Last week, the White House added an online-petition feature to its official website, as part of this Administration's commitment to devoting slightly more effort to making this appear to be a democracy than the previous guy did. "We the People" allows anyone to create a petition (well, not anyone) and promises that if you can get 5,000 signatures within 30 days, the White House will review and respond to the petition "in a timely fashion."
About 65 petitions are currently active. (Petitions don't become searchable on the site unless you can get 150 signatures to start with, so there could be more below that threshold.) I learned about this because one of the petitions calls for abolishing the TSA, but there are a number of other interesting petitions as well.
The petition to abolish the TSA (full title: "Abolish the TSA, and use its monstrous budget to fund more sophisticated, less intrusive counter-terrorism intelligence") was created on Thursday, September 22, and has already collected 21,171 signatures. You should go sign it too. (If you're worried about the government collecting your information and putting it on The List, I wouldn't worry – I'm sure they already have what they need.)
Only one thing is more important than getting rid of the TSA, judging by the number of signatures: legalizing marijuana. That petition, created the same day, currently has 36,137 supporters. That doesn't tell the full story, though, because there are other petitions aimed at basically the same result. Three call for changing relevant federal laws, two more ask the feds to stop interfering with state legalization efforts, and one cries out for the government to "Allow Industrial Hemp to be Grown in the U.S. Once Again," which I'm told is not quite the same thing. Still, at least ten percent of the current active petitions are aimed at legalizing pot, so it's clearly a popular issue.
What else are people concerned about?
- There are another two petitions with about 13,000 signatures (including mine) asking for an end to the Patriot Act. But since Obama just extended for yet another year the "National Emergency With Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks," namely the ones that happened a decade ago, I wouldn't expect him to get to this one in a "timely fashion."
- Over 17,000 people are calling for an investigation into the prosecution of Sholom Rubashkin, which I frankly knew nothing about but seems to have involved a 27-year sentence for a first offense in a white-collar-crime case.
- Over ten thousand people have asked the Patent Office "to cease issuing software patents," which has been an issue lately but seems like an unlikely topic for a mass movement.
- Not at all surprising, though, is that thousands of people want Obama to "formally acknowledge" that the government has been communicating with extraterrestrial beings. Others want Scientology investigated, which is more or less the same thing.
- The "acknowledge the aliens" petition is just behind one calling for the legalization of online poker. I'm not really sure what that says, if anything.
- Currently ahead of petitions on nuclear policy and the labeling of genetically modified foods is a petition demanding that Casey Anthony be tried in federal court for lying. "If any case in our lifetime cries out for prosecution by the Federal Government [sic] it is this one," the petition says. Really? Not war criminals or people who trashed the banking system? Well, whatever you say.
- Somebody wants to get rid of pennies and nickels.
- Other people just want to jump off things on federal property. Unfortunately, it's not the same people who keep going on about Casey Anthony.
- The only jokester petition so far is the one asking the Administration to "Aid the Lunar Revolution in overthrowing the oppressive Celestian regime in Equestria." I wouldn't be surprised, though, to find out we're already bombing Equestria.
Some of these look like they were submitted by regular people, and others seem likely to be the work of professional activists. Then there's the one that asks the President to "Allow Seriously Backlogged EB2/EB3 Beneficiaries with Their I-140 Approved to File I-485 and Apply for EAD & AP." Whoever created that one is in serious need of a public-relations coach, since the goal (it has to do with immigration policy) is a reasonable one but the title is not likely to get anybody too enthused.
"What do we want?!" "Permission for seriously backlogged EB2/EB3 beneficiaries with their I-140 approved to file I-485 and apply for EAD & AP!" "When do we want it?!"
(Note: a version of this was first posted at Forbes.com.)