News Judgment in Question, Including Star’s Emphasis on KU

As a long-time journalist, I always prided myself in making good news judgments. In retirement, I spend considerable time reading newspapers and watching TV news. I find myself disagreeing so many times with the play of stories nowadays.

Hillary Clinton’s emails draw way too much attention on cable TV. The continual barrage is so misguided. The right-wingers have fanned the flames of conspiracies in regards to quid pro quo offenses by Hillary, whether it’s Benghazi or the Clinton Foundation. Please, someone show me where there has been a heinous crime — or for that matter, any malfeasance — as a result of her email interchanges. The news media cherry-pick facts, continually repeat the same videos of Donald Trump rapping the emails and load shows with Republican proponents.

Then there’s the way overplayed story about Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. Okay, geez, he admitted he was drunk when he lied about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio. Yes, he’s not a kid anymore. He’s 32 and should know better. Yes, he and three fellow American swimmers vandalized a gas station. Is that worth all the attention in a 24/7 news cycle on cable TV? I think not. He’s being penalized. Enough of the story. Please.

Here’s a local one that really got to me. Let’s get to the announcement by the Kansas City Star that they have hired Gary Bedore from the Lawrence Journal-World to cover only University of Kansas basketball. The Star already has a KU beat writer so Bedore will complement that. How much KU basketball news can you absorb, dear Jayhawk reader?

What does this say about how the Star feels about fans of Kansas State or the MIAA schools?

Well, I wrote to Jeff Rosen, the Star’s sports editor, and voiced my concerns. Am I wrong about focusing on the obvious KU favoritism? No matter, et’s take a look at some of the exchange I had with Rosen.

The story about adding more KU basketball to the sports page took me aback. Does this mean we’re going to get KU basketball all year long? Is that all Bedore is going to do? Unreal. Do you not believe that this gives KU an upper hand over the other schools in the area, as far as publicity goes?

I would venture to say that if you checked demographics that the MIAA schools would far outnumber KU in counting alumni. In other words, are you paying attention to the makeup of your readership potential? You all do poorly in covering the MIAA and this KU deal seems to me to be an inadequate use of resources in serving your readers.

Bill Self is the best college coach in America. KU basketball is terrific. But the world of many of your readers doesn’t revolve around KU basketball.

When I worked at the Star many years ago, we were always accused of favoring KU over Missouri and Kansas State. However, we did an in-house study of that charge and found the number of inches through the seasons were quite similar. You won’t be able to show that now.

Maybe you can explain more fully what Bedore is going to be doing. I simply can’t imagine a steady diet of KU basketball. Well, for that matter, I can’t explain a lot of things the sports department does these days.

To Rosen’s credit, he took the time to write back. He said Bedore was going to write mainly for a KU-specific app and website, adding, “Some of his work will appear in The Star, too, but not all of it. Much of what he writes will simply be too narrowly focused to be of interest to many of our readers.”

Equality in coverage remains important, he said, but added that the newspaper is also looking to more advanced measures to determine where its best moves lie. The demand for more KU basketball coverage is local, regional and national in nature, he said.

Soon after the announcement of Bedore’s hire, Rosen said, the paper received “literally hundreds of messages and phone calls thanking us for bringing him aboard. At the same time, we’ve received two messages saying we were misguided. Two.”

This was anecdotal, he conceded, and I wondered where all the Missouri fans were.

He believes the calls help show that a large percentage of the Star’s readership cares deeply about this one narrowly focused area of coverage, and wants more of it.

Hmm, I wondered. I have considerable anecdotal evidence that many of the Star’s readers miss the box scores, mainly of major league baseball, and yet the number hasn’t swayed the sports staff to run them.

Rosen agreed the MIAA had a wide audience, but he said readers looking for this coverage were  primarily interested in news about their respective school. He addressed what my argument would be: “A few, such as yourself, might take exception with my assertion, and reply that you care about all schools in the conference, but our experience has shown that to be the exception, not the rule.”

As for the fairness concern, he conceded that the sports desk would be devoting more inches to KU than to Missouri and Kansas State, then added, “But I guarantee you won’t see those inches going toward the woeful KU football program.”

The Journal-World was sold recently and Bedore was laid off. Rosen said, “Hiring him was what we needed to do.”

If KU ever loses, will the stories diminish? Will Rosen lay off Bedore?

The move, he said, is to capitalize on the moment at hand, when KU is a national phenomenon and the man “most synonymous with coverage of the program just happened to fall into our lap.”

I don’t agree with a lot of what he said. One such area was the part about the MIAA fans being parochial. Of course, that is how the sports department approaches the Big 12 — that readers aren’t interested in all the schools.

