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Signature Stamping Machine
December 21, 2004 1:37 PM   Subscribe

The automated signature machine would like to express it's sincerest condolences..."Rather than personally signing letters of condolence to the families of service members killed in action, Rumsfeld has been letting office workers affix his signature with a stamping machine."
posted by thisisdrew (95 comments total)

 
Color me shocked.
posted by keswick at 1:38 PM on December 21, 2004


you write condolence letters with the secretary of defense you have.
posted by three blind mice at 1:40 PM on December 21, 2004


using fake signatures was "like having it signed by a monkey".

I have a hell of a lot more respect for your average simian than for Rumsfeld.

Having said that, anyone actually surprised that he doesn't want to face the consequences of his poor decision-making? Disappointed, sure. But surprised?
posted by cosmonik at 1:44 PM on December 21, 2004


so many American kids are being slaughtered in Iraq that if Rumsfeld starts signing the letters personally, he's going to get carpal tunnel syndrome very soon
posted by matteo at 1:45 PM on December 21, 2004


Oh come on! Rumsfeld is far too busy getting the troops killed to have to deal with this. We need someone else to handle the condolences side of things, because empathy isn't really Rummy's forte.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:45 PM on December 21, 2004


I'm curious about this "machine." Where I work, in the dim recesses of the DoD, contracting officers 'sign' contracts with their scanned signature. That is, they push a button, fund the contract, and their scanned signature is printed on the contract document, which is then sent to the vendor. Are we talking about Rummy or his delegate using a rubber stamp? Seems kinda low-tech to me.
posted by fixedgear at 1:45 PM on December 21, 2004


note that I have succesfully avoided the snark that you go to war with the Secretary of Defense you have, not with the Secretary of Defense you wish to have
posted by matteo at 1:47 PM on December 21, 2004


I just don't think any of these assholes (Shrub's team, not MeFi) get it. Rumsfeld couldn't be bothered to actually sign letters to families of kids that he is reponsible for killing?

Hi, sorry your son got killed but I'm too busy licking whipped cream off of Dick Cheney's bum to actually sign this letter. But hey, thanks for your ultimate sacrifice and all that mamby-pamby bullshit.
Signed,
The Secretary's Rubber Signature Stamp.


But Bush has total confidence in his man. And I saw that Bush's approval ratings have gone up? What fucking country are we living in?
posted by fenriq at 1:49 PM on December 21, 2004


"You can have all the autographs in the world and your son or daughter can still get blown up."
posted by felix betachat at 1:50 PM on December 21, 2004


1,300 letters x 5 seconds per signature = 4 hours, 30 minutes, 20 seconds
posted by cali at 1:52 PM on December 21, 2004


I heard about this on NPR last night and they had an autograph collector who was poo-poo'ing the whole autopen thing. I'd settle for a presidential pic signed by a monkey.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:55 PM on December 21, 2004


Are we talking about Rummy or his delegate using a rubber stamp? Seems kinda low-tech to me.

They're probably using a machine that actually holds a pen. He signs something once with the machine, and the machine then emulates the signature. It's basically indistinguishable from a real signature, since it's actually pen on paper. So while it's actually probably lower-tech than having a signature scanned and then printed, it's more authentic-looking.
posted by Dasein at 1:56 PM on December 21, 2004


There's another way to phrase that, and that is that the absence of a personal signature is not the signature of personal absence. It is basically saying the same thing in a different way. Simply because you do not have evidence that something does exist does not mean that you have evidence that it doesn't exist.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:59 PM on December 21, 2004


fixedgear, the machine in question sounds like something like this. I know promotional "signed" 8x10 photographs of celebrities for marketing a show or something tend to be "signed" in this manner, based on a single real signature from the actual celebrities.

On preview, what Dasein said.
posted by DyRE at 1:59 PM on December 21, 2004


Previous mefi discussion on presidential use of the autopen.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 2:00 PM on December 21, 2004


Wouldn't it be cheaper, faster and less messy if we got professional, private sector condolence contractors to sign the letters?
posted by R. Mutt at 2:00 PM on December 21, 2004


President Bush, yesterday:

"I know secretary Rumsfeld's heart. I know how much he cares for the troops. I have heard the anguish in his voice, and seen his eyes when we talk about the danger in Iraq and the fact that youngsters are over there in harm's way. He's a good decent man."


Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, last Monday:

"We've got to get longer tours out of people. We're not going to be capable and competent in this complex world, if we keep rotating people through important posts and keeping them there, 9, 11, 13 months, 15 months, 18 months would be long. Heck, you know, you're just skipping along the tops of the waves, if that's the amount of time you're in those posts. You need to be there long enough to make some mistakes, clean up your own mistakes, develop relationships, learn how to improve things, put priorities in place and be there long enough to see them through to actually make those improvements and we can do that. We just have to decide it's more important than running around punching a lot of tickets."
posted by digaman at 2:00 PM on December 21, 2004


How shitty a task must this be for the DoD interns? "Hey, Bobby, we lost another fifteen this week. Take these 'personal' condolence letters down to the Remorse-O-Matic, willya?"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:01 PM on December 21, 2004


Making him write out his name 1000 times will not make him feel anything.
posted by rushmc at 2:03 PM on December 21, 2004


First off I'd like to thank Fenriq, Cosmonik, Matteo and Keswick for adding nothing to this post but useless snark and not even clever snark at that unlike Three Blind Mice whose comment was blackly amusing. Secondly I'd like to thank Fixedgear for asking an interesting question, for which I'd like to add my own such as when did the head of the DoD begin signing death letters? I'm curious if the chief did as such during World War two when the sheer number of KOA would have been hellish to deal with.
posted by Vaska at 2:03 PM on December 21, 2004


This automated signature machine, it vibrates?
posted by pepcorn at 2:06 PM on December 21, 2004


the most surprising thing to come out of all this was that Bush apparently does sign his own letters. i'm impressed he can write!

Rumsfeld has more important things to worry about than soldiers. After all he was best chums with Saddam when it suited his financial purposes.

That's why the thread on the corporate sponsorship is so believable. From a foreigners (English) point of view, it seems the majority of the American adminstration only give a fuck about money and power.
posted by gt16 at 2:10 PM on December 21, 2004


I'm curious if the chief did as such during World War two when the sheer number of KOA would have been hellish to deal with.

When did this Iraq mess get promoted to WWII?
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:11 PM on December 21, 2004


KOA?
posted by matteo at 2:11 PM on December 21, 2004


Making him write out his name 1000 times will not make him feel anything.

True, but the writer's cramp will make it harder to jerk off all over the Constitution.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:11 PM on December 21, 2004


AlexReynolds : I never suggested Iraq had been promoted to the WWII level of carnage, I was asking if the chief was signing the death letters back then out of pure curiosity. Not sure how you got that inference.

Matteo : Sorry, that should be KIA. Nothing like making a spelling mistake to ruin a post almost entirely.
posted by Vaska at 2:15 PM on December 21, 2004


And yet he still has time to put his Hancock on stolen municipal property.
posted by davelog at 2:16 PM on December 21, 2004


What the fuck does it matter whether the letters were signed by a machine or a man? The soldier is still dead. And these men and women who serve overseas, while alive, come from a culture that for the most part loathes people who are of the ilk who whine, piss, moan and complain as they do here.

Rumsfeld is here. He's Sec. of Defense. Get used to it.

Oh, and the reference to Bush being a monkey was just so precious.
posted by paleocon at 2:21 PM on December 21, 2004


I'm personally more outraged at the decisions he's made that got them killed in the first place. But, yeah, boo Rumsfeld for not signing the letters.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:22 PM on December 21, 2004


True, but the writer's cramp will make it harder to jerk off all over the Constitution.

doesn't Gonzales usually lend him a hand for that?
posted by matteo at 2:25 PM on December 21, 2004


And these men and women who serve overseas, while alive, come from a culture that for the most part loathes people who are of the ilk who whine, piss, moan and complain as they do here.

Please clarify; I can't parse this.

Rumsfeld is here. He's Sec. of Defense. Get used to it.

In other words, you go to war with the Sec. of Defense you have, not the Sec. of Defense you wish to have. Wise words.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:29 PM on December 21, 2004


I'm sure Miss Manners would call automated signatures of condolence letters tacky.
posted by alumshubby at 2:29 PM on December 21, 2004


*sigh* ...NewsFilter.......
posted by Doohickie at 2:31 PM on December 21, 2004


Rumsfeld is here. He's Sec. of Defense. Get used to it.

