Official White House Position: We're Not Building A Death Star

from the but-star-destroyers-are-on-the-way dept

About the only good advice I've ever given anyone about the way in which we spend our time on the interwebz was this: don't take any of it too seriously. Having a sense of humor is essential for getting through internet sites and forums, or else the cacophony of "Vote [insert election candidate de jour here]!", "Obama murdered my mom in Kenya as a child!", and all the other mindless shouts and incorrect facts you'll find on a nearly unlimited basis will drive you fully insane. We've talked before about how humor can help you utilize internet piracy to your own ends, for instance. Conversely, the lack of a sense of humor can also result in stupid legal fees.

And, it turns out, a sense of humor can apparently help a presidential administration deal with internet pranksters. Someone (we're looking at you, 4chan) thought it would be funny to start a "We the people" petition for the United States government to build a death star, and it gained enough signatures to require a response. And respond the administration certainly did, in a short essay titled "This isn't the petition response you're looking for."
"The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

-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?
And that's just the beginning. The essay goes on, with several more memorable quotes and a nod to the international space station as an actual space station the government has in part developed. Now, it would have been quite easy for the administration to ignore this particular petition, rules be damned. No one would have cried foul if they hadn't responded. But by responding, they endear themselves not only to the people who put forth this petition, but anyone reading the story about it as well. It's quite easy for us to talk about government as though it's just some big robotic thing. We forget that government is people, but lines like:
"Even though the United States doesn't have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we've got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we're building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun."
...remind us of who we're dealing with. Kudos to our government for showing that they have a sense of humor and that they've hired at least one person who can make enough Star Wars references to placate fans like me. On the other hand, shame on that same government for taking the time to respond to this petition before responding to a plethora of others far more serious in nature.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Lord Binky, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:10pm

    I'm sure the person who wrote this response to the petition did all the serious petitions their job titled allowed them to properly respond to first...or it was a friday.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:11pm

    Well said, Tim. Well said.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:17pm

    In Britain, that kind of response, would be condemned as time-wasting with further attacks on "the overpaid civil servants" who clearly have too much time on their hands and a call to have their salaries cut/for them to be fired/ or possibly hanged.

     

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  4.  
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    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:24pm

    Oh, come on, Tim. This was the most honest response to a petition in the history of politics. I'd rather have them being wiseasses in response to a silly petition than giving a canned response that has little to nothing to do with the subject at hand in political speak.

    I mean, come on, if they're going to waste my time reading their response, at least make it worth reading.

     

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  5.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:25pm

    Not so much funny

    Funny I didnt think this would have made it here. I heard about this on the radio this morning. And funny as the response was:

    Better luck getting a death star built.

    I finally realized this morning while listening to the radio and the DJ's told the story of the petition to build a death star and how many ppl signed it that we are totally fucked in any aspect that requires citizens to be diligent in protecting their freedoms.

    F'in petition to build a death star and it got the required signatures. Really Amerika?

    Yeah.

    "Kudos on our government for showing that they have a sense of humor and that they've hired at least one person who can make enough Star Wars references to placate fans like me."

    Ask Kim Dot Com, Dajaz1, Aaron, inmates in Guantanamo, (and on and on and on) how funny the Gov is. Ha ha ha... yeah no, not so funny.

    "On the other hand, shame on that same government for taking the time to respond to this petition before responding to a plethora of others far more serious in nature." Amen.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:31pm

    and this 'official denial' is supposed to reassure people, is it? i cant think of any other time the government has lied to the people about anything before. whoops! price of bacon just went up!!

     

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  7.  
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    Yakko Warner (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:31pm

    Sense of humor is right.

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

    That was pretty funny.

     

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  8.  
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    Oblate (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:37pm

    So no Death Star...

    But at 1/1000th the cost, my petition to build a Star Destroyer is sure to be accepted!

     

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  9.  
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    Lord Binky, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:37pm

    Really.. People are upset about this?

    This is simple PR with plugs for NASA thrown in, and from someone who is not relevent to the things being deemed more important.

    Sheesh.

     

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  10.  
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    CSMcDonald (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:43pm

    A good way to distract their supporters from the fact that they utterly ignore serious petition requests and have the transparency of mud.

    Ah well, it was amusing at least.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:48pm

    Government only responds to nonsense like this.

     

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  12.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:53pm

    Copyright - For S&G fun

    Could you imagine the lawsuits if we actually tried to build a Death star? How many patent troll... um.. I mean holders would come crawling out of the woodwork to get a piece?

    $850,000,000,000,000,000. to build it.
    $850,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. for the cost of licensing.
    Sounds about right.

     

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  13.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 1:54pm

    The US government may not be building one but I am in my garden shed.

     

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  14.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 2:00pm

    The Administration does not support blowing up planets.

    "The Administration does not support blowing up other planets." - Our own is a different story.

    "-The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000." - And we wouldn't want to use our whole budget on one project.

    "in a short essay titled "This isn't the petition response you're looking for." - Also applies to 99.9% of petitions.

