Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Happy Day

The Sowers (1934), Thomas Hart Benton

Every time it rains it rains
Pennies from heaven.
Don't you know each cloud contains
Pennies from heaven
--Pennies from Heaven
, Johnston/Burke

Isn't this a lovely day

To be caught in the rain?
--Isn't this a Lovely Day?
, Irving Berlin

Gone like a Nixon file gone gone away
Gone like my landlord smile gone gone away
--Gone, John Hiatt

(written at a truck stop)-- It is what passes for a happy day in America when you can fill up your gas tank and the price of petrol hasn't risen 5ยข per gallon since your last fill up. Ranger remembers when gas prices remained stable for years on end.

Ranger also marvels on a simple drive of 20 miles at the number of newly-closed businesses sporting For Sale signs. Also, the number of homes for sale, most with Reduced Price signs. Perhaps the most telling is the reduced number of 18-wheelers at the interstate truck stops.

In a discussion at the truck stop one of the long-haul truck drivers shared that he lost money on a recently signed contract before he even hauled the first load because of rising fuel costs. "You can't sign it (a contract) two weeks out now." He said he has five trucks and they are not on the road because they can't negotiate long-term contracts due to unstable fuel costs.

Another sign of the times can be had at your local pawn shop. Go in on a Friday night sometime and just feel. Yes, feel. And listen. The desperation is palpable. This is the New America. Overspent, overdrawn, underpaid and underemployed.

Talk to anybody who's not reading the Robb Report and is working for a living, and ask them their beliefs on where their life is heading; it is not optimistic.

Funny how the reports of Wall Street Journal Op-Ed page and the people can be so far apart.

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Anonymous mike said...

They are stealing everything not tied down up here in the rural areas of the great NW.

There have been cases of cars stolen just so the thieves could take them someplace private to drain the gas tanks. The local U-Haul dealer is out of business as the trucks in his lot kept getting ripped off. He put on locking gas caps to no avail, they torqued them off one night. Police patrols are down due to gasoline cost.

Copper wire is being ripped off everywhere. Some geniuses even ripped of a couple of hundred yards of fiber optics thinking it was copper they could sell at the junkyard.

A bronze statue has been ripped off and several bronze plaques at local cemeteries. They even stole the little pot-metal tubes on graves that we used to put flags in at Memorial Day, or that families use for flowers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 12:35:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

Question is, Mike, how much of that is because of the rising cost of methamphetamine and "hillbilly heroin" and how much of that is fuel costs? We recently busted up a copper ring down here in the Silly Cone Valley and it was 100% meth related, every single SOB they pulled in was tweaking like crazy.

Meth of course does have a couple of side effects. You don't feel hungry on meth. If you don't have any food and are starving to death, at least you won't feel hungry while you starve to death and your teeth fall out of your mouth due to malnutrition etc. etc. Secondly, it makes you feel really, hmm, I dunno how to explain it. Not "high", really. But as if your brain is spinning way, way faster than it normally does and thus maybe you can think your way out of whatever situation you've found yourself in. It doesn't work like that of course, we don't have any drugs that can make you less ignorant than you started out being, but when all else has failed I suppose it would seem a reasonable chance. (No, I haven't done meth, but I have a similar reaction to massive doses of caffeine).

So I suppose rising meth use could be a measure of rising desperation amongst Americans. That's a bit of a stretch though. We had meth problems down here even before fuel prices went into the crapper...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 2:07:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Labrys said...

Badtux is right, a lot of the metal thievery is connected to meth usage in my neck of the NW. But more professional thieves are stealing catalytic converters for the value of the metals inside. Bad times are here: houses for sale for "less than tax accessment value" all over the place.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 10:20:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

let us not forget that the pyramids were looted of their limestone facings by countless generations of locals and invaders.

things are bad, getting worse, and i seriously doubt there is much we can do about it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 11:18:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i recommend cactus fencing. it not only is effective. you can make jam.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 11:18:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

I read the other day that used cooking oil from restaurants is being stolen nationwide. I suppose people are converting it to fuel.

A raving conservative friend cursed the environmentalists the other day for their insistence on protecting the ANWR in Alaska. He said proudly, "if we could tap all our oil reserves, why we'd have enough oil to carry us 400 years!" Like that was an infinity, as he drives off in his massive truck.

Of course, for him, that takes him to the end of the line, and that's all that really matters.

