Awaiting the Vice Presidential Debate

Only four more hours until the vice presidential debate, and may I just say that I am awaiting this event with bated breath? I know. I know. The bar has been lowered so much that anything Sarah Palin manages to say cogently will be seen as a victory for her side. I’ve heard the statement, “Let Sarah be Sarah” so many times that I’m waiting for a chorus of “Nobody doesn’t like Sarah P.” if she manages to pronounce a polysyllabic word correctly. Could it be that we have all been hoodwinked? Does she really know Supreme Court cases and understand that Putin doesn’t really rear his head and fly over Alaskan air space? Was it all just an act to throw us off our game so that she can go for Joe Biden’s jugular when he defers to his “respected opponent?”

Again, I am not underestimating the woman. She has a mean, nasty streak that reminds me of a line from Julius Caesar: “Yond Cassius has a mean and hungry look. Such men are dangerous.” You might think the quote more aptly fits John McCain, but I find it more fitting to the governor. If you recall your Shakespeare, Cassius pretended to support Caesar, but was scheming all the while. Sarah Palin smiles too much for me, and in the clips from her debates for governor, it was clear that she is not little Mary Sunshine. She is well-equipped to make the killing thrust and smile as she delivers it.

I hope Joe Biden remembers this and does three things tonight: answers succinctly, never condescends, and doesn’t hold back when he needs to show up Palin’s ineptitude. If he can do that without coming of as a blowhard, then the Dems should widen the gap a few more points, and Palin can go back to the creek and read all 2800 or so newspapers that she claims to read and try to learn a few more talking points before rolling out for another interview.

From Mudflats on Sarah Palin and Supreme Court Decisions

Many thanks to Mudflats for this wonderful post. Please visit http://mudflats.wordpress.com/2008/10/02/palin-v-supreme-court/ for the original:

Sigh… Palin can’t name a single Supreme Court case other than Roe v. Wade. Not one. Now, there might be some reasonably intelligent people out there who can’t rattle off a long list of Supreme court decisions. And, picking one you don’t agree with while you’re on the spot might not be easy for most Americans either. Granted most Americans are not running to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency, but even if we cut Palin a little slack here, I’ll tell you why we shouldn’t. And I’ll tell you why this particular gaffe makes the blood of many Alaskans run cold.

The first time I watched this clip, I chuckled. Then it hit me. It hit me like a smack in the face with a dead fish.

Below is part of a piece I wrote back in June, when a Supreme Court ruling came down in a case known as Baker v. Exxon. Most of you will recall the devastating oil spill that occurred in Alaska in 1989 when the supertanker Exxon Valdez slammed into Bligh Reef, pouring 11 million gallons (some say over 30 million gallons) of crude oil into the pristine waters of Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Many of those in Alaska at the time probably either know someone affected, or were themselves affected personally by the spill. Many of you who were out of state, cut up your Exxon credit cards, watched footage of oil-soaked otters and sea birds, and deeply mourned the loss of a place you’d never even seen.

The Alaska Natives in the area, and those who fished the Sound lost their livelihoods, and their ‘holy place’. The loss on many levels cannot be overestimated. Today, in 2008, if you dig down about 8 inches into the sandy beaches of many islands in the Sound you will find thick black crude oil.

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Screwed. (originally posted on Mudflats 6/25/08)

Well, the extremely predictable ruling came down from the U.S. Supreme Court today. In a 5-3 vote the court decided to hack and slash the original $5 billion settlement, which had already been hacked and slashed to $2.5 billion in punitive damages. Now the Supreme Court says the amount owed to Prince William Sound fishermen and Alaska Natives affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill is $507.5 million.

First, condolences to the 32,677 plaintiffs, their families, and all those affected by the spill who have been waiting and watching for almost 20 years, while lawyers get fat sucking on the marrow of the oil soaked bones littering the beaches of Prince William Sound. This was hard to take for ALL Alaskans, but for the plaintiffs, and all those who love the Sound, it was twisting the knife.

Second, to all those people who have bought into the idea that the oil companies have been good to Alaska by donating to charities, sponsoring sporting events, and plastering their logos on anything that doesn’t move (and some things that do), listen closely. They. Don’t. Care. Exxon has been fighting this since the moment the $5 billion was awarded to plaintiffs in 1994. Think that’s a lot of money? It’s not. Exxon’s recorded profits last year were $40.6 Billion. That’s PROFIT. Doesn’t make $507.5 million sound particularly punitive, does it? If the health, well-being and welfare of the Alaska people mattered to Exxon Mobil, these people would have been paid 13 years ago. So when you see the oil companies doing something that looks ‘nice’, remember it’s the cost of doing business to shut us up.

Third, any Alaskans who are outraged by this announcement today, and are still planning to vote Republican in the upcoming presidential race – wake up. Who were the only supreme court justices voting with the Alaska people and against the interest of corporations? The progressives. Who were the ones that voted against the interest of Alaska? Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, & crew – those conservative judges that John McCain wants more of when he appoints the next 2 or 3 members of the court. Presidents are gone in four to eight years; Supreme Court Justices last a lifetime. A court like this is what we get when so many of us swallow the red Kool-Aid, and don’t think about the political ramifications of our votes to our own interest when the chips are down. So, in November, think. Please.

