Political books 20

Seeds of Terror                                   Gretchen Peters         Aug 2009
The Progressive Revolution                Michael Lux             Aug 2009
Unscientific America                          Chris Mooney & Sheril Kirshenbaum     Sep 2009
Click                                                   Bill Tancer                Oct 2009        Audio Book
Social Intelligence                              Daniel Goleman        Oct 2009        Audio Book
Ecological Intelligence                       Daniel Goleman        Nov 2009        Audio Book
The Family                                         Jeff Sharlet                Nov 2009
Whole Earth Discipline                      Stewart Brand           Jan 2010
Rediscovering Values                        Jim Wallis                 Mar 2010

Seeds of Terror          Gretchen Peters         Aug 2009
            How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and Al Qaeda

Foreword  On page 167 Peters says: Eight years after 9/11, the single greatest failure in the war on terror is not that Osama Bin Laden continues to elude capture, or that the Taliban has staged a comeback, or even that al Qaeda is regrouping in Pakistan's tribal areas and probably planning fresh attacks on the West.  Rather it's the spectacular incapacity of western law enforcement to disrupt the flow om money that is keeping their networks afloat."  Fredrick P. Hinz, Inspector General of the CIA (1990-1998).  He goes on to say, "To have imagined that the creation of an unproven, western-supported regime in Kabul would have the power to eliminate the traditional cash crop of hundreds of tribal chieftains without an enormous and lengthy struggle is once again the height of western hubris and ignorance."

Introduction  In 1998 the author was at a diplomatic reception in Islamabad and an official in the US embassy begged her to do more reporting on the terrorist camps in Afghanistan.  He was worried sick and begged her, "Please don't ignore this story."  She, and most of the other journalists covering Pakistan and Afghanistan did continue to ignore this story.  Stories on the plight of Afghan women got published so that is what she wrote.  She didn't return to Afghanistan until after 9/11.  By 2003 most US officials considered the Taliban almost extinct but poppy farming was exploding.  Her old warning came back to her but officials and experts rejected this linkage.  This time she would not be stopped.  She didn't get it right the first time, but she would the second.

C1  The New Axis of Evil  There is a great deal of evidence that terrorist organizations are very often associated with criminal activity.  The most attractive criminal activity in Afghanistan and Pakistan is heroin.  There is very little evidence that directly links bin Laden and other high ranking al Qaeda leaders are directly involved in drug trafficking but lower level people certainly are.  She goes on to document many such links and also shows that although American troops on the ground are very aware of what is happening, higher level officials in the US and other western countries have been very reluctant to admit it.  Rumsfeld often stated that, "We don't do drugs."  In Afghanistan in 2003 opium income was $4.8 billion.  This buys a lot of weapons.

C2  Operation Jihad  A brief and rambling history of the Afghan region since the 1970's to the 1990's.  The area has long been associated with smuggling (or unauthorized trade across borders) and drug dealing since the time of Alexander the Great.  The US assisted in the use of drugs against the Soviets and when local leaders showed ambition and made extra money by selling heroin they certainly did not object very much.  In 1988 two DEA agents went on a search and destroy mission in Helmand Province to destroy heroin labs, which at the time were thought to be producing up to 1/2 the heroin sold in the US.  During this time the US sometimes tried to reduce heroin production and sometimes denied that anything was going on.  During much of the time more and more poppies were being grown.  Whether or not heroin production was more of less a portion of the economy than it had been historically was not answered but there was certainly a lot and much was associated with the mujahideenand the Taliban and lawless elements in general.  

C3  Narco-Terror State  The origins of the Taliban are confused and in doubt but the author found the most likely story was that a teacher at a small madrassa named Mullah Omar was informed that a local warlord had kidnapped several local girls and raped them.  He became enraged, recruited and armed a small group of his students who rescued the girls and hanged the commander.  He later took on two warlords who were fighting over a young boy they both wanted.  Many others joined this "Robin Hood" like movement.  In the beginning they were against using and growing drugs, mainly heroin, but very soon the need to raise money changed this to approve of growing poppies if the goal was to sell the heroin to westerners.  The origin was probably in mid-1994.  

