Only A Terrorist Would Complain About Tennessee's Water Quality

from the drink-the-damn-water...-or-the-terrorists-win! dept

The War on Terror has lasted so long the words have lost all meaning. Some of our war on terror actually involves warlike actions in other countries. Other parts of this war take the form of a debate on which constitutional rights are now considered optional -- a debate the general public isn't welcome to attend.

Still other parts of this capital-W, neverending war are even more poorly defined. Whenever some act or statement might have potentially negative consequences for Americans and/or their government, these too become our enemies. Another example of how the word "terrorism" has come to mean everything and nothing simultaneously is gracelessly provided by a member of Tennessee's water regulation body.

A Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation deputy director warned a group of Maury County residents that unfounded complaints about water quality could be considered an “act of terrorism.”

“We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously,” said Sherwin Smith, deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources, according to audio recorded by attendees. “But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.”
It's tough to tell where Smith was headed when he began this statement, but it's altogether unsurprising where it ends up. Anything is an act of terrorism, even complaining about water quality. If the state disagrees with the public's assessment that the water is so hard it's best consumed with a chisel and a fork, they're now on The List and should know that any attempts to board a plane in the future will require a full-blown molestation of their person and carry-on luggage.

Even if the state agrees the water is better described as "heavily diluted silt," you've still got the feds to deal with, at least according to Smith. Apparently, the US government also has the power to declare your drinking water "pretty excellent, actually" before charging your complaining ass with "communicating terroristic speculation on local water quality."

At least the audience had the presence of mind to a.) get it all on tape and b.) say what everyone was thinking.
“Can you say that again, please?” an audience member can be heard asking on the audio.

Smith went on in the recording to repeat the claim almost verbatim.
Well, if you can't be right, at least be consistent. Smith's spokespeople were quick to issue a "no comment" and pledged to get to the bottom of Smith's statement, which was probably "misheard" or "taken out of context."
“In terms of the comments made by a member of the Water Resources Division at the meeting, we are just receiving the information and looking into this on our end,” spokeswoman Meg Lockhart said. “The department would like to fully assess what was said in the meeting. I am told that the meeting was far longer than the audio clip provided by SOCM and that Mr. Smith actually clarified his remarks. But again, we are looking into it.”
The comment shocked and outraged attendees, who saw it as an attempt to silence complaints, said Brad Wright, organizer for SOCM in Middle Tennessee.
Rep. [Sheila] Butt, who organized the meeting, also was shocked.

“I think that we need to be very careful with how we use the words ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism,’ ” she said. “I thought it was out of context. That did not apply to anything that we were discussing at the meeting.”

Butt said the water issue had been marred by “communication breakdowns” by both sides, which wouldn’t be made easier with such inflammatory comments being made.
Silence by rhetoric or not, there's evidence that those in charge of regulating water supplies take any disparagement of the goods very seriously.

A few months ago, a couple of Florida DJs pranked the local population, issuing a warning that the local drinking water was full of "dihydrogen monoxide." A small panic ensued and the pair briefly found themselves facing possible felony charges before more rational thinking prevailed.
[A]pparently, the station, the water works, and perhaps the authorities are still trying to figure out if the two hosts could face felony charges for, again, reporting that the scientific name of water was coming out of the pipes. "My understanding is it is a felony to call in a false water quality issue," Diane Holm, a public information officer for Lee County, told WTSP, while Renda stood firm about his deejays: "They will have to deal with the circumstances."
There you have it. If citizens know what's good for them, they'll shut up and choke down the local water, no matter how loaded with unexpected minerals, chemicals and barely treated sewage it is. This is America, dammit, home of the world's finest water! We certainly don't need rowdy crowds of dehydrated malcontents ruining our reputation at home and abroad with their terroristic complaining.



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  1.  
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    rw (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 7:24am

    Terrorism

    It's becoming more and more obvious the only terrorist in the US are in government.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 8:31am

    Sit down and shut up

    Quiet citizens are good citizens.

     

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  3.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 8:32am

    Only terrorists complain about a lot of things.

    There must be billions of the suckers by now.

     

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  4.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 8:32am

    The stupid... it burns...

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 8:33am

    Use some common sense. If you go around saying that there's a bunch of poison in the water in order to cause a panic, and you know it's not true, that seems like terrorism.

