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National Security Risks of Late-Stage Capitalism

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Early in 2020, cyberspace attackers apparently working for the Russian government compromised a piece of widely used network management software made by a company called SolarWinds. The hack gave the attackers access to the computer networks of some 18,000 of SolarWinds’s customers, including US government agencies such as the Homeland Security Department and State Department, American nuclear research labs, government contractors, IT companies and nongovernmental agencies around the world.

It was a huge attack, with major implications for US national security. The Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the breach on Tuesday. Who is at fault?

The US government deserves considerable blame, of course, for its inadequate cyberdefense. But to see the problem only as a technical shortcoming is to miss the bigger picture. The modern market economy, which aggressively rewards corporations for short-term profits and aggressive cost-cutting, is also part of the problem: Its incentive structure all but ensures that successful tech companies will end up selling insecure products and services.

Like all for-profit corporations, SolarWinds aims to increase shareholder value by minimizing costs and maximizing profit. The company is owned in large part by Silver Lake and Thoma Bravo, private-equity firms known for extreme cost-cutting.

SolarWinds certainly seems to have underspent on security. The company outsourced much of its software engineering to cheaper programmers overseas, even though that typically increases the risk of security vulnerabilities. For a while, in 2019, the update server’s password for SolarWinds’s network management software was reported to be “solarwinds123.” Russian hackers were able to breach SolarWinds’s own email system and lurk there for months. Chinese hackers appear to have exploited a separate vulnerability in the company’s products to break into US government computers. A cybersecurity adviser for the company said that he quit after his recommendations to strengthen security were ignored.

There is no good reason to underspend on security other than to save money — especially when your clients include government agencies around the world and when the technology experts that you pay to advise you are telling you to do more.

As the economics writer Matt Stoller has suggested, cybersecurity is a natural area for a technology company to cut costs because its customers won’t notice unless they are hacked ­– and if they are, they will have already paid for the product. In other words, the risk of a cyberattack can be transferred to the customers. Doesn’t this strategy jeopardize the possibility of long-term, repeat customers? Sure, there’s a danger there –­ but investors are so focused on short-term gains that they’re too often willing to take that risk.

The market loves to reward corporations for risk-taking when those risks are largely borne by other parties, like taxpayers. This is known as “privatizing profits and socializing losses.” Standard examples include companies that are deemed “too big to fail,” which means that society as a whole pays for their bad luck or poor business decisions. When national security is compromised by high-flying technology companies that fob off cybersecurity risks onto their customers, something similar is at work.

Similar misaligned incentives affect your everyday cybersecurity, too. Your smartphone is vulnerable to something called SIM-swap fraud because phone companies want to make it easy for you to frequently get a new phone — and they know that the cost of fraud is largely borne by customers. Data brokers and credit bureaus that collect, use, and sell your personal data don’t spend a lot of money securing it because it’s your problem if someone hacks them and steals it. Social media companies too easily let hate speech and misinformation flourish on their platforms because it’s expensive and complicated to remove it, and they don’t suffer the immediate costs ­– indeed, they tend to profit from user engagement regardless of its nature.

There are two problems to solve. The first is information asymmetry: buyers can’t adequately judge the security of software products or company practices. The second is a perverse incentive structure: the market encourages companies to make decisions in their private interest, even if that imperils the broader interests of society. Together these two problems result in companies that save money by taking on greater risk and then pass off that risk to the rest of us, as individuals and as a nation.

The only way to force companies to provide safety and security features for customers and users is with government intervention. Companies need to pay the true costs of their insecurities, through a combination of laws, regulations, and legal liability. Governments routinely legislate safety — pollution standards, automobile seat belts, lead-free gasoline, food service regulations. We need to do the same with cybersecurity: the federal government should set minimum security standards for software and software development.

In today’s underregulated markets, it’s just too easy for software companies like SolarWinds to save money by skimping on security and to hope for the best. That’s a rational decision in today’s free-market world, and the only way to change that is to change the economic incentives.

This essay previously appeared in the New York Times.

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228 days ago
Again with the market and security infrastructure not going hand in hand.

Teaching by making people uncomfortable

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A lot of people say often "if you're comfortable, you're not learning", "the only way to grow is to get out of your comfort zone", "don't expect to enjoy changing yourself" and the like.

And you know what? This is wrong. Sure, sometimes when you're doing a new thing you don't know how to do, it feels weird and scary and you're a little embarrassed and a little lost. But not all learning is like that. Sometimes learning a new thing is joyful and exhilarating and marvelous. Sometimes you have a teacher who is reassuring and supportive, sometimes you're just discovering connections and trying things that work and it's just fantastic. Don't tell those people they're not learning! Learning can be one of the most pleasant and wonderful things we do. I try to live my life that way both while I'm learning and while I'm teaching.

