All posts by kanelis2012

CBO verdict is in: health care bill is ‘mean’

The Congressional Budget Office doesn’t use language such as “mean” to assess its analysis of legislation, but that’s what one can surmise of its latest analysis of a key Senate bill.

The CBO today turned in its “score” of the Senate Republican-passed health care legislation and it has told us:

* 22 million more Americans are going to be uninsured.

* The budget deficit will be cut more than $300 billion over the next decade, but that’s because of cuts in Medicaid spending for those Americans with financial need.

* There will be lower premiums, but there also will be less coverage.

It’s still a “mean” overhaul

Donald J. Trump said he wanted a less “mean” health care insurance plan than what the House of Representatives approved. The CBO score suggests that the Senate version of health care overhaul doesn’t make the grade.

Is the GOP plan in trouble? That depends on who’s doing the talking. Since this blog gives me a voice to speak out, I’ll suggest that Senate Republicans on the fence or leaning against the overhaul well might be inclined to vote “no” on this new plan if it comes to a vote later this week.

The president promised he wouldn’t touch Medicaid, that Americans who rely on Medicaid will continue to rely on it once he repealed and replaced the Affordable Care Act with something else.

It looks to me as though this promise won’t be kept.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has his work cut out for him as he looks for the votes to approve this bill.

Court (more or less) restores Trump’s travel ban

The notion of banning people from entering this nation because they come from places where most citizens practice a certain religion remains repugnant to me.

The United States of America is supposed to stand for a principle that welcomes all citizens of the world. That’s no longer the case.

Donald J. Trump’s ban on folks coming from six Muslim-majority nations has been kinda/sorta restored by the U.S. Supreme Court, which today issued a 6-3 ruling to back the president. Today’s ruling overturns a lower court decision that threw out the ban on the basis that it discriminates against people because of their religion.

What does it mean? I guess it bans anyone who comes here who lacks any “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

Others can come in, according to the court.

My question remains the same: Will any of this make us safer against international terrorists? I do not believe that’s the case.

It’s just a partial ban

Nothing in the president’s initiative prevents U.S. citizens from committing acts of terror. The U.S. Army psychiatrist who killed those folks at Fort Hood in November 2009 is an American, to cite just one example.

I continue to cling to the notion that “extreme vetting,” which the president also has called for, isn’t a bad thing by itself. Indeed, U.S. customs and immigration officials need to do better at ensuring at points of entry that everyone coming here does not pose a threat; they’re doing that already.

Today’s ruling only settles it temporarily. The court’s next term begins in October and the justices will take it up fully then.

Score one for the president, though. He got a ruling he can live with, even though it won’t do a thing to make us safer against those who would harm us.

Planned Parenthood: classic political football

Oh, how I wish there were more U.S. Senate Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine. Or Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

These two GOP moderate lawmakers are standing firm in their desire to see Planned Parenthood retain its federal government support. They dislike the Senate Republicans’ draft of a bill to overhaul the Affordable Care Act because it cuts money for Planned Parenthood for a year.

You see, we now have the makings of a political football game, with Planned Parenthood being the ball and competing forces within the Republican Party — not to mention the Democratic Party — kicking it all over the proverbial field.

Debate will get heated.

“There are already longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion, so this is not what this debate is about. And Planned Parenthood is an important provider of healthcare services, including family planning and cancer screenings for millions of Americans, particularly women,” Collins said.

Abortion, that’s the kicker. Which means that abortion is at the epicenter of this particular discussion.

Senate and House conservatives detest Planned Parenthood because it does provide abortion referrals to women seeking to end their pregnancies. Last time I looked, it’s a legal activity. According to the “true believers,” though, Planned Parenthood is sanctioning the “murder of unborn children” and therefore its mission is steeped in evil intent.

Collins, though, is correct to point out two things about Planned Parenthood. One is that Congress already has written into law restrictions on federal funding for abortion; two is that Planned Parenthood provides a number of vital health care services for Americans.

But the organization is going to get kicked around, mauled, chewed up and spit out as competing legislative factions argue over whether the new health care legislation should use taxpayer money to keep it functioning.

I’m on Sen. Collins’s side.

This young man is the next superstar?

