The Ham Hock of Liberty

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Can We Stop Pretending Yet?

US anti-abortion movement sees victory near

"WASHINGTON (AFP) - Thirty-three years after a Supreme Court decision gave women the right to abortions, anti-abortion activists expressed "new hope" that they would soon be able to outlaw the practice.

Wearing religious vestments and wielding shocking pictures of blood-covered fetuses, tens of thousands of anti-abortion activists rallied in the US capital Monday, encouraged by
President George W. Bush's nomination of two judges with conservative credentials to the Supreme Court.

. . .

Leaders of the protest expressed confidence that the changes in the makeup of the court, expected to turn it decisively to the right, will lead to a ban on abortion.

"Roe's days are numbered," said Stephen Peroutka, president of the National Pro-Life Action Center, an anti-abortion group. "Time is on our side."

So what do these demonstrators know that our distinguished Senators, like Arlen Specter, don't? The several pro-choice Republicans were apparently satisfied that Sam Alito was not a guaranteed vote to overturn Roe, that he would approach the issue with an "open mind," and gave more than lip service to stare decisis. Are the demonstrators all just wishful thinkers?

Or could it be the case that they are simply celebrating the obvious, which everyone already knows, except for a few disingenuous politicians and pundits? To Specter and the few other pro-choice Republicans: STOP LYING. We know Alito will vote to overturn Roe given the chance. The "pro-lifers" know it and are shouting it happily from the rooftops. Everyone in the flippin' country knows it. And you know it too. Nobody's buying the willfull ignorance act. When you vote to confirm Alito, explain why you're doing it despite your "pro-choice" stance, instead of playing dumb.

We're sick of hearing "NOBODY could have predicted...." from D.C.


And here I was off to such a decent start on this blog...

Between packing to move 700 miles away and having constant problems accessing Blogspot, I haven't had the chance to post anything in a while, so I'm sure all 3 of you that visit are disappointed....

Anyway, before getting started on today's frenzy of packing and throwing junk away, I would appreciate any help furthering my sophisticated social science research project. A few years back, I developed a rather immature and vicious theory that people who own Humvees were presumed to be asses. Bill Maher described SUV behemoths as "Fuck You-mobiles," and the Hummer is pretty much the ultimate Fuck You-mobile. It's such a garish, in-your-face, unapologetic trophy of commercial consumerism that I assume anyone owning such a thing has got to have some socialization issues.

So...I now presume that anyone owning such a thing is an ass. However, in the few years that I've developed this amazingly profound theory, I haven't met any Hummer owners that weren't -actually- asses as well. Admittedly, I don't know too many of them, so I want to increase my sample size.

Anyone out there know some Hummer owners? And if so....are they asses?
Your valuable insight will help further the noble cause of science - thank you.

Friday, January 13, 2006

You Cannot Defeat My Flying Malkin-Style

Via Eschaton, John Lombard noticed that some of Michelle Malkin's writing seems to look curiously like ABC News reporting. Only with the actul facts plagiarized, and surrounded with, well...lies. So as to help make her point.

This is a bold new frontier in truthiness blogging, and I want in on the ground floor, so I'm going to try my hand at it. Can you spot the truthiness?

Craven opportunist President Bush, who never met a cynical, counter-productive photo-op that he didn't like, traveled to a still-ravaged Gulf Coast Thursday after having neglected the region for three months (since playing Xbox and drinking whiskey is much less of a downer), promising that a building boom is on its way, just as soon as all the contracts are handed out to cronies.

Emperor Bush's visit to New Orleans and Mississippi was part of a series of events to showcase his priorities leading up to the State of the Union address. Of course, the event was entirely in keeping with the familiar Rovian strategy of taking a glaring weakness and brazenly trumpeting it as an asset. He paid some lip-service to the notion he was committed to rebuilding communities devastated from Hurricane Katrina. Mostly those communities without the brown folks, though.

"People in far away places like Washington, D.C., still hear you and care about you," Bush condescendingly smirked at survivors gathered at St. Stanislaus College, just a couple of blocks from where Katrina blew ashore.

Bush's travelling photo-op to the college took him down a coastal road past thousands of snapped trees, debris still hanging from limbs and lots emptied of their buildings. There were almost no intact structures -- in most cases only concrete foundations were left -- and little evidence of rebuilding.

"There's no homes to repair," offered Bush, managing to get basic grammar wrong yet again, while stating the painfully obvious. "It's just been flattened. That's what the people of America have got to understand." It is not clear whether he was referring to the Bill of Rights, or the economy.

