“Yet with far less fanfare,” Obama’s actions undermine climate change rhetoric

Yeah, right.

Look, you know that I am not exactly a fan of Obama. I do think most of the venom directed his way is … confused.

But it works both ways. Those who denounce the president as a secret socialist Black Muslim revolutionary, well, nothing’s going to change what they think about THAT, no facts or evidence anyway.

Not surprisingly, there is a corresponding hardheadedness among pro-Obama partisans. I have had dozens of fruitless arguments over the past seven years with a certain type, someone who decided long ago that Obama was a good man with the best interests of the country at heart. Full stop. This notion is more postulate than something that can be tested or changed by things that happen in the world. A key sub-precept of this mindset is that Obama “gets” global warming, and that were it not for the bravery of the man in the Oval Office, America would be overrun with predatory despoilers of our land, waters, and air.

So maybe it’s pointless to offer up this excellent piece from yesterday’s Boston Globe, In mining country, ‘war on coal’ hard to see. Or maybe not.

SOMERSET, Colo. — The desolate stretch of Highway 133 crests a Rocky Mountain pass and settles into a valley where some of the world’s most valuable coal is located — and the landowner is the US taxpayer.

If there is a “war on coal” by President Obama, as his critics say, then this might be a place to wage it. Obama has, after all, approved regulations designed to cut global-warming carbon emissions by nearly one-third, and he is preparing to attend a Sept. 23 United Nations climate summit at which he will renew his call for world action to fight climate change.

But here in the Rockies and across much of the West, Obama may be the coal industry’s critical, if unlikely, ally. The administration has rejected calls to place a moratorium on leasing public land to mining firms — even though such leases account for 40 percent of coal mined in the United States. Nor is the administration much interested in blocking exports of coal from such leases to countries where it could be burned without antipollution controls. Or in significantly raising the price of the billions of tons of publicly owned coal now sold at what critics consider bargain rates.

This is war?

The story takes us back to June, when Obama, laudably defying Congressional inaction, “approved regulations requiring a cut in carbon emissions from power plants from 2005 levels by 30 percent in 2030.” Not surprisingly, that made his supporters feel quite superior while simultaneously getting Boehner’s knickers in a twist. Predictably, the speaker denounced, via a spokesman, the president’s “devastating war on coal.”

Yet with far less fanfare, 17 days after the regulations were issued, a scene unfolded in a Denver courtroom that would have surprised those who believed Obama a coal industry foe.

The Obama administration’s lawyers (from the Bureau of Land Management and Department of the Interior) sat at the same table as lawyers for Arch Coal, and supported a shady land deal that would enable Arch to extract 12 million tons of coal.

The central issue in the case was why the Obama administration had failed to account for the impact of global warming from the coal lease, sometimes known as the social cost of carbon. A key piece of evidence worked in favor of the environmentalist legal team. A Bureau of Land Management economist had written an e-mail that said “placing quantitative values on greenhouse gas emissions is still controversial.” He wrote that estimates on the impact of methane emissions, which routinely occur during mining, ranged anywhere from $5 to $800 per ton of coal. Rather than strike a middle ground, as it often does in calculating the cost-benefit analysis, the bureau opted to leave out the “carbon cost,” while including the positive economic impact of mining.

US District Judge R. Brooke Jackson sounded stunned by the government’s actions.

“If you only look at the problem from the standpoint of the great benefits to employment and taxes and all those things and you don’t even try to look at what it’s going to cost in terms of global warming, the day is going to come when it’s too late to think about global warming,” Jackson said, according to a court transcript. (The Globe paid for the transcription, which otherwise was not publicly available. [Hmmmmm….])

But the Obama administration’s lawyer, David Glazer, stood with Arch Coal. Glazer told Jackson that the government should not “monetize” the impact of global warming.

The judge sounded incredulous.

“Doesn’t somebody sometime need to take very seriously what the effect that these greenhouse gases is on the world that we live in?” the judge asked Glazer.

Glazer sought to shift the blame away from the administration.

“Absolutely, and I would say that that’s Congress,” Glazer said. “Obviously it’s something that a lot of people care deeply about, and a lot of people have different opinions about, and I think it’s going to take that kind of level of activity on the political level.”

Congress, of course, had failed to pass legislation to control greenhouse gases, which is what prompted the Obama administration to maneuver around the congressional inaction by issuing regulations to cut carbon emissions.

