Life in Pandemic Times

Today is the first day of spring, and the local weather forecast here in Wichita is for temperatures in the 70s, and the trees in our picturesque Riverside neighborhood are starting to come alive, which is all good news. The forecasts have the temperatures falling below freezing and nipping all those buds over the weekend, though, and everything else seems to be bad news.
The coronavirus pandemic and its resulting panic have the stock markets and every other measure of the ¬†economy in a free fall, all of the schools in Kansas are closed, and worse yet the notorious dive bar called Kirby’s Beer Store, where we watch “Jeopardy!” and discuss the issues of the day with our friends is now shut down indefinitely. Our beloved Dad, the best man we’ve ever known, is currently in the health care ward of his retirement home due to non-coronavirus reasons and we can’t visit him because of a lockdown, and although we had a face-to-face encounter the other day with our beloved Mom, the best woman we’ve ever known, we had to give her an “elbow bump” rather than a much-needed hug.
Things are bad all over lately, and there’s no telling when it will get better, but we’re hanging on, and holding out hope. We have no expertise in epidemiology or anything like that, but we’re advising the friends we mostly meet on Facebook to be careful but not panic. There’s no holding back spring, even if it brings tornados and no baseball, and sunny summer days are sure to follow. Here’s hoping we’ll all be around to enjoy it.

— Bud Norman

The Big News That’s Not Entirely About Coronavirus

The coronavirus craziness continues, with the Kansas governor shutting down all the public schools for the rest of the year and President Donald Trump wanting to send everyone in the country a check for a thousand dollars, but Tuesday at least gave us something else to write about. There’s still plenty of politics to be played, although for now the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination looks to be over.
Despite everything there were three more state primaries on Tuesday — it was supposed to be four, but Ohio decided to put it off until summer — and front-running former Vice President Joe Biden won them all by landslide-to-comfortable margins, so after Biden’s big wins on “Super Tuesday” that pretty much knocks self-described socialist and last-man-standing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders out of the race. Biden won big in the populous and delegate-rich states of Illinois and Florida, where Sanders also fared badly last time around against former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive First Woman President “Crooked Hillary Clinton, and the upcoming states don’t look any more promising for Sanders, who didn’t offer any comment on the results.
Even in the age of the coronavirus, and perhaps especially so, that’s worth noting.
Which we figure is bad news for Trump, who so feared Biden’s nomination that he got himself impeached trying to extort dirt from a foreign ally about Biden’s son. Better by far to run against “Crazy” Bernie Sanders and his pie-in-the-sky utopian promises, which make Trump and his own oversold and thus-far underdelivered promises seem relatively sane.
Biden is a boring and often inarticulate fellow, and over a political career that stretches back to the administration of President Richard Nixon he’s not done much for either good or bad. Come November the electorate might well find that an attractive alternative to the undeniably entertaining yet even more inarticulate Trump, whose bull-in-a-China-shop approach to governance so far seems to have exacerbated this coronavirus craziness. Trump is now offering thousand-dollar checks to every American, and billion-dollar bailouts to various big-bucks industries to keep the economy afloat, which his Republican base probably won’t mind, but by November he’ll have a lot of explaining to do to the rest of the country, and Biden will have been out of power and utterly blameless for any of it. He’ll be able to point out that Obama created an agency within the National Security Council to deal with pandemics, and Trump sent it packing, and that none of the pandemics that occurred during the Obama administration led to schools and bars and other essential businesses shutting down.
At this point pretty much the whole country is in a panic about the coronavirus and no one seems more panicked the the President of the United States, and we expect that will last until at least next November’s Election Day, which we cautiously hold out hope will happen. We can’t see any happy ending, but we’ll also hold out hope for the least worst outcome, whatever that is.

