Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Tale of Three Companies

Yesterday we discussed the recent Acorn Sting, and I’d like to carry that a but further, by putting it into perspective in a way that we can understand.  The first company in this tale is Acorn.

We all know that Glen Beck and Faux Noise targeted Acorn with a hidden camera sting in which low level Acorn employees advised reporters posing as prostitutes and pimps on how to break the law.

acorn2 ...The reaction from Washington has been just as swift:

  • The Census Bureau announced late last week that it would stop using ACORN as one of the 80,000 unpaid groups it works with to promote the 2010 census.
  • On Monday, the Senate voted 83 to 7 to block the Department of Housing and Urban Development from giving federal housing money to ACORN.
  • Yesterday, GOP House leader John Boehner wrote to President Obama, urging him to cut off all federal money to ACORN and its affiliates.
  • Nebraska GOP senator Mike Johanns has called for a Justice Department investigation of the group.
  • White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has called the employees' behavior "unacceptable."
  • And even GOP senator David Vitter -- no stranger to prostitution scandals -- has expressed his outrage.

In pushing back, ACORN has said it's considering suing Fox and the conservative film-makers for using a hidden camera to record the ACORN employees, which is illegal in some states. It also has charged that the film-makers tried their scam on other ACORN offices, but after not getting the responses they hoped for, didn't post the videos.

ACORN announced today that it will conduct in-service training for staff, and that its Independent Advisory Council will do an audit "to review all of the systems and processes called into question by the videos."...

Inserted from <TPM Muckraker>

That seems unduly harsh, especially from David Vitter, as this shows.

Vitter-DC Madam U.S. Sen. David Vitter today highlighted an amendment he introduced last week to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill that would bar federal funds in this bill from going to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

“After months of beating the drum and continued news reports of criminal investigations, the president and his administration are finally starting to distance themselves from ACORN. The Census dropping ACORN as a partner is a good, common sense move. Now we must go one step further and support my simple and direct amendment, which declares that no federal funds should go ACORN,” said Vitter.

Vitter’s amendment would insert language into the funding bill stating “no funds will be made available directly or indirectly” to ACORN.

“It’s certainly not news to anyone that ACORN has been the subject of some controversy over the past year, and last year’s presidential election brought to light evidence of ACORN chapters engaging in fraudulent voter registration activities,” added Vitter. “They are currently under federal investigation, and this is simply not the sort of organization that should be funded by taxpayer dollars.”

This is a quote from Vitter’s web site,  I did not include the link, because if one of you opened it by mistake, you might throw-up all over your keyboard and screen.  How is it that Acorn’s scandal involving prostitution upset’s Vitter so much?  Where is his Amendment that no funds go go to him?  Hmmmm?

Now I’m not defending the behavior of the employees Acorn has fired, but to put the reaction to this behavior into perspective, let’s make a couple comparisons.  The second company in this tale is Blackwater, renamed Xe in a feeble attempt to mask its justly-deserved reputation.

blackwater-mercs Yet another civil lawsuit accuses Blackwater guards of driving through the streets of Baghdad randomly shooting innocent Iraqis.

The latest case accuses Blackwater founder Erik Prince of personally directing murders from a 24-hour remote monitoring "war room" at the private military company's Moyock, N.C., headquarters.

Prince "personally directed and permitted a heavily-armed private army... to roam the streets of Baghdad killing innocent civilians," alleges the suit, filed by four Iraqi citizens.

Prince was well aware that his men, including top executives, "viewed shooting innocent Iraqis as sport," the suit says. In fact, "those who killed and wounded innocent Iraqis tended to rise higher in Mr. Prince's organization than those who abided by the rule of law."

Prince's top executives openly discussed "laying Hajjis out on cardboard" and "bragged about their collective role in killing those of the Islamic faith," the suit alleges.

On more than one occasion, the suit says, Prince's men went "night hunting" in helicopters after 10 p.m. over the streets of Baghdad, wearing night goggles, killing at random.

The lawsuit says Prince caused murders to occur on at least 11 occasions, including one and perhaps more in the United States.

The suit describes one case in which a young man, not identified in the court papers, died after photographing Anna Bundy, a Blackwater executive, packaging illegal weaponry outfitted with silencers for shipment to Iraq.

One employee is said to have warned the young man that such photographs "are what get people killed." Lawyers for the plaintiffs plan to use the legal discovery process to learn whether Prince participated in the events leading to his death.

