Later On

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Archive for June 11th, 2017

Transcript of Preet Bharara’s interview about Trump and Comey: A must-read

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Here it is. From the transcript (but there’s a lot more—this is just a bit in the middle):

. . . .STEPHANOPOULOS: One other thing on James Comey. He talked about that encounter with Loretta Lynch and the email investigation. She wanted it described as a “matter.” He wanted it described as an investigation.

He said that made him queasy.

Does that make you queasy, too?

BHARARA: Well, it wasn’t said to me. I think if you’re — if it’s true and you’re listening to it as a third party, it’s not the greatest instruction in the world.

But if I could just say one other point on this issue of whether or not Donald Trump knew what he was doing, and I saw, I think, over the weekend, that Paul Ryan, who is, I think, in line to be president of the United States — he’s in the succession line — has been trying to excuse this behavior — again, putting aside whether it’s obstruction or impeachable — that the president of the United States is new to this and he’s new to protocols makes very, very little sense when the president became the president, in part, by campaigning at rally after rally after rally that I saw and Americans saw, on the issue of whether or not it was appropriate for the former attorney general, Loretta Lynch, to have a meeting on a tarmac with Bill Clinton.

So he very well knew what the optics of that were and what the protocols were. And even though there is no evidence and no one has come forward to say anything untoward was discussed on that airplane at the tarmac, when an ongoing investigation was underway with respect to Hillary Clinton, he nevertheless said this is a reason why you should vote for me and not for that person.

And for people to turn around and say now that there is evidence that the president of the United States himself had a private conversation, after kicking other high officials out of the room and told his FBI director confidentiality to do something about a criminal case that’s pending, I think that’s a big deal. And it can’t be excused as simply being a novice or new.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president’s defenders, like Alan Dershowitz, say there’s no grounds for obstruction. You talked about that. And he, in fact, says that presidents have the constitutional right to fire FBI directors and investigations as much as they want.

One of the president’s attorneys, Jay Sekulow, is coming up next. He says there’s no there there, no basis for obstruction.

You are a former prosecutor. Is there evidence there that — to begin a case for obstruction?

BHARARA: I think there’s absolutely evidence to begin a case. I think it’s very important for all sorts of armchair speculators in the law to be clear that no one knows right now whether there is a provable case of obstruction. It’s also true I think from based on what I see as a third party and out of government that there’s no basis to say there’s no obstruction.

And this point on whether or not the president has legal authority to fire or to direct an investigation, I don’t really get it. It’s a little silly to me. The fact that you have authority to remove someone from office doesn’t automatically immunize that act from criminal responsibility.

And I’ll give you an example of something from a different context . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2017 at 8:22 pm

Olivier Ward recommends the best books on Gin

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Yesterday was World Gin Day and I failed to celebrate, so I’ll have a Martini tonight. Five Books interviews Oliver Ward on gin books:

It’s World Gin Day on June 10th, a celebration of a centuries old drink that is seeing fast growth and lots of innovation. Olivier Ward, editor and co-founder of gin appreciation website, Gin Foundry, recommends the best books on Gin — the medicinal drink that came to define the British Empire.

I think of gin, or a gin and tonic, as the most traditionally English drink imaginable. But, like so many great things, it actually came from the Low Countries. Is that right?

Most people will just tell you ‘yes’ and then not caveat it. Yes, it came from the Low Countries—Belgium, probably—but they weren’t making gin there, they were making ‘jenever.’ Gin has always been a British thing in that it was the Brits’ attempt to make their own version of jenever.

It was very different, in that the Brits did not have the distilling heritage or prowess or knowledge. Right at the start, and certainly in the 1600s, it was far inferior to jenever. But they were trying to replicate it and so they created their own version that became known—just reduced to that one monosyllable—as ‘gin.’

The Low Countries never made gin, but they certainly were the forefathers.

Is it made from juniper berries?

It’s made from barley and wheat and rye as the base spirit. Then it’s distilled with juniper berries as the flavour added to it. The base spirit always used to be cereal—though no longer, because you can make it from grape and all sorts of weird and wonderful things, even whey.

But certainly back then it was wheat, barley, or rye that was the base alcohol. Because that base alcohol was shockingly bad, they needed a pungent spice or herb and maybe something that had medicinal properties. Juniper fitted the bill.


