I have to say I’m more than a little annoyed that many of the ‘menswear’ blogs, especially those that are NY based, have dismissed Hurricane Irene as over-hyped and uneventful. They are doing a disservice to the thousands of people who are still dealing with flooding and power outages across the northeast. Mind you, Paterson, New Jersey (amongst other towns) still looks like this today almost a week after the storm passed through. Not sure the residents of this town feel it was much to do about nothing.
When I first saw a clip of this video clip on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell last week I initially thought, wow, good for Matt Damon for standing up for what he believes in even if I didn’t fully agree. But after getting an opportunity to see the unedited exchange I realized how much he was aided by the ill-prepared interviewer and he sort of comes off as d-bag.
Don’t get me wrong, I support union rights whole-heartedly. It’s just hard for me to understand how the current rules under which public schools are run are benefiting our children. It is a system that is set up to simply protect jobs rather than quality teachers. We are spending more money per child now than ever with no results and it is clear that is not the solution.
I am a product of the public school system but more and more I question whether my own children will be the same as I must consider private options if they are going to be able to thrive in an ever competitive global community.
A quick post to say- now is the time to let the FCC know they need to stand up for the general public vis a vis Net Neutrality. Let them know here. Or go straight to the FCC’s website. They are asking for input on this issue. What has essentially happened to radio and television (a total ripoff of the American public) is now happening with the internet as well. Read more info on it here, which should get you mad if you aren’t already. Also a recent article via Wired.
Last week the Supreme Court ruled five to four that “suspects must explicitly tell police they want to be silent to invoke Miranda protections during criminal interrogations,” according to the Associated Press. In other words, you do have the right to remain silent and to a lawyer, but only if you know any better and remember to announce your silence aloud. But maybe you haven’t heard that yet another of your civil liberties has been stripped away from you. Because after all this has gone virtually unreported by the “news”.
New Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor disagreed with the absurdity of the ruling, noting in her dissent, “Criminal suspects must now unambiguously invoke their right to remain silent—which counterintuitively, requires them to speak.”
Sadly, according to The Los Angeles Times, the “ruling is in line with the position taken by the Obama administration and Supreme Court nominee U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan. In December, she filed a brief on the side of Michigan prosecutors and argued that ‘the government need not prove that a suspect expressly waived his rights.’”
It makes you wonder about Obama a bit, or maybe the presidency in general. Maybe in today’s world the personality behind the desk isn’t as important anymore. You definitely got a sense there was difference between the motivations and philosophies of the Bush and Clinton administrations, but other than the lack of born-again Christian crusading fervor that drove the Bush administration there hasn’t been much change on the civil liberties front.
Stephen Bayley, an outspoken opponent of outsourced skill and manufacturing, has a lot to say about China being the largest exporter in the world and countries eliminating their ability to make even the simplest of things.
Anything that is made betrays the beliefs and preoccupations, the morals and manners, of the people who made it. So it’s been melancholy these past 30 or 40 years to note that Britain has successively, even systematically, abandoned key industrial technologies.
If the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, in his imminent Radio 4 series on the importance of products in civilisation, were to restrict his field to the UK since 1980, it would be a very strange and very short series of products he showed us: a hand-made Formula One car with a German engine, a Sunseeker yacht and a high by-pass turbo-fan. I’d need more time to think of anything else.
So while cautiously optimistic Business Page stories about a return of outsourced manufacturing have not (yet) caused outbreaks of mass national hysteria, they are welcome evidence of a change in mood and priorities. It would be nice to live in a country where we could make buckets. Certainly, reports of the death of manufacturing were not much exaggerated. It remains to be seen if it is as feasible as it is desirable to recover lost skills and actually manufacture the goods we want to consume.
Still, the change of mood is everywhere. The next book by economist John Kay is called Obliquity and it makes the case that commitment to products is the true source of wealth. Boeing, for example, became a great company not because it was pledged to a high rate of annual return, but because it was committed to making the best possible aircraft. This is certainly true, but, alas, economists much less able than Kay have burnt our ears off for half a century arguing all too successfully against the long-term investments in R&D that made the awesome 787 possible. And how we suffer for this false witness.
