Teachers in Georgia's Cobb County are prohibited from bringing up abortion or homosexuality in their classes. And they better not mention religion, communism, evolution, witchcraft, or the supernatural unless they clear it first with officials. This is because of a recent directive from school superintendent Tom Tocco, who says it is an attempt to head off "needless controversy." Teachers are allowed only to answer questions on these subjects from students—briefly—and then return to the approved curriculum. Tocco's action came after a complaint from a parent who said her daughter was being taught humanism and personal decisionmaking during a class about drug abuse. The spirit of free inquiry lives in Cobb County.
Affirmative action for mannequins? That's the decree from the Federal Aviation Administration. Planning a controlled crash landing to study safety aspects of large transport aircraft, the FAA purchased instrumented dummies for the 75 seats. A first batch was made up of white dummies, which were installed in the front of the plane. But the second batch from the dummy contractor had black dummies. Now the only seats available were—you guessed it, in the rear of the aircraft. A logical person might ask what difference it makes. But in the true spirit of equal opportunity for the glorious chance to "die" in a plane crash, the FAA removed some of the white dummies from the front of the plane and replaced them with black dummies, in an equal fashion, of course. The punchline for this item is just too obvious to mention.
If you threaten to blow up the Washington Monument even though the suitcase you say contains dynamite is really filled with bricks, you're a terrorist. But if you actually succeed in burning a family-planning clinic to the ground, you're merely a criminal. FBI Director William Webster says a terrorist is one who attacks government. Sorry, but the 20 bombings at abortion clinics in 1984 just don't fit the definition, and that means the FBI places a lower priority on the clinic attacks. It also means that Webster gets to proudly announce that "terrorist" attacks have declined since he's been in office. Pretty fancy footwork. Webster is the landslide winner of REASON's statist-of-the-month award. And by our definition, a statist is a statist, whether private or public.
Ted Stamayannos owns a gas station in Waukegan, Illinois, that has a small food business on the side. A state undercover investigator says that the cashier—a teenage girl—charged him 32 cents more in sales tax than she should have. So Ted has been charged with violating the state Consumer Fraud Act, and the state wants him to pay $150,000 in damages. By the way, Ted didn't pocket the extra 32 cents. He turned it in to the state with the rest of his sales tax revenue. But the state's attorney general says that's not relevant. A violation is a violation. A judge threw the case out, but the attorney general is spending thousands of dollars of Illinois taxpayers' money to appeal that decision. All for 32 cents. A violation is a violation.
Maryland's highest court ordered the immediate removal of a judge accused of forging another judge's signature. District Judge Stanley Y. Bennett was reported to be attempting to clear the driving record of a grandson of a political supporter. Bennett was accused of changing the reckless driving conviction against the 16-year-old to three months' probation. But don't feel too sorry for Bennett, only the third judge in Maryland history to be ousted from the bench: he gets to keep his pension and all other accrued benefits.
Lady, a cocker spaniel, was "rescued" from her allegedly cruel owner seven years ago. The then-puppy was locked up in the Fort Wright, Kentucky, animal shelter without companionship and kept there ever since because she is "evidence" in the animal cruelty case. The case file was misplaced, but nobody noticed until Jessie Pierce, an animal welfare volunteer, demanded that she be allowed to find the eight-year-old pooch a real home. A judge agreed to hold a custody hearing. "Lady didn't do anything wrong," says Jessie Pierce. "She was just born, and that was her only mistake." They don't call it a dog's life for nothing. The animal shelter charges Kenton County $2.30 a day for the care of strays. The cost of Lady's care for seven years comes to more than $8,000.
Did the wrong guy get elected or what? In the first four years of Ronald Reagan's "get big government off the backs of the people" administration, the number of full-time permanent federal employees grew by 23,000. Jimmy Carter reduced the federal roster by 38,000. It's not necessarily what you do, but how you say it that seems to count.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".