Monday, February 28, 2011

Shutdown: Don't Panic (YET) Week

Well, here we are, lads and lassies. This week will be nuts.

Collective Bargaining News

On Tuesday, our homegrown budget nuttiness could go into endgame, as what Gov. Scott Walker says is a crucial deadline in his budget repair bill will irrevocably pass, forcing him to lay off 1,500 state employees (although Sen. Mark Miller has challenged this).

At midnight on Thursday, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NFL and the NFL Players' Association will expire. What happens in the next four days will largely determine whether the NFL has a lockout for the 2011 season.

And in slightly more serious news, Friday, March 4th is the deadline for Congressional Republicans and Democrats to come to some agreement on a continuing resolution that will fund the federal government, or (heaven forbid) actually pass a budget. Failure to do so could result in a government shutdown. 

Also in the "nutty news" category, apparently Navy ships are required by federal law to sell tobacco on board, thanks to some hefty lobbying by the tobacco industry. 

The military has denied Rolling Stone's allegations that a certain Lt. Colonel Holmes was asked to perform 'psychological warfare' techniques on visiting U.S. and Afghan dignitaries. The Washington Post goes into some much-needed investigative reporting detail about the subject. It's kind of funny, actually. Rolling Stone's overblown article played up the one-man-against-the-machine angle, detailing how Holmes was reprimanded and censured for refusing to follow orders he considered illegal. But the Post not only shows how Holmes' assignment resulted from a bureaucratic reorganization rather then a sinister order, it highlights all the efforts Holmes made to fight the policy, from fighting with his superiors to consulting a military lawyer, to-revealingly-emailing the press to get his story out. (His first choice, for some reason, was the St. Petersburg Times. They turned him down, so he went to Rolling Stone.)

The House of Representatives will vote today on H.R. 386, which would enact a federal law against aiming laser pointers at aircraft. I thought this was a joke bill, but apparently it's a big safety issue; lasers flashed in a pilot's eyes during takeoff or landing could temporarily blind the pilot and even cause a crash. The penalty would be a fine or up to five years in prison, or both.

And the New York Times has published a mammoth piece on the health hazards of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing of rocks underground to release natural gas. Gas looked so promising when I was writing my paper last fall; now, with the revelations that fracking creates so much wastewater and is bad for the environment, coupled with the news that it may not be as carbon-friendly as we thought, well... huh. 

(Hilarious quote from a Texan gas-well neighbor: "“I’m not an activist, an alarmist, a Democrat, environmentalist or anything like that,” Ms. Gant said.")

Of course, nobody else is really clean, either. The Union of Concerned Scientists recently published their report on subsidies to nuclear power, "The Gift That Keeps On Taking". I have every intention of reading the full PDF, but it's a hundred and fifty-odd pages, so I might be a while.

So, uh... keep checking back throughout the week as my state, federal and entertainment governments attempt to avoid their various fiscal boondoggles. 

Bonne chance.

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