Palin sounds she should be more than able to hold her own in tomorrow’s debates, so there is no reason for Joey the Shark to hold back. I hope he demolishes her.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — There are two things people here remember about Sarah Palin’s debating style during her race for governor two years ago.
One is the stack of color-coded cue cards she took to the podium for help whenever she was asked a policy question. The other is how quickly she was able to shuck those props, master the thrust-and-parry of jousting with her opponents and inquisitors, and project confidence to an audience of television viewers watching from home.
“That’s the Sarah Palin I remember from the 2006 debates: positive, confident and upbeat,” recalls Libby Casey, an Alaska public-radio reporter who served as a debate moderator on two occasions that year.
But Gov. Palin’s telegenic gifts could help neutralize some shortcomings. Ms. Casey, the public-radio reporter, credits Gov. Palin’s training as a TV sportscaster for her ability to connect with a broadcast audience at home.
In her debates during the 2006 campaign, Ms. Palin would often thank the reporters serving as debate moderators — invariably addressing them by their first names, and adding a compliment for their insightful questions. She would then turn immediately to the camera to speak directly to a home audience.
“Like a sportscaster, she’s learned to be good at dropping the g’s, and relating to the viewer as a fan,” Ms. Casey explains. “You know: ‘It’s a big game this weekend and it’s gonna be tough. But we’re all in this together.'”
I would be very interested if Sarah Palin was asked, point blank, in the upcoming debate if she believes the Earth is 6,000 years old. If she has conviction of her beliefs, she shouldn’t lie in response just to obscure and deny her religion, but have the courage to actually say what she believes.
ANCHORAGE — Soon after Sarah Palin was elected mayor of the foothill town of Wasilla, Alaska, she startled a local music teacher by insisting in casual conversation that men and dinosaurs coexisted on an Earth created 6,000 years ago — about 65 million years after scientists say most dinosaurs became extinct — the teacher said.
After conducting a college band and watching Palin deliver a commencement address to a small group of home-schooled students in June 1997, Wasilla resident Philip Munger said, he asked the young mayor about her religious beliefs.
Palin told him that “dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth at the same time,” Munger said. When he asked her about prehistoric fossils and tracks dating back millions of years, Palin said “she had seen pictures of human footprints inside the tracks,” recalled Munger, who teaches music at the University of Alaska in Anchorage and has regularly criticized Palin in recent years on his liberal political blog, called Progressive Alaska.
The idea of a “young Earth” — that God created the Earth about 6,000 years ago, and dinosaurs and humans coexisted early on — is a popular strain of creationism.
Though in her race for governor she called for faith-based “intelligent design” to be taught along with evolution in Alaska’s schools, Gov. Palin has not sought to require it, state educators say.
One of the most compelling reasons not to vote for John McCain is because of his perplexing selection of a neophyte as Vice President. Sarah Palin should not be anywhere near the levers of power in Washington, especially with Cranky John looking fairly old already, and the election hasn’t even occurred.
When asked again this week about her puerile linkage of foreign policy proficiency and Alaska’s proximity to Russia, this time by Katie Couric of CBS News, here is what Ms. Palin said she meant:
“That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land — boundary that we have with — Canada.”
She went on, but lost her way midsentence: “It’s funny that a comment like that was kind of made to — cari — I don’t know, you know? Reporters …”
Ms. Couric said, “Mocked?”
“Yeah, mocked,” said Ms. Palin. “I guess that’s the word. Yeah.”
It is not just painful, but frightening to watch someone who could become the vice president of the United States stumbling around like this in an interview.
Ms. Couric asked Ms. Palin to explain how Alaska’s proximity to Russia “enhances your foreign policy credentials.”
“Well, it certainly does,” Ms. Palin replied, “because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there—”
Gently interrupting, Ms. Couric asked, “Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?”
“We have trade missions back and forth,” said Ms. Palin. “We do. It’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to our state.”
It was surreal, the kind of performance that would generate a hearty laugh if it were part of a Monty Python sketch. But this is real life, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. As Ms. Palin was fumbling her way through the Couric interview, the largest bank failure in the history of the United States, the collapse of Washington Mutual, was occurring.
I spent some time on the Governor’s Web site seeking more details about her trade negotiations with Russia. There’s a press release about Gov. Palin’s meeting with a trade mission from the Yukon, but nothing about Russia anywhere in the archives. Tony Knowles, a Democrat who was governor from 1994-2002, led a trade mission — back in 1997, while Palin was running Wasilla — to the remote island of Sakhalin, off the coast of Siberia. That seems to be about it for Russia-Alaska trade missions lately.
