When I have described the well-considered, coherent political and economic strategies of the conservative white South, as I have done here, here and here, I am sometimes been accused of being a “conspiracy theorist.” But one need not believe that white-hooded Dragons and Wizards are secretly coordinating the actions of Southern conservative politicians from a bunker underneath Stone Mountain in Georgia to believe that a number of contemporary policies — from race-to-the-bottom economic policies to voter disfranchisement and attempts to decentralize or privatize federal social insurance entitlements — serve the interests of those who promote them, who tend to be white Southern conservatives.
Just as a strategy is not a conspiracy, so it is not insanity. Ironically, American progressives, centrists and some Northern conservatives are only deluding themselves, when they insist that the kind of right-wing Southerners behind the government shutdown are “crazy.” Crazy, yes — crazy like a fox.
Another mistake is the failure to recognize that the Southern elite strategy, though bound up with white supremacy throughout history, is primarily about cheap and powerless labor, not about race. If the South and the U.S. as a whole through some magical transformation became racially homogeneous tomorrow, there is no reason to believe that the Southern business and political class would suddenly embrace a new model of political economy based on high wages, high taxes and centralized government, rather than pursue its historical model of a low-wage, low-tax, decentralized system, even though all workers, employers and investors now shared a common skin color.
So the struggle is not one to convert Southern Baptists to Darwinism or to get racists to celebrate diversity. The on-going power struggle between the local elites of the former Confederacy and their allies in other regions and the rest of the United States is not primarily about personal attitudes. It is about power and wealth.
For some time, the initiative has rested with the Southern power elite, which knows what it wants and has a plan to get it. The strategy of the conservative South, as a nation-within-a nation and in the global economy, combines an economic strategy and a political strategy.
The economic strategy is to maximize the attractiveness of the former Confederacy to external investors, by allowing Southern states to out-compete other states in the U.S., as well as other countries if possible, in a race to the bottom by means of low wages, stingy government welfare (which if generous increases the bargaining power of poor workers by decreasing their desperation) and low levels of environmental regulation.
The political strategy of the Southern elite is to prevent the Southern victims of these local economic policies from teaming up with allies in other parts of the U.S. to impose federal-level reforms on the Southern states. Voter suppression seeks to prevent voting by lower-income Southerners of all races who are hostile to the Southern power elite. Partisan gerrymandering of the U.S. House of Representatives by conservatives in Southern state legislatures weakens the votes of anti-conservative Southerners, if they are allowed to vote.
If voter suppression and vote dilution strategies fail, the Southern conservatives can still try to ward off unwelcome federally-imposed reforms that might weaken control of the Southern workforce by Southern employers and their political agents, by policies of devolving federal programs to the states, privatizing federal programs like Social Security and Medicare, blocking the implementation of new federal entitlements like Obamacare or a combination of these strategies.
To date the response of progressives and centrists, as well as moderate conservatives in the North (who have a quite different tradition) to what might be called the Southern Autonomy Project has been feeble and reactive. The South acts, the rest of the country reacts.
Here Midwestern Republican legislatures or governors try to copy the South’s anti-labor “right-to-work” legislation, and labor activists and liberals react. The legislatures in the South and their allies elsewhere pass voter suppression laws, and civil rights groups scramble to counteract them. Now the Southern-dominated Tea Party in the House shuts down the government and threatens to force the federal government into default. In this game of “Whack-a-mole,” the Southern right and its neo-Jacksonian allies in other parts of the country always has the initiative.
Instead of waiting for the next Southern conservative outrage, and treating it as a single, isolated example of inexplicable craziness, the rest of America from center-left to center-right should recognize that it is dealing with different aspects of a single strategy by a regional elite — the Southern Autonomy Project. It is time for the non-Southern American majority, in alliance with many non-elite Southerners of all races, to target and attack every element of the Southern Autonomy Project simultaneously. If the neo-Confederates want to wage political and economic war, their fellow Americans should choose to respond with political and economic war on all fronts, not on the terms and in the places the Southern conservatives choose.