— Bud Norman

The Coronavirus Vs. Civilization

The news about the coronavirus gets worse with each passing day. Infections and fatalities are spreading exponentially, more businesses and schools are being shut down, such large cities as San Francisco are in lockdown, the stock markets are tanking as the economic repercussions increase, and now even President Donald Trump has stopped downplaying the threat and is urging Americans not to gather in groups larger than ten.
If you’re bold enough to venture out in public, or are forced by circumstances to do so, you’ll probably notice the panic about it is palpable.
Already many Americans are hoarding supplies of food and toilet papers are other necessities, which is unfortunate but understandable, but some are also stocking up on guns and ammunition, which we find even more worrisome. The coronavirus is of course invulnerable to bullets, but many people are apparently preparing for the post-apocalyptic breakdown of civilization ’70s-era dystopian movie scenario they expect will follow.
At this point we’re taking this coronavirus very seriously, and keeping to our lifelong habit of avoiding human contact or encounters with any more people than necessary, and don’t disagree with all the advice about staying at home as much as possible. We expect that a horrific number of people will get sick, that a smaller but still horrific number of people will die, and that the economic consequences for those majority who survive will be severe.
Still, we hold out hope that commerce and some semblance of civilization will also somehow survive, and that we won’t need a whole lot of guns and ammunition to get by. We have a very fancy handgun and a couple of boxes of bullets, which are well hidden in a secret location and we hope to never use, but we’re not gun-slingin’ types and don’t think it would do us much good in one of those ’70s-era dystopian movie scenarios.
We know some of the people who are stocking up on guns and ammo, and in most cases they seem to relish those post-apocalyptic possibilities. They seem to find it more enticingly adventurous than their daily lives in a world of commerce and civilization, and imagine themselves the star of the movie rather than the extra who got mowed down in the first scene. Knowing that we’d probably be among the first victims of a collapse of commerce and civilization, and rather liking the many blessings of commerce and civilization, we’re hoping they’ll persist.
So far, we like our chances, even with Trump in the White House and former Vice President Joe Biden the only plausible alternative. Commerce and civilization have long proved resilient to plagues, and the American people are a pretty plucky bunch. For everyone stocking up on guns and ammo, there are far more doing their best to not spread any germs and volunteering to deliver essential goods to shut-ins and trying to keep calm and civilized. State and local governments are on the job, so are the cops and the military, businesses are setting aside certain hours for elderly shoppers and otherwise acting responsibly, and America is still a land of mostly good people.

— Bud Norman

When Even the Good News is Bad News

Sundays are usually slow news days, when we show up at the West Douglas Church of Christ across the Arkansas River in the rough Delano district to hear the two-millennium-old good news of the gospel, but yesterday it was hard to avoid the more recent bad news abut the coronavirus pandemic that seems to spreading exponentially and has pretty much every person on the planet freaking out. Attendance at our small and aging congregation was down, and when we awoke from our usual post-church nap we saw that the Federal Reserve Board had lowered interest rates all the way down to zero.
That’s good news, we suppose, as it signals to the suddenly bearish stock markets that the federal government is doing everything it can to sustain the economy, including quantitative easing of freshly printed money and another trillion dollar or so of deficit spending and other governmental actions that used to offend Republican free market sensibilities. The bad news is that by doing so they acknowledge such extreme measures are now necessary, as people all over the world are starting to think we’re all going to die, which of course is very bad for most businesses.
We have no idea what the stock markets will do today, and we’d be far too rich to be writing at an obscure internet publication if we did, but as we write this the future markets that keep going overnight and through weekends are seeing the zero interest rate announcement as a glass half full and are again deep in the red. Given what we’ve seen over the weekend here in Wichita, where the coronavirus is currently taking up just one hospital bed, we can well understand the pessimism.
Around 8 p.m. on Friday we dropped in on the nearest Dillons’ grocery store, which is the Kroger-owned chain where most Wichitans buy their groceries, and even at that usually late hour the place was packed with customers, all of whom had carts stacked chest-high with at least a month’s supply of meat and beans and frozen food and toilet paper and whatever else they considered essential. It took us longer than usual to pay for our meager single guy’s day-to-day purchases that fit in a small hand-held basket, and the woman at the cash register apologized for the wait, but we told her we’d seen how hard she working and very much appreciated the effort, and we wished her well. For now business is good at Dillons’, but if things work out for the best they’ll wind up selling the same amount of goods over the long run, as people deplete their hoards, and if it doesn’t we’ll probably all be dead.
We also dropped in on the notorious dive bar called Kirby’s Beer Store over the weekend, where business was also down. Kirby’s usually thrives on wizened customers from the across-the-street Wichita State University in the afternoon and the more youthful music lovers who crave its eclectic offerings in the evening, but WSU is extending spring break and offering only on-line classes due the coronavirus, and the bands who were booked on their way to Austin’s big and recently cancelled South-By-Southwest Festival are now cancelling their engagements. There were a few hardy daredevils among the regulars who ventured out to have a beer with us, and we had a good time with them, but we couldn’t avoid the topic of the coronavirus.
Sunday was supposed to be the day when the National Collegiate Athletic Conference announced the field for its basketball championship, which might or might not have included WSU’s Wheatshockers and most certainly would have had the University of Kansas’ Jayhawks as a top seed, but all of “March Madness” was cancelled due to mania about the coronavirus. The National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball an golf’s prestigious Masters Tournament have also been postponed or cancelled, and we figure the economic fallout from just that sector of the American economy is enough to send the stock markets into bear territory. Throw in all the economic fallout hitting all of sorts of large and small businesses all around the world, and we can’t advise anyone not to panic.
We’ll stay cool, though, as we’ve thus far survived an appendectomy and several global pandemics and numerous recessions and an F-4 tornado that ran right over us, as well as our many vices, and we maintain an irrational but unshakeable in faith our invincibility. We’re not so sure about the rest of you, but we wish you the best. We can’t look to either of the political parties for salvation, but if worse comes to worst we’ll be counting on the good news that’s still being preached to the dwindling congregation at the West Douglas Church of Christ.

