Test driving OpenCongress.org


If you haven’t visited Open Congress yet, it’s worth a look. One stop shopping for those tracking Congressional activity from a variety of perspectives, by bill, or senator/rep, committee, etc. Combine that with parallel tracking of what and who are being covered in the news, as well as separate tracking of blog activity, and views from visitors to the site itself. Open Congress is the work of the Participatory Politics Foundation (creators of the excellent Democracy internet TV player) and the Sunlight Foundation.

  • Official information from Thomas, the website of the Library of Congress, made available by GovTrack.us: all the bills, Members of Congress, votes, committee reports, issue areas, and more.
  • News articles about Congress from Google News.
  • Blog posts about Congress from Technorati and Google Blog Search.
  • Campaign contribution information from OpenSecrets.org, the website of the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Below, a quick look at one of my very own “esteemed” congress critters. (Hey, I’m sure someone somewhere holds her in esteem, just not me.)


Normal people are like Mommy and Daddy, and the evil and crazy man on the radio

via Media Matters:

On the February 26 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, after playing an audio clip of the beginning of singer Melissa Etheridge’s acceptance speech at the Academy Awards in which she thanked her wife and four children, Michael Savage said:

ETHERIDGE: I have to thank my incredible wife, Tammy, and our four children, Becky and Bailey and Johnnie Rose and Miller, and everyone —

SAVAGE: Turn it off. Get her off my show. I don’t care what her name is. I don’t like a woman married to a woman. It makes me want to puke. How’s that? I want to vomit when I hear it. I think it’s child abuse. That’s my opinion — one man’s opinion. If it’s illegal, tell me it’s illegal to have an opinion in America. Maybe I can be excommunicated for having an opinion.

Victimization. In rightwing America, it’s not just for breakfast anymore. They aren’t just outraged – they fear they will have to pay a grave price for their values. Yeah, right, like getting to go on the air and spew this bile to 8 million households — EIGHT MILLION — is like being afraid of losing your legal right to speak, is like being excommunicated.

I want to puke when I hear about a woman married to a woman raising children because, frankly, I think that it’s child abuse to do that to children without their permission. What does a child know? Ask them when they’re 16 whether they want to be raised by two lesbians or two men. What are the two men doing behind the other wall? You think the children don’t hear it?

I don’t even know where to start. Leaving aside for the moment the several dozen things a day that I have to hear about that make me want to puke, I tell myself that these nutjobs are not really that obsessed with our sex lives, that they just use this kind of imagery to provoke their listeners’ worst fears. That it’s an old trick-why spell something out when you can just get your reader/listener to fill in the blank from their own murky subconscious? But that’s not what’s happening here, where, despite talling people to use their own imagination, Savage flat out equates terrorist violence with gay sex:

You know, everything’s sanitized for you. Islamofascism is sanitized. You don’t know what they really do. Go on my website, you’ll see what they really do to people. You’ll hear the holler and the scream of people dying. You want to know what homosexuals do with each other? You don’t have to guess, you can figure it out.

One of Savage’s listeners:

CALLER: My wife was sitting on the couch with our 7-year-old daughter when Etheridge got up and did her piece thanking her wife and four kids, and our daughter looked over at our — at Mom and said: “Was that a man?” And how do we answer our kids when we’re forced to [sic] — this homosexuality upon us?

Okay, if your kid is in second grade and can’t tell the difference between a man and a woman, there’s something else you need to worry about going on in your household. And if you have not in the past seven years ever once had to explain something contradictory to your child, if you do not have the wherewithal to grapple with that basic issue, if you are having to ask a radio host for advice on explaining that life on earth is often perplexing, confusing, maybe even troubling, then that speaks to your parenting ability. But of course, this is besides the point as far as Savage is concerned:

SAVAGE: I will tell you how you answer it: You say there are people who are sexually confused, who think that they’re men when they’re women. They’re not normal. Normal people are not like that. Normal people are like Mommy and Daddy. Mommy and Daddy are normal. There are people who are not normal, who have a confusion in their head, and they think they’re a man even though they look like a woman. That’s what you have to say to them otherwise the child will grow up confused.

I could point out the difference between “transgender” and “homosexual” but again, beside the point for Savage, even if his head didn’t explode at the idea. Beside the point, because Savage is winding up to the big climax, with the obligatory “just like in Nazi Germany” analogy.

Brainwashing 8 million people by invoking the Nazis, who victimized gays and lesbians, at the same time you’re victimizing gays and lesbians, calling us scumsucking brainwashers– now that’s a rhetorical feat.


SAVAGE: Yeah, I mean, why be ashamed to tell your child what reality is? You can’t tell a child what reality is? Maybe in a few years you won’t be able to tell your child that. Maybe they could turn you in like in Nazi Germany — “Mommy told me that two women are not normal.” Maybe the police will come and take your child away in a few years if these scum-sucking vermin continue this brainwashing garbage.

