So Much For Daylight Savings Time

One of the reasons why Congress extended Daylight Savings Time doesn’t appear to have panned out in the Twin Cities. The extra week has allowed for longer daylight on Halloween, which arguably made trick-or-treating safer for the smaller children. Instead of darkness dropping at the time parents got home from work, they’d have an hour or so to take the kids around while drivers could still see them on the streets.
I’m manning the door this year, not in costume (unless mild-mannered blogger counts as a Halloween costume), and we didn’t get a single trick-or-treater until well after 6 pm and complete nightfall. We’ve seen a good number of small kids already, but also our share of teenagers. So far, we haven’t had childless adults showing up, which is supposed to be this year’s expression of arrested development.
Earlier today, the Little Admiral visited with Mommy and Daddy, and she’s dressed up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. She was supposed to be a cat this year, but she must have changed her mind. She even had the ruby-red slippers, which reminded me of Wicked all over again. I would have taken a picture but she bumped her head and bled from a cut, and by the time everything got cleaned up, she had to leave. I’m sure we’ll get a good picture from someone else tonight.
In the meantime, I’m trying to meter the candy out so that the last trick-or-treater gets the last bit of it. I hope you have a fun Halloween!

Keep Sitting On It

The big question of the day comes from Ron Rosenbaum at Pajamas Media, who heard that the Los Angeles Times has a juicy story on a sex scandal that could rock the presidential primary race. The Times hasn’t decided whether to run the story, or at what time, Rosenbaum reports, but they have a solid factual case from all indications:

So I was down in DC this past weekend and happened to run into a well-connected media person, who told me flatly, unequivocally that “everyone knows” The LA Times was sitting on a story, all wrapped up and ready to go about what is a potentially devastating sexual scandal involving a leading Presidential candidate. “Everyone knows” meaning everyone in the DC mainstream media political reporting world. “Sitting on it” because the paper couldn’t decide the complex ethics of whether and when to run it. The way I heard it they’d had it for a while but don’t know what to do. The person who told me )not an LAT person) knows I write and didn’t say “don’t write about this”.
If it’s true, I don’t envy the LAT. I respect their hesitation, their dilemma, deciding to run or not to run it raises a lot of difficult journalism ethics questions and they’re likely to be attacked, when it comes out—the story or their suppression of the story—whatever they do.
I’ve been sensing hints that something’s going on, something’s going unspoken in certain insider coverage of the campaign (and by the way this rumor the LA Times is supposedly sitting on is one I never heard in this specific form before. By the way, [i]t’s not the Edwards rumor, it’s something else.
And when my source said “everyone in Washington”, knows about it he means everyone in the elite Mainstream media, not just the LA Times, but everyone regularly writing about the Presdidential campaign knows about it and doesn’t know what to do with it. And I must admit it really is was juicy if true. But I don’t know if it’s true and I can’t decide if I think it’s relevant. But the fact that “everyone” in the elite media knew about it and was keeping silent about it, is, itself, news. But you can’t report the “news” without reporting the thing itself. Troubling!

Keep sitting on it. Do we really want these tawdry tales getting bruited about the media in place of real policy issues? Do voters have to know every detail of the sex lives of the candidates?
Instead of providing coverage of the candidates as if they were entertainers — a problem already seen in UFO questions at supposedly serious debates — we should remember that they’re running for public office. We have enough celebrities already to sate our attention-deficit curiosity. Let’s stick with qualifications and policy positions, and leave the vicarious thrills of sex secrets to Hollywood stars — and while we’re at it, they can return the favor.

SERE Instructor: Waterboarding Is Torture

With the subject of torture at the forefront of the confirmation hearings for Michael Mukasey, whether waterboarding qualifies has become the stumbling point. Senator John McCain has insisted that it does constitute torture and therefore should explicitly be illegal, while others argue that it should be kept as a non-lethal and safe form of interrogation for terrorists, especially in so-called ticking bomb scenarios. Proponents often argue — as I have in the past — that the commando forces of our military waterboard volunteers for their units as part of their training at Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE).
Today, however, one of the instructors who deliver that training speaks out in the New York Daily News to affirm McCain’s interpretation — and to denounce its use as an interrogation technique. Malcolm Nance of the blog Small Wars Journal insists that the technique is lethal in all but the most controlled circumstances:

Having been subjected to this technique, I can say: It is risky but not entirely dangerous when applied in training for a very short period. However, when performed on an unsuspecting prisoner, waterboarding is a torture technique – without a doubt. There is no way to sugarcoat it.
In the media, waterboarding is called “simulated drowning,” but that’s a misnomer. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning.
Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.
How much of this the victim is to endure depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs that show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.
Waterboarding is slow-motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of blackout and expiration. Usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch. If it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia – meaning, the loss of all oxygen to the cells.

