A Narrow Escape

Notre Dame started its 2006 campaign with a near-stumble against Georgia Tech, a team regarded as a test for the pre-season #2 team in college football. The Fighting Irish escaped with a 14-10 win and likely a lower ranking:

The best thing you can say about Notre Dame’s game against Georgia Tech is that it’s over. And if the Fighting Irish don’t figure how to play more like the No. 2-ranked team in the country rather than something from the Also Receiving Votes agate, then they can pucker up and kiss the Holy Trinity of college football goodbye.
We’re speaking, of course, of the national championship, the Heisman Trophy, and Lee Corso wearing your mascot’s headgear near Cardinals Stadium come Jan. 8. Notre Dame remains in the team picture for all three, but only because ND’s 14-10 victory came in the first week of the season, not the last. …
There’s no nice way to say it: for the first 30 minutes of this game, Tech turned ND into a bumblin’ wreck. The Yellow Jackets left bee stings all over the Fighting Irish’s ranking, quarterback Brady Quinn’s Heisman hype, and coach Charlie Weis’ reputation as an offensive mastermind.
Tech led, 10-7, and had a first-half shutout until Quinn scored on a quarterback draw with 11 seconds remaining and no timeouts left. It was the lowest first-half point total during Weis’ 13-game tenure and it produced the usual panic from visiting Golden Domers.

I didn’t get a chance to see the opener, as I spent the evening at the movies with the family, but after reading this I’m glad I missed it. I would have definitely joined the panic, and I was 1500 miles away from Georgia Tech.
The Irish have this maddening habit of playing up or down to the level of their opponents, and they also have spent the last few seasons coming out of the gate very slowly — both in games and in seasons. They tend to finish stronger than they start in both perspectives, but it isn’t easy to overcome the handicap they give away.
The upside is, of course, that the Irish won the game and that their second half appeared somewhat better than the first. The defense tossed a shutout in the second half on the road, an impressive feat against a skilled opponent. Brady Quinn managed to put up some decent numbers and show some leadership in rallying the team. Darius Walker ran for 99 yards — not great, but not bad at all. The Irish have plenty on which to build.
They’d better build fast. The legendary Joe Paterno and his Penn State Nittany Lions pay a visit to Touchdown Jesus next week, followed by Michigan and then a road game at their bete noir, Michigan State. It’s a grinder of a schedule, and what’s worse is that CQ commenter Monkei will be on my backside this entire week about the Penn State game.
Let’s go, Irish. Don’t make a Monkei out of us.

Will Hillary Pass On Presidential Race?

The Times of London joins a growing number of media outlets that report on Hillary Clinton’s supposed reluctance to run for President, in 2008 or anytime else. The Democrats share this reluctance based on consistently high negatives in polling and want her to stay in the Senate — but another Clinton wants to live in the White House again:

FRIENDS of Hillary Clinton have been whispering the unthinkable. Despite her status as the runaway frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president, some of her closest advisers say she might opt out of the White House race and seek to lead her party in the Senate.
The former first lady longs to return to the White House with husband Bill as consort. Only last week she told television viewers America would be led by a woman one day. “Stay tuned,” she said.
First, however, she has to win the election. Some Democratic party elders — the American equivalent of the Tories’ “men in grey suits” — say Clinton may back out of the race of her own volition. …
Her final decision is likely to be made next spring. One close friend of the Clintons said: “There is no way she won’t run for president.” According to a member of “Hillaryland”, her close-knit inner-circle, she would be letting herself and her supporters down if she declined to take a shot at the White House.
Others are not so sure. If she balks at the presidency, “she can win a huge amount of goodwill by donating her money to colleagues in the Senate,” another associate said.

