On the devil you know, versus . . . the devil you know

It’s been a rough year for allergies—in a part of the world which is notorious for allergies—around here, so after getting my water pump replaced, I was feeling a need to remind my respiratory system that air need not be the enemy. I drove out to Mendocino in time to get a vegan pizza at Frankie’s and then headed south on Highway One, the theoretically slower, but coastal route towards home, hoping to breathe some ocean air.

My thoughts turned towards a sense some people—notably including my old favorite professor at CSU East Bay—express of being able to breathe more easily when a Democrat is in power. I wondered if that professor—I hear he is now headed for retirement under a rather favorable plan the university has for fully-tenured professors of retirement age—still feels that way. After all, Barack Obama’s function, for all intents and purposes, seems to have been to legitimate the neoconservative and neoliberal policies of the George W. Bush administration, and indeed, to push them to heights, or depths, that would have embarrassed all but former Vice President Dick Cheney and his acolytes.

I have, for quite some time now, recognized, along with Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal,[1] that the difference between Republicans and Democrats is not in policy but rather in a willingness on the part of Republicans to instigate violence against a Democratic president.[2] But it seems particularly appalling this year as U.S. voters this year face a choice between a president who does not deserve re-election and a former governor who does not deserve to be elected in the first place.

On the one hand, we have a president who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize and went on to expand secret wars to well over a hundred countries;[3] who found plenty of money for those wars and, in concert with the Federal Reserve, protected the banks—and their managers—even as those banks resumed the dubious practices that led to the financial meltdown of 2007 and 2008 and continued foreclosure practices that are at least “flawed” if not fraudulent[4] but left those who were and are being foreclosed upon and those who were and are unemployed to twist in the wind;[5] who continues to expand domestic surveillance;[6] and who has cracked down harder on whistleblowers than any previous president, particularly cruelly in the case of Bradley Manning.[7]

On the other hand, Mitt Romney’s preeminent qualification for the job seems to be that he is filthy rich and was Chief Executive Officer of a predatory capitalist firm.[8]

As I approached Jenner, where I would turn back inland, back towards pollinated air, I saw a creature along side the road. It was night time, I was mainly concerned with not hitting it, and didn’t really get a good look, but as I drove on, I decided it was a cat—it seemed to move like one—and that it was too fat to be a feral cat. This was far enough north from Jenner, that this cat did not belong there. It had likely been dumped. I wished I could turn around and rescue it, but we already have two cats at my house, one of whom still doesn’t accept the newcomer, and I didn’t have a sufficiently precise location that I would know where to stop on a narrow, winding road. I thought about the many animals that had been turned in to shelters because people had lost their homes and couldn’t move their companions with them into apartments. And I also thought about how the elite have treated ordinary people, the same people who will, barring the wildly unexpected, select one of these candidates this November.

Disregard the campaign rhetoric. Neither of these candidates gives a damn about ordinary people any more than whoever dumped that cat cared for it. Obama’s words on unemployment are staggeringly consistent in their absolute emptiness, except for one particularly memorable quote, in which he foretold exactly what he would do about jobs.[9] He said, “We all know there are limits to what government can and should do even during such difficult times.”[10] At least with Romney, just as we did with Bush, we know what we’re getting. But I guess we really do with Obama as well.