Of course winning creates interest and KU’s basketball team does a whole lot of that. But is that the criterion for devoting space and energy for stories. The Star provides oodles of stories about the Chiefs. They certainly haven’t been putting up great records. Losing is also newsworthy.

And I have a hunch Missouri and Kansas State fans are not happy that KU is getting the upper hand in the Star’s coverage. If the sports staff is concerned about alienating readers, they made the choice. Plus, I believe this reflects poor news judgment.

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Republicans Continue Multi-Level War Against Health Insurance

The focus on the presidential campaign continues a steady course on the shortcomings of Donald Trump. As it should. However, there’s one policy area that everyone who wants to maintain a livable lifestyle should keep to the forefront. And that’s health insurance.

Yeah, go ahead and criticize the Affordable Care Act. But you need to know, despite your anxiety over the costs, that rates would be considerably higher for most folks without ACA involved.

Obamacare has allowed 20 million more Americans to buy health insurance. That’s something that should be praised, not denigrated.

Tom Bell, president and CEO of Kansas Hospital Association, is fighting the insurance disablers on the state front, pointing to Governor Sam Brownback’s plan to tax hospitals.

In a press release, he said, “The Governor has stated that he wants to increase the current hospital provider tax to replace his four percent Medicaid provider reimbursement cut … and to help struggling rural hospitals. The Governor seems to be saying that in order to reverse the four percent rate cuts, he is going to increase a tax on the very entities those cuts are hurting. That is at best inconsistent, and more likely it will exacerbate the problems being faced by health care providers.”

The Governor’s hospital tax increase, just like his Medicaid cut announcement, shows a lack of understanding of the interdependence of Kansas hospitals specifically, and the Kansas health care system in general, Bell said. All  hospitals are challenged by the Medicaid cuts and all hospitals will be even more challenged by an increase in the hospital provider tax, he noted.

“And consequently, every community, large and small, will feel its effects,” he said.

You know what? The insurance siutation could get better throughout the country. How? A government-run public option program. Oh, there they go. Socialized medicine, the right wing-nuts cry. Look, take notice. It can work. One way is that the mere power of having so many involved would help keep the costs of prescription drugs down.

President Obama has revived his endorsement of such a plan, one that would compete with private plans on the ACA’s exchange marketplaces.

Progressives tried like the dickens to get the public option approved six years ago but Congress failed to get the job done, instead getting ACA passed.

Obama believes a public option is needed to drive down insurance costs and promote greater choice. He made that clear in an article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association — the first time a sitting President had written for the publication. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has reaffirmed her support for the policy.

“I am as confident as ever that looking back 20 years from now, the nation will be better off because of having the courage to pass this law and persevere,” Obama wrote.

Republicans in Congress have attempted to repeal Obamacare more than 60 times since the landmark health care reform act was signed into law in 2012. None of them has been successful.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, breathlessly promoted an Obamacare alternative for six years. Finally, on June 22, he unveiled what Republicans are calling their version of health care — a 37-page document that reads like a mission statement and lacks any details.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, told a roundtable of reporters, “It’s not a bill. It isn’t scored. We’re trying to figure out how many people would lose insurance.”

Ryan’s plan calls for repealing almost all of the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with such measures as setting up “high-risk pools” for people with costly illnesses and raising premiums for older consumers to lower rates for younger adults. In some cases, it would allow health insurers to return to the practice of denying insurance to people with pre-existing conditions.

According to published news reports, the plan is nowhere near the full-scale replacement of the Affordable Care Act that Republicans have been promising. It has no details on costs, the size of its tax credits or how many people would be covered.

Pelosi was upset that the plan would turn Medicare into a voucher program for future retirees and raise the retirement age above 65: “The big zit on the face of his proposal is the raising the age … for Medicare. I mean, that’s a nonstarter. So if you didn’t need to know anything else about his proposal, know that.”

The Ryan proposal: Give seniors vouchers, labeled premium support, and let them shop around for an insurance plan they like. The problem is that  Medicare is a single government program that guarantees a fixed level of benefits; private insurers can offer alternative plans, but those policies are subject to strict rules that result in coverage that’s no less generous than what the existing program offers.

Critics say the voucher schemes are simply a roundabout way of giving seniors less health care. Where would the savings come in an alternative plan? Well, from seniors getting much less coverage. With such a scheme, traditional Medicare would not survive, forcing all seniors to take private insurance.