Have YOU caught Truthiness Fever?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I Hate Confirmation Hearings

SCHUMER: Does the Constitution protect the right to free speech?

ALITO: Certainly it does. That's in the First Amendment.

SCHUMER: So why can't you answer the question of: Does the Constitution protect the right to an abortion the same way without talking about stare decisis, without talking about cases, et cetera?

ALITO: Because answering the question of whether the Constitution provides a right to free speech is simply responding to whether there is language in the First Amendment that says that the freedom of speech and freedom of the press can't be abridged. Asking about the issue of abortion has to do with the interpretation of certain provisions of the Constitution

From the WaPo transcript.

That's why confirmation hearings are annoying. The issue of abortion rights IS important. It's something the country should know before a judge takes the bench, and Alito's softshoe dance is disingenuous; if he can say whether the Constitution protects free speech, he can say whether he thinks it protects abortion. He doesn't have to get specific if he thinks it's a gray area. He could say, "No it absolutely does not," or "I believe that one's rights to bodily privacy and autonomy are protected to some extent by amendments X, Y and Z, but that the state also has a legitimate interest in preventing a fetus from being aborted, which in some situations may trump the right to bodily autonomy and privacy, but it isn't a bright line."

But instead, because this one issue is now the third rail of confirmation hearings, we end up with the absurd exchange between Alito and Schumer. I don't like it when supposedly "liberal" judges dodge the question, and I don't like it when Alito does it, particularly when the reasons are as lame as Alito's. He can't offer an opinion as to whether the Constitution protects abortion rights, because it involves "interpreting" terms like "liberty" and "due process"....? Bull. The Constitution also doesn't talk about judicial review, which Marbury v. Madison had to "interpret" to find; I would like Alito to say he can't offer an opinion on that one either.

Lest there's any doubt, however, look at this exchange between Alito and Cornyn:
CORNYN: And outside of let's say the Fourth Amendment, perhaps, does the right to privacy appear explicitly stated in the Constitution?

ALITO: There is no express reference to privacy in the Constitution. But it is protected by the Fourth Amendment and in certain circumstances by the First Amendment and in certain circumstances by the Fifth and the 14th Amendments.

CORNYN: And the reason it's protected is because the Supreme Court has so interpreted the Constitution. Isn't that correct, sir?

ALITO: That's correct. It's a question of interpretation rather than simply looking at what is in the text of the document.

Now, Cornyn was trying to bail Alito out here, and ends up doing the exact -opposite-. Look at what Alito said: "Privacy rights aren't explicit, and you have to interpret other language to find them there. But they do exist."
This is right on the heels of him arguing he can't say whether a right to abortion exists because it involves "interpretation."

And this is why confirmation hearings stink. Each side will go berserk if they get a committal answer on a relatively straightfoward legal issue, which just happens to be a nuclear social and political issue. So we all have to pretend that there are principled reasons to dodge the question.

There aren't. Just answer the damn question, and let the Senate figure out how to confirm a nominee that -will- answer it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

UPDATE: Cyberstalking doesn't cover message boards

In yesterday's post about the cyberstalking law that purports to outlaw "annoying" anonymous communications over the net, I mentioned that I had come across various discussions of the existing phone-stalking law which claimed that it did not apply to message boards or forum posts. After a cursory reading of the statute, I wasn't sure where this had come from.

Well, with the help of a comment to the post, I've taken a closer look at the related and applicable statutes, and it seems that message boards and forums (fora, if you're a stickler about that sort of thing) are indeed NOT covered by the cyberstalking law. This blog post summarizes the issue neatly.

The law that was signed by Bush last week contains this language in Section 113:
b) Rule of Construction- This section and the amendment made by this section may not be construed to affect the meaning given the term `telecommunications device' in section 223(h)(1) of the Communications Act of 1934, as in effect before the date of the enactment of this section.

Section 223(h)(1) of the Communications Act is now on the books at 47 USC 223, and subsection (h)(1) says the following:
(h) Definitions
For purposes of this section—
(1) The use of the term “telecommunications device” in this section—
(A) shall not impose new obligations on broadcasting station licensees and cable operators covered by obscenity and indecency provisions elsewhere in this chapter; and
(B) does not include an interactive computer service.