Forget logic and reason! That which is should always be. Long live the status quo!
posted by themadjuggler at 2:31 PM on December 21, 2004


And these men and women who serve overseas, while alive, come from a culture that for the most part loathes people who are of the ilk who whine, piss, moan and complain as they do here.

So "poor" is officially a culture, then?
posted by mkhall at 2:31 PM on December 21, 2004


Forget it! any busy guy--whether or not you like him--does this sort of thing. If you truly believe he ought to sign personally, then why not have the letters come from Bush himself, since he was the guy deciding upon the war? When I had a fairlysmall group of folks I was in charge of, I had a rubber stamp with my signature for the secretary to use to letters going out under my name.
Rummy (a rum deal) has much to answer for but this is hardly the top of the list.
posted by Postroad at 2:32 PM on December 21, 2004


I have to get some props to the american government for finding incredibly unique and mind-numbing ways of screwing things up. It's almost as good as Antique Road Show.
posted by The God Complex at 2:42 PM on December 21, 2004


After Outcry, Rumsfeld Says He Will Sign Condolence Letters
Sunday, December 19, 2004
posted by thomcatspike at 2:43 PM on December 21, 2004


Forget it! any busy guy--whether or not you like him--does this sort of thing. If you truly believe he ought to sign personally, then why not have the letters come from Bush himself, since he was the guy deciding upon the war? When I had a fairlysmall group of folks I was in charge of, I had a rubber stamp with my signature for the secretary to use to letters going out under my name.
Rummy (a rum deal) has much to answer for but this is hardly the top of the list.


That might be defensible if they hadn't gone to such lengths to make it appear that he had, in fact, signed them. They can't have it both ways.
posted by The God Complex at 2:43 PM on December 21, 2004


First off I'd like to thank Fenriq, Cosmonik, Matteo and Keswick for adding nothing to this post but useless snark and not even clever snark at that unlike Three Blind Mice whose comment was blackly amusing.

You're welcome and I'll try to keep mind that the site is VaskaFilter and not MetaFilter like it says on the title page and everywhere else.

Remember folks, we're not here for anything BUT Vaska's personal entertainment.

You didn't like my comment? That's fine and I really don't care but calling it out is stupid. Pass it by and move on. I loathe Bush, I loathe his cabinet and I will miss few opportunities to take legitimate jabs at them for not doing their jobs. That upsets you? Sorry but tough. I'm not here to make you happy or impress you with my wit or anything.

Postroad, in the larger picture, this is a pretty minor transgression for Rumsfeld. But its another thing that he's just callous and lame about. Would it make me feel any better knowing that he'd signed my child's death letter personally? Maybe not but it would certainly piss me off to know that he had a fucking machine do it.

thomcatspike, are you surprised by this amazing decision for him to actually sign them? After his being publicly called out by the soldier, they signed $4 billion worth of armament upgrades. They rush to fix their public mistakes, its the ones that no one knows about that they just let fester.
posted by fenriq at 2:52 PM on December 21, 2004


And these men and women who serve overseas, while alive, come from a culture that for the most part loathes people who are of the ilk who whine, piss, moan and complain as they do here.

I think that paleocon is referring to the military culture that the troops live within. If I am correct, I must take issue with paleocon's statement as anyone who is familiar with the military knows all troops do is whine, piss, moan and complain. It's every soldier/sailor/airman/marine's favorite pastime.
posted by Juicylicious at 2:55 PM on December 21, 2004


Nothing like making a spelling mistake to ruin a post almost entirely.

You ruined it well before that, Vaska, when you inferred I was merely snarking regarding respecting a monkey more than Rumsfeld.

The fact remains the DoD claimed he did, blindly rushing to his defence, before Rummy came out and said he didn't. What did monkies ever do to us, besides King Kong and the occassional exotic virus?
posted by cosmonik at 3:01 PM on December 21, 2004


Damn it, these newbies are uppity.
posted by jon_kill at 3:01 PM on December 21, 2004


thomcatspike, are you surprised by this amazing decision for him to actually sign them?
Yes, because I figured he would keep doing it.
Also, why we are so late to the fire.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:02 PM on December 21, 2004


Ferpetesake, people, GROW UP.

The use of an auto-pen is common by high-ranking people in business, government, etc. It's not some sort of attempt to depersonalize correspondence and such -- it's just a better way to do things, in some cases.

