Happy Easter in a Sad Time

Sunday is Easter, the holiest day on the Christian calendar, and it will be very different from any Easter we can remember. We won’t be worshipping with our congregation, or having ham sweet potatoes with our family, or watching kids hunt for Easter eggs and eat chocolate bunnies.
The coronavirus won’t allow for that, even on the holiest day of the year, and although that saddens us greatly we understand the necessity of foregoing a traditional celebration with family and friends and fellow worshippers.
It will still be Easter, though, the anniversary of that glorious day when Jesus Christ was resurrected from the tomb. Even in our solitude will be grateful for that, and let it rekindle our faith in the possibility that all who believe can someday be together in a more perfect world. Here’s hoping you have someone to share the day with, but even if you don’t be assured that you are not alone.
Have as happy an Easter as possible in these hard times, and be sure that better times are ahead.

— Bud Norman

Bernie Burns Out

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign on Wednesday, which caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth among his fanatical supporters but was largely overlooked by most of the country.
Once a front-runner in the Democratic primary after race after wins in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, he was largely knocked out of contention after a string of losses to former Vice President Joe Biden, and since then the primaries have been mostly postponed by the coronavirus and mostly ignored by the media, so Sanders’ departure wound up getting less press coverage than the death of a minor figure from the Lewinsky scandal way back in President Bill Clinton’s administration. There were a few think pieces about how self-described socialist Sanders’ two failed attempts to win the Democratic nomination succeed in dragging the party further to the left, but we think they overstate his influence.
Both campaigns ended with Sanders losing to severely flawed centrists from the Democratic establishment, and although such far-left acolytes as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won in the mid-terms the Democrats won back a majority of the House of Representatives mostly because of centrist candidates who did well with the college-educated suburbanites who have deserted the Republican party in droves since the election of President Donald Trump. Biden wound up winning a majority of Democratic votes because even some Democrats who liked Sanders’ policy positions worried he couldn’t win in a general election.
Our guess is that they were right, and the Democrat party dodged a bullet when Sanders faltered. Trump was eager to run against socialism and so worried about Biden that he got himself impeached trying to dig up dirt on him, and for all of his undeniable flaws Biden will be a more formidable opponent. Sanders fanatical supporters argued that he could beat Trump by bring out young voters and a multi-ethnic working class coalition that have typically abstained from voting, but they didn’t show up in the primaries and probably wouldn’t have in a general election.
Trump got a small bump in his approval rating when the coronavirus came along, but it was smaller than the rally-’round-the-flag bumps that previous presidents saw in times of national crisis. President Jimmy Carter saw a bigger bump after the American embassy workers in Iran were taken hostage after the Islamic Revolution, but by the time election day came around the the embassy staff were still in captivity it was one of the big reasons that he lost to President Ronald Reagan by a landslide. The latest polling shows Trump’s approval rating back in the low-to-mid 40s, where it’s been since the day he took office, and if the coronavirus continues to kill and keep much of the American population in captivity on Election Day it will probably be even lower.
For now Biden is unable to campaign except on the internet, and for now a lot of Sanders fanatics are vowing to sit out the election or vote for the Green Party or the Socialist Party or the Communist Party or some other option, but we expect that the Democrats’ loathing of Trump will ultimately unite the party. Trump will continue to blame President Barack Obama and certain Democratic governors and the World Health Organization and his erstwhile pal and Chinese dictator Xi Ping for the lack of testing and medical supplies that have exacerbated the toll of the coronavirus, but he’ll find it hard to blame Biden, who has been happily out of the news ever since it started.
The stock markets had a pretty good day when investors learned that Sanders wouldn’t become America’s first avowedly socialist president,  but that also suggests they weren’t at all terrified that Biden might win. It’s long time between now and Election Day, and things could change, but for now Biden sees to have a very good shot at beating Trump.