    On the other hand, if you're describing the water as "heavily diluted silt,", or that it's "so hard it's best consumed with a chisel and a fork" that's not exactly going to cause a panic. There's a big difference between "this water tastes bad and is leaving deposits" and "this water will kill us all."

     

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  6.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 8:34am

    Re:

    but then if you worry about thinks getting into the water from fracking your a terrorist standing against the american way!

    Common sense never applies to the government.

     

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  7.  
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    Michael, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 8:50am

    I am told that the meeting was far longer than the audio clip provided by SOCM and that Mr. Smith actually clarified his remarks

    I have his clarification right here:

    If you continue down this path of complaining about the water quality, the department of homeland security is going to declare you a terrorist and water-board you with this carcinogenic crap until you are permanently silenced. We will see if you like the taste of the water in Guantanamo Bay any better.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 8:53am

    test

     

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  9.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 8:53am

    Re:

    At least at GITMO the rules of war mean they have to provide clean water...

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 8:56am

    Breaking News..

    FDA expands the program to state and local officials and employees. It appears that the problem is MUCH larger than the FDA originally anticipated.

     

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  11.  
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    YP (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:01am

    Let this guy know how you feel:

    Sherwin Smith, Deputy Director
    Division of Water Resources
    615-532-0445
    sherwin.smith@tn.gov

     

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  12.  
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    Matthew A. Sawtell, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:03am

    There is a term for this: "Trying to Keep Official Harmony"

    There is a term from my wife's old neck of the woods to discribe this sort of behaviour, "Trying to Keep Official Harmony". Trouble is, this fellow is not a member of the CCP, and he is not in P.R. China (because this story most likely would not have been recorded) and anyone attempting to talk about it on the Internet (or attempt to petition it to a higher authority) would be branded as 'attempting to disrupt civil order'.

    Yet, the actions of the officals are merely a reflection of the people that elected them into office, or the elected the people that appointed the board. - http://bbs.chinadaily.com.cn/blog-135031-9764.html

     

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  13.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:04am

    Re: Terrorism

    It's becoming more and more obvious that the only people who are not terrorists in the US are in government.

     

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  14.  
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    cpt kangarooski, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:06am

    Re:

    Use some common sense. If you go around saying that there's a bunch of poison in the water in order to cause a panic, and you know it's not true, that seems like terrorism.

    Wow, you're just awful.

    There's no real definition of terrorism. States that define it (in order to prohibit it) invariably do so in a way that allows them to engage in terrorism against their enemies and their own people, and to allow their allies to engage in it abroad. Academics, NGOs, international organizations, etc. tend to adopt broader views, also condemning state terrorism.

    But one of the most commonly agreed upon criteria is that it requires violence or the threat of violence. That's missing here. Merely criticizing the government, whether it results in a panic or not, is not only not terrorism, it's a fundamentally important and necessary thing to do in a democracy.

    So take your lily-livered kowtowing to authority figures who are so weak and insecure that they cannot even stand the slightest opposition, and go fuck yourself with it.

    And before you drag out the old 'falsely shouting fire in a theater' example, know that the case it comes from (Schenck v. US) is no longer good law, having been superseded by Brandenberg v. Ohio, which is more protective of free speech, and also even by Schenck's crappy logic, truthfully shouting fire is protected and in fact admirable.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:14am

    Re: Re:

    Furthermore, for it to be terrorism there has to be a malicious intent. Even the example of pranking the people in Florida, while it did cause panic on the part of some people, those who did so were not attempting to cause them any harm so it isn't terrorism.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:14am

    Re: Re:

    Furthermore, for it to be terrorism there has to be a malicious intent. Even the example of pranking the people in Florida, while it did cause panic on the part of some people, those who did so were not attempting to cause them any harm so it isn't terrorism.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    Only terrorists have to test things, you terrorist!

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:27am

    Re: There is a term for this: "Trying to Keep Official Harmony"

    Yet, the actions of the officals are merely a reflection of the people that elected them into office, or the elected the people that appointed the board.

    That's the theory, but in practice money selects the candidates that the people can elect. Therefore the people are reduced to endorsing one of several corporate choices of candidate.

     

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  19.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:29am

    Re:

    No, actually putting poison in the water is terrorism.

