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United States Spam Your Rights Online

White House Obfuscates Email 915

Posted by michael
from the tired-of-nigerian-lottery-spam dept.
markgo2k writes "Do you want to email the president? This John Markoff, New York Times story (reprinted here in the non-subscription Seattle PI) details how the White House no longer promises to read anything you send to president@whitehouse.gov. Instead, you must navigate a multi-page website AND confirm your submission via email. Oh, and they only want to talk about subjects that are of interest to them." The web-form system appears to be a bit overloaded at the moment.
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White House Obfuscates Email

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  • He said he particularly disliked being forced to specify whether he was offering a "supporting comment" or a "differing opinion" to Bush.

    So when those emails come in, I guess they go in either one of two mailboxes. "With us" or "Against Us".

    The "Against Us" email automatically get forwarded to Ashcroft.

    Mike
    • by sosume (680416) on Friday July 18, 2003 @09:59AM (#6470180) Journal
      The "Against Us" email automatically get forwarded to Ashcroft.

      Gueass again where that's going.. (and you along with it).. ever been to Cuba? I heard it's got this lovely bay with lots of friendly people in orange suits. Gua .. Guanta .. I can't remember. ;)
    • by TopShelf (92521) * on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:06AM (#6470246) Homepage Journal
      This does raise an interesting point - will this buildup of email addresses marked "for" or "against" the current administration find its way into political party hands, and thus used for a spam list?

      It would make perfect sense for the Republicans to send out emails for contributions to those on the "for" list.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:06AM (#6470252)
      How about a question regarding policy? I mean how can you know whether you are for or against the policy of the administration if they haven't said anything about some important issue?

      The Bush administration doesn't talk much about policies in the Middle East except those related to Iraq or to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

      Try asking about Israel's nuclear weapons.

      Or Saudi Arabia - definitely intimately involved with Al-Quaeda, unlike Iraq.
    • by Arbogast_II (583768) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:13AM (#6470312) Homepage
      Pretty amusing, when you consider that once, long, long ago, in an America far, far away, the President was an accessible private citizen.

      Once, the President of the United States recieved visitors who just walked up to the White House. Once, the President used to walk out to Pennsylvania Avenue and hail a passing buggy for a ride.

      My, how times change...
      • by cybercuzco (100904) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:18AM (#6470353) Homepage Journal
        He was an accessible private citizen until he got shot. Then he wasnt quite asacessible as before, but could still ride about in the open, Until another one got shot. Now his freedom is curtailed in the name of security, and he has neither security or freedom.
        • by mvpll (542255) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:29AM (#6470459)
          So if another one gets shot, will they declare firearms a valid method of casting your vote or just give the whole "president" thing a miss?
          • by cactopus (166601) on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:32AM (#6470994)
            Please punch a hole in the president you don't want.... ...I can't the butterfly presidents confuse me....I accidentally shot Pat Buchanan... oh wait accidental?...er.... so that's why they call that talking heads show Crossfire
        • by fmaxwell (249001) on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:35AM (#6471024) Homepage Journal
          He was an accessible private citizen until he got shot. Then he wasnt quite asacessible as before, but could still ride about in the open, Until another one got shot.

          The average Slashdot reader is too young to remember this, but Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn walked hand-in-hand from Capitol Hill to the White House on inauguration day. Right down the middle of the street.

          I also remember all of the Republicans who called Clinton a coward and paranoid for blocking off Pennsylvania Avenue. You may notice that the only change since Bush has taken office is more armed guards and greater restrictions. Funny thing: I haven't heard any of those critics of Clinton's apolgizing...
      • by chia_monkey (593501) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:44AM (#6470585) Journal
        I agree...times sure have a changed. But then again, the Prez could get shot just for walking down the street. And sheesh...you Halloween isn't fun anymore 'cause of all the wackos out there. Remember walking around with a couple of your friends, alone, at night, taking candy from strangers? The age of innocence is gone.
      • by BreadMan (178060) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:47AM (#6470611)
        Here's food for thought: the White House was fenced in the 40's. Not long befor that, you could walk-up to the front door, but typically not be admitted. Sales folk and appointment seekers would show up at all hours and annoy the butler and the residents. One Garfield [whitehouse.gov] was shot by a disgruntled appointment-seeker who felt slighted because the President would not meet with him.