— Bud Norman

On the Only Subject at Hand

Try as we might, we simply can’t find anything in the news to write about other than the rapidly spreading coronavirus. Pretty much everyone we run into as we continue to get out and about brings it up, and there’s at this point there’s no avoiding the topic.
Most folks in this hoops-crazy state like to talk sports, especially during “March Madness,” but the coronavirus cancelled both collegiate and professional basketball and will delay baseball and has temporarily shut down sports. Pop culture usually provides something salacious to talk, but right now the entertainment news is all about beloved movie star Tom Hanks and his lovely wife coming down with coronavirus and all the late television comedians doing their jokes about President Donald Trump without studio audiences to laugh along.
The coronavirus is pretty much all that matters for now in the economic news, which has lately been quite awful. The sports industry and school districts are shutting down, and music festivals and business meetings are being cancelled, and entire cities and countries are being quarantined. and travel bans are being imposed, and globalist supply chains are being interrupted, which is not good for the global economy or your favorite hometown business. Stock markets are plummeting, the Federal Reserve Board and the central banks of the other major global economic players are all slashing interest rates to zero and beyond and printing up more money to assuage the markets, and everything indicates that now is the time to panic.
Which of course makes the coronavirus the biggest political story of each passing day, which of course is bad news for Trump. He’s done his best to downplay the coronavirus as no big deal that would soon be forgotten, and even dismissed it as yet another “hoax” to torpedo his presidency, but now that he’s talking about massive government bailouts and travel bans from most of continental Europe he’s conceding that the coronavirus is a pretty big deal, and so far his proposals have not stopped the economic carnage nor quelled a public panic.
None of the damned Democrats seem to have any better ideas, but having been mostly out of power during two of the past three years they can’t be credibly blamed for the current mess, and they have plenty of talking points. According to the consensus opinion of America’s leading experts on this sort of thing, including some who are still on board with the federal government, the country is doing a woeful job of testing its citizens for the disease, and is therefore unable to do other things the country might do if it knew where the corona virus was popping up. Travel bans might be a painful necessity at the moment, but Trump’s European travel band doesn’t extend to Ireland and the United Kingdom, where there have been confirmed cases of coronavirus, and anyone in continental Europe could easily fly to the UK and then to the United States, so the damned Democrats are entitled to wonder if that has anything to do with Trump’s failing golf resorts in those countries.
For now the Democratic nominee seems likely to be former Vice President Joe Biden, rather than self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and we figure that’s also bad news for Trump. Biden is a very boring fellow, which a wary country might well long for come November, but Sanders is kooky enough that Trump might persuade a wary country he could be more destructive than the coronavirus. Biden was vice president during the administration of President Barack Obama, and you can way what you want about his slow-growth policies — we had plenty to say about it at the time — but they did take over shortly after an economic catastrophe and were in charge during eight of those 11 years of Bull Markets that went into Bear Market territory during Trump’s administration. Biden will also have plenty to say about how Trump fired the National Security Council’s pandemic response that the Obama administration had created.
We don’t give much credit to either Obama or Trump for the long run of the Bull Market, but rather credit the ingenuity and resilience of free Americans operating in a free market, trading freely with all the free people of the world. Here’s hoping that not only survives this coronavirus, but also the likes of Trump and Biden, and that there’s something else to talk about.

