Saturday :: Feb 14, 2004

Deliverance Resurrected


by pessimist

There have been comments in the media within the recent past that describe the current Republican Party as the resurrection of the Confederacy.

Certainly, the civil rights actions of Lyndon Johnson helped to reignite the country over racial issues, long slumbering since the rise of Jim Crow laws in the South, which themselves were a reaction to Reconstruction and the original affirmative action, which attempted to place blacks, once slaves, in equal status to whites, once their masters.

The reaction of the men of the South to this perceived slight upon their lost alpha male status resulted in the rise of such "conservative" organizations as the Ku Klux Klan, which claimed to be defending their homeland against a foreign invader out to destroy their Southern Way of Life.

But just what WAS this Way of Life? Let's look at a few opinions as to what it was:

"...it's a given that it was different for different people, & yet in this context they are referring to the large plantation owners & their families."

"... a genteel way of life where neighbors form bonds as strong as the giant oaks and pecan trees that dot our land, a place of good manners, strong values, special people and fine food."

"Scholars define the "Southern way of life" in different ways, largely on the basis of their own background. While northern scholars condemn the racist nature of the South, Southern scholars applaud the Southern ideals--including the "Southern gentleman" with good manners, fine cuisine, and a focus on family. As my grandmother put it, 'People just treat each other with some courtesy in the South.' "

I wonder what their slaves thought about the kinds of "courtesy" to which they were "treated"!

Let's take a look at these "Southern Ideals" individually:

"Good Manners" - On its face, this is actually a good thing to practice, but selectivity is the unspoken word that defines its application. For instance (Full caps are in the original, Date Posted: 20:05:32 12/30/03 Tue):

I HAVE TO SAY THAT WHEN I LIVED IN OCALA, FL FOR ONE YEAR, I FOUND THAT MUCH OF THE COURTESY WAS RESERVED FOR THOSE WHO WERE PROTESTANT, WHITE, & BORN SOUTH OF THE M/D [Mason-Dixon] LINE. I FOUND AN ELEMENT OF CLASS SNOBERY THAT I HADN'T SEEN UP HERE, AND I WAS CALLED A NAME, AS I STROLLED ALONG A SIDEWALK WITH A BLACK STUDENT, A NAME I'D NEVER HEARD UP NORTH.

Good manners, indeed!

"Strong Values" - The thing to remember here is the specific meaning of the word "strong". Based on a lot of these quotes, the intended meaning relates to brute-force physicality:

All of life’s ambiguities are best summed up by the episode of ‘Walker Texas Ranger’ where old Chuck Norris is bein’ hunted down by these Mafioso types and a plum crazy-ass Grizzly bear. In typical Chuck fashion, he whips the shit out of the eye-talians and karate chops the bear into submission.

What happened to the old Eisenhower days of the Duke, when if some red mouthed off, they caught a pistol butt up the side of the head?

All you have to do is watch a black and white movie (skip the Turner channel) to see that everyone knew his or her place.

Life was rosy, “Leave it to Beaver” style with the man comin’ home from a hard day’s work, kickin’ up his heels with a pipe and lettin’ his wife wait on him hand and foot. Women were modest. I like to look at a nice can as much as the next person (and I’ll beat the hell out of anyone who says otherwise) but there was something sexy about a woman in one of those scratchy wool dresses that reached down to their ankles.

Kids were respectful and knew that if they mouthed off, dad might cuff ‘em one in the side of the head or mom might pull a switch down off of the tree and lay it right across the back of their knees.

The system wasn’t perfect but it worked and people knew better than to go against it.

Which brings us to the now. For the last thirty-years the Democrats have been havin’ a tea party up at our Nation’s capital. While, they we’re doin’ that though, us Repubs were reloadin’ our rifles, startin’ think tanks, right wing judiciary groups and kindlin’ the flames of god-fearing Christians.

Pastor of my church says the end days are upon us. While I don’t know if I believe all that ‘baloney’ I do know the e-piscopalians, Unitarians and Methodists are hatchin’ a scheme to do destroy Christianity in its purest form…Southern Baptist.

