If you spend a lot of time following college football and not a lot of time following the presidential electoral process, the first thing I have to tell you is: Good for you. You’re lucky. And probably a lot happier than if it were vice versa.
However, maybe you want to follow the election a little more intensely. Maybe you’re in college and want to understand how this Bernie guy is going to help you avoid paying off your student loans, and how come Garth Brooks is so fond of him. I’m here to help.
The first thing to understand is that the primaries are sort of like bowl season. It begins with a trickle with relatively unimportant and (save for one) underpopulated states. Iowa. Then New Hampshire. Off to Nevada. And now South Carolina. These state primaries are sort of like those pre-New Year’s Day bowls. They’re your Pinstripe, Gasparilla, Boca Raton and Military (not to be confused with Armed Forces, and why would you?) Bowls.
Then comes “Super Tuesday!” That’s when 14 states hold their primaries all on the same day. It’s like New Year’s Day and just like New Year’s Day, you’re best equipped to deal with the results if nursing a hangover (or nurturing one) and in flannel pajamas. Do not go outside. Do not stand near Chris Matthews (particularly if you’re a female).
Now, just like our current bowl system, New Year’s Day is not the be all and end all of the bowl season as it once was. And Super Tuesday is not the end of primary season. While the two most populous state in the union (California and Texas) vote on Super Tuesday, you’ve still got Florida and Illinois (March 17), New York and Pennsylvania (April 28), and a host of other states afterward.
And then, just like college football, the primaries end and it all goes dormant for too long a period and just when you think you’ve emotionally moved on, they stage the national championship. And while it always seems as if it’s the same two teams (Bush and Clinton), there’s been some new blood lately.
News out of Switzerland: the Swiss just canceled the Engadin Ski Marathon, which is one of the nation’s largest annual sporting events. They’ve also canceled the Geneva Auto Show and have banned all events that would draw upwards of 1,000 people between now and March 15. Beware the Ides of March? The Swiss say Wait until the Ides of March.
It is befitting a nation that gave the world its most utilitarian implement to adopt an “ounce of prevention” mentality towards the pandemic. But that’s the Swiss. They love utility and precision and they follow logic. They can’t afford not to.
Then you have America, where the prevailing attitude is Supersize It and I’ll worry about the problems later. So while the White House tells us, not in so many words, “to go shopping and visit the malls” (remember Bush 43’s sage advice?), the virus will likely gain purchase here in the next fortnight. Maybe not so many deaths, but more cases. Because President Trump believes all you need to do to curtail the virus is cancel all incoming flights from China (a good move, sure, but far from the only one).
Come March 15 we’ll have more coronavirus cases in the U.S., perhaps even in red states (How did the Dems spread it to Dixie, they’ll ask?). And the NCAA tournament, a cavalcade of convocations of thousands of people, most of whom don’t wash their hands after using the men’s room, will be ready to get underway.
What then? I doubt anyone at CBS or the NCAA want to talk about it (and I don’t know if College GameDay has discussed it this morning), but this could become a thing and quickly.
Purely from a marketing standpoint, here’s how I’d rearrange the calendar:
–Take two days out of January, so the month lasts 29 days (it’s most of our least favorite month)
–Put the two days at the end of February, so it’s a 30-day month.
–During Leap Year, tack on the extra day to the end of June. Or September. Who’s gonna mind?
But JDub, you don’t understand, it has to do with lunar cycles and blabity blah blah and—WHO CARES? We all do whatever our smartphone tells us to do. I don’t see any of my neighbors out there measuring the azimuth of the moon on the horizon. Shut your trap, Copernicus, and go along with the flow.
Get ready to see a lot more of this guy on television. His name is Donald McNeil and he is a science and health reporter at The New York Times. He is an expert on viral epidemics and while not a physician, he speaks more plainly than they do and more honestly than a White House official will.
Last night McNeil appeared on Maddow and while he did not make the time to wear a suit, or even a blazer, he did make himself clear. And he also wore a pen in the breast pocket of his buttoned plaid shirt. Nerd Alert!
McNeil on Mick Mulvaney’s assertion that the virus isn’t dangerous because it’s not as lethal as the 1918 swine flu: “He’s completely right about the lethality rate and he’s completely wrong about the danger.” McNeil noted that if this pandemic continues to spread at the rate it has that it could be contracted by one-third of of humanity and, if so, then that means it could kill “millions of people… many millions, in fact.”
Other things he said: “What will worry me is when one emergency room that gets four cases of pneumonia a week suddenly gets 40 cases per week.”
–“Eventually we’ll have one-third of our Congress with the coronavirus and we’ll have to shut down our parliament.”
–“Pandemic, worst possible scenario, we’d need 750,000 ventilators in this country. Right now we have about 75,000. And a ventilator costs $25- to $50,000. It’s like buying a car.”
