Primary Sources

Post-Gaza Israel; the travails of black cabbies; the (continuing) migration of the Electoral College; how to spot a spy

To Fink or Not to Fink?

Having found in 2003 that government workers tend to under-report possible security breaches by their colleagues, in part because of confusion over what constitutes suspicious behavior, the Pentagon's Defense Personnel Security Research Center (PERSEREC) recently compiled a list of activities that should be reported. Some are obvious: "operating unauthorized cameras, recording devices, computers, or modems in areas where classified data are stored"; having "contact with an individual who is known to be, or is suspected of being, associated with a foreign intelligence, security, or terrorist organization." Others suggest that merely working too hard can get you into trouble: PERSEREC recommends keeping a weather eye on colleagues who do "repeated or un-required work outside of normal duty hours" or frequently volunteer "for assignments or duties beyond the normal scope of responsibilities." The call for vigilance appears to be timely: a separate PERSEREC report found that for a number of reasons, government workers are more prone to "insider espionage" than they were in the past. International travel, debt, and gambling are all on the rise among Americans, while "organizational loyalty" is down. The number of foreign-born workers with security clearances in the Defense Department has increased over the past ten years, even as the overall number of security clearances issued has decreased. This is significant, the report warns, because many employees born elsewhere have "emotional ties to a foreign country, or to family or friends in a foreign country," and they may also take a "holistic view of world affairs" that could lead them to believe espionage is "morally justifiable."

"Reporting of Counterintelligence and Security Indicators by Supervisors and Coworkers," S. Wood, K. Crawford, and E. Lang, PERSEREC; "Technological, Social, and Economic Trends That Are Increasing U.S. Vulnerability to Insider Espionage," L. Kramer, R. Heuer, and K. Crawford, PERSEREC


The Purpling of America
primary sources chart

As has been well documented, migration from the Northeast and Midwest to the Sun Belt has changed the makeup of the Electoral College dramatically over the past three decades. According to a paper from the Brookings Institution, even more change is likely in the next quarter century. The largest gains in political influence, the paper predicts, will go to the so-called purple states—those, such as Florida and Nevada, that are not strongly red or blue (both went for Bush in the 2004 election, but not by much), and thus are increasingly up for grabs.

"The Electoral College Moves to the Sun Belt," William Frey, Brookings Institution


Next Year in Jerusalem

As Israel disentangles itself from the Gaza Strip, a report from the International Crisis Group argues that Jerusalem is still the region's real "powder keg," and that Israeli policies there could jeopardize any hope of a lasting peace. Jewish control over the city has been growing for decades, but, the report argues, the government is now "implementing a more focused and systematic plan" aimed at "choking off" Arab East Jerusalem. In particular, the report cites the barrier being constructed between Israeli territory and the West Bank, which will leave 200,000 Palestinian residents of municipal Jerusalem on the Israeli side once it is finished, making the city a likely flashpoint for violence. The Israeli expansion is especially damaging to the region's security, the report adds, because it undermines the credibility of the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, and others pursuing a diplomatic solution, thus playing into the hands of Hamas and other violent groups.

"The Jerusalem Powder Keg," International Crisis Group


Of Tips and Taxis

It's often asserted that cabdrivers avoid picking up African-American riders; now a study suggests that black cabbies, too, are the victims of discrimination. According to a study in the Yale Law Journal, African-American cabdrivers collect on average about one third less in tips than white drivers. Passengers are more likely to "round up" a tip when the driver is Caucasian, and black drivers are 80 percent more likely than white drivers to be completely stiffed. African-American passengers are just as likely as white passengers to undertip black drivers, and minorities in general appear to be terrible tippers. The researchers note that they were unable to control for passenger income, and that a higher rate of "passenger poverty" among minorities might help explain their tipping habits. They also postulate that the propensity of blacks to give low tips—rather than racial animus or a fear of being robbed—may be what makes some cabbies reluctant to pick them up.

"To Insure Prejudice: Racial Disparities in Taxicab Tipping," I. Ayres, F. Vars, and N. Zakariya, Yale Law Journal

Presented by

Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

Terrence Henry

Terrence Henry is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas. More

Terrence Henry is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas. In January 2009, he and his wife embarked on a food tour of Argentina, Spain, Italy, England, Canada, and the United States. Some 13 months later he settled in Austin, where he is now learning the art of Texas barbecue and writing about food and film.

 Marshall Poe is a writer and historian. He is the editor in chief of the New Books Network.

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