By George Smith

January 31, 2020.

On this day, there were multiple deaths reported, some expected, some that were surprises and one death that affected every American and resident in the United States.

The deaths included:

– Truth. Truth died at the hands of partisan politicians, callous cultists who calculated the odds of staying in a position of power versus declaring to the literary tomes of political history that truth matters and that the absolute truth is that, in the United States, no one is above the law. Truth died a horrible screaming death in the marbled Senate sanctum at the hands of elected officials who refused to expand the impeachment trial timeframe in order to keep truth a chance to once again breath.

— Separation of powers and justice: The constitutional divide between the executive and legislative branches of government was slowly strangled in the days of drama played out in the senate. That slow and painful death of justice was caused by the noose of neglect and negativism perpetuated by President Donald J. Trump and his disgruntled band of pompous head-nodders. In no other judicial case in history has a defendant directed the actions of the jury sitting in judgment. Trump and his automatons march in lockstep because of a conjoined belief that if the president is adjudged a liar, crook, extortioner and/or using the power of the presidency for personal gain, the voters will take out their frustrations on all things Republican.

Power, position, turf, territory, title and ego reign supreme in the hearts and minds of these petty elected officials, who put party over country and self-interest over everything other entity.

— Republican Party. The party of Lincoln and Reagan is no more. The death of the party that made an entire race free, that brought a divided nation back together and that created the policy of compassionate conservatism died this date from deliberate suffocation.

The party that for generations promoted free trade, small government and a balanced budget is smashed-skunk-in-the-middle-of-the-road dead. And, that nodule of conservatism will never be viable again.

The U. S. still has two main political parties: The Democratic Party and the Trumpian Party. Those former Republicans had choose not to sign on as a full-fledged Trumpians can only look in the mirror to see the reason this country is so divided; they can know the image staring back at them helped elect and support a dictator-in-waiting,
and were an instrument of destruction for a once-great political institution.

There are few easy deaths, even fewer gallant ones. These deaths on the last day of January 2029 are particularly difficult, gruesome even, because they adversely affect every single resident of this nation…and the world.

If there ever will be a R.I.P., it will be a long time coming. Until that time, God bless us all.

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By Ron Munden – January 26, 2020

For the Navy Department Library website:

Letter of Transmittal

Hon. L. Mendel Rivers,
Chairman, Committee on Armed Services
House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

June 30, 1969

Dear Mr. Chairman: Attached is a report entitled “The Sinking of the U.S.S. Guitarro”, unanimously approved by the appointed members of the Armed Services Investigating Subcommittee conducting this review. A comprehensive study was initiated pursuant to your instructions and hearings were held at San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard, Mare Island, Vallejo, California, on May 26, 27, and 28, 1969.

Whenever the Navy makes a mistake or there is an accident, they want to understand why it happened.  That often involves holding a review. That certainly is the case when the Navy sinks a ship at dockside.

In the case of the Guitarro, many of the questions that were being asked were related to ship conditions immediately before and during the ship sinking.  Those questions often involved establishing the trim angle of the ship at key points during the flooding.  These questions came to the engineering group where I was working at the time.

Unfortunately, the questions were not routine in nature and the file cabinets full of forms used for routine daily calculations were of no value – there were no forms related to the sinking of a ship.  Answering those questions required knowledge of the basic principles of naval architecture. 

Even though I had been at the shipyard for a little less than two years and had only completed two quarters of classes at Berkeley my supervisor decided I was best qualified to do the required calculations.

There was a problem, however.  I was in my third quarter at Berkeley.  I was in class on Tuesdays and Thursdays and exams were approaching so I could not afford to miss class at this critical point. Those asking the questions appeared to be unaware of my class schedule, so questions arrived on an unpredictable schedule.

To satisfy all these requirements my supervisor decided that on days that I had class I would first come to the shipyard by 6 A.M. and if there were questions, I would document the steps required to complete the calculations.  Then before I left to drive to Berkeley at 8 A.M. I would give my notes to another engineer and they would do the calculations and get them to whoever was asking the question.  It seemed like a perfect solution.

It wasn’t.

One non-class day at about 9 A.M. I was sitting at my desk.  I was surprised to see the Chief Design Engineer walk into to my supervisor’s office.  I was more surprised when I heard him say, “WHO’S MUNDEN.”

Then my supervisor walked him back to my desk and said, ‘This is Ron Munden.”

The Chief Design Engineer did not appear to be happy to see me.  All he said was, “COME WITH ME.”

Without another word he started walking and I followed three steps behind.  He walked up the stairs to the second floor and down a long hall to the design conference room.  He opened the door and walked in and I followed.  We were standing in front of a large group of people.  The conference table was full and of most of the chairs that lined the wall were occupied.

The Chief Design Engineer looked at the group and said, “THIS IS MUNDEN.”  With that he turned and left the room, closing the door behind him.

I was a little confused to say the least. 

Someone at the table said, “Mr. Munden we would like you to go over some calculations with us – use the blackboard.”  A second unknown person walked over and handed me five or six pages of calculations.  I did not recognize the package but in large letters at the top of the first page were written the words, “Calculations done using the Munden method.”

