Nel's New Day

June 11, 2017

GOP Senators Work to Take Health Care from Millions of People

Filed under: Health Care — trp2011 @ 10:37 PM
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While millions of people in the United States were focused on the Senate testimony of former FBI director James Comey, the Republicans were sabotaging health care for a large percentage of people in the nation. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) announced this goal at the annual Road to Majority conference organized by Ralph Reed and the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Amidst a drum beat of calling Democrats obstructionists, DDT said that restoring freedom means taking away health care from millions of people. A 13-senator group has been planning in secrecy, hoping to push a vote by July because, according to Sen. Roy Blount (R-MO), “I don’t think this gets better over time.” In other words, they know it stinks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)  is desperate because the bill has to meet the approval of both House and Senate by September 30 in order to use the process of reconciliation, allowing a simple majority vote instead of a possible 60 votes in a filibuster. A vote on the bill by June 30 requires that it go to the Congressional Budget by the end of this week. Unlike the House, the Senate cannot vote on a bill that has not received CBO scoring. Because the bill will be voted on under the “reconciliation” process, it cannot require any revenue. Because of the possible tax cuts for the wealthy, a leaked version of the bill shows that it includes waivers for states to the ten essential items—including hospitalization—from insurance coverage and enlarges the ratio of what older people can be charged relative to younger customers, greatly increasing premiums for many people.

McConnell implemented Senate “Rule 14” last week, the day before Comey’s testimony, to fast-track it by skipping the committee process—and a full senate debate. During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Health and Human Services 2018 budget request on Thursday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) expressed her concern with McConnell’s invoking Rule 14. She said that the senate health care bill was being written by “group of guys in the back room making all the decisions” and asked Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) if there would be a public hearing on the health bill which has been secret until now. (Hatch is a member of the gang of 13 health care killers.) After a painfully long pause, an aide said into Hatch’s ear, “They’re invited to participate in this process and we’re open to their ideas and suggestions.” Hatch, helped by an aide talking into his ear, said he didn’t know. As McCaskill commented, “But we have no idea what’s being proposed.” Republicans complained about her “rants and raves,” perhaps because she said that the Republicans were trying to pass the bill with 50 votes and one from the vice president. McConnell plans to make the bill public for only two days before the vote.

One glitch to the bill comes from a ban on people using new refundable tax credits for private insurance plans that cover abortion. Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough pointed out that the Byrd Rule might prevent that provision for reconciliation because it covers policy and not budget, not permitted under reconciliation. With the anti-abortion provision, the bill may not be allowed under reconciliation, and without that provision it might not pass. David Christensen of the far-right evangelical Family Resesarch Council, said, “Abortion is not healthcare.” A precedent for MacDonough’s position was in a 1995 ruling about attempting to block abortion in a reconciliation bill.

The GOP senators are already divided into factions, three in opposition to the 13 white men devising the plan. Bill Cassidy (LA) and Susan Collins (ME), not members of the deciding 13 senators, oppose the House bill and co-sponsored their version called the Patient Freedom Act. Led by Rob Portman (OH), another group wants Medicaid expansion. Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT) are part of the group that wants the House bill.

The abominable baker’s dozen of murderers on the Senate health care plan has an average age of over 60 and an average worth of over $1 million each. (They look very much like the people above celebrating the ending of health care of millions of people in the U.S. after the House bill passed.) Almost half of the 13, six senators, are from three states—Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, and Wyoming’s total population of under 600,000 represents less than 0.002 percent of the U.S. population of 321,000,000. Utah isn’t much better with under one percent of the U.S. population. These are the men deciding health care for everyone, including women, minorities, and the poor. The average net worth of the bottom 40 percent of people in the U.S. is almost zero because of heavy losses during the George W. Bush era.

