OK, try this health care bill

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has released yet another health care bill, designed to pick up support from both conservative and moderate Republicans who opposed the previous version for different reasons.

This new plan to replace–or, some say, revise–Obamacare keeps more of that program’s taxes and provides more money for opioid addiction, low-income subsidies, and insurance company relief.  A proposal aimed at conservatives is to allow insurance companies to offer stripped-down policies–not loaded up with government requirements–at a low cost.

McConnell can pass the bill with only two Republican defections.  Senators Rand Paul (Kentucky) and Susan Colllins (Maine) have already said they won’t support the revised bill.  (Ten Republican senators rejected the earlier option.)  So he has to win over the rest.

Do you think this bill is enough of an improvement to pass?  Do you think it should?  Details of the plan after the jump. [Read more…]

Why it was good that we broke away from Britain

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Some say that the American revolution was not really necessary.  That staying with Great Britain would not mean the loss of freedoms or succumbing to tyranny.  Great Britain and its former colonies that are now autonomous members of the Commonwealth under the monarchy are quite free today.  If the American colonies didn’t have their revolution, today they would be like Canada.  And is that so bad?

What do you think of that argument?  After the jump, consider three examples of how the British system makes the state far more powerful over individual citizens, whose rights have far fewer protections, than in the American system. [Read more…]

Russian adoptions and the Donald Trump Jr. meeting

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President Trump’s son, Donald, Jr., admits that after his father’s nomination, he met with a Russian lawyer who said that she could provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton.  But that he and his father’s key advisors Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner walked out when her story didn’t amount to anything and it became clear that what she really wanted to talk about was Russia’s adoption policy.

On the surface, this would seem to be a case of the Russians trying to influence the election.  Why else would they offer damaging information about the Democratic nominee to the Republican nominee?  Wouldn’t this be an attempt to help get the Republican elected?

But there is more to the story.  As Natasha Bertrand shows, after the jump, the lawyer represents a Russian who is trying to restore the ability of Americans to adopt Russian children.

In response to an American law denying visas to Russian officials and oligarchs alleged to have been involved with the killing in custody of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.  In retaliation, Vladimir Putin ended the program allowing for Americans to adopt children from Russian orphanages.  (I know a family that adopted two Russian boys.)

To be sure, the Russian who started a foundation to restore American adoptions and sent his lawyer to talk with the Trump family may well have had ulterior motives in wanting the Magnitsky Act repealed.  He may or may not have connections to the Russian government.  He may well have been working for his own interests in trying to persuade the Republican candidate to take up his cause.

So, contrary to how this is being played in much of the media, this is not “a smoking gun” proving the Trump’s administration’s collusion with the Russia government in throwing the election.  I just wish Donald, Jr., were less interested in getting dirt on Hillary Clinton and more interested in restoring the Russian adoption program!

Read the complicated story of the Magnitsky Act and this particular Russian lawyer after the jump.

UPDATE:  The New York Times is reporting that in an e-mail setting up the meeting, Donald, Jr., was told that it was part of an effort by the Russian government to help his father’s candidacy.

[Read more…]

Happy birthday to America

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One of the few things Americans can agree on these days–conservatives or liberals, Republicans or Democrats, Trump supporters or Trump resisters–is that our government is highly dysfunctional.  Whether you believe we need to drain the swamp or turn the rascals out, you may well be sick of Washington, D.C., and all that it has become.

But the government is not America.  As bad as things can get among our leaders, our country keeps plugging along.  A free society is not totally dependent on government.  Our customs, our history, our ideals, our land, and our people define our nation.

Yes, we need to fix our government and maybe that is starting to happen.  But we also need to make sure it doesn’t get too big and too effective, less it encroach upon its citizens’ independence.  So happy Independence Day!

Our government was born on June 21, 1788, when the Constitution was ratified.  But the United States of America began on July 4, 1776.  That’s a distinction worth keeping in mind.  So happy birthday, America!

Lutheran church wins Supreme Court case

Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) of Columbia, Missouri, won its case at the Supreme Court.  The state of Missouri had denied its application for a program to use shredded rubber to make its playground more safe, invoking a state law against taxpayer money going to a religious institution.

Said Chief Justice John Roberts in the decision, “the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.”

The vote was 7-2, with Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissenting.

This was the second Missouri Synod congregation to successfully petition the Supreme Court in an important church/state case.  In 2012, the court ruled that Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Church could define its “ministers” as it wishes, throwing out a discrimination suit from a teacher in its school who was fired.

[Read more…]

Supreme Court lifts stay on travel ban & will hear the Wedding Cake case

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The Supreme Court re-instated President Trump’s travel ban, in part, and will hear the case in October.

The court also agreed to hear the case of the Colorado baker who was found guilty of discrimination for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage.  The baker claims that his religious liberty and his freedom of expression were violated.

[Read more…]