Saturday, December 29, 2007
Read more here, here and here.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
By MICHAEL MOORE of the Missoulian
Robin Prosser, a Missoula woman who struggled for a quarter century to live with the pain of an immunosuppressive disorder, tried years ago to kill herself. Last week, she tried again. This time, she succeeded.
After her earlier attempt failed, Prosser wound up in even more trouble after investigating police found marijuana in her home. She used the marijuana to help cope with pain.
That marijuana charge was eventually dropped in an agreement with the city of Missoula, and Prosser had reason to rejoice in 2004 when Montanans passed a law allowing medical use of the drug.
She was a high-profile campaigner for the Montana Medical Marijuana Act, and like others, she was dismayed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that drug agents could still arrest sick people using marijuana, even in states that legalized its use.
The ruling came to haunt Prosser in late March, when DEA agents seized less than a half ounce of marijuana sent to her by her registered caregiver in Flathead County.
At the time, the DEA special agent in charge of the Rocky Mountain Field Division said federal agents were “protecting people from their own state laws” by seizing such shipments.
“I feel immensely let down,” Prosser would write a few months later, in a guest opinion for the Billings Gazette published July 28. “I have no safety, no protection, no help just to survive in a little less pain. I can't even get a job due to my medical marijuana use - can't pass a drug test.”
Federal prosecutors declined to charge Prosser, but fear spread through the system of marijuana distribution set up in the wake of the medical marijuana act. Friends said Prosser turned to other sources for marijuana, but found problems nearly everywhere she turned.
“Most recently, she had found some people who said they could get her what she needed, but it didn't go well,” said her friend Jane Byard.
Without the relief that marijuana delivered to her, Robin Prosser killed herself at home last week. She was 50.
Prosser suffered from an autoimmune disease that gave her allergic and dangerous reactions to most pharmaceutical painkillers. So she turned to marijuana. When that was no longer available she had no where else to turn.
“She just said she couldn't take it all anymore,” Byard said.
In her guest opinion, Prosser wrote that: “I'm 50 years old, low-income and sick. I spend most days in my apartment in bed, with no air conditioning, unable to go outside because I can't tolerate the sun.”
Beset by financial problems, troubled by depression, unable to find a reliable source of pain relief, she took her own life three months after the piece was published.
“Give me liberty or give me death,” she wrote in July. “Maybe the next campaign ought to be for assisted-suicide laws in our state. If they will not allow me to live in peace, and a little less pain, would they help me to die, humanely?”
Before being disabled by her disease, Prosser was a concert pianist and a systems analyst. After the disease hit her, she became a tireless advocate for legalized use of marijuana in medical situations.
“She had so many difficulties, but she was a wonderful person,” Byard said. “She was kind and funny and just as smart as a whip. She was a very good friend to me, and it's a very sad story what happened to her.”
Reporter Michael Moore can be reached at 523-5252 or by
e-mail at email@example.com
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Friday, October 26, 2007
At first look, "Separatists Claim Responsibility For California
Wildfires" appears to be like any other story on CNN.com. The article claims that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger confirmed aradical Hispanic organization has taken responsibility for the fires that raged through southern California this week. The article even says there's photographic proof "of individuals holding Molotov cocktails, then throwing them into dry brush."
After the initial shock of the report, it then becomes obvious that
it's a hoax. To start with, the site's URL is http://www.cnnheadlienews.com (note the headlie instead of headline). CNN's url is cnn.com and the url for its sister network, Headline News, is http://www.cnn.com/HLN/.
Anti-immigrant websites picked up on the story and ran it as fact (follow this url). Before realizing it was a hoax, the author of the site "Americanandproud" declared, "I am going to wait until all the facts are in, but it appears the first major shot of the next Mexican/American war has just been fired."
A domain name search for "cnnheadlienews" shows the site is
registered to a company with a Nashville, Tennessee address called Bleachboy Heavy Manufacturing Concern. The website associated with Bleachboy, BBoy.net, is a homepage that cycles through four different logos. There's no other information on the site except for a warning on sweatshop products, a note that says "thank you for the traffic," and the ever-banal phrase, "spring is in the air."
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Thursday, October 25, 2007
LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- Maria Shriver said she won't resume her TV news career and the late Anna Nicole Smith is the reason why.
Shriver, speaking Tuesday at a conference on women, said the media circus surrounding Smith's accidental drug overdose death last February led to her decision.