These 13 men of wealth are writing and pushing through a bill for health care that 140 million people in the U.S. directly rely on and one that comprises one-sixth of the nation’s GDP, one that 140 million people in the United States.  This comes from the same party that complained for eight years that Democrats passed health care on a party-line vote and falsely asserted that Republicans weren’t involved in the process. And they admit what they’re doing: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said that there was no reason for a committee hearing because Democrats won’t support their bill. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that the bill will go up for a vote without floor debate as soon as there’re 51 votes for it. The senate has 52 Republicans.

The senate promised a kinder version of health care than the House approved, but states would still be forced to end expanded Medicaid programs because of lost federal funds, and poor and near-poor adults losing Medicaid couldn’t afford private coverage. Eight Medicaid-expansion states have laws immediately dropping the program without federal funding, the year 2020 if the bill passes, and other states would see significant increases in costs which they may not be able to afford. Eighty-four percent of the public, including 71 percent of Republicans, support continued current federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

With the philosophy of “kill the ump,” OMB Director Mick Mulvaney wants to do away with the Congressional Budget Office because it scored the House bill as removing health insurance from 23 million people as well as either raising premiums or reducing health care coverage—or both—for tens of millions more people. He used this information to claim that the CBO is partisan, despite the fact that his own department’s evaluation matched that of the CBO. In addition, the GOP chose CBO’s director, Keith Hall, praised by DDT’s cabinet member Tom Price because of Hall’s “impressive level of economic expertise.”

In addition to telling Christians at the conference that he wants to strip health care for tens of millions of people, DDT is also sabotaging the existing health care plan. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has impacted 10,500 consumers by pulling out of the federal exchange in Ohio; the company blamed DDT, citing “the lack of certainty” about the federal government funding cost-sharing subsidies. Since DDT was inaugurated Ohio’s governor, John Kasich has warned that insurance markets are “slipping into crisis.” DDT is pushing for the health care system to collapse by making the exchanges less stable and discouraging companies from offering plans.

DDT supporters are big losers with Trumpcare. The more likely people were to vote for DDT, the greater they will lose. Those losing more than $1,000 favored him by seven points, and those losing at least $5,000 in tax credits supported DDT by 59 percent to 36 percent. The largest number of losers from voting for DDT are older people and those who live in rural areas. All the benefits of two tax hikes go to people earning $200,000 or more; only ten percent of that demographic voted for DDT.

North Carolina resident Martha Brawley, 55, cast her first ballot in her lifetime for DDT because he said he would bring down the cost of healthcare. “I might as well have not voted,” she said after she discovered that Trumpcare would give her $3,500 to buy insurance instead of the $8,688 subsidy she gets from Obamacare.

Gone with Trumpcare will be any hope for retirement. Tea Partiers who turned the government into one of cruelty almost eight years ago are the same people who are getting too old to find jobs now and won’t have health insurance if they aren’t old enough for Medicare. Before the Affordable Care Act, people were forced to stay in jobs to keep health insurance; “Obamacare” freed many of them. Trumpcare will force people back into a pattern of working long into old age, even those with serious medical issues like cancer. Trumpcare may force people out of their homes. In 2009, medical bills caused 1.5 million people in the U.S. to declare bankruptcies. Medical bills stressed at least 20 percent of all families. By 2013, medical bills put over ten million people into poverty. During the first year of the ACA, over four million fewer people, including one million children, were in poverty.

The 50+ senators who may vote for Trumpcare go home on recess immediately after the vote. Let’s hope that they all have town hall meetings with their constituents who lose the health care.

 

August 19, 2015

Lawmakers Learn Sexism in School

Republican lawmakers have a solution for legislators who can’t keep their hands off interns: just make the interns—female, of course!—follow an “intern dress code.” The idea, promoted by Republicans, came to a screeching halt after Democrats’ disgust, social media firestorms, and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s ire, but it got a lot of publicity and made Missouri Republicans look even more misogynistic than they’ve appeared in the past.

McCaskill’s letters to the lawmakers promoting the idea pointed out its sexism, stating that it “reeks of a desire to avoid holding fully accountable those who would prey upon young women and men seeking to begin honorable careers in public service.” She knows whereof she speaks: McCaskill was harassed when she was a legislative intern decades ago.