So "interactive computer services" are not considered telecommunications devices under this law, and use of "interactive computer services" to send "annoying" or harassing communications isn't a crime. I had in fact seen this when looking at the law yesterday, but, since you get the legal analysis you pay for, I had assumed this was the standard "doesn't apply to ISPs" provision that is added almost as a matter of course to internet laws. I was wrong.

"Interactive computer services" is defined at 47 USC 230(f)(2):
(2) Interactive computer service
The term “interactive computer service” means any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by libraries or educational institutions.

Now this is a little difficult to parse, but I think any reasonable reading of it includes message boards, fora, and blog posts. Blogger, for example, seems to fall squarely in the category of a "system or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server." As unwieldy as the language is, this was Congress' attempt to limit the harassment/annoyance/threats prohibition to what are basically communications between the maker and the target. There may very well be exceptions, where publically-posted communications can fall under the cyberstalking law, but this section does in fact exclude most message board and forum posts, as well as blog updates.

So, breathe easier. The General isn't going to be shut down....

Monday, January 09, 2006

On Being Annoying

Earlier this morning, Atrios posted an entry about a new federal law that purports to make annoying, anonymous internet messages a federal crime. His blurb was based on this C|Net article. While the author of the C|Net piece was technically correct, there is not quite so much "there" there. Here's why.

The Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act did not come out of the blue to outlaw "annoying" internet messages. What it did was amend an existing law, 47 USC s.223, which already prohibited this conduct when used over the phone:
[Any naughty boy or girl who] makes a telephone call or utilizes a telecommunications device, whether or not conversation or communication ensues, without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number or who receives the communications;

The new law basically added "this includes the net" to that clause.

Now the reason why this is not a particularly outrageous law is that the existing law has been upheld. Although the term "annoy" is broad and vague, courts have interpreted it narrowly, in the context of the phrase "annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass," to mean not just being a jerk over the phone, but actual stalking or harassment-type situations. To an extent, the judiciary has been cleaning up after the legislature, and interpreted this law narrowly enough so that it would be constitutional.

Because the new law only said, in essence, "This goes for the net too," there is no reason to think that courts faced with this law will interpret it to prohibit any conduct that is legal to do over the phone. In short, there is little chance that the new law will be used to prosecute successfully anyone who isn't engaged in actual threats, harassment or stalking. Any attempt to convict someone based on an internet flamewar or obnoxious email will fail; first, because the statute does not cover those communications, and second, it would be unconstitutional if it did.

Furthermore, a number of legal authorities have concluded that 47 USC s.223 applies only to communications between the communicator and target, and does not apply to message posting in an open forum. Having read the statute, I'm not quite sure where this conclusion is coming from, but the language referring to "the called number" and "the person who receives the communications" do arguably show an intent to limit this law to what are more or less private, directed messages.

I think if this law is challenged, it will actually be upheld; what has been OK'ed for phone calls will be OK'ed for the net, because the law has been interpreted very narrowly, and does not actually prohibit anonymous "annoyances." Courts recognized the law was designed to prevent stalking, and have consistently intepreted it that way.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Hometown Pride

Apparently Baltimore is the fittest city in the country. Something to be proud of, I suppose :)

It's not surprising, though...running for your life, and grappling with hobos during knife fights is pretty good cardio.

As Surely As The Sun Rising....

Well, we all knew it was just a matter of time....

The Abramoff "unpleasantness" was really who's fault? House Republicans? Ambramoff himself? Tom DeLay? No, foolish liberals. It was of course BILL CLINTON'S FAULT. Just like the "war" in Iraq, obesity, teenage fellatio, and all those movies that are just re-makes of campy 70s television shows.

Warning to those prone to the vapors, wingnuttiness to be quoted, if you're too delicate to follow the link:
Kudos to Michelle Malkin for being among the first to see the potential for mischief in a little-noticed (at the time) ruling by the Clinton-era FEC. It seems that the august commissioners ruled in 2000 that while Indian tribes were "persons" subject to individual limits on contributions to candidates, parties, and political action committees, they were not "individuals" subject to the $25,000 limit on the annual total of contributions.

Yes, the wingers are sourcing 2001 Michelle Malkin wisdom to dump the GOP corruption into Clinton's abundant lap.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Jose Padilla For Dummies

Yesterday, the Supreme Court approved the Justice Department's request to have Jose Padilla transferred from military to civilian custody. In the wake of this ruling, a lot of confusion, spin, and tea-leaf reading was happening, and most of it was inaccurate. After reading one law professor's description of the ruling that was not, in a word, correct, it seemed that a summary of the facts and procedure in this case was appropriate, since it doesn't make a whole lot of intuitive sense unless you've slogged through the briefs and court orders. The writers at ScotusBlog deserve kudos for meticulously documenting this case as it has progressed, and linking to the parties' briefs.