You’ve got to remember that back then—and even before then, we’re talking about the 12th and 13th centuries—juniper had this ridiculous, medicinal, all-curing, all-conquering folklore about it. It didn’t matter what you had as an ailment, juniper was the answer. Whether you were wanting to cure gout or stomach problems, that was it. If you wanted to prevent becoming pregnant, you would ingest juniper. Other people would rub juniper over themselves to increase their virility.

Juniper was this magic botanical. The medicinal properties of it were so potent that when people were creating alcohol and creating what started off as medicinal tinctures, juniper was always going to be a huge part of it. The inherent thought was that it could do no wrong—it could only fix and cure.

So what is the difference between jenever and gin?

Today, jenever is geographically protected. The way that they distil it is using a high percentage of barley. A lot of that base spirit comes through into the end product. If you distilled any alcohol all the way through to 96/97% ABV, you’d have vodka. If you did it to 60% or 70%, you’d have what is called, in the industry, ‘new make spirit.’ That’s the kind of stuff you’d put in barrels for whisky or Armagnac or Cognac or brandy. Jenever is that.

Gin is a neutral spirit that is then redistilled with botanicals. It’s a neutral spirit that’s been rectified.

The difference could be explained like this: imagine painting on a beige canvas as opposed to painting on a white one. Jenever has a grainy, more cereally undertone, whereas gin should or ought to have a very clean start. Which, of course, they couldn’t do back then.


Let’s go through the books you’ve chosen. The first one on the list is Craze: Gin and Debauchery in an Age of Reason (2002) by Jessica Warner. It’s an illustrated history about the gin craze in the 18th century. It’s quite ironic because, these days, gin and tonic has slightly posh connotations—but it started off as a drink of the poor.

Gin as a neat spirit, very much so. Gin and tonic as a cocktail is slightly different in that it has its roots in the colonial era, when they were mixing gin with quinine for the troops. But yes, the irony is that gin and oysters was the poor man’s dish. Like pie and ale shops, they would have gin shops that would also serve up oysters because it was considered poor people’s food.

What Jessica’s book does really well is show that the gin craze wasn’t just about this sudden attraction to cheap spirit. It was about policing what the poor drank so that the gentry weren’t affected by it and keeping that debauchery away from the upper class. It wasn’t that they actually cared, they just didn’t want to see it on their doorstep.

Is it about the Hogarth print, Gin Lane?

Yes. The Hogarth print is from 1751. Jessica presents the lead up to it. The gin craze is essentially over by the time that this famous depiction comes along. What people don’t really talk about with ‘Gin Lane’—this illustration of a debauched, broken society—is the fact that it was commissioned by the beer industry.

It was part of a twin set: ‘Gin Lane’ and ‘Beer Street’. In ‘Beer Street’ there’s prosperous industry and everyone’s getting along, the streets are clean and everyone is looking a bit portly and well-fed. Whereas ‘Gin Lane’ has a baby being skewered in the corner.

It was propaganda. That’s not to say it wasn’t true at the time but it was about fear-mongering around this spirit so that it would shock the gentry of society into acting in favour of, basically, the beer breweries and farmers that supplied the breweries.

But gin was incredibly popular, wasn’t it? There were thousands of gin houses around London.

Certainly in East London, one in four doors would have had some form of gin still. There were patches. In Whitechapel, and Holborn to a certain extent, and around Seven Dials, there would have been quite a lot. And I suppose around St Paul’s, going east.

You can still see it in the street names. In Camden, there’s Juniper Crescent. So there are remnants in today’s London—even though there’s no hawker on the side of the street flinging gin at you as you walk past.

And the popularity stemmed from the fact it was a nice, strong drink and affordable?

Yes. It became incredibly cheap through various different acts of legislation. It didn’t happen overnight—it happened over 100 years. At the time, they thought of it as a way of raising money through taxes. They felt that by legislating it in specific ways, they could raise money for the war coffers against the French.

So it developed and grew. The thirst developed not just through a natural thirst for it, but a flood in the market of widely available, relatively cheap, booze. I’ve never really seen any evidence to say that it was cheaper than beer, which was widely commented on at the time. Having said that, it was probably almost as cheap.