        I think Eisenhower directed the near gutting and restoration of the building, installing bullet-proof glass and other modern security features. Before WW I/II, the US was a fairly isolated country with a small federal government. If you had a gripe with the goverment, it was probably at the state level.
    • by ajs (35943) <ajs@@@ajs...com> on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:27AM (#6470438) Homepage Journal
      Your comment is funny. The situation is not, though. This has been the case with congress-critturs for a decade or more as well. They get paper mail, faxes, what-have-you and sort them into two piles for each major issue (pro or con) and then measure the height of those piles. If the content is too complex to interpret quickly, it is junked.

      Contributors to the campaign, friends and relatives have other means of reaching these people, the public points of access are just garbage chutes for straw-polling and allowing the Secret Service to gather and track death-threats and such.

      This is not ALWAYS true, but from talking to people who have worked on The Hill, I'm certain that it is the case far, far more often than not.

      One time, I sent mail about Echelon to my Senetor. I was frankly stunned and awed to the point of voting for him in the next election because I got back a letter than addressed what I had said, and outlined what he had done as a result, and what the results of his actions were.

      It wasn't a lot, just one page and not a lot of action as a result, but the fact that this Senetor cared about the concerns of a constituent got MY vote! I urge you to discuss the things that matter to you with your representitive government, and when they work on your behalf (not just send you a form "Yes, this is a pressing issue which all Americans should vote for me over") you should reward them by voting for them.
      • by pmz (462998) on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:21AM (#6470911) Homepage
        I was frankly stunned and awed to the point of voting for him in the next election because I got back a letter than addressed what I had said, and outlined what he had done as a result, and what the results of his actions were.

        The fact that U.S. senators and representatives are so far removed from the public that responses are, by default, not expected is a very strong argument, in my opinion, why most issues should be handled by state and local governments and not the federal one.

        Local officials are much more accessible by their constituants (constituant to politician ratio is an order of magnatude less), and local officials are more accountable in thier communities. For example, the local state representative is very likely a local businessperson who is a member of the local chamber of commerce and lives in a known neighborhood on one end of town. He may even be active in a local church or civic group and may even know local people by name (imagine that!). Simply, the "pro" and "con" piles are just much smaller for local representation and are more likely to be given attention.

        Compare the local people to national people like Hillary Clinton or Dick Cheny, for example, and there is no comparison. Besides the Letterman show or the Weekly World News, do the constituants of New York really understand or have the resources to care about what Ms. Clinton does for their state?

        I just think that human society scales poorly (suburban spawl, for example), and that smaller groups are more likely to make real progress towards a genuinely happy community than very large ones. Smaller groups are also more accountable, and, if a person can't cope, moving to another group is not a big problem. If a person can't cope with a federal government, or the approaching global government, then what?

        And, to be clear, "small" doesn't mean, necessarily, on the scale of nomadic tribes, but more like regular towns of several tens of thousands of people each. It seems that once an area gets into the hundreds of thousands of people, people start clashing in their everyday lives--traffic, for example--and don't find effective ways to deal with that scale.
    • by Flamed to a Crisp (688872) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:59AM (#6470716)

      If you were really serious about getting a message through to the "president" I would check "supporting comment," then say something nice about him (if you can think of anything) and then offer some "supportive criticism." This method actually works for me on a regular basis. (Although I haven't tried it in the scenario) It saves me lots of stress and the other person is more likely to listen.

      However, if you just want to send flaming messages, that's a different story.

