Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wall Street Greed & Exploitation vs. the American People


Hold on to your hats everybody--we haven't seen anything yet! Can Government nationalization and stringent hardcore regulation of banks and financial institutions be far behind? WE CAN ONLY HOPE...or finally wake up and demand it...


Obama Calls Wall Street Bonuses ‘Shameful’
January 29, 2009
New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Obama branded Wall Street bankers “shameful” on Thursday for giving themselves nearly $20 billion in bonuses as the economy was deteriorating and the government was spending billions to bail out some of the nation’s most prominent financial institutions.

Obama: Now Not The Time for Bonuses

CNBC coverage of a press conference with President Obama, in which he called Wall Street's $20 billion in bonuses this year 'shameful,' considering that the same firms have been receiving government rescue money.

“There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses,” Mr. Obama said during an appearance in the Oval Office with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. “Now’s not that time. And that’s a message that I intend to send directly to them, I expect Secretary Geithner to send to them.”

It was a pointed — if calculated — flash of anger from the president, who frequently railed against excesses in executive compensation on the campaign trail. He struck his populist tone as he confronted the possibility of having to ask Congress for additional large sums of money, beyond the $700 billion already authorized, to prop up the financial system, even as he pushes Congress to move quickly on a separate economic stimulus package that could cost taxpayers as much as $900 billion.

This week alone, American companies reported as many as 65,000 job cuts, and public anger is rising over reports of profligate spending by banks and investment firms that are receiving help from the $700 billion bailout fund. About half of that money is still available, but the new administration has yet to announce how it will use it, and many analysts think it will take far more to stabilize the banking system.

Should Mr. Obama have to go to Congress to seek more money for the bailout fund to avert the failure of more banks, he would most likely encounter opposition within both parties and demands for tighter restrictions on pay for executives of institutions that receive government assistance.

Mr. Geithner has already signaled a willingness to impose stricter compensation limits as part of a revamped approach to dealing with the banking crisis, but with his strong words on Thursday, Mr. Obama seemed intent on reassuring Congress and the public that he would step up the pressure on bankers before granting them additional assistance.

Mr. Obama was reacting to a report by the New York State comptroller that found financial executives had received an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for 2008, less than for the previous several years but the same level of bonuses as they received in 2004, when times were flush.

“That is the height of irresponsibility,” Mr. Obama said. “It is shameful. And part of what we’re going to need is for the folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility.”

The Obama administration and lawmakers have begun to consider ways to control executive pay; the bailout fund, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, would be the main vehicle for exerting such control. The administration of former President George W. Bush issued guidelines last October to try to control executive pay at companies receiving government help, but so far they have done little to curb large salaries.

During his confirmation hearings, Mr. Geithner said the administration is preparing rules that would require executives at companies receiving taxpayer money to agree that any compensation above a certain amount — he did not specify how much — be “paid in restricted stock or similar form” that could not be liquidated or sold until the government had been repaid.

Some lawmakers, meanwhile, have said they are considering so-called “clawback” provisions that could be invoked by the government to take back bonuses and executive pay from officials at companies that encountered problems.

In the meantime, public outrage is already forcing some companies to rein in their lavish spending. John A. Thain, the former Merrill Lynch executive who was forced out of Bank of America, said this week he would reimburse Bank of America for an expensive renovation of his office that included an $87,000 area rug and $35,000 commode.

But it took the urging of the Obama administration to force Citigroup, which received an infusion of taxpayer funds last year, to abandon plans to buy a $50 million corporate jet. On Thursday, Mr. Obama made reference to the jet, without singling out Citigroup by name; his remarks came one day after the president met at the White House with business leaders, including Richard D. Parsons, the new chairman of Citigroup.

On Capitol Hill, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, issued his own warning on Thursday, saying companies would be summoned to testify if taxpayer money was involved.

“Whether it was used directly or indirectly, this infuriates the American people and rightly so,” Mr. Dodd said. “So I say to anyone else who does it, if you do it, I’m going to bring you before the committee.”

There is also political pressure to rein in pay in industries beyond banks and investment firms. The pressure reflects the substantial disparities between pay increases for senior executives, the low rate of wage growth for workers and the frequent disconnect between compensation and the long-term strategic success or failure of corporations.

Mr. Obama’s message on Thursday was reinforced by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who pledged in an interview with CNBC and The New York Times that the government would spend the remaining $350 billion of the troubled assets money “wisely and prudently and transparently.”

Mr. Biden said that he, like the president, was outraged by reports of large bonuses going to Wall Street executives.

“I’d like to throw these guys in the brig,” he said. “They’re thinking the same old thing that got us here, greed. They’re thinking, ‘Take care of me.’ ”

John Harwood contributed reporting.

Equal Pay for Equal Work--Attacking Sexism at its Economic Source


Very good news as President Obama overturns reactionary, sexist 2007 Supreme Court ruling upholding pay discrimination against women and signs equal pay bill. AmerThis legislation was well overdue for many years and it demonstrates what genuine power any President has to actually protect and defend the real interests of working people if he chooses to...

Needless to say this truly progressive decision on Obama's part goes under the category that I mentioned yesterday of that citizen activism that "will actively support and prop up what needs to be supported"...


Obama Signs Equal-Pay Legislation

President Obama signed his first bill into law on Thursday, approving the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law named for Ms. Ledbetter, fourth from left, an Alabama woman who at the end of a 19-year career as a supervisor in a tire factory complained that she had been paid less than men.

Published: January 29, 2009
New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Obama signed his first bill into law on Thursday, approving equal-pay legislation that he said would “send a clear message that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody.”

Mr. Obama was surrounded by a group of beaming lawmakers, most but not all of them Democrats, in the East Room of the White House as he affixed his signature to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law named for an Alabama woman who at the end of a 19-year career as a supervisor in a tire factory complained that she had been paid less than men.

After a Supreme Court ruling against her, Congress approved the legislation that expands workers’ rights to sue in this kind of case, relaxing the statute of limitations.

“It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — we are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness,” the president said.

He said was signing the bill not only in honor of Ms. Ledbetter — who stood behind him, shaking her head and clasping her hands in seeming disbelief — but in honor of his own grandmother, “who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up again” and for his daughters, “because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams.”

The ceremony, and a reception afterward in the State Dining Room of the White House, had a celebratory feel. The East Room was packed with advocates for civil rights and workers rights; the legislators, who included House and Senate leaders and two moderate Republicans — Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine — shook Mr. Obama’s hand effusively (some, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, received presidential pecks on the cheek) as he took the stage. They looked over his shoulder, practically glowing, as Mr. Obama signed his name to the bill, using one pen for each letter.

“I’ve been practicing signing my name very slowly,” Mr. Obama said wryly, looking at a bank of pens before him. He handed the first pen to the bill’s chief sponsor, Senator Barbara Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland, and the last to Ms. Ledbetter.

The ceremony also marked First Lady Michelle Obama’s policy debut; she spoke afterward in a reception in the State Dining Room, where she called Ms. Ledbetter “one of my favorite people.”

Mr. Obama told Ms. Ledbetter’s story over and over again during his campaign for the White House; she spoke frequently as an advocate for him during his campaign, and made an appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Now 70, Ms. Ledbetter discovered when she was nearing retirement that her male colleagues were earning much more than she was. A jury found her employer, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in Gadsden, Ala., guilty of pay discrimination. But in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court threw out the case, ruling that she should have filed her suit within 180 days of the date that Goodyear first paid her less than her peers.