–“That’s a big scandal, the fact that we are now testing as much as Italy is. We should be testing lots, lots more people that have undiagnosed pneumonia.”
That last quote makes me wonder. I’ve heard two random stories in the past two months of healthy young men dying of pneumonia. One was ESPN reporter Edward Aschoff, the other a friend of a friend here in New York City who was 30. Aschoff died just before Christmas, this other young man right after MLK Day. Looking back, and I know it won’t bring either man back, I wonder if either had this virus. Would anyone have even thought to have looked for it a month, two months ago?
This actually aired on Fox News. His father-in-law passed away from the coronavirus. He’s coughing. He coughs into his right hand and then touches his daughter’s hands (and kids never put their fingers in their mouths, ever). Then, as if he hasn’t already made sure that he’s already passed whatever he may have to her, he takes the water bottle from her, drinks from it, and then returns it.
Remember the HBO show The Leftovers? The premise, here lifted directly from Wikipedia: “The Leftovers starts three years after a global event called the “Sudden Departure”, the inexplicable, simultaneous disappearance of 140 million people, 2% of the world’s population, on October 14, 2011.”
The important characters there are “2%.” Because that’s what, to this point, the estimated mortality rate is of those who contract the coronavirus. Actually it’s likely much lower, at least by half, in that many people who’ve contracted the COVID-19 don’t even know that they have it and that an inordinately large percentage of those who’ve died have come from China, which simply failed to address the epidemic properly.
When you have doctors and other health care workers in their 30s an 40s dying from this, it shows that the state, or whatever China’s health care oversight institution is called, failed to protect its workers. Those front-line health care workers who lost their lives were like the firefighters from the first episode of Chernobyl (like The Leftovers, another HBO original program).
The 2% portion of this event is redolent of The Leftovers. But the White House reaction, and indeed China’s and Iran’s reaction to the pandemic, is relative to Chernobyl: Downplay the gravity of the disaster and silence those who are the experts involved and wish to inform the public. Compel them to help the state behind the scenes, but threaten them if they attempt to go public. Dr. Fauci, meet Valery Legasov.
Anyway, 2%. That relative minute number (you’d take 1 in 50 odds all day long, wouldn’t you, if the bet is that you’re going to be one of the 49 and not the unlucky 50th) has caused planetary panic all week. Coincidentally, Widespread Panic is playing at the Beacon this week; thinking of how many hedge fund types have walked past that marquee and thought, Oy! Part of the hysteria, at least in the stock market, deals with the fact that China is most seriously afflicted and China has become the world’s manufacturing base. Cripple China and you cripple the world.
So there’s that.
But I wonder… In The Leftovers the “Sudden Departure” was indiscriminate. It took people of all ages, colors, both sexes, etc. The coronavirus is indiscriminate in terms of ethnicity, religion, etc, but in terms of mortality, it seems most weaponized against the aged. Or the very young. Those of us in the prime of our lives, let’s say 14 to 64, are relatively safe. At least in terms of the binary live-or-die issue.
So here’s what I see happening: a vaccine won’t be available for quite some time. The chance of COVID-19 not spreading is minimal. We all can’t stay in our homes all day watching Narcos and ordering on Yelp! (I mean, plenty of us were doing that before the outbreak, but some of us won’t stand for it).
The virus will spread in America. More people will have it a month from now than have it today. But the stock market is not going to keep falling 900 or so points a day. Something must give. And what will eventually give, I believe, is… worry.
People are just going to get over it. This isn’t AIDS. It’s not a death sentence, not for almost anyone who gets it. And so a month from now the coronavirus is just one more thing people will learn to live with, not unlike the flu or guns. Guns, by the way, have still taken more American lives this year than the coronavirus has taken lives all over the world. Idiots walk around exercising their open-carry rights. The stock market doesn’t care. Eventually the same will happen with the coronavirus.
The stock market will rebound not because the coronavirus has been extricated. But rather because investors and everyday people will have learned to just go about their lives and factor in the odds. I’m not certain when that day comes, but it will be soon. Eventually people will say, I cannot be bothered. I wanna go to Tokyo Disney. I want to own AAPL at 40% off the highs.
In the meantime, we get our own real-life version of The Leftovers with a maddening dash of Chernobyl thrown in.
The Dow Jones was above 29,000 just last Friday when Twitter went aflame with video of a giant bear roaming the suburban streets of Monrovia, Calif. The Dow has dropped about 3,500 points since then.
Pulling The Ruggs Out
Former Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs runs a 4.28 at the NFL combine. Former Notre Dame wideout Chase Claypool, who stands 6’4″ and has incredible hands as those of us who watched him the last two seasons know, runs a swift 4.40. Does Claypool go in the first round?
