Thursday, May 31, 2012

Some Civility in Washington For a Change

George W. and Laura Bush had their White House portraits unveiled today and I have to say it was an amazingly civil affair. Obama thanked W for the sports TV package he added to the White House and W apologized to his mom for calling Laura the best first lady ever.:

One Eurobond to Rule Them All

If you haven't seen this already, check out this hilarious post which interjects the Eurobond into famous lines from Lord of the Rings.  Here are some that I really like:

"One Bond to rule them all; One Bond to find them; One Bond to bring them all; and in the darkness bind them."

European Council: "If you ask it of me, I will give you the right to issue the One Bond."
Merkel: "You offer it to me freely? I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired this. In the place of a Council you would have a Queen! Not dark but beautiful and terrible as the Morn! Treacherous as the Seas! Stronger than the foundations of the Earth! All shall love me and despair! … I have passed the test. I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Merkel."

"The Euro cannot be destroyed by any craft that we here possess. It was made in the fires of Frankfurt. Only there can it be unmade. It must be taken deep into the heart of the European Central Bank, and cast back into the fiery chasm from whence it came!"

"Arise, Voters of Syriza! Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered! A sword day… a red day… ere the sun rises! DEATH!! DEATH!!!"

"One does not simply walk out of the Eurozone. Its iron gates are guarded by more than central bankers. There are technocrats there who do not sleep. And the great € is ever watchful. Not with ten thousand drachma could you do this. It is folly."

"The Greeks delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of the Bundesbank."

"I think you should leave the Euro behind, Greece. Is that so hard?"
"Well, no. … And yes. Now it comes to it, I don't feel like parting with it. It's mine, I found it. It came to me!"
"There's no need to get angry."
"Well, if I'm angry, it's your fault! It's mine… my own… my precious…"
"Precious? It's been called that before, but not by you."
"What business is it of yours what I do with my own currency?"
"I think you've had the Euro quite long enough."

"We wants the drachma back. We needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us. Sneaky little Eurocrats. Wicked, tricksy, false!"

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why Eurobonds Won't Work

A great one from John Hussman on the prospect of Eurobonds and fiscal union to save Europe out of its current mess:

This is like 9 broke guys walking up to Warren Buffett and proposing that they all get together so each of them can issue "Warrenbonds." About 90% of the group would agree on the wisdom of that idea, and Warren would be criticized as a "holdout" to the success of the plan. You'd have 9 guys issuing press releases on their "general agreement" about the concept, and in his weaker moments, Buffett might even offer to "study" the proposal. But Buffett would never agree unless he could impose spending austerity and nearly complete authority over the budgets of those 9 guys. None of them would be willing to give up that much sovereignty, so the idea would never get off the ground. Without major steps toward fiscal union involving a substantial loss of national sovereignty, the same is true for Eurobonds.

Over the weekend, Jean Claude Trichet, the former ECB head, proposed a system to save the Euro, whereby European politicians could declare a sovereign country bankrupt and take over its fiscal policy. He also proposed a system whereby the Eurozone could produce its own domestic energy by placing a giant hamster on a wheel the size of the Eiffel Tower.

The Democratic Congressman Who Was the First Outside of Illinois to Endorse Obama, Just Became a Republican

Former Democratic Congressman Arthur Davis, a former member of the Congressional Black Caucus and an early supporter of Obama's has just switched parties.  Check out his comments

Cutting ties with an Alabama Democratic Party that has weakened and lost faith with more and more Alabamians every year is one thing; leaving a national party that has been the home for my political values for two decades is quite another. My personal library is still full of books on John and Robert Kennedy, and I have rarely talked about politics without trying to capture the noble things they stood for. I have also not forgotten that in my early thirties, the Democratic Party managed to engineer the last run of robust growth and expanded social mobility that we have enjoyed; and when the party was doing that work, it felt inclusive, vibrant, and open-minded.

But parties change. As I told a reporter last week, this is not Bill Clinton's Democratic Party (and he knows that even if he can't say it).  If you have read this blog, and taken the time to look for a theme in the thousands of words (or free opposition research) contained in it, you see the imperfect musings of a voter who describes growth as a deeper problem than exaggerated inequality; who wants to radically reform the way we educate our children; who despises identity politics and the practice of speaking for groups and not one national interest; who knows that our current course on entitlements will eventually break our solvency and cause us to break promises to our most vulnerable—that is, if we don't start the hard work of fixing it.

On the specifics, I have regularly criticized an agenda that would punish businesses and job creators with more taxes just as they are trying to thrive again. I have taken issue with an administration that has lapsed into a bloc by bloc appeal to group grievances when the country is already too fractured: frankly, the symbolism of Barack Obama winning has not given us the substance of a united country. You have also seen me write that faith institutions should not be compelled to violate their teachings because faith is a freedom, too. You've read that in my view, the law can't continue to favor one race over another in offering hard-earned slots in colleges: America has changed, and we are now diverse enough that we don't need to accommodate a racial spoils system. And you know from these pages that I still think the way we have gone about mending the flaws in our healthcare system is the wrong way—it goes further than we need and costs more than we can bear.

Taken together, these are hardly the enthusiasms of a Democrat circa 2012, and they wouldn't be defensible in a Democratic primary. But they are the thoughts and values of ten years of learning, and seeing things I once thought were true fall into disarray. So, if I were to leave the sidelines, it would be as a member of the Republican Party that is fighting the drift in this country in a way that comes closest to my way of thinking: wearing a Democratic label no longer matches what I know about my country and its possibilities. 

Visual Proof of Obama's Failure as President

With the latest monthly unemployment numbers coming out this Friday, I decided to take a look at what we've seen so far.  It struck me that most of the quoted numbers were actually percentages, with the actual number of people not working obscured by statistics.   So I decided to take a look at what would happen if I took the BLS numbers and then subtracted the number of people employed from the number of people in the populations that are 16 and over.  This gives you the number of people who are currently not working, though are old enough to.  Take a look at what has happened in Obama's first term so far:

As you can see, we've hit an all time high with over 100 million people not working, a number that has increased by 9 million since the day Obama took office with no letup in sight. 

Now let's take a look at what happened in the first term of Ronald Reagan, a truly great American President:

Notice how different the trend is.  Unlike Obama's trend which hit another all-time high in April, Reagan's peaked in March of 1983 and relentlessly fell from then on.  It actually kept falling through his second term so that we had no increase in the number of people not working despite having 16 million more people 16 and over!

And all this happened in an economic environment that one could easily argue was less friendly than today.  Remember that monetary policy was incredibly tight back then.  Right when Reagan took office, Paul Volcker increased the Fed Funds rate by 2% to a whopping 20%!  That is a far cry from today's zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) which has been in effect since December of 2008, right before Obama took office.  From day one, Reagan was dealing with the tightest monetary policy in US history while Obama was dealing with the loosest, and yet Reagan was still able to turn gruel into gravy.

Also, if you look at the timing of the recessions each had to deal with, Reagan was disadvantaged there as well.  Reagan's recession only ended in November 1982, almost halfway through his first term, giving him little time to show improvement in unemployment as that often lags economic growth.  Obama's recession, on the other hand, ended in June 2009, 5 months after he took office, giving him quite a long time to improve the employment situation.  And yet he has failed miserably.