Jordan Spieth seems like a quiet young man. He hails from Dallas. He plays golf for a living. He’s pretty good at it, too.

He won a golf tournament over the weekend by sinking a shot out of a sand bunker. Spectacular stuff, to be sure. For a golf fan who is still waiting for the return of its most recent super-duper star, a guy named Tiger, I am pleased to see another young man emerge to capture the attention of the golfing world.

Golf is about as statistic-happy a sport as, say, baseball. Consider this little tidbit the announcers tossed into our laps: Spieth, who’s 23 years of age, is the second-youngest player ever to win his 10th professional golf event. The youngest is the aforementioned Tiger Woods; the third youngest is a guy out of Ohio named Jack Nicklaus.

Think about that for a moment. Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Jack Nicklaus.

The young Texan surely understands that he currently is walking among some pretty tall cotton.

Amarillo mayor is talkin’ baseball

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson is sounding mighty pleased these days, with good reason.

The city scored a big win this past week with an announcement that a minor league baseball franchise is pulling up stakes and relocating to the city she has helped govern for the past few weeks.

The San Antonio Missions will play ball at the new ballpark/multipurpose event venue to be built in downtown Amarillo. They’ll start their 2019 season in April of that year and the plan is for them to stay possibly for decades, depending on the number of contract extensions they sign.

OK, we don’t yet know the name of the new team, but a couple of things jumped out at me as I watched Nelson’s TV interview this past weekend.

* She credits the weather as being a big selling point for the Elmore Group deciding to move the Missions to Amarillo. That’s a bit of a surprise. Nelson said the weather from “April to September” is ideal for evening baseball. Low humidity, “downtown wind,” placid temperatures after the sun goes down all worked in Amarillo’s favor to luring the team here.

But … but … but what about those infamous spring winds, Mme. Mayor? Isn’t there a standing joke here about how, if you don’t like the weather, “just wait 10 minutes”? Let’s hope for the best on that one.

* Nelson also answered a valid question about the cost of the multipurpose event venue and how it’s going to cost more than that what the non-binding referendum in November 2015 called for. That measure pegged the price at $32 million; the current price tag is $45.5 million. “That’s an apples and oranges” comparison, Nelson told KAMR’s Jackie Kingston.

The referendum presumed an “independent baseball team” would be playing at the MPEV. The Missions are a major league-affiliated minor league AA team, which she said will provide a much better entertainment product for fans to enjoy.

See the interview here.

I am in the mayor’s corner in celebrating the pending arrival of this new entertainment feature to Amarillo. I’ve noted before, but I believe it bears repeating: I see no downside in the city’s effort to its downtown district.

Good call, Sen. Ernst; ask your ‘bosses’

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, is doing something quite useful.

Sen. Ernst says she is undecided on the Senate Republican health care overhaul plan designed to replace the Affordable Care Act. Her response? She wants to poll her constituents back home. She wants their opinion on what the Senate GOP wants to do to — or with — their health care insurance.

How about that, dear reader? She wants her bosses to weigh in, to give her advice on what she should do when this matter comes to a vote, possibly as early as this week.

Here’s the deal, though. It’s fair to wonder a couple of things about the freshman senator.

Is she truly undecided, or has she secretly made up her mind and is using the poll as a ruse? And if she polls her constituents, will the questions be fair, without a hint of bias? You know how these surveys can work. If you ask questions a certain way, you can elicit certain answers.

Sen. Ernst might not have much time to collect responses from her Iowa constituents. I’ll hope for the best for her and hope that she’ll do the right thing by asking the questions straight up and will act on what her constituents tell her … one way or the other.

If her bosses back home share the views of so many other Americans — that they detest the GOP alternative — I think I know what they’ll tell her if they’re given the chance to speak freely.

Trump and evangelicals: strangest union of all

Donald J. Trump has just selected Jerry Falwell Jr. to lead a task force aimed at overhauling public education policy.

The president of the United States has linked arms with the head of a leading faith-based university; Falwell also is the son of the late televangelist who used his pulpit to attack President and Mrs. Bill Clinton throughout the president’s two terms in office.

This appointment brings to mind a curiosity I’ve harbored ever since Trump entered political life, which is when he announced his candidacy for president in June 2015.

