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United States Spam Your Rights Online

White House Obfuscates Email 915

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by elwinc ( 663074 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:03AM (#6470220)
    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.
  • 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.
  • Actually, they're probably labeled "With Us" or "With The Terrorists". Remember that brilliant statement by the alleged President?
  • by billmaly ( 212308 ) <(bill.maly) (at) (mcleodusa.net)> 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.
  • 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?

  • 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.
  • by Ignorant Aardvark ( 632408 ) * <cydeweys&gmail,com> on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:08AM (#6470270) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheBrownShow ( 454945 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:10AM (#6470285)
    It's really just a matter of logistics.

    How could the government POSSIBLY read everything that is sent to them? I really just don't think it's even possible.

    I mean, do you read EVERY comment here on Slashdot? Wow, you think we've got TROLLS around here? Just imagine the kinds of comments the GOVERNMENT gets!
  • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zero_offset ( 200586 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:11AM (#6470293) Homepage
    Yes, and he's the FIRST PRESIDENT EVER to be difficult to contact.

    This entire article is destined to be one giant troll session.

  • 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 mumblestheclown ( 569987 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:14AM (#6470326)
    oh stop it already.

    talk to your LOCAL Representative.. not the president. and stop with the chicken little bullshit.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jdhutchins ( 559010 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:16AM (#6470335)
    Don't think that that applies to just Bush. The higher a politician is, the harder it is to contact them. That applies to BOTH parties, not just whatever one you don't like.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rusty0101 ( 565565 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:16AM (#6470341) Homepage Journal
    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, but I am sure they get enough of the rest.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zoop ( 59907 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:23AM (#6470399)
    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.

    That's why the advice of political activisim is: write an ORIGINAL letter on PAPER, sign it in ink, and MAIL it to your local representative. It will get put in the "fer or agin" pile, and not read beyond that, and you'll get a bedbug letter back, but at least you'll be counted.

    As someone else said, if you really need to have a conversation, lots and lots of money is the only way to achieve it. Or sleep with them. That'll work too.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by operagost ( 62405 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:28AM (#6470441) Homepage Journal
    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 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:28AM (#6470445)
    "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 box. I don't think it's reasonable to expect that in a country of nearly 300 million people where it takes just a few seconds fir anyone to rocket off an email to anyone--including the president--that the president or even the staff is going to be able to reply or even read every submission.

    More power to local governments

    I agree with you there.

  • by moonbender ( 547943 ) <moonbender@ g m ail.com> on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:28AM (#6470451)
    Mod parent down? Disagreeing with you is not a concern of the moderation system.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chia_monkey ( 593501 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:31AM (#6470483) Journal
    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 gilroy ( 155262 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:32AM (#6470489) Homepage Journal
    Blockquoth the poster:

    I can't imagine why anyone would think the president of the United States would bother to read unsolicited email.

    OK, so I assume you disregard as "unsolicited" any email that comes from your bosses, too...
  • by draos ( 672972 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:32AM (#6470496)
    Probably the best way to send a message to George W is to wait til Nov. 2004 and then go to your local voting booth and express your opinion...he's sure to get the message that way.
  • 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 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 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?)

  • by letxa2000 ( 215841 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:49AM (#6470624)
    Remember civil liberties?

    Yep. Have yours been infringed lately? Mine haven't.

    Remember budget surpluses?

    Not since 1960 when the debt went down by $500 million [treas.gov]. Despite urban legend, there was no budget surplus under the Clinton administration. Or if there was I'd like someone to explain where it was spent, because it certainly didn't reduce the debt--which means it wasn't really a surplus.

    Remember an economy that was working?

    The one that Clinton nuked and then handed off to Bush as he left office?

    Remember employment?

    Business cycles suck, don't they? This wasn't the first recession and it won't be the last.

    Stop YOUR whining and get to work.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Re:So What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:00AM (#6470722)
    "He doesn't promise to answer our emails! But we're Slashdot readers! We're Important, damnit!"

    I would tend to agree with you; however, this...

    We're not any more important than anyone else.

    ... is just the wrong attitude. While factually correct, in the eyes of the law, an equally true statement would be "we are not any less important than anyone else."

    Everyone in a democracy is supposed to get equal time and treatment. The republic of the USA tries to face the (IMHO, old) reality of actually exercising a 1:1 democracy by having elected officials speak for chunks of the population. Furthermore all such officials at any ;evel are to be accessible as possible by the public in light of "for the people" as well as acknowledging the handicap of this neo-democracy.

