Author Archives: Michael Hampton

Ever Wanted to Be a Pollster?

As Michelle’s experience earlier today suggests, the pollsters aren’t being honest with us. It seems they’re intentionally leaving out qualified names from their poll questions.

Bob Smither emailed a few minutes ago to ask for help in rectifying the situation: Become the pollster!

The phone rings and the poll begins: “If the election was held today, which of the following candidates would you vote for?”

Now is your chance to turn the tables on the pollsters and to really help my campaign for Congress!

We need to sample at least 600 more voters to complete the first honest poll that has been done in US House District 22 in Texas. One poll did not mention me (even though mine is one of only two names on the ballot!) and a second poll identified me as Bob Smither of the Liberal Party.

If you can call even a few folks to help with this, I would really appreciate it. All you need is Internet access and a phone. If you have not registered yet, just go to:

http://ballotbase.org/register

and sign up for a BallotBase account. Be sure to include my campaign code when you register:

Smither22

After you register for my campaign, you will be called by a BallotBase volunteer with instructions for doing the calling.

I am very grateful to those who have already volunteered and made calls.

In order to get reliable data, we still need to make more calls. The BallotBase administrator feels that 25 callers could make the required calls in about 4 hours. If you have any time to help with this, please register today and spend some time calling.

We have some campaign events on hold until we get this polling done.

I really appreciate your continuing efforts for my campaign!

UPDATE: Please contact Kevin Tunstall of the Smither campaign to start making polling calls though Ballot Base. His e-mail is ktunstall@fortbendlp.org. He will be able to provide you with a special registration code which will enable you to immediately begin making calls.

The LP will be opening up Ballot Base for calls around 9:30 CT and shutting it down around 8:30 CT.

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Markos Moulitsas is still not a libertarian

For all of you libertarians who are hearing new calls from Democrats saying that they, not the Republicans, are now the party of smaller, less intrusive government, I say to you, do not believe it.

Especially do not believe Markos Moulitsas, who, despite getting some undue attention for his fatally flawed “Libertarian Democrat” idea, is still, by his own admission, a socialist authoritarian at heart.

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Cory Maye Off Death Row

Cory Maye, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for killing a police officer who he thought was a burglar during a botched drug raid, is no longer on death row, thanks in large part to the constant agitations of Cato Institute analyst Radley Balko.

I’ll let him tell the story of what happened at Friday’s hearing, where the judge ruled on the competence of his former attorney, Rhonda Cooper:

At the conclusion of the hearing today, Judge Michael Eubanks ruled on two of the defense team’s battery of arguments. Both rulings from the bench tonight dealt with Rhonda Cooper’s competence. Judge Eubanks found that Ms. Cooper was competent for the trial, but incompetent for the sentencing.

I have my quarrels with that ruling, obviously. But in the short run, it means that Cory will at the very least get a new sentencing trial. And until and if that happens, he will no longer be on death row — and for the moment is no longer condemned to die.

Judge Eubanks did not issue a ruling on any of the other defense arguments — and there were lots of them. It may be a month or more before we hear what he has decided. That said, I am cautiously optimistic. Empahsis on the “cautiously.” I’ll get into the “why” on that — once again — a bit later. There is also some reason to think that today’s ruling may very well permanently spare Cory’s life. I’ll get into that later, too.

It’s been an amazing couple of days. I felt at times as if I were watching a movie.

Balko also pointed at news coverage from the Jackson, Miss., Clarion-Ledger, and took a few shots at the confidential police informant, Randy Gentry:

If it was well known around town that Mr. Gentry is a raving racist who “hates niggers,” why did the police continue to use him as an informant in cases against black people? How many times has Mr. Gentry been described in a search warrant affidavit as “credible and reliable” when it’s now quite clear that not only should police have known that that’s not the case, but even the man’s own brother doesn’t consider him to be either? How many black people are in jail based in whole or in part on the word of Randy Gentry? How many more peope like Randy Gentry are serving as confidential informants — in Mississippi or anywhere else?

This is some very good news.

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The Cato Institute: Almost Libertarian

Since I almost never get mail of any kind, I was surprised to find an envelope from the Cato Institute in the mailbox today. I was doubly surprised because I don’t recall ever giving the Cato Institute my address. Perhaps it was one night when I was too drunk to remember what I was doing. But how they got my address is beside the point.

