The Watering Hole, Tuesday March 29, 2016 – Environmental News and Food Politics


“Back in 2010, the price of a barrel of Brent crude (the international oil price benchmark) topped $80. That made it profitable to extract oil from tight shale formations, which is especially costly. A drilling frenzy ensued, domestic oil production skyrocketed, oil companies raked in profits and oil patch communities prospered.

But all that new oil on the market, plus China’s slowing economic growth, began to dampen oil prices in the summer of 2014. Instead of curtailing production to keep prices afloat, OPEC’s leaders launched a thinly veiled price war, clearly aimed at putting U.S. producers out of business. Here are some indicators that OPEC won the war.”

Oil bust – A red state phenomenon. Will this affect 2016 elections?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 20th, 2016: Huh?

I think that the Koch brothers are attempting to put a ‘softer light’ on their well-deserved evil reputations.

Earlier this week at the office, I found the following missive, purportedly from David Koch, in the Junk emailbox of our Sales emails. (I’m wondering if Koch got his mailing list from the American Landrights Association, whose occasional emails land in the same Junk box, or if ALA gets their mailing list from the Kochs.) Who knows if it really is from THE David Koch; regardless, I found it interesting/amusing.

From: Mr.David H. Koch []
Sent: Monday, February 15, 2016 3:02 PM


My name is David Hamilton Koch, a philanthropist and the founder of Koch Industries, one of the largest private foundations in the world. I believe strongly in ‘giving while living I had one idea that never changed in my mind, that you should use your wealth to help people and I have decided to secretly give USD$2,000,000.00 Million Dollars to randomly selected individuals worldwide.

On receipt of this email, you should count yourself as the lucky individual. Your email address was chosen online while searching at random. Kindly get back to me at your earliest convenience, so that I will know your email address is valid.

Email me (

Visit my web page to know more about me:

David H. Koch.
Email (

Huh? WTF?

Then, late last night, RawStory put up this post from the Guardian about Charles Koch agreeing with Bernie Sanders that ‘politics are set up to help the privileged few.’ Charles Koch wrote the following op-ed piece for the Washington Post:

Charles Koch: This is the one issue where Bernie Sanders is right
By Charles G. Koch February 18

Charles G. Koch is chairman and chief executive of Koch Industries.

As he campaigns for the Democratic nomination for president, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) often sounds like he’s running as much against me as he is the other candidates. I have never met the senator, but I know from listening to him that we disagree on plenty when it comes to public policy.

Even so, I see benefits in searching for common ground and greater civility during this overly negative campaign season. That’s why, in spite of the fact that he often misrepresents where I stand on issues, the senator should know that we do agree on at least one — an issue that resonates with people who feel that hard work and making a contribution will no longer enable them to succeed.

The senator is upset with a political and economic system that is often rigged to help the privileged few at the expense of everyone else, particularly the least advantaged. He believes that we have a two-tiered society that increasingly dooms millions of our fellow citizens to lives of poverty and hopelessness. He thinks many corporations seek and benefit from corporate welfare while ordinary citizens are denied opportunities and a level playing field.

I agree with him.

Consider the regulations, handouts, mandates, subsidies and other forms of largesse our elected officials dole out to the wealthy and well-connected. The tax code alone contains $1.5 trillion in exemptions and special-interest carve-outs. Anti-competitive regulations cost businesses an additional $1.9 trillion every year. Perversely, this regulatory burden falls hardest on small companies, innovators and the poor, while benefitting many large companies like ours. This unfairly benefits established firms and penalizes new entrants, contributing to a two-tiered society.

Whenever we allow government to pick winners and losers, we impede progress and move further away from a society of mutual benefit. This pits individuals and groups against each other and corrupts the business community, which inevitably becomes less focused on creating value for customers. That’s why Koch Industries opposes all forms of corporate welfare — even those that benefit us. (The government’s ethanol mandate is a good example. We oppose that mandate, even though we are the fifth-largest ethanol producer in the United States.)

It may surprise the senator to learn that our framework in deciding whether to support or oppose a policy is not determined by its effect on our bottom line (or by which party sponsors the legislation), but by whether it will make people’s lives better or worse.

With this in mind, the United States’ next president must be willing to rethink decades of misguided policies enacted by both parties that are creating a permanent underclass.

Our criminal justice system, which is in dire need of reform, is another issue where the senator shares some of my concerns. Families and entire communities are being ripped apart by laws that unjustly destroy the lives of low-level and nonviolent offenders.