Obama’s reflection on his signature domestic achievement practically reads as a review of his entire presidency. In the article he wrote for the journal, he points to  “hyperpartisanship” by Republicans, who are still trying to repeal the law. He also makes the case that the ACA is proof of his conviction that major problems can be solved despite the noxious politics surrounding it.

He supported the public option but abandoned it to gain health care industry backing to secure votes in the Senate to pass the ACA.

Obama’s stance on the public option highlights the progressive shift in Democratic politics propelled in large measure by the success of the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont. Clinton’s support for some form of public option re-emerged during Sanders’ primary challenge, culminating in a joint announcement by both candidates.

The case for the public option is that a government program can achieve cost savings using mechanisms not available to the private sector, including reducing payments to medical providers and avoiding administrative costs, similar to how Medicare and Medicaid operate.

Key senators during the ACA debate, including Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, and Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, also rejected the public option and refused to support legislation that included it. Sanders and other progressive lawmakers voted for the ACA after threatening to deny their support if it lacked a public option.

All four that took a more conservative approach to health care didn’t last past their terms — Lieberman and Nelson retired and Lincoln and Landrieu lost re-election bids.

Democrats need to remain focused on maintaining a sound health care system.

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Liberals Push Against Austerity to Build More Solid Economy

For many, many years, Republicans have skewered anything and everything about government aid. They believe government’s primary aim is to provide the country with defense against the enemy. They believe in the individual, not team play.

Of course that is foolish and fallacious. The government needs to maintain a system that elevates all to perform at maximum strength.

So just how does a country support such a system? With taxes, right. Ay, there’s the rub.

Has the Republican fight to cut and cut and cut the budget helped? Of course not.

They keep baying like beagles chasing a rabbit that the economic recovery from the Great Recession is the slowest in history. They don’t mention how difficult it is to rebound from the disastrous supply side policies of President George W. Bush’s administration.

The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal group, published a study that says the slow recovery from the 2008 recession is due to Republican policies on the local, state and federal levels.

The rationale in the EPI report blames: Republican-led budget cuts in 2011 following the debate over the U.S. debt ceiling, the unwillingness of local officials to spend money when Republicans in Congress were advocating cuts in spending and the refusal to expand Medicaid in 19 states.

In other words, the Republican austerity plan failed to provide momentum to the economy.

The report comes as the Republican party once again calls for the reining in of government spending and reductions in the deficit.

“Given the degree of damage inflicted by the Great Recession and the restricted ability of monetary policy to aid recovery, historically expansionary fiscal policy was required to return the U.S. economy to full health,” Josh Bivens, research and policy director at EPI, wrote.

“But this government spending not only failed to rise fast enough to spur a rapid recovery, it outright contracted, and this policy choice fully explains why the economy is only partially recovered from the Great Recession a full seven years after its official end.”

The government would have had to spend an additional $1 trillion in 2015 alone to match the spending that followed the 1980s recession, Bivens said. While such spending might run up the deficit, it would also have led to “several years of full employment” and the Federal Reserve increasing interest rates.

The study reported that the ability of conventional monetary policy to spur recovery after the Great Recession was more limited than in any other postwar recovery.

“Taking this argument to its logical conclusion, the sluggishness of the current recovery arises from a prolonged failure to fill the gap between aggregate demand and the economy’s potential output,” the study showed. “Of course, part of the reason that the job recovery took so long following the Great Recession is that so many more jobs were lost. However, even the annual pace of employment growth following the Great Recession’s trough was relatively sluggish; only the recovery following the 2001 recession was slower.”

After the Great Recession, the economy was more damaged than it had been after any other recession in postwar history, and low interest rates and low inflation meant that conventional monetary policy had much less scope than in the past to aid recovery. The implication for fiscal policy should have been clear, the study said.

“The most direct way for policymakers to fill the aggregate-demand gap that is underlying a recession is through public spending,” according to the study. “But public spending following the recession’s trough in 2009 has been historically slow relative to other business cycles, even though the ability of monetary policy has been constricted.”

At the state and local level, slow growth of public spending is even more pronounced, and state and local policymakers deserve blame for adopting austere spending policies.

However, even despite the fact that most of the slow growth in total spending during this recovery can be accounted for by state and local spending trends, the lion’s share of the blame for fiscal austerity during the recovery should still accrue to congressional Republicans, the study said, adding, “The reason for this is simple: State and local policymakers face spending constraints that do not apply to federal policymakers. Most specifically, these state and local policymakers by and large have to balance the operating portions of their budgets by law. They can admittedly borrow to finance long-run infrastructure projects, but have been unwilling to do so.”