What we have to do now is stand strong, bull dog ‘em, don’t give ‘em an inch, fight for every state from New York to California, use whatever dirty trick we have in our arsenal and not take our foot off of their throat until they have stopped moving.

As these quotes demonstrate, "strong values" really means "value strength" and its use to enforce one's dominance. "Might makes Right", "My way - or else". This should sound very familiar to anyone who's been keeping up with the pResident's official pronouncements, especially when speaking on the "War on Terra".

"Special People" - Those who could justify slavery would certainly think of themselves as "special" - how else could one rationalize the vile treatment imposed upon others for one's own benefit?

What happened to the world of honest Strom and that old lightning rod Jesse Helms?

The world of Strom and Jesse? You mean like this?


White Citizens' Councils aimed to maintain 'Southern way of life'

The White Citizens' Council was born in Greenwood, Miss., shortly after the 1954-55 Brown vs. Board of Education decisions were rendered. Sister branches rapidly surfaced throughout Mississippi and other Southern states. Leading citizens joined. The goal was to maintain segregation.

Tennessee's relatively ineffective version of the citizens' council was called the Tennessee Federation for Constitutional Government, of which Madison County had a chapter. The group placed advertisements in The Sun in the 1960s in support of segregation. One was an editorial from another newspaper that said, "The Negro today is the best treated human being in the United States."

The Madison chapter also held at least one meeting covered by The Sun. According to the story, a Memphis attorney called for prosecuting Jackson's bus company for integrating its buses and called the 1954 school desegregation by the U.S. Supreme Court "a judicial monstrosity."

At the same meeting, according to the article, District Attorney David P. Murray called on the audience to "help maintain our Southern way of life" and added, "Let's fight for it to the bitter end." According to The Sun's story, 200 people attended the meeting, including a circuit judge, an American Legion commander and the sheriff of Haywood County.

Citizens' councils used economic and political pressure to achieve their ends. The election of Ross Barnett as governor of Mississippi, on the promise of defending the state's traditions - which meant white supremacy - was one display of the council's success.

Below are excerpts from a pamphlet from the Association of Citizens' Councils titled Why Does Your Community Need a Citizens' Council?:

Maybe your community has had no racial problems! This may be true; however, you may not have a fire, yet you maintain a fire department. You can depend on one thing: The NAACP (National Association for the Agitation of Colored People), aided by alien influences, bloc vote seeking politicians and left-wing do-gooders, will see that you have a problem in the near future. The Citizens' Council is the South's answer to the mongrelizers.

We will not be integrated. We are proud of our white blood and our white heritage of sixty centuries. ... We are certainly not ashamed of our traditions, our conservative beliefs, nor our segregated way of life.

Sources: The Jackson Sun; "History of the Modern Civil Rights Movement;" The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture


Emphasis added. Getting back to the list of "Southern Ideals":

"Fine Cuisine" - This tends to imply material wealth, something which those who benefit form forced servitude should have in abundance. This is so important a "value" that it can be used as a reason to justify slavery?

"A Focus On Family" - no one would ever say this is a bad thing. Certainly, if there were more focus on family all over the world, in every culture and society, many things would improve. But this isn't the focus of my discussion. My focus is now is on how this is a "Southern Ideal".

One of the Ten Commandments, something most Southerners would say is an important part of their lives, states: Honor Thy Father and Mother.

So how does one reconcile the Commandment to this?


Greenspan Urges Reinstating Budget Rules

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said Thursday Congress should reinstate budget rules that would force lawmakers to cover the estimated $1 trillion that it will cost to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent. Greenspan said he favored reductions in government spending to pay for making the tax cuts permanent and suggested that one place to look should be in reducing the Social Security benefits paid to retirees.

Greenspan, who chaired a Social Security commission during the Reagan administration, said that he "strongly advocated" indexing the retirement age to measurements that would capture longer life spans, forcing current workers to work longer before becoming eligible for Social Security benefits. Congress should move as soon as possible to address the issue of the looming retirement of 77 million Americans who are part of the baby boom generation and who will begin becoming eligible for retirement within another four years, he said.