Setting political difficulty aside, it is intellectually easy to set forth a grand national strategy that consists of coordinated federal policies to defeat the Southern Autonomy Project.
A federal living wage. At one blow, a much higher federal minimum wage would cripple the ability of Southern states to lure companies from more generous states which supplement the too-low present federal minimum wage with higher local state or urban minimum wages. (Strong national unions could do the same, but that is not a realistic option at present.)
Nationalization of social insurance. Social insurance programs with both federal and state components, like Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), allow Southern states to be stingier than many other states, creating more desperate workers who are more dependent on the mercy of employers and elite-dominated charities. Completely federalizing Medicaid (as President Ronald Reagan suggested!) and other hybrid federal-state social insurance programs would cripple the Southern Autonomy Project further.
Real voting rights. Using the authority of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Congress should completely federalize voting requirements for all federal, state and local elections, making it as easy as possible for U.S. citizens to vote — over the objections of kicking and screaming neo-Confederates.
Nonpartisan redistricting. Partisan redistricting by majorities in state legislatures should be replaced by nonpartisan redistricting commissions, as in California, New Jersey and other states. The redistricting commissions should be truly nonpartisan, not “bipartisan” arrangements in which incumbent Republicans and incumbent Democrats cut deals to protect their safe seats from competition. (Electoral reforms like instant run-off voting and proportional representation are struggles for a more distant future).
Abolish the Senate filibuster. The filibuster is not part of the U.S. constitution. It has been used by Southern white conservatives from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first to preserve Southern white power and economic privilege. This relic of premodern British parliamentary politics should be abolished. Democracy means majority rule. If the Southern Right loses a battle in Congress, it can try to round up allies and win next time. It should no longer be able to paralyze the Senate, the Congress or the federal government as a whole.
Abolish the federal debt ceiling completely. The federal debt ceiling is another institution like the filibuster which has now been ruined by being abused by Southern conservatives. Now that the Southern right is trying to turn it into a recurrent tool of hostage-taking when it loses votes in Congress, the federal debt ceiling should be abolished. The federal government should be authorized to borrow any amount necessary to fund spending appropriated or authorized by Congress, if there is any shortfall in tax revenues.
Put all these policies and perhaps others together, and you have a National Majority Rule Project capable of thwarting the Southern Autonomy Project. The best defense is a good offense.
Does saying this make me, a white Southerner, a traitor to the South? Among the beneficiaries of a National Majority Rule Project, if it succeeded, would be middle- and low-income white Southerners, whose interests have never been identical with those of the local oligarchs. Particularly among the Scots-Irish of Appalachia and the Ozarks, there have always been many Southern white populists and radicals — from the West Virginian and Kentucky Unionists of the Civil War to New Deal liberals in Texas — who have understood the need to ally ourselves with non-Southerners in national politics to defeat the local Nabobs, Bourbons and Big Mules. The true Southern patriots are those of us who want to liberate the diverse population of the South from being exploited as wage earners and from being disfranchised or manipulated as voters. Another term for the National Majority Rule Project might be the Southern Liberation Movement.
Will the initiative remain with aggressive Southern reactionaries, as their fellow Americans try to appease them or react on a case-by-case basis against a feint here or a diversion there? Or will an aroused national majority, tired of being pushed around by a selfish Southern minority of the shrinking American white majority, finally fight back?
A wave of car bombs in the Iraqi capital on Thursday killed 31 people and wounded dozens, the latest attacks in a months-long surge in violence.
Attacks have been on the rise in Iraq since a deadly security crackdown in April on a Sunni protest camp. More than 3,000 people have been killed in violence during the past few months, raising fears Iraq could see a new round of widespread sectarian bloodshed similar to that which brought the country to the edge of civil war in 2006 and 2007.