No one expects any sentimental return to the production of greasy, heavy things in soot-stained factories operated by sweating, under-paid artisans in leather aprons. (They have those in Asia.) This would be as absurdly anachronistic as William Morris addressing contemporary Victorian malaises encouraging the dressing-up in tabards and performing of medieval masques.
There are cleaner sorts of manufacturing today, but they bring similar benefits to those enjoyed when steam and coal and iron and enterprise made us rich. Manufacturing puts a company or a country in a virtuous circle: Toyota’s century and a half experience of making textile looms has made it a leader in carbon-fibre weaving, an important future skill. Italy makes great modern furniture not because of Milan’s great designers, but because of Milan’s metal-bending workshops where the great designers can get their ideas processed.
The trade benefits of manufacturing don’t require much emphasis in a country where we are all dragging around more than five times our own weight in mood-altering deficit, but there are even more important occult advantages. If you make things, you need to understand ideas, materials, markets, skills. If you make money, you just need the morals of a whore and the manners of a dancing master. And when you make things, you restore that essential practical and moral connection between effort and reward. Of course, this was a connection carelessly lost when we wanted the economy run like a casino rather than a workshop.
This was all beautifully explained in a regrettably obscure 1944 pamphlet by W. Julian King, a Californian engineer. King’s Unwritten Laws of Engineering was recently reissued by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, but should be made a part of the national curriculum and, if there is still time, incorporated into any electable government’s manifesto.
The Unwritten Laws are not about physics, but behaviour. As opposed to the insolent selfishness of the usurer or the recklessness of the gambler, manufacturing requires social cohesion, personal responsibility, teamwork, commitment and vision. It needs clarity and accuracy, not obfuscation and dissimulation. Long wave integrity is more valuable than short wave greed. The manufacturing process demands that individuals be decisive and share information. And this process is on an orderly progressive scale that positively stimulates personal human development: you start with an idea, it becomes a more elaborate specification that is in turn mass-produced, distributed, consumed, recycled. At each stage, additional cumulative skills are required and generated. And, as King explains, this process teaches it’s better to do a modest job well than an ambitious one badly.
Somehow, that last sentence makes me think of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Here was a decrepit monument to the godless and fractious manipulation of money, not the more humane and enduring task of making goods. And how might the disreputable behaviour of the bankers have been improved had they been required to understand that the laws of nature require deposit and withdrawal to be in some sort of hygienic balance? Something for nothing is fraudulent.
Yet, amazingly, you can hear Gordon — Safe Hands — Brown say that manufacturing is an irrelevance, that we can be sustained by our “creative economy”. Never mind the sinister semantic links between creative economy and creative accounting, this is a ruinously stupid opinion. The creative “industries” we so rightly admire cannot exist in isolation. They were in the first place stimulated by their relationship to manufacturing and can only be kept viable by continuous contact with the facts of industrial life.
To listen to the Prime Minister on manufacturing is as dismaying as hearing pot-bellied, lardy pub bores talking of footballers’ performance when they would rupture their colons jogging to the gents. Manufacturing, Mr Brown, calibrates the moral compass. People who make real things not only make real money, they behave better. The day I am writing this, China became the world’s biggest exporter.
It does not matter whether you call it engineering, technology, design, craft or even art. Whatever it is called, a system that gives priority to an engagement with products over a lust for quick returns is a more stable and wholesome one than a system where derivatives are a more reliable source of wealth than making a teapot.
And it is, ultimately, a system more likely in the long run to make profits. Yes, I know Keynes said that in the long run we are all dead, but I don’t want to end up in a Chinese coffin.
An impressive video created by a German design student named Alexander Lehmann. This same film could be created for any number of countries - including the UK and USA. The most depressing part is that this kind of thing is no longer shocking (enough).
