Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Links before I sleep, 2016/02/17

Some thought-provoking pieces I don't have time or energy to give their full due, but which are definitely worth passing along:
  • Apple is pushing back against the F.B.I.'s demand, now backed by a federal judge's order, that the company create a workaround for its security policy on iPhones (at least, on older ones). The phone in question belonged to one of the San Bernardino murderers.

    I haven't read a lot of coverage on the subject but I can tell you that the New York Times, at least, has done a mediocre job of conveying the issue: one of its main articles on the subject never explains the subtle technical issues. The problem with that omission is that it suggests Apple is behaving mulishly, whereas Apple is actually doing the hard job that the Justice Department ought to be doing: looking out for the privacy and security of all Americans. The national security state has got to be resisted. Apple is one of the good guys, no matter how angry and fearful you may be about terrorism.

    To understand the technical issues, I recommend Ben Thompson's overview at stratechery.com. It's a good explanation even if you're not a computer security specialist, and he thoughtfully lays out not just the technical issues but the policy consequences of the F.B.I.'s demand. He also seems to be updating the piece as he gets new information.

  • I've given up on late-night TV, and with fewer regrets than I expected. I miss Jon Stewart and the Report-era Stephen Colbert, but as I noted last year, I'm probably better off without them.

    That said, a couple of new shows definitely intrigue me. Samantha Bee's Full Frontal looks good, at least the first episode, and I have no reason to believe she'll lose her intelligence or nerve going forward. And Craig Ferguson returns to talk TV with Join or Die, about which everything I've heard and seen makes me very happy.

    The L.A. Times' Robert Lloyd has a good article about Ferguson in which he explains the new show's format. Scott Timberg in Salon has a good interview with Ferguson in which, among other things, Ferguson expresses similar sentiments to mine about comedians who complain about political correctness cramping their style.

  • Speaking of late-night hosts, I'm still making my way through David Marchese's lengthy interview with John Oliver in Vulture. Oliver, along with Sam Bee, is one of Jon Stewart's best gifts to TV. Perhaps what Oliver's, Bee's and Ferguson's shows have in common — being weekly, not daily — is the key to their appeal for me: they're not trapped by a 24-hour news cycle that misses the forest for the trees.
  • Whatever happens in November, the issues Bernie Sanders has been highlighting must be adopted by a movement that exists independent of his campaign. That movement has to do the hard, unglamorous work of educating voters over time, outside the frenzied atmosphere of an election. That movement must operate at the local and state as well as at the federal level, finding and supporting candidates who will press the issues Sanders has broached. Even if Sanders wins in November, he won't be able to set the agenda in any significant way because of Congress' current makeup and disposition. Only a long-term, grassroots effort to change the very nature of the electorate — to coax reactionary voters away from reflexive hostility to change, and to instill a sense of responsibility for the communal good (in addition to one's own self-interest) in everyone — will change our broken government. (A sense of responsibility to the larger polity, be it local, state or national, is what "civics class" was for, back in Ye Olde Days. Maybe it's time to resurrect that long-dead subject.)

    It will take years. It will not be easy. But it is the only way out of our current morass.

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