October 2009


One of the things that irritated me the most about Sarah Palin – among a long list of various twitches and annoyances that plagued the face and intellect of the former GOP rising star – was the rape kit scandal. Under her reign as a mayor, the city of Wasilla, AK, upheld a rule forcing rape victims to pay for their own kit (which price could go up to $1,000). Said kit contains all the necessary medical and procedurial examinations that could lead to the instruction of the crime and, hopefully, the prosecution of the rapist. Cashing in on one’s traumatic experience was one trait of Sarah Palin’s total disregard for women’s rights – despite being a woman herself – and the utter cynism lying in banking benefits in the state holding the record rate of rape per year (mostly targeting native american women, to add a sinister spin to the horror). Alaska also being the only state with an excedent budget, there was not even any pathetically capitalist excuse to rank money in from any source available.

If you think this story is revolting and morally bankrupt, brace yourself for the following.

Halliburton, Dick Cheney’s company and its subbranch, KBR, were once contracted to work for the United States government in Iraq. Halliburton is the main private contractor allowed on Iraqi soil throughout US occupation thanks to a seven-figure contract with a specific clause of exclusivity. Halliburton, the monster of the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us against in his 1961 address, is not just a symbol of the capitalization of war, it is also upholding degrading values among its employees – values that are now being politically accepted among Republicans.

Last year, a KBR employee was raped by several other colleagues. Here is the story as reported by Republicans For Rape  (see below):

KBR contractors drugged and gang-raped a co-worker, Jamie Leigh Jones, in Iraq, anally and vaginally, suffering genital mutilation. She woke up bleeding from both orifices. After she was examined by a doctor, the evidence was handed back to KBR, where the rape-kit, photos, and notes disappeared. She was then locked in a shipping container, where eventually a guard gave her a cell phone to call for help. Agents were called at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, where they took Jamie out of KBR custody. The rape-kit was later recovered, but the photos and notes were gone, essentially letting the rapists go free.

Halliburton being an Iraq contractor, the infamous patriotic rhethoric we have been spoon-fed ad nauseam has been applied in this situation: those employees are not your average rapist – they are real American patriots fighting for freedom and civil rights in Iraq, risking their lives for their brothers. Not for their sisters, who they rape with complete immunity.

Senator Al Franken (D – Minn.) has taken upon himself to amend the Defense Appropriations Bill in an effort to stop the ensuing madness and inhumane, cruel treatment inflicted on that woman and perhaps others on Iraq bases and elsewhere, places where the United States is no longer relying on its Army to carry the dirty job of overthrowing governments with no precise plan in mind. Halliburton might be the number one private contractor serving in Iraq, but its employees are American citizens working on American bases and therefore submitted to American law. Not only should these employees be prosecuted and sentenced the way they would have been in the motherland, paying for the horror they inflicted upon a colleague, but Halliburton should also be held responsible for not directly reporting its employees to the authorities, tampering with evidence, and ultimately blatantly violating the laws enforced by the very government they are working with. Senator Franken added a clause that companies that would feel impervious to criminal law in Halliburton fashion would see their contract with the US government terminated. It is already enough to have gotten themselves in the quicksand mess that is Iraq without having to hire raping mercenaries as freewheelin’ field help on top of everything else. The amendment proposed  to the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill has been defended by Franken:

The constitution gives everybody the right to due process of law … And today, defense contractors are using fine print in their contracts do deny women like Jamie Leigh Jones their day in court. … The victims of rape and discrimination deserve their day in court [and] Congress plainly has the constitutional power to make that happen.

As Rachel Maddow implied during her coverage of the scandal, Al Franken’s proposed bill is not groundbreaking moral politics. It’s not extraordinary, unusual or postmodern attitude towards the rule of war. Actually, it has nothing to do with the war in itself. This is pure common sense. This is simple law enforcement. This is what should have been done without Al Franken having to come at the stand. KBR’s presence becoming a liability to the United States government should not have raised any questions as to whether KBR is a reliable representative of the United States in Baghdad.