The issue went viral after House Speaker John Diehl, a “family values” conservative, was forced to resign because his sexually suggestive texts with a 19-year-old House intern became public. That was two months before state Sen. Paul LeVota resigned because two interns accused him of sexual harassment.

A request for reviewing a proposed new “intern code” resulted in the answer, “intern dress code.” Another representative agreed, emailing his colleagues:

“We need a good, modest, conservative dress code for both the males and females. Removing one more distraction will help everyone keep their focus on legislative matters.”

A third Republican, this one a woman, supported the idea by stating that dress codes are common in the workplace.

Sanity returned, however, when another representative asked, “We’re really not going to require interns to dress so we’re less distracted, are we?” He added, “All we need is a code of ethics and a penalty provision.” Another response got to the crux of the matter: “The finger is being pointed at the young, female interns. [The dress code should be] “the same as for everyone in the House.”

For the information of all those conservatives who think that female interns are at fault for all the infidelity, a handbook for interns already has a dress code:

“Those engaged in [lawmaking] must dress professionally and appropriately. Men are required to wear a jacket and necktie for admission to the side galleries of the House Chamber. Women should dress in appropriate business attire (such as dress, suit, dress slacks and jacket).”

As one representative said, the problem is “harassing interns,” not a dress code. He added, “If my plaid jacket or the sight of a woman’s bare knee distracts you from your legislative duties, I would look for other work.”

Dozens of women—including current and former interns, legislative aides, lobbyists and lawmakers—have told the Kansas City Star that sexual harassment in the Capitol is commonplace. One of them claimed that the prevalence of this harassment “has nothing to do with what a female wears. This is not the 1950s. Harassment in the workplace is illegal and a woman’s attire does not give anyone the right to harass, regardless if they feel distracted.”

Taylor Hirth and Alissa Hembree, the interns who blew the whistle on LeVota’s alleged sexual harassment, released a joint statement expressing disappointment in the newly proposed intern code:

“Suggestions requiring certain GPAs, increased supervision and mandatory dress codes suggest that the interns are lacking in quality, knowledge, or character and are in some way to blame for the harassment they experience. Additionally, it implies that those perpetuating this behavior are unable to control their own behaviors.”

In an opinion piece, Mary Sanchez took on the misogynists:

“Gentlemen of Jefferson City, please refrain from veering off track.

“There is one sure way to end the sexist, slovenly behavior of some male politicians toward female college interns and other women working in, or elected to, our state capital. Demand that men behave properly. Focus there….

“The proposal [for a new dress code] was a centuries-old patriarchal paradigm: Shift the guilt so that the woman is chastised and monitored, lest she lead the innocent man astray. As if the sight of a knee uncovered unleashes a torrent of hormones that men simply cannot control.

“The errant male politicians need to change. Not the women who have been forced to deal with the juvenile antics of some representatives, senators and lobbyists.

“And yet the idea to focus on the women’s behavior, via their dress, was among the fastest replies to sprout. It’s backward thinking. Worse, it comes from people who make laws for the rest of us. As much as I’m a stickler for appropriate business dress for both men and women, this misses the point.

“Men should have been offended too. The idea assumed that they are weak, unable to control themselves at the sight of an attractive woman. It implied that men will be men. And it’s up to the women to be on guard.

“The onus is on the elected officials to behave with respect for themselves, the intern, the political office that they hold. College interns are there to learn about good government, not to prop up some middle-aged man’s faltering ego….

“The most effective means to curb sexism in Jefferson City will likely occur informally. Sexual harassment at the capital will cease to be a problem when men hold other men accountable.”

