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Saturday, December 17, 2005
 
Powell: CIA Hid Doubts on WMD Intelligence

This is not going to please the idiot chorus:

THE US administration was never told of doubts about the secret intelligence used to justify war with Iraq, former secretary of state Colin Powell told the BBC in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday night.

Mr Powell, who argued the case for military action against Saddam Hussein in the UN in 2003, told BBC News 24 television he was "deeply disappointed in what the intelligence community had presented to me and to the rest of us."

"What really upset me more than anything else was that there were people in the intelligence community that had doubts about some of this sourcing, but those doubts never surfaced to us," he said.

Mr Powell's comments follow US President George W. Bush's acceptance earlier this week of responsibility for going to war on intelligence, much of which "turned out to be wrong".
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Why Anti-Globalists?--Updated!

The subject comes up in this interesting article:

And then we get to the inevitable question-and-answer session. The most awkward and difficult question comes from a young lady: “If it seems so obvious to everyone that globalisation is a force for the good, why is there so much opposition to it in rich as well as poor countries?” This remains a puzzle. The protestors in Hong Kong, the disrupters in Seattle, their fellow marchers elsewhere, claim to talk on behalf of the poor.

Yet without free trade, the foundation of globalisation, China’s poor would have remained poor and India would have easily acquired sub-Saharan status. The overwhelming beneficiaries of free trade are poor people. This is not in dispute. And yet there seems to be some persistent fear, some inchoate anxiety that will not go away. Not all the shrill anti-globalisation types are loonies. What exactly is their concern?

Rajiv Dubey from the audience may have got it right. There is a lobby in rich countries that pretends to be pro-poor, but in fact is elitist. They are cosy and comfortable. Wal-Mart, seen as an egregious symbol of globalisation, upsets their refined upper class sensitivities. That Wal-Mart may be enriching poor Chinese and making erstwhile luxuries affordable to poor Americans is dismissed with all the disdain that privileged intellectuals can summon!

What is puzzling is why the intellectual “poshocracy” of poor countries going along with this anti-globalisation posture knowing full well that opting out of world trade flows would remove the slim hope that we will dig ourselves out of poverty in our lifetimes. Clearly, this has something to do not with absolute improvements in economies, but with relative shares of the pie. It is the basic law of capitalism that a pot-bellied pan-chewing businessman who wears safari suits and who is in the “import-export” business will on average take more risk and on average will make a lot more money than a PhD in multi-cultural anthropology from JNU. And this is from the perspective of the left-wing intellectual both unpalatable and unjust.

The intellectuals of communist China don’t seem to have a problem with this. It is only the leftist elites of the West and their counterparts in India who seem to feel this way!


In the US and other modern economies the problem with globalization is the implication for socialism. Socialism for the American Left always stops at the Rio Grande, because it is easier to convince people they should believe in a system that would redistribute the wealth of America to working class Americans. The minute you extend that system elsewhere, it become apparent to the working class that some of their wealth will be redistributed to the poor of other countries.

Update: The antiglobalization nuts rioted in Hong Kong today.

Hundreds of protesters broke through police lines and came close to storming into the WTO's meeting today, but security forces scattered the crowd with tear gas in central Hong Kong.

It was the worst street violence the city has experienced in decades, and police quickly locked the doors to the convention center, where trade ministers from around the world were in the final hours of a six-day negotiation.




Apparently most of the protestors are from South Korea, and many of them are described as farmers.
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Friday, December 16, 2005
 
Senate Declines to Reauthorize Patriot Act-Updated

Nice to see the Democrats aren't even pretending to be patriots anymore.

Five Republicans voted against the reauthorization: Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John Sununu of New Hampshire, Craig and Frist. Two Democrats voted to extend the provisions: Sens. Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Frist, R-Tenn., changed his vote at the last moment after seeing the critics would win. He decided to vote with the prevailing side so he could call for a new vote at any time. He immediately objected to an offer of a short term extension from Democrats, saying the House won't approve it and the president won't sign it.


Update: Captain Ed live-blogged the president's weekly broadcast, which concerned the filibuster of the Patriot Act.

Surprise! Bush went on the offensive on the NSA leak -- he stresses that the NSA only worked on international communications, not domestic. He called the leak "illegal", and he took complete responsibility for the program.

It may seem hard to remember, but in the immediate aftermath of John Kerry's defeat in 2004, Michael Moore and the idiots at Moo-On were chastened by the experience. Moore even showed up on TV in a business suit (okay, a business tent). Peter Beinart, citing the post-WWII decision by the liberals to oppose communism and expel the communists in their midst, called for a similar purge of Moore and Move-On. Beinart referred to them as "the softs", and pointed out that they believe that terrorism and radical Islam do not pose a threat to the United States, just as Henry Wallace and many "progressives" did not believe in the Soviet threat in the late 1940s.

Beinart has lost that battle. It is now apparent that "the softs" have taken over the Democrats.

As an aside regarding Henry Wallace, check out this post by Sheldon Drobny at the HuffPo. It couldn't be more plain that Drobny believes that the Soviets were no threat to America:

Wallace was a liberal in the tradition of FDR because he supported an unproven yet reasonable idea that good relations with the post war Soviet Union was a good idea, something that conservatives abhorred. The Soviet system was perceived as a threat to capitalism in the minds of the conservatives. However, the reality was that the Russians had sacrificed dearly during the war and were entitled to a chance for a cooperative relationship.

Of course, Wallace himself later repented his softness on communism in his 1952 book, Why I Was Wrong.
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A Caption Contest With (Gasp!) A Prize!

There are lots of terrific caption contests out there, but Punch is upping the ante. They are giving away a copy of Michelle Malkin's new book, Unhinged, as the prize.
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RFK Jr., Explains Why Wind Power Will Never Work

It's refreshing to hear a liberal admit that wind power is not quite ready for primetime:

Environmental groups have been enticed by Cape Wind, but they should be wary of lending support to energy companies that are trying to privatize the commons - in this case 24 square miles of a heavily used waterway. And because offshore wind costs twice as much as gas-fired electricity and significantly more than onshore wind, the project is financially feasible only because the federal and state governments have promised $241 million in subsidies.