And as pointed out above -- I seriously doubt that the SecDef/SecWar personally signed letters for every combat death during previous conflicts. This is a huge non-story. I can understand that many of you hate "Bushitler," hate Rummy, hate the entire administration, and I can even muster a wee bit of respect for any principled arguments any of you have with Bush foreign policy...but to fan the flames of THIS non-story? Bitch, please.
posted by davidmsc at 3:09 PM on December 21, 2004


I think the telling thing was Bush saying that Rummy is a good decent man despite it all. Apparently that's the only qualification for Secretary of Defense.
posted by effwerd at 3:10 PM on December 21, 2004


Fenriq : First off I only wish that everyone was here for my personal entertainment, but I doubt five bucks goes that far. Secondly I can and will call out vapid statements because it does nothing here. You want to vent your spleen? Fine, go outside and scream that you're mad as hell and won't take it anymore, but resorting to low grade antics makes you easy to dismiss? Got that? Easy to dismiss. I know that after the election we all suffered through what with the willfully ignorant media campaign that didn't seem to care about any facts that we're all tempted to yell the hell with it and go back to throwing rocks, but that does nothing. Absolutely nothing. I think even you'd admit you're more likely to listen to someone talks calmly and with facts and figures at his fingertips then someone else who merely screams and rages? I want you to point out where Rumsfield is failing (And god knows there's a lot to point out!) I think we could all benefit from a boatload of links we could save and email saying 'He's an idiot, and I've got proof!'

Cosmonik : See Above.
posted by Vaska at 3:11 PM on December 21, 2004


Fortunately, every word Lynne Cheney ever penned is hers and hers alone.
posted by Peter H at 3:15 PM on December 21, 2004


Vaska - at least part of the failure is that, regardless of what happened in previous conflicts, they said he was personally signing the letters, then admitted he wasn't.

Prior to this post, I personally did not expect him to have done it.

As you say, there's a lot to point out where Rumsfeld (as opposed to this Rumsfield people refer to) is failing, but it's been covered before, and this thread is not about those issues. His failure in general is obvious, which is precisely why it doesn't need repeating. As fenriq said, it's not the biggest deal in the world.

davidmsc & others of the 'plenty of people use signing machines' school: of course, but we're talking about condolence letters from someone in public office saying they're signing it. It's your tax dollars, and he's gotta be accountable for how he spends the time.
posted by cosmonik at 3:19 PM on December 21, 2004


vaska, six days of membership do not an authority make.

Maybe try being a member a week before you start attacking people?

resorting to low grade antics
I didn't resort to anything, low grade or high grade. I commented what I felt like commenting. It wasn't screaming or ranting or frenzied leg kicking. It was a sarcastic response to an asshole shirking his duty.

I want you to point out......
Why would I care in the least what you want?
posted by fenriq at 3:19 PM on December 21, 2004


Damn it, these newbies are uppity.

No shit. What a moron.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:20 PM on December 21, 2004


You didn't like my comment? That's fine and I really don't care but calling it out is stupid. Pass it by and move on.

The irony made my day.

Ok, on topic now ...
I can't believe some of what I'm reading .... these are not Rumsfield autographs, or the fiscal budget submission. These are letters that are going to people that have had their lives turned upside down. You attend these matters personally. If you cannot, you do what you can, personally.

Maybe it was a stupid insensitive oversight, but attempting to justify it as somehow ok because he's a busy guy is insensitive and appalling.
posted by forforf at 3:20 PM on December 21, 2004


I think the telling thing was Bush saying that Rummy is a good decent man despite it all.

I thought that the language Bush used was interesting. About Rumsfeld, he says: "I know Secretary Rumsfeld's heart. I know how much he cares for the troops." Compare this with his words on Vladimir Putin back in 2001: "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. I was able to get a sense of his soul."

Bush seems to rely primarily on intuition and abstract impressions when it comes to judging people. This is unfortunate. In the cases of both Rumsfeld and Putin, he would be better served by evaluating their behavior.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:23 PM on December 21, 2004


resorting to low grade antics makes you easy to dismiss? Got that? Easy to dismiss.

Got it.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:25 PM on December 21, 2004


I think the big question here is if Vaska has ever fingered the suppurating scab.
posted by Peter H at 3:26 PM on December 21, 2004


The use of an auto-pen is common by high-ranking people in business, government, etc. It's not some sort of attempt to depersonalize correspondence and such -- it's just a better way to do things, in some cases.

And it's a worse way to do things in some cases, which is the reason why many people are offended or outraged by this disclosure.

