Who Hijacked Our Country

Friday, December 22, 2006

Exxon Verdict: Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

Conservatives have once again benefited from that thing they claim to hate: a bleeding-heart soft-headed judge. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (one of the Far Right’s favorite punching bags) has ruled that the $5 billion verdict against Exxon for their 1989 oil spill amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment.”

In 1994 an Anchorage jury ordered Exxon to pay $5 billion for their oil spill which devastated 1,500 miles of Alaskan coastline and ruined the livelihoods of 34,000 Alaska residents. Under the Appeals Court ruling, Exxon only has to pay roughly half of that original $5 billion verdict.

Here’s a little perspective: Exxon “earned” $36.1 billion last year. That was the highest earnings ever by any American corporation.

Exxon still might appeal this decision. Their lawyer called the oil spill “a tragic accident that Exxon Mobil deeply regrets.” He said “In our opinion, the facts of this case do not warrant an award this size.”

The oil spill occurred because the pilot of the Exxon Valdez was drunk. Exxon was aware of his ongoing drinking problem but continued to leave him in command of their oil tankers.

There’s no sense in learning from your mistakes when it’s so much easier to just purchase the legal system.


Blogger Stephanie said...

Okay, I just read the article you cited and didn't see "cruel and unusual punishment."

I saw, "saying it was unconstitutionally excessive in light of U.S. Supreme Court precedent."

Which makes more sense. Still sucks, but it makes more sense.

What gets me is this:
"That equals $2.5 billion. [The judgement]

The majority said it could have demanded a higher payment, but Exxon took prompt action to clean up the mess and to compensate victims.

“These mollify, at least to some degree, the reprehensibility in economic terms of Exxon’s original misconduct,” the court ruled."

However quickly Exxon cleaned up the mess...the people who suffered the most, the little guys, are still waiting to get their payment 17 years later! All because Exxon continued to fight the amount of the payment, the fishermen got nothing for 17 years. Yet the court is "mollified" by their "prompt action?" That's disturbing.

December 23, 2006 at 4:50 AM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

Indeed, owning the Judiciary is much simpler in the long run than obeying the law.

We are a country of Corporate OJs. And all the big dogs have a "Dream Team" of lobbyists, lawyers, and Congressmen.

December 23, 2006 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Stephanie: Yes it’s true the article didn’t say “cruel and unusual punishment.” I sometimes embellish or exaggerate in order to prove a point (and everyone’s told me a million times to quit doing that). But I’m glad we agree that the fishermen whose livelihoods were ruined by Exxon’s oil spill have been screwed over. They’ve gotten nothing during these 17 years while Exxon gets commended by a judge for their “prompt action.” Disturbing indeed.

Jolly Roger: “Corporate OJs” — LOL. Excellent description.

December 23, 2006 at 12:06 PM  
Anonymous John Platt said...

I am a third generation Prince William Sound fisherman. All of my fisheries have been adversely affected by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. My net worth is a fraction of what it was prior to the spill. I have no health insurance or retirement. Friends have literally "killed" themselves over financial ruin. Family members have died waiting for this protracted mockery of the judicial system.
If OJ had had Exxon's deep pockets and legal team, he would probably be Governor of California right now!

December 23, 2006 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

John: Sorry to hear about your losses, and those of your friends. Large corporations definitely have too much power to run roughshod over the rest of the population, and this needs to be changed. Having deep pockets shouldn't make somebody totally insulated and unaccountable.

December 23, 2006 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger PoliShifter said...

This is just sick and wrong.

This is what's wrong with the pro-business "conservative" notion of "free market" capitalism to begin with.

Repugs don't want the markets and rules rigged...until they end up in court and don't want to pay the fines they deserve to pay+.

If only the majority of Americans would wake up, reject Fox News, and realize that voting Republican these days is voting against your own best interest unless you are a billionaire.

Ofcourse, perhaps that's what happened in November. Perhaps the American People are smarter than we think.

But to hear it on the TV and read it on the internets and newspapers, this past election was nearly meaningless.

Notice how Bush continues on unabridged.

January can't come soon enough...

December 23, 2006 at 10:24 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

This is about what I think of Exxon. Check it out:


It may take a minute or two to load, but it's worth it. The music featured is by the inimitable Austin Lounge Lizards. Enjoy!

December 23, 2006 at 11:22 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

PoliShifter: You’re right, it’s sick and it’s wrong. I think by now the majority of Americans have woken up and realize that everything is stacked in favor of large corporations and against everyone else. Unfortunately, this corruption is so entrenched (and it goes back a lot further than GW Bush’s regime) that all the channels for correcting this problem are corrupted themselves. It’ll be a slow process, digging ourselves out from under this oligarchy.

Snave: Thanks for the link. Great animation and lyrics — funny and maddening at the same time. I signed the petition.

December 24, 2006 at 1:32 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

I think you are right Tom. It seems to me our country has become more of a corporate plutocracy than anything... Those with all the money are the ones who get to drive our policies, and if they can get one of their own into the White House (i.e. the Bush family), so much the better for them. And so much the worse for the rest of us who don't have as much money as they do.

December 24, 2006 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: Yup, I think a plutocracy is what we've become. This has been the case for a long time. It's gotten worse in the past 6 years but this has been steadily encroaching for a long time. It'll be a long slow process for us to get back to "of the people, by the people, for the people."

December 24, 2006 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...

I must be getting old. These stories come and I am just not shocked anymore. All I can do is shake my head and say, "yeah, figures. Bastards."

One point on the immediate action, didn't they drag their feet waiting for an environmental impact report to be done? I guess that was just left wing propaganda. :)

December 25, 2006 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Prague Twin: Same with me. A lot of times I'm totally jaded and no matter what happens I just think "yeah, that figures."

But other times, when I think I'm jaded and numbed to everything, a story like that really pisses me off.

December 25, 2006 at 7:14 PM  
Anonymous Jared said...

I grew up in Cordova AK, and also was a fisherman in PWS when the spill occurred. Having read the 9th circuit court's 63 page ruling on this this its interesting(maddening) to note the dissenting judge's opinion. Exxon was given kudos for cleaning up their mess so they don't have to pay the full amount. Lets reward large companies who can create environmental , or worse, disasters by letting them off the hook if they clean up the mess they created in the first place. Makes no sense to me. As if not cleaning up the mess was an option. What ever happened to the old adage 'you broke it you buy it'? Exxon broke it, its still broken, and they aren't buying. I don't get it.

Read the last 15 pages of the ruling, the dissenting judges opinion makes 3 HUGE points.

The majority did not consider "potential" damage in this case but the Supreme Court did in State Farm and BMW, 2 highly referenced cases for this one. Potential damage was 5 times what occurred, 55,000,000 gallons on that tanker, only 11,000,000 were spilled. The potential was HUGE compared to what happened but they ignored this consideration. The dissenting judge points that out and 2 other major points. Its worth reading.
I'm disgusted.

December 28, 2006 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Jared: Sorry but I couldn’t get the link to work. But I agree, since Exxon broke it, they’ve bought it. It’s ridiculous that Exxon (or any company) gets lenient treatment just for cleaning up their own mess or correcting the problem they created. So if I get caught shoplifting and I offer to give the stolen item back, I’m off the hook. Right? Don’t think so.

December 28, 2006 at 5:06 PM  

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