Wednesday, March 7, 2012 / 5:49 pm

Hiring Foxes to Guard Our Henhouses

Welcome to America: The Land of Hiring Greedy People to Regulate Themselves!

by Tony Chavira

Tags: Mitt Romney | capitalism | Dick Cheney | California

Posing with a Dead Mountain Lion
He later ate this lion to gain its powers.

What happens when you hire an avid hunter to manage fish and game in California? This:

The state Fish and Game Commission held its first meeting Wednesday since its president shot and killed a mountain lion. It’s illegal to hunt the big cats in California, but commissioner Dan Richards bagged one on a legal hunting trip in Idaho. Richards has rebuffed critics’ calls for him to resign.

They believe Richards showed poor judgment when he accepted an invitation to hunt and kill the mountain lion back in January. Pictures of the commissioner posing with the slain cat went viral earlier this month. […]

“The overwhelming majority of Californians protected mountain lions and Mr. Richards was appointed to protect them,” said Reston.

“His lack of judgment in appearing in a magazine posing with the carcass of the animal that his employer's entrusted to protect is a slap in our face. This issue is about your judgment.”

In all fairness (because that's what we do here at FourStory), Richards is entitled to legally hunt anything he wants. If it were legal to hunt humans somewhere, as wrong as that might feel for some people, he's totally within his rights. Heck, might as well cook 'em up and turn the bones into jewelry while you're at it.

But there are two categories of people out there gobsmacked by this:

First there are people like me, who read this article and shook their heads thinking, “This is a PR nightmare and the state of California walked right into it by hiring a hunter to do an environmentalist's job. We asked for it and we got it.”

Then there are people who are shocked that the guy running fish and game in California is (GASP!) a hunter. To them I say, “If you wanted an environmentalist or animal rights advocate to be the head of fish and game, why didn't you say something sooner?”

This idea brings to light something I don't think we chat often enough about: that we hire industry leaders to head the government agencies that regulate their own industry. For example, the oil industry have developed its own offshore safety group to oversee who-know-what-as-long-as-the-government-is-placated-and-leaves-us-alone. Naturally, its director is a guy named Charlie Williams, a scientist and head of well engineering and production for Shell Oil Co. Here's some info from Fuel Fix:

After the 2010 spill, Williams greatly boosted his national profile. In addition to his work with the center, he gave presentations on offshore drilling safety to President Obama’s spill commission and Washington-based think tanks studying the issue. He also was named to an Interior Department offshore-safety study panel.

“If there’s one thing he’s been known for, it has been offshore safety,” said John Modine, API director for global industry services.

What did Williams do before the spill? Just provide technical assistance in the Gulf of Mexico to Shell for 30 years, of course.

Again, in all fairness he's a scientist and likely has more of a scientifically-motivated responsibility than a business-motivated responsibily to ensure extra safety in the Gulf region. But don't you find it strange that, immediately after the BP Oil Spill, a guy who works for Shell (a company that is really closely tied to BP) would come out of the woodwork as an outside consultant on the spill and find work so readily for the Interior Department?

Interesting, how often we readily assume that someone with industry credentials should serve on panels that investigate their own industries. That's the current assumption with Mitt Romney, isn't it? That he made a killing manipulating businesses and laying hardworking people off, so he'll know how to work his magic with our economy and make a killing (so to speak) for America. Put his evil powers to work for good, like putting a gun in the hands of a cop who used to be a violent criminal.

We thought that would be the case with Dick Cheney (whose Halliburton stock rose over 3,200% in 2005 following the Iraq War) and Donald Rumsfield (who made between $5 million and $25 million on his Gilead stock once Bush decided to do research into the Avian flu).

And all during a time when Henry Paulson (former CEO of Goldman Sacs) helped to regulate our finance industry by lowering their capital gains tax to 15% for these guys. He was then named Time Magazine's Man of the Year in 2008 for doing a great job at bringing us to the brink of collapse before he shut up and did his job (despite tipping insiders off the whole time).

Clearly, this is what you get for working your way up the corporate ladder: At some point, the public will assume that you must be smart and good enough to work on our behalf (and no longer on behalf of people and organizations that, say, got you there in the first place).

Oh, and we'll comfotably ignore the fact that you may just be in it for the money too. So enjoy legally killing us and eating our sweet, sweet meats!

(Which is exactly what Dan Richards did to that lion. He is, clearly, a man of many tastes.)

Tony Chavira is the President of FourStory, a nonprofit organization that promotes fairness and social justice through strong writing and storytelling. He is also the Program Developer at RACAIA Architecture, writes and posts comics at Minefield Wonderland, and teaches Business Report Writing at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

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