Thursday, February 25, 2016

Whether to Tether the Fed

The Federal Reserve, our country's central bank,
has always been an independent entity, vis-a-vis
the elected branches of government, as well
as the unelected judiciary branch. Some think a
little too independent, and with good reason.

The Fed was granted a great degree of independence
as they are, among other things, given charge of the
printing of our money and the regulation of the its
flow, and the authority to set monetary policy.
Over time its regulatory powers have expanded,
and as they have the force of law, there should be
bipartisan oversight, not to tell the Fed each and
every step of its work but to ensure accountability
and transparency. With such a degree of both
independence and power there must, after all, be
at least some rules to follow and somebody to
cast a sharp eye to see that all is above board.

The Fed was established in 1913, when the U.S.
was still on the gold standard. Because we were
on the standard, the Fed had limited control of
the aggregate money supply, but when the U.S.
effectively ended its adherence to the gold standard
twenty years later the Fed's control correspondingly
increased. Congress then removed the Secretary of
the Treasury and the Comptroller of the Currency
from the Federal Reserve Board in 1935, so as to
curb the Fed's new additional power.

Fast forward to the present, where massive quantitative
easing (a euphemism for running the printing presses
full blast) has led the Fed to purchase debt on a massive
scale, more than at any previous time. Since the fall of
2009, when what is laughingly termed the recovery from
the housing bubble-instigated recession that our country
became ensnared in, the Fed bought $1.7 trillion of
Treasurys and $1 trillion of mortgage-backed securities,
directly and indirectly funding over 55% of federal
debt issued during this period. This policy enabled the
existing federal debt to double, while the cost to the
Treasury of servicing the debt has fallen (?!), lowering
the federal deficit by approximately half a trillion dollars
in 2010. And consider this, folks, because this is key:
every present member of the Fed's Board of Governors
was appointed by President Obama.

Now, this was never supposed to happen; each and every
governor on the Fed's board being placed there by one
president. But while the Federal Reserve Act stipulates
single terms of fourteen years for the governors, some of
the most recent governors have chosen to not serve all of
their appointed terms, thus opening the opportunity for
Obama to appoint governors who are politically copacetic
with His Nibs. So much for the supposed independence
and nonpartisanship of the board.

A possible solution would be to make a law that no more
than four of the seven members can be from a single
political party. This would certainly cut down on any
backroom political shenanigans between an incumbent
president and the governors that he would appoint, so
that the "fix" would not be in, so to speak. The Fed's
regulatory powers have grown over the past eighty years,
and with the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the Fed has become
the most powerful regulatory agency in the country,
dictating business practices, regulating as it goes, and
wields wide and unaccountable powers that could make
or break any bank, investment firm, accounting house,
mortgage company, or any other financial institution in
the U.S. More reforms would need to be implemented as
well to ensure that the Fed will, while exercising their
broad powers, still have to answer for its actions if it
goes at all beyond reasonable boundaries.

Bottom line: the Fed's status as the biggest regulator in
the land, coupled with minimal accountability, makes it
incompatible with our system of checks and balances
between our branches of government, in effect becoming
a branch of government unto itself as well as a danger
to our economic freedom. It's time to call the Fed to


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Antonin Scalia, R.I.P.

Last weekend we lost the point man for
the originalist, authentically conservative
position on interpretation of the Constitution
on the United States Supreme Court.
Justice Antonin Scalia, known as "Nino" to
his colleagues on the Court and to close friends,
passed away over the weekend of February 12-
13 in his sleep while on a quail hunting trip
in Texas with friends. Scalia was a month away
from his 80th birthday.

Born in Trenton, New Jersey on March 11, 1936
to Italian immigrant and law clerk Salvatore
Eugene Scalia and Catherine Louise Panaro Scalia,
born in Trenton to Italian immigrants. She taught
in an elementary school. In 1939 the Scalias moved
to Queens, New York, where young Antonin
attended P.S. 13. After completing the eighth grade,
Scalia obtained a scholarship to attend Xavier
High School, a Jesuit military school in Manhattan
where he graduated at the top of his class in 1953
and was named valedictorian. One of his classmates,
future New York State official William Stern,
remembered Scalia for his strong conservatism
which was evident even at such an early age:
"The kid was a conservative when he was seventeen
years old. An archconservative Catholic. He could
have been a member of the Curia. He was the top
student in his class. He was brilliant, way above
everybody else."