      • they'll probably just put a check in the "supporters" comment and throw the text away. Then they can say the measure has overwhelming support.
      • Mod parent up! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RevMike (632002)
        ... say something nice about him ... and then offer some "supportive criticism."

        Politicians are, like virtually anyone else, interested in advancing their own agendas and the agendas of their allies. They see their constituents in three groups...

        1. People who will support them no matter what.
        2. People who will oppose them no matter what.
        3. People who can be persuaded one way or the other.

        Politicians will play enough to the first group to keep their "base" support strong. They'll completely ignore the se

    • by ip_vjl (410654) on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:13AM (#6470849) Homepage
      The "Against Us" email automatically get forwarded to Ashcroft.

      Why bother with the web-form at all?

      In a couple years (if they all get their wishes) any email you send will end up in their hands anyway, so there'll be no real need to send mail directly to them.

    • Slight correction: the quote you allude to is: "you are either with us or with the terrorists". [216.239.53.104]

      Let's be clear. If you're not with Bush, you are a terrorist. There is no third way. His words, not mine.

    • So when those emails come in, I guess they go in either one of two mailboxes. "With us" or "Against Us".

      Well having worked on the original Whitehouse email system I seem to recall discussing this at length.

      Some people did want to simply register approval or disapproval of some issue, which is completely OK. But in many cases people wanted to do something different, like bring to attention some problem that they did not feel was being addressed. Very often the emails would be questions about policy, in p

  • Overloaded (Score:2, Funny)

    by xannik (534808)
    And now instead of being a little overloaded it will just be completely unavailable. :-)
  • by mcgregorj (114352) on Friday July 18, 2003 @09:58AM (#6470164)
    "When it comes to a Web site, it's a bit like a movie," Mr. Orr said. "Some will say it's a tour de force; some will say it fell flat."

    This website must be "Cabin Boy."
  • Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deman1985 (684265) <`moc.enotsappak' `ta' `sdrawded'> on Friday July 18, 2003 @09:59AM (#6470174) Homepage
    I don't find it very encouraging that the government doesn't promise to read anything we have to say anymore. Isn't it their job to listen to what the public has to say to make informed decisions for the good of the country? What are we paying them for?
    • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elwinc (663074)
      You want to talk to Bush? It's easy -- just raise $100,000 for his re-election campaign and you'll get 10 minutes of face time! No problem.
      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

        by the gnat (153162) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:20AM (#6470377)
        It's not worth it. With the last president, $100,000 got you a night in the White House.
      • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Informative)

        by NixterAg (198468) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:32AM (#6470486)
        The Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign has posted their donor list for the most recent quarter on the web. It not only includes the names of contributors but also the size of their donations. Interestingly, a large majority of the contributors to the Bush campaign contributed less than $200.

        The campaign Web site www.georgewbush.com on Tuesday posted collection plate statistics that reveal the names of more than 105,000 individuals who have given $1 or more to the re-election campaign. The list includes information on 85,591 individuals who have given less than $200, as well as larger donation contributors.

        Don't hold your breath waiting for any candidate from the "party of the people" to make a similar disclosure. One of the closely guarded secrets that is an embarassment to the Democratic party is that the size of the average donation to their party is larger than the average size contributed to the Republican party. In fact, the mean size of political donations to the RNC during the past election cycle was about $50. The Democrats (always taking the moral high ground) claim that the mean size of contributions is unimportant and will not publish it for that reason and because it somehow would invade the privacy of their contributing base in aggregate.

        The Democrats also have the whole problem of Chinese-Americans and foreign companies funneling millions from the Chinese government into Bill Clinton's re-election campaign in 1996 (during the same time period Chinese received favored trade status and managed to pilfer nuclear used-to-be-secrets).

        In sum, your statement could easily be:
        You want to talk to any elected official? It's easy -- just raise $100,000 for his/her re-election campaign and you'll get 10 minutes of face time! No problem.
        • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

          by urbazewski (554143) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:52AM (#6470647) Homepage Journal
          Interestingly, a large majority of the contributors to the Bush campaign contributed less than $200.

