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This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For (whitehouse.gov)
370 points by mikebike on Jan 12, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 70 comments

The ending is the best part!

    > If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering
    > or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the
    > Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system,
    >  is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

Whoa there: Church and State!

"The Administration does not support blowing up planets."

I guess we're going to have to wait until the Republicans are back in the executive branch.

"Destroying the Earth is harder than you may have been led to believe.

"You've seen the action movies where the bad guy threatens to destroy the Earth. You've heard people on the news claiming that the next nuclear war or cutting down rainforests or persisting in releasing hideous quantities of pollution into the atmosphere threatens to end the world.


"The Earth is built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you've had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy."

- Sam Hughes, "How to destroy the Earth" - http://qntm.org/destroy

I think when people say "destroy the Earth" they are talking more about it's habitability than what a Death Star can do.

Well, it recovered pretty well after a 6 mile wide rock going millions of miles per hour hit it right in the face and cause one of the biggest extinction events in its history.

If that didn't destroy its habitability for good, I'm not sure we'd be able to do it.

> "If that didn't destroy its habitability for good, I'm not sure we'd be able to do it."

But we sure can make it a lot more miserable to live on.

Sure, but by this point we've redefined "destroying the Earth" to mean "making someone less comfortable."

"If that didn't destroy its habitability for good, I'm not sure we'd be able to do it"

You have a pretty stunted imagination for what we are able to do to the planet.

For good or not, I would like to spend the rest of my natural life without these artificial challenges, as fun as they may be ;)

Nothing that happens is artificial. Humans are part of nature, just as enriched plutonium is.

Indeed they are, which is why I asked about _that_ on Quora some time ago:


Solving it quite literally requires boiling the ocean.


"The momentum would be enough to knock the Earth into a different orbit—but the Earth is no more. The energy deposited is ten thousand times greater than the planet’s gravitational binding energy, and the planet is blown into an expanding cloud of plasma, with a particularly energetic streamer extending away from the far side of the impact site, out into space."

-- http://whatif.xkcd.com/20/

So many things to say, but really not the right forum.

Sigh. I laughed at this, it's a fun and smart response targeted to a sub-community that barely broke the threshold to get that response.

But let's be real. If your standard of 'blowing up the planet' is somewhat lesser than 'the Republicans'...it might make you feel better to say it but history shows both of them are plenty happy dropping bombs for no justifiable reason.

I am afraid that history doesn't show that we wage wars "for no justifiable reason".

How about the Mexican-American war, where US soldiers crossed the Mexican border, Mexican troops chased them away, the US decided this was a Mexican invasion, the US declared war, then we took the entire South-Eastern United States from Mexico. All because WE invaded THEM first.

Ah, but it was the Manifest Destiny of the USA to conquer North America and Mexico happened to be in the way. How much more justification do you need?

(Note, I grew up in Canada, which became a single country for mutual defense in case the USA wanted to repeat the incident on its northern border. Details are a bit more complicated than that, but that is the gist of it.)

How about the most recent US-Iraq war? The one justified by "OMG WMDs and Al-Qaeda", and a vial of scary stuff waved around at the UN by our Secretary of State?

Merely saying a few things and seeing what might stick in order to justify your actions doesn't automatically qualify them as justified or reasoned.

One can justify anything. However narrowing that statement to "for difficult to justify reasons" leads to list of wars likely in double figures.

I know its a political site, but please stay away from politics as shown in the guidelines.


Unless its Chuck Hagel or Rand Paul.

Cute, but excessively and erroneously partisan.

Now that they write a joke response to a joke petition, it would be nice to see a serious response to a serious petition.

While there are jokes within the response, I do not believe this to be a "joke response". The points he makes are good, and the call to action regarding careers in math and science is a fantastic way to handle a response likely to be read by 14-16 year olds throughout the reaches of the internet.

Paul Shawcross is still a long way from making amends for what he's done to help cripple our human space flight program, however.

The "Shawcross Option" might have been for the best for all we know. The shuttle was designed to be expensive, doing things that it never really needed to do. If NASA had ended the shuttle program sooner we might very well have a better space-exploration-only vehicle out on the tarmac right now instead of... what do we have now? Oh, right, nothing. I would add that the emphasis on non-human exploration seems to be about the best possible PR and science move for NASA, it has been cheap and generated positive buzz in the media as mission after mission has exceeded expectations.

> Paul Shawcross is still a long way from making amends for what he's done to help cripple our human space flight program, however.

And what is it you think he did, exactly? Just curious.

There's apparently at least 96 responses so far. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/responses

Is 96 the real number? Since the search bar always says 'featured responses'. When you click the bottom bar to see more responses it does some delayed-JS-scroll action and shows all of 8 more results.

Unless you're really trying to increase the drop-off rate on each click, why make it so crappy? How many sites set their pagination to 8 items, unless they want users to linger on what was just delivered?

