Buck, America the Vulnerable


About two years ago I was walking out in Round Valley and saw a rider on a horse coming down a hill through the brush.  I got to him just as he moved onto the road. Right away, I noticed that there was something a bit off with the horse’s gear—the rider was not using a bridle. The rider, Wayne Batty, was using nothing more than a rope harness that went around the horse’s head. I was amazed; how did you steer the horse without a bit in its mouth?

I asked Wayne if I might walk alongside as he rode. He agreed, and then began to talk about training and riding horses. I stuck with him for little over a mile before I had to turn back. I learned in that short period that Wayne was able to communicate with that horse with small nudges. The horse also communicated to him many things with its stance, ears, the cock of its head. Most importantly, I learned they both had built up a trust of each other. Wayne’s methods were not based on fear, it seemed, but something else.

It reminded me a lot of the fascinating and compelling The Man Who Listens to Horses, the autobiography of Monty Roberts, that shares Roberts’ life and his development of natural horsemanship methods. Unlike many training approaches which seek to break a horse’s will through harsh punishment-based methods that often veer into abuse, natural horsemanship employs methods that are much gentler and seek to build trust in the handler. Roberts can join up with (he doesn’t “break” horses) a wild or un-ridden horse, be up on the saddle calmly riding the animal, in an incredibly short period of time.

But Batty and Roberts aren’t the only ones practicing this. These methods have been around some time. One of the most famous practitioners and teachers is Buck Brannaman, who found his years of being severely physically abused by his father actually provided some insight into training horses.

Says Brannaman: “I’ve started horses since I was twelve years old and have been bit, kicked, bucked off and run over. I’ve tried every physical means to contain my horse in an effort to keep from getting myself killed. I started to realize that things would come much easier for me once I learned why a horse does what he does. This method works well for me because of the kinship that develops between horse and rider.”

Recently, a film was produced that looks at Brannaman’s life and methods. It’s called Buck and is worth every minute. If you love horses, you’ll love this movie. If you have a horse and think you might want to learn these methods, or just want to watch and listen, you might want to check out Brannaman’s teaching schedule at his site brannaman.com. He travels all over the country and is likely to hold a class within driving distance.

America The Vulnerable

A few years ago I received an email from my bank. At least, it looked legit to me. I opened it. It said it needed me to update some parts of my account and provided a link to the bank’s website. I clicked on the link, which took me to my bank’s website. At least, it looked exactly like my bank’s website. I entered my account number, login, and password. I made the requested changes and logged out.

Two days later, somebody in Spain cleared every penny out of my account—thousands of dollars stolen.

That email was a phishing (fishing) scam. The website had been a fake. I had willingly handed over my account number, login, and password to thieves.

Luckily, the bank insures such thefts. But the problem of information security remains. Thieves living in Spain, or Russia, or LA, or China, can rob me blind from their bedrooms in their pajamas. They can do this because our information processing nowadays is increasingly tied to the internet.

And they don’t just rob dopes like me, because it’s not just individual criminals who are in the business. Corporations and governments are in this business as well.

They steal billions of dollars of trade secrets, engineering designs, and other intellectual property from American companies through computer hacking. They steal military secrets. For example, the US Navy spent years and about $5 billion dollars to develop a quiet electric motor for submarines that would make them incredibly hard to find and track. Chinese spies stole that technology. The Navy then spent billions more to develop a new radar for their top-of-the-line Aegis Cruiser. Chinese spies stole that, too.

And they not only steal. Terrorists, crime organizations, and foreign governments can now insert malicious software into the computers that control, among other things, our electrical grid. They can use this in an attack, not just to shut the grid down for a while, but to destroy power generators. They can insert such software into our air traffic control system. Our train transportation systems. Our banks. They have already done this. They have already breached some of our most secure government systems.

It sounds too far-fetched to be true, but it’s reality. Joel Brenner, who has served as the former senior counsel at the National Security Agency (NSA), the national counterintelligence executive in the office of the director of National Intelligence, and as the NSA’s inspector general writes about what he’s seen in America The Vulnerable: Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digial Espionage, Crime, and Warfare. In the book, he explains the cyber threats to individuals, corporations, and the country and what we can do about it. If you want a fascinating look into the next phase of crime, espionage, and warfare, and an introduction to some of the things you need to do to protect yourself and your company, and what we need to do as a nation, you’ll want to read this book.

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