• Politics
    The Daily Beast

    Joe Biden Is Smart to Get the Hell Out of the Way

    For weeks now, I’ve been worried about Joe Biden. Yes, the deadly coronavirus presents serious political problems for Donald Trump (despite his current glowing approval ratings, this crisis undermines the one thing he had going for him: a good economy), but consider how quickly the pandemic killed the Joe-mentum. It wasn’t that long ago that Joe, not COVID-19, was the talk of the town—and rightly so. After a campaign season when Biden barely managed to tread water, and when we nearly wrote him off on the heels of pathetic performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, suddenly Joe came roaring back with a stunning victory in South Carolina that propelled him to a huge Super Tuesday. How Joe Biden Will Counteract Trump's Virus Media CircusThe world was Joe’s oyster, baby—but that turned out to be a turning point in the news cycle. I know this because Super Tuesday was also the last time that I was invited to appear on cable news as a political commentator (in the Trump era, turns out, I should have become an FBI agent, lawyer... or a virologist).By the time Super Tuesday II (or whatever we’re calling it) came along, Biden’s miraculous turnaround was already headline story number II, taking a backseat to (deservedly) breathless pandemic coverage. By March 10, when Biden crushed Bernie Sanders in Michigan, Missouri, and elsewhere, out of the abundance of caution, he would be delivering his “victory” speeches to empty rooms. Talk about anticlimactic. Biden had waited 22 years to win his first presidential primary on Feb. 29. For the first time in his life, he was a candidate for president who was generating excitement and enthusiasm. And that lasted about 15 minutes. Emergencies change everything. Despite the misinformation Donald Trump regularly spews, he is (by virtue of being president) relevant. So are governors. Every day they hold press conferences and “make” news. They trot out experts and recite stats about the number of N95 respirators or surgical masks they need—or they talk about releasing their needed supplies from some (magical?) place called the “national stockpile.” During an emergency, they don flak jackets, NYPD baseball caps, or crisp polos with embroidered emergency logos. You’ve probably heard the scuttlebutt about Andrew Cuomo replacing Biden on the Democratic ticket. At least half of that is attributable to his outfit.So, while Trump and Cuomo were holding their daily press conferences, Biden was holed up (like the rest of us), wearing a dark suit (unlike any of us), staring warily into a computer camera (like the rest of us), positioned bizarrely behind a podium (unlike... anyone?). And now, while the president and governors are out there being relevant, Joe Biden is (like the rest of us) desperately trying to promote a podcast.  At first glance, this seems a sad, if unfortunate, development for a guy who has been through so much and was seemingly on the verge of parlaying his moment into a movement. But I’m starting to think that it might work out for him. Initially, I thought social distancing would be politically salutary for Biden, and not just for the obvious reason that after the “rally around the flag” effect wears off, presidents are usually blamed for what happens on their watch, especially when their lack of experience or competence leads to a botched response and lots of people die. A quarantine, I suspected, would allow Biden to run a sort of front-porch campaign where he could present a highly “curated” (read more coherent and robust) and choreographed image. That theory lasted a day or so. After that, I started to notice that Biden was becoming an afterthought. I became convinced that he simply had to find ways to be in the news cycle every day. He could run shadow briefings! He could form a shadow government with a shadow Dr. Fauci and a shadow Dr. Birx. He could wear his own “emergency casual” uniform. He (sort of) tried some version of that. But when he floundered, it struck me as just more confirmation that “sleepy Joe” had “lost a step” and wasn’t capitalizing on the moment. And then, it hit me. Joe Biden should social distance even more. He should recede into the background like Homer Simpson backing into the shrubs, only to reemerge tanned and rested after Labor Day. (As Andrew Card said, ''You don't introduce new products in August.”) He should embrace The 4-Hour Work Week. Now, I know that this thought process seems insane. It has become axiomatic you should never pass up a chance to have sex or be on TV. It has become political wisdom that you concede nothing. That you hustle. That (as Al Pacino might yell during a particularly motivational half-time speech), “We can fight our way back into the light. We can climb out of hell. One inch at a time!” There is wisdom in that. But sometimes, like the bamboo, it’s wiser to go with the flow. Yes, this theory of passive resistance goes against our human pretensions, which push us to believe that, by virtue of our efforts—our work—we have some semblance of control over our own fate. Like Boxer in Animal Farm, we want to believe that all our problems will be solved if we just work harder. What is more, it contradicts an assumption, which suggests media personalities and political leaders gain public support (and attention) by virtue of accretion and exposure. Like lifting weights to get stronger, we think that to become popular means you must put in the daily work and gradually gain a fanbase. But is this true? Citing a decades-old observation called the Feiler faster thesis, my former colleague Mickey Kaus recently argued that news cycles have sped up and that humans can process information quicker than most people realize. “Biden can wait until September, or whenever the conventions are, and then, he can gin up a huge publicity ‘Biden for president’ campaign,” Kaus said. “He doesn’t have to be omnipresent in our attention now in order to do that, then.” This reminds me of an old story. Heading into the 1968 Republican primary contest, Richard Nixon announced a six-month moratorium from politics. In 2014, former Nixon aide Pat Buchanan described it to me as an “absence makes the heart grow fonder” approach. Interestingly, it also had the effect of overexposing Nixon’s rival, George Romney. When a skeptical Buchanan questioned Nixon on the wisdom of this disappearing act, Nixon advised: “Let [the media] chew on [Romney] for a little while.” Kaus’s theory suggests that the Nixon example might now work in a general election. And in a world where conventional wisdom and historical precedent all seem so passe, he may well be correct. Certainly, the media aren’t averse to chewing on Trump. To be sure, a primary isn’t a general election—and George Romney ain’t Donald J. Trump. But the absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder strategy is probably underrated and, largely, untried. So why not try it?It is, perhaps, ironic, but the Chinese proverb about “crisis” also meaning “opportunity” seems apropos. Laying low may be Joe Biden’s best strategy—and it’s one that wouldn’t be possible were it not for social distancing.My best advice for Joe may be this: Don’t just do something, stand there!Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. 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  • Business
    American City Business Journals

