What a monumental week! We said goodbye to March and hello to April with a string of stunning, far-reaching events. We finally saved the environment. Hackers destroyed the Internet. And America's retirement funds were finally replenished.
Oh, right: none of that happened.
Last Saturday, people and cities around the world observed "Earth Hour," during which they dimmed all non-essential lights from 8:30-9:30 P.M., local time. My wife and I observed Earth Hour, shutting off all the lights, powering down the computers, and relying on candles for illumination. It was a rather pleasant hour, even though we had something in the oven and had to check on it with a flashlight. But it's a gas oven, so I think we didn't violate the rules.
I think Earth Hour is a pretty neat idea, and I'm all for whatever the heck it was supposed to accomplish -- stopping global warming, or cutting down on energy use, or whatever. And you can't discount the importance of mass movements in effecting political change. But as we sat in our darkened living room, looking out at our neighbors' brightly lit windows, we had to wonder if anything was changing at all.
It was a little more reassuring when the deadly Conficker worm failed to detonate, as some had feared, on April 1. Conficker, if you weren't aware, is an especially devious computer virus, one that resists your attempts to remove it, and which communicates remotely with whatever mad genius invented it. Lesley Stahl did a respectibly fearmongering piece on Sunday's 60 Minutes, going so far as to demonstrate how her Facebook pal, Morley Safer, sent her a link that infected her computer with a virus. You see how easy it is?
The piece smacked of sensationalism. It played more as an ad for Symantec anti-virus software than anything. Stahl spent the bulk of the piece interviewing a Symantec executive in the company's command center, which looked like the Michael Bay version of mission control. When Stahl warned ominously that Conficker would begin "phoning home" on April 1, one was tempted to run down to Wal Mart to stock up on canned beans and firearms. But, as usual, whatever Live Free or Die Hard-style apocalypse was predicted, nothing happened.
Finally, Wall Street extended its rally this week, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing on Thursday at 7,978 -- an increase of 216 points on that day alone. The Dow is now up more than 20% from its March 9 low of 6,547. (My writing this before markets open on Friday is a sure sign that markets will decline today.)
There you go, America! Everything's fixed! Don't you feel better? Just ignore those pesky unemployment numbers. Forget all the foreclosures. The stock market has gone up a little bit! Of course, it's still down since February. And January. And -- hmm, you know, this is still the lowest it's been since the bear market of 2000-2002. So in another, more accurate sense, hardly anything happened this week with the markets.
Next week in things that won't make a difference: The opening-week performances of everybody you drafted for your fantasy baseball team.