The truth is my job as an intern, as was the job of all other interns that I met while in DC, was to take constituent calls and also open constituent mail. However, no information was ever actually relayed to the congressmen. We had a formatted response to each and every issue that the House could possibly vote on. Everything from internet poker, to any issue you could imagine. We would print out (and alter if necessary) the response to tailor it to the individual that called, emailed, or wrote a physical letter. The congressman's signature was stamped at the bottom of the letter and sent back to the constituent, giving the allusion of due diligence on the congressman's part.
I was extremely surprised and disappointed at the same time at how commonplace this was. Pretty much every intern I asked about it went through the same drill. It's just another thing about our government and "representative democracy" that really irked me. So whenever I see ads urging people to call or write their congressman, I think back to this and realize further how powerless we really are.
The best way to exert influence over your congressman is to donate lots of money and become a memorable name that can get in contact with the actual representative him/herself. Hell, that's how I got the internship. This is one of the reasons I sympathize with the OWS movement.
Obviously its all relative but if enough letters/phone calls get placed, the message will be received.
Furthermore, the co-sponsers on both the House and Senate bills are bi-partisan in nature so this is an issue that is obviously not as black and white as your typical party lines type vote. Hopefully this might cause legislators to take a serious look at the issues being raised and actually give some attention to popular opinion if in fact enough people like us make a fuss.
Then again, you could say that the congressman shouldn't need a computer to understand the people he represents.
However we capped it at 435, so each congressman represents far more people than he is supposed to. I say technology has reached the point where we should remove the cap have thousands of representatives.
We should have three times as many members of Congress to get back to the representation levels of 1900.
"Congressmen win based on grassroots and know where their bread is buttered. You have so much more power than you think you do, if you're one of the (very) few who are willing to step up and fight for your beliefs."
I've heard similar things from a friend of mine who worked for a large non-profit that organized large, successful campaigns. His contention was that the vast majority of people are totally disengaged from politics, so anyone who actually speaks up is likely to be an influencer.
It's not done yet but we're working on it.
Do you think a site like this is even theoretically capable of catching the attention of people in Washington?
Your idea is solid. But you are going to have to gain a critical mass and become the go-to place for expressing your opinion on politics. If you can do that I have a suggestion for you: Make it so you can sign in or browse by district. Make it so that the legislative assistants can go to their specific districts' thoughts and opinions within the website. This is much more important than getting viewpoint of the nation as a whole. Good Luck.
The We The People petitions, I believe, are there to make the people believe they are making an impact in policy by signing one. Most, if not every, response from the White House has been a generic, basically meaningless response from an unknown staffer.
Case in point: https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions#!/petition/we-demand-v...
Notice how this petition has been signed by more people than most of the others...
First, email just doesn't work for contacting Congress. They get entirely too much, and it's entirely too easy to get lost in the pile. It's the preferred means of communication for most of us on HN, but it's just not effective outside our industry. Phone is better, but there's nothing quite like flooding someone's office with paper to convey the will of the electorate.
Second, SendWrite is one of the companies that would be hurt by the bill - being able to generate volume like this shows the reach and effectiveness of their lobbying efforts. Sacks of cash are the backup currency of Congress - Votes are still the coin of the realm.
Finally, you guys are putting your cash on the line for this - that's a powerful statement, and I applaud you for doing so.
I don't remember the exact numbers, but the hierarchy goes (in descending order): in-person visit to DC office, in-person visit to local office, physical handwritten letter, physical typed letter, phone call, email. The multiplier attached to email is close to zero.
(The exact method varies by congressman/senator, but the relative rankings are the same throughout).
millions of people affected by some law, 0.01
one retired guy pissed of by something minor, but that happens to live close by, 700
You could make a statement about wealth and lobbying, but to be honest, those are considered in a different category anyway.
It's actually rather accurate. If someone takes the time to write a handwritten letter and mail it, it means a lot more than just clicking a DemandProgress button that has all of your personal information pre-populated. The Internet lowers the cost (effort) of communication, but on the other hand, the non-material cost is a way of showing that the issue is important to you.
I've put some considerable time and thought into a few letters that I've in turn faxed.
If you have a Windows machine with a modem, and a landline, you already have a fax. I presume *NIX boxes have or can acquire software that will do the same job.
Edit: I see you just did. Thx! I just linked to it on DuckDuckGo as well as donated and sent my letter. Thanks again.
NOT a comment about you, epi08, but just commentary about what matters.
If you haven't called your congressperson about this, then you don't care.
Everyone with a site, please do this. I've put it on PadMapper.
The takeaway is, unless these letters are hand delivered, I doubt theyll reach their intended recipients in time.
I love this, though I've held back on commenting on SOPA until now. One of the frequent comments on SOPA I see is that the original founders behind the internet believed it should be free and unregulated. While I agree, once you introduce capitalism to the internet, as most companies have, you cannot let it be entirely unregulated. What is happening in the internet now is the same process that occurred directly after the industrial revolution - first there were completely unregulated, grievous abuses in the industry. The entertainment industry is attempting to regulate the flow of information and "capital" in the same way the government had to go "trust buster" on the industrial sectors in the last two centuries.