Men learn the belief that women should be responsible for controlling the male libido early on. School dress codes are meant to protect males, both students and faculty, by keeping girls covered up. One example is Woodford County High School (Kentucky) where Stacie Dunn’s daughter Stephanie was sent home for showing her collarbone that “may distract their male class mates.” Dunn took a scarf for her daughter to cover up the offensive collarbone, but the principal sent her home anyway for giving him “an attitude.” Apparently, the scarf still didn’t cover enough.

stephanie

Superintendent Scott Hawkins tried to justify the dress code because it had been in effect for over 10 years. He said, “The whole idea behind the dress code is to make sure you have a safe learning environment and that’s what we’re trying to create.” In Kentucky, dress codes are set by school districts and not separate campuses.

Last March, student Maggie Sunseri made a documentary of interviews with female students and school principal, Rob Akers. In the 33-minute film, “Shame: A Documentary on School Dress Code,” the 33-minute film Girls said they felt embarrassed and ashamed after being “called out” for “revealing” outfits. They also talked about having trouble finding acceptable clothing and being forced to miss class. Rules weren’t uniformly enforced, according to the interviewees.

Akers justified the removal of distraction as the reason for dress codes because “guys would make inappropriate statements.” The girls, however, said it was unfair to limit their clothing instead of dealing with the boys who harassed them. “It sends the message to boys that it’s all girls’ fault, basically—any reaction or any action that they do is the girl’s fault,” one girl said in the film.

Sunseri said her film was about “the underlying message behind a code that tells young women to cover up and young boys that they can’t control themselves.” The 16-year-old high school junior said the dress code is sexist toward both girls and boys in that it “perpetuates the notion that a woman’s body is inherently more sexual than a man’s body, and that young boys’ natural tendencies are to harass or assault women.”

No wonder some male Missouri lawmakers cannot control their libido: they may never have seen a collarbone.

 

March 29, 2014

Rape in the Military

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) fought for almost a year to move major crimes outside the military chain of command for judicial review but failed to get the necessary 60 votes in early March. That 60 votes, of course, is the new majority of 100 Senate members because almost everything is filibustered except for nominees. After the failure of the Military Justice Improvement Act, Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) bill, which maintains status quo with extra protections for victims, unanimously passed. Male senators fought to keep military commanders in control with the claim that they’ll lose their power if an independent court rules on sexual assaults. As Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said on the senate floor, “I trust these commanders. I trust them.” Gillibrand countered by saying:

“It’s not whether anyone in this chamber trusts the chain of command, the people who do not trust the chain of command are the victims. … The reason why the female victim does not come forward is because she does not trust the chain of command.”