Like the other articles, the Times relies on anonymously-sourced gossip for its story. That doesn’t make the gossip false — most political stories about politicians’ future plans get anonymously sourced — but it doesn’t make it reliable, either. One might say that the number and increasing frequency of these stories gives the rumors more credibility, but it also could mean that certain people in Democratic circles have started a whispering campaign to get her to withdraw from the race.
Who might do that? Oh, maybe staffers for Al Gore, John Kerry, Mark Warner, and so on.
The most laughable part of the article is the suggestion that Hillary would pass on the presidential run because she wants to dedicate herself to bipartisanship in the Senate. Someone seems to forget that Hillary coined the term “vast right-wing conspiracy” and spent years telling people that her husband’s woes sprang from Republicans out to get him. They have mistaken her studied centrism for bipartisanship; her whole Senate voting record has been calculated to draw down the high negatives that still plague her, and any alliances with Republican Senators have aimed for that purpose. That’s not necessarily bad, but it doesn’t come from a love of bipartisanship. Even Bill was more bipartisan that Hillary.
No one raises $33 million for a Senate race in which she runs effectively unopposed. (Quick: name her Republican challenger without checking Google.) She’s building a war chest for a presidential run, and she will continue to build it, because she has planned this campaign for six years. The only reason she ran for the Senate at all was to capture the White House; she could have made a fortune on the lecture circuit otherwise.
She’s running. She may well fulfill the predictions of the prognosticators by winning the primary and losing the general election; if she wins the nomination, she almost certainly will lose, if just for the reason that people will want a President without the last name of Clinton or Bush for the first time in twenty years. Make no mistake, though, that she will somehow turn herself into a lifer in the Senate.
I will offer one more possibility for her withdrawal. If another Democrat looked too good to lose in the general election, she might be tempted to sit down — for the promise of a Supreme Court appointment.

An Evening In The Rain

I decided to take the First Mate out for an evening after finishing the State Fair broadcast this afternoon. We had wanted to see The Devil Wears Prada for a few weeks but hadn’t had a chance to catch it yet. The FM read the book (on CD), and with Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci, it looked like a good choice. I’ll pass on writing a review — it’s been out for too long — but it’s definitely enjoyable. Streep is deliciously nasty, Tucci is excellent, and Anne Hathaway almost manages to steal the movie from both.
Some have asked for an update on the FM’s health. She’s improved over the summer, but the BK viral infection has made something of a comeback. She now has to have a weekly IV infusion of a powerful antiviral, and we’re hoping that will solve the problem. Until then, we have to wait on any transplant. Her anemia has all but disappeared, though, and her energy level is much improved. My back is healing nicely as well.
We took our son and daughter-in-law out with us to the movie, and afterwards we debated energy policy while standing in a soft rainshower. David studies physics at the U of M and has always had an interest in American energy policy, ever since he and I looked into the use of hydrogen fuel cells for a high-school project years ago. He expressed frustration over our continuing reliance on fossil fuels rather than nuclear power. I asked him to write a paper on the issue, and he agreed to review the scientific implications of our energy policies for CQ readers. Hopefully I’ll have something soon to share with you all; he’s got some interesting ideas.

It’s All Happening At The Fair

As I wrote last week, it’s that time of year again here in Minnesota, when it seems that half of the state congregates within a square mile to sample food on a stick and make carny barkers rich. It’s the Great Minnesota Get-Together, our State Fair, and as always, the Northern Alliance Radio Network will broadcast live from the AM 1280 The Patriot booth. We’ll be broadcasting again today and tomorrow from the fairgrounds. Today, we will stick to our new expanded schedule of 11 am – 5 pm CT; tomorrow we will broadcast from 12 – 4 pm CT. If you can’t get down to the fair on either weekend, tune us in at 1280 AM or on our Internet stream.
I’ll be on with Mitch from 1-3 CT today and 2-4 CT tomorrow, so be sure to tune in!

QandO Hacked; I Question The Timing

Just a day after Jon Henke announced his new position with the George Allen re-election campaign, his QandO blog has been hacked. Individual posts still display, but an attempt to access the main page only displays a misspelled text message, supposedly from a Turkish hacker, saying “NO WAR!”
Uh-huh. Suddenly QandO has landed on the radar screen of Turkish hackers — who manage to misspell ‘Turkish’? And their anti-war fervor led them to hack a neo-Libertarian site? Riiiiiiiight.
If you don’t have QandO’s RSS feed, here it is. It appears to work just fine, and you can read anything new that the trio posts while it fixes the damage done by, er, Turkish hackers.

