Thursday, January 15, 2009

Furlough Tips For the Hawpester

The Courier-Journal's parent corporation, Gannett, has announced that it will force most of the employees at its newspapers to take a one week furlough -- essentially an unpaid vacation. Gannett owns 85 daily newspapers including the C-J and USA Today. The company said that the furlough is an attempt to cut costs and avoid layoffs.

According to the New York Times,

A second memo to Gannett employees says that some categories of “essential employees” will be exempted from the enforced time off, as will newly hired employees, but it adds, “there will be no individual hardship exceptions.” It also says that to comply with federal and state labor laws, a furloughed employee must strictly observe a no-work rule, not even “reading or responding to e-mails, calling or responding to calls from colleagues.”

The prospect of a furlough at the C-J raises some issues. First and foremost, who is an "essential employee"? Does that include David Hawpe? His narcissistic meanderings suggest that he is essential, at least in his own mind.

But if Hawpe is not deemed essential, then an issue arises as to how he should spend his week of unpaid vacation.

Hawpe could go to D.C. to attend the Inauguration and in between events picket Gannett's headquarters just across the Potomac. Then he might be able to deduct the trip as a business expense. He could ask the nominee for Secretary of the Treasury -- that poster-boy for government competence -- about the deductibility issue, but to play it safe, Hawpe should get a second opinion from H&R Block.

Hawpe might not get much of a welcome from the Obamas, given his support of Hillary Clinton. Perhaps he could leverage his support of the incoming Secretary of State into a furlough boondoggle with an international twist. Hawpe could shield Clinton from sniper fire the next time she goes to Bosnia.

If the furlough comes sooner rather than later, Hawpe could hang out in Frankfort for a week and spin conspiracy theories. Last year, he opined that Kentucky universities were forced to cut spending because the state had failed to raise taxes. This failure to tax, according to Hawpe, stems from a secret command from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to hold the line on taxes. That's right, Hawpe asserts that our senior U.S. Senator somehow has prevented our Democratic governor and his Democratic General Assembly from taxing and spending sufficiently.

Fuloughed employees, however, cannot read or send email. Frankfort might be too much of a temptation in that regard. Hawpe might do better communing with nature for a week.

The Age of Obama has made green chic, and Hawpe has long regaled us with his environmental bona fides. Last year, he joined Al Gore's call for civil disobedience to stop coal production. He wrote approvingly of those who tied themselves to steel drums to block construction of a coal plant. If Hawpe plans to spend his furlough strapped to steel drum, he'd better pray for a break in the weather.

Although the Hawpester apparently loved Alaska in December, so much so that he treated us, his loyal readers, to a list of everything he ate. And drank. Man of the people that he is, Hawpe indulged in

Other gastronomic delights, such as moose chili and cornbread at a special neighbor's house, and, another night, an office Christmas supper at The Turtle Club (I ordered escargots and a pile of Alaskan King Crab legs with hot butter), followed later, at home, by some Banyuls Grand Cru 1949 to settle the stomach.

The lousy thing about furloughs is that they are unpaid. So if Hawpe needs to "settle the stomach" during his week off, he might better skip the $187 a bottle wine and opt for Pepto Bismal. The upside of a Hawpe furlough is that we the readers will need less Pepto Bismal while we await his return.

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