It has long been said that the stock market is a barometer for the economy going forward. 

The current global conditions – the enormous printing of US money, the monetary stimuli and easing everywhere else – has made nonsense of that notion and then some.  

The coronavirus has claimed the lives of over 100,000 people in the US – the most in the world – and over 30 million people are currently jobless. Recession is not just in the air, economists like Paul Krugman are saying it’s The Great Depression all over again.

The wolf is snapping at the door and it’s been the worst economic shock the world’s ever known in a century, but you don’t see that reflected in the stock exchange. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is only about 11 per cent off its all-time high which was achieved, incidentally, in February this year.

It’s, like, almost a ho-hum moment amidst the carnage and mayhem going around everywhere. Still, the US stock market lost almost 90 percent of its value between 1929 and 1932.

That is unlikely to happen this time around given the ample liquidity worldwide but that’s about it: until a vaccine comes along, no one knows anything else about the future. 

Which brings us to 2020’s Burning Question: are we going to have another four years of The World According to Trump? 

It’s astonishing that Americans not only voted him in, they still continue to support him in large numbers. 

And according to enough people to be seriously dismayed, he still has a good chance of winning re-election in November.

How on earth does he do it, this charmless, corpulent commander-in-chief?

He does not seem to have a sense of humour unlike his various predecessors. When John Kennedy was attacked for allegedly using his father’s wealth during his 1960 campaign, for example, he cracked reporters up by revealing that he’d just received a cable from his father.

Kennedy, pretending to read a wire: “Dear Jack, don’t pay for a single vote more than necessary. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide!” 

Trump, on the other hand, is not known for using humour to deflect anything unless one is to believe that his reference to drinking bleach to prevent coronavirus was really a “sarcastic jibe” at a reporter. 

In an arena where self-deprecation and subtle promotion are appreciated, he does not care that he is vain and boorishly boastful. He seriously considers himself a “stable genius” and an expert on everything from the Taliban and the art of war to foreign policy and making deals.

And he has a lousy memory. When Obama was President, he criticised him for playing golf, once, during the Ebola crisis and, often, on the taxpayers’ dime. One person died of Ebola in the US and, over his eight years, it cost the government US$2.8 million for Obama to play golf. According to MSNBC, it’s cost over US$153 million to facilitate Trump’s golf games largely because he insists on playing on his own courses in Florida.

And there are the lies. When Twitter challenged him on fact, he turned around and screamed “free speech.” Now he wants to change the law simply because he was caught out. 

He wouldn’t win dog catcher anywhere else. 

A Farewell to Arms? Fat Chance

A Canadian is sort of like an American, but without the gun

Pierre Trudeau

There is a huge, can’t-miss sign that looms over the leafy, luxuriant lawns that surround the headquarters of the National Rifle Association in Virginia in the United States of America. 

The sign, next to a statue of a grinning, bare-chested  Charlton Heston brandishing an assault weapon, is a warning: “Trespassers will be shot.”

There is a postscript in smaller lettering: “Survivors will be shot again.” 

The NRA is a vastly influential institution in the US that exists to make sure that the American powers-that-be do not infringe the constitutional rights of ordinary Americans, specifically the right of all red-blooded Americans to have as many guns as they might want.

One shoe-bomb which failed to detonate was all it took to compel all airline passengers nowadays to take off their shoes for a check. But an average of 310 people getting shot every day in the US does not seem to have sufficiently moved anyone to consider changing US gun laws. 

If guns were outlawed, the thinking went, then only the outlaws would have them and that was unthinkable. And the body saw no irony in the fact that it was precisely the case in most other countries where school shootings were unimaginable. 

The President of the NRA was a cigar-puffing patriot who loved the smell of napalm in the morning and believed deeply in Mom, apple pie and the flag provided it did not inhibit the right of people to own as many guns as they could shoot. 

His secretary liked to tell visiting journalists that his favourite film was Snow White. Indeed, his room had a poster that paraphrased the very film: “Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s hand grenades we throw.”

