Sunday, February 21, 2010

As with Germs, So with Republicans: Sunlight Will Be the Best Disinfectant

By Robert Hockett

One of the more interesting features of Republican opposition to a variety of salutary proposals made by the Obama Administration and the Democratic Caucus in the Congress, I find, is that so many features of these proposals to which Republicans currently -- and flamboyantly -- object originate with ... well, Republicans themselves.   

A particularly interesting case in point here is that of the "individual mandate" feature of the health insurance reform measures passed in the House and Senate shortly before the winter break.  That is a feature about which Neil, I, and especially Mike here at DoL have written at length both here and elsewhere from a number of angles -- fiscal, financial, and constitutional alike.  What is interesting about the mandate from the angle of vision I am adopting in this post is the fact that it was originally proposed as an alternative by Republicans -- Republicans then opposing early versions of the Clinton health care reform initiative in the early 1990s, some of whom remain in the Congress to this day and now oppose the mandate.  Even more interesting, perhaps, is that the individual mandate has been supported as recently as this past autumn and several years ago, respectively, by such current Republican notables as Charles Grassley and Mitt Romney.  See, e.g.,, and .  (Ironically, President Obama, for his part, opposed the individual mandate idea during the 2008 campaign, and appears to have embraced the idea in order to win more support for health insurance reform from Republican quarters and the insurance industry, as an offset for the additional costs that would be incurred by prohibiting preexisting condition exclusions.) 

Notwithstanding the Republican origins of, and recent prominant Republican support for, the individual mandate, however, it has become the latest putative basis upon which Republicans now predicate their charges of Bolshevism on the part of proponents of "Obamacare."  This curious change of tune -- as if "on a dime" -- naturally prompts an intriguing hypothesis:  Could it be that Republican opposition to Democratic proposals right now are not actually about the perceived substantive merits of the proposals at all, but are in fact about inflicting failure upon the Obama administration and the current Democratic Congress?  Certainly Republican Senator Jim DeMint's infamous "Waterloo" prognostication of this past summer -- -- afforded reason enough to suspect something along these lines even before the latest Republican volte face on the individual mandate.  But another, more recent case strikes me as affording the best case yet for concluding that the Republican Party has decided to throw policy merits entirely to the winds and concern themselves solely with getting the Cossacks into Paris, if I may take up Senator DeMint's Napoleonic simile.

The case to which I refer has to do with a particularly salient public policy concern -- namely, the reform of our regime of financial regulation.  Many DoL readers will recall that, at the end of last month, President Obama announced his support for three new finance-regulatory measures recommended by Republican Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve Chairman now widely viewed, in the wake of Chairman Greenspan's diminished standing, as the last successful occupant of that hallowed office.  It will be helpful first briefly to recapitulate those three proposals and preempt possible confusions about them.  Then I will report on the most recent Republican reactions to them and to the other most widely reported proposal for finance regulatory reform -- the establishment of a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency.      

With respect to the first proposal, which would place limitations upon commercial banks' proprietary trading activities, there is a widespread misperception that the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall's imposed "wall of separation" between commerical and investment banks was meant to permit commercial banks with federally insured deposits of ordinary folks' money to speculate in the financial markets with that money in the manner that investment banks do. But this is not so. What changed in 1999 was simply that federally insured commercial banks could now affiliate with -- i.e., could be owned by the same parent company as -- investment banks, on the understanding that the commercial banks themselves would continue to operate and be regulated as before. But this distinction itself has been steadily eviscerated by bank and bank holding company practices in recent years, and so President Obama and Former Fed Chairman Volker are best seen as taking the 1999 legislation at its word rather than as aiming to repeal it.  That legislation -- Gramm Leach Bliley -- liberalized financial regulation, but did not end it.  The Volcker-Obama plan is accordingly best viewed as, if anything, insufficiently ambitious -- too "conservative" -- in character, rather than as aimed at going back to the "over-regulatory 1990s."  (I know.  I share your temptation to guffaw.)