The federal government, on the other hand, is free to run deficits, and, because it can print its own currency, bond vigilantes cannot spark a self-fulfilling financial crisis. Further, the study said, even during normal times, transfers from the federal government to states account for more than 20 percent of total state and local resources for spending, and there is no reason that federal aid to states could not have been more forthcoming.

Interestingly, while the Republicans back the industrial defense complex at most every turn, the apparent austerity of the early 1990s was driven by less defense spending, which fell from 6.9 percent of GDP in 1989 to just 4.0 percent in 1998.

Austerity policies in many European countries have led to economic downturns.

Thomas Fazi, writing in Social Europe, a digital news source, said earlier in the year, “Europe’s post-crisis response – consisting of a combination of fiscal austerity, neoliberal structural reforms and expansionary monetary policies – has unambiguously failed. In early 2016 – eight years after the outbreak of the financial crisis – the eurozone’s overall real GDP was still below the pre-crisis peak (March 2008).”

He noted that the Greek economy was 27.6 per cent smaller. Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy and France also suffered.

Overall, the euro area has experienced a stagnant annualized growth rate since the beginning of 2012. A very slight acceleration is expected in 2017, he wrote.

The stagnant euro area produced so much concern that England voted to get out of the European Union.

Back in the United States, the Democrats are pushing for more government programs to spur the economy — like rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. Through the years, Democratic administrations have plowed government funds into policies and the results have been effective in building robust financial outlooks. Austerity is not the answer.

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GOP Meanness Affects So Many in the Political Process

The things that right-wingers do to obfuscate certain political involvements border on paranoia that affects all levels of the process.

Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, spoke at the Republican National Convention in support of the party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, and says he never met the man. Evangelicals preach the good book and rail at the Democrats for unproven sins while standing by Trump’s lies. Missouri Republicans count on the support of the Christian Right but when 23 ministers went to the GOP-controlled Legislature to protest poor support for health insurance, they were arrested for trespassing.  Kansas state officials under Republican control abruptly canceled a series of public meetings on recent cuts made to KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, apparently to avoid negative publicity.

Among the 64 people advising Trump on agriculture policy are Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Roberts.

Roberts is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, the only person to serve both roles. Brownback was Kansas secretary of agriculture in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Both Brownback and Roberts attended the Republican National Convention last month in Cleveland, where Trump was formally nominated. Roberts spoke briefly in favor of the nominee and has reiterated his support for Trump, telling a town-hall crowd in Oskaloosa last week that Republicans should back him.

“He’s the nominee, regardless of what you think of his opinion, or whatever, or whether I agree with him,” Robert said. “He is unique, that’s for sure. But I don’t think it does us any good to get into all this infighting back and forth over the nominee.” Regardless of what you think of his opinion! Unreal.

Interesting, too, that Roberts said he had never met Trump.

Jonathan Merritt, writing in the Atlantic:  “Character counts.” That was evangelicals’ rallying cry in their all-out assault against Bill Clinton beginning in 1993. In response to what they perceived as widespread moral decline, some religious groups had become aligned with the Republican Party during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

“More than two decades after Clinton’s first inauguration,” Merritt wrote, “many evangelical leaders of that era have endorsed the draft-dodging, foul-mouthed, honesty-challenged womanizer named Donald Trump for president. Only a handful refuse to follow suit, including Albert Mohler, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. During the Clinton years, he regularly argued in mainstream media outlets that the Arkansan was morally unfit to serve as Commander-in-Chief.

“’If I were to support, much less endorse, Donald Trump for president,’ Mohler says, ‘I would actually have to go back and apologize to former President Bill Clinton.’”

The Medicaid 23” were arrested  in May 2014 after for failing to leave the Senate chamber after singing hymns and chanting for lawmakers to expand Medicaid eligibility. The ministers were spared jail time Thursday but still could face fines after being convicted of trespassing during the protests support of expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income adults.

Last Wednesday, jurors convicted the religious leaders of first-degree trespassing but acquitted them on charges of disrupting government operations. The ministers, most of them black and from the Kansas City area, could have faced up to six months in jail and up to a $500 fine. But it took jurors only about 10 minutes the next day to decide against jail time and instead recommend a fine. One of those arrested wasn’t present for jury selection earlier this week and is scheduled to be tried separately.

A Kansas City Star opinion piece included: “One of the convicted ministers needed assistance to rise and be seated again each time the judge and jury entered the Cole County courtroom.

“Others struggled with canes to climb the courthouse steps.

“The group of 23 stood up for the health care of poor Missourians, and got convicted for doing it. Democracy, the right to peacefully protest, took a hit this week.”

