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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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  • 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 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 melevitt (31652) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {lfttivelem}> on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:18AM (#6470357)
    This IS a big deal.

    Yes, it's a good thing for the Bush spin machine becuase:
    a) they control what catagories are presented.
    b) They can now state "Well, there's some minor grumbling about [unpopular policy] by the Press, but look at our e-mail statistics! Hardly anyone outside the liberal washington elite are complaining..."

    Of course [unpopular policy] won't be one of the catagories you can select.

    You don't have to control the answers if you can control the questions.

  • by setzman (541053) <stzman ... sandremoveit,org> on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:26AM (#6470426) Journal
    Why don't we email the Vice President or First Lady? His email is still up on a direct link vice.president@whitehouse.gov [mailto], and her email is first.lady@whitehouse.gov [mailto].
  • Re:Remember... (Score:5, Informative)

    by tweek (18111) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:27AM (#6470440) Homepage Journal
    We are not a democracy for chrissakes. When we people learn the difference?

    A few links:
    Link #1 [chrononhotonthologos.com]
    Link #2 [brainyquote.com]
    Link #3 [brainyquote.com]
    Scary quote #4 [brainyquote.com]
    Scary quote #5 [brainyquote.com]
    Quote #6 [brainyquote.com]
    And from our own government:
    Link #7 [cia.gov]

    We are not a democracy. Get it through your head. Democracy is a terrible for mof government where 51% of the people take rights away from the other 49%.

  • 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.
  • by WebMasterJoe (253077) <{joe} {at} {joestoner.com}> on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:33AM (#6470498) Homepage Journal
    Yep, that's some fine work on FrontPage. Lemme just tell you what's wrong with this, in case any of you aspiring young web designers need to know.
    • Put up a nicer message. This page is typically only going to be seen for a few seconds, if at all, but when the destination is down, would you want your visitors to be looking at that?
    • A link would have been nice, to accomodate those who have turned off javascript. Yeah, I know this doesn't apply to many, but it's not difficult to do. In addition, instead of making users refresh (thereby burdening this server), users can just keep clicking the link if the destination page doesn't load.
    • PERSdata??? What the hell is up with that? First, use all lowercase. Second, don't give your directories scary names like that. It scares the children.
    • I think we're beyond the 8.3 filename conventions now. mv intro.htm index.html
    If this is my first impression of a site, you can be sure I won't be trusting it to deal with my personal information.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Re:Or worse (Score:4, Informative)

    by ncc74656 (45571) <scott@alfter.us> on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:24AM (#6470936) Homepage Journal
    The IRS is a great agency for exacting revenge on people idiotic enough to declare themselves your enemy.

    Indeed it is...as lots of conservative organizations discovered [google.com] during the Clinton-Gore regime.

  • by ncc74656 (45571) <scott@alfter.us> on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:43AM (#6471137) Homepage Journal
    Dude, get your facts straight. We don't just allow anyone to carry a gun at all times. Very few states allow you to carry a gun on you (carrying a concealed weapon).

    Actually, 35 states have "shall-issue" concealed-carry laws. There's also open carry...here in Nevada, while a permit is "required" (not sure that the requirement is constitutional, but at least it's issued upon passing written and shooting tests) for concealed carry, anybody of age can open-carry without restriction. I doubt that this is the only state like this.

    Also, convicted felons aren't allowed to own a gun

    True enough, and for the same reasons their other freedoms are abridged...they've demonstrated they're not worthy.

    and you're definitely not allowed to own a gun without a permit and license.

    Here's where you're completely off-base. Gun ownership is not a privilege. It is a right that is not subject to the whims of the state. You need no "license" from the state to own a gun. The state has no authority to require that gun owners have "licenses" for their guns. If your state is claiming unconstitutional authority to say who can have how many guns, you need to vote out the control freaks who implemented those "laws" and vote in some people who are willing to stick to their oaths to uphold the Constitution.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 18, 2003 @12:07PM (#6471392)
    Around 64% of the donations to the republicans were under $200 in the past.

    Another interesting stat was that 92% of the donations over 1 million dollars were to the democrats.

    I read this on cnn a while back in an article that was talking about campaign finance reform.
  • by NoData (9132) <_NoData_.yahoo@com> on Friday July 18, 2003 @12:24PM (#6471565)
    >>Remember civil liberties?

    Yep. Have yours been infringed lately?