I think it's some sort of leftover Calvinist thing: we're not supposed to like work, we're not supposed to find joy in good things, we're supposed to push ourselves and do them even though they're horrible. Think of sayings like "No pain, no gain", "Feel the burn", or "They call it work for a reason." Sure, some stuff is difficult and you don't really want to do it but you do it anyway because it's important, or you said you would, or someone's paying you, or you know you want the end result of it. But some stuff is fun and joyful and delightful and you do it with happiness and it's still important, still something you said you'd do, you still get paid, and you still get the end result. I remember teaching someone some stretching exercises and they said with complete surprise "I like doing these! I thought exercise was supposed to be horrible!"

How would it change your learning to you let yourself enjoy it? If you let go of the idea that learning only happens in discomfort? If you could feel yourself improving at whatever you're learning and enjoy that?

But that's not the worst of it. Yes, people are missing out on a ton of joy that they could tap by just sitting up and thinking "hey, I really like my work. learning this stuff is super fun. Wow, what a great time I'm having." But on top of that, there are a pile of "teachers" who basically make you feel bad, and if you object they say you're resisting learning. Fitness instructors who literally make the fat people cry while exercising, because "that's the only way they will change what they've been doing." Activists and influencers and everyone who wants to change your opinion starting with upsetting you and keeping you upset. "hey, don't blame me. If you're comfortable, you're not learning." "If you're happy, you're not growing." First, that's not true. And second, it doesn't then follow that if you make me uncomfortable or unhappy I magically grow and learn. You need to focus on teaching, leading, inspiring, educating, showing, demonstrating, and modelling.

Yes, I may feel clumsy as I learn a new technical skill, lost as I try to understand new facts, embarrassed as I realize things I did wrong in the past. When those come as a side effect of learning, I need to embrace them because discomfort can be part of learning and growing. But there isn't some short cut where you tell me I'm horrible, say things to upset me, and claim that upsetting me is proof you're a great teacher. It's not. There is no need for you to actively try to put me in a bad place. Sure, I may need to be ok with feeling bad as part of learning. But yelling at me, telling me I am not good enough, speaking roughly to me -- these aren't teaching skills. They're psychological tricks and I am not ok with them. Perhaps you truly believe it's important to cry in order to learn. Well, you're wrong.

I'm not saying everyone has to centre my happiness to teach me. What I am saying is that some teachers (and I have names) claim they don't care if they upset others, but that's a lie: they do care. Step 1 is to upset the learners. It's their trick to get people to listen, or to let themselves feel important, or to say they have changed a person by making them feel bad. If you meet a teacher like this, whether it's a fitness trainer, a culture improver at your workplace, a twitter influencer, a tech trainer, or a conference speaker, walk away. You can find someone to learn from who won't emotionally manipulate you as part of the process. You can learn in comfort, or in the discomfort that comes from realizing you have a lot to learn; you're not obliged to learn in artificial discomfort imposed by someone who thinks it makes them a better teacher to do that to you.


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How Will We Understand The Craft Era?

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Source:   Rex Mandel  , whose photos are  awesome.

Source: Rex Mandel, whose photos are awesome.


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I’ve been writing a lot more “passages” posts in the past couple years than I ever did before. Breweries are aging, and many are passing away or being sold to larger concerns. Very few of the largest US breweries are independent anymore, and a lot of older breweries are shrinking, vanishing, or turning into something other than breweries. Meanwhile, hard selzters have achieved a market share it took craft breweries decades to match, and many erstwhile beer-makers are busily investing in the latest hard coffee or canned cocktail.

There is every reason to believe the year-plus Covid disruption will have long-lasting effects on the alcohol market, and I wonder if we won’t use 2020-‘21 as a convenient place to divide the “craft era” with whatever we’re about to inherit. It will mean reckoning with this era, attempting to make meaning out of how we got here. We are a species of story. We knit together selected events and facts to create meaning out of a disorganized world. The stories we tell ourselves create the reality we inhabit. In our little corner over here in the beer world, that narrative, which has been broadly consistent since the late 1970s, has begun to fray. As we enter this new phase, where the very notion of “craft” loses any coherence, we’ll begin to tell ourselves a new story. In an effort to begin that reckoning, I’ve started to think about the last 44 years, noticing where it was less than we imagined in some ways, but also, perhaps, much more.


The Craft Era

Although brewery numbers hit a nadir around 1980, it was in many ways the pinnacle of a certain kind of beer culture in the US. The country, with a population of 230 million people, drank 188 million barrels, and almost all of it was made domestically. In the four hundred years Europeans lived in America, people never drank more than they did at that moment. (By comparison, last year we drank 191 million barrels, but had a hundred million more citizens.)