Anyway, here's a (hopefully) plain-English version of what's been happening in this case.

In May 2002, US citizen Jose Padilla was arrested on US soil, designated an "enemy combatant," and put into military custody.

Padilla challenged the government's decision to hold him without charges, apparently indefinitely, and argued that he can't be considered an "enemy combatant" and deprived due process rights afforded to any other citizen arrested. The challenge is brought in a federal District Court in the 2nd Circuit, which includes Chicago (where Padilla was arrested). Padilla's challenge is brought through a "Petition for a writ of habeas corpus," and not a lawsuit for damages against the goverment, or an action for "declaratory judgment," where he would ask the judiciary to declare the executive's "enemy combatant" policy unconstitutional (either on its face or as applied to him). The 2d Circuit rules against the government.

The Supreme Court vacates the 2d Circuit decision, not on the merits of the argument, but on the grounds that the 2d Circuit was not the proper location for the suit. Padilla re-files the habeas petition in a District Court in the 4th Circuit.

The District Court in the new suit rules in favor of the government. However, no trial on the facts was held; it was a decision only on the legal issue of whether Padilla could be held as an "enemy combatant." For purposes of this decision, the court assumed that all of the government's allegations about Padilla were true.

Padilla appealed to the 4th Circuit which upheld the district court. Again, there was no decision on the truth of the government's claims regarding Padilla's terrorist ties or activity, as Padilla was claiming that even if everything the government said was true, they were still not entitled to hold him indefinitely without charges.

Just a few weeks after the 4th Circuit certifies its order as a "final decision," Padilla files a request for the Supreme Court to review the 4th Circuit's decision (known as a petition for a writ of certiorari). This is where the gamesmanship begins.

Before the government replies to Padilla's appeal request, it gets an indictment against him in a Florida federal court. The charges bear little relation to the story the government told the courts when it was arguing that Padilla was an "enemy combatant" whom they could detain indefinitely.

Shortly after Padilla is indicted, the Justice Dept. files its brief with the Supreme Court arguing that it should not take Padilla's appeal because the case is now moot. The government argues that because Padilla was seeking a writ of habeas corpus, he no longer has a claim, as the government no longer wants to hold him as an enemy combatant.

While the appeal request is pending in the Supreme Court, the DoJ asks the 4th Circuit to approve Padilla's transfer from military custory to civilian custody, and to vacate the decision in its favor. The DoJ states that they no longer need or want to hold Padilla as an enemy combatant, and since he has been indicted, he should be transferred to the civilian jail to await trial. The most reasonable interpretation of the DoJ's request that the 4th Circuit vacate a ruling in the executive's favor, is that they did not want the constitutionality of their program decided by the Supreme Court, and were trying to render the case moot.

In their reply brief, Padilla's lawyers agree that he should be transferred to civilian jail, and argue that the case won't be rendered moot by such a transfer:
Padilla believes the appropriate course of action is for this Court to order his immediate transfer to civilian custody, and to defer action on the question of whether to recall the mandate until after the Supreme Court disposes of his petition for certiorari, which is currently scheduled to be considered in early January.

The 4th Circuit then generates a tsunami of confused headlines and analysis when it denies the request both parties had made, to transfer Padilla. The court was not happy when it saw Padilla's indictments, which bore little resemblance to the allegations the government had made when justifying its designation of Padilla as an "enemy combatant." Nothing about "dirty bombs," for example. So, the 4th circuit came right out and said, in essence: "We no longer think you're being honest about why you needed to hold Jose Padilla for years without charges or a trial, and it's obvious you're trying to keep the Supreme Court from looking into that, by making the issue moot. So we're not going to cooperate, and keep him where he is, so that the Supreme Court can deal with this."

Now, the problem with this is that the 4th circuit was almost certainly wrong about their conclusion; keeping Padilla in military detention against the will of the people holding him was not likely to affect whether his habeas petition was moot, one way or the other. In my opinion, the 4th circuit knew this as well, but wanted to send a clear message to the DoJ and the Supreme Court, that the government was acting in bad faith, and should not be allowed to avoid having its actions reviewed -right now-.

