The actual relationship of forces in the American electoral pretense is revealed in the candidates' campaign coffers. Al Sharpton, who will be a significant factor in the Democratic Party primaries because he is certain to pull a huge chunk of the Party's most dependable mass base, has so far collected less money than a fledgling congressional candidate in a small market district.

Until this week, Sharpton treated the Federal Elections Commission like the dentist, claiming he was still "exploring the possibility" of running. On Monday, Sharpton finally filed his papers with the FEC - the last candidate to do so - listing $114,456 in contributions from January through March. Only former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun raised less during the period: $72,450. But who said she was a serious candidate?

Senators John Edwards (NC) and John Kerry (MA) sit atop the Democratic money pile, at $7.4 million and $7 million, respectively.

The symbiosis between corporate media and political finance is all but perfect, allowing the two to function as one organism. Thus, corporate media, knowing where the money is, can declare whomever to be among the "frontrunners," knowing full well that corporate finance will make it so, with media's help, in short order. It is a process so seamless as to appear like a phenomenon of nature - yet totally contrived.

African Americans make up about a quarter of the Democratic electorate. Barring some great misstep, Sharpton can reasonably count on garnering at least half of that bloc. Any white candidate who started out with such a following would be treated as a kingmaker. Tribute would flow from the pockets of those who habitually bestow favors on all the princes of politics. But not Rev. Al, who is shunned as a party-crasher of dubious lineage. Could it be because he is too ... Black?

Yes, and no - mostly yes. Sharpton also does not speak what money wants to hear. By relentlessly insisting in all manner of ways that Sharpton's candidacy is minor, corporate media devalue his campaign, making it appear not worth contributing to. On Tuesday afternoon, for example, a CNN newsreader announced that among Sharpton's contributors were radio's Tom Joyner, Newark Mayor Sharpe James, and New York City police brutality victim Abner Louima. The woman raised her eyebrows and affected bewilderment, as if giving money to Rev. Al were some weird, inexplicable act.

By trifling with the man who is the embodiment of significant Black political sentiment, corporate media and their masters invite Sharpton to play his wild card. Democrats treat black voters like "mistresses," Sharpton told a Georgia audience, recently. "Either we get married, or we're gonna break up and find someone who will respect us," he said.

If rich white Democrats think that's funny, then they should be prepared to laugh it up at the Party's funeral.

Supremacy forever

The other candidate anathema to the rich, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, is also suitably poor. The former chairman of the Progressive Congressional Caucus has raised or borrowed about $180,000. Kucinich jumped into an argument between former Vermont Governor Howard Dean (almost $3 million so far in the campaign) and money front-runner Kerry.

Kerry feigned offense at Dean's statement that the U.S. "won't always have the strongest military." Through a spokesman, Kerry chastised Dean: "No serious candidate for the presidency has ever before suggested that he would compromise or tolerate an erosion of America's military supremacy." Kerry left no footnotes to back up this sweeping statement, and the corporate media demanded none.

Dean, the carefully calibrated Peace-Lite candidate, dispatched his own spokesman: "Governor Dean believes that even the most sophisticated military in the world acting alone cannot eliminate all sleeper terrorist cells, nor should it be called upon to take on every dictator for the purpose of regime change." Both Dean and Kerry think they have a claim on the party's "liberal" wing.

"They're both wrong," said Ohio's Kucinich, who describes himself as "the progressive choice for 2004":

The U.S. military is the strongest in the world by far, and will remain so. But Democrats cannot lead the nation without being strong enough to confront the bloat and waste in the Pentagon budget.

Our military budget is almost as big as that of all other countries combined. While we have unchallenged superiority in military strength, we also have more people without healthcare than any other advanced industrial country - and Democrats must be bold enough to say the two issues are linked.

I don't agree with other Democrats that we can continue to increase military spending, and still deliver on our domestic agenda for middle class and working Americans. We can't. That's voodoo budgeting.

In this campaign, I plan to make a major issue of hometown security - healthcare, jobs and education for all - and misspent Pentagon dollars, even as other Democratic candidates join President Bush in pressing for still more exorbitant military budgets.

Permanent joblessness

Not since World War II has a resident of the White House presided over a national net job loss - and then came George Bush. Three million jobs have disappeared under his reign, as have trillions of dollars in future federal revenues that will be needed to repair the damage. Yet the "lower taxes, more jobs" mantra works wonders on Bush crowds that appear to believe other people's tax cuts will somehow make them richer, despite the evidence of their own bank accounts.

The rich, themselves, make no promises in return for the public's gifts. New investment will not occur, say most corporate planners, until consumers spend more money to buy up sitting inventory. But, thanks very much for the tax cuts.