— Bud Norman

Go Ahead and Panic

The National Basketball Association has indefinitely suspended the rest of its regular season, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association won’t allow any fans to attend its men’s or women’s “March Madness” post season basketball games, so we’re starting to take this coronavirus pandemic seriously. Universally beloved movie star Tom Hanks and his wife have reportedly tested positive for the disease, so apparently no one is safe.
President Donald Trump went on prime time television from the Oval Office on Wednesday to reassure the public that there’s no need for panic, but he also announced he’s banning any travel from European countries for the next 30 days and is preparing to deficit spend billions propping up a suddenly ailing economy, so you can draw your own conclusions based on how much you trust his self-proclaimed very stable genius. From what we’ve seen of it over the past three years, we’re inclined to panic.
Trump was loudly sniffing at the end of every sentence, but he’d been doing that long before anyone had heard of a coronavirus, so we’re not bothered by that, even if Trump has come in contact with with several people who are self-quarantining themselves after coming into contact with people who have contracted the virus. We’re more bothered that Trump fired all of his National Security Council’s experts on global pandemics when he came into office, spent the first weeks of the pandemic claiming it was yet another hoax concocted by his political opponents to make him look bad, so far failed to deliver on a promise of testing for everybody, and has urged people to keep going to work and coming to his campaign rallies even if they have reason to believe they’ve contracted the virus.
Even before anyone ever heard of a coronavirus Trump was eager to restrict any interaction between America and the rest of the world, and the travel restrictions he’s imposed in the wake of the pandemic might well prove sound public policy, but it’s not good for either the global nor the intertwined American economies. Trump has declared himself pleased that Americans will stay in America and spend their dollars here, but as a luxury hotel mogul he should know that America gets more from international travel it spends, and that when basketball games and music festivals and intrastate business meetings and domestic airline flights and cruise ship bookings are being cancelled and supply chains are being interrupted there will be serious economic repercussions.
All the smart money is already panicked about it, with all the major stock exchanges down by 20 points over the last weeks into what is now officially Bear Market territory, after a remarkable 11-year run of Bull Markets, which any Republican will have to admit is eight years longer than Trump has been in office. Trump is urging the Federal Reserve Board to further lower interest rates, which are already pretty much zero, and to keep up the “quantitative easing” of freshly printed money that Republican used to decry, which now have the 2- and 10- and 20- and even the 100-year bond yields at pretty much zero, and is promising to add a few few puny billions of dollars to the nation’s latest $1 trillion dollar deficit to offset all the economic carnage. We’ll find out today and in the coming days how the smart money reacts to that.
Shortly before Trump’s address to the nation, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, who seems to know even more about this coronavirus thing than than Trump, warned a House oversight committee that “Things will get worse.”

In any case we’ll hope for the best. We won’t being showing up at anyone’s campaign rallies, as no one seems to know what to do about this, but we will try to show up at the West Douglas Church of Christ and Kirby’s Beer Store, and maybe even watch all the great basketball on our computer or some local tavern’s television. If we’re lucky, life will go on.

