Yeah Ron, I am around.
I find this subject to be interesting for two reasons, the first being the issues you mention in your post re: Ellis, David and Bob and what they are working towards.
The other reason actually stems from an old Aikido Today Magazine interview with Kuroiwa Sensei. In this interview, as I recall, Kuroiwa Sensei stated that he believed that aikido had died with Ueshiba O-Sensei, and that we as practitioners now had to figure it out for ourselves. I take that to mean that falling back on the idea that we are doing the exact martial art of Ueshiba or that certain kinds of practice can maintain the art EXACTLY as he practiced it or give us the ability he possessed, is a deeply flawed perspective.
In my opinion, striving to preserve Aikido as Ueshiba practiced it(and there is a whole 'nuther can of worms re: Iwama vs. Hombu, pre-war v.s post-war etc. that I won't even try to touch on) is forcing us to inbreed, to avoid any new ideas or input in an attempt to keep us "pure". But inbreeding eventually leads to stagnation and weakness. New blood, new ideas, new approaches are necessary to grow and survive. The down side to this is we end up with frauds and approaches that don't pan out.
The upside is that we can also encounter wonderful moments like the seminar Ellis ran last weekend, where a group of people from many different backgrounds came together to see things in a new light, with the explicit permission to take what was taught, keep what worked in your practice and reject what didn't. My image of a unified aikido, if such a thing is possible, is this: all of us, on the mat, without regard to rank, tradition, or who's right and wrong, just training. Walk a mile in the other guys shoes, as it were, and then look at what you do from a slightly different light.
Thats my two cents.
--John A Butz