Trying to buy time I did say that I had never seen the calculations and needed a few seconds to look them over. 

I slowly walked to the blackboard, picked up a piece of chalk and started through an explanation of the calculations.  All went well through the first two pages.  I was able to explain the calculations and I was gaining a little confidence.

Then I turned to page three.  Confidence quickly turned to panic.  I did not understand the calculations at which I was looking.  The longer I looked the more confused I got.  All I knew was these calculations did not follow the steps that were in the notes I had turned over to my co-worker the previous morning.

I don’t know how long I stood there saying nothing.  It was probably a few seconds.  It seemed like three days.

Finally, in a weak voice I said, “I’m sorry Sir.  I don’t understand these calculations and I can’t explain them.”

The silence was broken when the man who had handed me the papers spoke up and said, “I didn’t understand them either.”

With that the person who had asked me to explain the calculations said, “Thank you Mr. Munden.  You’re excused.”

I quickly opened the door and walked into the hall. 

As I walked back to my office I thought, “I don’t think the Chief Design Engineer and I have a good working relationship.”

On the bright side, while I don’t consider this event the highlight of my career, this event was good training.  A year later I was finishing up my master’s degree.  One of my final classes was ‘theoretical ship hydrodynamics’.  For the final exam the professor had a one-on-one meeting with each student.  He would ask the student questions. The student had to do the required calculations or produce the required diagrams on his white board.  I got an ‘A’ in the class.  Clearly, my presentation skills had improved over the previous year.


The Guitarro review was held in late May 1969.  I left the shipyard to attend Berkeley full time that October and did not return to the end of June 1970.  Shortly after my return the Chief Design Engineer featured in this story retired.  A new Chief Design Engineer was selected.

Within 18 months of his selection, I was working on a special project for him.  A couple of years later he moved me to Head of Technical Support for the Design Division.  The position reported directly to the Chief Design Engineer and was responsible for contract management, fund administration, and project management for the 1200-person Design Division.  He became my mentor. I worked for him for another 5 years before I moved on to another job on the shipyard.  He taught be a lot during those years and I will always be indebted to him. I credit him for jump-starting my career in DoD.


I should have kept my Tupperware glasses, even though they were dishwasher-warped and the kids had chewed up the rims—turning the rims into a sort of dental floss.

* * * 

By Lad Moore

Last July I broke a water glass on the kitchen floor. It was one of my favorites because it only held six ounces—I am not into the eighty-ounces-a-day horror. It was also the kind of glass that explodes and scatters on impact, like summer rain on the freshly waxed hood of a car. Pieces scampered to the safety of the braided rug, and raced for the darkness under the dishwasher vent-thing. More agile fragments mounted dust-bunnies and rode them out of the room. 

I swept the kitchen, applying the principle of the grid-pattern that was developed for archeological digs. Then I wet-mopped—making sure the infected sponge head was hermetically bagged and tossed. Lastly, I vacuumed the entire floor with the latest superhuman Oreck technology—you know, the $1000 vacuum cleaner that can suck Orville Redenbacher through a garden hose.

But woe, on Sunday I located that last lone sniper of a sliver with the naked heel of my foot. I was always afraid it might be somewhere out there, despite the fact that the statute of orphaned glass shards had comfortably passed.  And darn it, I had felt safe. After all, my dog Quigley had done reconnaissance for me when he padded over to his food bowl dozens of times without mishap.

I could feel the glass when I caressed the spot with a loving finger, but I couldn’t see or grasp it. Surgery was clearly indicated. Doctors lie when they say that pieces of glass will work themselves out. They only work themselves near. 

I probed the spot with a needle until my self-inflicted wounds dwarfed the original injury. Multiple epithets ended the operation without confirming if success had been achieved. 

It is now February. The spot of my summer surgery has hardened into a kernel that is resistant to even the most aggressive of emery boards. And it is always first in line to complain that my newest shoes should have been a half-size larger.

* * *

The author’s three collections of short stories, Tailwind, Odie Dodie, and Riders of the Seven Hills are available at all traditional booksellers. Copies signed by the author may be obtained by contacting him directly via or   at his web page at:


The story featured here holds © Copyright 2010 by the author, Lad Moore. All rights reserved.

Image © by Dreamstime under compensated license.

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By Ron Munden

In the article, “The Sinking of the USS Guitarro – Well There Goes That Weekend” I discussed my role in the raising of the Guitarro.  The story ended with me driving home after a 33-hour workday at the shipyard.  On that Saturday afternoon I arrived home fully expecting not to go back to the shipyard until Monday morning.  After taking a shower and getting something to eat I headed to bed about 8 P.M.  Sunday was going to be a “sleep in late” day for me.