— Bud Norman

Blind Trusts Versus Blind Faith

For some time now President Donald Trump has been touting a drug called hydroxychloroquine as a possible miracle cure for the disease caused by the coronavirus, despite warnings by his top experts that the drug has not been proved effective. Perhaps it’s a mere coincidence, but it turns out Trump owns stock in the company that makes the drug.
We’ll not come right out and accuse Trump of endangering American lives to make some money, and even his antagonists at The Washington Post concede that his investments in the company are so small they constitute only a tiny fraction of his estimated wealth, but even his most ardent admirers should admit it looks bad.
There is anecdotal evidence that hydroxychloroquine might be an effective remedy for the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, so Trump argues that people infected with the virus have “nothing to lose.” A French hospital has recently ceased using the drug because of cardiac problems it seems to be causing in patients, however, and Trump’s salesmanship seems to have caused such a rush on the drug that patients with malaria and lupus and other diseases the drug has proved effective against are now unable to acquire it.
Trump’s unexpected apologist at The Washington Post rightly notes that Trump’s investments in the drug only amounts to a nickel of the average American’s net worth, but Trump is an admittedly greedy man, and we wouldn’t put it past him to do almost anything for another nickel. We also note he has no medical training whatsoever, despite having an uncle who taught at the Massachusetts Institute o Technology and his unproved that all the doctors at the Centers for Disease Control were astounded by his knowledge of virology.
Such cynical suspicions are precisely the reason presidents have traditionally released their tax forms and other financial documents and put all their assets in blind trusts for the duration o their presidency, to avoid even the possible appearance of a conflict of interest. Trump refused to do so, and has flouted numerous other presidential norms as well, so we figure his critics are entitled to cast whatever aspersions they wish.We’re hoping Trump’s hunch about hydroxychloroquine proves right, abut otherwise it looks bad.

— Bud Norman

Hope Springs on Wall Street, if Not South Seneca

This will be only a brief missive, as we’re writing it at the Lost Sock Laundromat on unfashionable South Seneca Street, and only have the time it takes to do one load o dirty clothes. It’s not much to look at, but the laundry comes out clean and dry and they generously offer free wi-fi. Our washer and dryer were knocked out some months ago by a sewer backup, and on Monday we found that our internet provider was overwhelmed by the traffic and the telephone message was saying “We are having hard problems,” so here we are in the wee hours of the morning.
We’re doing our civic minded best to stay at home, but we still need groceries and clean clothes, and figure that we’re not risking our health or anyone else’s any more than necessary writing in a mostly abandoned south side laundromat. There was one seedy-looking fellow who turned out to be quite friendly from a social distance, but he’s gone and it’s just me and the tattooed guy who works here, who was kind enough to turn on the wi-fi.
We had planned to write about Monday’s big rally on the stock markets, apparently fueled by expectations that the worst of the pandemic will be over sooner rather than later and things will get back to normal. The Washington Post’s headline was “Wall Street stages explosive rally, powering Dow 1,600 points as investors seize on morsels of good news.” We sure hope the optimism is justified, but have noticed that these recent rallies have been followed by sharp downturns, and worry that it might be what Alan Greenspan once called “irrational exuberance.”
The rate of the increase in infections has apparently slowed, but they’re still increasing, and the death toll is still expected to be high. We’re also seeing a cloud in every silver living about the economic, and can’t help but notice that the extraordinary number o people working home and watching Netflix and porn has overpowered a major American corporation, to the extent they explaining to frustrated customers that “We’re having hard problems.”
At the least the Lost Sock Laundromat here on South Seneca is still on the job.

— Bud Norman</p

Keeping Close at a Distance

Our internet access has been intermittent all day, which is frustrating in the best of times but downright infuriating in times like these. During the coronavirus scare, the internet is an essential connection to the world outside our house.
Lately our Facebook friends have been entertaining one another with parlor games, which are an interesting diversion from all the bad news we keep reading on the internet. In one game a person lists nine jobs he’s had and one he hasn’t, and invites others to guess which one is the lie. In another a person lists nine famous people he’s met and one he hasn’t, and the object is the same. Other popular pastimes include asking others to list 10 things they don’t like that everyone else seems to like, or name 10 movies they’ve frequently re-watched yet never grow tired of.
A hot topic of discussion is what to binge watch on the internet while stuck at home. The Netflix documentary series “Tiger King” is getting lots of rave reviews, but after binge watching that it goes on our list of 10 things we don’t like nearly as much as most people seem to do. The good folks at HBO have kindly offered a free month of streaming at its web site, and we’ve taken advantage of that to revisit “The Sopranos” and “The Wire,” and unless you’re queasy about cinematic violence we highly recommend both. People are posting their favorite YouTube videos, too, many of which have been well worth watching, and as soon as we figure out how to post YouTube videos on Facebook we’ll be posting  Nicholas Brothers dance numbers and W.C. Fields’ great “Honest John” pool routine from “Six of a Kind” and other favorites from better times.
The internet also brings us the daily bad news, but we try not to be obsessive about it. We’re trying to get some walking in, but the weather’s not lately been conducive to that, and we’re ignoring that government doctor’s advice to not go the grocery store, as we figure that starvation is a deadly as the coronavirus. It’s good to know that the friends and family were in touch with from a distance are safe at home, although they’re all going stir crazy and some of them are now grieving the loss of a loved one, and we we sure hope the internet doesn’t succumb to the coronavirus. We wonder how anyone survived the 1918 flu epidemic without it.