With respect to the second proposal, which was that the law take account of more forms of liability than deposits alone in determining bank market share, this too should have been viewed as a welcome response on the part of the regulatory regime to changes in the banking market. When we liberalized interstate banking and branching in the mid-1990s, we recognized the danger of excessive market concentration that this posed -- a danger that threatened consumers with oligopoly and the financial system with moral hazard rooted in bank growth to sizes thought too big to allow to fail. We responded to that danger at the time by prohibiting any bank from acquiring more than a 10% market share in deposits -- which was huge already. What has changed since then is that banks take on more forms of liability -- that is, they borrow from more sources -- than those owed to depositors alone. And the 10% market share limits applied to deposits have not been extended to these deposit-substitutes. The consequence is growth up to "too big to fail" size behind the scenes, so to speak. Finance-regulatory innovation must keep up with financial innovation, and this is precisely what the President's proposal would do.  Please keep this one especially in mind when I turn to the current Republican reaction.

Finally, with respect to the third proposal of last month, that financial institutions be required to disclose all of their contingent liability exposures -- i.e., all of their financial derivative transactions -- just as they already are required to disclose all of their non-contingent liabilities, this too has been long, long overdue. Consumers and other participants in the financial economy, not to mention risk regulators, cannot rationally assess the value of prospective transactions with financial institutions -- including the reliability of investments in or through such institutions -- or the degrees or loci of systemic risk in the financial system if they know what such institutions already owe and are owed, but not what they might come to owe or be owed by virtue of contracual commitments. And the same reasons that prompt us to require disclosure of the first kind of information argue for requiring disclosure of the second kind.  While there might -- might -- have been some reason to let the derivatives markets develop undisturbed in the late 1990s as they were just beginning to burgeon, there was never any reason to equate "undisturbed" to "unmonitored."  And there is in any event no rationale what ever for permitting financial insitutions to keep hiding that form of information today --  now that contingent liabilities of this kind have come to dwarf certain liabilities in notional value.

All three of these proposals are aimed directly at features of the financial and regulatory environment publicly suggested by Democrats and Republicans alike to have played important roles in the financial earthquake of 2008 and the need at the time to afford massive "bailouts" in order to prevent full scale economic calamity.  And all three, again, originate with the universally respected Republican Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board during most of President Reagan's time in office, the man who broke the back of the stagflation of the 1970s -- Paul Volcker.  Recall a fourth proposal still on the cards -- the instituting of a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency charged with preventing abusive financial marketing practices associated with excessive subprime mortgage lending in the years leading up to 2008, long proposed by Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren -- and you have in view a nice package of sensible finance-regulatory reforms that, at worst, fail to go far enough in reforming financial practice.  (As I have argued here before and elsewhere, I don't think we'll avoid future crises absent a serious Fed commitment to return to the avowedly countercyclical role that it played during the tenure of William McChesney Martin, but I won't bang that drum again in this post.)   