There are certain "no-brainer" things in this world; one of these is that you don't employ patently obvious time-saving devices when creating letters of condolence for the families of dead American soldiers. Whether you agree with the appropriateness of it or not, it's just a stupid thing to do.

Another one of these "no-brainer" things is Mr. Rumsfield himself, apparently.
posted by Darkman at 3:28 PM on December 21, 2004


forforf, glad to be of service.

Peter H, I'm not sure I want to know what a supperating scab is.

Darkman, very well said! You just don't save time when you're writing letters to the families of soldiers that died because of your actions. It looks incredibly cheap.
posted by fenriq at 3:30 PM on December 21, 2004


Shit, are we saving the world here on MetaFilter? I didn't realize my $5 requires that I avoid vapid statements and ensure that all my comments contribute to the world at large and the problems facing society.
posted by effwerd at 3:31 PM on December 21, 2004


From thomcatspike's link: "While I have not individually signed each one, in the interest of ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members, I have directed that in the future I sign each letter."

Damn, Rummy has such a way with words... Maybe it's for the best to keep him away from these letters.

At any rate, looks like I'm going to have to find a new christmas present for paleocon.
posted by eatitlive at 3:31 PM on December 21, 2004


Metafilter: the newbies can and will call out vapid statements because it does nothing here.

I was with davidmsc when he said that the use of autopens is commonplace, till cosmonik pointed out that DOD was implying that he was signing. You're too busy - fair enough, but don't pretend that it's something it isn't. (Why not have the commanding officer write a personal note instead - or does that already happen as well?)
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:31 PM on December 21, 2004


Vaska, your self-entitlement and posturing is delightful and refreshing. We certainly don't get enough of either in these parts, if by that I meant shut up.
posted by The God Complex at 3:31 PM on December 21, 2004


Fenriq : By your logic Seth should be brilliant then, yet you seem to hold the same opinion of him. Another way of putting it is that age does not make anyone smarter, my grandfather is eighty-five and is a racist git. 'Maybe try being a member a week before you start attacking people?' seems to suggest I can be rude after that? And I guess wanting something interesting was too much to ask, my question then is if you're not venting your spleen or trying to educate anyone or have a question to ask, what do you get out of it? I'm honestly curious.

Cosmonik : Ahh, I wasn't aware of that. I don't suppose he ever signed any condolence letters while chief of the DoD even before this incident? It would be interesting to see just when the statement was made, and for how long he was lying. I still think that every time his name comes up in this sort of context it would be good to mention his failings. Like FPP's, not everyone sees that information the first time around. Hell, repitition convinced at least half of America that Bush was a good president didn't it?

Peter H : Uh?
posted by Vaska at 3:37 PM on December 21, 2004


The God Complex, something went wrong with your post and the text came out all tiny. Here, let me fix that for you.

Vaska, your self-entitlement and posturing is delightful and refreshing. We certainly don't get enough of either in these parts, if by that I meant shut up.

There, that's better.
posted by fenriq at 3:37 PM on December 21, 2004


mr_roboto, that's been nagging at me ever since he said that about Putin (and it's really worked out so well for him, too). It got worse during the election when my mother said that she knew Kerry was crooked because she could see it in his eyes. It might be a defining characteristic of compassionate conservatism. I thought the left was supposed to be all touchy-feely.

I remember very clearly from my days in church the saying "Good intentions pave the road to Hell." It really seems like Bush & company are driving on that road.
posted by effwerd at 3:38 PM on December 21, 2004


No, Vaska, what I meant was that its incredibly pretentious to be a member of something for less than a week before you start telling other people how they should be acting.

I have no opinion of Seth other than the fact that he gets great mileage from his useless comments.

What do I get out of commenting? I get to share my thoughts with other members of the community. And sometimes there are positive and interesting conversations that arise from them. This isn't one of them.

And with that, I'm done being a part of your thread derail. If you wish to discuss the matter further, I suggest you take it to MeTa.
posted by fenriq at 3:41 PM on December 21, 2004


mr_roboto, thanks for that quote on Putin. My Russian expat friends got a laugh out of that one, especially those that were there during the last election.

I suggest you take it to MeTa.

Yeah, we're at 65 posts. Best not to let it break 70 without an accompanying MeTa thread, that'd set a dangerous precedent. ;)
posted by cosmonik at 3:51 PM on December 21, 2004


If the man had any conscience, he'd have signed the letters himself.