— Bud Norman

The Ongoing Trials of Sessions

President Donald Trump is still tormenting his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which is entirely unsurprising but the biggest non-coronavirus story we could find in the news this week.
Then-Alabama Sen. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump’s seemingly quixotic campaign for the Republican party’s presidential nomination, and a time when the rest of the party’s elected and officials and other establishments were desperately hoping to nominate almost anyone else. His campaigning on Trump’s behalf helped win over a lot of the fiscal and religious conservatives who had been suspicious of the former Democrat and outspoken abortion rights advocate from New York City, and when Trump somehow won the general election Sessions was rewarded with the Attorney General gig, despite a lack of any apparent qualifications other than his loyalty.
Not long after Trump took office, though, the Justice Department announced an investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s apparent attempts to hack e-mails and sponsor internet information in order to help Trump. Because Sessions ha been a prominent member of the campaign, and he and other campaign staff had some arguably innocent interactions with Russians that he denied during congressional testimony, he recused himself from any role in the investigation. it was the ethical thing to do, and probably smart politics given the doubts that any decisions he might have would prompted, but Trump was furious.
Trump wanted the investigations quashed at the beginning, and believed that an Attorney General’s job is to protect him rather than pursue justice without favoritism, and made Session’s life as miserable as possible. Trump “tweeted” schoolyard taunts against Sessions, pilloried him during televised news conferences, and in private conversations with other administrations likened sessions to the diminutive and nearly-blind and constantly blundering cartoon character Mr. Magoo. Although he had neither the guts nor a plausible reason for outright firing Sessions, who was pursuing White policies diligently, Trump was clearly intent on forcing a resignation.
That’s what eventually happened, and Sessions was replaced by Attorney General William Barr, who has proved more willing to protect the president at all costs.
Sessions was still popular in Alabama, where he probably could have held his Senate seat until his dying day if he hadn’t loyally accepted Trump’s offer of the Attorney General job, so he went back to the welcoming arms of his home state and bided his until the next senatorial election. All of Trump’s “tweeting” and pillorying had somewhat weakened Sessions standing, though, and after a crowded primary election Sessions wound up in a run-off against former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville slated for July 14. Sessions campaigned on the argument that he’d been an early supporter of Trump — who is also quite popular in the state — and remained a loyal advocate for the “Make America Great Again agenda, but Trump values loyalty to himself more than loyalty to his ever-shifting policies, and he endorsed Tuberville, who was also fully on board and already had a sizable following in the football-crazy state.
Sessions has continued to campaign as “Trump’s #1 supporter,” but the the Trump reelection has campaign has sent him a cease-and-desist letter about it, saying the claim is “delusional.” This looks bad to us, as it seems quite petty on Trump’s part and clearly implies that any true Trump supporter would have gladly obstructed justice on the president’s behalf, but a majority of Alabama’s Republican voters might well see it differently. When Alabama had a special election to fill the state’s Senate after Sessions left for the Justice Department, a majority of Alabama’s Republican voters nominated Roy Moore, an unabashed theocrat who had been kicked off the Supreme Court of Alabama for defying federal and had a number of women coming forward to describe his very creepy behavior when he was in his 30s and they were in their teens. He was such an awful candidate despite Trump’s endorsement and ardent campaigning and ample campaign contributions the Red Sea parted and a moderate Democrat named Doug Jones won a statewide election for the for the first time in decades.
Alabama is still as red as the Crimson Tide, though, and Jones is considered the Democrat’s most vulnerable incumbent in November. Tuberville might or might not have much going for him except a winning record at Auburn and Trump’s endorsement, as we don’t follow Alabama politics closely enough to say, but from this distance he doesn’t seem nearly so awful as Moore, so he’d likely be the frontrunner in a general election. Sessions would be, too, though, as Alabamans has long considered a good public servant who put principle above politicians, and although it goes against off his prideful instincts Trump would be wise to support a Sessions nomination if it happens.
These days every story has a coronavirus angle, however, and at this point it’s not clear if Alabama will be able to have a run-off election on July 14. The Alabama Republican Party could decide to postpone it until hopefully happier days, or have everyone vote by mail or on-line or some other socially-distanced, or just have the party establishment pick a nominee, and there’s no telling which candidate that would benefit.
The other coronavirus angle is that such a petty and impetuous and unprincipled president as Trump is in charge of that horror show. Even in Alabama, Jones might be able to make some hay of that by Election Day, if that happens.

