There are 30 petitions at the White House website which have both met the signature requirement and which have not yet been responded to. We know this because of WHPetitions.info, a site that tracks these political orphans. While this might look like a blatant disregard for democracy and the marketplace of ideas — in a format that the White House itself promoted! — upon closer examination, it's more clear why some of these petitions are being ignored. If you were one of the signatories waiting patiently for a response to your demand that Obama "oppose the petition created by 'Hisa A' on Japan’s proposal to take Japan’s claim over Dokdo," we're here to explain why you're likely to keep waiting.
Many neglected petitions fall into general categories. So we've grouped them.
Petitions related to: Food-content Paranoia
- Finalize Standards for GLUTEN-FREE Labeling (waiting 283 days)
We can do the easy one first. Earlier this month, the FDA finalized the "gluten free" labeling rule. So there's your answer on that.
- Require all Genetically Modified Foods to be labeled as such (waiting 660 days)
- Support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods (GMOs) (waiting 458 days)
As for the GMO labels, it's trickier. The short version is that the president clearly wants Congress to act on this, if anyone is going to. (It has been proposed as an amendment to the Farm Bill, and rejected.)
But the important point is this: While gluten has been linked to celiac disease, there's no known link between genetically-modified organisms and any health effect. (Any physical health effect, anyway.) So the FDA isn't mandating anything, though it does support voluntary labels.
The 130,000 people (probably mostly food scientists) who signed this petition almost certainly overlap heavily with the president's base. Saying "no" to them before last year's election didn't make much sense. Saying "no" now is clearly not much of a priority.
Petitions related to: How the White / Gold House Ought to Weigh in on Medicine
- Include Licensed Naturopathic Physicians as primary care providers in the Federal Healthcare Law (Obamacare) (waiting 249 days)
- Recognize Acupuncturist as Healthcare providers (waiting 184 days)
- Recognize pharmacists as health care providers! (waiting 199 days)
Being identified as a health care provider affords members of a profession more flexibility in the services they can provide — and the programs in which they can participate. These assignations aren't really up to the president, they're the domain of bureaucrats tasked with implementing government standards, including in the Affordable Care Act.
Also, "naturopathy" isn't real, come on.
- Light the White House gold for the month of September to honor pediatric cancer fighters and bring light to the cause. (waiting 187 days)
The White House hasn't answered this petition because the answer would be rude. Fighting pediatric cancer is a worthy cause, but making the White House look gold will do nothing to advance that cause.
Petitions related to: Incredibly Specific Domestic Issues in Foreign Countries Over Which Obama Has Limited Influence — Part I: Things Japan Is Mad at Korea About
- Remove the monument and not to support any international harassment related to this issue against the people of Japan. (waiting 430 days)
- Persuade South Korea (the ROK) to accept Japan's proposal on territorial dispute over islets. (waiting 315 days)
- Repeal the House of Representatives Resolution 121 to stop aggravating int'l harassment by Korean propaganda & lies! (waiting 385 days)
The president has an entire wing of his administration that handles issues like these. It is called the "State Department." And it is possible that some of these issues are currently under review in the State Department for public or private response.
The level of specificity on these issues (which are by no means monolithic) suggests that they fall into the same category as the Jasmine Sun case above: issues that offer little gain for the president. The First Amendment is great, but the right to petition the government was mostly meant as a benefit for the governed.
Petitions related to: Incredibly Specific Domestic Issues in Foreign Countries Over Which Obama Has Limited Influence — Part II: Things Korea Is Mad at Japan About
- oppose the petition created by “Hisa A”on Japan’s proposal to take Japan’s claim over Dokdo (or Takeshima) to the ICJ. (waiting 214 days)
Petitions related to: Incredibly Specific Domestic Issues in Foreign Countries Over Which Obama Has Limited Influence — Part III: Korean Elections
- There are election rigging made by Progressive Program that have been used in the 18th Presidential Election of S. KOREA (waiting 197 days)
Petitions related to: Incredibly Specific Domestic Issues in Foreign Countries Over Which Obama Has Limited Influence — Part IV: China
- Invest and deport Jasmine Sun who was the main suspect of a famous Thallium poison murder case (victim:Zhu Lin) in China (waiting 72 days)
We covered this case earlier this year. It's one of a series of recent petitions (more of which are below) that appear to be initiated and largely supported by non-Americans. In the case of Jasmine Sun, Chinese internet users are hoping to force the United States government into action on the case.
Answering this petition offers almost no political benefit and is likely to serve only as a liability. Which is certainly part of why it hasn't yet been responded to.
- Investigate and publicly condemn organ harvesting from Falun Gong believers in China (waiting 224 days)
- Provide necessary assistance to prevent Taiwanese people from being murdered by Philippines and rebuild friendship. (waiting 59 days)
Also: See "Incredibly Specific Domestic Issues in Foreign Countries Over Which Obama Has Limited Influence — Part I."