The author seems to believe that the Taliban quickly changed from a group protecting people from warlords to a criminal movement supporting growing poppies, processing, and then shipping opium and heroin.  She also complains that the Bush administration and the Pentagon strangely resisted attacking drug labs and heroin storage areas.

C4  The New Taliban  On Dec. 19, 2006 the Taliban treasurer was driving with several other people when his vehicle was blown up in an air strike.  His fellow travelers were the biggest heroin smugglers in Helmand Province and a regional Taliban sub-commander.  They were spotted when a Royal Air Force monitoring plane picked up his satellite telephone signal passed the information on to the US Special Operations team who blew up the vehicle as soon as it left a populated area.  By this time the original Taliban had disappeared and been replaced by a new group who supplied military backup (and some political cover) for drug manufacturing and shipping.  Most of the 40 page chapter is devoted to detailed documentation of names and relationships of many of the drug dealers and the Taliban.

C5  The Kingpin  Haji Juma Khan, whose name, "Juma Khan", translates as "Mr. Friday".  For many years he was known as the most important drug trafficker in South Asia.  One Afghan police official said, "Mullah Omar, Tahir Yuldeshev, Osama bin Laden, they all work for him."  He presumably started in the drug business in the late 1980's.  He was arrested in late 2001 near Kandahar by US forces but released as they were looking for Mullah Omar and bin Laden.  He is reported do done more than 1 billion dollars of drug business for several years.  He was arrested by Indonesian officials on Oct. 23, 2008 and handed over to US authorities and taken to New York where he was when the book was published.  His trading empire seems to be running well without him as he was very careful in choosing his top level workers.  

C6  Follow the Money  One US counter-narcotics official commented on our focus on al Qaeda and the Taliban as, "It's as if we stumbled upon a combustion engine and we are reaching in trying to grab the individual pistons, and forgetting we should just cut the flow of gasoline."  As we fail year after year to catch Osama bin Laden, stop the Taliban or al Qaeda, we continue to fail to disrupt the flow of money that keeps these networks afloat.  This is a fairly short chapter detailing several of the techniques used to move money and heroin around in the Middle East and South Asia.  The chapter contains a number of color photographs of people and places mentioned in the book.

C7  Mission Creep  In Oct. 2006, after Afghanistan harvested 6,100 metric tons of opium Congressmen Henry Hyde and Mark Kirk wrote to Rumsfeld asking him to instruct the military to cooperate with DEA agents in reducing the flow of drugs in Afghanistan.  After a delay of almost 2 months they received a reply from an undersecretary essentially rejecting their request.  Presumably Rumsfeld did not want a repeat of the drug war in Columbia.  Another chapter discussing how drug money and transportation is used by the Taliban to push their political goals.  

C8  Zero-Sum Game  How do we get out?  It is easy to see how we got involved in Afghanistan and find someone to blame, not so easy to figure out where we go from here.  A standard solution, accepted by many in government is actually very counter-productive.  This is to destroy the poppy fields using aerial spraying.  This would cause the price to go up benefiting the Taliban who have large stores of poppy extract.  It would also be economically devastating to Afghanistan.  When we sprayed cocaine in Columbia it was never more than 5% of their GDP.  Poppies and heroin currently represent 30% of the Afghan GDP.  Also as much as 12% of the Afghan population lives off the poppy trade.  To destroy this without providing alternatives would create a humanitarian disaster, turn more Afghans against the US and create a public relations nightmare.  

The author recommends a 9 point program and we should begin work on all of these elements at the same time and not argue over which is the most important.  These are:
  1. Support Regional Peace
  2. Support Regional Trade
  3. Launch a Proper Counterinsurgency Effort aiming at security, progress, and good governance simultaneously
  4. Blend Counterinsurgency and Counter-narcotics Efforts
  5. Target Criminals, Not Farmers
  6. Create a Farm Support Network including orchards which are harder to switch back to poppies
  7. Improve the Public Relations Campaign
  8. Isolate and Obstruct Drug Money
  9. Alternative livelihoods
"Criminal and terrorist groups take root and flourish everywhere there is an absence of good governance and security."  Our goal should not be the end of the Taliban and al Qaeda but the creation of prosperity and stability in Afghanistan and the entire region.  