The craft brewing “revolution” was, measured in dollars, a tepid one. As an economic force, craft brewing had almost no impact on the US brewing market for decades. It didn’t achieve a single percentage of the market until 1994, and by the end of the century was still around 3%. Meanwhile, domestic beer steamed along, holding steady around 200 million barrels annually.

Craft brewing didn’t start becoming a real player for another decade—thirty years after its birth. And even then, it was making slow inroads into the fuller market. Only by the mid-teens had it achieved real substance, with 12% market share—though more important to an industry, it was earning more than one in five dollars of revenue.

So already we see two competing narratives emerge. Craft was a slow-building, minor phenomenon—or it was a revolution that changed everything. In fact, both are true. In the lived experience of beer drinkers, something more profound is happening. That’s why when we think about the post-Covid world of beer, we may have more luck understanding it if we look beyond sales figures. Indeed, my guess is those will appear relatively static—possibly for years to come. As I worked through a conceptual model for understanding the period, three different lenses emerged: financial, cultural, and evolutionary. Each has something to tell us about beer in America over that span, and yet each has limitations. Taken together, perhaps they come close to telling the full picture.

Volume growth in three Phases

Let’s stick with dollars for a moment but pull out the microscope and take a more granular view. The craft era didn’t proceed uniformly, but went through periods of growth and retrenchment. The first started with New Albion and ran through the middle-90s. This was a period of rapid brewery expansion but little real growth. By early 1996, entrepreneurs had founded a thousand breweries, but sold almost no beer.

That doesn’t quite capture the full picture, though. Josh Noel revealed a fascinating detail in Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: in the early ‘90s, Sam Adam’s Boston Lager and Pete’s Wicked Ale accounted for a third of all craft beer sales. I suspect adding Sierra Nevada and one or two others would account for half the market. That success and dominance by leading brands both alarmed big companies and encouraged investors. The big companies began responding, making their own versions and investing in the new breweries, which probably helped craft beer attain broader cultural salience (see below). Meanwhile, investors created a gold rush atmosphere—not quite as big as the dot com era that followed, but with similar results.

Source: Brewers Association

Source: Brewers Association

Then craft beer crested. Sales never declined, but in 1998 they were completely flat, and a lot of breweries failed. The second phase was more like a hibernation. Brewery counts didn’t budge, and volumes barely ticked up. Breweries tried to survive, paying off debts from overspending in the mid-90s, and going through the first round of consolidation.

In the third phase craft beer became big business. It went on a decade-plus run of growth and became a substantial force in brewing. It featured the second round of consolidation, which confounds data analysis. But if you sweep up all the breweries making IPAs in the country, this segment probably now accounts for a third of the total revenue. Finally, by 2015, it had delivered on that early-‘90s promise.

Beer Evolution Before and After IPA

In some ways 2011 is the most important year in American craft brewing. That was the year IPAs finally became the best-selling craft style. It signals a watershed in beer evolution, and in this regard craft beer’s influence has been far more profound. Up through the turn of the century, most US craft breweries were reproducing European styles. They were learning different techniques and processes. Then, in the late 90s and early 00s, they began to rework those techniques to serve their own purposes and developed a new tradition in brewing built around the flavor and aroma of their native hops. It was a watershed moment that transformed not just the US brewing industry, but brewing around the world.

We notice what an effect this had in the US: brewery numbers skyrocketed, hoppy styles metastasized. From around 2,500 breweries in the early ‘10s, new brewery growth hit staggering levels, more than tripling in the next seven years. Breweries started building business models around IPAs, and those that did generated the most excitement. Breweries with different identities had to adapt, remaking themselves as IPA breweries or at least offering IPAs to satisfy that thirst.

Roman’s Sloeber IPA, made with Citra, Amarillo, and Simcoe.

Roman’s Sloeber IPA, made with Citra, Amarillo, and Simcoe.

But the effect was bigger than the US and rippled out worldwide. I really noticed this traveling around Europe in 2011-‘12. “Craft brewery” now meant a small operation making IPAs (along with a smattering of other styles that spoke “craft” in a loud American accent), usually down to the sleek, austere industrial spaces Americans favored. It was just starting then. When I returned for a European tour in 2019, American-style IPA breweries thrived in every city I visited.

American IPA has become a worldwide phenomenon, and is largely responsible for the thousands of new breweries that have opened since 2010 from Beijing to Guadalajara. Not since the spread of Bohemia’s pale lagers in the 19th century have we seen a style spread so fast to so many places. I would have found it literally unbelievable a decade ago if you told me staid Belgian breweries like Roman would be making IPAs, but now they must. And here at home, it is becoming as dominant among craft breweries as the classic European styles are in their home regions.

