NOTES, 4 JANUARY 2021
Today is Monday, January 4, 2021. Happy New Year to you. Here is a wish that all is well with you and yours as we enter a new calendar year in our lives. What will this year hold? It is hard to imagine it could be as bad as last year, but then no one knows. It is not given to humans to know the future. I have always believed that was a good thing. If we knew all the bad events that were going to happen to us in the months ahead, we would not want to head into them.
It is time to check in on the crises we have been following for months now. Today we focus on the two outstanding ones of the hour, the pandemic and the political.
PANDEMIC. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread at alarming rates worldwide, particularly in America. According to our usual source of data, Worldometers, in the last week (December 28-January 4), nearly 5m new cases of infection have been reported in the world (4,718,661) for a total of 85,935,986. Nine million of these occurred in just the last two weeks. This is a rising weekly rate of 6%, up from the 5% of the earlier week. As for deaths in the world, there were 84,241 last week for a total of 1,857,966. This is a rate of 5%, up from the 4% of the previous week. In the world, more than 150,000 people have died of the plague in just the last two weeks.
Figures are even more alarming for the United States that continues to be the epicenter of the pandemic with no hint of change. The U.S. reported 1,669,460 new cases last week, a rising rate of 9%, up from the 7% of the preceding week. The U.S. is reporting a total of 21,243,307 cases, app. 25% of the world's total. Deaths are also soaring in the U.S. Last week, the U.S. reported 20,178 deaths, a rising rate of 6%, up from the 5% increase of the week earlier. In the last two weeks, over 36,000 American died of the plague. The total of U.S. casualties now stands at 361,316. This is about 1 in 6 of the world's deaths. Remember that the U.S. is by far the richest and most powerful nation-state in the world. The failure to respond well to this pandemic is a national disgrace and scandal. It is a black mark in American history.
Our local states in the southeast are part and parcel of this national disaster. Last week, South Carolina reported 29,293 new cases, by far the largest number ever recorded in one week. This was a rise of 10%, up from the 8% of the previous week. SC is now listing 325,472 cases of covid. Death numbers are also alarming. Last week, SC reported 329 deaths from COVID-19, a rising rate of 6%, up from the 4% of the earlier week. SC is now listing 5,484 deaths from the pandemic. In the last 14 days, SC has seen a 20% rise in new cases, 60% rise in deaths, and 50% increase in hospitalizations.
In Charleston County, new case numbers are soaring while death rates are falling. Last week, the county reported 1,530 new cases for a total of 25,041. In the past two weeks, it has reported 3k new cases. As for deaths, the county listed 3 last week for a total of 323.
Alabama also reported soaring numbers. It listed 28,467 new cases last week, a rate of 8%, up from the 7% of the earlier week. AL is now reporting a total of 374,095 cases. As for deaths, AL listed 187 last week, a rising rate of 4%, down from the 7% of the previous week. The state is now reporting a total of 4,878 deaths from the pandemic. In SC and AL alike, hospitals are overrun with COVID patients.
All of the numerous charts available on the pandemic show a soaring spike in cases and deaths in the last few months. We are clearly in the worst part of the pandemic, at least so far. Fortunately, vaccinations are now being administered, but experts say it will be months before these may reverse the spread of the disease.
POLITICAL. America is now in its most serious political crisis since the 1960's and possibly since the Civil War. The President has rejected the results of the fair, free, and legal election. He claims the election of his opponent was fraudulent and that the election was stolen from him, the true winner. He and his backers have not produced one shred of empirical evidence to support this shocking claim. Yet, he and his "base," app. a third of the country, continue to assert that Trump won the election and that Biden will be an illegitimate president. They are promising a big demonstration of resistance on this Wednesday, when the U.S. Congress meets to officially certify the results of the Electoral College election in December. In fact, Biden has been duly and legally elected the next president. Yet, 140 Republican members of the House of Representatives and at least 12 Republican Senators say they will object to certifying Biden as the winner. This is a continuation of the attempted coup d'état that Trump and some Republican officer holders have been carrying on for the last several months trying to overthrow the vote of the people and keep Trump in power against all principles of democracy. It will not work but it will go far in de-legitimizing the new administration in the minds of at least a third of the nation. This is dangerously destabilizing to the whole structure of the American civic-state that rests on shared rules and majority vote.
Just when we thought nothing Trump would do or say would shock us any more comes the news over the weekend of Trump's hour long rant to the (Republican) GA Secretary of State and his lawyer. Apparently deranged and delusional, Trump demanded they (illegally) "find" enough votes to make him the winner in GA and threatened arrest if they did not do so. Trump should be removed from office for this gross abuse of power, not to mention possible crime. It is beyond the pale for any president to do this. My hat's off to the GA Secretary of State for standing up to this outrageous behavior. He told Trump his data was wrong and refused to back down. Who would have thought that a Republican secretary of state in a Deep South state would be the one to finally sock the schoolyard bully? I say Brad Raffensperger is the hero of the hour.
President Trump has sixteen days to go in office. God only knows what he will do next as he gets ever more desperate. He is like a wounded animal. Thank goodness all of the living Secretaries of Defense just issued a strong letter that the military cannot be used for political purposes (as overthrowing an election). The courts too have tossed out Trump's entirely fictitious claims of election fraud. There is simply no credible evidence to present of election wrongdoing. Still, if we have learned anything at all about Trump in the last four years it is that he will go beyond all traditional bounds of law and order to serve himself. It is all but certain we will see a lot of chaos and turmoil in the next sixteen days. I would not be surprised to see a lot of violence too. I am looking out for Wednesday when Trump has called his armed followers to rally around him in Washington to protest and resist the legal and legitimate election, again, something that no president has ever done. Our constitutional democratic republic is in peril.
Meanwhile, there is an election of two senators in Georgia tomorrow. Conventional wisdom says the Republicans will win, but all bets are off now that Trump has thrown everything in Georgia (and the country) into chaos. The results will be close and I would not be too surprised to see the two Democrats win. If they do, the Democrats will have two of the three branches of the government, the executive and the legislative (House and Senate). And, if this happens, the Republicans can thank Trump for their political deaths. But then, they are the ones who selected him and enabled him all these wild years. Trump did not do all his destruction of constitutional norms by himself. He had a lot of help from Republicans who thought they could control this Frankenstein monster for themselves. Now he may very well be destroying them too on his way out the door. The Republican party is now badly divided and it is difficult to see how they survive Trump.
Americans are in a bad place today. We are suffering through the worst public health crisis in a century as we struggle to hold the nation together under the constitution that we have revered for more than two centuries. We are badly and dangerously divided. We are seriously challenged to beat the virus and keep the civic society intact. The next few weeks will tell us a lot about how we respond to this double threat. May God help us.
As always, remember we are here for the living of this hour. We the people did not create these crises. They were thrust upon us, one by nature and one by human action. Nevertheless, the terrible challenges must be met and met with a resolve to prevail. Peace.