As she explains very well in the book, even in the first couple of years, people just didn’t know how to deal with it. People were literally drinking pints of gin because they thought that was okay and that’s how you drink alcohol, isn’t it? And then falling over dead.

It was much more akin to a crack cocaine epidemic than a drinking epidemic. People were being excused for crimes. I think one lady was excused for killing her husband and throwing him down the stairs because she had been made so senselessly drunk that it therefore incapacitated her ability to judge what was right and wrong. Ridiculous crimes were being attributed to being so drunk.

It was an amazing time of discovery, not just of alcohol but the effects of alcohol in a pre-police society. There were no police and the only way that society was kept together was by everyone trying to force people into thinking that they had a very set class and were not allowed to move out of that. That was what got the gentry so upset—because if people don’t know their place, then we might get challenged.

Jessica’s book is extremely well-researched. She articulates all these points and really delves into the facts of the matter. And, also, the human element. You hear these amazing statistics—of the birth-rate being lower than the death rate but also the human stories of these outrageous acts that were going on at the time. Some of them are senseless and some of them are just unbelievably shocking.

The one depicted in ‘Gin Lane’ was an allusion to ‘mother’s ruin’ and Judith Dufour. She worked as a seamstress in one of the washhouses. She went out on a lunch break with her child, killed it, took his clothes, and sold them in order to buy gin. She then came back blind drunk to work later that evening. These human stories wouldn’t have emerged without Jessica’s research.

It’s a good read? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2017 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Books, Drinks

Kevin Drum fights with facts the fake news from Donald Trump

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Very good post with several charts. One example:

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2017 at 4:49 pm

We need an antidote for fake news

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Fake news infects and pollutes cooperation and productive discussion, and thus acts as a disease in the body politic, weakening it and making it vulnerable to attack. For a strong community and country, we must find an effective antibody to fake news. Leon Derczynski reports in Medium:

The accuracy of our media has been placed under constant question, with many claims being called out as false, or fake. Sometimes, this is done because someone doesn’t like a story or fact in the media; other times, the news really is fake.

pathology n.: the study of diseases and of the changes that they cause –Merriam

This post shows a story originating in the Middle East, about Russian soldiers clearing up bombs left in Syria by Obama’s troops. The story was related using first-hand video and personal accounts, and was picked up by major outlets. However, the truth was that this story was completely false — fabricated and framed in such a way that it looked like real news. We’ll pull on threads behind this fake news, and find just one small part of what may well be a large, international network that is feeding our Western media.

I’ve been working on rumors, fake news and so on for a long time. In 2012, we proposed a multinational project on truth in online media, Pheme, which was funded with €4.3M by the European Commission. The project lasted a little over three years, finishing Spring 2017. We spent the time building definitions of fake news, models of rumors, and tools for picking up untrue claims (a tough project!). We even ran an evaluation where teams from all over the world tried to pick out fake stories from real ones, RumorEval. This was perfect timing, with 2016 being the explosive year that it was and “fake news” becoming a hot term just as our project reached its peak.

In the project, we take in huge amounts of data from the web, streaming in various social media sites, news sites, and so on. These need to be linked and grouped so that our journalists (from can readily digest content and see what claims and stories are emerging. This grouping and linking is tough, and to understand how to do it, you have to look at the data really close up. And when you do that, you start to see recurring patterns and behaviors in the tweets and stories on the web.

Let’s start with one story. This is, as it goes, a fairly neutral bit of data; it’s video footage from the destroyed Syrian city of Aleppo, of soldiers in Russian uniforms operating a piece of equipment in the streets. The caption tells us that these are Russian soldiers, using a bomb-disposal device to make the streets safer. This footage is captured and relayed by Ruptly TV, a German-based media organisation, on January 4, 2017. . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more. The story evolves, but by artificial selection rather than natural selection (cf. breeding of animals in captivity vs. animals breeding in the wild).

The problem in using AI as the clean-up agent is, I imagine, that it is extremely difficult to distinguish fake news and advertising.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2017 at 3:59 pm

The construction industry is short on human workers and ripe for a robotic takeover

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So it’s not just millions of truck-driving jobs that will be eliminated by technology (autonomous vehicles0, it looks as though millions of construction jobs may go out the window. April Glaser and Rani Molla report at Recode:

Construction is a $10 trillion global industry. It’s also mired by waste, severe worker shortages and weak productivity growth — all of which mean the business of building is ripe for a robotic takeover.