Afterward  There have been some successes and some failures.  The UN has estimated that the Taliban has stockpiled around 8,000 tons of opium so reports of lessened production of poppy growing should be looked at carefully.  

The book has 31 pages of notes by chapter, a 13 page bibliography, 3 pages of results from a 2007 survey taken in Afghanistan, and a 14 page index.  

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The Progressive Revolution                Michael Lux            Aug 2009
            Subtitle:  How the Best in America Came To Be


Introduction: The History of American Progress  

C1  The Big Change Moments  

C2  A Progressive Revolution: How Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson Literally Invented the Idea of America  

C3  The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Right to Think and Speak Freely  

C4  Civil Rights, States' Rights, and the Re-Creation of the American Idea  

C5  The Battle over Democracy  

C6  Trickle-Down vs. Bottom-Up  

C7  The Dream and the Backlash  

C8  Hope, Fear, and the Culture of Caution  

C9  The Next Big Change Moment  

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Unscientific America                     Chris Mooney & Sheril Kirshenbaum       Sep 2009
            Subtitle:  How scientific illiteracy threatens our Future

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Click                                                   Bill Tancer                Oct 2009        Audio Book

Bill Tancer is the general manager of global research at Hitwise, the world’s leading online competitive intelligence services.  (From the web site)  It is difficult to write a review of a non-fiction book without being able to go back and re-read important passages.  Both before his position with Hitwise  and currently Bill Tancer was interested in the behavior of computer users.  Hitwise has extensive data regarding internet usage and the analysis tools to evaluate it.  The book is a description of many different questions that he has asked of the data and how he has explored them.  It is limited in that it strictly reflects only data generated by people using the internet so among subgroups of people who have restricted on no use of the internet are not reflected.  However for internet users it offers a way to study them in ways that have never been possible before.  

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Social Intelligence
                              Daniel Goleman        Oct 2009        Audio Book

Again, a non-fiction book in an audio format, very difficult to go back for checking and evaluation.  This book explores the neurological and chemical basis for brain functioning and how this effects our responses to others around us.  Very simply our brains were formed to interact with our environment at the most basic level.  Very roughly speaking this is approximately at the fish or reptile level, perhaps somewhere between 500 million years ago to 250 million years ago.  Following this stage the most important part of our ancestors environment was other animals like us.  So for the last 250 million years or so our evolution has been most powerfully selected for getting along with animals with brains like ours.  Then for the past 20 to perhaps 5 million years our ancestors began to realize that we had intelligence and and that others like us (members of our own species) also had intelligence.  Our brains are designed to get along with and interact with others like us.  

The overall "construction technique" has been to reuse and recycle the existing parts, adding functions when necessary.  It is small wonder then, when something goes wrong we sometimes revert to behaviors that may have been appropriate during a previous evolutionary stage.  Perhaps the best example is totally asocial behavior when emotions or empathy seem to be lacking.

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Ecological Intelligence                       Daniel Goleman        Nov 2009        Audio Book

As I said just above, non-fiction audio books are hard to review.  The book is broken into two or three segments.  The first is a description of how we, as individuals, can reduce our carbon footprint and decrease our level of pollution.  This is the Goody Two-Shoes part of the book.  It's not bad but most of it has been said before man, many times.  It doesn't add much to the discussion beyond what is out there already and people who would be reading of listening to the book would already know most of it. 

The next section, I don't know if it is a full part or just a transition, it is a description of some of the new ways in which consumers can discover information about the carbon footprint and pollution caused by products in the marketplace.  Basically how do you choose between to brands of toothpaste or other product.  How can you evaluate the carbon footprint, pollution, and humaneness towards workers, transporters, and retailers. 

The final section discusses the steps that industry and retailers can take to reduce their products carbon footprint and pollution,  and the humaneness of the aforementioned workers and transporters.  I found this part the most interesting and potentially useful because in the final analysis it doesn't matter much how eco-minded anyone is if the only "light bulbs" in the stores are incandescent and there are no compact fluorescent or LED light sources.  Industry has to create and build better alternatives and retailers have to purchase them and make them available for resale before end users can reduce their energy consumption for lighting.