Under the Bush administration, a growing proportion of the population has become disengaged permanently from the world of work, as reported in the April 27 New York Times.

Over the last two years, the portion of Americans in the labor force - those who are either working or actively looking for work - has fallen 0.9 percentage points to 66.2 percent, the largest drop in almost 40 years.

More than 74.5 million adults were considered outside of the labor force last month, up more than 4 million since March 2001, the Department of Labor says. They are people who fall outside the government's definitions of either employed or unemployed: they do not hold jobs, but they also have not gone out seeking work within the past month.

This group includes retirees and parents who have been home taking care of their children for years, but the surge of dropouts suggests that the jobless rate - which was 5.8 percent last month, roughly where it has been for the past year - offers an artificially sanguine picture of the labor market, many economists say.

Permanent unemployment, impervious to general ups and downs, has long been a defining characteristic of Black America. The "true black male unemployment," writes Dr. Paul Street in this issue of ("How You Gonna Export Something You Ain't Even Got at Home?"), "stood at 38 percent in the mid-1990s when prisoners were factored in."

Those were the "good times" - remember?

Targeting Section 8

With even more fervor than when they first swarmed into Washington following Ronald Reagan's election in 1980, the Hard Right's wrecking crews are dismantling every social support system that smells even faintly of an "entitlement" to the undeserving poor. They pick through the ruins searching for something unbroken to smash. Section 8, the federal housing voucher program that buttresses much of urban America's physical and social architecture, is to be thrown to the states as block grants. Even some southern Republicans are upset.

"We believe that such a proposal could seriously undermine the voucher program and could potentially harm the millions of low-income people assisted with housing vouchers," wrote 42 Senators to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel R. Martinez. Virginia Republicans John Warner and George Allen initiated the letter, but then decided not to send it until they've seen the administration's full plan, according to the April 29 Washington Post.

[A] few outside conservatives have persuaded the White House that Section 8 is out of sync with other social policies for the poor. Howard Husock, a researcher at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government who is affiliated with the conservative Manhattan Institute, called it the "last redoubt of non-time-limited public assistance."

Michael Liu, HUD's assistant secretary for public and Indian housing, said the proposal would not compel states to adopt the main features of the revamped welfare system - time limits and requirements that poor parents get a job - although states could create such rules if they chose.

Liberals say the analogy of housing aid to welfare is misguided. They note that recent HUD figures show that just 13 percent of the households with Section 8 vouchers depend on welfare, while 35 percent get most of their income from jobs and the largest group relies on disability or retirement benefits. "The notion there is this group of people they have to force off of assistance into the workforce is erroneous," said Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. "These are people who have income, but it's insufficient to be able to afford housing in America."

Clearly, the Hard Right would turn Section 8 into a kind of time-limited, "workfare"-type housing program, and then destroy it, entirely.

A little patch of America

In Tulia, Texas, when the local white folks get tired of Blacks in their midst, they have them arrested, en mass. "Deep undercover" narcotics officer Tom Coleman culled Tulia's Black population by about ten percent, one early summer morning four years ago. Thirty-eight of the 46 people arrested by Coleman were convicted, and 21 wound up in prison, where 13 remain, despite the state's decision early last month to join with the defense in asking that all of the convictions in the case be overturned.

Black New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has championed Coleman's 46 victims, refusing to allow the case to disappear from national view. He's still at it:

When the defendants were rounded up in a humiliating series of arrests on July 23, 1999, the police found no guns, no drugs and no money.

The defendants were characterized as major drug dealers and vilified in Tulia's small-town, racially charged environment. Some of the sentences were extraordinarily, cruelly long - 90 years and more.

It has since been shown that Mr. Coleman was a bizarre individual who fingered people who were obviously innocent, scrawled important investigative information on various parts of his body, had been in trouble with the law himself, had once blown out the windshield of a patrol car with a shotgun, had routinely referred to blacks as "niggers," and had a widespread professional reputation as unreliable and untrustworthy.

In short, Tom Coleman was a clown, although a dangerous one. His activities should be thoroughly investigated by competent authorities, and his superiors should be investigated as well.

Amarillo attorney Jeff Blackburn still can't get some of his clients out of jail, despite the authorities' desire to disassociate themselves from former officer Coleman's fictions. "Swisher County is now busy trying to make it seem like they're fine, upstanding people who respect the law." Said Blackburn. "This still doesn't change the fact that there are people in prison out there chopping cotton in the sun because of Tom Coleman." The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals must look at each case before deciding whether to vacate the convictions. One might think that it would a simple matter to arrange bail for the 13 imprisoned Tulia victims, since Coleman has been indicted for perjury and prosecutors want nothing more to do with the matter. "But," as Bob Herbert reminds us, "this is Texas we're talking about."

