Author Archives: Lloyd Graff

Can We Stop a Culture of Failure?

In the last few days, in New York and Chicago there have been killings of young African-American men by the police, inciting the black communities in those cities. Neither victim was a hardcore criminal. It is quite possible both young men were in the wrong place at the wrong time and were confronted by cops who were extremely scared.

It is a lousy time to be a young black man in America.

I write this from the vantage point of a well-off 61 year-old white guy who happens to live right next door to Black America. I get a pretty good view of it right over my fence in the Village of Olympia Fields, Illinois.

Olympia Fields is now a predominantly African American community. The elementary school adjacent to my house is made up of over 85 percent black students. The high school Rich Central, within walking distance of my house, is also over 85 percent black. The villagers’ homes (there are no apartments) range from $200,000 to $500,000, except for a few which have been gerrymandered into another school district that has less black students – those are more valuable on the market.

I see an interesting phenomenon now in Olympia Fields. Black people are moving out because they don’t want to send their children to the predominantly black schools of Olympia Fields.

One African-American friend of mine, who is looking for a new home now, told me he would not buy in my village because he doesn’t want to pay the “tax.” I asked him what the “tax” was, and he said the tax was the cost of sending his children to private school.

My longtime next door neighbor recently moved because she was afraid to send her daughter to Rich Central high school. She thought the crowd would be bad for her daughter’s development.

I look at the South Suburbs of Chicago where I live, and I conclude sadly that while life has gotten much better economically for many African-Americans over 30, it looks grim for the younger generation. The irony is that our next president may be Barock Obama and that the most influential person in the Bush Cabinet is Condoleezza Rice; and the heads of American Express, Time-Warner and Merrill-Lynch are black.  Ken Williams, general manager of the Chicago White Sox, and Tony Dungy, the coach of the Indianapolis Colts, are symbols of the triumph of my generation’s black American peers.

It is encouraging to read Juan Williams and John Ridley laud the black achievers and decry the culture of victimization that has overtaken a new generation of African-Americans, just when the parents of that generation are reaching middle and upper class America.

I do not know how it has happened, but a new generation of kids who do not believe they can compete in the educated world have taken over my local schools. Achievement in school is ostracized. Teachers are giving up. Marriage and two parent homes are fading away. White culture has seen a similar lean towards entropy, but from my vantage point, the swing backward by Black America is so sad and disappointing following the big gains of the baby boomer generation.

My hope is that the new prominence of the Juan Williams and Bill Cosby critique of the “Culture of Failure” in the book Enough will hit home. I’ll be watching over my back fence in black Olympia Fields Illinois.

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Scrap Pays the Bills

A recent conversation has me thinking that the old screw machine world has been turned on its head and the change is falling out of its pockets.

I was talking to an old machining client, and he mentioned that in the last quarter he derived more money from his scrap than from the components he had made. This fellow runs a sophisticated machining company—no dumb washers—so he adds a lot of value to his machined components. Still, this quarter his scrap brought in more dollars than his product. This is a testament to global sourcing and manufacturing efficiency, but it also may be pointing toward diminishing viability of metal machining in the age of scarce and expensive raw materials. If copper and brass prices stay over $3.00 per pound, we are going to see the engineers figure out methods to get around using them. We are beginning to see lead engineered away because of health and disposal issues. It could happen with copper, brass and stainless. Composites are changing aerospace and will soon make their mark in the automotive. The parts printing paradigm (see “Ex One Revolution below) addresses the scrap from machining with a scrapless process, which also trumps the messy fluids issues. Heading, EDM, injection molding, waterjet and laser are all pointing in the direction of scrapless part making.

Eaton Corporation recently closed a big brass fittings plant in Oklahoma because they felt that they could deploy their capital more efficiently than investing it in brass bar, chips and nipples.

Another statement about the price of scrap was made on eBay in a recent Graff-Pinkert auction. A used 1100 E, Burrett 30” chip wringer brought $13,000 in a competitive auction. Spinners rise in value when chips become more dear. This is the highest price I’ve ever seen for such a model. The recent commodities slide may temper the focus on chips, but as long as China is committed to its frantic infrastructure build out, brass and copper will be short, and scrap will stay hot.

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