'The Rachel Maddow Show'for Friday, February 13
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Guest: Pratap Chatterjee, Alexandra Pelosi
High: Ray LaHood interviewed on Judd Gregg, other issues. Stimulus passes the House.
Spec: Congress; Politics; Barack Obama; Finance; Ray LaHood
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
The Republicans in the House have given zero votes to the stimulus again. Only the barest minimum number of Republican senators voted for it. Republican Judd Gregg kicked himself out of Barack Obama‘s cabinet. It is all raising questions about Obama‘s strategy of bipartisanship and bipartisan outreach.
But, you know, there are still two Republicans in Barack Obama‘s cabinet. Do you ever wonder what they think about all this fuss? Republican Obama cabinet member, Ray LaHood, will join us in a moment. I think you are going to want to hear what he has to say about Judd Gregg. That is coming up in just a moment.
But, first, the country continues to absorb the emotional effect of last night‘s plane crash near Buffalo, New York, which killed all 49 people on the plane and one person on the ground. The Continental commuter turboprop took off from Newark, New Jersey and was coming in to land at Buffalo Niagara International after 10:00 p.m. last night when it suddenly nose dived into a house in Clarence Center, which is a suburb of Buffalo.
Although one person on the ground was killed, miraculously, two people who were inside the house that was hit escaped with just minor injuries. This was the nation‘s first fatal crash of a commercial airliner in 2 ½ years. Though the exact cause of the tragedy still remains unclear, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said today that the crew of the plane discussed significant ice buildup on the wings and windshield of the aircraft before the crash.
Let‘s go now to NBC‘s Tom Costello who is near buffalo, New York, where the plane went down.
Good evening, Tom. What‘s the latest?
TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rachel.
We had an NTSB briefing a short time ago and it was, in fact, the NTSB board member who came out and said that, in fact, at this moment, there are some signs here that aviation experts would be paying attention to as it relates to ice. As you know, YouTube video was among the first video that we have to show what happened when this flight came down in this neighborhood at about 10:10 last night.
There had been absolutely no distress call from this flight. There was normal radio chatter and traffic between the first officer, a female co-pilot, onboard this plane and the controller who was watching the plane come in—normal chatter. Suddenly, the plane just dropped off the radar screen. The controller immediately started trying to figure out what was going on.
We may now have a sense of what‘s going on because the NTSB told us this afternoon that, in fact, they have already analyzed the cockpit voice recorder, they have already listened to it and almost immediately, they heard the crew members talking about ice.
Let‘s listen to what the NTSB said a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE CHEALANDER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: The crew discussed significant ice buildup, ice on the windshield and leading edge of the wings. Airframe de-ice was selected in the “on” position before those comments were made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: OK. That‘s Captain Steve Chealander, who is a board member, who said that appeared that the de-icing mechanism was turned on, but we don‘t know specifically whether that means that they actually engaged the de-icing boot, if you will. That‘s a—really, a piece of a rubberized plastic that you activate and it helps break up-ice on the leading wing edge. We don‘t know if they actually employed that. Hopefully, the flight data recorder will provide more specifics on that and that could be a couple of days away.
But we do know that both the cockpit voice, the flight data recorders, came out of the tail, really, in pristine conditions, amazing given how serious that fireball was and the destruction of that plane. And we know that, in fact, that the plane was dealing with the—the cockpit crew was dealing with significant ice just before this episode.
Rachel, here is a theory. The theory is that the crew may not have
realized how bad the ice was, that as they made their approach, they went
ahead and deployed, if you will, the flaps. They set the flaps for landing
that slows the plane down. That should be OK in a normal situation.
But if you have more ice on your wings than you are aware of and the plane suddenly slows down, it may have fallen below the stall speed and the plane may have just done an immediate nose dive into the home below.
It‘s all preliminary, it‘s all early. But, boy, ice right now is certainly something everybody is looking at. Back to you.
MADDOW: Tom, thank you. One question for you—given that the investigation is going to focus on human action, obviously, but also on equipments and whether or not equipment functioned as it should.
MADDOW: Is there any reason to believe the airline or the aircraft manufacturer might take immediate action, might ground that particular sort of plane, might take any sort of special inspection measure?
COSTELLO: I think it‘s too early to say that. This is a Dash 8. It‘s made by the Canadian firm, Bombardier. It has a very good track record. It‘s been flying for the better part of 25 years or so.
This is the first fatal accident involving a Dash 8 in America, only the second worldwide. It‘s really a workhorse turboprop. It has very good reputation, very liable. It‘s loaded with very good avionics and computer equipment.
