By Rumple Oxbridge , imaginary rhymer-in-residence at The Pacific


Old King Coal was a polluted old soul
And a sick old soul was he.
He called for his pick, and he called for his shovel
And he called for his draglines three.
Every dragline needed one man,
Just one man and greed
To scrape the heads of mountains off
And dump them in the streams.

Old King Coal was a desperate old soul
And a tricky old soul was he.
He called for his purse, and he called for his pol
And went digging in D.C.
But every tyrant some day dies
For truth cannot be buried.
The fiddlers in the greening hills
Make music and are merry.

By vastateparksstaff [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
[To hear a little merry fiddle music– “Cripple Creek”
by Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers–
click link below . . .]

Hear “Cripple Creek”

(Photo by By Jonathan McIntosh [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons)

By John Kaufman

We in Wisconsin owe a great debt of gratitude to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency without which we would likely be facing the prospect of a huge new iron ore mine in the lovely, hilly, wetland-blessed Penokee Hills and having the mining company’s lobbyist placed in a high-ranking WI Dept. of Natural Resources position. Without the EPA, we might even have become by now a colony of Texas.

Imagine a state agency whose mission is actually to protect our natural heritage. (These days in Wisconsin, it takes a lot of imagination.) Henceforth Wisconsin’s DNR, under Gov. Walker, shall be known, at least around the Afternoon Journal, as the Dept. of Not Really (doing its job.) Which, of course, is unfair to all the dedicated DNR employees who are, despite Republican leadership, trying to do their jobs in the name of managing and protecting Wisconsin’s natural, ecological health. “Elections have consequences”– and that’s why all of us of voting age should be voting in every election we can. (Please vote today.)

One of the reasons cited by Gogebic Taconite for formally withdrawing its plan to mine the Penokee Range was fear of what the EPA might do– actually protect the environment? But the EPA had, ironically, refused to evaluate what the big mine would likely do to the land and water of WI when six Chippewa tribes asked the EPA politely to do so. The other reason GTac says it balked had to do with the shocking discovery of more water and wetlands in the area than the mining corporation had anticipated. But the company mostly blamed the EPA and packed its bags. Though GTac managed to pretty much write its own mining bill and have Republican Wisconsin do its bidding (thanks in part to hefty contributions), it couldn’t influence EPA, whose science-based integrity and independent past actions made the corporation nervous.

But Wisconsin remains open for business lobbyists, as some fine reporting by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel uncovered yet another embarrassing/ill-advised/really-dumb-and bordering-on-corrupt Walker administration idea: make the guy who did the lobbying for GTac in Wisconsin, Robert Seitz, into the deputy secretary of the DNR, and do it even before the mining company actually bid the state farewell. 

Here’s what Gov. Walker’s spokeswoman had to say to the Journal Sentinel. The first sentence deserves to be engraved in stone somewhere in the Capitol building:

“It came to our attention as we were considering Bob Seitz for several administration positions that there could be a potential conflict. There is an EPA law that prohibits individuals who have worked for a company that is applying for or has received air and/or water permits from working within the chain of command for the governing body of those permits for two years.”

The “potential conflict” turned out not to be the fact that Seitz was a lobbyist for the mining corporation who, had he gotten the job, would have potentially helped oversee the regulation of the mining corporation. No, the conflict was the big, bad EPA which has this onerous, nit-picky law that says lobbyists for corporations seeking air or water permits must wait a whole two years before they can serve as regulators to their former employers. Two years is surely enough time for old loyalties, political ideologies and bank accounts to dwindle away.

But, ultimately, the Walker administration did the right thing: it did not appoint the former lobbyist for GTac to the DNR. Instead, the Walker administration appointed the same Robert Seitz, former lobbyist also for utility investors (and, by extension, investor-owned utilities) to the Public Service Commission to be Executive Assistant of PSC chairwoman Ellen Nowak. The PSC’s job is to regulate utilities in the public interest, though these days the PSC, judging from recent rulings by Gov. Walker’s appointees, seems primarily interested in being an investor-owned utility lobbyist.

Wisconsin is no longer merely “open for business.” Wisconsin is now in the business of openly opening itself to business. Why not sell the whole state to Texas? Creating “North Texas” would be a bold free market merger/solution to our slumping government and economy.

Editor’s Update 4/7Wisconsin DNR now “mulls dissolving science bureau.”   Might as well just dissolve itself. 

Feeding the Birds

By John Kaufman

for W.S. Merwin


Here in the city we try to remember
the birds, offering seed to nourish
nothing but flight and song.

We have sown plants and trees
to nullify the lawn and streets
a little, restore the forest and farms.

And when the gulls fly by I always
look up, hungry for the inner sea
the city cannot diminish, and the

ocean far to the east and west whose rising
reminds us that we are beasts
who can drift a long way from home.


Seagull July 2013-3
By Alvesgaspar (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

At Tuesday’s U.N. Climate summit, President Obama spoke of the United States and China, as the world’s two “biggest emitters” of carbon dioxide, as nations that “have to lead” the world on climate change action. A welcome waft of clarity.

But the U.S. did not join 73 other countries, (including China, the European Union, Germany, United Kingdom, France and the Russian Federation), more than 1,000 private business, 7 states and 4 U.S. cities in signing documents in support of enacting a significant price on carbon. The fog of confusion rolls in.

Lighthouse in fog
By Oregongirlmary (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons
Nor did the United States pledge to contribute to the Green Climate Fund which helps developing nations move toward greener energy, as did France and South Korea. (A candle, anyone?)

Our confusing reluctance to support carbon pricing as well as a binding carbon emissions treaty is likely a symptom of political realities in Congress, whose stalwart defense of the fossil fuel industry and its campaign cash controls the legislative climate in Washington, D.C. But allowing Congress to hold the world’s climate hostage by deferring to its greedy recalcitrance shows a distinct lack of the sort of climate leadership that Pres. Obama is calling for.

Ironically, some American corporations not directly involved with fossil fuels are far more supportive of carbon taxing than our political representatives, as most lately evidenced at the U.N. summit. Corporations that signed on to the list in support of carbon pricing include DuPont, GlaxoSmithKline, ManpowerGroup, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Dow Chemical.

Climate reality, of course, can only be ignored or denied for so long. And the longer we as a nation wait, the more expensive and more tragic the consequences will be. While we happily squander our money on war after war defending the “homeland” from hyped-up threats, we scream about the hyped-up costs of stopping the industrial war on the only land, water and air we’ve got. My fellow Americans, we are confused.

Using crowd spotters and a mathematician, organizers of the People’s Climate March estimate that about 311,000 people marched yesterday through the streets of Manhattan for action on climate change.

Hopefully this show of public concern will spur some action at the upcoming United Nations climate change summit.

But as The Guardian reports today, the U.N. climate summit is neglecting the largest thing on the planet, a thing that literally surrounds Manhattan Island– the sea. Acidification of the ocean and a loss of species will make the ocean far less helpful as a carbon sink, and, the writers argue, the ocean as a subject must be included in any discussion of global climate.