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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: April 2008

Friday, April 11, 2008

Should Libertarians be Concerned About “Small” Abuses by the Government?

In my most recent post, I listed the names of the top 5 “porkers” in the House and the Senate according to CAGW’s 2008 edition of the Pig Book. I also listed the amount of pork the three leading candidates for president supported and named the ten members of the House which supported no pork at all. In all, the amount of pork barrel projects for fiscal 2008 totals $17.2 billion.

Though this figure seems to represent a very large amount of wasted taxpayer money, Jeff Molby (a reader of The Liberty Papers), pointed out that this figure represents a very small portion of the federal budget:

I was wondering when someone would post this. However, I was hoping you’d mention that the entire “pork list” accounts for only 0.6% of federal spending.

Every organization in the world wastes at least 0.6%, so this list is a distraction from the true problem.


Tell me, Stephen, if you were held captive, would you fight with your captor over the number of crumbs in each meal or would you instead focus on the bigger picture?

Yes, $17 billion is a ton of money. Now let’s assume we can wave a magic wand and make that waste disappear. Would that make any difference in our lives as libertarians? Would we not still live in a country with a $3 trillion federal budget? Would we not still live in country where a large majority of the people believe government should be interfering in all facets of our lives?

Yes, all problems must be attacked incrementally, but we need to focus on the right increments. If we’re to be successful in the long run, we need to teach people why government intervention, in and of itself, is bad. The “Pig Book” does not come close to addressing that.

Jeff is by no means the only one who believes that focusing on government waste as CAGW does is a “distraction from the true problem.” Libertarian presidential hopeful Bob Barr (who I am strongly considering supporting this election) has this statement about spending on his website:

Government spending at all levels is out of control. Most Americans understand the problem of “earmarks,” commonly used by pork-minded congressmen to buy votes. But while earmarks are an outrageous abuse of the taxpayer’s money, they account for a very small percentage of federal spending […]


The federal government must take the lead in making significant cuts in spending. Focusing on earmarks risks distracting attention from the broader problem of a government wildly wasting the money of hard-working Americans. Tens of billions of dollars in corporate welfare — essentially aid to dependent corporations — should be eliminated. Largesse for middle- and upper-income Americans, particularly so-called “entitlement” programs, must be cut. Billions in so-called defense spending, which protects America’s populous, prosperous allies rather than Americans, must be eliminated.

Jeff and Congressman Barr do have valid points here that we should not lose sight of the larger problems each have mentioned. My only disagreement is that I believe we can reduce or eliminate earmarks as part of pursuing these very lofty goals. If the problem of earmarks is understood by most Americans as Barr suggests, then why shouldn’t libertarians of all stripes contact their representatives and Senators, admonish them to sign the earmark reform pledge, and encourage their friends to do the same? If most Americans dislike this abuse of their tax dollars (however small), shouldn’t the issue of pork barrel spending be settled relatively quickly if those who are up for re-election feel the heat? Would it not be better to settle this issue while it’s relatively small so we can focus on the larger challenges to liberty?

Let’s face it; libertarians have not been especially successful in recent years in taking on the larger challenges to liberty. Rather than staying in our comfortable ideological corner debating amongst ourselves the finer points of libertarianism (or whatever other term one would like to use), we should seek out whatever small victories we can achieve. Big government did not happen overnight, nor will any progress toward smaller government.

We should not neglect the “small” abuses of government power anymore than we should the “large” abuses of government power. Suppose libertarians applied this “0.6% reasoning” to other issues which are important to most libertarians. If 0.6% of executions resulted in executing an innocent person, should libertarians turn a blind eye? If the chance of an innocent individual having his or her privacy invaded by the PATRIOT Act was only 0.6%, should libertarians stop being concerned about the potential threats to liberty by the PATRIOT Act? If the chances of a local city council taking someone's home away using a perverse legal interpretation of the takings' clause as in the Kelo vs. New London case were 0.6%, should we stop being bothered by the Kelo ruling?

Beyond the hypothetical 0.6% margin of government abuses, there are other real world examples which fall well below even this threshold. Many readers of The Liberty Papers are probably aware of the Cory Maye and Kathryn Johnson cases; both were innocent victims of police drug raids. What are the odds of anyone reading this post being an innocent victim of a police drug raid? In Radley Balko’s research paper 315 “isolated incidents” of botched raids of innocent individuals or non-violent offenders. Based on Balko’s findings and if my math is correct*, the chances of an American being a victim of a botched police raid is roughly 300:1 million or 0.0003%.

Does this mean that Balko is not seeing the bigger issue concerning the war on (some) drugs by focusing on one small aspect of the problem which effects maybe 0.0003% of the population? Why doesn’t he focus on the fact that 53.5% of the prison population (to which Pew found 1 in 100 Americans behind bars in 2008) is there because of drug related offenses?

