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The Fifth Risk – tekijä: Michael Lewis
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The Fifth Risk (vuoden 2018 painos)

– tekijä: Michael Lewis (Tekijä)

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"The election happened," remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. "And then there was radio silence." Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them. Michael Lewis takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders. At Agriculture, the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it's not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do. Willful ignorance plays a role in these looming disasters. If your ambition is to maximize short-term gain without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing the cost. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it's better never to really understand those problems. But if there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes -- unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system: those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.… (lisätietoja)
Jäsen:MikeGoodwin2016
Teoksen nimi:The Fifth Risk
Kirjailijat:Michael Lewis (Tekijä)
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2018), Edition: 1, 256 pages
Kokoelmat:Oma kirjasto
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The Fifth Risk (tekijä: Michael Lewis)

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The Fifth Risk is a 2018 non-fiction book by Michael Lewis that examines the transition and political appointments of the Donald Trump presidency, especially with respect to three government agencies: the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Commerce.
  MasseyLibrary | Aug 8, 2021 |
The important stuff is a bit boring, which puts it right in Michael Lewis' wheelhouse. This fast read starts as a narrative about Trump's feckless presidential transition. (The first six pages are simply outrageous.) But quickly Lewis begins searching for deep state actors, and instead finds apolitical managers quietly keeping the nation secure--a mission suddenly more vulnerable than if they'd been agents of the resistance.

A cashiered Department of Energy brainiac worries about loose nukes, the power grid, North Korea, Iran and, ahem, project management. Sure enough, Trump's political appointees have no plan. When they aren't rejecting all science, including management science, they're turning it to favor crony capitalists. Despite or due to their willful ignorance, death and despair have been averted. Which is more scary than outrageous.
  rynk | Jul 11, 2021 |
Recommended for U.S. readers of either of two different factions: those who wonder what kinds of things their Federal taxes are doing, and those who appreciate how much they are getting and would like to learn even more. In a country where the total tax rate is 70% of that in western Europe. ( )
  KENNERLYDAN | Jul 11, 2021 |
A non fiction book about the transition into the Trump administration and some of the decisions taken with regards to civil service in the following months. Instead of looking at the big picture Lewis picks certain individuals in civil service and explores their background and what Trump has changed since taking power. It is fair to say that a lot of these decisions were taken hastily and without appreciation of the ripple effect they caused. This was a decent read but both a little repetitive and not up to the same standard as his usual work in my opinion. ( )
  Brian. | Mar 15, 2021 |
(4.5/5) The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis (author of other wonkish deep-dives like Moneyball, The Big Short, and Flash Boys), is a timely exploration of some of the more challenging, complex, and esoteric functions of the United States Government. A breezy 200-pages written with journalistic flair, The Fifth Risk will if nothing else, make you really, really hate AccuWeather.

The title refers to an interview Lewis held with a former safety officer at the United States Department of Energy. What are the biggest risks America faces? There are the obvious ones: a nuclear war with Iran or North Korea; a Broken Arrow scenario (an accident involving a nuclear weapon); the vulnerability of the electrical grid to attack, and finally… project management. Lewis’ central thesis, if there is one, is that the USG deal with some really complex shit. Stuff like keeping radioactive waste in the Hanford Site from leaking into the Columbia River, or making sure the national food supply isn’t contaminated with E. coli. It does things that the private sector simply never could or would, both because corporations lack the resources of a government and because there’s no immediate profit in these policies. Lewis makes the compelling case that – particularly since the election of Donald J. Trump as President – there is a serious risk that these programs will not be sufficiently managed, and that mismanagement and neglect (benign or malign) will cost lives.

A huge chunk of this book is about the weather, and Lewis does an excellent job of making it interesting. He laser focuses on NOAA’s National Weather Service, which, for truly arcane reasons, is part of the Department of Commerce. (Another takeaway – Department names can have surprisingly little to do with what the department actually does. The Department of Energy spends about half of its budget safeguarding nuclear weapons. The Department of Commerce oversees the weather, the census, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology). NOAA maintains one of the most sophisticated data-gathering systems in the world, through a constellation of geocentric and polar-orbiting satellites, ocean-deployed buoys, and radar installations. All of this data is pumped through models and supercomputers to produce increasingly-sophisticated forecasts (forecasts which are getting better every year, your opinion of the local weatherman notwithstanding), which are then provided to farmers, airlines, and the everyday commuter for free.

Or, at least, they try to.

If The Fifth Risk has a villain, it’s Trump’s nominee to head NOAA, the CEO of AccuWeather: Barry Lee Myers. I hesitate to use the phrase ‘more repugnant than Donald Trump’ but Myers is certainly… close. AccuWeather, which sells weather data and forecasts for profit, receives the overwhelming majority of its inputs for free, from NOAA. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. What is wrong, however, is that Myers then proceeded to campaign to ban NOAA from providing weather data for free. With truly bizarre logic, Myers argued that, by providing weather data to the public for free, NOAA is interfering with private commerce, namely AccuWeather’s right to make a profit by re-selling that exact same (taxpayer-funded) data. He managed to get Rick Santorum (remember him?) to introduce a bill that would do just that (which, mercifully, was defeated). AccuWeather actually did not share a weather emergency warning with the public, instead providing that potentially life-saving alert only to paying customers. And this is the man Donald Trump wants to put in charge of NOAA.