Finally the title is a little misleading.  Ecology or ecological implies that the complex interactions between the physical world and the biological world are being considered.  This book is only concerned with the effects of Homo sapiens on the physical and biological world and the social effects of our policies.  Don't expect anything about the traditional subjects of ecology.

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The Family                                         Jeff Sharlet                Nov 2009    

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Whole Earth Discipline          Stewart Brand         Jan 2010
            Subtitle: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto
            Online Notes: www.sbnotes.com (This is very good)

C1  Scale, Scope, Stakes, Speed   Climate change, Urbanization, Biotechnology. These three narratives will probably dominate the century. The last 25-30 years most positions have been based on ideology, now they are being forced to shift and the result is pragmatism. This is wrenching for many. The talk of "saving the planet" is overstated. Earth will be fine, so will life. It is humans and many of our iconic species who will be in trouble.

The author's best view on climate change comes from a book Constant Battles by Steven LeBlanc (2003). In all societies from the beginning until the early civilizations about 25% of all adult males died from warfare. Humans always overbreed their environment and the most attractive option was to kill and eat your competitors. Long-term peace and breakout, when logged when carrying capacity is pushed up suddenly, after large-scale diabetics occur. "If carrying capacity everywhere were lowered by severe climate change. Humanity would resort to its norm of constant battles for diminishing resources. Peace lovers would be killed and eaten by war lovers."

About 8200 years ago the average temperature dropped 2.7C (5F) in less than a decade. This drop only lasted about one century. As a comparison the younger driest occurred 12,700 years ago and lasted for more than 1000 years. Van, temperatures dropped 15C (27F). A stoppage or slowing of the Gulf Stream may have been the cause of both.

Positive feedback in the polar regions. The more melting, the less ice, the less ice, the more melting, etc. Tundra melts, release more CO2 and methane, these greenhouse gases trap heat which melts more tundra. There may be a negative feedback loop in the Arctic with CO2. Until we have figured that out we should not get too pessimistic, nor too optimistic.

50 MYA, 1,000,000,000,000 tons of methane burped out of the ocean when they were warmed slightly. This raised the temperature about 8C (14.5F). Could this happen again -- YES!, Will it, We don't know. Other problems: the The Ross ice shelf which is holding back the West art and Antarctic ice sheet. -- Will they go? Rain Forests -- will they dry out?, Will the ocean surface stratify keeping cold water nutrients out of the surface layers? Will much of the temperate forests dry out and burn? Will the mountain glaciers melt? There are no clear answers to any of these questions.

Some observers believe that the earth has several relatively steady states, one thinks that the next higher state is is at about 5C higher than we are today. There are three broad strategies for dealing with climate change:

  1. mitigation -- cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions -- avoiding the unmanageable
  2. adaptation -- managing the unavoidable
  3. amelioration -- adjusting the nature of the plant itself through large scale geo-engineering.
As one observer has said, "The metabolism of our economy is now on a collision course with the metabolism of our planet." We are currently using about 16 TW of power per year (16 trillion W). We are currently spending about $40 trillion per year on energy.

Ecosystem services as infrastructure. Humans have been building infrastructure for thousands of years but there is no economic theories of infrastructure. It's just, "Something gray -- behind the chain-link fence." We have been trained to ignore it. The first warnings about climate change came in the book in 1948. In 1958 Keeling started measuring CO2. In 1963 the first book warning of global warming based upon CO2 came out in in 1978 Al Gore began Congressional hearings on global warming. Temperatures and Ice Ages closely match solar cycles until about 50,000 YA when irrigated rice farming and Southeast Asia started and methane was released. Possibly another bump for similar causes about 8000 Y. a. There were sudden dips in CO2 at 200-600, 1300, 1400, and 1500-1750. Were these caused because of major human die backs from pandemics?

We have been terraforming the earth the last 10,000 years. The author ends the chapter with a brief resume and the experiences that shaped his life and work.

