Monday, October 26, 2009

Kellogg, Brown and Rape

I posted last week about Al Franken's first amendment that has passed in the US Senate. Named the "Jamie Leigh Jones Amendment" it was meant to keep Federal military contracts away from corporations who force their employees to sign secret arbitration contracts, which prevent them from taking to court anyone who sexually harasses or sexually assaults them, and furthermore prevents them from even suing their companies (should they find this foreclosing of justice a bit unfair). The amendment is named for a woman who had a horrifying experience while working for a military contractor in Iraq. Here is the short version of her story according to Senator Franken's office:

When Jamie was 19, she was working for then Halliburton subsidiary KBR in Iraq, where she was placed in a barracks with 400 men. She complained about sexual harassment, but KBR took no action and she was eventually drugged and gang-raped by co-workers. When she tried to report what had happened, KBR locked her in a shipping container under armed guard. One of her guards smuggled her a cell phone, which she used to call her dad. Her dad and her Congressman got her back to the States. Once Jamie was back with her family, she discovered that the fine print in her contract with KBR prevented her from taking her case to court. Since then, she's been telling and retelling her story around the country, fighting on behalf of victims of sexual violence.
The amendment passed 68-30, with nearly all Republicans voting against it. When I posted this last week it seemed like a nice victory for Democrats, especially since they haven't accomplished much since coming into power first in 2007 and then again in 2009. But now, there seems to be a good chance that a leading Democrat in the Senate, Hawai'i Senator Daniel Inouye is going to either water down the amendment or take it out completely. Apparently in recent weeks, the Senator's office has been a camping ground for defense industry lobbyists, who are determined to get this ammendment killed. According to a Huffington Post article that I've pasted below the pressure is building and it is very likely that he will cave into it somehow.

From what I know of Inouye, it seems strange that the defense industry would have to apply so much pressure on him, when he is one of their most ardent supporters and one of their most favored politicians. His relationship is so intimate with the military industrial complex, I would think that all they would have to do is wink and he would nod back, and the whole thing would be taken care of.

The Democrats are of course, out of the two mainstream choices, the political party for the left or for progressives. Although they may make heroes out of some Democrats, or feel that they are right there with them on certain economic or social issues, in terms of peace and military, all politicians, especially those that have been around for a while and have alot of power, tend to take the same position on the military and war. Inouye is a clear example of this, although, he goes a step further and is ready to intervene in order to protect corporate members of the military industrial complex.

I've also included below, the transcript of a segment from the Rachel Maddow show on the Jamie Leigh Jones Amendment.

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MADDOW: One specific vote on one specific part of the giant legislation that funds the Defense Department is turning into a real political problem for 30 Republican senators.

In Idaho, the "Lewiston Morning Tribune" called out its two senators in an editorial titled, "Senators Crapo and Risch Cast an Inexplicable Vote."

In Mississippi, "The Clarion Ledger" editorialized, quote, "Senators Cochran and Wicker voted to protect corporations, not victims, and they should own up to that."

An opinion piece in the "Osawatomie Graphic" was titled simply, "Kansas Senators are Disappointing." In Tennessee, a "Crossville Chronicle" writers asked, "Whose Side are Our Senators On?"

The "Athens Banner Herald" in Georgia headlined a letter quote, "Georgia Senators Embarrass State." And in Louisiana, a "Shreveport Times" writer asks, quote, "What exactly is Sen. David Vitter problem with women."

When Republicans are getting called out in Mississippi, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia, something big is going on politically. This all began when 30 Senate Republicans voted against an amendment by Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.

The amendment said that the government shouldn't give defense contracts to companies if those companies prevent their employees who have been raped or discriminated against from suing in court.

Franken's amendment passed, but 30 male Republican senators voted no on it. Now, much of the outraged response to that vote across the country is due to the fact that this legislation was prompted by a horrible real-life case, the case of Jamie Leigh Jones.

