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.