Cape Wind's proposal involves construction of 130 giant turbines whose windmill arms will reach 417 feet above the water and be visible for up to 26 miles. These turbines are less than six miles from shore and would be seen from Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Hundreds of flashing lights to warn airplanes away from the turbines will steal the stars and nighttime views. The noise of the turbines will be audible onshore. A transformer substation rising 100 feet above the sound would house giant helicopter pads and 40,000 gallons of potentially hazardous oil.

According to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the project will damage the views from 16 historic sites and lighthouses on the cape and nearby islands. The Humane Society estimates the whirling turbines could every year kill thousands of migrating songbirds and sea ducks.


Of course, Kennedy isn't really saying that wind power in general won't work; just the project proposed for near his family compound.

Cape Wind responds to Kennedy here.

Captain's Ed has his take here, including a hilarious title.

Hat Tip: Ankle-Biters
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Saint Howard of Dean

Our buddy Chris does a great photoshop for this contest.
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News Flash: US Government Spying on Americans?

Michelle Malkin has a huge post on this today.

Those who actually read the piece will note that the paper must grudgingly acknowledge that it is talking about the NSA's monitoring of international communications (e-mails, cellphone calls, etc.) only; the agency still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

Of course, those of us who've been getting those insistent little emails from the FBI and CIA about how "You Visit Illegal Websites" have known the feds have been spying on them for a long time.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I want to download those Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie videos with the special download manager. ;)
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Thursday, December 15, 2005
 
The Reality-Based Community? Part LXII

Rasmussen Polling reports that 32% of the American people support impeachment of President Bush.

Ah, but the devil is in the details. Get this:

However, just 30% of Americans would be more likely to vote for a Congressional candidate who promised to work for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. Fifty-two percent (52%) would be less likely to vote for such a candidate.

The poll was commissioned by the After Downing Street jokers.

Moron Impeachment from DYKWIA himself.

Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin
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I'm Glad I'm a Conservative

It saves me from moral dilemmas like this:

The choice between real and not real is especially painful for some environmentalists. Either they desecrate the Earth and chop down a tree or buy a fake one that's full of landfill-clogging polyvinyl chloride, which is kryptonite to greenies.

Salting a tree with pesticides, then chopping it down for a mere two weeks of display time isn't a great option. Ask San Francisco forest activist Kristi Chester Vance. When she invited friends to a party at her place this month, she warned her environmentalist pals on the guest list:

There will be a tree here.

"I'm a forest activist, and there's a dead tree in the middle of my house," she said. "Geez, if I have a tree, why not nail the last snow leopard to the wall, too?"


Mmmm, snow leopards! I hear they taste just like chicken!
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Ryan McGlothlin, Hero



And he didn't vote for Bush:

Ryan McGlothlin was set for life: a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the College of William & Mary, a doctoral research fellowship in chemistry at Stanford University, a bright future on the cutting edge of science.

He gave it all up to join the Marines. On Nov. 16, at age 26, he was killed in Iraq.


This is a terrific story on several levels. First, it debunks the "ignorant and taken advantage of by military recruiters" meme that the Left spreads about the members of our armed forces. Second, it shows an honest young man, who despite voting against Bush clearly believed in the Iraq mission:

"I know this war is not the most popular one back home, but people must understand that to pull out before the Iraqi army is fully ready to assume responsibility for the security of their own country is not only irresponsible of us but would ensure the persistence of terrorism," Ryan wrote. "If you walk through these cities and see how terrified the Iraqi citizens are of the terrorists and how thankful they are that we finally came to their cities, you could not possibly consider doing this job incompletely."

Obviously, the story would be improved if Ryan had lived. But it is young men like him who represent the best this country has to offer.
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Dead People Have The Right To Vote Too!

GOP & the City apparently wants to disenfrancise those who have shuffled off the mortal coil.
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Moron the Huffington Post

I'm beginning to get Arianna's vision. Collect all the fish in one comfined, circular area, so that we conservatives can get out our shotguns and start blasting.

Today's first fish is Emily Weinstein, who explains why she never stands for the National Anthem.

I first refused to pledge to the flag during the first Gulf War. In my seventh-grade heart I felt no allegience to the flag of the United States of America, nor to the republic for which it stands, because I did not believe it had ever provided liberty and justice for all. The last thirteen years have provided very little evidence to encourage me that the American flag is one I should stand for, as it increasingly becomes one the world needs to stand up to.

Some say that America has been hijacked by the current administration, that its actions defy the spirit and the law of what is truly American. That may be true, but when a bomb falls on a family in Iraq, the United States flag is on it. When a human being is publicly executed in a prison, the United States flag flies proudly outside it. And when a human being is secretly tortured in a prison, the United States flag flies outside it, too.

I won't stand for the American flag because I won't stand for what is done in its name. I won't stand for the current war in Iraq, I won't stand for the last war in Iraq. I won't stand for all the wars before that. I won't stand for its selectively faulty elecotral process and I won't stand for its unelected, renegade government. I won't stand for its medieval attitude towards sexuality and privacy, for its violent misinterpretation of Christianity, for its refusal to deal sanely with AIDS and all other global health crises, for its environmentally suicidal stance on climate change, for the hypocrisy of its practices, for the torture of its prisoners, for its executions and its drug wars and its oil wars. I won't stand for any of these things, and I won't stand for the United States of America, or its flag or its anthem, until they change.


Amazingly, the responses to her diatribe are virtually all positive.

Tom Bevan has more on this ridiculous post.

The second fish in the barrel is an old nemesis, Mr Jane Fonda himself, Tom Hayden. Tom wants us to know about the nobility of Tookie Williams:

Tookie Williams went to his death with all the dignity and serenity that is possible in an execution process that is meant to terrify and degrade. There are many possible reasons for his inner strength. To deny his tormenters any satisfaction could be one. But I think he believed that if he had to die, it was a meaningful martyrdom that sent a lasting message to the world.