Everywhere I turn I’ve never seen anything like it. From the high to the low, from the top to the bottom, from East to West, the vermin are brainwashing all of you all the time. I am one of a few, and there are some really good people out there, with the last bridge of reality — us, we.

GOP Rep Dan Zwonitzer and Marriage Equality, con’t.

There is a longer, and hopefully more original, post coming on this issue but in trying to avoid it becoming over-pedantic, preachy, self-referential, and confusing, I’ve gotten bogged down in editing and re-editing it and have now run out time to finish before work. So, since I won’t have a chance to attend to that during the day and since I don’t want to get too far past real-time events, here’s a quicker, summary follow-up to this story about Wyoming Republican state representative Dan Zwonitzer speaking out for marriage equality.

Pam, of course, is all over it, along with a key parallel issue, which is that the Human Rights Campaign is paying attention to the Zwonitzer story only under pressure from GLBT netizens. HRC story, short version: day late, dollar short, not surprising. There’s just something about the concept of “advocacy” they seem to be missing…

Michael Petrelis has also been working hard on the whole story, with both a dKos diary and at The Petrelis Files, with a post highlighting some of the letters of support Zwonitzer has received.

Read these letters, folks. Don’ t just skim them, read them. You’ll see, from this response, that marriage equality is not just a “gay issue.” You’ll see that a lot of people, not just gays, are thankful for some leadership on this and haven’t heard anything- not anything substantive-from leading Democratic candidates and congresspeople, and very little from the leading progressive bloggers.

Is there an ornithologist in the house?

Any opinions are welcome. These aren’t the best photos, which is why I’m not sure. They were both taken today.

1.I believe this to be a red-shouldered hawk. The other choice would be broad- winged, but I’ve seen quite a few of them and this guy looked different to me. His chest was darker and his tail was longer.


2. Mexican jay or Scrub jay? I’m thinking Mexican because there was no coloration on the chest. I don’t see these guys often enough to know for sure. jay

Playing hooky photo blogging

I had to get outside today, away from the computer, television and work. Heartily recommended. Spring is just about sprung here in Central Texas.




Because at the Pentagon, “warfighting” is Job One

This movie sponsored by Halliburton’s Ready Made Trench Installation Division:

| AP | February 26, 2007


Compare 11:45 PM EST version10:47 PM EST version10:22 PM EST version07:35 PM EST version with 11:45 PM EST version10:47 PM EST version10:22 PM EST version07:35 PM EST version

WASHINGTON — Strained by the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won’t be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis, according to a new report to Congress.

Well then, by all means, let’s plunge into one with all due speed.

The assessment, done by the nation’s top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a worsening from a year ago, when that risk was rated as moderate.

The report is classified, but on Monday senior defense officials, speaking on condition on anonymity, confirmed the decline in overall military readiness. And a report that accompanied Pace’s review concluded that while the Pentagon is working to improve its warfighting abilities,

Comforting, given that “warfighting” is, like, their job.

it “may take several years to reduce risk to acceptable levels.”

Pace’s report comes as the U.S. is increasing its forces in Iraq to quell escalating violence in Baghdad. And top military officials have consistently acknowledged that the repeated and lengthy deployments are straining the Army, Marine Corps and reserve forces and taking a heavy toll on critical warfighting equipment.

The latest review by Pace covers the military’s status during 2006, but the readiness level has seesawed back and forth during the Iraq war. Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the risk levels are classified, said the risk for 2005 was moderate, but it was assessed as significant in 2004.

However, it’s my assessment this assessment needs to be quickly re-assessed because

…. wait for it:

His assessment was submitted to Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the beginning of this year, and therefore does not reflect the latest move to pour 21,500 more troops into Iraq over the next few months.

Outer Crazy-Scary, aka “the more adventurous clandestine initiatives”


Mister you no understand. Look, he’s a spy and I’m a spy, he work-a for me. I want him to find out-a something, but he no find out what I wanna find out. Now how am I gonna find out what I wanna find out if he no find out what I gotta find out?


I’ve gone through Hersh’s The Redirection a couple of times since yesterday and I’m still confused. Or maybe just unable to focus. And I’m the queen of circular thinking, folks. I think this just hit some retaining wall in my brain that is still intact, against all reason, based on the belief that these goons in the administration really wouldn’t go there. “There” being so much farther out along the crazy-scary continuum than they’ve already scrabbled out so far. I know, I know, what a “quaint” little idea, no?

I am obviously just not thinking outside the box. I mean, really, why is it so hard to fathom that Iran Contra was just a training exercise?

Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office”—a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.

Basically, they are obviously so beyond that crazy-scary point that the light from crazy-scary won’t even be reaching them for a hundred years. As Josh Marshall says:

That takes strategic incoherence into truly uncharted territory.

In other words, for all the attention to who we’re going to attack and how and how many soldiers we need to do it, there appears to be a basic debate (to be generous) or confusion (to be less generous) within the administration over which side we’re even on.