As you might expect, inside was a six-page fundraising letter from Cato founder Ed Crane detailing all of the good work the Cato Institute does. This is true: I’ve long been a fan of the Cato Institute’s work, and though Ian might say it’s dry and boring, it’s supposed to be. It’s aimed at influencing policymakers to more libertarian action. Reading the letter, I was again impressed by Cato’s solidly principled positions.

Except for one issue.

IRS regulations now number more than 60,000 pages, allowing government to treat you as the subject of social engineering and opening you up to extensive invasion of your private affairs. We suggest that replacing the current income tax with a flat-rate tax or even a consumption-based levy such as a national sales tax would be worth considering. You and other individuals would immediately gain more control over your income to use as you see fit, no longer subject to the prying eyes of government bureaucrats. That in turn would spur significant new economic growth with expanded consumer savings and investments.

Ed, we don’t need an income tax. You hear that? We don’t need an income tax. Nor a national sales tax.

When the federal government finally returns to being as small as it’s supposed to be, or even gets anywhere near the ballpark, the amount of money it will need to operate will be small enough as to make such taxes completely unnecessary, as they were for the first 150 years of this country’s existence.

One might be able to support a flat tax or national sales tax as an interim measure, while the government is being slowly downsized toward a more Constitutional size. But such a measure presumes that libertarians will control the beast long enough to actually get it done, and won’t be corrupted by power in the meantime.

Even with this one issue clouding my opinion of Cato, I still think they do excellent work in pretty much every other area of government policy, and I’ll continue to advocate their work to anyone who wants a pro-liberty viewpoint. But as I consider whether to send the Cato Institute the $100 it wants (and get a free book), I would suggest that it revisit these tax proposals.

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Geneva Convention Comes to Guantanamo

(It’s been a while, and I actually have some good news to share this morning.)

The Defense Department announced Tuesday that it would begin honoring the human rights protections of the Geneva Convention with respect to detainees it is holding in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere around the world.

In a memo released by the Pentagon this morning, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, citing the Supreme Court’s decision, ordered all Pentagon personnel to “adhere to these standards” and to “promptly review” all policies and practices “to ensure that they comply with the standards” of the Geneva Convention’s Common Article 3.

Since 2001, the administration has argued that the Geneva Conventions would be respected as a matter of policy but that they did not apply by law. The Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision, rejected that view.

White House spokesman Tony Snow confirmed the new approach, according to wire service reports, saying that while detainees have been treated humanely, “we want to get it right. . . . It’s not really a reversal of policy.” Snow called the Supreme Court decision “complex.”

But in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Steven Bradbury, acting assistant attorney general, stated that the court has indeed “imposed another baseline standard . . . that we must now interpret and implement.”

I suppose this means no more chaining people to ceilings or setting military dogs on them…

Nothing in the generally accepted libertarian view prevents responding to force initiated against you. So going after Osama bin Laden is one thing, and not too many would disagree that it was the right thing to do. It’s everything else that’s come along with that in the last five years that’s been a problem.

I’ll grant Tony Snow one concession: Prosecuting a war on terror is a complex task, especially for a country founded on libertarian principles — even if many of those principles lie abandoned just outside the Beltway.

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Markos Moulitsas Is Not a Libertarian

Markos “Kos” Moulitsas writes today that he’s a “Libertarian Democrat.” You won’t believe what he means by that. But then he goes on to demolish his own argument. Kos is not a libertarian anything, just the same state-loving, corporation-empowering Democrat as all the rest.

My big beef with the Democrats is that while they talk a good game about empowering the people, helping the underprivileged, keeping the evil corporations in check, the policies they put forth actually do exactly the opposite: they disempower people, they harm the underprivileged, and they support the evil corporations. (Not that the Republicans are any better.)

But if one were to believe Kos, one would have to believe that they have no idea that that’s what they’re doing, despite the clear evidence everyone can see right in front of everyone’s faces.