"It was then that I knew that the TV news business had changed and so had I," Shriver said. "I called NBC News and told them I'm not coming back."
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The Red Cross confirms it is the largest contribution it has received to date for wildfire relief efforts.
The foundation donated $250,000 to assist the Red Cross in providing food and shelter on Tuesday.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) and Sam’s Clubs in the state continue to donate water, clothing, blankets and other merchandise. Over 20 trucks with more than $400,000 worth of merchandise have been given to relief efforts. Collection sites have been set up in each of Wal-Mart’s 208 California-based stores and Sam’s Clubs where customers can make cash donations.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Some of the most advanced surgery techniques have been performed in Canada. When intricate surgery has to be done, Canada is advanced as any developed nation. Here's a recent story from the CBC.
Year-long treatment at Toronto hospital
The Vietnamese boy first came to Canada in June after workers with the Ontario charity noticed him at an orphanage north of Hanoi during a trip.Hoang Son Pham hopes that doctors can remove his facial tumour, which is caused by a buildup of blood vessels.Hoang Son Pham hopes that doctors can remove his facial tumour, which is caused by a buildup of blood vessels. Vietnamese doctors lacked the expertise and technical equipment to treat the boy's tumour, which is caused by a buildup of blood vessels and is slowly ballooning over his mouth. So the group brought him to Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children to be assessed for treatment.
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A phishing demo
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Saturday, October 20, 2007
A staffer of his sent a few emails out smearing the Democrats' spokeschild for SCHIP as being too rich to deserve health insurance. The only problem is, they got all their facts wrong. They quickly sent out emails disavowing the attack, but the damage had already been done. McConnell was quoted publicly saying his office had nothing to do with the smear job, but later it was proven that the emails did indeed come from his office.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
On Iraq, he's in no rush to talk about bringing troops home. "Right now we need to make every effort to make sure that we don't get run out of there with our tails between our legs," Thompson said.
It worked for Reagan so there's no reason it won't work for Thompson unless he really messes things up. And without a script, that may happen. But the fact is that some people think he'd make a good president because he's a good prosecutor on Law & Order. Maybe as president he can get us out of Iraq by the end of the episode.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
Earlier, Vick admitted to participating in a dogfighting ring as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in Virginia.
"Your admitted conduct was not only illegal, but also cruel and reprehensible. Your team, the NFL, and NFL fans have all been hurt by your actions," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter to Vick.
"The defendant will plead guilty because the defendant is in fact guilty of the charged offense," the plea agreement said.
"Most of the 'Bad Newz Kennels' operations and gambling monies were provided by Vick," the official summary of facts said. Gambling wins were generally split among co-conspirators Tony Taylor, Quanis Phillips and sometimes Purnell Peace, it continued.
"Vick did not gamble by placing side bets on any of the fights. Vick did not receive any of the proceeds from the purses that were won by 'Bad Newz Kennels.' "
Vick also agreed that "collective efforts" by him and two others caused the deaths of at least six dogs.
Around April, Vick, Peace and Phillips tested some dogs in fighting sessions at Vick's property in Virginia, the statement said. "Peace, Phillips and Vick agreed to the killing of approximately 6-8 dogs that did not perform well in 'testing' sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road and all of those dogs were killed by various methods, including hanging and drowning.
Thank the U.S. Attorneys in the Vick Case! Click on the card to go to the Humane Society Website.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The dog said: "That's a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I'll give you back the other ten?"
So God agreed.
On the second day, God created the monkey and said: "Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span."
The monkey said: "Monkey tricks for twenty years? That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the dog did?"
And God agreed.
On the third day, God created the cow and said:"You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer's family For this, I will give you a life span of sixty Years."
The cow said: "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I'll give back the other forty?"
And God agreed again.
On the fourth day, God created man and said: "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you twenty years."
But man said: "Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?"
"Okay," said God, "You asked for it."
So that is why for our first twenty years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.
Life has now been explained to you.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Friday, August 17, 2007
White House press secretary Tony Snow will step down from his position soon, sources said Friday.
When contacted by CNN about his possible departure, Snow said, "I'm not making any announcement."
Snow told conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday that "financial reasons" may prevent him for serving the remainder of his boss's presidency.
"I'm not going to be able to go the distance, but that's primarily for financial reasons." Snow said. "I've told people when my money runs out, then I've got to go."
According to The Washington Post, Snow makes $168,000 as the White House spokesman.
