Things tagged pol:

Preliminary thoughts on the Apple iPhone order in the San Bernardino case: Part 3, the policy question

Orin Kerr in The Volokh Conspiracy:

In this post, the third in a series, I want to discuss what I think is the policy question at the heart of the Apple case about opening the San Bernardino iPhone. The question is, what is the optimal amount of physical box security? It’s a question we’ve never asked before because we haven’t lived in a world where a lot of physical box security was possible. Computers and cellphones change that, raising for the first time the question of how much security is ideal.



A Message to Our Customers

Tim Cook at apple.com:

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. 

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

About time a corporation stood up, the telecoms sure haven’t, so Apple took on the role, and now have the opportunity to make a needed stand.



Judge to DOJ: Not All Writs

And Andrew Crocker at the EFF explains why the goverment is overreaching with the use of All Writs:

Reengineering iOS and breaking any number of Apple’s promises to its customers is the definition of an unreasonable burden. As the Ninth Circuit put it in a case interpreting technical assistance in a different context, private companies’ obligations to assist the government have “not extended to circumstances in which there is a complete disruption of a service they offer to a customer as part of their business.” What’s more, such an order would be unconstitutional. Code is speech, and forcing Apple to push backdoored updates would constitute “compelled speech” in violation of the First Amendment. It would raise Fourth and Fifth Amendment issues as well. Most important, Apple’s choice to offer device encryption controlled entirely by the user is both entirely legal and in line with the expert consensus on security best practices. It would be extremely wrong-headed for Congress to require third-party access to encrypted devices, but unless it does, Apple can’t be forced to do so under the All Writs Act.

Via darringfireball



Capitol Bells

And in reference to the previous post, here is an app that pokes a bit at the representative vs. direct democracy:

Capitol Bells

Capitol Bells lets you cast your vote for upcoming bills, and informs you when your elected representative votes for, or against, or not at all.

Of course the problem isn’t so much the voting, much more the understanding the bills. I have some ideas on this front, but need some more time to think them through, and would be a huge project to build …



Why real-world governments don’t have the consent of the governed – and why it matters

Ilya Somin in The Volokh Conspiracy:

The Declaration of Independence famously states that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” But, sadly, this is almost never the case in the real world. If it is indeed true, as Abraham Lincoln famously put it, that “no man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent,” that principle has more radical implications than Lincoln probably intended. Few if any of those who wield government power measure up to that lofty standard.

A fantastic overvew of some things I feel very strongly about. And his conclusion is exactly the same as mine:

The nonconsensual nature of most government policies also strengthens the case for devolving power to regional and local authorities in order to increase the number of issues on which citizens can “vote with their feet” and thereby exercise at least some degree of meaningful consent.



The Case of the Missing Hong Kong Book Publishers

Jiayang Fan in The New Yorker:

When a politically problematic figure disappears—or is disappeared—in China, a dark uneasiness falls, though usually accompanied by a glum sense of the inevitable. This is the cost of living within an authoritarian regime with diminishing patience for deviance. For a breather from such oppressive strictures, one might hop across the border to Hong Kong, where the policy of “one country, two systems” guarantees the freedom of speech and of the press, under the former British colony’s Basic Law, its own mini-Constitution. That refuge had seemed reasonably dependable, at least until a week ago, when Lee Bo became the fifth member of a Hong Kong-based publishing house specializing in provocative tomes about Beijing leaders to vanish mysteriously, not on a trip to the mainland but from his own home city, Hong Kong.



Ted Cruz and the use of deception to exploit political ignorance

Ilya Somin in The Volokh Conspiracy:

William Saletan of Slate has an interesting article on Ted Cruz’s misrepresentations about his record on immigration. He effectively shows that Cruz supported the legalizing the status of large numbers of illegal immigrants back in 2013, but now pretends that he opposed it all along.

