Protecting Government from Pesky Whistle-Blowers

Supreme Court curbs protections for whistle-blowers By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press

The Supreme Court scaled back protections for government workers who blow the whistle on official misconduct Tuesday, a 5-4 decision in which new Justice Samuel Alito cast the deciding vote.

In a victory for the Bush administration, justices said the 20 million public employees do not have free-speech protections for what they say as part of their jobs.

Critics predicted the impact would be sweeping, from silencing police officers who fear retribution for reporting department corruption, to subduing federal employees who want to reveal problems with government hurricane preparedness or terrorist-related security.

Supporters said that it will protect governments from lawsuits filed by disgruntled workers pretending to be legitimate whistle-blowers. [mjh: a rampant problem, as we all know.]

“Official communications have official consequences, creating a need for substantive consistency and clarity. Supervisors must ensure that their employees’ official communications are accurate, demonstrate sound judgment, and promote the employer’s mission,” Kennedy wrote.

Justice David Souter’s lengthy dissent sounded like it might have been the majority opinion if O’Connor were still on the court. “Private and public interests in addressing official wrongdoing and threats to health and safety can outweigh the government’s stake in the efficient implementation of policy,” he wrote. Souter was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Name Game

The slick marketers who run the country now call it the “American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act.” I might call it the “Rape the Wilderness for Short-term Gains Act” or maybe the “Undo Past Compromises Act.” How about the “Head in the Sand Act”? mjh

American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act

This House bill would open a strip of coastal land in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

The House passed H.R. 5429, to direct the Secretary of the Interior to establish and implement a competitive oil and gas leasing program that will result in an environmentally sound program for the exploration, development, and production of the oil and gas resources of the Coastal Plain of Alaska, by a yea-and-nay vote of 225 yeas to 201 nays, Roll No. 209 [7 Not Voting].

Nay: Tom Udall
Yea: Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce
Not Voting: Tom DeLay

Arctic Journey: Slideshow

The Wilderness Society is proud to present a slideshow featuring photos from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Debating the Bugs of High-Tech Voting

Debating the Bugs of High-Tech Voting By Zachary A. Goldfarb, Special to The Washington Post

The latest dispute [in the debate over high-tech voting machines] occurred several weeks ago after it was discovered at a test in Utah that someone with a reasonable knowledge of computer code could gain access to and tamper with the system software on a popular brand of voting machine manufactured by Diebold Election Systems. The developments prompted California and Pennsylvania to send urgent warnings to counties that use Diebold’s touch-screen voting systems to take additional steps to secure them.

Indonesian villagers blame magic, not flu

If there were a village of atheists (hard to imagine), they might well react to natural events with their own brand of ignorance — we’re all ignorant of something, and fear of the unknown is a very human quality. Still, one should note that religion and faith are doing nothing in the following case to counter ignorance and fear. mjh

Indonesian villagers blame magic, not flu

Some neighbors insist, however, that bird flu is not to blame. They are convinced black magic is at work, that ghosts now haunt their quiet Christian community of about 1,500 people.

Many are too scared to even pass by the family’s houses, and some who live nearby are awakened by nightmares that they will be the next to die.

“We are so afraid just to step into that house,” said a 37-year-old woman who identified herself only as Sembining. “We can’t tell what we’re afraid of – we’re just afraid.”

War and Peace

At first, I liked the notion of a Peace Department as yin to the Pentagon’s yang. But, we have a peace department; it’s called the State Department. On the other hand, I wholly endorse the notion of returning the Defense Department’s original name: the War Department. mjh

ABQjournal: News Around N.M.

SILVER CITY— The Silver City Town Council has adopted a resolution calling for the federal government to form a U.S. Department of Peace.

The council voted 3-1 on Tuesday night in favor of the resolution, which asks Congress to establish a Cabinet-level department geared toward peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world.

The resolution encourages Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M.— whose congressional district includes Silver City— to sign on as sponsors of a measure introduced in Congress last year for a Department of Peace.