I’m inclined to agree with Nance, especially given his clear expertise on the matter. He argues that the technique should continue to form part of SERE training, but in its present form, which is different and milder than that which detainees experience. It gives volunteers a clear indication of the potential psychological issues they face with torture if captured, but without putting them at unnecessary physical risk.
Given that, however, Congress should quit debating whether current law covers waterboarding and clear the issue up once and for all. As Nance says, detainees already released have spoken publicly about interrogation techniques, so publicly taking waterboarding off the list of options doesn’t really impact interrogations. As I wrote a few days ago, forcing an Attorney General to declare it illegal as the price of confirmation functionally does the same thing as an explicit law outlawing waterboarding — only it shifts responsibility for legislation from Congress to the AG and basically forces him to make up laws as he goes along.
That’s a strange strategy for Congress to pursue, especially since they regularly pronounce themselves aghast at Bush’s ideas of executive power.
Clearly this is a matter which Congress needs to resolve. Ambiguity serves no real purpose now. Instead of shifting responsibility to the Department of Justice to interpret poorly-written laws, the same leadership in the Senate and House demanding an end to waterboarding need to take the actions necessary to ensure its cessation. (via Memeorandum)
UPDATE: Andy McCarthy is on the same wavelength — and notes that Congress declined to specify waterboarding as torture in 2006. If they want to make it explicitly illegal — and they should, from what Nance writes — Congress has the power to do so.
UPDATE II: Two questions have arisen in the comments. First, there is a question whether Nance has accurately described the waterboarding performed by interrogators, as some believe that version also keeps water out of the lungs. Second is a question regarding the veracity of Nance and his resume. I’m not in a position to verify either, although if anyone has more than conjecture and collegial sniping, I’d be glad to see it.
I’d also point out that the first set of questions could have been answered by Congress, had they had the courage of their rhetoric last year and now.

There Is A God, And He Doesn’t Like Fred Phelps

A Baltimore jury awarded the family of a slain Marine almost $3 million in damages from the Westboro Baptist Church for its homophobic protest at his funeral. The Reverend Fred Phelps lost his case before the federal court in every aspect, and now must pay a potentially crippling judgment — and this may just be the beginning (via Michelle Malkin):

Albert Snyder of York, Pa., the father of a Westminster Marine who was killed in Iraq, today won his case in a Baltimore federal court against members of Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church who protested at his son’s funeral last year.
The jury of five women and four men awarded Snyder $2.9 million in compensatory damages. The amount of punitive damages to be awarded has not yet been decided. The jury deliberated for about two hours yesterday and much of today.
Snyder was the first in the nation to attempt to hold members of Westboro Baptist Church legally liable for their shock protests at military funerals after the church protested the military’s inclusion of gays at the funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder, a 2003 Westminster High School graduate who died March 3, 2006, in a vehicle accident in Anbar province. ….
Specifically, he charged that they violated his privacy, intentionally inflicted emotional harm and engaged in a conspiracy to carry out their activities. The jury decided in Snyder’s favor on every count.

The Phelps clan and their morally stunted followers have always presented a difficult free-speech dilemma. On one hand, sympathy belongs — rightly — with the families of the fallen defenders of our nation and their families. Loud protests outside their funerals that interfere with the grieving process are positively ghoulish, even without the strident homophobic rants that are the hallmark of Phelps and his gang of idiots. People who engage in such protests have no human compassion whatsoever and represent the most egregious of political cheap-shot artists.
However, as Minnesota’s Becky Lourey insisted last year, Phelps has the right to engage in political speech in public venues. Lourey, who lost a son in Iraq in 2005 and had supported Cindy Sheehan in her summer protest in the same year, considers Phelps as detestable as anyone else — but she voted against a law that made funeral protests illegal. In fact, she cast the only vote against the law, telling the state Senate that it went against the Constitution for which her son sacrificed his life.
Of course, that doesn’t apply to tort law. Free speech doesn’t absolve people of responsibility for the damage they do, and most reasonable people would consider what Westboro’s minstrels of misery do very painful and completely inappropriate. Perhaps this might convince a few other victims to follow suit, pun intended, and ensure that Phelps’ moral bankruptcy gets matched by his financial bankruptcy.