The fastest combine 40 ever was a 4.22 by John Ross of U-Dub, who now plays for the Bengals.
When you think of Dayton and college basketball (unless you’re old enough to remember the name Damon Goodwin), you think of the first four, the annual preamble to the NCAA tournament. Not anymore.
The Dayton Flyers are 25-2 and are likely headed for a 2 seed in the NCAA tourney. The Flyers, ranked fifth nationally, have just two losses: one to current No. 1 Kansas and the other by just 2 points to current No. 21 Colorado.
Dayton’s leading scorer and rebounder? Obi Toppin, a 6’9″ Brooklyn (“BROOKLYN!”) native. Keep an eye out.
A week ago, Donald Trump was welcoming most of the members of America’s “Miracle On Ice” hockey team to the stage at a Las Vegas MAGA fest. Six days later, he’s in the White House, intoning to close confidants (i.e., sycophants) that “It’s [the coronavirus] going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
See, when you’re both ignorant and a narcissistic sociopath, it’s impossible for you to accept that there are problems seem out of your realm that are relatively simple for others to solve. Your thinking is, If I don’t know, nobody must know.
One day earlier in the White House briefing room Dr. Anthony Sauci, the GOAT (living) of working on infectious diseases in the USA, declared that a coronavirus spread in the U.S. was inevitable. Trump, having no insight at all but not wanting the stock market to tank any further, publicly contradicted him.
So now that it’s beginning to dawn on Donald that this problem is too big for him, he’s going with 1) hand it off to Pence and 2) it’ll take a miracle. Maybe they can all pray it away at CPAC today.
Hippo On Pump 9
I’m seeing more of these types of videos on Twitter each day. Bear enters neighborhood, mountain lion climbs back yard fence, hippo strolls into gas station. This is the only thing to remember: They are not encroaching on our space; we’ve been encroaching on theirs. For centuries. I’m with the animals.
Every once in awhile an on-air team comes along that is a network’s and viewer’s dream. They complement one another. Each person on the team understands his or her role. There is an air of mutual respect but not stiffness. Candor, and humor, comes through. Because everyone on the team trusts one another and probably even likes one another and so each person can be themselves.
TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” which was originally just Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, was like that. And remains so, even with the addition of Shaq. So, too, currently is CNBC’s “Squawk On The Street.” The show airs weekday mornings from 9 to 10 a.m. Hosted by Carl Quintanilla, it also features Jim Cramer as the outrageous clown and David Faber as the more reserved, responsible straight man—who is often able to get off a few good comebacks. Costello had Abbott; Hope had Crosby; Lewis had Martin; and Cramer has Faber.
Quintanilla, as host, is seamless. He keeps the vehicle from swerving outside of its lane or into oncoming traffic. He sets up his two experts time and time again, either by knowing when they’ve exhausted a given subject and moving them on to the next topic or by mentioning a story from Barron’s or the Wall Street Journal that either can sink his teeth into. Carl never gives his own opinion because he recognizes that that’s what Cramer and Faber are there for. He’s not insecure about it, that he needs to sound intelligent to have them (or us) respect him. Carl’s the Ernie Johnson of financial TV.
Cramer brings name recognition and bodacious behavior. He’s the Chuck of this crew. He also has the bona fides. With two degrees from Harvard, neither in business or finance, Cramer nevertheless was insanely successful as a fund manager in his thirties and forties. He’s also a former print journalist and is a prolific writer. He likes to play the clown, but he really does do his homework and does know his stuff.
Faber is the serious student given to the subtle verbal jab. He’s also very telegenic for, again, an erstwhile print guy. Unlike Cramer, he never gives an opinion without having sourced it thoroughly. Cramer shoots from the hip; Faber takes an X-ray of the hip, undergoes a 30-day waiting period for said firearm, goes to a shooting range, and then fires.
This is a highly functional trio. There are other “stars” on CNBC: Andrew Ross Sorkin from 6 – 9 a.m. who, unfortunately for him, shares a set with Joe Kernen. And Downtown Josh Brown, a hedge fund manager who often appears on CNBC’s noon and 5 p.m. shows, would be the guy you’d most want to have a beer with. I also like Guy Adami and Tim Seymour, both on at 5 p.m., very much. And as for the women folk, let’s give shout-outs to the L.A. gals, Jane Wells and Julia Boorstein (in New York, I think Morgan Brennan has some serious chops but none of these three have a regular daily desk spot on the network).
If you want to dip your feet into financial television, turn on CNBC at 9 a.m. weekdays. You’ll learn a little something while also being entertained by the banter (and, yes, Cramer eats his words far too often which is not to say he’s wrong but rather that he does not enunciate properly; it wouldn’t hurt to improve upon that). It’s “Inside the NBA” for fans of lower case bulls.