Wednesday, December 31, 2014

books and headlines


    Good teachers teach students that good readers make connections: text to self connections, text to text connections and text to world connections.
    Sometimes a good read is loaded with text to world connections that will help make sense of current headlines. I'll recommend three.
     If you had read the “Cuckoo’s Egg,” by Clifford Stoll and published in 1989, you would not be the least surprised at recent headlines concerning the computer hacking of Sony, nor about future headlines concerning hackings which threaten our national security.

    Since I’m not a techie type, much of the story was outside my realm of understanding, but I was left with one overwhelming impression: the government is not up to dealing with this type of warfare.

    The story is a non-fictional, technological “who done it” which begins with Stoll, an astronomer turned systems manager at Lawrence Berkeley Lab. He noticed a 75-cent accounting error which led him to believe someone was trying to hack the lab’s system. He began to investigate on his own, and the investigation eventually led to the arrest of a small group of German hackers.

As he got deeper into his investigation, he took his findings to the local police, the FBI, the CIA and the NSA. The various agencies did little more than frustrate him. Though it was clear a computer spy was seeking information related to national security, the agencies declined to help during most of the hunt. Instead they used the information Stoll provided to gain an advantage in interagency squabbles.

It is 25 years since Stoll published his book about the problem of international computer hacking, and we apparently are still not up to handling the problem. The FBI quickly determined North Korea was responsible for the Sony incident, though it now appears it was probably a group of disgruntled former Sony employees. Who knows what tomorrow's headlines will produce?

    {I have a couple of other comments about the Sony hacking not related to this subject which I will get back to.)

    An interesting read which also will prepare you for current events is Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.” This is considered a classic by libertarians. It has been around a long time, but it is worth the read every few years, though feel free to skip the lengthy speech by John Galt. It will help you understand what is going on with health care. Every time you read about legislative schemes and the political games played relating to railroads and steel, think “Obmacare.”

    A book that helps make sense about headlines relating to the environment, and especially global warming, is Michael Creighton’s “State of Fear.” It is a much more recent book and though the book is fiction, Creighton does his usual extensive research into his subject. He started the research with one perspective in mind and ended it with quite a different perspective. As you follow the story, much of what you see in current headlines will make more sense.

    Back to Sony and its computer hack: I have no sympathy for the people whose snippy little emails got public scrutiny, nor do I have any sympathy for Sony and its loss of money over being intimidated into not showing the film “Interview.” (It eventually did show the film, but not on the scale originally intended.)

    The people behind so much of our creative output have used their freedom of speech to denigrate groups they don’t like, such as Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular. They know they can do this with impunity because these groups don’t tend to chop people’s heads off or put large bounties on them, and so, they have gotten use to little or no consequences when dissing their least favorite groups.

    But, there are those out there who are perfectly willing to retaliate when dissed: remember the Salman Rushdie episode. Like the creative community at Sony, Hollywood, and elsewhere, I too cherish freedom of speech. However, just because you can say something doesn’t mean you have to.



1 comment:

  1. Did you once give a speech titled "How can a Christian be Anything but a Libertarian"? I keep quoting you.