“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
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Colleen Crowley: Comey’s Push for a Worm in Every Apple
Knowing even a little of James Comey’s post 9-11 background, it becomes rather hard to believe the FBI Director is sincerely leveling with the American public in his latest quest to compel Apple (and other encrypted communication companies) to create a mechanism for government access, that he is solely motivated by his desire to “look the (San Bernardino) survivors in the eye” and tell them the FBI has followed up on all investigative leads. [..]
If it’s only a “narrow” legal issue at play, then why has the FBI Director spent so much time lately giving scary speeches that law enforcement is “going dark,” arguing that encrypted private communications are inherently dangerous, that the government needs ways to counter such privacy? The truth is that there is little likelihood, from everything we already know about the San Bernardino couple’s lack of actual connectedness to Islamic extremist groups, that the Apple iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters holds any real clues to future attacks. Comey is good to mention, in his Lawfare piece, this potential for nothing of value residing on this particular Apple phone. Yet he disingenuously claims the legal issue is a narrow one when the only reason the case has been seized upon is due to the public relations impact of the San Bernardino shootings as the best example to open the door. FBI and DOJ speakers were previously more honest pointing to the wider danger of child predators, serial killers, members of criminal organizations along with terrorists all potentially able to freely communicate via secure encryption, to justify the need to establish a wider precedent.
Robert Reich: The End of the Establishment?
Step back from the campaign fray for just a moment and consider the enormity of what’s already occurred.
A 74-year-old Jew from Vermont who describes himself as a democratic socialist, who wasn’t even a Democrat until recently, has come within a whisker of beating Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucus, routed her in the New Hampshire primary, and garnered over 47 percent of the caucus-goers in Nevada, of all places.
And a 69-year-old billionaire who has never held elective office or had anything to do with the Republican Party has taken a commanding lead in the Republican primaries.
Something very big has happened, and it’s not due to Bernie Sanders’ magnetism or Donald Trump’s likability.
It’s a rebellion against the establishment.
Jon Green: Kill the Caucus
Imagine a developing country that is relatively new to democracy holds an election with the following characteristics:
The election is held during a relatively short window of time during which many would-be participants are unable to attend due to work commitments. Registered voters are required to re-register before participating, resulting in long lines that force still more would-be participants who took a few hours off to go back to work.
There is no absentee voting, as votes are cast by participants gathering in rooms in their local precincts and physically standing in candidate-specific corners to indicate their choice. Uncommitted voters are able to hear pitches from local representatives for each of the candidates before deciding, but these pitches are presented in front of the rest of the voters in the room, often resulting in shouting matches between the respective camps. This part of the election is administered almost entirely by volunteers, many of whom are completely new to the process themselves, and the proceedings in some rooms (including the choices of late-deciding voters) are broadcast on national television for entertainment purposes. [..]
An American election observer would not recognize the results of such an election as being valid. They would say that the ballot was not accessible too many potential participants, and that there were too many points at which the participation of those who did show up could have potentially been manipulated, diluted or ignored outright. This being the case, it’s simply impossible to tell if the results accurately reflect the aggregate preferences of the population in question.
And yet, the election I just described was the Nevada Caucuses.
Richard Wolffe: Marco Rubio: the winningest candidate who just can’t seem to win
By most measures, Marco Rubio should be running away with the race for the Republican nomination in Nevada.
Of all the Republicans left in the contest, the senator from Florida has a unique connection to Nevada’s culture and voters.
He lived in Las Vegas for three years as a child, until the age of 11, during which time he also embraced the Mormon faith that is popular in a state that borders Utah. Fully one quarter of GOP caucus-goers in the last presidential election were Mormon. (It was only later that the young Rubio convinced his family to leave the Church of Latter-day Saints to convert to Catholicism.)
In a state where Latinos make up 27% of the population, Rubio – as the only bilingual candidate in the field – should be making deep inroads into Nevada. [..]
Whatever Rubio knows about Nevada, it isn’t impressing the state’s voters. According to the most recent polls (in a state that is notoriously difficult to poll), Rubio is at least 20 points behind Donald Trump and can barely tie Ted Cruz for second place.
In fact, Rubio is faring no worse in this state than he is elsewhere. He is running third in two of the bigger states on Super Tuesday – Texas and Georgia – in line with his third-place finish in Iowa and his effective tie for second place in South Carolina.
For a candidate who exudes confidence in his likelihood of winning the nomination, Rubio has a solid lock on losing for the foreseeable future.
The US government’s effort to force Apple to build a novel “back door” to a single phone could lead to all of our encrypted data on virtually all of our mobile devices and personal computers being compromised by nefarious adversaries seeking to cause us harm, as many have rightly noted before me.
But for queer and transgender people who, as I once did, rely on device encryption to allow us to lead our private lives without legal consequences, the potential repercussions of the government’s efforts to eliminate that encryption are utterly chilling. And even if Apple prevails in court this time, lawmakers across the US and throughout the world are now considering laws that would require that all companies build back doors into all of our devices by default. [..]
However, folks like me face even higher stakes than that. For instance, a trans woman living and working in a less open country (like Russia, Uganda and Nigeria) can face even more serious legal consequences – including imprisonment, torture and even execution – if exposed. Queer and trans people living in such countries depend on encrypted devices to build and maintain their communities and voices while avoiding dangerous scrutiny.
That is why I support Apple in its fight against the FBI: we should fight any government or organization that seeks to remove our community’s strongest and most effective means to guard ourselves from discrimination, persecution, torture and genocide.