          If you want to know whether or not a politician is beholden to large contributors it doesn't matter how many people donated small amounts of money, but what percentage of the total money raised came from the political interest groups in question. What we need to know, from both parties, is the distribution of "income from supporters", the same way that the distribution of income is measured. What percent of the money was raised from the smallest 20 percent of contributions? What percent came from the top 1 percent?

          And most definitely, all contributions need to considered, not just donations from individuals.

    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pen (7191) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:07AM (#6470257)
      When a government doesn't have time to listen to the people it's supposed to govern, you know that it's grown too large. Solution: More power to local governments, less power to governments that are so far removed that we cannot reach them.

      Or have we forgotten the lesson we learned from being a colony of Britain?

      • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rusty0101 (565565)
        Any idea how much spam they are getting? Of that, how much do they really read?

        I wonder how many times they have gotten the Nigerian Official's e-mail?

        I suspect that the offer's for generic Viagra, HGH, Weight Loss, International Drivers Licence, etc. should also be falling on deaf ears.

        I have enough trouble with my own e-mail, and I do not have one of the world's most well known e-mail addresses.

        Granted the worst of the offenders have probably excluded all "@*.gov" addresses from their mailing lists, b
      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by the gnat (153162) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:17AM (#6470350)
        Bear in mind when you say this that the modern "states rights" movement largely grew out of the federal government's efforts to end segregation. This isn't a general rule, but there certainly are some occasions where we need a strong federal government that won't listen to popular opinion.
        • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Informative)

          by bpowell423 (208542) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:39AM (#6470539)
          Actually, the "states rights" movement comes from the tenth ammendment:

          Amendment X.

          The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

          In other words, if the Constitution doesn't explicitly give a certain power or right to the Federal government, it is reserved for the states.
          • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Funny)

            by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Friday July 18, 2003 @02:35PM (#6472807) Homepage
            He said "the modern states rights movement". He's not talking about the idea of state's rights, he's talking about the modern version of the "movement" in favor of them, which makes a difference. States Rights have been brought up and then dropped in various ways at various times throughout america's history, and it just happens that the current thrust toward the meme of increasing state's rights has its origin with federal attempts to end racial segregation.

            All of these states rights movements have of course had their basis soundly in the tenth amendment. However, in general I think it's safe to say there has not been a time in american history when states rights have been advocated in a generalized way in an organized manner-- every time a states rights advocacy group pops up, it tends to have some kind of specific agenda, for example (as in the 1860s and 1960s) protecting a racist system. Today states rights advocacy groups, if you look, seem mostly to be doing so just as a tool with which to advocate either lesser restrictions on gun possession and use (if they're on the right) or lesser restrictions on pot possession and use (if they're on the left). Of course, a lot of these people seem to be much less enthusiastic about states rights' if "states rights" seems to mean that a federal anti-abortion law would be unconstitutional (if they're on the right) or that a state that doesn't allow same-sex mairrages would be allowed to view as invalid a same-sex mairrage initiated in a state that does allow them (if they're on the left)..

            Incidentally, somehow, while I hear people on tv and in the newspaper all the time talking about how the 10th amendment means that rights the federal government doesn't explictly have control over should be in control of the states, I never seem to hear any press time being given to people claiming that the 10th amendment means that rights that the government doesn't explicitly have control over should belong to the people. Funny, that.
      • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

        by operagost (62405)
        Here's my question- have you ever tried to contact your representative in the House? How about someone in your state legislature? It's a lot easier to just gripe about not being able to contact the big boss. Seriously, I can imagine how popular you'd be in an office situation if you called up the CEO every time you had a beef. How the heck is one man supposed to answer the emails from 270 million people? Back in the day, not only was it a lot harder to troll over snail mail, but there were far fewer trolls.
      • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

        by letxa2000 (215841)
        "The White House no longer promises to read anything you send to president@whitehouse.gov"

        You think that this or the previous administration read all the email that it got? At best they had a bank of secretaries reading and responding to it. That's arguably the same as not reading it.

