The Obama administration does not support blowing up planets

The Obama administration does not support blowing up planets

Summary: Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

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TOPICS: Government, AT&T
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UPDATE: Two days after we posted this article, the Obama administration raised the response threshold by four times, to 100,000 petitions. Special.

Sometimes your tax dollars at work can be a source of incredible amusement, and I'm not just talking about Congress. Oh, no. I'm talking about the White House's official petition system, wherein Americans waste our Executive Branch's time on requests and demands of dubious value.

So, really, I could be talking about Congress.

If you're not up to speed on the White House petition system, it's an interesting use of online communication and crowdsourcing. ZDNet reader (and friend of the blog) Gary Stark suggested I take a look at the site at petitions.whitehouse.gov, thinking it might be a source of good material.

It did not disappoint.

Here's the basic premise. Anyone can login and create a petition. For anything. Let's say, for example, you'd like the United States government to build the Death Star from Star Wars. You just create a petition. There are two thresholds. The first is that you have to get 150 online signatures within 30 days for your petition to be searchable on whitehouse.gov.

The second threshold is more fun. If you happen to get 25,000 online signatures, the White House will write you an official response to the petition.

Can you see where this is going?

Some petitions haven't had much in the way of legs. For example, one petition asks the White House to revoke the license of a doctor in Florida, because the petition writers claim he's a drug dealer. That has 364 signatures. Another asks the White House to ask California Governor Jerry Brown to give ferret owners a fair hearing (seriously, you can't make this stuff up). That one has 1,197 signatures.

11,000 people (give or take a hundred) want to ban Dianne Feinstein. They don't really specify what the California senator is to be banned from, but they're pretty gung-ho about it.

And then we get to the good stuff. For example, 6,136 people have signed a petition to require NASA to do a feasibility study and conceptual design of a first generation USS Enterprise interplanetary spaceship.

None of these has gathered enough support to warrant an official response. But a few have.

Take, for example, the petition where the petition writers politely ask the Obama administration to impeach President Obama. That one got 49,890 signatures, so... yeah, the the White House responded. The short answer: no. You've got to give the White House credit, though. They used their response to tell participants that their voices are being heard.

And all that brings us to the Death Star. This is, perhaps, the best use of Executive Branch time in the history of the Republic. As it turns out, 34,435 people have requested that the White House secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016. It's always good to set a date when you have a goal.

In any case, the White House responded, with what is sure to become a cult classic, the wonderfully named, "This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For".

Written by Paul Shawcross, Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, the official response includes a few reasons why a Death Star isn't in our immediate future. These reasons include:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

Personally, I find it difficult to accept the idea that blowing up planets is bad, but that's me. In any case, I predict that the new White House petition system will be a wonderful source of amusement for many years to come. Will it be an asset to policy or governance? That's anyone's guess.

In any case, the petition for the White House to disclose all information about extra-terrestrial beings is stalled at 1,321 signatures. Apparently far more Americans want to blow up planets than know the truth about who lives there. I love this country!

Also on NEWS.COM: White House shoots down petition to build Death Star

Topics: Government, AT&T

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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53 comments
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  • A great exposure

    of why were are where we're at - people's priorities. Funny, yes... but that's why there is now a House run by Tea Partiers (not even a real party) who run it and yet refuse to govern.
    zab905867
    • The parent post was brought

      to you by Low-information voters, incorporated. Proudly proclaiming ignorance as a virtue for decades.
      baggins_z
  • Perspective

    The Vogons destroyed Earth to make way for an intergalactic highway.

    Perhaps, there's another alien race out there that would like to crack Earth, as one would crack the shell of a nut to get at the meat, to mine the metal in the inner and outer core:

    http://geology.about.com/od/core/a/about_the_core.htm

    However, I see no compelling need, at the present time, for the human race to have one of these things.

    P.S. I, for one, don't want to live in a world where adornoe has a Death Star in his garage.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • There are better and easier ways...

      ... to mine metals without cracking open an inhabited planet to do so.
      Hallowed are the Ori
    • I'm pretty sure...

      ...Adornoe can't afford a Death Star of his own, but maybe if he's especially loyal, the Koch Brothers could build one and hire him to run it.
      John L. Ries
      • No!!! My plans are to run this planet only, and a death star is nowhere in

        my plans.

        Besides, if I did create a Death Star, it would be only for the purpose of sending all liberals (like you) there. Then, it could keep the name, because, that's were you would spend the rest of your lives, and your after-lives.
        adornoe
        • So much for freedom of thought

          I gathered quite a while ago that you think that all U.S. liberals (broadly defined) should be stripped of their citizenship and deported. Thanks for the confirmation.
          John L. Ries
    • I would only have a "death star" in my garage, if the governemtn had one

      of their own, with which it could take away our "death star" rights, and the rest of our freedoms.

      But, you can happily continue on your merry way towards becoming a slave to that intergalactic government which wants to control your every more.

      I will protect myself and my family and my neighbors and our country and our planet, with my very own "death star".

