I can only rarely attend congressional hearings, and during a week like this one, when several hearings are happening at the same time, I can’t view them on video either. And anyway, who has the time to sit through hours of videos, which require you to stop what you’re doing to both watch and listen?
Still, hearings are a critical way to get information about U.S. policy toward Latin America. You learn a lot from officials’ responses to questions (some of which we’ve suggested). And you learn a lot about what legislators’ priorities are, and what it might be worth following up with their offices about.
So for the past couple of years, I’ve saved mp3 audio of every congressional hearing I’ve found relevant (thanks, youtube-dl, for making that easy). I can listen to an mp3 while doing something else that doesn’t require a lot of concentration, like driving, exercising, or doing the dishes.
They’re all mp3 files—just drop them on iTunes, Overcast, or your preferred audio player. (Tell iTunes that they’re “audiobooks” and it’ll remember your place.) I try to keep this folder reasonably up to date.
I suspect that if you’re geeky enough to find this useful, you may already have a similar system for keeping up with this information. Still, I hope it’s helpful to someone else out there.
I’ve just updated a resource that I created two years ago and—I hate to admit—failed to update much over the past year. But it works again now, so give it a spin sometime, it’s pretty cool.
It’s a database-driven little web app called “Narrow Down Congress” (narrowdown.org). It does one thing: classify members of the U.S. Congress according to groups that you create, and then show you which legislators belong to more than one group.
Why is that useful? Say you’re interested in human rights in Mexico. You have a list of House Foreign Affairs Committee members, a list of legislators who signed a recent letter on worldwide human rights, and a list of legislators who’ve said something about Mexico in the Congressional Record. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know which legislators are on all three lists? Or even just on two of the three? And then export their contact information?
And now the site has the entire 116th Congress’s current contact information in it. However, as of now a lot of the existing categories are out of date: committee memberships, for instance, have changed a lot since the last Congress, and many new changes are coming every day right now. But we’ll be updating them constantly, and you’re welcome to make your own.
Check it out. It makes you create a username and password, but that’s just so that the lists you create will still be there the next time you visit. And if it’s still confusing, just click “tutorial” in the upper right-hand corner.
January 16, 2021 update to everyone who’s been asking: I do plan to make a 117th Congress spreadsheet. My guess is by mid-February. First, I want contact information for the three brand-new senators (Warnock, Ossoff, and Padilla), and I’m hoping DailyKos produces a 117th Congress Candidate & Politician Guide spreadsheet, which if they do will be linked from here. Thankfully, the unitedstates/congress-legislators database on GitHub remains actively updated.
To win a majority of the House of Representatives, Democrats will have to carry 33 of these 70. Nearly half. That is, they need to hold the ten Democrat-held districts listed here, and take 23 more.
After an unhealthily obsessive study of polls and coverage, I’ve given each of the 70 districts a score.
If it looks like a likely Democratic pickup, it gets a 1.
If it’s too close to call but I think it’s a plausible Democratic win, it gets a 0.5. That way, every two “plausible” districts equals one Democratic pickup.
If it’s a longshot, it gets a 0.
If it’s close but there’s a plausible chance that a Democratic seat could flip Republican, it’s a -0.5.
If the Democrat is likely to lose, it’s a -1 (that’s Radinovich’s seat in Minnesota, and a result of court-ordered redistricting in Pennsylvania-14).
I’ll update this through election night. But as of 5:00PM on Monday the 6th, I see the Democratic Party just barely squeaking by with a net gain of 23 seats, giving them a bare 218-217 majority:
You may score these districts more optimistically than I do. But I’ve been burned before, and by my reckoning, the Democrats will just barely make it.
Most analystsseem to be expecting the Democrats to pick up about 35 seats. (I’m closer to the RealClearPolitics map, which predicts a 26.5 seat Democratic pickup, for a 221.5-213.5 majority.) Sorry, but I just don’t see 35 seats.
There’s no wiggle room. This spreadsheet explains why I’m feeling pretty anxious about the Trump administration being subjected to any meaningful oversight and accountability over the next two years.
If I’m wrong and it’s a blowout, I’ll be delighted to admit how cracked my crystal ball is on Wednesday.
“For many Argentines, then, the military represented not a subjugation to arbitrary rule, but a release from the frustrations, complexity, and compromises of representative government. A large part of society clasped with joy the extended hand of totalitarian certainty. Life was suddenly simplified by conformity to a single, uncontested power. For those who cherish democracy, it is necessary to comprehend the secret delight with which many greeted its passing. A quick fix to the insurgency seemed infinitely preferable to plodding investigations, piecemeal arrests, and case-by-case lawful trials. Whipped up by the irrational fear of a communist takeover, this impatience won the day. And once Argentina had accepted the necessity for a single, absolute solution, the killing could begin.”