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Let’s fix Electoral College. It’ll be easy compared to gerrymandering
An op-ed by Lawrence Lessig and Richard Painter
. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer had just described a system in which “if party A wins a majority of votes, party A controls the legislature. That seems fair,” he said. Chief Justice John Roberts then jumped in: “If you need a convenient label for that approach,” Roberts offered, “you can call it ‘proportional representation,’ which has never been accepted as a political principle in the history of this country.” Most Americans would agree with Breyer that in a democracy, it is only “fair” that the party that gets more votes gets more seats. But Roberts was making a narrower point: His claim could not have been — because it would have been absurd — that in our tradition of representative democracy, the winner shouldn’t win.
The New York Times
N.F.L. Players May Have an Ally in Their Protests: Labor Law
As National Football League team owners consider President Trump’s call to fire players who refuse to stand for the national anthem, they have stumbled into one of the most consequential debates in today’s workplace: How far can workers go in banding together to address problems related to their employment? In principle, the answer in the N.F.L. and elsewhere may be: Quite far. To the extent that most people think about the reach of federal labor law, they probably imagine a union context — like organizing workers, or bargaining as a group across the table from management...“Workers without a traditional organization that is meant to protect them at work are kind of scrambling around for new ways of protecting themselves,” said Benjamin Sachs
, a labor law professor at Harvard University.
The EPA Owes Us a Reason for Killing Clean Power Plan
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein
. When a company emits a ton of carbon dioxide, what damage has it caused, exactly? The answer is called the “social cost of carbon,” which may be the most important number that you’ve never heard of. If the number is large, regulation of greenhouse gas emissions will be amply justified. If it is small, not so much. In proposing to scrap the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency recently announced that the social cost of carbon is close to zero. Well, a bit higher than that, but not a lot.
The Harvard Crimson
‘Superstar’ Law Professor Honored with Criminal Justice Professorship
Hundreds of friends, family members, and colleagues of Law School professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr.
celebrated his lifetime of legal work at an event announcing a professorship endowed in his honor earlier this month. Law School professor David B. Wilkins
said the idea of endowing a Law School professorship in Ogletree’s honor came about during a discussion between some of Ogletree’s good friends, including Harvard Corporation members Kenneth I. Chenault and Ted V. Wells...Tomiko Brown-Nagin
, a Law School professor and the current faculty director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute, also emphasized Ogletree's work regarding sexual harassment..."He also helped raise consciousness about the sexual harassment of working women—an enduring issue for women across a range of industries—through his representation of Professor Anita Hill,” Brown Nagin wrote in an email.
The Harvard Gazette
Law School Alumni Call for Improved Loan Assistance
More than 175 Harvard Law School students and alumni penned an open letter to Law School Dean John F. Manning Wednesday asking the school to improve a program meant to provide financial stability to alumni who pursue careers in public service...Kenneth Lafler
, the school’s Assistant Dean for Student Financial Services, wrote in a statement that the school has been in contact with some of the students who signed the letter over the past year to discuss their thoughts about LIPP. He said that many students benefit from the flexibility of Harvard’s program...Alexa Shabecoff
, the school’s Assistant Dean for Public Service, wrote in a statement that LIPP’s growing enrollment numbers proves its popularity. “LIPP's steadily growing enrollment, and the diverse and interesting career paths of those who participate in it, show that the program is supporting its participants,” Shabecoff wrote.
When machines rule, should humans object?
What if the algorithm is racist? As computers shift from being helpmates that tackle the drudgery of dense calculations and data handling to smart machines informing decisions, their potential for bias is increasingly an area of concern...Christopher Griffin
, research director of the Law School’s Access to Justice Lab, described pretrial detention systems that calculate a person’s risk of flight or committing another crime — particularly a violent crime — in making bail recommendations...Jonathan Zittrain
, the George Bemis Professor of International Law and faculty chair of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, which sponsored the event, said the danger of these systems is that the output of even a well-designed algorithm becomes biased when biased data is used as an input.
Judicial ‘Blue Slips’ Give Single Senators Too Much Say
An op-ed by Noah Feldman
. There’s a fight brewing on Capitol Hill over whether to put to rest the “blue slip” custom that allows senators to block judicial nominees who would have jurisdiction over their states. The intraparty fight, between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, poses a serious question that should be decided independent of party: Are the blue slips a good idea? Do they promote moderation in the federal courts, or are they an undemocratic relic of senatorial privilege that should go the way of the dodo?
Do people like government ‘nudges’? Study says: Yes
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein
. On Oct. 9, Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago won the Nobel Prize for his extraordinary, world-transforming work in behavioral economics. In its press release, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences emphasized that Thaler demonstrated how nudging – or influencing people while fully maintaining freedom of choice – “may help people exercise better self-control when saving for a pension, as well in other contexts.” In terms of Thaler’s work on what human beings are actually like, that’s the tip of the iceberg – but it’s a good place to start...Some skeptics have raised concerns that nudging can be akin to manipulation. My research shows most people disagree – and welcome nudges that help them live better lives.