The Watering Hole, Monday, September 19th. 2016: The Johnson Amendment

The Johnson Amendment refers to a change in the U.S. tax code made in 1954 which prohibited certain tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.

The Internal Revenue Service website elaborates upon this prohibition as follows:

[4] Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.

Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.

On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

The Internal Revenue Service provides resources to exempt organizations and the public to help them understand the prohibition. As part of its examination program, the IRS also monitors whether organizations are complying with the prohibition.

[4] “The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations”. 2012-08-14. Archived from the original on 2 December 2010. Retrieved 2012-09-09.

Keeping this in mind, let’s turn to the main “Politics” page of The Christian Post. I noticed two articles there regarding the tax-exempt status of certain religious organizations. However, since one of them purports to prove through Biblical scriptures that churches are supposed to get involved in politics – “Preaching on Politics Is Biblical”, By Rev. Mark H. Creech: “To argue that pastors should avoid all politicking and just stick to preaching, I suggest, is not only unbiblical but un-American” – which is a ridiculous pile of horse manure, I’ll focus on the other one.

The article by Samuel Smith discusses a survey which found that the vast majority of Americans (79%) feel that “pastors should not endorse political candidates.

Nearly eight out of 10 Americans believe it’s inappropriate for pastors to endorse political candidates at church, while over seven in 10 Americans feel it’s inappropriate for churches to endorse political candidates.
As part of a LifeWay Research survey released last week, 1,000 randomly selected Americans were asked over the phone about their views on whether or not it’s appropriate for clergy and churches to endorse politicians for political office.

The survey comes as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has vowed to repeal the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which puts churches at risk of losing their tax-exempt status if they endorse political candidates or if their pastors endorse political candidates in church.

According to the survey, which has a plus-or-minus 3.6 percentage point margin of error, 79 percent of the respondents either somewhat disagreed or strongly disagreed with the sentence: “I believe it is appropriate for pastors to publicly endorse candidates for public office during a church service.”

Meanwhile, 75 percent of respondents said they somewhat disagreed or strongly disagreed with churches endorsing political candidates for public office. Additionally, 81 percent of respondents somewhat disagreed or strongly disagreed with churches using their resources to campaign for political candidates.

As it does not violate the Johnson Amendment for a pastor to endorse a political candidate outside church as a citizen, 53 percent of respondents somewhat disagreed or strongly disagreed with pastors endorsing candidates outside of their role in the church. Only 43 percent somewhat agreed or strongly agreed with it being appropriate for a pastor to endorse a candidate for public office outside of the church.

Although many Americans might not think it’s appropriate for pastors or churches to endorse political candidates, 52 percent of respondents felt that churches should not be stripped of their tax-exempt status for endorsing candidates.

“I don’t think pastors should endorse candidates and I don’t think churches should endorse candidates,” said Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary and a member of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board, to The Christian Post on Tuesday.

“They should be looking for candidates who endorse them, but I believe that should be a decision that is left to the churches, not dictated by the government,” added Land, who is also CP’s executive editor. “I favor the repeal of the Johnson Amendment but at the same time, I don’t think that churches ought to endorse political candidates. That ought to be a decision made by the individual church, not dictated to them by the government. To me, that is a violation of the First Amendment. How does that fit with the free** exercise of religion?”

Dr. Richard Land is “President of Southern Evangelical Seminary and a member of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board“, as well as being the Christian Post’s executive editor.  To quote The Church Lady, “How conVEENient!”  Of course you favor the repeal of the Johnson Amendment.  I find it highly unlikely, however, that you “don’t think that churches ought to endorse political candidates.”  Your idea that it “ought to be a decision made by the individual church, not dictated to them by the government”, and that it’s “a violation of the First Amendment”, is totally ludicrous.

Left up to the individual churches, how long will it be before (at least) thousands of dioceses gleefully dive into the political cesspool?  And how would this NOT be a religious entity’s version of Citizens United – rather than a corporation, it’s a “church” that is now a “person” with the same expansive “free speech” rights, (i.e., to take up a special collection during Mass or its equivalent, a ritual which can be used to shame any who do not contribute towards influencing political outcomes and policies.)