She was a 20-year-old female contractor at Halliburton subsidiary, KBR when she says she was drugged and gang raped by her co-workers and locked in a shipping container. Because of her employment contract, Ms. Jones was not allowed to sue. She still hasn't had her day in court.

I want you to know that we called every single one of the 30 Republican senators who voted no on this. Not one of them agreed to come on the show to talk about why they voted the way they did. Senators, I want you to know, the invitation remains open.

Joining us now is Jamie Leigh Jones and her attorney Todd Kelly. Thanks very much to both of you for coming on the show tonight. I really appreciate it.

JAMIE LEIGH JONES, FORMER KBR HALLIBURTON EMPLOYEE: Thanks for inviting us.

TODD KELLY, JAMIE LEIGH JONES' ATTORNEY: We appreciate that.

MADDOW: Jamie Leigh, four years ago, you were drugged and raped for working as a contractor in Iraq that led to, not only this legislation, but to the outrage over the people who voted against this legislation. Can you tell us briefly what happened?

J. JONES: OK. Well, I went to Iraq to serve my country during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Four days upon my arrival there, I was brutally and sexually assaulted and drugged.

And when I reported my assault to Halliburton KBR, they essentially imprisoned me in a container. And I was held captive by armed guard, by guards that were called gurkhas. And they are guards that have machine guns and everything else and they're hired by KBR.

And after pleading with one of the guards, he did let me contact my father, who contacted Congressman Ted Poe. And Congressman Poe dispatched a rescue mission to get me out of there.

MADDOW: Now, I understand you were not allowed to sue, to see that anybody was held responsible for what happened to you.

J. JONES: Right.

MADDOW: Is that because of the contract that you signed when you signed up with Halliburton?

J. JONES: Yes, exactly.

MADDOW: How would you describe Halliburton's role overall in responding to what happened to you? We know how you just described what happened immediately after the incident happened. But what's happened since?

J. JONES: Do you want to comment on that?

KELLY: Well, if you're asking what happened from a legal standpoint, Halliburton has made every effort to force Jamie into secret binding arbitration. If you're asking from a sense of how they have helped Jamie, obviously, she'd be in a better situation to answer that question than I would, but I would say not very much.

J. JONES: Yes. They have tried to completely keep this under arbitration because then, it would be quiet and secret and binding. Then I would not be able to be sitting here in front of you today to tell my story, which I think is very crucial for other wives, mothers and daughters that want to go and serve their country by working for a contractor.

So, you know, essentially, I think that corporations should never be above going in front of a trial by jury. And so this Franken amendment would prevent that from happening.

MADDOW: The amendment, obviously, passed and I think that we're all watching to see what happens whether it ultimately becomes law.

J. JONES: Right.

MADDOW: The Defense Department has expressed concerns about whether or not it would be enforceable, although they say that they agree with the overall intent of it. We don't know what's going to happen next.

J. JONES: Right.

MADDOW: But I have to ask your reaction to those 30 no votes. Three out of four Republican senators voted against this amendment. How did you feel about that?

J. JONES: Well, I think that is really unfortunate. I wouldn't - I cannot even understand the reasoning as to why anyone would vote against it. I am very happy about the votes that we did get for it.

I'm thrilled it's gotten as far as it has gotten. Hopefully, the 30 senators will have a change of heart during a conference because maybe if they tried to understand how they would feel if their daughter or wife or somebody was in my position, how they would feel if it was to go in front of an arbitrator. Hopefully, they'll change their position on it, so -

MADDOW: Jamie Leigh, either you or Todd - I was struck by the argument from Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He's one of the people who voted against it and he argued against it.

J. JONES: Yes.

MADDOW: And he said this is just a political shot at Halliburton. This is just Democrats taking a shot at a politically unpopular company. Can I ask you to respond to that?

KELLY: Absolutely. It's not that. In fact, if this amendment had been in place when Jamie went to Iraq, her rape most likely never would have happened. What needed to happen is that companies like Halliburton need to have rules in place that forced their employees to obey those rules that needed to have oversight.

