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Robert Hockett
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Posted by Robert Hockett When Bill Clinton's notorious 'It depends on what the meaning of "is" is' became something of a 'meme' in the late 1990s, I was struck by two things. The first was that Clinton was actually being forthcoming in saying this in the context in which he said it; for he went on in the same deposition to explain that on one plausible understanding of 'is' in the question addressed to him, the answer would be x, while on the other plausible understanding the answer would be y. The second thing that struck me during this episode was that everyone's taking Clinton's locution as emblematic of a penchant for dissembling was itself emblematic of something: namely, that Clinton had evidently long since developed - indeed, probably earned - a reputation for dissembling, and that this enabled even his attempts at parsing in good faith to stand in... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2017 at
This unusual little address this morning, by Prince Charles on religious persecution and the plight of refugees, is surprisingly moving. And of course it couldn't be more timely. Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2016 at
Dear Friends, I am delighted to be able to report that our own Eduardo is to return to Cornell Law School this summer to serve as our new Dean. The Law School's announcement is here. Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2014 at
Ari Fleischer has a surprising column in today's Wall Street Journal. His claim is that if we are concerned about poverty and income inequality, then we should focus our efforts on addressing 'the breakdown of the family,' since these two phenomena tend to correlate. I think that Fleischer at best mistakes a case of bidirectional causation for a case of unidirectional causation, and at worst privileges a case of weak causation at the expense of a case of much stronger causation. Either way, the mistake vitiates his policy advice. It is widely observed in the social science literature that people experience much greater difficuly in forming and maintaining stable families when they are in dire poverty. It is also widely observed that 'cultures' of child-bearing outside of stable family structures tend to develop in desperately poor communities. Even apart from the social science literature, many of us hear anecdotally or... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2014 at
At the corner of Wall and William Streets in downtown Manhattan, just up the stairs from the 2 and 3 subway stop, in front of the Cipriani restaurant frequented most nights by glitterati delivered in limousines and welcomed by non-whites in top-hats and tails, next door to where A. Hamilton lived when the new federal government worked in New York, one block from the stock exchange and from Federal Hall where G. Washington first was sworn-in as President, and three blocks from (a) Trinity Church where Secretary Hamilton and his beloved Betsy Schuyler are interred, (b) the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where Wall Street’s banks are supposed to be regulated, (c) T. Jefferson’s erstwhile residence as first Secretary of State, and (d) Zuccotti Park where the ‘Occupiers’ first modeled an ideal community in 2011, there stands a gray metal news kiosk. A bent, weathered old fellow clad in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2013 at
Hi Friends, Early last year, I noted with pleasure some progress underway in connection with a truly 'win-win' mortgage bridge loan statute I'd drafted with a friend and colleague at FRBNY. Today I am pleased to be able to report that the same is now S 5035, under consideration in the New York Senate. Here is hoping it passes in what remains of the current legislative session, for reasons elaborated in brief at the previous link and more fully here. Hope you all are enjoying a truly beautiful weekend like that underway at least here in New Haven today, Bob Cross-Posted at MOJ Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2013 at
Both Patrick's recent post marking the birthday of Malcom X, and Steve's post before it questioning just how 'scandalous' the IRS pseudoscandal really is, invite some reflection on President Obama's reaction to the mentioned pseudoscandal thus far. In my humble opinion, that reaction has been the very contrary of what it ought to be, and this might owe partly to a handicap that many have long suggested the President might labor under. If that perception of handicap does indeed partly explain the President's weak showing right now, I very much hope he will recognize that he has nothing to worry about, then reclaim his spine and resume his hard work for the nation. Let me explain. To begin with, let us refresh ourselves on the backdrop against which the President has recently professed 'outrage' and accepted the resignation of acting commissioner Steven Miller at the IRS. There is so much... Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2013 at
[N]one shall entomb him or mourn but leave him unwept, unsepulchered, a welcome object for the birds, when they spy him, to feast on at will. Many an educated reader - and many an educated lawyer in particular - will have encountered the line I've just quoted, as well as the name I have quoted in the title to this post. These are words spoken by Antigone, apropos an edict prohibiting entombment of her brother, Polynices, in the Attic tragedy that bears her name. Polynices has made war on his own polis, Thebes, and for this reason Creon, the ruler of Thebes, has decreed he is not to be accorded the rites that both sacred and customary law prescribe. The 'luckless corpse of Polynices' is to be left to be eaten by carrion-birds. A resultant clash of contrary obligations - that to obey ruler-posited law on the one hand, that... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2013 at