    • "Yes, I was detained and harrassed by federal airport security without cause or explanation because my name is David Nelson. [washingtontimes.com] I am not allowed to know that I am on a do-not-fly list or what criteria put a person there in the first place."
    • "Yes, I was forced to drink my own breast milk [newsmax.com]out of three bottles by federal airport security to prove it was not a "security risk."
    • "Yes, my right to freely assembly has been infringed my Bush and his cronies with their establishment of (incredibly cyncially named) 'First Amendment Zones' [citizensno...tators.org] that stipulate that demonstrators who are protesting the president must remain in specific "safe distances" often blocks away from presidential appearances, while "supporters" are allowed to demonstrate in the immediate vicinity.
    • "Yes, my government is developing a system [epic.org] that will systematically spy on everyone, all of the time, in an effort to provide me better "security." Thankfully, budgetary politics in the Senate will hopefully kill [wired.com] this monstrosity."
    • "Yes, my ability to fairly use information and art I paid for is being stifled [theregister.co.uk] and criminalized, [theregister.co.uk] to outrageous [theregister.co.uk] degrees."
    • "Sorry, what [eff.org] was [epic.org] the question [aclu.org]?"
  • by Mnemia (218659) on Friday July 18, 2003 @12:33PM (#6471655)
    I'm sure you've read this already, but for those who haven't, there is an excellent history of the Israeli nuclear program available here:
    http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/israel/nuke/f arr.htm
  • by welshsocialist (542986) <hoshie@mailinator.com> on Friday July 18, 2003 @12:36PM (#6471686) Homepage
    Actually, one did. First was McKinley, then Kennedy, then Reagan. The only difference being that Reagan survived.

    Looks like someone slept through history class. The first attempt on a President was Jackson in 1835. Lincoln was killed in 1865 by Booth, an actor. The next President to be shot was Garfield in 1881 by Charles J. Guiteau, a disappoined unemployed guy. The next assassination happened in 1901 when McKinley was shot by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist. Between 1901 and when Kennedy was shot in 1963 by Lee Oswald, there were two attempts on Presidents. One happened in 1912 against former President Theodore Roosevelt on a campaign stop. The second happened against Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. The shots missed Roosevelt but killed Anton Cermak, the Mayor of Chicago. After Kennedy's death, there were three attempts on a Presidents life. The first two happened in September 1975 against Gerald Ford while in California. The third happened against Reagan in 1981.


    BTW, I am an history geek!

  • by bluethundr (562578) * on Friday July 18, 2003 @12:49PM (#6471813) Homepage Journal
    The IRS is a great agency for exacting revenge on people idiotic enough to declare themselves your enemy.

    That's no joke. Just ask the Christic Institute. The Christic Institute is a government watchdog agency that has been a thorne in the side of Uncle Sam for a great many years.

    I first hear about Christic during the Iran Contra "guns for drugs" scandle in the mid 1980s. They were the ones who actually brought the suit against the government.

    An apt description of the Christic Institute (as appearing in this article [greenleft.org.au])"The institute has won several landmark civil lawsuits, including the "Greensboro massacre" case against members of the American Nazi Party and Ku Klux Klan who assassinated demonstrators in 1979, and the "Silkwood" case against the nuclear industry. The institute does not charge legal fees and depends entirely on contributions from churches, Jewish philanthropies, private foundations and individual supporters."

    Another decent (and slightly more in-depth) history of the organization can be found here. [geocities.com] The sad truth is that the IRS is likely to revoke their not for profit status making them liabel for back taxes for all of the years they have been in operation. Many feel that this is in direct retaliation to the Avrigan vs. Hull lawsuit. The government is alredy quite fond of issuing hefty fines to the institute for what it deems to be "frivolous lawsuits" (I'll let you judge that one for yourselves) as a means of intimidating them into not persuing their just causes. But if this IRS thing the IRS has in mind at the prompting of ultra conservative members of the house, it could mean the final curtain call for a heroic agency that has done much to keep america free.
  • by fmaxwell (249001) on Friday July 18, 2003 @12:56PM (#6471887) Homepage Journal
    So is that your thing? Do you make up things to criticize your opponents about? Why don't you stick to real issues?

    From the April 29, 1996 Congressional Record:
    Senator Rod Grams (R-Minnesota): Have you been to the White House lately, Mr. President? You'll see what fear looks like. With all the guards, the guns, the cement barriers, the police cruisers, Pennsylvania Avenue now looks like what some are calling a war zone. Or a bunker. This is not the White House of leaders like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, who defined freedom's essence and took deep pride in being its stewards.