CNN has previously reported that Chief of Staff Josh Bolten told senior White House staffers that unless they could commit to staying until President Bush leaves office in January 2009, they should leave by Labor Day.
Snow, 52, had been treated for colon cancer in 2005. In March, during surgery to remove a growth from his abdomen, doctors discovered that the cancer had returned and spread to his liver.
Five weeks later, Snow returned to the White House podium and continued to work as the president's chief spokesman as he underwent chemotherapy. In recent interviews, he indicated that his health situation had stabilized.
Before coming to the White House in April 2006, Snow had worked for the Fox News Channel and hosted his own nationally syndicated radio show.
He took a significant pay cut to take the job of press secretary and has talked publicly in the past about the financial sacrifices, as well as his passion for the post.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Thursday, August 02, 2007
From the NY Daily News
I guess Rush Limbaugh gets a separate audience with The Decider. And where was Michael
For the second year in a row, President Bush called some of his closest radio friends to the White House for an off-the-record briefing and discussion.
Mark Levin and Sean Hannity of WABC (770 AM) were among the 10 conservative talk-radio hosts who met with Bush in the West Wing yesterday, according to Talkers magazine.
The others were Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Hugh Hewitt, Scott Hennen, Bill Bennett, Michael Medved, Lars Larsen and Janet Parshall.
Bush met with five hosts last fall, including Boortz, Hannity and Medved, Talkers noted, "to discuss issues and gauge the conservative talk-radio audience's feelings about issues and policies."
None of the hosts told their audiences about the meeting prior to its occurrence.
Nine hosts had their picture taken outside the White House - all except Hannity, who Talkers said arrived separately.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
It now appears that Michael Moore has received a subpoena regarding his recent trip to Cuba made as part of his new film, Sicko. It shouldn't be surprising, I suppose.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007 11:17 PM
Within 10 Minutes I Was in a Bed
Date: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 8:51 AM
Subject: Hospital Care in Canada
Hello Mr. Moore,
Great job as always with Sicko! It was very interesting to see the way your health care system operates. I have many friends that live in the US, and it makes me sad knowing they may end up in a situation like the ones shown in your movie. I had always presumed that if you had health insurance in the US, you were covered. I didn’t know about all the red tape that comes with it.
I would like to share a story about the health care system in Canada. Please know that this is not a criticism on your system, but a clarification on our system. While my story isn’t as drastic as some of the others on the site, it does point out the incredible care that I received.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Charles Lane 1905-2007
Anybody who could play somebody this cantankerous had to be one of the nicest guys around. What an amazing life and incredible contribution to entertainment. When you saw Mr. Lane in a part, you knew you were going to enjoy the show or movie. He was the oldest member of SAG and also a survivor of the 1906 San Fransisco earthquake. Another link to Hollywood's golden era is gone. Thank you for a wonderful life.
Monday, July 09, 2007
What is summer all about? The diner back home will be full of youths trying to be hot with Wildroot and Vaseline in their hair while they stay cool with Italian Ices and Carvel. But I'll be in a place where you'll need a jacket at night. I won't be going for Carvel but Dairy Queen right across from the lake, if we're good. I'll be sneaking Craven As and Matinees in the park whenever I can. I don't know why I even care that my Aunt and Uncle know that I smoke, but I do. I started a 34 year smoking habit right there and there was something extra special about those Canadian cigarettes and the cool summer nights. I'll be exploring the grain elevators at the dock, getting out there by walking across a railroad trestle. I never stopped to think that if I fell into the bay, I'd be a goner since I couldn't swim, but when you're a kid, you don't think about these things. It was right around this time that I came to realize that I was happiest by myself, exploring different areas. I would walk through the same areas every ten months or so because I spent my summers here, but ten months is a long time when you're a kid and even the same areas needed exploring once again. In the first few years of my summer visits, I couldn't wait to get back to New York. I missed the action, the activity, the crowded streets. But in later years, I came to dread the return home. It was like going from an open world, to one behind a wall. As an adult, it surprises me to realize that my it never occurred to my relatives to offer me a year round home. Maybe it did occur to them, but it was just too big of a deal for them and they didn't want me to miss the smelly subway, the hoods at school and the crap at home.
Blogged with Flock
Monday, June 25, 2007
In Brooklyn, it's Puerto Rican Pride Day.
Where can I get a car like that? I learned how to drive on a similar car, except it wasn't a rag top and it didn't have fender skirts. It belonged to my uncle...who lived near Toronto.