Heading Right Radio: Senator Jim DeMint

Note: This post will remain on top until show time; newer posts may be found below.
Today on Heading Right Radio (2 pm CT), Senator Jim DeMint joins us to discuss his new efforts against pork-barrel politics and the damage it does to responsible government. In the second half, our good friend Brian Darling of the Heritage Foundation returns to review the issues in the Law of the Sea Treaty.
Call 646-652-4889 to join the conversation! And don’t forget to join our chat room!
Did you know that you can listen to Heading Right Radio through your TiVo service? Click here for the instructions. Also, you can subscribe to Heading Right Radio through iTunes now by clicking this link:
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US Navy Protects All Shipping From Piracy, Even Our Enemies’

While the Senate debates the Law of the Sea Treaty that could wind up hamstringing our Navy, the men and women at sea now continue their mission to protect trade routes. In one recent instance, they rescued shipping that belongs to a nation not exactly enamored of American naval power:

Sailors from the Norfolk-based destroyer James E. Williams boarded a North Korean merchant ship that had been hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia, while two other Navy vessels tailed a pirated Japanese ship in the same region.
The Williams, which left Norfolk in July , was about 50 nautical miles from the ship Dai Hong Dan in the Arabian Sea when it received word of the pirate attack, said Lt. John Gay , a spokesman for the Navy’s Central Command in Manama, Bahrain.
The Williams dispatched a helicopter and ordered the pirates to give up their weapons via a bridge-to-bridge radio. The North Korean crew, which had retained control of the steering and engineering spaces, then confronted the pirates and gained back control of the bridge, according to a Navy news release. ….
Hundreds of miles away in the same region, two other Navy ships were tracking a Japanese-owned ship seized by pirates over the weekend, Gay said.
The spokesman said that two “coalition” ships from Combined Task Force 150 had responded to the hijacking of the Golden Mori , a Japanese-owned ship registered in Panama.

The US Navy helps protect shipping around the world, for a variety of reasons. For one, it protects American trade abroad and ensures that vital resources (such as petroleum) reach our shores as intended. A global economy requires security for all such transactions, and the stability of global markets remains a vital American interest. We also want to stop terrorists from pirating ships that could be used to stage massive attacks on American ports, and that requires constant vigilance and quick response.
National security requires a robust American presence in international waters. Whatever LOST does to limit that can and probably will result in unpleasant consequences, and not just for the US. Even our putative enemies such as North Korea will wind up losing from a constrained US Navy in the long run.

Parents Taking Power Back

Utah voters go to the polls next week to vote on a controversial school-choice measure, opposed by most of the education lobby but supported by many voters in the state. The program would use means testing to grant vouchers for children to use in private schools rather than public schools, and the industry’s leaders see their monopoly slipping away. John Stossel argues that parents can do better with the money than the public schools have done so far:

What a great idea. Finally, parents will have choices that wealthy parents have always had. The resulting competition would create better private schools and even improve the government schools.
But wait. Arrayed against the vouchers are the usual opponents. They call themselves Utahns for Public Schools. They include, predictably, the Utah Education Association (the teachers union), Utah School Boards Association, Utah School Employees Union, Utah School Superintendents Association, the elementary and secondary school principals associations, and the PTA. No to vouchers! they protest. Trust us. We know what’s best for your kids.
They say they’re all for improving education but not by introducing choice. “When it comes to providing every Utah child with a quality education, we believe, as do most Americans, that our greatest hope for success is investing in research-proven reforms. These include the things parents and teachers know will make a difference in the classroom, such as smaller class sizes and investment in teacher development programs. Focusing on this type of reform will bring far greater success than diverting tax dollars to an alternative education system.”
Please. I’ve heard that song for years. Government schools in America fail while spending on average more than $11,000 per student. Utah spends $7,500. Think what an innovative education entrepreneur would do with so much money. It’s more than $150,000 per classroom!
The answer to mediocre public schooling isn’t to give a government monopoly more “teacher development programs.” The answer is competition.