That was not to be.  At 6:30 A.M the phone rang.  It was the shipyard.  I don’t remember who called but they said that the submarine was being raised and would be going into drydock #2.  The dock blocks had to be reset, and this would be completed by midnight.  He continued and said that someone had decided that more equipment on the boat could be saved if shipyard personnel filled critical compartments with fresh water immediately.  Since this would change the configuration of the boat, a new set of stability calculations would be required before the ship could be moved into the drydock.  They told me to come back to the shipyard.

So before 8 A.M. I was driving back to the shipyard.

When I arrived at the shipyard, I was surprised to learn that the shipyard had not been able to reach Bill, the Naval Architect that had directed my work the previous day.  These were the days before cell phones and Bill did not carry a beeper.  So, I was on my own.

Fortunately, these calculations were much simpler, and I could reuse some of the work from the previous day.   So, everything went smoothly.  I finished the calculations by 4 P.M. and notified the duty officer.  I waited for someone to come to pick up the calculations and got ready to head home.

A Navy Captain arrived to pick up the calculations.  It was the Shipyard Planning Officer, the highest-ranking officer in the Planning Department. I was about six layers below him in the organizational structure.

I was shocked when he said they expected to dock the ship at about midnight, and he wanted me to stick around and inspect the dock blocks as soon as the ship was in dock.  I sure was not going to tell a senior Navy Captain “no” so I said, “YES SIR.”

This meant that I had to stick around the shipyard for another 8 hours but that was not the big problem.  I had never inspected dock blocks before.  I had never seen anyone inspect dock blocks and I had no idea what a dock block inspection was.

The good news was I had 8 hours to decide how I was going to do the job.

At midnight I was standing at drydock #2 watching the USS Guitarro being pulled into drydock.  Sometime before 1 A.M.  the water in the drydock had been pumped out.  It was time for me to begin my inspection.

I started down a narrow set of stairs built into the side of the drydock.  I was carrying a clip board — I thought a dock block inspector must carry a clipboard.  When I got to the bottom of the dock, I discovered that after water is pumped from a drydock the bottom of the dock is coated with 2 to 3 inches of mud.   Also, some fish don’t get pumped out, so a few fish were flopping in the mud.

Before stepping into the mud, I took a long look at the ship.  It was sitting upright.  I was pleased.

Then I stepped into the mud in my tennis shoes.  I was about mid-ship.  I walked to the hull and looked at a dock block. It appeared to be in good shape — not crushed.  I slowly moved from block to block toward the bow of the ship looking at each block. At the bow I crossed to the opposite side of the ship. Surely a dock block inspector would check the port and starboard sides of the block setup.  I then moved toward the stern of the ship doing the same thing.

Mission completed.  I had done my first dock block inspection.

By 1:30 A.M. I was in my car and headed home — muddy and very happy my first dock block inspection was over.


In June 1970, I received my master’s degree in Naval Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.  For my thesis I developed a computer program that calculated dock block loading and stress on the hull of a ship going into drydock. 

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Lottery from the Neighboring Yards

All things risked seemed all things better.

* * * 

By Lad Moore

I pictured my grandmother’s house on George Gregg Street as the center of the orchard universe. In my growing-up years I had explored and discovered all the fruit tree treasures that neighbors had put in place, well, to be neighborly I suppose. I am unsure of the exact reason because some of the neighbors did not welcome me to their horn of plenty. I had to deal with those in a covert manner we might call ‘night crawling.’

Mrs Crain owned the house next door. She was one of the first subjects of my night crawling because in a word, she was stingy. My grandmother said “No, just frugal,” because my grandmother had no ill to say of anyone. That is, except for “Archibald the Noser,” the man who regularly came to our home to conduct lifestyle reviews which would decide her continued eligibility for Old Age Assistance. That small dole was her only income. 

When she saw him approaching the house, her language tested her very Presbyterian fiber: “Oh my stars and little fishes! It’s that blamed Archibald! Run and put on your jeans with the ripped out knees and those old Roebuck tennis shoes,” she said. “And just stare at the floor if he asks you anything.” I understood that I must not look prosperous, so I always chose the yellow shirt with the frayed collar tips—the tips I had chewed on until bleached and disfigured by elongation. It worked. The check kept coming. Archibald must have been quite thrilled with our poverty.

Mrs Crain had a fig tree beside her bedroom window that in season, boasted many pails of the fruit. It was so prolific that legend said she had dismembered and buried her husband beneath it. It was his rotting self that provided the special fertilizer. 

It was the darkest night of no moon. On all fours, I crept around the back of the double garage we shared with Mrs Crain. Her rosebushes, placed there as a kind of perfumed razor wire, pulled and tugged at my progress. Not to be deterred, I crawled on, suffering the wounds that were dues for the reward to come. 

The fig tree was loaded. I removed a pillowcase from under my shirt and began stuffing it with all the fallen figs first, then the ones I could reach while on my knees. I dared not stand, because that would place me squarely in front of her bedroom window. The sack was feeling generously heavy and it was time to abandon greed and settle for what was a respectful haul. 

