Private Investigation

     I can understand arguments on both sides of the FBI v. Apple spat over access to a terrorist’s cell phone.
     Here’s what I can’t understand: Why isn’t the FBI sneakier?
     If the government gets its way and can hack into anyone’s phone, what happens?
     Are we more secure?
     Or do rational terrorists – is that a contradiction in terms? – just stop using the phones because they’re not secure?
     If you’re going to be Big Brother, you have to be subtle. The NSA surely got better stuff before Edward Snowden blew that whistle.
     What the FBI should have done was announce that it got into the cell phone and got some juicy but now-classified information.
     Suddenly, terrorists can no longer trust cell phones and we’re all a little safer.
     But what if there’s something deeper going on here? What if the government and Apple are in cahoots?
     Think about it.
     The feds claim they can’t hack an iPhone. Apple publicly refuses to solve the problem for them.
     So everyone – including heinous criminals – thinks their phones are safe and no one hides them.
     That’s when Apple and the FBI swoop in and get all the phone data that the bad guys thought was safe.
     It’s genius and diabolical.
     I think that may be happening, but if it’s not, there’s another interesting issue here: Can the government order just anyone to do stuff it can’t do?
     There’s a lot the government can’t do, so this could solve a lot of problems.
     For example, the government is terrible at raising enough money to pay its bills. If we could order some professional fund raisers to take over the budget – maybe the inventors of Kickstarter and some Silicon Valley venture capitalists – we’d have a surplus in no time.
     There’s a lot of expertise in this nation. Why not put it to good use for all of us?
     By the way, if you think this is unlikely, check out a press release issued last week by something called The App Association. The group’s executive director claims the FBI-Apple dispute is “about thousands of insecure GovApps that the government will force app companies to create in the future.”
     Thousands!
     Your Candy Crush scores will no longer be safe.
     
     Budget Boost: Illinois has accidentally come up with a great way to balance the budget: Assess late fees on people who had no idea they were late.
     It seems the state stopped sending out license plate renewal notices, then remembered to fine people who didn’t pay for renewals. According to the Chicago Tribune, Illinois came up with an extra $1.2 million that way.
     It’s raising taxes without raising taxes. What politician won’t love that?
     I’ve seen a similar concept at work on toll roads in Southern California. You drive by signs that say you’ve got to go onto the Internet later to pay your toll.
     That’s really easy to forget. I know – I’ve paid for it. And there’s a big penalty for not paying in time.
     The key is subtlety. Legislators must devise fees that seem reasonable but are easy to overlook.
     An admission fee on state and national parks that you don’t have to pay right away might be a good start. Just set up cameras at the entrance and mail out the bills a couple of months later.
     Budget problem solved.
     
     State Rights or Wrongs?
     This is just a wild guess, but I think there’s a good chance that the majority of state legislators in Alabama favor states’ rights.
     You know, local control.
     Unless it’s too local.
     In case you missed it, the Alabama Legislature last week voted to bar cities in the state from raising the minimum wage. This voided a Birmingham ordinance that did that.
     So local control is good unless it does something you don’t like. Then non-local control is better.
     It’s nice to know that politicians can be flexible.

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