In the end, Glazer and the Obama administration lost the case. Glazer did not respond to a request for comment.

In a scathing ruling issued on June 27, the judge wrote that the administration’s failure to consider the impact of carbon emissions was “arbitrary and capricious.” Jackson ridiculed the administration for insisting that predicting the impact of carbon emissions was “impossible” because tools to assess the impact “are presently unavailable.” In fact, the judge said, such tools are available but the administration failed to use them. He accused the Obama administration of delivering a “factually inaccurate justification for why it omitted the social cost of carbon protocol.”

The government “prepared half of a cost-benefit analysis, incorrectly claimed that it was impossible to quantify the [carbon] costs, and then relied on the anticipated benefits to approve the project,” Jackson wrote. He ordered that work on the mine be suspended.

…. The case, while receiving little national notice, has shaken the coal industry and the Obama administration. As the White House decides whether to appeal, environmental groups are planning to launch lawsuits against the Obama administration in an effort to stop much larger leases in Wyoming and Montana.

“This could have a big impact,” said Nathaniel Shoaff, a Sierra Club attorney involved in similar lawsuits. “This is the first time I’m aware of that a federal court has invalidated a federal agency decision because it didn’t take into account social cost of carbon.” If the Obama administration doesn’t start taking into the account the climate-change impact of coal leases, Shoaff said, “we will start using this decision to force them to do it.”

That is exactly what alarms the coal industry.

What alarms me is that Obama is going to bat for them.

It also alarms Senator Ed Markey, who has been fighting for more than 30 years to put a moratorium on coal leases which he argues, persuasively, are sold far too cheaply, undercut Obama’s stated greenhouse gas goals, typically are awarded to lone bidders, and amount to taxpayers subsidizing the coal industry.

And then there’s this:

Markey said he is frustrated that he has had less success with his supposed allies in the Obama administration than he did during the Reagan era.

Fragmentation of the self on social media. Discuss.


I re-upped my annual hosting charge for this blog, or rather I let the automatic renewal happen. With all the many free ways to express oneself online, I’m already feeling a little buyer’s remorse…. But hey, Blogging is back! (Maybe…) What’s old is new. And the war that never ended is beginning all over again!

In lieu of actually writing something, an announcement. I have made a few small changes.

The “dowackiest posts” was a little out of date, so I added a couple of my more recent pieces.

Took down my “blogroll”, which is kind of an outdated concept in this age of twitter feeds and RSS, no?

And I’ve gathered in one place a list of all manifestations of my fragmented social media self, such as it is, appear. I am much more of a twitter person these days. I don’t know if it’s a good thing. I am probably more au courant, but maybe I don’t want to be that way. On days where I own the Slate news quiz, I’m often thinking, “These things are really not that important…”

It’s weird that, having always been an early adopter, it took me so long to become a user of smart phones. Yeah, they’re ok, I guess. I admit I love taking pictures of cows with my Moto X. Never felt comfortable lugging around my D-70 in the pasture. But now I can go “Cow crazy,” in my wife’s apt phrase…..

Still here. Keep checking back. Really.

And now, some cows….

Two ten-year-old boys talking

Riding together in the back seat. I (dad) am driving.

Theo: Yeah, Daniel’s bowling ball is really cool.
Leo: (after a long pause) I got my roller blades fixed.
Theo: (pointing at back of my head) I like dad’s haircut. It’s cool.
Dad (me): Do you like it like this, or did you like it long? Leo, I know you like it long. (I say this because Leo has long hair)…
Theo: Oh, no. Leo told me he wants to cut all his hair off.
Leo: (after another pause): Well, yeah, I do want to get a hair cut. I just don’t want it to be painful.

Checking in: hoops and drunken dancing

A long dry spell at the old blog. Been busy around the farm, bees and cows and lawn and garden. Not reading much, sadly.

My boys and I have bonded over basketball. They love to play their own special version of the game out back on our eight-foot hoop with a mostly grass court, with a few spots where the grass has been trodden down and you can dribble a little. Both boys are obsessed with dunking, and to that end have set up mini-trampolines. I’m always telling them, “You should be working on the basics before worrying about dunking.” Yes, I have become that dad.