Congress tried to pass a law that would have effectively overturned the decision while President George W. Bush was still in office, but the White House opposed the bill; opponents contended it would encourage lawsuits and argued that employees could delay filing their claims in the hope of reaping bigger rewards. But the new Congress passed the bill, which restarts the six-month clock every time the worker receives a paycheck .

Ms. Ledbetter will not see any money as a result of the legislation Mr. Obama signed into law. But what she has gotten, aside from celebrity, is personal satisfaction, as she said in the State Dining Room after the signing ceremony.

“Goodyear will never have to pay me what it cheated me out of,” she said. “In fact, I will never see a cent. But with the president’s signature today I have an even richer reward.”

January 29, 2009
First Lady in Her First Public-Policy Role

Michelle Obama stepped into the public-policy spotlight as first lady for the first time on Thursday, hailing a new law that will give women greater power to challenge sex discrimination in the workplace.

Standing below a portrait of Lincoln in the State Dining Room of the White House, Mrs. Obama described pay equity as “a top and critical priority for women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, older women, younger women, women with disabilities and their families.’’

Mrs. Obama said the legislation, which was signed into law by President Obama on Thursday, symbolized her commitment and her husband’s to ensure that policies are put in place to “help women and men balance their work and family obligations without putting their jobs or their economic security at risk.

Mrs. Obama’s comments marked her first public appearance since she moved into the White House with her family last week. She stood in a purple power suit alongside Lilly M. Ledbetter, a supervisor at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in Alabama.

Ms. Ledbetter became a cause célèbre among advocates for women when the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that she was not entitled to compensation even though she received much smaller raises over several years than men in comparable positions at her plant.

The new law overturns that Supreme Court decision, which made it much harder for employees to challenge unlawful pay discrimination based on gender, race, age and disability.

Mrs. Obama and Ms. Ledbetter appeared together during the presidential campaign. And on Thursday, they stood together again before a crowd that included the cheering, clapping members of 150 advocacy organizations that had pressed for the law.

“I know that my daughters and granddaughters and your daughters and granddaughters will have a better deal,’’ Ms. Ledbetter said. “That’s what makes this fight worth fighting.”

Mrs. Obama has said that she plans to focus on supporting working parents and military families.

Friday, January 30, 2009



Please note that directly following the printed copy of President Obama's inauguration speech below there is a comprehensive ideological and political analysis of Obama's speech by leftist political journalist and historian Paul Street, who has written an important new book entitled "Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics" (Paradigm Press, 2008), as well as my own critical assessment of Street's analysis...



History is made as first black President is sworn in

Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States and the nation's first ever black president on January 20, 2009. This is a transcript of his historic speech:

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the Presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concordand Gettysburg; Normandyand Khe Sahn.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that Americais a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraqto its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America."

(End of speech)


Paul Street is the author of an excellent new book about Obama entitled "Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics" (Paradigm Press, 2008). While Street's incisive ideological critique of Obama is both timely and important in a number of ways I hope he and many others don't forget that it won't be nearly enough in and of itself to simply attack Obama's obvious individual political flaws, weaknesses, blindspots, and inadequacies and simply leave it at that. Individual moral and ideological outrage--however justified-- is one thing. HOWEVER, organized mass struggle both for specific alternatives, values, and ideas as well as against specific policies, positions, actions, and directives is quite another---and both are far more necessary and difficult both in the short and long term to say the least than rhetorical critique alone.

In that same light I also hope that Street and many other progressives and radicals from the Left in this country don't generally get mired down in merely taking rhetorical potshots at Obama and his administration while neglecting to do the kind of intense, arduous, and systematic political organizing, education, and mobilization at the grassroots level--as the American Left so often fails to do-- that cries out to be done at this particularly opportune and dangerous moment in American history when the global capitalist crisis is at one of its periodic heights. Certainly we can and should acknowledge the highly significant fact (and give intelligent credit where it is surely due!) that Obama himself clearly recognized this necessity in his own campaign for the Presidency and succeeded brilliantly in many creative, disciplined, and highly imaginative ways that the American Left still desperately needs to learn how to do on its own behalf. After all merely pointing out that President Obama--like all American Presidents-- is (gasp!) a charter member of the "ruling class" in the United States is a rather facile Homer Simpson-like observation ("DOH!") in the final analysis and ultimately doesn't tell us much if anything about how we, the People, are to seriously address, deal with, and critically engage this highly obvious fact and many others in genuine political and ideological terms as far as our own collective activity as citizens are concerned.

No, I'm afraid we've all got a lot more work cut out for us than simply telling ourselves over and over again what we already know or smugly "believe.". Deciding exactly what to do--and how to do it (strategically, tactically, and in broad visionary terms)--in response to the massive tasks facing all of us is the real, profound challenge looming before us all. That challenge--and opportunity--can't and should never be reduced just to what we think President Obama is or is not doing at any given time. Rather we need to do the kind of serious, disciplined, and creative work on the issues, concerns, agendas, and possibilities ourselves that will actively support and prop up what needs to be supported, critique and oppose that which needs to be opposed, and always fight for more than what we are being asked to "settle for." That mature approach to political, ideological, and cultural activity will require us to take a number of useful pages from even Obama's administrative and policy playbook(s) and simultaneously go far beyond them. That won't be nearly as easy as simply taking Barack to task for his own personal allegiance to "bourgeois, nationalist, and imperial canons" in American politics, but it will provide us as citizens of the Republic with a truly mature and dynamic template for constantly struggling for and ultimately winning (and then fighting still again and again) the ongoing battles for true mass democracy in this society. We can't afford to do any less--whether Obama is the President or not. Since he is the President, let's honestly acknowledge just who and what he really is and isn't--both positively and negatively in time honored dialectical style--and act accordingly...


Barack Obama's Not-So Non-Ideological Inaugural Address

Wednesday, 28 January 2009
by Paul Street

The new president dismisses "ideology" in order to promote his own brand of neo-liberalism. He is a partisan in the corporate war-against-all who slimes the opposition as purveyors of "dogma," "stale" ideas and "tired" recriminations, a proponent of government "that works" who never addresses the question, "for whom?" Obama blames the current crisis on a "collective failure" of the people, a form of "vicious victim-blaming" that suggests "the country's broad populace shares equal responsibility with the investor class for the nation's dire economic straits."

Barack Obama's Not-So Non-Ideological Inaugural Address
by Paul Street

"Set thine house in order" - 2 Kings, chapter 20, verse

The Obama administration makes a very big point of claiming to be above and beyond "ideology." It's all about the "pragmatic" goal of "getting things done" with no particular "ideological" axe to grind.

"Ideological" approaches and divisions are from the dysfunctional bad old days, before the new president wiped the slate clean and started History anew.

Like his previous famous speeches [1], however, Barack Obama's somewhat leaden Inaugural Address last Tuesday was chock full of, well, ideology. It was loaded with customary bourgeois, nationalist and imperial canon and colored by the power elite's standard crackpot history, suggesting that The One is another ruling class politician. Let's take a closer look at Obama's latest grand oration.

Bush's "Service to Our Nation"

Obama started by thanking ex-President George W. Bush "for his service to our nation." I doubt there was any way for Obama to avoid this, but the fact remains that George Bush II was and remains an especially egregious arch-offender. He viciously exploited 9/11 to greatly further the upward concentration of wealth and power and to shred civil liberties at home and abroad. He launched a monumentally illegal and immoral war of aggression on thoroughly false and concocted pretexts.

It is a great disgrace that the Congress in which Obama served did not act on their constitutional duty to have impeached and removed Bush and Dick Cheney for crimes against humanity, international law, and U.S. law.