— Bud Norman

Saving Dr. Fauci

In one of the many depressing stories about the coronavirus, we read that Dr. Anthony Fauci now requires an enhanced security detail due to several death threats against him. As the government’s top expert on infectious is perhaps America’s most essential worker at the moment, but his willingness to present hard facts and occasionally contradict President Donald Trump’s statements seems to have some provoked a murderous rage in some deranged individuals.
They’ve been encouraged by some of the Trump-friendly media, who believe that the measures Fauci has advocated to fight the coronavirus outbreak cause harm to the economy that outweighs the number of lives they might save. They also believe that Fauci isn’t helping to get Trump reelected, and that also outweighs the number of lives that might saved.
The cache of e-mails that were hacked from the Democratic National Committee and leaked to the public during the last election included a missive from Fauci praising Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and although Fauci has served every administration since President Ronald Reagan brought him on board that was enough for internet publications such as Gateway Pundit and American Thinker to tar him as a Hillary-loving partisan. His long and distinguished career as a public servant are considered suspect in certain circles, as it suggests he part of the “deep state” conspiracy against Trump and everything good. When Trump referred to the State Department as the “Deep State Department” during a press briefing Fauci could be seen slapping his forehead, and that was proof of his complicity to a number of viewers.
The Trump-friendly made a general distrust of scientific experts, as well, as they’re seen as pointy-headed know-it-all “elites” undermining democracy. As recently as last week radio-talker Rush Limbaugh was advising his listeners that “the ‘deep state’ extends very deeply, we did not elect a bunch of health experts that we don’t know. We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know.”
Trump has lately begun striking the same somber tone and citing the same grim projections as Fauci, though, and seems to be taking Fauci’s advice more seriously than he does Limbaugh’s. We hope the Trump-friendly media will lighten up, and that Fauci survives not only the coronavirus but also the result craziness.

— Bud Norman

On an Ironic April Fools’ Day

President Donald Trump is no longer downplaying the severity of the coronavirus epidemic, and is now warning that as many as 240,000 Americans might die. As a Facebook friend of ours pointed out, that’s more than the American death toll from World War I and the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.
The president also now acknowledges that it won’t be over by Easter, that Americans will have to stay at home as much as possible at least through April and perhaps past May, and that the economic consequences will be grim. He also wants you to know that the lack of testing and shortages of essential medical supplies are the fault of President Barack Obama and various nasty Democratic governors and his good friend the Chinese dictator, and the media are only reporting all the horrific news to make him look bad, but at least he’s stopped peddling the pie-in-the-sky optimism which encouraged far too many of his most die-hard fans to go out and potentially expose themselves to the virus.
America has until November to assess the job Trump has done in responding to this crisis, and there’s no telling what things will look by then, but clearly mistakes have already been made. Despite the eight long years we spent criticizing Obama on an almost daily basis we don’t blame him for a disease that came along three years after he left office, we see no reason why any Republican or Democratic governor should have to flatter Trump to get needed federal help for they states, and now that Trump admits that all the “fake news” about a public health emergency wasn’t so fake after all we wish he’d stop castigating reporters for asking questions that he’d rather not have to answer.
Whatever the eventual coronavirus death toll might be, Trump will boast that it would have been far worse if not for the actions he took, and he’ll be right about that. The experts Trump is at long listening to say the death toll would be in the millions if no actions were taken at all, but surely Trump isn’t the only possible president who wouldn’t have simply ignored the problem, so far most of the action has been taking place at the state and county and local levels, and as much as we still despise the damn Democrats we can’t see how any of this mess is their fault.
We’re hoping and praying it all ends as well as possible, even if that redounds to Trump’s political benefit, and we’re doing our part by mostly staying at home and going slightly stir crazy and trying to hold public officials accountable. It’s not so much that we’re so very patriotic and selfless, but that there’s currently nowhere to go, even with gasoline prices at the lowest we’ve seen in many decades.
Stay well, dear readers, no matter what you might decide come next November.