Now consider what Republican "strategists" are doing in response to the modest proposals of Warren, Volcker, and Obama nearly as quickly as they have been offered:  Earlier this month, Republican strategist Frank Luntz issued a 17-page memo titled "The Language of Financial Reform."  (More on it here: )  The language of the memo's title itself is telling:  For one thing, it replicates that of an earlier memo that Luntz supplied Repuclicans as the health insurance reform debate began in earnest:  That one was titled "The Language of Health Care."  (You'll find it here: )  For another thing, it makes plain from the get-go that Republicans are to concern themselves, not with financial reform, or the merits of various competing proposals for fianancial reform (the Republicans thus far have not proposed any), but with the way in which proposals are couched. 
More specifically, Republicans are advised to "frame the final product as filled with bank bailouts, lobbyist loopholes, and additional layers of complicated government bureaucracy."  They also are encouraged to play up a policy line pursuant to which "the bad decisions and harmful policies by Washington bureaucrats that in many ways led to the economic crash must never be repeated."  The "bad decisions and harmful policies" are not specified, and most of us would presumably think the allusions made by such language to be to Bush era policies, but in Luntz's and other Republicans' world right now, "Bush" has become "Washington," and "Washington" is readily pinned, Pavlov-style, on Democrats now that they "control" Congress and the White House.  
If you're already finding this chilling, please wait, there's more:  In a particularly candid moment, Luntz goes so far as to say, "[p]ublic outrage about the bailout of banks and Wall Street is a simmering time bomb set to go off on Election Day ... Frankly, the single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the Big Bank Bailout."  And that, thus far, is about all we are seeing from Republicans when it comes to repairing the system of financial regulation under which our recent woes developed, festered, and erupted.  The plan is simply to establish Pavlovian associations between reform proposals on the one hand, and the very harms against which those proposals are directed on the other.  The second of the proposals described above, after all, is targeted among other things at bank size.  And the first and third of the proposals are of course aimed precisely at putting an end to wrong-headed anti-regulatory policies embraced at the turn of the millenium just as real estate and associated financial markets were overheating. 
Which takes us back to our theme.  Surely it ought to be clear by now that there is little if any reason to suppose the Republican Party at present to be interested in the merits of any legislation proposed by the Obama Administration or the Democratic Caucus in Congress.  And there is every reason to suggest that the Republicans' sole interest in any such proposal now is how best to bring it to pass that a substantial number of Americans unthinkingly associate it with something unpleasant -- and something unpleasant that, in all likelihood, was actually brought to us by the Republicans themselves as recently as a bit over a year ago.
What is the remedy for this kind of thing?  Surely we need not tell the White House or the Democratic Caucus:  It is to expose it.  It is to expose it relentlessly -- to repeat and repeat the facts and the larger story that those facts embody, with the same, if not more, determination that the Republicans exhibit in relentlessly propagating their intentional falsehoods (yes, we know the briefer term for "intentional falsehoods").  There seems no reason, so far as I can tell, to do otherwise.  If anything, the White House and the Democratic caucus are under a duty to all of us to bring the digusting truth here into the full light of day, before today's Republican Party succeeds in doing what the Republican Party through 2008 nearly succeeded in doing -- bringing the country to complete financial and political ruin. 
One of our nation's most distinguished and, these days, lamentably underappreciated jurists -- a lawyer who was also a prophet of financial regulation whose advice, had it been taken, might have forestalled the financial frenzy of the 1920s -- bequeathed us a very nice slogan that seems to me to bear repeating here, not only in connection with finance, but also with the political process.  I'm referring of course to Louis D. Brandeis, who memorably observed in his classic tract, Other People's Money and How the Bankers Use It, that "sunlight is the best disinfectant."  I humbly suggest that President Obama and the Democrats in Congress begin seriously shining the light on the source of our present public policy debates' shared toxicity: that is the fact that there actually seems to be only one party to these debates, while the other party is engaged in nothing less than a concerted effort at mass-psychological manipulation in order that it might regain power and resume business as pre-2009 usual. 


Michael C. Dorf said...

Elegantly argued, Bob. I don't disagree in the main. From the Repub perspective, obstruction on financial reform is win-win-win: 1) Linking any reform with the hated bailout is bad for Dems; 2) Preventing Dems from enacting legislation is bad for Dems; and 3) Preventing this particular package of legislation serves the interests of the bank boardroom types who have reverted to their traditional support for Repubs.

That all said, and with full awareness of the cynicism of the strategy, I wonder whether it does not contain a germ of sincerity. Much of the political right appears to believe that the main cause of the financial crisis was government interference with the natural workings of the market, partly by their former hero Alan Greenspan in keeping interest rates artificially low, and partly by Freddie and Fannie in promoting loans to irresponsible borrowers (even though that was not a significant source of the subprime business). Thus, when right-wingers say that the proposed financial reforms are simply more of the same, some of them may mean simply more govt interference by govt in the market.

I do not intend any of the foregoing as a defense of the Republican strategy, lest there be any doubt on that score.

Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

Yes, elegantly argued and then some!