The latest suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, is the sixth civil case brought against Prince and his company, now known as Xe, by the Washington law firm Burke O'Neil on behalf of more than 60 Iraqis or their estates... [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Common Dreams>

Whether or not ALL these specific charges turn out to be proven remains to be seen.  However, they are typical of the kind of behavior we came to expect as the norm from these Bush/GOP storm troopers.  Despite this, Blackwater continues to enjoy huge federal contracts all over the world.

The third company in this tale is KBR, formerly a subsidiary of Halliburton, whose no-bid Iraq war contracts made Cheney’s stock options as its former CEO worth millions.  Halliburton spun off KBR in order to protect the parent company from lawsuits.  Now I could discuss shoddy work, unfinished work, fraudulent billing, electrocuting US marines  and more, but today I want to focus on just one story that shines a light into their character like no other.

Jamie Jones Remember Jamie Leigh Jones, the Halliburton/KBR contractor who alleged she was gang raped by her co-workers in Iraq and then imprisoned in a shipping container after she reported the attack to the company? Well, it looks like she's finally get to sue the company, in a real courthouse, over her ordeal.

Her legal saga started after Halliburton failed to take any action against her alleged attackers, and the Justice Department and military also failed to prosecute. Jones then tried to sue the company for failing to protect her. But thanks to an employment contract created during the tenure of former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney, Jones was forced into mandatory binding arbitration, a private forum where Halliburton would hire the arbitrator, all the proceedings would be secret, and she'd have no right to appeal if she lost.

Data from the American Arbitration Association showed that Halliburton won more than 80 percent of its cases in arbitration, and when I looked at the data two years ago, it showed that out of 119 cases Halliburton arbitrated over a four-year period, only three resulted in the employee actually winning any money. The deck was clearly stacked against Jones from day one.

After 15 months in arbitration, Jones and her lawyer realized the same thing and went to court to fight the arbitration agreement in the hopes of bringing her case before a jury. Jones argued that the alleged gang rape was not related to her employment and thus, wasn't covered by the arbitration agreement. Finally, two years later, a federal court has sensibly agreed with her. Tuesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2 to 1 ruling, found her alleged injuries were not, in fact, in any way related to her employment and thus, not covered by the contract.

One of the judges who ruled in her favor, Rhesa Hawkins Barksdale, is a West Point grad, Vietnam vet, and one of the court's most conservative members, a sign, perhaps, of just how bad the facts are in this case. It's a big victory, but a bitter one that shows just how insidious mandatory arbitration is. It's taken Jones three years of litigation just to get to the point where she can finally sue the people who allegedly wronged her. It will be many more years before she has a shot at any real justice… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Mother Jones>

Some might argue that the behavior of a few low-level employees, does not reflect the character of the company, just as Acorn has made the same argument, but here’s the difference.  Even though the magnitude of the KBR employees’ crime dwarfs that of the Acorn employees, KBR defended their employees, but Acorn fired theirs.  KBR tried stonewalled, while Acorn has launched an internal audit.  KBR covered it up, while Acorn has called for an investigation into what really happened.  It is KBR’s response to the crime, and Acorn’s, that demonstrate the difference in character.

So there you have it, and I’ll leave you with one question.  Why is our government responding so vehemently against Acorn, while Xe and KBR continue to grow fatter at taxpayer expense?


Randal Graves said...

It's obviously because ACORN is a wretched hive of scum and villainy that seeks to overthrow the federal government, whereas the other corporations are Protecting America From The Boogeyman Of The Week®.

Brother Tim said...

Speaking of ACORN, did you see my post at AYIDTIP today?

Jolly Roger said...

What has been more interesting is the MSM's desperate attempts to use the ACORN sting to "prove" the Rushpubliscum allegations of "voter fraud."

In a 400,000 person organization, they've been able to uncover about 2 dozen bad actors. You know, gather up 400,000 of ANY organization, and see how many bad actors you find. Hell, sample 400,000 Rushpubliscums, and look at what you'll find among them.

TomCat said...

LOL, Randal! Better put a ;-) on that, before folks that don't know you start thinking you're a Repuglican.

Brother, I have not, but I shall shortly.

Great point, JR. They fired the US attorneys who refused to file charges against ACORN without evidence on which to base the charges. Who needs 400,000. Just look at GOP in the Senate and the House. It's harder to good apples than bad ones.