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Daily Archives: June 7th, 2018


Sports
Forcing Athletes To Stand For The National Anthem Is Stupid, Not Patriotic
Professional sports are overrun with schmaltzy patriotic displays that are not at all necessary and definitely should not be required for athletes.

By Nathanael Blake
June 7, 2018

President Trump has picked another fight over the NFL and the national anthem. After the league had reached a compromise — players will be allowed to stay in their locker rooms during the anthem, but they will be punished if they protest on the field during it — Trump decided to restart the conflict.
He abruptly cancelled a White House visit by members of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, and angrily tweeted, “Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our national anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling.” With that, the whole stupid controversy kicked off again.

Fortunately, there is a simple resolution available: Stop turning domestic sports into patriotic ceremonies. And if that is too much to ask, stop trying to force athletes to participate.
Professional sports are overrun with schmaltzy patriotic displays. For example, Major League Baseball has the national anthem before the game, some sort of military tribute a few innings in — “honor our military men and women by waving your caps!” — and often more patriotic singing after a few more innings. The renditions are frequently terrible (I habitually mute them if they are part of pregame coverage) and the military tributes do nothing to actually help members of the military.
In fact, professional sports have made money off the military; in the last decade, teams received millions of taxpayer dollars for paid patriotism. That the Pentagon would sponsor these spectacles is unsurprising, as increased displays of sporting patriotism have usually coincided with war. For instance, the singing of “God Bless America” became a regular fixture during baseball games after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In a nation that is at war or otherwise endangered, it is understandable that large gatherings of people would be receptive to patriotic displays. But although this pageantry obviously appeals to many people, there is no real need for a connection between sports and patriotic spectacle. Professional sports did not have to become the locus of public patriotism in this country.

That they have puts athletes in a bind. They are paid to compete at the highest levels of human athletic ability, not to be star-spangled sideline props. But the latter has become expected of them, as a semi-official part of their duties. Sack the quarterback, hit the baseball, make the 3-pointer, participate in patriotic rituals — one of these is not like the others, and it is a demand that is not imposed on the rest of us.
I’ve worked jobs from cooking fast food to teaching undergraduates, and none of them, not even the government jobs, had mandatory patriotic displays. Despite his indignation at others, I doubt that President Trump begins each workday by standing for the playing of the national anthem.
It is therefore understandable that some athletes would resent being treated as props in patriotic spectacles that have nothing to do with their actual job, particularly if they believe that America is failing to address systematic injustices. They should be free to engage in silent protest during these required patriotic displays, even if their cause is wrong.
The peaceful protesting of perceived injustice is in accord with the higher ideals of our nation, whereas mandatory patriotic displays are incompatible with the American belief in liberty and limited government. Protesting during a voluntary ceremony might be rude, but protesting during a ceremony that is required (whether explicitly or de facto) is the only option available to dissenters.

The outrage over the anthem protests is a right-wing version of political correctness that is antithetical to our nation’s culture of freedom. If you don’t want people to protest during patriotic ceremonies, then don’t try to make participation in them mandatory. The president pressuring private organizations to establish patriotic participation policies to his liking is an un-American abuse of power.
Sporting events should not be at the center of our patriotic practices. But if they are, then the athletes should not be required, or even expected, to participate. Their job is to display human excellence in physical competition, not to serve as red-white-and-blue accessories during national pep rallies. If we will not curtail the patriotic bloat attached to professional sports, then we must protect the freedom for athletes to opt out. Contrary to Trump’s apparent wishes, NFL players should be allowed to stay in the locker room during the national anthem, and there should be no pressure for them to do otherwise.
It is silly to argue, as some have, that because the government would not be directly mandating their participation, their freedom would not be infringed upon. Even if the president were not applying public pressure, it is imperative that freedom be preserved not just from government, but also from the mob. The legal protection of free speech (which necessarily includes the right to inaction and silence) will not long survive if it is culturally destroyed. With regard to the NFL and the rest of our nation’s sporting scene, we must be tolerant of those who, for reasons good or bad, do not wish to participate in the patriotic circus.
Mandatory patriotism isn’t patriotic.
Nathanael Blake has a PhD in political theory. He lives in Missouri.

