Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nay

Usually I would dilate a little on the homophonic fun that could be had with this word, but today I was struck by a Daily Show video in my e-box reporting on the passage of the Franken Amendment to H.R. 3326, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act (an amendment whose time, according to an arbitrator I will meet tomorrow, has come some 25 years after Democrats began agitating for it). The idea is to make sure that taxpayers don't end up inadvertently financing companies (e.g., working as contractors for the U.S. government) who condone silencing woman (or, presumably, men) who are sexually or physically assaulted on the job.

Sen. Franken's amendment particularly responds to the ongoing multi-year attempt by a woman named Jennifer Leigh Jones to have her day in court. Ms. Jones alleges that four years ago, while living in Iraq and working for KBR as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom she was inconveniently drugged, gang-raped and then, after waking up bruised and bleeding (where is a SurvivaBall when you need one?), locked without food or water in a shipping container guarded by an armed guard. Reportedly after Jones made a lucky cell-phone call to her father, who called the State Department, the State Department sent employees to rescue her. (KBR stands for Kellogg, Brown & Root, a former subsidiary of Halliburton, the company known to some as "a disaster innovator.")

Ms. Jones wants to put this case before a jury, but an arbitration clause in the contract she signed with KBR states that any wrongs cannot be righted by jury; they must be settled by arbitration, and behind closed doors. As Rachel Maddow put it, this means a cash settlement instead of a court hearing.

Where the 600-year-old word nay enters the picture is with the vote on the Franken Amendment. Talk about a negative attitude. Thirty Senators, including John McCain, voted nay. Should the government be meddling in the matters of private companies whose employees flaut--nay, break--the law?

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I'm reminded of that untitled 1981 Barbara Kruger photo (photo collage?) showing the man in the hat with the finger to his lips and the words laid over "Your comfort is my silence"?

An OED definition of rape when it refers to the plant seems apt here (and do understand husbandry not as agriculture or farming but industrial occupation generally): 1899 Racine (Wisconsin) Weekly Jrnl. 25 May 12/3 The progress in rape culture in this country is one of the marvels of latter day husbandry.

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