And so, I don‘t think there is an immediate call, I haven‘t heard it from anybody, that we have a problem with the fleet. Again, the fleet is known as being very reliable. But because it‘s made by Canadian Bombardier, the Canadian Transportation Safety Board is also involved in this investigation.
MADDOW: NBC‘s Tom Costello—thank you so much for your reporting, from being on the show with us, Tom. Appreciate it.
COSTELLO: You bet.
MADDOW: The crash, obviously, leaves us with many questions, which may not be answered for some time, as Tom said. But if there is a real possibility that ice on the wings is the cause, as somebody who is no expert in this field, somebody who flies frequently, I want to know how common ice on the wings is, and how planes usually deal with that problem and what might have been different in that Dash 8 last night.
To help us understand what could have gone wrong and what it means for the planes that we all fly in, we‘re joined now by Ira Furman. He‘s a former deputy director and spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board.
Mr. Furman, thank you for your service with the NTSB. Thanks for joining us tonight.
IRA FURMAN, FMR. NTSB DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Sorry for the circumstance that brings me here.
MADDOW: Yes. We learned, we are learning that the crew knew of and discussed ice on the wings. We‘ve all driven in icy conditions, we know it just like in the car. Why is that so potentially disastrous in a plane?
FURMAN: Well, Mr. Costello just referenced, he talked about the possibility that this aircraft stalled as it came out of the air. What stall refers to is the loss of wind speed over the wings. And when you lose that, the plane doesn‘t fly. The problem with ice on a wing is that ice creates a certain amount of turbulence on the flow of that air over the wing, and the plane does not have the same lift it had just moments before.
MADDOW: So, in aerodynamic principles, you need to have even airflow over the top of the wing in order to give the whole aircraft the lift that it needs to stay in the air.
MADDOW: And anything that disrupts that, even in the small way can bring the plane down.
FURMAN: Exactly right. It‘s amazing that we‘re talking about—people don‘t understand lift is flow over the wings.
FURMAN: There is a song about wind beneath your wings. But that‘s not the way it works in aviation. The lift is the sucking up of it. And I have never done this before live, but this demonstrates it. I‘m going to blow over the top. You would expect that would blow this down .
FURMAN: . but, in fact, it will it.
MADDOW: And that‘s how planes fly.
FURMAN: So, that‘s how planes fly, that lift. So, the disturbance of that air by ice is something that keeps a wing from flying optimally. And the other reference was, quickly, if you extend the flaps, which slows the plane down, that gives it a little more lift, there could be a problem with that that would contribute to the circumstance.
MADDOW: What options are available to pilots for addressing icing once they are in the air? We heard Tom reference the de-icing boots. We heard on the NTSB, recording, that the airframe de-icer was deployed. What sort of options could they have? How good is that technology?
FURMAN: OK. It depends on the aircraft. The really large aircrafts, they divert heated air through the leading edge of the wing. And so, that‘s the de-icing mechanism there.
FURMAN: Smaller aircrafts such as this one use the technology that they refer to as a boot. It is a rubber strip across the front that has a tube in it. That tube is inflated and it causes the boot to expand.
So, as ice forms on it, you simple caused it to expand, it cracks off the ice, it gets blown away by the airflow. And then you retract it and you wait for more ice to build up and you do the same thing. They also have to do that on the vertical surface, the elevated, the horizontal surfaces of the plane.
MADDOW: One last quick question. As the NTSB looks into this, will they be able—and I guess it may depend on the condition of the remains of the plane—will they be able to determine if that equipment malfunctioned?
FURMAN: They may be able to determine that or they may come to what they call a probably cause of an accident. And that way—they‘ll also be looking at whether the flaps, when they deployed those flaps, whether those flaps deployed symmetrically, because if they didn‘t, one wing was going to fly higher than the other and that would just cause a plane to cartwheel.
MADDOW: And we know that it came down at an incredibly very vertical angle, almost a nose dive.
MADDOW: Well, Ira Furman, former director and spokesman for the NTSB—it‘s real honor to have and your expertise represented here on the show tonight. Thank you.
FURMAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up next: I will talk to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood about the stimulus plan heading to the president‘s desk. And given that Mr. LaHood is a Republican in President Obama‘s cabinet, I‘ll ask him what he thinks about Senator Judd Gregg withdrawing from consideration for commerce secretary.
Also, have you heard what the contractor Blackwater is doing to try to improve its image? It totally will not work, but it‘s a really good try. It‘s all coming up.