— Bud Norman

The Seeming Quick End to the Democratic Primary Race

It ain’t over ’til it’s over, as the great baseball player and aphorist Yogi Berra so memorably put it, but even with most of the states yet to weigh in over spring and summer the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination already seems to be pretty much over. After a couple of “Super Tuesdays” former Vice President Joe Biden seems to have it wrapped up, and self-proclaimed socialist and last candidate standing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders seems knocked out.
Which is an interesting and important development. Sanders’ supporters are as fervent bunch as President Donal Trump’s most die-hard apologists, and when he won the opening contests in Iowa and New Hampshire he seemed unstoppable. Biden kept coming in third or fourth behind relatively sane and centrist but openly homosexual former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was vying with Sanders for the party’s sizable loony left vote, and his debate performances were as lackluster as his fund-raising and campaign organization and general appeal to the electorate.
Biden scored a big Saturday win in South Carolina, though, largely because of the endorsement of iconic civil rights leader and longtime Rep. Jim Clyburn and the fact that Biden was the loyal vice president of first black President Barack Obama and most white South Carolinians are Republicans so black votes comprise a majority of the state’s Democratic party. Since then he’s been on a role. Despite being out-funded and out-advertised and out-organized by Sanders, he won 10 of the 15 “Super Tuesday” races, which knocked out all of his rivals for the votes of relatively sane and centrist Democrats, all of whom urged their supporters to vote for Biden. It also knocked out loony left darling Warren, but she’s not yet made an endorsement, and Biden won’t get all of her votes.
Yesterday was a sort of “Super Tuesday II,” and Biden once again got the best of it. He won by a landslide in Mississippi, where most of the white folks are Republicans and the Democratic is therefor majority-black, but he also won by a wide margin in very diverse Missouri, a state the Democrats can reasonably hope to win in November, as well as the very winnable state of Michigan, which was probably the Sanders campaign’s last hope. Sanders won in Washington, solidifying his hold on the loony left Left Coast, as well as North Dakota, where ¬†all the Democrats would fit in your living room and don’t have a chance of winning the state’s electoral votes.
Four years ago Sanders gave former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and presumptive First Woman President of the United States a hell of run for her considerable money, and he scored an important victory in Michigan, where his left-wing populism was appealing to the disaffected denizens of the Rust Belt State. Trump’s right-wing populist appeal to those same voters proved slightly more appealing to the same disaffected voters, however, and this time around a majority of the state’s Democratic voters to go with the desultory Democratic status quo rather than the radical alternative.
This time around, it seems a good bet. Trump would clearly prefer to run against “Crazy” Bernie Sanders rather than “Sleepy” Joe Biden. Trump got impeached trying to dig up dirt on Biden, even though there’s plenty of dirt already on the public record that he could have used, and he’d have a good argument that Sanders is truly crazy. Biden is arguably “sleepy,” but at this point the general electorate might well prefer that to a hyperactive president who’s awake in the wee hours and “tweeting” all sorts of outlandish nonsense.
We have no affection whatsoever for this Biden fellow, but we figure the Democrats could have done far worse, and that he’s a more formidable challenger for Trump than Sanders would have been. He’s old and gaffe-prone and not always honest and has exhibited creepy behavior around women, but Trump is arguably worse in every regard. The Obama administration inherited a recession economy and after the Republicans won Congress eventual delivered too-slow but steady growth, and Trump was planning to run on the same slow but steady economic growth, but it’s now within the realm of possibility that argument won’t work on Election Day.
Those Sanders supporters are a fanatical bunch, and many are vowing to sit out the race, but Biden now has an entire spring and summer and early fall to remind the left coast and the rest of them how very much they hate Trump, and he’ll have plenty of money. We expect the entire party will be unified by the convention, and that a large number of independents will be on board, and that not just a few of us old-fashioned Republicans will be sitting it out on the sidelines. Here’s hoping the rest of the country chooses wisely between its bad options.

