Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Tim Cook — they all pander to the government-haters

As I said earlier in a comment

I liked it when Apple distinguished itself by making great products. I thoroughly enjoy my iPhone, my Apple TV and especially my iPad, and I like the way they work together. In fact, my Apple TV remote quit working awhile back (and changing the battery didn’t help), so I now control the TV with my phone and iPad (which is actually way better, because I have more functionality this way — it’s great to have a keyboard when you want to search for something on Netflix).

But it seems that era — of coming up with great products I didn’t even know I wanted — is over at Apple.

Obviously, Tim Cook knows he’s no Steve Jobs and will never make his mark with innovation. So he’s making his name by kowtowing to the government-haters — which puts him in the same category as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in my book.

Oh, his rhetoric is more sophisticated, less rough-edged. But ultimately he’s making himself a hero to the kind of people David Brooks said Edward Snowden exemplified:

Though thoughtful, morally engaged and deeply committed to his beliefs, he appears to be a product of one of the more unfortunate trends of the age: the atomization of society, the loosening of social bonds, the apparently growing share of young men in their 20s who are living technological existences in the fuzzy land between their childhood institutions and adult family commitments.

If you live a life unshaped by the mediating institutions of civil society, perhaps it makes sense to see the world a certain way: Life is not embedded in a series of gently gradated authoritative structures: family, neighborhood, religious group, state, nation and world. Instead, it’s just the solitary naked individual and the gigantic and menacing state.

This lens makes you more likely to share the distinct strands of libertarianism that are blossoming in this fragmenting age: the deep suspicion of authority, the strong belief that hierarchies and organizations are suspect, the fervent devotion to transparency, the assumption that individual preference should be supreme. You’re more likely to donate to the Ron Paul for president campaign, as Snowden did….

There’s one contradiction here: Snowden was about exposing things, Cook about keeping them secret. But both had the same enemy — the supposedly “menacing state.” And both were about the absolute sovereignty of the individual over the broader interests of the society…

44 thoughts on “Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Tim Cook — they all pander to the government-haters

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Actually, that bit about “coming up with great products I didn’t even know I wanted” isn’t quite true…

    Back in the 80s, I was sitting watching TV and happened to have our cordless phone on the chair next to me. I wanted to change the station, and picked up the phone and tried to use the keypad for that purpose before realizing I had the wrong device.

    Then it occurred to me, “Why can’t I have a device that works as a TV remote, phone and calculator — they all use the same type keypad?”

    If only I’d had the wherewithal to create that product…

    Anyway, now I have one. More than one, actually…

  2. Doug Ross

    Yes, the end of civilization is a result of Apple not giving in to the demands of the FBI to write software to unlock the phone of a dead murderer just because the FBI wants it unlocked. But not just that phone, every phone in the future because the government would NEVER do anything wrong with that capability.

    You also support reporters revealing their sources when asked by the government, right?

    1. Doug Ross

      I think Apple should make it as hard to unlock the phone as the government makes it to process FOIA requests.

    2. Doug Ross

      Should NY Times reporter Judith Miller have revealed her sources regarding CIA operatives or was she a self-absorbed libertarian?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I have a two-part answer to that:

        1. It’s an ENTIRELY different situation. Journalists at least have the more-or-less plausible argument that being compelled to reveal sources has a chilling effect on the First Amendment. Apple has no such case to make, opening that phone doesn’t even begin to impair anyone’s right to free expression, or any other right.

        2. As it happens, I have qualms about journalists using that defense so broadly. (I almost brought this up in the previous post about Apple, but my view is complicated, and I didn’t have time for the digression.) I sort of hate to say it, because I have friends who’ve gone to jail rather than disclose such information — such as Cindi Scoppe — and I hate to seem not to fully support them. But I have something of a maverick view. It’s one thing when you promise to keep a source confidential and do so, especially when powerful people might retaliate against that person. Honor demands that. But I think sometimes that journalists make too much of a habit of reflexively refusing to cooperate. Journalists are citizens, too, and when they set themselves up as a privileged class that doesn’t have to cooperate the way other citizens do, it could in the long run undermine the First Amendment — or undermine support for it.

        So in other words, I’ve long been torn about that. But only because there is that First Amendment factor — something that, again, is entirely lacking in the Apple situation. (Others believe that there is an absolute right to privacy somehow subliminally hidden in the Constitution — something magically discovered in Griswold. I disagree entirely.)

        1. Doug Ross

          It’s amazing that you can’t even comprehend that the FBI’s request might have the same chilling effect in regards to the 4th Amendment:

          “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

          Cracking phones opens the door to potential unreasonable searches.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            No, it doesn’t.

