America’s Unseen Social Crisis: Men Without Work | TIME

‘America is now home to a vast army of jobless men’

Source: America’s Unseen Social Crisis: Men Without Work | TIME

by Nicholas Eberstadt, October 3, 2016

Nicholas Eberstadt holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute

‘America is now home to a vast army of jobless men’

Over the past two generations, America has suffered a quiet catastrophe: the collapse of work–for men. In the half-century between 1965 and 2015, work rates for the American male spiraled relentlessly downward, and an ominous “flight from work” commenced, with ever greater numbers of working-age men exiting the labor force. America is now home to a vast army of jobless men no longer even looking for work—more than 7 million between the ages of 25 and 54, the traditional prime of working life. (Work rates have fallen in recent years for women too, but the male work crisis has been under way much longer and is of greater magnitude.)

In 2015, the work rate (or employment-to-population ratio) for American males ages 25 to 54 was slightly lower than it had been in 1940, at the tail end of the Great Depression. If we were back at 1965 levels today, nearly 10 million additional men would have paying jobs.

The collapse of male work is due almost entirely to a flight out of the labor force—and that flight has on the whole been voluntary. The fact that only 1 in 7 prime-age men are not in the labor force points to a lack of jobs as the reason they are not working.

And just who are these “missing men” whose departure from the workforce has gone all but unnoticed by the rest of us? As one might imagine, a contingent of 7 million contains some of everybody, but certain groups are represented in bigger numbers: less educated men; never-married men and men without children at home; and African Americans. Yet there are also striking exceptions to these general trends: for example, foreign-born blacks are more likely to be in the workforce than native-born whites.

How to explain our nation’s “men without work” problem? Received wisdom holds this to be a consequence of structural changes in our economy: the decline of manufacturing; the rise of outsourcing and automation; slow growth; and all the rest. It is incontestable that such factors have played a prominent role. But there is clearly more at play in this saga than economic forces alone. Consider: America’s prime-male workforce participation has been declining at a virtually linear rate for half a century–a trajectory unaffected by good times or recessions.

In addition to the economic drivers of the “Men Without Work” problem, there is also what we might call the sociological dynamic: a no-work lifestyle for men is no longer an unthinkable option. Quite the contrary: for every prime-age man who is unemployed today, another three are neither working nor looking for work.

national-labor-force                                                            U.S. Men ages 25-54 (prime working age) 88.3%

By and large, these unworking men are floated by other household members (wives, girlfriends, relatives) and by Uncle Sam. Government disability programs figure prominently in the calculus of support for unworking men—ever more prominently over time. According to Census Bureau data, nearly three-fifths (57%) of prime-male unworkers in 2013 were obtaining benefits from at least one disability program. No one can prove that disability programs have caused the male flight from work–but there is no doubt they are helping to finance it.

There is one other important piece to this puzzle, and it has to do with crime and punishment. Everyone knows that millions of criminal offenders today are behind bars–but few consider that many millions more are in the general population: ex-prisoners, probation cases and convicted felons who never served time. In all, America may now be home to over 20 million persons with a felony conviction in their past, and over 1 in 8 adult men. Men with a criminal history have much worse odds of being or staying in the labor force, regardless of their ethnicity or educational level. The explosive growth of our felon population, unfortunately, helps to explain some of the otherwise puzzling peculiarities of America’s male work crisis.

It is past time for America to recognize the collapse of work for men as the grave ill it truly is. The progressive detachment of so many adult American men from regular paid labor can only result in lower living standards, greater economic disparities and slower economic growth than we might otherwise expect. And the consequences are not just economic. The male exodus from work also undermines the traditional family dynamic, casting men into the role of dependents and encouraging sloth, idleness and vices perhaps more insidious.

Whether we choose to recognize it or not, the new “men without work” normal is inimical to the American tradition and the nation’s very ethos. We need to bring this crisis out of the shadows. As long as we allow it to remain invisible, we can expect it to continue, and even to worsen.
This appears in the October 03, 2016 issue of TIME.

Editor’s Comments

The loss of good paying jobs to non college educated men is primarily due to the loss of manufacturing. And the major loss of US manufacturing jobs is due to off-shoring and globalization. This is how it happened: through globalization: third-world countries got better infrastructure to make and deliver products to the USA. Then, then Free-Trade treaties served to get rid of import taxes, which made these foreign made products much more affordable. So far, sounds good. However, these lower prices (due to decreased labor, decreased cost of living, no need to pay workers any benefits, etc.) under-cut American-made products causing some companies to go under. Then, to add insult to injury, big companies, in order to take advantage of these loopholes, closed up the American factories and send them overseas (offshoring). The resultant loss of 8 million manufacturing jobs since 1980 and its 12 million associated manufacturing jobs have left a giant void of good paying American jobs (primarily for men (manufacturing jobs primarily had been a “Man’s job). Today, America only manufactures 2% of what we need.

The remedy would be to follow the only sane economic policy – which would be Germany’s plan. Germany’s government makes certain that its country makes 25 – 30% of what it needs. That means more trade schools, apprenticeships, etc. It means good paying jobs for all.

It is an interesting statistic that nearly three-fifths (57%) of prime-male unworkers in 2013 were obtaining benefits from at least one disability program.


Under Aged Models Work as Slave Labor in New York City

Under Aged Models Work as Slave Labor in New York City

Source: Former Models for Donald Trump’s Agency Say They Violated Immigration Rules and Worked Illegally | Mother Jones

This is actually a big story, too bad the main stream media has missed this one. This is a classic case of slave labor, otherwise known as forced labor. We have heard these stories over and over again. A foreigner is brought into another country – sometimes the worker is charged for the recruiters fee, travel and miscellaneous items – having to work off these “fees”. Sometimes their visas are taken. Then, they are charged exorbitant rates for housing, food, and other miscellaneous items. The workers have no rights and are constantly threatened of being reported to the authorities to be jailed or exiled. Workers continually toil to pay off the continually mounting debt.

