Today's Blogs

Eavesdrop Kick

Bloggers are split over a ruling against warrantless wiretaps, but they agree that Apple did the right thing in investigating work conditions in its iPod factory in China. Then there’s more michegas over a changing definition of “planet.”

Eavesdrop kick: In another judicial rebuke to the Bush administration, U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled Thursday that warrantless wiretaps violate not just the Fourth Amendment but also a 1978 FISA statute that has made the “warrantless” bit problematic. Civil libertarians are overjoyed, but conservatives hammer the amateurish and hectoring style of the decision, not to mention Taylor’s lefty background.

Veteran New York civil rights litigator Glenn Greenwald at Unclaimed Territory offers a point-by-point summary of the ruling, which he supports but nonetheless finds “not the most scholarly opinion ever. It has argumentative holes in it in several important places. But it is correct in its result and it is an enormous victory for the rule of law.”

Law prof Eugene Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy says that the decision may be justified, but not on constitutional grounds: “[I]t’s possible that the court got the result right – in my view, not on the First and Fourth Arguments, but on the FISA point. Nonetheless, if the court’s FISA analysis is mistaken, then the other arguments (the separation of powers and the inherent power arguments) don’t provide any independent basis for its decision.”

Eric Wise at thinks pragmatism, coupled with the passivity of NSA phone snooping, is what makes the administration’s case: “Because there are tens of thousands of calls a day, it is unfeasible to expect to get warrants to monitor every call, and it is also unfeasible to just delete the ones you aren’t listening to, since they may need to be cross referenced and analyzed some day.  However, I do think that as soon as a flag is raised, they best be getting a judge and warrant involved.”

Legal eagle Ann Althouse has “skimmed” the decision, but so far is unimpressed: “It’s hard to understand why a judge writing an opinion in such a high-profile case, dealing with such difficult law, would not put immense effort into creating an outward appearance of heavy scholarly effort and pristine neutrality. Does the judge lack the competence to do it? Does the judge have a hot feeling of righteousness and outrage about the case and also think it’s good to show it? Perhaps it’s some subtle combination of those two things.”

For some, it’s all about Taylor’s politics and the president who appointed her to the bench. Pamela at Atlas Shrugs fumes: “The devastation of the Carter Presidency seems unending. Yes, we have Jimmuh to thank for a an Islamic Iran but his incompetence has other far reaching ramifications (as if losing the Shah and bungling the 1979 hostage crisis wasn’t enough.)”

Read more about the decision. In Slate, Erwin Chemerinsky says  Judge Taylor made the right call.

How silicon was my valley: After an eyebrow-raising report appeared in June in the Mail on Sunday, Apple launched an internal probe into labor conditions in one of its iPod plants in China. Overall, things looked OK except for a tendency for workers to put in more than 60 hours per week a third of the time, and six-day weeks a quarter of the time.

Travis Hudson at gadget-obsessed Gizmodo comes outon Apple’s side: “The most interesting finding is that the facilities offer dormitories for employees to live in, rent-free, along with recreation facilities, cafeterias, lounges, Internet cafes, a post office, a hospital, a supermarket and even a freaking swimming pool. Sounds like a pretty good place to work, in China at least.”

At Hob’s Blog, technology and business blogger in London Ian Hobson agrees: “No child labour, no enforced working, generally good conditions, and generally happy workers. Excessive hours maybe a problem, though it seems this country of ours took until just a few years ago to adopt a working time directive measure - a law that really was about worker safety and public safety.”

Derek in Ilsan, South Korea, cites Apple’s assurance that a “normal” 60-hour work week would apply from now on and comments: “What, are people praising Apple for being such humanists? I like an iPod as much as the next guy, and Apple makes some pretty good products, but at least call it for what it is…Exploited workers busting their asses so we can save 50 bucks at the checkout counter, while Apple shrugs and blames it on the shareholders.”

Read more about the iPod issue.

Plutocracy: The long debate over whether Pluto constitutes a planet or a Kuiper Belt object was renewed this week after astronomers announced a new standard for determining what’s a planet and what’s a “pluton.” Pluto is in for now. The difference has to do with orbit and gravity, and with which bloggers you consult.

Design and development maven Ian Muir: The Angry Scotsman wants more planets, not fewer: “First of all, the number of bodies that would be considered planets shouldn’t be a factor in the definition. The definition should be based on valid scientific reasoning not logistics. It seems that some scientists are tied to the idea that planethood is some exclusive club that shouldn’t include too many members. I mean, we can’t possibly memorize 53 planets!”

Nice try, says “tgirsch” at Lean Left: “If the IAU membership actually approves this proposed definition, then they’ve essentially said that the opinions of a bunch of third graders are more important than having a coherent, meaningful definition.  And that they’d rather cheapen the standard, counting an asteroid and two additional dead comets as ‘planets,’ than admit that they were wrong to have classified Pluto as a planet in the first place.”

Read more about Pluto’s planetary status. Watch a Colbert Report segment with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson discussing Pluto.