Here is the message sent by Wednesday’s guilty verdicts, according to the paper’s opinion piece: “Don’t dare be involved in your government. Don’t dare to press elected officials. For if you do, jail time and fines might be the wrath that you receive.”

Missouri, along with Kansas, is among 19 states that have refused to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid. A handful of Missouri GOP senators are holdouts.

About 300 people participated, but the “Medicaid 23” stayed until Capitol police led them from the gallery.

“The state Capitol is a public space,” the Star said. “Apparently, nothing but church mice will be tolerated.”

In Missouri, about 109,000 uninsured non-elderly poor are caught in the gap, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study released in January. Some number breakdowns: 60 percent of these Missourians are Caucasian, 69 percent are adults without dependent children, 60 percent are female, more than 70 percent are in a working family.

Brandon Ellington, Democratic state representative from Kansas City, in a statement, called the trial “purely a political prosecution. The Legislative Black Caucus chairman, said the verdicts must be overturned upon appeal, noting that the verdicts sent the message that “the right to peacefully protest and petition elected officials for a redress of grievances no longer exists in the Missouri Capitol.”

Health insurance for the needy seems to bother the right-wingers. The KanCare sessions were slated to take place in Overland Park, Topeka, Wichita, Pittsburg and Dodge City.

The meetings were intended to gather public reaction to recent cuts made in the rates paid to hospitals, doctors and other providers. Staffers in the Brownback administration have said the cuts are necessary to balance the budget in the wake of continued revenue shortfalls.

Officials changed their minds because they thought it would be easier for people to comment by letter and email than attend a meeting. Critics say the changes were made to avoid negative feedback.

“Instead we are using this letter to tell KanCare members more about the provider payment rate reductions and we are asking for your feedback if you would like to let us know you(r) thoughts on this matter,” the letter said.

Debra Zehr, president and CEO of LeadingAge Kansas, said in an email post, “Perhaps state officials find it more palatable to simply provide an email address for public comments about the rate reductions, rather than face large crowds of upset people and service providers throughout Kansas who are struggling to deal with this debacle.”

LeadingAge Kansas represents non-profits that provide services to elderly Kansans.

The right-wingers simply hurt so many with their conservative meanness.

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Er, Ah, So What’s Your Take on the Royals Chances Now?

We said it all along, right, that the Royals would be in the frenzied battle for a playoff spot in the American League Central. Oh, we mentioned often in the middle of the season how thrilled we were that Alex Gordon had signed a long-term contract. We were ecstatic that the starting rotation of the pitchers was in such great shape.

We did say those things, didn’t we. Oops. I don’t think so.

Stick a fork in them; they’re done. Gordon can’t hit even if some kid puts a ball on a batting tee. When is Danny Duffy going to control his active fast ball; can that provocateur, Yordano Ventura, take a class in good comportment; groove another gopher ball, Ian Kennedy; Edinson Volquez, how about another big inning portion served up on a silver plate?

Yep, that’s what we were saying.

Well, call the caterers and feed us a three-course meal of crow, hat and words.

The Royals, now 64-60, are just a game behind second-place Detroit, but eight behind first-place Cleveland in the ALC. Boston, at 69-54, and Baltimore, 67-55 — both in the East Division —  are in the wildcard lead playoff lead at the moment. The Royals have 38 regular season games remaining and they need to stay hot to have a chance.

And they have been hot.

After the Royals beat Minnesota 2-1 on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium, their winning streak reached eight. They swept a four-game series from the Twins for the first time since 1999 and have their longest winning streak since an eight-game run August 3-11, 2014. KC has won 13 of 15 since the Rally Mantis showed up in the dugout.

Of course, the praying mantis. Yeah, never underestimate the power of a praying mantis in the dugout.

On August 5 the Royals lost 4-3 to drop their record to 51-58. Then they let the good times roll — and adopted a praying mantis as a mascot.

There could be some other reasons than the mantis religiosa. Ya think!

Gordon is busting his butt at bat and in the field, slugging hits and snagging flies while sliding on his belly. During the Royals’ winning streak, he has gone 11 for 28, a .393 average — and slamming five home runs. Well, okay, a little negative here. With all that, he’s still hitting only .225 after such a poor output until this month.

Ahhh, but those pitchers. They must have felt as if they were starters for the Washington Generals — or even worse, batting practice hurlers before a home run derby. Not now.

