Honest Abe

lincolnAlso prescient Abe. This passage appears in a letter from U.S. president (1861-65) Abraham Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864. (The war he’s referring to is the American Civil War, but you know how history repeats itself.)

We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood…. It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.

As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.

God did not grant, and 144 years later we are living what Abe foretold. I have long felt that reining in the giant multinational corporations will be the enterprise that ultimately decides our collective fate.

Today, thanks to Guy Dauncey‘s laudable EcoNews newsletter, i learned about an interesting take on this: Dr. Riki Ott wrote a book (Not One Drop) calling for a 28th amendment to the U.S. constitution, one that constitutionally separates corporation and state. This would effectively negate the judicial rulings (since 1886 in the states) that corporations have the same rights as human beings, including trial by jury and protection against the taking of property.

Ott was involved with the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Prince William Sound, which Exxon recently wriggled out of — after nearly 20 years in the courts — with a fine of $507 million. (The original award was $5 billion plus). Exxon’s constitutional protections played a key role in that that legal wrangling. The “suit’s” side of the case is presented in this CNNMoney.com article. From the other side, a 4-minute video by Ott is on YouTube if you’re interested.

Hmm, 20 years in court, Exxon versus a small Alaskan community … you pretty much know how that’s going to turn out.

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5 thoughts on “Honest Abe

  1. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Workers (EVOS) Workers vs Exxon

    Are these the Actions of Our US Lady Justice?
    Tipping Scales?
    Peeking for Corporate Interest?
    Accepting Bribes?
    Knee Deep in Exxon Oil?
    Allowing Human Life as Exxon’s Collateral Damage?

    Download the image of Lady Justice or click on the site.
    http://www.silenceinthesound.com/valdez-oil-spill-workers-vs-exxon.shtml

    An investigative study needs to be conducted into the thousands of Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS) workers’ health issues, and acknowledged as Exxon’s Criminal actions; not just as Exxon’s Collateral Damage.

    This letter is released, with the hope of informing the media, public and anyone who is concerned about how Exxon authorize the toxic chemicals for spraying Alaska’s oily beaches. Exxon has been fighting an Alaska jury’s verdict for 14 years, contending that the $3.5 billion it already has spent, following the worst oil spill in U.S. history is enough. The Alaska jury initially awarded $5 billion to 33,000 commercial fishermen, Native Alaskans, landowners, businesses and local governments.

    After 19 years, and only four months of deliberating, on June 25, 2008, the
    US Supreme Court Justices announced their decision. They cut the punitive damages yet again. When that amount is divided by Alaska’s plaintiff’s lives that were destroyed by the oil spill; is $15,000 the Supreme Court’s price for life? Exxon has still not accepted full responsibility for the tragic EVOS alleged cleanup of 1989. Yet, Exxon continues to boast of profits each year, and leads other oil companies in raising prices at the gasoline pumps.

    Here is the rest of the story: In 1989, while media and public attention focused on the thousands of oil-coated dead seabirds, otters, and other wildlife, little attention was given to the harm done to the EVOS cleanup workers. As workers blasted oiled beaches, with hot seawater from high pressure hoses, they were engulfed in toxic fumes containing aerosolized crude oil—benzene and other volatile compounds, oil mist, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. View photos at: http://www.silenceinthesound.com/gallery.shtml

    It is a major concern that the cleanup workers from the 1989 EVOS are suffering from long-term health problems resulting from toxic chemical exposures. A significant number of the workers have died. Some of the illnesses include neurological impairment, chronic respiratory disease, leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, liver damage, and blood diseases. View stories at: http://www.silenceinthesound.com/stories.shtml

    Dr. Riki Ott has written two books; Sound Truth & Corporate Myth$ and Not One Drop. Dr. Ott has investigated, and studied the oil spill spraying, and quotes numerous reports in her books, on the toxic chemicals that were used during the 1989 Prince William Sound oily beach cleanup.
    http://www.soundtruth.info

    Submitted by: Merle Savage, General Foreman during the (EVOS) cleanup attempt of 1989; http://www.silenceinthesound.com

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  3. Wow — this ‘corporate personhood’ initiative is surprisingly well developed. A Google search for the term only brings up about 400,000 hits, but they seem to be largely NGOs, presumably with some reach.

    Here’s a reference for the Lincoln quote, according to this blog post.

    –Ref: The Lincoln Encyclopedia, Archer H. Shaw (Macmillan, 1950, NY)

    And here’s a thorough overview of the case, from the excellent Global Issues site.

  4. And a quote from Thomas Jefferson, ill heeded by those who came after.
    “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

  5. There is also the film, “The Corporation”, a documentary that came out a few years back. One of the filmmakers is/was a law prof at UBC, exploring the deleterious effects of corporate “personhood”.

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