White mental anguish

It should comes as no surprise that a recent poll shows white Americans don't like the idea of affirmative action, and that they like the actual mechanics of diversity programs even less. It is necessary to make the distinction between ideas and reality, since other polls have also shown that huge numbers of whites believe they have been personally harmed by affirmative action programs, and because such programs have always been much rarer in reality than in white people's imaginations.

A Chronicle of Higher Education survey shows 64 percent of respondents oppose college admission to minority students whose grades and test scores don't meet the level of other applicants. At the same time, 58 percent think that affirmative action is a good thing, in general. The survey did not release figures on the race of respondents, leading to the reasonable conclusion that strong majorities of whites oppose affirmative action, in principle.

In an interview with the Associated Press, David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, attempted to put a patina of reason on white hostility, which he expects to continue, no matter how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the University of Michigan affirmative action case, later this year.

He said Americans have a deeply ingrained sense of fair play and individual rights - and for many, affirmative action doesn't seem fair. "If you feel you've been deprived of something by a process, it is felt very strongly," he said. "And that is an area where universities are struggling."

Ward's statement on American's "deeply ingrained sense of fair play" should have made news around the world - it is certainly news to us.

Two new Black publications

N'COBRA, the National Coalition Of Blacks for Reparations in America, has launched "Black Reparations Times," a new publication to disseminate "timely information on issues related to our struggle for Reparations." N'COBRA is soliciting articles and photos for publication, and volunteers with journalism and sales skills.

The new, Muslim women's magazine Azizah made a big splash in the publishing world, last month, earning lots of "ink" for its mission "to connect Muslim women in North America, while presenting a forum for their voices." The Boston Globe's Vanessa E. Jones was impressed with the "multiracial, multiethnic quarterly by and about 'muslimah,' as Muslim women are called in Arabic."

''What we're doing is reflecting Islam in Muslim-American [terms],'' says Tayyibah Taylor, 50, the magazine's publisher and editor in chief. The woman in this world, she says, is ''powerful because she has the American legacy of freedom .... At the same time she has Islamic legacies of pursuit of knowledge and economy.''

Some women consider Azizah a major advance. Others are horrified by a Muslim magazine touting cover subjects whose smiles and makeup transform them into alluring women -- despite the ''hijabs'' that cover their hair ....

The media plays a role in continuing stereotypes by depicting Muslim women primarily as Arabs - even though statistics from the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations show that most of the 5 to 7 million Muslims in the United States aren't from the Middle East. According to the council, 30 percent are African-American, 33 percent are of South Central Asian descent, and 25 percent are of Arabian descent.

Powell attacked by mad newt

Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich may have spoken out of turn, but he expressed the majority sentiment among the Bush Pirates when he called Colin Powell's State Department a "broken instrument of diplomacy" engaged in a "deliberate and systematic effort to undermine" George Bush's global policies. Gingrich became a suburban Atlanta congressman and Hard Right leader by speaking directly to the most racist, chauvinist elements of white America. From his seat on the Defense Policy Board, a kind of civilian Pirate directorate supporting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his Likudnik henchman Paul Wolfowitz, there is no need for diplomacy in the New American Century. Powell, on the other hand, can be considered the man who travels the world with Vaseline in his attaché case - unnecessary coddling of foreign inferiors, in Gingrich's opinion.

The White House quickly found ways to signal its full confidence in Powell, so as not to ruin his calming international missions while the U.S. military attempts to figure out how to free itself from its Iraqi subjects and move on to more shockingly awesome pursuits than machine-gunning the local Arab PTA, in Falluja.

Gingrich remains a precious resource to the Bush men. The I.R.S. had attempted to build a case of "political money-laundering" against Gingrich for diverting "charitable" contributions meant for an organization called the Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Foundation to the coffers of GOPAC, the hyper-aggressive political action committee he chaired. The Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Foundation was formed in 1984, ostensibly to help inner-city youth, according to a 1997 investigation by the Los Angeles Times. Gingrich paid a $300,000 fine recommended by the House Ethics Committee.

Last week, the IRS quietly reversed itself, conferring tax-exempt status to the Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Foundation and another Gingrich-related "charity." That's about the same time that Gingrich started shooting off his mouth about Powell.

J.C. Watts back in the "picture"

Just to demonstrate that skin color is no bar to Gingrichian ambitions, former Black Oklahoma Republican Congressman J.C. Watts recently took over Gingrich's old job as chairman of GOPAC. In his maiden speech, Watts told a Washington dinner: "My goal is to broaden the reach of my party. Too many Americans live by Republican principles of faith, family, hope and opportunity, but vote for Democrats out of sheer habit."

