Stating the Obvious, year-end edition

I am not alone in wishing good riddance to this fucking deadly year. Not that flipping the calendar page will do anything, really, but it’s nice to symbolically turn the page on 2020, which NY Times op-ed writer Michelle Cottle generously called a “soul crushing hellscape of a dumpster fire.” It has been that. Let’s look at just a few things we learned.

If you have an even one vote majority in the Senate, you get to decide what business gets in front of the Senate, what the People will get an up or down vote on, what democracy is.

Black guy picks a replacement for a suddenly deceased giant of the right on the Supreme Court? No hearing, no advice nor consent, forget it, let the People decide in the next election. President impeached by the House, the law requires a trial in Senate? No worries, we openly vow to work closely with the president’s defense team, allow no witnesses or evidence, acquit him ASAP and put the blame back where it belongs: on enraged haters, traitors, communists, black terrorists. COVID-19 puts burdens on the wealthiest corporations in the country (many making record windfall profits during the pandemic) while poor people who work for these outfits (“essential workers”) sicken and die? A liability shield for all corporate entities who may have inadvertently killed people by forcing them to work in unsafe conditions during a highly infectious, deadly pandemic. It’s only fair, and a totally reasonable pre-condition for any government aid to tens of millions of immiserated Americans.

Record Wildfires and Killer Storms, a small price to pay for continued prosperity.

A pandemic is first and foremost a political event.

Public safety precautions urged by medical experts may safely be mocked as partisan bullshit, a hoax, a nasty stunt fueled by irrational anger. Mayors and governors seeking to enforce mask mandates, social distancing? Sue these tyrants in court, exhort unhinged supporters to take up guns, rise up against tyranny!! No political price need ever be paid, in fact, the base (‘al qaeda’ in Arabic) loves it!

Check out this dead Republican’s official website, updated when he died of COVID-19. Do you think this staunch supporter of the president wore a mask, ever?

Alternative facts are just as good as so-called real facts.

When a police officer kills an unarmed person, live on video, particularly if that dead person is “colored”, the officer is entitled to the presumption of innocence, “qualified immunity” [1] from prosecution and a vigorous public defense by the media team at the police union.

And you can go down the whole disgustingly detailed list. How did we get to this hideous and embarrassing point in our experiment in democracy? My short answer: consumerism, materialism, greed, stupidity, the coercive power of advertising, extolling the unlimited virtues of unlimited individual competition between Rugged Individuals who duke it out for supremacy.

The value of the American Dream, and the life of every dreamer, can be expressed in a number, which follows a dollar sign. During this pandemic the 650 American billionaires increased their wealth by almost a trillion dollars. A trillion is a thousand billions, a million millions, like so: $1,000,000,000,000. Thousands of American lives could be saved, and many of the dead would still be alive, by the targeted infusion of that kind of money (a historic windfall to our 650 wealthiest, during a pandemic) into the fight against this terrible disease, to keep people from homelessness, hunger, terror and despair.

We’ve been successfully sold the idea that Bezos, Zuckerberg, Gates, Musk and Koch deserve every penny of their more than $100,000,000,000 fortunes, and every blessed dollar of their tens of billions in plague-related profits. To tax any of that money, even a windfall made during a pandemic, for use on the public good, even in a vast public health emergency, is coercive, socialistic, yea, communistic, totalitarian. So we seem to believe here in the USA, the land where Rugged Individualism has been marketed so successfully by influential actors like The Great Communicator.

MacKenzie Scott, former wife of world’s greediest man Jeff Fucking Bezos, has so far taken about 10% of her estimated $59,000,000,000 fortune and given the money directly to causes that need help, like pandemic relief and anti-racist groups. She gave six billion dollars to organizations she believes in, asking them only to use it where it was needed most.

Contrast that with usual billionaire strings-attached philanthropist micromanagers like Gates and Zuckerberg (Bezos, Musk and Koch don’t seem to believe in philanthropy) who, considering themselves among history’s greatest geniuses, create foundations that bear their names and fund specific solutions they believe in, like proposing to solve inequality of education and its role in intergenerational poverty with private “charter schools” (that don’t work — certainly not to help fix our long-besieged public education system).

Heather Cox Richardson wrote a short version of how we got here, an essay that arrived in my inbox around 5 a.m. Our pay-to-play political cesspool today is directly traceable to the rage and determination of a group of very wealthy white men following Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 decision when the “activist” Supreme Court unanimously declared segregation unconstitutional. You can trace their privilege-protecting, anti-majoritarian determination to take back the unquestioned power they never lost in the Civil War to the years right after American schools were ordered to be de-segregated “with all deliberate speed.”