On The Decision For Martyrdom

David Schraub points to a strange column by David Warren that sounds like a demand for Christian or even Wsetern martyrdom regardless of one’s own personal beliefs. Warren excoriates Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig for going through a mock conversion to Islam as a means of escaping their kidnappers:

Lately I have been looking at the large — at how the West is proving unable to cope with a threat from a fanatical Islamic movement, that it ought to be able to snuff out with fair ease. (See my column last Sunday.) But the large is often most visible in the small.
The degree to which our starch is awash is exhibited in the behaviour of so many of our captives, but especially in these two. They were told to convert to Islam under implicit threat (blindfolded and hand-tied, they could not judge what threat), and agreed to make the propaganda broadcasts to guarantee their own safety. That much we can understand, as conventional cowardice. (Understand; not forgive.) But it is obvious from their later statements that they never thought twice; that they could see nothing wrong in serving the enemy, so long as it meant they’d be safe.
I assume they are not Christians (few journalists are), but had they ever been instructed in that faith, they might have grasped that conversion to Islam means denial of Christ, and that is something many millions of Christians (few of them intellectuals) have refused to do, even at the cost of excruciating deaths. Christianity still lives, because of such martyrs. Not suicide bombers: but truly defenceless martyrs.

I’m not going to do a point-by-point fisking here, because I doubt it would do much good, but Warren makes unsupported assumptions and then builds on them to a conclusion that seems almost as bad as anything radical Islamists say about suicide bombings.
Warren wants kidnapped hostages to die for Christianity and the West rather than jolly along their kidnappers to gain their own freedom. That may be a splendid sentiment, but it results in dead Westerners rather than dead Islamists, and I fail to see how that represents any kind of victory. One of the reasons why Western culture is superior to that of radical Islam — and I say superior deliberately — is that we value individual human life. Dying needlessly and purposelessly for the West doesn’t gain us any converts in this conflict.
In his argument for martyrdom, Warren retells the story of the Italian hostage in Iraq that fought back rather than be beheaded. He leaves out the essential element of Fabrizio Quattrochi’s story, however, which is that Quattrochi knew he was going to die. (He also makes an unsupported allegation that Quattrochi wasn’t Christian.) Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s goons had gathered Quattrochi and his fellow victims for their execution. Rather than await the butcher’s knife, the Italian charged his captors, who were forced to shoot him instead.
Brave, yes. Martyr … not exactly. Quattrochi didn’t die to defend the West; he died because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Warren complains about the image that Centanni, Wiig, and others who beg for their lives leave on the Muslim world. He says it makes Westerners look like wimps. That, however, is an indictment on their culture, not ours, that they place individual people in situations where they have to beg for their lives. Warren wants to play by Muslim rules, and he wants to do it with other people’s lives. It’s pretty damned easy to criticize hostages who have no idea how to stay alive except to cooperate and hope things work out well — if the critic is heartless enough to do it.
Christianity did not survive because of martyrdom; it survived despite it, and the martyrs prepared themselves for the task. The church survived the oppression of the Romans in its first centuries, not by mindlessly dying for Christianity but for living for it. Romans did not seize people randomly off the street and tell them to deny their faith, but instead arrested and tortured the leaders of the Church. Had Warren spent any time researching the age of martyrdom, he would know that the early church cautioned the unprepared not to attempt it because of the risk of apostasy. It’s hardly analogous to the terror of fanatical Muslims today, and Centanni and Wiig never volunteered to be the banner-carriers of Christianity or the West.
As I wrote this, I got an e-mail from Jules Crittendon regarding the same subject. He writes in the Boston Herald:

Centanni and Wiig — abducted, bound and blindfolded by armed Islamic terrorists in Gaza — were told they had to convert to Islam.They did so.They later said nice things about the Palestinian cause while still in the custody of Palestinian terrorist leaders. There was some premature debate among armchair heroes on the Internet about whether they should have done this. …
Now, a sanctimonious Canadian, columnist David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen, has accused Centanni and Wiig of aiding the enemy through “conventional cowardice.”This disgusting slur was amplified at www.realclearpolitics.com, a prominent and respected opinion website that saw fit to run these remarks under its own imprint.
Warren reportedly is a convert to Catholicism. Presumeably that conversion happened after his reported divorce, or he would be a sinner and a hypocrite rather than, as he presumeably is now, forgiven. He called Centanni and Wiig’s gunpoint conversion something we can “understand: not forgive.” He assumes they are not Christians, but proceeds to argue for martyrdom, if not Christian martyrdom, then martydom for the West.
Warren’s condemnation of these men raises some very unusual questions. Clearly he’s eager for their deaths. But in his own case, does he long to be nailed to a cross of his own, or would he rather have some heretics to burn? Or is he just jacked up on self-righteousness and spouting off idly from the sidelines? Whichever it may be, he starts to sound a lot like some other religious fanatics I could name.