And we have been watching the games together as much as we can. My older boy Daniel checks his Kindle first thing in the morning and always has something to say about the late game. We talk about the amazing feats of Durant and Chris Paul and the rageful ineptitude of Cedric Kendrick Perkins, and the roller-coaster ride Larry Legend has been on.


It’s a nice thing. Totally unexpected.


Other than that, I feel the events of the wider world will not be affected much by my commentary. That will probably change. It always does.

I keep up with my tumblr because that is something mindless to do while scanning the Internets in the morning. And an unexpected delight has been an increased participation in This Is My Jam. I had fairly low expectations of the service, but I find the fellowship of other musical obsessives is a corrective to the musical tedium of the Spotify era, where having all music at your disposal is not a lot better than having none.

Below is just one of many inspiring finds I’ve stumbled upon. The song by Voices of East Harlem is divine and the video of the uninhibited, inebriated Homo Brittanicus  is delightful.

When life gives you lemons, you make … hamburger, lots and lots of hamburger



Heather and the kids were at the beach all last week. While I missed them dearly and eagerly awaited their return, I will say that it is also true that I reveled in being a bachelor and having the place to myself. But bad things tend to happen on the farm when I’m on my own.

When Friday dawned, I pondered my options for the coming day. Golf? Maybe a drive to Louisville or Lexington? Or perhaps visit a distillery? Be a nice day trip to Clermont, Loretto, Bardstown…

All that evaporated the moment I walked out to the pasture, coffee mug in hand, and came upon a commotion: the entire herd clustered around and nosing at a cow down on her side. I could see from the gate she had bloated. Her left side was grotesquely distended. It’s common to describe a bloated bovine as having blown up like a balloon. This is not an exaggeration.

I tried to stand the 1500-pound cow up. By myself. Futility. I started calling neighbors for help, left a few messages, and then got the vet assistant to pick up. He told me to get a hose down her to let off some of the gas. ASAP. Two years ago I had a heifer die of bloat a couple of hours after being turned out into a fresh clover paddock. (As it turns out, that heifer was the calf of the cow in question. A major aha! re the common genetics, but a little late to be useful).

Number 19 in happier times. I always think that bit of hay looks like a cigarette hanging out the corner of her mouth. That is the kind of attitude this cow had.

So I cut off a length of my garden hose and ran out to the cow, who was lying in mud, eyes rolled back in her head. I eased the hose (as easily as one can) down her throat. Enter my neighbor Mike, a seasoned cattleman of the old school, who told me the hose I was using was too flexible. I ran back to the house and cut a section of PE pipe, and ran back to the cow. No, Mike said, too stiff. So back to the house to cut a third section of hose, satisfactory to Mike, and we worked it down together. My job was to listen for the gas to see if we had the hose in the stomach. At one point I said I was not sure, and he asked me to hold it up so he could hear. When I did, a good-sized stream of bile and foam squirted into his ear. He took it in stride, and patiently explained that it was probably a good idea to hold the end of the hose NEXT to the ear. Ever the slow learner, five minutes later I had a pint of the same stuff running down my neck.

The cow’s left side was coming down some and she was able to breathe a little easier. Her eyes were closed, no longer rolled back. The next thing was to get her stood up, but in the mud that proved to be an impossible task, even after we were joined by my brother-in-law Tom. We wrapped a chain around her neck and tried to pull her up tug-of-war style, to no avail. Then we attached the chain to the hitch of Mike’s truck. We got her sitting, tucked her legs under her, and for just a second had her on her feet. Then she toppled over on to her right side. We repeated this comic routine for another 45 minutes. I was the last to realize this was not going to work.

“Well, you could beef her.”

I hated the idea. Number 19 (her tag long since rubbed off on a T-post) was the last left alive of the first five cows I had bought to start the herd, and the first one to calve. She was a bossy old thing, probably the herd’s alpha cow, and I was kind of fond of her. But the consensus was that she was never getting up and I had to make a quick decision. Either take her for meat or call the Dead Truck.

We called a few local small processors. Not one was willing to come kill and quarter her in the pasture on such short notice. And apparently no processor is allowed (or willing) to hang and butcher halves or quarters of beeves they hadn’t killed themselves.

Another neighbor, Albert, had appeared, and Mike soon somehow managed to volunteer Albert for the job of killing and butchering the cow. Albert was less than keen at first, but he started talking it through. He said give me half an hour for lunch and if you haven’t figured anything else out, give me a call.