This is exactly case with the Donald Trump Model Agency. The model agency brought in under-age foreign models on tourist visas to work – which is illegal to begin with to the tune of $16,000 per employee and/or 6 months in jail. In the below story, Rachel Blias states that over her three years working for the Trump Modeling Agency, while she made tens of thousands of dollars with her modeling jobs, the Trump Agency  paid her only a total of $8,000. That was due to deducting expenses such as exorbitant rent ($1600 a month for a bunk in a room being shared  with five other models (while a similar entire apartment was $1375 per month), and various other expenses (such as trainers, beauty treatments, travel, and administrative costs).

The only thing missing from the story is sexual slavery.

Just a few informational nuggets before we get to the whole story.

The Incidence of Slave Labor

From End Slavery Now: An estimated 20.9 million are victims of forced labor, a type of enslavement that captures labor and sexual exploitation. Forced labor is most like historic American slavery: coerced, often physically and without pay. All other categories of slavery are a subset of forced labor and can include domestic servitude, child labor, bonded labor and forced sex. State authorities, businesses and individuals force coercive labor practices upon people in order to profit or gain from their work.

Forced Labor in the United States

In the U.S., more foreign victims are found in labor trafficking than sex trafficking. Some of these labor trafficking victims entered the country under work or student-based visa programs. Victims can be targeted once they arrived in the U.S., or foreign recruiters may bring these forced laborers to the U.S. using fraudulent or coercive means. Immigrants can be vulnerable to U.S.-based traffickers because of unfamiliarity with the English language, American customs or job processes.

The Story

Source: Former Models for Donald Trump’s Agency Say They Violated Immigration Rules and Worked Illegally | Mother Jones written by James West


Republican nominee Donald Trump has placed immigration at the core of his presidential campaign. He has claimed that undocumented immigrants are “taking our jobs” and “taking our money,” pledged to deport them en masse, and vowed to build a wall on the Mexican border. At one point he demanded a ban on Muslims entering the country. Speaking to supporters in Iowa on Saturday, Trump said he would crack down on visitors to the United States who overstay their visas and declared that when any American citizen “loses their job to an illegal immigrant, the rights of that American citizen have been violated.” And he is scheduled to give a major address on immigration in Arizona on Wednesday night.

But the mogul’s New York modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here, according to three former Trump models, all noncitizens, who shared their stories with Mother Jones. Financial and immigration records included in a recent lawsuit filed by a fourth former Trump model show that she, too, worked for Trump’s agency in the United States without a proper visa.

Foreigners who visit the United States as tourists are generally not permitted to engage in any sort of employment unless they obtain a special visa, a process that typically entails an employer applying for approval on behalf of a prospective employee. Employers risk fines and possible criminal charges for using undocumented labor.

Founded in 1999, Trump Model Management “has risen to the top of the fashion market,” boasts the Trump Organization’s website, and has a name “that symbolizes success.” According to a financial disclosure filed by his campaign in May, Donald Trump earned nearly $2 million from the company, in which he holds an 85 percent stake. Meanwhile, some former Trump models say they barely made any money working for the agency because of the high fees for rent and other expenses that were charged by the company.

Canadian-born Rachel Blais spent nearly three years working for Trump Model Management. After first signing with the agency in March 2004, she said, she performed a series of modeling gigs for Trump’s company in the United States without a work visa. At Mother Jones‘ request, Blais provided a detailed financial statement from Trump Model Management and a letter from an immigration lawyer who, in the fall of 2004, eventually secured a visa that would permit her to work legally in the United States. These records show a six-month gap between when she began working in the United States and when she was granted a work visa. During that time, Blais appeared on Trump’s hit reality TV show, The Apprentice, modeling outfits designed by his business protégés. As Blais walked the runway, Donald Trump looked on from the front row.

Former Trump model Rachel Blais appeared in a 2004 episode of Donald Trump’s hit NBC reality show, The Apprentice. Trump Model Management had yet to secure her work visa. NBC

Two other former Trump models—who requested anonymity to speak freely about their experiences, and who we are giving the pseudonyms Anna and Kate—said the agency never obtained work visas on their behalf, even as they performed modeling assignments in the United States. (They provided photographs from some of these jobs, and Mother Jones confirmed with the photographers or stylists that these shoots occurred in the United States.)

Each of the three former Trump models said she arrived in New York with dreams of making it big in one of the world’s most competitive fashion markets. But without work visas, they lived in constant fear of getting caught. “I was pretty on edge most of the time I was there,” Anna said of the three months in 2009 she spent in New York working for Trump’s agency.

“I was there illegally,” she said. “A sitting duck.”

 According to three immigration lawyers consulted by Mother Jones, even unpaid employment is against the law for foreign nationals who do not have a work visa. “If the US company is benefiting from that person, that’s work,” explained Anastasia Tonello, global head of the US immigration team at Laura Devine Attorneys in New York. These rules for immigrants are in place to “protect them from being exploited,” she said. “That US company shouldn’t be making money off you.”

Two of the former Trump models said Trump’s agency encouraged them to deceive customs officials about why they were visiting the United States and told them to lie on customs forms about where they intended to live. Anna said she received a specific instruction from a Trump agency representative: “If they ask you any questions, you’re just here for meetings.”

Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, declined to answer questions about Trump Model Management’s use of foreign labor. “That has nothing to do with me or the campaign,” she said, adding that she had referred Mother Jones‘ queries to Trump’s modeling agency. Mother Jones also sent detailed questions to Trump Model Management. The company did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls requesting comment.

Fashion industry sources say that skirting immigration law in the manner that the three former Trump models described was once commonplace in the modeling world. In fact, Politico recently raised questions about the immigration status of Donald Trump’s current wife, Melania, during her days as a young model in New York in the 1990s. (In response to the Politico story, Melania Trump said she has “at all times been in compliance with the immigration laws of this country.”)

Kate, who worked for Trump Model Management in 2004, marveled at how her former boss has recently branded himself as an anti-illegal-immigration crusader on the campaign trail. “He doesn’t want to let anyone into the US anymore,” she said. “Meanwhile, behind everyone’s back, he’s bringing in all of these girls from all over the world and they’re working illegally.”