Today, if you’re poor and get caught possessing and selling pot, you could end up in jail. Your conviction will hold you back from many opportunities in life. However, if you are well-connected and have ample financial resources, the rules change dramatically. Where is the justice in that?

Arbitrary restrictions limit the ability of ex-offenders to get housing, student or business loans, credit cards, a meaningful job or even to vote. Public policy must change if people are to have the chance to succeed after making amends for their transgressions. At Koch Industries we’re practicing our principles by “banning the box.” We have voluntarily removed the question about prior criminal convictions from our job application.

At this point you may be asking yourself, “Is Charles Koch feeling the Bern?”


I applaud the senator for giving a voice to many Americans struggling to get ahead in a system too often stacked in favor of the haves, but I disagree with his desire to expand the federal government’s control over people’s lives. This is what built so many barriers to opportunity in the first place.

Consider America’s War on Poverty. Since its launch under President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, we have spent roughly $22 trillion, yet our poverty rate remains at 14.8 percent. Instead of preventing, curing and relieving the causes and symptoms of poverty (the goals of the program when it began), too many communities have been torn apart and remain in peril while even more tax dollars pour into this broken system.

It is results, not intentions, that matter. History has proven that a bigger, more controlling, more complex and costlier federal government leaves the disadvantaged less likely to improve their lives.

When it comes to electing our next president, we should reward those candidates, Democrat or Republican, most committed to the principles of a free society. Those principles start with the right to live your life as you see fit as long as you don’t infringe on the ability of others to do the same. They include equality before the law, free speech and free markets and treating people with dignity, respect and tolerance. In a society governed by such principles, people succeed by helping others improve their lives.

I don’t expect to agree with every position a candidate holds, but all Americans deserve a president who, on balance, can demonstrate a commitment to a set of ideas and values that will lead to peace, civility and well-being rather than conflict, contempt and division. When such a candidate emerges, he or she will have my enthusiastic support.

Double “HUH”?

This is a perfect example of a Libertarian’s attempt to sound reasonable and logical: while one can agree with bits and pieces of his statements, the overall premise(s) make for an unworkable government and an even more fractured society than we already have. And while Koch supposedly decries the dysfunctional state of American politics, he at the same time admits that he and his brother have benefited greatly from this dysfunction. What he doesn’t admit is that he and his brother, along with their various front groups, have actually deliberately caused said dysfunction.

I don’t have the time to pick this op-ed apart line-by-line, so I’ll leave it to you, should you be so inclined.

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it!

The Watering Hole, Monday, January 25th, 2016: All-“Christian” Edition

Today’s offerings are from two sites whose only thing in common seems to be that they both have the word “Christian” in their names.

First, let’s look at a few things from the Christian Post website (the more ‘persecuted-RW-Christian’ site.)

The Christian Post has sent the 2016 Presidential candidates a list of 12 questions which they feel are most important for the candidates to answer. So far, only two Republican candidates, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, have responded.

Here’s Ben Carson’s responses, a few of which I’d like to comment upon:

2. What is marriage, and what should be the government’s interest and role in marriage?
Like many Christians, I believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman in the witness of God. The government’s interest and role in marriage should be to protect and sanctify this institution[emphasis mine] because it is the cornerstone of our society. Raising families with two parents is key to a child’s development, and marriage is a strong institution that solidifies this crucial social structure. Marriage combines the efforts of two people to provide for and raise children, and gives children two parental figures to love and care for them.

Okay – First, define “sanctify”. According to Wikipedia:

“Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity, of being made or becoming holy.[1] “Sanctity” is an ancient concept widespread among religions. It is a gift given through the power of God to a person or thing which is then considered sacred or set apart in an official capacity within the religion, in general anything from a temple, to vessels, to days of the week, to a human believer who willingly accepts this gift can be sanctified. To sanctify is to literally “set apart for particular use in a special purpose or work and to make holy or sacred.”

So Carson believes that the U.S. Government has role in every citizen’s marriage, and that role is to make it “holy or sacred”? Does that make the U.S. Government a god?   Doesn’t that conflict with the Establishment Clause?  If Ben Carson believes that marriage is such a strong institution, why not rail against divorce? Christians get divorced at the same – or higher – rate as any other group, not to mention that divorce is said to be a big sin in the eyes of Jesus. If Jesus thought divorce was so wrong, but didn’t mention homosexuality, why can’t the “key” two-parents-must-raise-a-child be in a same-sex marriage?

10. What are your priorities related to both protecting the nation’s natural resources and using those resources to provide for the nation’s energy needs?