Obama needs to go to the dustbin of history so America can start growing again.  His un-American policies that rely on big government, crony capitalism and corruption are simply not working.

Racist Arab Author Gleeful She Forced University of Texas to Cancel Book Project That Included Israelis

The racism within the Arab world, even within what some people would call "moderate" elements is astounding.  Two Israeli women were to be included in an anothology of women's voices from the Middle East and one of the Arab writers completely flipped out.  It didn't matter that 27 out of 29 authors weren't Israelis, all that mattered was that those two were.  Also, note from the story that there doesn't seem to be any personal reason why either of these Israeli writers need to be excluded, other than their nationality.  Also, both writers live in Tel Aviv with Yehudit Hendel arriving in 1930 (almost two decades before the founding of Israel) and Orly Castel-Bloom was born to a family of Egyptian Jews (who probably lived in the area for thousands of years).  Neither writer seem to have anything to do with "settlements" or "occupation".  Their only crime seems to be that they are Jews in the middle east.

A female Arab author claims a "cherished victory" by forcing the University of Texas to scrap the publication of an anthology of women's voices from the Middle East – because two of the twenty-nine writers were Israeli.

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UT Austin was planning to publish the book in honor of the late American scholar Elizabeth Fernai, a professor there whose life and work were focused on the Middle East.

At first, novelist Huzama Habayeb was delighted to contribute as one of fifteen Arab writers. But that turned to "horror," as a Gulf News editorial put it, when she realized that the collection would also feature two Israeli women, Yehudit Hendel and Orly Castel-Bloom. Habayeb withdrew her manuscript, complaining to the Center that Israel is an "occupier" of her land "Palestine" – although she was born in Kuwait, raised in Jordan, lives in Dubai, and has never set foot in Israel.


"I cannot accept, ethically and morally, that my voice be shared equally with writers who reflect the voice of an obnoxious occupier."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The End of the Euro

The former Chief Economist of the IMF, Simon Johnson, is anything but bullish, expecting a complete collapse of the Euro system.  Be sure to read the whole thing as I couldn't excerpt it all below:

Europe's crisis to date is a series of supposedly "decisive" turning points that each turned out to be just another step down a steep hill.  Greece's upcoming election on June 17 is another such moment.  While the so-called "pro-bailout" forces may prevail in terms of parliamentary seats, some form of new currency will soon flood the streets of Athens.  It is already nearly impossible to save Greek membership in the euro area: depositors flee banks, taxpayers delay tax payments, and companies postpone paying their suppliers – either because they can't pay or because they expect soon to be able to pay in cheap drachma.


During the next stage of the crisis, Europe's electorate will be rudely awakened to the large financial risks which have been foisted upon them in failed attempts to keep the single currency alive.  If Greece quits the euro later this year, its government will default on approximately 300 billion euros of external public debt, including roughly 187 billion euros owed to the IMF and European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).

More importantly and currently less obvious to German taxpayers, Greece will likely default on 155 billion euros directly owed to the euro system (comprised of the ECB and the 17 national central banks in the euro zone).  This includes 110 billion euros provided automatically to Greece through the Target2 payments system – which handles settlements between central banks for countries using the euro.   As depositors and lenders flee Greek banks, someone needs to finance that capital flight, otherwise Greek banks would fail.  This role is taken on by other euro area central banks, which have quietly leant large funds, with the balances reported in the Target2 account.  The vast bulk of this lending is, in practice, done by the Bundesbank since capital flight mostly goes to Germany, although all members of the euro system share the losses if there are defaults.

The ECB has always vehemently denied that it has taken an excessive amount of risk despite its increasingly relaxed lending policies.  But between Target2 and direct bond purchases alone, the euro system claims on troubled periphery countries are now approximately 1.1 trillion euros (this is our estimate based on available official data).  This amounts to over 200 percent of the (broadly defined) capital of the euro system.  No responsible bank would claim these sums are minor risks to its capital or to taxpayers.  These claims also amount to 43 percent of German Gross Domestic Product, which is now around 2.57 trillion euros.  With Greece proving that all this financing is deeply risky, the euro system will appear far more fragile and dangerous to taxpayers and investors.


Jacek Rostowski, the Polish Finance Minister, recently warned that the calamity of a Greek default is likely to result in a flight from banks and sovereign debt across the periphery, and that – to avoid a greater calamity – all remaining member nations need to be provided with unlimited funding for at least 18 months.  Mr. Rostowski expresses concern, however, that the ECB is not prepared to provide such a firewall, and no other entity has the capacity, legitimacy, or will to do so.

We agree:  Once it dawns on people that the ECB already has a large amount of credit risk on its books, it seems very unlikely that the ECB would start providing limitless funds to all other governments that face pressure from the bond market.  The Greek trajectory of austerity-backlash-default is likely to be repeated elsewhere – so why would the Germans want the ECB to double- or quadruple-down by suddenly ratcheting up loans to everyone else?


Forget about a rescue in the form of the G20, the G8, the G7, a new European Union Treasury, the issue of Eurobonds, a large scale debt mutualisation scheme, or any other bedtime story.  We are each on our own.

Stuxnet Strikes Back

There is another virus, called Flame, which is 20 times more complex than Stuxnet that is infecting computers in the middle east.  It can turn on a computer's microphones and record conversations:

Middle Eastern states were targeted and Iran ordered an emergency review of official computer installations after the discovery of a new virus, known as Flame.

Experts said the massive malicious software was 20 times more powerful than other known cyber warfare programmes including the Stuxnet virus and could only have been created by a state.


Flame can gather data files, remotely change settings on computers, turn on computer microphones to record conversations, take screen shots and copy instant messaging chats.

The virus was discovered by a Russian security firm that specialises in targeting malicious computer code.

It made the 20 megabyte virus available to other researchers yesterday claiming it did not fully understand its scope and said its code was 100 times the size of the most malicious software.

Kaspersky Labs said the programme appeared to have been released five years ago and had infected machines in Iran, Israel, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

"If Flame went on undiscovered for five years, the only logical conclusion is that there are other operations ongoing that we don't know about," Roel Schouwenberg, a Kaspersky security senior researcher, said.

Professor Alan Woodward from the department of computing at the University of Surrey said the virus was extremely invasive. It could "vacuum up" information by copying keyboard strokes and the voices of people nearby.

"This wasn't written by some spotty teenager in his/her bedroom. It is large, complicated and dedicated to stealing data whilst remaining hidden for a long time," he said.

The virus contains about 20 times as much code as Stuxnet, which attacked an Iranian uranium enrichment facility, causing centrifuges to fail. Iran's output of uranium was suffered a severe blow as a result of the Stuxnet activities.

Mr Schouwenberg said there was evidence to suggest the code was commissioned by the same nation or nations that were behind Stuxnet and Duqu.


The newly-discovered virus does not spread itself automatically but only when hidden controllers allow it.

Unprecedented layers of software allow Flame to penetrate remote computer networks undetected.

The file, which infects Microsoft Windows computers, has five encryption algorithms, exotic data storage formats and the ability to steal documents, spy on computer users and more.