Traditional “libertarianism” holds that government is evil and thus must be minimized. Any and all government intrusion is bad. While practical libertarians (as opposed to those who waste their votes on the Libertarian Party) have traditionally aligned themselves with the Republicans, it’s clear that the modern GOP has no qualms about trampling on personal liberties. Heck, it’s become their raison d’ etre.

The problem with this form of libertarianism is that it assumes that only two forces can infringe on liberty — the government and other individuals.

The Libertarian Democrat understands that there is a third danger to personal liberty — the corporation. The Libertarian Dem understands that corporations, left unchecked, can be huge dangers to our personal liberties.

Libertarian Dems are not hostile to government like traditional libertarians. But unlike the liberal Democrats of old times (now all but extinct), the Libertarian Dem doesn’t believe government is the solution for everything. But it sure as heck is effective in checking the power of corporations.

In other words, government can protect our liberties from those who would infringe upon them — corporations and other individuals. — Daily Kos

That’s right, he actually said that government is a check on corporations’ power! Hello! Wake up and smell the reality. Government is the source of corporations’ power. Corporations have gotten very good at getting government to empower them to do whatever they want. Without government, corporations could not exist. And the less power government wields over the people, the less power the corporation can leverage to its own ends.

Real libertarians are nearly as suspicious of corporations as of the government, as they rightly recognize that corporations derive their power from the government.

Classical liberal political economy tells us that the greater the scope and power of state coercion, the stronger the incentive for economically powerful private interests, such as corporations, to use it to their own advantage, squashing competition, consolidating advantage, and channeling taxpayer dollars into corporate coffers. Libertarians have never believed in leaving corporations unchecked. The way you check corporations is by taking political power off the table.

Here is Kos’ key paragraph, which contains the real division between classical and statist liberals: — Cato-at-liberty

A Libertarian Dem believes that true liberty requires freedom of movement — we need roads and public transportation to give people freedom to travel wherever they might want. A Libertarian Dem believes that we should have the freedom to enjoy the outdoor without getting poisoned; that corporate polluters infringe on our rights and should be checked. A Libertarian Dem believes that people should have the freedom to make a living without being unduly exploited by employers. A Libertarian Dem understands that no one enjoys true liberty if they constantly fear for their lives, so strong crime and poverty prevention programs can create a safe environment for the pursuit of happiness. A Libertarian Dem gets that no one is truly free if they fear for their health, so social net programs are important to allow individuals to continue to live happily into their old age. Same with health care. And so on. — Daily Kos

Wow, sounds like more of the same so-called “positive liberty” (positive liberty isn’t liberty at all) socialist crap the Democrats have been pushing for as long as I can remember. What exactly is libertarian about this?

Nothing.

I fear that once you cash out precisely what Kos has in mind by ensuring that people aren’t “unduly exploited by employers,” whatever that means, or by “poverty prevention” and “social net programs,” we’ll discover something disappointingly like the Democratic party status quo. In which case, Kos will be simply declaring a pretty standard set of Democratic policies as “libertarian,” in defiance of the normal understanding of the term. — Cato-at-liberty

This isn’t the first time someone at Daily Kos has completely screwed up the idea of libertarianism or liberty. I’ve talked about the other guy before.

And now you know why I don’t read Daily Kos. I can’t support anyone who espouses instigating government force against people as a solution for social problems. Not only is it completely unnecessary, it’s completely morally reprehensible. Aside from that, I can’t support anyone who says one thing and does another, and that’s the standard operating procedure of both the Democrats and the Republicans.

Update: Radley Balko puts in his two cents.

This article was originally published at Homeland Stupidity.

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Bad Cops Raid “Bad Cop No Donut” Radio Show

Having nothing better to do at 3:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning, Toronto, Ont., police, long fed up with local radio show Bad Cop No Donut, which covers police misconduct in the U.S. and Canada, found a ready-made excuse to raid the college radio station where the show is produced: It was airing sections of the Lester Eugene Siler torture tape along with an interview with the Knoxville journalist who covered the story. (Listen to the May 25 broadcast.)

If you’ll recall, five Campbell County, Tenn., police officers tortured Siler for two hours, and only were caught because his wife had started a concealed tape recorder. All five are now serving prison sentences.

Toronto police would excuse the raid by saying that someone had called 911 during the broadcast thinking that someone was actually being tortured there at CKLN, a Ryerson University college radio station.