Also catch Hayden's idiotic title: Tookie Williams, R.I.P. (Revolution in Progress). One would think that even a dolt like Hayden would know that talking about "The Revolution" at this point is cornball and trite, not hip and edgy like it was circa 1968. Hayden repeats several lies about Williams' conviction, like the "all-white" jury that supposedly convicted him. In fact, a black man was on the jury, whom Tookie claimed looked Filipino to him. Even if we accept Williams' characterization of the man, that's not "all-white". Hayden also claims that no physical evidence tied Tookie to the crime. Except, of course, that his shotgun was used to commit the crimes.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2005
 
Live Election Coverage from Pajamas Media

While others are mocking PJM, the big guys have been busy setting up live coverage from eight different regions of Iraq. Early posts are already trickling in from Omar at Iraq the Model. Stay tuned to Pajamas Media for updates!
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A Bad Argument Against Capital Punishment

Steve Anderson, writing in the HuffPo:

When I asked the same guy about the Commandment: Thou shalt not kill, he responded that that was not the right translation. It should say 'murder'. When I pointed out that the Bible on the pulpit of his own church used the word 'kill', he quickly changed the subject.

It's kind of refreshing to see a liberal suggesting that government ought to pay attention to the Bible, but you know how it is: when the Bible is convenient for the argument, pull it out; when it's inconvenient, shriek about the need for separation of church and state.

But it's a bad argument for other reasons. First, and most obviously is the argument that killing is acceptable in some instances. We all accept that killing in self-defense is justified. If a policeman sees a chance to shoot a suicide bomber, we acknowledge his right to do so. And if a soldier is fighting in a war, no church would say he has committed a sin by killing the enemy.

There is another problem, and this reveals a central flaw in liberalism. It's that they see the Bible and its teachings as prescriptive to society, but not individuals. We hear this all the time from the "Jesus was a liberal" crowd. But in fact the Bible is prescriptive to the individual. The commandments read "Thou shalt not...", and not "The state shalt not...."

We all understand that society has to do the dirty work for us in a lot of ways. If I were to decide that my neighbor had stolen my car, nobody would defend my right to kidnap him and hold him in my cellar so that he wouldn't steal from me again. However, if society decides that my neighbor had stolen the car, we all understand they have the right to lock him up so he won't do it again.

La Shawn Barber has some related thoughts, of course expressed more eloquently than I can manage.

The Bible makes distinctions between individual moral responsibility and governmental responsibility. To believers Christ says, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also….Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The Sermon on the Mount, from which these words come, is a presentation of Christian discipleship, not a call to pacifism. Jesus was referring to our individual persecution as believers. We’re to pray for those who mock or harass us for our beliefs, but we are not prohibited from defending ourselves or others against the threat of robbers, rapists, murderers, etc., as permitted by law.
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NFL Playoffs Look

Thought I'd take a look at the postseason picture this morning. There are six playoff spots in each conference, with four division winners and two wild cards. Here's how the picture looks as of now:

AFC
1. Indianapolis (clinched #1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs).
2/3. Denver/Cincinnati (have not clinched anything, but each is two games up for the division lead)
4. New England (have not clinched but appear to be solidly set for the #4 seed; they are up two for the division and have beaten Buffalo twice, so the Bills would need to win out and for New England to lose out. They appear to be unlikely to catch Denver or Cincinnati for the #3 seed, as they are two games behind and have four conference losses to the Broncos' two and the Bengals three AFC defeats. They would also lose a tie-breaker to the Broncos on head-to-head.
5. Jacksonville. Appears to be sitting tight in the first wildcard position. They're a game ahead of the other wc contenders and have a very easy schedule coming up: San Francisco and Tennessee at home, and Houston on the road. Those teams are a combined 7-32 for the year.
6. Pittsburgh/Kansas City/San Diego. All are 8-5, but the Steelers need some help. They have not and will not play KC or SD, so the tie-breaker for them will come down to conference games, where they are 6-5, while the Chiefs are 7-3 and the Chargers 6-3. Fortunately, the Steelers have an easier schedule ahead, and can look forward to either KC or SD losing in the next to last game, as those teams face each other. A lot will be determined this weekend as all three face tests: Pittsburgh at Minnesota, KC at the NY Giants, and San Diego at Indianapolis.

NFC
1. Seattle. The Seahawks have clinched at least a Division title and cannot be lower than a fourth seed. They look reasonably good for the #1 seed as they are two games in front and have beaten the Giants, Falcons and Cowboys, three of the teams that could tie them. They will have a conference record edge over Carolina and Tampa Bay. Chicago is the only team that has a realistic chance of nosing them out without the Seahawks losing all three remaining games.

After that, the NFC is a complete scrum. Nobody is safe, and a lot of teams are in the mix. The Giants, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Carolina all have 9-4 records, while Dallas, Minnesota and Atlanta can't be counted out at 8-5. Washington still has a shot at 7-6, although they clearly need to run the table. Three of those teams will not be playing in the Super Bowl Tournament.

This weekend will tell the story for a lot of those teams. Carolina seems to have the easiest game, visiting the 3-10 Saints, but the rest of them have tough tests. Atlanta at Chicago will be a key NFC matchup, as will Dallas at Washington.

Atlanta has the toughest schedule, as all of their remaining games are against teams that are 9-4 currently. Of course, if they win out, they'll be picking up some tie-breakers as well Nobody has a cakewalk like Jacksonville's remaining schedule; all the other NFC contenders will face two teams with winning records in their remaining three games.
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Iran Participates in Democratic Election

Unfortunately, it's in Iraq's election.

Less than two days before nationwide elections, the Iraqi border police seized a tanker on Tuesday that had just crossed from Iran filled with thousands of forged ballots, an official at the Interior Ministry said.

The tanker was seized in the evening by agents with the American-trained border protection force at the Iraqi town of Badra, after crossing at Munthirya on the Iraqi border, the official said. According to the Iraqi official, the border police found several thousand partly completed ballots inside.