In the deadliest of the blasts across Baghdad, police said one bomb struck near a bus station in the northern Shiite neighborhood of Khazimiyah, killing eight people and wounding 18 there.
Another car bomb exploded near a gathering of daily laborers in the Allawi area near the fortified Green Zone where government offices are located, killing five people and wounding 13. In eastern Baghdad, seven people were killed and 15 others were wounded when a car bomb went off near a traffic police office in Baladiyat neighborhood.
Associated Press television footage from the Baladiyat blast showed smoke rising from charred cars and people mourning one of those killed there.
Also, a car bomb hit a row of shops in the Bab al-Muadham area, killing 4 people and wounding 12. In western Baghdad, a sticky bomb attached to a cart selling gas cylinders, killed three people and wounded 8 others.
A car bomb hit near car repairing shops in the city’s northeastern suburb of Husseiniyah, killing four people and wounding 15, police said.
Mohammed Sabri, a retired government employee, was on his way to the market in Husseiniyah when he heard a thunderous explosion.
“I got closer and saw burning cars, two charred bodies and several people on the ground,” he said. “Security officials keep telling us that their forces are able to protect us, but this has not happened yet.”
Medical officials in a nearby hospital confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists.
There was no claim of responsibility for Thursday’s bombings, but Sunni extremists such as al-Qaida’s Iraq arm that seek to undermine the Shiite-led government are frequently blamed for attacks targeting civilians.
Iraqi security forces have imposed tight security measures in and around the capital since two brazen jailbreaks in July, but so far these measures have failed to stop the attacks.
The reorganization of the Greece's health system, under German direction, is advancing. "A final timetable is to be presented in the second half of this year," declared the German Health Ministry (BMG). The German government sees deficits also in the lack of an "effective cost management," but most of all in the lack of "competitive elements." In a "Memorandum of Understanding" (MoU), the BMG and the Task Force for Greece (TFGR) have reached an agreement with the Greek government on the introduction of the highly criticized German-modeled so-called case flat-rates. The criticisms stem from the fact that patients are not being treated in response to their medical needs but on the basis of economic efficiency. The massive consequences the austerity measures are having on the public health in Greece are becoming more evident. A growing number of Greek citizens are losing their health insurance, due to unemployment and therefore must pay medical costs themselves. The shortage of medical aid, for example, has caused an increase of 40 percent in the child mortality rate since 2009. Diseases such as malaria or AIDS are spreading more rapidly. The German government continues to insist on its austerity course in spite of these ramifications.
"Efficiency and Effectiveness"
Within the framework of the EU austerity dictates, Germany took the lead in the reorganization of the Greek health system back in March 2010. "The German Ministry of Health is in support of the Greek government's measures to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of long-term health care, by substantial and effective transformations in the organization of its health system," declared the State Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Stefan Kapferer in February 2011, on the occasion of the signing of the corresponding "Declaration of Intent." The concrete measures had been specified by the German Ministry of Health and the Task Force for Greece (TFGR) in the April 2012 "Memorandum of Understanding" (MoU) with the Greek government. These measures include the introduction of case flat-rates, a change in hospital management structures, the reorganization of the National Organization for Healthcare Provision insurance (EOPYY) and new pricing models for medicine. The German GIZ development aid agency was given the responsibility of the final elaboration of these plans, which thereby opens "new markets in industrialized countries." The German government bought supplementary expertise at the "KSB Clinic Consulting Group" and the "B and K Informatik and Consulting" company.
According to the German government the Greek health sector is lacking an "effective cost management," but above all it lacks "elements of competitiveness." The introduction of German-modeled case flat-rates is considered a fundamental instrument for overcoming these alleged deficits. By using a remuneration system oriented on the type of illness rather than on the length of hospital stay, the government coalition expects "major advantages" - even though criticisms of this model have been growing for a long time. Doctors have been criticizing that the false incentives, on the one hand, could lead to unnecessary, but lucrative treatments, and, on the other, to premature discontinuation of treatments in less profitable therapies. In addition, no studies have proven that costs are reduced through a reorientation on "Diagnosis Related Groups" DRGs. The German government is not promising overnight effects through DRGs. These would presuppose the implementation of modern, efficiency-oriented hospital management structures, which would be time consuming. "In this situation, short-term, tangible successes are not to be expected," according to a government answer to a parliamentary interpellation in the German Bundestag.