    So while I would agree that this is not really news insofar as the unlikeliness of any message to president@whitehouse.gov ever actually being read by the president, the new system in place now demonstrates a microcosm of what the GOP has become.

    For instance, the pre-canned Subject: tags that you select out of a menu. Or the laughable pre-qualifier - right up front! - of 'For or Against'. I'd loveto see that as a web form:

    You are:br> For
    x Against
    Mussolini had these radios, you may have heard of them, that could only pick up one radio station.

    Put down the stick; I'm not saying Bush = Mussolini or that its even comparable. I'm saying this administration is very bold, does not tolerate criticism or dissent as part of their game plan, and certainly only pays lip service to many long-standing ideals of 2-way communication with the President.

    You've seen the way President Bush is shielded in press situations. Now you've seen his email mechanism. Just observer them for what they are and derive what information you will from his actions.

  • by jandrese ( 485 ) * <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:05AM (#6470778) Homepage Journal
    There aren't really any more whackos out there now (as a percentage of the total population at least) than there have ever been. Haloween became less fun with the news media realized that "scare" stores sell at lot better than regular stories. These stories were also helped along by right wing Christian conservatives who never liked the "pagan" holiday anyway and would rather it just go away.

    Snopes has a long article [snopes.com] on this very subject.
  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JWW ( 79176 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:10AM (#6470827)
    Clinton isn't the one that killed president@whitehouse.gov. Bush is.

    Did you ever stop to think that nowdays, perhaps president@whitehouse.gov has a spam problem many orders of magnitude greater than your e-mail does?

    Its easy to find conspiricy theories in all of this, but just imagine how much staff time was probably being allocated to filtering spam out of this mailbox.
  • 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 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 TheCarp ( 96830 ) * <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:37AM (#6471049) Homepage
    Other than that its right.

    Frankly ive always felt that unless the cause for war is good enough for the commander in chief to pick up a gun and lead the troops off to battle in the name of truth and honor and whatever else he might be fighting for, then its not a good enough reason to send a single lowly infantryman.

    But maybe I hold warmongers to too high of a standard? Ya know, thinking the onus should be on them to justify their actions, inisting they be truthfull in their assertions and even to back them up. You know, silly things like that.

    I don't think leading the troops is too much to ask. Afterall, How can you give an order that would cause people to die if your not willing and ready to be counted among the dead?

    Guess you could say I just think hes a yellow bellied coward more than anything. War is easy. Diplomacy I guess is pretty hard.

  • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:45AM (#6471162) Homepage Journal
    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 worthless. When was the last time a president changed his mind about a policy for ANY reason, never mind mail from concerned citizens?

  • You civil liberties haven't been infringed? Good for you. Unfortunately, not everyone has been so lucky. Thanks for illustrating so nicely the short-sighetd ability of the right wing to care only about themselves.
  • Re:WRONG, Asshat! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @12:39PM (#6471715) Homepage Journal
    Wrong. The Clinton/Reno DOJ brought up the case, and won it. The appeals process, unfortunately, happened during the reign of the Bush/Ashcroft DOJ. Cheyney and Ballmer had lunch, and two weeks later the "Seattlement" was announced. If it weren't for the change of guard at the White House, the outcome of that case would have been quite different. I'm no fan of Clinton or Reno, but I believe they would have finished the job they started.
  • by dsfox ( 2694 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @12:40PM (#6471727) Homepage
    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.
  • by Mnemia ( 218659 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @12:43PM (#6471758)
    By that logic, the US should arm all the Arab nations with nuclear weapons too and give billions of dollars in military hardware to them. Because they "deserve" them just as much as the Israelis do. The reason why Israel shouldn't have nuclear weapons is because they are sitting in the most religously charged spot on earth, and because it hurts US interests to allow such an imbalanced foreign policy. And because nuclear weapons are bad and inhumane and we want to stop their proliferation. I can't even imagine the consequences of what would happen if the crazies in Israel used the Bomb on all their pesky neighbors.
  • Mod parent up! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RevMike ( 632002 ) <revMike@gERDOSmail.com minus math_god> on Friday July 18, 2003 @12:54PM (#6471861) Journal
    ... 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 second group, if they are not outright working against them.