A few quick reactions to Andreas, Caitlin, and Paul's helpful post: First, it's very heartening to read the good news here - both (a) that so many in San Bernardino County have benefited by monthly payment reductions (mainly attributable to lower interest rates) and (b) that home prices in the County are showing a somewhat more resilient upward trajectory than they have experienced in previous post-bust peak periods. One cannot but hope that this continues, and that other hard-hit counties across the nation experience counterpart treds. Second, the authors' principal claim is incontravertible - the facts that they marshall must indeed figure into any CBA to which the eminent domain plan is subjected. The same holds, of course, in respect of further facts going forward, whether conditions continue to improve, level-off, or turn south again. Finally third, notwithstanding the foregoing, a few cautionary notes bear sounding: 1) First, as documented in my forthcoming Current Issues piece to which Andreas, Caitlin, and Paul's post will ultimately appertain, home prices nation-wide have of course cycled over the years since the bust, and some analysts are predicting that the numbers for the past several months, once available (there's always a lag), will show another significant retreat. Sam Zell is the latest: Time will tell. 2) Next, as quite a few analysts - including some who are not enamored of the eminent domain plan - often observe, principal-reduction is the most effective means of forestalling delinquency, default and foreclosure, even if other stages of the HAMP 'waterfall' - including rate-reduction and term-extension - are of course helpful. That too of course has to be factored in to the CBA. 3) Next, it bears noting that principal-reduction is about more than delinquency-, default-, and foreclosure-prevention, even though it's partly about those. It's also about at least two other related but likewise partly independent things - namely (a) market failure and efficiency, and (b) consumer spending and consequent growth and employment. As to (a), if (i) there are loans locked in PLS trusts whose EVs can actually be raised, through writing down principal, by more than the transaction costs occasioned by buying them out of the trusts and then writing them down, and (ii) only improvident PSAs, drafted when too few anticipated the prospect of market-wide crash, now prevent the write-downs, then (iii) we are currently living with avoidable deadweight loss. To recoup that lost value would be a good thing. The 'if's here can be and are contested, of course; and again, the EV gains would have to exceed the transaction costs to be worth the candle. But there's reason to believe these conditions are met. Finally, as to (b), there seems to be broad - though of course not uncontested - agreement that mortgage debt overhang constitutes a significant drag on consumer spending, rendering macroeconomic recovery that much more difficult. (The 'We Might Be Japan' conjecture.) FRB and FRBNY white papers and policy presentations often note the connection - the wealth effect's possible operation in reverse, so to speak. Insofar as this is the case - and again, I know it's contestible and contested - then principal reduction would seem to be better than interest rate and term refis on this score as well. That too, then, would be well to factor in to the CBA. I hasten to add that I don't take Andreas, Caitlin, Paul and myself to be disagreeing on anything. We're only pointing different things out. In the proverbial 'final' analysis, the cost-benefit analysis will of course run on the basis of empirical data. We all doubtless agree that under different empirical circumstances, the CBA will yield different results - and that we must all accordingly continue the great work that Andreas, Caitlin and Paul here have done in assembling some of those all-important empirics. All best, more soon, and thanks again, Robert
A certain rightwing radio 'personality' with a for-some-reason perpetually wheezy, windbaggy voice and a wide following has apparently undertaken to illuminate for us the true significance of the Martin Luther King holiday as celebrated this year: It is that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees what Americans of African descent should have regarded as one of the most important civil rights of all in the 1950s and 1960s - the right to take up arms. Had they but carried firearms, this personality excitedly suggests, 'they would [not] have needed Selma.' It scarcely needs pointing out that the ironies here simply abound. For one thing, of course, the very reason we celebrate Dr. King, his movement, and their legacy in the way that we do as a nation is that, like the Mahatma whose example he and his followers followed, Dr. King expressly eschewed violent means of attaining political... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2013 at
Dear Friends, I've been a bit buried of late by an initiative about which I had to keep mum for a while, but which now finally can be made public. It involves use of municipal eminent domain authority, financed by private investors, to solve at long last that host of collective action problems which stand in the way of resolving the nation's still dragging underwater mortgage crisis at long last. As use of the term 'collective action problem' suggests, even solutions that literally benefit all - creditor, debtor, and innocent third party alike - are blocked unless we are able to find some duly authorized collective agent able to act in effect on behalf of all parties. I believe that municipalities are the necessary agents, for reasons adduced in a full article explaining and justifying the plan. You can read that full article, and more about the plan, including press,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 12, 2012 at