Cut the Health Budget by One-Third
These proposed transformations are being implemented within the framework of the austerity measures being enforced by Berlin. According to the stipulations handed down by the Troika, Greece's health expenditures should not surpass six percent of the country's gross national product - in Germany these expenditures were at 11.3 percent in 2011. Since, as a result of the austerity policy imposed on that country, the Greek GNP has been on the decline for years, the expenditures for the health system are sinking drastically. By 2012, these expenditures were reduced to around 9.5 billion Euros, from 14 billion Euros in 2009. The Greek government has already shut down 46 of its 130 hospitals and cut the budget by 40 percent for those remaining. This has added thousands more to the unemployed created by the devastation of the health sector. The newly founded EOPYY health insurance organization has had its finances cut. This has created billions in debts and is unable to pay the costs of medicine and treatments. Therefore patients must themselves pay, along with approx. 30 percent of their fellow citizens, who had lost their health insurance due to unemployment.
In 2012, Greece's Minister of Health, at the time, Andreas Lykourentzos, characterized the negotiations with the Troika as the most difficult period of his incumbency. "The public health system can't be amputated," he warned following the talks. In fact, the imposed austerity measures had a devastating effect on his country's health situation. Sick leaves have already a tendency to increase in times of economic crisis; the austerity policy, therefore, makes the situation even worse. Dr. Giorgos Vichas, speaks of a "humanitarian crisis." Since 2008, the child mortality rate has risen by 40 percent. The number of HIV positive drug users has risen from 10 - 15 in 2007 to 314 in the first eight months of 2012 alone - mainly due to the drastic cutbacks in preventive programs. Malaria and tuberculosis, the West Nile and dengue fevers are continuing to spread. Doctors' initiatives, appealing for donations of medicine and treating patients free of charge are attempting to mitigate the most serious emergencies, but they cannot substantially better the medical situation.
Deadly Shock Therapy
"The interaction between austerity policy, economic shock treatments and deficient social protective measures seems to ultimately lead to an escalation of the health and social crises in Europe," concluded a study by several scholars published in the renowned "The Lancet" medical journal, Epidemiologists, David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu drew the same conclusion in their book "The Body Economic - Why Austerity Kills." This is why the "European Health Alliance" has appealed for a political about face in an open letter to the European Commission. Associations in Germany, for example "Medico International" and the "Association of Democratic Doctors" are protesting against the austerity dictate and its catastrophic consequences.
Expenditures Still too High
The German government does not seem to be impressed by these initiatives. For example, activities to insure a better health insurance protection, surpassing the program set with the TFGR in the "Memorandum of Understanding," are not being planned. "The German government is concentrating its active support on the focal themes set out in the MoU with the Greek government and the TFGR," explains the Chancellery. In the meantime, the Troika has imposed even more drastic cut backs. Following its last "inspection," at the beginning of this month, it has forced the Greek government to agree to take concrete steps - not, for example, to mitigate the dramatic consequences of austerity on the country's health situation - but rather to bring under "control" the still "too high expenditures in the areas of health."
Paula Deen ordered African-American workers to “dress in an old-style Aunt Jemima outfit” and ring a dinner bell, according to a woman who is still employed at the disgraced cook’s Georgia restaurant.
Following Deen’s dramatic fall from grace after her admission that she had used racial slurs, The New York Times‘ Kim Severson went to Savannah to check out the former food network host’s crumbling empire. Severson spoke to Dora Charles, a black cook who helped Deen open her Lady & Sons restaurant over 20 years ago.
