Sunday, February 06, 2005

We The People

Thomas Jefferson did not include the abuse of credit cards by the King’s Ministers as one of the justifications for the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps he should have. At least the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries might have thought twice.

There are several things that need to be understood about the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The first is its Mission Statement:

To manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth; to provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation; to promote safety for persons and property in connection with boating, hunting and fishing.

The second is that apparently the management of the department were issued American Express cards by the State.

In their zeal to manage, provide and promote, the Chairman and three officials of the department embarked on a fact finding mission. The three officials put $12,000 worth of supplies on the state plastic before going on a safari to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe and Virginia do not have a lot in common. The former is run by Robert Mugabe, a crazed dictator who has managed to ruin what was a functioning country. Even though the Governor of Virginia is a Democrat, the White House has not accused him of that. Virginians like to get into their SUV’s to go hunting or into their power boats to go fishing. Zimbabweans hope that the ox-drawn ambulance will arrive before the baby is born. The wildlife and inland fish tend to be a bit different as well. It has been many years since herds of springbok and water buffalo have wandered the grasslands of the Old Dominion. Rhinoceros horn poaching is almost unknown in the state. There are several prides of lions and a few cheetahs, but they are rarely released from the zoo to roam the suburbs of Richmond. As to the boating, Virginia does not issue crocodile licenses and there have been no reports of hippopotamus attacks since records have been kept.

To be fair to the Board members in question, the $40,000 travel cost of this selfless public service was paid for personally by the Chairman of the Department. Also, in fairness, after the State Secretary of Natural Resources vetoed the trip, the brave quartet used personal vacation time to make their 17 day voyage into the Heart of Darkness. However, the $12,000 credit card charges had already been made to equip the intrepid explorers with ‘clothing, cameras, luggage, rifle cases and other equipment’. Apparently, no state funds were used to charter the African Queen. Luckily, the $12,000 was not a complete waste. A white rhino, several nyala and impala antelopes, a warthog and a blue wildebeest were shot. Virginia’s fauna is in for some very tough management.

In response to the controversy, the Board members have decided to reimburse the state for the credit card charges. The really good news is that ‘the items that were purchased are items that are routinely purchased. (They) remain in use or are in the inventory of the department’. Undoubtedly the camouflage tracking outfits will come in handy in surveying Virginia’s giraffe herds. The cameras and luggage can be used for the next National Wetlands Conference in Las Vegas. It’s handy to have a rifle case or two when explaining to PETA why hunting is legal. The mosquito netting, pith helmets and the elephant gun can be held in reserve in preparation for global warming.

One wonders if Jefferson would use a write-in ballot in the next election to vote for George III.


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-anna (the particular ordinary.)

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