Components enable those behind it, who use a network of rapidly-shifting "command and control" servers to direct the virus, to turn microphone into listening devices, siphon off documents and log keystrokes.

Eugene Kaspersky, the founder of Kaspersky Lab, noted that "it took us 6 months to analyse Stuxnet. [This] is 20 times more complicated"

Once a machine is infected additional modules can be added to the system allowing the machine to undertake specific tracking projects.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Oh Look, the "Moderate" Islamist didn't win the Egyptian Presidential Election, Didn't Even Finish in the Top 3

Recently, there was quite a bit of talk of how "moderate" Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh was uniting both liberals and ultra-conservatives behind him and would provide Egypt with a very sane head of state, with a mandate to lead.  This was based on some flawed polling data, which occasionally showed that he was taking 20-30% of the vote in a very crowded field.  In the end, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, who was regularly polling in the single digits, ended up in 1st place with about 28% of the vote (based on data so far, the count has not been finalized).  The two lessons from this should be:

1.  Never draw conclusions from a poll in which the most popular answer is "undecided".
2.  Never trust a poll taken in a dictatorial state (which Egypt still is) where people might not want to tell complete strangers what their politics are.

The runoff is likely going to be between Morsi and either Nasserite Hamdeen Sabahi or Ahmed Shafik.  I think odds are the eventual winner will be the Morsi, giving radical Islamists control of the Presidency, the Parliament and rewriting the constitution, which will be very bad news for the United States and for Israel, which will have to reinforce it's Southern Command even more.  The other two candidates do have a chance but I'm not sure if things will end well regardless of whether they win or not.  The Brotherhood is likely to be very upset if their candidate doesn't win and has already promised to take it to the streets, especially if Shafik, a Mubarak holdover, wins.  Sabahi might mean less blood in the streets but he has been critical of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty since the time of Sadat so I don't think he would be good news regardless.

IAEA Find Evidence That Iran is Closer to the Nuclear Threshold

Looks like the IAEA found evidence of 27% enriched uranium in an underground bunker.  My question is how enriched is the uranium that they aren't finding because it's too well hidden?  Can we stop dilly-dallying already?:

The U.N. atomic agency has found evidence at an underground bunker in Iran that could mean the country has moved closer to producing the uranium threshold needed to arm nuclear missiles, diplomats said Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has found traces of uranium enriched up to 27 percent at Iran's Fordo enrichment plant, the diplomats told The Associated Press.

That is still substantially below the 90-percent level needed to make the fissile core of nuclear arms. But it is above Iran's highest-known enrichment grade, which is close to 20 percent, and which already can be turned into weapons-grade material much more quickly than the Islamic Republic's main stockpile, which can only be used for fuel at around 3.5 percent.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sonic Youth - Expressway to Yr. Skull

This is such a great song. I haven't listened to it in awhile but when I heard it today I remembered how great it is. I can't believe it came out in 1986, both because it is so long ago and because it sounds like nothing else from that time:

The Talks with Iran Do Only One Thing, Strengthen Iran

The second round of talks with Iran are now finished.  The only business that seems to have been concluded is that another round of talks has been scheduled for June 18-19 in Moscow.  At the conclusion of those talks probably the only thing that will have been agreed to will be another round in July in a place like Beijing or Islamabad or something.  There doesn't seem to be a point to any of this besides giving Iran more time to develop nukes by holding off an Israeli attack.  The danger, of course, is that intelligence on Iran is wrong and they are further along than people expect, hence past the point where an Israeli attack will actually set them back.  Europe and Obama can afford to dither along because even if Iran does get nukes, there isn't really a mortal danger at stake here for the US or the EU, at least not for years.  The biggest immediate impact will be that it will alter their political calculus for the middle east.  For Israel though, the danger is mortal and immediate and there seems to be absolutely zero upside for waiting but a pretty horrendous downside..

Obama's Horrible Public Equity Record

Marc Thiessen thinks that Obama's horrible public equity record dwarfs any dirt he can dig up on Bain.  Obama was using taxpayer dollars to prop up companies backed mainly by large Democratic donors despite major problems with their business models.  Solyndra was just one of many:

● Raser Technologies. In 2010, the Obama administration gave Raser a $33 million taxpayer-funded grant to build a power plant in Beaver Creek, Utah. According to the Wall Street Journal, after burning through our tax dollars, the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012. The plant now has fewer than 10 employees, and Raser owes $1.5 million in back taxes.

● ECOtality. The Obama administration gave ECOtality $126.2 million in taxpayer money in 2009 for, among other things, the installation of 14,000 electric car chargers in five states. Obama even hosted the company's president, Don Karner, in the first lady's box during the 2010 State of the Union address as an example of a stimulus success story. According to ECOtality's own SEC filings, the company has since incurred more than $45 million in losses and has told the federal government, "We may not achieve or sustain profitability on a quarterly or annual basis in the future."

Worse, according to CBS News the company is "under investigation for insider trading," and Karner has been subpoenaed "for any and all documentation surrounding the public announcement of the first Department of Energy grant to the company."

● Nevada Geothermal Power (NGP). The Obama administration gave NGP a $98.5 million taxpayer loan guarantee in 2010. The New York Times reported last October that the company is in "financial turmoil" and that "[a]fter a series of technical missteps that are draining Nevada Geothermal's cash reserves, its own auditor concluded in a filing released last week that there was 'significant doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern.' "

● First Solar. The Obama administration provided First Solar with more than $3 billion in loan guarantees for power plants in Arizona and California. According to a Bloomberg Businessweek report last week, the company "fell to a record low in Nasdaq Stock Market trading May 4 after reporting $401 million in restructuring costs tied to firing 30 percent of its workforce."

● Abound Solar, Inc. The Obama administration gave Abound Solar a $400 million loan guarantee to build photovoltaic panel factories. According to Forbes, in February the company halted production and laid off 180 employees.

● Beacon Power. The Obama administration gave Beacon — a green-energy storage company — a $43 million loan guarantee. According to CBS News, at the time of the loan, "Standard and Poor's had confidentially given the project a dismal outlook of 'CCC-plus.' " In the fall of 2011, Beacon received a delisting notice from Nasdaq and filed for bankruptcy.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. A company called SunPower got a $1.2 billion loan guarantee from the Obama administration, and as of January, the company owed more than it was worth. Brightsource got a $1.6 billion loan guarantee and posted a string of net losses totaling $177 million. And, of course, let's not forget Solyndra — the solar panel manufacturer that received $535 million in taxpayer-funded loan guarantees and went bankrupt, leaving taxpayers on the hook.

Amazingly, Obama has declared that all the projects received funding "based solely on their merits." But as Hoover Institution scholar Peter Schweizer reported in his book, "Throw Them All Out," fully 71 percent of the Obama Energy Department's grants and loans went to "individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama's National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party." Collectively, these Obama cronies raised $457,834 for his campaign, and they were in turn approved for grants or loans of nearly $11.35 billion.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Union Rules Keep Newark Schools in Financial Crisis

Newark, which is constantly in one financial crisis or another, has a shrinking student population but because of union rules, can't layoff the teachers it wants to layoff (the bad ones).  The reason is simple, union rules value seniority over quality.  So a young, good teacher will lose out to an old, bad teacher every day of the week and twice on sunday:

Superintendent Cami Anderson said the district currently has no money for buyouts, and that a number of options are being weighed.