Lack of trust is understandable because the top Army prosecutor for sexual assault cases was suspended after being accused of sexually assaulting a female lawyer who worked for it. The alleged act was at a legal conference about sexual assault. The current poster commander for sexual assault in the military is Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair. Shortly after Gillibrand’s bill failed, he was permitted to plead guilty to adultery, soliciting explicit pictures from female officers, disobeying a commander, possessing pornography in a combat zone and misusing his government credit card. His sentence included a reprimand with salary and restitution penalties of about $25,000 and a reduction in rank to lieutenant colonel. He will not serve any jail time, and he kept his pension and benefits. One reason that he got off almost scot-free was potential unfair advantage for command influence. The judge in the court-martial questioned whether the prosecution rejected an earlier plea-bargaining attempt because commanders felt politically pressured to prosecute Sinclair to the fullest extent. “Allowing the accused to characterize this relationship as a consensual affair would only strengthen the arguments of those individuals that believe the prosecution of sexual assault should be taken away from the Army,” the accuser’s counsel had written. Senior officers loved Sinclair, but those who served below him didn’t have much respect for the brigadier. After his departure from their command, soldiers put on a skit in which one of them asked the person portrayed as Sinclair if he wanted oral sex. Charges against him included a captain being forced to perform oral sex on Sinclair. She also claimed that he threatened her and her family if she revealed their three-year affair after she said she was looking forward to meeting his wife. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) said, “This is another sordid example of how truly broken the military justice system is.” At a House Armed Services Committee hearing, she said to Secretary of the Army John McHugh, “This is a sexual predator. For a sexual predator to gain this rank and [be] given a slap on the wrist suggests that the system doesn’t work.” Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA) said the case demonstrated a “toxic military culture.” McHugh said he is still reviewing the case and has the option to demote the general and sharply reduce his retirement pay. Observers say that commanders keep prosecutors from bringing cases to court or force prosecutors to take unwinnable cases to court. The control is entirely with the commanders. Former President Jimmy Carter, who served in the Navy, supports the removal of authority from commanders in the cases of sexual assault. He said, “I was a submarine officer. I was qualified to command submarines. And it’s almost impossible for commanding officers to bring to justice a rapist, because it reflects adversely on his capability as a military commander if sexual abuse is taking place in his company or his battalion.” There are other reasons for moving the decisions out of the commanders’ control. They may not punish service members because they like them, and they may not want to be distracted from their mission. A colonel was asked why he failed to take action after a guardswoman reported that she had been raped by a guardsman in Iraq. He said, “I didn’t have time for that high school drama.” The guardsman got a letter of reprimand; the guardswoman received a medical discharge for PTSD. Another soldier court-martialed for sexually harassing a female soldier was convicted with no punishment. After the trial, he hugged the victim, saying “no hard feelings.” General Brigadier Bryan T. Roberts wasn’t as fortunate as Sinclair. The commander of the Fort Jackson (SC) training camp which trains approximately 60% of incoming female recruits was fired for adultery after he beat his mistress hard enough to send her to the hospital for three times. Air_Force_Sexual_Battery_Charge.JPEG-02e1aAir Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski was luckier. The Air Force’s head of sexual assault prevention was drunk and charged with grabbing a woman’s breasts and buttocks in a parking lot. The 23-year-old American University graduate testified that he came up behind her while she was on the phone, gave her a “squeeze,” and “asked me if I liked it.” She punched him. The server testified that “he was just a drunken mess.” Using the excuse that he might have grazed the woman by accident, Krusinski got off. Rape victims are reluctant to report these crimes for good reason. Almost two years ago, attorneys questioned a 21-year-old female midshipman at the Naval Academy for over 20 hours after she accused three other students of sexual assault at an off-campus party. She had seen social media posts leading her to believe that she was raped while she was drunk. All three defendants admitted sexual contact with her on that night. Defense attorneys tried to silence her with the following questions and statements:

  • How do you perform oral sex?
  • Tell us about your sex life?
  • You had sex with him before, right?
  • You were flirting.
  • Did you “feel like a ho” the next morning? [Yes, this was one of the questions.]
  • You must be hiding something.
  • Drunk sex is not sexual assault.

The case proceeded, with only one of the three going through a court-martial last week. He was exonerated; the victim wasn’t. A sexual assault “prevention and response” brochure issued by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) advises victims to consider submitting to their attack. “It may be advisable to submit than to resist,” the guide said in a section labeled, “If you are attacked,” saying victims should make that decisions based on the circumstances behind their attack while being “especially careful” if their attacker has a weapon. There are no directions in the brochure telling service members not to commit sexual assault. Great Britain, Canada, Australia and Israel are among the many nations that have moved disposition of sexual assault crimes out of the military to be determined independently by trained prosecutors. In Germany, all offenses against military order, such as being disrespectful, are handled administratively, Crimes, even crimes by military members, are prosecuted by civilian officials. That would level the prosecution field, but the United States thinks that its military is too special and sexual assault victims are expendable.

June 27, 2013

Senate Moves, House Sits, Texas Goes Backward

The Senate actually did something, which happens occasionally. This afternoon it passed its immigration reform bill with a vote of 68-32. Not that this is necessarily a good thing because of the emphasis on border security and the requirement that all employers used the error-ridden E-Verify to check up on any applicants. Of the 32 GOP senators who opposed the bill, two were presidential wannabes, Ted Cruz (TX) and Rand Paul (KY). No GOP Senate leader voted in favor of the bill.

At least the Senate did something.

On the House side, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that they would create their own immigration bill. Thus far they’ve made no move toward it. They also haven’t done anything about the doubling of interest on student loans this Monday or overcome the sequester that’s biting into the economic recovery. Their only actions have been to re-overturn Obamacare and pass another anti-abortion bill, neither of which the Senate will support.

