Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who styles himself as a great moralizer, reached a new low in cynicism last week, announcing a health care proposal that is no such thing, at all. Basing his presidential campaign arithmetic on the fact that more people are afraid of getting cancer (everybody) than the number of uninsured Americans (at least 41 million), the Democratic Leadership Council's champion proposed to search for cures rather than invest in a "big spending" program of universal health care. Lieberman figures that 100 million Americans suffer from "chronic" illnesses such as cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes and heart disease.

"Everybody is going to talk about [insurance] coverage and cost," Lieberman spokesperson Jano Cabrera told the Washington Post. "But we think there is an element that is missing, and that's cures."

Now we know why Lieberman was missing from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees candidates forum in Iowa, earlier this month. AFSCME executives and members were most anxious to question the presidential hopefuls on details of their health plans. Lieberman claimed religious considerations prevented his appearance. Had the corporate shill from Connecticut announced his non-health insurance plan in Des Moines, he would have been booed off the stage.

The Service Employees International Union, the nation's largest, has declared health insurance issue number one. "Our members take care of people, live the problems of the health care system in a way that many other people just periodically see it," said SEIU President Andrew. "Every bargaining that we've had, from janitors to workers to nursing home workers, is about maintaining health care, not about significantly raising wages."

In this kind of crowd, Lieberman can't hang.

To have and have not

It's official, again. African Americans are the poorest group in the United States. New U.S. Census figures show that Native Americans are slightly less poor than Blacks, Hispanics marginally better off. Asians and Pacific Islanders, meanwhile, are more affluent than whites. Here's the breakdown:

People in poverty

Blacks 8,059,000 (22.6%)
American Indian/Alaskan Native 726,000 (22.5%)
Hispanic 7,872,000 (21.5%)
Whites 14,819,000 (11.5%)
Asian/Pacific Islander 1,266,000 (10.1%)

Which proves that seniority means nothing in America, unless one deducts life-chances points based on time spent under oppression on U.S. soil - a perverse kind of group demerit system. Nowhere in the poverty numbers would the braying racists who beat Blacks with the humiliated body of Jayson Blair find any evidence of white privilege in the American racial scheme of things.

We commend anti-racist activist Tim Wise for a succinct definition of "the essence of white privilege: the privilege to rise or fall without implicating your group in the process or calling into question the mechanisms that brought you to your current station." Wise expanded on the theme in an excellent Znet column, "Inventing Jason Blair: Reflections on White Privilege and Hypocrisy " - so good a piece that we excerpted a large chunk of it:

The most pathetic thing about the Blair incident is this: to an awful lot of whites--and certainly the zombified denizens of talk radio--this scandal proves that blacks are somehow getting opportunities they don't deserve; that racial preference has turned the notion of merit selection upside down. Yet they fail to acknowledge the reality that whites continue to get far more jobs, irrespective of actual ability, than people of color do.

According to the National Center for Career Strategies, more than 85 percent of all jobs are filled by word-of-mouth as opposed to merit-based competition through open advertising. What's more, nine in ten executives got their jobs through networking. So just who do we think are the folks in these networks, and who are those persons disproportionately left out? To ask the question is to answer it.

Studies for years have found that employers tend to prefer hiring people who remind them of themselves, and that too often they make judgments about merit and ability that are less about talent than their comfort level with the potential hire: a comfort level heavily influenced by race. Once again, just who do we think benefits from this form of subtle racism, and who is harmed? And once again, to ask the question is to answer it.

And finally, a recent study found that when resumes of equally-qualified job applicants are sent to employers, those with white sounding names are fifty percent more likely to get called in for an interview than those with black-sounding names. So who's getting preference?

At the end of the day, white America may delude itself into believing that Jayson Blair is the epitome of racial preference run amok, but until we clean out our own stables, filled as they are with liars, cheats, and a plethora of incompetents, we might want to avoid any and all mirrors for a while.

In case you didn't figure it out, Mr. Wise is a white guy.

Famine as a sales opportunity

George Bush, the real Republican, outdoes Joseph Lieberman, the wannabe Republican, in mastery of shamelessness. In a May 22 speech, Bush claimed that Europeans are at fault for hunger in Africa, having frightened the gullible Blacks into fearing American genetically modified (GM) seeds. "By widening the use of new high-yield bio-crops and unleashing the power of markets, we can dramatically increase agricultural productivity and feed more people across the continent," Bush said. "Yet, our partners in Europe are impeding this effort. They have blocked all new bio-crops because of unfounded, unscientific fears."

Bush gave not a nod to the possibility that Africans might have their own reasons to avoid U.S. corporate seeds, including permanent dependence on American agribusiness and loss of opportunities to sell their crops in Europe, where (GM) foods are restricted. Africans also distrust corporate bio-magic which, more than anything else, is designed to turn food into dollars, regardless of ecological or human health consequences.

For the sake of Republican donors in agribusiness, the President managed to demean Africans as ignorant and insult the sensibilities of European consumers, who demand that their governments keep (GM) products out of their continent.

Salesmanship masquerades as statesmanship, and Americans can't tell the difference.

Redlinining the greenback

Europeans are having the last laugh, as their euro currency rides to new highs against the dollar. Administration economists attempt to put the best light on the dollar's now-chronic decline, claiming that this is a good thing for U.S. exports - as if the plunge were planned. In reality, the dollar has been further destabilized by the Bush men's offensive against international order. The global redlining of America that we have often referred to in these pages, is being felt. Since the underlying weaknesses of the United States, long obscured through the collaborative actions of other nations, cannot be fixed by force of arms, Washington must hope that international monetary markets will rescue the dollar by buying up huge amounts of them. When that fails to decisively occur, we will have entered a new phase in the Pirate's unraveling.

At some date in a future that may be closer than we think, yet beyond the capacity of delusional white supremacists to contemplate, there will be a reckoning. A nation impoverished and broken by its own pillaging Pirates in suits will be presented with a sea of indictments for crimes against humanity.

The European Parliament has already seen video evidence of U.S. Special Forces complicity in the murder of at least 3,000 Afghan and Pakistani Taliban prisoners.

"Afghanistan Massacre: Convoy of Death" is journalism at its most dangerous, since the criminals that are unmasked in acts of unspeakable horror are uniformed hit men of the superpower. Too powerful for American television, Democracy Now! premiered the one-hour documentary May 23. To view it, click here:

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Issue Number 44
May 29, 2003

Other commentaries in this issue:

Cover Story
Who Killed Black Radio News?

Like Father ... Like Son

The last word on Jayson Blair... Victory declared for Danny Glover... Harvard not full of house Negroes

Dad's Diploma: Overcoming Injustice by Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC), Guest Commentator

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Commentaries in Issue 43 May 22, 2003:

Cover Story
Permanent War and "The Color Line" - Iraq on the 100th anniversary of the Souls of Black Folk

The Morality Csar's New Clothes

Bush cuts deeper into affirmative action... Call for a New Civil Rights Movement... Poor Clarence Thomas feels rejected

Blair/NYT reader response... The dollar’s inevitable slide... Malcolm’s urgent message

The Blair Affair: A Punishing Bias by Pamela Newkirk, Guest Commentator

Fault Blair and The Times, Not Affirmative Action by Amos Jones, Guest Commentator

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