C2  City Planet   Cities are wealth creators in population sinks. We were 3% urban in 1800, 14% in 1900, 50% in 2007, and will probably be 80% by 2050. "Subsistence farming is a poverty trap and environmental disaster." From 1900 through the year 2000, most of the action was in the largest cities, but that is switching over to those with between 400,000 and 5 million population. This trend will probably continue. Cities are the longest lived of all human organizations. It is easier and cheaper to that provide services to city dwellers.

Kleiber's Law: "Organisms become more metabolically efficient as they scale up." Example from the biological world is from shrews to elephants, from the societal world, cities increase their creativity with increasing size and the relationship is "super linear", as a city doubles in size to more than doubles its creativity. The author presents an interesting theory on the relationship of agriculture and cities. The traditional view is that agriculture made cities possible. The view that he presents is that the first urban invention was a defendable wall followed by rectangular buildings that allowed close packing of maximum residents within a minimum amount of wall. Agriculture was invented as the most efficient way of feeding these residents without having to walk too far. Today, when urban migration leaves fewer people on the land, the ones remaining can shift from subsistence farming on marginal lands to more concentrated case crop agriculture on prime land. That's better for the city, better for the locals, and better for natural systems in the area. Aquifers recover; forests recover. The author presents statistics and arguments showing that even when poorer rural people moved to city slums, their life becomes better, they become more productive, and within several generations they become a full part of the middle class of city dwellers.

C3  Urban Promise   The message of this chapter is fairly simple, cities accelerate innovation; they cure overpopulation; and while they're becoming the Greenest things that humanity does for the planet, they have a long ways to go. There is a lot of supporting documentation but that is the message.

C4  New Nukes  Two quotations to start off:

Coal is the killer. Of all the fossil fuels, coal is the one that could just make this planet uninhabitable. -- -- Fred Pearce, New Scientist

With climate change, those who know the most are the most frightened. With nuclear power, those who know the most are the least frightened. -- -- Variously attributed

There are a fairly large and growing number of hard science-based environmentalists who are becoming more and more interested in nuclear energy. There are several reasons for this:

C5  Green Genes  

I daresay the environmental movement has done more harm with his opposition to genetic engineering than with any other thing that we've been wrong about. We've starved people, hindered science, hurt the natural environment, and denied our own basic practitioners a crucial tool. In defense of a bizarre idea of what is "natural," we reject the very thing Rachel Carson encouraged us to pursue -- the new science of biotic controls.

The author goes on to discuss many of the issues with Genetically Engineered crops and other life forms.

C6  Gene Dreams   The main issue that many people have with Genetic Engineering is that "it isn't natural." To start off this chapter, the author clearly demonstrates that it IS natural. This is exactly what bacteria and viruses have been doing for billions of years. In the "small" world genes are being swapped between and among species all of the time. And Most of the chapter is devoted to specific examples of how many people are using genetic engineering to create new crops by adding new features to old crops.

C7  Romantics, Scientists, Engineers   Environmentalists over the color green. That's extraordinary, an astonishing accomplishment. No movement has owned a color globally since the Communists took over red. Red means nothing now. How long will Green mean something?

Environmentalists do best when they follow where science leads as they did with climate change. They do worse when they get nervous about where science leads, as they did with genetic engineering.

Brand's theory is that the success of the environmental movement is driven by two powerful forces -- romanticism and science -- that are often in opposition, with a third force emerging -- engineers. Romantics identify with natural systems, are moralistic, rebellious against the perceived dominant power, and dismissive of any of who appear to stray from the true path, they hate to admit mistakes or change direction. Scientists study natural systems, or ethical rather than moralistic, rebellious against any perceived dominant paradigm, and combative against one another. For them, identifying mistakes is what science is, and direction change is the goal. Engineers see and environmental problem neither as a romantic tragedy nor as a scientific puzzle, but simply as something to fix. Romantics distrust engineers -- sometimes correctly -- for their hubris and are uncomfortable with the prospect of fixing things because the essence of tragedy is that it can't be fixed.