MADDOW: As of tonight, as of this hour, pending a late expected yes vote from Sherrod Brown, who is flying back to Washington from his mother‘s funeral in Ohio, just to cast his vote—as of the casting of Senator Brown‘s expected the yes, we, as a country, will pretty much have a stimulus plan—a plan that the president will sign.
Is it perfect? No. Could it be even more stimulative? By a mile. With fewer tax cuts that don‘t actually do much to stimulate the economy and more direct spending that would—we have been over this many times—yes, of course, duh. It could be way better.
And our economy is actually in such bad shape that we really need something great. The policy that is the result of this debate that just happened is undoubtedly better than nothing. The thing we have to worry about is whether the political outcome, not the policy, but the political outcome of this debate is actually worse than nothing.
Once again today, zero House Republicans voted in favor of the stimulus. A whopping three Republicans in the Senate voted for it. Who cares, it passed anyway, right?
Well, here‘s a reason to care. As the bill wound its way through Congress, the Republican arguments against stimulus got less and less and less cogent—to the point where on the final day today, the GOP‘s last stand against the stimulus was a complaint that the bill funded transportation infrastructure—trains, specifically. They complained that the government would pay people money to work on transportation infrastructure, which, of course, we would get to keep and use even after the jobs were done—in other words, pure, immediate, long lasting economic stimulus. They‘re against that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CANDICE MILLER, ® MICHIGAN: The Senate majority leader as one of the conferees put in $8 billion for a high-speed rail from Las Vegas to L.A. They might be riding a high rail out in Las Vegas but Michigan, we are getting railroaded and that is why I voted no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Points for alliteration, sort of—an amazing moment in nonsensical political opposition. Republicans are calling mass transit, the closest thing there is to a universally accepted economically stimulative good thing—they, today, called that waste and they voted against it. Voting against transportation infrastructure in a stimulus bill is like turning up at an Emil Villa‘s Hickory Pit and ordering salad.
You don‘t get. That‘s not what this is all about. That‘s not what this is for.
In our democracy where we make laws in our deliberative legislatures, we want good arguments to win. We want there to be a correlation between good arguments, facts, being smart and winning. If those incentives are right, if the incentives are right, we should overtime be perfecting our union. We should be getting better at this. Our policy should be getting better.
The fact that Republican arguments against the stimulus got qualitatively worse over the last few weeks, they made less economic sense as time went on, that is a worry. I need a talking down here. But I‘m guessing my next guest will not be able to help me with that.
Joining us now is our country‘s secretary of transportation, Ray LaHood. He was formerly a Republican congressman from Illinois.
Secretary LaHood, it‘s a real pleasure to have you on the show.
Thank you so much for joining us.
RAY LAHOOD, ® TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: My pleasure. Thank you.
MADDOW: First, I have to ask you about something that‘s in the news right now just in terms of last night‘s plane crash. Do you expect that the FAA or the NTSB will have news for Americans about that crash that will reassure us about aviation safety?
LAHOOD: Well, look. One of the top priorities of our department and, certainly, the FAA is safety. I have said that from the very first day that I was sworn in at the department. I said it at the hearing. Safety has to be of the utmost importance to those of us at DOT and the FAA.
And we have to assure the flying public that when they board airplanes, that their travel will be safe and NTSB will be conducting a very thorough investigation. Look, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost, the 50 that were lost and perished in the terrible plane crash in Buffalo. And I have every confidence in the NTSB that they will do as thorough a job as they always do to figure out what happened.
MADDOW: Secretary LaHood, the issue of technology being available to government workers, to do the work that they do, the issue of transportation infrastructure itself—those are the kinds of things that have been cited by your former Republican colleagues in the House as reasons why they voted against the stimulus bill. They have singled out transportation infrastructure itself, specifically, trains today as one of their talking points, as a reason that the stimulus bill is wasteful.
I have to ask your response to that.
LAHOOD: Well, Rachel, look, the bill that passed the House and will pass the Senate this evening is a good bill. It will put people to work. One of the things the president has said, it‘s one leg of the stool. It‘s not the only leg of the stool. It will put people in good paying jobs, building roads and infrastructures, also, building airports. And there‘s an awful lot of money for high-speed rail and transit.
MADDOW: That argument to me makes a lot of sense. I‘m not an economist but just as a concerned citizen who‘s been following this, I sort of understand the Econ 101 principles that you‘re talking about there—spending this money requires people to do the work, which gives people jobs, and they tend to be pretty good jobs, and that puts more money on the demand side of the economy—that all makes sense to me.