When I was an undergraduate, a number of what struck me as mutually supporting factors prompted me to convert to 'Popery,' as most of the American Founders, alas, would have called it - and as many, double-alas, would have denounced it. Two of these factors, both of which seemed to me somehow to be particularly deeply connected, were especially compelling. The first such factor was that I seemed always to see humbly dressed folk in faded bluejeans and plaid shirts delivering boxes of donated items to the food & clothing pantry operated by St. John's Catholic Parish in Lawrence, KS, whose parking lot lay across the street from my window. The same humbly dressed folk, still humbly dressed, could then be found at Sunday mass, which I attended a few times as a curious onlooker, then as a guest. I was struck by how, in a sense, these humble yet... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2012 at
The analogy is perhaps a bit strained, but only a bit: That posture which many of us take as bright, shining, miraculous but nevertheless blemished beings at Lent is not altogether unlike that which many non-wealthy folk take as fabulously creative and value-adding, while nevertheless liability-burdened, beings during debt deflations like that which our national economy's experienced since 2008. In both cases, ordinarily vital, bouyant and energetic creatures, freighted with obligations that can never be fully repaid, necessarily hunker down and go quiet for a time. And in both cases, there is something profoundly healthy and natural, rather like inhaling and exhaling - like breathing - in this cycling between inwardness, self-reassessment and pecatum-purging on the one hand, outwardness, self-giving and action-in-the-world on the other. Few if any can put the point better than did Lao-tzu, Heraklitos or, especially, the Ecclesiast: there is indeed 'a time to every purpose/ under... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2012 at
Republican politicians' desires at present appear, on the surface at least, to be incoherent in the way many children's are. On the one hand they would certainly abuse the President were he not pressing upon Iran's nuclear ambitions with sanctions and threats of worse to come. Yet then on the other hand they abuse him when those sanctions have their effect, removing Iranian petroleum from world markets and temporarily driving up global prices. The President, most economists, and other adults seem to realize something that current Republican politicians and very young children do not - namely, that most benefits, including that Republican-defined benefit which is the curtailing of 'rogue' regimes' nuclear ambitions, come at some cost even if sometimes but temporary cost. The sooner that Republican politicians grow up to recognize this, one might hope, the sooner we might address our many national challenges - including longterm budget and tax... Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2012 at
One of the loveliest upshots of that Friday and weekend work with the New York Fed that I mentioned two days ago has been the opportunity that it has afforded to spend time with, get to know, and ultimately join some of the banking and economic policy committees of the OWS movement. (Zuccotti Park is but two blocks from the Fed and my little Wall Street apartment.) In this connection, like very many people across America and the world, I thought Mayor Bloomberg's 'crackdown' on the movement this past November wrong-headed. One upshot of that conviction was this OpEd published in the New York Daily News at the time, a longer rendition of which was posted on Dorf on Law here. It strikes me now that there is an instructive analogy to be drawn between that case and the case of the first rendition of the HHS's mandate - 'Mandate... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2012 at
Here is another post prompted in part by Michael's kindly getting us back to the matter of social justice this week... As some of our readers might know, I moonlight on Fridays and weekends at the New York Fed, an involvement which stems from my academic involvement in monetary and financial law both domestically and globally considered. A large part of that bailiwick, in turn, is occupied these days by attention to the all-important mortgage markets - and, less coldly and bloodlessly, the families that owe mortgage debt in those still troubled markets. In the wake of the bubble and burst that culminated in 2008, as we know, many American families have been left with mortgages that are 'under water.' That is to say that their debts, denominated as they are at fixed rates, have not plummetted as have the variable rates of their market-valued homes. This in turn means... Continue reading
Posted Feb 21, 2012 at
Thank goodness that Michael has now steered us back to the matter of social and economic justice, which one wishes that some of those who have been on about the HHS mandate might also concern themselves with. Quite a bit of what I do in my 'other' life as a scholar of domestic and international economic law is try to figure out ways in which we might improve local and global economic arrangements in manners that might render them more just. And as Michael's post reminds us, one of the principal sources of economic injustice, at least within the 'developed' world, is the way in which trade liberalization has been used to 'undo' many of the gains made by labor, through heroic struggle, in the 'developed' economies over the course of the 20th century. A dilemma presented by trade liberalization to those of us who are concerned about this form... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2012 at
It's the day of rest so I ought perhaps not to be doing this, but I simply cannot bear to see nothing new on our weblog today. What I'd like to do, then, is just quickly to direct such of our readers as might be interested to what seems to me an engaging discussion concerning the two renditions of HHS's recent mandate. The first entry in the discussion is a very arresting and vigorously argued article by Robert George and Sherif Girgis, titled Morals and Mandates ('MM'). This piece provides what might be the most compelling philosophical justification available for continuing skepticism, on the part of the US Catholic Bishops and others, in face of the White House's recent 're-do' of the original HHS mandate. There then follow three interconnected entries by yours truly, each focussed on one question raised in my poor addled brain by MM. The upshot of... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2012 at