Energy is the life-blood that keeps our economy growing. It fuels the tractors that plow America’s fields. It powers the trucks, trains and planes that deliver American products. And it drives the American people in their everyday lives. If we want to return America to its former prosperity, we need to ensure that America’s energy grid is not only reliable, but affordable. That means looking into all potential energy sources to find the most efficient, most effective and more reliable energy grid possible.

We can’t afford to mandate unrealistic fuel standards or price-inflating renewable mandates. But as these energy sources compete head to head, technological advancements and innovations will help drop costs and raise efficiencies even further.

[and the money quote]

When it comes to the environment, we should be good stewards of God’s resources, but the best way to do that is through market-based mechanisms and private efforts, not via government edicts that destroy businesses and intrude into citizens’ lives.

Yeah, because I’m sure that “God” was thinking of “market-based mechanisms and private efforts” when he told mankind to be good stewards of Earth. And wasn’t Carson just talking about how “government” should have an “interest” and “a role” in a couple’s marriage, i.e., “intrud[ing] into citizens’ lives”, and very personally, I might add? But the “government” shouldn’t be involved in determining how the entire country uses its natural resources, because that would “intrud[e] into citizens’ lives”?  Carson has very mixed, and incorrect, notions of what government’s priorities should be.

12. What caused the Great Recession, and what should be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

A number of factors contributed to the global financial crisis, but what became clear was that when bankers engaged in highly leveraged financial bets, ordinary taxpayers ended up footing the bill for the big banks’ bailouts.

I believe that certain types of regulations are reasonable for regulating financial markets. For instance, Glass-Steagall was a reasonable piece of legislation after the 1929 stock market crash, and perhaps should be re-imposed in a modified form.

This does not mean that the regulations imposed after the financial crisis were appropriate. In fact, Dodd-Frank is a monstrosity that does not address the root cause of the crisis, imposes heavy burdens on community banks, severely limits the freedom of financial institution to engage in ordinary business and saps economic growth with restrictive government controls.

I believe that when such government regulations choke economic growth, it is the poor and the middle class that are hurt the most.

Carson (or whoever wrote his ‘responses’ for him) must have just skimmed the “U.S. Economic History, Late 20th – Early 21st Century” Cliff Notes(TM), latching on to just enough topical buzzwords and meaningless phrases to put together a few sentences. Too many points there to elaborate on, I’ll let you all pick them apart if you wish.

And here’s Carly Fiorina’s responses. I’m just going to comment on one of them.

10. What are your priorities related to both protecting the nation’s natural resources and using those resources to provide for the nation’s energy needs?

Fiorina: As president, I will ensure that the United States is the global energy powerhouse of the 21st century.

That means reinstating the Keystone XL Pipeline that President Obama rejected. It also means rolling back the regulations from this administration that limit our ability to find resources by imposing regulations on hydraulic fracturing and our ability to be energy independent by regulating drilling on federal lands. As president, I will make America an energy leader through technology and innovation.

No, no, no! Fiorina is just so wrong, it’s hard to believe that she could possibly be serious. Keystone XL, fracking, and drilling, and on OUR federal lands, no less? How does one become an “energy leader through technology and innovation” while relying solely on finite, filthy fossil fuels? Aaarrgghhh!

Let’s turn to the Christian Science Monitor for a few things that are more reality-based and inspiring.

First, I’m sure that you’re all aware by now that Earth may have a new neighbor, as astronomers announced the possibility of a hidden ninth planet.

The evidence for the existence of this “Planet Nine” is indirect at the moment; computer models suggest a big, undiscovered world has shaped the strange orbits of multiple objects in the Kuiper Belt, the ring of icy bodies beyond Neptune.

Next, we can once again thank the Hubble telescope and NASA for showing us the amazing beauty of space, in this article about the Trumpler 14 star cluster. Just don’t let Donald Trump know about Trumpler 14, he’ll probably think that (a) the star cluster is named for him, and (b) therefore he owns it.
Trumpler 14Source:

And finally, for our Zookeeper, here’s an article discussing why the zebra has stripes. While it appears that the idea that the striping is for camouflage may be incorrect, there is still no consensus on a proven biological reason.
brown striped zebra

This is our daily Open Thread–discuss whatever you want.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, November 14th, 2015: Populism That Works

ICYMI, or maybe ICIMI: there’s a petition going around for a great idea that was brought to our attention today in a newsletter from populist Jim Hightower. The Campaign for Postal Banking is pushing for local Post Offices to also provide banking services. As Jim Hightower states:

“Millions of Americans live in areas that now have no alternative to the Wall Street-backed predatory lenders and check-cashing chains that rip them off. We can change this. The Campaign for Postal Banking has started a petition to the US Postmaster General to make postal banking a reality. With postal banking, folks that don’t have access to good banks or credit unions can go to their community post office for non-profit, consumer-driven financial services — getting their basic banking needs met without being gouged by Wall Street profiteers.”