“She said, ‘Stick with me, one day if I get rich, you’ll get rich,’” Charles explained. “It just passed me by. You know, I’m not going to run behind her and say, ‘You promised me, you promised me. Where my half? Where my part?’ You know? It wasn’t all about that. Actually, all I was looking for was a good salary.”
But Charles said that when Deen launched her Food Network show, she was was only getting paid $6.50 an hour.
“I told her, at times, I didn’t even have enough money to buy my own medications,” she recalled, demonstrating how Deen once casually tossed a $100 bill at her when she complained that she couldn’t afford her medical bills.
“She was sitting across the table and she said — it didn’t reach me — and she said, ‘Here’s a hundred dollars, go buy your medicine.’”
“Yeah, she wanted [Employee Ineata Jones] ‘Jellyroll’ to dress like that as well,” Charles remarked.
And the slavery theme wasn’t just limited to Deen’s wedding fantasy, according to the Times:
Ms. Deen used Ms. Jones for restaurant theater. At 11 a.m., when the doors opened at the Lady & Sons, she stood in front and rang an iron dinner bell, something she had asked Mrs. Charles to do as well. An image of Ms. Jones doing just that was turned into a postcard sold at Paula Deen stores.
Ms. Jones was also in charge of making hoecakes, the cornmeal pancakes served to every guest. Ms. Deen had designed a station so diners could watch them being made. At both jobs, Mrs. Charles and other employees said, Ms. Deen wanted Ms. Jones to dress in an old-style Aunt Jemima outfit.
“Jellyroll didn’t want to hear that,” Mrs. Charles said. “She didn’t want to do that.”
“I said, ‘I’m not ringing no bell,’” Charles insisted. “That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day.”
“Do you feel like Paul Deen is racist?” Severson wondered.
“I do, I do,” Charles admitted after a long pause.
“Have you ever heard Paul Deen use the N-word?” Severson asked.
“I’ve heard her used the N-word,” Charles replied. “She say, ‘I tell all y’all n*ggers, that’s what’s wrong with y’all n*ggers now today.’”
Deen’s public relations team has argued that no employee was ever made to dress up like Aunt Jemima and ring a dinner bell.
“Fundamentally Dora’s complaint is not about race but about money,” they said in a statement. “It is about an employee that despite over 20 years of generosity feels that she still deserves yet even more financial support from Paula Deen.”
Both the Times and and New York Magazine, however, obtained promotional photos from Lady & Sons of Ineata Jones wearing an Aunt Jemima-style apron and ringing a dinner bell.
At the time of publication, Charles was reportedly still employed by Deen’s Lady & Sons restaurant, but she said she realized that her time there was almost over. She hopes to one day open her own restaurant.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) knows that Republicans may lose some votes at first after the party kills immigration reform, but he is predicting that Hispanics will then wake up and realize that “Republicans really like me.”
In an effort to block all efforts at comprehensive immigration reform, Gohmert joined with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to explain to the conservative website World Net Daily why so-called “amnesty” would be bad for the country.
Gohmert said that Republicans needed to make it clear to immigrants that comprehensive reform was being stopped to “preserve a country that Hispanics will want to come to.”
“If we are not willing to follow the law, we’re going to lose that, and I’m afraid that people do not realize how serious things have gotten,” the Texas congressman said. “But, yeah, we could possibly pay in the polls in the short term. But just as you’ve had more and more African-Americans realizing, ‘Wow, we have one party that’s pandered to us, doled out government benefits, kept us from reaching our God-given potential.’”
Republicans, however, Gohmert said, wanted Hispanics to learn English “because we want you not to be a ditch digger because you can’t communicate. We know you are smart enough to be president of this company and to be president of this country if you’re born here.”
“And if we don’t communicate that message we could pay for it,” he warned. “We could in the short term, but in the long term, I think you will see people start waking up and go, ‘Wow, I’m Hispanic, these Republicans really like me.’”