I twisted the neck of the sack closed and raced to my secret treasure box. The summer before, I dug a rectangular hole in the graveled garage floor large enough to contain a small metal locker my Uncle SB had used in the Army. Brushing away the loose pebbles that concealed it from view, I raised the lid and placed the figs inside. I would ration them over the next week or so. I could easily eat a dozen or more of them per sitting, so none were wasted. They were delightful; their pepper-sized seeds a tiny bit crunchy to the palate. A fig is best raw, and even better stolen. It is beyond me why Newton wanted to ruin it with that gummy cake of his.

The Liston family on East Avenue had a trellis of black grapes in their backyard. They didn’t seem to want them, because most seasons the fruit just fell to the ground and became scrap for crows. The crows would digest the grapes and later excrete them like so much purple rain. I figured that in taking them, I was performing a valuable service to the many people who had to polish the horrid crow stains off their automobile rooftops and hoods.  

A rule of stealing fruit is that it is not stealing if no one wanted it in the first place. Tell that to “Sluggo,” the boxer dog who guarded the trellis against poaching. From my thievery kit emerged an effective weapon: A raw weenie for a guard dog is good trade for his silence and a posterior free of gnashing teeth. After repeated weenies, I think Sluggo actually began to like me. His wagging tail and light whimpering defied the “Bad Dog” sign that hung on the Liston fence. 

Economics soon crept in. I began to evaluate the cost of a weenie against the grape’s worth. The grapes were tiny—not much bigger than a nice English pea. They were a bit tart, and the stain from their juice was like neon. It was impossible to deny that they had passed my lips. 

“Did you ask permission to take Mrs Liston’s grapes? My grandmother asked. 

“Yes, I got permission,” I replied. I was thinking of Sluggo’s approval, not Mrs Liston’s, so it was not a lie. It didn’t matter anyway. The puny grapes eventually failed the barter rule. A plump hot dog weenie was simply too much to invest in a substandard grape.

Two blocks away was the Smitherman home. There, proudly lining the sidewalk gate were two stately black plum trees. When ripe, the plums had a blue-gray haze on them that when rubbed away, revealed a skin as shiny as coal. The plums were fat—close to the diameter of a Yo-Yo. I reasoned that plums were perhaps the perfection of God’s engineering. The ratio of meat to seed-size left all other fruit in envy. Peaches and apples were not even close. 

Both Mr and Mrs Smitherman worked for the railroad shops, so their coming and going was as predictable as morning light. I often made my way to their gate in full daylight, filling a water pail with hand-selected ripe plums. The trees were majestic; remindful of the date-palm adornments to the gates of old Rome that I remembered from the movies. 

One early Monday morning, I walked down to the Smitherman’s yard with my ready pail. I was shocked to find their iron gate chained and locked. Apparently my raids had been discovered. On Sunday I saw Mr Smiterman at church. With my best innocence, I approached him at the end of the service.

“Mr Smitherman, I noticed you have a really nice plum crop and wondered if I might have some of them for my school lunch sack.”

“You mean you want more of my plums?” I could have taken his remark lightly, not personally, but I knew I had been admonished. Guilt has a way of weeding out ambiguity, tying the tongue, and quivering the hands. 

“All you have to do is ask, and I can make sure the gate is open,” he said, with what looked like the apparition of a smile trying to break through. “My plums are there for the asking, not the taking.” Oddly remindful of an encounter with Archibald the Noser, my eyes fell to the hardwood floor of the church foyer and I nodded my understanding without looking up. I never stole from him again.

Mr Pedison was the owner of a stately hotel called the Ginocchio. It sat by the train station, and was famous for its rail-heyday history and its trappings, especially its sweeping staircase of rare curly pine. Among its legends and tales, there was common talk that a tunnel extended from beneath Mr Pedison’s house over to the hotel. The story told how the tunnel was used to secretly move traded slaves to waiting boxcars in the dead of night. Most people said it was a far fetched rumor. In any case, the alleged activity pre-dated Mr. Pedison by two-thirds of a century. Even though fully absolved by the passage of time, he was always quick to debunk the slavery tale. 

“Ginocchio and Pedison ancestors kept no slaves,” he said. Slave trading aside, I noticed that he never denied the existence of the tunnel nor explained its purpose.

In the back yard of his home, Mr Pedison cultivated pears, Elberta peaches, and green baking apples. Mr Pedison knew me well since I delivered his newspaper, and invited me to share his fruit to the extent my cravings led me. I figured his free fruit substituted for a newsboy tip.  Since I did not have to steal, I took only sparing amounts. It’s odd how having permission diminishes one’s greed. I never knew why, but it was true that in a three-way match, the pears always fell to last place in gathering. I could easily skip pears altogether. They simply are bland and unappealing. Maybe it’s because the red wasps competed with me so hard for them, or that almost everyone’s yard had a pear tree.

By contrast, there is nothing more summery than a chilled peach, its crimson and yellow insides surrounded with juice so bountiful that it would run down one’s arms and drip at the elbows. The reward of such a delicacy outweighed the one inconvenience: Peaches have an ornery fuzz that somehow is magnetized to adhere to the wrinkles underneath a young man’s neck. There it digs in to sting and irritate until scrubbed away with a wet washcloth generously slathered with that fearsome Lava Soap. 