Competition is one part of why these programs will eventually overtake the government monopoly on education policy. It will force public schools into accountability in some manner, as they compete for children and funding. The reduction of enrollees will hit their budgets hard, and they will be forced into improving their offerings to convince parents to keep their children in their schools.
What Stossel misses is why voucher programs have become a burgeoning movement, along with home schooling and the demand for charter schools. It springs from the loss of power from parents and the local communities to the federal government over the last four decades. The shift of control over curricula, standards, and mandates from local school boards to a vast federal bureaucracy — abetted by the NEA — has provoked this reaction. Parents want as much influence over the education of their children as possible, and federal control gives them no influence or say over how their children are taught. Power has shifted into the hands of the lobbyists, like the NEA, who represent teachers and administrators first, and children secondarily if at all, as I noted two years ago.
Vouchers simply provide parents with the power always envisioned by the public school system. It simply replaces the school board with a capitalist lever on quality of delivery. It requires more from the parents in terms of involvement, but at least in this system, their involvement actually gets rewarded. Right now, schools have so many mandates and top-down requirements that parents have little say any more — and when they do attempt to make changes, get treated with dismissive attitudes from the “experts” who assume they know the children better than the parents.
The NEA and the Department of Education drove parents to voucher programs. Utah will likely be the first to pass the program, but in ten years, expect to see it spreading like wildfire. One way or another, parents will take back control over the education of their children, and dinosaurs like the NEA will either adapt or die.
UPDATE: Speaking of which — how about yoga as a requirement for public schools?

Getting Screwed Through Abstinence

What is it about Pennsylvania politicians and pork? Yesterday, we covered the ongoing story of John Murtha, King of Pork. Today, the Politico reveals that Arlen Specter wants pork for virginity, screwing taxpayers while promoting abstinence:

The senator, who supports abortion rights, is turning the state into the abstinence-earmark capital of the country, directing more than $8 million into dozens of programs and, in the process, arching more than a few eyebrows.
He’s done it again this year, setting aside $1 million for an Erie women’s center that provides “abortion recovery” counseling, a community group once chaired by a late supporter and 23 other school districts, hospitals and local organizations. No other member of Congress earmarks money for abstinence education.
The reason Specter does it offers insight into the political machinations behind — and the abiding allure of — the narrow-interest spending requests maligned by fiscal watchdogs but desired as much as ever by members of Congress.

And here’s where the rubber meets the road, if you’ll pardon a terrible pun. Conservatives, including many fiscal conservatives, want more emphasis on abstinence. For that matter, so do I, at least in terms of sex education in schools.
However, as a conservative, I question these earmarks just as I do any other manipulations of federal funding for political purposes. The funding of Pennsylvania abstinence programs should come from Pennsylvanians, if they desire them. Taxpayers in other states should not have to pay the bill for programs that exist within Pennsylvania, just as they shouldn’t have to foot the bill for Johnstown’s questionable revival or for hippie museums in New York.
Specter, an abortion-rights supporter, wants this money sent to these abstinence programs in his state in order to burnish his thin conservative credentials. However, the abstinence programs represent only the tip of the iceberg. Specter has 188 earmarks in the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill, the highest of any member in the upper chamber. Ted Stevens and Tom Harkin have earmarked more money ($51 million and $60 million, respectively), but Specter has spread the wealth more broadly than either.
Earmarks, simply put, allow legislators to buy votes and pay off supporters in a legal manner. Regardless of the righteousness of the cause, it perverts the idea of open government and ensures an entrenched, careerist legislature. If we only object to the corruption that doesn’t benefit our causes, then we have become the problem.