     

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  20.  
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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:32am

    Bad name, dude

    Rep. [Sheila] Butt, who organized the meeting, also was shocked.


    Ouch! A name like that's bound to make her the *ahem* target of all sorts of jokes...

     

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  21.  
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    Transmitte, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:42am

    Damn, I take a weekend off, come back and read what's been going on here on TD and I realized: I woke up to a lot of goddamn stupid today.

    This guy needs his knee slammed with a brick for even banging that drum. Terrorism indeed! He's just using his power and a hot button topic to scare people into silence.

     

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  22.  
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    Joe, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:43am

    Where's Nestle in this argument?

    If only there was a company that sought to privatize the water supply...

     

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  23.  
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    New Mexico Mark, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:47am

    Re: There is a term for this: "Trying to Keep Official Harmony"

    Time to watch "Mr. Roberts" again as a reminder of who the real enemies are. I think it's high time there was more "disharmony on this here ship" of state because we are WAY off course.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 9:50am

    Re: Re:

    that is not necessarily true. Terrorism is all about spreading fear and death in a populace. Adding poison to the water would seem to be of too low significance. (satire of the definition of terrorism may be included)

     

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  25.  
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    Internet Zen Master (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 10:18am

    Ah Dr. Strangelove

    "I can no longer sit back and allow terrorist infiltration, terrorist indoctrination, terrorist subversion, and the international terrorism conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids!"

    Seriously, is this Sherwin Smith fellow related to a General Jack D. Ripper by any chance?

     

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  26.  
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    Mr Bad Example, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 10:20am

    Blundering bureaucrats

    Just another lazy, uncaring asshat of a bureaucrat trying to bully the people he's supposed to be working for, rather than actually doing his job. Hopefully, he'll lose his job after this bit of bad publicity and have to face reality-stupid people like him can't even get hired at McDonalds these days.

     

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  27.  
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    Ben (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 10:21am

    Re: Re: Terrorism

    It's becoming more and more obvious that the only terrorists in the US are in the minds of the US government.

    (I'm looking at you FBI)

     

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  28.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 10:32am

    Re: Sit down and shut up

    Be Pure. Be Vigilant. Behave.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 10:35am

    Re:

    Is that a little Streisand that I detect in your post? :)

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 10:38am

    Re: Bad name, dude

    So you are saying that the state legislators are speaking out of their Butt on this issue?

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 10:39am

    Re: Re: Bad name, dude

    Sorry. Couldn't resist.

     

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  32.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 10:39am

    Re:

    My thoughts exactly. I think it's about time we re-brand terrorism as "socially accepted and endorsed behavior" for the sake of proper semantics.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 10:47am

    :o
    they finally admit that complaints from citizens to their government are considered 'acts of terrorism'
    ... It starts. >:D

     

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  34.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 11:00am

    Before Terrorist, there was Communist, before that...

    In the USA someone disagreeing with authority was probably pro-British or something.
    Once upon a time terrorist had a meaning, it's used so much now it has none. Before that calling someone a communist at least described a certain political, economic and social ideology, being pro-Brit, well, a denial of where the 13 States came from but still understandable at least.
    Used too often words lose meaning. Terrorist has lost it's meaning, as communist did before that (until it's total failure in imperialist places like Russia.)
    All any of these has ever meant, when tossed about like the water board guy did, is dissidents or people who complain about the fact that they can use their water as a substitute for concrete. Ahhh, freedom, where art thou now that we need you|!

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 11:05am

    Re: Terrorism

    I think its clear that what the government defines as terrorism, is not the same thing that most of us think of.

    Most people's definition:

    Terrorism: the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes. (Source: Dictionary.com)

    Example: The September 11th attacks were an act of terrorism.

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    Government's definition:

    Terrorism: What we accuse people of when we don't get our way.

    Example: You stole my candy you terrorist!

     

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  36.  
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    Internet Zen Master (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 11:14am

    Re: Before Terrorist, there was Communist, before that...

    Probably the same place as Jimmy Hoffa.

     

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  37.  
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    Michael, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 11:15am

    Re:

    Posting publicly available contact information for a government employee could be considered an “act of terrorism.”

