Obama picks former Palin aide to oversee natural gas project

U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated Larry Persily, a veteran Alaska policy maker and former aide to former Governor Sarah Palin, to oversee plans for a massive, long-desired Alaska natural gas pipeline.

Persily, a former Alaska journalist, worked for more than a decade on oil and gas issues for three Alaska governors, including Palin, who was John McCain’s running mate on the Republican ticket that lost to Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the 2008 presidential election.

Persily, currently is a resource specialist for the Alaska legislature, became a vocal critic of Palin after leaving her office. He famously likened her to Argentine icon Eva Peron

Two groups are competing for rights and financing to build a pipeline carrying natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope to domestic U.S. markets…

TransCanada and Exxon are entitled to up to $500 million in state subsidies and the state is prohibited from negotiating with other potential pipeline sponsors, under the AGIA terms..

That’s the law passed by Palin which limits bidding to just those two corporations.

The other sponsor is a joint venture created by BP and ConocoPhillips, the two other major North Slope producers. That venture, called Denali, is proceeding outside of the AGIA terms.

As well as I recall, the Canadian portion of this hookup has been ready and waiting for years. If I’m wrong, surely someone will note the correction.

Regardless, time to stop flaring and start pumping southward – is overdue.

Justice Minister – Torah law must become binding in Israel

Israeli Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman has said that he intends to have the state gradually adopt Jewish religious law.

“Step by step we will impose on Israeli citizens the laws of the Torah and we will make the laws of Halacha (Jewish religious law) the governing law of the state,” Neeman said in comments aired on public radio.

“We have to impose the heritage of our forefathers on the nation. The Torah has all the answers to the questions that concern us,” he said…

There was no immediate comment from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the statement, but opposition chief Tzipi Livni of the centrist Kadima party quickly slammed them as dangerous.

The statement by Mr. Neeman should worry every Israeli citizen who cares about democracy,” Livni told reporters.

The head of the left-wing Meretz party Haim Oron said that the comments “are worrying proof of the Talibanisation of Israeli society.”

NSS. Some of the right-wingers in Israel’s government are dashing madly about trying to head-off criticism – the usual babble about clarifications and misunderstanding.

The rest are already on board with the plan.

Porsche + Suzuki + Volkswagen = top auto group [almost]

Why are these men smiling?

Germany’s Volkswagen AG will buy a one-fifth stake in Suzuki Motor Corp for $2.5 billion, tapping the Japanese firm’s expertise in small cars and dominance in India as VW seeks to become the No.1 automaker.

The move is the second coup this week for ambitious VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech, coming on the heels of the German carmaker’s $5.8 billion purchase of a 49.9 percent stake in sports car maker Porsche AG.

Piech’s top lieutenant, VW Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, was hopeful the Suzuki alliance would help catapult the Wolfsburg-based carmaker past industry leader Toyota Motor Corp ahead of plan.

“If that succeeds faster (than 2018), we’re happy,” a grinning Winterkorn told reporters as he sat next to Suzuki’s nearly 80-year-old CEO Osamu Suzuki at a Tokyo press conference…

“I don’t want you to misunderstand: Suzuki is not becoming a 12th brand for Volkswagen,” Suzuki said when asked whether the company might get a German CEO in the future. “I don’t want other folks telling me how to do things…”

Volkswagen, with its 10 brands including Audi, Skoda, Seat and Porsche, has said it wanted to become the world’s No.1 automaker by 2018 — a goal it would reach with relative ease if Suzuki became a subsidiary…

In modern markets a 20% stake really is a controlling interest in a corporation. Though, Volkswagen – and Piech – have the corporate smarts to manage a familial relationship with Suzuki. It’s probably going to be easier than the soap opera that has accompanied the acquisition of 49,9% of Porsche.

Christians sue for the right to be bigots

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal from a Christian student group that had been denied recognition by a public law school in California for excluding homosexuals and nonbelievers. The case pits anti-discrimination principles against religious freedom.

The group, the Christian Legal Society, says it welcomes all students to participate in its activities. But it does not allow students to become voting members or to assume leadership positions unless they affirm what the group calls orthodox Christian beliefs and disavow “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle.” Such a lifestyle, the group says, includes “sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman.”

The law school, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, part of the University of California, allows some 60 recognized student groups to use meeting space, bulletin boards and the like so long as they agree to a policy that forbids discrimination on various grounds, including religion and sexual orientation. The school withdrew recognition from the Christian group after it refused to comply with the policy.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled in favor of Hastings in March.

“Hastings imposes an open membership rule on all student groups — all groups must accept all comers as voting members even if those individuals disagree with the mission of the group,” a three-judge panel of the court said in a brief unsigned decision. “The conditions on recognition are therefore viewpoint neutral and reasonable.”

None of which guarantees that a Supreme Court stacked to support reactionary politics will issue a ruling anymore advanced than some of the crap they produced in the 19th Century.

