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Defending The Indefensible

Ted Bundy. Jeffrey Dahmer. Timothy McVeigh. Charles Manson. Ramzi Yousef. Monsters all, monsters responsible for the deaths of many, many Americans. Monsters all who were captured and subjected to the American justice system.

Where each of them were given lawyers and afforded every legal right to which they were entitled. Not one of them was summarily executed for their crimes, none of them excluded from the laws that governed their protection.

Indeed, we are lectured at every opportunity how wonderful it was that our system is a system of laws. That it is a testament to the wisdom and greatness of our legal system that even the most heinous of monsters are protected from arbitrary, capricious justice, and even against these monsters the government has limits and rules and laws it must obey.

And in each case, we are told that their defense is not an endorsement of their alleged crimes, but an obligation upon all of us to make certain that even in these cases -- especially in these cases -- we must show that we are just, that we are governed by laws and not passions, that even the mighty must obey the rules.

But that seems to be set aside when the target is not an individual. When the target is something monolithic and faceless as a corporation, the principle goes right out the window.

It shouldn't.

For example, let's look at BP. A lot of people (myself included) have been accused of sticking up for BP, shilling for them, possibly even being on their payroll (I wish). Because of the massive oil spill in the Gulf, they're no longer entitled to the protections of the law.

Like in the cases I mentioned at the opening, it's not a matter of standing up for the accused. I find myself loathing BP for what they did -- or didn't do.

But I "stand up" for them because as much as I despise them, I fear more the precedent that would be set if we allow the Obama administration to sidestep the law in making sure BP is thoroughly punished. We're already seeing that happen -- for example, the $20-billion shakedown. Here, we have the president strong-arming a private business out of its money, to be administered by a person of his choosing, and in a manner designed to circumvent the normal bankruptcy process -- putting the federal government ahead of those who would normally come first.

All done without a single law to justify it, just on the Obama administration's say-so.

If any corporation deserves this treatment, I'd have to put BP up there. But I simply don't trust the Obama administration with the power it's exercising in this case. Nor would I trust future administrations with the power established thus.

So, "sticking up for BP?" Not really. "Standing up against a naked, corrupt power grab by the Obama administration" would be closer. So would "standing up for the principle of justice for all, even the most despicable scumbags."

But there's a bright side. The Obama regime will not last forever, and they're piling up a tremendous set of precedents. Every now and then I fantasize about how a future Republican administration will take the powers seized by the Obama administration and turn them on groups like the SEIU, and I get a warm glow inside. Or I listen to Representative Darrell Issa threaten to treat Democrats like they treated Republicans for years and years, and I smile.

I don't think I'd like to actually see those things happen. But I do hope that the thought that they might come to pass might give pause to those currently holding -- and abusing their powers.

If that means that, occasionally, I have to observe that BP isn't quite Satan personified, so be it. I can live with that.


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Comments (28)

typo alertBut I "s... (Below threshold)
Eric:

typo alert

But I "stand up" for them because as much as (a) I despise them

Another thought, it's anoth... (Below threshold)
Cindermutha:

Another thought, it's another reason for corporations to move more of their operations (that means jobs) away from the US. Need to minimize that exposure to naked power/cash grabs, ya know

Fixed, Eric. Thanks.<... (Below threshold)

Fixed, Eric. Thanks.

I think I was having a southern accent moment... "ah despise them."

J.

Thank you, Jay. My sentime... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Thank you, Jay. My sentiments exactly. When this power is so abused, what many people don't consider is that it can and will be turned against them in the future.

I was angry too that BP lobbied for cap and trade, but while we heard the left scream and holler about it, I decided to find out more about their role. And you know, not a single one of them mentions that BP backed out of the group in February:

"We don't think legislation pending in the House or Senate conforms with the blueprint," he [BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell] added. "A disproportionate share of the cost burden falls on the transportation sector and consumers. As a result, we're going to miss out on the most cost-effective measures, and misallocation of resources could occur.

"Chappell said BP was concerned that "poorly designed legislation could result in the closure of refineries, an increase of [refined petroleum] product imports and the loss of U.S. jobs."