Albert had grown up on a farm, and had a business raising and training walking horses. Previously he had worked as a nuclear physicist for the military. We had a bit of shared bond as (over)educated farmers and outsiders, having arrived in central Kentucky from different places. He from Kansas, I from Minnesota. And it turns out he had worked in a butcher shop as a teenager. Between his skill set and my pristine copy of Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game, we could make a go of it.

So in the early afternoon Albert came and did the deed. We made idle conversation as the cow bled out, and that is never a pleasant thing to be near. Albert then chained the rear legs to the hay fork on his John Deere and hoisted the once-cow/now-carcass over to a grove of trees in front of the barn, out of the howling and at times bitter wind. Albert had asked his friend Brian, a fellow horseman, to join us, and he was strong, energetic and clever, an indispensable addition. The skinning and quartering of a 1500-pound animal is a big undertaking at any time, especially as we lacked certain power tools that would have made the job much easier. We had to take turns with a meat saw to bisect the thing. I continued to consult The Book. Dissect the bung, and tie it off with a piece of string. Each turned page had another smear of blood.

Having split the carcass, Albert drove the tractor to our back yard, where we commandeered our picnic table and an old sheet for the butchering. We worked at that from 4 til well after dark. Albert had the butchering skills, Brian and Tom, both hunters, applied their experience with deer to the larger animal, and I … well, I assisted in whatever ways I could. Mike said he had a powerful meat grinder, which was excellent news, but when we went to get it, we weren’t sure what to make of it. Someone, a cousin of Mike’s, had taken an old hand-cranked grinder, bolted it to a piece of barn timber, and attached a motor. It took us some time to assemble it and to gauge the amount of meat we could feed into it without making it grind to a halt. We soon realized that when it choked we could just manually spin the wheel, minding our fingers, to force stuck pieces of meat or fat through. My skills being on the low end of the hierarchy, I was on hamburger duty while the others separated the carcass into primal cuts and found the parts that might produce steaks.

“Do you care about the short ribs?” When I said I might want some, we had to find a way to cut them up. I remembered my circular saw, and set to cleaning the wood and cobwebs off. It spat flecks of beef all over the place, but was pretty useful in cutting up the ribs.

We had to stop when it was completely dark, and improvised ways to store the meat away from our dog and cats and whatever else might wander into the yard, attracted to the smell.

Saturday morning, while I was waiting for the others to show up, I observed the cows getting nutty: the scent of the blood got the entire herd into a crazy state. There was a lot of head butting and full-tilt sprinting across the pasture, and much bellowing. The bull, usually the mellowest of animals, was frantic. It was an awe-inspiring and slightly intimidating scene.

A  little before noon Tom and Albert came back to finish the butchering. We worked pretty much nonstop through the afternoon into the evening. The first Final Four game between UConn and Florida was midway through the first half when we had finally packed  both my chest freezers full and sent off a crate with Albert.

The work was hard and constant but we were all in good humor through both days. Albert said he probably would not have taken on the job if he had known what was involved, and I think we all agreed with that. I said I might be calling you again, knowing what all you can do. He said, I’ll be sure not to pick up the phone when I see your name and number.

Early Saturday afternoon I seared a big brisket on the grill and stuck it into the oven to braise. Tom threw four strip steaks onto the grill, and we broke for lunch. I guess I had been apprehensive about actually eating this meat from a mature cow, meat that we had no way to properly age. But the steaks tasted amazing, as did the brisket, which we ate as we watched the Wildcats win yet another game with a last-second Aaron Harrison shot.

And last (Sunday) night came the true test, when I served up old number 19 to the wife and children. I had fears they would resist on sentimental grounds, or would think the meat tasted funny, and I would be stuck with two chest freezers full of beef I would have to eat myself. Fears unfounded, all three of them wanted a second helping!

I could easily insert some Wendell Berry-esque reflections on the nature of community and work, and they would be appropriate. But I’ve been out here in the country for over a decade now, and I am somewhat ambivalent about Mr. Berry. Sometimes (often) I give thanks and praise for his soul and wisdom. Bless His Heart.  I really do think he is the Greatest Living Kentuckian, if not in the running for Greatest Living American. But for me there are other times when it’s Goddamn Wendell Berry for getting me into this farming life. I know it’s not his fault. I’m coming to realize now that I lack many, or most, of the attributes necessary to become a good farmer, and am too scattered, too corrupted by modernity, too fond of bourbon and rock n roll and sleeping in and watching basketball all night while reading Vogue magazine. Lack of self-knowledge. That’s on me. I’m fairly sure Wendell might find me a peculiar kind of farmer if ever we met.

