T.W. Burger

We hear a lot of talk these days about the threat to jobs from automation, specifically from robots.

We’re not talking about “Danger, Will Robinson” robots like those found in the several versions of the film “Lost in Space.” After all, there is no reason that a robot designed to weld automobile bodies should look like a stiff-jointed human. I see one of those in the mirror every morning, though I never learned to weld.

There are an awful lot of people out there who seem to be afraid of everything, and one of the things that people like that are afraid of is of immigrants taking their jobs.

Let’s just stop and catch our collective breath and do some math.

Every year, the population of the country, indeed, the entire world, increases exponentially.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there were about 2.5 million people living in the United States’ original 13 States in 1776. In 2010, that number had soared to nearly 308 Million, an increase of about 123 times.

Marketwatch.com says that “The U.S. had as many people working in the manufacturing sector in December as it did 69 years ago.”

They meant that as good news, but it is not.

The U.S. population in 1950 was about 152 million, or about half what is now. That means that at the present, there are half as many jobs per capita as there were in 1950. Do the math. I’ll wait.

Guess what? Those jobs were not eaten up my immigrants, legal or otherwise.

To a large degree, there were eliminated by automation, a portion of which could be classified as robots.

R2D2 stole your job.

It will only get worse, like it or not. Robots are cheaper, don’t get tired, demand insurance coverage and benefits, or get holidays. And they don’t need a parking lot, because they’re already home.

Drive for a living? Despite some glitches in early test vehicles, robot vehicles don’t get tired, distracted, or watch streaming video as they’re barreling down the highway. Many of us will still be on this side of the sod when the first robot tractor-trailer rigs hit the road.

This does not mean that the population will stop climbing. The population of the US in 2100 – only 80 years from now – is projected to hit around 450 million. Assuming that the trend to automation does not peter out, a much larger number of people will be unable to obtain manufacturing jobs or be blocked from applying for them because they lack the required servomotors and blinking lights.

So, those clamoring for the government “to do something” about migrants coming to “take their jobs “might want to change their focus.

On roughly the same note, I’ve been watching robotics begin its foray into the grocery store business. Understand, I am already dyspeptic about the advent of “self-checkout” at stores. I won’t use them unless the store agrees to pay me a cashier’s rate while I’m checking out. Am I the only one who “gets” that self-checkout stations not only take jobs away from actual humans, they also rob the state and federal government in paying a share of the tax burden (or, as some might say, pay their share of the Care Package for The Wealthy.)

I have used them, but no more. I don’t work for free.

But a store I frequent also now has a robot that prowls the aisles. It’s not very human in appearance, looking rather more like a very tall upright vacuum cleaner which somebody has glued a pair of googly plastic eyes on.

Its job is basically to scan shelves for empty spaces and keep its sensors on high alert for spills and junk on the floor.

It beeps a lot.

Here’s the thing, though.

It doesn’t actually DO anything in the way of work. For example, if it comes upon a spill on Aisle 5, it sends a signal for a human to clean up the mess.

In other words, it’s not a robotic laborer…it’s a robotic manager.

Mind you Ps and Qs, those of you with name tags and clip-in ties: You’re next.

Holly Fletcher

The front page of the Gettysburg Times on May 1, 1944, features a photograph referred to as the “first official picture released” of the T2-SE-A1 tanker named Gettysburg. The tanker was built in 1942, at the Sun Shipbuilding yards, Chester, Pa., and was the first ship christened and named after this historic community.

According to the information in the paper that day, the ship was “plying the high seas” with precious gasoline and oil for the armed forces overseas and remained one of the largest tankers afloat.

But this tanker was not afloat in 1944. It was torpedoed and sunk on June 10, 1943, just 90 miles off the Georgia coast. It was bound for Philly with crude oil and was fired on by a German sub sailing at periscope depth. The first torpedo shattered two cargo tanks and the ship burst into flames. The second hit the engine room and left the Gettysburg dead in the water and sinking rapidly. All lifeboats were engulfed by fire. Those who survived jumped overboard.

So, I must wonder: Was there a second Gettysburg tanker built that could have been plying the high seas in 1944? Or did the newspaper receive the official photo nearly a year after the tanker was sunk and nobody was supposed to know about it until after the war?