Reuters and Iraq's head of border security deny the story though.

"This is all a lie," said Lieutenant General Ahmed al-Khafaji, the chief of the U.S.-trained force which has responsibility for all Iraq's borders.

"I heard this yesterday and I checked all the border crossings right away. The borders are all closed anyway," he told Reuters.

Iraq's frontiers are closed for the period of the election.

"I contacted all the border crossing points and there was no report of any such incident," Khafaji said.
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Tuesday, December 13, 2005
 
The Amazing Race Family Edition Finale

From the ranch where the last Pit Stop was, the families have to make their way to Montreal. They are given tickets but are also free to change their reservations if they see another route. The Bransons apparently steal a march on everybody by getting a flight that arrives ten minutes earlier, at 5:00. But the Linzes and Weavers do better, with a flight that gets them in at 4:10. Then it turns out that the Branson flight is way behind schedule, and will get in at 5:25, over an hour after the other teams.

They are travel to the underground city in Montreal, where they have to search the CDP tunnel for a cluebox. The Weavers manage somehow to commandeer a cab, while the Linzes are waiting in a line. They quickly find the cluebox, which is concealed from the obvious direction, but right out in the open if the teams double back. The Linzes and the Bransons both miss it the first time and have to retrace their steps.

Detour: Slide It or Roll It. In Slide It, each member of the the teams has to slide a curling stone into a scoring zone. The Weavers are in love with their cab driver, Ted, even though he at first misses the location of the arena where they are to attempt Slide It. However, apparently this is a common mistake as the Linzes end up in the same place.

The Weavers handle Slide It well, and leave the arena before the Linzes arrive. Meanwhile, the Bransons have chosen Roll It, which requires them to roll a log along some wooden rails with the help of a special tool.

Next stop: the American Pavillion at the Montreal Expo. I visited the Expo around 1976, and the American Pavillion at the time was considered too dangerous for people to approach or enter; apparently it was falling apart. However, somebody must have fixed it up, because the teams have to enter it and climb five flights of stairs to the top. The Weavers arrive first, followed by the Linzes and Bransons.

From there, the teams head to an industrial building and enter through Porte J. Of course, being fluent en Francaise, I know that Porte J is a door. Sadly, this does not seem to confuse anybody, so I wouldn't pick up any time on them. Porte J turns out to lead to a trapeze artist academy, where one member of each team must do a little aerial maneuver to be caught by a professional trapezist.

Of course, here is where Brainster would say to somebody else in the family, "Why don't you do it?" Not afraid of heights, but I am a big man and this calls for somebody lighter. The Weavers pick Rollie and he aces it, completing the maneuver in one attempt. He really has performed terrifically in this race, handling everything with apparent ease.

The Linzes pick somebody else (Alex?) and we hear numerous discussions of how fat his ass is. Sure enough he can complete the maneuver, but never quite gets caught. The Bransons catch up, but unfortunately they are watching as the trapezist and Alex finally get it right. The youngest Branson daughter tries and apparently aces it.

Next stop: the Stad Olympique, which is (I believe) where the Montreal Expos used to play before they moved to Washington. Teams must drive golf carts around the stadium to find the only entrance that a vehicle can make it through. Once again the order is Weavers, Linzes, Bransons. But the clue here is very tough; find the three departure times scattered throughout a 55,000 seat stadium. The teams spend some time searching, then realize that this is going to be a long effort and they need to pay off their cabbies.

The Linzes find their departure time first: 5:45. The Bransons find theirs: 5:50. The Weavers appear to have given up in discouragement, but that's just to carry us through the break. Sure enough, when they come back the mother gets up and the family starts looking again and Rollie (you da man!) finds their time: 5:55.

They get on little commuter airplanes leaving at those times, and head to Toronto, where they must find the CN Building. This is one of the most distinctive buildings in the world, a tall, elongated pyramid building with a bulge near the top:



Very reminiscent of the Space Needle in Seattle. Once there, the teams must search the city below for the next Pit Stop. The Linzes and Bransons leave simultaneously, while the Weavers are a little behind at this point.

Next stop is a waterfront cluebox. Detour: Ship or Shoe. In ship, teams sail (with the help of a sailor) to a ship, where they must climb the rigging to the top to get a pennant. In Shoe, they visit a shoe museum where they must try to find the one barefooted woman out of a hundred in the museum whose foot will fit the shoe they have picked. Phil emphasizes that Ship should be faster, but for teams without nerve the Shoe might work out.

The Linzes and Weavers pick Ship, while the Bransons pick shoe. We see the Linzes and Weavers making good time; at one point the sailor says that the Weavers have done perfectly. The Bransons meanwhile are despairing of ever finding the woman they're looking for. Could they have made a mistake?

No, it's just another psyche to get us through a commercial. The Linzes get their pennnant and the next clue. The Bransons finally find the right woman and get their clue.

And the Weavers apparently drop off the radar screen for no apparent reason. After being reasonably close on the sail to the ship, suddenly they're far behind. Rollie (great job kid) climbs the rigging and drops the pennant. Fortunately it lands on the dock and there's no penalty (apparently).

They're off to Queenston, where they board extremely fast boats that take them to the penultimate cluebox. There's no real challenge here, and teams arrive and depart in pretty much the same relative time situation, but it is apparent that the Weavers have fallen far behind. Next stop: Lewiston, New York, the final location in this race.

The Linzes and Bransons appear to be neck and neck. The final Road Block is to assemble a map of North America. Wally goes against one of the Linz boys. It appears very close, but Wally leaves one piece out and must run back. Meanwhile the Linzes make their victory run to the grand prize. I'd have to look back at the previous recaps, but I don't think they ever won a leg before this.

I am disappointed; I really thought the Weavers had overcome a lot. The Linzes still seem like ciphers to me; I could walk down the street past them and not realize who I was looking at. I liked the Bransons; the girls were cute and old Wally came through when he was called upon.

Still it was a terrific season and an entertaining trip around North America. It was cool that they hit upon so many areas where I had been; I really don't consider myself much of a traveler, but my mom loved to visit new places and I occasionally joined up with her and my dad for the trip to Monument Valley, for example.