By the time all is said and done a huge portion of the $507.5 million has evaporated with the shrinking value of the dollar since 1989, another huge portion went to the lawyers, 8000 of the plaintiffs are dead, and the Sound has still not recovered, and won’t in our lifetime. They got about 10% of the oil, they think. Sometimes in life, you get a cheap lesson…this wasn’t one of those times.

Don’t forget this when they tell you Pebble Mine won’t destroy the Bristol Bay fishery. Don’t forget this every time we negotiate with the oil companies about anything. Don’t forget this every time you see a warm fuzzy TV commercial. Don’t forget that anyone who is in our state to develop finite natural resources is here for the money. Period. And don’t forget this when you vote in November.

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Since that post, Exxon has reminded us that this $507.5 million figure is actually the upper limit of what they owe. And they are also balking at paying interest on that money. They are stalling, because they are literally waiting for plaintiffs to die.

So, I ask you, Sarah Palin, as the Governor of Alaska, a state whose land, water, wildlife and people have been ground under the wheels by corporate oil interests, backed up by a conservative Supreme Court put there by your party, is THIS one of those Supreme Court cases that you also disagree with? Or did you just forget about it?

Garrison Keillor on John McCain (Thank you Flat Earth)

Sept. 24, 2008 | It’s just human nature that some calamities register in the brain and others don’t. The train engineer texting at the throttle (’HOW R U? C U > L8R’) and missing the red light and 25 people die in the crash — oh God, that is way too real. Everyone has had a moment of supreme stupidity that came close to killing somebody. Even atheists say a little prayer now and then: Dear God, I am an idiot, thank you for protecting my children.

On the other hand, the federal bailout of the financial market (YAWN) is a calamity that people accept as if it were just one more hurricane. An air of crisis, the secretary of the Treasury striding down a hall at the Capitol with minions in his wake, solemn-faced congressmen at the microphones.
Something must be done, harrumph harrumph. The Current Occupant pops out of the cuckoo clock and reads a few lines off a piece of paper, pronouncing all the words correctly. And the newscaster looks into the camera and says, ‘Etaoin shrdlu qwertyuiop.’ Where is the outrage?

Poor Larry Craig got a truckload of moral condemnation for tapping his wing-tips in the men’s john, but his party proposes to spend 5 percent of the GDP to buy up bad loans made by men who walk away with their fortunes intact while retirees see their 401K go pffffffff like a defunct air mattress, and it’s business as usual.

Mr. McCain is a lifelong deregulator and believer in letting brokers and bankers do as they please — remember Lincoln Savings and Loan and his intervention with federal regulators on behalf of his friend Charles Keating, who then went to prison? Remember Neil Bush, the brother of the C.O., who, as a director of Silverado S&L, bestowed enormous loans on his friends without telling fellow directors that the friends were friends and who, when the loans failed, paid a small fine and went skipping off to other things? Mr. McCain now decries greed on Wall Street and suggests a commission be formed to look into the problem. This is like Casanova coming out for chastity. Confident men took leave of common sense and bet on the idea of perpetual profit in the real estate market and crashed. But it wasn’t their money. It was your money they were messing with. And that’s why you need government regulators. Gimlet-eyed men with steel-rim glasses and crepe-soled shoes who check the numbers and have the power to say, ‘This is a scam and a hustle and either you cease and desist, or you spend a few years in a minimum-security federal facility playing backgammon.’ The Republican Party used to specialize in gimlet-eyed, steel-rim, crepe-soled common sense and then it was taken over by crooked preachers who demand we trust them because they’re packing a Bible and God sent them on a mission to enact lower taxes, less government. Except when things crash, and then government has to pick up the pieces.

Some say the tab might come to a trillion dollars. Nobody knows. And Mr. McCain has not one moment of doubt or regret. He switches from First Deregulation Church to Our Lady of Strict Vigilance like you might go from decaf to latte. Where is the straight talk? Does the man have no conscience? It wasn’t their money they were playing with. It was yours. Where were the cops?

What we are seeing is the stuff of a novel, the public corruption of an American war hero. It is painful. First, there was his exploitation of a symbolic woman, an eager zealot who is so far out of her depth that it isn’t funny anymore. Anyone with a heart has to hurt for how Mr. McCain has made a fool of her. Never mind the persistent cheesiness of his attack ads. And now this chasm of debt and loss and the gentleman pretends to be shocked. He was there. He turned out the lights. He sent the regulators home. Mr. McCain seems willing to say anything, do anything, to get to the White House so he can go to war with Iran. If he needs to recline naked in Macy’s window, he would do that, or eat live chickens, or claim to be a reformer.

Obviously you can fool a lot of people for awhile and maybe he can stretch it out until mid-November. But the truth is marching on. A few true conservatives are leading a charge against the bailout. Good for them. But how about admitting that their cowboy economic philosophy was at fault here?

(Garrison Keillor is the author of a new Lake Wobegon
novel, ‘Liberty,’ published by Viking.)
© 2008 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved.
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