    The key to effectively communicating with a politician is to appear to be in that third "swing" group.

    Think about it. If you were the president and received two letters criticizing policies on "domestic spying" - the first called you a "fascist pig" - and the second acknowledged "you efforts to provide safety and security to the American people", then asked you to "reevaluate the balance between security and the civil liberty that we all cherish" - which would be more likely to make an impact?

    And just another comment... Many of the "/." community talk about terrorism in their posts as if the threat is made up hysteria. I live in the NYC area. My wife watched the second plane impact and the collapse of the towers from her car on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Later that morning at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge she picked up refugees fleeing from lower Manhattan and ferried them out of the area. We know 4 fire fighters who gave their lives in the rescue effort.

    It is not a hysterical witch hunt.

  • by temojen ( 678985 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @01:42PM (#6472342) Journal

    Muslim countries like Persia and Southern Spain preserved the science and literature of the greek, roman, and egyptian civilizations while the holy roman empire was burning books and people.

    Don't judge an entire region by the acts of a few zealots.

  • 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 Population ( 687281 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @02:27PM (#6472746)
    He seems to like the look, but he can't hack the walk.

    He even went AWOL from his Reserve unit, which he was placed in so he wouldn't have to face real combat.

    No, I don't think he'd fight in this war, or any war. He seems to like to talk tough when surrounded by security. But he's had plenty of chances go active military and he's never done so.
  • by hendrix69 ( 683997 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @02:49PM (#6472905)
    Wow, that's some fancy logic!
    Reasons why Israel should have WMD:
    1. Maybe it's because Israel is the only democracy in the middle east.
    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). In fact Israel doesn't even declare officially that it has these weapons, unlike many arab nations that declare how much they can't wait to use them on the Infindels (that's you!). The fact that these weapons are quasi-secret just goes to show that they're there for intimidation - in order to keep the arms balance between then Billion arabs surrounding Israel and it's 6 mil. population.
    3. Maybe it's because Israel protects the interests of the US in the middle east, provides intelligence for example - the only worthwhile intelligence the US has about the middle east, IMO.
    4. Maybe it's because Israel isn't run by "crazies" - at least not more than the US is run by a war mongering illiterate. Such claims are prejudice.

    Get your facts straight. The fact of the matter is that Israel has the same right to bare nuclear arms as the US has. Israel hasn't started any of the wars it was engaged in. Israel hasn't sponsered any military coos in south america or east asia. Israel didn't give the Taliban billions of dollars and training to fight the soviets. 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 - but that's a very complicated issue and peace isn't going to come in two years just because Bush decided to draw a RoadMap-To-Peace. It's going to take seperation from the palestinians. It's going to take generations of healing and trust-building. It's going to take a sane palestinian government that would put an end to suicide-summer camps for 6 year olds and fanatic islamic religious text books in the schools. Palenstine needs to be built on a stonrg democratic foundation and not on Jihad. The area in Israel has no natural resources like Saudy Arabia or Kuwait and if a palenstinian state is to rise it has to have a free market, an educated working market that could support it financially. Otherwise, what's stopping it from becoming another Syria? Nothing.
    The worst thing you can do is fulfill the stereotype of the ingnorant american cowboy by oversimplifying a painful and serious situation and thinking every problem can be solved by using power and money. Take the time to really study the issue and don't post your Israel-bashing opinions until you read at least a few books about 20 century middle easy history.
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @02:51PM (#6472922)
    Yes, brilliant. I can just see the Brits executing Winston Churchill at the conclusion of WWII. Or George Washington after the revolutionary war. That would have helped the country a lot.
  • by SunFox ( 531615 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @03:01PM (#6473012)
    What I find interesting is that most people understand at a visceral level that their local people are more accessible and yet election after election shows clear trends where voters vote for the President and federal offices and then start tailing off in terms of completing the ballot the closer the offices get to their home!

    That's if you can even get people to bother voting which rarely takes me more than a few hours of research before-hand and all of about five minutes at the polling place!

    To me, that's bass-ackwards and irresponsible...the local councils are the ones who set the rates and maintain the civil services (perhaps paid through the state for roads, etc.). And the vast majority of the people who complain most about the rates can not be bothered take advantage of the fact that it's awfully hard to blow off someone who is politely engaging you in a conversation in your office whereas phone calls, EMAILs, and snail mails are easily discarded.