What‘s been strange politically is that the arguments on the Hill have not sounded like that. And I wonder if the arguments against infrastructure spending, if you think they are intellectually honest, do you think there is a cogent political position that the government hiring people to build stuff somehow isn‘t stimulus?
LAHOOD: Look—there are a lot of people in America hurting. There‘s—you know, we are at one of the highest unemployment rates that we‘ve had in two or three decades. We know that if we give money to the states, I had 43 directors of transportation, secretaries of transportation in Washington on Wednesday and every one of them, Rachel, said that they had a project, more than one or two projects, that would put people to work. And they can meet the time constraints that have been set in the legislation.
We‘ll have the money out the door in 120 days in order that these projects can begin. You know, I‘ve heard the arguments on the other side and the arguments of my friends on the Republican side. And to me, doing nothing is not the answer to putting people to work. Doing nothing is not the way to jump-start the economy.
MADDOW: One last question for you, Mr. Secretary. You and Defense Secretary Bob Gates are both Republicans in President Obama‘s cabinet. So, I have to ask you about your reaction to Senator Judd Gregg deciding rather awkwardly yesterday, at least awkward in terms of the timing, that he didn‘t want to be the third Republican in this cabinet. What do you think about that?
LAHOOD: I think it‘s very odd. I know that Senator Gregg went to the administration, went personally to several members of President Obama‘s team and asked if he could be appointed to the cabinet. And they acceded to his wishes and appointed him to the cabinet. And then, all of a sudden, to change his mind I think is very peculiar.
And—frankly, you know, I don‘t understand it. I would have thought when you ask for a job and the president gives you a job, that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and go to work. And I think it‘s a pretty odd set of circumstances and I don‘t understand it.
MADDOW: Do you have any reason to believe that the Republican Party or his Republican colleagues in the Senate pushed him to take the job back?
LAHOOD: I don‘t have any reason to believe that, but I don‘t know otherwise either.
MADDOW: Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, it‘s really nice of you to take time to be with us tonight. Thank you.
LAHOOD: Thank you, Rachel. Good to be with you. Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
After banned from Iraq after the September 2007 shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians by their guards, Blackwater, the private contracting firm that has spent billions of our dollars in Iraq, decided that it needed a sort of a change in brand—a name change. So, now, Blackwater USA will be called XE. It‘s spelled XE but it‘s pronounced “Z.” Modern without that wit of casual mayhem.
Scrub, Rinse, Repeat, indeed. More on that in a moment.
MADDOW: We‘ve got very important confrontational news coming up in this segment about giant pink underpants in South Asia. And I want you to stay with me for that.
But, first, let‘s start with a little news from Afghanistan and life during wartime. On the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, one of the contentious issues continues to be our country‘s use of drone aircraft to shoot missiles at targets on the Pakistani side of the border. The Pakistanis have vigorously protested the attacks by the drones and the Pakistani government has protested right alongside with them. The Pakistani prime minister and president have repeatedly publicly demanded that the U.S. stop these drone strikes, calling them counterproductive and intolerable.
Now, the suspicion, east and west, has been that despite the public protest from the Pakistani government, they sort of tacitly approved of these strikes in order to maintain relations with Washington. Publicly, they protest, in other words, but maybe privately, they are giving the green light.
That delicate, little, undemocratic docey doe got sort of exposed this week apparently by accident, when a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, expressed surprise at the Pakistani government‘s protests against the drone strikes. She said, quote, “As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base.”
They what? (INAUDIBLE). If we are flying those drones out of a Pakistani base, we had never admitted to it publicly before. And it is certainly nothing that the Pakistani government had ever admitted to.
Senator Feinstein‘s office is energetically rejecting the idea that the senator‘s statement was a slip-up. They‘re saying that the senator was just referring to a “Washington Post” story that made that same allegation last March.
Whether or not the senator was just discussing public news reports or spilling some big, horrible, politically toxic beans here—there is, of course, the fact that maybe we ought to know the truth about who we are bombing and with whose help? I mean, yay, operational security and everything, but yay, our government leveling with us on what our military is doing in our name, too, right?
And finally, while we are in this very exciting part of the world, a final, strange and wonderful activist confrontation story from India. That‘s actually sort of a little bit about Valentine‘s Day. It starts with bad news here, but I promise, stick with me, it gets better.
Last month in the Indian city of Mangalore, young men from a right-wing Hindu group stormed into a bar and beat up young women inside the bar, for the horrible crime of them being female and having a drink in a bar in a supposedly sort of free country. About 30 of the men were arrested. The attack was filmed. The footage has been broadcast on national television in India, often with commentary portraying the right-wing attackers as a sort of Indian Taliban.