Now 31 years old and out of the modeling business, Blais once appeared in various publications, including Vogue, Elle, and Harpers Bazaar, and she posed wearing the designs of such fashion luminaries as Gianfranco Ferré, Dolce & Gabbana, and Jean Paul Gaultier. Her modeling career began when she was 16 and spanned numerous top-name agencies across four continents. She became a vocal advocate for models and appeared in a 2011 documentary, Girl Model, that explored the darker side of the industry. In a recent interview, she said her experience with Trump’s firm stood out: “Honestly, they are the most crooked agency I’ve ever worked for, and I’ve worked for quite a few.”

Rachel Blais appeared in this Elle fashion spread, published in September 2004, while working for Trump’s agency without a proper visa. Elle

Freshly signed to Trump Model Management, the Montreal native traveled to New York City by bus in April 2004. Just like “the majority of models who are young, [have] never been to NYC, and don’t have papers, I was just put in Trump’s models’ apartment,” she said. Kate and Anna also said they had lived in this apartment.

Models’ apartments, as they’re known in the industry, are dormitory-style quarters where agencies pack their talent into bunks, in some cases charging the models sky-high rent and pocketing a profit. According to the three former models, Trump Model Management housed its models in a two-floor, three-bedroom apartment in the East Village, near Tompkins Square Park. Mother Jones is withholding the address of the building, which is known in the neighborhood for its model tenants, to protect the privacy of the current residents.

When Blais lived in the apartment, she recalled, a Trump agency representative who served as a chaperone had a bedroom to herself on the ground floor of the building. A narrow flight of stairs led down to the basement, where the models lived in two small bedrooms that were crammed with bunk beds—two in one room, three in the other. An additional mattress was located in a common area near the stairs. At times, the apartment could be occupied by 11 or more people.

“We’re herded into these small spaces,” Kate said. “The apartment was like a sweatshop.”

Trump Model Management recruited models as young as 14. “I was by far the oldest in the house at the ripe old age of 18,” Anna said. “The bathroom always smelled like burned hair. I will never forget the place!” She added, “I taught myself how to write, ‘Please clean up after yourself’ in Russian.”

Living in the apartment during a sweltering New York summer, Kate picked a top bunk near a street-level window in the hopes of getting a little fresh air. She awoke one morning to something splashing her face. “Oh, maybe it’s raining today,” she recalled thinking. But when she peered out the window, “I saw the one-eyed monster pissing on me,” she said. “There was a bum pissing on my window, splashing me in my Trump Model bed.”

“Such a glamorous industry,” she said.

Blais, who previously discussed some of her experiences in an interview with Public Radio International, said the models weren’t in a position to complain about their living arrangements. “You’re young,” she remarked, “and you know that if you ask too many questions, you’re not going to get the work.”

A detailed financial statement provided by Blais shows that Trump’s agency charged her as much as $1,600 a month for a bunk in a room she shared with five others. Kate said she paid about $1,200 a month—”highway robbery,” she called it. For comparison, in the summer of 2004, an entire studio apartment nearby was advertised at $1,375 a month.

From April to October 2004, Blais traveled between the United States and Europe, picking up a string of high-profile fashion assignments for Trump Model Management and making a name for herself in the modeling world. During the months she spent living and working in New York, Blais said, she only had a tourist visa. “Most of the girls in the apartment that were not American didn’t have a work visa,” she recalled.

Anna and Kate also said they each worked for Trump’s agency while holding tourist visas. “I started out doing test-shoots but ended up doing a couple of lookbooks,” Anna said. (A lookbook is a modeling portfolio.) “Nothing huge, but definitely shoots that classified as ‘work.'”

Employers caught hiring noncitizens without proper visas can be fined up to $16,000 per employee and, in some cases, face up to six months in prison.

The three former Trump models said Trump’s agency was aware of the complications posed by their foreign status. Anna and Kate said the company coached them on how to circumvent immigration laws. Kate recalled being told, “When you’re stuck at immigration, say that you’re coming as a tourist. If they go through your luggage and they find your portfolio, tell them that you’re going there to look for an agent.”

Anna recalled that prior to her arrival, Trump agency staffers were “dodging around” her questions about her immigration status and how she could work legally in the United States. “Until finally,” she said, “it came to two days before I left, and they told me my only option was to get a tourist visa and we could work the rest out when I got there. We never sorted the rest out.”

Arriving in the United States, Anna grew terrified. “Going through customs for this trip was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life,” she added. “It’s hard enough when you’re there perfectly innocently, but when you know you’ve lied on what is essentially a federal document, it’s a whole new world.”

“Am I sweaty? Am I red? Am I giving this away?” Anna remembered thinking as she finally faced a customs officer. After making it through immigration, she burst into tears.

Industry experts say that violating immigration rules has been the status quo in the fashion world for years. “It’s been common, almost standard, for modeling agencies to encourage girls to come into the country illegally,” said Sara Ziff, the founder of the Model Alliance, an advocacy group that claimed a major success in 2014 after lobbying the New York State legislature to pass a bill increasing protections for child models.

Bringing models into the United States on tourist visas was “very common,” said Susan Scafidi, the director of Fordham University’s Fashion Law Institute. “I’ve had tons of agencies tell me this, that this used to happen all the time, and that the cover story might be something like ‘I’m coming in for a friend’s birthday,’ or ‘I’m coming in to visit my aunt,’ that sort of thing.”

For their part, modeling agencies have complained about the time and resources required to bring a foreign model into the country and have insisted that US immigration laws are out of step with their fast-paced industry. “If there are girls that we can’t get into the United States, the client is going to take that business elsewhere,” Corinne Nicolas, the president of Trump Model Management, told the New York Daily News in 2008. “The market is calling for foreign girls.”

In 2007, a few years before his career imploded in a sexting scandal, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) sponsored a bill that would give models the same kind of work visas that international entertainers and athletes receive. The tabloids had a field day­—”Give me your torrid, your pure, your totally smokin’ foreign babes,” screamed a Daily News headline—and the effort ultimately failed.

Trump Model Management sponsored only its most successful models for work visas, the three former models said. Those who didn’t cut it were sent home, as was the case, Blais noted, with many of her roommates.

“It was very much the case of you earn your visa,” Anna said. “Essentially, if you got enough work and they liked you enough, they’d pay for a visa, but you weren’t about to see a dime before you could prove your worth.”