Siphoning gas, like in the '70's, will return. I imagine it will be a Road Warrior scenario. I hear GM just might drop the Hummer line; brilliant. Like Friedman wrote recently, you can't live off dead dinosaurs forever. Why we didn't get moving on investing in alternate fuel technology is beyond me.

You may not like druggies (I don't) but they're here to stay. And yes, when they get desperate for a fix, no holds barred. Desperate people have nothing to lose. Those people are "free" in a way that those who have Sonitrol signs on their lawns are not. It will be a straight battle of two clearly different projects: protecting what you have vs. getting what you need.

I do not think the crime will be all hopheads--you'll have a lot of Les Miserables.

I was in a Winn Dixie (grocer) when a young man was apprehended for stealing a bag of diapers. Those things are expensive. It was straight out of Raising Arizona. Someone offered to pay for the diapers, but the cops said they had to arrest him.

On NPR yesterday a financial analyst said don't be surprised to see the institution of martial law in the coming years.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 11:37:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


It is arbitrary to separate the rising cost of fuel and that of meth. It is all rising, and if you are a user, that means you are pinched like the rest of us. Your meth is like the air you breathe or the fuel in your car. I don't see where we've been effective eradicating drug use, prescription or otherwise.

Certainly, it is an off-road to blame drug users for current inflation and concomitant desperation. We have always had drugs and crime; if those statistics rise, look to the society for a shift.

Though there may be a relation between feeling desperation and rising use of self-medication. So I can see drug/alcohol use rising as commodities become more out of reach.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 11:43:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

mike, and so whats your point?Does this mean a Marine actually agrees with one of my essays? WOW!
Last year i predicted that cars would be stolen simply for the fuel.We're approaching a MAD MAX world.
Could the Police do foot patrols? jim

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 1:22:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Mr. Oblivious said...

Cymbalta for everyone!

Assuming, of course, that you can pay for it.

You guys aren't cheering me up any.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 2:10:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Mr. O.,

We never promised you a rose garden at Ranger.

I knew a couple who ate so richly and so much that they had a large bottle of multicolored Tums as the centerpiece on their table, to which everyone sought recourse prophylactically before a meal.

Soon, it will be Cymbalta in a bowl on the vanity counter. A little cymbal music, please!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 2:42:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you for your comments. Running damage control here: Jim's droll tone does not translate well on computer, so pls. do not think his response was meant to be snide. He fails to use emoticons, so one does not know how to take him.

I tease that he should have a smiley face nearby in conversation, and when he means a joke he should raise it. Or he could develop some kind of semaphore system.

It IS pleasing that a Marine and an Army guy agree, but I do not think it is such a rarity.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 7:20:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Publius said...

Listen, folks, this is not the Apocalypse. The current unemployment rate in this nation is 5.5 percent. Contrast that with the Great Depression, when the unemployment rate went as high as 25 percent. As a nation, we're not all that bad off. Not yet, anyway. Not if we're smart.

Hard times may sometimes provide great opportunity. In the case of the U.S., while we're whining, we should also be looking at just what there is about our sclerotic society and government that needs to be radically changed.

Dopers stealing to get gas money? Why do we persist in this inane "war on drugs?" Legalize drugs, is what I say. You want to smoke some dope or fry your brain, go for it. We'd put half of the cops out of work, but the monetary savings would more than pay for their welfare and retraining. The crime rate, especially the violent crime rate, would go down like you can't believe. I can drink my beer, which is a drug, so why can't my neighbor light up?

Then there is the military. Oh, man. Eliminate wars of choice and saving the world by killing those who don't like us, and we could halve the defense budget, while still remaining strong enough to deter any other nation. I stayed in the Army for a career because there actually was a legitimate threat during the Cold War. Now I'd find something else to do. Frankly, I'd rather see our soldiers overseas doing traditional special forces missions than what we're seeing now. The combat formations can stay here in the U.S. training and painting rocks.

Don't like food prices? Start a garden. I'm doing it. Eat less meat and don't go to fast food places. You'll be better off.

Don't like high gas prices? Consolidate trips and realize that we're paying much less than Europeans, whose quality of life still ain't bad.

Employment opportunities? They abound, if you get educated. The future is bright for the generations following the Baby Boomers. These generations are much smaller and as the Boomers retire, jobs for educated folks will be plentiful. Focus on higher education for those qualified and vocational education for the others. Throw the assholes out of the schools. Defang the teachers' unions.

Spare me the heartrending stories about businesses going under. That's capitalism. And that's what we've chosen. Capitalism, with government scrutiny, works. We've not had any government scrutiny for the past seven years, so it's no wonder we fear normal market forces. Our government now props up businesses that should go under, while failing to nurture those with a bright future.