"It's no secret that we have more educators than we need to support our declining student population and — because of outdated laws and contracts — we cannot retain the highest quality staff and balance our budget," she said.

Newark estimates it has about 10 percent, or 300 more teachers, than it needs due to shrinking enrollment. The school system has about 36,000 students, down 3,000 from five years ago.

Mayor Cory Blooker gave a blunt assessment of the problem facing Newark at a meeting Friday in Philadelphia of the Education Writers Association.

"If we could fire the 300 or 400 lowest-performing teachers, she wouldn't have a financial crisis," Booker said, speaking of the schools superintendent. "But her crisis right now is based on the fact that she can't get rid of teachers that way."

Booker said Anderson has been trying to avoid layoffs because she would be hamstrung by tenure rules requiring them to be based on seniority.

The superintendent is "finding every way to hold off on laying off hundreds of teachers that could be the best quality teachers," Booker said.

"If we can't figure that out, Newark will lose," he said.

Teachers union treasurer Joseph Amabile said specifics of a workforce reduction hadn't been addressed, but negotiations were progressing. A secretary for Joseph Del Grosso, president of the Newark teachers union, said he was unavailable Monday and Tuesday. He did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

Citing the difficulty and high cost of removing tenured teachers, Booker said it took "18 months, 29 hearings and $400,000" to fire a teacher "who everybody knew was not a good teacher, not serving kids."


Christie has frequently criticized the teacher tenure system, saying it makes it cost-prohibitive to dismiss ineffective teachers. In a speech May 3 in Jersey City before a school-choice advocacy group, he also spoke about some of the problems faced in Newark stemming from the oversupply of teachers.

In Newark, he said, "you're paying 70 people, as we speak, to eat lunch, read the newspaper, do the crossword puzzle."

1000 Years of European History in 3 Minutes

A really cool video, especially made for us history buffs (h/t Zerohedge):

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Notre Dame v. Obama

Here is the text of the complaint against the Obama administration for forcing religious groups to provide abortion inducing drugs and contraception.  It's well worth reading:

1.      This lawsuit is about one of America's most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one's religion without government interference. It is not about whether people have a right to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. Those services are, and will continue to be, freely available in the United States, and nothing prevents the Government itself from making them more widely available. But the right to such services does not authorize the Government to force the University of Notre Dame ("Notre Dame") to violate its own conscience by making it provide, pay for, and/or facilitate those services to others, contrary to its sincerely held religious beliefs. American history and tradition, embodied in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, protects religious entities from such overbearing and oppressive governmental action. Notre Dame therefore seeks relief in this Court to protect this most fundamental of American rights.

2.      This country was founded by those searching for religious liberty and freedom from religious persecution. And since the founding of this country, religious organizations such as Notre Dame have been free to fulfill their religious beliefs through service to all, including the underprivileged and underserved, without regard to the beneficiaries' religious views.

3.      The U.S. Constitution and federal statutes protect religious organizations from governmental interference with their religious views—particularly minority religious views. As the Supreme Court has recognized, "[t]he structure of our government has, for the preservation of civil liberty, rescued the temporal institutions from religious interference. On the other hand, it has secured religious liberty from the invasion of civil authority." Through this lawsuit, Notre Dame does not seek to impose its religious beliefs on others. It simply asks that the government not impose its values and policies on Notre Dame, in direct violation of its religious beliefs.

4.      Under current federal law described below (the "U.S. Government Mandate"), Notre Dame must provide, or facilitate the provision of, abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraceptive services to its employees in violation of the centuries' old teachings of the Catholic Church. Ignoring broader religious exemptions from other federal laws, the Government has crafted a narrow, discretionary exemption to this U.S. Government Mandate for "religious employers." Group health plans are eligible for the exemption only if they are "established or maintained by religious employers," and only if the "religious employer" can convince the Government that it satisfies four criteria:

  • ·         "The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the organization";
  • ·         "The organization primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization";
  • ·         "The organization primarily serves persons who share the religious tenets of the organization"; and
  • ·         "The organization is a nonprofit organization as described in section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended."

Thus, in order to safeguard their religious freedoms, religious employers must plead with the government for a determination that they are sufficiently "religious."

5.       Notre Dame's health benefits plans may not qualify for this religious exemption, because, for example, while it is a nonprofit charitable organization that is firmly grounded in the tenets of Catholicism, it appears not to fall within section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii) of the Internal Revenue Code.

6.      The U.S. Government Mandate, including the narrow exemption for certain "religious employers," is irreconcilable with the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and other laws. The Government has not shown any compelling need to force Notre Dame to provide, pay for, and/or facilitate access to these objectionable services, or for requiring Notre Dame to submit to an intrusive governmental examination of its religious missions. The Government also has not shown that the U.S. Government Mandate is narrowly tailored to advancing its interest in increased access to these services, since these services are already widely available and nothing prevents the Government from making them even more widely available by providing or paying for them directly through a duly-enacted law. The Government, therefore, cannot justify its decision to force Notre Dame to provide, pay for, and/or facilitate access to these services in violation of its sincerely held religious beliefs.

7.      If the Government can force religious institutions to violate their beliefs in such a manner, there is no apparent limit to the Government's power. Such an oppression of religious freedom violates Notre Dame's clearly established constitutional and statutory rights.

8.      The First Amendment also prohibits the Government from becoming excessively entangled in religious affairs and from interfering with a religious institution's internal decisions concerning the organization's religious structure, ministers, or doctrine. The U.S. Government Mandate tramples all of these rights.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Obama is About to Stab Israel in the Back on Iran

The folks at Debka (they are wrong half the time but usually not when they have such detail) say that Obama and Iran are close to a deal, which gives Iran plenty of loopholes and will keep Israel from attacking:

debkafile has obtained exclusive access to the eight-point draft with the caveat that it may not be final; the details remained to be hammered out and proved practicable:

1. Because the US and Iran agree that a real and comprehensive accord for halting Tehran's nuclear program is unobtainable, they are accepting an interim agreement with each party at liberty to interpret its substance and future implementation in its own manner.
debkafile:  This wording allows Obama to assure the American voter and Western public that Tehran has capitulated on its nuclear ambitions while, at the same time, Khamenei portrays America to Iranians and Muslims as having yielded on recognizing Iran's right to develop an independent nuclear program, enrich uranium and continue its drive for a bomb.

2.  Iran will suspend uranium enrichment up to the near-weapons grade of 20 percent but not dismantle or stop work at the Fordo underground nuclear plant as Israel demands.

3.  Iran will export its stock of 110 kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium which can be used for producing a weapon. This material will be reprocessed and returned as fuel plates from which it is much more difficult though not impossible to make a bomb.

4. No ceiling will be placed on the production of low-enriched uranium of 3.5-5 percent purity. debkafile: Washington tacitly grants this concession by leaving it off the record.

5.  Iran will sign the Non-Proliferation Accord's additional protocol and so permit the expansion of IAEA on-site inspections.