The company eventually secured an H-1B visa for Blais. Such visas allow US companies to employ workers in specialized fields. According to financial records provided by Blais, the company deducted the costs of obtaining a work visa from her earnings. (The agency did not obtain work visas for Anna and Kate, who each left the United States after their stints with Trump Model Management.)

H-1B visas have been increasingly popular in the high-tech field, and Trump’s companies, including Trump Model Management, have used this program extensively in the past. But on the campaign trail, Trump has railed against the H-1B program and those who he says abuse it. “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program,” Trump said in March. “No exceptions.”

Nearly three years after signing with Trump’s agency, Blais had little to show for it—and it wasn’t for lack of modeling jobs. Under the contracts that she and other Trump models had signed, the company advanced money for rent and various other expenses (such as trainers, beauty treatments, travel, and administrative costs), deducting these charges from its clients’ modeling fees. But these charges—including the pricey rent that Blais and her roommates paid—consumed nearly all her modeling earnings. “I only got one check from Trump Models, and that’s when I left them,” she said. “I got $8,000 at most after having worked there for three years and having made tens of thousands of dollars.” (The check Blais received was for $8,427.35.)

“This is a system where they actually end up making money on the back of these foreign workers,” Blais added. She noted that models can end up in debt to their agencies, once rent and numerous other fees are extracted.

This is known in the industry as “agency debt.” Kate said her bookings never covered the cost of living in New York. After two months, she returned home. “I left indebted to them,” she said, “and I never went back, and I never paid them back.”

The experiences the former Trump models related to Mother Jones echo allegations in an ongoing class-action lawsuit against six major modeling agencies by nine former models who have claimed their agencies charged them exorbitant fees for rent and other expenses. One plaintiff, Marcelle Almonte, has alleged that her agency charged her $1,850 per month to live in a two-bedroom Miami Beach apartment with eight other models. The market rate for apartments in the same building ran no more than $3,300 per month, according to the complaint. (Trump Model Management, which was initially named in an earlier version of this lawsuit, was dropped from the case in 2013, after the judge narrowed the number of defendants.) Models “were largely trapped by these circumstances if they wanted to continue to pursue a career in modeling,” the complaint alleges.

“It is like modern-day slavery” Blais said of working for Trump Model Management—and she is not alone in describing her time with Trump’s company in those terms. Former Trump model Alexia Palmer, who filed a lawsuit against Trump Model Management for fraud and wage theft in 2014, has said she “felt like a slave.”

Palmer has alleged that she was forced to pay hefty—sometimes mysterious—fees to Trump’s agency. These were fees on top of the 20 percent commission she paid for each job the company booked. Palmer charged that during three years of modeling for Trump’s company, she earned only $3,880.75. A New York judge dismissed Palmer’s claim in March because, among other reasons, she had not taken her case first to the Department of Labor. Lawyers for Trump Model Management called Palmer’s lawsuit “frivolous” and “without merit.”

Palmer filed a complaint with the Department of Labor this spring, and in August the agency dismissed the case. Palmer’s lawyer, Naresh Gehi, said he is appealing the decision. Since he began representing Palmer, he said, fashion models who worked for other agencies have approached him with similar stories. “These are people that are coming out of the closet and explaining to the world how they are being exploited,” he said. “They are the most vulnerable.”

Documents filed in Palmer’s case indicate that she worked in the United States without a work visa after being recruited by Trump’s agency from her native Jamaica. Gehi declined to discuss his client’s immigration status.

Former Trump model Alexia Palmer posed for this Teen Vogue shoot in January 2011. She secured a work visa in October 2011. Teen Vogue

A Caribbean model contest launched Palmer’s career in 2010, and at age 17 she signed an exclusive contract with Trump Model Management in January 2011. Department of Labor records show she received approval to work in the United States beginning in October 2011. Yet according to a financial statement filed as evidence in her case, Palmer started working in the United States nine months before this authorization was granted. Her financial records list a January 22, 2011, job for Condé Nast, when she posed for a Teen Vogue spread featuring the cast of Glee. (The shoot took place at Milk Studios in Los Angeles.)

“That whole period, from January to September, was not authorized,” said Pankaj Malik, a partner at New York-based Ballon, Stoll, Bader & Nadler who has worked on immigration issues for over two decades and who reviewed Palmer’s case for Mother Jones. “You can’t do any of that. It’s so not allowed.”

Trump has taken an active role at Trump Model Management from its founding. He has personally signed models who have participated in his Miss Universe and Miss USA competitions, where his agency staff appeared as judges. Melania Trump was a Trump model for a brief period after meeting her future husband in the late 1990s.

The agency is a particular point of pride for Trump, who has built his brand around glitz and glamour. “True Trumpologists know the model agency is only a tiny part of Trumpland financially,” the New York Sun wrote in 2004. “But his agency best evokes a big Trump theme—sex sells.” Trump has often cross-pollinated his other business ventures with fashion models and has used them as veritable set pieces when he rolls out new products. Trump models, including Blais, appeared on The Apprentice—and they flanked him at the 2004 launch of his Parker Brothers board game, TRUMP.

Part of Blais’ job, she said, was to serve as eye candy at Trump-branded events. Recalling the first time she met the mogul, she said, “I had to go to the Trump Vodka opening.” It was a glitzy 2006 gala at Trump Tower where Busta Rhymes performed, and Trump unveiled his (soon-to-be-defunct) line of vodka. “It was part of my duty to go and be seen and to be photographed and meet Donald Trump and shake his hand,” she remembered.

Trump made a strong impression on her that night. “I knew that I was a model and there was objectification in the job, but this was another level,” she said. Blais left Trump Model Management the year after the Trump Vodka gala, feeling that she had been exploited and shortchanged by the agency.

Kate, who went on to have a successful career with another agency, also parted ways with Trump’s company in disgust. “My overall experience was not a very good one,” she said. “I left with a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t like the agency. I didn’t like where they had us living. Honestly, I felt ripped off.”

These days, Kate said, she believes that Trump has been fooling American voters with his anti-immigrant rhetoric, given that his own agency had engaged in the practices he has denounced. “He doesn’t like the face of a Mexican or a Muslim,” she said, “but because these [models] are beautiful girls, it’s okay? He’s such a hypocrite.”