Regulate the shit out of the financial industries. Early Americans did not trust bankers and investment people, nor should we. If this means not everyone gets to buy a house whenever they want, well, so be it. I don't see home ownership in the Bill of Rights. If you can't afford to buy a house, rent until you can. I did.

More on crime. Get rid of gun control laws. They're primarily used against otherwise law-abiding citizens. Raise the stakes for criminals.

One might note that much of what I suggest is out of the America playbook of a hundred or more years ago. People in this nation were once the most self-sufficient people on earth; I sense we're returning to those times.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 9:35:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous mike said...

badTux - You may be correct regarding the metal thieves being dopers. But when I was a young lad in the late 40s, early 50s, my teenaged cousins used to strip the copper from abandoned row houses. Sometimes I stood lookout for them. None of us were dopers. And we only hit houses that had been derelict for a good while.

The gas thievery I believe is directly attributable to the price of a barrel of oil.

Ranger - I almost always agree with your essays. Except when you occasionally put your foot in it.
But congratulations on your MAD MAX prediction.

The townie cops do bike patrols from time to time. As far as our local sheriff, hopefully they will start motorcycle patrols soon.
Foot patrols or bike patrols would not cover one tenth of one percent of the county.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 11:11:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...


1) The official unemployment rate is a lie. It defines the tweakers who are ripping off all that copper wiring as not employed, not unemployed, just... not. Vast swathes of the American public have been "disappeared" by our government, or at least "disappeared" out of the government statistics. The actual unemployment rate can, however, be estimated from labor force participation rates (i.e., un-disappearing the disappeared), which imply that it's now close to 15%. Not Great Depression territory. But not too far.

2) Legalize drugs: Agreed. Now let's convince our politicians to do that :-).

3) Start a garden: Not an option for those of us who are renting apartments.

4) Employment opportunities: Our masters have already figured out how to deal with the Boomers retiring without having to pay a living wage to Americans. It's called MEXICANS, INDIANS, and OUTSOURCING. Around here you can't get a job in construction if you're not Mexican -- the supervisors all are Mexican, and they don't want Anglos. And finding a doctor whose name isn't Pahesh or Gupta is as rare as finding an engineer whose name isn't Srhidhar or Raje or Ivananava, the boomers destroyed the school system with their insistence on "relevance" rather than mathematics and science and the classics and America's young people simply don't have the skills to compete with their foreign competitors. I am the only American-born engineer in my company's engineering department (though my managers are American-born) -- and it's not for lack of trying, we'll hire anybody with skills. But we simply don't find Americans who can do what we need to do. They don't know logic, they don't know math, they don't know how to think. All they know how to do is regurgitate stuff onto tests, because that's all they were taught to do in school.

5) American playbook of 100 years ago -- that was not some paradise like you seem to think. The American population was much smaller then so it was possible for people to go to the land and support themselves, but working people died in droves due to being given a choice of work under dangerous working conditions or starving to death, and their heirs had no recourse to the courts when killed by the malfeasance of the mill owners because the courts were owned by the "machines" run by the political elites that made sure that nothing happened at the state or local level without the permission of the elites. Most people 100 years ago did not have guns (we actually have a higher level of gun ownership today than there was 100 years ago), and if you went around with a six-gun strapped to your hip 100 years ago you were likely to get whacked upside the head by an Irish paddy and your gun taken away from you and remember, unless you were one of the political elite you couldn't file a complaint in court about it. I spent a fair amount of time debriefing my elderly relatives about the "good old days" and there wasn't a single one of them that wanted to return to that time. My Aunt Irene's response was typical. As she talked about hauling water uphill by hand to a drafty shotgun house in order to draw bath water, I asked her if she ever wanted to go back to those days. "Uh-uhn," she said, looking at me as if I were crazy. "That was a hard life."

So you can believe in some mythical "good old days", but I'll believe my elderly relatives, because they actually lived those "good old days" and built a better nation to replace them. Too bad the Boomers and succeeding generations are in the process of destroying all the hard work they did...


Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at 11:31:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


I thank you for attempting to allay our economic concerns, and I agree with you in some of your points, but in this case I am with the penguin.

I have read recently in reputable financial sources that the 5.5% unemployment figure is a ruse. Like Click & Clack's statistician -- Marge Inovera -- the government statisticians use some fancy footwork to keep that number unduly low.