        When a government doesn't have time to listen to the people it's supposed to govern, you know that it's grown too large.

        While I agree that a government should listen to its people, that is largely done at the ballot b

    • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zoop (59907)
      Didja really think they were listening before? It's not like money started talking 4 years ago. It's been that way as long as I've been aware, and from what I can tell, our research has shown that one person cannot make a difference ... and the horse you rode in on.

      Really, do you think everything was read under Bush I or Clinton? The cost would be staggering, and now they're basically being honest. Sure it's depressing, but if you didn't know that was the case before now, you're just being naiive at best.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by chia_monkey (593501)
      I don't find it very encouraging that the government doesn't promise to read anything we have to say anymore. Isn't it their job to listen to what the public has to say to make informed decisions for the good of the country? What are we paying them for?

      Silly silly person. What do you think this is? A government by the people, for the people?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 18, 2003 @09:59AM (#6470175)
    I can't imagine why anyone would think the president of the United States would bother to read unsolicited email.
  • by fruey (563914) on Friday July 18, 2003 @09:59AM (#6470176) Homepage Journal
    ...president@whitehouse.gov, nobody@nowhere.com and others as email for lots of signups, it's hardly surprising that they don't just let you email directly and promise a response.

    Head over to the real whitehouse alternative [whitehouse.com], much more fun.

  • Because... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Scalli0n (631648) on Friday July 18, 2003 @09:59AM (#6470181) Homepage
    This is probably because emailing is 1000x easier than:

    a) Mailing
    b) Phoneing (being on hold for hours then talking to a nobody)
    c) It gives you a warm happy feeling.

    So why shouldn't they filter out their most popular form of communication given that most of it is crap anyway?

    That, and my second point:

    You shouldn't be emailing your most important concerns to the president - do your congressman, your senator, and your local government, they can probably help you more specifically.
  • convenient (Score:5, Insightful)

    by salzbrot (314893) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:00AM (#6470189)
    It is really convenient to have the political opinions of your citizens stored in a database together with name, (e-mail-)address and the like!
  • Snail Mail... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tsali (594389) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:02AM (#6470213)
    It's a pain to use that thing, too... wife actually broke out the pen to mail the president about the redesignation of overtime for professional occupations. She heard back from our congressman within a week but hasn't heard squat back from G.W.

    Considering G.W. runs a press conference once every six months, before an invasion, or after he beats up on some third world country, you expect better treatment?

    Security through obfuscation, just like the ports.

    Bah.
  • by PHAEDRU5 (213667) <instascreed@@@gmail...com> on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:03AM (#6470218) Homepage
    "Oh, and they only want to talk about subjects that are of interest to them"

    Well, I can remember phoning the White House during the Clinton Administration. Before getting to an actual person I was presented with a survey of some sort. I can't remember what it was about, but I do remember thinking that I preferred NONE of the possible choices for each survey question.

    My point is that it appears every administration does this. It's not simply the current one.
  • Deluges of mail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AndyBusch (160585) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:03AM (#6470219)
    I can appriciate the need for them to implement a "confirmation" action (Did you send this?), to stop spoofing, spamming, etc. However, the "pre-email questionaire" seems a little extreme. I suppose the goal is to ask "are you an insightful commentator or a raving lunatic?", but it takes a "are you a patriot or a terrorist?" tone about it.

    Of course, it's now harder to complain to them about it, as well.
    • by ed.han (444783) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:17AM (#6470346) Journal
      perhaps the admin staff who pre-sort the e-mails use a variant of the slashdot moderation system and the president only sees the ones rated +5. i can just imagine the modifiers now...