Racism plays an outsized role in our nation’s woes — though, like the “n-word” itself, it must never be uttered aloud.

Think of it, without racism you have a tiny group of super rich, politically insulated heirs of great fortunes (think the old slaveholding class in Dixie and their counterparts in the North) versus the overwhelming human force of the great masses of the poor and disenfranchised. If poor whites and poor blacks ever united in a voting block based on their mutual interests, ever marched by the millions demanding action towards justice — you’d have to hire literally an army of lone gunmen to shoot all of their leaders in the head. Remove racism from the mix and you’d have sudden, massive change, or a bloodbath of our greatest, and most valuable, citizens. The world would not be safe for those born, booted and spurred, to ride the backs of the rest of us.

Of course, not every one of the 74,000,000 who voted to give Donald Trump a second chance to make America great again is a racist. On the other hand, we all understand that every eligible racist in the country voted for Donald. Anger at racism? It brings me back to personal experiences with old friends and reminds me of how personal the political always is.

The guy I asked to please stop provoking me would not even acknowledge doing it, he’d never provoked me, he kept insisting. At the same time, the last time we talked, he couldn’t rest until, reminding me three times in 15 minutes that though it was unfair to accuse me of disrespecting him, based on the actual events of the day and my constant communication with him about delays, that he still felt disrespected by my lateness. The third time he brought this up was the charm. I finally exploded, listing several very specific reasons I had no respect for him. Set and match.

It’s this way with racism. You keep bringing it up, I’ll keep telling you it’s not a problem. We are never going to talk about it in any meaningful way, nor acknowledge its prevalence in our culture. When you get mad, well, it just proves I was right all along about you fucking people.

A guy complained that he had no idea how much he’d hurt me because I’d been so calm, reasonable and nonjudgmental when I told him I was hurt. Somebody who is really hurt cries out, he pointed out, it’s only natural. How could I really blame him for not knowing how upset he’d made me when I didn’t cry out? It was unfair of me to expect him to know how hurtful and aggravating his actions were without a little screaming to give him a clue. So, to allow him to understand why I was hurt, and how much, I cried out. When I did, he was devastated that I could be such a merciless fuck.

This is how it works with racism too. You can be philosophical in the face of the pain of it, but that’s only a way of coping. Your restraint can be cited, by those who don’t believe in racism, as a demonstration that you’re pretty much cool with the way things are, that we all enjoy freedom here, and basic equality under the law.

Everything seems fine, until another unarmed black man, not resisting his handcuffing by police (as a suspect in a very minor, non-violent crime), is slowly murdered on video, by an officer kneeling on his neck for long, agonizing minutes, while the officer’s colleagues assist in the killing — during a pandemic. A high school girl films the entire thing on her cellphone. There is no question about the hideous sequence of events, the lynching, exactly how long it takes the begging man to lose consciousness, how long they wait to call for medical help.

Now you take to the streets by the millions, finally bringing many thousands of “white” people with you, everywhere. Racism doesn’t seem so abstract now, does it, you reality denying motherfuckers? Of course, now you are a visible, united threat and people who deny that racism exists start getting defensive, even shrill. Who is really making the problem here?

Anyway, a happy, healthy 2021 to you all. It’s hard to imagine it can be as bad as 2020, though guys like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham will do their best to hold the line, keep hope alive for al q’aeda, the base. The feelings of those left out, the large majority shoved aside, hurt, in need, bereft by the preventable deaths of loved ones — well, as Mitch and Lindsey and their ilk are used to believing, they simply don’t have the votes to do anything about it, do they?

A majority of one vote or not, we’re going to have a much better 2021 than the surreal, stinking shit-show of 2020. Take that to the bank, stay alert and be of good cheer.


Qualified immunity is a judicially created doctrine that shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations—like the right to be free from excessive police force—for money damages under federal law so long as the officials did not violate “clearly established” law. Both 42 U.S.C. § 1983—a statute originally passed to assist the government in combating Ku Klux Klan violence in the South after the Civil War—and the Supreme Court’s decision in Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1971) allow individuals to sue government officials for money damages when they violate their constitutional rights. Section 1983 applies to state officials, while Bivens applies to federal officials. Because damages are often the only available remedy after a constitutional violation has occurred, suits for damages can be a crucial means of vindicating constitutional rights. When government officials are sued, qualified immunity functions as an affirmative defense they can raise, barring damages even if they committed unlawful acts.


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