And they're only going to implement such things if their actions are exposed to the light of day. And what happened in the case of Jamie is, for years prior to her arrival there, the environment was allowed to grow and to fester.

And these people, because of the arbitration provision, were never punished. Their actions were disposed of secretly in binding arbitration that couldn't be appealed, even when the arbitrators blatantly disregarded the law.

So they created this environment that they then threw Jamie into. And the rape occurred as a natural and foreseeable consequence of that action. This has nothing to do with politics. This has to do with doing the right thing by our young American women and girls that are trying to support this country like Jamie.

MADDOW: Jamie Leigh Jones and her attorney Todd Kelly, thank for telling this story publicly and fighting for this.

J. JONES: Thank you.

MADDOW: And thank you for coming on the show tonight. I really appreciate it.

KELLY: Thank you for having us.

*******************

Sen. Inouye may strip anti-rape amendment from defense bill
October 22, 2009 by kyle
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/22/frankens-anti-rape-amendm_n_329896.html

Franken’s Anti-Rape Amendment May Be Stripped By Senior Dem, Sources Say
By Sam Stein, stein@huffingtonpost.com

First Posted: 10-22-09 10:40 AM Updated: 10-22-09 12:35 PM

An amendment that would prevent the government from working with contractors who denied victims of assault the right to bring their case to court is in danger of being watered down or stripped entirely from a larger defense appropriations bill.

Multiple sources have told the Huffington Post that Sen. Dan Inouye, a longtime Democrat from Hawaii, is considering removing or altering the provision, which was offered by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and passed by the Senate several weeks ago.

Inouye’s office, sources say, has been lobbied by defense contractors adamant that the language of the Franken amendment would leave them overly exposed to lawsuits and at constant risk of having contracts dry up. The Senate is considering taking out a provision known as the Title VII claim, which (if removed) would allow victims of assault or rape to bring suit against the individual perpetrator but not the contractor who employed him or her.

“The defense contractors have been storming his office,” said a source with knowledge of the situation. “Inouye either will get the amendment taken out altogether, or water it down significantly. If they water it down, they will take out the Title VII claims. This means that in discrimination cases, they will still force you into a secret forced arbitration on KBR’s (or other contractors’) own terms — with your chances of prevailing practically zero. The House seems to be very supportive of the original Franken amendment and all in line, but their hands are tied since it originated in the Senate. And since Inouye runs the show on this bill, he can easily take it out to get Republicans and the defense contractors off his back, which looks increasingly likely.”

A Democratic aide on the Hill, also with knowledge of the situation, confirmed the account, as did a source who works on defense contracting matters outside of Congress. “The contractors are putting on a full-court press on this amendment… they are all doing it,” said the latter source.

A spokesman for the Senate Committee on Appropriations said that “the committee does not comment on ongoing conference negotiations.” But another source with knowledge of the situation stressed that it was premature to say that any decision has been made. Indeed, even the Hill source said that the situation is fluid and could change before the bill is sent out of committee — likely in the next few days.

The decision on what to do with Franken’s amendment is being made in conference committee with the House of Representatives, which severely limits the number of lawmakers who can weigh in on the matter.

The second-longest-serving member of the United States Senate, Inouye is a veteran of WWII. The chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, he has received $294,900 in donations from the defense and aerospace industries over the course of his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Franken’s amendment passed the Senate on October 21, 2009 by a voting margin of 68 to 30. The 30 Republicans who opposed the provision were widely pilloried in the press. But they were actually joined in some of their concerns by the Obama administration’s Department of Defense, which worried that “enforcement would be problematic, especially in cases where privity of contract does not exist between parties within the supply chain that supports a contract.”

The White House, for its part, told HuffPost it supports the intent of the amendment and it is “working with the conferees to make sure that it is enforceable,” said spokesman Tommy Vietor.

1 comment:

Drea said...

I think the republicans who voted against this need to consider why Halliburton is so politically unpopular. Our troops were fighting for Iraqi Freedom and yet a young American woman was being raped and stripped of her freedom at the same time. It's disgusting.

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