However, while this is all good and well, as the side video explains, they already have protocols for doing this. They don't need any more methods of stopping piracy and the like. They should shift their attention to different ways of raising capital and earning revenue. The system they have isn't working, but erring on the side of regulation instead of erring on the side of libertarianism is still erring. There needs to be a comfortable balance, and SOPA does not make such a balance - it tips the scales in favor of the entertainment industry, and that is the last sector of the United States the internet should be supervised and moderated by.
One suggestion: since you ask for the sender's home address anyway, why not use that to scrape the contactcongress website to automatically fill in their representatives?
They've got libraries for Ruby, Python, and even PHP, and the interface is drop-dead simple. Definitely worth a look - I'm baking them into one of my projects right now.
...that is, unless SOPA passes, in which case this may be as good as it gets....
If your congressman is supporting the bill, don't bother. My Senator at the time was Fritz Hollings; came from a poor district, so he was dependent on a lot of outside contributions. I recall Disney being one of his largest contributors. I received a response 3 months after it passed that more or less told me I was a enemy of commerce. I won't lie, I was a little shocked to get back such a pointed letter when I was as courteous and respectful as possible.
I learned my lesson from that one. You can send a letter to anyone and generally it is a great idea, but if they get a dime from your position's opposition, it is just pissing in the wind. It's just business.
For those who have yet to do it, I should point out that there is a PayPal donate button to support this effort that you are shown after submission of your entry. Send cards to all your representatives, then send those nice folk a couple of bucks to cover the postage at least.
However, I've now donated $5 because of the selfless thing they are doing. Thanks to everyone at SendWrite for doing this, hopefully it will help!
Supposedly, the constituent contacts that carry the most weight are in-person visits to the congressperson's office, contacts from people authorized to represent groups of constituents (like mayors), individual letters that are not copied from a form, and individual phone calls that are not read from a script.
If anyone has a reason to be in Washington, calling the office of your congressperson and scheduling a meeting with their staff during that time will be very helpful, especially if your congressperson is on a relevant committee, in this case the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
Knowing that we could try and focus dissemination of this to people in those districts.
Also, if you are not registered to vote, your comment goes in the waste bin, too. Trust me, I know plenty of people who work or have worked in various legislative bodies, and the first thing they do when they get contacted by a "constituent" is check to see if they are registered to vote in their district. If not, then the message falls on deaf ears.
when the government don't want we to see the truth of something, or something may be a threat to them，they will ban it incruely, sometimes they even do it in the name of "for the children" or "for the harmony society" or give their version of totally-bullshit “truth”.
besides the baning of website, they also have some people take salaries from government and speak for the government in every forum when scandals of government officials burn out.and when scandals burns out government also send orders to every website, every press to stop talk and publishing on the scandals, the reason they give is "for the harmony of society" or "don't be mislead by the media in US and Euro" :D
what's more almost every big website/application in china has employees either hired by government or hired by website/software-company to censor the users' activities, including QQ(biggest IM in china, just like MSN), Youku & Tudou(biggest two video site, like youtube), renren(biggest SNS in china, like facebook), baidu(biggest search engine in china, like google).if you said something bad to the government, your words must be deleted, what was worse, there used to be 2 men chatting using QQ, and the owner of QQ--Tencent Compang--give their chats record to the police ACTIVELY, and the result is the 2 men was sent to prison.
so if you allow your congress to pass SOPA, you know what would happen to you all.
Great idea, though. Thank you.
From my letter:
H.R.3261, the 'Stop Online Piracy Act', is going to be the Volstead Act of the 21st Century. Like Prohibition, creating draconian laws like these to stop online piracy is going to do two things: 1) destroy respectable businesses that thrive on user-generated content and 2) drastically increase the number of pirates online by expanding its definition, and in doing so, massively expand online piracy. SOPA will literally create a generation of internet bootleggers.
A suggestion: I'd like to be able to send a letter to all of my representatives and senators at once, instead of having to fill out the form multiple times.
Guess I'll just email my rep.
I believe that should read "Don't know who your local representative is?", no?
To hit up your reps with different communication channels, http://www.contactingthecongress.org has voice, fax, and web forms.
They are a very important constituent.
If a large number of consumers stopped purchasing a certain entertainment company's products for one day, would it have a noticeable impact on their revenues? How about a week? A month?
The industry claims it's losing business to pirates. While it's probably true to some extent, it is speculative and nearly impossible to measure accurately. How many of the consumers of pirated content were never consumers of paid content to begin with?
The products this industry sells are not life necessities.
In summary, a branded entertainment "hunger strike" by actual existing, paid customers. This would cause real loss.
And, if it's a noticeable loss, it would send a very strong message.