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Sun Dec 23, 2018, 12:35 PM

This unwarranted shutdown has now placed this country into further danger

and I believe Michael Lewis book the Fifth Risk is a must read.........................

"Michael Lewis is a national treasure, whose gift for explaining how finance grifters think and operate has spawned a whole genre, which he dominates with books like Liar's Poker (an insider view of the S&L crisis); The Big Short (a character-driven, crystal-clear explainer on the financial engineering that led to the 2008 crisis), and Flash Boys (the shitty math and bafflegab behind high-speed trading); and now, The Fifth Risk: an astounding and terrifying book about the experts who fill the ranks in the US government and the Trump-administration grifters who are destroying the work they do to keep us from dying of tornadoes, nuclear accident, food poisoning and a million other dangers, large and small.

The Fifth Risk is a very short book, consisting mostly of interviews with current (and usually anonymous) US government officials, as well as former high-ranking officials who left when the Trump administration took over. These are largely extremely technical people, manifestly and palpably motivated by a sense of duty and a commitment to excellence, who have been charged with an insanely hard job: figuring out how to contain all the complex risks of 21st century technical society, including things like a 100-year, 100-billion-dollar nuclear cleanup that involves mitigating vast, badly secured underground stores of waste from the WWII nuclear bomb production effort, which is slowly seeping towards the Columbia River.

Each profile takes on a similar form: the expert's journey to government service is explained (for example, how a deep-sea scientist became one of the first US woman astronauts and then helmed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; then, the incredibly technical, incredibly high stakes that person lives with (dealing with all the nation's weather data and figuring out how we can not all die from fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc), and then, the kicker: how Trump's shitty administration of grifters and right-wing thinktankies showed up underprepared, disinterested, and actively hostile to the person and the work they did (in this case, how the guy who runs Accuweather and has been lobbying for years to force the government to stop letting us get weather predictions for free ended up in charge of US governmental weather strategy).

It's a powerful format, by turns inspiring, infuriating and terrifying. It's also a powerful repudiation of "public choice theory," a favorite economic theory among the right, whose simplest formulation holds that everyone is looking out for themselves, and that "duty" and other high-minded ideals are at best self-deception from would-be civil-service empire-builders who are just looking to expand their influence at taxpayer's expense. Public choice advocates will tell you that no one really thinks of themselves as a villain, and that your "bad guy" thinks they're doing the right thing just as much as you do."


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