Feds agree to $3 billion deal over Native American land

The federal government announced on Tuesday that it intends to pay $3.4 billion to settle claims that it has mismanaged the revenue in American Indian trust funds, potentially ending one of the largest and most complicated class-action lawsuits ever brought against the United States.

The tentative agreement, reached late Monday, would resolve a 13-year-old lawsuit over hundreds of thousands of land trust accounts that date to the 19th century. Specialists in federal tribal law described the lawsuit as one of the most important in the history of legal disputes involving the government’s treatment of American Indians…

For the agreement to become final, Congress must enact legislation and the federal courts must then sign off on it. Administration officials said they hoped those two steps would be completed in the next few months.

Do you really think so?

The dispute arises from a system dating to 1887, when Congress divided many tribal lands into parcels — most from 40 to 160 acres — and assigned them to individual Indians while selling off remaining lands.

Selling off the most valuable lands at the time to cronies in mining and logging – and pocketing the funds.

The Interior Department now manages about 56 million acres of Indian trust land scattered across the country, with the heaviest concentration in Western states. The government handles leases on the land for mining, livestock grazing, timber harvesting and drilling for oil and gas. It then distributes the revenue raised by those leases to the American Indians. In the 2009 fiscal year, it collected about $298 million for more than 384,000 individual Indian accounts…

The lawsuit spanned three presidencies and engendered seven trials covering 192 trial days, generated 22 published judicial opinions, and went before a federal appeals court 10 times.

Over its course, the federal judge originally assigned to the case, Royce C. Lamberth, put contempt orders on two secretaries of the interior over their handling of the lawsuit. In 2006, after the Bush administration complained of bias, a federal appeals court removed Judge Lamberth from the case.

Our various governments, whether led by Democrats or Republicans, have demonstrated unity in corruption, stonewalling and fear of responsibility. A system of justice maintained above all else to provide steady work for lawyers and political hacks – has ground along in predictable fashion.

It took a new administration – fractionally more ethical than predecessors – to resolve the dollar value of responsibility for a tiny portion of wholesale theft. There will be no individuals, agencies or corporations found guilty – of course.

SpaceShip Two is christened the VSS Enterprise

On a cold and windy night at the Mojave Air and Space Port, the VSS Enterprise was unveiled to the public. Attached to its mother ship, the vehicle better known as SpaceShipTwo is expected to be the first commercial spacecraft when it enters service with Virgin Galactic.

SpaceShipTwo was built by Scaled Composites under the guidance of legendary aircraft designer Burt Rutan. The carbon composite spacecraft uses the same fuselage as its mother ship, VMS Eve. After a year of rigorous testing, VMS Eve completed flight testing earlier this fall. Rutan didn’t specify when flight testing for SpaceShipTwo would begin, though it is expected to start early next year.

Sub-orbital passenger flights could start as early as 2011 from Virgin Galactic’s space port in New Mexico which is currently under construction. Tickets for the early adopters are $200,000 for a training program culminating with the ride into space. Both Rutan and Virgin Galactic founder, Sir Richard Branson have repeatedly said they expect the prices to drop rapidly similar to many new technologies, including the early days of air travel.

Once flight testing is complete, production will begin on a fleet spacecraft like SpaceShipTwo in order to meet the expected demand for rides into space. Rutan and Branson have partnered in a company known simply as The Spaceship Company. The joint venture will produce both the WhiteKnightTwo mother ships and the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. Rutan says he expects that 40 to 50 spaceships will be needed in order to satisfy the market needs. Branson’s Virgin Galactic has the exclusive use of the launch system for the first 18 months of operation.

More than 300 erstwhile astronauts are waiting in line – having fronted the $200K for a seat on SpaceShipTwo.

Would I do it? In a New York minute. At my age and weight – did I mention my age? – it would probably kill me. But, the exit would be a gas!

[American?, nope] Republican belief in global warming diminishes

Republican Earth

A rise in skepticism among Americans over global warming is mostly due to changes among Republicans, according to a new national poll.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, released Monday, indicates that two-thirds of all Americans believe global warming is a proven fact. That’s down 8 percentage points since June 2008, with views among Democrats holding steady and Republicans’ belief in global warming dropping 11 points.

The growing skepticism among Republicans, with no matching shift among Democrats, suggests that the changes measured in this poll may be a reaction to having a Democrat in the White House rather than a shift in underlying attitudes toward global warming,” said Keating Holland, CNN polling director…

Why does a majority support lowering emissions when most Americans no longer think emissions cause global warming?

“Americans may have other reasons to support a reduction in carbon dioxide and other gases,” Holland said. “Pollution is pollution, and the country has been worried about clean air long before global warming became a topic of discussion.”

Yup, we used to call it the ecology movement. This may surprise some of you; but, a fair number of folks believe that breathing unpolluted air, drinking clean water, keeping pesticides, antibiotics and other crap out of the food we eat makes absolute sense.

Of course, no one ever accused a Republican teabagger of having an abundance of common sense.