International Incident &
Hoohah Faux Pas
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Stay with us; its an adventure worth following.
Two weeks ago, I decided it would be nice
to be able to reach the entire Queens Congressional delegation by e-mail. It is the 21st
century. Everyone and their brother (and sister) has e-mail: every business, every school,
many households. And the Federal Government makes it available free to members of
Congress. So who could imagine that Congress members (and their staff) do not readily
receive and respond to e-mail?
E-mail is todays version of the pony
express. It is becoming and will be the accepted form of quick business
communications in the future. So, if the members of Congress accept and respond to
"snail mail" (conventional US Postal Service mail, named for its comparative
speed or lack thereof), there is no reason that they dont accept and respond to
Yes there was. Read on.
To start, I did what any web-savvy person
would; I went online and started at the US Congress site Thomas (thomas.loc.gov) named for
Jefferson. I then went to the web pages of the individual members.
Nita Lowey: On the
home page in large letters was, "Write To Nita: Click Here." The link opened an
e-mail form addressed to: email@example.com.
3/2 (Thursday) - In the afternoon, I did
"Write to Nita." I wrote: Nita, Just a quick system check to see how long it
takes to get a real response to Congressional e-mail. Id appreciate an
acknowledgement of this e-mail as soon as it gets to your desk. Regards, Michael Schenkler
3/2 (Thursday) - The same evening, I
received a response from a Lowey congressional staffer asking me for my mailing address.
3/2 (Thursday) - I supplied the Tribs
address and identified myself as Queens Tribune Publisher.
3/3 (Friday) - Within a day, the same
staffer responded acknowledging receipt and offering me DC and NY phone numbers if I
wanted to chat with the Congresswoman.
3/3 (Friday) - I responded explaining that:
I was trying to determine how long it took the e-mail to reach the Congresswoman.
3/6 (Monday) - I received a response from
her chief of staff acknowledging receipt, assuring me that Lowey sees all e-mail and again
offering a phone chat.
Pretty impressive thats what
e-mail is all about. In total, there were about six e-mails in each direction none
taking more than a minute to compose and send. Yet there was effective communication and
Im told Lowey is aware of it.
We didnt fare as well with the rest
of the Queens delegation.
(rep.carolyn.maloney @mail.house.gov), Greg Meeks
Joe Crowley (write2joecrowley @mail.house.gov) all had e-mail addresses
displayed on their websites. I found them and sent the ol "system check, please
on 3/2 (Thursday).
"auto-responded" saying they dont respond to e-mail and gave me
a snail mail address if I wished a response.
Its two weeks later, and I have not
heard from Carolyn or Joe.
Granted, e-mail may still be new to
the three but, cmon. They have hefty staff budgets and we believe they are obligated
to adjust to current technology. Ill e-mail all three a link to this column on the
web and wait to see if they respond.
Nydia Velazquez did
not list an e-mail address, so I called and inquired. I was given the e-mail address of
Velazquezs chief of staff and I shall follow up by pursuing an address for access by
THE E-MAIL DEBATE
Things got interesting with Anthony Weiner
and Gary Ackerman. Both of their websites contained a mechanism "Write Your
Representative" utilized by the House, whereby you could send an e-mail to the
member who represents the district of your home address. It was not user friendly and did
not provide direct e-mail access to the Congressmen. You had to plug in your home address
(ZIP + 4), search, and then type your message. It prevented you from composing letters
offline or easily corresponding with your elected representative.
Remember, they work for us.
I objected, so I called.
Ackerman and Weiner had similar stories.
They felt if you made it too easy for the "crazies" out there, your e-mail box
would be stuffed with endless nonsense. Both Ackerman and Weiner cited the gun
lobbys relentless effort to bombard them to the point of roadblock.
Weiner said hed hear from "gun
nuts, anti-semites and lunatics of all stripes to whom I am not responsible." He
insisted that they had to be available to his constituents and not the endless lobbies
with self-serving causes.
But, I told them both, you are not
available to your constituents if you dont provide an e-mail address.
Anthony Weiner caved
in on the first phone call. Although he believed, in principle, in his right to keep out
the "crazies," "gun nuts" and "lunatics," he admitted he was
also keeping out many constituents. He apparently had similar discussions or arguments
with his staff. He informed us that he was immediately making the necessary changes to his
web site and would be reachable by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
On 3/4 (Sunday) we e-mailed him at his new
web address: Anthony, Just a quick system check to see how long it takes to get a real
response to Congressional e-mail. Id appreciate an acknowledgement of this e-mail as
soon as it gets to your desk. Regards, Michael Schenkler
On 3/6 (Monday) we received an e-mail from
a Congressional staffer who failed to identify for which member he worked. We had
unanswered e-mails out there to Crowley, Maloney, Meeks and now Weiner. So we e-mailed
back and on 3/8 we found that we were in touch with Weiners office.