For some reason BP thought the current crop of congress-critters would actually consider the well being of the average American. They learned that wasn't quite so.

As I'm willing to forgive those chumps who voted for Obama, but now see their error, I'm also willing to afford BP the same.

Guilt is a selective virus ... (Below threshold)
Don L:

Guilt is a selective virus to be dispensed by liberals to conservatives and traditional value institutions while they maintain absolute immunity.

All libs are innoculated at birth (or upon entering college) with anti-truth serum.

When it comes to guilt, sin and evil, think of them like plague carriers who never themselves get sick.

OT: You should hear my 8 ye... (Below threshold)
Eric:

OT: You should hear my 8 year old, she was born and raised in Georgia but for some odd reason sounds like she's from Boston.

Back on topic, very good article. But be prepared to defend against the attack "Where were you while Bush trampled on the Bill of Rights?" blah blah blah.

What crime will be used whe... (Below threshold)
Maddox:

What crime will be used when they take your 401K or other retirement account from you for the good of the country?
The tipping point has been reached. There may be a majority who support that action too if they believe they will benefit from it.

*chuckle*... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

*chuckle*

Barry needs no authorizatio... (Below threshold)
914:

Barry needs no authorization to commit despicable acts such as picking who gets BP funds. We all know his ACORN action committee has been damaged most by that damn unpluggable hole and they are at the top of his list for reparations.

Jay, can you name an instan... (Below threshold)
Tina S:

Jay, can you name an instance where a corporation has acted fairly in paying compensation for harm they have caused, without any pressure being applied ?

Typically these things drag on in the legal system for years if not decades (as in Exxon Valdez), and it's the lawyers who benefit most. The $20 billion fund ensures that individuals and small businesses do not have to hire lawyers to receive fair compensation. Corporations have teams of the best lawyers and this typically results in the individual and small business getting screwed.

I agree. I too have stated ... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

I agree. I too have stated I do not want to "heap" on BP at this point. I have been concerned about the power grab but also the media not being able to put this in perspective. This is the only horrific oil spill in decades of drilling. We wouldn't ban flying if one plane crashed, etc. I do not know if there was a mistake on BP's part or the blow out preventor wasn't designed right by another company. So, why the rush to blame a company the employess thousands upon thousands of American's. Sometimes, we as American's shoot ourselved in the foot. I say clean it up, investigate, put the necessary corrections in place and go on. ww

Tina, "typically" business ... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Tina, "typically" business pays out before a case even gets to trial through mediation, particularly those business's insurance companies. And the reason they go the mediation route is because "typically" juries are sympathetic to the little guy and business loses. It's usually only a matter of how much.

What you're ignoring is that business has a right to its day in court. And they have a responsibility to act in their best interests. I believe Jay has covered this extensively before, and quite eloquently I might add.

I fear more the pr... (Below threshold)
I fear more the precedent that would be set if we allow the Obama administration to sidestep the law in making sure BP is thoroughly punished. We're already seeing that happen -- for example, the $20-billion shakedown.

Holy crap.

You guys keep repeating this, as if repetition will make it so. I ask again, as I've asked here many times:

1. What specific law has Obama broken, by asking BP to put $20 billion in an escrow fund?

2. Since this action was willingly done by BP and is actually also to BP's benefit, as evidenced by BP's 10% stock uptick once this escrow was announced - how is this a shakedown?

I know you love to hate Obama, and hate to see government restricting corporations. But can you please at least keep your talking points in step with verifiable human reality. Thank you.

Please forgive me, I missed... (Below threshold)

Please forgive me, I missed the evolution of the talking point. Since conservatives have been forced to acknowledge that no actual laws have been broken or even bent, the way objections to the BP escrow is "sidestep the law", "strong-arming a private business".

As if the government negotiating on behalf of the people for once, is some sort of sin.

At least this on a proper philosophical grounding, and shows the real divisions between conservative and liberal ideology on this issue.

Liberal view:
It is better for a government to lawfully negotiate with a corporation to put funds in escrow, than for victims of that corporation's reckless negligence to have to wait decades for compensation.

