Thursday, October 8, 2009

Take These Senators. Please.

The case of
Jamie Leigh Jones is horrific.

Employed in Iraq by KBR (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Halliburton), in July of 2005 the then 19-year old Ms. Jones was was drugged and gang-raped by fellow KBR employees.

Her account was backed up by her physical injuries, which were documented the morning following the rape by U.S. Army physician Jodi Schultz.

When Jones reported the incident, KBR rewarded her by locking her in a shipping container (complete with armed guards) for several days before sending her home.

Her injuries were so bad she required reconstructive surgery.

Since that time, the rape kit, and the notes and photographs taken, and report prepared by Dr. Shultz to document the incident went missing.

With the assistance of a diplomat from the US State Department, the rape kit was recovered from KBR.

The rest of the documentation prepared by Dr. Shultz remains unobtainable, held somewhere in the bureacratic labyrinth that is Halliburton. If it hasn't been destroyed.

Because of Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17, which protects US contractors from Iraqi law, Ms. Jones' KBR assailants are probably immune from any prosecution by Iraqi authority.

The US Department of Justice, which does have authority, has for some reason declined to take any action... perhaps because much of the evidence has "been disappeared," or perhaps because in addition to other screw-ups by no-bid contractor KBR, it's simply embarrassing.

So. What remedy does Jamie Leigh Jones have? She can sue KBR/Halliburton, right?

Wrong. KBR, for the last three years, has successfully argued that the "mandatory arbitration" clause in Ms. Jones' contract with them forbade her from doing so. Or it did, until yesterday.

Thanks to freshman Senator Al Franken (D-MN), an amendment was added to the FY2010 Defense Appropriations Bill that prohibits mandatory arbitration clauses protecting the employer against suit for criminal acts like this.
"This bill would make it so that anybody in business with the Department of the Defense can't do this," said Franken. "They can't have mandatory arbitration on issues like assault and battery."

Minnesota, you've done well by electing Mr. Franken, and you should be proud (can you now please do something about crazy Rep. Michelle Bachmann in 2010?).

Here's Senator Franken putting the smack-down on the KBR shill during a committee hearing:

Any decent person realizes that employers with big-buck federal contracts like KBR shouldn't be allowed to stop their employees from taking sexual assault, battery and discrimination that occurs in the workplace to court.

Read more at:
Here's Senator Franken in action, putting the smack-down on the KBR/Halliburton corporate shill:

Now, you'd think that a measure like this would be a no-brainer, and that it would pass unanimously.

But it didn't. The amendment did pass handily, by a vote of 68-30.

But that's still 30 Senators who voted to put Halliburton/KBR and other corporate (pronounced "campaign contributor") interests ahead of the interests of American citizens... and guess what?

Every single one of them was a Republican.

The list is here.

If one of them is your Senator, drop them a line to let them know you think their actions are the height of douchebaggery, and you'll remember it come election time.

If you want to know more, check out the Jamie Leigh Foundation, a non-profit organization she founded to help victims.

h/t to Matt Osborne, Jason Linkens at Huffington Post

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Public Service Announcement On Behalf of Progressive Alaska Blogger Phil Munger

This morning, I received an email pleading for emergency financial help from someone calling themselves Phil Munger.

Except it wasn't Phil.

Of course, despite the Phalse Phil's claim that he was in "England for a Seminar," the English used was hardly Real Phil's style... and it was poor English to boot, also not characteristic of Mr. Munger.

Here is the text:

From: Philip Munger
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: Help Me Please!!!


How are you doing? hope all is well with you and i pray this email finds you in good health, i am sorry that i didn’t inform you about my traveling to England for a Seminar.

I need a financial favor from you because i misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money and other valuable things were kept i will like you to assist me with a loan urgently. I will need the sum of $2,800 to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.

I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with, i’ll pay you back as soon as i return. Kindly let me know if you can be of help? So that i can send you the details to use when sending the money through western union.

Your reply will be greatly appreciated.

Through other Alaskan bloggers like Linda at Celtic Diva and Steve at What Do I Know?, word has gotten back to Mr. Munger, and he is, unsurprisingly, NOT happy.

So, if you receive this email or something similar to it, report it as spam and delete it.


Wellpoint Insurance Takes On The State of Maine Over Health Insurance Rate Hike

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (a subsidiary of WellPoint) wanted the State of Maine to approve an average rate hike of 18.5 percent on its policyholders.

The State of Maine said "No, we don't think so."

So the insurance companies are now suing the state.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield say they need the rate increase to ensure a 3 percent profit margin.

As you might suspect, there are some who disagree with that argument:

The Maine Attorney General's office seems to agree with the above sentiment:

"In addition to the average annual premium of approximately $6,000 paid by Maine consumers to Anthem in 2008, these same individuals paid their own health care costs below the deductible. The average deductible as $7,250 in that year, and is projected to grow to an average of $7,570 in 2009... That means the average policyholder would have to incure a total cost of more than $13,000 in premium and deductibles, prior to becoming eligible to receive any health benefits under the policy."

In response to the suit, the AG's office pointed out that Anthem has made $5.4 million from individual consumers over the past two years.

The AG also points out that Anthem paid $75.7 million in dividends to WellPoint in 2008.

This is an 87% increase from the $40.4 million Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield paid WellPoint in 2007.

And a 112% increase over the the $35.6 million Anthem paid WellPoint in 2006.

I'd say that's hardly a low-profit operation.

The AG went on to note how well Anthem paid it's executives:

"In 2006, Anthem executive compensation in Maine for its nine highest-paid employees totaled over $4.3 million, averaging almost $500 thousand per executive," the AG's filing says. "This included total base salaries of nearly $1.6 million, bonuses in excess of $835 thousand, and all other compensation of over $1.9 million (which may include payouts under multi-year long term incentive plans, sales incentives, severance, and the exercises of stock options granted in prior years.) ... During 2006-2008, the three-year average executive compensation for Anthem's top nine employees remained at nearly $500,000."

Yeah. Anthem is barely squeaking by, the poor bastards.

h/t to Arthur Delaney at Huffington Post and Brave New Films.