Tag Archives: Politics

KBR/Halliburton employees can sue in court for sexual assaults

This story has been raising eyebrows for a while, but it took a new turn this week. It seems KBR/Halliburton (of Dick Cheney fame) may have tried to cover up repeated incidents of sexual assault amongst employees serving in Iraq (perhaps because it affected recruiting adversely). Many employees had unknowingly signed binding arbitration agreements that the company claims covers assault and criminal cases as well. One of the women who says she was assaulted sued KBR and the Fifth circuit heard her case. Her story ispretty harrowing, especially the bit where KBR investigators locked her up for 24 hours after she reported the assault. Apparently this wasn’t an isolated case and the non-disclosure and binding arbitration agreements had been used to keep the other cases out of the news. No doubt many of the women working for KBR would have reconsidered tours in Iraq if they’d known of the various assault cases.

So, Al Franken introduced an amendment to the defense appropriations bill to prevent any defense contracts being awarded to companies requiring binding arbitration for sexual assault cases. Here’s the surprising bit 30 senators voted against the bill! All of them Republican, all of them men. Jeff Sessions rambled on about why the government shouldn’t meddle in contracts, but he also said “It is a political amendment, really at bottom, representing sort of a political attack directed at Halliburton, which is politically a matter of sensitivity.” He’s right, it probably is shrewd politics for the Democrats, though god knows KBR/Halliburton has been pretty good at getting its way in Washington ever since Brown & Root started handing envelopes stuffed in cash to LBJ and the rest of the Southern delegation.  Still, even if you admit Halliburton needs to be protected from the likes of Al Franken, the female employees of KBR probably deserve some assistance from judiciary while they’re out serving on battlefields. BTW, David Vitter (R, AL)who frequented brothels in D.C. and New Orleans voted against it.

Competing views on racism

David Brooks and Bob Herbert both have articles in the NYT about the role race is playing in the health-care debate.  Each of them reaches a completely different conclusion.

On this occasion I find myself leaning towards Herbert.  I don’t think every person who opposes Obama’s health care proposal, or Obama himself is racist, but I do think the fringe has been allowed to move closer to the center of power and the Republican party platform.  Ever since Nixon’s Southern strategy, the republican party has consciously exploited and encouraged racial anxiety amongst white Americans (of course, Southern democrats did the same thing quite well prior to LBJ).

Home is where the brain is.

Benjamin Schrier writes in San Francisco magazine about the impact Asian-Indian immigrants have had on Silicon Valley, how the downturn and US immigration rules are affecting younger immigrant technology workers, and what this may mean for Silicon Valley’s long-term prospects. One of the men profiled in the article is the brother of a high-school friend, and I can relate to much of the article. I stayed with my first US employer for far longer than I would have if a work-visa were not a concern.

New Yorker: Health care and the public’s resistance to change.

James Surowiecki of the New Yorker provides an explanation out of the behavioral economist’s handbook for conflicting polling data on health-care. It’s reminiscent of the polls suggesting most Americans are unhappy with Congress in the abstract, but do claim to like and wish to retain their own congressman/congresswoman. The explanation is along the lines of, the devil you know, or a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

Health Care Reform which puts the consumer and results first.

David Goldhill has a poignant and compelling article in the Atlantic Monthly titled How American Health Care Killed My Father about health-care reform. It deserves reading in it’s entirety.

The potential outcome Goldhill proposes is very similar to that advanced in John Mackey’s Op-Ed in the WSJ, except it’s more convincing, not nearly as strident, and doesn’t have an antagonistic title. Job better done.

Ted Kennedy, healthcare reform and cancer

Archival photo of Robert, Ted and John Kennedy
Archival photo of Robert, Ted and John Kennedy

Ted Kennedy died earlier today. The NY Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have all published moving tributes to him.

There’s also an article that might get lost in the shuffle, but should not since it is a significant comment on the current debate on health-care reform. The US lags behind most developed countries on measures of public health and the cost-effectiveness of health-care delivered. One area, though, in which the US system leads others is in treating cancer. This is in large part due to cancer research funding from the federal government, i.e. government intervention in health-care. The American Cancer Society published a tribute to Kennedy lauding his work as a supporter of research on cancer.

This reminds me of the role Al Gore played in the Senate when the Internet and networked technologies were in their infancy, a role acknowledged by true Internet pioneers. Sometimes, a senator’s pet project can be a visionary success. Often, it’s a bridge to nowhere.

Salon.com – Winston Churchill was a Bolshevik

Salon writes about Churchill’s role in creating the NHS in a scathing commentary on the slurs being bandied about today. Many conservatives would much rather forget Churchill’s role int he creation of the British welfare state, and many more would like to forget that he went back and forth between the Liberal and Tory parties during his long political career. Churchill knew that a good idea can easily be taken too far by its most strident adherents.