Conservative view:
It is better for victims of a company's reckless negligence to have to wait decades in court, than for a government to lawfully negotiate a solution with a willing company that allows victims to get paid before they potentially die of old age.

You may not want to think it, because it makes you uncomfortable. But you clearly are siding with a corporation against the best interests of the people whose lives have been shattered by that company's reckless negligence, careless incompetence and sociopathic indifference.

Why is this in your ideology? I don't know, and it still baffles me. But something in the way you think makes you think Democratic party government is something that is automatically against your rights, and corporations as always and automatically for them. Which is simply not supported by history or the present. Yes, governments have to be watched by the people. So do corporations - and without governments to negotiate with corporations on our behalf, we have less power than a mining worker in the 1800's against the mining companies that ran rampant without restriction.

What you're ignori... (Below threshold)
What you're ignoring is that business has a right to its day in court.

What you're ignoring is that BP *will have* it's day in court, and that this in no way has been denied or even made more difficult.

And they have a responsibility to act in their best interests.

Which they did - by agreeing to the escrow.

What you're ignoring is that the US Government has a responsibility to its citizens, including those in the Gulf - and sometimes, that requires lawful negotiations with powerful international companies.

You know, that old canard where the Government is "by the people, of the people and for the people". That old thing.

Jim X, You have ca... (Below threshold)
Rodney:

Jim X,

You have caused me to lose several brain cells that I cannot afford to lose, and I am sure others reading what you have written on this site have also. So please start an escrow fund for all potential claims of damage that can be paid out by third party. You will have your day in court but since you are commenting on a ongoing basis the damage is still being caused, and you wouldn't want the people whose brain cells your killing to suffer for years would you?

"What you're ignoring is... (Below threshold)
914:

"What you're ignoring is that the US Government has a responsibility to its citizens, including those in the Gulf - "


Ah, so that's why Barry put a moratorium on thier jobs and income. That's so 'responsible' of Barry.. To bad a judge overturned his harmful decree.

Kiss off Barry! You suck.

Jim, you clearly have absol... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Jim, you clearly have absolutely NO understanding of the conservative mindset, let alone the philosophy, so you can dispense with that phony halo over your head.

"You may not want to think it, because it makes you uncomfortable. But you clearly are siding with a corporation against the best interests of the people whose lives have been shattered by that company's reckless negligence, careless incompetence and sociopathic indifference."

Why yes indeedy. A corporation that was unable to achieve any of these horrific goals without a complicit government body or two.

Because you're clearly ignoring a government who, by Constitutional mandate, should have the best interests of the people at heart. Instead, they're accepting gifts, campaign contributions and the like (in return for lax enforcement) from the companies they're supposed to hold accountable through sensible regulations on the books crafted for the very purpose of protecting human lives and livelihoods.

BP was not alone in this.

While Congress seeks to humiliate anyone connected with BP, while Salazar claims they'll have their boot on BP's neck, while other's scream boycott!, while Obama declares BP will pay every dime, every last one of them is trying vainly to keep attention from the fact that our government failed to protect us....

....yet again.

"What you're ignoring is... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

"What you're ignoring is that the US Government has a responsibility to its citizens, ...."

The government's responsibility doesn't come only after the fact. And what will come of this is more regulation they won't enforce or will enforce selectively.

You have caused me... (Below threshold)
You have caused me to lose several brain cells that I cannot afford to lose, and I am sure others reading what you have written on this site have also. So please start an escrow fund for all potential claims of damage that can be paid out by third party.

Well, let's see. Did I run a business on harvesting oil from your neighbor's brain? Did I sign a hole bunch of documents saying that if anything went wrong, I could fix the problem of mutiplying mutant brain cells before it was a problem?

Did my harvesting of brain oil then result in a lab explosion, resulting in a mutant blob spreading out of control into the rest of the entire town, infecting the brain cells of everyone in the town and probably their children for decades to come?

If that was the case, I think an escrow would be quite reasonable. Wouldn't you?

Jim, you clearly h... (Below threshold)
Jim, you clearly have absolutely NO understanding of the conservative mindset, let alone the philosophy, so you can dispense with that phony halo over your head.

Nah. I think I understand the conservative mindset quite well. I just don't think you like my perspective on it, because it brings home uncomfortable truths.