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 11:16am

    Re: Water Quality

    There are numerous mundane reasons why the water quality could be poor. Also, there is a perception issue: what exactly is poor water quality? It is based on visual characteristics, taste, bacteria, and pollutants. The first two would be readily identified by anyone and the last two often require laboratory tests to properly determine. I do not know the basis of the residents' complaints but it is not terrorism.

    Terrorism at the water plant would either be sabotage or spiking the water supply with a tasteless poison or pathogen. Since the local residents apparently are dieing in unusual numbers terrorism has almost certainly not occurred.

     

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  39.  
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    Michael, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 11:18am

    Re: Bad name, dude

    You need to be more careful when your comments result in a shocked Butt.

     

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  40.  
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    Michael, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 11:19am

    Re: Blundering bureaucrats

    or they make him drink the water.

     

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  41.  
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    The Real Michael, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 11:37am

    Re:

    Seriously, who does this guy think he is to label innocent Americans as potential terrorists? By whose authority? Certainly not the People's. The government so desperately wants to stretch the definition of what constitutes terrorism so that it can go after any group of people it arbitrarily takes exception to (think IRS) and give itself free reign to stomp all over our rights, treating American citizens as 'enemy combatants.'

    Maybe that shit worked in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia but it sure as hell isn't going to work here!

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 11:38am

    poisoning the water!!!

    Eye: Causes eye irritation and possible burns. May cause chemical conjunctivitis and corneal damage.
    Skin: Contact with skin causes irritation and possible burns, especially if the skin is wet or moist. May cause skin rash (in milder cases), and cold and clammy skin with cyanosis or pale color.
    Ingestion: May be fatal if swallowed. Ingestion of large amounts of fluoride may cause salivation, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, labored breathing. Exposure to fluoride compounds can result in systemic toxic effects on the heart, liver, and kidneys. It may also deplete calcium levels in the body leading to hypocalcemia and death. May cause irritation of the digestive tract and possible burns. May cause respiratory paralysis and cardiac arrest.
    Inhalation: May cause severe irritation of the respiratory tract with possible burns. Aspiration may lead to pulmonary edema. Prolonged exposure to dusts, vapors, or mists may result in the perforation of the nasal septum. May cause systemic effects.
    Chronic: Chronic inhalation and ingestion may cause chronic fluoride poisoning (fluorosis) characterized by weight loss, weakness, anemia, brittle bones, and stiff joints. Effects may be delayed. Chronic exposure may cause lung damage. Laboratory experiments have resulted in mutagenic effects. Chronic exposure to fluoride compounds may cause systemic toxicity. Skeletal effects may include bone brittleness, joint stiffness, teeth discoloration, tendon calcification, and osterosclerosis. Animal studies have reported the development of tumors.


    ACK the government is poisoning the water!

     

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  43.  
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    The Real Michael, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 11:43am

    Re:

    The thought police are here.

    I refuse to be ruled by fear and intimidation. I'm American, after all -- we FAR outnumber the government.

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 11:46am

    Definition of Terrorist: Sherwin Smith

    By definition should not Sherwin Smith be arrested as a terrorist? He threatened the public, and if the water quality is bad, he is using a weapon of mass destruction on the public.

     

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  45.  
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    zerostar83 (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 11:48am

    Re:

    I'm amazed that the zero-tolerance policies in high schools have seeped into local government.

     

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  46.  
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    The Real Michael, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 11:53am

    Re: Definition of Terrorist: Sherwin Smith

    They have so much sodium fouride (toxic waste), but because environmental agencies won't allow them to dump it in our rivers, lakes and the ocean, they dump it in our water supply for us to drink. They also put it in our toothpaste. Kind of makes you wonder about things...

     

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  47.  
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    Matthew A. Sawtell, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Re: There is a term for this: "Trying to Keep Official Harmony"

    At a local like this? Sorry, that standard rebuke/excuse wears thin. How much does it take to get a name on a local ballot?

     

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  48.  
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    Votre (profile), Jun 24th, 2013 @ 12:42pm

    Yes indeed. These government types do have good reason to become concerned when the public gets a little antsy and outspoken.

    Consider how the Boston Tea Party would be considered a "terrorist act" under current US laws. And look at all that followed after that event.

     

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  49.  
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    vastrightwing, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Terrorism

    ABSOLUTELY!