As to Mike's point, it would seem to assume that the Republicans as a whole are dyed-in-the-wool libertarians yet most of them have not been, despite the hyperbolic rhetoric. In other words, at least until now, Ron Paul has not been representative of the party but on its fringe. Of course that may be changing, but as Jack Balkin argued not long ago at his blog,

"Small government conservatism is an excellent slogan, but it corresponds neither to contemporary realities nor to the actual policies of either party. None of the Republican presidents since the New Deal have really limited the size of government; all have presided over its increase, and in some cases (Nixon and Bush), the growth of government has been quite remarkable. [....]

Despite the Republican rhetoric of small government, the actual Republican political hegemony of the past three decades has not really been directed to reducing the size of government. Rather, it has been about lowering taxes, especially taxes for large businesses, limiting government regulatory oversight, especially for large businesses, and increasing subsidies and government expenditures on subjects that Republicans have sought to subsidize, including, among other things, various business interests and the defense industries.

The Nixon Administration consolidated and expanded the Welfare State; the Reagan Administration ran enormous deficits; and the George W. Bush Administration converted a federal surplus into enormous deficits while creating new bureaucracies in education, health care, and Homeland Security and helping to construct the national surveillance state. While it was doing all this, it also expended about a trillion dollars on an ill-advised war in Iraq. Ironically, its particularly poor stewardship of big government has created an emergency that will probably lead to even more government.

You might think that an anti-tax and anti-regulatory philosophy necessarily means smaller government. But it does not, and indeed, the Bush Administration has shown us how to grow government while simultaneously reducing taxes and crippling regulatory oversight."

So, the Republicans may trade on the crass ideological rhetoric of what Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel have called "everyday libertarianism," but the party as a whole cannot make a claim to even a "germ of sincerity" when it argues "that the proposed financial reforms are simply more of the same...[meaning], simply more government interference by government in the market."

At best, the party is engaged in collective self-self deception and self-denial. Republicans are rehtorically fond of libertarian bromides, platitudes and nostrums, but they cannot be said to be truly committed to either a "small government" or a "free marketplace," given their historically enthusiastic support for the National Security State and their long-standing inteference in the marketplace on behalf of transnational corporations and moneyed interests generally over and above public interests and the common good.

egarber said...

Hi Bob,

I think one reason these tactics seem to be working on some level is that Obama hasn't had what I call his Clinton "public trust" moment.

Here, I'm referring to the government shutdown during the mid-90's. Public sentiment was clearly on Clinton's side during that ordeal, and essentially from that moment on, the largely-held view was that Clinton had the people in mind, while Republicans were basically on an obstructionist witch-hunt. For all the talk of Clinton having learned that he needed to work with Republicans after 94, in truth I think it's as much if not more the other way: Republicans saw that the public was with the president after the shutdown, and the only viable option was to work with him.

For whatever reason, Obama hasn't had that moment, despite his clear ability to communicate. It might just be that the environment is simply too toxic for it, but I'm not so sure. I'm wondering if the healthcare summit will propel him in this way. Few of us believe Republicans will actually support anything Obama desires on the topic, but maybe this can be a tipping point to win over the American people -- i.e., the point where the default mindset among typical people becomes the conclusion that Republicans are only acting out of politics.

Patrick S. O'Donnell said...

Lest my reference to the "common good" above be construed as the Liberal or Left equivalent of seductive sloganeering on the Right, I would ask the indulgent or interested reader to have a look at Marcus Raskin's The Common Good: Its Politics, Policies and Philosophy (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986) (a book unfairly neglected when it was published owing in part I suspect to the temper of the time in this country). Raskin's discussion more or less captures what I mean by this term.

Bob Hockett said...

Thanks very much, Gents.

Great points as ever, Mike. I'm also with you on the prospect that there might be a germ (nice!) of something reminiscent of sincerity on the part of some -- albeit few -- Republican opponents of finance regulatory reform.