So, the government appealed this order to the Supreme Court, asking it to approve Padilla's transfer. Importantly, they conceded in a brief that transferring Padilla now would not render his case moot. They argued that if it was moot, it was moot when they wanted to let him go. Holding him in military custody now or transferring him would not affect his appeal to the Supreme Court:
Granting the application [to transfer Padilla] will not prejudice this Court's consideration of Padilla's petition for certiorari. It would, however, eliminate the anomaly of a citizen being held by the military against the wishes of both the Executive and the detainee. . .
On this point, the government was right, and yesterday the Supreme Court agreed.

In agreeing to transfer Padilla, the Supreme Court did not discuss the mootness issue, or make any ruling on Padilla's request for an appeal, which will be considered later this month. In short, this is a very inconsequential order, and it is not, as certain law professors have claimed, either a setback for Padilla, or a repudiation of the 4th Circuit's assessment of the government's conduct. The Justice Dept. has agreed that transferring Padilla now won't prejudice his appeal request. And that's about as straightforward as it can get: Padilla wanted out, the DoJ wanted him out, and the 4th circuit was wrong that transferring him would affect his chances to get his appeal heard.

Reading tea leaves of my own, I expect the Supreme Court will take the appeal. If it does not grant cert., it will NOT be because the issue was rendered moot by their approval of Padilla's transfer to civilian jail now. If it was moot, it was moot when Justice decided they wanted him transferred.

Also, even if Padilla's appeal isn't heard, the government is not off the hook; they've merely bought more time. Padilla most likely can go back and file a damages claim against the government. Because that issue was not involved in his habeas petition, however, he will essentially have to start over from scratch.

So there you have it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Worst Humans of 2005

Another year-end phenomenon that is apparently making its way around the internets is the Worst _______ of 2005. It's very clever, because usually these lists around about the Best of 2005; but these are the Worst! Get it??!

Anyway, making a bullet list is an easy and lazy substitute for insightful writing, so of course I like it.

So, here are my Worst Humans of 2005. People whose absence would have made the world a much healthier, happier, saner place:

1. Bill O'Reilly
This almost goes without saying. The fatuous gasbag turned up the volume on his freak show this year to astonishing levels. After the sexual harassment lawsuit, he has started to become more and more unhinged and sociopathic, in a bid to stay relevant. Pick any show of the year. It doesn't matter. They're all incitements to hatred. Inviting al Qaeda to blow up the Coit Tower in San Francisco? No problem. Ginning up a bogus "War of Xmas" to turn every holiday well-wish into a coded subtextual fight? Sure! Publishing an enemies list? Fuck yeah! NOT including me on the enemies list? The icing on the cake.

2. Barbara Bush
This rotten woman probably deserves a lifetime award more than a specific year. But her fun little quote about Katrina refugees enjoying their new standard of living in the Houston Astrodome nicely punctuates a lifetime of evil. The fact that Babs is supposedly one of the few people that W still talks with daily, only highlights the Freudian nightmare that family is playing out on the rest of us.

3. John Yoo
Law "professor" at Berkeley. I hope that the history books won't overlook this mendacious bastard's role in turning our Chief Executive into a King. On the heels of his analysis that torture is OK as long as you don't call it torture, Yoo has convinced the executive that they're more or less above federal law. If we're at "war," then whatever the President does is per se legal. That's about what it comes down to.

4. John Bolton
Now that he's been back-doored into the UN, he's doing exactly what he wanted to: piss off the rest of the world even more, and do everything he can to grind any progress to a halt. For his continued tantrums, intransigence and general derangement, Bolton is an easy choice.

5. Judith Miller
She's a first amendment martyr. She's a victim of a runaway prosecutor bent on savaging the freedom of the press. She's a Pulitzer-winning journalist who was misled by faulty intelligence. She's certainly NOT a stenographer with a massive chip on her shoulder, and the embodiment of everything wrong with "access" journalism. Right? If she had an ounce of human shame, or pride in her craft, she would have packed up her things and left the NYT quietly, moved to Wyoming and taken a job at a local general store, spending the rest of her life regretting what she'd done to the NYT and to the country. Instead she demands an enormous severance settlement.

6. Fanatics with bombs
OK, we all realize that Iraq is a mess, and that ethnic, religious and political violence were inevitable after Saddam's dictatorship was removed, leaving the vacuum that's there now. But the bombers targetting innocent civilians who happen to be Sunnis instead of Shi'ites, or vice versa, aren't to be excused. Fanatacism comes in many stripes, and the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children on the level that Iraq has seen over the last twelve months is horrific. We may have opened the Pandora's Box, but the nasty shit that came out is still nasty.