This weekend my farming adventure came together in a very Berry way, though, and ended well. Until the next farming catastrophe, it will be Wendell, Bless His Heart.

Number 19 was my first cow to calve. She was not crazy about me and my camera.
Bloat is nasty business.



I THINK I’m still here

Yes, yes,  I am. And still posting to my tumblrs

  • http://dowackado.tumblr.com/ pop culture flotsam/jetsam
  • http://thingstoreadtoday.tumblr.com/ the political think-y stuff
  • http://ghastlyandawful.tumblr.com/ fashion photography
    I always feel I have to explain myself for the last one, but a long time ago I was held captive in a small office at Conde Nast, when it was still at 43rd and Madison. I was a poorly paid temp assistant for none other than Andre Leon Talley. While he was away in London, Paris and Milan, I spent entire days browsing through bound volumes of Vogue back issues.  Have been addicted to fashion magazines ever since, but never enough to become a fashionable person.I am fascinated by fashion in the same way that I am fascinated by college football. Both offer the amazing and appalling in near equal measures. No plans on a college football tumblr at the moment, however.

I plan to keep dowackado.com going for a while, because I actually read it from time to time, and because one day I hope to summon the energy to write at (greater) length. But I hate repeating myself and that is what I seemed to be doing in the last year.

Also on twitter @timmuky. Drop me a line….



Barking Mad, Mad About Bark

Well, this was just a beautiful story to start the day.

“My math teacher just stripped naked during class and was arrested! Go MSU!” one student wrote on Reddit, posting a blurry cell phone snap of a nude man sitting in the school hallway.

“Halfway through class he started screaming at us, swearing left and right….. He then started slamming his hands on the window and pressing his face against it, still screaming. Eventually he walked out and down the hallway to the end, all while screaming. He then then came back into the classroom and took off his clothes, except for his socks.”

From a story about a professor gone barking mad, to a nation absolutely mad about bark.

I loved this story in the Times about “National Firewood Night,” a twelve-hour program broadcast on Norway’s national television network. The show spent four hours featuring people cutting and stacking wood, then twelve hours watching a single fire burning in a wood stove in Bergen.

A full twenty percent of the population tuned in, and many weighed in on the unseen fire-tender’s technique.

“We received about 60 text messages from people complaining about the stacking in the program,” said Lars Mytting, whose best-selling book “Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood — and the Soul of Wood-Burning” inspired the broadcast. “Fifty percent complained that the bark was facing up, and the rest complained that the bark was facing down.”

He explained, “One thing that really divides Norway is bark.”

I would probably categorize myself as something of a wood dork. We use firewood as the primary heat source for our farmhouse, and I am of course the primary (only) chain-sawer, splitter, stacker and stove stoker. So for me this is absolutely fascinating stuff.

I could not figure out the embed code in Norwegian, so this link to a (truncated, alas) fireplace video will have to do. Also, here is one of the regular episodes of the show.

Scenes from rustic life

Hello! Still here…… but just barely.

I mean those last couple of posts are textbook phoning it in.

It’s summer. We have guests visiting from New York and our kids are getting along wonderfully. We are eating and drinking and having a great time, and my cows are (finally) dropping calves.

Honestly, have not had a spare moment to think about what I think about what is going on in the world outside my beautiful little bubble life.

I look at this blog at the moment as some exceedingly foreign thing. Opinions. Meh. I will be back, probably.

Meanwhile some pictures!

The last word on Romney’s “Even Jimmy Carter” kerfuffle

From the always snarky and perceptive Who is IOZ?:

What I appreciate about Romney’s remark, even though this obviously isn’t what he intended it to mean, is that it makes so plain the basically quotidian nature of murder-by-Presidential-decree; it says that ordering hasty acts of war is the equivalent of updating your Outlook calendar or checking your voicemail in the morning, a mundane and repetitive task that everyone performs, just a part of the job, one part Easter Egg roll and one part press conference. Romney is standing in front of the great national Meineke and asking us to laugh at the incumbent mechanic for bragging about offering oil changes and tire rotations. Well, what else would he be doing?

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