Under the Sun
Prospects better for flies than for Justice Department
HAWAIIAN picture-wing flies and independent federal attorneys have little in common except that the former include endangered species while the latter may become so and that the survival of both hangs on an administration that has warped the missions of agencies intended to guard America.
For the flies, prospects look to get better.
For the people's lawyers, a more dismal future looms as President Bush's ambition to slip ideological tentacles throughout government continues even as his political influence draws down.
In his view, America is made up of "loyal Bushies" -- a qualification used by one of Alberto Gonzales' many erstwhile Justice Department minions in determining which U.S. attorneys to fire -- and the rest of the nation.
Bushies are to be rewarded, their desires indulged. Laws and rules? They do not count. It is a cast of mind that has bred a free-for-all of unscrupulous conduct.
In the matter of the flies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said it will review and probably reject decisions made by a political appointee on their habitats.
Bushie Julie MacDonald resigned as an Interior Department deputy assistant secretary after an investigation found she had violated federal rules and possibly broken the law when she forced government scientists to change their research to conform with her wish to limit wildlife protection.
MacDonald forgot who was footing her paycheck when she handed internal agency documents to lobbyists and lawyers for oil, mining, timber and development industries so they could better defend their clients' financial interests. She forgot that her job was to consider data objectively to determine how best to protect the flies, unique for intricate patterns on see-through wings and their exceptional adaptive abilities.
MacDonald and the scores of other Bushies who've stepped across legal and ethical boundaries came to possess their corrupt entitlement via a president who believes he can't be held to accounts.
His reverence for loyalty and a wish to please patrons eclipse good sense. In that atmosphere, when things go awry, citizens become enemies or are treated as pests.
How else to explain the Federal Emergency Management Agency's refusal to test trailers provided for Katrina victims for toxic formaldehyde.
You'd expect that when FEMA learned that the trailers were giving off 75 times the government-recommended maximum for safety, it would have immediately looked into it. No, the agency squelched warnings from its workers, ignored complains of illnesses, and left thousands of families in the trailers without notice.
Only the night before House committee hearing did FEMA director R. David Paulison seek tests, but implied the issue had been overblown since it just involved about 200 reports of illnesses.
The affliction at the Justice Department has far greater potential for spreading widely. Besides the nine fired for questionable loyalties, scores of career attorneys have left the building. Political appointees have altered the climate by hiring ideological mimics of lawyers.
Meanwhile, Gonzales insults Congress and Americans with prevaricated, convoluted accounts of the mess he's made. But Bush still stands by his man, just as his man stands by to buffer the boss. Loyal is as loyal does.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org