Petitions related to: Incredibly Specific Domestic Issues in Foreign Countries Over Which Obama Has Limited Influence — Part IV: Misc
- Democracy crisis in Malaysia: foreign workers were employed for fraud voting in Malaysian General Election. (waiting 71 days)
- Grant Temporary Protected Status to Guatemalans (waiting 234 days)
- vigorously enforce US laws to seek the return of US citizens' properties expropriated by the Vietnamese government. (waiting 328 days)
- We ask American Congress to make The Act of Alexander Dolmatov to punish all Dutch officials responsible for his death (waiting 171 days)
Petitions related to: Incredibly Complex Foreign Policy Issues Obama Over Which Much Influence
- Declare Muslim Brotherhood organization as a terrorist group (waiting 7 days)
This petition has drawn a lot of signatures from Egyptian liberals since military coup this summer. This a difficult diplomatic problem for the U.S., given that until the coup, the Muslim Brotherhood was the democratically-elected government of Egypt. Given that the U.S. sends Egypt $1.5 billion in aide a year, calling the government a terror organization would have meant the U.S. government funded terrorists. (The U.S. also cannot call Egypt's coup a coup for foreign aide reasons.)
Petitions related to: The Death of Aaron Swartz
- Fire Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Heymann. (waiting 182 days)
- Remove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz. (waiting 183 days)
Unlike many of these petitions, this is entirely within the power of the administration. So it is impossible to believe, given the contentiousness surrounding the Aaron Swartz case (background here) that the administration isn't working on a response. (Which is worth noting: Within minutes of our publishing this story, any and all of these petitions could finally get their responses.)
The problem is that the Obama administration is busy fending off critique of how it itself accesses electronic data, perhaps stretching the limit of the law. Firing people for cracking down on a guy who did that might seem a bit hypocritical.
Petitions related to: Making it Easier to Purchase Unexpectedly Expensive Nicotine Vehicles
- Not Allow The FDA To Regulate Premium Cigars (waiting 459 days)
- Prevent the FDA from regulating or banning the sale and use of electronic cigarettes, accessories and associated liquids (waiting 181 days)
If you have nothing better to do with your time than bother the president to let you smoke more, you should go see a naturopathist for an adjustment.
Petitions related to: Military Stuff
- End the Military’s Discrimination against Non-Religious Service Members (waiting 652 days)
It is not easy to be an atheist in the military. Not because of that old saw about how "there are no atheists in foxholes," but because religion, and particularly evangelical Protestantism, plays a big role in the armed services. Evangelicals are overrepresented among military chaplains. Suicide prevention efforts sometimes involve talks of "god's plan." Sometimes there are group prayers during official ceremonies. Official unit newsletters to spouses back home sometimes assume the existence of God. Last year, there was a fight between a group of military atheists and 35 members of Congress because the atheists objected to Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office having a patch that said "Doing God's Work with Other People's Money." But atheists are unpopular. A 2012 poll found that 54 percent of Americans would vote against a well-qualified candidate who was an atheist. The White House has worked hard to make sure Obama looks like he's friendly to religious people. (Photo by darwin.wins via Flickr.)
- Save the Johnson Valley OHV Area. Be fiscally responsible. Stop 29 Palms Marine base expansion. Keep public lands open. (waiting 180 days)
The Marine Corps wants to expand the base at Twentynine Palms for combat training, because it says it needs a training area that "must at a minimum provide three maneuver corridors for a ground combat element comprised of three battalions that are simultaneously maneuvering for 48-72 hours with combined-arms live fire and the accompanying special-use airspace." It says the Johnson Valley near Twentynine Palms is the best place to do that. The problem is that off-roaders really love the Johnson Valley, the site of the off-roading "Daytona 500," called the King of Hammers race. Despite that compelling argument, in February, the Marine Corps "cleared a final hurdle" for the expansion, the Marine Corps Times reported. The next step was for Congress — not Obama — to approve the plan. (GIF via King of Hammers highlight video.)
Petitions related to: A Talk Radio Host's Tax Proposals
- Invite Neal Boortz, the author of The FairTax Book, to spend one hour talking with the President about tax reform. (waiting 186 days)
The White House has not responded to this petition for three reasons. One, because Neal Boortz is an Atlanta-based talk radio blowhard. Two, because the Fair Tax — which would get rid of the income tax in favor of a national sales tax — is a tax cut for rich people and a tax hike for poor people, and even most Republicans don't support it. Three, because denying Neal Boortz his chance to do his talk radio thing in the White House would serve to increase Neal Boortz's celebrity. (Photo via WSBradio.com.)
Petitions related to: Other Things
- allow Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states. (waiting 68 days)
This is unnecessary because pretty soon Tesla owner Elon Musk will just Hyperloop new cars to customers.
- To award the Medal of Freedom to the 4 Firefighters who were ambushed in West Webster New York on Christmas Eve 2012 (waiting 197 days)
This story was horrible. Last December 24, a man set a fire at a home with the apparent intent of murdering the firefighters that came to put it out. The firefighters who were killed died in service to the community, in a way that could not have been predicted.
That said, the contribution the victims made to society is qualitatively different than that from past Medal of Freedom recipients. Here's the full list. It includes two dozen members of the military — most of whom you've heard of. It does not include local public safety officers. Obama, in other words, is probably not eager to explain why these men don't make the cut.
Petitions related to: Edward Snowden
- Pardon Edward Snowden (waiting 35 days)
Yeah, nice try.
(All photos by the Associated Press unless otherwise noted.)