Watts, whom we described in our July 11 issue as the party's "Picture-Man" due to the necessity to include the lone Black GOP congressman in every group photo, retired last June after five terms on The Hill. "GOPAC will take the lead in reaching into America's diverse communities," he told the moneymen at the Carlton Hotel. "We can't grow our Republican majority without minorities and working men and women."

During the mid-term campaigns, GOPAC was forced to withdraw a political ad targeting Black radio audiences. Cynically masquerading as appeal to reparations sentiments among Blacks - opinions certainly not shared by the GOP - the ad was actually a pitch for privatization of Social Security:

Almost half the married sisters lose their husbands before they rank Social Security spousal benefits. President George Bush proposed reforms that help our community in three ways. First, we get a higher minimum benefit. Second, our women get their fair share in their spouses Social Security. And, third, blacks get retirement accounts with real financial assets. So the next time some Democrat says he won't touch Social Security, ask why he thinks blacks owe reparations to whites?"

Amid much furor, the ad was pulled from broadcast schedules and disavowed by the Republican National Committee.

Doomed occupation

George Bush is getting his wished-for world of "us" and "them" - although in a much more lopsided configuration than he anticipated. America's isolation from mankind proceeds at ever-increasing pace, introducing an irony of the first order: while more and more people speak English as a second language, the Bush men and their corporate media organs make less and less sense. English becomes a window on the closed American world of delusions, where everything is its opposite. (Black folks understand this inverted terrain. That's why we insist that "bad" is actually "good" - our attempt to set things right.)

Those of us positioned directly in front of the corporate megaphones are mercilessly blasted by unreality masquerading as news. On April 29, a typical day in the post-Saddam statue destruction media euphoria, American audiences were led to believe that two Iraq-related events were of utmost importance.

Earth-shaking story number one: the man assigned to the Saddam playing card deck as card #47, whom Pentagon spin masters dubbed "Missile Man," gave himself up to "authorities" in Baghdad. Amer Mohammed Rashid was carrying no missiles, but no matter, it was a great victory for the United States and their Iraqi ... whatevers. (The Pirates have not figured out the proper nomenclature for the "good" Iraqis - a very bad omen for the occupation, and a terrible problem for corporate media copywriters.)

The second transcending event of the day: the Iraqi lawyer that facilitated U.S. Army private Jessica Lynch's rescue from enemy hospital captivity was granted "asylum" in the United States. This beneficent American action proves ... nothing whatsoever of importance.

Way down on the list, and in the order of Wolf Blitzer's CNN story lineup, was the death of 15 Iraqis, shot down outside their neighborhood school by U.S. paratroopers in Falluja.

It is easy - and correct - to conclude that the corporate broadcast media's story ranking is evidence of narcissism run amuck in the American culture, an ugly thing to witness, to be sure. But much more is at work here, since these are the people who would rule the world. It is also written on the faces of their leaders and in the vacuity of their statements that the Pirates are just as self-absorbed and oblivious to the global human environment as their cousins at the malls. They do not understand that the events in Falluja resonate in the consciousnesses of all Iraqis, as they would for Americans under occupation. They cannot figure out how to even describe these events, except to deny that what happened, happened.

That's why there will never be any lastingly "good" Iraqis, just as we saw a blurring parade of good and suddenly not-good-enough Vietnamese puppets and hirelings, many of whom ultimately gained U.S. "asylum."

The Iraqi occupation that is projected to last one, five or ten years will not take hold in any manageable form, and is likely to collapse ahead of many Iraqis' ambitious schedules. The Pirates cannot find a reality to stand on. They might just as well play with their Saddam cards, memorizing the faces of men who no longer matter.

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Issue Number 40
May 1, 2003

Other commentaries in this issue:

Cover Story
"How You Gonna Export Something You Ain’t Even Got At Home?" - By Paul Street

Shock and Awe USA

Treat Corporate Media Like the Enemy - and no free pass for Black radio

Run Black, or don’t run at all... Condoleezza cartoon insults women... Conspiracies of the many against the few... Peace of the Shaman

Guest Commentary
The Lena Baker Story: Execution in a small town - By Lela Bond Phillips

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Commentaries in Issue 39 April 24, 2003:

Cover Story
Conspiracy Theories 2 - The Great Unraveling of U.S. Global Power

Condoleezza The Gatekeeper

What the Black Presidential Candidate Must Do

The Issues
Black frontrunner for Illinois Senate Seat... U.S. Education chief favors church schools... Lucy calls Bush Blacks "ornaments"... The Global Race War

Prison data is understated... The proper time and place for looting... Comparative "Skeeza" analysis... Real and theoretical conspiracies

Guest Commentary
When Major Powers Stage a Coup by Randall Robinson

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.