The though process behind Warren’s diatribe eludes me. It’s presumptuous and in the end, it’s ludicrous. He wants to make the abductors’ point for them and turn every Westerner into a combatant. That’s his argument at its base — that Centanni and Wiig should have understood themselves to be combatants and their cooperation with their captors amounted to treason, if not apostasy. It’s an argument, though, that we don’t even make with combatants any more. During the Viet Nam War, thousands of POWs got tortured for their brave resistance to demands for taped statements against the United States. When that information came to light after the war, the DoD revised its policies on treason to exclude the kind of facile rhetorical cooperation that the Vietnamese had demanded, the resistance to which cost American lives and health needlessly.
Everyone understands that statements made under duress have no meaning except to demonstrate the inhumanity of the captors rather than the politics or religion of the captured. Everyone understands this except for David Warren, I guess, who argues that religious fanaticism must be fought with more religious fanaticism. I, for one, am happy that Centanni and Wiig had the wits and the luck to get out of Gaza alive. That to me is a victory. That Warren sees it as a form of surrender makes me wonder exactly what kind of war he wants to fight.

North Korea Understands The Significance

The US successfully tested its missile-defense system again this week, and this time it specifically used North Korean missile technology in its test. The North Koreans did not miss the significance of the results:

The U.S. missile defense system yesterday shot down an incoming dummy warhead simulating the last-stage trajectory of a North Korean Taepodong-2 missile, a milestone that U.S. officials expect to counter critics of earlier tests.
It was the first time a dummy North Korean missile was intercepted, and the sixth successful intercept since 1999, said officials from the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency.
“What we did today is a huge step in terms of our systematic approach to continuing to field, continuing to deploy and continuing to develop a missile defense system for the United States, for our allies, our friends, our deployed forces around the world,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency.
He said there is “good chance” the system would be successful against a Taepodong-2 launched from North Korea.

Pyongyang test-fired a Taepodong-2 missile on July 4th, heightening tensions in the Pacific and raising fears that North Korea could now strike the US mainland. The TD-2 was intended to land outside of Hawaiian waters as a message to the US of Kim Jong-Il’s reach in the Pacific, but it failed within the first minute of its flight. North Korea says it intends to keep testing the TD-2, regardless of the outcry in the region.
That led to the increased efforts to demonstrate the futility of the TD-2 project. After a successful intercept at or approaching the apogee of a multi-stage missile in June, critics complained that such an intercept would not adequately stop the warhead of an ICBM from wreaking havoc. This test appears to counter that criticism. The defensive system destroyed the warhead itself, a feat better than its design intended, and it shows that the US can stop at least a random missile shot, if necessary.
North Korea reacted as one would expect: unhappily. The demonstration of our missile defense “clearly shows that it is the U.S. which is increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and threatening war against our country.” Kim pledged to continue work on his TD-2 to increase DPRK’s “self-defensive deterrent”, which in Orwellian Newspeak means offensive nuclear weapons capabilities.
Japan, meanwhile, is also discussing an end to official pacifism in the face of North Korean threats:

Shinzo Abe, the nationalist politician who is expected to become Japan’s next prime minister, said Friday that Japan should revise the pacifist Constitution imposed on it by the United States.
He made the statement as he formally declared his candidacy for the presidency of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, a post that would give him the prime ministership. Mr. Abe, the chief cabinet secretary, also said Japan should seek a larger role in the world and further strengthen its alliance with the United States.
“As the next L.D.P. president, I’d like to take the lead to put revision of the Constitution on the political agenda,” Mr. Abe said at a regional party convention in Hiroshima.
“I’d like to draft a new Constitution with my own hands,” he added.
The current war-renouncing Constitution, which was drafted by Americans during their occupation of the country after World War II, does not allow Japan to possess a real military.