The Cultural Revolution

Applying a cultural lens is the final way to consider the impact of the last four decades. A lowbrow beverage in 1980, it was not considered worth drinking with food—pizza and burgers excepted, perhaps. A “pub” was a bar, a smoky, windowless room that attracted a hard-drinking crowd. Of course, most beer of the era was purchased in bulk at the grocery store, not on draft. People lugged home “suitcases” full of dozens of cans. Beer culture started in vacant, late-night parking lots among teens and didn’t become more sophisticated as they aged. This is another of the ways in which the change has been large, and why it feels large as well.

Breweries are everywhere. They are family-friendly and no longer lowbrow. They’re considered fun places for young people to go. Alcohol in general has lost its tawdry associations, but beer has managed to transition to a category of wholesome fun, safe for mixed parties and kids. (Brewery taprooms remain predominantly White spaces, however, as pubs have been for generations. This is one unfortunate area of stagnation.)

As beer has become respectable, the number of places serving it have multiplied. Restaurants mostly have taplists now, and chain restaurants, hotels, airport diners, and even coffee shops sell craft beer. I know Portland is an outlier, but businesses have learned that adding a few handles of draft adds fun, so now venues from movie theaters to game shops sell beer. That in turn has shifted who drinks beer, which now includes every demographic. In one of those strange paradoxes of culture, the more beer became special, the more it penetrated ordinary activities. Creating an upscale market has made it ubiquitous.

Cultural change didn’t proceed in phases, like the industry and style evolutions did. Nor did it happen at the same pace nationally. Some pockets of the country shifted sooner, and others still lag. Culture proceeds gradually, by accretion. And yet even in areas where breweries have been slow to sprout, pale ales and witbiers have found their way into mainstream life.

In 1977, beer played a stable role in the US, one most Americans would describe in similar terms. The beverage itself was easily definable. In the following decades, our perceptions changed, fueled by an evolution of the beverage itself and the people who made it. Once “brewery” evoked a factory, massive in scale and therefore unknowable to those outside its walls. Later, it became human-sized, and called to mind small buildings where you could meet the person who made the beer in your glass. Beer once meant something straw-colored and fizzy and now it means something slightly darker, less fizzy, and probably hoppy. Once it was common and unremarkable, and now it is accused of being twee and over-elaborate.

The past is always rewritten to conform to the story of the present. As beer begins its inevitable transformation—possibly accelerated by Covid—we will revisit the craft era over and over again. It has been a hugely consequential time. Yet the largest effects may be in areas we’re least likely to recognize them—the water to a fish’s eye. In the end, craft beer may not have been a financial rainmaker. The era changed beer, though, both here and abroad, as well as the way we drink it. We shouldn’t lose sight of how important those changes were.



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Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler — How New Orleans is Forging the Next Chapter for U.S. Rum

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You hear the music of a jazz band floating on a breeze as you go wandering after dark. Though the streets are lined with bars, there’s almost as much activity out in the open. Maybe it’s the moist heat in the air, but there’s something about New Orleans that compels you to have a cocktail in hand as you explore. Whether you’re drinking al fresco like this, at a historical hotel bar, or at a neighborhood joint, you’re sure to find a good time here—and an even better beverage. 

“People in New Orleans have always wanted to drink. The French are pretty famous for their libations. They planted tobacco crops because they wanted to smoke, and they made sure there were good drinks around at all times. You definitely have to give the credit to the French for the mega cocktail culture,” says Fred Minnick, spirits expert and bestselling author of books such as Rum Curious: The Indispensable Tasting Guide to the World’s Spirit and Bourbon: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of an American Whiskey


As bartender Ryan Hughes tells it, decadence is still a defining element of New Orleans’ drinks scene today. Hughes began his career in the industry five years ago in Jackson, Mississippi before relocating to New Orleans to work at craft cocktail and Champagne bar Effervescence. Located in the French Quarter, Effervescence has a relatively high-end focus that contrasts with the kinds of bars that Hughes describes as being centered on “partying, quick, high-volume, rum and Coke, and beers.” But despite the difference in ambiance, they’re all united by joyful excess.

“I drink a lot—I’m a bartender in New Orleans,” Hughes says with a laugh. “I have gone to a wide array of places. Effervescence is special in that there aren’t that many nice craft cocktail bars that you can easily go to that are reasonably priced. I really enjoy the clientele. I’ve worked in gay bars and chain restaurants, but this is a place where I feel most able to explore my craft. It’s more about creating an experience and providing a service rather than a bottom line—which I think is a really commendable thing.” 

