Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Playing Catch-Up

I've sort of been paralyzed by indecision lately (so much to write about, so little time!) and the result has been complete silence on a number of really important issues. In an effort to fix that, in this post I'm going to address a few things that have been happening in our crazy country lately. Bear with me.

First: Freedom of Speech v. Freedom of Information
Some really disturbing news came out of the labor rights controversy last week. Conservative Michigan Think Tank Mackinac Center for Public Policy used the Freedom of Information Act to demand the emails of a handful of professors at Michigan public universities. In Wisconsin, the Republican Party demanded the emails of prominent scholar William Cronon, who challenged Governor Walker's attack on union rights. I understand the legal right to access information about public employees, but it's undeniable that these measures are a blatant form of political bullying. The GOP is seeking to create an atmosphere of fear and repression among scholars and vocal challengers. Rachel Maddow tackles the issue in the clip below, and while she tends towards the dramatic, she makes some great points about "big intrusive government conservativism" and it's implications.


Second: Good News (Finally!) for the EPA
There's plenty to be upset about when we take a look at the environment (tsunamis, leaking radioactive material, news broke that the ozone level thinned by FORTY percent this winter). I'm going to focus, though, on two positive developments for a change. Senate Democrats defeated a bill to ban the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases this week. The bill, which was backed by Republicans Mitch McConnell and James Inhofe, will reappear in the House later this week and will probably pass, unfortunately, but the White House has vowed to veto. I'm encouraged, though, simply by the fact that Democrats are saying no to the party of no.

In other news, at the Phillies season opener last Friday, fans witnessed the first "green fly-over." The Air Force debuted an F-15 fighter jet powered in part by fuel made from plant oil. The fuel was 50% plant product, primarily camelina, a weed considered more fuel efficient than ethanol. While still financially unfeasible, the Air Force is actively developing cheap, eco-friendly fuel, and has proven that this fuel is capable of powering the fastest jets in the world. The military's interest in green energy is an incredible gesture of hope and progress.

Finally, the very opposite of progress. I can't ignore the prospect of a government shutdown, but financial entanglements frustrate and confuse me. I'll leave the ranting to Jon Stewart, and just say this. The prospect of a shutdown absolutely terrifies me. The economic and political repercussions are far more expensive than a few concessions by either party. Let's all cross our fingers that this crisis is averted, and with minimal damage to the programs that define our country.

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