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Looking at the poll numbers for Trump supporters, it would seem that there is strong support of TOTUS. This support is in spite of the dire actions taken against American citizens and US allies. The lack of comments by the GOP leaders in Congress should be awake up call for his supports and the Congress-will it be?.MA

JUNE 6, 2018
Kuttner on TAP
What Would Cause Republicans to Break With Trump? For the most part, Republicans have been far too willing to enable Trump’s personal corruption, his sellouts of the national interest for personal gain, and a broad array of impulsive and incoherent policies. But even Republicans have their limits.
The big red line is still firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It would provoke an open break. Even Trump, in his stupor of Fox News fawning and genuflecting aides, knows that.
Lately, there have been other encouraging signs. A bipartisan discharge petition forcing House floor action on DACA is very close to having sufficient signatures. Trump’s implacable opposition is actually increasing support.
On Trump’s sellout of national security policy to quarantine the Chinese telecom producer ZTE, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida led a bipartisan bloc of 27 senators to protest.
And Trump’s general incoherence on trade policy is producing unified big-business opposition. However much Republican legislators find it expedient to align with Trump, they will not abandon big business.
One other factor could turn Republican legislative distancing from Trump into a stampede—the scent of an election blowout in November. In hard-core Tea Party territory, Trump is still an asset. But in the dozens of suburban House swing districts held by Republicans, he is increasingly toxic. The more of a liability he seems, the more Republicans will feel free to attack him.
The year 2018 will be remembered as the moment when Americans lost their democracy, or took it back. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

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By David J. Lynch 6 hrs ago

The Washington Post

 

Bill Adler was invited last year to bid on a contract to make commercial sausage stuffers for a company that wanted to replace its Chinese supplier. The customer had just one non­negotiable demand: Match China’s price.