6.  The secret Iranian nuclear sites of which Washington has no explicit knowledge will also be omitted from the record and therefore outside the sphere of international inspection.
debkafile: The guiding principle governing America's approach to the eight-point interim accord therefore is, "Don't know; don't want to see."

7.  The US and European Union will dilute sanctions against Iran stage by stage. debkafile: Here too, dual tactics will be used: The formal embargo on Iran's central bank and its exclusion from the SWIFT international money transfer system will not be formally annulled. However a blind eye will be applied to any small banks in the West executing Iran's international business, just as the sanction-busting measures used by China, Russia, India and Turkey to their trade with Iran, were tolerated.

8.  The US and Europe will revoke the oil embargo due to go into effect on July 1, 2012.

debkafile: While the Obama administration has given its "agreement-in-principle on the interim deal," the Iranian leader has not yet endorsed it. Hence the Amano mission to Tehran Sunday.
If he comes away with a nod from Tehran, Obama will have achieved two key objectives:  the world power talks with Iran can proceed through sessions spaced several weeks apart until the November date of the US presidential election, and Israel will be constrained from striking Iran before that date.

The Law of the Sea Treaty: Piracy of the US by the UN

I think I've heard The Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) mentioned before but I honestly never paid attention, it just sounded like some bureaucratic thing related to freedom of navigation, but alas, like anything involving the UN, it's another shakedown of the United States (and developed coastal states in general).  We've been lucky so far in that it has never been ratified but it looks like Obama and the treaty's main champion, are going to have another try (Kerry is going to hold hearings promoting the treaty on May 23rd).  Why is it so bad?  Take a look at Article 82:

Article 82

Payments and contributions with respect to the exploitation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles

1. The coastal State shall make payments or contributions in kind in respect of the exploitation of the non-living resources of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.

2. The payments and contributions shall be made annually with respect to all production at a site after the first five years of production at that site. For the sixth year, the rate of payment or contribution shall be 1 per cent of the value or volume of production at the site. The rate shall increase by 1 per cent for each subsequent year until the twelfth year and shall remain at 7 per cent thereafter. Production does not include resources used in connection with exploitation.

3. A developing State which is a net importer of a mineral resource produced from its continental shelf is exempt from making such payments or contributions in respect of that mineral resource.

4. The payments or contributions shall be made through the Authority, which shall distribute them to States Parties to this Convention, on the basis of equitable sharing criteria, taking into account the interests and needs of developing States, particularly the least developed and the land-locked among them.

Right now, companies developing in our extended continental shelf (ECS) pay a royalty to the US government of 12.5-18.75%.  What this treaty would do would create another 1-7% royalty that would have to be paid to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), based in Jamaica.  That royalty rate would probably be taken out of the US Treasury's cut but given the way government's work, I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes additive.  Either way, American money would be stolen by a UN sanctioned international body and given to other members of the ISA based on 'interests and need".  Yup, from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. And in this case, the "needy" end up to be such states such as Zimbabwe, which is both incredibly poor AND landlocked.  Sure, Zimbabwe is only poor because it has been run by the dictatorial and borderline genocidal Robert Mugabe, but the UN & ISA probably won't care about that.  Hell if the UN were to exclude countries run by murderous and corrupt dictators, it would dramatically shrink in membership, and they can't have that.

And can someone please tell me what we get out of the UN anymore?  Sure, I understand what the idea of it was at one point, when it was dominated by democracies (in its very early days), but now what?  It seems to mainly be a vehicle for dictators to get prestige and an international forum and for "developing" nations to try to rob the "developed" nations of the world in some grand redistribution scheme. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The TSA, which claims to be doing its job as they grope little kids and the elderly, had an illegal immigrant using a murdered man's ID working a top security job at Newark Airport

Seriously?!?.  At this point we should abolish the TSA and start over.  Besides being focused on procedure rather than on actually catching terrorists, they have become a national embarrassment.  Between groping and scarring crying 4 year old girls, medal of honor winners, Henry Kissinger and Geraldo, the fact that they had a major security risk (given the fact that nobody knows how he got the murdered man's ID and therefore could have been the murderer himself) as head of security at a major airport is just the last straw.

An illegal immigrant worked undetected at Newark Liberty International Airport for 20 years, and used a dead man's identity to acquire a top position in airport security, officials said.

The man was known to co-workers as Jerry Thomas, and for nearly 20 years he has guarded some of the most secure areas of one of the nation's busiest airports.

He was arrested Monday after authorities discovered he is really an illegal Nigerian immigrant by the name of Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole (among other alilases) who entered the country in 1989, officials said.

CBS Station WCBS reports Oyewole, 54, allegedly assumed the identity of a dead man to get a top security job at the airport. He was arrested at his Elizabeth, N.J., home following an anonymous tip, officials said.

"In this case, the defendant utilized an elaborate and complex scheme of identity theft to defraud his employer, the State of New Jersey, the federal government and the Port Authority," Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Inspector General Robert Van Etten said.

The revelation came the same day that the Inspector General's Office of the Transportation Security Administration released a report saying that TSA officials at Newark Liberty took corrective actions in fewer than half (42 percent) of the security breaches shown in its records.

The OIG also said TSA does not have a comprehensive oversight program in order to collate information on security breaches and, consequently, cannot monitor trends or make improvements to security.

WCBS correspondent Marcia Kramer reports that Oyewole somehow obtained the birth certificate and Social Security number of a man murdered in Queens in 1992. He used that identity to obtain a New Jersey driver's license, a state security guard license, airport identification and even credit cards, officials said.

"Jerry Thomas" worked security at Newark, and had access to the tarmac and passenger planes without ever being detected, officials said. At the time of his arrest he supervised 30 other guards, Kramer reported.

Authorities want to know how he got the ID made and whether he was involved in the man's death. The NYPD is checking his fingerprints to see if they match those at the scene of the still-unsolved murder.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cherokee Genealogist to Democrat Elizabeth Warren: Stop Lying

Someone who actually knows something about Cherokee history calls Elizabeth Warren's bluff.  I've excerpted it below but be sure to read the whole thing.  Can we start calling her Fauxcahontas now? (h/t legal insurrection):

It seems you would like the "attacks" against your claims of Cherokee ancestry to stop so I thought I would offer some advice on how to make it stop. 

Tell the truth. 

You see, Ms. Warren, some of us have independently done our own research and we know you have no documentation supporting your claim of Cherokee ancestry.* We wonder why you believe you have the right to claim Cherokee ancestry and to call yourself a Native American when you have no evidence to support your claim. While you cling to a family story and the inaccurate report that ONE document was found that supports your claim, we real Cherokees understand that those things mean nothing. You see, we Cherokees have lots and lots and lots of documentation supporting our claims of our ancestry. Our Cherokee ancestors are found on every roll of the Cherokee Nation (30+ rolls!) dating back to before the removal and in all sorts of other documentation, including but not limited to claims against the US government for lost property; the Moravian missionary records; ration lists before and after the forced removal, etc...yet your ancestors are found in NONE of those records. 

But, your ancestors are found in plenty of historical records, and every time, they are found living as white people among other white people. Never are your ancestors ever found living among the Cherokees. Never, never, never, never.......yet you claim they were Cherokee.

Hmmm........and they say you are an elite lawyer! Really?