    {snip}

    In the year since the closure of Pennsylvania Avenue, the calls for its reopening have grown louder. There's a deep perception among many Americans that the closing was an emotional reaction--a judgment rendered too quickly, and initiated out of fear.

    It's time for President Clinton to reconsider a decision made amidst such emotion, and replace it with one of reasoned courage.
    So, are you a liar or just ignorant? Either way, you owe me an apology.
  • by cheezedawg (413482) on Friday July 18, 2003 @02:19PM (#6472664) Journal
    So you can read minds?

    No- that is pretty much straight from his speech [whitehouse.gov]:
    Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. (Applause.) From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. ...
    This is not, however, just America's fight. And what is at stake is not just America's freedom. This is the world's fight. This is civilization's fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.


    How long did that take for dubya, anyway?

    I'm sorry, but I have no idea what you are talking about. How long did what take?
  • by Mnemia (218659) on Friday July 18, 2003 @02:21PM (#6472689)

    Ever think that the reason so many people in the Middle East dislike Israel might have something to do with the huge nuclear arsenal pointed at each and every one of their cities? Or the fact that the US has been selectively supporting Israel through direct aid and diplomacy for decades?

    It's amazing to me that anyone can dismiss Israel's WMD as inconsequential or justified. The US is tacitly approving of Israel's development of those weapons, and yet we invade and topple the government of an Arab nation that was merely suspected of possessing nuclear technology. That just might have something to do with the hatred for Israel.

    Like it or not, suicide bombing is what got the Palestinians whatever weak bargaining position they have today. They can't fight against a modern military supported by billions in US aid and armed with nuclear weapons, so they do the only thing they can do to preserve the very existance of their own rights and freedoms. Palestinians support suicide bombing because without it Israelis would totally and completely smash their hopes for a state. It's their only bargaining chip and one that they can't give up if they don't want to see all their homes bulldozed for "settlements".

  • Re:He didn't go AWOL (Score:4, Informative)

    by frankie (91710) on Friday July 18, 2003 @03:26PM (#6473327) Journal
    This is just an urban legend
    1. Cecil Adams doesn't lie [straightdope.com]
    2. You can look it up [google.com]
    3. Here's a summary [awolbush.com]
  • by Mnemia (218659) on Friday July 18, 2003 @03:32PM (#6473396)

    First off, I don't think I disagree with you on this issue as much as you think I do. I don't deny that Israel is easily the most democratic country in the Middle East or that they have long been aligned with US interests. I'm not really arguing that Israel is evil or has acted badly with regard to their foreign policy. I don't have a serious problem with the Israeli government other than the nuclear weapons issue, and I certainly don't have a problem with Jews. I just think that it's unnecessary and dangerous for Israel to have such inhumane weapons.

    Of course Israel will be aligned with the US and provide us with intelligence assistance. They are on the receiving end of a huge amount of US aid. Countries that we give large amounts of aid to generally like us. My question is, why can't that policy be extended beyond Israel? Why can't we give equal amounts of aid and protection to everyone involved and thus foster more good will rather than just one-sided anger and jealousy?

    I don't consider the US to be any better than Israel on any of these issues and I certainly don't support the US deployment of nuclear weapons throughout the world. My problem is not so much with Israel as it is with US policy towards Israel and its neighbors.

    Not knowing you, I don't know whether I'm more or less informed about the history of the Middle East in the twentieth century than you, so I won't argue that with you. I wouldn't consider myself too uninformed to talk about it or form opinions about it. I'm not getting my information just from the media - I've personally known several people from Israel, both Israeli and Palestinian. I based most of what I said on conversations with those people and things I've read. If you want to correct my facts feel free - I'm open to changing my mind. My father visited the West Bank several years ago as part of an international medical aid organization and told me quite a bit about his first hand experiences. For the most part he saw incredible poverty and heavily armed, arrogant Israelis. He actually changed his opinion to become more anti-Israel after returning from there. Comments from Israeli soldiers like "Why are you helping that scum?" didn't help.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:30PM (#6473989)
    comparing Israel to the US isn't really making your case. Its like comparing Stalin to Hitler. While Stalin may be better than Hitler, they are both very bad.

