Do you remember the optimism that trumpeted the arrival of the Obama presidency? Do you recall the sense of promise in the air? After wandering the moral and intellectual desert that was the Bush administration for eight long years didn’t the country suddenly seem aglow with possibility and wonder again that November night?
What a difference seven years makes. Just when you thought the Obama presidency couldn’t get any more disappointing—what with affordable health care, the saving of the American economy, the end of the longest war in American history, the legalization of gay marriage, the canceling of the American torture program and extraordinary rendition, the death of Osama bin Laden, the re-establishment of diplomatic ties with Cuba, the humanization of Syrian refugees, and a thousand and one other blunders—Obama seems to have saved his worst crimes for the last days of his administration. First it was an attempt to civilize our immigration system, then an attempt to rationalize our criminal justice, and now this travesty: On Tuesday the White House announced that it would not be using its executive authority to lift the five-year MMA ban on UFC middleweight Nick Diaz imposed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission on September 14 after Diaz was busted for using marijuana prior to his fight with Anderson Silva last January. This despite the fact that MMA fans had gathered more than 100,000 signatures begging Obama to intercede on Diaz’s behalf. Hope is now officially dead in America.
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In 2011 the White House created a Web site called “We the People” to bring the fifth clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution (”Congress shall make no law … abridging the … right of the people … to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”) into the 21st century. Under the terms of the site, anyone can petition the White House to do anything. If the petitioner can get 150 signatures, his/her petition will be publicly searchable on the site. If the petitioner can get 100,000 signatures within 30 days, the White House will be forced to publish a response.
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An incomplete list of “We the People” petitions that have failed to reach the 100,000-signature threshold (with current number of signatures obtained):
“Keep Alexander Hamilton as the only face of the $10 note.” (210)
“Block Donald Trump from running for presidency.” (1119)
“Have Obama re-enact the scene from The Incredibles where Frozone is looking for his supersuit.” (2819)
“Get better Prince George’s County Public Schools lunch.” (551)
“Immediately nationalize the Twinkie industry and prevent our nation from losing her sweet creamy center.” (4409)
“Stop letting the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s games be played on artificial turf.” (369)
“Allow United States military service members to place their hands in their pockets.” (4538)
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“Nick Diaz was unfairly banned from being a professional fighter by the Nevada Athletics Commission. They ruled based on their personal feelings and beliefs towards the use of medical Marijuana and used their power to deprive Mr.Diaz of being able to make a living.” — From the petition calling for the White House to lift the NSAC suspension of Nick Diaz, published on September 14, 2015.
The petition reached the 100,000-signature threshold one month later, on October 14.
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Since 2011 the White House has responded to 208 petitions filed on “We the People,” including those calling on Obama to:
“Prohibit any laws mandating the force and requirement of vaccinations of any kind”;
“Recognize the Ku Klux Klan as a domestic terrorist organization and make their eradication a Homeland Security priority”;
“Investigate and publicly condemn organ harvesting from Falun Gong believers in China”;
“Release the recipe for the Honey Ale home brewed at the White House”;
“Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016”; and
“Investigate Jimmy Kimmel Kid’s Table Government Shutdown Show on ABC network.”
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After two months of silence, on December 8, the Obama administration finally responded to the people’s plea for justice with an excuse taken straight out of the Republican Party platform: This is a matter for the states.
“The federal government plays no role in the disciplinary actions taken by state athletic commissions, so we are not in a position to address the specific request raised in your petition. State authorities—in this case, the Nevada Athletic Commission—will generally be the best source for information about those kinds of issues.”
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In the end, though, Nick Diaz may not need Barack Obama to interfere on his behalf. The fighter’s lawyers are currently in settlement talks with the NSAC and his suspension will most likely be reduced soon. But that’s not the point. What does it say about America that its president refuses to overturn the marijuana-related suspension of a professional cage-fighter imposed by a local combat-sports regulating authority? Where has the hope gone in this country, where is the change? What, Mr. Obama, are we supposed to tell our kids?
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