Best Made in the USA Sparkling Wines 2016

Best Made in the USA Sparkling Wines 2016

This year, we made a commitment to find the best sparkling wine made in the USA. The first step was to identify some of the best wine producers that make sparkling wines. To make the contest fair – all of the wines were covered. The sparkling wines all had to be bruts. (It is sometimes hard to compare a rose with a brut – it is like comparing apples and oranges). From the biggest sparkling producers, we went with their top of the line products which are often not available to the public. The exception was Mumm Napa Brut Prestige instead of their DVX line – the reason – Wine Spectator had rated the Brut Prestige higher than their DVX products. The price listed is the winery price.

So, this is the list from cheapest to most expensive:

  1. Gruet Brut (New Mexico) $17
  2. Kenwood Cuvee Brut (Sonoma, CA) $18
  3. Scharffenberger Brut Excellence (Anderson Valley, CA) $20 (WS 90)
  4. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige (Napa, CA) $22 (WS 91)
  5. Breathless Brut (CA) $25
  6. Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut 2010 (Russian River, CA) $42 (WS 93)
  7. Laetitia Brut Coquard (Arroyo Grande, CA) $48
  8. L’Ermitage Brut  (Roederer Estate) 2007 (Anderson Valley, CA) $48 (WS 93)
  9. Lichen Blanc De Noir (Anderson Valley, CA) $55
  10. Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvee (’04) (Sonoma, CA) $59 (WS 92)
  11. Etoile Tete De Cuvee (Domaine Chandon)(06) Napa, CA) $80 (WS 93 for ’03)
  12. Le Reve (Domaine Carneros) 2009 (Sonoma, CA) $110 (WS 93)
  13. J. Schram  (Schrambsburg) 2006 (Calistoga, CA) $120 (WS 93)

The WS means the Wine Spectator rating of the wine from 70-100.

champagne 2016

These are the bottles after being wrapped up.

blinded champagne


The result: For the novice drinkers, they preferred the sweeter and cheaper Kenwood Brut. For the more seasoned drinkers, the winner was L’Ermitage made by Roederer Estate. A close second and a surprise was Laetitia Brut Coquard.


Made In America: A Buyer’s Guide For Donald Trump

One of the biggest reasons for this blog is enlighten the public that we need to support buying items made in the United States. After 5 years of frustration, it is nice that this has become an important issue for this election year. I have compiled several very nice “Made in America” lists over the years, but I was surprised that one of the Presidential candidates actually compiled a quite competent “Made in America” list. Not only is the list fairly formidable, they supply the links to actually look up the company. The list is from Hilary Clinton. It informs people where to get US made clothing and furniture, while, at the same time, bashing her opponent.


Trump couldn’t be bothered to find manufacturers in America, so we did it for him.

Source: Made In America: A Buyer’s Guide For Donald Trump | Hillary for America

Despite his repeated claim and desire to put “America First,” time and time again Donald Trump has told us he has to manufacture his products abroad. He says “it’s very hard to have apparel made in this country,” or that “they don’t even make the stuff here. It’s so hard to get.” No, Donald. Just no.

We can see how time consuming multiple bankruptcies and scamming small businesses must be, but really Donald, this is a pretty glaring oversight. It didn’t take us long to find over 100 examples of U.S. manufacturers and businesses ready and able to produce the same goods he makes overseas.

Scroll through to see just a few examples of the many American businesses Donald missed.


Where Donald Made Them: China
Where Donald Trump Could Have Made Them Instead: From Denver to Charlotte, we found 25 manufacturers producing American-made ties.

Boulder, CO | JZ Richards
Denver, CO | Knotty Ties
Fairfield, CT | Just Madras
San Francisco, CA | Blade + Blue
Monterey, CA | Robert Talbott Ties
Annapolis, MD | Starboard Clothing Co.
Detroit, MI | Cyberoptix Ties
St. Louis Park, MN | Pierrepont Hicks Tie Co.
Charlotte, NC | Ole Mason Jar
Mayberry, NC | High Cotton Ties
Pilot Mountain, NC |  Brown & Church
Bedford, NY | General Knot
Brooklyn, NY | Brooklyn Tie Company
Brooklyn, NY | Hickoree’s
Buffalo, NY | O’Connell’s Clothing
Long Island City, NY | Brooks Brothers
New York, NY | Collared Greens
New York, NY | Josh Bach
New York, NY | Mountain and Sackett
Ashland, PA | Gitman Bros
Philadelphia, PA | Commonwealth Proper
Rock Hill, SC | The Cordial Churchman
Fort Mill, SC | R. Hanauer Ties
Austin, TX | Fox & Brie Ties
Middlebury, VT | Beau-Ties of Vermont

Suits and Shirts 

Where Donald Made Them: China, Bangladesh, and Honduras
Where Donald Trump Could Have Made Them Instead:  From the site of the GOP convention in Cleveland to Reading, Pennsylvania, we found 33 stateside locations where Donald could produce his suits and shirts.

San Francisco, CA |  Blade + Blue
San Francisco, CA | Taylor Stitch
Fort Collins, CO | Blackland Clothing Company
Washington, DC | Read Wall
Chicago, IL | Hart Schaffner Marx
Haverhill, MA |  Brooks Brothers
New Bedford, MA | Joseph Abboud
Brooklyn, OH |  Keystone Tailored
Philadelphia, PA | Commonwealth Proper
Brooklyn, NY | Martin Greenfield Clothiers
Buffalo, NY | O’Connell’s Clothing
Rochester, NY | Hickey Freeman
New Orleans, LA | Haspel
Fall River, MA | New England Shirt Company
Bay Harbor, MI | Mettlers American Mercantile
Bozeman, MT | Mercer & Sons
Charlotte, NC | Ole Mason Jar
Raleigh, NC | Lumina Clothing
East Rutherford, NJ | Todd Shelton
Bellmore, NY | White Dress Shirt Company
Buffalo, NY | O’Connell’s Clothing
New York, NY | Jack Robie
New York, NY | The J Wingfield Company
Cleveland, OH |  Forma Apparel Manufacturing
Ardmore, PA | American Trench
Ashland, PA | Gitman Bros
Reading, PA | Bill’s Khakis
Philadelphia, PA | Collared Greens
Woolrich, PA | Woolrich
Cleveland, TN | Hardwick
Dallas, TX | Mizzen and Main
Houston, TX | Hamilton Shirts
Belleville, WI | Duluth Trading

Furniture and frames

Where Donald Makes Them Now: India, Germany, and Turkey
Where Donald Trump Could Make Them Instead: From Jasper, Indiana to Youngstown, Ohio, down to Norfolk, Virginia, we found 61 furniture and frame manufacturers right here in the United States.