            This in no way violates or threatens the 4th Amendment because there’s nothing unreasonable about it. There’s not the slightest whiff of unreasonableness. The dead terrorist carried a device that has a good probability of containing useful information about his crime. It’s crazy not to look at it, or to erect a barrier to looking at it — which Apple has deliberately done.

            When the search IS unreasonable, that’s the time to say no.

            For the umpteenth time, the slippery slope argument is one of the weakest kinds.

            Make policy decisions based on actual conditions. Not upon completely different, hypothetical conditions…

          2. Keith Marsh

            Perhaps, but for the sake of argument, doesn’t the FBI have probable cause supported by the evidence they have at this time? They’re also describing the place, or in this case the item, to be searched.

            If they had walked up to this guy, grabbed his phone for no reason, and then asked for Apple’s help, I’d feel differently.

            1. Doug Ross

              They are fully welcome to search the phone as much as they’d like. There is nothing that would legally compel Apple to assist with the search.

              Could the FBI force the manufacturer of a safe to open it? and provide the FBI with a secret combination that would unlock them all?

              1. Bryan Caskey

                There is nothing that would legally compel Apple to assist with the search.

                Nothing except for the existing precedent of the law as set forth by the Supreme Court in 1977. Go back and read U.S. vs. NY Telephone Co.

                1. Doug Ross

                  That’s lawyer talk, not common sense. Lawyers like to find precedents even if they aren’t the same thing. This is a whole new set of circumstances. There is no precedent.

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                See, I don’t know where you’re getting this: “provide the FBI with a secret combination that would unlock them all.”

                I’ve seen nothing that indicates the FBI is looking for something like that. It wants to get into THIS phone. Only Apple can unlock it. Apple set it up so that it would lock. Apple can unlock it. Apple can then lock it again….

                1. Bryan Caskey

                  I hate to keep referring y’all back to the actual legal documents, but if you read the court order, it makes it clear that the code can only work on this specific phone. And it further states that this can all be done at Apple’s facilities so they can control everything.

                2. Doug Ross

                  You’re wrong, Brad. The government wants Apple to make a version of the phone operating system that will have a backdoor for government agencies to use. It’s not part of this specific case but they are using this minor case as a way to push for their greater desires. It’s a PR move more than anything. But they could dispel that notion by stating what they expect to find on the phone and then (if they ever get it cracked) revealing what they found.

                  From Wired:

                  ““The FBI chose this case very, very carefully,” says Cardozo, who argues that law enforcement sees it as the “perfect case” for litigating the issue in the absence of backdoor-friendly legislation from President Obama and Congress. That it’s a terrorism case, in particular, spurs sympathies to align with law enforcement, regardless of how much benefit the FBI would actually get from the access it has requested.”

                  The article covers the counterpoint to allowing the FBI access very well:

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Of course they did, and they chose well.

                    And one reason is because it is NOT a “minor case.” It’s the precise opposite. And it’s a case in which it is crystal clear that Apple has no excuse not to cooperate.

                    And if that does anything to turn back this tide of major tech companies going out of their way to obstruct justice, and then bragging about it as a marketing strategy, then it will have accomplished more than just giving us some insight into how these folks came to do what they did. That’s important enough, but there are stakes beyond this case as well.

          3. Bryan Caskey

            Doug, you’re completely missing the fact that this phone was seized in a lawful search. No one, not even Apple, is claiming that the FBI can’t look inside every little bit of it. The phone is the product of a legitimate search. It’s completely fair game.

            There’s not even a question about the 4A here.

              1. Doug Ross

                Which they could have done had they not screwed up in the first place. It was their screw up that put them in the position of strongarming Apple to do something.

                1. Doug Ross

                  But I’m more concerned about future backdoors that the government wants implemented. That would be unreasonable to me.

                2. Doug Ross

                  Would the FBI hand over the phone to Apple, allow them to crack it without revealing how, then hand it back? Wouldn’t that meet the requirement?

                3. Barry

                  Not true. Brad. Come on. Let’s not be so naïve.

                  From the Atlantic – “After Apple’s lawyers revealed that the agency is trying to gain access to about a dozen devices, it’s becoming increasingly clear why the government chose to take the San Bernardino case public”
                  Meanwhile, there are a whole lot more devices waiting in the wings, in the hands of state and local law enforcement. The Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. says he’s asked Apple to unlock a whopping 175 iPhones. If the government wins in San Bernardino, Vance told PBS’s Charlie Rose recently, he would “absolutely” try to get Apple to help get data off those devices, too


                4. Mark Stewart

                  Doug’s referring to the fact that the FBI tried once to guess the password and failed (maybe used the dead guy’s fingerprint as Bryan suggested?), thereby commencing the lockdown. Had they not started that, it apparently would have been easier to crack. Or something.