John McCain was among the 30 senators supporting rape

John McCain was among the 30 senators supporting rape

You can count on the Republican Party, 2009 grand cru, for being more outlandish and absolutely non-sensical than it was the year before.

Several senators – check the list below – have decided to vote against Franken’s bill. Their excuse? Halliburton is fighting the good war, and is extremely profitable to the United States government. The US Chamber of Commerce has also decided to battle against Franken’s amendment in order to “protect business interests”. KBR can not be blamed for a few bad apples. You have to give them credit for being consistent in their double-standard approach to crime: when two ACORN employees are suddenly bringing the entire organization down nationwide, Republicans are setting the house on fire for matters of principles, of morality, of professional ethics, and their fight against socialism. When Dick Cheney’s money maker and warmongerering company is raping its own employees then holding them hostage so they wouldn’t file a complaint, they are only behaving as slightly distraught patriots would, and it should not reflect on the company at all. The sad thing about it is that it was terribly predictable. In a climate of economic uncertainty and moral failure, one can only wish that the Republican Party would step up to the plate and fight for ideologies that do not imply the downfall of the little bits of humanity and dignity people have left. Instead they gleefully trample over the very foundations of the rule of law and humanity just to add a little more zeroes after their already overinflated bonuses.

Republicans For Rape, a satirical mock-organization aiming at denouncing the thirty Senators going against rape victims,  has listed all the senators voting against Franken’s bill, thus asking for immunity in case of rape. Feel free to contact them, especially if you are a registered Republican Party member, to tell them that crimes against one person, in a situation as traumatic and serious as rape, should never be overlooked. No rapist should be exempted of punishment for the simple reason they are working for another criminal (here’s to you, Cheney).

Seriously, guys.

Seriously.

September 2008 was a catastrophe of a kind we had almost forgotten, so deeply engrossed we were in our illusion of comfort: a financial crash of epic proportions, a Steinbeck-type of depression that sent the western world into a whirlwind of home foreclosures, a steady and steep rise in unemployement rate and a (justified) growing mistrust in the free market. For the first time in a really long time, people called for regulation. They called for governmental intervention. The ghost of the red scare, floating over the United States despite skinny dipping into a pool of debt, was pushed away by people falling below the threshold of poverty, or reaching new lows they thought they would never attain. No social security to catch those millions on the downfall. Surely this would be enough of a nightmare for a deafening, international wake-up call? Surely, this depression would bring about the change we had all been waiting for? Finally, we would treat bankers like the irresponsible children that they are and would reign in the market to protect our assets that are, ultimately, our livelihood.

Yeah, well, no. Guess we never learn.

A year after the record plummeting of Wall Street, unemployement rates are peaking at 9.8% , foreclosures are planned to reach 2.3 million , but the banks are doing obnoxiously well. As a vast majority of us are contemplating a bleak and dull future, as employers of national companies are throwing themselves out of windows, financial markets are registering historic profit. On average, traders of the 23 first banks in the United States will cash an annual income reaching $143,400. This is when some of us will no longer be able to meet our mortgage payments or pay our rent. Bill Clinton’s miserably failing welfare system is tested in the most cruel and inhumane ways as Wall Street investors will pocket a total of $437 billion. Billions. Billions that have not been handed out by Congress in support of universal health care, when medical expenses in these uncertain times are undoubtedly going to send people into a spiral of financial distress. Bonuses pocketed by the sole Bank of America CEOs (who have begged for a $45 billion bail-out out of taxpayer’s money) will be six times as much as the IMF annual budget that tried to feed the very same people Bank of America majorly, royally and unapologetically screwed over.