Obama's expressed reluctance to investigate and prosecute the Bush administration's transgressions is applauded by dominant media as an example of his desire to "heal the nation" and "look forward, not backwards." But it does not bode well for his responsible utilization of the imperial presidency's awesome powers. At the same time, meaningful healing and reconciliation require acknowledgement of - and real consequences for - terrible crimes.

"The Ideals of Our Forebears"

In times of crisis, Obama said, "America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents."

Not really. A vast literature and empirical record shows that "our" founders and their documents were quite explicitly authoritarian. They were harshly classist (as well as racist and sexist) on the whole, deeply convinced (in accord with the dominant bourgeois-republican ideology of their time) that the poor and property-less majority posed grave threats to civilized order and good government. The early American Republic 's well-propertied architects (many of whom were slave owners) believed that, as John Jay put it, the people who own the country should run it. They set up an elaborate constitutional mechanism to keep popular governance and the "rabble" (the majority of the citizenry) at bay. Real democracy was the Founding Fathers' worst nightmare.

Peoples' movements - the labor movement, the abolitionist movement, the farmers' movement, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, and the peace movement, for example - subsequently enriched, expanded and (really) created American democracy from the bottom up.

"Our Nation is at War"

"That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood," Obama said. "Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred."

Where's the "war?" It's in Iraq , Afghanistan , and (most recently) Gaza. And it's a very one-sided imperial and U.S.-imposed affair. Its main victims are civilian Arabs, Pashtuns, and (more broadly) Muslims who have done nothing to the American people.

It's not over here. "At war" Americans aren't dodging IEDS and sniper fire and F-16s and Blackhawk Attack Helicopters on their way to work, school, and shopping center. They haven't been displaced from their homes like millions of Iraqis. They have been encouraged to carry on with private lives of work, family, entertainment, and mass consumerism while U.S. military masters conduct wars of occupation without meaningful popular consultation.

"The U.S. military constitutes the planet's leading 'far-reaching network of violence and hatred.'"

Just a small and disproportionately working-class share of the U.S. population provides soldiers for the nation's bloody colonial wars through the "All Volunteer" Armed Forces. If the U.S. government tried to make military "service" mandatory for young adults across the socioeconomic spectrum it would encounter considerable popular resistance.

The "far-reaching network of [Islamic] violence and hatred" is largely a U.S. creation. It is critically fueled (and was in fact originally financed) by the United States'longstanding petro-imperial presence in the oil-rich Middle East - a presence that is intimately related back to the mass consumerism that induces Americans to devour global resources on a spectacular scale. As far as much of the world - the Muslim world especially - is concerned (with good reason), the U.S. military (replete with more than 730 bases located across more than 130 countries) constitutes the planet's leading "far-reaching network of violence and hatred."

"Our Collective Failure"

"Our economy is badly weakened," Obama said, "a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age."

This statement evades the special agency and culpability of the financial elite. Of course all citizens should work to create "a new [economic] age." But it shades into vicious victim-blaming to suggest that the country's broad populace shares equal responsibility with the investor class for the nation's dire economic straits. The U.S. working- and lower-class majority possesses less than negligible power when it comes to the the direction, of "our [corporate-managed state-capitalist] economy," in which the top 1 percent owns 40 percent of the wealth and 57 percent of all claims on wealth.

Our Wonderful "Free Market Capitalism" at Work

"Homes have been lost;" Obama whined on Tuesday, "jobs shed; businesses shuttered."

Has the "progressive" and highly educated and intelligent young president (recently praised by left-liberal journalist John Nichols for "know[ing] not just the rough outlines of the left-labor-liberal-progressive agenda, but the specifics") [2] studied the history and nature of the profits system --- of the so-called "free market capitalism" he repeatedly aligned himself with during the presidential campaign and in his 2006 campaign book The Audacity of Hope?

If he has then surely he knows that capitalism does all this and more (worse) over and over again. It sheds and shreds jobs, people, communities, livable ecology, and democracy by its very essence, militantly opposed to human need and social health. It's the nature of the beast.

Missing Deeper Points on Health Care

"Our health care," Obama added, "is too costly." But whose health care, exactly, is too dear? America's 2.5 million millionaires and the rest of the nation's rich easily afford the best medical services ever while more than 47 million Americans lack basic medical coverage and hundreds of millions struggle with (yes) overly expensive (and often inadequate) care.

The deeper problems are that "our health care" is too corporate, too private, too commodified, and too unequal. It is absurdly allotted primarily through the job market, making it a major contributor to both unemployment and overwork. It is placed under the cost-fueling control of bloated private insurance companies to whom Obama has pledged a powerful "seat at the table" of "health care reform."

High quality health care can and should be provided for free to all on an equal basis by the government. Reflecting his deep corporate captivity, Obama refuses to advance the most effective democratic and cost-saving health care solution: single-payer national insurance.

"Unity" Over "Conflict and Discord"

"On this day," Obama said last Tuesday, "we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord."

Citizens beware! The elevation of "unity" over "conflict and discord" is rife with authoritarian meaning. Democracy brings "conflict and discord." Those who believe in popular and participatory governance should hardly welcome neo-Bonapartist rulers who claim to rise above supposedly harmful "ideological" and partisan divisions to abolish "discord and conflict," inducing (ex-) citizens to close their mouths and minds.

"On this day," the new president elaborated, "we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

More democratic danger here. Obama did not specify precisely what he meant by "recriminations" and "worn out dogmas." Still, we can safely conclude from his past rhetorical record that he includes "radical" and "Marxist" notions of a core conflict between the working and lower-class Many, on one hand, and the rich and powerful Few (his leading sponsors) on the other. And that's a problem, for democracy disappears when that supposedly "worn out" conflict is removed from the spectrum of acceptable debate.

"The Greatness of Our Nation"

"In reaffirming the greatness of our nation," Obama said, "we understand that greatness is never a given." But what is so "great" about our nation? We are 4 percent of the world's population but consume a quarter of the planet's resources, with disastrous environmental consequences at home and abroad. "We":

* have the most unequal distribution of wealth in the industrialized world.

* were founded and grew largely on a basis of genocide and mass enslavement, terrible crimes with deep prices we continue to deny and cloak.

* lead the world in terms of mass incarceration, disproportionately imposed like so much else that is bad in American life on blacks and Latinos.

* afflict African-Americans with a national median-household wealth-gap of seven black cents on the white dollar and with numerous interrelated forms of institutional racism even as the nation celebrates Obama's election as a symbol of its transcendence of racial bigotry.

* account for nearly half the world's military spending, a great drag on our social and spiritual health.

And "we" seem chillingly incapable of acknowledging our crimes past and present. Even the "antiwar" and great liberal hope Obama, for example, will not admit that the invasion of Iraq was criminal and immoral or that it has led to the deaths of more than a million Iraqis. He has never criticized the occupation as anything worse than a "dumb war," a "strategic blunder." Last year (in Janesville, Wisconsin) he even campaigned on the notion that the U.S. was spending too much money helping Iraq instead of the U.S. [3]

Consistent with his claim (to CNN's Candy Crowley last summer) that the U.S. should NOT apologize for its crimes (since the U.S. is obviously what he called "a force for good in the world"), moreover, Obama has refused to call even the Vietnam War - the vicious U.S. assault that ended 2-3 million Indochinese lives between 1962 and 1975 - anything worse than a "mistake." He even argued (in the foreign policy chapter of The Audacity of Hope) that "the greatest casualty of that [Vietnam] war was the bond of trust between the American people and their government" (p.287) --- as if the deaths of millions of Indochinese and 58,000 U.S. GIs were secondary and as if popular American skepticism towards the designs of the U.S. foreign policy establishment isn't a sign of democratic health.