The Problem At #47

The British newspaper, The Telegraph, has a new series out this week on the 100 most influential conservatives and liberals in the United States. As with most lists, the inclusions and rankings make for intriguing debate. Our friends Erick Erickson at Redstate made the list in the 68th position, and Michelle Malkin placed in the 90s. Some may quibble about their placement and their inclusion, but at least they both are recognizably conservative.
That cannot be said for the forty-seventh “conservative” on the list:

Senator for Connecticut
The only person to make both of our lists. It is easy to forget that Lieberman could very easily have been a Democrat vice-president today if he had not lost so narrowly with Al Gore in 2000. Instead he is a pariah for many Democrats because of his full-throated support for the Iraq war and a bellicose stance against Iran.
He was re-elected for a fourth term in the senate as an ‘Independent Democrat’ in 2006 and holds considerable power in the chamber given the slimness of the Democrats’ majority. He makes the conservative list because he would be a natural Pentagon chief in any Republican administration or a key Capitol Hill ally of a President Giuiliani or a President McCain.

I like Joe Lieberman, but Lieberman is no conservative. His voting record in the last several Congresses puts him squarely in the middle of the Democratic caucus. In the 109th, his record skewed more leftward than Harry Reid and Robert Byrd. In the 108th, Tom Daschle and Evan Bayh joined Reid as more moderate than Lieberman. Thus far in the 110th, when the Left has more control over the agenda, Lieberman has the 12th most liberal voting record in the Senate — more so than Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin, Patty Murray, Chuck Schumer, and Hillary Clinton.
Lieberman supports a vigorous national-security policy, but that doesn’t make him a conservative — or at least it shouldn’t. Not too long ago in the past, Democrats believed in a strong military and forward strategies to keep threats from American shores. While the Telegraph selection of Lieberman for this list demonstrates how long ago those days are, it doesn’t make him a conservative any more than William F Buckley’s opposition to the Iraq War makes him a liberal. It just makes Lieberman a liberal who understands the threat of radical Islamist terrorism and its main source in Teheran.
The Telegraph still has two more days to roll out its most influential conservatives. Let’s hope Lieberman’s inclusion doesn’t mean that they’ve run out of likely candidates.

Casualty Rates Drop To Lowest Level In 18 Months

The casualty rates continue to drop in Iraq across the board, according to USA Today. The number of deaths from all causes among American troops hit its lowest level since March 2006 despite aggressive tactics in fighting terrorists and insurgents in Iraq:

The number of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq is headed for the lowest level in more than a year and a half and the fifth consecutive monthly decline.
Twenty-seven Americans have been killed in action in October, with one day left in the month, Pentagon records show. That would be the lowest monthly level since March 2006, when 27 servicemembers died in hostile action, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Pentagon reports.
The total number of U.S. deaths, including accidents, in October so far is 35, records show.
A new strategy, backed up by 30,000 more U.S. servicemembers, has led to a decline in violence and weakened al-Qaeda, commanders say. The U.S. military started building combat outposts and moving troops outside major bases earlier this year in an attempt to provide more security. ….
All measurable violence in the Baghdad area, including attacks on civilians and sectarian murders, have declined steadily since June, he said. The overall number of monthly attacks in the Baghdad area was 2,455 in January. In October, there were 598 attacks.
“What’s done that is the people,” Campbell said. The military’s counterinsurgency doctrine says rebellions are defeated when the population turns away from insurgents.

The violence in Baghdad has dropped 80%. American casualties have hit successively lower numbers and even with an extended footprint have dropped to eighteen-month lows. Osama bin Laden has begun issuing desperate pleas for Islamists to get past their divisions, as the native insurgents turn on the foreigners for their brutality.
Those developments may not mean victory, but they mean progress.
It also puts lie to the assertion that al-Qaeda in Iraq has been either a mirage or overblown as the prime drivers of the violence in Iraq. Their rapid dissipation from the field has delivered a very large impact on violence across the nation, showing that they had been the main provocateurs behind the 2006 debacle. If they had as little influence over events as some now claim, we would see a much lower level of improvement from the surge which clearly prioritized AQI as its first target.
We need to maintain the pressure on both the terrorists and the Maliki government. Baghdad needs to start engaging the Sunnis and the Kurds and develop the structures and processes that will bind the nation together. That will have a direct impact on the cohesiveness of their security forces, which have played a larger role in holding cleared territory during the surge. The opportunity for a stable, unified Iraq has never been better.
UPDATE: Victory Caucus notes the handover of Karbala Province to the Iraqi Army. This is the eighth of 18 provinces to come under the complete control of the Iraqi government and its security forces. Again, this isn’t victory — but it’s progress.