Let's see, "Good Manners", "Strong Values", "Special People" - which retirees become, certainly - "Fine Cuisine" and "A Focus On The Family" - hmmm, what can we make out of this?

I HAVE IT! PLEASE - MAKE GRANDMA A SLAVE AND FORCE HER TO EARN HER KEEP COOKING AND CLEANING, SERVING US HAND AND FOOT - OR ELSE!!!

It all works! We have all of these fine Southern Ideals all wrapped up in one easy-to-implement solution - and we can cut taxes to boot! We "focus on family" - Grandma, a "special person" - using "good manners" in asking someone to convince her, through "stong values", to provide "fine cuisine"! Then, we can eliminate her Social Security and lower our taxes!

Nirvana! Er, Heaven!

But the American plantation isn't the only place we can put these Southern Ideals to work. Suppose the US had an economic colony, whose administrators required faithful service to ease their difficult lives. Maybe it could look like this:


Operation Sweatshop Iraq

Baghdad - Behind miles of coiled barbed wire, a maze of concrete barricades designed to stop the most determined suicide bomber and checkpoints run by heavily armed soldiers from the Florida National Guard [another form of forced servant], lies the Al Rasheed hotel, Baghdad's most exclusive, which modestly advertises itself as "more than a hotel." Today it serves as part of the temporary headquarters for the occupation forces in Iraq.

I was on my way to meet with a U.S. Army spokesperson, glad I had finally been granted an interview. It is difficult to get inside the hotel in the best of times -- the only way is via a personal invitation. It took three hours and multiple satellite phone calls routed through Virginia for us to connect that day because of an emergency shutdown. My army contact got confused as to where we were meeting, partly because he had only been in country for three weeks. Perhaps more importantly, because the occupation forces never leave the Green Zone, they have no idea how complicated it is for civilians to get in.

As I entered the Al Zaheer restaurant inside the hotel, I encountered three employees representing an unusual collection of South Asian nations whose governments have at times been bitter enemies: Muzaffar, a cook from a small village some 40 miles from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Shahnawaz, a waiter from Delhi, India and Ali from the lawless North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan, who works behind the salad bar.

These men work quietly together serving meals in the dining room that seats some 300 people. Sprawled out at the tables are uniformed soldiers and Secret Service men with earpieces -- guns never more than an arm's length from their reach -- smartly dressed secretaries from military contracting firms and men in dark business suits, chatting loudly about the business of running a country.

The restaurant workers were brought together by a company named Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton of Houston, Texas. Halliburton has contracts in Iraq worth more than $8 billion that range from cooking meals, delivering mail, building bases to repairing Iraq's oil industry.

The company can't hire workers fast enough to fulfill their commitments, but the pay scales fluctuate wildly depending on the country of citizenship of the employee. Americans, who work at dead-end, low-wage jobs at home, get paid handsomely even by US standards. Iraqi salaries start at $100 a month and imported South Asian workers get three times that. Meanwhile Halliburton is being investigated by the US military for overcharging US taxpayers to the tune of at least $16 million.

Cooking the Numbers

The meals at the Al Rasheed are mediocre -- certainly nothing to write home about. They are definitely a step up from the Meals-Ready-To-Eat issued to soldiers in the battlefield but the average hotel or restaurant in Baghdad could turn out equally mediocre or better food for a quarter of the price. For the kind of cash that the government is spending ($28 a day per soldier) the soldiers could be eating at the White Palace, one of the best restaurants in Baghdad, fancied by Paul Bremer, the United States ambassador who oversees the occupation authority in Iraq.

In December Halliburton estimated that it had served 21 million meals so far to the 110,000 troops at 45 sites in Iraq, according to numbers provided to an NBC reporter. But in recent weeks military auditors have started to suspect that the company may be cooking the numbers and over-charging the government by millions of dollars.

