Come to the Muckraker’s Ball!

5 12 2008


If you’re not busy on Saturday night, or even if you are, make plans to attend the 2008 Muckraker’s Ball & Award Ceremony!  No, alas, I had nothing to do with putting together this fabulous event, even though I’d love to take credit, and the name does seem fitting….

Each year Cook Inlet Keeper, an organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the Cook Inlet watershed and the life within it, chooses one deserving Alaskan who has spoken truth to power, and works to hold the government and corporations accountable for their actions.  Isn’t that a nice concept?   To this individual Cook Inlet Keeper bestows the honorary title  of “Muckraker of the Year.”  This year, the recipient is the amazing and incomparable Dr. Ricki Ott, “whose groundbreaking work has played a vital role shining a necessary light on the politicians, bureaucrats, and Exxon Corporation executives who have labored to cover up and ignore the devastation of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.”

Believe it or not, we are approaching the 20th anniversary of that event whose after effects are still being felt by residents of the Sound, fisherman, wildlife, and all who hold to that area as a symbol of wildness and beauty.

Dr. Ott will be signing copies of her new book, “Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.”

And who is up to emceeing this festive and auspicious event?  None other than Air American radio personality and Alaska blogger, Shannyn Moore!   It will no doubt be loads of fun, and promotes the good work of one of my most favorite organizations.

And to share a small bit of the spirit of Prince William Sound, the site of the Exxon disaster, I’ve added some pictures to the Flickr stream that you’ll find at the bottom of the sidebar.  Enjoy.


Exxcommunicate Exxon – Part II

15 07 2008

Anyone surprised by the latest Exxon headline in the Anchorage Daily News “Exxon Opposes Paying Interest?”   Anyone?  Didn’t think so.  If you are looking forward to a good long rant, I refer you to my previous post “Exxcommunicate Exxon” (part 1).  This will save both repetition and my blood pressure.

Apparently more and more Alaskans are getting on the Exxcommunication bandwagon.  After reading the 85 comments to the ADN article that have been posted so far, I’ve noted the following opinions and their frequency:

We did it to ourselves by voting Republican: 5

Desire to do bodily harm to Exxon executives: 2

Surround Exxon’s Building with pitchforks and torches: 1

Blockade Valdez Narrows: 8  (Although 7 were from the same reeeealy mad guy)

Exxcommunicate Exxon. Kick them out of the state and do not allow them to do business here:  15

Interesting.  The last time we took it on the chin from Exxon a couple weeks ago, I only saw one or two Exxcommunication comments, so perhaps people are getting mad enough to actually start to advocate for this position.  Perhaps karmic balance will come when Exxon and Big Oil in general will so enrage the populace, who will lose every ounce of trust in the oil companies, and therefore put so much pressure on the Governor and the legislature, that we might actually get our own pipeline.  Imagine if you will… (insert harp music here)… The state (that’s us) owns the gas, the state builds the pipeline, the pipeline employs people who live in the state, the pipeline itself is built IN the state, and the people that live in the state get the actual gas.  While we’re at it, let’s get all the Republicans and Democrats to kiss, make up, sing Kumbayah and start working together for the good of all Alaskans.  Don’t wake me up.  I’m going to cling to my reverie for a few more moments…but please feel free to contact Gov. Palin and your legislators and share the dream while I’m away…

Exxcommunicate Exxon.

1 07 2008

I keep thinking that I’ve spent all my vitriol on Exxon, and that there’s nothing left. And I’m continually surprised. The well just never seems to run dry.

We all know the story. Jury awards $5 billion. Exxon appeals and the amount is reduced to 2.5 billion. Exxon appeals again and the Supreme Court reduces it to $507.5 million. Or so we thought. Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers spoke from headquarters in Texas, and reminded us that they “set an upper limit of $507 million”, and when asked whether Exxon would argue for lower damages he said, “We are really going to wait and see what transpires through this process.”  Really.

I don’t know Alan Jeffers, and he may be a stand up guy, but if I were writing a screenplay, he’d be sitting in his big Houston office leaned back with his cowboy boots up on the desk, sucking on a stogie as he drawled, “We’re really gonna wayt’n see whut transpaaaahrs through this process.” He hangs up the phone, blows a smoke ring, and chuckles.

This $507.5 million the Supreme Court bestowed on the plaintiffs is for punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded to punish defendants for reprehensible behavior. Their purpose is to be felt by the guilty party. So how punitive is this $507.5 million that may or may not be challenged by Exxon? Let’s put it into perspective. The median household income in Anchorage is $55,564 per year. That means 1/2 the households make more, half make less. We’ll start there.

Let’s say Mr. and Mrs. Exxon were an average household making $55,564 annually, rather than the largest and most profitable corporation to ever have existed on Earth, with net profits of $40.6 billion last year alone.  And let’s say they did something really bad to you and were ordered by the court to pay punitive damages.  They would have initially been slapped with a $6,839 punitive fine and ordered to pay you. They would have appealed it on the grounds it was excessive, and gotten it reduced to half the original amount –  now they owe you a $3,419 fine.  Still feeling this was way too excessive, they would have appealed it again and gotten it reduced to $694 the rough equivalent of one economic stimulus check…or half a permanent fund check for one of them. Punitive? Hardly. But now, after almost twenty years,  they remind you that $694 is the upper limit, and they’re not sure what they are going to do now. They’re not getting out the checkbook just yet.  They’ll have to see what ‘transpires’.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. and Mrs. Exxon both work for you, and they also rent a big room in your house.  What would you do?  Well, I’d probably start by firing them, and then tossing their stuff out on the street…but that’s me.   Our governor, and our congressional delegation pontificate about being ‘extremely disappointed’ in the Supreme Court, but are noticeably silent when it comes to confronting Exxon itself. 

As far as I can tell Mark Begich is the only one putting any pressure on Exxon to actually sign the checks, and acknowledging the fact that they owe us.  The rest of the pack just keep staring at the floor and being all sad and disappointed. No pink slip, no eviction notice, no nothin.

OK, now I’m really done. 

This time.



25 06 2008

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, which had already been hacked and slashed to $2.5 billion in punitive damages owed to Prince William Sound fishermen and Alaska Natives affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill to $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 a 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 Americans and Alaskans swallow the red Kool Aid, and don’t think about the political ramifications of their votes to their 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, or see oil company logos every time you turn around. Don’t forget that anyone in our state to develop finite natural resources is here for the money. Period. And don’t forget this when you vote in November.