The reason I say 'something reminiscent of sincerity,' though, is that my guess would be that Patrick's explanation for what ever passes for that is likely the best one -- namely, 'collective self-deception' at best. I think that most human beings, if not indeed most cognitively sophisticated species, face strong internal pressures to be able to view as permissible that which they desire in any event -- there is a deep-rooted need to 'rationalize.' And doubtless some Republicans, like most of us, follow that course. I'm a little reluctant to call this full sincerity, however, because I believe strongly in the lawyerly idea that there are duties to inquire and think and self-scrutinize carefully which, when not acted upon, underwrite justifiable attributions of negligence. And so I think that most Republicans right now are in effect intentional tort-feasors or criminals, while a few are instead tortiously or criminally negligent, so to speak.

Egarber, thanks so much for your thoughts here too. I think you're spot on about that 'public trust' moment. And like you, I'm somewhat hopeful that the coming health care summit will serve as at least the beginning of such a moment. The moment might be more fully forthcoming, I think, were the Democratic Caucus and the President to force Republicans in the Senate actually to filibuster, in order that the general public might be afforded the chance to see what they're actually about. My guess is that this would be a full equivalent to the government shutdown of the early-mid-90s. Combine it with a vociferous campaign asking why the Republicans oppose majority rule -- i.e., democracy, of the kind we argue that other nations ought to have -- and you might have the makings of a *Republican* Waterloo.

All best and thanks again,

egarber said...

Combine it with a vociferous campaign asking why the Republicans oppose majority rule -- i.e., democracy, of the kind we argue that other nations ought to have -- and you might have the makings of a *Republican* Waterloo.

As a tangent on this point, I thought E.J. Dionne made an interesting structural observation on yesterday's Meet the Press. Here's the transcript:

MR. E.J. DIONNE: You know, I thought it was very revealing this weekend that in that CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Poll, who won. It was Ron Paul, the Libertarian, with 31 percent. By the way, Mike Pence and Tim Pawlenty were very close to Sarah Palin, so they deserve as much TV time as Sarah Palin gets. But, you know, this is--the--Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff of the president, likes to say, "The small government wing of the Republican Party is shrinking and the no-government wing of the Republican Party is growing." You do not have a Republican Party anymore that had moderates in it willing to work with Democrats. Now, that's OK if that's their position. It's a more conservative party.

What we've got now is a parliamentary system without the structure of parliamentary government. In parliamentary systems the majority passes things, the opposition opposes, then there's an election and people decide. Our--the kind of politics we have doesn't match the structure we have, and we got to bring the two together or else we're going to continue to have gridlock, as you heard these two gentlemen. They did agree, fundamentally. That's what's happening.

michael a. livingston said...

As a Jew I am somewhat uncomfortable with "disinfectant" analogies as applied to political problems, but I am sure this is not what you meant

Bob Hockett said...

Thanks for the E.J. Dionne cite, Egarber -- he's been great on all this, I find. Michael L, point well taken, and apologies -- I felt a little bit queasy myself and even thought about changing the title to "As with Germs *and Finance*, ...," or even, "Even Beyond Finance and Sanitation, ..." But you're right about my intentions, and perhaps some comfort is afforded as well by the fact that Louis Brandeis is the source of the simile. (The actual quote is, "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the best policeman." It's come to be more popularly paraphrased, in finance-regulatory contexts, in the way I did in the post.)

All best,

Josh83 said...

"And so I think that most Republicans right now are in effect intentional tort-feasors or criminals, while a few are instead tortiously or criminally negligent, so to speak."

No one would object to such a rant from a truck driver or a high school janitor . . .but from a law school professor? Jeepers. The credibility of anyone making such a foolish statement automatically drops to zero.

I know facts are of little importance here, but all the Volcker love is astonishing to anyone familiar with the internal workings of the Federal Reserve Board from 1981 to 1985, a period in which Volcker repeatedly attempted--ultimately without success, in large part due to pressure from influential regional Fed members in Dallas, Kansas City and elsewhere--to thwart the Reagan administration's economic policies.

Bob Hockett said...

