Adam Isacson

Still trying to understand Latin America, my own country, and why so few consequences are intended. These views are not necessarily my employer’s.


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U.S. Politics

What a dramatic geographic difference over 2 months

Of the top 20 states for new COVID-19 cases, 9 weren’t on the list 2 months ago, and 6 more have moved sharply up the list.

For decades, people will be studying the decisions the United States made right now and wondering why we acted the way we did.

It’s not about “those red states.” It’s just unspeakably sad.

Huge archive of congressional hearing audios about Latin America and the border

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.

At this point, I have quite an archive: 54 hearing audios since 2017, all of them with metadata following the same format. Here they are in one Google Drive folder, going up to last Friday.

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.

Congress Page Revived

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” ( 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?

Well, I think it would be interesting. That’s why I made this page, using my advanced beginner-level PHP, MYSQL, and Javascript skills.

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.

Gigantic 116th Congress spreadsheet

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.

Below, here as a Google Sheet, and here as an Excel file, is a very detailed spreadsheet of all U.S. representatives and senators who were sworn in today.

I made it by mashing up the data I found useful from the unitedstates/congress-legislators database on GitHub and the freshly updated spreadsheet of member and demographic data compiled by DailyKos. Shortly I’ll add it to a web resource on the Congress that I created in early 2017 but haven’t kept up lately. Time to revive it.

Information here includes:

  • Legislators’ names, states, parties, districts, address and phone info.
  • Legislators’ genders, birthdays, religions, race/ethnicity, and lgbt data.
  • How people voted in legislators’ districts/states during the past few presidential and legislative elections.
  • Demographic information about legislators’ districts and states (ethnicity, education level, income).

Live updates of my House vote spreadsheet

I’ll keep updating this all night. Keep refreshing this page, or better yet, the Google Sheets page is here.

My pessimistic (or perhaps realistic) House spreadsheet

I hesitate to share this because it reveals how unhinged the midterm elections have made me. But here’s a spreadsheet of 70 House districts that could conceivably go either way in tomorrow’s vote.

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 analysts seem 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.

I keep rereading this paragraph

“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.”

From Argentine journalist Uki Goñi’s remarkable essay, “‘Silence Is Health’: How Totalitarianism Arrives,” from the current New York Review of Books.

What senators said about Charlottesville

Donald Trump has deservedly come under fire for his tepid response to the Neo-Nazi / white supremacist aggression in Charlottesville this weekend (August 11-12).

I was curious, though, where other politicians stand.

Between 8:30PM and 10:00PM on August 13 I visited the social media accounts of all 100 members of the U.S. Senate. If I couldn’t find a statement, I googled them.

Here are the words they used. Sixty Senators, including 23 Republicans, were willing to go farther than Donald Trump and explicitly condemn “racism,” “white supremacy,” or synonyms.

(It may be that I missed some stronger statements that a senator made elsewhere. If so, though, that senator sure made them hard to find.)

No statement issued: 11

10 Republicans, 1 Democrat

  1. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina
  2. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi
  3. Michael Enzi, R-Wyoming
  4. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota
  5. Mike Lee, R-Utah
  6. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky
  7. James Risch, R-Idaho
  8. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota
  9. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama
  10. Jon Tester, D-Montana
  11. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi

Statement that merely condemns “hatred” or “violence”: 17

13 Republicans, 3 Democrats, 1 independent

  1. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee
  2. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming
  3. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri
  4. Shelly Moore Capito, R-West Virginia
  5. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana
  6. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee
  7. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma
  8. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin
  9. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana
  10. Angus King, I-Maine
  11. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia
  12. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri
  13. Bill Nelson, D-Florida
  14. David Perdue, R-Georgia
  15. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas
  16. Luther Strange, R-Alabama
  17. Todd Young, R-Indiana

Statement that mentions “bigotry” but not racism or white supremacy: 12

The word “bigotry” is as far as Donald Trump was willing to go. 6 Republicans, 6 Democrats.

  1. John Boozman, R-Arkansas
  2. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington
  3. Thomas Carper, D-Delaware
  4. John Cornyn, R-Texas
  5. Dianne Feinstein, D-California
  6. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia
  7. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky
  8. Patty Murray, D-Washington
  9. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island
  10. John Thune, R-South Dakota
  11. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina
  12. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island

Statement that calls out “racism,” “white supremacy,” “alt-right,” or criticizes President Trump’s failure to do so: 60

36 Democrats, 23 Republicans, 1 independent

  1. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin
  2. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado
  3. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut
  4. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey
  5. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio
  6. Benjamin Cardin, D-Maryland
  7. Robert Casey, D-Pennsylvania
  8. Susan Collins, R-Maine
  9. Chris Coons, D-Delaware
  10. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada
  11. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas
  12. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho
  13. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
  14. Steve Daines, R-Montana
  15. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana
  16. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois
  17. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois
  18. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa
  19. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska
  20. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona
  21. Al Franken, D-Minnesota
  22. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado
  23. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York
  24. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina
  25. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa
  26. Kamala Harris, D-California
  27. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire
  28. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
  29. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico
  30. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota
  31. Dean Heller, R-Nevada
  32. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii
  33. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia
  34. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota
  35. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma
  36. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont
  37. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts
  38. John McCain, R-Arizona
  39. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey
  40. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon
  41. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas
  42. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska
  43. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut
  44. Gary Peters, D-Michigan
  45. Rob Portman, R-Ohio
  46. Marco Rubio, R-Florida
  47. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont
  48. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska
  49. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii
  50. Charles Schumer, D-New York
  51. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina
  52. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire
  53. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan
  54. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska
  55. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania
  56. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico
  57. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland
  58. Mark Warner, D-Virginia
  59. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts
  60. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon
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