— Bud Norman

A Dreary Monday Followed By Yet Another Super Tuesday

Pretty much everyone we encountered on Monday asked how we’re doing, as the friendly folks here in Wichita tend to do, and we were able to cheekily answer that we’re faring better than the stock markets. Most of the people we met got the dark humor in our reply, as they’d heard the news that Monday was an historically bad day on Wall Street.
All three of the major American exchanges suffered at least a 7 percent drop, which comes after a few weeks of alarming declines, and all the smart money on the rest of the world’s markets seems similarly panicked, with no apparent good news on the horizon to turn things around in the near future. The main reason for the dive is the steadily spreading coronavirus pandemic, which has thus far killed only a tiny fraction of the world’s population but already cancelled big events and shut down schools and disrupted global supply chains and currently has most of Italy in quarantine. The markets are also worried that oil prices are plummeting on falling demand and a dispute between Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries Russia and Saudi Arabia, which can’t agree on an ideal price to fix.
Neither of these developments can be credibly blamed on President Donald Trump, but so far the smart money isn’t betting that he has any solutions. Trump has thus far argued the coronavirus threat is overblown, based on his hunches and natural ability to grasp the science of epidemiology because he had a “super-genius” uncle who taught physics at the Massachussets Institute of Technology, but by Monday he was proposing a slew of government programs and “stimulus” measures redolent of President Barack Obama to prop up the economy just in case. The Federal Reserve Board is on the brink of offering zero interest loans and already printing more money to make up for the trillion dollars of deficit spending by the government, the bond markets are offering pretty much zero return on long or short-term yields, Trump is “tweeting” demands they go even further, and we can well understand why the smart money isn’t reassured.
The worries about the plummeting oil markets are harder to understand. We’re old enough to remember when the OPEC cartel’s price-gouging was the global economy’s biggest worry, and won’t mind a bit if the local gasoline prices fall below $2 a gallon as expected, but it does seem to be a troubling sign for the rest of the global economy. Trump will surely be conflicted about it, as he’s good friends with both the Russian and Saudi dictators and would love to take credit for cheap gasoline, but nothing he might say or do about it is likely to stabilize any of the markets.
Today is another big Tuesday in the Democratic presidential primary races, and the smart money is betting that former Obama-era Vice President Joe Biden will knock self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders out of the race, but that won’t help much. The stock markets had a rare good day when Biden took the lead over Sanders after last week’s “Super Tuesday,” but no one’s betting that Biden has all the answers.
It’s all quite desultory, but for now we can tell anyone who asks that we have no symptoms of the coronavirus and are feeling somewhat healthier than the stock markets. Here’s hoping that all of our dear readers are faring at least as well, and that we all make it through.