Productivity — the total economic output per worker — in the construction industry has remained flat, partly because of the slow adoption of new technologies across the industry.

Since 1945, productivity in manufacturing, retail and agriculture has grown 1,500 percent, while it has barely gone up in construction, according to a McKinsey report from earlier this year.

McKinsey compared U.S. industries in 27 criteria, including how much a sector spends on technology and how extensively they use computers in their operations, to create a digitization index of 1 to 100, with 100 being the most digitized.

Below we chart select industries by their digitization score and annual productivity gains.: . . .

Continue reading.

Do read the whole article. It’s quite fascinating. In that connection,

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2017 at 3:05 pm

AI Detects Autism in Infants (Again)

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Megan Scudellari reports in IEEE Spectrum:

Back in February, we brought you news of a deep-learning algorithm able to predict autism in two-year-olds based on structural brain changes beginning at six months of age.

Now, the same group at the University of North Carolina has again applied machine learning to the goal of predicting autism, with equally impressive results. This time, instead of structural changes, they were able to detect changes in brain function of six-month-olds that predicted if the children would later develop autism.

The study is notable because there were no false positives—that is, all the children predicted to develop autism did.

There were a few misses, however. Of 59 6-month-old infants at high-risk for autism—meaning they had at least one sibling with autism—the algorithm correctly predicted 9 of 11 who later received a positive diagnosis.

By combining this functional analysis with the earlier structural results, it is very possible one could create a highly sensitive and accurate early diagnostic test for autism, says first author Robert Emerson of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at UNC. And AI is going to be key to making that happen, he adds.

“It’s going to be really important to use machine learning in the future to pull all these pieces of information together,” says Emerson. In addition to brain scan data, researchers could gather behavioral results, environmental exposures, and more. Once that is done, “we’re going to have a very good shot at really nailing this early prediction.” The paper is published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The team, led by UNC’s Joseph Piven and John Pruett at the Washington University School of Medicine, scanned the brains of infants while they slept. The children were again scanned at age two and completed behavioral and clinical assessments. Each functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) scan measured the activity of 26,335 brain connections among 230 brain regions.

Using that data, a machine-learning algorithm analyzed how the activity of each piece of the brain was synchronized with other pieces of the brain. The team focused on brain regions associated with key features of autism, such as language skills and repetitive behaviors. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2017 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Medical, Science

Bike-sharing is so popular in China that ride-sharing can’t get traction

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Bikes are better for much city transportation than cars, in many ways: traffic jams don’t affect them, they don’t have to look so hard for a parking spot and when they are parked they take up less room, they are non-polluting, they build cardio exercise into the daily routine and increase fitness overall, and there are some very cool bikes. I just  (very reluctantly) parted with this one:

Of course, there are drawbikes. For example, bike thieves (a worry with a bike such as the above or any really desirable bike) are more common than car thieves (in part because cars have better anti-theft technology). Bike sharing gets around the bike-theft problem (or diverts it to a benign form of “theft” like “borrowing”) but it does not address weather concerns. Moreover, modern cars are highly protective of driver—substantially more protective than bicycles.

Li Tao reports in South China Morning Post:

Didi Chuxing last year beat the car-sharing business model’s pioneer Uber Technologies at its own game, and bought out the New York company’s China business to become the dominant app for hailing taxis or sharing a ride in the world’s most populous country.

Less than a year on, Didi’s dominance is being challenged by an unlikely source — about 40 smartphone apps that have sprouted in major Chinese cities since late 2016 for commuters to share bicycles.

Yes, bicycles. The two-wheel conveyance has become the most popular means of last-mile transportation from subway stations and bus terminals to final destinations. Users can pick them up anywhere, leave them anywhere, often for as little as 1 yuan per hour, sometimes for free, and occasionally — depending on promotions — receive cash prizes.

The change in transportation means monthly savings of 500 yuan (US$73), about 5 per cent of the salary of Freddie Tian, who works at an office in Futian district in Shenzhen.