I see McNamara's shadow behind Rumsfeld, and it worries me, a lot.
posted by atchafalaya at 3:54 PM on December 21, 2004


What's with the $5 comments? Do you have to pay to get a membahship around here now? And, strangely enough, no one seems to have heard of MeTa anymore. Grumble...
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 3:58 PM on December 21, 2004


The Power Line blog has a posting that offers the viewpoint of the father of a Marine Corps soldier (not deceased): it doesn't really matter one way or another whether a family gets a form letter that is personally signed or a form letter that is machine-signed.
posted by WestCoaster at 4:19 PM on December 21, 2004


While I have not individually signed each one, in the interest of ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members, I have directed that in the future I sign each letter," Mr Rumsfeld said in the statement

Goodness yes, it takes so long to sign these things. First the letter has to be written out , then a "signature appointment" has to be scheduled. The signature appointment must fall on a work week day that is not preceded by a federal holiday. The Secretary of Defense must have a forty-eight (48) hour advance notice in order to synchronize his schedule.

On the day and time of the appointment, both the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary's Secretary of the Signature must exchange the code word of the day. Once they have officially recognized each other, they each have one (1) minute to produce their keys and simultaneously turn them in the lockbox. Once the lockbox is open the Death Pen is removed. The Death Pen may only be utilized in the presence of twelve (12) authorized signature witnesses whose names and authorization numbers have been registered not less than Eighteen (18) hours in advance.

The requisite Death Ink must be obtained by filling out forms 1076b and 11347c in triplicate. The forms must be filed by the proper clerks before 12:00pm EST or the Death Ink will be unavailable until the following work day.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:22 PM on December 21, 2004


Rummy's such a scamp. I love that guy. He won't hesitate to kick it with Saddam, then pull a fast one on him twenty years later and overthrow him! He's a legendary kung-fu master. I'm a big fan of the thousand styles of Rumsfeld. Seriously, when is somebody going to throw up a Real Ultimate Power Rumsfeld site?

Seriously, we need to reflect and ask ourselves why we're shocked. Why? Oh, yeah, it's because he did something insensitive to our troops. You know, because getting them killed for no good reason in the first place isn't a big deal.
posted by mullingitover at 4:25 PM on December 21, 2004


It's Rumsfeld. His original choice was probably the harrow.
posted by MrBadExample at 4:26 PM on December 21, 2004


The Power Line blog has a posting that offers the viewpoint of the father
Sorry this site spins the common sense here about actually signing the letter, But none would bring back our son. So you know I have seen many Congressional letters signed by a Congressman's wife & top staff members. Though this type of letter imho should have been actually signed because of its importance as it’s not going to be sent again and the Soldier's sacrifice made. The only thing this site's post may have offered that was an educational fact, is that an actual person shows up to inform you of your loss which is something I have found a lot of people didn’t know.

PS, this blog was voted best blog of the year by TimeRags (sic).
posted by thomcatspike at 4:43 PM on December 21, 2004


The use of an auto-pen is common by high-ranking people in business, government, etc. It's not some sort of attempt to depersonalize correspondence and such -- it's just a better way to do things, in some cases.

Clearly Rumsfeld himslf disagrees with you in this instance, since he has responded as though he were in error and promised to alter his behavior.

I didn't realize my $5 requires that I avoid vapid statements and ensure that all my comments contribute to the world at large and the problems facing society.

Now you know.
posted by rushmc at 4:44 PM on December 21, 2004


atchafalaya : At least McNamara had the Edsel in his portfolio to warn of the public of his unsuitability, career politicians like Rumsfeld seem to lurk beneath the surface and then suddenly come to the fore without any warning.

Cosmonik, Matteo, Keswick : On reflection I would like to offer an apology on snarking on your snark. For someone who talked about wanting something substantive I certainly didn't set a good precedent and doing so in the kind I criticized wasn't clever either.

The God Complex : Goodness, when did I step on your toes? I don't remember telling anyone how to act. Fenriq and others expressed an opinion, I expressed my opinion of that opinion.
posted by Vaska at 5:19 PM on December 21, 2004


Vaska, you really need to chill out. Your choice of words is less than optimal, and I'd rather this post not begin to look like transcripts of the British Parliament. I may not have been a member for long, but I've been reading here for years and you get a feel for the audience after a while. Try reflecting on that.

