Guarding the Henhouse

Maybe it was from seeing so many Smokey Bear commercials, but I always thought that the Forest Service protected the forests, and the other various federal agencies named after other precious natural resources also attempted to husband these things that, really, belonged to We The People, and our neatly uniformed federal employees dutifully spent their days striving to protect our interests against those who would waste them.   Imagine my horror when I met an actual Forest Service employee (in a bar, admittedly) who wouldn’t shut up about how we hippies in Oregon were throwing our economy down the toilet because all we cared about were a bunch of stupid owls, a line of argument that would have considerably dampened my ardor had Smokey Bear not been so smoking hot nor I been such a tart.  At any rate, a bit or harlotry in this case taught me more than the usual lesson:  our entire federal regulatory structure has been so completely captured by the industries who hope to defeat it, and its employees so utterly dependent on industry cash for their budgets and livelihoods, that they will go so far as to risk not getting laid to get their message across.

Of course, that was back in the early 90′s, and although forestry did fall into the rapid and inevitable decline all extractive industries do once they’ve laid waste to the most easily exploitable stuff in their environs, the Northwest boomed as never before since then, whether or not our branch of the Forest Service did.  That memory (which did have a few good parts…) came rolling back when I heard that, just this week, the Obama Administration has come around to the idea that maybe the MMS, which did have kind of a large boo-boo here lately, oughtn’t be dependent on the the industries it supposedly regulates for its budget and its very existence, and guess what?  Sex was involved in the final throes of its capitulation.  I’ve been there, Sister.

It seems reasonable enough, and certainly fair, to make industries pay for their own regulation, but in practice this approach fails every time.  The only hope these federal employees have is for the continued “success” of the industry they are hired to police is to meet its demands; the harm said industry inflicts must constantly be downplayed just to keep the doors open on their agency, and if they really go out on a limb, they might even get a much better paid spot when they decide to “retire.”  Heck, if they “regulated” a really happy industry, they might even get on TV.  The incentives here seem a bit off, no?

Many years after Reagan’s Interior Secretary (!), James Watt pooh-poohed the clearly granola and patchouli-scented delusion of resource conservation on the rather dubious grounds that “Jesus is coming,” we are treated to the spectacle of innumerable “public servants” copping to the fact, sometimes literally, that the corporations handed them the bills and they gave the blow jobs.  Billy Tauzin comes to mind, as does Phil Gramm, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu, Barry McCaffrey, Ken Salazar, Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, and on and on….   It isn’t just the oldest profession; it’s seemingly the most recession-proof.

Once you realize that, you look at Smokey Bear commercials differently.  I know I did.


  1. The Heel says:

    wondering what Smokey’s entry code was in the infamous tartlist :)

    You have a point though. Whenever government authorities regulate industries, awkward stuff happens. Here in CA, the renewable energy industry is constantly served setbacks by the CPUC (Cal. Public Utility Commission) – an oversight body that acts like an industry association for the few it “regulates”, by interpreting assembly bills very much in favor of the utilities. Not sure if blow jobs are involved but it is definitely the equivalent of making the goat the gardener – as they say in the fatherland.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Well, it was so long ago the ol’ Smokey might have been before 200. But who’s counting… my eyesight is, thankfully, starting to go.

  2. sysprog says:

    Just a sliver!

    “We now find ourselves in 2010 dealing with very complicated terrorism matters,” Mr. Holder said. “Those are certainly the things that have occupied much of my time. And we think that with regard to that small sliver — only terrorism-related matters, not in any other way, just terrorism cases — that modernizing, clarifying, making more flexible the use of the public safety exception would be something beneficial.”

  3. michlib says:

    Our goose has been cooked by the Fish and Wildlife Service ?

    • cocktailhag says:

      Just this morning I read that nobody wants to talk about the chemical dispersants being dumped into the Gulf. “What’s in them?” “None of your beeswax.”

      • timothy3 says:

        Haley Barbour reveals yet more of his human and political insights:

        Mississippi officials are encouraging tourists to use more oil, offering people gas cards if they come to the region:

        Gov. Haley Barbour said that the Mississippi Gulf Coast is open for business, despite the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

        In an effort to encourage tourism, Mississippi Gulf Coast officials are offering $75 gas cards for those who book a two-night stay at one of the participating hotels or resorts listed online at Resident can also sign up online for a chance to win one of four getaway packages.

        That’s why this guy is a leader.

  4. michlib says:

    Mississippi residents would probably be tickled and rejoice should Hailey win one of those getaway packages – along with the incoming bounty from BP’s malfeasance.