He’s taken to using the city’s subway again, as the easy availability of shared bicycles lets him cover the 10 minutes from his apartment to the subway with ease. Formerly a frequent Didi user, Tian said he no longer takes the taxi

“I can get up a little later in the morning as I don’t need to worry about traffic jams anymore,” he said.

Tian is hardly alone in ditching taxis or shared car rides for the bicycle. Bicycles as a mode of transportation has doubled to 11.6 per cent of total transportation within a year, from 5.5 per cent, while the ratio by cars has fallen to 29.8 per cent from 26.6 per cent in the same period, according to an April report by Beijing Mobike Technology Co. and Tsinghua University.

The growth trend is explosive. The number of shared bicycle users will more than double to 50 million by the end of 2017, from 18 million at the end of 2016, according to Big Data Research, a Chinese consultancy.

To meet the demand, . . .

Continue reading.

Via the very interesting newsletter Exponential View.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2017 at 2:58 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Fetuses Prefer Face-Like Images Even in the Womb

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Ed Yong writes in the Atlantic:

It is dark in the womb—but not that dark. Human flesh isn’t fully opaque, so some measure of light will always pass through it. This means that even an enclosed space like a uterus can be surprisingly bright. “It’s analogous to being in a room where the lights are switched off and the curtains are drawn, but it’s bright outside,” says Vincent Reid from the University of Lancaster. “That’s still enough light to see easily.”

But what exactly do fetuses see? And how do they react to those images? To find out, Reid shone patterns of red dots into the wombs of women in the third trimester of their pregnancies, and monitored the babies within using high-definition ultrasound. By looking at how the babies turned around, Reid showed that they have a preference for dots arranged in a face-like pattern—just as newborn infants do.

“This is the first time that anyone’s been able to deliver an image to a fetus,” Reid says. And it will finally allow scientists to study the mental abilities of humans at the earliest possible stage of our development—before we are even b

For decades, scientists have known that third-trimester babies can perceive sounds and other stimuli while still in the womb. For example, in 1980, Anthony DeCasper and William Fifer asked pregnant women to read The Cat in the Hat to their fetuses, again and again for the last 7 weeks of their pregnancies. As soon as the babies were born, DeCasper and Fifer gave them pacifiers. The babies could then choose to hear a recording of either The Cat in the Hat or a different children’s story, by sucking at different times. And they sucked for the cat.

“People showed that a fetus could learn, was aware of elements of language, and preferred its mother’s own voice,” says Reid. But while such studies looked at hearing, touch, taste, and balance, vision was bizarrely neglected. A lot of researchers have looked at how newborns see the world, but most suspected that there was no way of doing similar tests before babies were actually born. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2017 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Science

It wasn’t just Comey: Federal attorney says Trump’s contacts made him uncomfortable before he was fired

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Sandhya Somashekhar reports in the Washington Post:

Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York ousted by President Trump, said Sunday that he had become increasingly uncomfortable with Trump’s efforts to “cultivate some kind of relationship” with him and that his March firing came 22 hours after finally refusing to take a call from the president.

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week,” Bharara said Trump called him twice as president-elect, “ostensibly just to shoot the breeze.” The calls took place after a meeting at Trump Tower in November at which Bharara, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, said Trump asked him to stay on in the new administration.

The third call came in March, he said. After consulting with staff members, he said he decided not to return the call because he felt it was inappropriate.

“It’s a very weird and peculiar thing for a one-on-one conversation, without the attorney general, without warning, between the president and me or any United States attorney who has been asked to investigate various things,” he said.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for one of Trump’s attorneys, said on Twitter on Sunday that it would not be unusual for Trump to contact Bharara and that if he refused to take Trump’s call, “he deserved to be fired.” He accused Bharara of being a “resistance Democrat” with a political “axe to grind.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2017 at 12:04 pm

Very interesting development: Robert Mueller brings on board a top-notch criminal attorney

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Paul Rosenzweig posts at Lawfare:

What’s the worst thing that happened to Donald Trump this week?  It was NOT Director Comey’s testimony.  Rather, it must be the late Friday news that Robert Mueller has hired Michael Dreeben, on a part-time basis, to help with his investigation.  Dreeben, a deputy in the Office of the Solicitor General, has argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court.  His specialty has, for the last 20 years, been criminal matters and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of criminal law.  I once saw him argue a Supreme Court matter without a single note.  In short, he is quite possibly the best criminal appellate lawyer in America (at least on the government’s side).  That Mueller has sought his assistance attests both to the seriousness of his effort and the depth of the intellectual bench he is building.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2017 at 8:52 am

Any working woman could have told James Comey what would happen when he spurned President Trump

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Robin Abcarian writes in the LA Times:

Is there a working woman alive who cannot identify with poor James Comey right now?