When asked for examples of trade missions with Russia that have taken place under Palin’s watch, gubernatorial spokeswoman Kate Morgan refused to answer the question. Morgan said she could not legally discuss any trade missions with me because she’s a state employee and I had first heard this claim through the Couric interview, which was part of Palin’s campaign for the vice-presidency. When I pointed out that any trade missions that occurred would have been official state business, Morgan again noted that I had learned about them in the context of the campaign. “The law is very stringent,” she said, and recommended that I contact the McCain-Palin campaign. Two spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.
Senator Chuck Hagel may be a Republican, but he isn’t an idiot, so the selection of Sarah Palin as Johnny McSame’s running mate puzzles the Chuckster.
[Wrong Bus, Juneau, Alaska]
Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is the nation’s most prominent Republican officeholder to publicly question whether Sarah Palin has the experience to serve as president.
“She doesn’t have any foreign policy credentials,” Hagel said Wednesday in an interview. “You get a passport for the first time in your life last year? I mean, I don’t know what you can say. You can’t say anything.”
The McCain campaign has cited the proximity of Alaska to Russia as evidence of her international experience.
Hagel scoffed at that notion.
“I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, ‘I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia,'” he said. “That kind of thing is insulting to the American people.”
Vincent Rossmeier of Salon: Do you think Barack Obama responded correctly to Sarah Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy?
Yeah, of course. It’s not his job to be digging into that. If the Republicans are going to be all high and mighty about people digging into the lives of candidates’ families, all I can do is laugh, given the treatment that Michelle Obama has been given by Republicans — maybe not John McCain proper, but every surrogate beneath him.
Ultimately, when it comes to Bristol Palin, the issue isn’t, oh well, she’s a bad girl. We’re progressives; we don’t care if she got pregnant. That’s between her and her family and she’s got to deal with it; and in fact, progressives believe in having the services available to make her life better and to help her in what’s going to be a very, very difficult journey ahead. The issue is, of course, that Sarah Palin is a strong supporter of abstinence-only education. Here we have a situation where they claim that abstinence-only will prevent teen pregnancy when her own daughter has gotten pregnant. There are legitimate policy questions that go beyond the fact of Bristol Palin to the kind of governor [Sarah Palin] would be, the way she would help govern this country were she the vice president. And I think that is obviously, legitimately fair game.
Salon: Do you think the Palin pick was a game changer, whether good or bad, and how do you think this will affect the election long-term?
There’s no doubt that it was a game changer. All you have to do is go to Daily Kos and see that we haven’t written about McCain in a week now, right? It’s a singular obsession with Palin. She’s the gift that keeps on giving. To me, it seems pretty obvious that McCain wanted [Tom] Ridge or [Joe] Lieberman but he’s too weak within his own party to get the candidate he wanted, so he had to go with someone to appease the right wing.
They saw that Obama was going to be able to rally the Clinton supporters with Hillary Clinton’s help. They probably saw Obama’s speech and saw how incredible and dynamic and how powerful it was and realized that a safe pick wasn’t going to give them any hope of victory in November so they had to shake things up. They threw a Hail Mary with Sarah Palin, they didn’t vet her, so they had no clue who she was. They saw that she was attractive and very popular in Alaska — remember, Alaska is actually a swing state. It was in play; Obama was competitive in the polls. So they locked down Alaska. And she’s clearly popular with the right and they’ve embraced her because of her radical right-wing views on the role of religion in government, and it completely, utterly, on that Friday, took Obama off the airwaves.
I never did pick up a copy of Crashing the Gate; maybe by 2012, I’ll be caught up enough on my reading.
The Orange Overlord continues:
Salon: The Palin nomination directed everyone’s attention away from Obama. So in that, at least, the selection was effective.
But it’s mind-boggling to me. In the middle of Labor Day weekend, I had the highest traffic day of my existence. This is higher traffic than the 2004 federal election. Higher traffic than the 2006 general election. Usually on long weekends, people disappear. They hang out with family and friends. No one wanted to do anything but [talk about] Sarah Palin.
Now, I don’t think she’s turning out the way they expected it; they expected people to be excited that there was a woman on a ticket and all that. Now people are thinking this was a gimmick and instead of putting country first, he went for someone who would actually knock Obama off the news cycle. So she was a news cycle pick. It bought them a day or two. But now that people are really starting to look into who she is, there are a lot of unpalatable things about her and her record, and I think it’s turning into a nightmare pick for them. Will she stay on the ticket? The Christian right loves her. They’ve decided she is practically the second coming.
