Saturday, December 23, 2006


Biologist P.Z. Myers reckons America is "thoroughly screwed up." As evidence he cites the the life term given to Tyrone Brown for smoking marijuana while on parole. Fair enough; that does seem pretty harsh.

But it's a civil matter that Myers is really steamed about:
ExxonMobil was fined $5 billion for their negligence in the Exxon Valdez tanker accident, which they haven't paid and probably plan on never paying. They just got a friendly judge to cut the penalty in half.

Both sentences occurred at about the same time. Tyrone Brown got to sit in jail for half his life for a petty crime. Lee Raymond got to grow fat and obscenely rich after poisoning the environment, and his company lawyers get to play games with the law.
America might well be screwed up but so is Myers: his post is riddled with errors. His first mistake is to rely on Raw Story as a source -- that's where he gets the idea a judge ("friendly" is a Myers embellishment) made the ruling. In reality, the award was reduced in a 2 to 1 judgement by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, reputedly one of the most liberal of federal appeals courts.

Instead of posting a bogus lefty-assumption-based knee-jerk reaction to the ruling, Myers should have clicked the AP link at Raw Story; it provides an excellent overview. Relevant excerpts:
It's the third time the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court ordered the Anchorage court to reduce the $5 billion award, the nation's largest at the time, saying it was unconstitutionally excessive in light of U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

This time, in its 2-1 decision, the court ordered a specific amount in damages, while its previous rulings demanded a lower court come up with its own figures.

"It is time for this protracted litigation to end," Chief Judge Mary Schroeder and Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote.

U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland of Anchorage begrudgingly complied in 2002, reducing damages to $4 billion. Irving, Texas-based Exxon again appealed.

The following year, the appeals court ordered Holland to revisit his decision, this time balancing it against a new 2003 Supreme Court ruling that said punitive damages usually could not be more than nine times general damages. The Anchorage jury awarded $287 million in general damages - and issued punitive damages that were 17 times that amount.
The court majority said Exxon should pay punitive damages that equal five times the amount of general damages the jury awarded in addition to the more than $200 million the oil giant paid to Alaska natives, fish processors and other businesses and fishing interests. That equals $2.5 billion.

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.
Lefties like Myers know America is "screwed up;" they're not about to let facts get in the way.


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