Legitimate fruit such as Pedison’s bypassed the treasure chest and made its way directly into my grandmother’s kitchen, where it served as filling for her delicious fried pies. The fruit was cooked into a mush and then nested in a fold-over crust similar in shape to today’s taco. My job was to then pinch the edges of the crust dough at index-finger intervals—a sort of zipper to keep it closed for frying. 

“Little fingers make the ideal pinch,” she always said. It was my special contribution to the task, and I felt honored when our pie won a blue ribbon at the East Texas Fair. 

“I did the zippers,” I boasted to those that came by our table. 

Life’s mysteries surely must include the pomegranate. Larry Allen’s grandmother had two of the curious bushes. They seemed to have little appeal, for I was invited to take all I wanted. A pomegranate is a fruit that was designed to have no predators. Like the dreaded cockroach, pomegranates survived the great asteroid destruction of the Earth. Its classification as a fruit defies understanding. The skin and pulp are not edible, and are shunned even by coon, deer, and squirrels. The shoe-peg corn-sized seeds clustered inside are surrounded with nothing more than a halo of meat—a filmy suggestion of fruit. There is no such thing as a pomegranate fried pie, or even pomegranate preserves. They have no worth as a sack lunch snack; it would take an entire recess to dissect one. 

Considering the fruit’s nutritional lapse, I’m not sure it was an asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. In any case, I must treat such time wasters as pomegranates like orphans, because the growing season is too short for diversions. 

I’m heading back for more of Mr Pedison’s peaches, fuzzy neck et al.

* * * 

The author’s three collections of short stories, Tailwind, Odie Dodie, and Riders of the Seven Hills are available at all traditional booksellers. Copies signed by the author  may be obtained by contacting him directly via or by  accessing his web page at:


The story featured here holds © Copyright 2010 by the author, Lad Moore. All rights reserved. Image © by Dreamtime Hypermania under compensated license.

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By George Smith

Like it or loathe it, the impeachment trial of Donald  J. Trump is an extraordinarily historical event.

Like him or loathe him, the American people are entitled to know the truth: Did the president break the law?

Unconventional. That’s a good descriptive word for the 45th. president. Other words and phrases that, in my mind, also fits this president include “reactionary,” “ignorant of history and how government works,” “cyber-bully,” “egomaniacal,” “whining crybaby” and “flimflam artist.”

None of those descriptive terms are impeachable offenses; abuse of power and obstruction of justice are.

What we are seeing and going to see in the Senate version of a poorly written soap opera is comedy posing as a drama.

When the curtain comes up on the 21st
 of January, 2020 on the impeachment trial, the world will be seeing a farce of a trial; it will be a trial in name only. What will be shown on the world stage will be a partisan morality play superimposed over a promise of fairness and transparency.

Without pertinent witnesses (and Hunter Biden has no direct knowledge of the charges against the president; that is a ridiculous GOP talking point), the proceedings will be a whitewash, pure and simple.

If Trump did nothing wrong, allow witnesses and order up pertinent documents. Without them, there is not a trial, just a waste of time and money.

Trump has already been found guilty; he has been impeached, a stigma that will never go away.

The GOP will only put an exclamation mark on his humiliation by continuing the coverup.

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By George Smith

Nothing has changed in four years. This column written in January 2016.

What are we doing to each other?

The frustration and anger from the heartland about the unbridled corruption and blind hatred directed at any person expressing an opinion that does not follow the bootfalls of a certain political philosophy has emerged with a vengeance.

It is impossible to have a meaningful exchange of ideas when people re-spew venom and lies from mouth breathers whose paycheck is based on the degree and mass of heated rhetoric they can shovel.

Certain politicos are profession aginners, fear-mongers, and haters. The fact that so many folks are buying into the frustration and hate-word-filled  diatribes scares me and creates an intense sense of doom for America and its citizens.

Educate yourself on the issues and then vote. Exercising your right to vote — after filtering out the self-righteous pabulum — is paramount if we ever hope to bridge the chasm that is dividing this country.

This is not about Obama and/or Trump., Republican values, Democratic values, about guns or religious difference or where a person is born.

This is about acknowledging that America is broken and working to fix the ills washing over its citizens. It is not about creating more problems and hatred.

This election is important, possibly the most important in its history since the last days of WWII.

Educate yourself in all the issues; research each candidate and stated position; reject the implausible and the mountain of impossible theoretical promises; turn off cable news programs and start thinking for yourself.

Then, vote. The future of the country –the future of its heart and soul — are at stake.

Don’t let billionaires buy your vote. Think. Study. Vote.

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By Ron Munden – January 13, 2020

I recently shared an article on Facebook, “Robot Janitors Arrive At Walmart, Human Job Losses Likely To Follow.”

The article was posted about two months after my article, “The Robots Are Coming” was published on but I had not seen the article before.

I found the comments to my Facebook shared post very interesting.  One-person said, “The Democratic policy at work.” Another person said, “That 15 dollars an hour Democrat plan is what this is.”