The survey data was broken down into religious demographics and found that Protestants (20 percent) are more likely than Catholics (13 percent) to agree with it being appropriate for pastors to endorse candidates. About 27 percent of self-identified evangelical Protestants feel it’s appropriate for pastors to endorse candidates.

About 33 percent of self-identified evangelical Protestants said it’s appropriate for churches to endorse political candidates, while only 27 percent of Protestants and 18 percent of Catholics agree.

“My main concern would be that churches would end up being embarrassed by the later behavior of politicians they have endorsed. Richard Nixon comes to mind,” Land said. “When Billy Graham heard the Watergate tapes, he went into the bathroom and vomited because he was so upset that Nixon was so different than the person he had presented himself to be.”

So, Dr. Land, when was the first time that Donald Trump’s shady dealings, incessant lying and boasting, badly-cloaked hints to his Trumpkins to exercise their Second Amendment rights to “stop Crooked Hillary”, etc., etc. – when was the first time all of that made YOU run into the bathroom and vomit? I’m willing to bet NEVER. And I can’t even (don’t want to) imagine just what it will finally take, what ever-more-hideous and dangerous idiocies, pronouncements or behaviors, will finally open your eyes to the fact that you are supporting a monster who is lying through his teeth about being a Christian in any sense of the word. FFS, Trump actually says that he doesn’t ask god for forgiveness, because he doesn’t feel that he has done anything that needs divine forgiveness! The arrogance and ignorance of Charlatan Trump make a well-deserved mockery of your craven acceptance of all of Trump’s evil, decidedly un-Christian “moral values.” You sold your soul to play a fool for Trump, and I hope that you puke your rotten guts out when the realization hits you.

Land added that when churches and pastors get involved in endorsing candidates, that can “turn off people we are trying to reach.”

“If you endorse Republican candidates, you are going to seemingly make it more difficult to reach Democrats with the Gospel,” he said.

Another thing that Dr. Land doesn’t realize is that many of the religious folk who actually try to follow Christ’s teachings are Democrats. But you’d never reach them with the kind of “Gospel” that Evangelicals preach. Don’t forget that “gospel” meant “good news”, which is something that, IMO, Evangelicals don’t talk about much – too busy trying to frighten their flocks of sheep.

Land concluded that the church’s role is to make sure that their congregants understand the biblical positions on political issues. However, it is up to each voter to “connect the dots” at the voting booth.

“I think that the church, we are commanded to be salt and light, so we can get involved on issues and we make it clear where the Bible stands on issues,” Land said. “But, we have to leave it to the people to connect** their own dots.”

**The word “free” was highlighted as a link in this story at CP’s site, as was the word “connect” noted below. Instead of providing further enlightenment of what defines the ‘”free” exercise of religion, it actually links to a Pizza Hut(TM) coupon/deal offer. How sacred!

Hey, don’t forget to check out the Christian Post’s “Most Popular” threads (lower right sidebar), the subjects of which do NOT do anything to disabuse me of the conclusion that “Evangelical” “Christians” are ghoulish nosy perverts.

This is our daily Open Thread – what’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, August 20th, 2016: Promises, Promises


From yesterday’s Washington Post: David A. Fahrenthold and Alice Crites present an in-depth, detailed look at Donald Trump’s claimed generosity on The Apprentice, focusing on promises of donations to many of the ‘fired’ contestants’ favorite charity. Despite the video recordings and transcripts of the show verifying Trump’s own words (the particular phrases varied, but the meaning was unambiguous), not one single penny came out of his own personal “wallet”, “pocket” or “account.” In fact, several of the named charities never received the stated donation at all.

Obviously, this provides more evidence that Trump has always been a lying, cheap, manipulative fraud whose word – as in, “his word is his bond” – means absolutely nothing. Of course, anyone with half a brain should know that anyway. But many details about the Trump Foundation and its funding that the WaPo investigation dug up also make it clear that The Donald’s tax returns contain more than one reason why he refuses to release them.