    (Help... just so many, must resist, cant stop.)

     

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  15.  
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    Big Al, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 2:07pm

    Re:

    Read the Daily Mail much?

     

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  16.  
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    Donnicton, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 2:11pm

    Re: Not so much funny

    If any of those got the required signatures, the government would either have

    A) Given out a politically safe non-response that didn't really answer anything to do with the petition

    B) Ignore it entirely, like they did with the petition to require free internet access to taxpayer funded research.

    The petition site has been something of a running joke for a while, so you may as well just learn to appreciate humor where it exists, because you're not going to get the kind of changes to happen that you're going on about through slapping two paragraphs on a government site.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Copyright - For S&G fun

    There are no patent rights in space. Patents are a purely earth based concept.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 2:46pm

    Re:

    Either you have a really big garden shed, or you're have delusions of granduer

     

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  19.  
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    NoahVail (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 2:50pm

    But when it comes to petitions of substance...

    I guess entertaining the tech community will help draw attention away from the meaningless responses given to petitions of substance.

     

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  20.  
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    Yakko Warner (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 3:02pm

    Re: Re:

    Maybe it's bigger on the inside?

    Wait, sorry, wrong show.

     

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  21.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 3:14pm

    Re: Re: Copyright - For S&G fun

    There are no patent rights in space. Patents are a purely earth based concept.

    In order to build the Death Star, at least some of the work will need to be done on Earth. At least initially, until we get some sort of large space station in place to fabricate parts in space. (Most of the money, if not all of it, spent on space is spent here on Earth.)

    There are a lot of patents on space bound equipment. NASA owns quite a few, but there are private corporations that own patents on stuff like engines and actuators.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 4:37pm

    Re: Copyright - For S&G fun

    How many patent troll... um.. I mean holders would come crawling out of the woodwork to get a piece?

    One... and I can't think of a better way to demonstrate a fully functional Death Star!

     

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  23.  
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    orbitalinsertion (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 4:44pm

    and it gained enough signatures to require a response


    Plus the requisite interest in actually responding to such a stupid petition. You may notice how they have actually ignored many petitions or technically given a response which really addresses nothing.

    rules be damned


    Usually, they are. No kudos from me for responding to idiots.

     

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  24.  
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    Wally (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 5:03pm

    Oh man the response made me laugh. They allowed the sense of humor as well as created a somewhat accurate ballpark figure to create an actual DeathStar :-)

    As for the promise about trying to lower the deficit.....today I am saddened to inform you all that he Obama just announced he wants to raise the debt ceiling again...on top of the US's already high $20-trillion deficit...

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2013 @ 5:50pm

    Re:

    As much as I disagree with Obama on... well, almost everything... he's right that Congress needs to increase the debt ceiling. Congress passes bills that increase deficit spending and then acts surprised that the debt increased. If you want less debt, you need to increase revenue or decrease spending, or both.

     

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  26.  
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    Wally (profile), Jan 14th, 2013 @ 6:10pm

    Re: Re:

    The president is responsible for negotiating and signing the bills...

     

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  27.  
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    Gregg, Jan 15th, 2013 @ 5:45am

    Perfect

    a perfect response that most likely won 25k votes for the Democrats.

     

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  28.  
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    NoahVail (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 7:35am

    I'm doing it again.

    I'm so bothered by TechDirt's response that I'm posting about it a second time.

    In setting up the We-the-People petitions site, the White House inferred that it was a effective way for citizens to connect to their government. Techdirt recently (and excellently) pointed out that the White House doesn't respond to petitions in a way that translate into meaningful change.

    The petition site is a betrayal. It's a PR tool with a facade of government concern. The word that best describes it is fraud.

    I cheered when Techdirt recounted their concerns with it.

    In response to being outed, a talented WH staffer picks a substanceless petition and fills it with memes designed to placate the only community that challenged the site's credibility.

    That community ate it up and took a turn at being the the White House's PR tool.

    Today we have petitions on the table that mean something.
    One is for the firing of the DA that profoundly abused her authority in prosecuting Aaron Swartz. It amassed 25k signatures in about 2 days.

    A related and much more important petition demands the WH take the lead in reforming the often misused 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
    It's signature uptake is slower and the petition may have difficulty finding folks who get what it does.

    So if we heap praise on the White House for being clever when nothing is at stake, we risk reaffirming the thinking that Americans really aren't all that interested in changing what desperately needs to be changed.

    And that is a terribly self-destructive thing for us to do.

     

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  29.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 8:28am

    Further proof of the correctness of the immortal truth!

    The closing sentence, "fine, but they should have" - well, with that meaning, anyway, shows there is an immortal truth: "Damned if you do, and damned if you don't".

     

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  30.  
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    nasch (profile), Jan 15th, 2013 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The president is responsible for negotiating and signing the bills...

    Yes, but the point is that raising the debt ceiling is just saying "yes, we will pay for all that stuff we said we were going to buy". It makes no sense to pass a budget and then tell the government it can't spend the money Congress just told it to spend.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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