The former FBI director’s boss tried to seduce him. When the seduction failed, his boss fired him.

And then called him “crazy, a real nut job.”

Hell hath no fury like a scorned President Trump.

When you are the kingpin of a family business, used to a world in which no one questions or challenges you, where you can grab anyone in the … well, you know, it’s no wonder you see the world as divided into two sorts of people: you, and the subordinates who are here to meet your every need.

Comey’s first private encounter with President-elect Trump came shortly before the inauguration. According to a copy of the testimony Comey is to give Thursday to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the FBI director asked if he might have some alone time with Trump. He wanted to warn the incoming president about a “salacious and unverified” intelligence report involving Trump, Russian hookers and bizarre sexual behavior, which Trump adamantly denied.

How surprised Comey must have been when Trump thought their tete-a-tete meant they had created some sort of special bond — “that thing,” as the president would later describe it. Comey, by contrast, was discomfited enough by the president that he decided to document their conversation in a memo “the moment I walked out of the meeting.”

Three weeks later, Comey reluctantly attended a White House ceremony honoring law enforcement officials who had worked during the inauguration. He didn’t want to be anywhere near the president; the FBI is supposed to have limited contact with the White House.

So, like Scarlett O’Hara, he wore a suit that looked like blue curtains and tried to camouflage himself by standing next to a window. Unfortunately, when you are 6-foot-8, it’s hard to hide.

The president spotted him and called Comey across the room. The director, determined to minimize physical contact, held out his long, long arm for a handshake. The president tried to yank him into a hug. What resulted was the don’t-hug-me-handshake, a hybrid greeting familiar to any woman trying to fend off unwanted touching by an alpha male.

Like so many clueless pursuers, Trump could not take a hint. On Jan. 27, an unbidden invitation arrived from the White House. Dinner tonight, Mr. Comey?

“It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room,” he wrote. “Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.”

At least the president didn’t excuse himself to slip into something more comfortable. He did, however, ask Comey if he wanted to keep his job. Of course, Comey replied, puzzled because he’d already told the president twice he planned to finish his 10-year term.

“I need loyalty, I expect loyalty,” the president told him.

“I didn’t move, speak or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed,” wrote Comey. “We simply looked at each other in silence.”

Awkward for Comey perhaps, but enflaming for his dining partner.

Their next meeting (not making this up) was on Valentine’s Day. After a counter-terrorism briefing in the Oval Office, the president asked everyone to clear out. Except for Comey. He wanted to be with alone with his FBI bro. . .

Continue reading.


Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2017 at 8:48 am

Why are millennials more apt to leak government secrets?

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A very interesting column in the Washington Post by Malcolm Harris:

When the news broke of the latest national security leaker, it was obvious she was a millennial. Reality Winner is a 25-year-old veteran, a (now former) analyst for the defense contractor Pluribus International and a part-time yoga instructor. She is currently in federal custody, accused of sending a classified document about Russian hacks against a voting-software company to the Intercept, an online magazine. Three of the highest-profile leakers in recent years — Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and now Winner — were born between 1983 and 1993. Given that access to classified material is thought to belong to those who have proved their trustworthiness through their service, why do these leakers skew so young?

Without intending to, employers and policymakers have engineered a cohort of workers that is bound to yield leakers. An important part of our training for the 21st-century labor market has been an emphasis on taking initiative, hustling, finding ways to be useful, not waiting around for someone in charge to tell us what to do. In a Pew survey of young workers, a majority said they wanted to be the boss someday or already were. And if we can’t boss anyone else, we can at least boss ourselves. The gig-economy service Fiverr, for instance, recruits “doers” who “eat a coffee for lunch.” We are each of us a start-up of one, encouraged to develop and chase our values even if we don’t make much money. That’s usually a good situation for companies, which get ambitious employees (if we’re privileged enough to have that title) at basement rates as long as they’re able to make a thin claim or two about charity or sustainability. However, depending on an army of righteous, initiative-taking mercenaries does have its downsides when it comes to national security.