    Home Depot makes more changes at stores due to COVID-19

    Limiting the number of customers allowed into stores at one time Promoting social and physical distancing practices in stores by marking floors and adding signage to help customers and associates maintain safe distances Eliminating major spring promotions to avoid driving high levels of traffic to stores

  • Lifestyle
    In The Know

    Meet the woman who lives every day like it’s 1958 — from her clothes to her appliances

    Laci Fay loves the 1950s — ever since her grandparents described it to her when she was younger — and pledged to live every day like it's 1958.

  • World
    National Review

    Wuhan Residents Dismiss Official Coronavirus Death Toll: ‘The Incinerators Have Been Working Around the Clock’

    Wuhan residents are increasingly skeptical of the Chinese Communist Party’s reported coronavirus death count of approximately 2,500 deaths in the city to date, with most people believing the actual number is at least 40,000."Maybe the authorities are gradually releasing the real figures, intentionally or unintentionally, so that people will gradually come to accept the reality," a Wuhan resident, who gave only his surname Mao, told Radio Free Asia.A city source added that, based on the aggregation of funeral and cremation numbers, authorities likely know the real number and are keeping it under wraps."Every funeral home reports data on cremations directly to the authorities twice daily," the source said. "This means that each funeral home only knows how many cremations it has conducted, but not the situation at the other funeral homes."The city began lifting its lockdown on Saturday after two months of mandatory shutdown, with a complete lift of restrictions set for April 8. Funeral homes in Wuhan have been handing out the cremated remains to families every day, but rumors began circulating after one funeral home received two shipments of 5,000 urns over the course of two days, according to photos reported by Chinese media outlet Caixin, which were later censored.Reports of the funeral’s crematoriums working nonstop also raised questions."It can't be right … because the incinerators have been working round the clock, so how can so few people have died?" a man surnamed Zhang told RFA.Wuhan residents said the government was paying families 3,000 yuan for "funeral allowances" in exchange for silence."There have been a lot of funerals in the past few days, and the authorities are handing out 3,000 yuan in hush money to families who get their loved ones' remains laid to rest ahead of Qing Ming," Wuhan resident Chen Yaohui said, in a reference to the traditional grave tending festival on April 5.“During the epidemic, they transferred cremation workers from around China to Wuhan keep cremate bodies around the clock," he added.China has used state propaganda in an attempt to avoid blame for the spreading of COVID-19, despite reports showing how the government suppressed initial reports of human-to-human transmission and gagged Wuhan labs that discovered the novel virus resembled the deadly SARS virus of 2002-2003.