Duffy has become an ace, a Texas hold ’em take all winner. Look at those pitching stats: 11-1 record, 147 strikeouts, 2.66 ERA. And only 15 homers yielded in 138⅔ innings. His ERA ranks fourth in all of baseball. The three ahead of him: Kyle Hendricks, 2.16, 11-7, Chicago Cubs; Madison Bumgarner, 2.25, 12-7, San Francisco; and Michael Fulmer, 2.58, 10-4, Detroit.

Ventura? The Royals lost all five games he started in July. So far in August, they have won all four of his starts. He got the decision in two of them, to run his record to 8-9. In late May, his ERA was over 5 but he has brought that down now to 4.46 after posting a 2.52 this month.

As confusing as why Kennedy’s beard is red and his hair black is why that fast ball of his doesn’t mow everyone down. His fastball moves, like an Indy car cutting into traffic on the straight-away. He’s now 8-9 with a 3.58 ERA.  His run support is severely lacking. Finally, he got that help Saturday as the Royals won 10-0; he coasted through eight innings, giving up just four hits. But from July 1 up to Saturday, the Royals scored only 22 runs in the nine games he started. The Royals lost all six of the games he started in July — and the first one in August. They have won three in a row now with him as the starter.

Volquez would be the king of playground this season, see-sawing, swinging and kicking the ball around. His ERA is 5.04 and is record 9-10. He’s good one game, bad the next.

How ’bout them bullpen wranglers! Yes, you probably were ready to skewer Joakim Soria, the reliever with the big salary. Sure you were. Big contract and big, fat pitches down the middle. Give him some slack now, okay. His ERA is down to 3.88. In the last six games he has relieved — all won by the Royals — he hasn’t given up an earned run. A little applause, folks.

Kelvin Herrera seemed to have adjustment problems when first thrown in as the Royals closer after Wade Davis suffered an arm injury. But he’s bouncing back and his ERA is at 1.94. The fast ball is hopping and the batters are dropping. The Royals have won the last five games he has closed.

So all is peachy, creamy. I don’t think so. Timely hits and good pitching will overcome a plethora of negatives. They need to work on the problems. They have so much trouble with sliders and sweepers off the corners. For example, on Sunday, Ervin Santana struck out 10 with the Royals flailing at that mesmerizing slider.

Infielder Raul Mondesi is striking out more than a barfly hustler at a hip-hop joint. He fanned three times Sunday. Manager Ned Yost loves speed, we all know — to excess — but surely he doesn’t think Mondesi is the answer right now. On the other hand, well, he sticks by outfielder Jarrod Dyson, so Mondesi it is at second base, instead of Christian Colón.

A moment of interjection here. If Yost loves this speed, caresses this speed, praises this speed, then why doesn’t he hit and run, or at least start the base runner off first? Geez.

Oh well.

If Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain keep hitting — along with Gordon, of course — the Royals can provide some runs to give the pitchers a little more confidence that they don’t have to be so fine, so perfect, if you will, in facing the opposition. Cain has raised his batting average from .274 to .292 in the last 10 games. Hosmer has been steady with his .277 average and delivering some clutch hits, driving in at least one run in each of the last seven games.

Alcides Escobar seems comfortable batting lowwer in the lineup. The Royals seemed to surge when outfielder Paulo Orlando moved into the lead-off spot but he went on an 0-for-19 stint before breaking that in Saturday’s victory. Yost benched him Sunday in favor of Dyson. Cheslor Cuthbert, batting .293, may make it difficult for Mike Moustakas to start at third base when he returns next spring after the season-ending knee injury.

So maybe the Royals have enough going for them that they won’t fall into a funk, as they did in late July. They will go on the road against Miami on Tuesday after taking today off.

By the way, my wife has a theory on why the Royals went into a tailspin. You may recall that rumors were flying about that time as the trade deadline approached. She reasoned that the Royals are a close-knit group and the concern about losing a teammate may have produced tension and anxiety. That time passed, players remained and the Royals began winning. Wives are always right.

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Political Tale of Two Women Is The Best of Times

Politics can become twisted like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, dark and sinister. But most of the time the bad guy pols simply offer a slug of hypocrisy in a tall glass.

Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks can talk to you about the duplicity of politics. So can Hillary Clinton. And Donald Trump plays a role in each scenario. A couple of anecdotal examples focus on the issue.

You may recall how country radio dumped on the Dixie Chicks after her statement criticizing President George W. Bush. Despite fronting one of the most successful country groups of the last two decades,  Maines has not always played the same tune as the country genre over the years on a political level.

Well, she’s at it again. Recently, she called out country radio for covering Donald Trump after the stations had banned her music during Bush’s presidency. She posted on Twitter: “I get banned for not liking Bush and now Trump can practically put a hit out on Hillary and he’s still all over country radio! Hypocrites!”