These two replies show a complete lack of understanding of the problem.  What is most alarming is that in this country today the response to every problem is to blame the other political party?

Specifically, I was unaware that robotics is a Democratic policy.  Also, the person that thinks the $15 minimum wage is what is causing this problem is even dumber than I thought they were.

I fear this country’s future is not bright.  As the country does down the tube, people will be arguing about which party flushed the toilet.

Unites States of America – R.I.P.

For the record this is what the article said:

Robot Janitors Arrive At Walmart, Human Job Losses Likely To Follow

Jake Thomas — December 2018

Automation is coming for another retail job as Walmart prepares to unleash 360 autonomous floor-cleaning robots to its U.S. stores by January, according to NBC News.

Walmart made the announcement jointly with Brain Corp, which makes the artificial intelligence platform that runs the robotic cleaners, in a Monday release.

The world’s largest retailer has already put more than 100 machines to work, with the help of Brain OS. When the autonomous janitors are in action, they have yellow safety guards on both sides, detering any customers who might be tempted to hop on and take a ride while cleaning is in progress.

There’s a siren on top that lets people know with a subtle “beep beep” that it’s coming through to clean. But that’s not all it’s doing. Brain’s robots have sensors that allow it to collect information, which can be uploaded into a store’s cloud-based platform. For instance, as the robot cleans, it could collect data on which shelves are empty, according to one potential use case shared by a Walmart spokesperson.

The floor-scrubbing robot is not Walmart’s only automation: “A shelf-scanning robot being tested in 50 locations alerts a team when items are out of stock or incorrectly priced” and an “AI helper, Alphabot, quickly retrieves items in storage to help fill online orders.”

Company leadership is convinced such technologies also help make human workers more productive, as employees can leave more menial jobs to robots and focus on “higher value” tasks.

“Brain OS is a powerful tool in helping our associates complete repetitive tasks so they can focus on other tasks within role and spend more time serving customers,” said John Crecelius, vice president of Central Operations at Walmart.

Though it is still unclear precisely how automation will impact human employment into the future, NBC noted that a McKinsey report issued in 2017 estimated about 400 million to 800 million jobs worldwide could be lost to automation by 2030.

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By Ron Munden — — October 22,2018

Editor’s note:
I wrote this story in October 2018. Since that time robotic has advanced as predicted. Sadly, 27 months has passed a our government has still not started to address this problem. Andrew Yang is the only person I have heard discuss the what we a facing.

Today there is lots of talk about 7000 immigrants from Central America walking through Mexico and headed to the U.S. border. People are afraid these people are coming to take our jobs. Fortunately, the President has promised to protect our jobs from these invaders.

I am confident that this nation will get through this event and it will have no significant impact on the citizens of this country.

These are not the invaders that concern me. The invaders that concern me will be coming by the millions and will have a major impact on American jobs. They will change society from what we have today.

The invaders that concerns me are ROBOTS. I fear that we are a nation that is not preparing for impact of the robot invasion.

For 20 years or so engineers and scientists working on artificial intelligence seemed to have been stuck and there was little progress being made. That has all changed in the last 5 years. AI is on the move again. Cheap sensors and other hardware are now available and computer power continues to increase at the rate predicted by Moore’s law. There is now the merging of these technologies and powerful but cheap robots are increasingly available. Over the next few years, millions of the robots will be entering the workplace in the United States. The same will be happening in other countries throughout the word. Millions of jobs will be lost to robots. Yes, there will be some new jobs created but for every job created hundreds of old jobs will be lost.

Foxconn is a company that makes iPhones for Apple in China. Last year Foxconn eliminated 60,000 positions and replaced these people with robots.

The President announced that Foxconn was going to build a new factory in the United States. Yes, this is good but don’t expect it to produce tens of thousands of factory jobs. It may produce a couple of thousand new jobs but most of them will be computer related jobs. The factory worker is going to quickly become extinct.

Job losses will not be limited to factory floor jobs. Many office functions can be accomplished by robots and computers, so the clerical field will shrink. Truck drivers will also go on the chopping block. The autonomous cars are just a few years away, but I predict that autonomous long-haul trucks will be on the road even quicker. The technology is simpler, and the cost savings are huge. All of this will happen because there are strong economic incentives. If a business owner hopes to stay in business, they will have to go to robots to remain cost competitive.

When this happens there will a world where there are much fewer jobs than there are people to fill those jobs and the world will face a paradigm shift. Unfortunately, I see no indication that the United States has begun planning for this change. What do you do with a massive number of people that do not have jobs? While the United States appears to be doing nothing, other countries have begun planning.

Last month China announced its intent to transition to a 32-hour work week. Their intent is to complete the transition in less than 10 years.

Change is imminent. If you think 7000 immigrants is the biggest problem we face, I think you are mistaken. More robots and fewer jobs will impact orders of magnitude more people that the immigrant problem. The sooner the government recognizes this the better off the American worker will be.

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Before ‘ trips’ became artificially induced.