As always, check out Viking Pundit's race recap for more. Eric was rooting for the Linzes, but even he says "Who Dey?"

And kris at Dummocrats apparently saw the unrated DVD edition:

Megan Linz balling at the finish line.
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On Faith, Logic, and Other Issues

I don't usually blog on religion or religious topics, but I couldn't resist taking a poke at this argument:

When we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; when we have no reasons, or bad ones, we have lost our connection to the world and to one another. Atheism is nothing more than a commitment to the most basic standard of intellectual honesty: One’s convictions should be proportional to one’s evidence. Pretending to be certain when one isn’t—indeed, pretending to be certain about propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable—is both an intellectual and a moral failing. Only the atheist has realized this. The atheist is simply a person who has perceived the lies of religion and refused to make them his own.

Now, I am not a terribly religious person myself, but that strikes me as a bunch of self-congratulatory nonsense.

Why? Because it seems obvious to me that there is less evidence for the absence of God than there is for his existence. Let's leave aside the question of whether individual religions are actually attuned to His thinking. What is the evidence for the non-existence of some creator?

Ask an atheist and they will bring up the existence of evil.

Somewhere in the world a man has abducted a little girl. Soon he will rape, torture and kill her. If an atrocity of this kind is not occurring at precisely this moment, it will happen in a few hours, or days at most. Such is the confidence we can draw from the statistical laws that govern the lives of 6 billion human beings. The same statistics also suggest that this girl’s parents believe—at this very moment—that an all-powerful and all-loving God is watching over them and their family. Are they right to believe this? Is it good that they believe this?

Of course there are multiple arguments against this. The mostly commonly used one is that evil exists because God created us with the free will to choose good or evil. One could also argue, as did The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, that Earth was created by a couple of white mice to be a giant computer, and that effectively we are referring to the white mice when we say God, and that the mice included evil because it was necessary for the program to work.

Okay, say the doubters, what about evolution! Hah! It exists, and therefore your God never made man in his image. But of course this doesn't rule out the white mice version of God; it was just a lot more sophisticated computer that slowly built itself from the building blocks of life. And many believers in religion have been able to accept evolution as fact without becoming atheists. One can believe in Genesis as being an allegory. Or one can throw out the entire Old Testament and just go from the teachings of Christ.

Indeed, if you look hard at the arguments against God, they mostly amount to arguments against particular religions. Hindus won't eat beef, while Jews won't eat pork; hence religion must be bunkum. But of course proving contradictions between individual religions doesn't disprove God. We could easily argue that they both have it wrong, as a Christian could do when ordering a bacon cheeseburger, or that one has it right and the other wrong, or even that God makes different rules for different people.

Arguments in favor of God, however, are not so easily dismissed. There is the first cause argument. Suppose we accept evolution and thus trace our ancestry back to single-celled amoebas swimming in the primordial soup, and that the Earth along with the rest of the universe, was created as a result of the Big Bang. Who or what caused the Big Bang? What existed before that? What caused that to exist? Keep tracking it back and eventually the atheist will say, "Nothing!" or "We can't fathom it."

But that's not terribly logical. You don't get something (and the universe is a rather large something) out of nothing. And if you believe in a purely mechanistic universe where everything has a logical cause, you can't suddenly abandon that logic at a certain point and say "We can't fathom it".

As pointed out by several of the commenters here, Atheism amounts to a faith itself--a faith in the non-existence of God. As such it has similar aspects to organized religions. First, it attempts to recruit new converts to the faith. That the referenced article is called "The Atheist Manifesto", should be clear evidence that recruitment is going on.

There was a funny tune back in the 1960s by Tom Lehrer called National Brotherhood Week:

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Muslims,
And everybody hates the Jews.


To which I would add, "And the Atheists hate them all!" We can all agree that in the past there has been too much intolerance between religions. But, like those religions, Atheists express their intolerance at any mention of other religions. We see it all the time in current public life, but the Atheist Manifesto conveniently spells it out:

It seems profoundly unlikely that we will heal the divisions in our world simply by multiplying the opportunities for interfaith dialogue. The endgame for civilization cannot be mutual tolerance of patent irrationality.

Hat Tip to News Bump, which is a UK-based news service that bumps good stories and posts by blogs up to the top. It's an interesting concept; time will tell how it works out in practice.
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In Search of Murtha's Broken Army

Jed Babbin (who has performed admirably on occasional fill-ins for Hugh Hewitt) went over to Iraq to try to find the "broken, worn out," and "living hand to mouth" army that Congressman Murtha has described.

Is our army broken? Not hardly, but it could be. One 4th I.D. colonel said it best: "You want to break this army? Then break your word to it." Which is precisely what the Dems want to do. President Bush was right when he said yesterday that the only way we will lose this war is if we lose our nerve. The Dems long ago lost theirs.

Terrific article; highly recommended.
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How Can You Satirize the HuffPo?

You can't because they're in full self-parody mode.

RJ Eskow compares Tookie Williams (who took the last walk this morning) to Jesus Christ.

Celebrity executions, from Jesus to Tookie Williams, have whatever meaning human actions give them. And the meaning of Tookie's? That the Religious Right, that bastion of politicized pseudo-religion and hypocritical power-grabbing, pronounced its own spiritual death by shouting hosannahs for his execution - as it has done for the anonymous dead before him.

Norman Solomon decries confusing the "insurgency" in Iraq with terrorists, citing Jack Murtha:

"Let's talk about terrorism versus insurgency in Iraq itself," Murtha said. "We think that foreign fighters are about 7 percent -- might be a little bit more, a little bit less. Very small proportion of the people that are involved in the insurgency are terrorists or how I would interpret them as terrorists."

See, only foreigners can be terrorists. If they're Iraqi and they blow up a bus full of their fellow Iraqis, that's not what Congressman Murtha would call a terrorist.
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Monday, December 12, 2005
 
Moron Winter Soldier

David Holman was in the crowd for the soldier-bashing fest of Winter Soldier.

