We’re in the midst of a quiet but widespread labor strike

The so-called “worker shortage” needs to have a new label, along with a clearer perspective. In too many ways, that “explanation” often comes down to blaming the victim, with its sense that people who are unemployed are lazy.

Not that those bandying the charge would accept the conditions of those “help wanted” positions. You know, the “entry-level” openings that are really no-respect, dead-end drudgery and require “reliable transportation” on late nights and weekends at minimum wage. Sorry, it doesn’t add up.

Or the plight of the long-haul independent truckers who are burdened by the costs of their rigs and the long hours away from their homes and families. As many of them age, they’re hanging it up and nobody’s stepping into the trap. Well, that’s one aspect of the “supply-chain problems” we’re encountering.

And then we should also admit the number of people who are simply unemployable today, sometimes for medical, mental, or emotional conditions.

What we’re seeing is a confluence of long-simmering problems finally erupting in the aftermath of Covid.

The health-care system is a prime example, far more complicated than we dare get into here. But Europe seems to train its doctors at less cost and in less time than we do in the USA, and there are arguments that primary-care physicians are capable of delivering much that we’re turning over to costly specialists. Much of the staff, meanwhile, has minimal health benefits, if any.

Wages adjusted for inflation have been declining for decades.

Breaking the unions has been a factor, along with company expectations of 24/7 availability plus worker loyalty without extending reciprocal security.

Keeping stores open seven days a week, by the way, is a relatively new custom. It does add to the low-pay “help wanted” slots.

At the core, what workers are selling is their time is exchange for something, not all of it money. They’re finding that many jobs aren’t worth the cost to them once child care, transportation, clothing, and the like are factored in.

There’s also the trap of being pitted against lower paid labor elsewhere (not just China) without reaping any of the profits from higher productivity here, which has been ballooning in the wealth of the superrich but definitely not trickling down.

One of the surprises has been the number of workers in their 50s who have been dropping out, especially males. Perhaps they’re working on their own “under the table,” but many have simply “had it” with the drag. Work, from what I’ve too often seen, no longer earns any respect. And the traditional work ethic carries an unwritten requirement of being paid a livable wage in exchange. Again, it’s not adding up.

Has anyone connected crackdowns on undocumented residents and their being deported with the shortages? These were the invisible workforce that was sustaining so much of the economy. As I was saying about respect?

Posts on my Chicken Farmer blog examine work and jobs in much more detail from a personal level.

From that perspective, I’d say we’re encountering a free-market reaction to low pay and unrewarding employment situations. This one-by-one, “disorganized labor” job action will be much more difficult to address than the traditional sitting down at a negotiating table and emerging with a new contract.

Is anybody even talking about the big picture here? I’d like to know.

How to lose customers, chapter something or other

Perhaps you’ve called your auto dealer for a service appointment and been surprised to face a two- to three-week wait in the schedule. Yeah, yeah, blame it on the supply chain issues and the worker shortage.

Our nearest franchise has responded by limiting appointments to cars purchased there. Everyone else can be put on a waiting list, should a cancelation create an opening. Never mind that I’ve been a loyal customer for two years since moving from New Hampshire.

What miffs me is that when I bought my car before the opportunity for our relocation developed, my choice of the American-made brand was based on an awareness that it was the core of the only new-car dealer in Washington County. Its nearest competition is 2½ hours away or somewhere over in Canada.

I’ve been happy with the service department, even if it is a haul up the highway and back. Frankly, though, the car itself has left me wishing I’d stayed with Toyota.

Adding fuel to the fire is the coupons for discounts that show up in my inbox, sent from Detroit but applying only to the brand’s service departments.

Instead of encouraging me to buy my next vehicle there, I’m feeling ill will. In today’s business world, that’s not a good thing. You spend a lot on advertising to get a new customer. Maintaining an ongoing relationship is much cheaper.

As for those annoying “How are we doing” surveys that show up after an appointment, I do wish I’d get one now so I could say just how peeved I am.

Somehow it looked different

Seeing this photo of the painted rock along the state highway in Newbury, New Hampshire, had me doing a doubletake. Twice.

