Archive

March 7th, 2016

What’s at Stake in Apple’s Privacy Fight

    Civil liberties fans in the United States recently got an unlikely champion: the CEO of Apple.

    In a high-profile spat with the White House, Tim Cook has emerged as a leading spokesperson against the Obama administration’s efforts to weaken Americans’ constitutional protections and civil liberties.

    In particular, Cook is fighting a federal order that would force Apple to create software to bypass the iPhone’s security features — and give the FBI access to the phone and everything on it. He sent a letter to all Apple users explaining the company’s position and promising to keep up the fight.

    Here’s what’s at stake.

    The FBI is investigating last December’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. It wants access to the iPhone used by suspected terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, who carried out the shooting together with his wife Tashfeen Malik.

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Trump wants the U.S. to be . . . Denmark

    As the Donald Trump campaign rolls on, the secret to his success is becoming clear: his promise to make America more like Denmark.

    Say what? The Donald rarely if ever mentions the land of Lego, though Ted Cruz did once accuse him of being crazy enough to bomb it. Denmark is Bernie Sanders's utopia - a Scandinavian social democracy with free health care and college, whose enlightened rulers have "gone a long way to ending the enormous anxieties that come with economic insecurity," as Sanders once put it.

    Well, actually, the package Trump offers - "save Social Security without cuts," a vaguely pro-single-payer position on health care, plus temporarily banning Muslims and walling off Mexico - bears an eerie resemblance to the Danish government's current policy mix.

    His astonishing success selling it to the Republican base may portend ideological convergence between the U.S. right and Europe's.

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Trump nips media hand that feeds him

    To those who admire Donald Trump's pushback campaign against political correctness, please note of how quickly his own inner thought cop leaps forth when his own fragile ego is poked.

    "I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money," Trump said in a rally rant last weekend, without bothering to offer any examples of what he was talking about.

    "We're going to open up those libel laws. So that when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they're totally protected."

    In other words, Trump promises to pursue those who dare to use the First Amendment for what it was intended to protect: your right to criticize the powerful.

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The U.S. system is designed to beat Trump

    "The evil we experience flows from the excess of democracy," Massachusetts delegate Elbridge Gerry told the Constitutional Convention on May 31, 1787.

    The 2016 Super Tuesday voting rules in his home state do nothing to limit such "excesses," and Donald Trump is likely to win in a landslide there. Yet, ultimately, the existing primary rules may serve the Founding Fathers' goal of creating safeguards against ochlocracy -- mob rule.

    Gerry could have been watching Trump and wincing. He said:

    "The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots. In Massachusetts it had been fully confirmed by experience, that they are daily misled into the most baneful measures and opinions, by the false reports circulated by designing men, and which no one on the spot can refute."

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The Republicans' muddle is good for Trump

    As Donald Trump continues his march toward the Republican presidential nomination, panic is spreading among Republicans over how and whether they can stop the New York billionaire.

    Trump won at least six of the 11 Republican contests on Tuesday, from New England to a convincing sweep of the Southeast. He probably racked up more delegates than all his opponents combined. It wasn't a clean sweep. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz handily won his home state of Texas, the biggest delegate prize of March 1, and upset Trump in Oklahoma. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio won his first contest of the campaign, in Minnesota, where Cruz also beat Trump. Cruz's victories and Rubio's mediocre showing overall sustains the divided opposition to Trump for at least a few more weeks.

    Rubio now needs a victory in his home state of Florida in the primary there on March 15. Similarly, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who finished out of the money everywhere but New England, needs to beat Trump in his home-state primary on the same day.

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The most confusing Super Tuesday ever

    We're going to need some time to digest what happened on Tuesday night on the Republican side.

    Donald Trump won the most votes. He won the most states. He won the most delegates. But did he move closer to winning the nomination? That isn't so clear. FiveThirtyEight's delegate maven, David Wasserman, said going in that "a disappointing night for Trump ... probably means anything less than 250" delegates won. It appears as if he's going to wind up a bit over 250. This is fewer than half the delegates up for grabs, however, so he's not moving closer to an overall delegate majority.

    I've been looking at Trump's overall vote percentages to see if he was picking up support as the Republican field narrowed or if he would have trouble increasing his vote totals. Overall, his Super Tuesday results were mixed and not especially impressive. His apparent polling surge last week seems either to have dissipated or wasn't real to begin with.

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The frontrunners roll on

    Voters in the Deep South and New England made it clear on Super Tuesday that the voice of the people is not likely to be denied in either major party this year.

    Seven state primary victories each for Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton have narrowed prospects that either of them can now be stopped for their party's presidential nomination.

    The harshest outcome of Tuesday's voting was to puncture the bubble of Marco Rubio in his rather sophomoric effort to deflate Trump with taunts, such as that he has "small hands" and may have wet his pants in debate.

    "Little Marco," as Trump calls him in equally infantile derision, finally managed to carry a state, Minnesota, winning 37 percent and beating both Ted Cruz (29 percent) and Trump (21 percent) there, the latter Trump's worst showing to date.

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The Elephant in the Race

    The audience in the theater takes its seats and slowly settles down. The curtain rises on a conventional living room in a conventional American home, neither squalid nor opulent. Middle class, it whispers.

    A woman of a certain age sits in a chair in the middle of the room, reading a book. In a dimly lit corner, unnoticed at first, is a fully grown elephant, munching hay.

    Enter a somewhat disheveled, gray-haired man. He sits in the chair to the left of the woman and begins to read a newspaper. Soon, however, he peers into the corner and does a double take.

    “Hillary,” he says, sotto voce. “I don’t want to alarm you, but there’s an elephant in the room.”

    “Don’t be silly.”

    “I mean it. Look, right there in the corner. That gray thing eating hay. It’s huge.”

    “I see it. It’s not an elephant.”

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Super Tuesday turnout shows increasing obsolescence of 2-party system

    East High School in Denver, Colorado, home to 14 precincts for the Democratic caucuses, was a mob scene on Tuesday night. It was hard to judge the turnout, but one of the organizers told me there were about 5,000 people there, and I believed him: Rooms designated for caucusing were overflowing, and several precincts gave up and held their votes in the stairwell or outside the building.

    This shows how special this election is -- and how obsolete the U.S. two-party system has become. Throughout the Super Tuesday states, vote organizers reported record or near-record turnouts fueled by several campaigns that are really revolutions, or counter-revolutions, in the making. The people who support them aren't giving up easily. If Super Tuesday was supposed to be about winnowing, it's not happening just yet.

    By the numbers, Hillary Clinton did well enough to start concentrating on the general election, and Donald Trump did well enough for Clinton to start strategizing about beating him. That, however, would be too simplistic a story.

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Republican dilemma: Trump or the Anti-Trump

    At about 10 p.m. on Super Tuesday, Donald Trump pivoted from candidate to nominee to president.

    He invited the country to the Florida White House. Rather than a victory speech in a rented hotel ballroom, he held a formal press conference at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach mansion/golf club. With its high ceilings, heavy molding, and a phalanx of flags, the setting was a Trumpian pastiche of the East Room. He even had a courtier, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, standing over his shoulder, nodding like Nancy Reagan and applauding limply like a listless Ed McMahon. What stagecraft.

    More important, Trump the showman tamped down the bombast, limited himself to a few personal insults, stayed on message and promised unity. He still delivered his usual stream of consciousness, each disparate thought loosely connected by "believe me," "to be honest with you" and "in all fairness," but it wasn't unhinged.

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