They don't seem to be very serious about the petition site. Good PR, and I guess I'm glad they have the option, but it's kind of a joke.

96 looks about right, here the final json response:


Here are a few more I've found poking around:

[1] https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/responses/more/all/1/3/3 [2] https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/responses/more/all/1/3/4

Maybe there's a documented API somewhere, but the queries seem to follow a pattern ala:


>Good PR

Is it? It seems to lead to a lot of discontent when petitions don't get the response people want.

Perhaps only in the larger umbrella. As in, "we have a site where you can sign petitions, and if you get 25k signees, you are guaranteed a response".

It sounds good in theory. But nobody in proportion to the general population is actually using it (much less heard about it), so it's just a cutesy PR move at this point.

Agreed. In fact, it's the government's job to respond to a joke petition as a serious petition. Maybe we all want a Death Star?

This is inspired. I don't think it would have been possible to pen a better response here. Even the call to action was brilliant.

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to know our federal government has a sense of humor.

I think we're about to reach a point where internet humor and government and humor finally converge. Congress has basically been trolling the American people (minus anyone actually getting to laugh about it) for most of the last decade, and they're finally getting trolled back by the likes of internet-driven campaigns like Mint the Coin.

I think this is a great development. As a DC resident, I can attest to everyone here taking themselves far too seriously.

Sometimes we forget that the government is really a conglomeration of (mostly) normal people and just an amorphous blob of ludocracy.

Not in all countries, in fact, in most countries governments consist of goblins. I think there is a correlation between the national wealth and the percentage of normal people in the government.

I can't tell you how jealous it makes the others, whose governments a sense of humor lack!

A lack of a sense of humor was never very high of my list of concerning and horrifying features of the federal government.

The Bill of Rights? Who cares, a White House intern made a Star Wars reference!

That is hilarious! Can we all vote on making Paul Shawcross the official responder to all WH petitions? Ok, maybe just the silly frivolous ones?

"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 White House blog doesn't link to the source article, so here it is:


    Estimated cost of death star $850,000,000,000,000,000
    Estimated current US debt         $16,437,339,543,399

    Cost of Death Star per US citizen      $2,705,101,099
    Estimated US debt per US citizen              $52,311

(Figures from (http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/) I have no idea if they're realistic or not.)

I see a link. Maybe they just added it? Or maybe you're saying the linked article is not the O.G. source.

Seems they have not altered the deal to respond to petitions if it hits a threshold. Let's pray these responses are not altered in the future.

I deleted my reddit account in part because of the Obama-fellating. Can we keep the politics off HN?

Stopped reading at "Death Star". Kind of ashamed that I blew 20 seconds typing this. Also ashamed that probably 50K in tax dollars were blown in responding to it.

I am proud if $0.00043 of my taxpayer dollars went to this. It gave me more value than I get from the vast majority of $0.00043 increments of my taxes.

($50k/$2.9 trillion government taxation revenue * my approximate tax paid yearly = $0.00043)

Now I am as critical as anyone of frivolous public spending, but how in god's name did you get to $50,000 for this? At worst, this took one Friday afternoon of this government employee's time. Just how well do you think this guy is paid?

One afternoon of this guy's time at $50,000 would mean an annual salary of $26,100,000.

(261 workdays per year * 2 * $50,000)

In all likelihood, this was either done on this guy's own time or took like an hour....

Time well spent if you ask me :)

Meeting after meeting after memo after memo. The government can blow through money for no reason faster than you can possibly imagine.

I would've been more interested in a response for the more "realistic" petition for an interplanetary ship.


Added this one to the app also XD http://projects.melignus.com/petition-heatmap

As an American taxpayer, I applaud this use of my tax dollars.

The Government is showing the early signs of "getting" the internet. This could get interesting.

This is one of the best things I've read all day ;)

Ahhh, the Chief of the Science and Space Branch at OMB perpetuates achieving "the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs". Allow me to author a petition...

When this pop-culture reference is forgotten and some historian ready this... they'll think we were all a bunch of loons.

Who says they woul be thinking incorrectly?

Just hilarious! May the Force be with you!

I think the Farce is strong in that one.

Seriously though, all it takes is a bunch of Star Wars reference to garner a bunch of Likes? No wonder there are so many actors in politics.

Everything that isn't a Star Wars reference in that response is fantastic and actually a little inspiring.

I added the death star data to my toy project I've been working on.


Wow! I never expected a C3PO division of NASA!


That was awfully a lot like hearing my parents say to me "you don't need the Brickbeard's Bounty LEGO set, you already have the Castaway's Raft, son".

For all the talk of the Obama administration being anti-religon, they're relying on ancient myth to argue against technological progress

This is the funniest part of the response by the Obama Administration:

"We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it."


Wait, is private industry really going to put a human on the moon this decade?

Somehow that feels like vaporware.

Hilarious, this made my day :D

"working hard to reduce the deficit". Haha, good one.

well played, obama administration. well played.

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