The House is also avoiding climate change. In describing his agenda for this , President Obama said, “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.” Majority House Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) switched the subject to jobs, complaining about the president is “harming innovation [in a] direct assault on jobs.” No answer from the House about how to provide more jobs.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is hiding from the IRS debacle. The GOP has continually whined about the IRS targeting Tea Party groups. Yet Issa asked that the IRS limit its information to these audits, requesting investigators to “narrowly focus on tea party organizations,” according to spokesman for Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George.  Progressive groups got the same treatment as conservative Tea Party groups. The liberal group Catholics United, for instance, waited seven years before receiving tax exempt status, far longer than any tea party group had to wait.

There is a question about whether Issa was the instigator in concealing information from the public about the “inappropriate criteria” used to single out tea party groups–so-called “Be On the Look Out” (BOLO) memos–that also singled out progressive and “Occupy” groups.

George, a George W. Bush appointee, may be at fault. When asked last month if any progressive groups were targeted, he said that the IRS had not. Since then, he’s changed his mind. Also one of the main author’s of George’s report was relieved of his previous position as head of the special investigations unit at the Government Accountability Office because he wrote an incomplete report and was accused by a colleague of “pursuing overly sensationalist stories.”

After Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel appeared at the House Ways and Means Committee today, all the Democrats on the committee sent a letter to House Republicans demanding that they call the author of the audit report to return and testify under oath to explain why the report failed to tell the House that progressive groups were also targeted.

Issa has abandoned the IRS scandal that he created and gone back to investigating Benghazi.

Yesterday’s ruling that struck down DOMA has energized at least one member of Congress. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) claims that he and other lawmakers will revive the Federal Marriage Amendment. “A narrow radical majority of the court has, in my opinion, substituted their personal views for the constitutional decisions of the American voters and their elected representatives,” Huelskamp said. It’s almost a case of “the pot calling the kettle black” except the obstructionist GOP “narrow radical majority” isn’t really the majority—just the vocal.

One faint gleam of hope appeared after SCOTUS erased the Voting Rights Act  two days ago. Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), instrumental in the 2006 VRA, is urging his colleagues to restore the provisions to protect voters. GOP Reps. Steve Chabot (OH) and Sean Duffy (WI) have declared support for a renewed VRA. After the Democratic caucus met to discuss the possibility of a new Section 4 to VRA, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that she likes naming it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

One of the 13 original Freedom Riders in the early 1960s, Rep. Lewis (D-GA) was beaten by angry mobs, arrested, and sent to jail—several times. In response to the egregious SCOTUS decision giving all states the right to discriminate in any way that the GOP leaders wish, Lewis said:

“These men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines. They never had to pass a so-called literacy test. It took us almost 100 years to get where we are today. So will it take another 100 years to fix it, to change it?”

At the same time that state GOP legislators are working day and night to alienate women through their anti-abortion bills, the Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus is kicking off an initiative tomorrow that he says is “designed to advance the role of women within our party.” He will be joined by a few female lawmakers—perhaps because he could find only a few female GOP lawmakers.

Called Women on the Right Unite, the project was announced the same day that a Texas GOP lawmaker described state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) and her allies as terrorists. Davis’ act of terror was to filibuster an evil anti-abortion bill during a special legislative session. The GOP lawmakers failed to get the bill passed before the deadline so they lied about when the vote was completed.

The GOP refuses to change its policies of similar legislation in other states and at the federal level. Republicans won’t stop mandating unnecessary medical procedures not recommended by women’s physicians, making idiotic comments about rape, and opposing pay equity. The party wants women to buy into their antediluvian view of the differences between the genders. While the GOP talks about uniting women behind their view, they will also continue to drive more and more women into poverty. That, however, won’t be part of the discussion.

