Must Reads

Monday Must Reads


The biography of Steve Jobs comes out today, Monday (debuting at No. 1 on Amazon’s best seller list). CBS’s 60 Minutes has two segments that preview the book, and include a number of clips from author Walter Isaacson’s private interviews with jobs, all of which are weirdly fascinating. Reportedly, Jobs’ wife told Isaacson that he should pull no punches, that he should write an honest book, downsides, bad qualities, and all. Whether there were limits to that honesty will surely be examined minutely. In the meantime, watch the videos of the segments here. It’s not a social justice issue, but it’s good stuff.


It turns out that, absent an update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, law enforcement agencies will be able to search Americans’ e-mail or documents without having to acquire a judge’s permission, if those docs and emails are more than six months old and stored in those online clouds we like so much.

Wired Magazine has the story. Here’s a clip:

In the beginning, ECPA protected Americans’ e-mail from warrantless surveillance — despite ECPA allowing the government to access e-mail without a court warrant if it was six months or older and stored on a third-party’s server. The tech world now refers to these servers as “the cloud,” and others just think of Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Facebook and Gmail.

ECPA was adopted at a time when e-mail, for example, wasn’t stored on servers for a long time. Instead, e-mail was held there briefly before recipients downloaded it to their inbox on software running on their own computer.

During the Reagan administration, e-mail more than six months old was assumed abandoned, and that’s why the law allowed the government to get it without a warrant. At the time, there wasn’t much of any e-mail for the authorities to acquire because a consumer’s hard drive — not the cloud — hosted their inbox.

But technology has evolved dramatically following EPCA’s passage. E-mail often remains stored on cloud servers indefinitely, in gigabytes upon gigabytes. That means the authorities may access gigs of e-mails, or other cloud-stored content, without warrants if it’s older than six months. The law, believe it or not, still considers as abandoned any e-mail or other files housed on servers for more than six months…..


Research suggests keeping older inmates locked up until they die might be an “expensive and unnecessary price for the public to pay,” the The AP reports.

Nationally, nearly 10 percent of more than 2.3 million inmates were serving life sentences in 2008, including 41,095 people doing life without parole, up 22 percent in five years, according to The Sentencing Project, which advocates alternatives to prison. The increase resulted from lawmakers “dramatically” expanding the types and repeat offenses that carry potential life terms, research analyst Ashley Nellis said.

“The theme is we’re protecting society, then the question is: From what?” said Soffiyah Elijah, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, a watchdog group. She said with the cost of keeping a state inmate $55,000 a year — a cost that grows as they age and their medical needs increase — a financial analysis shows that parole and probation are far cheaper punishments that can also satisfy the public need for retribution….

Read on.


Over the weekend, the New York Times reported on a Silicon Valley Waldorf school that takes a contrarian view of the value of technology for school children. No computers are allowed in school at all, and they are “frowned on” at home, the Times’ Matt Richtell writes.

Here’s a clip:

The Waldorf method is nearly a century old, but its foothold here among the digerati puts into sharp relief an intensifying debate about the role of computers in education.

“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” said Alan Eagle, 50, whose daughter, Andie, is one of the 196 children at the Waldorf elementary school; his son William, 13, is at the nearby middle school. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”

Mr. Eagle knows a bit about technology. He holds a computer science degree from Dartmouth and works in executive communications at Google, where he has written speeches for the chairman, Eric E. Schmidt. He uses an iPad and a smartphone. But he says his daughter, a fifth grader, “doesn’t know how to use Google,” and his son is just learning. (Starting in eighth grade, the school endorses the limited use of gadgets.)

Then on Sunday, smart education writer/wonk Dana Goldstein, took a contrarian view of the contrarian view. Here’s a clip from her commentary:

….We know from the work of sociologist Annette Lareau that college-educated parents are typically very good at introducing their children to the practices of asking questions, challenging authorities, and expressing doubt. Many working-class parents, on the other hand, emphasize deference to authority, and while that skill can be helpful in certain situations, it may not inculcate skepticism toward media sources–especially when you consider that working class and poor children are also less likely to be regularly exposed at home to newspapers, magazines, books, computers, high-speed Internet, and smartphones.

Media and information literacy are incredibly important, both for our civic health–we need informed voters–and for people’s day-to-day ability to use technology to find the info they want and need. That’s why I was impressed with a 10th grade social studies lesson I observed last spring in Providence, R.I. Jennifer Geller taught her students to fact-check their textbook using Google, but also explained to them how to sift the wheat from the chaff online, by understanding how Google and Wikipedia are programmed.

We also know that women and minorities are grossly underepresented in computing jobs, and that early exposure to computers and video games is correlated with developing a professional interest in high-tech fields….

I’d suggest avoiding either extreme, but that’s just me.

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