The Wall Street Journal reported in early February that Halliburton may have overcharged taxpayers by more than $16 million for meals to U.S. troops serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom for the first seven months of 2003. In July 2003 alone Halliburton billed for 42,042 meals a day but served only 14,053 meals daily.

I ask Army Corp of Engineers spokesperson Dowling about the alleged overcharging. "Some may see it as war profiteering but for the young soldiers, it is hot food and a dry place to sleep," he explains. "Yes, it is a profit motive that brings companies into a dangerous location, but that is what capitalism is all about. Halliburton employees are under fire and several have died but they are still here. With all due respect to nonprofit organizations, like the United Nations and the Red Cross, they have pulled out. If it takes profit to motivate an organization to take a tough job, then that's the only way to do it," Dowling went on.

Later, back in the States, I email Melissa Norcross, a spokesperson for Halliburton's Middle East region, about the phantom meals. She wrote back to CorpWatch with the following explanation from Randy Harl, chief executive officer of KBR:

"For example, commanders do not want troops "signing in" for meals due to the concern for safety of the soldiers; nor do they want troops waiting in lines to get fed."

Norcross also explained, "Keep in mind that serving food to more than 130,000 patrons daily in a hostile war zone is not easy. And it's worth noting that although there are many challenges involved in supplying food to more than 130,000 patrons every day, there are also accounts of wonderful things our employees do."

After our meal, I stop to chat with the workers who tell me they earn $300 a month including overtime and hazard pay. Asked what they think of their jobs, they are non-committal. "Chalta he," says one. (We manage somehow.) Muzaffar explains that it's a lot more than he makes at home. He's paid for his eldest daughter to get married to another Bangladeshi who lives in Saudi Arabia. But both he and his son-in-law rarely get to see their wives. His other daughter and his young son barely know him as he has lived abroad for 13 years.

While some of the men working for Halliburton in Iraq are recruited to these jobs directly from India by the Saudi-based Tamimi Corporation, most are brought over from Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, where they were offered bonus pay to work in Iraq. One worker says that the company really didn't offer him a choice: it was Iraq or get laid off. These men never get to leave the grounds of the hotel or the Republican Palace because it is considered far too dangerous to venture out of the high-security Green Zone.

Our conversation is cut short by Tony, a Filipino American ex-Marine from Burlingame, California and the man in charge of the 60 South Asian staff, who strides over to the kitchen workers taking a break to say goodbye.

"Back to work," he snarls. "All of you in the kitchen now." As he speaks neither Urdu nor Bengali, the conversation is incomprehensible to him and maybe that makes him nervous.

"Tony's such a hard-ass," says Mike, one of the military contractors and witness to the exchange. "Give them a break," he calls out as I rise to leave.

Local Labor

Across the street from the Al Rasheed hotel stands the Baghdad convention center with a vast empty theater but lots of life in the offices from the basement to the third floor. Earnest Iraqis, the military and their private guards and the odd camera crew mostly populate the rooms.

Eventually a group of convention workers, wearing Halliburton badges, stop by to chat on their tea break. One of them tries several times to pronounce the word Congratulations but fails. Unable to wish his boss well, he exasperatedly turns to me to ask if there is a better word. I suggest slapping the boss on the back and saying: Good job! Well done! But he shakes his head violently. "No, I cannot say that - Mr. Lewis is an American, my boss. I must say something more polite."

The convention hall employees are friends and live in the same neighborhood. Every morning Halliburton sends a car to pick them up and bring them to work at 8:00 a.m. and take them back at 4:00 pm. The three are professionals who are better paid by Halliburton than [are] laborers. Khaled Ali is an engineer in charge of construction at the convention center, Saba Adel Mostafa is an interpreter, and Daoud Farrod is a supervisor. Farrod is older but the first two are in their late 20s. They are excited to work for Halliburton.

"It's my first job, I was not able to practice my English before. And the government pay before was just $10 a month," Saba says.