Salon: Isn’t that a good thing for McCain?
It is a good thing for McCain, but it means they’ve completely abandoned the center and they’re not going to get any Hillary supporters out of it. We’re in an election where the number of Republicans is shrinking, the number of Democrats is growing and they cannot win on the base strategy alone. We can. For the first time, we can win on the base strategy. We’re not running that, but we could. They’re running a base strategy when Republicans are becoming an extinct species.
And you can’t get rid of her. To take somebody who’s been so warmly embraced by the Christian right and then to dump her for somebody who’s more palatable to the center? Talk about open warfare. It would be worse than having picked Lieberman from the start. To me, it’s fantastic, right? He’s boxed himself in, he can’t get out. So they’re left having to defend somebody. And let’s not forget another important point that I almost forgot because it’s so obvious, is that they’ve completely negated the experience argument. That was probably the only argument against Obama that had any salience.
The lie per sentence ratio of last night’s RNC speech-a-thon was pretty elevated, even for a political convention.
FORMER ARKANSAS GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE: Palin “got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States.”
THE FACTS: A whopper. Palin got 616 votes in the 1996 mayor’s election, and got 909 in her 1999 re-election race, for a total of 1,525. Biden dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucuses, but he still got 76,165 votes in 23 states and the District of Columbia where he was on the ballot during the 2008 presidential primaries.
PALIN: “There is much to like and admire about our opponent. But listening to him speak, it’s easy to forget that this is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform — not even in the state senate.”
THE FACTS: Compared to McCain and his two decades in the Senate, Obama does have a more meager record. But he has worked with Republicans to pass legislation that expanded efforts to intercept illegal shipments of weapons of mass destruction and to help destroy conventional weapons stockpiles. The legislation became law last year. To demean that accomplishment would be to also demean the work of Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, a respected foreign policy voice in the Senate. In Illinois, he was the leader on two big, contentious measures in Illinois: studying racial profiling by police and requiring recordings of interrogations in potential death penalty cases. He also successfully co-sponsored major ethics reform legislation.
FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOV. MITT ROMNEY: “We need change, all right — change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington! We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington — throw out the big-government liberals, and elect John McCain and Sarah Palin.”
THE FACTS: A Back-to-the-Future moment. George W. Bush, a conservative Republican, has been president for nearly eight years. And until last year, Republicans controlled Congress. Only since January 2007 have Democrats have been in charge of the House and Senate.
and the Alaskan Barbie again:
PALIN: “I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending … and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress ‘thanks but no thanks’ for that Bridge to Nowhere.”
THE FACTS: As mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million. In her two years as governor, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation. While Palin notes she rejected plans to build a $398 million bridge from Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents and an airport, that opposition came only after the plan was ridiculed nationally as a “bridge to nowhere.”
“Ketchikan desires a better way to reach the airport, but the $398 million bridge is not the answer,” said Governor Palin. “Despite the work of our congressional delegation, we are about $329 million short of full funding for the bridge project, and it’s clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island,” Governor Palin added. “Much of the public’s attitude toward Alaska bridges is based on inaccurate portrayals of the projects here. But we need to focus on what we can do, rather than fight over what has happened.”
•”Hockey mom”: true for a few years
•”PTA mom”: true years ago when her first-born was in elementary school, not since
•”NRA supporter”: absolutely true
•social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, BUT vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships
(said she did this because it was unconsitutional).
•pro-creationism: mixed. Supports it, BUT did nothing as Governor to promote it.
•”Pro-life”: mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby BUT declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life legislation
•”Experienced”: Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on
supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.
•political maverick: not at all
•open & transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at explaining actions.
•has a developed philosophy of public policy: no
•”a Greenie”: no. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.
•fiscal conservative: not by my definition!
•pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built streets to early 20th century standards.
•pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents
•pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla’s history.
•pro-labor/pro-union. No. Just because her husband works union doesn’t make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim that she is pro-labor/pro-union.
Simply imagine the uproar if an associate of Barack Obama voiced such an opinion of the United States – the gnashing of teeth could be heard as far away as the moon.
The founder of the Alaska Independence Party — a group that has been courted over the years by Sarah Palin, and one her husband was a member of for roughly seven years — once professed his “hatred for the American government” and cursed the American flag as a “damn flag.”