New Orleans is the birthplace of many classic drinks, from the Sazerac and the Vieux Carré to Brandy Milk Punch and the Ramos Gin Fizz. As much as the city’s cocktail culture takes place behind rarefied doors, it also spills out into the fresh air. “Because there aren’t any open container laws down here, you can take a drink out into the street,” says Erik Morningstar, head distiller at the city’s Seven Three Distilling Co. “There are wonderful cocktail bars here that are on par with the best in the world. It’s the stereotypical frozen daiquiri world or you can have these amazing craft cocktails, along with amazing food, of course. Everything is very easy and very relaxed, but also extremely high-quality.”

“It’s a city with a world-class cocktail and bar scene,” adds Eileen Bivalacqua, co-founder of Seven Three Distilling. “Not bad considering our population is a small fraction of New York or London or Singapore. We consider ourselves so fortunate to live in a city with such an outsized cultural footprint. The music, the art, the food, and of course the drinks—it’s magical.”


In 1964, Congress declared bourbon “America’s Native Spirit.” But before there was whiskey, there was rum. As early as the 1700s, the two major rum centers for colonial America were Massachusetts, which had between 60 to 70 rum distilleries, and Rhode Island, which had 30. “If you really want to dial into what the true American spirit is, it’s probably rum,” Minnick says. “As a country, before we were formed, we were drinking a lot more rum than after we were a country.” Although rum’s U.S. history is tied to the East Coast, it’s the molasses—rum’s base ingredient—that has its origins in the South, specifically Louisiana. “Molasses was really special to Louisiana. They were world-famous for their molasses.” 

It’s a city with a world-class cocktail and bar scene. Not bad considering our population is a small fraction of New York or London or Singapore. We consider ourselves so fortunate to live in a city with such an outsized cultural footprint.
— Eileen Bivalacqua, Seven Three Distilling

Eventually, the balance tipped towards whiskey. “The U.S. penalized rum distillers because they tariffed the molasses they were buying,” says Minnick. “There just wasn’t enough production coming out of Louisiana and places like that to kind of fill in the gaps. So, they’d steeply tariff the molasses to open the road for whiskey distillers because the whiskey distillers were connected to the farmers and the farmers were basically connected to the feeding of the communities. So, they looked at rum as a bit of an enemy for growing in the United States of America because it was connected to the English.”

It’s impossible to tell the story of rum—and molasses and sugarcane production—without acknowledging its darker histories. Rum reminds of the brutality of British empire, the triangle trade that enslaved West Africans and brought them to sugar plantations in the Caribbean, and sugarcane’s notoriously vicious labor practices. Those practices were also replicated in Louisiana’s early industry.

“In 1795, Étienne de Boré, a New Orleans sugar planter, granulated the first sugar crystals in the Louisiana Territory,” writes Khalil Gibran Muhammad in a piece for the New York Times’ 1619 Project. “With the advent of sugar processing locally, sugar plantations exploded up and down both banks of the Mississippi River.” This boom of sugar plantations was due to the “abundantly rich alluvial soil, combined with the technical mastery of seasoned French and Spanish planters from around the cane-growing basin of the Gulf and the Caribbean — and because of the toil of thousands of enslaved people.”

The uptick in the arrival of French planters and their enslaved sugar workers in Louisiana was in part the result of Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ successful revolution to secure Haiti’s independence from France. “Within five decades, Louisiana planters were producing a quarter of the world’s cane-sugar supply,” writes Muhammad. “During her antebellum reign, Queen Sugar bested King Cotton locally, making Louisiana the second-richest state in per capita wealth.”


These days, rum is not the first spirit that many would reflexively associate with New Orleans. But within the last six years, the city, and Louisiana as a whole, has seen a small influx in the number of distilleries focused on rum as a key part of their portfolios, and which are ushering in a new chapter in the spirit’s history. Among the distilleries forging new paths for local rum is the New Orleans-based Seven Three Distilling Co. 


“Louisiana is such a massive producer of sugarcane. Given our access to the fresh sugarcane and molasses, it makes sense for strong Louisiana rum traditions to emerge, and you’re starting to see that,” says Seven Three’s general manager, Tristan Johnson. “We’re not the only producers of it here in the state. Most distilleries in Louisiana have a rum in their repertoire, if not their entire repertoire. It’s very much the spirit you see down here. It’s very exciting to be part of what’s an emerging American rum tradition—a Louisiana rum tradition—and helping to shape that.” 

Husband-and-wife co-founders Sal and Eileen Bivalacqua launched Seven Three Distilling in 2015. “It’s hard not to find inspiration in New Orleans, especially when libations are involved. The city has had a thriving bar and cocktail scene practically since the Sazerac was first invented, but the distillation community here is comparatively young,” says Eileen. 

The distillery gets its name from the 73 neighborhoods of New Orleans. All of Seven Three’s spirits are named after local districts, such as Irish Channel Whiskey, Gentilly Gin, Black Pearl Rum, and more. 