Host Ron Anicich talked to pirate radio station Free Radio Santa Cruz on Tuesday about the incident. (Listen to Ron Anicich interview with FRSC.)

Anicich said he preprogrammed the radio show and went home sick, so when police showed up to raid the place, he wasn’t actually there. It was several days later before he even found out that the station had been raided. And he doubts the official police story for several reasons:

  • The Toronto police refuse to release the alleged 911 tape.
  • The alleged 911 caller would have to have been extremely stupid, because “all the four letter words were beeped out” of the broadcast, all of the people on the recording had “thick Tennessee accents,” and his voice came on at the end of the broadcast introducing the next show.
  • The police response didn’t correspond to the normal police response to a hostage situation: to send police, fire and ambulance services. Instead, only police showed up. And security let them right in to the building.

Anicich says he has a long history of exposing abuse by the Toronto police, which he says are as bad as any in North America, and he believes that’s why he was raided. “They have tried to shut me down before, very publicly and openly,” he said. And he complained that CKLN waited several days to even tell him about the raid, and that CKLN is not cooperating with his attempts to find out what really happened.

He said the raid spooked him and he’s actually changing the format of his show, at least temporarily, because of it. “Right now, I’m feeling pretty unsafe,” he said.

Now this sort of thing could never happen here, could it?

Update: I just got the following email response from Ron Anicich.

I’m not going to be scared until I know for sure what has happened. Details are still sketchy. So far CKLN has not been able to view their own security video. Frustrating! We are not quite sure how many cops were there, how heavily armed, how long they stayed, did they look through our files or not. Too many questions, not enough answers.

More to come on this story, I’m sure.

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Congress Raises Taxes on Expatriots

Last week President Bush signed a $69 billion tax cut package into law, which makes permanent some tax cuts put in place a few years ago. But at the last minute Congress decided taxes needed to be raised on a few Americans: those living overseas.

The tax change, retroactive to the start of 2006, will see some expatriates’ tax bills triple or even quadruple.

Americans living overseas say the provision wrongly focuses on allowances that their employers pay to cover higher costs — like housing, schools and trips home — that they incur by taking a job abroad. The law changes the way taxes are calculated on subsidies like housing allowances, which should push many of those Americans into higher tax brackets, analysts say.

While the move will have limited effect on Americans living in countries with high tax rates — European countries, for example — those living in low tax jurisdictions with high housing costs — like Bermuda, the Middle East, Singapore and Hong Kong — will be hit hardest, partners at two major accounting firms said. . . .

For Kristine Kraabel, a gift shop owner in Singapore, and her husband, who is now the regional human resources director there for an American company, the new legislation will more than triple their American tax bill. Their tax adviser calculates that they will owe $20,000 to $25,000 more in United States taxes, up from $5,000 last year, even as they pay $20,000 in Singapore taxes.

Of course, this only goes after those who choose to continue paying taxes, and according to NYT, does “nothing about the hundreds of thousands of Americans living overseas who have illegally stopped paying income taxes.”

Fun Fact: The U.S. and Libya are the only countries that dare to tax their citizens while they’re working out of the country. And Libya used to be “the enemy.”

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NSA Whistleblower: More Illegal Surveillance Programs

Former NSA analyst turned whistleblower Russell Tice has been trying to get a Congressional hearing for almost a year now, to expose yet more NSA programs we don’t know about yet. And after battling the NSA bureaucracy for months, he’s finally going to get his hearing.

“I am set to testify in closed session to the Senate Armed Services Committee about the SAP programs I was involved with at NSA and DoD on Wednesday,” Tice wrote in an e-mail to Cybercast News Service reporter Sherrie Gossett. Tice will meet Senate staffers in the Russell Senate Office Building Wednesday afternoon, from where he will be escorted to a secure facility where he can speak about the programs. “I apparently will not know where this location is until I am escorted to it on Wednesday,” he wrote.

Tice hasn’t said publicly exactly what the illegal programs are. But he has said that they are different than the terrorist surveillance program revealed in December, and different than the NSA’s telephone call detail record collection revealed last week.

“It’s an angle you haven’t heard about yet,” he said.