There may be jobs, but they are not the sort you might like--mainly food and service industry jobs at minimum wage. And while minimum wage stagnates, the cost of everything else rises.

Victory gardens were a lovely and productive idea, and if one can have a garden I say go for it. However, many of us live in apts. and situations where there is no arable ground available for such wholesome undertakings. Also, as we push back against the wildlife zones, the reality of a garden becomes less so as our desires abut their ever more desperate desires.

I have two friends whose gardens have been totally marauded by foraging animals. So that is a large amount of wasted time and money.

The communitarian movement is a lovely idea, but you have to have at least $200,000 on the low end to buy in. This is not a reality for many Americans, esp. those who really needs the fruits of that community garden.

You're right on legalizing and taxing dope and staying out of elective wars. Both would help the economy.

I agree on "getting educated" but that requires some assistance. It is sad that the system is often gamed, and that p.s.education is so deficient. Ditto on more financial regulation.

Americans were once self-sufficient, but look around. I don't know that a return will be so easy. They have become lazy, entitled (the high and the low), and they don't know how to trap rabbits anymore. I'd vote for anger and panic over a return to the land.

Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 10:38:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

I'd vote for anger and panic over a return to the land.

Reminds me of another superpower that was in economic free-fall as a result of a disasterous war followed by hyper-inflation, a government seemingly paralyzed, much of the nation's infrastructure in the hands of foreigners, etc. Yeppers, folks got angry and panic'ed and fell for the first feller who gave'em a good scapegoat for their problems, some Austrian house painter if I recall correctly. We all know how that story ends...

-- Badtux the History Penguin

Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 11:21:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Mr. Oblivious said...

"I'd vote for anger and panic over a return to the land."

I dont know that I'd vote for it, but I am betting on it!

Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 12:16:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Mr. O.,

My delicate nature is inclined to choose for happy outcomes. But in a pragmatic election, I would bet on the worst in human nature to come to the fore vs. the best.

In limited clannish ways, perhaps affiliated people would band together. But I am reminded of a classic Twilight Zone episode of the bomb shelter. There was room for all the neighbors, and they had done their fire drills. But when push came to shove and the alarm sounded, some of the neighbors were locked out.

Fear and "me and mine mentality" trumps altruism, generally speaking.

Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 3:13:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Mr. Oblivious said...

Fear and "me and mine mentality" trumps altruism, generally speaking.

And I fear that you are correct in this assumption, Lisa. When things start *really* going pear-shaped, I'll be more than a little bit worried 'cuz I don't belong to any recognizable 'tribe'.

Should I make myself into something other than a bitter curmudgeon?

Friday, June 13, 2008 at 10:49:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

Mr. O.,

"Should I make myself into something other than a bitter curmudgeon?"

It would be disingenuous of you to fashion yourself into anything other than what you are, and you can't be too bitter or you wouldn't be here :)

As for tribal affiliation, it reminds me of a dear Baptist friend who, upon trying to win my conversion, admitted that he himself wasn't too sure about the whole salvation gig but, "just to be on the safe side" was buying in. His argument was, there was nothing to lose, but possibly something to gain.

I guess it makes good business sense, but I don't know how it bodes for the state of one's immortal soul which, if I am inclined to buy into any metaphysical idea, that would be it. Therefore, I do not affiliate, religiously or otherwise.

Again I think pragmatism is the order of the day. If we can provide for our needs to a large degree, have only meagre needs, good friends and something of worth to barter, we'll be o.k.

Friday, June 13, 2008 at 11:36:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


addition: Pls. remember that my backgd. was INF until my branch transfer to SF. Either occupation precludes smooth talking and tact.
I do the best i can within my training and capabilities. Lisa's working on my limitations.

Friday, June 13, 2008 at 10:09:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


My pessimism is founded upon the things I read and see in my daily life. I'm not feeling rosy about the future of America or our democracy at the moment.

See Bob Herbert's NYT column today (6/14/08) for a reason why. Per your comment on capitalism in action resulting in closed businesses, here is an indicator of the times:

The Blockbuster-sized porno store in town has gone under. That says it all. Maybe they've gone to Kandahar.


Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 2:20:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Update: Ranger was wrong about the porno shop going out of business. They simply had to sell their Hummer which they had always parked in the lot, and which featured a sexy lady painted on the side.

It is replaced by a smaller SUV with a smaller lady on the side. Now that's a gas: no more Hummers at the sex shop!

Monday, June 16, 2008 at 9:17:00 PM GMT-5  

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