From an article by Ralph Nader at Huffington Post yesterday discusses the topic as well:

“According to Bloomberg, from 2008 to 2013: “Banks have shut 1,826 branches…. and 93 percent of closings were in postal codes where the household income is below the national median.”


“Last year, the office of the USPS inspector general released a report detailing the ways in which postal banking would be beneficial to both the public and the USPS itself, which has been made to endure an unprecedented advanced payment of $103.7 billion by 2016 to cover future health benefits of postal retirees for the next 75 years. No other government or private corporation is required to meet this unreasonable prepayment burden.”

An article at from May of this year has more, including this excerpt:

“For millions of underserved families, the Postal Service is already a part of their financial lives,” the report said, noting that post offices sold $21 billion worth of money orders in 2014. Yet, “in order to get the funds to purchase those money orders, many families likely first went to expensive check cashers to convert their paychecks into currency. What if those consumers could instead cash their paychecks at a post office for a lower fee? What if they also could pay bills, buy low-fee prepaid cards, and maybe even get affordable small-dollar loans, all in one convenient location? This could help consumers save money and time, and it would help the Postal Service fulfill its mission to facilitate commerce and serve citizens.”

An idea that’s a total win-win for poorer Americans; empowers “Main Street”; helps to save the U.S. Postal Service from its deliberate destruction by Congress; that keeps and creates jobs, thereby improving the economy; and helps to break the chokehold of Wall Street and the too-big-to-fail banks that WE THE TAXPAYERS bailed out? Every politician who’s in bed with the Wall Street/big bank cabal will be fighting this with every bit of power they have. This is an idea worth fighting for, and one that should show any non-1%er-American who still has a functioning brain exactly what “populism” means and what Democratic Socialist Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is standing for.

Let’s all say a big, loud “FUCK YOU” to the real “takers” in our country, and make something happen.

This is our daily Open Thread – feel free to talk about this topic or anything else on your mind.

The Watering Hole, Tuesday October 6, 2015

Creator of 5-hour Energy Wants to Power the World’s Homes—With Bikes

Can I be a cynic for suggesting that this is another way to create market demand for the drink?

” Hey Honey, the lights are dimming. Go get some more 5 Hour Energy!”

Actually, aside from giving money to the GOP, he has pretty ambitions plans for the third world (and in the case of geothermal, the whole world).

Pedal power for the tiny house …in India.

Can we use the hamster for the night light?



The Watering Hole: Wednesday, September 23, 2015: I’m Briseadh na Faire, and I’m running for President, Part VI

I’m Briseadh na Faire, and I’m running for President. Here are a few of my positions on issues important to the American People today. Between now and November 2016, I will post additional policy and platform statements.

Today’s topic du jour: Illegal immigration.

First off, I want to talk about the illegal immigrants that no one wants to talk about: Indians! This is such a verboten subject that we don’t even call them Indians any more – we call them “native Americans”. But there’s nothing “native” about them. They came to American on foot or by boat, just like all the other illegals from Mexico and Canada and Kenya. I say it’s high time we shipped all them Indians back to India where they belong.

And I want to point out that I’m the ONLY candidate with a permanent solution to end illegal immigration within the first year of my term as your President.

I’m not talking about building a wall, or digging a moat. I’m talking about a path that will keep our farmers happy, as they will continue to be able to have their crops tended to by cheap labor that is totally legal.

At every boarder crossing, we’re going to require that everyone who doesn’t have a visa to incorporate under the laws of the State of Delaware. You see, corporations are people, my friends. And people can become corporations. The filing fees are a lot cheaper than paying some smuggler to ship you across the border an dump you in the desert in the middle of the night and leave you to your fate. And once you’re a corporation, you can cross the border freely for economic gain, thanks to NAFTA.

So we would gain millions of new corporations in the agri-business industry. Our crops would get picked on time. And we would no longer have a problem with illegal immigration.

So, come 2016, vote Briseadh na Faire for President. I’m the only candidate for President who knows what’s best for America; the only candidate who acknowledges up front that I will break each and every one of my campaign promises, and, when I do, you won’t be disappointed!

I’m Briseadh na Faire, and I approve this message.