Let’s face it: bankers were once on top of the world, and regardless of the pretty, hopeful and thoughtful rhethoric the new administration has been blasting in our ears, they still are. They literally got away with murder, and keep on living their lavish lifestyle while the dark clouds of the recession are still casting a long shadow over our heads.  The regulation we had been promised, supposedly extensively discussed during the G20 summit in Pittsburgh just a few months ago, has yet to be felt. Peter Kennen, professor of economics at Princeton University, told Le Monde that “the state does not have the power to act, but banks have to realise by themselves that the public opinion  can no longer accept such practices – and that they must change before Congress is forced to pass law.” Let it be clear: the government does have the power to act, it simply chooses not to do so. With all due respect for Mister Kennen, if any form of action is easily labeled – and thus slandered – by the conservatives as being an oppressive form of that scary socialism, it does not necessarily mean it is beyond Obama’s reach. As a matter of fact, this might be exactly what he has been elected upon: for once, a presidential candidate felt ready and even obligated to act upon the people’s wishes. Would that be a little too democratic for a country that’s not ruled by the Constitution, but simply being a by-product of the free market?

Robert Shapiro, president of Sonecon, is a little less positive and optimistic. He claims that banks are simply making a risky, short-term quick buck at the minute, and that the Dow Jones’ spectacular rise from its ashes (passing the bar of over 10,000 points) may only be temporary. Despite the banks’ goodwill plea that the bonuses fixed by the G20 summit will be respected, Shapiro is realistic enough to take those moral conversions with a grain of salt: “they only have their word for it”, he said, “and if they really commit to those principles, I want to see proof.” We all do, and we are all waiting for our returns on investments they have greedily swallowed along with their half-ethics never to plunge an entire country – and an entire economic system – into the Dark Ages ever again. Oh well, cross your heart and spit on it, because Goldman Sachs is not exactly anywhere near retiring from the business.

It is becoming harder and harder to maintain something resembling innocence in this world; every victory is tainted by cynism and every hope is being trashed by disappointment, every change held back by rampant conservatism. In the aftermath of Barack Hussein Obama’s election, divided forces of the United States are shaking the benches and tables of the Senate, slamming their fists and creating even more turmoil and chaos than the overwhelming electoral victory would have led us to believe. It is all acceptable, as leading through ideology is often faced by those less inclined towards progress.

Barack Obama has been telling the Human Rights Campaign that his willingness to end the absurdity of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is still vivid, but didn’t mention any timeframe during which he is planning on putting the end of this legislation to a vote. Barack Obama has been meaning to uphold a diplomatic vision on the extremely belligerent US foreign policy history, but is sending more troops to Afghanistan. Until then, most of us Obama supporters have been biting the insides of their cheeks understanding the complexity of governance and hoping that the compromises made during the first year of his term would be softly removed as the years went by in order to bring about change.

One thing we certainly did not count on would be the spite that we had become accustomed to by the far right. The “internet left fringe” to which this blog belongs, and which has solidly, steadily and successfully carried President Obama to a positive end to his national campaign, is now being dismissed in the most patronizing and condescending manner by Obama’s advisers, none the wiser when it comes to understanding the way new media is emerging onto the social and political scene. Sadly, it is to our own detriment that we have to teach those who should take the opportunity of having a flexible and opinionated base when FoxNews’s ratings are doubling ever since the election.

According to advisers, bloggers are children in their pajamas with a free blogger dot com account and parading their pseudo-knowledge of political science as a means to express their teenage rebellion. The subsequent protests taking place all over the country as we speak are no more than hormonal surplus and boredom, all swallowed whole by the monster that is internet access without parental control. It has somehow failed to occur to those “advisers” than most of the bloggers they are referring to are academics, journalists also taking part in the print media world, college graduates, and media-savvy adults. Most of them even wear clothes as they are typing.
From John Knefel to Jay Rosen, from Naomi Wolf’s internet platform to Allison Kilkenny, bloggers hardly are the same crowd that had entered the internet  in the late 1990s and merely used the platform as a public journal. Blogs are now a democratic and open-minded source of information, opinion, often more reliable and inclined to fact-checking than some respectable news sources (I am looking at you, New York Times). The contempt displayed by supposedly “mature” writers such as Maureen Dowd who, although she despises bloggers, does not mind plagiarizing them, and White House staffers who, despite seeking their help desperately when in need of fundraising, are treating bloggers like attention-whoring children, is becoming not only frustrating, but also insulting.