The beginning of the book is basically the horror of story of the Obama-Trump Presidential transition. In contrast to the orderly Presidential successions of the Bushes, Clinton, and Obama, the Trump Campaign did basically 0 preparation for actually taking over the levers of government. Chris Christie (remember him?) actually did a fair amount of legwork to establish a transition team (which Trump was furious to have to pay for), only for the alt-right faction of Trump’s orbit, spearheaded by Stephen Bannon, to literally throw all that work in the garbage. The various federal departments prepared week-long briefing sessions for the incoming Trump Administration personnel, only for literally nobody to show up, in many cases. Those who did often had no idea what jobs they were taking over, which would be funny if not for the lives literally at stake in these programs. Wilbur Ross, for example, had no idea what the Commerce Department actually did before taking over it, while the staffers taking over the Department of Agriculture were only interested in purging employees who worked on climate change. It is, in a word, depressing.

The book serves, if nothing else, to remind the reader of the legions of smart, hard-working people genuinely drawn to the call of public service, instead of the private sector, where they could usually make much, much more money. An ode to the unsung heroes of the civil service, whether they’re helping price farm insurance or make sure the poultry line doesn’t move too fast for the “slaughter inspection systems” to work. (“Birds per minute” is one of the grizzlier units of measurement I’ve encountered).

Lewis’ prose is quick and easy to read – it took almost no time to read the entire book – and he does an excellent job of mixing the anecdotal with the analytical, personal drama with Big Picture problems. The front-half of the book is definitely stronger, as Lewis kind of wanders away from his initial premise to explore esoteric corners of the USG and the work that they do. I learned a lot about why tornadoes are significantly harder to predict than hurricanes, though by the time I was there I’d kind of forgotten how that related to the tragicomedy of Rick “Oops” Perry heading the DOE. The absence of any kind of footnotes, bibliography, or even a “Further Reading” section is a little disappointing, and sometimes Lewis dives a touch too deep into the biographies of his interviewees. On the whole, though, an excellent way to improve your understanding of what and how the United States Government does. ( )
  pvoberstein | Dec 14, 2020 |
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The relationship between the people and their government troubled her (Kathy Sullivan, head of NOAA). The government was the mission of an entire society: why was the society undermining it? "I'm routinely appalled by how profoundly ignorant even highly educated people are when it comes to the structure and function of our government," she said. "The sense of identity as Citizen has been replaced by Consumer. The idea that government should serve the citizens like a waiter or concierge, rather than in a 'collective good' sense."
There is another way to think of John MacWilliams' fifth risk: the risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions. […] “Program Management” is the existential risk that you never really even imagine as a risk. (Chapter I: “Tail Risk,” p. 75 (Norton, 2018))
Thousands of people inside the Federal government had spent the better part of a year drawing a vivid picture of it for the benefit of the new administration. The United States government might be the most complicated on the face of the earth. Its two million federal employees take orders from four thousand political appointees. Dysfunction is baked into the structure of the thing: the subordinates know their bosses will be replaced every four to eight years. And that the direction of their enterprises might change overnight – with an election, or a war, or some other political event. (Chapter I: “Tail Risk,” p. 37 (Norton, 2018))
The 2020 national census will be a massive undertaking for which there is not a moment to lose, and yet there's no Trump appointee in place to run it. “The actual government has not really taken over,” said Max Stier. “It's kindergarten soccer. Everyone is on the ball. No one is at their positions. But I doubt Trump sees the reality. Everywhere he goes, everything is going to be hunky-dory and nice. No-one gives him the bad news.” (Chapter I: “Tail Risk,” p. 46 (Norton, 2018))
The third department [Rick] Perry wanted to get rid of, he later recalled, was the Department of Energy. In his confirmation hearings to run the department, Perry confessed that when he called for its elimination, he hadn't actually known what the Department of Energy did – and he now regretted saying that it didn't do anything worth doing. (Chapter I: “Tail Risk,” p. 47 (Norton, 2018))
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"The election happened," remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the Department of Energy. "And then there was radio silence." Across all departments, similar stories were playing out: Trump appointees were few and far between; those that did show up were shockingly uninformed about the functions of their new workplace. Some even threw away the briefing books that had been prepared for them. Michael Lewis takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its own leaders. At Agriculture, the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it's not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do. Willful ignorance plays a role in these looming disasters. If your ambition is to maximize short-term gain without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing the cost. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it's better never to really understand those problems. But if there are dangerous fools in this book, there are also heroes -- unsung, of course. They are the linchpins of the system: those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running. Michael Lewis finds them, and he asks them what keeps them up at night.

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