[BriseadhNaFaireforPresidentisnotaffiliatedwithanyPolitcalActionCommitteenorhas receivedtheendorcementofTPZoonoranyotherindividualbusinessnonprofitorganizationorgod.]


The Watering Hole, Saturday, July 11th, 2015: The Planet Killers

Over the last few days, several related and intertwined articles are pulling together more and more evidence that Exxon-Mobil, BP, Chevron, other fossil-fuel giants, and the Koch Brothers, along with their front groups, have deliberately and willfully been funding a disinformation campaign denying global climate change reports that they have known about since the early 1980s.

From yesterday’s ThinkProgress thread written by Joe Romm, “Oil Company Exxon Knew About The Scientific Reality of Climate Change in 1981”:

“…despite a growing understanding of the scientific reality of climate change in the 1980s and 1990s, Exxon became one of the biggest funders of scientists and think tanks and others who do little but deny and cast doubt on the scientific understanding of human-caused global warming.
Over the years, fossil fuel company executives have funneled tens of millions of dollars into this disinformation campaign. The top funder was ExxonMobil for a long time. But the company was overtaken years ago by Koch Industries, run by billionaires Charles and David Koch, who spent more than $48.5 million from 1997 to 2010 to fund disinformation. From 2005 to 2008, the Kochs outspent Exxon-Mobil well over 2-to-1 in funding the climate denial machine.”

From Huffington Post’s July 8th article, “Internal Documents Show Fossil Fuel Industry Has Been Aware of Climate Change for Decades”, written by Elliott Negin:

“Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse created a stir recently when he speculated that fossil fuel companies may be violating federal racketeering law by colluding to defraud the public about the threat posed by carbon pollution.”


“Exxon Recognized Carbon Emissions Problem 34 Years Ago
The collected documents reveal the fossil fuel industry campaign has relied on a variety of deceptive practices, including creating phony grassroots groups, secretly funding purportedly independent scientists, and even forging letters from nonprofit advocacy groups to lobby members of Congress.

ExxonMobil’s duplicity is perhaps the most remarkable. Internal documents and public statements stretching back decades show that ExxonMobil’s corporate forerunners Exxon and Mobil, which merged in 1999, acknowledged the threat posed by global warming as far back as the early 1980s.”


In November 1988…Mobil President Richard F. Tucker cited the “greenhouse effect” in a list of serious environmental challenges during a speech at an American Institute of Chemical Engineers national conference.

“Our strategy must be to reduce pollution before it is ever generated — to prevent problems at the source,” he said. “That will involve working at the edge of scientific knowledge and developing new technology at every scale on the engineering spectrum. …Prevention on a global scale may even require a dramatic reduction in our dependence on fossil fuels — and a shift toward solar, hydrogen, and safe nuclear power. It may be possible — just possible — that the energy industry will transform itself so completely that observers will declare it a new industry.”

Fossil Fuel Companies Disregard Their Own Scientists

Tucker’s warning went unheeded even by his own company. A year later, in 1989, 50 U.S. corporations and trade groups created the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) to discredit climate science. Its founding members included API, British Petroleum (now BP), Chevron, Exxon, Shell, Texaco and … Mobil.

Until it disbanded in 2002, GCC conducted a multimillion-dollar lobbying and public relations campaign to undermine national and international efforts to address global warming. One of its fact sheets for legislators and journalists, for example, claimed “the role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood” and emphasized that “scientists differ” on the issue.”

From a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), titled “The Climate Deception Dossiers: Internal Fossil Fuel Industry Memos Reveal Decades of Corporate Disinformation” (also linked to within the HuffPost article):

“Containing 85 internal memos totaling more than 330 pages, the seven dossiers reveal a range of deceptive tactics deployed by the fossil fuel industry. These include forged letters to Congress, secret funding of a supposedly independent scientist, the creation of fake grassroots organizations, multiple efforts to deliberately manufacture uncertainty about climate science, and more.
The documents clearly show that:
– Fossil fuel companies have intentionally spread climate disinformation for decades.
– Fossil fuel company leaders knew that their products were harmful to people and the planet but still chose to actively deceive the public and deny this harm.
– The campaign of deception continues today.

The UCS report includes links to all of the memos, emails, and other documentation. While I haven’t had the chance to delve into it much, a quick glance at the titles of the seven “Deception Dossiers” includes “Deception Dossier #6: Deception by the American Legislative Exchange Council”.

Gee, whodathunk?

As Inspector Kemp [played by Kenneth Mars] said in Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein”, “A riot is an ungly thingk… undt, I tink, that it is chust about time ve had vun!”

This is our daily Open Thread–get your pitchforks and torches ready!