Book: Philip Tetlock, Expert Political Judgment (2005). Tetlock states "How you think matters more than what you think." He uses the metaphor of the fox and the hedgehog taken from the Greek poet Archilochus: "The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one great thing." Foxes are skeptical about grand theories differed into their forecasts and ready to adjust their ideas based on actual events, they are invariably better forecasters and policymakers. Hedgehogs have the grand theory they are happy to extend the inning into many domains, relishing its parsimony, expressing their views with great confidence, they don't notice or care when they're wrong, they are great proponents.

The value of hedgehogs is that they occasionally get right the farthest out predictions, but that comes at the cost of a great many wrong for our predictions. The charismatic expert who exudes confidence and has a great story to tell is probably wrong about what's going to happen. The boring expert who will afflict you with a cloud of however's is probably right. There is an inverse relationship between what's makes people attractive as public presenters and what makes them accurate in these forecasting exercises. Hedgehogs deployed a routine set of excuses when proven wrong: "I was almost right"; "I was just off on the timing". Scientists are trained to be foxes. One source of confusion for people is that the views of hedgehogs are strongly stated and strongly held, while the views of foxes are modestly stated and loosely held. Guess who gets the audience share.

The most powerful Fox Brand has known personally was California Gov. Jerry Brown. He had a remarkable technique with protesters, whenever he saw a lineup of demonstrators, he would walk over and engage them: "Tell me what you're concerned about." Someone would launch into their rant, and Brown would listen. After a bit he would interrupt, "Let me see if I got it. You're saying that..." And he would state their position, often with greater clarity and eloquence than theirs. They would just melt. They'd been heard! He got it! They knew he probably wouldn't change his position on the issue they were protesting, but, who knows, he might, because Gov.. Brown was famous for occasionally reversing his opinion and his policy, in response to events.

Brand has used this technology in designing debate formats. Whichever debater goes first holes forth for 15 minutes and then is interviewed for 10 minutes by the second debater, who has to conclude by summarizing the first debater's argument to the first debater's satisfaction: "You got it." Then they reverse roles.

If greens don't embrace science and technology and jump ahead to a leading role in both, they may follow the Reds into oblivion. They need to become early adapters of new tools and adventurous explorers of new situations.

C8  It's All Gardening   Ecosystem engineering is an ancient art, practiced and malpracticed by every human society since the mastery of fire. We would be fools if we repeat their mistakes and just as foolish if we ignore some of the brilliant practices that worked for them. But first we have to figure out what really happened, and that requires discarding some cute stories we like to tell ourselves about indigenous people.He follows this quote when number of stories about errors that have been told about indigenous people. He recommends 1491 by Charles Mann and Tending the Wild by Kat Anderson.

He points out that almost no species just "lives on the earth", almost all modify their environment in some way. Some to suit their own needs better (beavers), some to satisfy their own needs (large herbivores), and some consciously (humans). We need to manage our portion of the Earth so that we can both maximize its usability to us as well as protecting the entire environment. In other words we should manage it as a sustainable garden. He nations several examples:

Wild bird populations in America are in serious decline and approximately 100 million birds a year are killed by cats.

In his now classic book, Holistic Management (1999), Alan Savory, shows how to employ grazing animals, like cattle, as tools of land the restoration.

The author mentions a number of techniques that are now being used by many restoration and native plant professionals that are seemingly contradictory to much ecological teaching.

C9  Planet Craft   One emergent principle is that deleterious elements should be concentrated. Concentrating people in cities is good. Concentrating waste products like nuclear spent fuel in tasks is an improvement over distributing the greenhouse gases from spent coal and oil in the atmosphere. Concentrating our sources of food and fiber into high-yield agriculture, tree plantations, and mariculture frees up more wildlands and wild ocean to carry out their expert Gaian tasks.

Did idea of geo-engineering, of adjusting Earth's climate directly, is anathema to most, for good reason. The tenor of the discussion is changing, and geo-engineering is being taken seriously, sooner than expected, because of emerging realizations:

Some of the most promising looking geo-engineering prospects are the following: A major problem is that most of these potential solutions are largely untested and no one has any idea of possible side effects. The other problem is how can it work politically? Who decides to do it? Who runs it imbalances its various forms? Who pays for it? Who accepts responsibility? Who compensates those who were harmed by it? The broader philosophical problem is that geoengineering solutions are directed at the symptom, not the problem. As one atmospheric scientists said, "It's like a junkie figuring out new ways of stealing from his children." These solutions may be essential in the short run but they are certainly not a long-term solution.

