Friday, January 29, 2010

Rape is What Our Enemies Do

Here's another story that did not get near enough attention in our mainstream/corporate "Liberal" media. The issue also demonstrates how politics have absolutely superceded any semblance of right and wrong.

First of all, the situation is ridiculous and criminal. A woman is hired to do clerical work in Baghdad's Green Zone. There, she claims to have been brutally gang raped by other employees of her company (a subsidiary of Halliburton). The company is "unable to locate" important components of her rape kit, and additionally tells her that, due to her employment contract, she is unable to seek a redress of grievances in court, and must submit to the company's internal arbitration proceedures. The Bush Justice Department failed to investigate.

She has taken the issue to court and Congress to get this fixed, and not a lot of people want to talk about it.

Second, a United States Senator wrote an amendment to a bill earlier this year to address just this sort of issue. The amendment requires Department of Defense not to contract (or sub contract) with companies that require mandatory arbitration clauses.

This amendment would prevent taxpayer dollars from contracting with companies that require employees to sign employment agreements restricting their ability to take sexual assault or sexual harassment claims to court.

I personally cannot think of a more bi-partisan stance than "keeping American women working in war zones from being sexually assaulted or harassed by people paid with American taxpayer dollars." This seems like a fairly simple loophole to close in the interests of justice. If you want to get paid by Uncle Sam, you've got to play by our rules, dammit.

So color me surprised when 30 GOP senators voted against this amendment.

Worse was their explanation: that the amendment was political in nature because it came from a liberal democrat. That the amendment was only written to make them look bad. They chose politics over policy and voted against the amendment (though it was later signed into law).

Luckily, not all Republicans let such base cynicism guide their votes. But if you look at which 30 voted against it, it is a verifiable laundry list of those GOP senators who overpoliticize everything: Brownback, Chambliss, Coburn, Cornyn, McConnel, Sessions, Shelby and Vitter.

Can you imagine the white-hot rage these same individuals, and their cheerleaders at Fox News and right-wing-talk radio, would exhibit if one of them proposed such an amendment, and 30 Democrats voted against it??? It would be the top item on news, and blogs and radio for at least a month. And after Chappaquiddick, Monica, and John Edwards' baby, you know I'm right.

If I behaved like they do, I'd have to ask: "Why do these 30 Republican Senators hate young American women? Why would these 30 Republican Senators want to protect sexual predators? Why would these 30 Republican Senators want to spend YOUR TAX DOLLARS to COVER UP RAPE?" (Said in a nasal and incredulous/inquisitive Hannity-like whine.)

But the altar of politics over policy is becoming the norm these days. It seems that shame has ceased to be a cultural factor in changing behavior these days. Now we just try to ignore those things we know are wrong, but allow to happen anyway.

That so many Republicans and their allies in the media take time defending those things I know to be wrong, well that drives me to find their words empty and without credibility again and again.

PS: And if Obama was the blind partisan most folks think he is, he could clean the GOP clock with issues like this. Add it to the financial state of affairs, the torture of prisoners and a raft of other issues, and he could pound them into the ground.



Thomas said...

This is a little more complicated than you're making it. The stated purpose of the amendment is to prevent rape in companies hired by the U.S. government, but the actual wording of the amendment prohibits the U.S. Defense department from hiring any company with a mandatory arbitration clause. These things are very different. Note your initial post contains a factual error. Halliburton does not have an internal arbitration process. They use an outside provider, as do most companies.

Any failure to bring criminal charges against those that assaulted Jones is a failure of the criminal justice system, something completely unrelated to her arbitration clause. Arbitration clauses have nothing to do with criminal proceedings.

Her clause (if it's a standard arbitration clause) will require her to go through arbitration to pursue any civil claim against KBR/Halliburton. An arbitrator can reward compensatory damages and punitive damages just like a jury can. Any delay of hearing or legal difficulties involved would be the fault of Halliburton's lawyers, moreso than the venue in which the hearing takes place. Thousands of employment arbitrations take place a year with little fanfare.

So while the outrage is real, and Jones is certainly a victim, passing an amendment against arbitration, as opposed to Halliburton directly, penalizes many legitimate, well respected businesses who just happen to use arbitration. It's well intended but it misses its target. If this amendment was followed to the letter, the DOD wouldn't be able to spend anywhere.

Our government is sending mixed messages on this anyway, considering that a law was recently passed sending auto dealer disputes (related to the auto bailout) to binding arbitration:

Don't get me wrong, I'm a college educated, open minded, theatre going liberal weenie, but I think this amendment is more theatre than an actual solution to the problem. If they had the balls to go after Halliburton directly, I'd support it. But this amendment will not prevent one single rape.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

No written law can stop rape.

What laws can do is make it more effective to investigate, prosecute and punish individuals and industries that may be complicit in the crime.

For some reason, this arbitration process stymied an investigation and prosecution of a crime.

But I'd have liked to see them unleash the hounds on Halliburton directly for this as well.

Thomas said...

See, what I'm saying is that the arbitration process didn't stymie the investigation and prosecution of a crime. Arbitrationa and criminal law are in no way linked. The process being delayed in arbitration is a civil claim against the company. Arbitrations have a record of being faster than court trials, have a high rate of settlement, and when they go to hearing, and have similar records to court litigation as far as which side prevails. What's dragging down the Jones matter are the KBR lawyers, doing the same tricks they would be doing in court.

Now, full disclosure, my day job is in arbitration. I have a certain amount of bias because I see arbitration used as a scapegoat by every attorney who can't come up with a decent case. And I think this case is hardly representative of what employment arbitration usually resembles. These are criminal matters that should be pursued by the justice department. Civil forums, be it arbitration or the courts, should be secondary.

So yeah, go after Halliburton for being an evil corporation, but let the chain restaurants and the hotels keep their arbitration clauses without guilt.