In 1953, Scalia enrolled at Georgetown University
where he graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1957
with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. While
at Georgetown Scalia was a champion debater at
the university's famous debating society whose
motto is "Eloquence in Defense of Liberty".  A
fitting place for the budding conservative lion
indeed. Scalia further honed his communication
skills as an award-winning thespian in Georgetown's
drama club. He studied abroad in his junior year
at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.
After graduating from Georgetown Scalia went
to the Harvard Law School, where he was the Notes
Editor for the Harvard Law Review. Graduating there
Magna Cum Laude in 1960, Scalia became a Sheldon
Sheldon Fellow of Harvard University, enabling the
future jurist to travel throughout Europe through

Scalia began his legal career at the international law
firm of Jones, Day, Cockely, & Reavis in Cleveland,
Ohio, working there from 1961 to 1967. Getting the
itch to teach law, Scalia resigned from the firm and
became a Professor of Law at the University of
Virginia, moving his young family to Charlottesville.
Public service came next, when Scalia was appointed
by President Richard Nixon to be General Counsel
for the Office of Telecommunications Policy in 1971.
President Nixon then appointed Scalia Assistant Attorney
General for the Office of Legal Counsel. After returning
to the academic world to teach once again, Scalia
returned to Washington when Ronald Reagan nominated
him to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia Circuit, a position which Scalia
joyfully accepted. While there, he continued to burnish
both his conservative record and reputation, which then
garnered him nomination to a seat on the highest court
in the land. Scalia was confirmed by the Senate, 98-0,
in 1986. With is joining the Supreme Court, Scalia became
the first justice of Italian descent to serve on the highest
court in the land.

During his three decades on the Supreme Court, Justice
Scalia lent his voice for the original intent of the founding
fathers to cases regarding abortion, terrorist detainees,
racial preferences in hiring and in admittance to colleges
and universities, criminals' rights, and First Amendment
-related matters, such as criminalizing some kinds of speech
for allegedly being "hateful". Scalia was always the voice of
reason and historical reference in every case he heard and ruled
upon, expressing his opinions with not only crystal clarity
and precision logic, but with fine wit. He was known by
his colleagues on the Court for this as well as for his
"Ninograms", in which he shared his reasoning on some legal
points and urged his colleagues to join him in ruling accordingly.
Scalia could form friendships with political opposites, even on
the Supreme Court; he had a long-standing warm friendship with
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court's most liberal justice.
Scalia could disagree with people over judicial and political matters
but still be friends with them, a rare talent these days.

A man with very few enemies and many friends and admirers,
including people who very seldom agreed with Scalia's legal
and political opinions, Justice Antonin Scalia is already sorely
missed and will be missed even more in time to come. The
Constitution lost a courageous defender and advocate,
conservatives lost a champion for judicial restraint and
constitutional adherence, and the nation lost an outstanding
public servant who loved his work, his country, and the law.
Godspeed, Nino. Rest in Peace.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Overdue Apology and Explanation

My friends, your beloved Peasant wants to discuss something
which I should have shared with you some time ago, but I got
caught up in a bunch of topics which seemed to me to require
swift, if not immediate attention. But at last I am making the
time to address this matter: Why is the click-on
ad no longer up on my blog page?

Toward the end of the old year Amazon sent to all of its
associates, that is, we who have their click-on ad enabling our
visitors to our websites and blogs to shop on Amazon's website
(as they are a strictly online retail enterprise) a notice in which
they require us to sign an agreement to have content on our sites
which excludes material that is, shall we say, not suitable for the
whole family. Amazon wants to avoid being associated with
anything crude or lewd, as they are a wholesome organization.
That is most commendable. However, when I went to the page
on their web site to sign the agreement, I encountered a security
feature, a pretty common one on many sites, called "CAPTCHA".
Its name is an acronym, and although I don't know what it spells
out its function is to make sure that it is people, rather than other
computers, which are trying to access the page and leave infor-
mation on it. I typed in the characters that it required me to
interpret and copy o the accompanying box, and clicked to send.
It just gave me another set of characters to copy into the box.
So I copied those characters and clicked to send. Same result.
I did this four more times before giving up. I tried to inform
Amazon of my difficulty, and could not find a page on their site
to so inform them of and describe my problem. I also searched for
a page in which a list of technical difficulties were posted with
brief possible solutions to them. Again, nonesuch.

Finally the deadline given by Amazon to sign and send back the
agreement came and went, after which the Amazon click-on ad
was pulled by the company. They wanted me to take a certain action
in order to continue to carry their click-on ad on my blog site,
and would not make it possible for me to do so, nor to even complain
to them of the technical hiccup (which was on THEIR end!) that
prevented me with complying with their requirement. How's that
for arrogance?