Cerritos, CA | Villa Hallmark
Chula Vista, CA | San Diego Frame Manufacturing Company
Pico Rivera, CA | Camely Furniture
Ocala, FL  | Brick City Furniture
Berne, IN | Clauser Furniture
Berne, IN | Smith Brothers of Berne
Jasper, IN | Indiana Furniture
Jasper, IN |  The Jasper Chair Company
Auburn, ME | Thomas Moser
Portland, ME | Sturbridge Yankee Workshop
Ithaca, MI | Craig Frames
Holland, MI | Holland Bar Stool Company
Zeeland, MI |  Herman Miller Store
Minneapolis, MN | Room & Board
Houston, MS | Franklin Corporation
Asheboro, NC | Klaussner Furniture Industries
Beaufort, NC | Beaufort Furniture Company
Conover, NC and Hillsville, VA | Vanguard Furniture
Hickory, NC | Bradington Young
Hickory, NC | Century Furniture
High Point, NC | Home Meridian International
High Point, NC | USA Salvage
Lexington, NC | North Carolina Moulding Company
Morganton, NC | Guy Chaddock
Rougemont, NC | Beaufort Furniture Company
Shelby, NC | Bernhardt Furniture
Taylorsville, NC | Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Bow, NH | Aubin Woodworking
Las Vegas, NV | Foliot Furniture
Granville, NY |  Manchester Wood
McConnellsville, NY | Cambridge Mills Furniture
McConnellsville, NY | Harden
Newark, NY |  Hallagan Fine Furniture
Archbold, OH | Archbold’s Furniture Company
Cleveland, OH | Rustbelt Reclamation
Cincinnati, OH | Frame USA
Mt. Hope, OH | Canal Dover
Mt. Hope, OH |  Homestead Furniture
Sugarcreek, OH | Swiss Valley Furniture
Norwalk, OH | Norwalk Furniture
Youngstown, OH | JL Treharn & Co.
Bristol, PA | Ace Designs
Freeburg, PA | Colonial Furniture Company
Gordonville, PA | Snyder’s Furniture
Millersburg, PA | East Side Frames
Myerstown, PA |  The Keystone Collections
Ronks, PA | Fisher’s Quality Furniture
State College, PA | Spectra Wood
Southern Lancaster, PA | Cherry Acres
Conway, SC | Johnson Furniture Manufacturing
Sumter, SC | Carolina Furniture Works
Collinsville and Martinsville, VA; Valdese and Mount Airy, NC | Shenandoah Furniture, Inc.
Dayton, TN | La-Z-Boy
Lexington, VA | Shenandoah Framing
Lynchburg, VA | Old Dominion Wood Products
Norfolk, VA | Sorrentino Mariani
Winchester, VA | Henkel Harris Furniture
Vernon, VT | Vermont Wood Studios
Ashland, WI | Larson-Juhl
Berkeley Springs, WV | Gat Creek
Huntington, WV | MacKenzie-Dow Fine Furniture


Where Donald Made Them: Slovenia
Where Donald Trump Could Have Made Them Instead: If it’s not broke, don’t fix it? Well, something’s seriously broken when there are at least 12 locations Donald could have used to produce barware including Toledo, Ohio, and Phoenix, Arizona.

Phoenix, AZ | Drinique
Los Angeles, CA (& IN, VT) | Jacob Bromwell
Dayton, VA | LDA Creations
Cambridge, OH | Mosser Glass
East Liverpool, OH | American Mug & Stein Co.
Toledo, OH | Libbey
Monaca, PA and Lancaster, OH | Anchor Hocking
Columbia, PA | Susquehanna Glass
Mount Pleasant, PA | Rolf Glass
Kinston, NC | Lenox
Quechee, VT | Simon Pearce
Newell, WV | Fiesta


.Lumber Rain – Poppy von Frohlich

I present once more one of my favorite small American (and local) makers of clothing made in the USA. This new product is a raincoat called .Lumbar Rain by Poppy Von Frohlich.

Source: .Lumber Rain – Poppy von Frohlich

.Lumbar Rain

PVF rain coat

  • I finally made a rain coat! Waxed cotton canvas is the earth friendly option when it comes to rain gear.  Lumber Rain is designed to make you look rad while battling the rain.

    Large boxed pockets set at an angle for comfort but not so angled that your stuff falls out,  my large signature hood with a leather drawstring, western style front yoke, back rain flap, curved hem (a little longer in the back), antigued copper snaps, and french seams. (better pictures coming, these are temporary photos)

    I designed the coat to have enough room for two medium/light weight layers or one medium/thick layer.  Bust shaping is from a narrow front side panel and a larger armhole.

    To clean a waxed cotton coat you brush off dirt with a soft brush, if you get a lot of use out of it you can rinse it off with a hose and if you get a lot, a lot of use out of it you may need to reapply wax in the areas that get a lot of rubs.  The coat cannot be washed in a machine nor can it be dry-cleaned.

    A key characteristic of waxed cotton is that it shows its creases, called crooking.  It is a desired look when buying waxed cotton.  Expect to see crooking in the coat and show it off with pride because wearing waxed cotton is cool and responsible.  The whiskey color and the moss show the crooking more than the black does.

    Are you new to waxed cotton?  Are you a tiny bit skeptical?  I completely understand.  This coat can be worn as a normal canvas coat on non-rainy days but it has the added bonus of having water resistant properties for those rainy days, water does not penetrate the cotton fiber, it simply beads up and rolls off.  Waxed cotton can sound funny to someone who hasn’t worn it before so I am offering exchange, store credit or refunds.  I think once you try it on you will be very happy with it, but in case you discover it is not right for you we can figure out which return policy is best for you. This offer is good for coats that have not been worn outside, coats that were only tried on and worn around the house for twenty minutes or so.