That same group of Hindu conservatives has been threatening to disrupt any celebrations of Valentine‘s Day this weekend in India, saying that Valentine‘s Day is against Indian culture.
Now, in response—Facebook to the rescue. A group of Indian women formed a Facebook group earlier this month to fight back against the religious conservatives by mocking them with panties. You know, given the choice of weapons of war, put me on the side of panty warfare any day.
Because the conservative Hindu activists are mocked, anyway, as “Chaddi-wallas,” as men who wear big, ugly, women‘s underpants, the online activists have called on people everywhere to send, literally to mail big, ugly, cheap, pink chaddis, pink women‘s underpants to these religious conservatives on the occasion of Valentine‘s Day. The women and their supporters are calling themselves, “The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women.”
And just so you know, of course, we asked their spokeswoman if she could be on the show with us from India tonight. It turns out she is a zillion miles from a TV studio, and we couldn‘t make it work.
But I am very proud to say that she e-mailed us that she really likes this show, which I think means we‘re all in the Consortium of Pub-Going Loose and Forward Women together now.
MADDOW: The religious right did not fare well in the last election cycle. Their candidates—that‘s like Mike Huckabee and Alan Keyes, those guys—they were defeated in the primary. Aside from a couple of anti-gay measures in California and Arkansas, their ideas were defeated in the general election as well.
So, is this time for a rethink of the issues, a rethink of the strategy maybe? Are you kidding? Clearly, what‘s needed here is a new brand.
According to Focus on the Family‘s Gary Schneeberger, “Terms like ‘religious right‘ have been traditionally used in a pejorative way to suggest extremism. The phrase ‘socially conservative evangelicals‘ is not very exciting, but that‘s certainly the way to do it.”
The way to do what exactly? To convince people to give voting rights to eggs and sperm? To become a more valuable scorer in Scrabble?
It‘s a funny strategy this renaming yourself without really changing.
Do you remember a couple of years ago when that Shiite political party in Iraq was trying to get invitations to the White House? What helped them grease those wheels was that they dropped the name Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, in favor of the much harder to remember Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.
That sounds better.
You know right-wing talk show host, Michael Savage? His real name is Michael Weiner. But it‘s even harder to get away with awesomeness like attacking autistic children when your name is Weiner.
So, the Weiner became the Savage.
And you know, while we‘re on this specific subject, how about the House minority leader, who says he would like us to pronounce his name “Bay-ner,” even though he spells his name—like this.
Cigarette maker Philip Morris became the pleasant air freshener-esque Altria after the health risks of smoking cover-up debacle. Altria, however, is still a very pleasantly named company that makes cigarettes.
The latest entry into the renaming hall of fame is defense contractor Blackwater. They are, of course, the company that is in the process of being kicked out of Iraq for their involvement in the shooting deaths of at least 12 civilians in September 2007.
Blackwater would prefer that you not call them Blackwater anymore.
Blackwater, as of today, would prefer to be called XE. XE? XE.
Better yet, it is pronounced “zee,” but it‘s spelled X-E.
All the better to forget you by.
In order to try to further fade into the obscurity of the background, Blackwater has renamed its subsidiary that conducts much of the company‘s operations overseas. Until today it was called Blackwater Lodge and Training Center. Now it‘s called U.S. Training Center, Inc.
Super-generic and super-forgettable. It doesn‘t sound law-breaky at all.
The new name also means that all that Blackwater swag at the Blackwater Pro Shop on their Web site has instantly become collector‘s item stuff. Hopefully, you already bought your significant other a Blackwater teddy bear for Valentine‘s Day—trailer hitch, bottle opener, Onesie, flip-flops, belt buckle.
How about the inspirational poster about guard dogs? Yes.
As Blackwater drops its name and becomes XE, other contractors, Halliburton and KBR, are not yet following suit. Don‘t rule it out, though.
Just this week, the other most infamous military contracting outfits in the world, Halliburton and KBR, they agreed to pay the largest foreign corruption fine in American history. Seems they were bribing their way through a good part of the Nigerian government.
KBR, of course, is also under criminal investigation for the electrocution deaths of at least two U.S. soldiers in Iraq, a fact that did not stop the company from getting a brand-new Pentagon contract for—you guessed it—electrical work, in Iraq.
Now that President Obama is in charge, can these guys finally go away?
Joining us now is Pratap Chatterjee. He‘s an investigative journalist and author of the book, “Halliburton‘s Army: How A Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War.”