Blogged with Flock
Sunday, June 24, 2007
How the poor get dinged at every turn
During the 1980s, 13% of Americans age 40 to 50 spent at least one year below the poverty line; by the 1990s, 36% did.
Since 2000, the number of Americans living below the poverty line at any one time has steadily risen. Now 13% of all Americans—37 million—are officially poor.
Among households worth less than $13,500, their average net worth in 2001 was $0. By 2004, it was down to –$1,400.
Bush’s tax cuts (extended until 2010) save those earning between $20,000 and $30,000 an average of $10 a year, while those earning $1 million are saved $42,700.
In 2002, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) compared those who point out statistics such as the one above to Adolf Hitler.
Friday, June 22, 2007
And now, excuse me while I run in to one of the shops on 86th Street and pick up some eel, squid, pig's feet and stinky cheese.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
~~~~ Author Unknown ~~~~
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Friday, June 08, 2007
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
Friday, May 25, 2007
Monday, May 21, 2007
Site contained violent, sex-oriented images one official called 'repulsive'
The soldier son of talk radio relationship counselor Laura Schlessinger is under investigation for a graphic personal Web page that one Army official has called "repulsive."
The MySpace page, publicly available until Friday when it disappeared from the Internet, included cartoon depictions of rape, murder, torture and child molestation; photographs of soldiers with guns in their mouths; a photograph of a bound and blindfolded detainee captioned "My Sweet Little Habib"; accounts of illicit drug use; and a blog entry headlined by a series of obscenities and racial epithets.
The site is credited to and includes many photographs of Deryk Schlessinger, the 21-year-old son of the talk radio personality known simply as Dr. Laura. Broadcast locally on 570 KNRS, "Family Values Talk Radio," the former family counselor spends three hours daily taking calls and offering advice on morals, ethics and values. She broadcast a show from Fort Douglas, in Salt Lake City, last week.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
A woman said she was so worried about reports of tainted pet food she spent more than $1,000 buying all the product she could find at her local Wal-Mart. Margaret Trask said she filled a shopping cart full of canned pet food made by Canadian company Menu Foods at the Beaufort Wal-Mart after hearing about the recall Friday.
She returned Wednesday morning to buy more food and came back that night to buy even more, but Trask said store officials asked her to leave. She said store employees were taking some of the food off the shelves.
Trask plans to throw the food away so no animals eat it. She figures she spent more than $1,000.
Friday, March 23, 2007
While the debate between satellite radio and terrestrial radio continues, I've believed for a long time now that the biggest threat to radio is not Satellite Radio but podcasting. At this point in the evolution of the technology, most people feel that they have to be computer geeks in order to download and listen to podcasts on their MP3 devices, if they even have an MP3 device. They view regular radio and Satellite radio as something that they just need to push a button and they have their music. But I think the advantage of having what you want, when you want it, will help listeners overcome the reluctance of listening to podcasts.
The audience for podcasting is still small, but it has a similar penetration to Satellite Radio. And nobody had to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to launch satellites or hire Oprah Winfrey or Howard Stern.
From the CBC:
"The number of Americans who have downloaded a podcast rose only slightly in 2007 despite growing awareness of the media format, a study published this week found.
Only 13 per cent of those polled had 'ever' downloaded an audio podcast, up from 11 per cent last year, according to the findings Edison Media Research presented to the Corporate Podcasting Summit in London on Monday.
First podcasts started in summer 2004
Podcasting is a relatively new phenomenon that started in late summer 2004. Among digital audio formats, podcasts are unique in that they can be downloaded automatically using software capable of reading feed formats such as RSS (Really Simple Syndication).
Within six months of its inception, programs available through podcasting grew from about three dozen to well over 3,500.
While early podcasters typically distributed syndicated audio files and radio shows, podcasters now routinely deliver many kinds of digital multimedia content, including video, images and text."
Sunday, March 11, 2007
The rapid escalation of electronic communication options and the frequent inappropriate and indiscriminate use of those options have combined to produce horror stories regarding job terminations that we have all heard about and shaken our heads over. We all know stories of folks getting fired via e-mail or through a voice-mail message left on a home or cell phone answering machine. We can't fathom the gutless and impersonal nature of such terminations. We can't fathom it -- yet we're about to do one better. We're going to fire someone publicly -- in print -- right here, right now...