As for one of your very early questions, the DoD had a department for many years specifically to deal with the massive flux of condolence letters during times of war. It was created during WWI, and consisted of a few dozen secretaries under the guidance of a Field-Grade Officer who would recieve the reports and write one page letters of condolences that included in them information on how the soldier was killed. This office was largest during WWII, and its role was featured briefly in Saving Private Ryan. It shrunk again after Korea, and was finally made a completely civilian entity, only partially connected to the DoD. During Vietnam, this is the group responsible for sending out the telegrams, made famous for being carried by cabbies instead of chaplains. Shortly after Vietnam, the office was disbanded and the task once again taken on by the DoD, however this time condolence letters were shortened to not give cause of death information. Since then, the amount of information provided by condolence letters has varied, and most of the good stuff is given to media outlets anyway. (A friend died in Iraq a few weeks ago, and the newspaper knew he died before his own mother, and also had more information than the DoD gave her.)
posted by mystyk at 5:21 PM on December 21, 2004


Well, it looks like my ten minutes of posting error messages pushed me past the reply over the same issue.

BTW, interesting side note. There is only one president that is known to have personally drafted condolence letters while holding office, as opposed to simply signing prepared copies; Lincoln. (According to records, he wrote roughly two dozen, all going to families who lost at least 3 sons and also had no others to carry on the family name.)
posted by mystyk at 5:24 PM on December 21, 2004


mystyk : Thank you for what's quite a wealth of information. It's a bit disturbing to think of the structure and man-power involved in the whole affair. One always gets the impression from movies that the leader of the platoon, captain of the ship, or whatnot does the actually writing of the letter. PS: I've been reading MetaFilter for four years actually, but if you'd take the drop to me an email about what I did wrong I'll certainly take it under advisement.
posted by Vaska at 5:32 PM on December 21, 2004


I read in a Kennedy bio that he personally wrote all his condolence letters and if the family answered, he would quietly invite them to the WH.

Vaska - you're acting as if you rule the joint. And taking offense at on topic snark, when what this thread really needed was a good ass kicking for being newsfilter and mangy old newsfilter at that, was truly idiotic.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:36 PM on December 21, 2004


CunningLinguist : 1. I'll swear to the god of your choice I do not and never will attempt to rule this joint. I'm quite dumb on occasion but even that's beyond me trying. 2. I swear I didn't take offense. 3. You're right, I should have left it alone to die.
posted by Vaska at 6:11 PM on December 21, 2004


. . . it seems the majority of the American administration only give a fuck about money and power.

Sounds right.

About impeachment, many people, especially in the media, talk as if it's the worst thing that could happen. I have believed for many years that we'd be better off if we'd actually removed a president at least once.

Nixon would have been good for it. When he cut his deal with Ford for the pardon, the media all breathed a big sigh of relief that "a constitutional crisis was averted." Crap. The Constitution spells out very clear mechanisms for transfer of power, and we'd all have motored on just as smoothly as we did.

Until we do impeach and remove a president, any bozo who manages to lie his way into office has all that precedent that nothing will dislodge him. We need to have more accountability, especially when saddled with a lame chicken-hawk like Bullsh.

I'd say that condoning torture is sufficiently contrary to what we supposedly stand for to qualify as "high crime."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:31 PM on December 21, 2004


Kirth, I'm in agreement with you. But then Clinton would have surely been impeached for something with absolutely no global implications.

How would you propose to start making the president more acountable and actually genuinely concerned over the possibility of an impeachment? And yes, I do mean that seriously and without snark.

Torture approved and requested from the top command would certainly be worth a trial and hanging or two.
posted by fenriq at 7:28 PM on December 21, 2004


Only if an automated thinking machine would make policy decisions for this administration too, what a wonderful world that would be.
posted by aliendolphin at 7:55 PM on December 21, 2004


fenriq - I've been toying with the idea of an impoverished executive branch, provided for only by the public, fully accountable and open, so that only those who truly have the desire to rule will do so, on the understanding that they sacrifice many of the freedoms we private citizens have.

Kind of a Plato-Communist mix, I don't know. It's a work in progress.
posted by cosmonik at 7:56 PM on December 21, 2004


I thought you were supposed to get a telegram if your child was killed in action. As far as Rumsfeild goes, I'm not surprised at all, he probably views the dead GI's as the "cost of doing business," so in his mind a form letter is probably appropriate.

