Monday, January 30, 2017

Upcoming Conference at Vanderbilt: Sovereign Conduct on the Margins of the Law, a Symposium

Issues surrounding sovereignty have received increasing attention over the last few years, most recently in Congress’s decision regarding Saudi Arabian immunity. The Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law is hosting four panels that will explore the various facets of these issues, such as: the involvement of sovereigns in cyber-crime; terrorism financing, the immunity aspects of state owned enterprises; and the problems surrounding sovereign debt crises. Participants in these panels will include practitioners and academics with expertise in each of these topics. This symposium will be held at the Vanderbilt Law School on Friday February 17, 2017 with CLE registration starting at 7:30.

The description of Conference panels and panelists follows. In a later post I will provide a summary of the proceedings.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Socialist Regional and Bilateral Relations With Cuban Characteristics and its Resonance with Emerging U.S. Approaches to Trade and Politics

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

Cuba made the news recently when if offered to pay back a small Cold War era obligation it owed to the Czech Republic not in cash but in kind. More specifically, Cuba sought to repay a roughly £222m debt by an equivalent value amount of its high shelf Rum--Havana Club.

The discussion in the Western press is dismissive. A typical example follows: Cuba offers to pay back £222m of Cold War-era debt to the Czech Republic in rum. Others may be found here, here, and here. Yet there is more to this story than meets the eye. And indeed, the effort by the Cubans serves as an expression of a well developed set of principles of regional and bilateral trade that Cuba has developed since the start of the 21st Century. Those principles include state to state bargains, sometimes of uneven value and marked by non-market based transactions that are meant to foster development of each of the participating states. These forms of transactions can be grounded in barter transactions that serve a development objective. And as the administration of the 45th U.S. President reshapes U.S. trade policy, this approach to bilateral trade may become more of a standard for states that have little else to offer.

The text of Cuba offers to pay back £222m of Cold War-era debt to the Czech Republic in rum follows. This post then briefly considers the principles that might underlie this offer of debt repayment through rum and offers a suggestion why, under some circumstances, the idea might merit further study (even if this particular barter offer was not worth accepting by its own terms).

Friday, January 27, 2017

Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy: January 2017 Newsletter

Happy to provide links to the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) Newsletter for January 2017.

The Newsletter may be accessed here

The President's letter follows.

Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE): 2017 Graduate and Undergraduate Student Award Competition--Concurso Estudiantil Jorge Pérez-López 2017

I am pleased to pass along a call for participation in the 2017 Graduate and Undergraduate Student Award Competition sponsored by the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE). One award is to be made for Undergraduate papers and the other for graduate papers.  Deadline: May 20, 2017

ASCE is a nonpolitical, professional international association dedicated to the study of the Cuban economy in its broader political, social, and cultural context.

The Call for Papers in English and castellano follows. Click here for a PDF of the student competition announcement.

Me complace presentar una convocatoria para la participación en el Concurso de Estudiantes de Universitarios y postgrados 2017 patrocinado por la Asociación para el Estudio de la Economía Cubana (ASCE). Un premio se debe hacer para los papeles del graduado y el otro para los papeles del graduado. Plazo: 20 de mayo de 2017

ASCE es una asociación internacional no política y profesional dedicada al estudio de la economía cubana en su contexto político, social y cultural más amplio.

A continuación se presenta la convocatoria de ponencias en English y castellano. Haga clic aquí para obtener un PDF del anuncio de la competencia estudiantil.




2017-01-25 Larry C. Backer 法律与国际事务学会FLIA


本文原标题为"Let's Make a Deal" as Economic Policy,原载于Larry C. Backer, "Let's Make a Deal" as Economic Policy, JURIST - Academic Commentary, Dec. 29, 2016,

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

TPP Countermeasures--Options for the Global Economic Community Without the U.S. or China

(Pix © here)

I have been writing about the withdrawal by the United States of it participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) (see here and here).  I had previously suggested the importance of TPP frameworks in the construction of systems of global trade rules within which markets advantageous to the U.S might  engage and the wariness of those left out from its structures (e.g. here). The United States has now made it clear that its obligations run only to itself and that it will seek to maximize the value (to itself) of its global macro-economic policies through bi lateral relations of one sort or another. Some politicians in smaller states have sought to mimic the approach (e.g. here).

But that discussion, along with that of the global press, has been lopsided.  It suggests that the United States has driven TPP  alone and that it serves as the key to the emerging developments of global frameworks.  But that need not be true.   First, one must recall that the United States came late to TPP.  Second, one must remember that the value of TPP comes from its aggregation of economic power--an aggregation and a power that can be quite powerful even without the United States, and even without China.  Third, this power is augmented to the extent that the states that aggregate their power also control significantly important points in global production. 