His philosophy was simple and he liked to boast that it could be traced all the way back to Thomas Jefferson: those who beat swords out of ploughshares were likely to get shot by those who didn’t.

It might have been the late John Lennon who best encapsulated the absurdity of the American passion for firearms. 

While recording the White Albumin 1968, Lennon noticed a magazine in the studio whose headline screamed: “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” 

A warm gun is a gun that has recently been fired and the writer was trying to equate that warmth with happiness. “I thought it was such an insane, fantastic thing to say,” Lennon would tell reporters years later in explaining how he came up with the superb track in the first place. 

Incidentally, the magazine was called American Rifleman which is an NRA publication. So you could even say the body influenced some of the best music of the 1960s. 

It does not, however,  render Mr Lennon’s death – by gunshot wound – any less insane. 

And talking of guns,  a car dealership in Alabama is giving away Bibles, flags and guns for a Fourth of July special in the name of patriotism. 

From now until July 31, Chatom Ford will offer customers a Bible, an American flag and a gift certificate for a 12-gauge shotgun when they purchase any new or used vehicle. 

In a promotional video titled “God, Guns and Freedom,” manager Koby Palmer cocks a shotgun in front of a red truck with an American flag draped across the back.

And what do you think the reaction has been like? 

Hostile? Critical? Any suggestion that Mr Ford might be insane?  

Nope. The cars are being sold out amid universal acclaim. 

It Can Run But It Can’t Hide

A postman by profession, Andrew Waller was a philosophical man. “Life was like a bird,” he liked to say. It looked pretty cute and all until it pooped on your head.

That was what happened to Mr Waller last Monday. Well, in a metaphorical sort of way that is.  While crossing the road to the post office in Paris, Texas, he was hit by a runaway cow which then jumped over him in its desperate attempt to get away from four police cruises that were chasing it.

Mr Waller was shaken but not stirred and otherwise unhurt. But he was shocked. Actually, at the precise moment the steer ran into him, he involuntarily exclaimed: “Be fruitful and multiply” but not exactly in those words.

You couldn’t blame Andrew. This wasn’t New York or Kuala Lumpur where a person might get run over while walking on the pedestrian sidewalk. 

This was Paris, Texas where cows had hooves instead of feet because they lactose. In fact, in that part of rural America, cows outnumbered people and almost never jumped over the moon not to mention pedestrians. Indeed, the only accidents that occurred there occasionally caused people. 

Still, Andrew was grateful to the stampeding bovine, which had vaulted him from Texan obscurity into national prominence. That was no bull either because it won him his five minutes of national fame – it was covered by the national media – and you could say he milked it for all it was worth. 

Without trying too hard, he came across as modest, diffident and deprecating, a latter-day Forrest Gump. 

“I started off with nothing,“ he told the national networks when asked what he was pre-Bessie, for that was the name of the cow that flattened him, “And I still have most of it left.” 

It all started because Bessie was bored and fed up with her lot in life. It was one of those days when everything came in through one ear and out the udder. 

While being loaded on to a sale vehicle, Bessie made a dash for it. It led Texas police on a miles-long chase through city streets and was caught on video hurdling over a pedestrian (read the modest Mr Waller).

A police dashboard camera recorded Bessie, running at a high speed through the streets, and running directly into the hapless Mr Waller. 

Andrew “I Had A Beef” Waller was knocked to the ground and the cow jumped over him in a leap not seen since Carl Lewis. 

Alas, there are no happy endings to this story.

Police said the cow managed to give officers the slip and was on the loose for more than 24 hours before it was hit by a car and killed.

And this being America, people actually mourned for Bessie. Even Donald Trump tweeted that he’d “bet” that the driver of the kill-vehicle was a Democrat.

Bessie was being loaded on to a sale vehicle prior to heading to the abattoir. 

That was why she was running. 

She was running for her life.