    I've seen terror, mostly it originates from sources screaming the loudest about preventing it. How ironic!

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Re:

    The actions of Barney the purple dinosaur could be considered "acts of terrorism." (If you have kids, you understand these things.)

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 2:11pm

    considering that the government, both local and national and the various services, eg water, are all employed to supply things to the people. as those services have to be paid for and have to meet very stringent checks, can someone please tell me, is there anything/anyone that the people are allowed to complain about or has the USA turned totally Fascist, whereby the people dont mean squat and have to put up with anything and everything thrown at them, from crap water to shitty decisions without saying a word?

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 2:22pm

    Re:

    So hyperbole is now a crime?

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 7:34pm

    Re: Re: Before Terrorist, there was Communist, before that...

    Toryism

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 10:32pm

    Re: Re:

    "But one of the most commonly agreed upon criteria is that it requires violence or the threat of violence. That's missing here."

    So your argument is that poison is nonviolent?

    "Merely criticizing the government, whether it results in a panic or not, is not only not terrorism, it's a fundamentally important and necessary thing to do in a democracy."

    We agree on that.

    "truthfully shouting fire is protected and in fact admirable."

    Yes, but I said "in order to cause a panic, and you know it's not true". I'm not even requiring that it BE true, just that the person THINK it's true. Otherwise it's on the same level as falsely saying there's a bomb about to go off. It's not protected speech and you can be arrested for it.

     

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  55.  
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    O.P.E., Jun 25th, 2013 @ 6:31am

    O.P.E.

    O.P.E.

     

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  56.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2013 @ 6:32am

    Re: O.P.E.

    Good man Jack.

     

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  57.  
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    Niall (profile), Jun 25th, 2013 @ 6:39am

    Re: Re: Terrorism

    Ah, but the public 'threatens' the government with the 'violence' of being able to vote them out of their cushy jobs and pensions and free medicine.

     

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  58.  
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    Niall (profile), Jun 25th, 2013 @ 6:44am

    Re:

    You also have to remember that one man's 'terrorist' is another man's 'freedom fighter'. That's why it's perfectly ok to rebel against your lawful king and (violently) declare a revolution, but not ok to (violently) protest a country's excesses abroad. It's ok to pay money to an organisation that will use it to kill and maim innocents (US to the IRA/Iran/Contras/Israel) but not to pay money to an organisation that will use it to kill and maim innocents (anyone else to Hamas/Hezbollah/Taliban).

     

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  59.  
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    Niall (profile), Jun 25th, 2013 @ 6:46am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, they were maliciously telling the truth. Because *that* a crime in the United Soviet Stasi of Murika.

     

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  60.  
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    Niall (profile), Jun 25th, 2013 @ 6:47am

    Re: poisoning the water!!!

    Do I really have to list the same chemical things for Hydrogen Hydroxide? It's exactly that sort of blindly reeling off a list that Dihydrogen Monoxide jokes are meant to send up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), Jun 25th, 2013 @ 6:51am

    Re: Re: Definition of Terrorist: Sherwin Smith

    So something that is medically considered (by many) to be helpful and safe at certain concentrations can't be 'dumped' in the rivers so has to be 'dumped' in the water supply?

    Your logic is so strained it ripped your tinfoil hat. Watch out! The government probably vaccinated you too!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  62.  
    identicon
    Plum, Jun 26th, 2013 @ 10:39am

    Re: Re: Definition of Terrorist: Sherwin Smith

    The toxic waste that they're putting in the water is not sodium fluoride, it's hexafluorosilicic acid, or else sodium hexafluorosilicate.

    Sodium fluoride is indeed in toothpaste, which people generally don't swallow.

    Fluoridating water is nonsense, but fluoride toothpaste can really prevent deterioration dental health.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  63.  
    identicon
    Plum, Jun 26th, 2013 @ 10:42am

    The War on Terror has lasted so long the words have lost all meaning.
    That implies that they had meaning in the first place. My mother has always dismissed this phrase as being meaningless, since, as she says, war IS terror.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  64.  
    identicon
    No One, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 9:40pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Claiming there is poison is non-violent. That person is neither threatening to poison anyone or actually doing so.



    Knowingly causing a panic is far better handled under law concerned with fraud unless violence is used or threatened in the creation of that panic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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