A band of hungry Kossacks wandering around the thickets of Kossackistan, bumped into one another over the weekend. Discovering our mutual hunger, we have thrown together our meager offerings and are cooking up a big, delicious pot of soup that smells like it's going to satisfy many, many growling bellies.
Amazingly, within 48 hours the Congressional Committees Project was launched with it's own dKosopedia site and dozens of volunteers.
Follow me over the jump to hear the tale and join the fun as we collectively cook up this big old pot of stone soup.
It is about how ordinary, poor people, wary of government and sick of the demands of war, come together to create a feast which the whole community can share in, not because they are forced to but because each individually decides to give what they can.
The story starts with three soldiers returning from war, ragged, hungry, and tired, walking into a village. The people there are very poor, and the soldiers are not particularly welcome. The soldiers are hungry and ask if anyone has any food, but the people in the town say no, they have nothing.
Finally, one of the soldiers says, well obviously you people are as poor and hungry as we are. We will share a secret with you. She picked on a rock the size and shape of a potato, and said with this stone, we will make a delicious soup. Well that got people's attention.
The soldier went on, We'll need a very large soup pot and enough water to fill it. One skeptic decided to take them up on the offer and brought out a large kettle, while another shaking his head brought water to fill it.
Some children ran around gathering up pieces of wood to start the fire to cook the soup. The soldier placed the stone into the pot and covered it with water. Soon the water was boiling away.
Mmmm, this is going to be a delicious soup, the soldier said. I can't wait. As they stood there cooking their soup, more and more villagers came out to see what was going on.
They're making soup from one stone the size of a potato, said one small child.
Well, this is surely going to be a most delicioius soup, but what would make it even better is a little bit of cabbage.
Oh, I have a cabbage. I'll run and get it, said a village woman. The soldier said that would be great and added her cabbage to the soup.
This is going to be a wonderful soup, but I'll tell you from my experience what would make it even better is some carrot. Well I think I might have a carrot or two, said an old man, and he went off to see if he could find a carrot. Now the soup was sure to be even better.
How about an onion? It turned out there was an onion in the village, and soon the onion was in the soup pot.
The excitement grew and everyone wanted to get involved. There wasn't one person in the village who did not have something to contribute to the soup pot, a pinch of this or a few slices of that.
And before you knew it, that stone soup was bubbling away and filling the air with the most delicious aroma, they could hardly stand it. And when the soldiers declared that the soup was done and ready to eat, the people of the village lined up to try it. There was more than enough for everyone, and it was the most delicious soup anyone had ever tasted.
Imagine that--all that soup from one stone the size of a potato.
For me it all started Friday evening with Devilstower's brilliant diary This is How We Roll. I was inspired by the thought that we could collectively make a difference in this new Congress if we encouraged our Senators and Representatives to pledge to write clear and and concise legislation and keep the process clean, honest, brief and open to the light of day. I wasn't the only one so inspired, as I saw traces of that diary popping up all over dKos this weekend. My synopsis doesn't begin to do the diary justice, so go read the whole thing. It's a classic.
Late Friday night Booman posted another brilliant diary Media Just Doesn't See the Tsunami. When I read the diary early Saturday morning I was astonished to see the diverse group of liberal and progressive leaders who were poised to Chair important Congressional committees and sub-committees. The diary was filled with fascinating comments, but one in particular stood out to me. Greenreflex wrote:
I've been searching online for a better understanding of just what it is that we've won. A majority in both houses comes with lots of benefits, (so goes the story we always hear)... and then the commentary drifts off into some other sphere, exposing our legislative ignorance.
I want to know what we control! What happens now? How do committees work? I paid attention in civics in seventh grade, but I'm curious for a lot more information, and simply reading the rules of the senate won't quite fill the gap.
Which inspired me, Annan, to respond:
This diary (and your comment greenreflex) is making me think that I should adopt a committee or two and stay on top of what's happening with them.
Wouldn't it be cool to see dKos communities form around these committees to become their megaphones to the blogosphere?
Wonder how that could be done from a distance? How would we get information?
I went off line for a while and when I came back I saw that Greenreflex had responded to my comment - not just with another comment - but the third diary in the trilogy What We Won, or, Dkos Sends Out Its Eyes. His diary shot to the top of the rec list and stayed there for more than 24 hours, garnering 255 comments before scrolling off the list late Sunday evening.
My idea (completely inspired by her comment) is that we arrange to divvy up the house and senate committees, so that we are ALL aware of what is happening at any time in our new congress. A spread out, amateur press is always superior to a centralized corporate one, right? Here's our chance to put the magnifying glass right over, and I mean directly over our elected representatives.
As I said, I have little to no experience with this sort of thing, but this is how you get it, I guess (insert gate crashing noise here...) To fill in some of our collective gaps in understanding, I decided to do some research ...
Go read the whole thing to feel the excitement that coalesced around this diary. Nearly 24 hours after the diary had been on the rec list, Greenreflex updated the diary with this note:
I feel almost like the sorcerer's apprentice, putting things together at the right time. It was a great feeling to be entering the information into the wiki chart and then to have it start fixing itself behind me as others decided to help! This whole day and a half feels like that... What an exciting project. Rather than emailing me, I'd prefer that you leave a comment here if you're interested, so I have things in one spot. After we get to that point, I'll start assigning committees and decide how upon procedures, contact information, guidelines, etc. I'm really proud to be a part of this community.
So I've taken on the project of chronicling events as they unfold because I think this project may become a very important repository of collective wisdom, circa 2006.
Greenreflex has been doing great work responding to comments and emails that have been inspiring and (I gather) just short of overwhelming. Events have happened so quickly that no one knows exactly who has done what. Greenreflex just plunged in, started making things happen and others joined the party.
Today, I want to encourage three things in response to this diary.
Please recommend so that as many people as possible can hear about the project and contribute their expertise.
If you have been involved this weekend, please give us a holler in the comments. Tell us what you did, what inspired you and what you may have to offer in the future.
And lastly, if you're just joining the party, check out the dKosopedia page and give us feedback. Let us know if you want to join us. Describe your interests and talents.
My dream is that we form communities of like-minded Kossacks around these committees and sub-committees. If you sign up to monitor a committee, it's my dream that you won't be alone for long.
We are creating something new here and none of us have all the answers. We need and want all the help we can get.
Perhaps you have a bit of cabbage, few carrots, a stick to stir the pot or the perfect stone to start another pot of soup.
Please join us!