The AIP founder, Joe Vogler, made the comments in 1991, in an interview that’s now housed at the Oral History Program in the Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
“The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government,” Vogler said in the interview, in which he talked extensively about his desire for Alaskan secession, the key goal of the AIP.
“And I won’t be buried under their damn flag,” Vogler continued in the interview, which also touched on his disappointment with the American judicial system. “I’ll be buried in Dawson. And when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home.”
At another point, Volger advocated renouncing allegiance to the United States. In the course of denouncing Federal regulation over land, he said:
“And then you get mad. And you say, the hell with them. And you renounce allegiance, and you pledge your efforts, your effects, your honor, your life to Alaska.”
Simply imagine if somebody, like a preacher at the church Obama attended, for instance1, claimed to hate America and despise the American flag. You wouldn’t even hear of any more hurricane news, the coverage would be so vigorous. However, since Sarah Palin is a Republican, such connections are not worthy of much discussion.
If you want to hear the audio of Joe Vogler, click here [MP3] Too bad there isn’t any video of the event.
John McCain and his impulsiveness is not what the country needs. He couldn’t even wait until the RNC finished vetting Sarah Palin before announcing her as his VP. Not good judgement, not good judgement at all.
A series of disclosures about Gov. Sarah Palin, Senator John McCain’s choice as running mate, called into question on Monday how thoroughly Mr. McCain had examined her background before putting her on the Republican presidential ticket.
On Monday morning, Ms. Palin and her husband, Todd, issued a statement saying that their 17-year-old unmarried daughter, Bristol, was five months pregnant and that she intended to marry the father.
Among other less attention-grabbing news of the day: it was learned that Ms. Palin now has a private lawyer in a legislative ethics investigation in Alaska into whether she abused her power in dismissing the state’s public safety commissioner; that she was a member for two years in the 1990s of the Alaska Independence Party, which has at times sought a vote on whether the state should secede; and that Mr. Palin was arrested 22 years ago on a drunken-driving charge.
Aides to Mr. McCain said they had a team on the ground in Alaska now to look more thoroughly into Ms. Palin’s background. A Republican with ties to the campaign said the team assigned to vet Ms. Palin in Alaska had not arrived there until Thursday, a day before Mr. McCain stunned the political world with his vice-presidential choice. The campaign was still calling Republican operatives as late as Sunday night asking them to go to Alaska to deal with the unexpected candidacy of Ms. Palin.
One day before announcing her, and moments after meeting her the first time? That’s pretty pathetic.
[Evilution, Seattle, Washington]
Also worth noting1 is that John McCain wanted to select Joe Lieberman2 but was told by his bosses, Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh, that an wasn’t acceptable choice. Who is really making the decisions in the McCain campaign? Who would make the decisions if by some weird circumstance3 McCain snuck into the White House? Can the country afford another 4 years of a Karl Rove/Rush Limbaugh presidency?
Up until midweek last week, some 48 to 72 hours before Mr. McCain introduced Ms. Palin at a Friday rally in Dayton, Ohio, Mr. McCain was still holding out the hope that he could choose a good friend, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, a Republican close to the campaign. Mr. McCain had also been interested in another favorite, former Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania.
But both men favor abortion rights, anathema to the Christian conservatives who make up a crucial base of the Republican Party. As word leaked out that Mr. McCain was seriously considering the men, the campaign was bombarded by outrage from influential conservatives who predicted an explosive floor fight at the convention and vowed rejection of Mr. Ridge or Mr. Lieberman by the delegates.
Perhaps more important, several Republicans said, Mr. McCain was getting advice that if he did not do something to shake up the race, his campaign would be stuck on a potentially losing trajectory.
With time running out — and as Mr. McCain discarded two safer choices, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, as too predictable — he turned to Ms. Palin. He had his first face-to-face interview with her on Thursday and offered her the job moments later. Advisers to Mr. Pawlenty and another of the finalists on Mr. McCain’s list described an intensive vetting process for those candidates that lasted one to two months.
“They didn’t seriously consider her until four or five days from the time she was picked, before she was asked, maybe the Thursday or Friday before,” said a Republican close to the campaign. “This was really kind of rushed at the end, because John didn’t get what he wanted. He wanted to do Joe or Ridge.”