Q&A from the audience made the panel seem moderate. The first commenter thought the panelists and the documentary are too soft on our soldiers in Vietnam and Iraq. "Several million Vietnamese killed in the Vietnam War, at least one hundred thousand Iraqis killed in the current war. And I hear these soldiers talking a great deal about their experience, their suffering, their pain....But they're telling us about the atrocities they committed. They're telling us that our conduct in the war was criminal. And I hear people coming from Iraq today telling us the same thing that they did...to the people of Iraq.... So I don't see why the three of you are focusing so much only on the soldiers, and feeling sorry for them, and being supportive of them.... I think maybe we focus on a guilt trip and saying, 'Americans are bad because we did this in Vietnam, we're bad because we're doing this in Iraq.' No. Germans did it too. Russians did it too. This is what happens in war." The gentleman was neither rebuked nor challenged.

But of course. The purpose of Winter Soldier was not to demean our fighting men in Vietnam; that was just a pleasant side course for the leftists who filmed it. The real intent was to imply that anybody would be transformed into a murderous monster by the US war machine.
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Outrage Du Jour

This silly article at Salon is getting a lot of attention:

At a certain point in the near future, if the current oligarchy cannot be removed via the ballot, direct political action may become an urgent and compelling mission. It may then be necessary for many people in many walks of life to put their bodies on the line. For the moment, however, although pressing and profound questions have arisen about whether the current government is even legitimate, i.e., properly elected, there still remains a chance to remove this government peacefully in the 2008 election. (Or am I living in a dream world?)

I do think this regime's removal is the most urgent matter before the country today. And I do think that at a certain point the achievement of that goal might take precedence over our personal predilections for writing, teaching and the like. We might be called upon to go on general strike, for instance. We might be called upon to set up camp in the streets for weeks or months, to gather and remain in large public squares as the students in Tiananmen Square did, and dare government forces to remove us or to slaughter us in the streets.

This is all terrible and rather fantastic to contemplate. But what assurances have we that it is not all quite plausible? Having discarded the principles that Jefferson & Co. espoused, the current regime seems capable of anything. I know that my imagination is a feverish instrument. But are we not living in feverish times, in times of the unthinkable?


First of all, let me say that the writer, Cary Tennis, is a world-class poseur. As always the point of the comparisons to fantastically evil regimes is not to diminish the evil of the Chinese Communists, or to exaggerate the supposed evil of the Bushitler regime. It's to exalt oneself as being the equivalent of those who fought against those evil regimes.

We might be called upon to set up camp in the streets for weeks or months, to gather and remain in large public squares as the students in Tiananmen Square did, and dare government forces to remove us or to slaughter us in the streets.

You can see Tennis sitting there, fantasizing himself as that lone man standing in the way of the tank....
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Of Art and Politically Correct Dictators

Our new buddy Ed over at The American Scratchpad has a terrific rant on a particularly clueless comment by a society columnist on the opening of a new museum of African art in San Francisco.
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In Case You Missed 2005

James Lileks gets the jump on the end of year retrospectives with a hilarious look back at the year that was.

Hurricane Katrina strikes precisely at the moment when the dynamite charges, personally installed by Karl Rove, blow up New Orleans's levees. Teams of the same ninjas the Bushies used to rig the Diebold voting machines have already disabled the buses that could be used in evacuation. Initial media reports indicate that refugees in the Superdome have resorted to murder, cannibalism, voodoo, keno, and possibly jai alai. FOX anchor Shep Smith is consumed on camera by zombies. His last words indicate that he shares their outrage, if not their desire for sweet, sweet brains. In the weeks that follow it becomes obvious that the hurricane was caused by global warming--specifically, a 0.07 percent rise in median ocean temperature that caused New Orleans police officers to snatch DVDs from Wal-Mart shelves. The destruction of New Orleans, and the attendant effect on refinery capacity, is exposed by media crusaders as part of a GOP plot to raise gas prices and cripple the economy in time for the midterm elections, so they can run on a platform of "You like that? You want some more? Well do you?"

Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin
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So Stupid Even the Liberals Won't Go Along With It

I noticed this post over at HuffPo, where, believe it or not, Larry Beinhart goes to an art exhibit (in Woodstock, New York), and is offended that there was no antiwar art.

152 artists were given an opportunity to show a small piece of work. Each and every one of them, individually, made a decision not to be political, social, religions (sic) or scientific.

This is not to say the art must be “relevant.” This is not to say we should return to Soviet realism and show Heroic Workers planting new flowers on the village green.

It is to note that is this case, the artists abdicated. Universally.

No czar or commissar told them to, no corporate sponsor paid them to, nobody from Homeland Security came around and hinted that they would be taking names, no influential critic said the age of relevance is dead, no greedy gallery owner said I can’t sell anything with a political or social theme.


Surprisingly, perhaps, the response of many of the commentators was negative:

I'm sorry, this is a ridiculous article. You cannot dictate art. Creativity is ruled by no one, not even the artist. If this is what is coming out, then so be it.

And:

I wouldn't vote Republican at gunpoint. As an artist, I've lived through more than 30 years of an art world dominated by political 'art' dictated by the academy, and as a white male have been and continue to be ostracized. Art doesn't exist to serve to a liberal or conservative agenda, but a human one. Get over it.

And:

Well, the line-between art and agitprop is a fine one. Also, consider the artists KNOW their clients/patrons well. I'm not advocating no-response in-art, but one has to be cautious. It's tough being an artist in America.

Another person point out that political cartoonists do most of our political artwork, for the simple reason that it's immediate and ephemeral.
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Iraqi Polling Shows Significant Improvement

They really have to dig to find any negatives in these results:

Surprisingly, given the insurgents' attacks on Iraqi civilians, more than six in 10 Iraqis feel very safe in their own neighborhoods, up sharply from just 40 percent in a poll in June 2004. And 61 percent say local security is good — up from 49 percent in the first ABC News poll in Iraq in February 2004.