And he has said that Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, then director of NSA, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had full knowledge of the possibly illegal programs and approved them after being warned that they may be illegal.

That’s right, there’s yet more illegal surveillance in the pipeline. As soon as I have more information, I’ll be posting it. Maybe someday soon I can follow the NY Times and USA Today by breaking the story… oh, a blogger can dream.

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Through The Looking Glass

I started to write this post almost three weeks ago. At first, I was going to fisk a socialist who came here pretending to be a libertarian. Then after hearing a segment of Friday night’s Free Talk Live, I was going to explain how the socialists were infiltrating the Libertarian Party in order to neuter it.

Finally, tonight, I realized something much more insidious than even that was happening.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,” it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

So now I’m going to do something a bit different. But first, what do these words mean? If we all agree on the meanings of words, then communication is possible. If not, then we spend our time talking past each other, wasting our time at best, and at worst engaging in bloody protracted wars over a simple misunderstanding.

So I’m going to try to explain all this using very simple words for which all agree on the meanings. Find out after the jump if I succeed or fail.

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New Orleans Disaster Plan: Run For The Hills

My own blog is down, thanks to some bad hardware, so you all get a chance to read my latest post before I manage to publish it over there.

New Orleans, La., mayor Ray Nagin has unveiled the city’s new disaster plan. It’s quite a simple plan: Run for the hills, run for your lives.

“There will be no shelter of last resort,” Nagin said. Instead, people unable to flee the city on their own would gather at designated transit points, where public transportation would pick them up and take them away. People will be able to bring their pets, as long as they are in cages.

“Amtrak trains will also be used for evacuation purposes, which we’re really excited about,” Mr Nagin said. — BBC News

Hurricane Katrina killed over 1,300 people across the South and left over 1,000,000 homeless, after levees meant to protect New Orleans failed. Most residents of New Orleans have not returned, and the levees may not be restored before hurricane season begins next month.

Nagin will deliver a State of the City address next week, and faces Mitch Landrieu, currently lieutenant governor of Louisiana, in a run-off election for mayor on May 20.

There’s a very good probability that Nagin will be re-elected, partly due to his giving a State of the City speech right before the run-off election.

But what concerns me is the run like hell plan. New Orleans has already shrunk to less than half its former size. The more people run like hell, the fewer of them who will come back. Perhaps after a few decades, nature will finally make her point and reclaim the city forever. Until then, get yourself another hurricane (the drink) and don’t worry about it. Nagin will tell you when it’s time to run like hell.

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Voting for cognitive dissonance

2006/04/voting_booth.jpg

There’s a theory in modern politics that says if you don’t like the current bastards, you can always vote them out and replace them with new bastards. Scientists have discovered, however, that it might not be so easy to vote the bastards out after all.

As it turns out, people are more likely to prefer a candidate because they voted for him, writes Brian Doherty in this month’s Reason magazine. Doherty cites a study by Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard University and Ebonya Washington of Yale University, who looked at post-election voter surveys conducted from 1976 to 1996.

Their findings? Well, you can pay the $5 for a copy of the study, if you want. But I’ll tell you: The researchers found that the act of voting for a candidate “strengthens future opinions of a candidate. Those who are induced to turnout either by age eligibility or by a concurrent Presidential election, show increased polarization in their views toward the candidates two years post-election. Thus we provide direct field evidence of the importance of cognitive dissonance.” 1

Wait, cognitive dissonance? Yes, that’s right, a person’s beliefs actually change based on the decisions he or she makes. If a person makes a decision that runs counter to his beliefs, what he believes will actually change to accommodate the bad decision. Not everyone suffers from this at all times with all bad decisions. Most people are capable of admitting a mistake, at least in most circumstances. But in voting, cognitive dissonance clearly plays a role. And recognizing that it’s happened to you is the first step to recovery.

The paper points out that cognitive dissonance clearly contributes to the advantage that an incumbent holds when he runs for re-election, that having term limits might be a good thing and that high voter turnout might not be a good thing.

I would suggest that next they need to study this with respect to political parties as well; I suspect the same will hold true. Consider the person who votes for the same party his entire life, regardless of what the people in that party actually do. People identify with their actions and it shapes their beliefs. There is the truth and the danger of this sort of cognitive dissonance.