— Bud Norman

Our Depression About Another Great Depression

Our parents were born in Oklahoma during the the “Dust Bowl” days of the Great Depression, and we’ve long been fascinated by that era. While growing up we would constantly pester our parents and grandparents and older aunts and uncles about what it was like, and voraciously read everything we could find about the economic and political and cultural history of the time. Now there’s a good chance well be facing similarly hard times, but we expect it won’t be the same.
Economists at the Federal Reserve are saying that the unemployment rate might hit more than 32 percent because of the coronavirus shutdowns, despite the zero or negative interest rates and trillions of newly-printed money the central bank is now offering, and that the gross domestic product might soon be half of what it was not so long ago. This is even worse than the Great Depression, when the unemployment rate as at worst about one in four. and those who were on the on the job kept at the economy going at slightly more than than half of its former capacity.
As bad as ut was, the Great Depression turned out to be a golden age in American culture. The big bands of Duke Ellington and Count Basie and Benny Goodman were swinging, Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family were making great country music, and the bluesmen were naturally at their best. Hollywood had a splendid decade, and in ’39 it made at least 52 movies you really need to see.
We worry, though, that it won’t work as well this time. These days the big stay-at-home Netflix hit is about the wierd Oklahoma “Lion King,” which we have o admit is uncomfortably mesmerizing. Most of the new music doesn’t seem to help except for the great local music we cant go out and hear, what building continues around here is mostly boring glass-and-steel.We also worry that our generation and the younger folks aren’t so haras our ancestors.

— Bud Norman

A Slow Rush to Judgment

When Rush Limbaugh first took to the national radio airwaves back in the late ’80s we found his shtick somewhat amusing, and during many of the controversies he deliberately provoked over the years we came to his defense. He was espousing what were then mainstream conservative views, which we usually agreed with, and we found it slightly amusing how apoplectic the left would become over it.
Since the nomination and election of President Donald Trump, though, Limbaugh has taken an infuriating turn toward a more newfangled conservatism. Limbaugh was once an outspoken advocate of the North American Free Trade Agreement and free trade in general, he defended President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and Bush’s presidency in general, and railed constantly against the federal government’s mounting debt. Trump called NAFTA the worst deal ever and started protectionist trade wars with just about every country, accused Bush of lying America into the Iraq War and said it was the worst foreign policy decision ever, and is racking up the national debt at an unprecedented pace, but Limbaugh has capitulated to Trump on every issue.
We usually sleep late and don’t drive around with the car radio on these days, so we only occasionally hear Limbaugh’s broadcasts, but when we have we’ve become very disenchanted. The first time was when a video showed a high school girl losing a state track championship by stopping to help a fellow competitor who had stumbled, which went “viral” as an example of sportsmanship, and Limbaugh castigated for her compassion and lack of a win-at-all-costs ruthlessness, which is now inconsistent with the newfangled conservatism, which don’t much like. After that he assured his listeners that whoever was sending pi0e bombs to Democratic politicians and various media would surely turn out to be a lefty trying make Trump look bad, and when the feds arrested a guy whose van was covered in pro-trump decals he embraced his callers’ conspiracy theory that the decals weren’t sufficiently faded so it must have been a “deep state” conspiracy.
One day we happened to be listening Limbaugh asked if any of his listeners had seen and heard the press conference by several women who allege that Trump had sexually assaulted them, and by coincidence we had, so we were interested to hear his account of it. He said that one of the “babes” had complained that Trump asked for her phone, and wondered what’s wrong with a world where a man can’t even ask for a woman’s phone number. He said another was a contestant in of one Trump’s beauty pageants who complained about being ogled, and remarked that the being ogled whole point of beauty pageants. Limbaugh didn’t mention that the first women alleged Trump was grabbing her and kissing her without consent, as Trump bragged about doing on the infamous “Hollywood Access” tape, and thought the request for her phone number added insult to injury. Nor did Limbaugh explain that the beauty pageant contestant said Trump’s ogled her in a state of undress when he invaded her dressing room, as he had bragged about doing on Howard Stern’s pornograahic radio show.
Limbaugh proudly claims to be a fearless truth teller, but on that day he was flat out lying to his 20 million or listeners, and exactly the sort of sexist pig that all of his critics have long alleged.
He later told a caller who was concerned about the growing national debt that it’s no big deal, and that he and other conservatives never really cared about it and only used it as an arguing point with Democrats. That pretty much ended our regard for his commentary, but last week he went on air and said that Trump shouldn’t be heeding the advice of government experts about the coronavirus epidemic, as they’re part of a conspiracy to undermine his presidency, so we’re now done with him entirely.
Limbaugh has bravely announced that he has stage-4 lung cancer, and we’re hoping and praying for his recovery, as we don’t wish that on anyone. Even so, we won’t be listening to his daily diatribes.

— Bud Norman