With this in mind, and as the remaining TPP states "scramble to save TPP" (here),  this post suggests what policy advisors might whisper int the ears of the remaining members of the TPP on their united policies going forward, especially in their relationships with China and the United States. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Text of "Presidential Memorandum Regarding Withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Agreement"

It is now no longer news that the 45th President has withdrawn the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership. This was not a surprise and people have been commenting on this since November 2016 when the 45th President, then President Elect made his intentions known (e.g., here).

"What we want is fair trade,” Trump said during his meeting with executives. “And we're gonna treat countries fairly, but they have to treat us fairly.” (Yian Q. Mui, President Trump signs order to withdraw from Trans-Pacific Partnership, The Washington Post, Jan. 2017).  It signaled the emerging consensus among elites in the United States that it is time to abandon the framework their ancestors developed in the aftermath of the Second World War and move on to something else. That something else appears to be centered on bi-lateralism the central role of American self-interest, and the promotion  of American industry, the protection of its workers, and the augmentation of worker wages (see, e.g., here, and below). and For my own views (here).

This post includes the text of the Presidential Memorandum to the U.S. Trade Representative to that effect.  

No.174 维斯里·克拉格 : H. L. A. 哈特与刑罚的正当化 (No. 174 Wesley Kragg: H. L. A. Hart and the Justification of Punishment)

This essay considers the moral character of punishment by reference to the work of HLA Hart.
The essay was posted to 叁會學坊, the San Hui Fang Workshops microblog and it follows below 中国语文 only.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ruminations 69/Democracy Part 38: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!": On President Trump's Inaugural Speech

(Donald Trump pix © ABC News)

 中国语文 only
WeChat Link here

Americans have a taste for drama.  With every change of political party the Manichean struggle between the forces of light and those of darkness appears ready for the final confrontation.  And yet it is a society in which the forces of light are also dark, and those of darkness shed light.  The Manichean quality of American discourse is most sharply drawn at those moments of political transition from one aggregation  of forces to the other. And yet, both oppositional forces--as much as they despise the other--tend to draw from the same well, and feed on the same founding vision--even if to opposite effect. And that well, that source--the Jewish and Christian Bibles (I refrain from the more judgemental appellations Old and New Testaments)--remains very much  source of guidance in times of trouble in the United States. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the inaugural speeches of Presidents, especially those who appear to incarnate a clear triumph of one vision (if only narrowly triumphant as is customary within the legal structures under which American politics is managed) over the other.  

Eight years ago, in similar circumstances of triumph and chagrin, I noted
Recourse to its insights, molded to the tastes of the speaker, have been a hallmark of political speech since the founding of the Republic, especially on the cusp of revolutionary times. And indeed, the manipulative symbolism that marked the event—the focus on Lincoln as multilayered mother to her offspring birthed by and now liberated from her emancipatory womb, and as great protector of the family in time of crisis threatening the foundation of the family (the American Republic)—was much in evidence, from the use of the Lincoln Bible to the rhetorical form of the construction of the speech. The parallels between 1861 and 2009, and the line from the mother of emancipation to the graduation ceremony of his offspring, now come to power, was inescapable.  
And so it was with a great deal of interest that, in 2009, I awaited the selection of the Biblical insight that would mark the initial phase of the presidency of its 44th holder. Mr. Obama chose I Corinthians 13:8-13 International Standard Version). As I looked back on my analysis of that speech--Democracy Part XIV: “For Now We See Through A Glass, Darkly; But Then Face to Face”; On President Obama's Inauguration Speech--I was struck by the way that this initial speech accurately pointed to the fundamental vision and principles of governance that were to mark the entirety of Mr. Obama's presidency.  
President Lincoln had a preference for the Evangelists. President Obama chose Paul, that great Jewish architect of Christianity. That choice—a reverie on the virtues of the charity and love of a man (and I mean to use this word in its fully gendered sense) for his family and of this nation for its global charge—suggest the character of an administration bent on unity and dominance within a values structures it, like its predecessor, will hold out to the world as the universal foundation of political, moral and social governance. Its essence is Platonic, and consciously so. For ideologues on the left and right, there is much that serves as a warning to a complacency grounded in misguided senses of victory or defeat. (On President Obama's Inauguration Speech)
It was thus with equal interest, and in similar circumstances, in 2017, that I awaited Mr. Trump's Inaugural speech and his selection of the Biblical insight that would mark the presidency of its 45th holder. That selection was announced in the course of President Trump's inaugural address. See Donald J. Trump,  Inaugural Address, January 20, 2017.  President Trump chose the Prophets and Psalms. and specifically Isaiah 42:6, Jeremiah 31:31-33, and  Psalm 133