There is an intimate relationship between America 's failure to admit its transgressions abroad and its denial of savage disparities and oppressions at home. U.S. political culture's doctrinal faith in the United States' "exceptional" magnificence feeds American's inability to acknowledge its criminality on the global stage.

Like imperial presidents of the past, Obama cannot let go of the standard and dangerous national-narcissist mantra: "We are Good, We are Great."

"For Us They Fought and Died in Khe Sanh"

Midway through his speech, Obama announced an interesting perspective on the great prior sacrifices that produced "the greatness of our nation." According to the new president:

"Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. ...It has as been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom."

"For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life."

"For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth."

"For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh."

"Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction."

Here Obama strangely wove the savage racial oppression of slavery ("endured the lash of the whip") together with European immigration, American frontier settlement (involving the genocidal removal and slaughter of millions of indigenous people - a detail he omits), industrial labor exploitation ("toiled in the sweatshops"), the American Revolution ("Concord"), the Civil War ("Gettysburg"), World War II ("Normandy"), and the U.S-colonial War on Vietnam (the battle of Khe Sanh took place in illegally invaded South Vietnam in 1968) as part of a patriotic storyline wherein hard-working patriots pulled together across divisions of race, class, and party to selflessly create liberty and abundance for future generations of their fellow Americans.

This is sheer Orwellian nonsense. It falsely imposes a retrospectively virtuous tale of shared national "service" and commonality back on the pervasive possessive-individualist selfishness, rampant imperial hubris and savage racism and classism behind the founding and often murderous settlement (conquest) of the country, the brutal exploitation of slaves and garment workers, and the rapacious execution of a bloody and expansionist foreign policy. Are we really supposed to honor the ferocious high-tech Superpower assault on the peasant nation of Vietnam - an imperial onslaught that significantly undermined U.S. economic strength by the way - as some sort of noble moment (along with two and half centuries of black chattel slavery) in the selfless creation of contemporary "prosperity" through the ruggedly righteous labor of anonymous toilers embodying the spirit of the Protestant Work Ethic? [4]

Beyond Good Government

"What the cynics fail to understand," Obama claimed, "is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified."

Here our new President approached but fell short of a real insight. Beneath the battle between so-called "free market" and supposedly anti-government (laissez-faire) "conservatives" on the right and more "pro-government" liberals and progressives on the left lay a deeper conflict between those who want the state to work for the privileged Few and those who want it work for the common good of the working- and lower-class Many.

Today as in previous periods of American state capitalism, nobody's actually against government per se. It's not just about "good government" (a "government that works"). The real question is whose class interest government is going to serve.

But then this is a supposedly "ideological" point raised mainly by people who hold what the "realistic" corporate-neoliberal Obama team considers a "stale" perspective, full of the tired old "recrimination" that lay at the heart of "outworn" class-struggle "dogma."

An Issue Not Before Us": The Goodness of "The Market"

"Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill," Obama proclaimed.

Many good Americans beg to differ. I, for one, agree with the left U.S. economist and visionary Mike Albert, who speaks for many progressives' observations and experience when he notes that:

"Markets are a no-confidence vote on the social capacities of the human mobilize our creative capacities largely by arranging for other people to threaten our livelihoods and by bribing us with the lure of luxury beyond what others have and beyond what we know we deserve. They feed the worst forms of individualism and egoism. And to top off their anti-social agenda, markets munificently reward those who are the most cut-throat and adept at taking advantage of their fellow citizens, and penalize those who insist on pursuing the golden rule...Mutual concern, empathy, and solidarity have little or no usefulness in market economies, so they atrophy." [5]

I also agree with Laurence Shoup, who observed last summer that Obama's campaign trail declarations of "love" for the market "failed to note that the market loves and rewards those who already have money and power, not those lacking these advantages. To say that you ‘love the market' is akin," Shoup added, "to saying that you love the ruling class (the top 1 percent of the population that controls 20 percent of the country's income and nearly 40 percent of the country's wealth) and do not care about the great majority (the 60 percent of the population that controls only 25 percent of the income and 5 percent of the wealth). To say ‘I love the market' - at a time when the financial system is deflating because of decades of lies about how great unregulated markets are which fueled rampant speculation, phony valuations, and deceitful assurances - is to be deaf to the reality of how powerful interests are protected by the government while everyone gets a lecture on personal responsibility. ‘Change we could believe in,' would involve confronting the perversity of market-driven capitalism...." [6]

The market's "goodness" - along with the virtue of the market's tyrannical Frankenstein creation The Corporation - must be "a question before us."

"We are Ready to Lead Once More"

"As for our common defense" the new head of the American Empire proclaimed Tuesday. "Our founding fathers' ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other people and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born, know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and children who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more."

Obama left it to "ideological" others to point out that America follows in the footsteps of past global powers by covering its imperial ambitions and agendas with flowery claims of special benevolent and idealistic credentials and intent. Be that as it may, the U.S. is widely perceived - with good reason - as an enemy of the peace and dignity (and democracy and justice) sought by billions, including the Iraqis (victims of a murderous U.S. occupation Obama has depicted as an expression of America's excessively "good intentions"), the Afghan people (victims of repeated U.S. civilian slaughters for which Obama says the U.S. should NOT apologize), and the Palestinians (on whose fate President-elect Obama was deafeningly and damningly silent). Do the children and families of Gaza and of Afghan villages (the latter are on the wrong end of what Obama considers Bush II's "good" and "proper" war) "we" have unapologetically pulverized in the name of freedom "seek a future of peace and dignity?"

"Ready to lead once more"? The avowed Christian Obama (who said Tuesday that the U.S. must "lead" through "the force of our example") might want to take a closer look at the imperial "homeland." Reflecting on its rising U.S. unemployment, poverty (destitution for some), desperation, incarceration, madness, and inequality, he could consult "Scripture's" (his term) call to "Set thine house in order" (2 Kings, chapter 20, verse 1) before talking so boldly about America "leading" others.

The repair of broken societies and the fixing of failed states begin at home.

"We Will Not Apologize for Our Way of Life"

Claiming that "we are the keepers" of earlier U.S. policymakers' "legacy" of "prudent" "humility and restraint," Obama said that "We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan....We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

Here Obama proclaimed his buy-in with the false and bankrupt notion that Islamic terrorists assaulted the U.S. because of their hatred for " America 's" supposedly democratic "way of life," NOT because of the United States ' provocative imperial conduct in the Middle East [7]

The phrase "inducing terror and slaughtering innocents" refers to 9/11 and other moments of extremist Islamic terror against the West. It makes no intended reference to leading U.S. client state Israel's recent "mass slaughter of defenseless civilians trapped in a tiny cage [Gaza] with nowhere to flee" (Noam Chomsky [8]). A good "friend of Israel [‘s brutal policies]," Obama has been shockingly but predictably silent on that horrific crime, conducted with U.S. military technology and under U.S. "diplomatic" cover. "We" are not determined to "outlast" and "defeat" the apartheid and occupation state of our close ally Israel.

"Obama proclaimed his buy-in with the false and bankrupt notion that Islamic terrorists assaulted the U.S. because of their hatred for ‘America 's' supposedly democratic ‘way of life.'"

Obama reasserted his disastrous commitment to deepening the imperial quagmire in Afghanistan, an ill-conceived adventure as illegal as the War on Iraq.

Obama's commitment to "begin to responsibly leave" Mesopotamia is loaded with qualification. "Beginning to leave" is not leaving. The caveat of "responsible" departure leaves room for staying when Superpower determines (as seems likely) that "circumstances on the ground" - e.g. "excessive internal violence" and/or "Iranian influence" (imagine) and/or broader Middle Eastern "instability" - mandate continued significant U.S. military presence for an indeterminate time.