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is apparently unsatisfied with the HHS's 'walkback' from the contraception coverage mandate announced Friday. Rick Garnett and Robby George at Mirror have posted a link to a letter that they have composed which explains why. Absent further information on the revised mandate itself, I find it difficult to know what to make of the letter, and hope that someone might supply the necessary information. Here is what I mean: For present purposes, one can envisage two distinct scenarios that the revised HHS mandate might, well, mandate. (If there are alternatives that I ought to be considering, do please somebody let me know.) Per one such scenario, a religiously affiliated employer is required, like all other employers under the ACA, to purchase one health insurance policy covering all of its employees, which policy covers contraceptive pharmaceuticals and devices. The employer is then 'accommodated' (which term... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2012 at
Here is the White House press release on today's 'walkback' on the HHS mandate: . It is gratifying to see that the onus is being placed upon insurers, as Tom Berg at Mirror and I have hoped aloud since Wednesday. Still to be awaited, though, is the guideline concerning how religiously affiliated institutions are to make their employees aware of the continued availability, free of charge, of contraception coverage from their insurers. Stay tuned. Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2012 at
Those readers who have been following the back-and-forth over the HHS mandate in recent days will be interested to learn that the White House plans today to announce a revision, at about 12.15pm EST. More on this news can be read here: . (Incidentally, the observations made in this story about an apparent division within the White House and Democratic Caucus over the original HHS mandate are fascinating, in that it seems that Vice President Biden, Senator Kerry, former Chief of Staff Daley, and quite a few other progressive Democrats warned against the current version, while HHS Secretary Sebelius (herself a progressive Catholic) and others were equally adament in favor. This matter that has so rent the Church since the 1960s, in short, seems to have rent its best known government functionaries as well. Perhaps all the more reason, that, for the government to do its level best to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2012 at
Tom Berg has an encouraging post up at Mirror today which I encourage all to examine: . I think that Tom's notice of an incipient 'walk back' on the part of HHS is provisionally very good news both for the cause of free exercise and association, and for the cause of socio-economic justice consistent therewith. (As Tom notes, when Chris Matthews - and, we might add, E.J. Dionne and countless other similarly situated folk - gasp aloud at the clumsiness of a putatively graceful Democratic President, that President has assuredly mis-stepped.) One possibility under consideration is to adopt a model of exemption similar to one used in Hawaii. This would allow religiously affiliated institutions to refrain from covering objectionable devices or procedures, require insurers to permit employees of such institutions to purchase the excluded coverage on their own at the same pro rata rates, and require the religiously affiliated... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2012 at
Michael Moreland raises an interesting question over at Mirror of Justice today - He implicates, I think, an even more interesting one. Michael references a recent Boston Globe story, to which he helpfully links. The story concerns certain putative discrepencies between Mitt Romney's current campaign trail condemnations of the HHS's recent decision requiring insurance coverage of contraception for employees of religiously affiliated schools and hospitals, on the one hand, and Mr. Romney's own enforcement of a Massachussetts law requiring abortion coverage back in 2005, on the other hand. Michael takes the story for evidence that the Globe is aiming to draw a spurious equivalence between Messrs. Romney and Obama, and in so doing both to 'impugn' Mr. Romney and to 'defend[ ] the Obama Administration's attack on religious freedom in the HHS decision.' I take Michael's story itself for possible - though only possible - evidence of something else. To... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2012 at
Robert George makes an interesting observation this week over at Mirror of Justice: He notes that it is 'Catholic politicians---mostly Democrats---who are leading the charge to abolish the conjugal understanding of marriage as a one-flesh union of sexually complementary spouses and replace it with a revisionist understanding of marriage as a romantic-sexual domestic partnership.' Robby finds that this reveals something significant - namely, that 'the philosophical tradition that shapes the reasoning and actions of these people is expressive individualism, or what is sometimes called "life-style liberalism"; it is not Catholicism, or the Judaeo-Christian ethic, or the natural law tradition. Whatever is to be said for and against that tradition,' Robby continues, 'it is deeply alien (and hostile) to the Catholic tradition's commitments to the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions and the dignity of marriage as a conjugal partnership.' I've a good deal of sympathy with... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2012 at