Friday, February 19, 2016

ELI5 Apple v. FBI

If you find yourself confused about the Apple versus FBI thing, here's the simple version:
  1. Nobody likes terrorists. We should create a tool to break into the terrorist's iPhone so we can see if there's any information in there useful to investigators.
  2. Everybody wants phones that secure the information stored in it. We should not create a tool that could be abused (by either law enforcement or criminals) to break into any other iPhone of the same model.
  3. The FBI says it's possible to do both #1 and #2, while Apple says it is not possible or not probable.
  4. If you think you have the legal and technical expertise to know who is correct here, you probably don't.
  5. Stupid politicians are stupid.
You're welcome.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Party above Duty

Let's assume that the Republicans have a point in saying that a president shouldn't nominate a Supreme Court justice in an election year, even though President Reagan had done exactly that. The hopefully indisputable fact is that the Supreme Court is filled with humans who do die, so what if they all died during an election year? We'd just go without a Supreme Court for a whole year? Presumably not, so how many openings do we allow on the Court before we can replace one in an election year?

And why only during an election year? Two years after a president takes office, we are exactly halfway between the old election and the new election. Why shouldn't we wait for the new election to see what the American people want? Worse, what if New Hampshire moves its primary up to the day after inauguration? Would the new president then not be able to nominate a justice because it's election season again?

Because there's actually a clear date and time when a sitting president loses his or her constitutional powers: when the next president takes office. Anything else would be arbitrary and absurd.

Despite my personal political leanings, I would actually prefer that the branches of government be somewhat adversarial. An executive branch that fundamentally believes in government power and a legislative branch that is fundamentally skeptical of it isn't actually a bad mix.

But while it's one thing to object to a particular nominee, it's quite another to object to anybody President Obama might nominate before he has even named anybody, even though there's clearly enough time to complete the confirmation process.

I hold out hope that enough Republican senators will do the right thing and confirm a good nominee, but Republican voters need to severely punish this band of obstructionists for putting their party above their duty to the country.