Niccolo Machiavelli’s counsel in “The Prince” that leaders would do well to avoid mercenaries is among the most respected nuggets of military wisdom, but for a crucial part of the millennial life cycle, the government actually sold us on the individualistic slogan “An Army of One .” Although the Army ditched the phrase in 2006, the military’s pitch to young people has continued to be that they can build job skills first and serve their country second. Winner seems to have listened well; according to her mother, she joined the Air Force after high school and trained as a linguist. When she was discharged last year, she left with an uncommon set of languages for a Texan: Pashto, Farsi and Dari. With a security clearance from her military job as a cryptologic language analyst, Winner was able to get a position at Pluribus International, where analysts make about $70,000 a year — about twice the U.S. average for workers without college degrees. Winner is a millennial success story, and she’d be a hell of a poster woman for national service if she weren’t in a cement cage somewhere.

One of the reasons Machiavelli advised against using mercenaries is that it’s a no-win situation: Either they’re not competent, or if they are, they’ll substitute their own judgment and goals for their leader’s. Snowden was so efficient at his cybersecurity job that his bosses at Booz Allen Hamilton’s Hawaii office were content to give him the run of the place, and since the government trusted his bosses, the National Security Agency was, in a very real way, relying on him. It’s the kind of mistake that will keep happening because it’s unavoidable. What kind of boss can resist a brilliant young worker who doesn’t need instruction? At a cybersecurity conference, Snowden’s former supervisor Steven Bay explained that the recruit blew away his interview, and with the paucity of technical talent in Hawaii, Booz Allen felt lucky to have him.

Employee loyalty is a two-way street, and for millennials, traffic has slowed to a crawl. Companies are investing less in workers. “Among the reasons cited for this,” according to the Wharton business school: “the recession, during which companies laid off huge swaths of their employees with little regard for loyalty or length of service; a whittling away of benefits, training and promotions for those who remain; and a generation of young millennials (ages 15 to 30) who have a different set of expectations about their careers, including the need to ‘be their own brand.’ ” In a nomadic world, one of the casualties is a decreasing sense of commitment to the organization.

Wharton management professor Adam Cobb says that over the past 30 years, the trend in business has been to have more risks shouldered by workers instead of companies. That means firms would rather hire an applicant like Snowden or Winner who already has high-value skills that someone else paid to develop. For employers, it’s a bargain, but it comes at a price: “If I’m an employee,” Cobb says, “that’s a signal to me that I’m not going to let firms control my career.” It would be uncharacteristic of millennials to sit loyally until our bosses don’t need us anymore; we’re proactive.

Since we can’t get too attached to particular employers, millennials are encouraged by baby-boomer-run institutions to find internal motivation, to live out our values through our frequent employment choices, and we’ve heard them loud and clear. A study of college-educated millennials from Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business found that they were unwilling to “tolerate unpleasant workplaces that do not allow them to be their authentic selves in expressing their personal and family values” and that “they will seek other options, such as starting their own companies, if they cannot find workplaces that accommodate their personal values.”

Lots of firms try to look like they’re doing good in the world, in line with millennial values. Facebook isn’t an ad company; it connects the world! Uber isn’t a cab company; it liberates moms to make money in their off hours! But when firms act contrary to their rosy recruiting copy, workers who weren’t disposed to be loyal in the first place might find another way to live out their values. In February 2016, Yelp employee Talia Jane wrote a long Medium post about how the company was paying insufficient wages to its customer service representatives. She was fired — and pilloried in the media as just another entitled millennial who wanted things handed to her. But a couple of months later, Yelp raised wages by $1.75 an hour and gave Jane’s former co-workers an annual 26 paid days off. Many large labor actions have achieved less.

Leaks have higher stakes, but when it comes to influencing American politics, what are defense contractors supposed to do — wait a couple of years to vote again? A 2016 poll by the Economic Innovation Group found that 72 percent of millennials had low confidence in the federal government. . . .

Continue reading.

Companies are finding that abandoning loyalty to their employees is a two-edged sword.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2017 at 7:24 am

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