* * * 

I grew up on Marshall Texas’ North Side, a reference to the neighborhoods north of Grand Avenue and beyond the Texas and Pacific Railroad tracks. People said our kind were poor and called us Northsiders. They said we were from the Shoebox Neighborhoods because our houses resembled uniform rows of sameness.

In contrast, Southsiders had the fairy-tale houses that dotted areas like Washington Place and Henley-Perry Drive. Here were quaint homes, chalets and bungalows having distinctly varied architecture and amenities that set them apart from the rest of the town. In Washington Place there were homes built entirely of rare petrified wood. Many had stucco alcoves with little statues and plaster carvings. Others had European-style roofs, some having clay tile and some with expensive faux-tile roofs made of metal. Mailboxes were forged of iron and had hand-painted ceramic insets depicting fox-hunting scenes. In the winter the owners decorated for Christmas with a flair that had the rest of Marshall driving past in caravans of awe. It was a storybook-like child’s eye version of a trip through Santa’s home town.

My visits to South Side were seldom, and not by invite. Our family didn’t mingle with Southsiders unless we needed to hire a lawyer or see a doctor. When we were flush with gasoline after payday, we often rode through their neighborhoods and hung our heads out the car window to try and breathe in the wealth. Packards and Cadillacs sat glistening in pea-gravel driveways. I didn’t see any Henry J’s like ours. In backyards I could see brick barbecue pits with forged metal hoods. To the side would be brightly-painted triple-swing sets with Jungle Jims. I bet the kids there shot Roman candles all year long. 

North Side boys were late getting bicycles. We didn’t start with a small one and graduate through four or five sizes up to twenty-eight-inchers. We started with the twenty-eight-incher, always second-hand, and had to use a washtub as a step to mount it. For the next few years there would be no way to make it all the way up onto the seat. Burlap sacks wrapped around the top-tube and tied in place with a stocking had to do. Sometimes we had to add wooden blocks to the pedals to reach them. If we fell during our ride, we used curbs or stumps as assists to remount. If there were no curbs, we pushed the bike all the way back to the washtub.

Bikes aside, my favorite activity was climbing. I climbed everything. I sat on top of my garage until the red tin roof got too hot to manage through blue jean cutoffs. I walked the length of my house on the asphalt ridge cap like a circus high wire performer, arms spread out for balance and effect. I climbed the huge sweetgum tree and tossed its burrs toward a coffee can I had positioned on the storm sewer cover below. One point for each basket. At night, that same perch had me shooting burrs with a slingshot toward the Baptist College girls who passed beneath the streetlight. If one hit the mark, they cried out “Bats!” and fled screaming into the night. 

At my uncle’s farm in Overton there was a working windmill. Its tail fin spelled the word ‘Aeromotor’ in faded letters. I could climb the cross braces as easy as I could a ladder. So could my uncle’s bird dog Wilbur, a skinny old farm hound that regularly joined me at the crow’s nest platform halfway up. He climbed down like he climbed up. His toes splayed out like a fan to steady himself on the metal angles. Sure footed as a goat, Wilbur was wasted in Overton. He could have easily made sway with John Ringling North.

I admit to having some climbing fears. Sometimes hackles of hair on the back of my neck would stiffen like those wild bristles on a used-up paintbrush. My palms revealed the same lingering cold sensation as when gripping the neck of a soda bottle to hoist it out of its ice cooler. Climbing meant placing one hand on the next rung or brace and keep moving. Rules emerged: Never stop, never ever look down. 

The rest at the end of any climbing adventure was always interrupted by that dreaded fear of the trip back down. How did I actually get up here? Sometimes I would swear that some strategically-vital tree limbs had somehow been removed since I last used them. Climbing down was like having forgotten every good move, like being out of body. I would repeatedly swipe my palms down the legs of my jeans to dry them. One hand, then the other. Carefully position each foothold. Footholds on the way down were much more calculated than those of the brisk ascent. The last step was more of a leap, skipping one or two levels. The only means to quickly end the fear was to hasten that happy jolt when feet met earth.

Sometimes at night a group of other climbers joined me downtown to scale the rows of buildings like today’s Spiderman. There were streets where one building nearly touched another and we could traverse an entire block on rooftops. Pigeons scattered like gray apparitions against black canvas as we disturbed their rest. Oddly, we often found empty beer cans and bottles up there. We glanced around nervously. We weren’t the only visitors.

Nader’s Store had several rooftop skylights. Each had a pane that could be opened for emergency ventilation. I opened one, its rusty hinges squealing for oil. In the dimmed store lights I could see rows of shoes on display shelves far below. I dropped a handful of roof gravel down the vent for the discomfort of those trying on shoes tomorrow. I wondered what Nader must have thought. I bet he wrote the shoe company a letter.

Sam Houston School had a metal fire escape that was a chute with a section of covered tunnel stretching down several stories. I climbed it backwards many times on weekends just for the joy of a wax-papered ride back down.