  1. [1]Noam Chomsky, “Containing the Threat of Democracy,” Chomsky on Anarchism, Barry Pateman, ed., (Edinburgh: AK Press, 2005); Gore Vidal, interview by David Barsamian, “Gore Vidal Interview,” Progressive, August 2006, http://www.progressive.org/mag_intv0806
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Listening for goosesteps in a conservative backlash,” DisUnitedStates.org, March 29, 2010, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=1708
  3. [3]Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, “U.S. ‘secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role,” Washington Post, June 4, 2010, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060304965.html; Jeremy Scahill, “Obama’s Expanding Covert Wars,” Nation, June 4, 2010, http://www.thenation.com/blog/obamas-expanding-covert-wars; Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Robert F. Worth, “Secret Assault on Terrorism Widens on Two Continents,” New York Times, August 14, 2010, https://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/world/15shadowwar.html; Nick Turse, “A Secret War in 120 Countries: The Pentagon’s New Power Elite,” TomDispatch, August 3, 2011, http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175426/
  4. [4]William K. Black, “Banking System Rotten to the Core,” Financial Sense, November 25, 2011, http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/william-black/2011/11/25/banking-system-rotten-to-the-core; David Dayen, “49-State Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Will Be Finalized Thursday,” Firedoglake, February 8, 2012, http://news.firedoglake.com/2012/02/08/49-state-foreclosure-fraud-settlement-will-be-finalized-thursday/; J. Andrew Felkerson, “Bail-out Bombshell: Fed “Emergency” Bank Rescue Totaled $29 Trillion Over Three Years,” Alternet, December 15, 2011, http://www.alternet.org/story/153462/bail-out_bombshell%3A_fed_%22emergency%22_bank_rescue_totaled_%2429_trillion_over_three_years; Kevin G. Hall, “J.P. Morgan’s bad bet sparks firestorm over regulation,” McClatchy, May 11, 2012, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/05/11/148592/jp-morgans-bad-bet-sparks-firestorm.html; Bob Ivry, Bradley Keoun and Phil Kuntz, “Secret Fed Loans Helped Banks Net $13B,” Bloomberg, November 27, 2011, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-28/secret-fed-loans-undisclosed-to-congress-gave-banks-13-billion-in-income.html; Gretchen Morgenson, “Audit Uncovers Extensive Flaws in Foreclosures,” New York Times, February 15, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/16/business/california-audit-finds-broad-irregularities-in-foreclosures.html; Yves Smith, “Quelle Surprise! San Francisco Assessor Finds Pervasive Fraud in Foreclosure Exam (and Paul Jackson Defends His Meal Tickets Yet Again),” Naked Capitalism, February 16, 2012, http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/02/quelle-surprise-san-francisco-assessor-finds-pervasive-fraud-in-foreclosure-exam-and-paul-jackson-defends-his-meal-tickets-yet-again.html; George Washington, “Is This Why They Won’t Prosecute? Top Justice Officials Represented Big Banks, Freddie, Fannie and Mers,” Zero Hedge, January 21, 2012, <a href="http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/why-they-won%E2%80%99t-prosecute-top-justice-officials-represented-big-banks-freddie-fannie-and-
  5. [5]Simon Kennedy, “Krugman Wishes He Were Wrong Amid EU Austerity Backlash,” Bloomberg, May 3, 2012, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-02/krugman-wishes-he-was-wrong-amid-eu-austerity-backlash.html; Paul Krugman, “The Austerity Debacle,” New York Times, January 29, 2012, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/30/opinion/krugman-the-austerity-debacle.html; Paul Krugman, “The Austerity Agenda,” New York Times, May 31, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/opinion/krugman-the-austerity-agenda.html; Michael Powell and Andrew Martin, “Foreclosure Aid Fell Short, and Is Fading,” New York Times, March 29, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/business/30foreclose.html; Joseph E. Stiglitz, “The Price of Inequality,” Project Syndicate, June 5, 2012, http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-price-of-inequality; David Streitfeld, “Panel Is Critical of Obama Mortgage Modification Plan,” New York Times, December 14, 2010, https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/14/business/economy/14hamp.html
  6. [6]James Bamford, “The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say),” Wired, March 15, 2012, http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/; Democracy Now!, “National Security Agency Whistleblower William Binney on Growing State Surveillance,” April 20, 2012, http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/20/exclusive_national_security_agency_whistleblower_william; Democracy Now!, “‘We Don’t Live in a Free Country’: Jacob Appelbaum on Being Target of Widespread Gov’t Surveillance,” April 20, 2012, http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/20/we_do_not_live_in_a; Democracy Now!, “CISPA Critics Warn Cybersecurity Bill Will Increase Domestic Surveillance and Violate Privacy Rights,” April 26, 2012, http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/26/cispa_critics_warn_cybersecurity_bill_will; Democracy Now!, “Targeted Hacker Jacob Appelbaum on CISPA, Surveillance and the ‘Militarization of Cyberspace’,” April 26, 2012, <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/26/targeted_hacker_jacob_appelbaum_on_cispa" target="_blank".http://www.democracynow.org/2012/4/26/targeted_hacker_jacob_appelbaum_on_cispa; Charlie Savage, “Total Information Awareness: Sweeping New Surveillance Measures Approved in the US,” Truthout, March 23, 2012, http://truth-out.org/news/item/8067-total-information-awareness-sweeping-new-surveillance-measures-approved-in-the-us
  7. [7]Glenn Greenwald, “The strange and consequential case of Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo and WikiLeaks,” Salon, June 18, 2010, http://www.salon.com/2010/06/18/wikileaks_3/; Ed Pilkington, “Bradley Manning’s treatment was cruel and inhuman, UN torture chief rules,” Guardian, March 12, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/12/bradley-manning-cruel-inhuman-treatment-un; Scott Shane, “Obama Takes a Hard Line Against Leaks to Press,” New York Times, June 11, 2010, https://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/12/us/politics/12leak.html
  8. [8]Tom Hamburger, Melanie Mason, and Matea Gold, “A closer look at Mitt Romney’s job creation record,” Los Angeles Times, December 3, 2011, http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/03/nation/la-na-romney-bain-20111204; Paul Krugman, “Bain, Barack and Jobs,” New York Times, January 5, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/opinion/bain-barack-and-jobs.html
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Cold buildings and hot air: the Main Street choice between empty and hateful words,” DisUnitedStates.org, June 3, 2011, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=3713
  10. [10]Michael A. Fletcher and Neil Irwin, “Obama to have forum on job creation,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 13, 2009, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/11/13/MNL31AJFT4.DTL

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