This also suggests why wasted vote syndrome, the mistaken belief that one should vote for the lesser of two evils, is so prevalent, as Charles Stricklin, who sent in this story, testified. “I’ve concluded that I voted for George Bush, not once, but twice, not because I preferred his policies or positions, but because I could not tolerate the possibility that either Al Gore or John Kerry might one day be president,” he wrote.

Unfortunately, this study raises more questions than it answers, but in trying to form a society which is more oriented toward liberty, and reducing the burden of government on our lives, the forces of human psychology should be kept in mind, and when possible, brought to bear in solving the problem.

Footnotes

1. “Sticking with Your Vote: Cognitive Dissonance and Voting.” NBER Website. 04/24/2006. <http://www.nber.org/papers/w11910>. The referenced paper is copyright © 2006 Sendhil Mullainathan and Ebonya Washington.

This article originally published at Homeland Stupidity.

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Decide Now, Libertarians: Hang Together or Hang Separately?

Everyone here knows that the Libertarian Party hasn’t had a whole lot of political success since its creation. Not everyone agrees as to why this is, and that’s part of the problem. Not everyone agrees as to what to do about it, which is the other part of the problem.

Charles Stricklin clearly summarizes the essence of the problem:

I’ve remembered why I haven’t become a card-carrying Libertarian before; it’s because they can’t get their act together. They place too much emphasis on arguing their own little pet subjects and agendas with each other and not enough reaching a consensus and working together toward a goal. If you get 10 Libertarians in a room [and] ask them to hammer out their political party’s platform, you’ll get 10 different opinions and no platform to run on.

You can see examples of this on any libertarian forum, even right here at HoT. People spend far more time arguing with each other and creating divisiveness rather than building a common base of agreement from which we can advance the cause of liberty.

Someone’s always got to insist on decriminalizing drugs; something that won’t go over well with the majority of the population. Someone’s always bringing up impeaching the President; despite the lesson that those supporting impeachment have always paid a heavy price in following elections. Someone’s always got to drive up the kook factor; like saying that Washington will one day be abandoned after they’ve entirely dismantled the federal government. Someone’s got to talk about removing troops from Iraq; when polls show that most Americans want to stay until at least Iraq forms its own government and can handle security duty.

I’m sure these people feel strongly about their own little policy to change the way their government works or fails to, but you Libertarians need to learn something: Just as a political party divorced from ideology, such as the Republicans, is doomed to lose, so does an ideology divorced from political organization. Until you people can stop knee-capping each other, you’ll never accomplish anything of lasting value.

If the Libertarian Party is going to be viable in 2008, or even in 2006, it seems to me that this has to change. “We must all hang together, gentlemen, else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.” So said Ben Franklin, a quote whose attribution isn’t in question (even though the exact wording is).

We aren’t all ever going to agree on everything. But if we’re ever going to get anything done, then we’d better start learning to work together.

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Baby Euthanasia: The Final Solution?

Holland, which already allows the practice of euthanasia, or assisted suicide, for adults who have expressed a desire to die if they are afflicted with a terminal illness and lose the ability to function, is now going to allow euthanasia for babies with terminal illnesses, in consultation with the parents and doctors.

Under the so-called Groningen protocol, a doctor would be able to end the life of a terminally ill baby in cases of “unbearable suffering” when the baby has no chance of surviving anyway.

“If a child is untreatably ill,” Verhagen explained, “there can be horrendous suffering that makes the last few days or weeks of this child’s life unbearable. Now the question is: are you going to leave the child like that or are you going to prevent that suffering?” He went on: “Does the child have to sit it out until the end? We think that the answer is no. There can be circumstances where, under very strict conditions, if all the requirements are fulfilled, active ending of life can be an option – but only in cases of untreatable disease and unbearable suffering.”

This is what happens to terminally ill babies with no hope of survival today.

Verhagen, a 42-year-old father of three who has spent years tending sick children in underdeveloped countries, became a paediatrician with the intention of saving children’s lives, not ending them. Then along came a case that changed his entire way of thinking.