"Apologize" or not, the U.S. does need to drastically change its corporate-coordinated mass-consumerist "way of life" both for the sake of livable ecology and in order to reduce its deadly, oil-related entanglement in the Middle East .

Still, what in the name of "God" (a frequent Obama reference) would be so bad about, well, apologizing to the world for the damage our interrelated consumerist and imperial ways have done to life on the planet?

For what its worth (not much in the dominant narrow-spectrum U.S. political and intellectual cultures), "humility and restraint" strike me as curious reflections on the Sand Creek and Wounded Knee massacres, the bloody occupation of the Philippines, the unspeakable crimes of Hiroshima and (even worse) Nagasaki, the overthrows of Arbenz, Mossadeq, and Allende, and the U.S. "crucifixion of Southeast Asia" (Noam Chomsky's phrase at the height of the U.S. attack) during the 1960s and 1970s.

"If You are Willing to Unclinch Your Fist"

"To the Muslim world," Obama said, "we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

How bitterly these words must have fallen on the ears of many Palestinians who heard them! The Palestinians and their many supporters across the Middle East and the world watched the famously wordy President-elect Obama stand mute, claiming that "institutional constraints" prevented him from commenting on the United States and Israel's recent dreadful massacre in Gaza even while he gave regular proto-presidential speeches on the economy and condemned the terror attacks in Mumbai.

Does Obama really think we will soon forget his silence of complicity on Israel 's clenched and pounding fist as his handlers prepare to try to make him look like a great new Middle Eastern peacemaker? Surely his team (loaded from the top down with militant "friends of Israel ") was consulted on the terrible attack and approved of it on the condition that it would be "wrapped up" - like the murdered corpses of Gazan children - by his Inauguration. Another glorious chapter in "the West's" noble record of "build[ing]," not "destroy[ing]" within and beyond the Middle East.

Would Obama care to comment on the critical roles "corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent" play in sustaining ruling class power in the United States ' "dollar democracy"? And would he like to comment on the credibility of the U.S. admonishing Muslims and others to "unclench their fist[s]" in the wake of the U.S.-Israel assault on Gaza and during an ongoing bloody six-year U.S. invasion that has killed more than 1 million Iraqis?

"The American occupation has been more disastrous than that of the Mongols who sacked Baghdad in the thirteenth century."

According to the respected journalist Nir Rosen in the December 2007 edition of the mainstream journal Current History, "Iraq has been killed, never to rise again. The American occupation has been more disastrous than that of the Mongols who sacked Baghdad in the thirteenth century. Only fools talk of solutions now. There is no solution. The only hope is that perhaps the damage can be contained."

One wonders what Rosen would have had to say about the following comment offered by Barack Obama to autoworkers assembled at the General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin on February 13, 2008, just before that state's Democratic primary: "It's time to stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together and start spending the money putting America back together."[9]

For those who knew the depth and degree of the destruction inflicted on Iraq by two U.S. invasions, one ongoing, and more than a decade of deadly economic sanctions (embargo), this statement was nothing short of obscene. So was Obama's following 2006 comment (to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs): "The American people have been extraordinarily resolved [in support of the Iraq invasion]. They have seen their sons and daughters killed or wounded in the streets of Fallujah."[10]

"Those Brave Souls Who Patrol Far-off Deserts and Distant Mountains"

"As we consider the road that unfolds before us," Obama said last Tuesday, "we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all."

Does Obama really need to go so far in demonstrating chilling deference to reigning doctrines of imperial and military nationalism claiming that Superpower's global gendarmes protect Liberty at home by colonially subjugating others abroad?! It gets tiresome and nauseating to hear him again (as during his campaign) fold the United States' brazen imperialism into his offensive narrative of shared national "service.

Who the Hell (his God perhaps?) does our new "antiwar" (so many left liberals insist on believing) president think appointed the U.S. to "patrol" Iraqi desserts and Afghan mountains?

No, Mr. President, no. Bring the troops home from the criminally and provocatively occupied hinterland. "We" have no business - zero legitimate role - "patrolling" (and testing the latest high-tech mass murderous military technologies in and on) distant others' deserts, forests, cities, villages, hills, rivers, caves, rivers, seas, and skies, and telephone calls and e-mails. The United States does not own the Middle East. "We" do not own the world. And freedom, justice, and democracy at home are undermined, not protected, by Empire.

"One Common Danger"

Proclaiming a "new era of responsibility," Obama said that "God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny." He asked Americans to remember how "In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people: ‘Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).'"

I find it disturbing to hear the nation's first black president citing the founders' rebellion against England (1763-1783) as an example of how we Americans need to stand together "against one common enemy." Many American slaves and indigenous people found very good and logical reasons to favor the British over the colonists in the war between England and the rising new racist and settler-imperialist slave state [11]. The new republic's snows and soils and forests and tobacco, rice, and cotton and killing fields had long been stained and even occasionally soaked with the blood of its First Nations victims and its growing population of black chattel. The fate and struggle of the "homeland's" early black and red victims foretold the future struggles of Asians, Latin Americans, and Middle Easterners caught on the wrong side of "freedom"-loving America 's imperial guns, alliances, and doctrines.

Some Things Not Mentioned

There was nothing in Obama's Inaugural Address, really, about rising poverty and stunning socioeconomic inequality in the "homeland." He spoke not a word about the vital need to restore union organizing and bargaining rights in the U.S. and bringing the labor movement - accurately described as "the leading anti-poverty program in American history" by John Edwards during the presidential primaries - back to life in the U.S. by passing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). There was nothing about the institutional racism that continues to plague and poison American life beneath and beyond the mass hysteria over the election of a "black but not like Jesse" president.

The new "antiwar" and "progressive" President was silent about the desperate need to significantly roll back the $1 trillion annual "defense" (Empire) allotment and bring about the forgotten peace dividend that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew to be required to fund social uplift and stave off the nation's "spiritual death." [12].

I don't care how many preachers they put up on the speakers platform, be they right wing creeps like Rick Warren (giver of the Inauguration convocation prayer) or decent men like civil rights veteran Joseph Lowrey (giver of the benediction), that terrible "spiritual death" (Dr. King's phrase to describe the consequence of privileging war over social health in the federal budget) continues apace.

As far as I can tell, poverty and its core connection to the problem of inequality has been kicked to the curb of American political discourse since the excessively "populist" and pro-labor John Edwards was unceremoniously relegated (before his adultery scandal) to the political margins.

Refusing to make any reference to horrific crimes against Palestinian humanity during the last three weeks, Obama did not utter the word "Gaza" once during a speech that denounced "those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents."

Stand Down, Mr. President

I will now uncharacteristically (since I tend to think that "speaking truth to power" is a waste of time) offer Barack Obama a bit of advice.

My counsel to the new President: step down from the American Exceptionalist Imperial Hubris that has run so strongly in your campaign statements to the foreign policy establishment, whose approval you required to reach the White House. Your only chance to leave the world better off (if that is your concern) starts with you standing down from all that ridiculous nonsense, Mr. President.

You will only exacerbate tragedy and decline if you insist on expanding the criminal U.S. war --- replete with your newly inherited Blackhawk and Apache attack helicopters (named after forgotten victims of the supposedly virtuous settlement of the U.S. West), the same models recently used to help kill 1300 Gazans (a racist-imperial atrocity on which you remained silent) --- in the imperial graveyard that is Afghanistan. And Afghanistan carries dangerously into nuclear Pakistan like Vietnam carried over into Cambodia .

