Tuesday, July 26, 2016

More Fun With Fannie & Freddie

After the housing bubble fiasco near the end of
the last decade, one would think that Fannie Mae
and Freddie Mac would have been sufficiently
chastised and taken to the woodshed, so to speak.
That little episode begat the biggest recession in
many a year in these United States; it knocked your
beloved Peasant to the curb along with many other

But Washington has found a way to help these two
mischief makers continue to dominate the mortgage
market for a long time to come. First, a little back-
ground information:

Before the aforementioned financial crisis, the Bevis
and Butthead of mortgage finance owned or guaranteed
over $5 trillion (!) in mortgage debt. When the housing
boom popped with the housing bubble, a $188 billion
bailout was forced upon the taxpayers. Then, the
Federal Housing and Finance Agency that supervises
these troublesome twins has decided to become the
preserver, and enabler, of their market share. What
this means is that the FHFA has been encouraging
the use of further complex financial instruments to
keep Fannie and Freddie in a prominent position
within this huge market.

The dubious duo then began using collateralized debt
obligations (CDOs) to dump much of the mortgage risk
that they are holding. The CDOs are a means of purchasing
insurance to protect against the risk that more than a few
mortgagees default on their mortgages. It seems that it
never occurred to them that they should not hold these
risks to begin with, so as to negate the need for taxpayers
to have insurance. Fannie and Freddie are selling the CDOS
to investors in the private sector, who in turn receive
generous yields for their assuming much of the default risk
in the bundle of mortgages held by the Fs (Gee, what a handy
and fitting way to refer to these wayward organizations!).

As the two companies are backed by Uncle Sam and can
therefore borrow money at incredibly low rates, there is only
political motivation to create this instrument --- but that
seems to be reason enough in Washington. It certainly is a
means of thwarting reform-minded members of Congress
to either overhaul Fannie and Freddie, or shut them down.
Private investors find the deals most tempting, and a
guarantee to taxpayers is included in the blend, that being
having the taxpayers made to pay for the redemption of these
instruments if anything were to go wrong, custom-made for the
juiciness of it all to investors. Fannie Mae executives swore
up and down that this would not happen, but guess what?
It happened!

That is another item for the next Republican president and
for Congress to write on their to-do list, should a GOP candidate
be elected this November and Congress kept in that party's
hands as well. Either seriously reform this gruesome twosome,
or close them for good! No more "too big to fail" scam jobs
to ensnare the taxpayers with!


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Justice Scalia, Ye Left Us Much Too Soon

A recent Supreme Court ruling illustrated just how much
the recently departed Justice Antonin Scalia's absence is
being felt, and how it has affected and will continue to affect
SCOTUS rulings until Scalia's seat is filled by a conserva-
tive appointee, provided that we succeed in electing a
conservative presidential candidate in November.

The eight justices remaining on the Court split evenly on
a closely watched First Amendment case whose upshot is
that public employee unions can continue to force public
employees to pay "agency fees" even if they choose not to
join a union. What this ruling means is that public employees
will still be made to pay something similar to union dues to
the union who represents their co-workers who have chosen to
join the union, because the union claims to represent and bargain
for all of the employees in said workplace. It matters not that
the non-union member workers may not be happy with the
compensation packages or any other features in the contract
bargained for by the union, that they believe they could
obtain something with points more to their satisfaction
without the union speaking for them; they are all, in a
manner of speaking, "locked in" to the workplace status quo.
The justices stated in a one-sentence opinion: "The judgement
is affirmed by an equally divided Court", a 4-4 tie which
lets a lower court decision stand, also leaving in place
the Court's 1977 precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education,
which allowed the deduction of fees even if the employees
object to how the money they paid is spent. The recent ruling
pertaining to the California public school teachers and their
battle with their union creates no precedent, so the First
Amendment issues at this case's core will be around for
rehearing in a future case. But oh, if only the justices had
reversed Abood! Justice Samuel Alito was quite willing,
but the brakes were applied by Chief Justice John Roberts,
the same justice who let Obamacare stand by inexplicably and
illogically calling it a "tax"(!). It appears that Chief Justice
Roberts wanted to move "incrementally" --- even in overturning
bad Supreme Court errors that resulted in questionable rulings.
The incrementalism could work, provided that the Court retains
a center-right majority, which it had while Justice Scalia lived.
But unless a conservative Republican is elected president in
the fall, a Democrat president will appoint a liberal justice,
giving the Court a center-left majority whose influence will
be felt, uninterrupted, for many years to come. This is
precisely why Republicans want to hold off on picking a
replacement for Justice Scalia until after the election, so that
the voters can have a say as to who the next president will be
and will therefore get to nominate a candidate for that seat.
The people would thus be, in effect, choosing both our next
president and our next Supreme Court Justice. Although
this idea gets the Democrats' undies in a twist, your aware
Peasant thinks it only fair, as the people can decide upon
which ideology should be the guiding factor in the kind
of government we are to have from this year's election
forward. If they choose liberal governance by electing a
Democrat for president, then the Dems can rest easy; they
will have gotten what they want via the expressed will of
the people and that will be that. If the electorate chooses
conservative governance by placing a Republican in the
White House, then the Democrats will have to wait for
their next opportunity to put a liberal on the Court ---
and likely will have to wait for quite a while.

