- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2006

A right to choose to die

Nat Hentoff should ruminate on the words of Shakespeare’s King Henry V on the eve of Agincourt: “Old men forget.” In his June 12 Op-Ed (“The devaluing of human life”), Mr. Hentoff has got his dates all mixed up with regard to me.

Mr. Hentoff wrote: “I attended a conference on euthanasia at Clark College in Worcester, Mass. There, I met Derek Humphry, the founder of the Hemlock Society, and already known internationally as a key proponent of the ‘death with dignity’ movement.

“He told me that for some years in this country, he had considerable difficulty getting his views about assisted suicide and, as he sees it, compassionate euthanasia, into the American press.

” ‘But then,’ Mr. Humphry told me, ‘a wonderful thing happened. It opened all the doors for me.’

” ‘What was that wonderful thing?’ I asked.

” ‘Roe v. Wade,’ he answered.”

First, when Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, I was living in England, where the case had little or no importance. I did not write any article on assisted suicide until the London Evening Standard commissioned my first, published April 24, l978.

Second, I emigrated to America in late 1978, had no trouble publishing a book and articles about euthanasia, also starting the Hemlock Society in 1980.

What I probably said to Mr. Hentoff back in the 1980s — because this is what I’ve always believed — was that Roe vs. Wade opened up a necessary and significant debate in America on choice over personal decisions about one’s body. The right to choose to die is a corollary of that.



Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization

Junction City, Ore.

Cooling the global-warming scare

[Editor’s note: This letter, originally published Monday as “The truth about global warming,” is being reprinted to correct an editing error.]

How nice to read a rebuttal by Wesley Pruden to the Ph.D.s who contribute to the media’s feeding frenzy on global warming (“Inconvenient truth about global warming,” Pruden on Politics, Nation, Friday).

This period may well be the warmest since the Little Ice Age of some 400 or 500 years ago. Some scientists think we are still emerging from that period by fits and starts.

Back in the mid-1970s, many scientists thought we were entering another severe cooling trend. It’s sort of like the stock market — ups and downs sometimes hide the major trend. As for the melting of the Greenland ice cap, the following may be pertinent: When flying back from Europe during World War II, strong headwinds forced the plane I was on to land at an auxiliary landing strip on the Greenland ice cap. While there, a group of P-38 fighter planes was forced down some distance away and the planes were never able to take off again. A few years ago, they were located under nearly 300 feet of ice and snow that had accumulated over 50-plus years. After digging down to the planes, one was dismantled and brought to the surface. I believe it is now in a museum in St. Louis.

The point here is that a portion of the ice cap got thicker by some 300 feet in the intervening years — some change from the so-called Medieval Warm Period of 1,000 years ago when the Vikings colonized southern Greenland and grazed their sheep and goats on vegetation thereon. It might be well for someone to point out the advantages of global warming.

And one last point: Who would not prefer global warming to global cooling, which could happen again if we should get a rash of volcano eruptions with dust shutting off solar insolation?



Ineptitude at the Broadcasting Board of Governors

I agree with Vello Ederma’s remarks in his letter (“Government broadcasting then and now,” Tuesday). The Broadcasting Board of Governors has demonstrated on several occasions that it is inept and incapable of running an organization such as the Voice of America. Not only has the board shown a lack of proper judgment by proposing to eliminate the very language of our nation from our government’s international broadcasting network. But they have also wasted tax payer dollars.

Last year the BBG commissioned a study at VOA by the consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton to identify weaknesses and problems in the agency. After extensive research, the report was handed in to the board, which immediately dismissed the findings. The report showed that the problem with VOA was its management — including the board. So what did the board do with this report? Nothing. The American Federation of Government Employees informed the VOA staff that the board had been given a report that it didn’t like, so it refused the findings. It instructed Booz Allen to come up with a second version.

When the union asked to see the second version, it was told that there was to be no second version. The cost of this to taxpayers? $400,000.

And the best idea that the BBG can come up with is to eliminate English-language broadcasting at a time when the world needs it most.


Santa Barbara, Calif.

Gerrymandering’s legality

No one who has been carefully and objectively following the Supreme Court’s redistricting opinions over the years should have been surprised by its decision in the Texas redistricting case (“Texas redistricting upheld,” Editorial, Thursday).

Nothing in the Constitution prohibits “mid-decade” redistricting. Even the late Justice Thurgood Marshall supported that position.

The argument that mid-decade redistricting required adjusting population data was implicitly an argument that all congressional and legislative districts could be unconstitutional (violate the one-person-one-vote standard of Baker v. Carr or the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause) or violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act during the course of the decade in which they were drawn because of changes in population that naturally occur.

Additionally, the court in the past has said that the Constitution requires an actual count of the nation’s population to comply with the once-a-decade census requirement in Article I. In light of that fact, it was a high hurdle that had to be overcome to convince the court that mid-decade redistricting required adjusting population data, as that would require a new census, and the Constitution only requires it be done once a decade. Furthermore, invalidating the new Texas districts on that basis would have undermined the legality of all electoral districts nationwide, opening the door to a flood of litigation.

The argument against mid-decade redistricting implied that it was acceptable to engage in excessive partisan political gerrymandering during redistricting immediately following a census, but it was illegal and unconstitutional to do so mid-decade. This was an inconsistency with which the court could agree.

Finally, there is no consensus on the court as to what the standard should be for evaluating extreme political redistricting under the 14th Amendment. The only place the court could go to overturn any of the new Texas districts was where it ended up, the Voting Rights Act protection against minority vote dilution (Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act).

The court’s decision in the Texas redistricting case once again reaffirms the need for the Voting Rights Act.

Congress needs to reauthorize the special provisions of the Voting Rights Act that will expire in August 2007 before the end of this year.


Associate dean and assistant professor

Texas Southern University


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