Trump’s pattern of public displays of ‘generosity’ without the actual donation has already been seen over the course of his campaign. WaPo’s report reinforces the fact that this is a real pattern, and one that, in view of Trump’s monstrously overblown ego, we should expect to continue simply because Trump cannot help himself. And it won’t just be about money. While Trump’s mouth is not as big as his ego, it is certainly bigger than his wallet, his brain, and whatever dark, malignant growth passes for his ‘soul.’ His big mouth will continue to make empty promises that he cannot and will not keep. Trump’s entire campaign is simply snake oil, but he and his rube supporters are really the snakes.

One could almost feel sorry for the Republican party – almost, but since they created this monster, the GOP doesn’t deserve pity. What they really deserve is worldwide humiliation, followed by extinction. However, I find it ironic that in 2012 they chose an extremely wealthy and experienced candidate who at least knew the ropes; this time around, all they could afford was a fake billionaire with fake hair and a fake persona who knows nothing, absolutely nothing, about how government works. Well, they got what they paid for, and now they are paying much more dearly than they apparently could have imagined.  Let’s hope that the rest of the country doesn’t have to pay so dearly for the GOP’s biggest mistake.

This is our daily Open Thread, so go ahead and talk about anything you want.

Brexit – Live


In the video above you find a compelling explanation what Brexit is about really. Having watched some of the debates and quite a bit of coverage on BBC, ITV and a couple more news sites, I can fully agree with him. It is about immigration. And nationalism and then some immigration.

I’ll watch some of the BBC voting night coverage and will give you the first couple of developments live as they unfold. Then I will probably collapse, because I am not as young as I used to be when I joined you all for a night of music, booze and cigarettes on Music Night.

Whatever is the result tomorrow morning, I’ll let you know.

Fair warning: If they vote “Leave”, I will be seriously pissed off, because I still haven’t given up on the hope to spend my retirement in the North of England. I would have to go to Scotland instead, because the Scots will then leave the UK and reenter the EU.

Here’s a heat map of how Britons stand on the issue:



So let’s get started….and hope for the best.

The Watering Hole; Thursday June 9 2016; Remembrance and Requiem

Forty-eight years ago — June 4 1968 — Robert F. Kennedy won the Democratic Primary in California and was seemingly on his way to his party’s nomination for President. Then in the early morning  moments of June 5, only a short time after he was declared the winner in California, he was shot by a (presumably) lone assassin; he died within 24 hours. The end result, some six months later, was the election of Richard Nixon as President, at which point commenced the American transition from her recent New Deal and Civil Rights accomplishments (aka Progressivism) to a society driven by little more than avarice and the quest for power (aka “Conservatism”).

On the campaign trail in the months prior to his assassination, RFK spoke out for old-style We the People values, even as he was strongly critical of those whose efforts were driven by greed, by the allure of power and wealth, by those who found war to be the ideal means  to achieve those goals. RFK stood by and supported those millions who demanded an end to the atrocities in Vietnam; he stood by and supported the concept of prosperity for all via peace, not prosperity for the few via war.


RFK brilliantly summed-up the finer points that define the vast differences between the two nearly opposite schools of thought which are presumed to drive economic growth and, hence, prosperity. Here, courtesy of a recent Think Progress article is an audio recording of RFK’s words from a speech he gave at the University of Kansas on March 18, 1968, along with a transcription of those same words — a handy tool to enable further analysis and contemplation, to compare the conflicting philosophies which drive our current left-right political divide today, nearly five decades (along with much economic misery for most) later.

First, the audio:

The transcript:

Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product — if we judge the United States of America by that — that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.

It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.

It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

Are we, as a nation, unable to ever learn? To master and enable that which makes living worthwhile as opposed to that which does little more than enable acquisition of wealth and power? What will this year’s election bring us? Trump appears to know only greed, and if he should score on his quest for power of the State, it seems a fair bet that he will, without hesitation, begin immediately the task(s) of disparaging the health of our children, the quality of their education . . . the joy of their play . . . the beauty of our poetry . . . the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate . . . the integrity of our public officials . . . [of]  our wit . . . our courage . . . our wisdom . . . our learning . . . our compassion . . . our devotion to our country,  . . . everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. Toss into the mix Trump’s predictably high rate of xenophobia, bigotry, misogyny, along with his already expressed tendency toward science denial, toward uninformed militarism, and suddenly the risk of planetary cataclysm soars, even as any hope for a better future vanishes.