Asshole.
posted by jonmc at 7:59 PM on December 21, 2004


If anyone has enough courage to give their life for your cause, you should have the courage to free your schedule to sign a letter if they die for that cause.
posted by drezdn at 8:52 PM on December 21, 2004


Secret Life of Gravy: I hate to sound like I'm defending Rumsfeld. But getting official signatures on official documents is a lot harder and more time-consuming than you might think. I work in a role where I need officially signed documents, and a significant part of our work is spent chasing up the right person to sign things. It can actually be quite hard getting the person and the document in the same place at the same time (stupid as this may sound).
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:35 PM on December 21, 2004


Infinite Jest,
The letters were generated by his staff, how hard is it to sign them? I understand how documents can be generated elsewhere and busy people are hard to nail down. But come on, this is and should be solemn task. He treated it like it was meaningless.

drezdn,
what cause did they give up their lives for? I'm not arguing against you, in fact, I feel even more strongly that Rumsfeld should be signing the death notices himself because of the incredibly specious nature of this war.
posted by fenriq at 10:15 PM on December 21, 2004


Wouldn't it be cheaper, faster and less messy if we got professional, private sector condolence contractors to sign the letters?

I nominate Halliburton!
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 12:06 AM on December 22, 2004


"Rummy (a rum deal) has much to answer for but this is hardly the top of the list."

But it is exactly the sort of pointless, petty thing that the left loves to try and make the centerpeice for a NPR-esq amature propoganda hour :)

You can hear it now on NPR's next fund drive...

"We'll continue that tape of 'how Bush killed my ant farm' by convicted felon _____ ______ right after we get 5 callers. This gift is yours for only a lot of money we blame 'the man' for you not having to spare....

Oh... and we sign all our own letters....'
posted by soulhuntre at 2:54 AM on December 22, 2004


fenriq,
But then Clinton would have surely been impeached for something with absolutely no global implications.
I'm not at all sure that would happen. It'd depend, unfortunately, on what the corporate media put out. if they mentioned enough times that the whole investigation had already cost $10M+, and that the root cause was a stain passed between consenting adults, Clinton would likely stay. I know that's some big 'ifs'.

Soulhuntr,
. . . centerpeice for a NPR-esq amature propoganda hour :)
You haven't been paying attention, have you? NPR is now just another arm of Mediawhores, Inc. You won't hear much there that's different from CNN. Oh, wait, you probably think CNN is 'liberal' media, too.

And it wouldn't hurt to click that 'Spell Check' button. Makes you look less like a grade-schooler.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:48 AM on December 22, 2004


Fenriq, whatever cause the U.S. military saw fit to send soldiers to Iraq for (I think at the moment they're saying it's "freedom").

No one is so busy that they can't spare a minute to sign 10-20 letters at any given time. And people who say that isn't possible seem to be missing the fact that Bush finds the time to sign the letters himself (something he deserves credit for).
posted by drezdn at 9:32 AM on December 22, 2004


Napoleon in rags.
posted by emf at 6:19 PM on December 22, 2004


"Even as Rumsfeld repented, the signature machine took on the symbolic life. It confirmed Colin Powell's description of the man who speaks -- and perhaps thinks -- in the "third-person passive once removed." But it also marked the moment in nearly every war when the grunts and their families begin to wonder out loud if they are only numbers to the people in charge. When they wonder just how impersonal war can be." (Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe, December 23, 2004)
posted by ericb at 11:35 AM on December 23, 2004


As hesitant as I am to join this peckin' party - I have say there is a difference between not caring and caring about the actions, conduct, health, and deaths of men you are responsible for.

Petty thing? Time consuming?
Why did the pentagon deny it at first? Why is he doing it now if it doesn't really matter?

These are soldiers who gave their lives in service the least they and their loved ones deserve is a God damned personal signature so they know he at least knew their name for a minute.

Those heartless bastards damn well know it means something but are too chicken shit to acknowledge it personally.

Whether this is due to some character flaw or indecision about their own position on the war I don't know. But most of these assholes are businessmen and to them soldiers and our honored dead are 'fungible.'

soulhuntre (et.al) let's stop seeing this from the left-right point of view and start seeing it from the point of view of the families. Many of them are already against the decision to go to Iraq in the first place, heaping salt on that wound isn't going to comfort them in any way.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:18 PM on December 23, 2004


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