway?”

  • What was your experience here?
  • What are you taking away?
  • What did you learn? Any a-ha’s?
  • What was strange or different here?
  • How might you/we keep this going?
  • What new or next questions might make a difference now?

Meanwhile, I can also report that I skied all afternoon at Snowmass on Friday. Great snow, freezing cold (zero degrees, before counting the wind) outside, toasty warm in old hacker gear, no wrecks, but totally wore myself out. Some serious motivation for making body stronger this year.

Inviting Digital Literacy

Michael Maranda is doing short interviews with people on the street, asking them what they know about the Chicago citywide wifi proposal, where they get their news, what they know about the internet, and how they use it.

This is all part of his work locally, statewide and nationally to cultivate digital literacy, otherwise known as bridging the digital divide. He’s organizing 77 community groups citywide to make sure that the citywide wifi contract will serve ALL of Chicago’s neighborhoods.

He’s posting the interviews at YouTube. I guess, in a few days, he’s going to post the one he filmed with me earlier this week — so go look now before that one posts! And Michael — I think your demographic sampling is a bit off!

Inviting Pause

I read last week that Congress has approved a total of $507 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan wars and that our current “burn rate” is $8 billion per month. What does this really mean?

I did some math — on the basis of 300 million Americans — which is the most generous possible way to do this calculation, as we’ve not quite reached that and it includes a LOT of kids and elderly who can’t (and didn’t) pay anything for these wars.

Appropriations to date: $1,700 for every man, woman and child in America. Currently burning at $27 per person, per month. I wish I had a households number, or total employment number, to do this calculation, but I couldn’t find one. Still, I’m sure I’d get a lot more value out of a cell phone contract than all this military spending.

And… if you think these numbers seem low, when viewed per person, per month, consider this weekend’s report from PwC that for twice that, $1 trillion, we could cap global emissions of all greenhouse gases. Gasp. Cough. Cough.

Inviting Justice?

In the wake of the Senate’s passage of the tribunals/torture bill, officially the Military Commissions Act, it’s tempting to point out that their vote to deny prisoners’ the right to file writs of habeas corpus, to argue that they have been wrongly imprisoned, actually sets the judicial system back 700 years. Think pre-Magna Carta.

Now, if that sort of intellectual case doesn’t work for you, try this one, found in some comments to a Louisville Courier-Journal article:

Who would Jesus torture?


Inviting a Return to Integrity

There were many things “lost” on 9/11. One of the most surprising, however, seems to be that we lost any sense of journalism. Remember, journalism? When people go out, gather facts and observations — and report the patterns they find, rather than just reporting and encouraging acceptance of the way officials “say” things are?

In today’s news world, these two bits by Keith Olbermann are stunning. Breath returns. I can suddenly feel a little more life in my tissues. The world starts to make sense again. What’s that? Could it be somebody speaking the truth? It’s so foreign, it’s stunning — but body recognizes and welcomes it just the same.

Olbermann on the Clinton/FoxNews thing, and then he checks out the Clinton and Rice stories, to see how they match up to the evidence. This Olbermann guy makes me want to buy cable — another stunning thought!

“The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.”
– G.W. Bush, 9/13/01

“I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.”
– G.W. Bush, 3/13/02

We don’t tolerate this flim-flam in our personal lives. We don’t trust it in business relationships and leadership. So, how do we invite a return to integrity in the White House? I’m not really partial to any one guy or party, I have no special bias — I expect the truth from everybody.

Leadership — in any organization — and Democracy in any nation — are more than saying the right things. We have to mean them, stand by them, follow through on them. They have to be true. Telling the truth is the first great task of leadership — and an early casualty in the downfall of any organization, large or small.

Inviting Resolution in Iraq (a sort of ‘private CIA’) released this special report on Iraq last week, a fascinating look at the underlying dynamics of recent shifts (and, I would say, ongoing policy failure) in Iraq.

This proposal, advanced by, fits well with the Stratfor analysis:

Senator Joseph Biden and Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, have proposed their plan to President Bush and the Council on Foreign Relations. Biden and Gelb have sent a message to our leaders that ending the conflict in Iraq does not need to involve deploying more U.S. troops.

The only way to hold Iraq together and create the conditions that allow our armed forces to responsibly withdraw is to give Shiites, Sunis, and Kurds incentives to pursue their interests peacefully and to forge a sustainable political settlement.

Biden and Gelb outlined how this can be done through the following five steps:

1. Maintain a unified Iraq by decentralizing it in to regions. A central government would be left in charge of common interests.

2. Guarantee Sunis a fair share of oil revenue so that each group has an incentive to maximize oil production, making oil the glue that binds the country together.

3. Create a massive job program while increasing reconstruction aid – especially from the oil-rich Gulf states. This job program would be tied to the protection of minority rights.

4. Hold an international conference that would produce a regional nonaggression pact and create a Contact Group to enforce regional commitments.

5. Begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces and withdraw most of them by the end of 2007.

This plan is consistent with Iraq’s constitution and has been endorsed by many experts on Iraq. It will help rebuild the country while bringing our troops home. Sign the petition here, to tell President Bush to support the Biden-Gelb five-point plan. is, itself, a remarkable place for connecting with issues and people in ways that can make a difference.

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