Sanne had a severe form of Hallopeau-Siemens syndrome, which meant that her skin would detach itself from her body if anyone touched it. The membranes inside her mouth and oesophagus fell away whenever they tried to feed her through a tube.

To experts, it is obvious when babies are in pain, and not only because of the type of shrieking. The way they clench their fists is another indicator. This was a child in great pain but pain relievers seemed to make no difference; and every time nurses replaced her bandages a little more of her skin fell off. She came to resemble a mummy. Verhagen did not know what to do.

Her parents demanded an end to her suffering and, for the first time in his career, Verhagen considered euthanasia. Fearing prosecution, however, he sent the child home, where she died of pneumonia six months later.

When reports of the Groningen protocol first surfaced in late 2004, so-called “compassionate conservatives” were up in arms, comparing it to the Nazi final solution.

This is either a low point, or a point of no return. The establishment of “independent committees” to dispatch non-consenting humans is nothing but a death penalty committee for innocents. Once begun, it is impossible–simply impossible–to limit the concept with any bright line. Abortion, of course, has always been limited by the physical act of birth, and once out of the womb, only the most extreme “reproductive rights” advocates have argued that the baby’s natural right to live can be compromised by the mother. But now the Netherlands has gone farther–much, much farther. If the “severely retarded” may be killed upon appropriate motion, second, debate, and majority vote, why not the moderately retarded? Why not the mildly retarded? Why not, in fact, anyone the “independent committee” deems as usefully dispatched.

Why not? Let’s just kill any baby that doesn’t live up to our genetic standards! We’ll finally be able to create the Aryan master race our Führer dreamed of! Heil Hitler!

Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody’s even come anywhere close to suggesting creating a master race through baby euthanasia, except for the so-called “compassionate conservatives.”

As far advanced as our medical science has become, there are still many diseases and disorders which are not only quite lethal but for which we have no cure. We’re talking about babies who, in their short lives on this earth, will know nothing but the most severe suffering. Is it really the moral high ground to sit back and watch for months on end, listening to the constant, relentless screams of a baby in severe, unbearable pain, until the child finally dies? Or can the parents, after consulting with their doctors, getting a second opinion, and some oversight by an independent committee, make the decision that their baby should not have to continue suffering?

I leave to you the decision you would make for yourself and your family. As for me, if I am ever terminally ill with not only no hope of recovery but no hope of ever getting out of my hospital bed again, then that’s time to pull the plug.

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Liberty in Our Lifetime: Get Off the Couch, You Lazy

Are you sick and tired of the government telling you what you can and cannot do with your own body and in the privacy of your own home?

Are you sick and tired of the government taking your money and spending it on programs you don’t agree with that don’t work anyway?

There finally is something you can do about it.

I’ve been meaning to do this for quite a while, and finally did it tonight. And that’s part of the problem: We as Americans have become apathetic. We hear about the government getting bigger and more invasive, and we shrug our shoulders, say “What can I possibly do?” and go back to watching TV.

Far from being lovers of liberty dedicated to keeping America the land of the free, we have become a nation of couch potatoes who only become upset enough to do something when FOX cancels our favorite TV program.

That must change. And it starts with you. Or in my case, me. So today I finally signed up for the Free State Project.

Once in New Hampshire, the 20,000 or more true lovers of liberty will work to cut the government down to a more appropriate size. If you have been sitting on the fence, waiting to see how it comes out before you sign up, what the hell are you waiting for? How it comes out is up to you. Are you going to sit there and complain about the government endlessly, or until they come and cart you away, or are you going to do something about it?

Signing up for the Free State Project isn’t the only thing I did tonight. Radio talk show host and occasional HoT contributor Ian Bernard thought that people weren’t signing up quickly enough, so he created the First 1000 Pledge. People who sign the First 1000 Pledge agree to move to New Hampshire by December 31, 2008, as long as 999 others also agree.

Tonight I also signed the First 1000 Pledge. And I intend to move to New Hampshire whether 1,000 other people do or not.

What are you doing to work for liberty? What’s stopping you from joining the Free State Project? Do you even believe in liberty?

(This post orginally appeared at Homeland Stupidity. But Ian has managed to convince me, probably without realizing that’s what he was doing, that this needs much wider distribution. Enjoy!)