  • Business

    Maybe the Coronavirus Didn’t End the Bull Market

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- After the sudden collapse in equity markets in mid-March, the assumption across the board was that not only was the long bull market over but that a bear market had started. But wait, no: Now there's a new bull market because some stock indexes briefly rose more than 20% from their March 23 lows.If this all seems a bit silly, it's because it is: The 20% yardstick for determining the beginning or end of market cycles is simplistic and blindly mechanical. Indeed, 20% doesn't do much to help you figure out where to put investment capital to work.It bears repeating: The average investor should be working from a long-term plan that won’t blow up because of a short-term disruption caused by issues like the coronavirus pandemic. Remain disciplined and stick with your goals. Seems easy to do, except sometimes it isn't when the alarm bells are going off.But since we're on the topic of bull and bear markets, let's think a little more about what those concepts mean. What are known as secular bull markets are associated with broad economic expansions, rising corporate earnings and increasing sales. Stocks reach new highs as sentiment improves and investors become willing to pay more for each dollar of earnings. These market phases typically last years or even decades.Of course, markets don’t go in just one direction, and these long-term trends are often punctuated by sharp counter-cyclical rallies and sell-offs. Data can help us sort out what to make of these euphoric or panic-induced moves.Typically, it takes 255 days on average for indexes to fall 20% from their peaks. This latest plunge was fastest on record, taking just 17 days.There are suggestions that the speed of the collapse implies an equally robust V-shaped market recovery. I remain skeptical (as do a growing number of analysts and economists) because so many unknown factors are at play: how fast will the spread of Covid-19 be brought under control, when will a treatment become available, when will a vaccine be ready and -- most critically -- when can the economy open up for business again.Even if the best-case scenario occurs, we have no idea have fast the economy can ramp up back to full employment. Pent-up demand from Americans freed from cabin fever should drive up consumption quickly once the lockdown ends; however, it took almost five years -- from November 2007 to May 2014 -- for employment to recover from the Great Recession of 2007-09 and consumption rose in fits and starts.More importantly, the pandemic is a market externality. It isn't in the same category as a standard recession driven by tighter monetary policy. Nor is it anything like a financial crisis caused by a loss of confidence in bank-asset quality. Instead, it is an exogenous shock that has spilled over into the broader economy and equity markets. Past events such as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 terror attacks are only marginally similar. Without any good historical comparison, it's challenging to come up with a framework for what a recovery might look like.All of this underscores what we need to keep in mind about markets: We should expect sell-offs, sometimes even of shocking magnitude, in the midst of long-term secular bull markets. In the same way, there can be bullish rallies in a bear market.Just consider each of the past three secular markets: 1966-1982 (bear), 1982-2000 (bull) and 2000-2013 (bear) in terms of the above.A 20-year post-World War II market rally eventually hit a wall in 1966, with the Dow approaching what seemed like an astronomical 1,000 early in that year. It didn't last, and the deficit spending to fund the Vietnam War followed by the Arab oil embargo and the Watergate scandal dragged down the economy and the market. It took the Dow 16 years to finally reach 1,000; in the meantime it had several brief rallies of about 27%, 19%, 67%, 75% and 38%. None of these heralded the end of the bear market or the start of a new bull market.The inverse occurred during past bull markets: The 1982-2000 bull market saw declines in the S&P 500 Index of about 33% during 1987 (remember the day the Dow fell a record 23%?), the near-20% drop during the 1990 recession, the 14% stumble during the Asian currency crisis of 1997 and the 20% fall during the collapse of hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management in 1998. The point is, sell-offs can and do occur during a bull market without disrupting the underlying strength of the expanding economy.Whether March 23 was the bottom or just a bottom is almost irrelevant. The broader question is whether the long-term factors that drove the U.S. economic expansion that started after the financial crisis are still with us: low interest rates, technological innovation and the continuing shift to services. That suggests the possibility that it may take more than a 60-day lockdown to derail the expansion.If we can find a way to get beyond this tragic external shock to the market, we might find that the underlying secular bull market is still intact -- if we're lucky.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is chairman and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, and was previously chief market strategist at Maxim Group. He is the author of “Bailout Nation.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Entertainment
    Best Life

    20 '90s TV Shows You've Completely Forgotten About

    You may still be able to quote Friends, Seinfeld, and Living Single, but were you also a fan of these forgotten '90s TV shows?