Are we supposed to believe an elite lawyer knows nothing about the burden of proof? According to, the burden of proof is the responsibility of producing sufficient evidence in support of a fact or issue and favorably persuading the trier of fact. Well, Ms. Warren, you should know that you are not doing a very good job of supporting your claim or persuading anyone to believe what you say. This is starting to make us question your ability as a legal mind! And that makes us question whether you really got your job at Harvard on your own merits or whether you climbed on the backs of the Cherokee people in order to further your career.

So, Ms. Warren, you see, it is not just your opponent who has questions. We Cherokees have questions too and those questions have yet to be answered by you. You see, for us Cherokees, this is not political. This is about the truth. 

You have claimed something you had no right to claim -- our history and our heritage and our identity. Those things belong to us, and us alone.


Note - Several people who are experienced researchers in Cherokee genealogy have been working together exploring Elizabeth Warren's ancestry. They have uncovered many documents that, combined, paint a very clear picture that Warren descends from white people who had no connection whatsoever to the Cherokee Nation. These documents will be posted soon.

Typical Public School Thinking: If Too Many Kids Fail, Lower the Passing Score

No wonder our schools are failing as a nation:

The Board of Education has decided to lower the passing grade on the writing portion of Florida's standardized test in an emergency meeting on Tuesday after preliminary results showed a drastic drop in student passing scores.


Results on the FCAT are the major factor for determining grades the state uses to reward top schools and sanction those at the bottom of the spectrum.

This is the first year students and schools will be assessed on the basis of tougher tests and scoring systems, expecting to result in more students failing the FCAT and lower school grades.

The board, though, agreed at its regular meeting last week not to let any school drop more than one letter grade this year to help them adjust to the rigorous new standards.

The writing exam was made more difficult by increasing expectations for proper punctuation, capitalization, spelling and sentence structure. The board also increased the passing grade from 3.5 to 4 on scale of zero to 6.

The preliminary results show only 27 percent of fourth-graders received a passing score compared with 81 percent last year.

For eighth-graders it was 33 percent — down from 82 percent in 2011. For 10th-graders it was 38 percent — a drop from 80 percent last year.

The lower passing score is expected to increase the number of students passing the exam to 48 percent for fourth grade, 52 percent for eighth grade and 60 percent for 10th grade, still well below last year's results.

And it's not like the students have been asked to write The Brothers Karamazov, a typical writing question on an FCAT exam is:

Everyone likes getting good news.
Think about a time you got good news.
Now write a story about a time you got good news.

Not exactly rocket science now is it?  This reminds me of something that Newt said at the final debate:

We have bought -- we bought over the last 50 years three huge mistakes. We bought the mistake that the teachers unions actually cared about the kids. It's increasingly clear they care about protecting bad teachers.

And if you look at L.A. Unified, it is almost criminal what we do to the poorest children in America, entrapping them into places. No Nation Left Behind said if a foreign power did this to our children, we'd declare it an act of war because they're doing so much damage. The second thing we bought into was the -- the whole school of education theory that you don't have to learn, you have to learn about how you would learn.

So when you finish learning about how you would learn, you have self esteem because you're told you have self esteem, even if you can't spell the words self esteem.

Our system is failing the kids that are most in need of help because of this type of thinking, that it's bad to have too many kids fail even if they can't write a simple essay about a simple question.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Europe is FUBAR

It's no surprise that Europe is doing badly, but I don't think most people really understand how badly Europe, especially the western and southern portions, are doing.  Take the industrial production statistics that came out yesterday which showed that Europe as a whole contracted by 0.4% on a monthly basis and fell 1.9% compared to last year. The numbers are bad, signifying a recession, but aren't necessarily horrible.  Two things need to be noted.  First, growth in eastern europe is buoying these numbers so that weakness in the larger countries is being masked.  Second, it's very important to take note where the absolute industrial production level is compared to years past.  Incremental declines of 0.2% or 0.1% really add up.  Take a look at this chart that I compiled of industrial production levels of select countries compared to 2005 and also what year those countries first hit this level (to give a sense of how far an economy has regressed).  It's really not pretty:

As you can see, Greece's industrial production is almost 30% lower than it was in 2005, the same level it was at in 1978 (Newt Gingrich was not even in Congress then and Pink Floyd's The Wall hadn't been released yet)!  That is over 30+ years of progress wiped out.  Spain is doing better but you can't really say it is doing "well" as industrial production there is 21% lower than 2005, the same level as 1989.  Go down the list, just about all the major western European economies are performing badly right now, except for Germany.  And just for a reference, back at the height of the recession in the US, our industrial production was just 11.9% lower than 2005. So right now the UK, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Spain and Greece are all doing worse than we were when it looked like to many in the US as if the sky was falling.

And I just don't see how things are going to get better anytime soon.  To cure the debt crisis, the European authorities have been throwing even more debt at is, making the eventual fall even worse.  Also, "austerity" has meant heavy tax increases, putting economies deeper into recession (something that could happen in the US as well, thanks to the massive scheduled tax increases that are coming in several months).  Take a look at this list of measures approved in Greece last year:
  • Taxes will increase by 2.32bn euros this year, with additional taxes of 3.38bn euros in 2012, 152m euros in 2013 and 699m euros in 2014.
  • A solidarity levy of between 1% and 5% of income will be levied on households to raise 1.38bn euros.
  • The tax-free threshold for income tax will be lowered from 12,000 to 8,000 euros.
  • There will be higher property taxes
  • VAT rates are to rise: the 19% rate will increase to 23%, 11% becomes 13%, and 5.5% will increase to 6.5%.
  • The VAT rate for restaurants and bars will rise to 23% from 13%.
  • Luxury levies will be introduced on yachts, pools and cars.
  • Some tax exemptions will be scrapped
  • Excise taxes on fuel, cigarettes and alcohol will rise by one third.
  • Special levies on profitable firms, high-value properties and people with high incomes will be introduced.
Seems like a great way to crash an economy, which is exactly what happened. It's no wonder that extremist parties did so well in the recent Greek elections.  The second largest party in parliament is now SYRIZA (gained almost 17% of the vote), which is a coalition of radical left wing parties (including maoist, trotskyite and traditional communist & socialist parties) with such names as Anticapitalist Political Group, International Workers' Left, Communist Organization of Greece and Renewing Communist Ecological Left.  And this wasn't the only communist game in town either, the official Communist Party of Greece gained another 8.5% of the vote.  There is even a Greek neo-nazi party called Golden Dawn which gained 7% of the vote.  It comes complete with a nazi salute and even a Greek version of the swastika.  If you add it all up, these three crazy authoritarian parties gained a whopping 32.2% of the vote (this number could go up soon as new elections are necessary after no coalition government could be agreed to by the various parties).  And this insanity is not limited to Greece either (thought he Greek parties seem to be especially extreme).  In France, Presidential candidates representing fascists, communists and radical leftists got 30.2% of the vote in the first round of voting.  As a reference, back in Weimar Germany, in the 1930 election, the Nazis and Communists gained 31.4% of the vote between them.    Just saying. 

