Lincoln * Institute

Ralph R. Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland

The B. Kenneth Simon Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University

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Reflections

2016: Positive Prognosis?

by Ralph R. Reiland
 

As luck would have it, we made it through another year without a successful energy grid attack by the medieval fundamentalists or Russian antagonists who are seeking to paralyze America into darkness and powerlessness.

On October 15, 2015, U.S. law enforcement officials publicly revealed information on hack attempts at a national conference of American energy companies focusing on national security concerns.

"ISIS is beginning to perpetuate cyberattacks," Caitlin Durkovich, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security, told company executives," reported Jose Pagliery at CNNMoney.

"Terrorists are not currently using the most sophisticated hacking tools to break into computer systems and turn off or blow up machines," stated the CNNMoney report.

John Riggi, section chief at the FBI's cyber division, concisely summarized the current condition: "Strong intent. Thankfully, low capability." The deficient capability, however, could be short-term. "The concern is that they'll buy that capability," cautioned Riggi.

"Indeed, hacking software is up for sale in black markets online," explained Pagliery. "The FBI now worries that the Islamic State or its supporters will buy malicious software that can sneak into computers and destroy electronics. An attack on power companies could disrupt the flow of energy to U.S. homes and businesses."

And it's not just some religious firebrands who are the problem. Riggi made known that malware found in 2014 on industrial control systems at energy companies — including pumps and engines — were traced to the Russian government.

Although the greater concern is attacks from other countries and foreign groups, threats can also emanate from domestic terrorists and homegrown assemblages of politicized blockheads, cautioned Mark Lemery, a protection coordinator in Utah for the defense of critical infrastructure.

Nevertheless, we're still here and the lights are still on, so maybe it's time in the new year to look back and forward with some appreciation, hopefulness and confidence -- or maybe not.

Said Kahlil Gilbran, on the positive side, "To be able to look back upon one's life in satisfaction is to live twice."

Equally upbeat was Frank Lloyd Wright: "The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes."

But the negative observers have a point too.

Asked the question, "If you find so much unworthy of reverence in the United States, why do you live here?," American essayist and critic H. L. Mencken replied, "Why do men go to zoos?"

Mencken's analysis, similarly, of Franklin D. Roosevelt: "If he became convinced tomorrow that coming out for cannibalism would get him the votes he sorely needed, he would begin fattening a missionary in the White House backyard come Wednesday."

And the government as the solution, operated by those who haughtily and disingenuously define themselves as "non-profit" self-effacing "public servants"? Perhaps American humorist Kin Hubbard had a more accurate interpretation of government: "A kind of legalized pillage."

On progress, from Will Rogers: "You can't say civilizations don't advance. In every war, they kill you in a new way."

Does any thoughtful and knowledgeable person think we'll get some revolutionary or fundamental advances in America by way of Trump, Hillary, Bernie Sanders or Ben Carson, or from Obama's presidency, or via some autocratic theocrats, foreign or domestic?

"There won't be any revolution in America," wrote British writer Eric Linklater. The people are too clean. They spend all their time changing their shirts and washing themselves. You can't feel fierce and revolutionary in a bathroom."

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Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics and the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

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Ralph R. Reiland

Phone: 412-527-2199

E-mail: rrreiland@aol.com.

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