Ah, the return of Josh83. Thank you for your thoughts. A few corrections: (1) The lines you quote are not meant as a rant, but as an analogy. I wouldn't object to a real rant, however, in response to the Republican Caucus's apparent indifference to the fate of the nation, as evidenced by their affording it less importance than their own electoral prospects. (2) There is no 'Volcker love' expressed here, only the observation that this Republican's modest regulatory proposals should be faulted at most for being too modest, not for being too ambitious as the Republican Caucus is planning, with yet more of its characteristic indifferene to truth, to characterize them. And finally (3) your crediting Volcker with attempting to thwart Reagan era economic policies, which transformed the US for the first time post WWII from the world's largest creditor to the world's largest debtor nation, is certainly crediting him with something that might warrant 'Volcker love.' I'll save my own love, however, for people qua people rather than people qua political or economic figures. Thanks again, R.

Josh83 said...

Professor Hockett, your points one and two—“the Republican Caucus's apparent indifference to the fate of the nation” and “the Republican Caucus . . .with yet more of its characteristic indifference to truth”—are simply more rodomontade, additional reflections of unbecoming zealotry. Such words hardly represent temperate or reasoned political thought or discourse, as Professor Dorf very gently tried to point out to you in his first comment.

One of the purposes of high-school civics courses is to rid students of the unsophisticated notion that one major political party is inherently evil and the other major political party is in possession of all the answers. It is, accordingly, rather jarring to encounter that type of piffle in a blog post written by a law professor, even at Cornell.

With reference to your third point, the thrust of Reagan’s economic policy was to slow the growth of the government sector and to hasten the growth of the private sector. As you surely know, the creation of current account deficits was quite deliberate—it was believed necessary in order to increase defense spending and in order to discourage the undisciplined spending habits of a Democrat House Of Representatives. The operating assumption in the early 1980’s was that a private economy growing faster than current account deficits would inevitably result in higher tax receipts and a budget surplus in the next decade—which is precisely what happened.

Drew80 said...

Hockett, you have twice claimed, inaccurately, that Paul Volcker is a Republican.

As everyone knows (except, apparently, you), Volcker has been a registered (and very loyal) Democrat throughout his years of public service.

Bob Hockett said...

Thanks for your further thoughts, Josh83, and thanks for your intervention, Drew80.

Josh83, it's nifty that you know that the word 'rodomontade' can serve as a partial substitute for the word 'rant,' which I corrected you on yesterday, but I assure you that the remarks you quote here are no more ranting, rodomontade, or 'zealous' than were those you quoted yesterday. They are factual assertions that are amply supported by the evidence, with which you are of course free to disagree if you can plausibly interpret the evidence differently than I do. One way that you might begin to attempt to discharge that task would be to address the observations made in the post itself concerning current Republican 'strategizing' about how best to manipulate the general public into assimilating bailout-ending financial reregulation with unpopular bailouts themselves. You might also bear in mind that there is much, much more evidence that can be adduced.

On your further remarks concerning Reagan-era economic policy, we're all well aware of what those policies were meant to do. The charitable account is that the administration believed in the wisdom of the Laffer curve. But of course most of Reagan's economic team either never believed in that putative wisdom, or quickly abandoned it; and with good reason. The budget surpluses that were realized 'in the next decade,' as you put it, were realized at the end of that decade, nearly 20 years after Reagan took office, and are widely attributed to Clinton/Bentsen/Rubin policies, not Reagan or Bush policies. Indeed, between Reagan's taking office and Clinton's taking office, we enjoyed the economic miracles of the 1987 stock market crash, the deregulation-facilitated and public fisc-draining S&L debacle, and a commercial real estate bubble and burst.

The less charitable interpretation of the Reagan-era economic policies' motivations is that they were rather like those that still activate the state-hating Grover Norquist to this day. Not good company to keep.