The author's summary.
Ecological balance is too important for sentiment. It requires science.
The health of natural infrastructure is too compromised for passively. It requires engineering.
What we call natural and what we humans are inseparable. We live one life.

The book has a 9 page list of recommended reading by subject area and a 9 page, 3 column, fine print index. As mentioned before his footnotes may be found at www.sbnotes.com.

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Rediscovering Values               Jim Wallis                 Mar 2010
            Subtitle: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street
                          A Moral Compass for the New Economy

Introduction:  Asking the Wrong Questions   In January 2009 Rev. Wallis was invited to participate in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Every morning CNN interviewed CEO's and asked them "When will this crisis be over?" CNN kept a running tally of the answers on a whiteboard. During a plenary session Rev. Wallis suggested that CNN was asking the wrong question. A more important question would have been, "How will this crisis change us?" How will it change the ways we think, act, and decide things; how we prioritize and value our successes, how we do business, and how we live our lives?

We have trusted the "invisible hand" of the market and it has failed us. The invisible hand has let go of some crucial ideals -- like the "common good." He recommended that we remember the Seven Deadly Social Sins that Gandhi used to instruct his students.

  1. Politics without principle
  2. Wealth without work
  3. Commerce without morality
  4. Pleasure without conscience
  5. Education without character
  6. Science without humanity
  7. Worship without sacrifice
Following this the participants began to ask the question, "How will this crisis change us?" The purpose of this book is to get us to ask the right questions. If we ask the wrong questions it doesn't matter how good the answers are, we will end up in the wrong place.

We are in a global crisis but it does provide a rare opportunity to ask some fundamental questions about our most basic values. This crisis manifests itself in many ways but the root cause is a moral deficit that allows us to make these errors. In this book he wants to spark a conversation about our moral problems and the opportunities that these create for us. There is suppose to be a web site created to assist in this conversation, www.rediscoveringvalues.com but as of this report it is not available.

C1  Sunday School with Jon Stewart
  One day in early March 2009 Jon Stewart of the Daily Show asked his guest, a commentator on a financial show a number of embarrassing questions regarding the ethics of how people make money. He compares the statements of Jon Stewart to those made by FDR.

He discusses Jesus chasing the money changers out of the temple. According to Rev. Wallis, Jesus was not primarily against the merchants selling animals for sacrifice - this was almost a necessity as people traveling long distances would find it very hard to transport sacrificial animals. Jesus was concerned with the merchants who were cheating the people, especially the merchants who were selling doves. Doves were the cheapest animal that was acceptable for offering as a sacrifice. Poor people who could only afford the cheapest animal would buy the doves. Jesus was complaining about those merchants who made great profits selling (and cheating) to the poor.

Jesus (and Jon Stewart and FDR) were angry about three primary things that deserve our anger -- our righteous indignation.

  1. First, we were sold a lie.
  2. Second, the rules of the game failed.
  3. Third, our good was supposed to trickle down.
The author finds three moral lessons in this:
  1. First, relationships matter.
  2. Second, "social sins" also matter.
  3. Third, our good is indeed tied up in the common good.
The author writes of a recent encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI in which he writes about the dangers of idolatry an while profit is useful it can become evil if it becomes the exclusive goal. The Pope writes that the goal is not to get rid of commerce but to build it upon a foundation of values.

C2  When the Market Became God   The cultural messages over the last several decades have clearly been "greed is good; it's all about me; and I want it all, and I want it now. How did we get here? We have replaced God with the "invisible hand" of the market and substituted "market value" for "moral values." When Moses led the Jews out of Egypt they built a golden calf as an idol to worship, the Jews said that it was the God that brought them out of Egypt. When Moses came back down Mount Sinai he was angry. Not because they had built a golden statue, but because they worshiped it. Have we not done the same thing with hedge funds, mortgage-backed securities, 401(k)s, etc.? We didn't do this because we set out to, we just weren't paying attention.