Ann Coulter is not a “real” employee of the Chronicle. She isn't a freelancer or even an independent contractor. If she were an employee and referred to another human being as a “faggot,” her employment would be short-lived. As it is, the acerbic Coulter is a syndicated columnist whose material is distributed through Universal Press Syndicate. Universal President and Editor Lee Salem has responded to Coulter's remarks by saying, “She is not an employee, and we have no legal power to ‘fire' her.”
That's a lot like the Chronicle saying, “She didn't say it in one of the columns we ran, so it isn't our problem.” Wrong. It is our problem, and not dealing with it is a cop-out.
So yesterday we called Universal Press Syndicate and “fired” Coulter. What she said was wrong and hurtful and stepped way beyond the line of human decency, much less political commentary.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Thursday, March 01, 2007
(Crossposted to the Garland Area Democratic Blog)
The Beer Barrel Main Event Charity Burger weighs in at 123 pounds. The sizable sandwich features an 80-pound beef patty, along with a pound each of lettuce, ketchup, relish, mustard and mayonnaise, 160 slices of cheese, up to five onions and 12 tomatoes.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
The Liberals are weak on terrorism. A win for the Liberals is a win for Bin Laden. Sounds like typical talk show noise, or an election campaign in the U.S., but it's politics in Canada. Taking a page from the Republican play book, Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (George Bush Jr. Lite) is accusing the Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, of being soft on terrorism for his opposition to preventive detentions and compelled testimony. This after Canada's Supreme Court ruled that security-certificate laws are a breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and gave parliamentarians one year to rewrite them.
The Conservatives have done well in the propaganda department as well painting their opponents as weak and by reiterating the partisan catchphrase - Canada's new government - they use as a marketing slogan for their administration.
"Opposition parties are being soft on security and soft on terrorism," Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said in a statement.
"Canada's new government remains unwavering in its determination to safeguard national security."
The charge of opposition "softness" was repeated in the House of Commons by Tory House leader Peter Van Loan.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
"They hurled anything they could find -- rocks, bricks, even Baum's barbecue grill -- and pounded the 49-year-old with a pipe and with the baseball bat he kept at his campsite for protection.
Forty-nine-year-old Rex Baum, seen in 2003, was an alcoholic and homeless but worked at a gas station and did odd jobs around Milwaukee.
After destroying Baum's camp, the boys left the homeless man -- head wedged in his own grill -- under a piece of plastic where they hoped the "animals would eat" him.
Then, Moore says, they took off to grab a bite at McDonald's.
Let the blame game begin. It was the parents' fault for not paying enough attention to their kids, violent video games desensitized the teens to real world violence, they were underprivileged, undereducated, overly protected.
"It's disturbing to know that young people would literally kick someone when they're already down on their luck," said Michael Stoops, the executive director of the Washington-based National Coalition for the Homeless. "We recognize that this isn't every teenager, but for some this passes as amusement."
It's common to label people who kill others as animals, but "other than humans" might be a more appropriate term, since calling these wretched life forms animals is unfair to the animal world.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Police called to a Long Island man's house discovered the mummified remains of the resident, dead for more than a year, sitting in front of a blaring television set.
The 70-year-old Hampton Bays, New York, resident, identified as Vincenzo Ricardo, appeared to have died of natural causes. Police said on Saturday his body was discovered on Thursday when they went to the house to investigate a report of a burst water pipe.
Where do I get an electric company like that? My bills are $500 a month and if you miss a payment and they don't hear from you, you're in the dark.
(Please click the comic strip to view it full size)
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
A bill introduced to the US House of Representatives would require ISPs to record all users' surfing activity, IM conversations and email traffic indefinitely.
The bill, dubbed the Safety Act by sponsor Lamar Smith, a republican congressman from Texas, would impose fines and a prison term of one year on ISPs which failed to keep full records.Read more.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Dallas get distracted and rubberneck by a flat tire. This tech breakthrough should be very interesting. In all fairness to Avis, they do issue the following caution:
Avis customers will be reminded at the time of rental that the service is not to be used by the driver while operating the vehicle. The service is intended to be used by passengers or when the vehicle is parked.
But how many of their customers will be tempted to write an email while stuck in traffic? Probably the same ones who drive while eating, shaving, reading the newspaper and putting on makeup.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
At the rally, 12-year-old Moriah Arnold stood on her toes to reach the microphone and tell the crowd: "Now we know our leaders either lied to us or hid the truth. Because of our actions, the rest of the world sees us as a bully and a liar."
