Petition the White House… is a Failure

Some months back, President Obama began the ‘We the People‘ website.  The principle was quite simple.  People (anyone in the US) could create a petition and if if it got the requisite number of signatures in the required time, then the president (or his staff) would craft an official response.

Notice that critical word there… ‘response’.  All a response has to be is an acknowledgement of the issue.  I suspect that if a petition got a 150 million votes, but the president didn’t like it, then it would be acknowledged and ignored… just like the petitions that have been created.

Now, this is a good idea.  But I think we all knew what would happen.  Let’s look at the official responses turned in so far.

Edit the Pledge of Allegiance to remove the phrase “Under God”.

Many of you may not be aware, but the phrase “Under God” was not in the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954.  However, this is a huge problem because of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

“Establishment of religion” can be interpreted many ways.  However, if you read the founding documents (the actual ones, not what people think they say) it becomes quite clear that both the intention and the practice was not only to not have an official church of the USA, but also to prevent the government from any appearance of having established or supporting a church in the USA.

The USA is a melting pot.  You can be talking to someone for a long time and not realize that he or she is a Christian, Pagan, Buddhist, Muslim, Satanist, Mormon, or any other religion… or even none at all.  The phrase “under God” is an illegal support of Christianity over these other religions (and a million more besides).  It should not be in the Pledge of Allegiance.

However, Obama knows that he can’t remove it or even pretend to remove it without losing the majority of the semi-sane Republican voters in the US.  So he responds thusly

Throughout our history, people of all faiths – as well as secular Americans – have played an important role in public life. And a robust dialogue about the role of religion in public life is an important part of our public discourse.

While the President strongly supports every American’s right to religious freedom and the separation of church and state, that does not mean there’s no role for religion in the public square.

This is very disingenuous.  First of all, slavery has been an institution throughout the history of the US and played a major an important role in the history of our country, but you don’t see anyone supporting it now.

Public discourse on religion is fine and good… PROVIDED that government DOES NOT TAKE SIDES.  Which it is doing with the current pledge.

The president ‘supports’ every American’s right to religious freedom, but we’re only going to allow the Christian God to be a part of our government structure.

Obama is fundamentally wrong on this.  But then, he can’t remove it for political reasons.  Politics trumps law… again.

Legalize and Regulate Marijuana

I’m not going to get into the details here, but the president is afraid to admit that the war on drugs has failed on an epic scale.  There are literally millions of people in jail whose sole crime was owning a small amount of this natural plant. More people were arrested for marijuana than for violent crimes in the US.

It’s a felony and causes all kinds of major life problems for those arrested for it.  Including removal of certain rights like voting and owning a firearm.

Obama’s thoughts on the science of marijuana are wrong too.

Check this out in the UK.  Deaths due to alcohol in 2008, 685.  Deaths due to marijuana, 19.  Yet alcohol is legal.  More comparison studies on drugs.

The income from taxing and regulating marijuana is pretty staggering.  According to CNBC, the yearly sales for marijuana are in the 35-45 billion range.  If Marijuana was a company it would in the top 150 largest revenue companies… in the world.  And that’s just US sales.  Tax it at a reasonable rate and you’re getting 3-5 billion in income AND not having to pay for 10 million US citizens in jail.

In conclusion… We the People is just something to make US citizens feel empowered, but it will never actually do anything.

BTW: Sorry for the delay in posting.  I’ve been neglecting the Tears for Scientopia.

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11 Responses to Petition the White House… is a Failure

  1. I completely agree with you, Ogre. I signed the In God We Trust/Under God petitions too (although I missed the “legalize Mary Jane” one), and when I saw the response I wondered why I’d even bothered. They didn’t even bother to write two different responses for the two different petitions! I seriously doubt Obama ever even heard that people cared about these issues; the response was basically just canned PR that could have been typed by a monkey.

    And, moreover, that canned response appears to be the end of what you can get out of the We the People site. There’s no mechanism to escalate (say by going through another round of signature-gathering). There’s no place to comment on the quality of the response, or the degree to which you feel it addressed the issues. There’s just… nothing. Nothing at all. An abrupt dismissal from on high and you’re done. I’ve gotten more thoughtful and pro-active responses to a single lonely idiosyncratic letter to my Senator.

    I left them angry feedback about the uselessness of the process on the general feedback form, but I doubt it will do any good. Yet another unsurprising-but-disappointing bit of evidence that Obama isn’t all that much better than any of the rest. I keep having to remind myself that Roberts and Alito were apparently McCain’s ideal Supreme Court Justices, and Palin was his ideal running mate, so, yes, it really could have been worse. But, jesus, Obama, you said there was gonna be hope and change. Can’t you at least deliver on that a *little* bit?

  2. Isabel says:

    “Deaths due to marijuana, 19”

    How did cannabis cause death??

  3. OgreMkV says:

    Isabel, the Guardian has a note that the deaths are disputed. But, yeah, I have no idea.

  4. Midnight Rambler says:

    “How did cannabis cause death??”

    They’re probably counting people who were heavily stoned and slipped off a bridge, or fell asleep in the middle of a road and got run over, things like that.

  5. Isabel says:

    Yeah, people fall asleep in the middle of the road all the time after smoking cannabis:)

  6. DaveL says:

    You’ll notice the response threshold for new petitions has been increased to 25,000 signatures from the origina 5,000. Apparently they were having to produce a lot more “responses” than they were counting on.

    Namely, five. Five responses is apparently the level at which they decided “whoa, this is getting out of hand – we’re getting swamped”.

  7. Here’s an attempt to use the petition interface to ask the White House to actually pay attention to the petitions. It’s probably hopeless, but at least worth a try:

    https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions/%21/petition/actually-take-these-petitions-seriously-instead-just-using-them-excuse-pretend-you-are-listening/grQ9mNkN

  8. OgreMkV says:

    Anne, thanks. That’s a good start.

  9. To be clear, I didn’t start the, “Hey, try actually listening, jackasses” petition, I’m just passing it along.

  10. There’s another one too, somewhat more succinct. I signed both, in hopes that one of them will make it.

    https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions#!/petition/take-petitions-seriously/bHPkPddj

  11. Pingback: White House Doesn’t Admit to Aliens | Cassandra's Tears

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