She was referencing what Trump said at a rally in North Carolina. He was making a point that the Supreme Court would become more liberal if Clinton were elected and then said: “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” The remark was widely condemned, drawing a response from even the Secret Service. Trump and his campaign said he wasn’t calling for violence against Clinton, but rather for Second Amendment supporters to get out and vote in the election.

To most everyone else, however, his statement was a hypothetical about what would happen after Clinton would take office.

Country radio banned Maines in 2003 when, during a concert in London, she said that she was “ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas,” in reference to Bush’s stance on the Iraq War. After that remark, country radio stations stopped playing music by the Dixie Chicks.

Maines has continued her political statements, this time targeting Trump. This summer, the Dixie Chicks have performed one of their most vitriolic songs, “Goodbye Earl,” in front of a giant poster of Trump with devil horns scrawled on his head.

“Goodbye Earl” was written by country songwriter Dennis Linde. Some believed the song cast a much-needed spotlight on the problem of domestic violence while others felt it condoned murder. Many radio stations even refused to play it because they were afraid how their listeners would react.

Thirteen years after country music blacklisted the group, they returned to Nashville this week. The show featured the same brand of biting political commentary that most country artists avoid at all costs.

Paul Worley, record executive and the Dixie Chicks’ former producer, told the Tennessean: “People in the industry may have turned their back on them, but Nashville did not.”

After the ban, they never had another hit on country radio. Oh, but they have overcome it. They are in the midst of a 55-day tour and they have been playing before packed houses. Creative vindication came with 2006’s “Taking the Long Way,” which won Album of the Year and Best Country Album at the Grammy Awards, and its single “Not Ready to Make Nice” picked up trophies for Record of the Year and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The Rick Rubin-produced “Taking the Long Way” remains the trio’s last album.

Hillary is another woman fighting the hypocrisy of many, including the Republican establishment.

For example, Trump talks about transparency, yet refuses to release his income tax reforms. Well, Hillary has released hers and they show she and her husband made $10.6 million in adjusted gross income last year, largely from speaking fees, books and Bill’s consulting activities.

The Clinton campaign used the disclosures to pressure Trump for refusing to release his tax returns. He has said he won’t do so until an audit has been completed, which could make him the first major-party presidential candidate since 1976 to release no returns. There is no legal binding for him to release the returns, even ones being audited.

The Clintons paid an effective federal income-tax rate of 34 percent in 2015. Their income was down sharply from $28 million in 2014, when they paid an effective tax rate of more than 35 percent. According to Internal Revenue Service data for 2013 tax returns, the most recent available, taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $10 million and above paid an average of 26 percent in total federal income tax.

The latest return showed the Clintons gave more than $1 million to charity.

Almost all of those donations went to the Clinton Family Foundation, a fund established in 2001 that serves as the vehicle for the couple’s charitable giving and is different from the Clinton Foundation, the large nonprofit whose activities have been heavily scrutinized.

Joseph Thorndike, a tax historian at Tax Analysts, a nonprofit publisher, said Hillary in the latest year had a higher tax rate than any sitting president since Gerald Ford, whose average rate was nearly 38 percent during his presidency. The lowest average rate belonged to George H.W. Bush, who paid just under 20 percent.

In a speech on the economy last June, Hillary called out Trump for not releasing his tax returns and wondered out loud what he was trying to hide: “You have to ask yourself, what’s he afraid of? Or maybe he isn’t as rich as he claims.”

Clinton bashed Trump’s businesses practices, noting that he had filed for bankruptcy several times, adding, “He’s written a lot of books about business. They all seem to end at Chapter 11.

“We cannot put a person like this, with all his empty promises, in a position of power over our lives. We can’t let him bankrupt America like we are one of his failed casinos. We can’t let him roll the dice with our children’s futures.”

Natalie and Hillary go after Trump in their own special ways. It is how they attack hypocrisy.

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Where Does Trump Get Off On Making America Great AGAIN?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump brandishes this slogan at his rallies: Make America Great Again!

His catchphrase has the connotative sound of white nationalism.

I snicker and chortle every time I hear the words repeated. I recall how so many white guys several years back would talk about returning to the nice, pristine days of the 1950s. Yeah, white guys liked those years.

The boom after World War II had given many of them a decent living. But the underlying reasons for that wistful urge to return to those happy days might be a little more dark. White guys had the run of the restaurants, they meandered through bustling train depots, they impressed girl friends with new cars, they had their thumbs on wives strapped at home without financial independence and they kept blacks in segregated neighborhoods.