Jim Hale

A letter to the editor in Tuesday’s edition went to the heart of how reporting works.

One of the oldest sayings in the profession is “When in doubt, leave it out.”

In other words, if you lack either unambiguous firsthand information or solid data from reliable sources, don’t speculate.

Or, to boil it down further: report only what you know for certain; it’s better to be silent than wrong.

The letter concerned an event April 24 at Gettysburg Area High School, where about 150 people gathered to discuss whether the state should legalize recreational use of marijuana. I thank the letter writer, Wanda Gallimore of Gettysburg, for kindly saying I provided a good summary of the speakers’ comments.

However, she felt there was a point at which I fell down on the job.

At the end, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who hosted the event as part of a statewide “listening tour,” asked proponents and opponents to raise their hands.

In my story, I wrote: “Large numbers raised their hands for both the pro and anti positions. Few were undecided.”

The letter called those words “generalization to the max and quite insufficient.” Gallimore felt the result was “nowhere near equal,” and that the verbal “ayes” accompanying the anti-legalization position “far outweighed” those uttered by pot proponents.

I would have loved to go beyond generalization. But, as the letter states, it would have been “near impossible” to count the hands in the brief time they were up.

Like the letter writer, I was in the back of the auditorium and could see the whole audience. I did not perceive an obvious preponderance of hands one way or the other. Nor did I hear a significant difference between the vocal responses, the volume of which, in any case, often has less to do with numbers than with the two sides’ relative enthusiasm.

I was in doubt about the outcome of the hand and voice “votes,” so I left out any speculation on my part as to who “won.”

What I did feel confident enough to report was that “a rough count tallied 24 ‘anti’ speakers and 21 ‘pro.”’ That count is mine; I wrote down the position of each speaker. A reader approached me last week and said I had surely miscounted, because he felt the opponents were far in the lead. Well, not by my count, but I kept score on the fly and I noted my numbers were “rough.”

I was certain enough to note another number: Adams County Republican Committee Chair Elizabeth Hower submitted an anti-legalization petition bearing 137 signatures.

That appears to be in line with a statement posted Tuesday on the PaSenateDems Twitter account: “Of the 50 county listening tour stops regarding legalizing recreational marijuana, @JohnFetterman says only audiences at two stops have said they don’t support legalization. Those two counties were Jefferson and Adams, the Lt. Gov. says.”

Michael Cooper-White

I have reached the point in life where almost everyone to whom I regularly entrust my health and well-being are younger than me. My doctor, dentist, pastor and other physical and spiritual caregivers are all a decade or two my junior.

Since airline pilots must retire at age 65, it’s guaranteed those responsible for my safety while traveling on the big birds have less time than me on earth even as they have more hours in their logbooks.

Increasingly, in every arena those “in charge” often seem so youthful—and that’s because they are!

Every generation is challenged to accept gracefully the reality that, if tragic accidents or disease don’t befall us, we move through our seasons of youth, early adulthood, middle age and then into “retirement.”

In my younger years I pledged to avoid becoming overly nostalgic for earlier times as I aged. I don’t always succeed. It seems some things were actually better in bygone days. But by and large the “younger generation” are proving themselves as capable if not more so than us boomers.

And, yet, every so often, I labor under the illusion that I could still lead the charge on the football field or handload a thousand bales of hay as I did some summer days 50 years ago.

Don’t worry, dear doctor, I won’t try—at least not today!

D.K. Thomas

The back of our property runs along a railroad cut owned by the Gettysburg and Northern Railroad. Some years back we put up a fence for our dogs along the edge of the property. At that time it was 18 to 24 inches from the edge of the embankment.

Now, several of the posts from that older fence are in danger of tumbling over the embankment because of the serious erosion. We’ve already taken out a couple because they had fallen over the edge.

Every year the railroad sprays weed killer, claiming they need to knock down the foliage so the engineer can see the upcoming crossing at Quaker Run Road. Never mind it’s around a bend and he couldn’t see the crossing anyway, and when the train clears the bend, the engine is sufficiently tall, way above the ground growth that is holding the terra firm, he can easily see the crossing.

There has been so much erosion; it exposed the roots of our ironwood tree, killing it. Now the roots of some of our maple trees are exposed, so I expect they are destined to the same horrible fate. And, it won’t be long before the bank at the back corner of our garage is compromised too far to be reparable.