      ;)
      adornoe
  • Democrats have always been...

    ...weak on the matter of galactic defense. Is anyone really surprised with this position?
    jvitous
  • modern democracies

    It does stand to reason that the internet can be applied to increase the level of democracy in our country. This particular implementation is early in implementation, so it's easy to push silly ideas, but I give them credit for the effort. I can imagine a future where being registered to vote also comes with a logon, allowing you to register your opinion on any topic you like. Those topics that gather the most signatures, rise to the top. That list can be made public. The president can respond or not, but at least we know what people want. It's like an opinion poll, only more accurate. Not all that different from this implementation, except that you are verified.

    The internet is good for democracy. It stands to reason that we should use it.

    gary
    gdstark13
    • Democracy is three wolves and a sheep

      deciding what to have for dinner. It is NOT a thing to be sought after. A Constitutional Republic is much more desirable.
      baggins_z
      • Republic is Democracy-lite

        I understand your reservations on the concept of Democracy. Another good quote...

        "Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve."
        -- George Bernard Shaw

        However I believe 100% in democracy, even with all its flaws. Clearly democracy is no assurance of wise governance. It only insures that people have full ownership their government. It's the extreme end of the line, dictatorship being on the opposite end. By prefering a republic, you are saying you prefer a system between democracy and dictatorship. I do not. I would always want more democracy. We live in a republic (representative democracy). How's that going?

        "The cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy."
        H. L. Mencken

        gary
        gdstark13
        • A pure democracy is simply a dictatorship of

          the majority. Methinks you wouldn't be liking a pure democracy so much if the majority happened to disagree with you.
          baggins_z
          • RE: A pure democracy is simply a dictatorship of

            I have news for you...I pretty much never get my way in the elections as it is. It's a sacrafice I'm happy to make. Do you have another reason why you think I wouldn't want a more democratic system?
            gdstark13
          • Because the Socialists Party

            Has replaced the old Democratic party, and even though Socialism has failed numerous times, 0bama is determined to bring it here.
            Troll Hunter J
          • Are there any of those?

            ...aside from some New England and Swiss towns? Seriously, is there any independent (or even federated) state on this planet that you think qualifies as a democracy? If there is, please identify it and tell us how well you think it's governed (and how you might fix it if you think it's governed badly).

            By your standards, Canada isn't a democracy either; it's a constitutional monarchy.
            John L. Ries
          • Democracy

            Democracy is more of a journey than a destination. Even the most democratic nations generally have room for improvement, especially with the advent of the internet (the point of this story).

            For a practical definition I would call any nation where the citizens decide who runs their country a democracy. And that includes the US (a representative democracy). My fellow citizens often complain about the US no longer being a democracy, but they’re the first to vote for the "lesser of two evils", so I have no sympathy. Personally I vote for whoever I believe is the best candidate, regardless of the chance of winning. Otherwise you get caught in a vicious cycle of bad leadership, which is the problem we have IMO. Bush? Lousy leader. Obama? Nice guy, lousy leader. But the people have spoken.

            Is Canada a democracy? I don’t follow Canadian politics, but I don’t believe they’re a dictatorship. Syria is a dictatorship. China is a dictatorship. It’s important not to get lost in definitions like “constitutional monarchy”. All that matters is where they fall on the line between dictatorship and democracy. I suspect Canada falls closer to the democracy end of the line.

            gary
            gdstark13
          • The question really wasn't addressed to you...

            ...but to Baggins and like-minded "Republic, not Democracy" folks who have their own special definitions for both words not shared by infidels like you or me. You use the word "democracy" the way most other people use it, including me.

            My point was, that if we follow Baggins' stated definition, there's not a state in the world that qualifies as a democracy, making it pretty much irrelevant.
            John L. Ries
          • sorry

            Sorry about that.
            gdstark13
        • You didn't understand G. B. Shaw's quote; and democracy means CHAOS,

          because, it would be impossible to have any form of government, other than chaos.

          Imagine that, the people really do get "democracy", meaning, the people decide on every issue.

          Imagine then that, the majority decides of a certain course on an issue, and the next day or week, the majority changes its mind, or a new "majority" votes in a different way, and the original way on an issue has to be undone and the new way instituted. Then, shortly thereafter, opinions change, or a new majority coalition changes the rules again. What will you have gained?

          UTTER CHAOS, and a people with no direction and hopelessly unable to make decisions that stick.

          If you want to see what democracy looks like, look no further than Somalia, where the people have no direction, and whatever direction they do get, gets undone with the next power hungry moron.

          There is a reason why there never has really been a true democracy, and what we do get, are democracies where the people do decide on representative government,which is really the best form of democracy anyone can ever get.

          No true democracy can ever exist, and even in the animal kingdom, there is government, where the more powerful animal of a species gets to decide, for a while, how the pack lives and where they will hunt and who gets to eat first, and who gets to procreate; not perfect government, but government nonetheless.
          adornoe