Falwell joins Trump team

My question of the moment is this: How does this man, Trump, continue to win the support of many within the Christian evangelical movement?

Falwell Jr. has called Trump a “dream come true” for evangelicals. He just cannot say enough gushy things about the president, who delivered his first commencement speech at Liberty University, the school that Falwell’s father founded.

If you think about it, though, the relationship strains credulity to the max.

Trump has not been known as a major contributor to religious causes; he hasn’t been associated with faith-based charities; his whole life has been filled with glitz and glamor, chiefly through his association with and ownership of beauty pageants; he is married to his third wife and has boasted publicly about his infidelity involving his first two marriages; Trump also has boasted about how he can grab women by the p**** because his celebrity status allows him to do it.

But he’s tough on Muslims, vows to destroy the Islamic State, wants to impose a travel ban on refugees coming here from Muslim-majority nations. Maybe that’s why Falwell and many within the evangelical community are smitten by the president.

I concede that political alliances can take form among groups or individuals one might not imagine banding together. This one, though, baffles me greatly.

The president’s history is full of episodes that would seem to send devoutly religious voters scurrying for someone more, um, to their liking.

Go figure. I cannot fathom it.

‘Hoax’ becomes fodder for blame-shifting?

I need to follow this stuff more carefully, I reckon.

Donald John Trump had been telling us that the Russian-meddling story was a “hoax,” a product of “fake news,” a figment of progressives’ and Democrats’ overactive imagination.

The president has yet to condemn the Russians for doing what intelligence agencies have concluded, which is that they sought to influence the 2016 presidential election through use of cyber activity.

Oh, but then comes this. He now blames the Obama administration for failing to stop the Russians in their tracks when President Obama was in office.

Which is it, Mr. President? Is the Russia story a made-up tale of intrigue meant to discredit your election as commander in chief? Or is it the real thing, something that now enables you to shift responsibility for ending it to your immediate predecessor as president of the United States?

Good grief, Mr. President? Keep it straight for us.

Happy Trails, Part 27

My wife and I have discovered another of the many advantages of aging.

It involves — usually — an alert local resident in a place where one travels.

We have just returned from a two-plus-week journey Back East. Our most easterly destination was Washington, D.C., where we visited our niece and her husband.

We were holed up in an RV park in suburban Dumfries, Va., about 12 miles from a train station where we would board the Metro for a 20-minute ride into “the district.”

On our final full day in the D.C. area, we went to the Metro station realizing we had to put more money on our “Smart Cards” that enabled us to ride the train.

We approached the wall containing the automatic machines where we would replenish our cards. I guess we looked like two old folks who didn’t have a clue about what we were about to do — which was accurate.

Immediately upon arriving at the wall with the machines, a Metro employee swooped in. “Do you need help?” he asked in a heavily accented voice; he clearly was not an American. “Yes,” we both said in unison.

“OK, how much money do you want to put on the cards?” he asked. “Where are you going?” We told him our destination. He barked out rapid-fire orders. When we didn’t respond quickly enough, he started punching the keys himself.

“Does this amount cover a round trip fare?” I asked. “Oh, you want to come back?” he responded. “We have to add more money.” So he did.

Boom! Just like that. We were done.

“Have a great day ,” he said with a broad smile.

Then I asked: “Did we look like two old people who didn’t know what they were doing?”

“Um, yes,” he said without hesitation.

Hey, getting old ain’t so bad.

Hard to keep track of what Trump likes, loathes

If you’re keeping tabs on the president’s tweets and assorted public statements, then you’ve got your hands full.

When the U.S. House of Representatives approved its American Health Care Act by the narrowest of margins, Donald J. Trump called the GOP-authored-and-passed bill “spectacular.”

Then he tweeted that it is “mean.”

Then tweeted about the draft U.S. Senate plan — again crafted solely by Republicans. He says now, with a vote scheduled for later this week, that the Senate plan is far better than the House plan.

OK, Mr. President. We keep hearing how you make decisions based on the last person to have your attention. Which of these plans is the suitable replacement for the Affordable Care Act, which you once said would be “easy” to replace, but now you say is “hard”?

I cannot begin to possibly keep up with this guy’s ever-evolving stance — on anything and everything!