As Americans, we entrust government with a lot of power: The authority to take our money and spend it pretty much however it sees fit; the ability to decide what -- and how -- to teach children; and the right to put troops in harm's way.
And as the NSA snooping program indicates, what powers we don't entrust to the government, the government apparently takes anyway.
It would be nice to think that the bureaucrats and elected officials who oversee local, state and federal government are wise, thoughtful and have our best interest at heart.
But, as these recent examples of foolishness prove, many of them don't.
Does complaining about dirty drinking water make you a terrorist? Apparently so. At least that's what Sherwin Smith, the deputy director of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Division of Water Resources, claims.
Audio recently surfaced of Smith telling a group of Maury County residents not to complain about their water quality unless they are sure there's a problem. "Because federally," Smith incorrectly warned, "if there's no water quality issues, that can be considered, under Homeland Security, an act of terrorism."
The Middle Tennessee county has been plagued by water quality issues. Several area citizens fell ill after drinking tap water and local officials have issued notices requesting residents to boil water before drinking it.
Smith, whose $69,000-a-year salary is paid by Tennessee taxpayers -- including those he claims are terrorists if they incorrectly identify their mucky tap water, still has his job. Apparently, spreading outlandishly stupid information that could threaten public safety isn't enough to get a pink slip when you work in state government.
Now we have to hope that Maury County residents don't get sick or even die because they would rather put up with unclean water than complain and potentially face terrorism charges.
Dr. Jesse Register, the former superintendent of Hamilton County Schools, was no stranger to controversy and poor decisions during his more than eight years in Chattanooga. Nothing Register did while running Hamilton County Schools, however, can top the outrageous move he made last month when he lobbied Nashville public school teachers to support federal immigration reform on taxpayers' time, using taxpayer-funded equipment.
On Thursday, June 13, Register, who now pulls down in excess of $250,000 a year as superintendent of Metro Nashville Public Schools, sent an extraordinarily improper email to all Nashville teachers and administrators. The email urged them to contact Tennessee's U.S. senators and representatives and "Tell them you support giving undocumented students a chance at building a future in our country. Tell them to support immigration reform."
The fact that Register sent his subordinates an email encouraging them to engage in political activity through his school system email address during work hours is alarming, inappropriate, offensive and tacky. It may also run afoul of state and federal ethics rules.
Other recent government goof-ups and bureaucratic buffoonery include:
• Rhode Island state lawmakers agreed to spend $2.5 million of taxpayers' money to cover an annual payment on a $75 million bond that funded a video game company founded by retired Major League Baseball pitching great Curt Schilling. The state gave Schilling the corporate welfare handout to move the 38 Studios video game company from Massachusetts across the border to the Ocean State in 2010. Last year, amid allegations of mismanagement, the company declared bankruptcy and fired its 400 employees.
• The Interior Department's inspector general released a report last week revealing that the U.S. Park Police couldn't account for approximately 1,400 weapons, including handguns, rifles and shotguns, that weren't listed in inventories. The U.S. Park Police, which protects federal parks including the National Mall and its monuments, had weapons missing from storage facilities in Washington, D.C., New York, California and Georgia. The report states the firearms may be vulnerable to "theft or misuse," meaning the vanished guns may have fallen into the hands of gang members and murderers.
• Barry Rountree, (the then-Acting Police Chief of Winston-Salem, N.C., responded to calls of an armed man in a neighborhood last Wednesday. When a medium-sized dog wandered toward Rountree from a nearby house, Rountree shot the dog with his handgun. The bullet then ricocheted through the dog and off a sidewalk, striking and injuring the dog's owner (an innocent bystander) in the upper leg. Despite shooting and injuring an apparently harmless dog and an innocent woman, Rountree was sworn in as permanent Winston-Salem police chief on Sunday.
With people like these in charge, it's no wonder why people are fighting to protect their rights and working to limit the size and scope of government like never before.
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