White House Says No to Death Star, Secession

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 12 2013 12:13 PM

White House Says No to Death Star, Secession

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Darth Vader would be disappointed

Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images

The White House is on a dream-crushing roll lately. First it said no to the almost 35,000 people who signed a petition requesting that the administration “begin construction of a Death Star by 2016,” and then rejected several petitions requesting various states be given the right to secede from the United States. Although the answer is the same, the tone of the responses are very different. In one, the response is written with tongue partly in cheek, while the other one calls on Americans to come together. It’s hardly surprising which one is a more fun read, but they both show the White House wasn’t lying when it said that all petitions receiving more than 25,000 signatures in a month would get a response.

Paul Shawcross, chief of the science and space branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, was the one in charge of delivering a message that a “Death Star isn’t on the horizon” even if the White House “shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense.” Among the 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?
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And that’s when Shawcross partially removes the tongue from his cheek and uses the response as an opportunity to recount different ways in which the United States is already involved in space exploration and how people can participate. The response concludes: “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.”

Read the full response after the jump—it’s worth it.

In a significantly less amusing response to a “We the People” petition, Jon Carson, the director of the Office of Public Engagement, affirms that all the states will stay in the union, writing that “as much as we value a healthy debate, we don’t let that debate tear us apart.” Responding to petitions requesting that several states be given the right to secede (including one calling on the White House to “deport everyone” who signed a petition to secede), Carson calls for engagement in the political process.

The states with petitions requesting secession rights are South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Louisiana. Unsurprisingly, the Texas petition has by far the most signatures with almost 126,000. Read the full response below.  

OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE TO Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.
This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For
By Paul Shawcross
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?
However, look carefully (here's how) and you'll notice something already floating in the sky -- that's no Moon, it's a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that's helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts -- American, Russian, and Canadian -- living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We've also got two robot science labs -- one wielding a laser -- roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.
Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo -- and soon, crew -- to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.
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. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.
We don't have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke's arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.
We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White Housescience fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country's future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.
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.
Paul Shawcross is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget
OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE TO Peacefully grant the State of Louisiana to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government. and 8 other petitions
Our States Remain United
By Jon Carson
Thank you for using the White House's online petitions platform to participate in your government.
In a nation of 300 million people -- each with their own set of deeply-held beliefs -- democracy can be noisy and controversial. And that's a good thing. Free and open debate is what makes this country work, and many people around the world risk their lives every day for the liberties we often take for granted.
But as much as we value a healthy debate, we don't let that debate tear us apart.
Our founding fathers established the Constitution of the United States "in order to form a more perfect union" through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. They enshrined in that document the right to change our national government through the power of the ballot -- a right that generations of Americans have fought to secure for all. But they did not provide a right to walk away from it. As President Abraham Lincoln explained in his first inaugural address in 1861, "in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual." In the years that followed, more than 600,000 Americans died in a long and bloody civil war that vindicated the principle that the Constitution establishes a permanent union between the States. And shortly after the Civil War ended, the Supreme Court confirmed that "[t]he Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States."
Although the founders established a perpetual union, they also provided for a government that is, as President Lincoln would later describe it, "of the people, by the people, and for the people" -- all of the people. Participation in, and engagement with, government is the cornerstone of our democracy. And because every American who wants to participate deserves a government that is accessible and responsive, the Obama Administration has created a host of new tools and channels to connect concerned citizens with White House. In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of the We the People platform is a chance to engage directly with our most outspoken critics.
So let's be clear: No one disputes that our country faces big challenges, and the recent election followed a vigorous debate about how they should be addressed. As President Obama said the night he won re-election, "We may have battled fiercely, but it's only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future."
Whether it's figuring out how to strengthen our economy, reduce our deficit in a responsible way, or protect our country, we will need to work together -- and hear from one another -- in order to find the best way to move forward. I hope you'll take a few minutes to learn more about the President's ideasand share more of your own.
Jon Carson is Director of the Office of Public Engagement

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