      +1 campaign donor
      -1 civil liberties kook
      +1 convenient ally
      -1 democrat
      -1 libertarian
      +1 republican
      +1 useful tool

      ed
  • by abh (22332) <ahockley@gmail.com> on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:04AM (#6470232) Homepage
    Putting stuff like this into the "Your rights" category dilutes issues that actually have to do with rights...

    Rights are things like free speech, bearing arms, and freedom from false imprisonment.

    Having to use a web form instead of an e-mail address is NOT a violation of your rights.
  • This is a good thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cire (96846) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:05AM (#6470235)
    This is not a big deal. In fact this was a good thing. Before, they had some poor secretary who had to sit there getting a vague idea of what the emails were about. Let's face it, they almost NEVER made it's way up to the top anyway.

    Now with the new system they can have some DBA write script to pump out statistics on what kind of feedback/problems/etc most people are writing about. They can actually get a real number and say "we got 10,000 emails this week and 67% of them disagreed with such and such policy." Plus, they can weed out the junk mail. Can you imagine how much spam he must've gotten. Do you think the Pres was using SpamAssassin?

    Cire
  • by billmaly (212308) <bill.maly@mcleodus[ ]et ['a.n' in gap]> on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:07AM (#6470256)
    Bush declared early on that he would not be "doing" email as President, mostly to avoid ANY messages that would or could be construed as incriminating to himself or others.

    Chances are, he won't be reading what you send anyway. Frankly, I suspect the concept of "mail your representative/elected official" is largely a thing of the past. Lobbyist's and big politcal money have largely ended any sort of grassroots effect.
  • by PHAEDRU5 (213667) <instascreed@@@gmail...com> on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:07AM (#6470260) Homepage
    It actually looks like they're trying to see whether the people mailing them have an IQ higher than a lab rat.

    A good idea, IMHO. Filters out the drunk, drugged, and pure loony.
  • Use snail mail (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s20451 (410424) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:08AM (#6470264) Journal
    Instead of firing off that e-mail, why not click "print" and mail it using the regular postal service?

    In Canada at least, sending a letter via regular post to any Member of Parliament [parl.gc.ca], including the Prime Minister [pm.gc.ca], is free. Your letter is also far more likely to be read.
  • The president never really read e-mail anyway. It was just a lot of paid interns who went through it. But because the e-mail address is made public on a very popular site, I'm sure they got a lot of spam and such. In these times of economic concerns, do we really need to be paying people to go through George Bush's e-mail?

    I agree with "representing the people" and such, but going through George Bush is just a bit too unfair. He has to look over 300 million people ... you can't expect him to read messages from everyone either. Instead, if you want to make a difference in government, start with your local representatives and senators. They are there to specifically represent the people in your district/state. You can get a message to the president much more easily through them than if you try directly via e-mail. This is how representative democracy works.
  • Remember... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:08AM (#6470271) Journal
    "...government of the people, by the people, for the people..."

    What with the general assaults on personal freedoms, Abraham Lincoln and the other Founding Fathers must be spinning in their graves. Democracy isn't dead, but it isn't exactly at its zenith right now, least of all in the USA.

    Can anyone think of a time when the freedoms of the average American were more at threat from their own government?

    Like I've said before, the ideal of America is beautiful, it's just the reality that's becoming fubar.
  • Paypal for instance, hides its phone numbers deliberately so as to force email responses to issues. (email is easily ignored). Taken from paypalwarning.com (was an expired article on msnbc))

    Any Paypal customer with a problem typically has an impossible time calling and talking to a real live person, and personal attention to electronic mail is virtually non-existent. According to Vince Sollitto (PayPal spokesman), Paypal intentionally makes the phone number very difficult to find in order to save costs. This is fine, except their Email "customer service" also leaves a lot to be desired. Many times you will get a canned response that doesn't address your initial Email message, if you get a reply at all. It doesn't do any good to complain anyway. When asked about customer complaints, Sollitto said the company reads them, but takes them with a grain of salt...

    Just reminded me of the White House. Congress hardly responds to what the people want (file sharing, etc) why should the President be any different?