Khaled explains that it is his first job too. "And you are in charge of all the construction here?" I ask. He nods proudly, beaming when I exclaim, "Congratulations!" The three of them say that Halliburton workers earn a range from $100 to $300 a month - Saba earns $200.

Temps From Texas

Half a world away, another group of unemployed workers can be found at recruiting sessions in Houston. The company has been posting flyers at truck stops and posting advertisements on the internet. Four out of five of the recruits who are invited to training sessions who worked at a now defunct JC Penny store will be sent to Iraq. Halliburton sends an average of 500 recruits a week.

These men are not skilled. "They are unemployed and underemployed workers with few jobs in a U.S. economy that isn't producing many jobs," writes Russell Gold, a Wall Street Journal reporter. Gold interviewed men lining up for the training sessions, citing the example of one typical applicant whose previous job was transporting chickens for $12 an hour.

But when they arrive in Iraq, their navy blue American passports earn them a tidy sum of money: between $7,000 and $8,000 a month, generous sums, even by American standards.

CorpWatch asked company spokesperson Norcross why there is such a huge disparity based on nationality in the wages Halliburton pays in Iraq. "We will not discuss our specific wage structures. Our compensation packages and the compensation packages provided by our subcontractors are based on a wage scale that was recommended by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and are competitive in terms of the local market," she wrote back.

When I posed the same question to Army spokesperson Dowling, we got a more revealing answer.

"These workers consider themselves fortunate to have jobs even if it means them traveling somewhere else. There is an army of companies that move from conflict to conflict with experience in setting up chow halls from an empty field to a 1,000 army camp in a matter of days. It's not an easy job and these guys are good at it. They bring their own people with them - people with experience in other military locations," Dowling explained.

"The (salary) decision is not based on the value of his life but on the cost of training and equipping the workforce. Nor would it be right for the US Army to enforce US-based salaries where no one else could match it. Life sometimes isn't fair," he concluded.

I'm sure Al Rasheed waiters Muzaffar, Shahnawaz and Ali would agree.


Let's see now, we'll pay trained construction engineers $300 a month or less, mostly because they come from foreign (read: non-American) lands, but we'll take unskilled truck drivers from Texas and pay them $4000 a month, easily twice what they would earn at home. But they aren't being paid this princely sum (an amount which calculated annually would put them in the top 10% American income bracket) on the value of their lives, rather on the cost of their training and equipment???

Is there some kind of a kickback scheme going on here????

I can recall once applying for a sales job, which sounded real good until they told me that I would have to repay them for all of my training and materials - before I would ever see a dime. Could it be that Halliburton, already infamous for screwing everyone they do business with, has yet to approach a limit on their greed??? And if these guys Halliburton hired don't learn this until they hit Iraqi soil (where maybe they have to surrender their passports?), what option do they have but to serve involuntarily?

Sounds awful close to slavery to me!

But these American "slaves" from Texas certainly are "special people" whose "value" is far more costly, far more expensive than someone from another land would cost. Thus the American people, through the "good manners" of their financially-enslaved representative government, "focus on family" (their fellow Americans) and provide "fine cuisine" (think metaphorically here - $$$$$) to "those whose place is higher than theirs".

Sounds like "Ol' Virginny" or the "Old Kentucky Home" to me! Look away, Dixieland!

As one of the commenters said here (Caps in original), "I WILL NEVER SEE EYE TO EYE WITH THE BIBLE BELT CONVICTIONS & A CERTAIN RESISTANCE TO MOVE FORWARD IN AN EVOLVING WORLD."

It's really quite simple - why give up your privileges just because someone doesn't like how you attain them through force and extremely un-Christian (as I understand it) behavior, all the while using Christian writings to demonstrate that you deserve them and to justify your superiority? A resistance to change which results in a net material loss is thus certainly quite understandable. But these "believers" forget one important fact - God's chosen people are the Jews.

We were warned that the South would rise again. What is it going to take this time to put this blood-sucking vampire in its grave once and for all?

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pessimist :: 3:52 PM :: Comments (3) :: Spotlight :: Digg It!