Of all climbs, the cone-topped water tower known simply as The Standpipe was the cosmos of all fear and danger. To fall would be to careen off the hill into the pit that Marshall Pottery used as a dump for sharp pieces of broken pots. Standpipe therefore stood as did Everest, a magnet to the dauntless climber, knowing that such a fall would add severed arms and legs to mere broken bones. But many had done it before me. “MHS Seniors ’55” and “I Love Carol” were emblazoned on the tank’s sides along with the initials of many heroic conquerors. The city water department didn’t even clean the writing off. Standpipe legend was allowed to advertise. 

Standpipe must be scaled at night to maximize both drama and covert act. Even so, it would not be uncommon for the odd patrol car to come by, dobbing its spotlight on the tower frame and catwalk. My friend Troy would stay below both as watchman and cheerleader. He was also assigned to remove the body if called upon. 

I began my climb with a kiss planted on the tower’s massive outlet pipe, a climber’s bid for good luck. I had a can of spray paint tied to my belt. I chose red, the high school color. I had bought the paint two weeks earlier, fearing that the hardware store man would alert the police to such a purchase and Standpipe would be placed on a prolonged stakeout. The News Messenger headline would read: “Alert Clerk Foils Latest Standpipe Attempt. Climber Sent to Reform School.”

Seven or eight feet into the climb, one had to navigate a barbed-wire barrier installed to deter the weak and easily discouraged. The wires had been spread apart enough times that they had become spacious and I easily passed between them. Troy gave me my first cheer but I didn’t look down. The ladder welds had broken in a few places and the sides quivered more than I liked. In a few spots it wobbled enough to clank, triggering a “Shhh!” from Troy below.

I brushed away a bird’s nest and dirt and debris fell on my face and into my eyes. I locked my leg through the back side of the rung and clamped the toe of my shoe on the next rung below. That move allowed me the necessary comfort and insurance to free one arm and wipe my eyes on my sleeve. I blinked over and over. Irritant tears began to well and eventually a muddy stream stained my face. 

Soon I reached the pinnacle; a catwalk that encircled the tank like a metal garter belt. I crawled from the access hole onto the flat surface and lay still. I could see Troy sitting on the grass with his flashlight illuminating his face. He said something I couldn’t understand. I continued to lie there and catch my breath. My chest heaved up and down enough that it felt like pushups. I turned onto my side. Gripping the braces on the catwalk, I slowly stood upright. My fingers clung to the rail as though fused to the metal. 

A twinkling panorama stretched out before me. I let go the rail long enough to wipe my eyes with my shirttail, removing the last of the bird’s nest. To the south I could see a bright red haze. It was the glow of the rooftop neon letters spelling Hotel Marshall. In the distance to both the left and right blinked twin radio towers. One was KMHT. The other one? Maybe Wiley College had a station. The towers’ red pulses were ironically timed to the pace of my breathing. At the ten o’clock position I could see the alternating green and white waves of the Marshall Airport beacon. Directly in front I could make out the shiny dome of the old courthouse. Farther right at four o’clock was a cluster of lights knitted closely together. Baptist College? 

Above me unfurled a mosquito net of stars, brighter than any other time I had looked into the heavens. Was I just closer to them? While looking up I saw a blank spot on the tank’s east side. As high as I could reach I painted my initials there, followed by the date. Then I noticed something curious. Some of the painting was well above mine, reminding me of six-foot-four Raymond Craig. Raymond played varsity basketball and could hurl himself off the rim like Tarzan from a vine. Even Ray couldn’t reach that far up. It had to mean just one thing. Certain others before me had stood on top of the catwalk handrail to paint! I regretted having already put my mark there; others might see mine as less legitimate. I contemplated a re-do but only briefly. A return of neck hair like a Mohawk and palms like ice blocks quickly tamed my zeal. To seal this welcome rush of good sense, I let the can of paint fall to the ground.

“Dang! You dropped your paint,” said Troy. “No way can I throw it up that far.” “Deed is already done,” I said. Another cheer from Troy.

I made my way back to the firm red clay. My legs were trembling like I imagined an earthquake might cause. I felt weak all over. Not from the climb, but from an ebb of fear flowing out of me. 

The next day Troy and I rode over to Standpipe. I felt the chills of pride and opened a wide smile meant solely for me. My initials were more prominent than I had hoped. Troy beamed at me like I was a brother just home from the war. It was a look that mixed awe with respect. 

Our neighborhood slowly changed. First the T&P railroad shops were razed. Then the old East Avenue Viaduct was toppled by an over-height railcar crane and never rebuilt. The Standpipe Tower outlasted almost everything until a few years ago when the city tore it down for no reason whatsoever. 

The destruction of Standpipe removed yet another monument to the legitimacy and honor of North Side. There are damn few left. 

* * * 

The author’s three collections of short stories, Tailwind, Odie Dodie, and Riders of the Seven Hills are available at all traditional booksellers. Copies signed by the author  may be obtained by contacting him directly via or by  accessing his web page at:


The story featured here holds © Copyright 2010 by the author, Lad Moore. All rights reserved.

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