A corporation that was unable to achieve any of these horrific goals without a complicit government body or two.

Oh yes, the government, in this case both the Obama and the Bush administrations, didn't do their jobs. The Bush administration for setting the policy and letting the MMS get out of control, and the Obama administration for not immediately reviewing all MMS inspections and policies as soon as they got in.

So you're absolutely right to complain about "Barry", as long as you complain about "Georgie" and "Dickie" too.

But because in one case the government didn't perform it's role on behalf of the people, doesn't mean the government **shouldn't** do that. Quite the opposite. So it certainly doesn't make sense to use the government NOT doing something, as a reason for it to not DO something else - negotiate with BP to create an escrow.

"But you clearly are siding... (Below threshold)
Rodney:

"But you clearly are siding with a corporation against the best interests of the people whose lives have been shattered by that company's reckless negligence, careless incompetence and sociopathic indifference."

Would this not describe President Obama's administration? Refused help from other countries, did not follow the burning plan, and the oil booms left in a warehouse.

Should not the administration have authorized the use of foreign vessels and followed the burning plan, and gotten those booms from the warehouse? Just think how much smaller and less damage this spill would have done. They should have done this , kept track of the cost and then made BP pay.

"But because in one case... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

"But because in one case the government didn't perform it's role on behalf of the people, doesn't mean the government **shouldn't** do that. Quite the opposite. So it certainly doesn't make sense to use the government NOT doing something, as a reason for it to not DO something else - negotiate with BP to create an escrow."

Straw man, Jim. I never said they shouldn't negotiate with BP.

I also don't use "Barry", "Georgie" or "Dickie". I call them by their names. I assume, by "Dickie", you mean Nixon?

Hell, don't even answer that. I don't really care.

Straw man, Jim. I ... (Below threshold)
Straw man, Jim. I never said they shouldn't negotiate with BP.

Not a straw man - you just view the government negotiating with BP to to create an escrow, as denying BP its right to its day in court.

As for "Barry", that was 914. My apologies for getting the wrong respondent.

Would this not des... (Below threshold)
Would this not describe President Obama's administration? Refused help from other countries, did not follow the burning plan, and the oil booms left in a warehouse.

Should not the administration have authorized the use of foreign vessels and followed the burning plan, and gotten those booms from the warehouse?

I think there are some definite arguments that booms wouldn't solve the damage, and that a huge fire larger than many states might not have been a good idea.

But if those would have worked or would still work, I agree. I just don't see how the government negotiating with BP to put funds in escrow is a bad idea on top of that.

Jim, what I take issue with... (Below threshold)
Oyster:

Jim, what I take issue with is Obama's actions and demeanor. He's not being a leader. He started proclaiming how BP was going to pay, pay, pay before they had even put an investigative panel together. He barks that BP isn't doing enough in one breath then turns around to assure us that BP is acting completely under their discretion. He's yelling, blaming and demanding. He wants to know who's "ass to kick". He's fallen back on the old "it's Bushes fault" crap. He's taken vacation, golfed and entertained numerous times since it began.

BP did the right thing in my opinion. But I don't think it was the reasonable and sober "negotiation" you portray it as. Past experience tells me the word "pitchforks" came up during the "negotiations". BP has seen what this administration does when their cozy little word is threatened. Companies are taken over, individuals are demonized and there's a whole contingency of thugs out there willing to show up on people's lawns to terrorize families.

Tina, "typically" busine... (Below threshold)
Tina S:

Tina, "typically" business pays out before a case even gets to trial through mediation, particularly those business's insurance companies. And the reason they go the mediation route is because "typically" juries are sympathetic to the little guy and business loses. It's usually only a matter of how much.

What you're ignoring is that business has a right to its day in court. And they have a responsibility to act in their best interests. I believe Jay has covered this extensively before, and quite eloquently I might add.

Oyster,

You do bring up some good points, though not enough to persuade me thefund was a bad or wrong move by Obama.

The second paragraph in com... (Below threshold)
Tina S:

The second paragraph in comment 27 is also part of Oyster's comment. I accidently left out the intalics.




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