    PVF Lumbar

    This is a pre-order, Shipping is scheduled for September 22nd

    made in Northern California, USA!!!



A Look at the Olympic Attire That Will Be Made in America | Alliance for American Manufacturing

Just in time for the 2016 Rio Olympics – Olympic attire made in the USA

Source: A Look at the Olympic Attire That Will Be Made in America | Alliance for American Manufacturing

A Look at The Olympic Attire That Will Be Made in America

by Jeffrey Bonior

Opening and closing ceremony outfits will be American-made, but most competition uniforms won’t be.

More than 10,500 athletes from 206 nations will parade into Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in less than 50 days for the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

The entrance of the worldwide Olympic delegation is always a highlight of the opening ceremony, in part because many observers fervently cast judgment on the uniforms each team is wearing.

Marathon swimmer Haley Anderson.

The athletes parade into the stadium these days is akin to a fashion show. Each country’s Olympic team will have an opening and closing ceremony uniform that range from a buttoned-up suit style to casual wear. And then there are the spectacularly colorful ensembles, which are patterned after a country’s cultural heritage.

In Rio 2016, Team USA will be wearing a semi-casual Polo Ralph Lauren designed outfit that reflects an American-style, Cape Cod-type boating ensemble. The uniforms will be awash in red, white and blue, but are much more toned down compared to the Ralph Lauren-designed 2014 Sochi, Russia Winter Games clothing. This year, they reflect an American preppy, summertime look.

And for the second straight Olympic Games, the Team USA opening and closing ceremony uniforms will be entirely designed and manufactured in the United States.

Ralph Lauren has been designing and manufacturing the U.S. Olympic Team opening and closing ceremony uniforms since 2008. At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Ralph Lauren debuted all-American made uniforms for the first time in many years. With the help of more than 40 U.S. apparel manufacturing companies, the company was able to once again produce an entirely Made in America clothing line for Rio 2016.

This has not only strengthened the American-made clothing industry but has also provided more jobs and extra work for the talented domestic clothing manufacturing workforce.

Among the items produced for Team USA are striped T-shirts, oxford shirts, white shorts, red, white and blue boat shoes and striped cotton bracelets.

The classic American boat shoes were manufactured for Ralph Lauren by Rancourt & Co. in Lewiston, Maine. The company had made private-label shoes for Ralph Lauren before landing the Olympics deal. Rancourt & Co. has increased its workforce from 20 employees to 65 because of its work with Ralph Lauren.

“We are thrilled to be partnered with Polo Ralph Lauren in making the shoes for Team USA’s uniform,” said company president Mike Rancourt. “This is one of the most exciting projects that we have ever worked on and it means so much to our company. We are proud that a product produced in Lewiston, Maine, will be represented on the world stage.”

Other Team USA American-made apparel items include closing ceremony oxford shirts, manufactured by New England Shirt Company, and white shorts courtesy of Hickey Freeman in Rochester, N.Y.

New England Shirt Company produced the hand-made oxford shirts at its 200-year-old factory in Fall River, Mass. All-American made clothing has been manufactured at the factory since 1933.

Rancourt & Co increased its workforce at its Maine factory from 20 to 65 people because of its work with Ralph Lauren.

“Working with Ralph Lauren on the closing ceremony oxford shirt has been an incredible opportunity,” said Brad Herzlich, director of marketing at New England Shirt Company. “We feel an immense pride in having a hand in dressing the Olympic team.”

Hickey Freeman is known for its high-end, top quality men’s suits and jackets and employs about 450 people in the Rochester area, and is no stranger to working with Ralph Lauren. The two companies worked together to manufacture Ralph Lauren’s “Blue Line” of tailored suits and sports jackets. The suit construction was previously done in Italy before Ralph Lauren struck a deal with Hickey Freeman to bring the manufacturing, and the jobs that go with it, to Rochester.

“For Hickey Freeman to make part of the uniforms that will be seen in the closing ceremony in the Olympics is great,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said recently. “The real credit goes to the workers at Hickey. It’s one of the highest quality made garments in America that we have left. Billions of people will see the uniforms.”

Ralph Lauren will outfit more than 1,100 members of Team USA for the Rio 2016 Olympics and the Paralympic Games which begin on September 18 in Rio. But not everything worn by American athletes at the games will be American-made. While the opening and closing ceremony outfits will be Made in America, the majority of the individual sports competition uniforms will be largely made overseas.

But apparel for the USA Rowing team is manufactured by Boathouse Sports in Philadelphia.

A majority of the Olympic teams competing in Rio receive government funding from their respective nations. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) does not receive government funding and is financed through corporate sponsors like Polo Ralph Lauren. As an official outfitter of Team USA, royalties from Polo Ralph Lauren Team USA apparel sales to the public are used to support the USOC and the athletes.

Freestyle wrestler Jordan Burroughs.

Uniforms made by Nike for sports such as basketball and track and field are manufactured offshore. So too the suits produced by Speedo for swimming and diving. These brand names have become leaders in the particular sports they service and are generous sponsors of Team USA.

Off the field of competition, there will be another reminder of Made in America clothing during television broadcasts. Hardwick Clothes menswear will be providing all of the NBC male on-air talent with a variety of suits and blazers manufactured at its facility in Cleveland, Tenn.

The goal of these smaller, Made in America apparel companies is sales growth. Partnering with Polo Ralph Lauren can only enhance their chances.

Individual athletes also have set their goals for performance at the Rio 2016 games. Perhaps a goal for garment manufacturers in the years to come should be to produce all Team USA apparel right here in America.

See the other two video links below.

Rancourt shoes made in Maine will provide the red white and blue boat shoes for US Olympic athletes for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Boathouse Sports makes Rowing outfits for US Olympic athletes

From New Yorker Magazine

From New Yorker Magazine



Challenges of Getting a Product Made in the U.S.A. – The New York Times

Source: Challenges of Getting a Product Made in the U.S.A. – The New York Times

 Abby Hansen, center, stitches a Pad & Quill leather cuff for the Apple Watch at the Softline manufacturing facility in Minneapolis. Credit Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times

Many manufacturers perform a cost-benefit analysis when deciding whether to move production abroad. Others, however, are determined to make their products in the United States, even when the costs are higher.