Drew80, you are right that Volcker has been registered as a democrat, but so, of course, were such Reagan-appointed public servants as Jeane Kirkpatrick and William Bennett. Please read, then, my short-form predicate, 'Republican,' applied to Paul Volcker, as abbreviating the longer-form predicate, 'oft-Republican-appointee.' Why? Because Volcker first came to prominance when he joined the Nixon Treasury Dept in 1969 and served as the architect of Nixon's decision to leave the Bretton Woods I system in the early '70s. (He had done a brief stint as a lower level official in the Kennedy Treasury in 1962 before returning to the private sector until the first Nixon administration.) He then became Chair of the New York Fed under President Ford in 1975. Then, while first appointeed to his Chairmanship of the Fed Board during the late Carter era in the face of alarming consumer price inflation in August, 1979, he was reappointed by President Reagan in 1983. It is perhaps for reasons such as these that Republicans were widely surprised by Volcker's -- like Colin Powell's -- endorsement of Barak Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. You're free to consider Volcker a Democrat on the basis of his past registration if you like, but you'll want to bear in mind then that on that basis you'll have to call William Bennett, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and other such fold Democrats too.

Drew80 said...

Thanks, Hockett, for the tortured casuistry on “Volcker The Republican”—heavily reliant upon Wikipedia, no less!

I love it!

Bob Hockett said...

Glad you like it, Drew80. Google yes, Wikipedia not so much. You can verify the information at a multiplicity of sources, including the Fed's own website. Cheers, RH

Drew80 said...

Hockett, it was I, not you, that already knew that Volcker was a life-long Democrat--and it was you, not I, that needed to check your facts.

Josh83 said...

Professor Hockett, your three statements I quoted back to you are statements no educated, reasonable, grounded person would ever offer. Even polemicists would shun such unsophisticated sentiments.

You subject yourself to satire.

Bob Hockett said...

Well, Drew80 and Josh83, we seem to be where we were back in September. Thanks for your helpful observations. Happy travels, RH

Josh83 said...

Professor Hockett, I have never commented upon any of your posts before, and I don't believe Andrew has, either, since Andrew does not read this blog.

I have only previously commented upon one post here, and that post was not yours. I do not even remember the post I previously commented upon, but many months ago I encountered some particularly blatant bit of foolishness here that could not go unchallenged.

Andrew does not even read "Dorf On Law" unless I point out something interesting to him--and it was Andrew who instantly caught your Volcker blunder--and I only check in here once a month or so, if that. I like reading Professor Dorf's discussions of recent legal decisions--and I agree with him more often than not.

In fact, I would never comment here at all--except twice I came upon dumbfounding statements, such as yours this week, and felt compelled to call the writer out since no other commenter was prepared to do so.

Bob Hockett said...

Thanks again, Josh83,

Perhaps we had a different Drew80 and Josh83 here in September. Those two gents graced us with:

First:, in which somebody named 'Drew80' helpfully leveled the now Drew80- and Josh83-familiar charges of 'hardly worthy of a law professor,' 'zealotry,' 'absurd foolishness,' and so forth at the poster.

And second:, at which people named 'Drew80' and 'Josh83' level the Drew80- and Josh83-familiar charges of ... yep... 'hard to believe ... written by a law professor,' 'gibberish,' 'zealot,' 'you are ... controversial at Cornell,' 'exposing idiocy,' 'obtuse,' etc.

Also characteristic of those posts and the back-and-forth they occasioned, as of back-and-forth occasioned by the 'Josh83' and 'Drew80' posts here, are repeated requests that Josh83 and Drew80 address the substance of the claims to which they object, and offer verifiable substantive claims in opposition to those claims, rather than simply consulting their thesauri in search of new synonyms for the three or four nouns and adjectives of opprobrium that appear regularly to come first to their minds.

You're both of course free to hang your hats on the amusing and uninteresting claim that Volcker is 'a lifelong Democrat' because historically registered as such, notwithstanding his repeated prominant roles in and appointments by Republican presidential administrations ever since 1969, if you wish. That is so just as you (or who ever it was who employed your names) both were free in September conclusorily to label polls to which you objected 'push polls' rather than identifying the features that you took to warrant the label. But it would be very lovely, and rather more helpful, were you to address the substance of the original posts and/or the substantive comments occasioned thereby. In the present instance, those were, you might recall, (1) that the provisions of health insurance reform to which obstructionist Republicans now most prominently object are provisions originally proposed by those Republicans themselves, (2) that three of the four proposals for finance-regulatory reform recently signed-on-to by the President have long been advocated by one of the Republicans' own (in the sense already elaborated -- to wit, by a regular member of or appointee of Republican administrations since 1969), (3) that that all four of the mentioned proposals are sensible and, if faultable, faultable only for being too conservative, (4) that the Republican obstructionists are now planning a Pavlovian campaign against them identical to that waged against health insurance reform, with no care what ever for the merits, and finally (5) that it therefore seems fair provisionally to conclude that the Republican party has decided to place its electoral prospects ahead of any serious concern for the physical or financial health of the nation. It would be reassuring to be given good reason to suppose any of this false. I'm certainly not happy about it, nor am I particularly concerned to help out the Dems, as in my humble estimation most of them are only marginally preferable to most Republicans these days. (In this latter connection, see Neil's terrific post on corruption of last week.)