As to whether the other principle option — Hillary Clinton — would be any better, about the only answer appears to be that at least she (hopefully) wouldn’t be as bad. At this point, it seems this country’s main hope — and major goal — should be that the Republican Party really DOES self-destruct thanks to Trump, and that the Democratic Party finally adopts the strongly progressive mission of the type that’s been advanced by Bernie Sanders. Maybe then the pathways leading to the diminishment and ultimate extinction of greed and the quest for power and wealth can be paved with all the gold that no longer will need to be hoarded.

I know. Dream on.

I’ve long felt that national failure is inevitable in this country, especially since we invariably seem to slam the door on each and every escape route leading away from those disastrous “Conservative” policies and programs which have been in place for who knows how many decades. It makes one wonder what things might be like today had Bobby Kennedy’s GNP/economic theses been put into place, starting with his presidency nearly fifty years ago. We’ll never know, of course; but we do KNOW — with certainty — the results of all those “Conservative” policies which have, unfortunately, been enacted during those five decades. And that knowledge is, without a doubt, the source of the economic sadness that has descended upon this country, as well as the source of the undercurrent of pessimism regarding our collective future.

Whereto from here?

As one who has watched the development of our collective dilemma(s) since well before RFK’s assassination, I have to wonder: might the following sonnet tell us everything about America . . . everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile?


Requiem, as dirge of sophistic love,
Exposes destinies which nations earn.
Quoth Hamlet: “conscience does make cowards of
Us all” – that is, till We the People learn,
Implicitly, that human Cowardice
Exudes contempt for Rationalities.
Meanwhile, mankind’s destiny – Avarice –
Appears in service to those Vanities
Most shallowed minds presume to be their right,
Enabling failure thus of Self, of State.
Repression blooms and quickly dims all light
Intrinsic to the heart of Freedom’s Fate –
Consumed – whilst words of Truth, now specious, Moan
And stand as lifeless slogans, etched in stone.



The Watering Hole; Thursday April 7 2016; Wage Peace, Not War part II — “Defense” Budget;

“We’re run by people that don’t get it. I don’t know, it’s a lack of street smarts,
it’s a lack of intelligence, to be honest with you, but it’s just a horrible situation.”
(Donald Trump)

A revolting statistic: The US military outspends the next 13 top-spending nations combined.

Military spending, WaPo

(▲Courtesy Washington Post▲)

Not sure why it is, really, but stats like that MAKE ME MAD!!! Can anyone come up with a better and more efficient means for a nation to piss away its wealth and sustenance than blowing the better part of a trillion dollars on its war machine? What exactly has that philosophy bought us US since, say, Sept 2 1945, aka the end of the last truly defensive war in which the US (necessarily) engaged? What’s been our gain in Korea? Vietnam? Grenada? Panama? Bosnia? Kuwait? Afghanistan? Iraq? And today, Syria? How many global “friends” have we acquired courtesy of our military adventurism? None? How many enemies have we made? Lots? To what end?

Are we safer now? Is the M.I.C. better off?

The answers to those last two questions are, of course, NO and YES, resp.; and therein lies the rub: it’s the MONEY, stupid.

Here in Amurkkka we loves us some military. Cuz there’s MONEY in it, dontcha know! OK, so there’s also wanton death, destruction, murder, insanity, etc., but what the hell, the MONEY trumps all of that, right? Right. So we continue on our wayward path of always spending more, more, more! on war (aka, to the uninformed, “Defense”) than the rest of the civilized world COMBINED! — and we leave nothing but death, destruction, and insanity  — and hatred of us — in our wake even as we accomplish only what the billionaires want most: more MONEY handed them by we the people. Conclusion: as a nation, we ain’t worth — to the rest of the world — much more than the powder it would take to blow US all to hell.

