- In the case of the California
the authorities are taking a better-safe-than-sorry approach. No
surprise there. No one ever got fired for taking precautions
explosives, even if they ultimately turned out to be unnecessary. I
just hope the precautions they're taking are adequate.
no way I'd walk into that house myself, and I applaud the authorities
for taking precautions to prevent someone from being injured
killed. As far as we know, explosives are present in moderate
amounts--pounds rather than tons--but it's certainly possible that
there are undiscovered very large amounts of explosives present. If I
were in charge, I'd certainly evacuate people for at least several
blocks around the site, and I would close the Interstate. In fact, I'd
have the fire fighters standing back a lot farther than the 100 yards
mentioned in the article. It's always sensible to deal very cautiously
with explosives, particularly when you're not certain exactly what
you're dealing with, and in this case the presence of home-made, very
unstable explosives means it's good to err on the side of caution.
concerns me is that the authorities may actually be
underestimating the hazard. The article states, "They
that if there is an explosion, it would probably throw the debris only
about 60 feet" and goes on to quote one of the authorities as saying,
"It certainly would not be a detonation that would level a
neighborhood." Do they really know that for sure? Everything I've read
says the authorities backed out quickly after a very superficial
search. Are they really certain there's not a ton or ten of explosives
they don't know about?
Presumably they're aware of that
possibility and are counting on any undiscovered large amounts of
explosives to burn rather than cook off. I really hope they're right.
Planning for a controlled burn of maybe 20 pounds of explosives and
finding out the hard way you were actually dealing with one hundred
times that much could turn out to be a very unpleasant surprise.
Pearl Harbor Day, a date that will live in infamy. The Japanese found
out what happens to someone who seriously pisses us off. We nuke 'em.
Let's hope Islam learns the same lesson soon.
visited Winston-Salem again yesterday. I wish he'd stay away. As usual,
security measures for his visit screwed up traffic over most of the
city. He visited Forsyth Tech, our community college, where he
apparently spent some time in the biotechnology labs. FTCC does good
work, but unfortunately most of what they're teaching are skills that
should have been taught in our high schools. Oh, well. Better late than
never, I suppose.
And I see that we now have a compromise. A
two-year extension of the Bush-era so-called tax cuts in exchange for
extending federal unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, this simply
puts off an inevitable result. The sad fact is that employment in the
US has changed forever. The vast majority of the people who are
currently in the long-term unemployed category are destined never to be
employed again in any meaningful way. So-called structural
unemployment will be with us for the foreseeable future.
lack of skills and their inability to learn new skills essentially puts
these former workers permanently in the economically useless
category. Put simply, they're not worth paying even a fraction of the
minimum wage. Most of them don't really understand that
literally in direct competition with overseas workers who are willing
to do the same work for a very small fraction of the current minimum
wage. Their work is of insufficient value even to keep them fed and
housed, let alone earn luxuries that all of them have learned to take
The economy is recovering. Employment is not.
Companies are reaching production levels similar to those before the
crash, but with many fewer employees. Essentially, much of the deadwood
has been cut. Companies have learned that they can get along with much
smaller headcounts than previously. They have invested and continue to
invest in automation. As one article I read recently put it, companies
have learned that those 37 weekly reports they used to get aren't
really necessary, nor are the costs for the people needed to produce
them. Companies that laid off 1,000 employees at the bottom of the
crash are now rehiring 200, which is all they really need to reach and
exceed former production numbers. Unfortunately, that ratio is likely
We're watching the early stages of our society
bifurcating into a relatively small group of smart, industrious,
well-educated people who have useful skills and a much larger group of
people who have neither useful skills nor the ability to learn them.
We're doing ourselves no favor by refusing to recognize this reality.
Such a society is unsustainable, if only because those long-term
unemployed can still vote. This problem needs to be dealt with rather
than put off, if indeed there is any way to deal with it. Pournelle
thinks the solution is to train more skilled machinists and other
manual trades. I think that'll simply guarantee a large supply of
unemployed skilled machinists. It's useless to train more people for
jobs that do not exist in large numbers now and will never again exist
in large numbers.
It's time to recognize reality, and a good
start would be to stop pretending that any significant fraction of
those who are currently unemployed will ever be usefully employed
again. We can extend so-called unemployment benefits indefinitely, but
that won't change the reality that we have millions upon millions of
people who have no skills that employers are or ever will be willing to
pay for, nor any realistic prospect of developing those skills. I wish
I could propose a solution, but I don't think one exists.
we're still a wealthy nation, which means no one is going to starve or
freeze to death. Political upheaval is the real danger on the horizon.
