Heard on the Hill: Error Message

Posted September 8, 2009 at 7:13pm

It’s been more than nine months since it opened, but the $620 million-plus Capitol Visitor Center still has some glitches — some of them quite embarrassing.

[IMGCAP(1)]Take this story, told to us by an HOH tipster who visited the CVC with his parents Friday. After checking out some of the exhibits,

our spy’s mother, who hails from Massachusetts, decided to use one of the CVC’s interactive computer kiosks to look up her Members of Congress.

On the House side of the museum’s exhibition hall, she tried to look up her House Member but received only error messages. On the Senate side, only Sen. John Kerry’s name popped up.

Of course, that was expected, since the Democrat is the Bay State’s only Senator following the recent death of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D). But there was a glaring error, as Kerry’s toothy photograph didn’t appear above his name — a photo of Kennedy did.

Computer kiosk fail.

“My mother couldn’t believe that the person in charge of programming the computer could make this mistake, and she even pointed it out to a CVC employee, who told her that someone is working on it,’— our spy recalled.

CVC spokesman Tom Fontana told HOH via e-mail that officials noticed “a small glitch— in the interactive feature last week, which they are working to fix. “We expect the problem to be resolved well before the end of the week,— he wrote.

For his part, our spy said he understands that “these simple mistakes are bound to happen,— but added that it should be fixed ASAP. “This is the kind of dumb little thing that people remember when they are questioning the government’s competence.—

Snarks on a Plane. Members of Congress have notoriously low approval ratings, so it’s no wonder an Internet hoax painting them as brainless nitwits is spreading.

An Internet posting making the rounds (HOH found it posted on Craigslist) purports to come from a Washington “airport ticket agent.— In it, the agent lists all the dumb things Members have said to him or her.

According to the posting, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) didn’t think she needed a visa to travel to China because on her previous trips “they always accepted American Express.—

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) asked for an aisle seat on a plane so that the wind from the window wouldn’t muss her hair.

Rep. John Adler (D-N.J.) demanded a flight to “Rhino, New York,— and when he was asked if he meant Buffalo, he replied: “Whatever! I knew it was a big animal!—

Not surprisingly, the too-funny-to-be-true stories are bogus. Internet myth debunking Web site Snopes.com says a similar e-mail has been circulating for years. At first, the dumb comments were only attributed to anonymous idiots. But sometime in July, it began circulating with the anecdotes associated with specific Members’ names.

Snopes.com co-founder David Mikkelson tells HOH that such a pattern is common: Someone will insert a politician’s or famous person’s name to an old saw of a story or joke. For example, there’s an oft-repeated-on-the-Internet tale about a woman who discovers that a politician’s ancestor is a horse thief who was hanged for his crimes. When the woman contacts the politician’s office to confirm, the office releases a statement spinning the horse thief’s crimes and describing the hanging as the ancestor having “passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.—

Various iterations of the story say the thief is related to former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Joseph Biden and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Mikkelson says it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint how or why the stories about the idiot travelers were changed. “It could be anyone from a political partisan to someone who sees a piece of humor and thinks they can improve upon it,— he tells HOH.

HOH agrees that Congress is a pretty irresistible target for jokes, but we’ve found there are enough true stories about them that one shouldn’t have to resort to making stuff up.

In His Cups? The party isn’t slowing down for Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner. Despite being diagnosed with prostate cancer this summer, the tough-as-nails Wisconsin Republican is still raising his glass.

Sensenbrenner has two hard-partying fundraisers coming up: a gathering billed as “Martinis and Mayhem— on Sept. 16 and a scotch tasting on Oct. 15.

Spokeswoman Wendy Riemann tells HOH her boss isn’t missing a beat. “Congressman Sensenbrenner fully intends to beat cancer while maintaining his full schedule of activities,— she says.

We’ll drink to that.

The Nanny Diaries. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and actress Fran Drescher share a connection (besides the fact that both beat cancer).

The Florida Democrat joined Drescher on a conference call Tuesday to promote President Barack Obama’s health care plan. Wasserman Schultz, a breast cancer survivor, praised the actress for turning her own battle against uterine cancer “into a force for good,— and then she noted that the two have something in common: Drescher’s parents live in her district in South Florida.

“Your parents make really good choices,— Wasserman Schultz joked.

Drescher has been all over Washington these days, doing everything from promoting her carcinogen-free skin care line to undertaking her duties as a diplomat for the State Department to eyeing a seat in Congress.

And Drescher — who wrote a book about her cancer experience — praised Obama’s health care plan on the conference call, saying that the current health care system needs a complete overhaul to become one that focuses on disease prevention and early detection.

The actress recalled that it took two years and eight doctors before she was properly diagnosed, joking that she “got in the stirrups more times than Roy Rogers.—

“This is happening all over America, almost constantly,— she said. “When I went on my book tour, I realized what happened to me has happened to millions of Americans.—

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