Nonetheless, nationally, security is seen as the most pressing problem by far; 57 percent identify it as the country's top priority. Economic improvements are helping the public mood.

Average household incomes have soared by 60 percent in the last 20 months (to $263 a month), 70 percent of Iraqis rate their own economic situation positively, and consumer goods are sweeping the country. In early 2004, 6 percent of Iraqi households had cell phones; now it's 62 percent. Ownership of satellite dishes has nearly tripled, and many more families now own air conditioners (58 percent, up from 44 percent), cars, washing machines and kitchen appliances.


That's a rather breathtaking improvement in conditions. Yes, they mostly want our military to leave (but not on Congressman Murtha's timetable). And there are some other clunkers in there as well, but overall it's not hard to see that some of that is the media's fault:

The number of Iraqis who say things are going well in their country overall is just 44 percent, far fewer than the 71 percent who say their own lives are going well. Fifty-two percent instead say the country is doing badly.

You know how it is; if 71 percent of the people are saying their lives are going well, then it's hard to buy the notion that the country's doing poorly at the same time.
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Be Sure You've Taken Your Blood Pressure Medication

Before heading over to Right Wing News for the 40 Most Obnoxious Quotes of 2005.
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The Inevitability of McCain--Updated!

Pat Hynes reports on Republicans grudgingly coming to terms with the idea of a McCain-led party in 2008.

According to several sources in Washington, DC – all of whom have, at times said things drastically critical of the Arizona Senator in my presence – McCain is the GOP’s only hope in the post-Bush era.

“The national environment has gone to s—t and Republicans are going to take a beating in 2006,” one prominent Republican consultant – who is a movement conservative -- told me recently. “McCain is the only guy out there with the credibility to maintain Republican control in Washington.”


There's a temptation to dismiss this post as overly pessimistic, and indeed there are reasons to believe that the Republicans are not headed for a debacle in 2006 and beyond. First, as I've pointed out on several occasions, President Bush did not have long coattails in 2004; hence it is unlikely that Republicans are holding a lot of risky seats. Second, a lot of it may be based on current conditions. But if gas prices continue to drop and things stabilize a bit in Iraq, we could see a dramatic improvement in Republican fortunes. Third, McCain will be 73 in 2008, and has had health issues in the past. He may be in no condition to run three years from now.

But this is important as a snapshot in time. I don't think there's any doubt that Republicans who have access to internal polls are seeing disturbingly negative trends. I hope that our guys are urging President Bush to continue to push back against the Democrats. We can tell it's working by the way they're hollering.

Update: Kitty asks in the comments about the bulge on the left side of McCain's face. I'm embarrassed to admit I hadn't noticed it before, but here it is quite noticeable:



My guess is it's just jowls. McCain did have a few melanomas (patches of skin cancer) removed from his face a few years ago; not uncommon for Arizona, which has the highest rate of melanomas in the US (due to the extraordinary amount of sunny days we get).
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Sunday, December 11, 2005
 
Survivor Finale

Exciting episode, well worth watching. The show starts off with Lydia happy as she finds some interesting tree mail. At first, nobody seems to share her elation, but she seems to understand better that there's going to be some sort of ceremony and a native feast.

Sure enough, a group of Mayans come by to do a ceremonial sacrifice of a chicken (I am thankful that it took place off-camera). I couldn't help thinking that if it were the real Mayans, it wouldn't be a chicken getting killed. They burn the chicken in the fire, then share some tamales. Steph makes Lydia ask if they can eat the chicken. No, this is a sacrifice to the gods.

Up comes the penultimate immunity challenge. It's an immense maze, from which the contestants must find eight sticks. The sticks have been whittled so that they form a triangle along the axis. Each of the three sides has a piece of a puzzle, and the contestants must assemble the puzzle to win immunity.

Lydia stays reasonably competitive, but predictably she arrives with the final piece just as Rafe wins immunity. They go back to the camp, where Steph gets the idea of eating the chicken now that the Mayans are gone. It turns out to be quite edible, but Rafe, who was really somewhat moved by the ceremony refuses to eat. In perhaps a little too good to be true moment, the gods respond by drenching the camp with a torrential rain.

There does not seem to be much plotting and scheming going on prior to tribal council. I had assumed that whoever didn't win between Rafe and Steph would be out, but it turns out that Lydia finally draws the short straw. This shows that Rafe and Steph are thinking ahead to the finale, when neither of them want to be facing "Everybody loves Lydia". This also works for Danni, too, and is so logical that I should have realized it.

One final night, then they do the mumbo jumbo with the final goodbyes to all the players they've lied to, backstabbed, and cheated to get ahead of. Mostly a device to get us to remember these people, many of whom haven't been on the show for a couple of months, and who will be shown in the reunion.

Then it's the endurance challenge that always ends the season. The players have to balance on a board while holding onto two ropes. After an hour, they have to let go of one of the ropes. When that happens, Steph almost immediately gets into trouble, and it looks like she'll quickly be out. She has to dangle from the single rope while trying to get the board into a position where she can rest her feet on it. But almost immediately the other two start spinning as well. As it works out they all find the optimal position, with their backs against the frame of the challenge and their feet on the boards. Jeff warns that they can no longer touch the frame. But shortly later, that is exactly what Rafe does in a moment of forgetfulness. He's out of the challenge.

And it quickly becomes obvious that for once, height is an advantage in this challenge. Danni is able to maintain a comfortable position, while Steph, with her shorter legs, is more awkard and begins to slide slowly down the frame. Finally, sobbing, she hits the deck. Danni is guaranteed a spot in the final two!

Rafe, apparently moved by Steph's effort, mentions to Danni that he is releasing her from her promise to take Rafe to the finale with her. So now we've got some drama again.

At tribal, Danni mentions that if she does the honorable thing, she'll take Rafe, but if she wants to win, she'll take Steph. Rafe quickly points out that he's backstabbed the same people that Steph has, perhaps not the smartest move with the jury sitting across from them.