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I went to see the new Yes Men film last night at Coolidge corner. It turned out to be an inspiring film.
It was funny, sometimes hilarious, other times shocking and saddening. All in all it gave me some hope that something can be done to better the world. A few of us are trying to do just that. Some are having some impact, though mostly on public opinion I’m afraid. Many corporate polluters, etc. just seem to keep on going, despite the facts, criticism or ridicule from films like this one.
Anyhow, the main stars of The Yes Men were present for a Q&A and also for a photoshoot to help support an upcoming planned protest. I wanted to walk over and thank them but they were pretty busy answering questions and posing for photos. Instead I grabbed a couple of their “recent” NYT issues they had created and scampered off. I was supposed to leave a donation but instead I’ll contribute to one of their future escapades.
Today, after re-reading the fantastic article “Faustian economics: Hell hath no limits” I also read an excellent interview in the Sun magazine with Wendell Berry. He is a hero of mine, and his words rand true, but I ended up feeling quite beleaguered and discouraged. As Alvin Toffler once said, and I paraphrase, modern man seems to be living two lives. He can co-exist with both, even though they are seemingly contradictory. For example a person could work at a factory manufacturing chemical warfare weapons, yet return home and be a loving parent with strong Christian values and have no qualms about it.
I feel movies such as “Yes men fix the world” can fill people with outrage but the actual actions needed to change things are lacking. We know what the right thing to do is, but seem largely incapable of doing anything. Are we beaten down by years of television-fed pap? Or is there a general sense of powerlessness from a culture of too much choice? I’m sure its not a simple answer. But still I wonder why…
Gore Vidal had a few things to say in a recent interview with the Independent, and he didn’t mince words.
I love his crotchety comments, especially on the current state of the US, though some of what he says is terrifying to contemplate. At age 84 he’s at the tail end of a fascinating and rich journey. Given his extensive life experience, Its worth listening to what he has to say.. harsh as it may be.
A few soundbites:
“To me hell is the United States of today.”
“But remember – the Republican Party is not a political party. It’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth. It’s full of hatred.”
Also have a look at a similar fireside chat with him, via the Times.
An argument against GM crops by Verlyn Klinkenborg… compelling and interesting, though the all mighty dollar will outweigh common sense in the end. I am deadset against GMO’s.
We have no idea what we are getting ourselves into here, but again protests will be drowned out by overwhelming lobbying by the parties set to profit handsomely from their implementation.
T. Boone Pickens continues to try and convince us to go with wind and solar power… a clip from Fox (below), also a short interview with ABC News. His adverts spit out some pretty impressive facts, I’m not sure of the accuracy but the general info makes a strong case for a radical change in direction. Its tough though when so many are deeply invested in oil, and convinced we can solve everything by just drilling more here in the US. For another spin on Energy have a look at “Wobble Time.”
I caught Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech on HBO earlier this week and I highly recommend everyone sit down and watch it. I can’t say it was the absolute best documentary ever made, but it was full of very valuable information and stories every American, and world citizen for that matter, should know about.
It offered a fascinating perspective on the evolution of the concept of free speech throughout the nation’s history, and examined how civil liberties have been trampled on in the name of national security in a post-9/11 world. The filmmaker is the daughter of noted First Amendment attorney, Martin Garbus. The documentary looks into his own experiences as a First Amendment lawyer, including the Pentagon Papers case and insights as a Jewish lawyer who once defended a neo-Nazi group’s right to protest.
The film also sheds light on all of those who were arrested and detained along with other protesters during a nonviolent demonstration at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. In the process of their defense, lawyers unearthed evidence that their organization and other peaceful groups had been subject to extensive surveillance by the NYC Police Dept.
See upcoming airings on HBO here, and for those of you without it, get on Netflix here.
We will be at (capsule) New York for parts of both days of the show, July 20-21. BPMW has basically created the only trade show that doesn’t make my skin crawl. It’s always a good mix of designers and people, so we are looking forward to it. We are still nailing down our plans but we should be bringing you some interesting tidbits here.