Mr. Chatterjee, thank you so much for coming on the show.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE, AUTHOR, “HALLIBURTON‘S ARMY”: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: How did this military contracting business become so big, so fast? Where did these guys come from?
CHATTERJEE: Well, Halliburton is from Texas, and KBR is also from Texas. These are companies that are—you know, started in the 1920s.
And lest it be forgotten, they‘ve actually been involved in the business of war for many years. In fact, Halliburton, which owned KBR for the last 40 years, actually built ships. KBR—Brown and Root built ships in the Second World War. There‘s a company called Brown Ship.
And in the Vietnam War, they built most of the bases in the country. And they built the military base in Diego Garcia, and lest it be forgotten, in the Clinton administration Halliburton and KBR—Brown and Root at the time—built the bases in Bosnia and Kosovo. So, it‘s been many years since they‘ve been joined at the hip.
However, things have changed today, because, whereas as in the first Gulf War only one in 20 people on the ground was a contractor, today, for every soldier on the ground in Iraq there is a contractor. So, 160,000 troops, 175,000 contractors.
And 50,000 of them come from Halliburton or KBR. Forty thousand of them are actually from Third World countries such as India or Sri Lanka.
MADDOW: One of the issues that I think is really underreported about contractors is the fact that so many of their employees are from other countries. They‘re not necessarily American countries. They are from the rest of the world.
Are they bad companies to work for?
CHATTERJEE: Well, Halliburton or KBR, which is the company that now holds the country—you have to understand that Halliburton and KBR split up. They got divorced. And so now, KBR is the company in Houston that does the work.
They pay Indian workers who clean toilets and that sort of thing, $300 a month, which doesn‘t sound like a lot of money. In India, however, if you do the same work you get a lot less. So, a lot of people go to work for these companies, because they pay more than you get in the home country.
To hire an American, they pay—they start at about $80,000. So, if you drive a truck and you‘re from Alabama or Texas, you‘re going to get a lot more, two or three times more than you get in the U.S.
So, it‘s very attractive. And to this day, people call me up saying, “How can I get a job in Iraq?”
MADDOW: But are you saying, though, that for the same job Halliburton would pay radically different pay scales for the same job to people based on what their nationality is?
CHATTERJEE: Absolutely. For exactly the same job, a truck driver—all right. There‘s a guy in my book by the name of Tito Kosabuwatee (ph). He gets paid $170 to drive ice cream, chocolate-covered bunnies, you know, steak, from Kuwait to Iraq and back -- $170 for a round trip.
On the other hand, an American who works for the company would be paid $5,000.
Now, I‘m not saying that the Americans are doing very well. A lot of them, in fact, get into a lot of trouble. They come under fire. Some of them get killed. Some of them get injured. So, it is not necessarily better for an American.
But the same—very same job, very different wages between $1,000 for a Fujian, or $500 for a Sri Lankan—and again, it depends on your nationality—and $5,000 for an American. It is based entirely on where you were born and the kind of passport that you carry.
MADDOW: It seems to me like an incredible weakness, a sort of brittleness in our national security, that we—for example, say that we can‘t protect our own diplomats anymore without hiring private companies, that we can‘t operate our own supply lines.
Is that dependence that the Pentagon and the State Department and the rest of the government now admit to, is that reversible?
CHATTERJEE: It isn‘t really. And Napoleon once said, you know, an army marches forward on its stomach. Well, that stomach is fed by Indian workers, Sri Lankan workers, Filipino workers.
And today, if Obama were to say, OK, that‘s it. We‘re going to fire Halliburton and KBR, and kick them out of the country, that army would no longer be able to march. We are entirely dependent on contractors to be able to get us to Iraq.
If he were to say, tomorrow we don‘t want any more—we want to leave Iraq, well, those supplies, to bring them back—those containerized kitchens, those F-18Es—they have to be brought back by contractors. They were shipped there by contractors.
MADDOW: But the reason I‘m confused, though, is that we didn‘t always use contractors for this much of what we did, even though contractors have been around for that long.
So, presumably, it feels irreversible to do it in the short term. But we could scale down to what we had before, couldn‘t we?
CHATTERJEE: Well, there‘s a difference between now and, let‘s say, Vietnam. In Vietnam we had a draft. I mean, here‘s the key difference. When you have a draft army you can tell people, you‘ve got to go to Iraq—or in the case (ph), Vietnam—peel potatoes, drive trucks.
Today, because we have a volunteer army and we‘re trying to save costs, we need to turn to Third World workers from India to come and do that, in order to be able to save money.