I’ve complained. It’s done no good. The railroad representative who came out said they have the right to do whatever they want within a given right-of-way on both sides of the track because of some law enacted in the 1970s, and told me there was nothing I could do about it, and insinuated if I complained to any other agency they would make my life less than happy.

I really don’t see how they can be protected when they are destroying someone else’s private property. I’d say it’s not fair, but as a Biglerville teacher was so fond of saying all those years ago, “Life is unfair, Miss Thomas.”

What they are doing should be illegal.

A few years ago we had another fence installed, farther from the shrinking line, but I have to wonder how long it will take before it too is toppling over the precipice. One of the posts for that new fence started out about three feet from the embankment; it is now within a foot of going over the edge.

Also, despite what the fellow said, I have to wonder how safe all those chemicals are for the dogs when the wind carries the spray into our yard, and I hate to think about the contamination to all the wells at the numerous homes along that rail line between Biglerville and Mount Holly.

If the government is protecting the railroad, who is going to protect the people?

Mary Grace Keller

People keep asking me if I got a perm.

I didn’t, I just stopped fighting my natural waves.

When I was little, mom compared me to Shirley Temple. My hair was short and tightly curled. It wouldn’t grow down. It just grew out. I don’t think it reached my shoulders until second grade. For this reason, I will never cut my hair short. I fear the outcome.

When my hair grew too unruly, mom tried to brush it. I’d scream, run, and hide under my bed. You could say I was dramatic, but it hurt, OK?

Mom resorted to brushing my hair in my sleep. I was a heavy sleeper.

It’s funny how hair, or the lack thereof, can be such a big part of someone’s identity, or how other people identify them. My hair has been blue, purple, red, blonde, brown, and somewhere in-between. Fun fact, blue turns gray. I learned that the hard way during my freshmen year of college.

For about a year of my childhood, I wore a red baseball cap every single day. My brother Sam got it as a gift, but he was pretty young and more interested in the box, so I snatched the hat away from him.

I wore it backwards. I refused to take it off, I’ve been told. I wore it to church, to bed, everywhere.

Bless my parents for putting up with me.

Charles Stangor

As I’ve roamed the county this week I’ve seen many “signs” of the upcoming Adams County primary and special election, which is only about two weeks away on May 21.

Many of these signs are for Adams County commissioners Jim Martin and Randy Phiel, and there are a few for the third Republican candidate for county commissioner, David W. Bolton.

I’ve seen some signs for Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for the 33rd Senate seat vacated by Rich Alloway earlier this year.

And I’ve seen a couple of signs for Wesley Heyser, a Republican who’s running unopposed for Gettysburg Borough Council in Ward 1.

Noticeable by their absence, however, are signs for Democratic candidates. I don’t remember seeing signs for Marty Qually or Sara Murphy Laird, the Democratic candidates for county commissioner. And I don’t remember seeing any signs for the Democratic state senator candidate Sarah E. Hammond.

In fact, although I might have missed, them, I don’t remember seeing any signs at all for Democrats.

Although we may habituate to the many political signs we see every day during election cycles, they do allow the public to become familiar with the political landscape.

When there are signs, people are reminded of and can learn about the election while they are driving to work or picking up the kids.

I’d like to see more signs for Democratic candidates.

In any case, the Adams County Department of Elections is ready to record our votes on the 21st. They’ve prepared 169 different ballots to be used in the upcoming primaries.

You can see a sample of your local ballot on the Adams County website.

Alex J. Hayes

Driving through downtown Gettysburg on a Monday morning is the best way to kick-off a week.

As my Escape cruises north on Route 97 towards Baltimore Street, I am usually sipping coffee and listening to news about the circus in Washington. A week’s worth of work is ahead of me.

Usually by the time I hit the intersection of Steinwehr Avenue and Baltimore Street, I am smiling. That’s when I see one of Main Street Gettysburg’s From the Ground Up volunteers. These men and women wake out of bed every Monday to pick up other people’s trash and make our town beautiful. They don’t care who put it there, they just know it needs to be gone. The volunteers are doing it out of the kindness of their hearts and their love of Gettysburg.

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