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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 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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  • Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deman1985 ( 684265 ) <dedwards&kappastone,com> 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?
  • 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?

  • 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 teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) * <> on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:11AM (#6470287) Journal
    Paypal for instance, hides its phone numbers deliberately so as to force email responses to issues. (email is easily ignored). Taken from (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?

  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:23AM (#6470396)
    Don't ask the Americans about Israel's nukes -- ask the French. They sold and built the reactor and processing plant for them.
  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs AT ajs DOT 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 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 rhkaloge ( 208983 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @10:42AM (#6470572)
    OK, so it was probably a secretary they have specifically for this type of item, but...

    When my Dad graduated Law School, my mom suggested I e-mail Pres. Clinton and explain how he was a big inspiration to my dad etc etc and ask if he would write my dad a congratulatory letter. (My family must be the last Liberals left in the mid-west...) Apparently my mom had heard of this being done for friends of hers. Well, I didn't think so much of the idea, but I fired off the e-mail to, and forgot about it. Like 2 months later, my dad got a letter from Clinton that actually mentioned specifics (the name of his school and home town, stuff like that) from the e-mail I sent. He's got it framed in his office to the annoyance of his more conservitive partners.

    OK, so cynics can tear this appart (it was "good news", probably a easily changed form letter, machine made sig that Clinton never touched, etc) but SOMEONE read the e-mail, and responded. This new system is just a way to make it harder for people to express their opinions to the pres. Interesting that they implemented this at a time when more and more people have something negitive to say...

  • 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 [] 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 gr0nd ( 128937 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @11:10AM (#6470825) Homepage
    The quick answer is "of course it does". This is OT, but relates to how the politicos share info.

    I sent a snail-mail letter to my congress-critter regarding malpractice reform (he just happens to head the committee) back in the winter (I differed with his opinion). A couple of weeks ago, I received a letter (personally addressed to me, not junkmail) from the congressman in an adjacent district (and the other party!). The content of the letter jibed with my letter, although he never referred to my letter. When I asked my wife if she had any thoughts on why he sent it, she offerred that he's running for senate this fall.

    My point is, they definitely share info.

  • by Capt_Troy ( 60831 ) <> 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.

  • by dspeyer ( 531333 ) <> on Friday July 18, 2003 @12:51PM (#6471836) Homepage Journal
    I think Arthur C Clarke propsed that any leader that commits a country to war be excecuted at the end of it. If it's worth making other people die for, it should be worth dying for yourself. I sounded like a good idea to me (I do realize we'd have very few ex-presidents alive at this point, but the hope is to change presidential behavior).

    The big problem is that the president currently declares when the war ended. Maybe we could have the excecution when the president leaves office, whether the war's ended yet or not. Keep the two term rule, of course.

  • I HATE web mail (Score:2, Interesting)

    by alazar ( 463253 ) on Friday July 18, 2003 @01:43PM (#6472348) Journal
    This web mail thing is not-uncommon. I absolutely hate it.

    I once wrote to Joe Lieberman, my Senator, via e-mail. Now, while he did reply, eventually, as part of the reply I was told that in order to get better attention I should use the web form on his web site. When I tried that, the web site refused to accept my brower, IE only. I still get hot over that.

    It seems to me that if you can now file your mortgage and other documents (see ESIGN [], First Online Refi [] and probably others) that the President's office should be able to accept comments, and letters via regular e-mail.

    Why is regular (read "real") e-mail important? If I am fired up enough to write the President, it is likely that I'll want to include my congressman, senator or the OP-Ed of a newspaper, along with a copy back to myself. Not possible with this "tool." Beside's, websites are vulnerable to the Slashdot effect. E-mail may not be perfect, but I don't have to sit and wait for the compose window to render.

    Technically, I'm not sure if PGP or GPG meet any necessary standards, and the technique is far too obscure to casual e-mail users. I submit that all e-mail software should be delivered with a signing tool. That should go for web-mail too. I do not know of any that are. (Check that, Mozilla does, although I cannot see how to use it, yet.) Maybe that would be a start in the right direction.

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