The sixth-grader from Harvard, Mass., organized a petition drive at her school against the war that has killed more than 3,000 U.S. service-members, including seven whose deaths were reported Saturday.
Read the complete story
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Friday, January 19, 2007
Read the story in the San Fransisco Chronicle
Monday, January 15, 2007
"Does it honor those who have died to send more after them? Does it respect those who have lost limbs to litter the battlefield with fresh young legs? Is it good leadership to admit mistakes and then propose making more and bigger mistakes?
Our soldiers have given us their best. We must do better for them."
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Congress is helpless only out of choice
Several decades back, the psychologist Martin Seligman developed his theory of "learned helplessness". Subjected to repeated punishment, animals and humans come to believe they have no control over what happens to them, whether they actually do or not. In Seligman's original experiment, dogs given repeated electrical shocks would prostrate themselves and whine, even when escaping the abuse lay within their power.
As with canines, so with congressional Democrats. In theory, they now control a co-equal branch of government. In practice, they are so traumatised by years of mistreatment at the hands of a contemptuous executive that they continue to cower and simper whenever master waves a stick in their direction. This phenomenon is at its most pitiable when it comes to Congress's powers over national security, terrorism and the war in Iraq.
Last Sunday, Senator Joseph Biden, the Democrats' dean of foreign policy, was asked on Meet the Press what he intended to do when President George W. Bush announced his plan to send additional American troops to Iraq. "There's not much I can do about it," Mr Biden shot back. "Not much anybody can do about it. He's commander-in-chief."
This has been the attitude of most of Mr Biden's colleagues. Nearly all of them think that the war in Iraq is a losing proposition, which Mr Bush's pending escalation will make worse. Most favour gradually reducing the number of Americans deployed in Iraq. Yet they are behaving for the most like dazed onlookers at the scene of a disaster. At best, they are willing to consider expressing their disapproval of Mr Bush through a non-binding resolution, also known as "talking to the hand".
In fact, congressional Democrats have the power to stop the war any day they want. Rejecting additional funding, which 12 senators voted to do in 2003, is merely the most dramatic and least politically attractive of their options. Congress can pass a law that says the president cannot send more troops. It can limit the length of military tours of duty. It can legislate a deadline for withdrawal. A few anti-war types are, in fact, proposing such drastic measures. But such voices remain a small, if vocal, minority.
Congress learnt to be helpless by standing aside as successive presidents asserted that the war power belongs to them alone. That is not what the constitution says. Article one, which gives the legislative branch the sole power to declare war, also puts it in charge of creating, funding and regulating the armed forces. But every president since Harry Truman has taken the position that it is unreasonable for permission to be required from Congress in advance of military action.
Congress's frustration with being brushed aside boiled over during Vietnam, resulting in the passage of the 1973 war powers resolution. All presidents since Richard Nixon have maintained that this law - which creates a 60-day period after the onset of hostilities for presidents either to get congressional approval or withdraw troops - is an unconstitutional infringement of their article two power as commander-in-chief. Both Presidents Bush asserted that they needed no congressional authorisation for their Gulf wars - and Congress, in both cases, chose to avoid a showdown by handing them authorisation anyhow. This has left unsettled the question of whether a president can in fact go to war over Congress's objection.
But Congress's power to terminate a war is even clearer than its power to forbid one in the first place. A provision of the war powers resolution states specifically that the president must remove forces when Congress so orders. Faced with military deployments they disliked in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo, Republican lawmakers did not hesitate to invoke this authority during the Clinton years.
Perhaps the most striking example was the military intervention in Somalia. In 1993, the House of Representatives passed an amendment saying US forces could remain there only one more year. Two subsequent defence appropriations bills cut off funding for the deployment. Congress also drew limits around how US personnel and bases could be used.
When they say they are incapable of stopping Mr Bush's plan, what congressional Democrats really mean is that they are afraid to oppose it. With only 17 per cent of respondents supporting the "surge", according to a recent ABC-Washington Post poll, it is hard to see how voting against more troops would be an act of political suicide. But after years of being called weak, unsupportive of the troops and unpatriotic, flinching at conservative threats has become a Pavlovian Democratic response. Earlier this week, Tony Snow, White House spokesman, said the war in Iraq remained necessary because Americans "don't want another September 11". It is hard to imagine anyone being taken in by this non-sequitur, yet many still are. By feigning helplessness, Democrats also leave the onus for whatever happens next in Iraq on Mr Bush.