Stand down, President Obama. Stand down, for your own sake and everyone else's too.

Oh and by the way - if you show some global humility and do some half-reasonably pseudo-social democratic things at home, they'll probably start advance-carving you a new face on Mt. Rushmore, stolen from the Sioux.

"The Real Issue to be Faced"

Four days after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day gave way to Barack Obama Day, I wish readers to consider one of King's many purple passages - this from a posthumously published essay titled "A Testament of Hope":

"Millions of American are coming to see that we are fighting an immoral war that costs nearly thirty billion dollars a year, that we are perpetuating racism, that we are tolerating almost forty million poor during an overflowing material abundance. Yet they remain helpless to end the war, feed the hungry, to make brotherhood a reality; this has to shake our faith in ourselves. If we look honestly at the realities of our national life, it is clear that we are not marching forward; we are groping and stumbling; we are divided and confused. Our moral values and our spiritual confidence sink, even as our material wealth ascends. In these trying circumstances, the black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws - racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced." [Martin Luther King Jr., "A Testament of Hope," January 1969]

This (along with much else you can find in King's speeches and writings) doesn't fit very well with the officially domesticated history of Dr. King as a polite middle-class reformer who sought little more than the desegregation of lunch counters and the right of certain black Americans to run for higher office.

I know there are lots of key differences between the United States and its (colonial) wars in the time of Dr. King's execution and the same in the time of the Obama's ascendancy. This is a period of recession and perhaps depression, not growth.

Iraq (2003-present), Afghanistan (2001-present), and Vietnam (1962-1975) are very different imperial crucifixions.

We need to add (at least) sexism and the war on livable ecology to King's list of America's "interrelated flaws."

Still, I am struck by how relevant King's words remain more than a generation later, how poorly they match the domesticated (bourgeois) King the dominant historical narrative has created, and by how different his final perspective was from that of the militantly incrementalist and power-accommodating Obama.

King would be 80 years old today. My sense is that his excitement over the election of the "deeply conservative" [13] Obama would have been strictly qualified in accord with his airbrushed radical sentiments, which went far beyond the goal of making a symbolic skin-color shift in the power elite. He would understand that we are still "perpetuating racism" under the cloak of a "post-racial" era, deeply fed by the Obama phenomenon.

Beyond "Expectation Management"

Meanwhile, a new depression looms and the specter of ecological catastrophe grows ever more real. Under the totalitarian rules of corporate-"managed democracy" [14], the required radical and egalitarian solutions to the deepening crisis of humanity seem to all be officially "irrelevant," "unrealistic," "ideological," and "obsolete."

A few nights ago millions of Americans saw an arrogant grade B actor named Cuba Gooding Jr. tell Jay Leno that the election of Obama is helping sell "the American brand" around the world - a noble sentiment. The fact that "we have an African-American in the White House," Gooding proclaimed, "proves that our democracy does work."

This childish sentiment is ubiquitous and not just in the Orwellian corporate media. It has trickled down into the minds of numerous ordinary people I know for whom the Obama extravaganza has been yet another excuse not to become seriously engaged in activism beneath and beyond quadrennial corporate-crafted candidate-centered election spectacles.

Still, I find glimmers of hope beneath and beyond top-down spectacles for the weak of mind and heart: the Chicago factory occupation, the recent Oakland riots, the New School action, anti-eviction battles, union organizing triumphs, and the recent and ongoing left- and youth-led rebellion in Greece, the birthplace of Western democratic thought. There's a lot of "unreported resistance" (Howard Zinn's useful term) at home and abroad: people acting for the real meaning of democracy beneath and beyond top-down coordination and "expectation management" (Obama's top public relations task at present). There's more to come, more hope that cannot be contained by anything less than "the radical reconstruction of society itself...the real issue to be faced."

In the meantime, some fellow Americans would like to apologize to the world for "our" nation's all-too imperial and ecologically and socially disastrous ways of "life."

Paul Street ( an author and writer in Iowa City , IA. He is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Street's books include Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004); Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (New York, 2007; Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York: Routledge, 2005); and Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008), order


1. For Left critiques of the centrist Obama's 2004 Democratic Convention Keynote Address, his March 2008 Philadelphia Race Speech, his August 2008 Berlin Speech, and his election night Victory Speech, please see Paul Street: "Keynote Reflections," (Featured Article), ZNet Magazine (July 29th, 2004), read at;

"Obama's Latest ‘Beautiful Speech,'" ZNet (March 22, 2008), read at; His High Imperial Holiness Obama Does Berlin," Black Agenda Report (July 30, 2008), read at; ‘Anyone Out There?'" ZNet (November 10, 2008), read at

2. John Nichols (who thinks Obama is a left progressive in centrist clothing), "How to Push Obama," The Progressive (January 2009), read at

3. WIFR Television, CBS 23, Rockford , Illinois , "Obama Speaks at General Motors in Janesville ," February 13, 2008, read at

4. There is precedent in Obama's already vast rhetorical record for this sort of strange and reactionary historical conflation. An especially nauseating part of Obama's first famous speech - the 2004 Democratic Convention Keynote Address that turned him into an overnight sensation - came when he said the following about his repeatedly invoked concept of "hope:"

"I'm not talking about blind optimism here - the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a mill worker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too...In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; a belief in things not seen; a belief that there are better days ahead."

The "young naval lieutenant line" was a reference to Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry's participation in a previous imperialist adventure, one that took millions of Vietnamese lives. It took no small and reactionary chutzpah for Obama to lump African-American slaves' struggles and spirituality with the imperial and racist U.S. assault on Southeast Asia under the image of noble Americans wishing together for a better future. Perhaps "God" (the officially highly religious Obama's Keynote Address made repeated references to "God" and "the Creator") gave Nazi executioners and Nazi victims the shared gift of hoping for "better days ahead." It was not clear who or what told Obama that the Mekong Delta was Kerry and his superiors' territory to "patrol" - the same arrogant, nationalist and racist sensibilities, perhaps, that gave 19th century white Americans permission to own slaves, steal land from Mexico and Native Americans and which allowed the Bush administration to seize Iraq as a neocolonial possession?

5. Mike Albert, PARECON: Life After Capitalism ( New York : Verso, 2003), p. 65.

6. Laurence H. Shoup, "Obama and McCain March Rightward," Z Magazine (September 2008), p. 27

7. For a thoughtful critique of that pervasive notion from within the foreign policy national security establishment, see Anonymous, Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror ( Washington DC , 2004).

8. Noam Chomsky, "‘Exterminate All the Brutes': Gaza 2009," ZNet, January 20, 2009).

9. WIFR, "Obama Speaks at General Motors."

10. Barack Obama, "A Way Forward in Iraq ," Speech to Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Chicago Illinois (November 20, 2006), available online at _in_iraq/index.html. Of all places to pick to claim to demonstrate American "sacrifice" in criminally invaded Iraq , Obama could not have chosen a more provocative and telling locale than Fallujah, site of epic U.S.-imperial assaults on civilians and infrastructure in the spring and fall of 2004.

11. Alfred Young, ed., The American Revolution: Explorations in the History of American Radicalism (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 1976).

12. "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." Martin Luther King Jr., "A Time to Break the Silence," Riverside Church, New York City , NY , April 4. 1967.