This post reflects on  the meaning and fundamental premises reflected in Mr. Trump's Inaugural Speech.  It is best read against that of the 44th President, a man who is some ways represents his inverse twin. The full text of Mr. Trump's Speech then follows. For more conventional consensus analysis see HERE.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Beyond the Triadic Relationship in Business and Human Rights: Thinking About the Duties and Repsonsibilites of Banks, Sovereign Wealth Funds and State Owned Enterprises

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

The UN Guiding Principles continue their development.  States have been strong in voicing their support for the concept of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights and are increasingly seeking ways to legalize those obligations--especially outside their national territories.  Enterprises have  been strong in their defense of the state duty to protect human rights--and of the limitations of their own legal obligations as objects  of law. Civil society continues to agitate for the legalization of the structures of state duty and enterprise responsibility--within a global system marked by the dereliction of states and enterprises of either their duties or their responsibilities.  And the individuals at the center of all of this activity continue to be under served by each of these grand stakeholders in a process undertaken on their behalf but with only limited engagement by those most affected.

But what of hybrid organization and hybrid activities?  This post considers the way in which it may be time to start thinking differently about the role sovereign wealth funds (SWFs), state owned enterprises (SOEs) and banks financing global production chains, in their role within the Guiding Principles.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Just Published: "Research Handbook on Transnational Corporations" (Alice de Jonge and Roman Tomasic, eds.)"

I am happy to report the publication of Research Handbook on Transnational Corporations (Alice de Jong and Roman Tomasic, eds., Edward Elgar 2017). Here is the official book description:

Transnational corporations (TNCs) have moved to the forefront of regulatory governance both within states and in the international arena. The Research Handbook on Transnational Corpora ons provides expert background commentary and up-to-date insights into regulatory frameworks impacting on TNCs at global, industry and national levels. Wri en by global experts in their field, this unique collection of essays provides in-depth understanding of how the forces of globalisation affect the world’s largest corporations, and how those corporations, in turn, shape globalisation.

Comprehensive yet highly accessible, this is the rst major work on the reciprocal impact of TNCs on regulatory processes. The Research Handbook provides guidance on how best to understand the rapidly evolving relationship between TNCs and the processes of treaty making, the forma on of global industry standards and the processes of national law making and policy forma on (with a focus on resource taxa on). Global, industry and national-level case studies are used to explain the basic principles used to support state, private, and international regulatory programs.

Delivering both theoretical and practical insights into the regulation of TNCs, this timely and authoritative Research Handbook will be of particular interest to policy makers, industry practitioners and lawyers. Students and academics will also find it to be an invaluable resource.

Contributors include: R. Anderson, M. Bowman, L. Catá Backer, A. Chou, A. De Jonge,G. Gilligan, D. Gleeson, M.A. Gonzalez-Perez, V. Harper Ho, J.A. Kirshner, D. Kraal, L. Leonard, R. Lopert, M.E. Monasterio, P. Neuwelt, J. O’Brien, A. Rühmkorf, R. Tomasic, M. Wörsdörfer

The Table of Contents follows, along with the Introduction to my contribution, The Evolving Relationship and Political Actors and Governments also follows.

Announcing Future Publication of "Elements of Law and the United States Legal System"

(Washington Monument Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

I am happy to announce that Carolina Academic will soon be publishing my text, tentatively titled Elements of Law and the United States Legal System (ISBN: 978-1-61163-927-8 • e-ISBN: 978-1-61163-984-1). Law embedded within systems in the United States tends to be mystifying to everyone, even individuals trained in law elsewhere. By the end of the usual course of U.S. legal education most students would roughly know it when they encounter it. But they would be hard pressed to explain it either to non-lawyers or to foreigners, even sophisticated foreign lawyers or jurists. There are a number of distinct kinds of law in the United States, and each of them are deeply embedded within their own systems of generation, interpretation and application, which then somehow work together It made sense, then, especially as a century of legalization forces more and more people world wide to bump up against aspects of that system, to try to find a way to explain law, the systems within which it is embedded, and the way that this embedding substantially defines the character of both.

The book is based on insights from teaching first year students, foreign lawyers and students of politics and policy (Elements of Law Series), at Penn State. The course had a short and controversial history there but engagement with the course in the face of student confusion over the value of the course and its content within law studies (e.g., here) began my thinking about how one could go about thinking through the systemic element in the distinct elements of law (common law, equity, statute, administrative regulation, public-private hybrids, and societal governance), their systemic qualities (that distinguish each) and their quite distinct relationship with systems of government. Indeed, that fundamental relationship between systems of law and systems of government, so essential to the understanding of how law "works" in the United States, is rarely centered in legal studies.

