Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke gave one heck of a speech to the National Petroleum Council yesterday, telling the industry group that he planned to move the Bureau of Land Management out of Washington and into an unspecified western state. He also said that one third of the employees in the Department of the Interior were not loyal to him or President Trump. That made headlines, but my favorite part of the story is the secretary’s nautical metaphor. Zinke told the assembled oil company reps that he knew when he took over Interior, “I got 30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag.”
That’s the old Zinke charm, right there: by analogizing everything to the Navy, he makes his career as a SEAL the prerequisite for whatever job he has been called on to do. Of course, one side effect of this metaphor is that it conflates loyalty to the United States with loyalty to Trump. If Zinke is correct, and a third of his department is resisting his agenda from within, maybe it’s because they are more loyal to the Department of the Interior than to this particular administration. The new secretary’s plan is to radically restructure the department, after all. Perhaps they’re not on board with his changes because they have a bunch of experience, whereas Zinke has seen fit to re-envision a whole department in the executive branch despite never having done anything like this before. That’s the Trump administration’s promise, though: they’re going to completely change Washing by drawing on the wisdom they have gained by never working in it.
Anyway, best of luck to Commander Zinke in rooting out the traitors in his midst. I also wish him luck in his ongoing plan to protect public lands, a commitment that defined his politics right up until he stopped needing to win elections. On a completely unrelated note, here’s the other fun quote from the AP’s report:
Zinke also offered a quirky defense of hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique also known as fracking that has led to a years-long energy boom in the U.S., with sharply increased production of oil and natural gas.
“Fracking is proof that God’s got a good sense of humor and he loves us,” Zinke said without explanation.
The market for high-speed internet (artist’s conception)
I work from home, so when the internet stops working, I have a bad time. One such bad time was had throughout Missoula yesterday, when Charter internet service went down for the whole damn town. The Missoulian confirms the outage, but it doesn’t offer much else. Maybe that’s because even reporters can’t communicate with Charter except through their customer service call center, where a representative from the company would not say why the outage happened, when it would be fixed, how many customers were affected or what her own name was. Later in the day, a company spokesman declined to say most of the same things, although at least he offered his name. I hope the negative publicity from this failure doesn’t affect Charter’s busine—oh, right. They have a monopoly.
Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London
Wikileaks, the activist journalism/espionage organization run by creepy weirdo Julian Assange, has offered a $100,000 bounty for text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. I checked my computer, and I don’t have the .pdf. It turns out the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are secret. Details of the 12-nation agreement—reputed to restrict the sale of generic pharmaceuticals, constrain fair use of copyrighted materials, and created an international trade court where corporations can sue national governments—are secret. None of that stuff I just listed is necessarily true. Right now, the text of the TPP is available to members of Congress, who can read the treaty in a special room but are not allowed to discuss its contents publicly. Representatives of about 600 private companies can also access the document via a secret internet portal. The general public cannot.
Former Mass. Sen. Scott Brown now works for Peabody Nixon in “business and government affairs.”
The Dodd-Frank Act is not quite five years old, but it has already become an intolerable obstacle to the
American economy finance industry. Don’t worry: the finance, insurance and real estate industry spent $74 million on 704 registered lobbyists in the first three quarters of 2014. That’s a 2.5 percent increase in a year where every other industry’s lobbying expenditures went down. It was money well spent. Since mid-December, the House has voted to impose stricter cost-benefit analyses and judicial reviews on all enforcement agencies; today, it is expected to postpone enforcement of Dodd-Frank provisions and weaken related regulations on financial services. You didn’t think the finance industry would invest $74 million unwisely. I mean, what is this, 2008?
Mime Elizabeth Warren fights back against Big Box.
Let’s start with the good news: Congress has passed an omnibus spending bill that will avert government shutdown, ensure that schoolchildren are getting enough salt, and free cattle farmers from greenhouse gas regulations. I guess the good news stopped with the first clause in that list, but still—soluble government! It does come at a cost, though. Remember the financial collapse triggered by an unstable derivatives market that required a trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout to correct? Trick question: we never corrected it. But banks are doing pretty well now, so they’re ready to leverage themselves into risky derivative trades again, and could they please do it with federal deposit insurance? Granted! Thus a key provision of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations is rolled back, and Congress recreates the conditions that preceded the worst economic collapse in three generations—falling gas prices and all.