First, I realized I have never seen it in winter. Even in summer, it’s easy to miss, and I can’t recall any reason I would have been up that way other than August.

Second, though, I slowly noticed the lettering is different. It’s obviously been repainted, which is supposed to always be done on the sly, and this time the lettering is thicker, bolder.

The slogan and its history did inspire a blog related to the Red Barn, and if you haven’t visited there, please take a tour. It can be an enriching experience.


I’m still in the dark about how they actually conducted business

There were no banks and you couldn’t write checks.

Were dried fish and lumber so valuable in Britain and the Continent that you could still make a fat profit shipping them across the ocean? Furs, I can understand, as well as the hunger for gold and silver, which may have fueled speculators who were inevitably disappointed. Plus fish, likely dried.

As for paying your workers? A daily portion of rum or the like was apparently often part of the deal.

By the way, Quakers were in the forefront of developing banks and insurance and even packet shipping in time.

The early colonies had layers of ownership, starting with those demanding annual quitrents for the land you would clear and build on or have “purchased” with any improvements. Then there were the chartered investors, like Lord Saye and Sele and Lord Brooke in New Hampshire’s case, who somehow expected to make a profit overseeing the place. They still had obligations to other investors, like the Council for New England. I’m really unclear how all of that worked in practice or what they got from “selling” their charter to Massachusetts.

The best I can come up with is that it was a kind of private enterprise tax, though I’m not sure what was offered in return. Like Mafia “protection” or layers of graft?

And that’s even before getting to England’s heavy mercantile system that hampered American entrepreneurial opportunities. The colonists were expected to provide raw materials for manufacture in England before being sold at hefty markups in the New World, too.

How did the colonists ever thrive, all their hard work aside?

I’m thinking it’s almost as vaporous as bitcoins.

Not to be left in the dark

Is it just me but are power outages becoming more common, more widespread, more severe?

That would fit the forecast of climatic instability, otherwise known as global warming, which is no longer undeniable.

Remember the scoffers who first decried the prophets as ridiculous, denied the causes, spent millions to ensure their profits, and ultimately said there’s nothing we can do about it, contrary to what those insightful prophets had warned?

I’m looking for a better option than paying for a propane-powered generator that further lines the pockets of a source of the problem. Got it?

Those guys should be paying us.

End of this jeremiad, for now.

Cold reality

In an effort to keep the fuel oil bill down, the family decided to set the furnace thermostat no higher than 57 degrees.

But I’m freezing.

I’m threatening to turn the air conditioner on, hoping for 65.


Am I turning into a gnome these days? You don’t even see the finger-free gloves I’m also wearing when I’m inside the house.

Delving into a microcosm for a bigger comprehension

In looking at the categories I’ve used since launching this blog a decade ago, I feel I should explain why I’ve resisted adding to them.

I simply wanted to retain some kind of focus on what I’d envisioned as a merry-go-round. Yes, the categories were the selected horses to ride.

Think of “American Affairs,” largely inspired by an academic department that Indiana University and Yale and a few others launched in the mid-‘60s to encapsulate a multicultural investigation of current affairs. I nearly embraced it as my own major, the way some Blacks turned to Swahili.

Hey, I had a girlfriend who saw that regarding her own eldest brother. Back off, please, and let’s get back to subject.

What I’ve found in practice here at the Red Barn is that my Am Affairs specific pigeonhole has increasingly probed local public states, especially in Dover, New Hampshire, and more recently, Eastport in Way Downeast Maine.

Or, as the adage goes, all politics are local. (Should that be “is”?)

The writer Tom Wolfe was someone I had thought followed this American Affairs college degree path, but I find myself mistaken, at least as far as academia goes. Still, I would list him as an inspiration here, just shorn of the heap of superlative adjectives, expletives, and adverbs.

But our localities do get lost in the national mass-media mindset, to the impoverishment of us all.

Or, as the French said, “Vive la difference!”

Actually, as I’m realizing, that also applies to my latest book, Quaking Dover.