Ryan Zinke warns oil reps of disloyalty in Interior

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.

Daines says flag is a symbol but burning it is not expression

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) at the roast of Green Goblin

Ours is a lively time for federal government. Just this morning, Republicans in the Senate released a health care bill they’ve been crafting for weeks. We’ve withdrawn from the Paris climate accords. According to the president, who is admittedly not a reliable source, the president is under investigation by special prosecutor. Now seems like a particularly thrilling moment to be a US senator. With a seat in that chamber, a person could shape history. In unrelated news, Sen. Steve Daines, Republican of Montana, has proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit flag burning.

On Flag Day, his office issued a press release touting his plan to “give Congress the authority to prohibit burning of the American flag.” It included approving reactions form the Montana Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion on behalf of the Citizens Flag Alliance and, on the left, prominent American civil rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz the American Legion of Montana. Although the amendment looks like a slam dunk among Eisenhower-era social organizations, its reception in the press was more mixed. Here’s Jesse Chaney of the Helena Independent Record, on the campaign’s opinion about whether this isn’t the first restriction on free expression in American history:

Daines’ staff said the senator does not consider flag desecration to be a form of peaceful expression. They said his amendment would not limit anyone’s right to expression, but [would] distinguish flag desecration as conduct not protected by the Constitution. The senator’s staff noted that Congress already bans many other forms of conduct through criminal law.

I checked with a lawyer, and that last part is right: criminal law does ban many forms of conduct. But all expression is a form of conduct. It’s a subcategory. Daines’s argument is like saying, “That’s not a square; it’s a rhombus.” What distinguishes expression as a particular type of conduct is its symbolic meaning. Speaking aloud is conduct, but it is the symbolic content of the noise that we endeavor to keep free. And Sen. Daines himself calls the flag a symbol twice in the second paragraph of his press release. Quote:

The American flag has been a symbol of hope and freedom for centuries and ought to be respected. Our nation’s flag must be set apart as a protected symbol worthy of honor.

It’s almost like his argument has no underlying logical framework at all. Maybe it sounds better in the original Goblish. You can read many such cheap cracks and appeals to internal coherence in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent.

We will not be back tomorrow with Friday links. We will be driving to a wedding in Washington state, and the following week we’ll be in New York City with our girlfriend. There will be no Combat! blog from Monday, June 26th through Wednesday, July 5th, so that I can work on the goddamn novel and still have time to see the sights. Is this the longest vacation Combat! blog has taken in its nine-year tradition of existence? Yes it is. Will we all be okay? Probably. What am I, a futurologist?

Close readings: Heintzelman’s brush with potential dissent

Colin Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem.

Colin Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem.

Indy reporter and Missoula’s actual best journalist Derek Brouwer sent me this tweet from Missoulian publisher Mark Heintzelman, who narrowly avoided witnessing a protest at the annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce. Granted, no one actually protested. But they might have, given the way things are going in this country. Quote:

Our colors were just presented at the annual meeting of the @MissoulaChamber and, thankfully, everybody stood.

What a relief! Again, no one knelt or raised one fist in the air or conveyed anything but deferential respect for the flag—sorry, “our colors,” because apparently we’re all sailors in the War of 1812—but if they had, Heintzelman would have been against it. He sounds a little disappointed no one did. Close reading after the jump.

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Friday links! Half-remembered pasts edition

Parker Posey in Kicking And Screaming

Parker Posey in Kicking And Screaming

First of all, sorry for scaring everybody yesterday. I’m still vertiginous, and the Missoula health care system is still unwilling to care for my health on shorter notice than it takes to quit a job at Taco Bell, but I have not given up on life. One reason I will not just sicken and die is that I live in a tower of iron will. Remember the six months in 2007 when I broke my hand, dislocated my shoulder and tore my transverse abdominus? This is not as bad as that, although I’m pretty sure music was better then. It’s hard to remember, because drugs were better, too. Today is Friday, and I suspect that everything was easier in the past, but I can’t prove it. Won’t you compare epochs with me?

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Friday links! Invincible perfection of ideology edition

Vladimir Putin and a puppy that later betrayed him

Vladimir Putin and a puppy that later betrayed him

We all know that one ideology is correct. That’s just common sense. So many ideas are wrong, and so many people are wrong for holding them, that there must necessarily be a way of thinking and behaving that is absolutely right. It’s like when you see land; you know there must be an ocean somewhere, because otherwise you would just be seeing space. But how can you know which ideology is correct? With your heart, obviously. And how can you know whether you are adhering to that ideology enough? Through constant vigilance—specifically, constant vigilance of others. Today is Friday, as other people will agree but maybe not enough. Won’t you believe perfectly in a perfect ideology and become invincible with me?

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