The upshot of it all is this: you, my grand readers, will no longer be
able to shop on Amazon's site when visiting your favorite Peasant.
And I will not be able to receive commissions on any resultant sales
anymore. I was telling a friend the other day when he was telling me
of some other online trouble he'd been having with an onilne organi-
zation that there is a lot of arrogance in cyberspace, and here is but
one example. It's really bad form when an online business plays
such games with the public, many of whom are not as well-schooled
in the ways of computer programming as those in the employ of said
business. And even if no such shenanigans have been perpetrated,
it is then the most incompetent oversight of a company to ask a visitor
to their website to take a certain action, then not ensure that the visitor
will be able to comply without technical glitches interfering and to
not ensure that the thwarted visitor be able to log a complaint and
be provided with a solution to the glitch. Therefore I have discontinued
my business relationship with

Sometime down the line The Peasant shall have a new click-on ad or
two from some other organizations with whom I shall have an associ-
ation arrangement. Your apologetic Peasant feels badly about not in-
forming you, my beloved readers, about this development and what-
ever inconvenience any of you may have experienced as a result of
this episode.

Thank you all for your forgiveness and understanding!


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Wonderful and Unique Institution of Higher Learning

One evening last autumn I had the good fortune
and the rare privilege to attend a dinner held by
representatives of Hillsdale College of Hillsdale,
Michigan, a small private college that places an
emphasis on American history, especially on
the founding principles of our federal government
and the Constitution. Among those present on
behalf of this fine school was Hillsdale's President
Larry Arnn. The purpose of the dinner was to
acquaint parents and students with Hillsdale
as well as to encourage estate planning with
Hillsdale College in mind. One could certainly do
worse with one's money, both in life and afterwards.

About Hillsdale College: Founded in 1844, Hillsdale
is a four-year, independent, liberal arts college which
is also co-educational, non-sectarian, and resideential
--- and unabashedly conservative. Although offering
many and varied majors, Hillsdale is famous for its
courses in Politics and History, especially U.S. History.
And it teaches a fantastic course about the Constitution,
one that has aided many of their students in forming
arguments in support of this bedrock document of our
country, its laws, and its governance, as well as in
countering the arguments against same by liberals and
their allies on the political left. Many Hillsdale graduates
went on to run for office, as well as to become lawyers,
businessmen and businesswomen, military officers,
professional athletes, journalists, and college professors
--- many of whom teach the very courses which they
received instruction in. And Hillsdale has a student honor
code whose concluding statement proclaims: "Through
education the student rises to self-government." This means
that Hillsdale's students leave Hillsdale well-equipped to
play a role in our ongoing experiment in self-governance
which began when thirteen British colonies declared their
independence from the Crown. The students are informed
on the issues inside and out, they are familiar with the public
officials and the candidates for said offices vying for
election to same, and are knowledgeable on the Constitution
and its importance in our ongoing self-government;
no "low information voters" here! As a matter of fact,
ALL Hillsdale students, regardless of majors and minors,
are required to take a course on the Constitution in order to

And the thing that makes it possible for Hillsdale to provide
such a strong, conservative, principled education, is that
Hillsdale receives no federal money for any of their programs,
nor for anything pertaining to the school in any way, large
or small. Not on dime. Of course Washington has long
schmoozed Hillsdale to get the school to accept federal
money, if only to facilitate student loans and grants to
aid potential students in enrolling; Hillsdale always said,
and continues to say "Nothing doing!", for their officials
know that anything offered by Uncle Sam always has
strings, nay, chains attached! You take Uncle Sam's
money (or whatever else), you submit to his rules!
And those rules would impinge upon Hillsdale's ability
to offer its distinctively conservative curriculum, mandating
that they offer some left-wing courses, i.e. Feminist Studies
and the likes, taking up limited resources for courses created
and taught. Some trade-offs would then need to be made,
resulting in teaching less of Hillsdale's traditional bill of fare
and more leftist-flavored wares. An overwhelming majority
of colleges and universities across the country have such
curriculae because they themselves sup at the government
teat. Here is where Hillsdale is distinctly different.

Academic standards at Hillsdale are towering. Applicants
are required to have a high school GPA of at least 3.8,
an ACT score of at least 29, and an SAT score of at least
1933. And to stay at Hillsdale one has to be most dilligent
in one's studies so as to keep up and to keep on going.
But Hillsdale alums all proudly state that it's all worth it,
as many grads are quickly placed with an employer in their
field of study. Oh, by the way, the graduation rate at Hillsdale
is a robust 82%.

As for the dinner, I had the supreme pleasure of meeting and
conversing with Larry Arnn, a charming and gracious man
as well as a renown scholar, as well as with many fellow
conservatives, some from here in Milwaukee, some from
around Wisconsin, others from around the country. It was
a convention of conservative-minded Americans, united in
our esteem for Hillsdale College and our love for our great
country, our way of life, and the things which make it all
possible. And, of course, the things which help preserve it.
To your awed Peasant, it was heaven on Earth.

Would that there were more colleges and like schools for
our students to attend and receive a truly first-rate,
distinctly liberal (in the original meaning of the word!),
unflinchingly traditional education befitting of a citizenry
of a great and exceptional country!