According to the press release, tomorrow’s news conference will follow a strategy session at RNC headquarters, where committees and elected officials will discuss “how to better engage and support Republican women.” I’m guessing that there are several hundreds of women in Texas who could contribute to this discussion.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also took on Davis in his halting speech at the National Right to Life Conference when he described her as a teenage mother and the daughter of a single woman. “It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters,” Perry said.

As governor, Perry executed his 262nd person, a 52-year-old woman, yesterday.  On the same day he signed into law the new gerrymandered map redistricting the state so that minorities can be disenfranchised.

Three cheers for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) after Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto accused her of declaring a “war on men” and trying “to criminalize male sexuality.” McCaskill’s sin, according to Taranto, was to put a hold on Lt. Gen. Susan Helms for vice commander of the Air Force Space Command because Helms had reduced the conviction of aggravated sexual assault to an indecent act without having watched the trial. Taranto blamed the assaulted women for drinking and then getting into a car with a man; the columnist claimed that she “acted recklessly.”

Current military law allows Helms to substitute her personal judgment for that of a jury that she selected. As McCaskill wrote Taranto:

“What [Helms] did was not a crime. But it was an error, and a significant one. I’m hopeful that our work this year will remove the ability of a commander to substitute their judgment, and sometimes also their ingrained bias, for that of a jury who has heard the witnesses and made a determination of their credibility and the facts of the case.”

The entire letter is well-worth reading because it shows how well the people of Missouri are represented by this senator.

Another woman to watch is Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) when she takes down federal contractor, Braulio Castillo, who claimed his foot injury (possibly sprained ankle) at a military prep school gave him special status as a “service-disabled veteran-owned small business.” Some of you may remember that Duckworth lost both her legs in the Iraq War when her helicopter was shot down.

Castillo’s company, Strong Castle, won contracts with the IRS worth as much as $500 million. Duckworth’s disability rating is 20 percent; Castillo gets (at least until now) a 30-percent disability for his twisted ankle.

The tape is 8 minutes long, but it shows how well another Democratic woman serves the country.

May 9, 2013

U.S. Military, A Culture of Rape

Last year, there were approximately 26,000 sexual assaults within the U.S. military; that’s over 70 every day. No one know how many for sure because only 3,374 were reported. And these are all assault of on Armed Forces members by others in the Armed Forces. Yet out of all those reported, there were 238 convictions. And some of those were overturned by a high-ranking officer because that’s the way the military works. [chart]

rape in military chart numbers

Although the number was higher last year that the 19,000 the year before, the women in the military know that this is an ongoing problem and participated in The Invisible War, a documentary that tells the stories of women who became rape victims after they signed up for the military. Other sexual assault survivors have also begun to speak up about their horrific experiences.

During the past few months, a sense of rage about military rapes has grown, a festering boil that erupted when the above numbers were released in the annual Department of Defense report to Congress.

Why so few assaults reported, some people ask. Imagine that you are assaulted on the job and may lose your position—certainly any hope of promotion—if you report the person. The assaulted person has to report the crime to the commanding officer about a person or persons who may also work for the same boss while continuing to live near the attacker without protection. That same commanding officer will be penalized by a number of reports and convictions; it’s to that officer’s benefit to not pursue complaints.

The commanding officer also has the power to overturn convictions without any explanation. That’s what happened to Kim Hanks after she accused Lt. Col. James Wilkerson of assaulting her in March 2012. A jury of five male military officers found Wilkerson guilty of aggravated sexual assault last November, but Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin removed the conviction. To make things harder for Hanks, Wilkerson was reassigned to the Tucson Air Force base in the city where many of Hanks’ family live. The Air Force had also told Hanks that they would involve her in Wilkerson’s reassignment. They didn’t.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) echoed many the anger of many people about this situation when she said:

“The military needs to understand that this could be a tipping point. I question whether, after this incident, there’s any chance a woman assaulted in that unit would ever say a word. There’s a culture issue that’s going to have to be addressed here. And what this decision did–all it did was underline and put an exclamation point behind the notion that if you are sexually assaulted in the military–good luck.”

