The show Radiolab dissects unusual topics, leading into all kinds of interesting directions. An example is the show that includes a segment on the death of the dinosaurs. Many of us have long heard the big meteor filled the sky with dust which caused a perpetual winter which killed the dinosaurs over years. This show suggested the debris from that meteor began falling that same day and the huge amount of it heated the atmosphere and baked the dinosaurs within hours. Proto mammals were not affected because they were underground. This episode is also on video (and is really cool).
Those of us who have studied American Government (I took the class in 12th grade) know Congress, not the president, has the authority to declare war. That was done rather promptly on Dec. 7th, 1941, marking the American entry into WWII.
This evening I listened to Radiolab's hour-long podcast titled 60 Words. That's how many words are in the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that Congress passed the week after the 9/11 attacks. Unlike the declaration that got us into WWII, this one is still in effect and lots of things have used it as their legal foundation. That includes Obama's use of drone strikes in Yemen. As it was read for this program I was appalled at how broad it is. Over the hour we listen to Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who describes how she decided how to vote (to me -- with 12 years more experience -- the memorial service she attended the day of the vote comes off as quite manipulative). We hear about all the things the AUMF has been used to authorize (amazingly, not Iraq) and how the gov't goes about deciding who should be hit by drone strikes today. This war is one without end (could go on for another 10-20 years?) with the AUMF in effect the whole time. We hear that Obama is trying to get Congress to declare AUMF over and done -- but don't worry, he has other ways to legally act with force against our enemies. Which is also scary.