An op-ed by Cass Sunstein: Suppose that a nation, a company or an individual wants to give a lot of money to a university, a nonprofit group or an individual researcher. Suppose that many people think that the potential donor is morally abhorrent, or has done morally abhorrent things. Is it wrong to take the money?
In the old days, when you wanted to borrow a book, you trudged down to your local library and checked it out. Now, if you want an e-book or an audiobook, you can sit on your couch at home, open your library’s app, and download it. Viola! According to the American Library Association (ALA), about one fifth of the books sold in the U.S. are eBooks. Some publishers are worried that the ease of borrowing a digital book from a library is hurting sales and have decided to limit how and when libraries can access digital books. Now, libraries in Massachusetts and nationwide are vowing to fight back. They say the practices are not just unfair and unethical, but they might be illegal. … Einer Elhauge, an antitrust expert at Harvard Law School, has looked into this topic. “Antitrust law is basically competition law. It’s a law that regulates how firms can compete with each other,” he said. “So, it’s similar to a referee in a sports competition.” Elhauge parsed the arguments, and as far as he can tell from all the media reports, libraries would not have an easy time winning this case. The publishers do not seem to be violating the rules. There’s no single publishing house with monopoly power. Publishers are not “meeting in a smoke-filled room and agreeing to do the same thing,” he said.
“Our country has, quite self-consciously, given one person, the President, an enormous sprawling military and enormous discretion to use it in ways that can easily lead to a massive war. That is our system: one person decides,” Jack Goldmith, a Harvard Law professor and Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, writing on Twitter.
A veterans group said the Pentagon has stopped releasing information that helps former service members to contest less-than-honorable discharges from the military. The Defense Department has been breaking the law since April, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Virginia by the National Veterans Legal Services Program. … Dana Montalto, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Veterans Legal Clinic, backed up the lawsuit’s claim that discharge decisions have not been available. … Veterans can lose some or all of the benefits that are available depending on the level of their discharge status. “It would shock many people to learn that veterans are waiting years to get a decision from a review board, during which time they’re often shut out from receiving critical healthcare and support services that they desperately need,” she said.
The EPA’s science advisers say the agency’s proposal to change the way science feeds into rulemaking could politicize the rulemaking process and wasn’t fully thought through, according to a draft report published Dec. 31. The Environmental Protection Agency’s April 2018 Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science (RIN:2080-AA14) proposal, also known as the “secret science” rule, would bar the agency from using scientific research that isn’t or can’t be made public. Blocking the use of that type of research would represent a sharp break from the EPA’s decades-old approach. Critics have said the proposal is a bid to sideline the science that the EPA uses in regulations because the agency wouldn’t be able to rely on epidemiological studies, which often draw on private medical information. “Given the lack of clarity, the proposed rule could be viewed as a license to politicize the scientific evaluation required under the statute,” wrote the Science Advisory Board, a group of outside experts who review the quality of the science the EPA uses in regulations…Joseph Goffman, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School, said, “What’s really interesting is that the report echoes what an absolute legion of commenters from the science community have said about the proposal. There’s something at least in the ballpark of consensus that the proposal is really flawed.”
An article by Charles Fried: Over the last few years, teams of law students from several schools as well as volunteers from a variety of organizations staffed phone banks or traveled to Alabama to help educate people with felony convictions, who had served their terms, about their restored voting rights and to help them register to vote. These volunteers reported that this was one of their most gratifying experiences as students or lawyers. Many of the people they contacted were surprised that their fellow citizens took the effort to reengage them in the political process. But more than that, many of these individuals expressed joy that their right to vote represented to them the full restoration of their citizenship. Perhaps some of these volunteers remembered the line from Hebrews: “Remember those in prison as if you were bound with them, and those who are mistreated as if you were suffering with them.”
President Donald Trump has taken historically unprecedented action to roll back a slew of environmental regulations that protect air, water, land and public health from climate change and fossil fuel pollution. The administration has targeted about 85 environmental rules, according to Harvard Law School’s rollback tracker. Existing environment regulations are meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions, protect land and animals from oil and gas drilling and development, as well as limit pollution and toxic waste runoff into the country’s water. The administration views many of them as onerous to fossil fuel companies and other major industries.
An article by Jack Goldsmith: Depersonalization is a dissociative disorder characterized by a sense of observing one’s self from outside one’s body. Those with the condition often report an experience akin to watching yourself in a movie. My 86-year-old stepfather, Chuckie O’Brien, does not suffer from depersonalization. But for more than half his life, 44 years, he has watched himself portrayed in news articles, books and motion pictures — most recently, in Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” — as someone he is not. The effect on his life has been devastating.
An article by Richard Parker: A while back, a member of Congress compared our supposedly dysfunctional politics to the American Revolution. “It feels,” she said, “like a 1776 kind of fight.” She’s right; it does. Because our politics, too, exemplifies a phenomenon of democratic renewal: a populist uprising. That is, a mobilization of ordinary people — not privileged, not usual political activists — to rebel against an entrenched political establishment. The establishment, in turn, is seen to be an elite, a “political class,” alienated from a critical mass of the people, unresponsive to them because it’s disdainful of them. Behind every populist uprising is elite failure. Such elite failure, in a democracy, tends to metastasize through the body politic. Such an uprising is the proven immunotherapy.
It was early last year and Pete Buttigieg, still a bit player in the Democratic presidential race, was taking questions from the audience after a book event in Philadelphia…a man stood up in the back and made a rather audacious ask: “Would you support a packing of the courts — to expand the Supreme Court by four members?”…Buttigieg offered a surprising reply. “I don’t think we should be laughing at it,” he said. “Because in some ways, it’s no more a shattering of norms than what’s already been done to get the judiciary to where it is today”…The comment turned into a bit of a moment for the then little-known mayor of South Bend, Ind. Lefty Twitter declared itself impressed. The reaction spoke to a growing desire, in some corners of the party, for Democrats to play more of what scholars call “constitutional hardball,” using tactics that are technically legal, but break with decades- and even centuries-old traditions of fair play…Mark Tushnet, A Harvard law professor, coined the phrase “constitutional hardball” in an obscure academic journal in 2004. He says the increasingly aggressive use of the filibuster to block judicial nominations struck him as a noteworthy break from what had come before.