I await your responses to the just-mentioned substance just as I continue to await your responses to my requests in September that you state what it is you object to in the polling data that you dismissed then without explanation.

Thanks again for patiently enduring my repeated requests.

All best,

Josh83 said...

Professor Hockett, you very well may be right—if I entered comments on “Dorf On Law” twice last year, then I entered comments on “Dorf On Law” twice last year. The record will speak for itself. (And Andrew will have to speak for himself!)

Truthfully, I only recall the single previous occasion, and I apologize for any error. However, as I mentioned, I don’t spend much time here. This website may be of importance to you, but it is not of importance to me.

At least I cannot be accused, I hope, of being a frequent commenter here!

I fully realize that “Dorf On Law” is a blog devoted to the Far Left, and that participants are, more or less, expected to be a closed set, interested in the exchange of Far Left views. I respect that.

I shall not comment here in future. I see that my comments upset you greatly, which has never been my intent (you are, after all, still arguing that Paul Volcker is a Republican). I must have caused anguish for you to believe it necessary to spend so much time writing comments, repeating the same things over and over. Your nose needs to be tweaked, Professor Hockett, but I do not want to become the source of actual distress.

Last year, there was some particularly unintelligent commenter here, an anonymous commenter with a nonpublic blogger profile, who kept arguing, relentlessly, the validity of public opinion polls on the issue of health care reform, insistently citing the application of out-of-date polls that were clearly inapt. Like you, he made the same tiresome circular arguments, over and over, without end. I believe he was unhinged.

The anonymous commenter, who obviously comprehended nothing of polling or polling techniques or polling methodologies (and who was hampered by the fact that he could express himself neither well nor in an even-tempered manner), was invited, even urged, to visit the websites of the main polling organizations in order to examine polling results for himself.

Naturally, there is nothing one can do about people like that—dealing with them is, as Andrew jokes, like trying to explain the concept of Algebra to the family dog: one may devote one’s life to the project, with the greatest of energy, commitment and flair, fully knowing, at the outset, that the project is destined to end in failure.

Bob Hockett said...

Many thanks for your kind apologies, Josh83, and for your expression of concern. I promise, however, that there's been no 'upset' and no 'anguish' at this end, so please, no worries. Nor, incidentally, has the 'conversation' required much time. I actually enjoy this, and it takes little time to bang these things out. (How long does it take you?) It's only a weblog, after all. Please note also that there's no expectation that all who comment here come from the same political orientation. (And if you think us 'far left' at this end, I recommend that you get out a bit more.) I'm simply expressing a hope that, in addition to offering us the equivalent of a 'page a day' new insult-synonym calendar (which affords us a very nice bit of 'continuing ed'), you might also occasionally address the arguments themselves. That would have been nice back in September, in reply to the 'anonymous' commenter named 'Robert' (is 'Robert' more anonymous than 'Josh83'?), as well. Robert seems simply to have cited a larger number, and fuller-spectrum ideological sample, in response to a smaller sample of solely rightwing polls made by you and your friend, and still awaits the bill of particulars that might justify your conclusory discounting of those other polls -- or your conclusory approval of the smaller number of polls to which you appeal. Happy travels, Robert.

Drew80 said...

I must say, Hockett, it is not often one encounters the extraordinary absence of omniscience you display.

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