Is it a vain and naive misunderstanding of the emerging technologies impacting the media world, or is it deeper propaganda aimed at killing the embryo of an inner-Democratic Party revolt against promises unkept? The United States, for long denounced for their political apathy benefiting conservatism ever since the Reagan era, are now waking up and paying attention to the dire situation they are in; they feel empowered enough to express themselves through the democratic means at their disposal, protest movements included. If the internet is allowing a faster dissemination of the information so be it, and let’s be glad it is happening: this is exactly what Barack Obama had referred to when asking his younger base to engage into the sort of community organizing that did not exist when he was himself working on the South Side, but is for sure helping movements grow and expand their possibilities of outreach.

Bloggers certainly do not deserve such scorn. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you – and then you win. Ignoring the blogosphere can only last so long, especially when said blogosphere constitutes the majority of your audience. Journalism may be the fourth power, but the street belongs to the people, the only place when democracy takes real action. When both forces mingle, compelling action is required. Ball’s in your camp, Barack.

Boehner hasn’t met “anyone” who backs public option (October 01, 2009 – Politico – Glenn Thrush)

John Boehner: if looks like a soap opera actor and speaks like a soap opera actor, you know youre in for political drama.

John Boehner: if looks like a soap opera actor and speaks like a soap opera actor, you know you're in for political drama.

Now don’t go ganging up on House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio): he’s simply saying what most Republicans have been cramming down our throats ever since the beginning of that extremely unfortunate health care “debate” (the use of the quotation marks is here to indicate my profound spite at all those spin doctors turning a human rights issue into the political joke of the decade). In a collective effort to dethrone a very popular Barack Obama and undermine his grassroot popular support, the GOP, until then the party of the white financial elite, tries to appeal to the average Joe, the working class, the blue collar from New Jersey and the dairy farmer in Wyoming. According to Republicans, no one supports health care, and no one in their right minds even would, because in itself, the idea of universal health care can onlyemerge from the mind of a man who’s spent so much time in Ivy League classrooms, he’s too removed from the American people to know what they really want.

Because the GOP has never spent any time into country clubs and jet planes at all, and is perfectly attuned to the needs and necessities of a population that has lost their homes and their livelihoods in a depression that was caused by, well, them. But that’s just a detail that I won’t even rehearse anymore, since those are facts, and as Glenn Beck repeatedly proved us, facts are subjective.

Let’s use the power of the internet to help our new friend John Boehner. “I’m still trying to find the first American to talk to who’s in favor of the public option, other than a member of Congress or the administration. “I’ve not talked to one and I get to a lot of places. I’ve not had anyone come up to me — I know I’m inviting them — and lobby for the public option .”

I didn’t know the average American was in any position to lobby Capitol Hill. This is all too reminiscent of Bill O’Reilly’s infamous face-off with Jon Stewart in which The Daily Show host demonstrated that the ancient FoxNews resident was so far removed from reality, he might as well buy Neverland off of Michael Jackson and hereby clear his posthumous debt. I do not know the precise kind of “places” John Boehner graced with his presence, but those are certainly places where people might be too intimidated to speak up as teabaggers would rudely and violently interrupt the democratic process; those might be places where families have been blessed with the gift of uninterrupted, unbothered and perhaps oversheltered lives during which no accident or losses had to be counted. Or maybe John Boehner is one of those politicians who do like to talk to their audience, but would never face any opposition for fear of being at a loss for words.

Truth is, if universal healthcare and the public option were such bad, immoral, unamerican reforms to be had, why the need for the smear campaign, John? Why all those lies about death panels and the rampant slander against President Obama, calling him a “socialist” or even a “Nazi”(*) ?

Since John Boehner is inviting y’all to talk to him about universal healthcare, do not hesitate to contact him. It’s better if you’re an 8th district Ohio resident, but if you’re not, talk to him anyway, because he goes to a lot of places. Call him  at 1-800-582-1001 and let you know that you like the idea of not prematurely dying from a preventable disease, or share your concerns with the US health care ranking placing the nation below Cuba.

(*) the fact that being a Nazi and being a socialist may be dramatically different hasn’t yet occurred to teabaggers. For the reasons why, see “cutting funds on education”.