Wednesday, October 05, 2005

An Impostor!

I learned a couple of the coolest things today.

You will have to forgive me for the first one...I think it borders on bragging. I learned today that over 350 students applied for my office's intern positions. Of those 350, almost all of the applications from non-constituents were thrown out. Of the remaining, 20 interns were chosen. Let me remind you: the senator I work for is not my state's senator. Therefore, it was really hard not to jump up and down and squeal like a third grader at a slumber party when I found out this information.

Now that I have that out of my system....

I also learned about autopenning (when a machine writes the signature, not a human being). You might remember how much trouble Dick Cheney got in a couple years ago when people found out he was autopenning condolence letters to families of fallen soldiers. Not a very politically savvy move, eh?

The Ghostwriter:
You might find something like this in a government office

I, however, feel for him. I know how much mail goes through government offices on a daily basis: my office alone gets about 500 letters on a good day....A not so good day brings us about 1,000 (oh yes, I get to read and respond to a good portion of those). Imagine how much time a Senator would spend every day just signing things. By the end of the day, their fingers would fall off, they would miss three floor votes, and their signature would look like mush.

Senate offices have solved this problem in a few different ways. Some offices choose to just not answer mail unless it is sent by email. I personally find this method obnoxious and counter to democracy (for example, how would I voice my displeasure with welfare or support for the Hunger-Free Communities Act if I was an under-the-poverty-line mother of four who couldn't afford a computer, let alone internet access?).

Other offices, a vast majority of them, in fact, authorize a few trusted staffers to forge the Senator's signature. They are required to practice it over and over again until all the staffers can make pretty accurate, identical signatures. Then the fun begins! Really, you would have to trust your staff completely to believe that they would not abuse that privilege.

A small percentage of offices do in private what Dick Cheney got in public trouble for...They autopen almost everything. And what's fun is that you can tell which Senators use the machine, and those that don't. It helps if you can compare two of the Senator's signatures; identical signatures never happen in real life, especially if you are signing 500 letters a day (or if your staffers are signing them for you).

If that is not possible, look closely at the signature. If your senator is under the age of, say, sixty, and the lines are wiggly like the Senator has palsy, they are using an old, outdated autopen badly in need of repair.

No luck there? Take a fat marker and, pressing down really hard, make a line on a piece of paper. See how there is a dot at the top and the bottom of your line? Now smoothly write your name with the same marker. No dots right? Just a smooth line. The autopen makes marks more like your first line. It doesn't have the ability to make smooth lines. So if you see dots at the tops and bottoms of all the letters, chances are that the signature is autopenned.

Stuff you never knew, right? But which Senator's use the autopen? Who knows? Not something we talk about. And really, why spoil the illusion?

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