Maybe Voter ID Laws Should Include Proof of Citizenship Requirements

Unbelievable.  Florida's Division of Elections has found 2,600 people (so far) who may not be citizens on the voter rolls and are going through a list of 180,000 total to see who is and who is not a citizen.  Of course the Obama administration is refusing to help them in their quest to make sure only US Citizens are able to vote.  Note that the 2000 Presidential election was decided by a margin of just 537 votes in Florida:

Florida's Division of Elections said it is checking the citizenship of voters by comparing its databases with those of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which keeps track of whether a licensed driver is also a U.S. citizen.

Similar efforts have been carried out by state authorities in Colorado and New Mexico, which also have large Latino communities.

"We're going to vet a list of 180,000 people to try to come up with a real number," said Chris Cate, a spokesman for Florida's Division of Elections. "We don't want to jump to conclusions without a thorough investigation."

Officials in Florida have so far identified more than 2,600 potential voters who may not be U.S. citizens and sent their information to local election authorities, Cate said.

Drivers in Florida are required to show proof of their legal status when they get a driver's license or renew an old one.

Cate said cross-referencing voter rolls with the highway department information could help better determine whether voters are U.S. citizens, but he added the information was sometimes incomplete.

"Their last contact with the highway department may have been four or five years ago and they could have had the chance to become a citizen since then," he said.

Potential non-citizen voters are notified by mail and given 30 days to respond.

Nearly 1,600 of the voters identified up until now reside in Miami-Dade County, Florida's most populous county, which includes the city of Miami.

Cate said some Florida officials have asked the Obama administration to grant the state access to databases maintained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help determine who is a citizen.

"We've been requesting access, but have so far been denied," he said.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Great Mark Steyn Piece on Geert Wilders And the Insanity of Eurabia

Here are a couple of excerpts from Mark Steyn's Foreword to Geert Wilders book Marked For Death, Islam's War Against the West and Me, be sure to read the whole thing:

In 21st-century Amsterdam, you're free to smoke marijuana and pick out a half-naked sex partner from the front window of her shop. But you can be put on trial for holding the wrong opinion about a bloke who died in the seventh century. 


A decade ago, in the run-up to the toppling of Saddam, many media pundits had a standard line on Iraq: It's an artificial entity cobbled together from parties who don't belong in the same state. And I used to joke that anyone who thinks Iraq's various components are incompatible ought to take a look at the Netherlands. If Sunni and Shia, Kurds and Arabs can't be expected to have enough in common to make a functioning state, what do you call a jurisdiction split between post-Christian bi-swinging stoners and anti-whoring anti-sodomite anti-everything-you-dig Muslims? If Kurdistan's an awkward fit in Iraq, how well does Pornostan fit in the Islamic Republic of the Netherlands?

The years roll on, and the gag gets a little sadder. "The most tolerant country in Europe" is an increasingly incoherent polity where gays are bashed, uncovered women get jeered in the street, and you can't do The Diary of Anne Frank as your school play lest the Gestapo walk-ons are greeted by audience cries of "She's in the attic!"

According to one survey, 20 percent of history teachers have abandoned certain, ah, problematic aspects of the Second World War because, in classes of a particular, ahem, demographic disposition, pupils don't believe the Holocaust happened, and, if it did, the Germans should have finished the job and we wouldn't have all these problems today. More inventive instructors artfully woo their Jew-despising students by comparing the Holocaust to "Islamophobia" — we all remember those Jewish terrorists hijacking Fokkers and flying them into the Reichstag, right? What about gangs of young Jews preying on the elderly, as Muslim youth do in Wilders' old neighborhood of Kanaleneiland?

As for "Islamophobia," it's so bad that it's, er, the Jews who are leaving. "Sixty per cent of Amsterdam's orthodox community intends to emigrate from Holland," says Benzion Evers, the son of the city's chief rabbi, five of whose children had already left by 2010. Frommer's bestselling travel guide to "Europe's most tolerant city" acknowledges that "Jewish visitors who dress in a way that clearly identifies them as Jewish" are at risk of attack, but discreetly attributes it to "the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." "Jews with a conscience should leave Holland, where they and their children have no future," advised Frits Bolkestein, former Dutch Liberal leader. "Anti-Semitism will continue to exist, because the Moroccan and Turkish youngsters don't care about efforts for reconciliation."

If you're wondering what else those "youngsters" don't care for, ask Chris Crain, editor of The Washington Blade, the gay newspaper of America's capital. Seeking a break from the Christian fundamentalist redneck theocrats of the Republican party, he and his boyfriend decided to treat themselves to a vacation in Amsterdam, "arguably the 'gay-friendliest' place on the planet." Strolling through the streets of the city center, they were set upon by a gang of seven "youngsters," punched, beaten, and kicked to the ground. Perplexed by the increasing violence, Amsterdam officials commissioned a study to determine, as Der Spiegel put it, "why Moroccan men are targeting the city's gays."

George Lucas Gives the Hypocritical Snobs of Marin the Middle Finger

After graduating from college, I spent a couple of years working in Marin County, just north of San Francisco.  The people who populate that area struck me as quite hypocritical.  They loved having money but didn't particularly like capitalism.  They also pretended to favor diversity and multiculturalism, though they generally didn't want diversity or multiculturalism to get past the borders of Marin county (I was actually quite shocked to hear some of the anti-latino comments that I heard).  That's why I think the letter that George Lucas wrote canceling his proposed project to build a studio and deciding instead to turn it over to a developer of low-income housing to be a perfect FU to people who clearly deserve it (h/t Powerline):

It is with great sadness that Skywalker Properties has decided to pull its application to build a studio facility on the old Grady Ranch.

The level of bitterness and anger expressed by the homeowners in Lucas Valley has convinced us that, even if we were to spend more time and acquire the necessary approvals, we would not be able to maintain a constructive relationship with our neighbors.

We love working and living in Marin, but the residents of Lucas Valley have fought this project for 25 years, and enough is enough. Marin is a bedroom community and is committed to building subdivisions, not business. Many years ago, we tried to stop the Lucas Valley Estates project from being built, but we failed, and we now have a subdivision on our doorstep.

While we managed to build on Skywalker Ranch after one year master plan approval and another year PDP approval, it took over 10 years for the Master Plan approval on Big Rock and Grady Ranches. It took us three years for a PDP on Big Rock and now we are four years into trying to get a PDP permit for Grady Ranch with no end in sight.

As the company grew we realized we needed more space than what we were building in Lucas Valley at Skywalker Ranch, and it could not accommodate the whole company. We then worked to find more land on which to expand our corporate headquarters, our video game enterprise LucasArts, and our visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic. We were told there was no way we would be able to build a facility of that size in Marin County and therefore we moved the majority of our employees from Marin to the Presidio in San Francisco. We've had a great partnership with the Presidio Trust and created a low impact facility which offers great benefit to its surrounding community.

We then went back to Marin County with only the studio facility that was previously approved in the Master Plan. We have been trying for four years to get the Precise Development Plan approved, but it appears that, as always seems to be the case, the process will be delayed again for more months or years.

We are not a real estate developer. We need the spaces we build to do our work. Movies are waiting to be made, and we must move forward. Unfortunately, the projects we had planned to shoot on those stages have already started production and we will need the studio space by early 2013. We have several opportunities to build the production stages in communities that see us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire, and if we are to stay on schedule we must act on those opportunities.