[Don’t Bring Yer Guns to Ketchikan, Alaska, at least to Trident Seafoods]
explicitly, that is, we did mention this in passing previously [↩]
Whiny Joe, the former Democrat who has since been married to John McCain – a civil union, of course [↩]
via Greg Sargent who has an excellent roundup of this weekends bad news for McCain/Palin, including the fact that there is a team of 10 lawyers being dispatched to Alaska by the Republican Party to cover-up as much scandal as possible, and do a proper vetting of Palin, presumedly before she is officially nominated. I bet the RNC is happy they had a good excuse to cancel their speeches scheduled for today. Might have been awkward for Republican Party regulars to mention Palin so many times before cutting her loose ala Thomas Eagleton in 1972.1
Gail Collins on the surprising Sarah Palin VP pick:
[Wrong Bus, Juneau, Alaska]
John McCain has a low opinion of the vice presidency, which he’s frequently described as a job that involves attending funerals and checking on the health of the president. (Happy 72nd birthday, John!) There’s a lot we don’t know yet about Palin, and I am personally looking forward to deconstructing her role in the Matanuska Maid Dairy closing crisis. But at first glance, she doesn’t seem much less qualified than Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota who most people thought was the most likely pick. Unlike Joe Lieberman, Palin is a member of the same party as the presidential candidate. And unlike Mitt Romney, she has never gone on vacation with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car.
However, I do feel kind of ticked off at the assumptions that the Republicans seem to be making about female voters. It’s a tad reminiscent of the Dan Quayle selection, when the first George Bush’s advisers decided they could close the gender gap with a cute running mate.
The idea that women are going to race off to vote for any candidate with the same internal plumbing is both offensive and historically wrong. When the sexes have parted company in modern elections, it’s generally been because women are more likely to be Democrats, and more concerned about protecting the social safety net. “The gender gap traditionally has been determined by party preference, not by the gender of the candidate,” said Ruth Mandel of the Eagleton Institute of Politics.
I don’t think there are many women who will vote a certain way just because the anatomy of a candidate resembles their own. Women I’ve known are more intelligent than that.
Ms. Collins also manages to work in the famous Lloyd Bentson line:
If she’s only on the ticket to try to get disaffected Clinton supporters to cross over, it’s a bad choice. Joe Biden may already be practicing his drop-dead line for the vice-presidential debate: “I know Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is a friend of mine, and governor, you’re no Hillary Clinton.”
Matanuska Maid was a failing, state-run dairy that had lost about $600,000 over two years when the state Creamery Board finally decided to shut it down in the spring of 2007.
Sarah Palin felt so strongly that Matanuska Maid should continue operating that she fired the entire state Board of Agriculture and Conservation, which appoints the Creamery Board, just to install new members who would reverse the Creamery Board’s decision and keep Matanuska Maid alive.
Sustaining a money-losing state-run business certainly doesn’t sound like fiscal responsibility. But neither does increasing the price the hemorrhaging enterprise pays for milk, which is precisely what the Creamery Board did, making it even more likely Matanuska Maid would not be able to continue as a viable entity.
The Anchorage Daily News reported May 31st that Matanuska Creamery “got off the ground with help from a $643,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and a lot of support from Stevens and from state Senate President Lyda Green, R-Wasilla”. Stevens and Don Young even turned out for a big ribbon-cutting ceremony, their presence testifying to the uncorrupt, newly responsible way things now work in Alaska, thanks to Sarah Palin’s vigorously cleaning house.
But while Dairygate looks definitely sleazy to me, maybe I’m taking a parochial, Lower 48 view. To an Alaskan, what Sarah Polin did just looks like an innovation in fiscal management. After all, what happened here, aside from a little deception, insider-dealing and rank hypocrisy?
A failing state-run enterprise supported by Alaskan taxpayers ends up reborn as a private enterprise, run by a struggling local businessman and subsidized by Federal taxpayers.
To the locals, what a win/win: why should Alaskans have to support the local dairy farmers that bring them fresh milk and cheese, after all, when they have Uncle Ted and Uncle Don (and Aunt Sarah) around to make sure Uncle Sam picks up the tab?
I’m sure the internet tubes will be buzzing tonight
Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, the longest-serving Republican senator in United States history and a figure of great influence in Washington as well as in his home state, has been indicted on federal charges of failing to report gifts and income.
Mr. Stevens, 84, was indicted on seven felony counts related to renovations on his home in Alaska. The charges arise from an investigation that has been under way for more than a year, in connection with the senator’s relationship with a businessman who oversaw the home-remodeling project
Nice to have the profits to be able to afford teams of highly compensated corporate attorneys to work on the case for almost 20 years (spill occurred in 1989).
The commercial fishermen, Native Alaskans, landowners, businesses and local governments involved in the lawsuit have each received about $15,000 so far ”for having their lives and livelihood destroyed and haven’t received a dime of emotional-distress damages,” their Supreme Court lawyer, Jeffrey Fisher, said when the court heard arguments in February.