                  Is that right, Doug?

                5. Doug Ross

                  I believe they tried 9 times and the 10th time would wipe the phone. I also believe they didn’t execute a backup to the cloud when they could have which would have been accessible.

              2. Barry

                The FBI can search is all they want- they can hire the best phone breakers in the world if they so choose.

                1. Doug Ross

                  No, I’m fine with them attempting to crack the phone. I am not fine with them forcing Apple to do it and to make future versions of the operating system open to government searches.

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  They CAN’T crack the phone. Apple knows they can’t crack the phone, and knows it’s because Apple made it so that they couldn’t — a fact Apple brags about.

                  “attempting to crack the phone?” This isn’t a game. This is deadly serious. And for the people who can get the job done to stand by and refuse to help is beyond immoral.

  3. Burl Burlingame

    The thing about multi national corporations is that they consider global ramifications. What if China’s secret police make the same demand on Apple?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Then you say no.

      Again, it’s the slippery slope, which is neither slippery nor a slope. You make decisions according to the situation in front of you. Saying yes to the FBI on a proven, DEAD terrorist’s phone in no way obligates you to say yes to some other government in some other situation.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Which is why I wouldn’t give them whatever they wanted.

          They’re an oppressive regime unbounded by the rule of law. Cooperating with them and cooperating with our own law enforcement authorities, bound as they are by checks and balances and legal limitations, is like night and day.

          I can’t imagine any reason why Apple cannot draw that distinction, just as I do.

          You can make an argument that cooperating in this case creates a precedent for cooperating in other cases within the same legal system — but obviously that’s not terribly binding, either. Apple cooperated in 70 cases before deliberately rigging its phones to make that more difficult, which is a really glaring case of bad faith in my book…

          1. Mark Stewart

            You’re not doing billions and billions in business in China. Apple has far more at risk than morality and ethics.

            Doing business in China means doing business with the State. Everyone in between is just a middleman or a grifter.

            1. Karen Pearson

              If money is more important than morality and ethics we are in a lot of trouble. Flint Michigan knows this.

          2. Doug Ross

            I know, we can force Apple to stop selling iPhones in any country Brad doesn’t feel lives up to the American standard.

            And yet we’ll buy as much of the products produced by that oppressive regime as we can. Why would we allow that to happen if it supports that regime?

  4. Bart

    Did anyone read the NYT article yesterday about Apple working on an encryption that even Apple cannot open? Interesting reading and questions arise at least for me about Apple’s veracity concerning existing security for the latest version of iOS the new phones use. Apparently there is a way to gain access through a backdoor with or without Apple’s cooperation. Otherwise, why go to the trouble of developing a security system no one can access, even the developer, Apple? If I am terrorist or anyone involved in illegal activities and want to have a device where I can conduct business and the authorities cannot gain access to even with a warrant, I know which phone would be my choice.

    Does this really serve a higher purpose or is it just Apple poking the govenment in the eye to prove a point? Abuse of power is nothing new and it will continue as long as governments exist and people are under their control no matter if it is democratic, despotic, dictatorship, or a monarchy. And power is not limited to the government either as demonstrated by Apple and their display of corporate power. Apple may regret provoking the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Question now is who will win in the end?

    1. Barry

      I’d love to see the marketing and PR campaign of the cell phone company that makes a phone where the “government can access your private data”

      primarily because I want to make sure I watch their stock fall like a rock.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        You mean, because of the cancer of libertarianism eating away at America’s soul to the point that we hate the greatest thing about this country, which is our system of government…

        But you’ve got it backwards.

        Until very, very recently, government could, with a court order, obtain such information when it had a legitimate reason to do so. This was unremarkable.

        Apple has thrown up a barrier to that, and marketed the fact that it has done so, counting on the same sentiment that gave us Trump and Cruz to earn it praise and admiration.

        … which is utterly contemptible.

        1. Doug Ross

          Apple is being less difficult than the government is with FOIA requests. That’s been going on a lot longer. I’ll support Apple being more cooperative as a private entity when the government lives up to the same standards. I have personal experience with FOIA requests that were denied for ludicrous reasons or what could easily be called lies.

Comments are closed.