This represents the real threat to Kim in the region: a re-armed Japan. It’s one of two ace cards held by the West in dealing with Kim Jong-Il, the other being Taiwan, which is more of a pressure point for China. Neither wants to see Japan off its American leash, and China will be forced to exert its influence over its intransigent ally.
It would appear that George Bush has taken a page from the playbook of Ronald Reagan in dealing with North Korea. He has insisted on multilateral talks and offered some incentives for engagement. However, he refuses to trust Kim as a direct negotiating partner, and instead has worked to negate the threat through defensive measures. Once we establish that Kim’s missiles will gain him nothing, Kim will have to build something to overcome the defenses. However, Pyongyang has almost run out of resources and almost assuredly will collapse, even if they avoid an arms escalation. If they try to surpass our missile defenses, Kim’s regime will crumble from internal rot and a catastrophic economic situation.
In the meantime, the missile defense test sends a message to the other end of the Axis of Evil. The Iranians may be spending a lot of time and resources on a missile system that will be obsolete before they can tip them with the nukes they’re pursuing. A sanctions regime would force them into the same bankruptcy as North Korea, but their restless populace will never let it get that far.
UPDATE: The Washington Post reports that further tests will come in December, and will include countermeasures to determine whether the interceptor can differentiate between them. Critics warn that this does not mean that the missile-defense system is 100% capable, and of course they’re right. However, we would have been much closer to that state had we not taken a 10-year break from developing this program in the 1990s.

New British Terror Sweep Nabs 14 Suspects

British security forces arrested 14 people in a terror sweep they say is unrelated to the foiled sky-terror plot, the BBC reports. The arrests appear to focus on a madrassa in East Sussex:

Armed police have arrested 14 men following anti-terror raids in London, including 12 arrests at a restaurant in the Borough area.
Two people were held elsewhere in the city in what police said was an intelligence-led operation.
Police said the arrests were not connected to the alleged transatlantic jet bomb plot or the 7 July attacks.
An Islamic school near Tunbridge Wells has also been searched as part of the same operation.
The Jameah Islameah property, on Catt’s Hill near Crowborough, East Sussex, is an Islamic teaching facility for boys aged between 11 and 16.

The school only had nine students at its last inspection, which seems very noteworthy considering the size of the facility. The school advertises to Islamic centers as a central instruction point for leaders of Muslim communities. Given the size of the facility, either Jameah Islameah has fallen on hard times — which seems unlikely given the current state of affairs — or it served as something more than an instructional facility.
In fact, the BBC’s sources say that the arrests involved the operation of training camps for terrorists. It’s the same kind of training that British investigators suspected the July 7 bombers of undergoing but were never able to establish when or where it happened. While investigators so far have found no connection between the school and the July 7 plotters, they apparently have taken that theory seriously enough to look for similar training centers for would-be terrorists.
The suspects were arrested as they ate at a halal Chinese restaurant, after having dozens of police officers come into the place looking specifically for them. One has to wonder why 12 of the 14 suspects had gathered in one place, and a public place at that, when the school would have provided more security — if their meeting had a specific purpose. Likewise, if the police assumed that it did, was it a good idea to confront them in a public place, or should they have waited until they had them in more secure surroundings? It doesn’t seem like an accident that so many security officers just happened to be available as backup at that Chinese restaurant.
The British have scored a number of recent successes in fighting the Islamists, if this proves to be correct. They appear to have made significant intelligence inroads into the radical Muslim community. It would be enlightening to know their methods.
UPDATE: Allahpundit at Hot Air questions the timing, too.