Whether we are talking about government waste or civil liberties violations, we should not ignore the excesses by the government (local, state, or federal) no matter how large or small. It’s not whether abuses by government are large or small but a matter of principle.

*Okay, so I’m not a math wiz by any stretch, but to keep the math simple, round 315 down to 300 and then divide 300 into 300,000,000 to get 1,000,000. If my math is wrong, feel free to let me know and I’ll make the correction…after all, I did go to government schools : )
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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Did Hillary Clinton Attempt to Deny Richard Nixon Legal Counsel?

According to Hillary Clinton’s former boss Jerry Zeifman, she did that and more. Zeifman, who was the Judiciary Chief of Staff during the Watergate scandal, supervised a 27 year-old Hillary Rodham who was on the House Judiciary Committee. Apparently, Hillary believed that she had discovered a legal loophole which would deny President Richard Nixon his Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel. After Hillary presented this argument to Zeifman, he promptly squashed the argument by pointing out that there was legal precedent for legal counsel in impeachment cases. Zeifman showed Hillary the precedent existed after Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas was allowed to have legal counsel in his attempted impeachment in 1970. Additionally, even the top Democrats including the House Majority Leader Tip O’Neill believed that the president had the right to an attorney.

Despite her knowledge to the contrary and against Zeifman’s expressed orders to pursue Hillary’s legal theory, Hillary prepared a legal brief which fraudulently stated that there was no legal precedent and stole secured public documents* regarding the Douglas impeachment case (which were not yet available to the public) which would disprove her argument. Fortunately for Hillary, Richard Nixon resigned before she had an opportunity to file the brief. Had Hillary had the chance to present the brief before a judge, Zeifman believed that Hillary would likely have been disbarred because her arguments were ridiculous and her methods were unethical.

Why did Hillary and others try to deny the president legal counsel? According to Zeifman, if Nixon’s attorney could cross-examine E. Howard Hunt (the man who masterminded the Watergate break-in), he would possibly bring to light unethical and illegal activities which occurred during John F. Kennedy’s administration (such as an assassination attempt on Fidel Castro allegedly supported by JFK). Hillary’s former law professor, Burke Marshall (who recommended Hillary to Zeifman) was working with Zeifman on the impeachment case. Marshall previously served as Sen. Ted Kennedy’s attorney in the infamous Chappaquiddick case.

Besides these possible conflicts of interest, the goal of the House Judiciary Committee was to impeach Richard Nixon. What might have happened if Nixon refused to resign and if E. Howard Hunt had revealed crimes committed by the Kennedy Administration? Such revelations might have undermined the case against Nixon by deflecting attention away from his crimes. Who knows who else Hunt may have implicated in various positions in the government in both political parties?

On the other hand, if Hillary and Marshall had succeeded with their scheme, Zeifman believes that the House Judiciary Committee would have lost the ability to be part of the process of drafting the articles of impeachment or cross-examine witnesses. In other words denying Nixon legal counsel would have backfired and Nixon might have possibly escaped impeachment.

Following Nixon’s resignation, Zeifman fired Hillary from the staff and refused to write her any letters of recommendation (Hillary Rodham is one of only three people he refused to write a letter of recommendation for in his entire career).

The reason? According to Zeifman:

She was an unethical, dishonest lawyer. She conspired to violate the Constitution, the rules of the House, the rules of the committee and the rules of confidentiality.

My question is why hasn’t the MSM picked up on this story? This story has everything: Watergate, Chappaquiddick, John F. Kennedy, Hillary stealing public documents, a legal theory that a person does not have the right to legal counsel in an impeachment trial, and general corruption at all levels of the federal government! Maybe Jerry Zeifman is a cracked pot attempting to swift boat** Hillary’s campaign? Maybe he isn’t who he says he is? Zeifman claims to be a life-long Democrat but he has written articles critical of Bill Clinton and Nancy Pelosi for the conservative paper News Max and voted for Bob Dole in 1996 (after voting for Bill Clinton in the previous election***).

This is not the first time Zeifman has made these charges about Hillary, however. Zeifman wrote two books on this very event: Without Honor: Crimes of Camelot and the Impeachment of Richard Nixon (1996) and Hillary’s Pursuit of Power (2006).

It’s very clear that Zeifman has an axe to grind, but is he telling the truth? Hillary Clinton has lied to us many times before (most recently about being under threat of sniper fire in Bosnia as first lady) so if it’s her word against Zeifman, I would tend to trust Zeifman.

Either way, the MSM has thus far been MIA on this story. The American people have a right to know if Mr. Zeifman’s charges are true or not. If the charges are not true, the MSM should expose Zeifman as a fraud. If these charges are true, however; maybe this would offer some insight to the character and the trustworthiness of Hillary Clinton.

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