Last night on the TV, a talking-head woman who seemed to be acquainted with economics said she really did think that the United States was seeing the end of an era. She wasn't flamboyant about it. She didn't wave a sign reading, "Repent! The end is nigh." She just adduced facts as she saw them -- a fragile economy getting more fragile, the rise of China coupled with the dwindling of Europe. She made a pretty good case for the implosion of a sometimes rambunctious and self-centered West. The leadership baton that implied a democratic outlook -- however thoughtless -- was changing hands.
And today there were bits and pieces of news. Relevant? Irrelevant? I don't know: They just caught my eye.
-- Although the price of crude oil has been dropping, the price of gasoline at the pump -- which usually parallels crude prices -- has not.
-- In San Francisco, transit officials blocked cell phone transmissions in an effort to curtail planned demonstrations.
-- In Louisiana, a migrant Mexican teenager, died of rabies inflicted by a vampire bat. The spooky mythology of vampire bats, long disavowed by serious researchers, appears to have gained a foothold.
-- And, in an event that excites widespread disinterest as far as I can figure out, a straw poll will be held today in Iowa and whittle down the number of contenders for the Republican nomination as a presidential candidate in 2012. When people are hungry or desperate or on edge and when politicians are seen as complicit in their plight, who can get positively excited about creating or applauding even more of them?