The truth is that deceiving voters about one’s past or present positions is a fairly standard political strategy. Few successful politicians become such without engaging in this kind of deception at one point or another. I see little difference between Cruz’s distortions of his record on immigration, and President Obama’s years of lying about his position on same-sex marriage between 2008 and 2012.

Obama’s bad behavior, of course, in no way excuses Cruz’s or that of other Republicans. Here, as elsewhere, political partisans would do well to try to keep their biases in check and remember the sins of their own party, as well as those of the opposition.

In fairness, Cruz, Obama and other similar political leaders could potentially justify their deceptions by pointing to the dangers of unilateral disarmament in political combat. If they stop engaging in politically convenient lying, their opponents probably will not, and the more ethical candidates will be at a disadvantage. Donald Trump, whom Cruz is battling for the Republican nomination, is the proud winner of Politifact’s 2015 Lie of the Year award. To say the least, it is highly unlikely that he would reciprocate any restraint on Cruz’s part. President Obama (who won the same award in the 2013), can cite the various deceptions perpetrated by his political opponents.

If, as is likely, Cruz truly believes that the public interest would be best served by his winning the presidency, he could also conclude that he is justified in using deception to try to achieve that goal – especially if his opponents are going to use similar tactics. Similarly, Obama likely believes that his lies about same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act also ultimately served the public interest by helping him get elected, and enabling him to push through various beneficial policies.

Americans have the politicians they deserve, as in, if we can’t keep track of their lies from one month to the next, they have no choice but to manipulate our ignorance, rational or otherwise.



The WELL: Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016

In January 2000 Jon Lebkowsky interviewed Bruce Sterling here in Inkwell about “The Viridian Future,” and in 2001 about “The State of the Future.” 2002’s discussion was called “State of the Whirled,” followed in 2003 by a discussion inspired by Bruce’s nonfiction book, “Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years.” In 2004, we had the “Bruce Sterling State of the World Address,” and thereafter we called it the “State of the World” conversation.

Pundits abound, speaking with real or fabricated authority on a variety of subjects, and as the year turns spewing top ten lists and year-end summaries, and confident but subjective prognostications about the next year or five. If you’re bored with that sort of thing, you might find this two-week conversation more fun, interesting, and compelling. Our speakers are not creating keyword-rich listicles to maximize hits and produce conversions… but discussing the “state of the world” based on their perspectives as future-focused mavens immersed in information and contemporary culture.

Bruce Sterling’s perspectives are especially interesting given his global perspective as someone who travels and reports broadly, and his experiences as an author, speaker, teacher and maker attentive to trends in science, culture, politics, and design. He’s known a novelist, journalist and speaker. While acting as “Visionary in Residence” at Art Center College of Design in 2008, he wrote “Shaping Things,” one of the first books about the Internet of Things. In 2008 he was the curator of the Share Festival in Turin, on the theme of Italian digital manufacturing. He was one of the original columnists for Make magazine and wrote the cover story for the first issue of WIRED. Bruce Sterling lives in Turin, Belgrade and Austin. http://casajasmina.arduino.cc/team/

Jon Lebkowsky has been making and sharing experiences in digital culture and media for over 25 years. Currently he’s part of Polycot Associates, a mission-driven digital development co-operative based in Austin, Texas. He’s also President of EFF-Austin, an organization that’s been supporting digital freedom in Texas since 1990. He’s been an activist, sometimes journalist, and blogger who writes about the future of the Internet, digital culture, media, and society. http://weblogsky.com



Lee Kuan Yew’s Death Has Already Taken Place

Jeremy Fernando at berfrois:

There is a famous maxim that one must always kill your idols. That the only way to become your own person, as it were, is to free yourself from the shadow of the one you admire, look up to. Singapore has clearly taken this to heart: and has murdered its founding father. Not in the banal sense of attempting to erase his memory, an erasure by censorship, omission, but in a far more sophisticated way: by cementing a version of him, memorialising him — archiving him.

Via Isabella



When does your religion legally excuse you from doing part of your job?