13. As Larissa MacFarquhar noted in a carefully researched May 2007 Obama portrait titled "The Conciliator": "In his view of history, in his respect for tradition, in his skepticism that the world can be changed any way but very, very slowly, Obama is deeply conservative. There are moments when he sounds almost Burkean. He distrusts abstractions, generalizations, extrapolations, projections. It's not just that he thinks revolutions are unlikely: he values continuity and stability for their own sake, sometimes even more than he values change for the good." Larissa MacFarquhar, "The Conciliator: Where is Barack Obama Coming From?" The New Yorker (May 7, 2007). See also Ryan Lizza, "Making It: How Chicago Shaped Obama," The New Yorker, (July 21, 2008). "Perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama," Lizza noted, "is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary. Rather, every stage of his political career has been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them." See also Paul Street , "Obama's Audacious Deference to Power," ZNet Magazine (January 24, 2007), read at; Paul Street , Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder,CO: Paradigm, 2008).

14. Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism ( Princeton , NJ : Princeton University, 2008)

The Israeli State, the Palestinian People, and the Fight against Colonialism and Apartheid


I agree 100% with the absolutely brilliant 38 year old political journalist and historian Naomi Klein's statement below. Ms. Klein who of course happens to be Jewish (from Toronto, Canada) is the critically acclaimed author of two extraordinary and absolutely indispensable books "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" (2007) and "No Logo" (1999) which have sold over 2 million copies and been translated into 28 languages worldwide.

In my view (and that of Ms. Klein, Noam Chomsky, and of course many others throughout the globe) Israel is a dangerous Rogue State so long as they brutally and systematically deny the Palestinian people their own national sovereignty and basic human rights in the West Bank and Gaza. Colonialism and apartheid is what reigns supreme there and as Klein points out it's way past time to say so LOUD AND CLEAR. Just as all forms of independent political terrorism are always completely wrong and unacceptable, all forms of state sponsored repression, terrorism, and oppression are equally wrong and unacceptable. The Palestinians have just as much right to exist as free human beings as the Israelis. Case closed!


Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction

Enough. It's time for a boycott
The best way to end the bloody occupation is to target Israel with the kind of movement that ended apartheid in South Africa

Naomi Klein
The Guardian, Saturday 10 January 2009

It's time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa. In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on "people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era". The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions was born.

Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause - even among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors in Israel. It calls for "the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions" and draws a clear parallel with the anti-apartheid struggle. "The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves ... This international backing must stop."

Yet even in the face of these clear calls, many of us still can't go there. The reasons are complex, emotional and understandable. But they simply aren't good enough. Economic sanctions are the most effective tool in the non-violent arsenal: surrendering them verges on active complicity. Here are the top four objections to the BDS strategy, followed by counter-arguments.

Punitive measures will alienate rather than persuade Israelis.

The world has tried what used to be called "constructive engagement". It has failed utterly. Since 2006 Israel has been steadily escalating its criminality: expanding settlements, launching an outrageous war against Lebanon, and imposing collective punishment on Gaza through the brutal blockade. Despite this escalation, Israel has not faced punitive measures - quite the opposite. The weapons and $3bn in annual aid the US sends Israel are only the beginning. Throughout this key period, Israel has enjoyed a dramatic improvement in its diplomatic, cultural and trade relations with a variety of other allies. For instance, in 2007 Israel became the first country outside Latin America to sign a free-trade deal with the Mercosur bloc. In the first nine months of 2008, Israeli exports to Canada went up 45%. A new deal with the EU is set to double Israel's exports of processed food. And in December European ministers "upgraded" the EU-Israel association agreement, a reward long sought by Jerusalem.

It is in this context that Israeli leaders started their latest war: confident they would face no meaningful costs. It is remarkable that over seven days of wartime trading, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's flagship index actually went up 10.7%. When carrots don't work, sticks are needed.

Israel is not South Africa.

Of course it isn't. The relevance of the South African model is that it proves BDS tactics can be effective when weaker measures (protests, petitions, backroom lobbying) fail. And there are deeply distressing echoes of apartheid in the occupied territories: the colour-coded IDs and travel permits, the bulldozed homes and forced displacement, the settler-only roads. Ronnie Kasrils, a prominent South African politician, said the architecture of segregation he saw in the West Bank and Gaza was "infinitely worse than apartheid". That was in 2007, before Israel began its full-scale war against the open-air prison that is Gaza.

Why single out Israel when the US, Britain and other western countries do the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the strategy should be tried is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.

Boycotts sever communication; we need more dialogue, not less.

This one I'll answer with a personal story. For eight years, my books have been published in Israel by a commercial house called Babel. But when I published The Shock Doctrine, I wanted to respect the boycott. On the advice of BDS activists, including the wonderful writer John Berger, I contacted a small publisher called Andalus. Andalus is an activist press, deeply involved in the anti-occupation movement and the only Israeli publisher devoted exclusively to translating Arabic writing into Hebrew. We drafted a contract that guarantees that all proceeds go to Andalus's work, and none to me. I am boycotting the Israeli economy but not Israelis.

Our modest publishing plan required dozens of phone calls, emails and instant messages, stretching between Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Paris, Toronto and Gaza City. My point is this: as soon as you start a boycott strategy, dialogue grows dramatically. The argument that boycotts will cut us off from one another is particularly specious given the array of cheap information technologies at our fingertips. We are drowning in ways to rant at each other across national boundaries. No boycott can stop us.

Just about now, many a proud Zionist is gearing up for major point-scoring: don't I know that many of these very hi-tech toys come from Israeli research parks, world leaders in infotech? True enough, but not all of them. Several days into Israel's Gaza assault, Richard Ramsey, managing director of a British telecom specialising in voice-over-internet services, sent an email to the Israeli tech firm MobileMax: "As a result of the Israeli government action in the last few days we will no longer be in a position to consider doing business with yourself or any other Israeli company."

Ramsey says his decision wasn't political; he just didn't want to lose customers. "We can't afford to lose any of our clients," he explains, "so it was purely commercially defensive."

It was this kind of cold business calculation that led many companies to pull out of South Africa two decades ago. And it's precisely the kind of calculation that is our most realistic hope of bringing justice, so long denied, to Palestine.

A version of this column was published in the Nation (

Time Running Out For A Two-State Solution?
From: '60 Minutes' (CBS): Growing Number Of Israelis, Palestinians Say Two-State Solution Is No Longer Possible
January 25, 2009

(CBS) Getting a peace deal in the Middle East is such a priority to President Obama that his first foreign calls on his first day in office were to Arab and Israeli leaders. And on day two, the president made former Senator George Mitchell his special envoy for Middle East peace. Mr. Obama wants to shore up the ceasefire in Gaza, but a lasting peace really depends on the West Bank where Palestinians had hoped to create their state. The problem is, even before Israel invaded Gaza, a growing number of Israelis and Palestinians had concluded that peace between them was no longer possible, that history had passed it by. For peace to have a chance, Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank, which would then become the Palestinian state.

It's known as the "two-state" solution. But, while negotiations have been going on for 15 years, hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers have moved in to occupy the West Bank. Palestinians say they can't have a state with Israeli settlers all over it, which the settlers say is precisely the idea.

Daniella Weiss moved from Israel to the West Bank 33 years ago. She has been the mayor of a large settlement.

"I think that settlements prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in the land of Israel. This is the goal. And this is the reality," Weiss told 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon.

Though settlers and Palestinians don't agree on anything, most do agree now that a peace deal has been overtaken by events.

"While my heart still wants to believe that the two-state solution is possible, my brain keeps telling me the opposite because of what I see in terms of the building of settlements. So, these settlers are destroying the potential peace for both people that would have been created if we had a two-state solution," Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, once a former candidate for Palestinian president, told Simon.

