By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
While the right-wingers currently can layer the top echelons of government with political appointees, and through privatizing outsource a considerable amount of work once done by the federal workers, they still are faced with the immovable object of a nonpartisan system for filling many of the ranks.
Last week Bush took a major step toward getting rid of it by implementing provisions of the act setting up the Department of Homeland Security. The new law allows the administration to hire and fire outside the civil service system. Under these procedures, the administration can curtail union rights and tie pay scales to what private employers pay workers.
Not surprisingly, government unions are suing to block the changes, which the Bush administration now says it wants to implement across the board. "The rules overturn 25 years of Civil Service law, radically reduce the rights of federal employees and deprive them of a voice over important issues like the time and place of work, overtime and the hiring of private contractors to do their jobs," Gregory J. O'Duden, general counsel of the National Treasury Employees Union, told The New York Times.
Some 1.75 million people are employed by the federal government, with perhaps one-half that number represented by unions. A quarter of a million federal workers are in Washington. Donald Rumsfeld took a swipe at the unionized civil service during the first Bush administration with an announcement he wants to get rid of many permanent jobssuch as custodial workthat he argued could be carried out by the private sector for lower wages.
Scalia stumps for virgin birth
Thanks to a resurgence of interest in fundamentalist strains of Christianity, the realm of politics is being refreshed from any number of unexpected sources. In addition to such standard topics as the meaning of Israel in the end-times and ferreting out the Antichrist, there is fierce academic debate over God's role in creating the Grand Canyon. Recently Justice Antonin Scalia, running neck and neck with fellow justice Clarence Thomas to become chief justice, jumped into the fray. In Baton Rouge for a Knights of Columbus shindig, Scalia took a moment to come to the defense of virgin birth. Noting that people widely mock such traditional beliefs, Scalia praised "traditional Catholics" who stand up for their faith, noting that "intellect and reason need not be laid aside for religion."
"It is not irrational to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses who had nothing to gain," said the justice. "There is something wrong with rejecting, a priori, the existence of miracles.
"If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world."