A federal appeals court just upheld Alabama's sex toy ban, defending the state's interest in "preserving and promoting public morality," i.e. invading your privacy so you don't do it yourself. That's bad news for Sherri Williams, the adult store (NSFW) owner who's the lead plantiff on the case (and whom we wrote about last year.) This could be the end of the road for the case—the Supreme Court has already refused to touch it.

As Jonathan writes today, Nancy Pelosi's new blog, "The Gavel," is "a boon to C-SPAN junkies who can't watch TV during work hours." Just think, more accessible wonk, and first-hand. Well, some are less excited than others. DailyKos has the press release that the Republican Study Committee spammed the media with today. "The RSC spoke with C-SPAN today, who confirmed that these videos violate C-SPAN copyright/trademark of the House proceedings." I'm not sure I would expect anything less from the far right wing of the party. Stay tuned. I'm sure there's more to come.

Via Feministing, comes this pretty frightening tidbit. The state of Tennessee is proposing legislation to create death certificates for aborted fetuses. No, really. Republicans tout the bill as a way to track how many abortions are performed. As Feministing blogger, Jessica, points outs, the number of abortions is already reported, so really it's just a way to infringe on the privacy of women; creating public records with their social security numbers and all.

With amputations an all too common injury in this war, scientists are hoping that new technology may one day lead to full limb regeneration. Read about at The Blue Marble.

John Edwards just lost the blogosphere, but he's already staked out his place in the virtual realm of Second Life. Isn't there something ironic about talking about the "two Americas" from inside an alternate world? But then, it's a lot less expensive to build a mansion in SL. Not to be outcourted by a man who already has the hair of an avatar, Barack Obama's just launched his version of MySpace called— yes, really—MyBarackObama. Beacuse Obama belongs to all of us. Even the lurkers.

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Hey, Nancy Pelosi has a new blog, and it's legit! It's called "The Gavel," and it's a boon to C-SPAN junkies who can't watch TV during work hours. There's all sorts of neat video up now from House floor debate and Congressional hearings. It's wonky but cool. Also, be warned that it's kind of slow loading, either because there is so much video or because a ton of people are checking it out.

Take a look.

A DailyKos diarist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan weighs in on whether or not cutting funding for the war in Iraq will put the troops in danger. Very much worth a read.

CNN is reporting that Mitt Romney will give the commencement address at Pat Robertson's Regent University, just as John McCain, one of Romney's chief rivals for the 2008 Republican nomination, delivered the commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University last May.

First of all, how do all these guys get their own universities? Second, it's incredible how the religious right has these candidates on a leash. McCain's speech was part of a larger campaign to embrace the religious right, including forsaking his previously moderate views on Roe v. Wade; Romney's speech is part of a coordinated effort to fight his own moderate past and convince the right he is a true conservative, an effort that has included pulling a complete 180 on gay rights.

This is why I think Chuck Hagel has a chance to secure the Republican nomination: he is a conservative through and through with no weaknesses in his social record, and has bucked the party line on just two topics, the Iraq War and President Bush. He opposes both vehemently. Isn't that exactly what the polls indicate conservative voters want right now? The Republican nomination may end up depending on how well Chuck Hagel can make all of this apparent to the vast majority of American voters who have little idea who he is.

For years now, the Army has been stretching to keep its numbers up by compromising everything from enlistment standards to the quality of new recruits to the character of recruiters themselves. As Peter points out below, today's New York Times now warns us about the rash of waivers being given to incoming soldiers. Salon posted this snarky response under the headline "Need more recruits for Iraq? Take more criminals":

The good news: As the Times explains, "soldiers with criminal histories made up only" -- only! -- "11.7 percent of the Army recruits in 2006."

There are 52 million individuals in the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System criminal history database; that's about 17% of Americans who've been in trouble for some crime at some point in their lives. So the percentage of recruits with criminal histories, less than 12%, is lower than that of the general population with criminal histories.

Moreover, people with criminal records don't equal lifetime criminals; working at a bank two years ago doesn't make you a teller any more than having sold pot in college makes you a dealer. It's not enough that ex-cons face employment discrimination and legal restrictions on where they can live in some states. The public is, evidently, so opposed to letting them establish legitimate lives that we don't even want them doing it in a war zone six thousand miles away.

—Nicole McClelland

A tornado system with twisters up to 135 miles per hour ripped through three major New Orleans neighborhoods early Tuesday morning, killing one person, injuring a few dozen, and doing what is estimated to be $20 million worth of damage. Several houses that had been rebuilt or almost rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina were torn apart, as were many FEMA trailers. Schools were closed, highways were shut down, piles of rubble were everywhere, trees were uprooted, and thousands of people were left without electricity.

Governor Kathleen Blanco declared a state of emergency yesterday afternoon, and asked the White House to do likewise. As of right now, late Wednesday night, the response from George W. Bush is that he will present the governor a timetable for when he will "consider" declaring the New Orleans area in a state of emergency.

If this sounds familiar, it should. The scenario lacks playful guitar strumming and a birthday cake at a desert resort, but it is all too similar to what happened in early September of 2005.

Bush declared an emergency within 24 hours of a tornado which recently struck Mississippi.