    ----> 1. Maybe it's because Israel is the only democracy in the middle east.

    what does being a democracy have anything to do with nuclear weapons ? last time I checked the US was a (so called) demoracy, and it is the one launching preemptive strikes, propping up corrupt dictators, etc.

    ----> 2. Or because Israel has had WMD for more than 20 years now and never even thought about initiating an assault (unlike the US, mind you).

    Israel has initiated may assaults, just not nuclear (yet). the six day war comes to mind. not mention the continuing settlements.

    ----> 4. Maybe it's because Israel isn't run by "crazies" -

    sure it is. Sharon is a nutcase, who doesn't want peace any more that Arafat does.

    ----> at least not more than the US is run by a war mongering illiterate.

    you do know that bush is the president, right ?

    ----> The fact of the matter is that Israel has the same right to bare nuclear arms as the US has.

    as does any other country which wants to defent itself for preemptive strikes from the likes of the US.

    ----> Israel's foreign policy is much more peacefull than the US's. You might not agree with it's current internal security policy - with regards to the palestinians

    I don't think Israel's foreign policy is peaceful at all. Assaginations of leaders, bulldozing peoples homes, ignoring UN resolutions. And its not internal security policy, as the palestinians are not internal to israel.

    ----> The worst thing you can do is fulfill the stereotype of the ingnorant american cowboy

    ah, but the sad thing is that the majority of the people here do fit the description. just look at the approval rating for bush. Most people here are very intelligent, but very ignorant of things outside their own little sphere. sad but true.
  • by Alaska Jack (679307) on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:41PM (#6474096) Journal

    In the early nineties I worked for the Alaska State Legislature. That was in the early days of e-mail, so we didn't get e-mail messages very often. However, we did have something that sort of worked the same way.

    Alaska's capitol is in Juneau, which is not accessible by road. During the legislative session, it is simply not possible for the average citizen to "pop in" to his or her legislators' offices (unless that citizen is a resident of Juneau, of course). So the legislature put up Legislative Information Offices (LIOs) all around the state. One thing people could do at these LIOs was compose and send Public Opinion Messages (POMs) using an LIO computer. These messages were then compiled and sent to the various offices.

    One of the problems is that the senders could choose who they wanted their POMs to go to. They could send POMs to their own representatives, or to legislators working on a particular issue, or anyone else. So usually, they'd just send them to *every* legislator.

    The problem is this: It quickly became apparent that, if we were going to read all the POMs people sent in, that's all we would ever have time to do. And this was in the second-least-populated state in the Union! We eventually settled on a system where we at least *read* all the POMs from our home district, and even managed to respond to a few. The ones that came in from LIOs outside our district? We didn't even read them. I feel guilty about it to this day--after all, these people had taken the time and energy to go down to their local LIO and compose a message -- but there just wasn't the time or manpower!

    A couple of lessons:

    1. Want to get a message to a legislator? I know a way that practically guarantees it will be read. Get a pen and piece of paper. Handwrite a short, polite and thoughtful note, using correct grammar and good handwriting. It's always a good idea to work a compliment in there somewhere.

    2. I think I share with most /. readers a desire for small, limited government. However, I usually disagree with those who want to slash legislative staff (in all three senses of the word!). In our complex world, a legislator needs a good staff to be effective. In monetary terms it's just a drop in the bucket anyway, and it's money well spent.

    3. Finally, let me clear up one misconception -- that legislators neglect their constituents to do ... well, something else. This is rarely true. Elected officials know where their bread is buttered. It's far more common for them to focus so much on trying to please their constituents that other matters get neglected.

  • by frankie (91710) on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:42PM (#6474116) Journal
    Fookin anonymous liar.
    1. scans of actual military records [cis.net] obtained from FOIA
    2. accompanying analysis [tompaine.com]
    3. another analysis [talion.com]
  • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:09PM (#6476334) Homepage
    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 particular how a policy would be applied in a particular circumstance.

    Sorting into 'for' and 'against' is absolutely the last thing the Clinton people wanted to do. You certainly don't want to force someone to make up their mind like that, they will probably go the opposite way to the one you want.

    There seems to be a very different philosophy behind today's WH site and the Clinton site. In the Clinton era the whole site was about empowerment and giving people their information. The idea was that the press had become privilleged filters of the news and that the people had an equal the right to see press releases and all the other information given to the media. The current site is a product of standard corporate PR think, it is all about controlling the information flow - yuk!

    If you want to know what happened to the people behind the original Whitehouse site look at the Dean campaign.

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