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Michael Lewis's relatively new (2018) book "The Fifth Risk"

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You have probably heard of Michael Lewis's works, but maybe didn't know his name: Moneyball, The Big Short, and Flash Boys, among others.

Last year, he came out with a new one, titled "The Fifth Risk". I have been reading it, after hearing him discuss it in this Chris Hayes podcast:


Here's an amusing (and a little frightful) story from the book: when Trump came to power, he set up a "Landing Team" led by Thomas Pyle, to shake things up at the Department of Energy. Pyle was president of the American Energy Alliance, which is a Washington D.C. propaganda machine funded by ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. Anyways, he apparently didn't know what the DOE actually did. Some of it has to do with things like encouraging new renewable energy projects -- but an awful lot of what it does pertains to nuclear weapons. For example, making sure the U.S.'s weapons are in good working order; keeping an eye on the specter of "loose nukes"; nuclear waste management; and so on.

A short clip from the book (page 40):

Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall has spent her thirty-year career working on reducing the world's supply of weapons of mass destruction -- she led the U.S. mission to remove chemical weapons from Syria. But like everyone else who came to work at the DOE, she'd grown accustomed to no one knowing what the department actually did. When she'd called home, back in 2013, to tell them that President Obama had nominated her to be second-in-command of the place, her mother said, "Well, darling, I have no idea what the Department of Energy does, but you've always had a lot of energy, so I'm sure you'll be perfect for the role."

The Trump administration had no clearer idea what she did with her day than her mother. And yet, according to Sherwood-Randall,they were certain they didn't need to hear anything she had to say before they took over her job. Pyle eventually sent over a list of seventy-four questions he wanted answers to. His list addressed some of the subjects covered in the briefing materials, but also a few not:

Can you provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended any Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Carbon meetings? Can you provide a list of Department employees or contractors who attended any of the Conference of the Parties (under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in the last five years?

That, in a nutshell, was the spirit of the Trump enterprise. "It reminded me of McCarthyism," says Sherwood-Randall.

Totally ludicrous, but not had to believe, given the circumstances.
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