The International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents dockworkers on the West Coast (and which I had the privilege of representing during my California stint), will stage a one-day shutdown on May 1st to protest the ongoing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Boston Globe reports:
More than 21,000 people working for KBR in Iraq – including about 10,500 Americans – are listed as employees of two companies that exist in a computer file on the fourth floor of a building on a palm-studded boulevard here in the Caribbean. Neither company has an office or phone number in the Cayman Islands.
The Defense Department has known since at least 2004 that KBR was avoiding taxes by declaring its American workers as employees of Cayman Islands shell companies, and officials said the move allowed KBR to perform the work more cheaply, saving Defense dollars.
But the use of the loophole results in a significantly greater loss of revenue to the government as a whole, particularly to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.
In addition to evading U.S. payroll taxes, KBR’s shell-game also deprives workers of social security benefits and unemployment compensation to which they are entitled under U.S. law.
Even while insisting that these workers are employed for non-U.S. companies for tax purposes, KBR nonetheless claimed the workers as its own employees when it came to asserting immunity from liability for worker injuries under the 1941 Defense Base Act. As a result, the workers, and U.S. taxpayers, get shafted twice, while KBR rakes in billions of dollars on its no-bid contract.
In many aspects of our empire, we seem to believe that qualitative improvements will obviate categorical wrongs. Thus the prevalence of the idea that the “success” of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan has some bearing on their rightness or wrongness, or the idea that the “humaneness” with which we treat our prisoners somehow negates the fact that we have imprisoned them beyond hope of release or appeal. I suppose that I would prefer sanitary solitary confinement to solitary confinement in my own filth, but after years I suspect that becomes a distinction without a difference. The concentration camp at Guantanamo may have been laid out by the architects of Candyland. That has no bearing whatsoever on the perversion that it represents.
BigLaw powerhouse Baker Botts (“as in former Secretary of State James Baker”1) made its bones representing Texas oilmen. So it should come as no surprise that the firm has been dipping its toes in the Iraqi oil fields. The firm recently helped client Hunt Oil Company arrange a deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government for exploration rights in northern Iraq. But the Iraqi national government (such as it is) objects to this and similar deals, and even the Bush administration has questioned their legality.
1Not to be confused with disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker. The firm’s connection with Bertie Botts is shrouded in mystery.