If you really want to dial into what the true American spirit is, it’s probably rum. As a country, before we were formed, we were drinking a lot more rum than after we were a country.
— Fred Minnick, historian

Seven Three’s Head Distiller, Erik Morningstar, trained under the late renowned whiskey distiller, Dave Pickerell. “It was an amazing experience. He had such a depth of knowledge working with whiskey. I get most of my spirit-making chops from Dave.” Morningstar got his start working for a small distillery in his home state of Michigan before eventually relocating, at the end of 2016, to New Orleans to help with Seven Three’s launch. 

“Having the background with Dave Pickerell, rum was very new to me. I didn’t have supreme self-confidence, but I also thought, ‘How hard could this be? It’s molasses, water, and yeast—and that’s pretty much it.’ As with most things, it turned out to be a lot harder than it first appeared. In order to get a really robust, flavorful rum, it’s a lot more moving pieces there,” Morningstar reflects.

Having access to fresh molasses no doubt sets Louisiana rums apart. Morningstar explains the strenuous process of creating Black Pearl to me. He starts with blackstrap molasses. “If you’re familiar with the process of making sugar, you start with sugarcane juice and boil it down and agitate it at the same time you’re boiling it, and that helps the sugar to crystallize.” The crystallized sugar is then removed before it’s boiled again. More crystallized sugar is removed and voila, you get blackstrap molasses. “We use the first boil, so it’s closer to sugarcane juice. It still has a robust flavor like a blackstrap molasses rum, but it’s a little bit more nuanced, with a grassy note to it; but it still has some of those deeper flavors from the fruit notes you’d come to expect from rum.”


Black Pearl is an approachable rum that certainly serves as an accessible entry point for those new to the spirit. Its alluringly sweet, ripe banana aroma is an immediate draw. The palate is a welcoming blend of the things I loved about my childhood: fruity rock candy and airy cotton candy. The slight heat on the finish gives way to a hint of grassiness. Black Pearl can be sipped chilled on its own, or in a spirit-forward cocktail.

Recently, Hughes and the Effervescence team included Black Pearl Rum in several drinks on their fall cocktail menu. “We took the concept of a daiquiri and Mai Tai and fused them. We used a cherry syrup, a honey grappa—which you don’t see in a lot of cocktails—amaretto, and some lime, and fresh ginger that we juiced ourselves.” 


Local sourcing underlies Effervescence’s approach, which is part of the reason Seven Three held particular appeal. “That’s why we wanted to use Seven Three Distillery—because they’re local. We like to focus on and support local businesses. It’s something very close to the owner’s heart,” Hughes says. It helps that Black Pearl, while distinctive, is also versatile. “I always think that a spirit is only as good as what you can really mix it with, and Seven Three’s Black Pearl Rum is easy enough to mix with a wide variety of things,” Hughes says.

Most of the cane that is used for the distillery’s Black Pearl Rum is grown along Bayou Lafourche (pronounced “La-foosh”) in both Assumption and Lafourche Parishes. The distillery has a direct relationship with the Robichaux family and their farm in Labadieville, and has worked with them to source fresh sugarcane. The cane stalks grow over 12 feet tall, and Morningstar describes standing in the midst of the field at harvest time as a humbling experience. “Feeling so small when looking into the vastness of the freshly cut fields extending to the horizon with your back to the impenetrable walls of uncut cane,” he says. “There are waves of frenetic activity to cut the cane and transport it to the mill, before it spoils.” It’s a short harvest season, typically falling at the end of the year.

The distillery’s proximity to the fields and the sugar mills gives it the opportunity to utilize different grades of molasses as soon as they’re made. Distillers can even choose where and how their preferred cane is grown and processed—a primary advantage for Louisiana distillers (and drinkers). “The craft distilling scene isn’t as established here as it is in other places, but we have the potential to do great things, and I am excited to see what the future holds for our industry here in Louisiana,” Morningstar says.


The onslaught of the pandemic caught everyone off-guard, especially those in the spirits industry. However, the Seven Three team’s resilience is thanks in part to timing and benevolence. “We certainly started with trying to build a strong base here in New Orleans and Louisiana. We donate everywhere we can. It’s about building a brand that’s meaningfully connected to New Orleans, our community,” says Johnson.

Most distilleries in Louisiana have a rum in their repertoire, if not their entire repertoire. It’s very much the spirit you see down here. It’s very exciting to be part of what’s an emerging American rum tradition—a Louisiana rum tradition—and helping to shape that.
— Tristan Johnson, Seven Three Distilling

One way the distillery has helped out is by producing hand sanitizer.  “Like everyone, we’re taking it day-by-day. We began very quickly into pivoting into hand sanitizer production, which is what many of the distilleries did,” Johnson says. “That was tremendously helpful and got us through many months of the year. We are fortunate that we’re finally at a point in the city where we’re able to reopen for tours and tastings. We’re lucky that we have space to really set anyone’s mind at ease who’s coming in here.”