No worries, though; I have an idea.🙂

We currently spend $711 Billion per year on what we call “defense.” The world’s second biggest spender on “defense” is our (arch enemy?) China who spends, according to the chart up top, around $145 Billion (make it $146B for easy figuring). Suppose we, US, would agree, in the interest of global sanity, to spend no more than that on our war machine. That would leave $711B minus $146B, or $565B that could be invested elsewhere, maybe even on PEACEful enterprises!


Think of it. More than half-a-TRILLION bucks left over! Half a trillion bucks once allocated for ‘defense’ but no longer wasted on bombs and bullets and stuff. Is it really necessary that our “leaders” forever continue to presume that their own reality must remain focused on and be governed by that line from Herman Wouk’s masterful tome The Winds of War, words attributed to Adolf Hitler?

“. . . I have never stopped building planes, planes, planes, U-boats, U-boats, U-boats! . . . I have piled bombs, bombs, bombs, tanks, tanks, tanks to the sky! It has been a wasteful, staggering burden on my people, but what other language have great states ever understood? It is out of a sense of strength that I have offered peace! I Have been rejected and scorned . . .”

That’s an able summation of what’s defined the US “defense” prescription for the last 70 years at least, but a quick look around serves to dismiss the thesis that a great state and its sense of strength can collectively serve to support peace anywhere among us before its leader(s) become rejected and scorned. So why do we continue to follow that self-destructive path? Why do we so love war? What’s so wrong with peace and with caring for others? What is it that forces us to insist on the always-failed military non-solution?

Simple. It’s the MONEY.

So, OK, we in the US currently piss away budget $711 Billion annually for “defense,” and a handful of “important” people (see Dick Cheney, e.g.) get rich off the process even as millions around the world suffer and/or die in result. That essentially spells out, seems to me, what could be described as an able summation of a genuinely nasty setup and policy.

I recommend a few simple changes; here’s a quick summary:

  1. Reserve $146 billion for “defense” in order to keep us on par with China.
  2. Of the (annual!) remaining $565 Billion, we can begin by allocating $100 Billion (annually!) to assist and provide for the needs of refugees who are fleeing the explosive (thanks mainly to US) Middle East — Syria, Iraq, etc.
  3. Of the remaining $465 billion, allocate $75 Billion (annually!) to assist and support refugees(?) from Central America and Mexico, also to enable each and all to obtain legal assistance that enables them to apply for and gain US citizenship, should they so desire.
  4. $390 billion remains. How about $100 Billion (annually!) to be invested in the maintenance and rebuilding of infrastructure here at home?
  5. Of the $290 Billion remaining, $75 billion could be invested (annually!) in anti-poverty programs/initiatives in cities and states everywhere across the country.
  6. Next, apply $100 Billion (annually!) on scientific program(s) designed and developed to help SOLVE the human-caused global climate change dilemma/crisis, both here at home and around the world.
  7. Invest $75 Billion (annually!) wherever needed in domestic Public Education.
  8. Invest $35 Billion (annually!) in a rejuvenated Peace Corps, dedicated to helping the needy in countries everywhere.
  9. And finally, use the remaining $5 Billion (annually!) to pay the salaries and office costs required by those who will work endlessly to devise the mechanisms of forever CLOSING and inverting the tax loopholes that benefit Corporations and billionaires everywhere!

There. A skeletonized recommendation of the means to relieve this country of its never-ending (annualized) planes, planes, planes, bombs, bombs, bombs, tanks, tanks, tanks piled to the sky (!.!.!.) philosophy, and to erect in its place a series of well-financed (each and every year!!) programs that will benefit people both at home and the world over; programs that will reduce (rather than accelerate) hatred of the US by people both at home and the world over. Consider all of this to be the latest incarnation of the


domestic and global MOVEMENT!

Or —

We can go the other way, elect Donald Trump as our President, and wallow in the swill that his tremendous acumen on all such matters has already suggested:

I know how to fix it, so easy, that aspect of it. And even, you know, the nuclear.
I am doing so good on nuclear by people that are fair. What’s happening now is
we’re paying for the world’s — we’re like the world’s policeman but they don’t
pay us for it. We lose a fortune on the military. You know, our military budget is
phenomenally higher than any other budget but it’s not for us, we’re protecting
everybody else and we lose a fortune.

(Donald Trump)

Nice choice, right?




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.