Note from the QD: If you are puzzled by the photo atop this blog, then you have a short memory.
My general Covid 19 malaise has morphed, hopefully temporarily, into outright pessimism. And it’s not the virus itself that’s causing my spirits to sag; rather, it’s the pandemic’s collateral damage.
Here are some things that sent me into a funk:
- Oil Prices: It is counter-intuitive to think that free-falling oil prices are a bad thing. But they are. Recent headlines announced that U.S. oil prices had gone negative! That means that, if you wanted to sell a barrel of oil on the spot market, you had to pay someone $30 to take it! Yes, that is what actually happened two days ago, and some analysts predict oil selling for minus $100 a barrel by next month. It’s happening because oil is a physical commodity that must be stored, but there’s almost no place to store all the oil that we’re not consuming. (Much less oil is being consumed during the pandemic because travel by car, plane and ship has come to a halt and many other oil-dependent industries have closed.) That’s great in the short term because we are putting less carbon into the atmosphere, and for those who must travel, fuel is much cheaper. However, in the long term low oil prices will lead to some very bad outcomes. Americans will respond by buying more gas guzzlers that will pollute the atmosphere for their entire useful lives. Power companies will lose interest in alternative energy sources (like solar and wind) because producing electric power using those technologies costs more than using oil that’s essentially free. Only a national energy policy with strong incentives and disincentives aimed at greater use of clean energy will thwart the harmful climatic effects of low oil prices. Given the political power of the oil and gas industry — and certainly with an environmentally unfriendly president in the White House — such a national policy is a pipedream. So while the immediate effect of the Covid 19 pandemic on the environment is demonstrably positive, the long-term effect could be disastrous.
- Trump versus the Press: It may be my imagination but I think daily news conferences are sharpening our president’s skills at fending off troublesome reporters’ questions. A couple of days ago, NPR’s Yamiche Alcindor questioned him about his earlier denial that the pandemic was serious. Near the end of the exchange he actually complimented Alcindor — albeit backhandedly — by averring that she was “too good a reporter” to have asked the question. I got the distinct impression that he came out of the exchange ahead of the reporter. And if someone like me thinks that, imagine what the neutral observer will think. It terrifies me to think that the, perhaps mythical, undecided voters who will decide the election in November might be watching approvingly as a more battle-tested Trump fields questions at daily news conferences. Of course he will continue to tell lies by the dozen and be totally self-absorbed, but such behavior has become the rule, not the exception, so it’s lost its shock value.
- The Invisible Man: You guessed it. Joe Biden. ’Nuff said.
- Cable News Fatique : As the pandemic has gone on, I find myself more and more repelled by the non-stop coverage of it and nothing else. Just the sound of Sanjay Gupta’s voice is enough to render me a total misanthrope. My wife Lucy is my witness since she has to live with my misanthropy. The daily White House news conference is absolutely unwatchable, as is Andrew Cuomo’s competing show. Yes, they were both interesting a month ago. But now they are torture. So . . . . I have mostly turned off all news and depend on others to alert me if there is any actual news happening. My interest in being well-informed has greatly diminished.
- The Quiet Triumph of Stephen Miller: With almost no fanfare, Covid 19 has given the most reprehensible man in the White House the opportunity to see his biggest dream realized — a total ban on immigration. In normal times, banning all immigration would be impossible. The business lobby, for one, would oppose it since immigrant labor is essential to our food supply. But with all attention focused elsewhere, Trump was able to announce the 60-day ban without breaking a sweat. It was a great victory for Miller, a despicable human being who would like nothing more than to make the ban permanent so ICE could deport every undocumented Latino/a in the country.
- Greatly Lowered Standards: Despite my confessed affinity for various spectator sports, I was never an omnivorous consumer. Before the pandemic, for example, I wouldn’t have given the game of American football (as opposed to real futbol) a moment’s thought between the Super Bowl and Tulane’s opening game next season. My time was too valuable to waste on the steady stream of useless content that the sports media throws at us 24/7, 365 days a year. But these days, I find my standards plummeting. It’s probably foolish of me to admit it publicly, but . . . I am looking forward to watching the NFL Draft on Thursday. Yes, I am ashamed of it, so you don’t need to rub it in. Confession is good for the soul, and I have confessed.