The business has layered in additional precautions to help protect visitors, including limited tour sizes, a new layout, and a policy that guests must wear masks when not seated and sampling spirits.

Out of necessity, the pandemic has also forced the distillery to add a strong distribution model to its business. It has moved forward with off-premise distribution by way of liquor stores and online sales. “That’s been one of the great wins of 2020 for us, is that we have online shipping throughout the U.S. and actually even some international selling all available through our website,” Johnson adds. In 2021, Seven Three will expand to South Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama markets, in addition to shipping via Passion Spirits to nearly all 50 states. It will also release a bourbon to round out its portfolio—a project that has been on the horizon for as long as the distillery’s been open.  

The pandemic is a formidable hurdle, but its residents believe New Orleans will remain unbeatable in its distinctive approach to cocktails—and now rum. “I love the city because it has a particular kind of magic that I think has an undeniable magnetism. There’s a reason people flock to the city from all over the world,” Hughes says. “The culture is unique and singular. There is no place in the world like New Orleans. Every time I drive over and look at the skyline, I’m like, ‘Oh, I do live here now, and I love it!’”

Words by Gabrielle Pharms
Illustrations by Ryan Troy Ford

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280 days ago
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Remembering Beman Dawes

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Remembering Beman Dawes

by Bjarne Stroustrup and Herb Sutter

beman.jpgOn December 1, we lost Beman Dawes, one of the most influential people in C++’s history. The C++ committee and communities, and we personally, owe Beman a lot. Although no funeral is planned because of Covid, we can all keep Beman and his many contributions, and his wife Sonda and their family, in our thoughts at this difficult time.

Beman was a member of the C++ standards committee (WG21) since 1992 and chair of the Library Working Group for five years during the completion of the first C++ standard, C++98.

I (Bjarne) remember that in 1994, the adoption of the STL into the standard was most uncertain because many doubted its utility and feared its novelty. At a critical point, Beman spoke up and calmly explained to the committee that he had thought the STL too complex for ordinary programmers, but as an exercise he had implemented about 10% of it himself so he no longer considered it beyond the standard. It can be argued that the STL and the techniques it pioneered saved C++ as a living language. Without Beman, this may very well not have happened.

Beman was the original developer of <filesystem> and shepherded it through its tortuous path into the standard. When it mattered, he could be patient.

Boost was an “invention” of Beman’s as a cofounder with Dave Abrahams and soon many others. Like many, Beman decided (correctly) that lack of quality libraries was a startling weakness of C++ — we had and have an incredible number of libraries, but they have no shared style and often don’t easily interoperate. Beman’s key idea was to create a community around the development of libraries that could complement the standard library. Many of the most successful Boost libraries are now part of the standard and used world-wide. In support of the community idea, Beman was one of the founders of BoostCon (later called C++ Now). That conference created an important early hub where the people working on further evolution of the C++ library and language after the first standard could meet to socialize and exchange ideas, a culture that has grown broader and now flourishes at a number of conferences.

We have relied on Beman's skills and wisdom broadly: When the Standard C++ Foundation was created in 2012, Beman was one of the founding directors along with us. When WG21 created the Library Evolution group in 2013 to have a separate group be responsible for the overall design of the C++ standard library, Beman kindly agreed to step up to be its founding chair to get it started on the right foot and find his own replacement. When WG21 created the Direction Group in 2017 so that we could have a small group of the most wise and respected C++ experts in the world to recommend direction for C++ evolution, Beman was a natural choice to invite as a founding member, and we are glad he accepted that too.

Clearly, every C++ programmer owes a debt to Beman. He was an experienced application developer who brought his insights, skills, and energies to the standards committee. Without him, C++ would not be what it is today.

On a personal note, I (Herb) attended my first WG21 meeting in summer 1997. Even then when the committee was smaller, it was a pretty intimidating thing to be an unknown person showing up unannounced to a gathering of the Who’s Who of all the world-class experts I had known only from their books and reputations. Among many who welcomed me, Beman was key — I spent most of my time there in the Library group, Beman’s group, and all I felt qualified to do was sit and listen and absorb how things worked. Beman personally, and the warm culture he fostered in his group, made me feel comfortable and welcome enough that I learned a lot that week, attended another meeting, and another, and never quite stopped.

Thanks, Beman. Thank you, very much, for your enduring contribution that has benefited so many people.

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322 days ago
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Undermining Democracy

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Last Thursday, Rudy Giuliani, a Trump campaign lawyer, alleged a widespread voting conspiracy involving Venezuela, Cuba, and China. Another lawyer, Sidney Powell, argued that Mr. Trump won in a landslide, the entire election in swing states should be overturned and the legislatures should make sure that the electors are selected for the president.

