October 2007

The Granick Slate Card for Tuesday’s election is coming out later tonight, so if you want it without checking back here, make sure you are signed up.  Subscribe to the Slate Card here.

In this week’s Circuit Court column, I write about the legislative battle over changing our communications eavesdropping laws and a related issue of giving telcos immunity for illegally helping the government surveil us. This issue is so important, now that the nominee for Attorney General, Judge Michael Mukasey, says that the President does not have to obey the law if he believes it contradicts his national security responsibilities. Of course, you could argue that the laws are actually less important if the President isn’t even going to follow them. However, if that’s true, lawsuits against telcos may be the only way for the public to find out what our government is actually doing. Read more about one possible future of freedom and privacy here: What’s at Stake in the Surveillance Debate in Congress

Proposed Reporters’ Shield Law Overdue but Underpowered

This week’s Circuit Court column is about the proposed federal reporters’ shield law that just came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. While we need a shield law, this one has a loophole for situations where the leak is criminal or tortious activity, and the loophole may just be too large for this version of a shield to do the trick.

I hope that First Amendment and reporters’ rights groups will be able to address this intelligently before consensus forms around final language for the bill. Its very easy to get caught up in the “you’re protecting criminals” rhetoric, particularly when a lot of business interests have formed a coalition to kill the bill entirely. However, the current version of the bill probably would not protect reporters even in the circumstances which have led Congress to propose this legislation in the first place. Read more here.

If you’ve read “The Paradox of Choice”, then you are familiar with author Barry Schwartz’s argument that trying to maximize outcomes is a recipe for unhappiness, because in today’s option-rich world, there’s always going to be a different option that might be better than the choice you are about to make. Better, Schwartz says, to be a “satisficer” and just find something really good, rather than worry about whether its the best. Unfortunately, Schwartz fuzzes over the neurotic existential core question that drives one to be a maximizer rather than a satisficer. Probably we’d all be satisficers if only for the relief of stopping shopping around, if only I could tell the difference between getting something really good that’s maybe not the best, and worst of all, Settling.

So what does this have to do with Voila, Baby!? My cousin Kimberly Brown has started a business helping expecting and new parents prepare for and supply their offspring. This is a godsend for we maximizers, who want to get the right thing/a good deal/something special but don’t have the time or information to decide between 10 different kinds of strollers or diapers or cribs or all the stuff you need to have, never mind the bells and whistles. Kimberly’s put the family genetic shopping gene plus years of on-the-ground New Jersey training and her investigative journalism instincts to the task of figuring out what all the products do and helping people find the one that works best for their budget, lifestyle, aesthetics, etc. Avoid the dangers of settling and the depressive spiral of maximizing by letting Voila, Baby! figure this stuff out for you. Plus, your boss won’t catch you surfing baby sites while you’re at work.