    Case in point...I got married and had difficulties in actually get the certificate from the county which proved this to any governmental agency that cared. Essentially our paperwork ended up on someone's desk who was away on holiday and got lost in the shuffle. Not only did I get an audience with the Register of Deeds, we had a very good conversation on the process and how to improve it and I got five copies of the certificate for free to boot (and a heck of a story to tell...our certificate was the last one processed that year in our county!). Of course, that's probably the kiss of death because he got voted out the next election but he at least had my vote and had earned it once I had gotten to talk to him after three weeks of utter frustration and futility in dealing with his minions.

    I really can't imagine most state assembly members and the federal office holders really feeling like they have to care about the individual citizen any more. The staggering amounts of money and even more staggering amount of issue prostitution one must engage in just to get elected in this country would seem to preclude that. Are we surprised that access goes to those with the biggest wallets?

    We certainly aren't keeping them accountable to us!

    Unless, of course, you've got pictures of the joker in question with a few goats and jugs of wine or you know someone else high up...and then you too can have access to your government! :)-

    That being said, even though our current implementation is hardly friendly to the citizenry (if not outright hostile to basic rights!)...it's often heads-and-shoulders above the rest!

  • by f97tosc ( 578893 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @03:42PM (#6473478)
    But maybe I hold warmongers to too high of a standard? Ya know, thinking the onus should be on them to justify their actions, inisting they be truthfull in their assertions and even to back them up.

    Yes, I think you do hold them to too high standards. It would be fantastic if we would always have perfect information and always can back up everything. But we live in a world of uncertainty. Leaders have to make decisions anyway. Hard decisions, like going to war or not going to war. In the case of Iraq, many predictions turned out to be false: for example the claims of uranium purchases or the ones about millions of civilian deaths. I agree with the telling the truth part, but I don't think either side in the Iraq debate has been lying outright, they have just made different assessments based on incomplete information.

    I don't think leading the troops is too much to ask. Afterall, How can you give an order that would cause people to die if your not willing and ready to be counted among the dead?

    Again, I disagree. It is just that warfare has changed quite a bit since the old days. No longer do you take everyone to a big field, and the side with the more people and the better morale wins the day (in which case it makes perfect sense for the top guy to sit on a horse furthest ahead).

    Having the top general on the front line is romantic but not efficient. He does more good in an airconditioned command center. This is in the interest of the grunts as well, unless they prioritize the general's unsafety over their own safety. The Iraqi generals did often follow their men to the front line. It did not do their men much good.

  • Re:Or worse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dup_account ( 469516 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @04:04PM (#6473713)
    Or maybe they were organizations that NEEDED to be audited, but were never gotten around to during the Reagan/Bush I era
  • by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) <scott@alfter.us> on Friday July 18, 2003 @05:44PM (#6474565) Homepage Journal
    'What part of "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" don't you understand?'

    The definition (or limit) of what 'arms' entails, that's what.

    In the general sense, arms are defined as "Instruments or weapons of offense or defense." (from www.dict.org)

    Should 'the people' have the right to bear heavy machine guns? Flamethrowers? Mortars? RPGs? Cruise missiles? Tactical nukes?

    I don't see why not...the muskets that people were shooting in the late 18th century were state-of-the-art weaponry at the time. (A tactical nuke is probably outside the budget of anybody who's not Bill Gates...but you didn't see too many people with cannon and other large artillery pieces in their yards back in the day for the same reason.)

    And the argument that the people need to be armed so they can overthrow the government... please. Can you imagine what would happen if private citizenry launched an assault against the government in today's America?

    That is one of the many arguments made for the Second Amendment. We had just tossed out one tyrannical government largely through the skills of ordinary people who showed up ready to fight. The people who wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights recognized that even though they had taken extraordinary care to craft a system of government to secure an unprecedented amount of freedom for its people, there was always the possibility that someone could come along long after they were gone who might try to undo what they had accomplished. Whether citizens with long guns and handguns are a match for modern armed forces with tanks and supersonic aircraft with bombs and missiles is irrelevant WRT the rights of those citizens.

  • isn't even listed! How can I comment on the pending legislation to define marriage as containing a 'man and woman' only? It wasn't a choice! I thought about choosing Pornography (which would reflect the administration's view), but give me a break! Is that just a sign showing that they shall allow no debate about gay marriage?

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault