Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Clinton was fired for obstructing Nixon probe: book

Hillary Clinton might be hoping no one buys “Nixon’s Secrets” — Roger Stone’s new book marking the 40th anniversary of the Watergate scandal.

Stone — a Nixon staffer who is so partisan he has a tattoo of his old boss’ face on his back — reports that Clinton was fired as a staff lawyer for the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee for “writing fraudulent legal briefs, lying to investigators and confiscating public documents.”

Yale Law School grad Clinton was 26 in 1974 when she started working for the committee that was investigating whether or not there was enough evidence to impeach or prosecute President Nixon for the Watergate affair.

Clinton’s boss, Jerry Zeifman, the general counsel and chief of staff to the Watergate Committee, claims he fired her because she was working to impede the investigation and undermine Nixon’s defense.

“Hillary’s lies and unethical behavior goes back farther — and goes much deeper — than anyone realizes,” Zeifman told Fox News in 2008. When asked why he fired Clinton, Zeifman responded, “Because she is a liar.”

In 2008, after Hillary campaigned in his home state of Connecticut, Zeifman wrote that he regretted “I had not reported her unethical practices to the appropriate bar associations . . . Nixon clearly had right to counsel, but Hillary . . . wrote a fraudulent legal brief and confiscated public documents to hide her deception.”



Burgeoning Regulations Threaten Our Humanity

Insofar as mainstream economics may be said to make moral-philosophical assumptions, it rests overwhelmingly on a consequentialist-utilitarian foundation. When mainstream economists say that an action is worthwhile, they mean that it is expected to give rise to benefits whose total value exceeds its total cost (that is, the most valued benefit necessarily forgone by virtue of this particular action’s being taken). But nearly always the economists make no attempt to evaluate as part of their benefit-cost calculus any costs that might be incurred as a result of how and by whom the action is taken.

Often they verge on the assumption that benefits and costs exist apart from those who take the action, even though this assumption clashes with the foundational principles of their science. Thus, in benefit-cost calculations, economists often attach a value to certain expected benefits (e.g., the dollar value of lives saved as a result of a safety regulation) and compare this value to the dollar outlays by the government that imposes and enforces the regulation and by the private parties who are compelled to comply with it, often at great private expense.

I cannot recall, however, ever seeing a benefit-cost computation that attaches any cost valuation to the loss of freedom by the regulated parties. It is as if it matters not at all that an action is mandated, as opposed to freely chosen. Freedom itself is, in effect, considered worthless, and hence its loss entails no sacrifice regarded as worthy of receiving weight in the calculation.

On the basis of such procedures, at least in a pro forma sense, countless regulations and laws have been imposed on the public willy-nilly. Apart from the many questions that might be raised even in the context of the usual benefit-cost study, one who values freedom cannot help but be struck by how entire societies have been overwhelmed by suffocating regulations and by how drastically people’s freedoms have been curtailed, all under the presumption that each drop of this deluge constituted a net improvement in social well-being. Insofar as the trampled freedom is concerned, the motto seems to have been: nothing valued, nothing lost.

In a more fundamental sense, the essence of such mainstream benefit-cost calculations boils down to a glorification of the material and the measurable and a complete denial of the spiritual. With such a mentality, rulers justify making each of us a puppet at the end of the strings they pull and jerk. That we value above all the capacity to make our own decisions, to shape—insofar as the laws of nature and economics permit—the contours of our own lives matters not a whit to our rulers and their apparatchiki. They know what is best for us to do and to refrain from doing—indeed, they have the numerical studies to prove that they know best!

Freedom, however, needs no benefit-cost justification. To deprive us of it is to deprive us of a priceless part of what makes us human beings, rather than programmed robots or puppets on strings. For too long people have deferred to the imagined expertise and superior judgment of those who presume to rule them even in the tiniest details of their daily lives. Little by little, as mentalities adjust to such continuously growing controls, people are losing not only latitude for self-direction, but a core part of their very humanity.

In the most economically developed parts of the world, this process has already proceeded so far that one wonders whether the Communists’ vision of creating a New Man was so far-fetched after all. For the sake of our humanity, for the sake of our very souls, we must challenge the continuation of this onslaught. No doubt you and I may sometimes decide badly in one way or another, but unless we have the freedom to make decisions for ourselves—and, as the necessary correlate, the obligation to bear full responsibility for any harm we cause in the process—we shall ultimately find ourselves in that horrifying dystopia where everything that is not required is forbidden and where we are no longer truly human at all.



When Government Spending Made Sense

Did you know that in the year 1803 President Thomas Jefferson presided over the purchase of 828,000 square miles (529,920,000 acres) of land west of the Mississippi River, the so-called Louisiana territory, consisting of all or part of 15 present day U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, by the government of the United States of America, for the sum of only $15 million dollars – just $300 million in the value of today’s dollars?

For that we Americans got all of today’s Aransas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, parts of Minnesota, most of North and South Dakota, northeastern New Mexico, northern Texas, and the parts of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado east of the Continental Divide, plus Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the City of New Orleans.

You see, in 1803 our politicians were frugal and Thomas Jefferson got us real value for our money. That’s when government spending made sense. He bargained with France for more than half a billion acres – about a third of the land in present day America – for a paltry .04 cents per acre.

Sadly, today it’s a far different story. Our nation is now in debt to the tune of more than $17 trillion, $583 billion, and $720 million dollars – a sum which is rapidly escalating by the second. Federal spending during just this year alone as of today’s date totals more than $3 trillion, $514 billion, and $738 million dollars.

President Jefferson, in 1803 could have purchased  the entire planet Earth for less than a fraction of what our government is spending in 2014.

Compare that with today’s government spending sprees. Last year, for just one example, the Pentagon spent $572 million to buy only 30 Russian-built military helicopters for Afghan security forces. All of that money has been flushed down the toilet as America is pulling out of Afghanistan and the Taliban will be taking over the country and the helicopters.

Jefferson spent only about half that much money and we lucky Americans received in perpetuity about a third of the land in our entire nation. We’ll own that land forever and it cost us less than 30 Russian helicopters abandoned in Afghanistan. Would you rather have 828,000 square miles of prime American heartland or 30 Russian made helicopters for twice the price to donate to Afghani terrorists?

Our politicians today are spending on a cost adjusted basis in just one day more than what Thomas Jefferson spent during his entire presidency and the average American citizen is getting absolutely nothing to show for it.

Today we have American unmanned military drones costing almost $4 million each falling out of the sky and crashing like dead flies at the rate of more than 400 drones lost in only the last 12 years. They’ve slammed into homes, farms, runways, highways, waterways and, in one case, an Air Force C-130 Hercules transport plane in midair.

The military owns about 10,000 of these unmanned drones, and by 2017, the armed forces plan to fly drones from at least 110 bases in 39 states, plus Guam and Puerto Rico. No one in the government expects any of these drones to last very long. They’re disposable.

Our politicians today have no qualms about disposing of $4 million dollars like so many dirty tissues of Kleenex. I think it’s about time that they and their legions of government bureaucrats started spending again like it was done in 1803.

That was when government spending made sense



Poor Billionaire (Relatively Speaking)


Suppose that you are Nicholas Woodman.  You awaken one morning and discover from a news report that Bill Gates is 55 times – 55 times! - financially richer than you are.  How do you feel?  Envious?  Of course.  Relatively deprived?  How could you not suffer such a deflating sentiment?

In an absolute sense, you must admit, you live quite well.  You are one of the richest human beings ever to trod this earth (and, indeed, one of the richest to trod it in the relatively prosperous early 21st century).  Yet you understand from the “Progressive” ethos that what really matters is not one’s absolute standard of living over the course of a lifetime.  Instead, what matters (according to this ethos) is relative financial rankings today – that is, how much $$$ you are currently worth relative to how much $$$ other people are currently worth.  If other people have a great deal more money than you have, you are deprived.  You are entitled to feel envious and to pontificate about the immorality of such financial inequality.

So even though you, Nicholas Woodman, currently have a net worth of $1.3 billion, your financial wealth remains a paltry 1.8 percent of Bill Gates’s financial fortune of $72 billion.  Should you complain?  Should you demand government action to ‘redistribute’ some of Gates’s wealth to you?

Anyone who knows that you, Nicholas Woodman, are on the 2013 Forbes list of 400 richest Americans would think you to be insufferably envious, appallingly ungrateful, pathetically insensitive, unspeakably greedy, and, indeed, likely mentally unbalanced if you complained and moaned about how much more financial wealth Bill Gates currently has relative to the amount of financial wealth that you have.  You, after all, have daily and easy access to an array of goods and services that most people in the world can only dream, with futility, of ever enjoying.  And historically, your consumption possibilities – what you can and do daily consume – is indescribably greater than what any of your ancestors until just a generation or two ago could consume.  So why are you complaining?

You answer: “Because, relative to the richest American, I’m financially poor.”  And indeed, financially you have virtually nothing compared to Mr. Gates.  (What, after all, is a puny $1.3 billion relative to $72 billion?)

And yet I’m quite confident that no one would think your complaints to be justified.  I for sure would not think that your complaints are justified (should you in fact, rather than in my simple hypothetical here, actually issue such complaints).

So why do we in America today think it appropriate for middle-income (or even “poor”) Americans to complain about the financial wealth of rich Americans?  Middle-income, and even “poor,” Americans are among the richest human beings ever to breathe.  The goods and services that ordinary and “poor” Americans today consume on a daily basis are far larger in volume and far grander in variety than what most people on the globe today consume on a daily basis – and unimaginably greater than what ordinary (and even “rich”) people throughout most of history consumed on a daily basis.  Even Louis XIV never spoke in real time with anyone who was not within earshot of Louis’s royal voice.

In 2012 (the latest year for which I can find reliable data), the mean household income of the top 5 percent (income-wise) of American households was only 28 times larger than the mean household income of the bottom 20 percent (income-wise) of American households.  (The mean household income of the top 20 percent of American households was only 16 times larger than the mean household income of the bottom 20 percent of American households.)

And the minimum annual income necessary for a household to be in the top one percent in the U.S. in 2012 – just above $394,000 – means that even some one-percenter households have annual incomes that are ‘only’ 34 times larger than the annual incomes of the typical households in the bottom quintile.

In other words, the difference in the current financial income of a typical bottom-quintile American household in 2012 from that of each of the incomes of even some households in the top one percent is smaller than is the difference in the current financial status of Forbes‘s lowest-ranked American billionaire, Nicholas Woodman, (on its list of the 400 wealthiest Americans for 2013) and that of America’s wealthiest tycoon (Bill Gates).

So riddle me this: if we believe (as I suspect most of us do believe) that Nicholas Woodman would have no business envying or otherwise fretting about the size of Bill Gates’s fortune relative to his own, why do so many of us accept as appropriate the envying and fretting by middle-class and poor Americans about the size of the fortunes of the top ten or top one percent?  I can see no good reason.

I understand that in the above I do not distinguish as carefully as I would in other contexts the differences between household incomes and individual incomes.  Nor do I – again, as carefully as I would in other contexts – either explain the especially great hazards of using data on household incomes (as opposed to individual incomes) or distinguish between income and wealth.  But none of these distinctions is relevant for the point of this post, which is that the difference between the financial well-being (however measured) of the person (Woodman) at the bottom of the Forbes‘s list of 400 richest Americans and that of the person (Gates) at the top of that list is greater than is the difference between the financial well-being of even poor Americans and that of many Americans in the top five percent or even the top one percent.

If billionaire Woodman ought not complain about the wealth (or income) of Bill Gates, then ordinary and even ‘poor’ Americans ought not complain about the wealth (or income) of the typical person or household in the top 20, 10, 5, or 1 percent.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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