Granted, since we were the only one who
knew Weiners e-mail address, there could not be a problem with volume. There was
however, a live-person response.
Furthermore, during this effort over the
past two weeks, I have exchanged numerous e-mails with the Congressman who is online
didnt give in so easily. This was the guy who hosted a cyber chat after the State of
the Union Address this year. Although no online whiz, for a brief moment in time he was
the Congressional Internet Hoohah.
Ackerman, an old personal friend, has been
on my e-mail address book for the better part of a year. His wife and I have been
exchanging e-mail since the early 1960s well, almost that long. But Ack held to his
"You want me to give those gun nuts my
e-mail address?" he asked in amazement, "Ill solve the problem," he
joked, "Im not going to accept regular mail anymore. And, Ill unlist my
He, like Weiner, did make it clear that the
behavior of certain lobby efforts and extreme groups made it difficult to function. Making
contact much easier would just make the job much harder for Congress members.
Ackerman continued to resist "I
have no obligation to be bombarded by the crazies out there."
We insisted. Your constituents have a right
to e-mail access.
After phone call number three, Gary
relented. He wanted to explore possible filters to block out certain unwanted e-mail but
promised that he would have an e-mail address available to the public within 60 days. That
was on 3/3. Well be on top of this one by May 2.
Gary, see you online.
The St. Pattys Day Parade in Woodside was something special it was all
inclusive, welcoming gay groups unlike its Manhattan counterpart. Its theme came from an
Irish Independence movement quote, "Cherish the children . . . equally."
Therefore, children were invited to lead the parade. Daniel Dromm, one of the Queens gay
hoohahs who is a teacher in Sunnyside, invited his class but Dromm explained to this paper
he did not discuss that gay groups would be marching after all, it was a St.
Pats Day Parade and thats what counted.
At the parade, Dromm noticed that the
mother of one of his students whom he knew to be from Ireland had a
"long look on her face." He approached her, convinced that she must be upset at
seeing gay banners.
Not so, she told Dromm. She said she had
seen gay groups march before in St. Pats Day Parades in Ireland. Her concern was not
homosexuality; it was the sight of Hillary Clinton. No, she wasnt anti-Hillary, she
was anti-international audience.
She knew with Hillary present, the event
would be televised and that her Protestant family back in Northern Ireland might see her
children at the first Catholic-inclusive parade in which she had ever allowed them to
march. There might be family grief for that.
Its gays yes, Catholics no, in her
In Queens, were making progress.
THE INNER CIRCLE had more
political intrigue than just the first face-to-face encounter of candidates Rudy and
Hillary. From a Queens point of view, the room was abuzz about the guests seated at Table
#74: Queens Dem County Leader Tom Manton and wife, Comptroller Alan and Carol Hevesi,
State Senator Dan Hevesi and date, Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau and former Bd. of Ed.
Prez Carol and Larry Gresser.
Alan and Tom together? Hmmm!
Beep wannabe Carol securing her frontrunner
status seated next to Manton? Hmmm!
Whats Danny up to? Tune in next week.
HOOHAH FAUX PAS! E-mails
from the ether in response to our error referring to former NY Guv Al Smith as a
hoohah Al Smith"?
Alfred E Smith was a dyed-in-the wool
Democrat who opposed Republican "hoohah" Herbert Clark Hoover in the 1929
presidential election. Just proves I read - and enjoy your column.
Fondly, Louis A. Lebovitz
#2 Hi, Mike. Just read
your column and enjoyed it as usual, but I have to point out (since you brought up the
topic of words and mistakes in it) that you made a beaut this week.
I had just finished going over some of the
final galleys for my upcoming book "Twilight of Power" when I read your column
and saw a quote from former N.Y. Governor Al Smith in it. ("No matter how thin you
slice it, its still bologna"). Its a great quote, but the problem is you
referred to him as Republican hoohah Al Smith. Yikes!!!!
David Oats, former Tribune editor (Oats
book, "Twilight of Power" is scheduled for a June 1 release).
RESPONSE: Of course,
youre right. Youre not the first to point out the error I guess I need
someone to proof the column who is either as politically astute and/or as old as you.
Tamara Hartman contributed to this column.
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
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