If victims of sexual assault report the crime, military codes can punish them for adultery if they are married. Persons reporting an assault might face court martial. Or they may be charged with “conduct unbecoming an officer”; they may lose rank; and they may be accused of having “set up the men.” One of the women in The Invisible War said a woman who reported the third rape in a week in one unit was asked, “You girls think this is a game; are you all in cahoots?”

The question is not why so few assaults were reported but why so many people, mostly women, are brave enough to report the crime despite the personal consequences. Sixty-two percent of military women report social, professional, or administrative retaliation after they are brave enough to report a sexual assault.

All these issues make the military a place where serial rapists can flourish. Studies show that most rapists are serial predators. For example, civilians convicted of rape are on the average responsible for seven to 11 sexual assaults.

President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have taken the position that sexual assault is a crime that will not be tolerated in the military. The official White House statement wrote:

“Overall, the White House has made the health of the force a top priority, and will be working with the Department of Defense on results and accountability on efforts to eliminate sexual assault in the military.”

Fortunately, Congress has decided to take action about this decades-old debacle. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), working with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), plans legislation to remove commanding officers from making decisions about taking serious assault cases to trial, despite the opposition of Hagel, and turning that job over to experienced trial prosecutors. The bill also proposes amending the Uniform Code of Military Justice “so that the convening authority may not (a) set aside a guilty finding or (b) change a finding of guilty to a lesser included offense,” according to a Gillibrand aide.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) have introduced a bill to strengthen assault-prevention efforts, create Special Victims’ Counsels to help survivors navigate the legal process, and automatically trigger referral of sexual-assault cases to the court-martial level or “next superior competent authority when there is a conflict of interest in the immediate chain of command.” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) plans to introduce a companion bill in the House.

Also in the House, Mike Turner (R-OH) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) have introduced “the Better Enforcement for Sexual Assault Free Environments Act of 2013 (BE SAFE) Act.” The act “requires that a person found guilty of an offense of rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy, or an attempt to commit any of those offenses receive a punishment that includes, at a minimum, a dismissal or dishonorable discharge.” It also reforms the Uniform Code of Military Justice to remove the possibility of lessening sentences or setting aside convictions of those convicted of serious sex crimes.

Even before these actions, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) reintroduced the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act (STOP Act) that would stop officers from overturning sexual assault convictions. The STOP Act, with 83 co-sponsors, would remove sexual assault cases from the chain of command and put it under the jurisdiction of an autonomous Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office comprised of civilian and military personnel.

If Hagel wants to keep control with his commanding officers, he had better do something about their disgusting attitude toward women and sexual assaults. At a Senate hearing this week, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh blamed an increase in sexual assault in the military on the “hookup” culture prevalent among young people. Welsh said 20 percent of female recruits report being assaulted before they joined the military. “They come in from a society where this occurs,” he said. Thus he blames the victim and sees very little problem with sexual assault—more like a bad date.

The tipping point in reforming the military’s culture of rape, however, may come from the officer in charge of the service’s Sexual Prevention and Response program. After Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski “allegedly” grabbed and groped a woman last weekend, he was charged with sexual battery. Unfortunately for Krusinski, she fought back, and the mug shot of his scratched and bloodied face has gone viral across the Internet.

Seven women senators, five of them lawyers, now sit on the Armed Services Committee. At this time, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is blocking President Obama’s nomination of Lt. Gen. Susan Helms for vice commander of the Air Force’s Space Command because she intervened on behalf of a fellow pilot and Air Force captain who had been convicted by a military jury of aggravated sexual assault. Against the advice of legal counsel, she overturned the jury verdict.

Before Welsh’s “hook up” statement and Krusinski’s arrest for sexual battery, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said that he thought the Pentagon doesn’t suffer from “a serious problem” of military commander’s overturning sexual assault convictions and wanted to postpone any proposed changes to military law.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno testified before the Senate that a commander’s role to enforce military law “is simply essential.” The question is whether military leaders find it essential for them to determine law without any jury.

 

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