Eugene Volokh in The Volokh Conspiracy:

Yet besides her losing claim in the federal lawsuit, it seems to me that Davis has a much stronger claim under state law for a much more limited exemption. Davis’s objection, it appears (see pp. 40, 133, and 139 of her stay application and attachments), is not to issuing same-sex marriage licenses as such. Rather, she objects to issuing such licenses with her name on them, because she believes (rightly or wrongly) that having her name on them is an endorsement of same-sex marriage. Indeed, she says that she would be content with

Modifying the prescribed Kentucky marriage license form to remove the multiple references to Davis’ name, and thus to remove the personal nature of the authorization that Davis must provide on the current form.

Now this would be a cheap accommodation that, it seems to me, a state could quite easily provide. It’s true that state law requires the County Clerk’s name on the marriage license and the marriage certificate. But the point of RFRAs, such as the Kentucky RFRA, is precisely to provide religious objectors with exemptions even from such generally applicable laws, so long as the exemptions don’t necessarily and materially undermine a compelling government interest.

And allowing all marriage licenses and certificates — for opposite-sex marriages or same-sex ones — to include a deputy clerk’s name, or just the notation “Rowan County Clerk,” wouldn’t jeopardize any compelling government interest.

If Davis sues in state court, seeking a declaration that she can issue licenses and certificates without her name — as a Kentucky RFRA-based exemption from the Kentucky statutory requirements for what must go on her license — I think she’d have a good case. The federal district court rejected her Kentucky RFRA argument on the grounds that the requirement doesn’t much burden her beliefs:

The record in this case suggests that the burden [on Davis] is more slight. As the Court has already pointed out, Davis is simply being asked to signify that couples meet the legal requirements to marry. The State is not asking her to condone same-sex unions on moral or religious grounds, nor is it restricting her from engaging in a variety of religious activities. Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic Christian beliefs. She may continue to attend church twice a week, participate in Bible Study and minister to female inmates at the Rowan County Jail. She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do. However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk. The Court therefore concludes that Davis is unlikely to suffer a violation of her free exercise rights under Kentucky Constitution § 5.

But though I agree that her religious convictions can’t excuse her from issuing marriage licenses altogether, I think the judge erred in the rest of the analysis in this paragraph. If Davis believes that it’s religiously wrong for her to issue licenses with her name on them, ordering her to do that indeed burdens her religious beliefs, enough to trigger the Kentucky RFRA. And giving her the more modest exemption from the include-the-court-clerk’s-name requirement might therefore indeed be required by the Kentucky RFRA.

So if Kim Davis does indeed go through the state courts, and ask for a modest exemption under the state RFRA — simply to allow her to issue marriage licenses (opposite-sex or same-sex) without her name on them — she might indeed prevail. Rightly or wrongly, under the logic of Title VII’s religious accommodation regime and the RFRA religious accommodation regime, she probably should prevail.

There’s a lot of appeal to the “you take the job, you follow the rules — if you have a religious objection to the rules, quit the job” approach may be. But it’s not the approach that modern American federal employment law has taken, or the approach that the state religious exemption law in Kentucky and many other states has taken.

Muslim truck drivers who don’t want to transport alcohol, Jehovah’s Witnesses who don’t want to raise flags, Sabbatarians (Jewish or Christian) who don’t want to work Saturdays, and philosophical vegetarians who don’t want to hand out hamburger coupons can take advantage of this law. Conservative Christian county clerks who don’t want to have their names listed on marriage certificates and licenses likely can, too.



Germans Welcome Migrants After Long Journey Through Hungary and Austria

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has been praised for her moral leadership for saying that all Syrian migrants would be allowed to come to Germany and apply for asylum. But some have argued, like Mr. Orban and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, that simply opening the European door will cause many more thousands of migrants and asylum seekers to abandon refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and embark on the hazardous and expensive journey to Europe, promoting more people smuggling, and not less.