And he told 60 Minutes Israel's invasion of Gaza - all the death and destruction - convinces him that Israel does not want a two-state solution. "My heart is deeply broken, and I am very worried that what Israel has done has furthered us much further from the possibility of [a] two-state solution."

Palestinians had hoped to establish their state on the West Bank, an area the size of Delaware. But Israelis have split it up with scores of settlements, and hundreds of miles of new highways that only settlers can use. Palestinians have to drive - or ride - on the older roads.

When they want to travel from one town to another, they have to submit to humiliating delays at checkpoints and roadblocks. There are more than 600 of them on the West Bank.

Asked why there are so many checkpoints, Dr. Barghouti said, "I think the main goal is to fragment the West Bank. Maybe a little bit of them can be justified because they say it's for security. But I think the vast majority of them are basically to block the movement of people from one place to another."

Here's how they block Barghouti: he was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Jerusalem and worked in a hospital there for 14 years. Four years ago he moved to a town just 10 miles away, but now, because he no longer lives in Jerusalem, he can't get back in - ever.

He says he can't get a permit to go. "I asked for a permit to go to Jerusalem during the last year, the last years about 16 times. And 16 times they were rejected. Like most Palestinians, I don't have a permit to go to the city I was born in, to the city I used to work in, to the city where my sister lives."

What he's up against are scores of Israeli settlements dominating the lowlands like crusader fortresses. Many are little cities, and none of them existed 40 years ago. The Israelis always take the high ground, sometimes the hills, and sometimes the homes. And sometimes Arabs are occupied inside their own homes.

One house for example is the highest house on the highest hill overlooking the town of Nablus. 60 Minutes learned that Israeli soldiers often corral the four families who live there and take over the house to monitor movement down below.

Simon and the 60 Minutes team went to an apartment owned by a Mr. Nassif. That morning, Israeli soldiers had apparently entered the apartment, without notice, and remained there when Simon knocked on the door.

"We cannot speak with you, there are soldiers," Nassif told Simon. "We are in prison here."

Asked what was happening, Nassif says, "They are keeping us here and the soldiers are upstairs, we cannot move. We cannot speak with you."

Nassif said he couldn't leave the house and didn't know how long he'd have to stay in place. Asked if they were paying him any money, he told Simon, "You are kidding?"

Abdul Nassif, a bank manager said he had to get to his bank to open the safe, but one of the soldiers wouldn't let him go. He told 60 Minutes whenever the soldiers come they wake everybody up, and herd them into a kitchen for hours while soldiers sleep in their beds. They can't leave or use the phone, or let 60 Minutes in.

CBS) He sent 60 Minutes downstairs to see if his brother would open the door so we could ask the soldiers why they keep taking over this house. But the brother told Simon, "The soldiers close the door from the key. They take the key."

So Simon and the crew left, and that night, so did the soldiers. But when 60 Minutes returned two days later, the soldiers were back for more surveillance. This time they kept the women under house arrest, but let the men go to work and the children go to school. When the children returned, we caught a glimpse of two armed soldiers at the top of the stairs.

Then more children came home, but the soldiers wouldn't open the door again.

A commander told Simon that he and the crew would have to go back behind a wall in order for the children to be let in.

The commander declined to talk to 60 Minutes. "But we are talking to you now," Simon pointed out, standing outside. "Why don't you tell us what you are doing here? Have you lost your voice? Well they've closed the door now, they've closed the window so I guess if the children are going to get home now we have to leave, so that is what we will do."

An army spokesperson told us the army uses the Nassifs' house for important surveillance operations. The Nassifs told 60 Minutes that soldiers usually stay for a day or two, always coming and going in the middle of the night. When they do go, the Nassifs never know when they will be occupied again. It could be tomorrow, next week, or next month. The only certainty, they say, is that the soldiers will be back.

Another crippling reality on the West Bank is high unemployment, now about 20 percent. So some Palestinians can only find jobs building Israeli settlements. They're so ashamed to work on the construction sites that they asked 60 Minutes not to show their faces.

The settlers now number 280,000, and as they keep moving in, their population keeps growing about five percent every year. But the 2.5 million Arabs have their strategy too: they're growing bigger families.

Demographers predict that within ten years Arabs will outnumber Jews in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Without a separate Palestinian state the Israelis would have three options, none of them good. They could try ethnic cleansing, drive the Palestinians out of the West Bank, or they could give the Palestinians the vote. That would be the democratic option but it would mean the end of the Jewish state. Or they could try apartheid - have the minority Israelis rule the majority Palestinians, but apartheid regimes don't have a very long life.

"Unfortunately, and I have to say to you that apartheid is already in place," Dr. Barghouti argued.

CBS) Apartheid? Israel is building what it calls a security wall between the West Bank and Israel. The Palestinians are furious because it appropriates eight percent of the West Bank. Not only that. It weaves its way through Palestinian farms, separating farmers from their land. They have to wait at gates for soldiers to let them in. Settlers get a lot more water than Palestinians, which is why settlements are green and Arab areas are not.

Moderate Israelis who deplore the occupation used to believe passionately in a two-state solution. That is no longer the case.

Meron Benvenisti used to be deputy mayor of Jerusalem. He told Simon the prospects of the two-state solution becoming a reality are "nil."

"The geopolitical condition that's been created in '67 is irreversible. Cannot be changed. You cannot unscramble that egg," he explained.

Asked if this means the settlers have won, Benvenisti told Simon, "Yes."

"And the settlers will remain forever and ever?" Simon asked.

"I don't know forever and ever, but they will remain and will flourish," Benvenisti said.

"The settlers, the attitude that I present here, this is the heart. This is the pulse. This is the past, present, and future of the Jewish state," Daniella Weiss told Simon.

She says the she and the settlers are immovable. "We will stay here forever."

But one very important Israeli says she intends to move them out. She's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a candidate to become prime minister in elections next month. She's also Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians, and she told 60 Minutes peace is unthinkable with the settlers where they are.

"Can you really imagine evacuating the tens of thousands of settlers who say they will not leave?" Simon asked.

"It's not going to be easy. But this is the only solution," she replied.

"But you know that there are settlers who say, 'We will fight. We will not leave. We will fight,'" Simon asked.

"So this is the responsibility of the government and police to stop them. As simple as that. Israel is a state of law and order," Livni said.

(CBS) It's also a state of law and disorder. When the army evicted just nine families from a West Bank settlement called Amona three years ago, it was chaos. It was the first time since the creation of the state that Jews were in pitched battles against Jews. To Israelis of all stripes, it was not a pretty picture. And it made the government loath to try again.

Officials fear that more battles to empty settlements could rip Israel apart. They're afraid that religious officers in the army - and there are an increasing number of them - would disobey any order to evict settlers.

The army is evicting Arabs from their homes in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians hoped to make their capital. Outraged, Arabs tried to save their homes, but the Israelis have the guns. Israel demolished more than 100 Arab homes in the past year, ruling they had been illegally built. Arabs say this is just another tactic to drive them out. But officials say they also knock down unauthorized Jewish buildings on the West Bank. They're put up by youngsters, the next generation's campaign to populate the land.

Daniella Weiss told 60 Minutes they will not be stopped.

Despite the army tearing down a structure, the settlers began rebuilding it on the same day. "We will have the upper hand," Weiss vowed.

"But the army will tear it down again," Simon pointed out.

"And we will rebuild it," Weiss said. "The experience shows that the world belongs to those who are stubborn, and we are very stubborn."

Stubborn, she says, because they were ordered to populate this land by no less an authority than God. "This is the mission of our generation and I want to emphasis the most important point is to this," Weiss said, picking up some soil, "to hold strong to the soil of the Holy Land."