It was craftsmanship rather than the bottom line that motivated Brian Holmes when he decided in 2010 to start a business and went looking for a manufacturer. He and his wife, Kari, started Pad & Quill, a company based in Minneapolis that makes high-end cases and other products for the iPhone and other Apple products.

“They had to be beautiful,” Mr. Holmes said of his products. “Good art is a beautiful product that is functional.”

 Brian Holmes, founder of Pad and Quill, says keeping production in the United States offers benefits to a seller. Credit Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times

To make the high-quality cases he set out to sell, Mr. Holmes needed a bookbindery that could stitch together the protective wood and soft leather he wanted to use. But he found out that in the digital era, bookbinding is a dying industry. He searched overseas and found a vendor in China, but was unimpressed with the results.

“I’ve never seen bookbindery quality better than in the United States because of the tradition here,” Mr. Holmes said. After several months of research, he found one he liked close to home: Trendex, a company based nearby in St. Paul.

Mr. Holmes said keeping production in the United States was not only possible, but that it offered added benefits to a seller. It improved the turnaround time, he said, and customers were willing to pay more for American-made goods (his iPhone cases range from $50 to $110 — about twice as much as a typical case). Plus, it gave him a sense of pride knowing that he was creating jobs and helping the economy.

His efforts come at a time when other American luxury brands are reshoring, or moving overseas production back to the United States, believing that cheaper is not always better.

The retail stalwart Brooks Brothers has three factories in the United States that make 45 to 50 percent of the company’s clothing, according to The Business of Fashion, an industry publication. And Walmart announced its commitment to American-made goods by pledging to purchase $250 billion in products by 2023 that support the creation of American jobs.

Reshoring is more suited to the luxury goods market, according to Jeffrey Silberman, the chairman of the textile development and marketing department at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

“Reshoring will happen, but not in the way people expect it to,” Professor Silberman said. “It will happen in a smaller way. It’s a high-priced, luxury niche market, at this point at least.”

Consumers looking for luxury products are often drawn to a company’s dedication to craftsmanship. As part of Pad & Quill’s marketing strategy, its website includes videos of cases being made by hand. A blog also allows Mr. Holmes, his wife and others to ruminate on a range of topics, such as how to repair leather scratches and what it’s like to turn 48.

That aspect of tradition carries over to Pad & Quill’s suppliers. Trendex has nearly a century of bookbinding experience, according to Jeff Polacek, the company’s president, who took over the business in 1985 with his brother Tom. But it was facing a shrinking industry, and the company had to move into packaging materials to remain stable.

“When I got into the business, every paper was stored in file cabinets or ring binders,” Mr. Polacek said. “Information was stored that way; now, information is electronic.”

With a bindery in place, Mr. Holmes was able to build the rest of his supply chain. To do so, he borrowed from skills he learned while working for a medical start-up.

He kept a lean staff of himself and three others, which meant he outsourced jobs like customer service and accounting to consulting companies in the United States.

But even with a trusted supplier in place, it took a while to get the product right.

“Our first iPad cases were total bricks,” he said. “So huge, so ugly.”

So he rethought the design and began looking for better materials that would provide a longer life span for his products. And despite his efforts, he realized that some production facilities he wanted to use could only be found in other countries.

For instance, he works with a company, Saddleback Leather in Fort Worth, that makes leather products by hand at a factory in Mexico. And after three years of searching for an American company to manufacture a case constructed of wood and Kevlar, Mr. Holmes had to turn to a company in China.

 A Pad and Quill leather bag. Credit Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times

Seventy percent of Pad & Quill products are made in the United States, Mr. Holmes said, and reaching even that level was not easy. “Manufacturing is getting harder and harder in the United States,” he said. “But if you plan well, you can make products in the United States.”

As the quality of his products improved, so did sales. But his business was outgrowing his cash flow, and he needed investors. So he reached out to his business partners at Trendex.

“I wanted an investor in the supply chain because they would be vested in my success, not an angel investor,” Mr. Holmes said.

Mr. Holmes negotiated in 2011 to sell the Polacek brothers a 35 percent stake in Pad & Quill. In return, he was able to get a line of credit and pay off some old debts.

The deal was a good growth opportunity, Jeff Polacek said, adding that it was the first time that Trendex had taken a minority stake in another company.

“I think it’s been a good match; he is very quality-conscious,” Mr. Polacek said of Mr. Holmes. “He knows what his customers are buying and why his customers are buying, and he’s good at filling their needs.”

Mr. Holmes said it was important that he found investors who shared the same ideals. “You have to look into them and find out as much as you can, because you are married, and divorces are ugly,” he said.

Pad & Quill struggled in the beginning, but became profitable in 2011, Mr. Holmes said. The next year, sales of the leather and wood cases shot up, and revenue grew 50 percent over the previous year, he said. This year, he said, the company is projected to bring in $2.5 million in revenue.

Mr. Holmes acknowledged that his company might have been profitable sooner if he had moved manufacturing overseas. But “we learned so much about manufacturing by working with American companies” that it made better sense to keep it in the United States, he said.

The next step for Pad & Quill is to enter the retail mass market. Mr. Holmes said he was considering approaching Best Buy, which is based in Richfield, Minn., because it carried some luxury goods already and would be a good fit for his cases.

But moving into the wholesale market is “fraught with risk,” he said, and comes with added expenses, like maintaining a larger inventory and paying a distributor.

Before undertaking such an expansion, Mr. Holmes said he was looking for another round of investment. Another alternative would be to sell the company outright — an option Mr. Holmes would consider only if he found the right buyer.

“I would want a good buyout because my investors took risks,” he said, “but I would want a good fit.”

Pad & Quill was established as a quality brand, Mr. Holmes said, but it’s also part of his identity, so it would be important to find a buyer with values similar to his own.

“I think a lot of entrepreneurs are narcissists,” he said. “And that’s normal to have an inflated view of yourself.”

September 2016
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