This post includes the table of contents of the work along with the more or less official book description. Future posts will set out more detailed descriptions of each chapter and a brief summary of the chapter. An initial circulation draft Teacher's Manual will also be posted in a series of future posts. Comments welcome for all.

All contents posted on line may be accessed here:

Contents and Links; Chapter Summaries and Draft Teaching Notes: "Elements of Law and the United States Legal System"

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Just Published "Law Professor and Accidental Historian: The Scholarship of Michael A. Olivas" (Ediberto Román, ed., Carolina Academic Press, 2017)

It is my great pleasure to announce the publication of Law Professor and Accidental Historian: The Scholarship of Michael A. Olivas (Ediberto Román, ed., Carolina Academic Press, 2017) (ISBN978-1-61163-686-4).
Law Professor and Accidental Historian is a timely and important reader addressing many of the most hotly debated domestic policy issues of our times—immigration policy, education law, and diversity. Specifically, this book examines the works of one of the country's leading scholars—Professor Michael A. Olivas. Many of the academy's most respected immigration, civil rights, legal history, and education law scholars agreed to partake in this important venture, and have contributed provocative and exquisite chapters covering these cutting-edge issues. Each chapter interestingly demonstrates that Olivas's works are not only thoughtful, brilliantly written, and thoroughly researched, but almost every Olivas article examined has an uncanny ability to predict issues that policy-makers failed to consider. Indeed, in several examples, the book highlights ongoing societal struggles on issues Professor Olivas had warned of long before they came into being. Perhaps with this book, our nation's policy-makers will more readily read and listen closely to Olivas's sagacious advice and prophetic predictions.
The Table of Contents, plus the Introduction and conclusion to my contribution to this excellent collection, If One Wants to Change Societal Norms One Must Change Society: Lessons from Michael Olivas and ‘Constitutional Criteria’ in Managing Higher Education Admissions Decisions, follow.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

No.172 许章润 :政治哲学的汉语学思及其现代品格 (Xu Zhangrun, Political Philosophy and Its Modern Character).

This essay considers the origins of Chinese political philosophy int he current era. He notes "It can be seen here that the rise of political philosophy in the current Chinese context is rooted in the need for the search for sound political principles and credible and achievable political values ​​in response to the construction of political legitimacy "

The essay was posted to 叁會學坊, the San Hui Fang Workshops microblog and it follows below 中国语文 only.

Friday, January 06, 2017

"Let's Make a Deal" as Economic Policy: Thoughts on President Elect Trump's Intention to Abandon the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)

I was very grateful to the folks at Jurist for their invitation to think about the ramification of President Elect Trump's stated determination to abandon the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) at the start of his term as U.S. President, a determination that follows on the current administration's unwillingness to push it through in 2016. 
 JURIST ( is a web-based legal news and real-time legal research service powered by a mostly-volunteer team of over 60 part-time law student reporters, editors and Web developers led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.  JURIST is produced as a public service for the continuing legal education of its readers and law student staffers, and uses the latest Internet technology to track important legal news stories and materials and present them rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in a widely-accessible format. [Jurist FAQ]

This post includes the text of my commentary for Jurist--Let's Make a Deal" as Economic Policy; the original can be accessed HERE.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

No.171 许宏 : 中国前的“中国” (No.171 Xu Hong: China before "China")

This essay considers the origins of China as a self conscious civilization before its traditional beginnings.  It makes for fascinating reading, but one that also highlights the sensitivity of origins to the discourse today. In addition, even for non-Chinese readers, the images are worth reviewing. The suggestion of the movement and then aggregation of civilizations in the pre-historical period are especially useful.

The essay was posted to 叁會學坊, the San Hui Fang Workshops microblog and it follows below 中国语文 only.

The Orishas Speak Part II: The Full 2017 Letter of the Yoruba Association of Cuba (Letra del Año para el 2017 de la Asociación Yoruba de Cuba)

(Pix CiberCuba Jan 1, 2017)

For the last five years I have written of the annual letter of the Cuban Council of the High Priests of Ifá (Consejo Cubano De Sacerdotes Mayores De Ifá), the practitioners of traditional religion brought over from West Africa with the slave trade and now naturalized as a powerful indigenous religion throughout the Caribbean and growing in the United States. (e.g., 2016, 2015; 2014; 2013; 2012).

In a prior post I included the Forward to the 2017 Annual Letter of the Cuban Yoruba Association.

The Full 2017 Annual Letter with its predictions and guidance follows, along with links to the Letters from the communities in other states, courtesy of Proyecto Orunmila.