So this is what is at stake with the passing of Justice
Antonin Scalia, a conservative jurist and First Amendment
champion, and the timing of his death coinciding with a
presidential election year. All the more reason for we
conservatives to turn out to vote, in as large a force as we
can muster.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tom Marr, R.I.P.

In the realm of talk radio this man was truly a star;
so many people in the field, as well as in the media
as a whole are proclaimed as such, to the point of
the term almost ceasing to mean anything from the
inflationary assignation of it to every Tom, Dick,
Harry and Jane that pops into the limelight. But this
Tom -- Tom Marr -- was the real McCoy.

Marr, who had been the play-by-play voice of the
Baltimore Orioles for eight seasons, and who had been
either a sportscaster or a conservative talk show host
in his hometown of Baltimore, and a superb guest host
for national conservative radio talk show host Mark
Levin, passed away on July 7 after complications
following back surgery, resulting in a massive stroke
which he could not recover from. The 73-year-old
Marr hosted a radio sports talk show while in high
school, followed by a stint in the Marines. Afterward,
Marr worked for several radio stations on the East Coast
before becoming an anchor and news director for WBFR
of Baltimore in 1967. he also was a panelist on the award-
winning radio show Conference Call.  After WBFR
changed its format from news and talk radio to
pop music, Marr worked at other stations in the region
before landing a talk show position at WCBM radio
in Baltimore, where he had been for many years up until
his death. Marr was also ranked among the top 100 most
influential radio talk show hosts by Talkers Magazine.

A friend of Mark Levin and fellow conservative, Marr
was invited to be one of Levin's guest hosts for Levin's
show and had done beautifully. Your favorite Peasant
enjoyed Tom Marr's commentary on those occasions,
and considered Marr my favorite Levin guest host
(although the others are quite wonderful too!). Marr
was an eloquent, unflinching, vigorous advocate for
the conservative cause, and presented his arguments
with humor as well as sweet reason and flawless logic.
He was a happy warrior for his politics and his

Thomas Aquinas Marr, Irish Catholic, Marine, radio
talker expounding on sports and politics, and proud,
unabashed American. We have precious few like Marr
in our media today, and now we are missing one more.
Hard to surpass, harder to replace. Rest in Peace.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Elie Wiesel, R.I.P.

Elie Wiesel, Romanian-born American Jewish political activist,
writer, professor, and holocaust survivor, passed away quietly
at his Manhattan home on July 2, aged 87. Author of 57 books,
including writing of his experiences in Hitler's concentration
camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, he helped establish the
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Wiesel dedicated the rest of his life after liberation from
Buchenwald by the U.S. Third Army on April 11, 1945,
at the end of the Second World War. Weak and emaciated,
he appeared in a famous and haunting photo with some of his
fellow prisoners taken by one of the soldiers, a photo which
became tragically iconic.

After the war, Wiesel lived in Paris where he studied French and
studied philosophy, psychology, and literature at the Sorbonne.
In time he became a journalist as well as a choirmaster. It would
be another decade following the war before Wiesel would begin
to write about his years in Nazi death camps. But once he began
to share his harrowing story, the world followed along in shock,
horror, sorrow, and ultimately hope, hope for understanding and
the beginning of a better, closer, more just world.

Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his speaking
out against violence, repression, and racism. He became renown
as not only an activist but as spiritual leader for his work.
Wiesel stated in his acceptance speech: "Silence encourages the
tormentor, never the tormented. When human lives are endangered,
when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities
become irrelevant."

Words of wisdom for us all. Rest in Peace, great soul.