Archive for April 17th, 2017
Good article here in Craftsmanship magazine.
Michael Erard writes in Craftsmanship magazine:
It is tempting to see the political strife marking America these days as unprecedented, but history shows this country riven by conflict between regions, classes, races, and ideologies for centuries. One might even say that the anger and divides of the current moment are an outgrowth of what’s come before.
Throughout those battles, antidotes to our civic poisons have always run through the American bloodstream too. Americans have continually found ways to neutralize their discord and catalyze diversity, turning them into sources of strength. In a sense, the country has made it this far because its conflicts always have been counteracted by positive sentiments of equal force: shared traditions, and shared ideas about the future.
Some of these traditions, such as the protections of the Bill of Rights, are enshrined in law; others come from less tangible but still commonly held values around core American ideals such as religious tolerance and personal freedom. In the words of the late political writer Molly Ivins, “it is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”
Today, these antidotes seem weakened; some remedies might still pack some punch, but few of us know how to employ them anymore. It’s as though we’ve forgotten the basic craft of conversation.
In the midst of this chaos, projects are springing up across the country to connect people across political and racial differences in an effort to strengthen our natural defenses. “After the election, people have been coming at us with their hair on fire,” said Liz Joyner, who is the executive director of a civic engagement project, the Village Square, that was founded 11 years ago in Tallahassee. The project has already built a reputation for tackling controversial topics, such as energy, race, and faith, in public events that attract a socially and politically diverse crowd of followers.
Village Square has its roots in the experiences of three friends who, in 2006, found themselves on different sides of a proposed coal power plant—yet remained friends. “We’d have full cage-match discussions and then go for a run or a beer,” said Bryan Desloge, a county commissioner from Leon County. The plant didn’t go through, but each member of the trio was struck by the fact that their friendships survived the debate. So were their other friends. Liz Joyner, who had worked in election campaigns for Democrats and had a background as a social worker, soon became the group’s executive director and spooled it up. Since that time, Village Square has put on hundreds of events and opened chapters in Sacramento, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Fort Lauderdale.
“Break a little bread”
Village Square’s philosophy, not surprisingly, is centered on talking—not just any talking, but across political differences. Its website features a fable-like origin story for American democracy, which (as the story goes) was
Paul Krugman asks a pertinent question in the NY Times:
President Trump is still promising to bring back coal jobs. But the underlying reasons for coal employment’s decline — automation, falling electricity demand, cheap natural gas, technological progress in wind and solar — won’t go away.
Meanwhile, last week the Treasury Department officially (and correctly) declined to name China as a currency manipulator, making nonsense of everything Mr. Trump has said about reviving manufacturing.
So will the Trump administration ever do anything substantive to bring back mining and manufacturing jobs? Probably not.
But let me ask a different question: Why does public discussion of job loss focus so intensely on mining and manufacturing, while virtually ignoring the big declines in some service sectors?
Over the weekend The Times Magazine published a photographic essay on the decline of traditional retailers in the face of internet competition. The pictures, contrasting “zombie malls” largely emptied of tenants with giant warehouses holding inventory for online sellers, were striking. The economic reality is pretty striking too.
Consider what has happened to department stores. Even as Mr. Trump was boasting about saving a few hundred jobs in manufacturing here and there, Macy’s announced plans to close 68 stores and lay off 10,000 workers. Sears, another iconic institution, has expressed “substantial doubt” about its ability to stay in business.
Overall, department stores employ a third fewer people now than they did in 2001. That’s half a million traditional jobs gone — about eighteen times as many jobs as were lost in coal mining over the same period.
And retailing isn’t the only service industry that has been hit hard by changing technology. Another prime example is newspaper publishing, where employment has declined by 270,000, almost two-thirds of the work force, since 2000.
So why aren’t promises to save service jobs as much a staple of political posturing as promises to save mining and manufacturing jobs?
One answer might be that mines and factories sometimes act as anchors of local economies, so that their closing can devastate a community in a way shutting a retail outlet won’t. And there’s something to that argument.
But it’s not the whole truth. Closing a factory is just one way to undermine a local community. Competition from superstores and shopping malls also devastated many small-city downtowns; now many small-town malls are failing too. And we shouldn’t minimize the extent to which the long decline of small newspapers has eroded the sense of local identity.
A different, less creditable reason mining and manufacturing have become political footballs, while services haven’t, involves the need for villains. Demagogues can tell coal miners that liberals took away their jobs with environmental regulations. They can tell industrial workers that their jobs were taken away by nasty foreigners. And they can promise to bring the jobs back by making America polluted again, by getting tough on trade, and so on. These are false promises, but they play well with some audiences.
By contrast, it’s really hard to blame either liberals or foreigners for, say, the decline of Sears. (The chain’s asset-stripping, Ayn Rand-loving owner is another story, but one that probably doesn’t resonate in the heartland.)
Finally, it’s hard to escape the sense that manufacturing and especially mining get special consideration because, as Slate’s Jamelle Bouie points out, their workers are a lot more likely to be male and significantly whiter than the work force as a whole. . .
The Monday shave is always good. This Mühle synthetic from a few years back was marketed as “synthetic badger,” and it does have more texture than the later Plissoft-style synthetics. It does a fine job, and I rather like the Cosmo-style handle (“Cosmo” being the name Mühle gave to that design).
Up and Adam remains a great fragrance, and Stubble Trubble’s lather is very good. One way that a great fragrance is functional is that it encourages one to spend a bit more time lathering, and that’s all to the good in terms of prep.
Stirling’s slant, which seems to be available sporadically, but right now is not one of those times. It is a Merkur-slant clone and is very nicely made, with a crisp finish on the handle. Three passes resulted in a BBS face with nary a nick.
A splash of Easy Street, and the week is now underway.