There are plausible arguments for supporting a surge and some good ones for rejecting a precipitous pullout. But Democrats who argue for withdrawal and fail to act on their convictions have no leg to stand on. By abdicating their constitutional role, they feed the executive monster Mr Bush has created. If they are serious about ending the war, Democrats must quit yelping and bite back.
Published: January 11 2007 02:00 | Last updated: January 11 2007 02:00
By Jacob Weisberg. The writer is editor of Slate.com
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Dear Mr. President:
The start of the new Congress brings us opportunities to work together on the critical issues confronting our country. No issue is more important than finding an end to the war in Iraq. December was the deadliest month of the war in over two years, pushing U.S. fatality figures over the 3,000 mark.
The American people demonstrated in the November elections that they do not believe your current Iraq policy will lead to success and that we need a change in direction for the sake of our troops and the Iraqi people. We understand that you are completing your post-election consultations on Iraq and are preparing to make a major address on your Iraq strategy to the American people next week.
Clearly this address presents you with another opportunity to make a long overdue course correction. Despite the fact that our troops have been pushed to the breaking point and, in many cases, have already served multiple tours in Iraq, news reports suggest that you believe the solution to the civil war in Iraq is to require additional sacrifices from our troops and are therefore prepared to proceed with a substantial U.S. troop increase.
Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed. Like many current and former military leaders, we believe that trying again would be a serious mistake. They, like us, believe there is no purely military solution in Iraq. There is only a political solution.
Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. And it would undermine our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq.
In a recent appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General John Abizaid, our top commander for Iraq and the region, said the following when asked about whether he thought more troops would contribute to our chances for success in Iraq:
"I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the Corps commander, General Dempsey. We all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no. And the reason is, because we want the Iraqis to do more. It's easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future."
Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terror. A renewed diplomatic strategy, both within the region and beyond, is also required to help the Iraqis agree to a sustainable political settlement. In short, it is time to begin to move our forces out of Iraq and make the Iraqi political leadership aware that our commitment is not open ended, that we cannot resolve their sectarian problems, and that only they can find the political resolution required to stabilize Iraq.
Our troops and the American people have already sacrificed a great deal for the future of Iraq. After nearly four years of combat, tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, and over $300 billion dollars, it is time to bring the war to a close. We, therefore, strongly encourage you to reject any plans that call for our getting our troops any deeper into Iraq. We want to do everything we can to help Iraq succeed in the future but, like many of our senior military leaders, we do not believe that adding more U.S. combat troops contributes to success.
We appreciate you taking these views into consideration.
Harry Reid, Majority Leader
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker
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Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Compared with Nixon and the Republicans who followed him, Gerald Ford looks like the embodiment of Main Street decency and prudence. Ford's judgment seems even better when we learn that he told Bob Woodward that the Iraq war was "a big mistake," concluding, "I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security." Ford's words should give strength to all of us who've questioned the war and were attacked as unpatriotic in the process.
They reflect well on his common-sense willingness to acknowledge discomforting truths. But because he'd told Woodward to keep the interview private until after his death, they don't represent courage, but in fact a failure of nerve.
Think of the impact had Ford spoken out, on the record, to question the war in July 2004, when he conducted the interview with Woodward. Or acknowledged that he was "dumbfounded" when Bush initiated his domestic surveillance program. Had Ford publicly questioned the war, it would have opened up room for others to dissent, across political lines, at a time when the administration and its media allies were calling dissenters "allies of terrorism" for speaking up. It would have made possible a real discussion about the cost of our actions and the options available, when media gatekeepers were largely still insisting that the war was justified and saying it was being won. Had Ford voiced his reservations aloud, it might even have shifted the 2004 elections, at least in some of the Senate races that Democrats lost by the smallest of margins after being baited for not falling in line. Ford might well have taken some political heat for raising his reservations, but as a Republican ex-president he'd have been hard to attack, and any challenges would have let him elaborate further on his principles and conclusions.
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Monday, January 01, 2007
The January junket to warmer climates — a post holiday tradition of sorts for some members of Congress — could be headed to the wayside.
An accelerated work schedule set up by the new Democratic leadership has put a halt on many January excursions funded by lobbyists. Given that Democrats are taking over the House and Senate in part because of GOP ethics scandals, some lawmakers are fearful of the voters' wrath anyway if they go on the trips.
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