  • Barriers to entry (Score:5, Informative)

    by XianDeath (543687) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:12AM (#6470298)
    I noticed this policy the other day while looking for a method of having the daily press briefings emailed to me. I believe this is really just a form of crowd control. The easier it is to contact your elected official, the more often you'll do so. Make the barrier to entry higher, i.e. a phone call which costs you money, and you raise the barrier to entry. I can imagine how many emails they get a day especially since they're probably on every spam email list in the world.

    On a side note, for what it's worth, the daily press briefings contain more 'hard' news than I see in the average evening news broadcast. (On a politically snider note, it's also much easier to understand how bad off things are when you can actually read the daily obfuscations with your own eyes, and in most cases, watch them in streaming video sans interepretation by talking heads.)

    Also, say what you will about Clinton, but he was the first president to really make an effort at utilizing the internet to diseminate information regarding the executive branch, though granted he was the first president of the 'internet era.' There are several cool innovations he made and several excellent articles over at Slate regarding the White House web (Article #1 [msn.com] and Article #2 [msn.com]) historically.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:20AM (#6470376) Homepage
    Many years ago, my mother wrote to a former President, protesting a policy. She got back an elegant card thanking her for her "support." The next day, that President addressed the nation from the Oval Office and said that 90% of the mail he was receiving was in support of the policy.

    Maybe that button isn't such a bad idea.
    • Anyone who states that 90% of the mail they received about something was in support is a liar and a cheat. Period.

      If promised to sign a law making it illegal to piss in your soup, most mail concerning the policy would STILL be against it. The people most likely to mail are those who oppose something, and want the esteemed mail receiver to do look at their argumentation. Of course, a president won't make a statement unless he's already made his mind up to the point that any and all argumentation is worth
  • No excuse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pergamon (4359) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:20AM (#6470379) Homepage
    Contacting the President should be a process simple enough that anyone in the USA, even those with limited technical, communication, and cognitive abilities could perform.

    There's no excuse for a confusing system like this reaching the public, as the White House has someone "in-house", so to speak, who is a great benchmark for the lowest common denominator in those three areas. From the description, I believe there is no chance this procedure would have passed the "Dubya" test.
    • by cascadingstylesheet (140919) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:40AM (#6470547)

      Contacting the President should be a process simple enough that anyone in the USA, even those with limited technical, communication, and cognitive abilities could perform.

      There's no excuse for a confusing system like this reaching the public, as the White House has someone "in-house", so to speak, who is a great benchmark for the lowest common denominator in those three areas. From the description, I believe there is no chance this procedure would have passed the "Dubya" test.

      Why do you believe that? Do you really believe that Saturday Night Live parodies are reality?

      I never thought much of Clinton's wisdom, morality, choices, etc. but I never deluded myself into thinking he lacked cognitive ability. Nobody gets to positions like that without it.

  • by b-baggins (610215) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:26AM (#6470420) Journal
    Folks, this story is from the NY Times. Better check out what snopes.com has to say about it.
  • by hoover10001 (550647) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:33AM (#6470500)
    One of the interesting parts of the LBJ biography was how he made sure that his staff replied in a personal letter to all mail and phone messages.

    I would suspect that current pols don't give a $*()@*#)( about their e-mail or messages anyway. Local officials are too powerless for most people to communicate with. State and National pols are too busy talking to lobbyists and paying attention to the polls and statistics to worry about what Joe Schmoe is ranting about today.

  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:46AM (#6470599)
    ....send a message to the Whitehouse Web dev team [whitehouse.gov], and let them know what you think.

    "The Web Team does not answer or forward e-mail, but all messages pertaining to the technical operation and usability of the White House web site are read."
  • by ianscot (591483) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:48AM (#6470618)
    The White House says the new system, the Web at whitehouse.gov/webmail, is an effort to be more responsive to the public and offer the administration "real-time" access to citizen comments.

