Another year gone by. Three hundred and sixty-five days yet it seemed like a scant 52 weeks. Perhaps it was that extra second added on Jan. 1; threw everyone's internal clocks off. But before the year yields to its inevitable successor, let us look back at the notable moments of 2006. Yes, 2006. Tomorrow's news, today!
The spy stories continued to add up, as it became obvious that the administration was boosting employment statistics by hiring hundreds of thousands of people to read every cell phone text-message on the planet. "It's dull, useless, meaningless work," said one official, "but as long as it detracts from the search for terror suspects, great. And if it violates the right of teenagers to send inscrutable, abbreviated rants about their parents without fear of detection by indifferent authorities desperately combing acres of data for terror warnings, we're all for it."
The Supreme Court banned no-knock searches in Mosul; Congress passed legislation requiring U.S. special forces to give up night-vision gear, wear squeaky shoes and speak in stage whispers.
The New York Times, fresh from reporting the self-destruct codes for the American spy satellites that had inadvertently listened into 15 pay-per-view porn orders from cable subscribers in Omaha, revealed that U.S. subs have been violating Chinese territorial waters to monitor military communications. The Times named the boat, the captain, his home address and posted his credit report online. The boat was never heard from again and was presumed sunk.
Outrage was swift but only when the Justice Department demanded the names of the people who'd leaked the secret information. "Not content with destroying the Fourth Amendment, this administration seems intent on demolishing the First," said one legal expert who appeared on CNN but declined to give his name, fearing reprisals. (His name was later leaked to The Times, which printed it, but declined to name its source.)
Chastened, the administration begged The Times to put all its classified leaks in the "Times Select" online subscription-only service, guaranteeing no one will read them.
Valerie Plame signed a six-year contract with Cover Girl, but insisted her face not be shown.
Judge Samuel Alito was confirmed, just in time to cast the deciding vote upholding parental notification for partial flag-burning.
Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced to death for crimes against humanity. While awaiting execution he published several children's books, including "Goodnight Moon and Your Entire Accursed Family as Well," in hopes he would get a Nobel Peace Prize nomination and the support of several Hollywood celebrities. His execution was eventually stayed on the grounds that his story has been optioned by George Clooney, but not yet purchased. The courts are still waiting for the agents to work out the details.
Midterm elections went better than expected for the GOP. The Democrats ran on the platform of "We're not saying what we'd do with a majority, but it rhymes with Imbleach. Other than that, whatever." Republicans ran on the platform of "Warrant? I got your warrant right here." For the first time they swept both New York and New Jersey.
Even so, Democrats were successful in blocking ANWR drilling forever, insisting that the answer to oil shortages isn't finding a new resource to tap, it's reducing consumption. Later in the year, House Democrats moved to tax e-mail instead of cutting the federal budget.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi realized that the campaign of blowing up the hearts and minds of ordinary Iraqis was not winning the hearts and minds of ordinary Iraqis, and decided to try politics, running for city commissioner in Baghdad. His campaign slogan "Perhaps We Got Off on the Wrong Foot" did not prove successful; disillusioned, he signed with Al-Jazeera to produce a reality show, in which six hopefuls compete to see who will be a suicide bomber. "You're wired!" he says to the winner.
In the biggest sign of hope for the region yet, the show flopped. "Two thumbs down," said some critics. Purple-dyed thumbs, as it turned out.