7. W
Self-explanatory. He couldn't -not- be on the list.

8. Bruce Chapman
President of the ironically-named "Discovery Institute" in Seattle - the "think tank" that has been pushing Intelligent Design across the country. Now that Kansas has actually bought into that warmed-over creationist nonsense, we have embarassed ourselves to the rest of the world yet again. For working tirelessly to push the U.S. back into the dark ages, Bruce Chapman and his Discovery Institute was certainly one of the worst humans of 2005.

9. "Reverend" Fred Phelps
The same assclown who picketed Matthew Shepard's funeral has taken his freakshow on the road, and spent a good deal of 2005 picketing the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Follow the logic here: Phelps and his slope-headed neanderthals believe that the war casualties are the inevitable and just consequence of America's moral decay. Mostly because of gay sex, or something. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to live in Fred Phelps' head. Must be a horrible place. Lots of spiders.

10. Tie: Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage
For what should be obvious reasons, this vanguard of fascist apologia worked overtime in 2005 to spread their caustic bullshit to every corner of the country. There isn't enough storage space on the internets to document the tsunami of lies that got blast-faxed into this Wurlitzer of wingnutty madness, but Media Matters fights the good fight for us. There is literally nothing too extreme to be championed by these mongoloids, and we saw plenty of it in 2005. Expect the calls for prosecution of dissenters to start being made with straight faces in 2006, rather than the smarmy grin that normally accompanies them now.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Quotes of 2005

A lot of blogs and old media such as the Washington Post have been picking Quotes of the Year for 2005. The usual suspects are getting the attention that they deserve: Brownie's heck of a job, living in the Astrodome "working out quite well" for those untouchables, Pat Robertson putting a hit out on Huge Chavez...

BUT we should not forget this little gem that came late to the party, as it says so much about the GOP in so few words:
This has been the saddest day of my life It's a day I don't want to remember, and I'm sorry to see it come to an end

-Ted Stevens (R - Alaska) on the day the Senate blocked oil drilling in ANWR.

Ignoring the confusing bit about being sorry to see the saddest day of his life come to an end, let's consider:
The Senate voting to keep oil companies from drilling in a wildlife refuge? Very very sad.
Your wife dying in a plane crash?* Not so much

Although to be fair, she cut his sandwiches diagonally, instead of down the middle, the way he liked. So impeding oil company profiteering really is sadder.

* "In December 1978, Stevens survived the crash of a lear jet at the airport, which killed five people, including his first wife, Ann." - Wikipedia

Happy Hangover!

A few thoughts before I stumble out to refresh the cigarette supply:

* Digby is particularly good, if you haven't caught this post yet, on W's pathological need to clear brush:
You can't compare this to his bicycling or running obsessions, because those have a certain meditative yet thrilling physical challenge. This is something else entirely. This is the the only thing he can think of to do when he isn't running or biking. Mindless, loud, repetitive manual labor. It's like obsessively jackhammering sidewalks for fun.

* Hi Ann! One of the few visitors I've had since starting this irrelevance has been someone from Madison, Wisconsin, visiting the "Althouse or Altmouse?" update. This is not very significant in and of itself, but it gives me an excuse to point out that her site is the top result if you Google goose excrement.

What doth the new year hold....

2006 predictions:

DeLay acquitted in laundering trial.
DeLay indicted by feds wrt Abramoff.
Rove indicted by Fitz's grand jury.
Congress holds wiretap hearings.
Wiretap hearings end up going nowhere; GOP + Liberman decide legality is "iffy," impeachment would be extreme.
W approval ratings languish around 40.
Democrats pick up House and Senate seats, but don't take majority in either house.
Time names Blog of the Year.
Nothing much changes in Iraq; sectarian violence continues but US troop presence staves off inevitable all-out civil war.
Some sharks bite some guys.
Some white women go missing for a few days.
A nasty hurricane hits Florida. Local Democratic city comptroller blamed for inadequate response.
Massachusetts does not fall into ocean or go up in flames.
Limbaugh charged by FL prosecutor.
Santorum booted out on ass by Casey.
Paul Hackett loses senate race 51-49.
Deficit around $350 billion.
Katherine Harris drops out of senate race; poses for Playboy.
Tony Blair forced out of office by overseas torture scandals.
Playboy goes bankrupt.
John Gibson and O'Reilly say a bunch of stupid shit, nobody pays attention to them, until they gin up the War on Xmas again, the day after Thanksgiving.