    Why would you do this? Because given the overwhelming number of e-mails that come in, you can't process it and get it into a database with any "meta"-info attached. This way you let your users organize it for you, would be how the IT people sold the change. Then you really do have a better sense of the layout of all the mail you're getting, and you really do know more about what people think.

    Not to say that this isn't incompetence on the part of the Bush folks. Anyone with a clue about PR would know the multi-page form that starts with stuff like "Do you Agree or Disagree with our beloved Kim Jong Il?" or "Are you a donor?" would be a mistake. Even if the Web guys told them they needed to use a revised front end to sort stuff, they should've realized how that form would read. In particular, they really needed to maintain the perception that every note got read -- to blow that off in any way just looks awful. The IT people had the same blindspot for that one -- ever decide to call an 800-line instead of using a tech support form you weren't sure would ever get responded to?

    So this speaks to the blinders of both IT people and the Bush regime, sure -- but it probably was an honest try to address the volume of mail that comes in. I worked at the Ford Presidential Library for a while, and they've still got boxes and boxes, and shelves and shelves, of letters people sent abot pardoning Nixon -- categorized as pro and con, and that's about it.

    (What they need is the text grinders to do the sorting automagically -- but wait, wouldn't that cost serious tax dollars?)

  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Performer Guy (69820) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:59AM (#6470717)
    Why should you be able to email the President? You can't call him, you can't pop round for a cup of tea and a chat, why should he have to read email from complete strangers on whatever pops into heir head. More importantly, why should I as a taxpayer have to fund the staff it takes to read all the email that he gets sent just so you get a cozy feeling about the democratic process?

    You want to communicate with the President? Vote.
  • by hey (83763) on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:05AM (#6470772) Journal
    All part of Bush's War on Criticism [theonion.com]
  • by Capt_Troy (60831) <tfandango.yahoo@com> on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:21AM (#6470912) Homepage Journal
    Im my experience, snail mail is far more effective in getting your point heard and something done about it. I ALWAYS write a letter if I have a problem, and 90% of the time, the situation is adequatly dealt with.

    I have never had any luck with email complaints, and only marginal success with phone complaints.

    Just last night in fact, I heard back from AT&T wireless because I sent the CEO a letter about how his company was attempting to defraud me on my bill. Fixed, no problem. And a free month to boot. I had previously called 5 times and had been told that is was "impossible" to fix.

    So use email for normal communications, but when you need something done, write a letter and fork over 37 cents for a stamp. The results are well worth the cost. I imagine that a letter to the president has a much higher chance of actually being read by someone than an email does, especially now.

    T
  • by slasho81 (455509) on Friday July 18, 2003 @12:20PM (#6471535)
    Will slashdot make it to the terrorist organization list?
  • by anthony_dipierro (543308) on Friday July 18, 2003 @02:09PM (#6472564) Journal

    Instead, you must navigate a multi-page website AND confirm your submission via email.

    Kind of like subscribing to slashdot.

    Seriously, you're making it sound like it's a bad thing. How much spam do you think president@whitehouse.gov gets? This isn't obfuscation, it's replacing a system with zero accountability with one with a bit more accountability. Considering it's the government doing this it borders on genius compared to solution I'd expect.

  • by NewtonsLaw (409638) on Friday July 18, 2003 @06:49PM (#6474975)
    It turns out that the real reason for the White House no longer accepting email to president@whitehouse.gov is that Bush's aides began noticing some worrying things about their charge.

    It seems he'd been spending quite a bit of time reading all his email and had been receiving a large number of packages delivered in plain brown wrapping.

    Turns out that the Prez now has a 32-foot-long penis, breasts the size of Dolly Parton's, has lost 399lbs of weight without exercising or dieting and is now awaiting the delivery of TWENTY FIVE MILLION US DOLLARS in unclaimed bullion from a secret fund in Nigeria.

    Not only that, but he's also talking about quitting the presidency because he's been told that you can make more money stuffing envelopes just a few hours a day from home.

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