First-quarter profits at Exxon Mobil Corp. were $10.9 billion. The company’s 2007 profit was $40.6 billion.
The Supreme Court reduced damages from $2,500,000,000 way down to $500,000,000. Exxon Mobil’s legal fees for this matter were probably another $400,000,000 or so, meaning somebody’s having a party tonight with nearly $2 billion dollars. Assholes.
Those expenses are nothing when compared to the bills Exxon has been paying during the last two decades to firms like O’Melveny & Myers, its primary outside counsel on the litigation. In 1990 alone, according to a feature story in The American Lawyer following the jury verdict, Exxon reportedly paid $60 million in defense fees. O’Neill estimates that Exxon has likely spent about $400 million defending the case during the last two decades, citing numbers that one of his team’s lawyers saw during litigation that was related to the case. Exxon spokesman Tony Cudmore declined to confirm that figure. “We have not released a figure for legal costs,” he says. “I can tell you they have been significant, but I am not able to provide a number.”
Plaintiffs attorneys are crying tonight, as are all the residents of Alaska.
Continuing on a theme, David Fuller of Peotone, Illinois writes in to Altercation to say:
Turns out that the oil companies currently hold 10,000 drilling permits right now, and have leases to 68 million acres of land that is going undrilled — no need to “open up ANWR or the Gulf Coast right now” as Newt Gingrich would have everyone believe. (Drilling permits are apparently what happens right before the drill bit hits the ground — so oil companies are confident that oil is there.) Check out this June 2008 report [PDF] from the Committee on Natural Resources.
Among the most interesting points:
Drilling on federal lands has steadily increased since the 1990s
Drilling permits have gone from 3,802 five years ago to 7,561 in 2007
Oil and gas companies have shown that they cannot keep pace with the rate of drilling permits (so opening the Gulf and ANWR would help how, exactly?)
Although permits have gone up, the price of gas has ALSO gone up, refuting the idea that more drilling will automatically reduce prices
The Bureau of Land Management has issued 28,776 permits to drill on public land; yet, only 18,954 wells were actually drilled (a difference of 9822)
Of the 47.5 million acres of on-shore federal lands that are currently being leased by oil and gas companies, only about 13 million acres are actually in production
Offshore, only 10.5 million of the 44 million leased acres are currently producing oil or gas
According to the Minerals Management Service, of all the oil and gas believed to exist on the Outer Continental Shelf, 82% of the natural gas and 79% of the oil is located in areas that are currently open for leasing
Nearly 91 million acres are currently open to leasing in the Arctic region of Alaska, including onshore and offshore lands. Oil and gas companies have leased only 11.8 million of the 91 million acres.
The report goes on to say that just drilling in these 68 million acres (this excludes the Alaska acreage, because much of it is still unleased by the oil companies even though it is available to lease) of untapped areas without drilling anywhere else would likely produce six times the amount of oil in ANWR. Yes, that’s right: SIX TIMES what ANWR is estimated to be able to produce at peak production. And if they’d bother to lease the Alaska areas that are available, that number would undoubtedly go much higher.
There’s much more in the report, but suffice to say, the next time one of us hears the claim that we need to drill in ANWR or off the coast of Florida to reduce our oil dependence and affect pricing, we should (confidently!) ask why in the world we aren’t making use of the 10,000 permits already issued and the 68 million acres of unused, currently leased land to drill on first, and why the additional drilling we’ve already done since the 90s hasn’t reduced prices at all.
Shock Doctrine, indeed — don’t fall for it. Educate folks on this, so our politicians can confidently vote “No” to the Gingrich nonsense with the knowledge that the American people have been sufficiently educated about this issue to know better than the lines we’re being fed by the oil companies and those shilling for them.
So why isn’t this sort of analysis being made in the corporate media? I’ve read some stories explaining that if new oil leases are sold, in the Great Lakes, and off the coast of Florida, and of course, in Alaska, the new leases won’t start producing meaningful oil for 20-30 years, but why isn’t that fact contrasted to the existence of 10,000 permits already in place that aren’t producing meaningful oil either? Crazy. He who asks the questions sets the agenda, presumedly, and Bush/McCain/Gingrich were the first out of the gate leveraging complaints re: high consumer gas prices against Big Oil’s future drilling rights. A shame that there isn’t push-back on the topic, except in obscure corners of the web (echoed in even more obscure corners of the web, such as this humble webzine).