The Republican National Committee swung in to support her false claim that Mr. Trump won in a landslide, while Michigan election officials have tried to stop the certification of the vote.

It is wildly unlikely that their efforts can block Joe Biden from becoming president. But they may still do lasting damage to American democracy for a shocking reason: the moves have come from trusted insiders.

American democracy’s vulnerability to disinformation has been very much in the news since the Russian disinformation campaign in 2016. The fear is that outsiders, whether they be foreign or domestic actors, will undermine our system by swaying popular opinion and election results.

This is half right. American democracy is an information system, in which the information isn’t bits and bytes but citizens’ beliefs. When peoples’ faith in the democratic system is undermined, democracy stops working. But as information security specialists know, outsider attacks are hard. Russian trolls, who don’t really understand how American politics works, have actually had a difficult time subverting it.

When you really need to worry is when insiders go bad. And that is precisely what is happening in the wake of the 2020 presidential election. In traditional information systems, the insiders are the people who have both detailed knowledge and high level access, allowing them to bypass security measures and more effectively subvert systems. In democracy, the insiders aren’t just the officials who manage voting but also the politicians who shape what people believe about politics. For four years, Donald Trump has been trying to dismantle our shared beliefs about democracy. And now, his fellow Republicans are helping him.

Democracy works when we all expect that votes will be fairly counted, and defeated candidates leave office. As the democratic theorist Adam Przeworski puts it, democracy is “a system in which parties lose elections.” These beliefs can break down when political insiders make bogus claims about general fraud, trying to cling to power when the election has gone against them.

It’s obvious how these kinds of claims damage Republican voters’ commitment to democracy. They will think that elections are rigged by the other side and will not accept the judgment of voters when it goes against their preferred candidate. Their belief that the Biden administration is illegitimate will justify all sorts of measures to prevent it from functioning.

It’s less obvious that these strategies affect Democratic voters’ faith in democracy, too. Democrats are paying attention to Republicans’ efforts to stop the votes of Democratic voters ­- and especially Black Democratic voters -­ from being counted. They, too, are likely to have less trust in elections going forward, and with good reason. They will expect that Republicans will try to rig the system against them. Mr. Trump is having a hard time winning unfairly, because he has lost in several states. But what if Mr. Biden’s margin of victory depended only on one state? What if something like that happens in the next election?

The real fear is that this will lead to a spiral of distrust and destruction. Republicans ­ who are increasingly committed to the notion that the Democrats are committing pervasive fraud -­ will do everything that they can to win power and to cling to power when they can get it. Democrats ­- seeing what Republicans are doing ­ will try to entrench themselves in turn. They suspect that if the Republicans really win power, they will not ever give it back. The claims of Republicans like Senator Mike Lee of Utah that America is not really a democracy might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

More likely, this spiral will not directly lead to the death of American democracy. The U.S. federal system of government is complex and hard for any one actor or coalition to dominate completely. But it may turn American democracy into an unworkable confrontation between two hostile camps, each unwilling to make any concession to its adversary.

We know how to make voting itself more open and more secure; the literature is filled with vital and important suggestions. The more difficult problem is this. How do you shift the collective belief among Republicans that elections are rigged?

Political science suggests that partisans are more likely to be persuaded by fellow partisans, like Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state in Georgia, who said that election fraud wasn’t a big problem. But this would only be effective if other well-known Republicans supported him.

Public outrage, alternatively, can sometimes force officials to back down, as when people crowded in to denounce the Michigan Republican election officials who were trying to deny certification of their votes.

The fundamental problem, however, is Republican insiders who have convinced themselves that to keep and hold power, they need to trash the shared beliefs that hold American democracy together.

They may have long-term worries about the consequences, but they’re unlikely to do anything about those worries in the near-term unless voters, wealthy donors or others whom they depend on make them pay short-term costs.

This essay was written with Henry Farrell, and previously appeared in the New York Times.

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329 days ago
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3 public comments
327 days ago
> ...they’re unlikely to do anything about those worries in the near-term unless voters, wealthy donors or others whom they depend on make them pay short-term costs.

I wholly agree with this. For now, the destruction of democracy is a short-term win, and screw the long term. If it does hurt long term, the players will change the game before then.

People need to make it hurt short term, not reward this behavior. But that hurt can't come from outside, it must come from within.

For American democracy, this latest election shows us that means Republicans. How can we convince them that this was the wrong choice?
Phoenix, AZ
329 days ago
Ugh, unfortunately I’m inclined to agree.
Jersey City, NJ
329 days ago
Good read and so true.
Durham, NC
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