Adler, owner of metal-parts maker Stripmatic Products, thought he could. But even as he readied his proposal, talk of President Trump’s steel tariffs sent the price of Stripmatic’s main raw material soaring.
In April, with prices up nearly 50 percent from October and the first wave of tariffs in place, Adler’s bid failed. His costs were too high.
Today, instead of taking business from China, Adler worries about hanging onto the work he has. He hopes that the president’s tariffs are just a negotiating tactic.
“It’s got to be short-term, or I’ve got to find another way to make a living,” Adler said, only half joking. “It’s going to be an ugly scenario if it doesn’t end quickly.”
Stripmatic’s plight is an example of the hidden costs of Trump’s “America First” protectionism. During decades of increasing globalization, leaders of both political parties reassured critics that the gains from trade were dispersed across myriad less-expensive products — and thus often difficult to identify — while the costs were obvious every time a factory closed.
Now, as Trump seeks to unwind globalization, that logic operates in reverse. The gains from protectionism can be seen in the new solar plants and reopened steel mills that his various tariffs are encouraging and that the president often celebrates.
But the full costs of his policies — in investments foregone and workers not hired — escape casual scrutiny. If Stripmatic’s experience is any guide, protectionism may already be backfiring on Americans and undermining Trump’s stated goal of reclaiming manufacturing from China.
“That is absolutely the lesson,” said economist Phil Levy, who worked on trade policy in the George W. Bush White House. “It is a supply chain. The administration has favored the first link over the later links in the chain. The net effect helps neither American manufacturing nor national security.”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has minimized the economic cost of Trump’s tariffs, claiming the steel and aluminum tariffs will add a “very small fraction of 1 percent” to prices across the economy, he recently told CNBC. U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer has said that tariffs the administration may impose on Chinese goods have been selected to minimize the impact on consumers.
But tariffs on materials used to make other products ripple through the entire economy. Trump’s steel levies were designed to punish China for swamping global markets with state-subsidized metals and to promote U.S. manufacturing. From where Adler sits, they appear to be doing the opposite. By raising the cost of a key manufacturing input, the tariffs are making many U.S. companies less competitive.
Discouraging metal imports benefits U.S. steel producers. But it also translates into a surplus of steel in markets outside the United States and thus lower prices for U.S. competitors.
As steel prices in the United States rise, Adler worries they will pinch his employees’ bonuses and profit-sharing checks. The 25 percent increase in Stripmatic’s sales that he anticipated from the sausage stuffercontract, the $1 million in new factory investment and the 10 new jobs it would have created have evaporated.
“If it wasn’t for the increase that came on because of the threat of tariffs, then I honestly believe we’d be supplying these domestically,” Adler said of the machines that pack ground meat into sausage casings. “This directly affects my life, my employees, my investments.”
In a $20 trillion economy, 10 jobs may not seem significant. But Trump’s frequent use of tariffs has sparked protests from farmers and industry groups that will be hurt by the administration’s import levies or retaliation from U.S. trading partners. The cumulative cost of the president’s higher import taxes will be a net loss of more than 400,000 jobs, according to a new study by the Trade Partnership, a pro-trade research consultancy.
A bipartisan group of 34 lawmakers wrote to Lighthizer on May 30 warning of “significant unintended adverse conse­quences for the United States” if the tariff wars continue. Republican senators including Bob Corker of Tennessee and Mike Lee of Utah are exploring legislation to limit the president’s ability to erect such trade barriers.
Yet if tiny Stripmatic demonstrates the double-edged nature of tariffs as an instrument of economic policy, the company’s experience should offer minimal comfort to the president’s political adversaries.
Despite the market turmoil unleashed by the president’s actions, Adler remains appreciative of the business tax cut that Trump secured last year and the administration’s broader deregulation efforts.
He was a reluctant Trump voter in 2016 and remains wary of the president’s bombastic style. But Adler likes having someone in the White House who respects business owners in a way that he doesn’t believe leading Democrats do.
With a new General Motors order for SUV parts, business is good — for now. This year, Adler added eight workers and spent $1.3 million on new factory equipment.
But times would have been better if he had landed that big food- processing-equipment contract. Rising labor costs in China and Stripmatic’s increasing efficiency gave him a real shot at a major win. He blames Trump’s trade policies for costing him the job and for imperiling Stripmatic’s future, as almost one-quarter of his sales come from abroad.
“Our customers source on a global market,” he said. “I’m going to be at least 30 to 40 percent disadvantaged on steel. . . . I’ve lost my competitive advantage.”
Stripmatic, dating to 1946, is among thousands of mostly unknown manufacturing companies that make up the backbone of industrial America. From a 60,000-square-foot plant just off the highway a few miles south of downtown Cleveland, Adler’s roughly 40-person team churns out tubular metal products.
Most are unremarkable parts that fit inside larger components, such as shock absorbers, or structural spacers that support the frame of Dodge Ram trucks and Jeep Wranglers. The company specializes in mass production of carbon steel parts.
Adler, 61, a Cleveland native, worked briefly in a local steel mill while attending college and then sold aluminum for several years before buying the company in 1992 with his wife, Liz. In about five years, they built the company to about $8 million in sales from less than $1 million and retired their debt.
But Chinese factories emerged as low-cost competitors with China’s 2001 membership in the World Trade Organization. As several of his large customers turned to less expensive Chinese rivals, Adler fine-tuned his operations to reduce waste.
He introduced automatic sensors that could check more than 100 parts every minute, more than three times the number a human could handle, and shifted his workers into higher-skilled positions.
“We were able to become more competitive and maintain our profit margins,” he said.
Adler is a veteran of an earlier bout of protectionism, the 2002 steel tariffs, which pushed one-fifth of U.S. metal-stamping businesses into collapse, according to the Census Bureau. Stripmatic laid off a handful of workers and froze hiring for four years.
Sales stagnated for several years, but Adler hung on. Efforts to diversify away from a near-total dependence on the auto industry into products such as plastic toys never worked out. That’s one reason the recent loss of the food-processing job was so painful.
Inside the factory, enormous metal presses rhythmically pound rolls of steel into auto and truck parts, the noises resounding like an industrial orchestra. The modern arc of metal stamping is on display, from a modified century-old device that bends unused steel into tight coils to a 4,000-watt laser-welding station at the opposite end of the plant, which instantly stitches a tight seal on metal parts.
Massive yellow, blue and green bins hold tens of thousands of metal parts. Roughly 20 percent are exported to factories in Mexico; an additional few percentage points go to Taiwan and Brazil.
As he stands on the plant floor, a ruddy-faced Adler wonders what this scene will look like in a few months. He’s in a fiercely competitive business, and his profits will melt if Trump’s tariffs remain indefinitely.
Already, prices for one type of steel that Adler uses — hot-rolled coil — are roughly twice what they were when Trump was elected, according to one widely used Midwestern index. And they are headed higher. “I don’t think they’re done yet. That’s the problem,” said Tony Scrima, 58, his plant manager, who’s worked here since he was 18.
Adler’s big worry is his Mexican customers. He hopes they won’t bolt for a cheaper, non-American alternative. But he can’t be sure what the president plans. “I try to erase what he says and look at the [economic] levers he’s pulling,” Adler said. “Is this all a negotiating tool to end up with a good result? I don’t know. But if it is, it’s got to go fast.”

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