It‘s actually in some ways become very easy, because the soldier now goes to Iraq and is fed, you know, by an Indian worker. He presses a button, or she presses a button, and drops a bomb in Yemen or Pakistan.
So, we now can continue shopping (ph), or we can drop—you know, we can drop bombs and not think about it, because war has been completely privatized and outsourced.
American soldiers probably still shoot guns in an actual battle. But a lot of times, that work is—the stuff that‘s dull, dirty and dangerous is done by Indian workers or by robots in the sky.
MADDOW: Well, some of what‘s dangerous. Certainly, being out there as an infantryman is pretty dangerous.
CHATTERJEE: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. I would not disagree with that.
MADDOW: All right. Pratap Chatterjee, author of the book, “Halliburton‘s Army,” thanks for coming on the show tonight. Appreciate it.
CHATTERJEE: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up on the show, we will be joined by Alexandra Pelosi, who is perhaps less famous for being Nancy Pelosi‘s daughter than she is for being an up-to-the-minute political filmmaker, a bit of a provocateur, and one of the best amateur anthropologists America has, about our homegrown right wing.
MADDOW: It is time once again for another tragicomic episode in our continuing series about the Republican Party, “Searching For Meaning in the Political Wilderness.”
The all new, incredibly shrinking Republican Party still loves its war talk. Last week, it was Congressman Pete Sessions from Texas, who compared GOP unity against the stimulus bill to the Taliban insurgency. Go, go, Gunga Pete (ph).
Today, more weird self-conception relating to terrorism words. North Carolina Congressman Patrick McHenry said that Judd Gregg‘s withdrawal as Commerce Secretary, “certainly emboldens us.”
Other emboldened Republicans—Eric Cantor, the second ranking House
Republican, who said of the stimulus debate, “What transpired ... will give
us a shot in the arm... We are standing up on principle and just saying
The party of no. There‘s a banner to rally under.
For Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, it was more than just no, more than just a shot in the arm. He said, “This is the bill that the Republican Party will be running against in 2010 and 2012 and 2014.”
2014? Really? No other plans, you guys, for like five years?
And then there‘s Michael Steele. The new GOP chairman, who congratulated Republican representatives on their total of zero votes for the stimulus bill, saying, “The goose egg you laid on the president‘s desk was just beautiful.”
Just say no. No ideas for five years. We‘re the Taliban. We‘re emboldened. We‘re the goose eggs, zip, zero. Woo-hoo!
It‘s just kind of weird, isn‘t it?
Someone who can maybe help me out here is Alexandra Pelosi, the award-winning filmmaker and liberal, who keeps making bighearted, funny documentary films about American conservatives.
Her new documentary is about John McCain‘s supporters on the presidential campaign trail this year. It‘s called “Right America: Feeling Wronged.” It debuts Monday on HBO. Here‘s a little clip.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John McCain (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- he‘s the right man for this country, and—and people couldn‘t see it. And I don‘t know why.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want Obama? You‘ll be on welfare! You‘ll be (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just keep that (bleep). Get that down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do all the McCain voters have in common?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all hate the same things.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) support America?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He talks like he knows us. He doesn‘t know us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there anything he can do to redeem himself in your eyes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drop out of the race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Alexandra Pelosi, welcome to the show. It‘s nice to see you.
ALEXANDRA PELOSI, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER, “RIGHT AMERICA: FEELING
WRONGED”: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Did the McCain-Palin campaign know what you were up to?
PELOSI: I don‘t think they—I mean, no. I don‘t think that they wanted me there.
I mean, are you saying was I welcome?
PELOSI: No. There were some very un-Christian moments. But...
MADDOW: From the campaign specifically?
PELOSI: Oh, yes.
PELOSI: Which is funny, because in 2000, I made this sort of, like, famously friendly film about George Bush.
PELOSI: And the people that were running the McCain campaign were Bush‘s goons from 2000, so I thought they would be welcoming, since I was so well received in the Christian community, the conservative community after that movie came out.
PELOSI: But, no. It was very—you know, this is sort of the Shakespearean tragedy of the John McCain campaign, of like, he sold his soul. But then, he was never rewarded, because he hired these people, and they—well, you know. You know that story.
MADDOW: Well, you know—yes. The way this selling the soul thing, it never really works out. That‘s the whole point. And you get to the end of the parable and never—anyway.
You have made a career of sort of revealing Republicans in a sympathetic light for a presumably liberal audience. It‘s not just “Journeys with George.” It‘s “The Trials of Ted Haggard,” which is also at the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which I thought was great.