Markets are the best ways that humans know how to create goods and services, although they often fall short in fairly distributing them. They structure efficient exchanges that are able to produce mutually beneficial outcomes for the parties involved. Jeffrey Sachs has estimated that before 1800 perhaps 85% of the worlds population in extreme poverty, by 1950 that was down to 50%, in 1992 it was 25%, by 2007 it was down to 15%. The clear indication is that this progress may not be sustainable.

The 2008-2009 recession was predicted in general by the economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1946. Before Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, he wrote another volume, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, in which he states that our moral system, our beliefs about what is right and good, must always come before our economic system. In other words, when the economic system comes first it can destroy our society and then itself. As Wallis says, "When economics comes before values, we have idolatry."

The chapter ends with a discussion of the ethics of the market. Where should the market provide our answers and where should ethics, morality, values, or religion provide the answers. He suggests that ethics, morality, values, and religion should be the source of our decisions regarding public services, interpersonal and private relationships, family, and many others. The market should be supreme in the provision of personal goods and services.

C3  Greed Is Good
  The cultural icons who epitomize the concept, Greed is Good. These are now including CEO's as well as actors and athletes. Some of these are Sir Mark Allen Stanford, Donald Trump, The people described in the movie Wall Street, and the people described in Robert Frank's Richistan and Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class. He compares these with the messages of Jesus using the example of Matthew 6:19-21.

C4  It's All About Me   Narcissism vs. the strong individual of American myth. He compares the messages given by advertisers (and many survival of the fittest fundamentalists with the messages we hear from the recent testimony of Alan Greenspan and research by Henry Harlow involving baby rhesus monkeys and the Good Samaritan research done at Princeton in 1970 on seminary students. Then he compares these with the biblical messages of "Pride goeth before a ... fall" and the biblical "Good Samaritan".

C5  I Want it Now   The financial and ecological hazards of immediate gratification. The difference between what we need and what we want. Perhaps we should evaluate every decision by its impact upon seven generations in the future.

C6  When the Gaps Get Too Big
  While doing research for a talk he looked at some data regarding biblical archaeology. He found that when there was relative equality between the rich and the poor there were no prophets. However during periods when there were great differences between the poor with their small shacks and the rich with their huge palaces, an example is around 800 BC, there were many prophets who rose up to rail against the disparities in income. "The God of the Bible seems not to mind prosperity--if it is shared. But when it is not, God gets angry." When wealth becomes concentrated, bad things begin to happen to us.

There are parallels to this in the 1920's and in the 1990's through the early 2000's compared with the period immediately after World War II until the mid 1970's. As an example of what this means today he uses the former CEO of Walmart, Lee Scott Jr. He made a salary of $17.5 million annually, 900 times the pay of the average worker. Every two weeks he made what the average employee would make in a lifetime of work. He has several other examples of CEO's making over $140 million with Steve Jobs of Apple making $646.6 million in 2006, but his company was actually making money. Several managers of hedge-fund companies made over $1 billion.

The family of Walmart founder Sam Walton is estimated to be worth $90 billion. The bottom 40% of all Americans, all 120 millon of us, is estimated to be worth $95 billion. In 2007, the top 1% made more than a thousand times that of the average family in the 90%. The 400 richest people had more wealth than the entire bottom 50% of Americans. The author reminds us that King Solomon said in Ecclasiates that: "The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, ... but time and chance happen to them all." and as Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount that God "causes his son to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." The only way that we can all be assured that we all shall be prosperous is to raise the prosperity level of all.

C7  On Listening to Canaries  Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text.

Part 4 -- THE WAY OUT
C8  Enough is Enough
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C9  We're in It Together  Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text.

C10  The Seventh-Generation Mind-set  Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text.

C11  The Clean-Energy Economy Conversion
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C12  The Family Matters Culture  Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text.

C13  The Meaning of Work and the Ethic of Service  Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text.

C14  The Meaning of Work and the Ethic of Service
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C15  The Parable of Detroit and the Green Shoots of Hope  Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text.

C16  A Bad Morality Play
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C17  Choices Make Changes: Twenty Moral Exercises  Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text. Lines of text.

Notes from the Next Generation -- by Tim King
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