- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2002

Blues howling
Under a headline this week, "Choked blue," we provided a bit of background on the Blue Dog Coalition, at least one group of Democrats or so we opined that ought to be able to tolerate the new Republican majority sweeping Capitol Hill.
There are currently 33 "Blue Dog Democrats," who get their moniker because they've watched their moderate-to-conservative views "choked blue" by their left-leaning party.
Did we say moderate-to-conservative?
"Given the Blue Dogs' legislative record in the first half of the [now concluding] 107th Congress, they are likely to still be disappointed with the balance of power," writes Demian Brady, policy analyst with the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.
Mr. Brady points to the foundation's "BillTally" program, which tracks the spending agendas of members of Congress based on the yearly cost or savings of each bill a senator or representative sponsors or co-sponsors.
For the first session of the 107th Congress, the net legislative agenda of Blue Dog Democrats ranged from a low of $7.6 billion for Rep. Ralph M. Hall of Texas to a high of $764.4 billion for Rep. Brad Carson of Oklahoma, the analyst observes.
"While the overall average agenda for the 33 Blue Dogs of $88.7 billion was better than the average agenda for their fellow Democrats, $262.3 billion, it is still over four times as much as the average Republicans' net agenda of $19.8 billion in new spending," says Mr. Brady.
"With a record like this, these Dogs will still be howling the blues in the new year."

Fought for naught?
More than 135 years after its bloody conclusion, a Civil War round table is to be held in the hallowed halls of Congress.
Discussion, which is open to the public, commences at 6:30 p.m. Monday, preceded by an old-fashioned Southern-style Christmas party in the Longworth House Office Building.
Former veteran White House correspondent, historian and author Frank van der Linden, founder of the National Center for Presidential Research, will also be on hand to discuss his book, "Lincoln: The Road to War."
A native North Carolinian who covered presidents from Harry Truman to the senior George Bush, Mr. van der Linden will get things off to a rousing start by posing the question: "Was the Civil War inevitable or avoidable?"
The historian will focus on key decisions made by Abraham Lincoln in the months leading up to the war, and argue as he does in his book that the president could have actually prevented the Civil War and saved the Union "through conciliation, not force."

Toking and driving
Could perfectly sober drivers, who inhaled marijuana days or even weeks before getting pulled over by a law enforcement officer, still be arrested for driving under the influence?
While driving under the influence of pot, like alcohol, "is never acceptable, neither is it sound public policy to treat sober drivers as if they are impaired simply because inactive marijuana metabolites may be detectable [weeks later] in their blood or urine," argues Keith Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.
Mr. Stroup's remarks come in response to last week's debut of a new federal campaign to prosecute drivers who test positive for any presence of marijuana including, he says, "inactive metabolites" that can remain present in the body for days or even weeks after pot use.
"This plan advocated by the [White House] drug czar would result in the unfair arrest of tens of thousands of unimpaired motorists each year," Mr. Stroup says. "That's not a safe nor sensible driving initiative. That's an attempt to misuse the traffic-safety laws to identify and prosecute marijuana smokers per se."
In announcing the new White House effort against "drugged driving," John P. Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, says that while the consequences of drunk driving have become well-known over the past two decades, driving under the influence of illegal drugs has received limited attention.
The New England Journal of Medicine published results from a roadside study of reckless drivers who weren't impaired by alcohol in which 45 percent tested positive for marijuana.

Potent pulp?
Is smoking marijuana safer than puffing cigarettes?
Not at all, say British researchers, who recently warned that smoking just three cannabis joints is equivalent to consuming an entire pack of cigarettes.
"Three cannabis joints a day cause the same damage to the lining of the airways as 20 cigarettes," the British Lung Foundation says in a statement.
In fact, cannabis has now been found to contain 50 percent more carcinogens than regular tobacco.
Researchers also suggest that marijuana smoked today is more dangerously potent than the pot grown in the 1960s, a finding rebuffed by Alun Buffry of the Legalize Cannabis Alliance.
He says that's like saying orange juice is stronger today.


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