— Bud Norman

The Smart People Know That What They Don’t Know Can Hurt Them

As a result of good fortune and our own diligent efforts, we’ve come to know quite a few highly intelligent people over our many years. Both of our parents are very smart people in very different ways, the friends they invited to the house also tended to be very smart in various ways that fascinated us as we eavesdropped on the adult conversations, and thus we learned at an early age to cultivate friendships whenever possible with very smart people.
At this point our circle of friends includes all sorts of people, some of them not so bright but endearingly good in other important ways, but also professors at prestigious universities and award-winning authors and journalists and fully-fledged partners at fancy-pants law firms and successful politicians, as well as many artists and musicians and entrepreneurs whose genius hasn’t yet been appreciated. One thing we’ve noticed about very smart people is that they don’t brag about how smart they are, and are more acutely aware than most about how much of the infinite store of possible knowledge that they don’t know.
President Donald Trump has proclaimed himself a “very stable genius,” and has claimed to know more than anybody about everything from taxes and debt to “the awesome power of nuclear” and America’s government and the Bible, and he clearly considers himself the greatest polymath to occupy the White House since at least the administration of President Thomas Jefferson. Which we find worrisome, especially with this coronavirus spreading around the world and spooking all the global stock markets as it inflicts increasing pain on the world economy.
Last week Trump donned a campaign ball cap and visited the Centers for Disease Control, where he boasted that all the doctors he’d encountered were awestruck by his deep knowledge of epidemiology in general and the coronavirus in particular. “Maybe I have a natural ability,” Trump explained, noting that he had a “great, super-genius” uncle who taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That’s the same uncle who told his nephew that atomic bombs are very destructive, by the way, which is why Trump claims to know more than anybody about “the awesome power of nuclear.” At the same time he admitted being surprised to learn that the normal seasonal influenza is also often deadly, although that’s pretty common knowledge, and even though the flu had killed his uncle’s father and his own paternal grandfather, which the all the press already knew.
All of the very smart people we know would have let the doctors at the CDC who are clearly smarter about epidemiology in general and the coronavirus in particular do all the talking and be in charge, but Trump has his own ways of doing things. He has hunches that the coronavirus isn’t as deadly as the medical experts say, and that it will all be miraculously over come spring, and that although he’s not going to shake any hands and will keep a cruise ship full of American citizens at sea to contain the virus there’s really nothing to worry about. Unless you have complete faith in Trump’s “very stable genius,” it’s not reassuring.
At the same time, there’s all the economic fallout from what might very well prove an over-blown panic about the coronavirus. Mass public events and private vacations are being cancelled, elementary and post-graduate classes are being sent on-line, workforces are being asked to work from home, supply chains between vital countries in the global economy are being disrupted, and stock markets everywhere are tanking. Trump still touts the “best economy” ever but the federal government is running trillion-dollar deficits and the Federal Reserve Board is already damned near to zero on its interest rates, and more worrisomely the bond markets are offering a zero yield, and all the smart people we know about this stuff freely admit they don’t know what to do in case of a possible recession, as deficit spending and lower interest rates and newly-printed money are the usual answer.
Trump might very well propose a stimulus package of deficit spending and quantitative easing of freshly-printed money to keep the economy afloat, much as President Barack Obama did during the last recession, in which case all t he Republicans and Democrats will probably all change sides. We’ll freely admit that we don’t know what to do, and will retain our usual wariness about what all the smart people admit they don’t know, and continue to hope for the best.

— Bud Norman

In the Age of the Coronavirus

The coronavirus seems to be steadily spreading around the world, and the panic about it is spreading even faster. Large events are being cancelled, vacations are being postponed, employees of major businesses are being asked to work at home, cruise ships are being held at sea, and stock markets around the world are tanking.
Even here in Kansas, where there has so far been no reported cases of coronavirus, some people are already taking precautions. They’re being extra careful to cover their mouths when coughing or squeezing, which is the polite thing to do even in the best of circumstances, and some are resorting to more extreme measures. Some folks we know are even washing their hands a few dozen times a day and singing “Happy Birthday” twice while doing so to make sure they’re there at it for the recommended 20 seconds, which used to be considered a severe symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but is now merely good hygiene. Although we try our best to be hygienic we probably won’t take up the habit until our neighbors start getting infected, as we’d feel damned silly otherwise.
Humans everywhere are also advised to avoid rubbing their eyes or otherwise touching their faces, but that’s an instinctively human habit that will be hard to break. These days we’re constantly slapping our foreheads and scratching our chins and rubbing our eyes as we read the news, and all these stories about the coronavirus don’t help.
Otherwise, we have few serious problems with the new protocols of the coronavirus. We’ve never been the touchy-feely types, and are uncomfortable with hugs even at a family reunion, and we only allow a person to touch our faces in very special circumstances after they’ve been thoroughly vetted, and we consider a respectful nod a sufficiently respectful greeting in most social interactions, so the new no human-to-human contact rules are fine by us. So far we’ve proudly never failed to shake a stranger’s hand, but if the new rules forbid it, so be it.
President Donald Trump has tried to reassure the nation by saying that all the experts are wrong and his “hunch” that everything will soon be fine is right, but that kind of crazy talk only seems to have increased the panic. The stock markets had a good day after the “Super Tuesday” Democratic fueled hope that self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie won’t be the next president, but on Thursday they were once again slumping on news of the spreading coronavirus. The stock markets are betting that neither Trump nor for-now presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden have a cure for this latest pandemic and its resulting panic, and we figure they’re probably right.
We’ll probably be slapping our foreheads and scratching our chins and rubbing our eyes as we watch it all play out, but we’ll hope for the best.

— Bud Norman