Do you feel like you were sort of doing the same thing in “Right America” here? Are you trying to connect people to these very emotional supporters of McCain?
PELOSI: I‘m just trying to hold up a mirror. Because I feel like, when you live where we live in this flaming blue state, you don‘t remember that there are 58 million people in this country—more than 58 million people—that did not want Barack Obama to be their president. And we need to remember that.
Because right now, it feels like, with everything you‘re talking about tonight, it feels like there are two different countries, and we‘re not listening to each other.
And then we get really upset when they oppose everything, you know, Barack Obama tries to do. There are some people that are having a really hard time getting out of bed in the morning, because Barack Obama is their president.
PELOSI: And they—you know, we had the “not my president” bumper stickers on our cars. And now, they have “Nobama” bumper stickers on their cars. And we have such a hard time understanding that there are those people, and they are out there.
And I‘m trying to get my liberal friends just to realize how different it is between New York and Los Angeles.
MADDOW: Well, at one point in the film—and we showed the clip there of the guy with the sign being attacked by the McCain supporter guy.
At one point in the film, Sean Hannity tells a McCain-Palin crowd while he‘s talking to you, he points out that you‘re Nancy Pelosi‘s daughter. And you say kind of jokingly, “Don‘t tell them that. I‘ll get lynched.”
And, you know, people do get very emotional when you‘re interviewing them, and you‘re interviewing them very close up. Did you ever feel physically not OK?
PELOSI: Well, there‘s like a crowd, mob mentality thing when you go to—remember. Now, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to qualify. Who goes to—who are the masses of diehard patriots that are going to stand in line for half a day to see the GOP ticket from the back of the stadium?
MADDOW: Well, thousands and thousands and thousands of people.
PELOSI: Thousands and thousands of people do.
PELOSI: No, but I‘m saying, those are really enthusiastic people.
PELOSI: And these are the people that we‘re talking to.
So, you can imagine what it‘s like for me to walk up and say, “Hi.
I‘m from New York. I‘m from HBO, and my last name is Pelosi.”
PELOSI: You can imagine the look on their face when they heard that.
MADDOW: Folks expressed worries to you that Obama being elected will be the end of Western civilization.
Do you think that‘s just normal caught up in the election, I want my guy to win stuff? Or is there something deeper going on with the anti-Obama feelings?
PELOSI: Well, I think that, you know, we have to remember that we are two distinctly different countries, and we‘re trying to coexist. And it‘s really scary.
MADDOW: I don‘t think we are. I don‘t think we‘re totally...
PELOSI: You don‘t? You‘re such an optimist. That‘s so sweet.
MADDOW: No, I just...
PELOSI: Do you think we‘re going to have world peace?
MADDOW: I believe that whole red state, blue state, United States. Like, I believe that. There‘s a reason we all get goose bumps when we hear that line in Obama‘s stump speech. It‘s not red states and blue states...
PELOSI: You‘re drinking the Obama Kool-Aid.
MADDOW: I‘m not at all. I‘m not at all. I just—I believe in that whole one America thing. I totally believe it.
PELOSI: But I think that you need to take a road trip through the South with me.
MADDOW: I don‘t think that I‘m naive. I just think we‘re...
PELOSI: I wasn‘t thinking of—I‘m just saying, I feel like, when I was standing in Oxford, Mississippi, and the people were saying, “We‘re just not ready. We‘re just not ready,” I felt like I was capturing this artifact, this moment in time, when you know something really big is about to happen, and there are those people.
They‘re just holding on for dear life. Like, “Please, don‘t change.
I like the world the way it is. What‘s wrong with my life the way it is?”
And that‘s what I was trying to show. It‘s like capturing this—like a time capsule. And the people that had, serious (ph), nothing in common with all those crowds that you saw at the Obama rallies, they were saying, “Oh, God. That is not my country. Please, no.”
MADDOW: Yes. There‘s something in common. I believe it. But I loved the film.
Thank you, Alexandra. It‘s nice to see you.
PELOSI: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Alexandra Pelosi‘s new documentary, “Right America: Feeling Wrong,” is very good. And it debuts on HBO this Monday. Watch it, and then have big fights about it.
Nice to see you.
Coming up on COUNTDOWN, how many mistakes can one Republican state chairman make in under a minute when talking about Darwin and Lincoln? Keith tallies them up.
Next on this show, my friend Kent Jones and I launch a new feature called “The Weak in Review,” spelled W-E-A-K. Tomatoes will be thrown.
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