It's been a mite chilly around here, with wind chills at night
around 5 °F (-15 °C). Someone mentioned that when Obama
arrived the other day he got off the plane without a coat, expecting
North Carolina to be warm. Guess again.
Someone has stolen my idea without paying me a royalty.
From: Ronal B Morse To: Robert Bruce Thompson Date: Tue Dec 7 13:36:06 2010 Re: The DespairWear Xmas Tee
I got email yesterday from Time-Warner. This is getting old. This time,
the local ABC affiliate is holding viewers hostage, demanding more
money from Time-Warner
Cable to carry their signal. Congress needs to fix this problem.
There's no reason TWC (and, inevitably, TWC subscribers) should have to
pay anything at all to carry the signals from broadcast TV stations.
Nor should the TV stations have the right to forbid or require TWC to
carry their signal. Once they put it on the air, it's out of their
hands, or should be.
Look at it this way. Cable TV systems were
originally called CATV systems, for Community Antenna TV. In the case
of local TV stations, that's exactly what they still are. The cable
system is doing nothing but providing an antenna. They're not altering
the programming in any way. They're not adding their own commercials.
They're simply renting me an antenna by the month. If someone offered
to install a physical antenna on my roof and let me pay for it by the
month, would that company or the company that manufactured the antenna
hardware owe royalties to the local TV station? Of course not. No more
should a cable TV system owe royalties to the local stations whose
signals it carries.
Then we get into the other side of the
must-carry issue. Originally, small stations argued that cable systems
should be required to carry their signals because otherwise no one
would be able to watch them. Well, no one watches them anyhow. Most of
them are religious stations with three or four regular viewers or
bottom feeders that rerun a few ancient network programs with mostly
infomercials and home shopping. There's no need for the must-carry
rule, and it should be repealed. Any station that has an actual
audience will be carried on the cable systems to keep that cable system's
I've said before, there's no longer any need for broadcast television
stations at all. Local news, the primary justification for their
existence, is a joke. Our cable system has its own news operation,
which does a better job than the OTA stations. The FCC should reclaim
all of that massive bandwidth the stations occupy and make it available
for wireless Internet and other services that are needed. Network
programming, as long as it lasts, should be delivered directly by cable
and satellite systems.
I was just walking Malcolm and ran into Mary Littlejohn, who was just
returning from the supermarket. She gave me the good news. Of all the
colleges Jasmine visited and applied to, the one she really, really
wanted to accept her is High Point University. When Jas woke up
this morning, she had email waiting to tell her she'd been
accepted. Mary said she was surprised Barbara and I didn't hear the
scream all the way to our house.
Mary said that the first thing
Jas wanted to do was run down and ring our doorbell to let me know. Kim
talked Jas out of it, given that it wasn't yet 7:00 a.m. I told Mary to
let Jas know that she'd told me, and to offer her Barbara's and my
That's a ton of pressure off Jas, and off Kim,
who's been working hard on Jas's behalf. Jas can now relax and enjoy
the remainder of her senior year knowing that she'll be attending the
college she really wanted to attend. Well, not relax in the same sense
that seniors relaxed when I was in high school. Back then, not a whole
lot got done the second semester of senior year. Second-semester
seniors could and did get away with almost anything. I remember cutting
about 8 or 9 gym classes in a row. When I finally showed up for one,
the gym teacher, Dan Spanish (a former Marine Corps DI), shouted,
"Thompson! Have you been cutting my class?" I replied, "Would I do
that, sir?" "Didn't think so," he said. Nowadays, I understand things
are a lot tighter. Seniors are expected to work their butts off until
the final week of school, if not the final day.
Not that that
will be a problem for Jas. Her work ethic makes the Puritans look like
slackers. I have no doubt that she'll cruise through four years of
college with excellent grades, and into grad school if she decides to
go that route. If anything, I hope Jas will lighten up a bit. Needless
to say, she's never drunk alcohol, smoked tobacco, or done any drugs.
Those just don't fit in with her personal outlook on life. She likes
boys well enough, but hasn't had the time to date anyone seriously. Jas
is stunningly pretty and could have her pick of the guys. In fact,
at least one of the most popular guys in her school hung around
her house regularly last summer and this autumn, obviously hoping she'd
go out with him. She never dated him, although she's more than happy to
hang out in groups that include guys. It'll take a brave young man to
woo Jas successfully. She's smart, knows her own mind, and is very
assertive with kids her own age. She terrifies most teenage boys, I
Jas still doesn't know what she wants to do with her
life, which is pretty common for a 17-year-old. Her current goal is to
have her own business. I'm encouraging her to load up on science and
math courses, which are useful no matter which direction she eventually
chooses. She'll listen to what I have to say and ask questions, but
ultimately she'll decide for herself. Which is how it should be.