In the end, Danni votes off Rafe, and so now it's Danni versus Steph in the finale. One last day in the camp, with just the two of them, which they spend burning their hut. Then back to tribal council.

I don't remember all the questions, but I think the killer question was Cindy's. She asked if the finalists could eliminate anybody from the jury, who would it be, and why. Danni gave a straight answer: Rafe, because she knew he was voting for Steph. Steph gave the weird and obviously untrue answer of Bobby Jon. Bobby Jon was about the only vote besides Rafe that Steph had a good chance at getting.

The jury votes; we only see Rafe's and Judd's. Cutaway to Los Angeles, live at the CBS studios. Jeff comes back with the votes and quickly reads them. Danni. Steph. Danni. Danni. Danni! And it's all over; apparently Steph lost a 6-1 vote, with only Rafe sticking with her.

Would Steph have won any of the possible matchups? I don't think so. She might have gotten another vote if she'd been up against Rafe, or she might have lost 7-0. Lydia? I think that would have been another 6-1 vote. So she probably did the best that she could on the final night given all that had come before. Interestingly, this was the second time she managed to stay in the game by crying and getting somebody to virtually give up their spot in the game for her. Of course, it is certainly arguable by what Danni at the finale that she would not have taken Rafe with her even if he had not released her from her promise.

Next up: Panama, with some sort of weird island to which players will be periodically exiled from their tribes, but which contains a clue to the game.
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Two Choices on Brokeback Mountain

Or is it four? According to this review:

When, a half-hour into the film, Gyllenhaal’s Jack Twist and Ledger’s Ennis Del Mar, both drunk, cold, and lonely on a remote Wyoming campsite, fold around each other and commence an act of sex that manages to be both rough and tender, romantically intimate and lustily intense, Brokeback Mountain achieves its own early climax: You either buy into this tale of men in love or you join the ranks of those who’ve been snickering during the movie’s prerelease trailers, and who can be divided into the insecure, the idiots, or the insecure idiots.

I guess I'll take insecure. ;)
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Conservative Blogz Rool II

The article is here.

I must say, that for all the hype, this is a singularly uninteresting take on why conservative blogs are kicking the liberal blogs to the curb in terms of effectiveness.

But Democrats say there's a key difference between liberals and conservatives online. Liberals use the Web to air ideas and vent grievances with one another, often ripping into Democratic leaders. (Hillary Clinton, for instance, is routinely vilified on liberal Web sites for supporting the Iraq war.) Conservatives, by contrast, skillfully use the Web to provide maximum benefit for their issues and candidates. They are generally less interested in examining every side of every issue and more focused on eliciting strong emotional responses from their supporters.

But what really makes conservatives effective is their pre-existing media infrastructure, composed of local and national talk-radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, the Fox News Channel and sensationalist say-anything outlets like the Drudge Report - all of which are quick to pass on the latest tidbit from the blogosphere. "One blogger on the Republican side can have a real impact on a race because he can just plug right into the right-wing infrastructure that the Republicans have built," Stoller says.


That's almost two of the three full paragraphs in the article, and essentially what he's saying is that we have outlets for our nonsense, whereas the poor liberal blogosphere (even though they're more careful to examine every single side of every issue), can't get their stories pushed up to the media?

To which I say, bull-pucky. The story which reveals what a bunch of crap this represents, is the Jeff Gannon story. The liberal blogosphere's big scoop of 2005, it immediately got picked up by the major media and was reported endlessly. Contrast that to the Eason Jordan story which the conservative blogs picked up a few days earlier. Now remember, Gannon was a nobody, a reporter for a tiny online-only press organization, while Eason Jordan was running CNN.

The mainstream media tried mightily to ignore Jordan's claim that the US military had intentionally targeted journalists during the Iraq war. it was an outrageous and outlandish claim, one so absurd that even Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd, two very liberal Democrats, chided Jordan when he said it (to their eternal credit).

And the notion that Republican blogs don't vent grievances with one another, or rip into Republicans is silly. Take a look back at the Harriet Miers debacle for a good example, or see the responses to Tom Tancredo's claim that our war was with Islam itself. When Michelle Malkin saw that Mike Brown wasn't doing the job at FEMA, she blasted him, while others defended him.

No, the conservative blogosphere is more effective than the liberal blogosphere for three reasons:

1. We don't represent a thin slice of the extremist wing of the party. Take the most extreme positions of the far Left in this country: Abortion on demand up till the date of birth, no handguns, much higher taxes needed especially on the rich, withdraw immediately from Iraq. How many major liberal blogs would disagree with those? Almost none.

Take the most extreme positions of the far Right: No abortion ever, right to own bazookas, eliminate all taxes, and turn Fallujah to glass. How many major conservative blogs would disagree with those? Almost all.

2. We self-police better than the liberal blogs. There are numerous examples of this. Last year I was pitched a story about Kerry supposedly lying about where he was when Martin Luther King died. He'd said he was in Vietnam, when actually he'd been on the USS Gridley, off the coast of Vietnam. I ran the story but included a disclaimer that I personally thought the noton that Kerry lied about his whereabouts was nit-picking. Or how about when a recent commission released a report on the 2004 elections, highlighting malfeasance by Democrats and downplaying any shenanigans by the Republicans. The commission claimed bipartisan credentials, and seemed to have them, with one of the chairs a former leader of the DNC. But the Commissar and I looked into it and discovered that former leader had also been a leader in "Democrats for Bush" in '04.

3. We're more realistic in our goals. Pulling out of Iraq immediately is not an option, not really. Given a chance to vote on it, the House turned it down 403-3. Many liberal blogs belong to a group called the Big Brass Alliance.

The Big Brass Alliance was formed in May 2005 as a collective of progressive bloggers who support After Downing Street, a coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist groups formed to urge that the U.S. Congress launch a formal investigation into whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war. The campaign focuses on evidence that recently emerged in a British memo containing minutes of a secret July 2002 meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security officials.

They want to impeach Bush. What do conservative bloggers want? Largely a collection of achievable goals--better border enforcement, improvement in Iraq and confirmation of Judge Alito.
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