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Schwarzenegger to Terminate 43,000 Jobs

Last week, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a two-part minimum wage increase for the state, which already has a $6.75 per hour minimum wage. Under the proposal, the minimum wage would rise to $7.25 in September 2006, and to $7.75 in July 2007.

The proposal, though, ignores a basic law of economics: that of supply and demand. When the minimum wage goes up, jobs will go down.

Libertarian Party of California chairman Aaron Starr had harsh words for the proposal: “Economically illiterate.”

“The simple fact is that raising the minimum wage will not accomplish its intended goal, unless that goal happens to be political,” said Starr. “Other than winning votes, I’m not sure of the governor’s reason for doing this because wage controls always clearly do more harm than good.”

The California LP estimates 43,000 jobs will be lost statewide if the proposal passes. Indeed, this is what happened in Washington and Oregon:

Thanks to indexing, the two Pacific Northwest states have the highest minimum pay scales in the country. Alaska comes in third at $7.15, with California tied for fourth with New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The federal minimum wage is $5.15.

Coupled with the high minimum wages in Washington and Oregon, however, are relatively higher unemployment rates. In November 2005, they checked in with unemployment rates of 5.6 and 5.8 percent, respectively, according to the Labor Department’s figures for November. Oregon’s unemployment tied Tennessee for ninth-worst in the country behind hurricane-ravaged Louisiana (12.4 percent) and Mississippi (9.5 percent) as well as Michigan, South Carolina, Alaska, Massachusetts, Kentucky and the District of Columbia. Washington checked in next, at 5.6 percent. California unemployment stood at 5.2 percent in November. The national rate decreased to 4.9 percent in December, the Labor Department announced Friday.

While we’re at it, why don’t we just raise the minimum wage to $25 an hour? That way, everyone will be out of poverty! Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in reality. Businesses would then have to raise their prices and lay more people off to cover the expenses, the cost gets passed on to everyone, prices go up, the value of a dollar goes down, unemployment goes up, taxes go up… This is clearly the wrong direction.

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Closing The Welfare Revolving Door

I’m Michael Hampton, the other newest editor at Hammer of Truth, and I’m honored to be here. First, a very brief introduction.

I’ve been a (small l) libertarian for about as long as I can remember, and even so I still vote for the Libertarian Party, even though it’s in need of reform and improvements. I run my own blog, Homeland Stupidity, which is why Stephen VanDyke was surprised that I wanted to do this. My main reason for doing so is to become more active in the changes which are coming to the LP, and to help spread the message of liberty as far as I can.

With that in mind, and with all this talk about the war on terror, corruption in the Republican party, loss of civil rights, and so on, I think it’s important to remember that many Americans have other concerns which they consider far more important. And while it’s very important to address the issues which are getting headlines, it’s also important to address the issues which people consider important, and make voting decisions on, but which aren’t front-page news. I’m going to address one of those concerns today.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed one of the most comprehensive welfare reform packages to date. Ten years later, the number of people receiving cash assistance from the government has been “cut in half to 2 million,” according to a new Government Accountability Office report. This report looks at the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and suggests ways to improve it.

The two big problems facing welfare recipients right now are being unable to get work that pays enough to support their families, and being able to get stable work, that doesn’t lay them off in a few months. Either way, these people generally wind up back on welfare. GAO says that the Department of Health and Human Services isn’t doing enough to address these problems. (PDF)

GAO recommends that HHS (1) identify opportunities for additional research on increasing TANF recipients’ earnings, (2) review its existing efforts to better ensure information and implementation assistance reaches the wide range of program administrators and service providers involved in welfare reform, and (3) seek out new opportunities to collaborate with Education and Labor on research and technical assistance. In response, HHS said that its efforts in these areas are sufficient and do not warrant additional attention.

That’s right, HHS says there’s nothing wrong. Despite the fact that many welfare recipients who do go to work and don’t make enough to get by — and are no longer eligible for welfare in the process — wind up getting right back on the welfare rolls.

Ultimately, welfare for the poor is something that should be handled by private organizations, as it used to be. But in the meantime, HHS should be looking at every way possible to help people get off the welfare rolls, become productive members of society, and support their families themselves — without needing further “assistance” from the government. And that will benefit all of us.

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