Eric X. Li: A tale of two political systems

It’s a standard assumption in the West: As a society progresses, it eventually becomes a capitalist, multi-party democracy. Right? Eric X. Li, a Chinese investor and political scientist, begs to differ. In this provocative, boundary-pushing talk, he asks his audience to consider that there’s more than one way to run a succesful modern nation.




Biophilia: Continuing Human Evolution: Fallacies and Prospects

Where are we going, and where do we want to go, genetically speaking?

Of all the politically correct stances, the genetic unimprovability of humanity is perhaps the most inviolable. Even while we work daily, even feverishly, to improve other aspects of our material and cultural existence, our biology remains an ethical red zone, where nothing can be done and no infringement placed on individual replication. As a response to the abuse of eugenics in the 20th century, and to the deep philosophical problems involved, this is understandable. But it does not do justice to the underlying science.

Eugenics are a real issue, have been a real issue, and will continue to be a real issue. Genetic modification techniques will come to be applied on humans, and the rich will get it first. Looking away from these realities because they are uncomfortable is weakness.



김정은 풍자영상 중국에서 난리




The solutions to all our problems may be buried in PDFs that nobody reads

Christopher Ingraham in the WaPo:

What if someone had already figured out the answers to the world’s most pressing policy problems, but those solutions were buried deep in a PDF, somewhere nobody will ever read them?

According to a recent report by the World Bank, that scenario is not so far-fetched. The bank is one of those high-minded organizations – Washington is full of them – that release hundreds, maybe thousands, of reports a year on policy issues big and small. Many of these reports are long and highly technical, and just about all of them get released to the world as a PDF report posted to the organization’s Web site.

The World Bank recently decided to ask an important question: Is anyone actually reading these things? They dug into their Web site traffic data and came to the following conclusions: Nearly one-third of their PDF reports had never been downloaded, not even once.



40 maps that explain the Middle East

Max Fisher in Vox:

Maps can be a powerful tool for understanding the world, particularly the Middle East, a place in many ways shaped by changing political borders and demographics. Here are 40 maps crucial for understanding the Middle East — its history, its present, and some of the most important stories in the region today.



A Game of Shark and Minnow - Who Will Win Control of the South China Sea?

Jeff Himmelman in the NYT:

Ayungin Shoal lies 105 nautical miles from the Philippines. There’s little to commend the spot, apart from its plentiful fish and safe harbor — except that Ayungin sits at the southwestern edge of an area called Reed Bank, which is rumored to contain vast reserves of oil and natural gas. And also that it is home to a World War II-era ship called the Sierra Madre, which the Philippine government ran aground on the reef in 1999 and has since maintained as a kind of post-apocalyptic military garrison, the small detachment of Filipino troops stationed there struggling to survive extreme mental and physical desolation. Of all places, the scorched shell of the Sierra Madre has become an unlikely battleground in a geopolitical struggle that will shape the future of the South China Sea and, to some extent, the rest of the world.



It’s Not Just Political Districts. Our News Is Gerrymandered, Too

David Carr in the NYT:

I read an interview this last week with someone who gets his news from a narrow band of information providers.

He reads The Wall Street Journal, a really good newspaper that tilts right on its editorial page and sometimes in its news coverage. He also reads The Washington Times, a more reflexively conservative publication, and listens to “the talk guys” on the radio during his commute to work. We know which ones, because liberals don’t do well on the radio.

Even though he lives in Washington and works in government, he dumped his subscription to The Washington Post. He explained: “It was the treatment of almost any conservative issue. It was slanted and often nasty. And, you know, why should I get upset every morning?” He added that The Post was “shrilly, shrilly liberal.”

Just another guy in Washington who can’t stand hearing anything that doesn’t comport with his worldview? Well, this one happens to work on the United States Supreme Court.



Statement from Edward Snowden in Moscow

In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.



Europe Stifles Drivers in Favor of Mass Transit and Walking - The New York Times

Elisabeth Rosenthal in the NYT:

While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.