Shafer Smokes The Media Over Nicotine Coverage

Experienced bloggers and readers know that the two mainstream media critics worth bookmarking are Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post and Jack Shafer at Slate. Shafer demonstrates his brilliance in tonight’s critique of this week’s bad science coverage regarding a Massachussetts study that reported a 10% rise in nicotine levels in cigarettes. All of the major newspapers covered the story, and the New York Times even dedicated an editorial to berating the tobacco industry for its heartlessness, but Shafer reports that lazy reporting and bad sourcing created a hysteria over nothing at all:

Journalists give tobacco companies the same benefit of the doubt they do alleged baby-rapists, which is to say none. And who can blame them? For a century, the tobacco industry has lied and obfuscated about their products at every turn.
Yet serial liars aren’t automatically guilty of every charge leveled against them. Even the tobacco company baddies, who took a wicked beating this week in the press, deserve a fair hearing before we hang them.
The news hook this week was a Commonwealth of Massachusetts report about nicotine yields in cigarettes increasing by 10 percent since 1998. The Boston Globe’s headline reports “Cigarettes pack more nicotine,” and the story’s lede alleges that the boost makes “it tougher for smokers to quit.” The story quotes Massachusetts officials, anti-smoking advocates from public health and law, but no critics of the report. The tobacco companies declined, across the board, to talk to the press.

The media jumped all over the Massachussetts report, in all instances framing the reported increase in nicotine as an attempt to make cigarettes more addictive. Would a 10% increase in nicotine actually result in a higher addiction potential? The newspapers never bothered to find out, nor did they ask themselves the obvious question as a reality check: would anyone argue that a 10% reduction in nicotine levels would make cigarettes less addictive?
Shafer performs the research that the newspapers skipped. He took the paper to a highly-regarded medical researcher at Lancet and investigated the research methodology used by Massachussetts. He found that shoddy research and reporting had made the allegations unprovable and a poor selection for reporting. It’s a complicated story and almost impossible to excerpt, so be sure to read the whole article — and to watch for Shafer’s work at Slate whenever possible.

Workers Of The World, Rise Up Against Your (Democratic) Oppressors!

With the Democrats demanding a raise in the federal minimum wage and campaigning on the issue to highlight their sympathy for American workers. That sympathy, as Power Line noted earlier this evening, doesn’t even extend beyond their own payroll. Democratic canvassers in Wisconsin have walked off the job as the Democratic Party refuses to pay them the existing minimum wage:

Alex Scherer-Jones began working for Grassroots Campaigns to fight the Bush administration and elevate the fortunes of the Democratic Party. The 21-year-old MATC student left feeling exploited and sour: “I went in there being very idealistic and it kind of ruined my idealism.”
The job involves going door to door asking people to give money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, using talking points that include a call to raise the minimum wage. For this, Scherer-Jones says he was paid far less than the state minimum wage of $6.50 an hour.
“I worked 37 hours one week and got paid around $130 [after taxes],” recalls Scherer-Jones, who quit after two weeks.
John Dedering worked for Grassroots Campaigns for about a month last year and again this year. He says the company paid a satisfactory base wage in 2005, when he canvassed for Environmental Action, but this year switched to a new system, dropping his wages to less than minimum.
Juan Ruiz says he put in about 45 hours working at Grassroots Campaigns for five days this year, and was paid just $56. And Miles Kristan produces pay stubs for two two-week periods, during which he says he typically worked 50 hours per week. One is for $339.81, the other for $281.50. Before taxes.

We have heard plenty of outrage from Congressional Democrats this year over the length of time since the last minimum-wage hike. Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer have railed about how minimum-wage workers have not had a raise in seven years, somehow neglecting to mention that the minimum wage is a transitional wage only and that raises come as part of a performance reward system when one stays at a job.
Their rationalization for breaking the law is laughable. Their contractor, Grassroots Campaigns, argues that special rules apply to canvassers that allow them to pay commission-based compensation. GC also acknowledges that they do not pay for employee time spent during orientation, claiming another exemption. Neither exemption exists, and even if they did, Democrats still would need to explain why they would support any system that paid $56 in wages for 45 hours of work.
For instance, Democrats around the nation have made a stink this year about the wages paid by Wal-Mart, which has an average starting pay of approximately $9 per hour. Suppose Wal-Mart created a set of incentives for compensation that allowed them to pay a wage as low as $1.25 per hour. How many broken legs would national Democratic candidates suffer in their stampede to press conferences to denounce the evil, heartless corporation of Wal-Mart?
Democrats demand a minimum-wage hike that will hit small businesses hardest. They regularly hold rallies outside of Wal-Marts to protest the low pay and benefits that the company offers its employees. The Democrats hope to use these arguments to get more people to register with their party — and then they stiff the employees who have to find these voters.
Hypocrisy, thy name is Democrat.