When we first proposed Skywalker Ranch in 1978, we understood people's concerns about a business moving to residential area. They feared helicopters landing with celebrities and tour buses coming down Lucas Valley Road. None of their fears materialized. Over 5,000 acres were permanently preserved with an 11 mile hiking trail, all the buildings are hidden from the road, the pond and ranch restoration created an area for wildlife to thrive, and over 8,000 trees were planted. Lucasfilm provided fire and rescue aid to the community and boosted Marin's economy by hundreds of millions of dollars and provided employment to its residents. After Skywalker Ranch was completed, our neighbors praised us and the County continually used us as an example of how best to develop. We were one of the first large employers certified as a Marin County "Green Business."

We realize our solution to creating open space by placing low-impact commercial facilities on farmland, while permanently preserving over 95% of the total acreage, has not been accepted by our neighbors. Nor are they or many of the public agencies interested in the $50-70M restoration of the stream. Maybe we're ahead of our time.

We plan to sell the Grady property expecting that the land will revert back to its original use for residential housing. We hope we will be able to find a developer who will be interested in low income housing since it is scarce in Marin. If everyone feels that housing is less impactful on the land, then we are hoping that people who need it the most will benefit.

Just awesome.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Romney Donor: Obama Campaign is Investigating My Personal Records

A Romney donor is having his personal divorce records snooped into just because he gave money to a Romney SuperPAC.  It's amazing how thuggish the left is. Seriously they have no ethics:

MEK: Iran is Accelerating Its Nuclear Program

It's going to be a hot summer:

Iran is accelerating its nuclear weapons program, according to a report compiled by the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) Iranian opposition group and obtained by The Jerusalem Post on Friday. Publication of the report comes just days before Western powers are scheduled to begin a second round of talks with Iran in Baghdad.

The report first appeared in the Die Welt German daily and was provided to the Post by Brussels-based Iran expert Emanuele Ottolenghi, who had been asked by the paper to verify its contents.

The report and various additional charts outline the different offices involved in Iran's weapons program and identify some 60 directors and experts working in various parts of SPND and 11 additional institutions and companies affiliated with the program.

The SPND headquarters is based in Mojdeh, a military facility near Tehran. The facility is headed by Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, who has previously been identified by western intelligence agencies as the man responsible for the nuclear weapons program. He is under United Nations sanctions.

"The information sharply contradicts the assessment by some that Iran has not yet made the decision to go forward with the weapons program, as well as the observation by others who suggest that the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has forbidden the development of a nuclear bomb, because it would be a 'sin' to do so," the report said.


MEK, which is a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has long been suspected of working closely with the Mossad and the CIA. In 2002, for example, the NCRI revealed the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility which until then had not been known to the world.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rand Paul on the Crony Capitalist Ex-Im Bank

Rand Paul rails against the Ex-Im Bank, a crony capitalist institution that generally has bipartisan support (as someone once said, there is a stupid party and an evil party, when there is bipartisan legislation we end up with something both stupid AND evil). The Ex-Im bank is an institution that spends millions funding a steel mill in China, which undercuts our own steel mills. How does this make sense to anyone?:


 (h/t Redstate)

Monday, May 7, 2012

President Indecision: It Took Obama a Year to Decide to Take Osama Out

Good thing Osama didn't go anywhere while the committees inside the White House decided what to do:

“We actually had the target the summer before execution — in other words, we had the target the summer of 2010, and it took until the following May to execute the mission,” Keane said. “I was surprised that it was taking that long to execute because the longer you spend on something like that, the greater likelihood that the target will be compromised because of your surveillance and then the target will flee.”


“Certainly the people that were close to it wanted to get after it,” he said. “Because they realized that the target could be compromised, and it took so long to actually find him, and you had the sense that this was it and it was real and let’s go get it."


Vice President Biden said he advised against the raid because there wasn’t enough evidence that bin Laden was at the compound in Pakistan where he was ultimately killed.

Biden said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was the only one of Obama’s top advisers who wasn’t on the fence about whether to strike.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Welcome to Left Wing Bizarro World

(h/t instapundit)

Could a libertarian be the GOP nominee in 2016 or 2020?

It sounds like Rand Paul is starting to make inroads with social conservatives and is more willing to make alliances than his father.  He also might have some organizational advantages going into Iowa next time:

Later this month Rand will return to Iowa — without his father — to deliver the keynote speech at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalitions spring rally — the most obvious indication yet that Sen. Paul has his own presidential ambitions.
"He loves Iowa," Sen. Paul's communications director Moira Bagley told Business Insider. "He's been out there so much, with his dad's campaign, so he's really comfortable and really happy with the people out in Iowa, and especially the evangelical groups."
In fact, Sen. Paul's overture to Iowa's social conservatives is evidence of a budding romance between the Kentucky Republican and evangelical leaders, most of whom have never been particularly taken with the elder Paul.
Business Insider has learned that Sen. Paul has even been approached about a possible trip to Israel with Christian activist David Lane, a conservative kingmaker whose "Pastor Policy Briefings" helped launch Mike Huckabee's political star in 2008.
"Rand Paul is going to inherit his dad's political assets — he's going to be very formidable," Lane told Business Insider. "Structurally, there is something that is happening inside the state Republican parties that will have to be dealt with politically."
Lane added that the Paul message of fiscal conservatism and limited government dovetail with that of social conservatives, who increasingly see the federal debt as one of the country's biggest moral ills.
"I disagree with Ron Paul on some things, but I like that he has courage," said Lane. "He has been a real steward of the money — that's why I like Rand Paul."
Lane, who supported Rick Perry and later Newt Gingrich in the 2012 primary, said that he broached the possibility of a trip to Israel with the Senator's staff as part of a larger discussion about Sen. Paul's position on the Jewish State, which has been a political landmine for the elder Paul.
"I had heard that Ron Paul and Rand Paul were anti-Israel," Lane said. "But they explained to me that the position is not anti-Israel — it's anti-foreign aid….We give a lot more money to Israel's enemies than we do to Israel."
Sen. Paul's political positioning provides some interesting clues about what the Ron Paul Revolution 2.0 might look like. As we have previously written, Ron Paul has built up a powerful national organization that has been staging quiet coups over local and state GOP Establishments, and is now poised to have a significant delegate presence at the Republican National Convention.
Given that Ron Paul's own presidential prospects are virtually nonexistent, Rand Paul stands to inherit this formidable movement-cum-campaign organization when his father retires from Congress at the end of this year.
Which brings us back to Iowa. After this year's caucus debacle, Ron Paul supporters were elected into almost all of the key leadership posts in the state Republican Party and are expected to deliver him the bulk of Iowa's RNC delegates, giving the younger Paul powerful allies in the first-in-nation caucus state.
"The best network in the state of Iowa is Ron Paul's — they are the Republican Party in Iowa," Iowa conservative leader/talk radio host Steve Deace told Business Insider. "If Rand Paul wants to run for president, he will have that organization as a huge advantage over everyone else."
Deace, like a number of other prominent social conservatives, is deeply dissatisfied with Romney, and predicts that the GOP will lose this year's election to Barack Obama, precipitating Republican "trench warfare" that will reshape the party going into 2016.