So is that the era that Trump points to in making America great again?

Look, this country has been great since 1776. We’re great now and we were great then.

Some bad times? Oh my gosh yes. But the country is great and everyone must work to make it greater.

But getting back to Trump, which era would he prefer?

Let’s see, how about the Salem witch trials?  Those trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. The trials resulted in the executions of 20 people, 14 of them women, and all but one by hanging.

Whoops, that was before 1776. Sorry.

Well then there’s the Trail of Tears, the relocation and movement of Native Americans, including many members of the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, and Choctaw nations among others in the United States, from their homelands to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) in the Western United States. The phrase originated from a description of the removal of the Choctaw Nation in 1831. History shows many Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease and starvation while en route to their destinations, and many died, including 4,000 of the 15,000 relocated Cherokee. By 1837, 46,000 Native Americans from these southeastern nations had been removed from their homelands, thereby opening 25 million acres for settlement by European Americans.

Oh, the Indians have taken several hits during the country’s history. Would that be a good time for Trump’s return to greatness?

The battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Antietam Creek, as part of the Maryland Campaign, was the first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with about 23,000 casualties. The Union had 12,401 casualties with 2,108 dead. Confederate casualties were 10,318 with 1,546 dead.

More Americans died on that day than on any other the nation’s military history.

Would that be the time to refer to as being great again?

Trump is full of bigoted remarks. Maybe he would want to return to the era of lynching. Researchers have determined that 3,959 black people were killed in “racial terror lynchings” in a dozen Southern states between 1877 and 1950. Most discussions of lynching tend to focus on the South, but these vicious episodes were by no means just a Southern phenomenon. The civil rights movement ran into considerable opposition in many parts of the country.

Trump and his Republican cronies are big with scandal mongering about the Democrats. Maybe he could go back to the days of the Teapot Dome scandal, a case of bribery that took place in 1921-22 during the Republican administration of President Warren G. Harding. Secretary of the Interior Albert Bacon Fall had leased Navy petroleum reserves at Teapot Dome in Wyoming and two other locations in California to private oil companies at low rates without competitive bidding. In 1922 and 1923. Fall was later convicted of accepting bribes from the oil companies and became the first Cabinet member to go to prison. Before the Watergate scandal, another Republican event, Teapot Dome was regarded as the “greatest and most sensational scandal in the history of American politics.”

The 1920s provided some, well, not so great times. From Murder Inc. to boozing speakeasies, the 20s roared. That is, until the late 1920s under another Republican administration, Herbert Hoover. A massive drop in value of the stock market helped trigger the Great Depression which lasted until the increased economic activity spurred by WW II got the country going back in the right direction. Personal income, tax revenue, profits and prices dropped, and international trade plunged by a half to two-thirds. Unemployment in the United States rose to 25 percent.

Wars, of course, have kept the country busy in many foreign countries. Trump is a breast-beater when he speaks how he would make other countries toe the line and bow to his dicta. Would his rhetoric and actions foment another armed conflict!

He believes he would keep the United States safe by refusing to allow terrorists to enter the country. Maybe so. That 9/11 event in 2001 sure wasn’t a great time for the country. Terrorist madmen attacked the Twin Towers and Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 Americans, and set off a war on terrorism. We still feel the pain.

Tom Engelhardt, writing in the Nation, says that Trump is the first person to run openly and without apology on a platform of American decline. Make America Great Again! is indeed an admission in the form of a boast, Engelhardt said, adding, “As he tells his audiences repeatedly, America, the formerly great, is today a punching bag for China, Mexico… well, you know the pitch. You don’t have to agree with him on the specifics. What’s interesting is the overall vision of a country lacking in its former greatness.”

What this country has gone through over the years has made it great.

Oftentimes, the greatness of a country is measured by how it reacts to adversity. For example, President Barack Obama took over the presidency with the country facing the Great Recession. His policies have helped bring the economy back. But not enough to produce accolades from all. As Clinton noted, we need to do better.

Too many people are hurting right now, for sure. But to malign the country so unmercifully is over-stepping the boundaries of logic. The United States has great standing in the world.

Do we need to do better? Of course. A great country can do just that.

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Blunt Remains Pro-Business While Working Folks Need Help

The campaign ad on television for Senator Roy Blunt says he will protect you from government overreach and job-killing regulations.

Wonder if the families suffering from injuries and loss of life in recent accidents on a water slide, a Ferris wheel and a roller coaster believe in an overreach of regulations.

It is just another one of his pro business fondness.

Republicans, most of them anyway, fight regulations executed by the government. Do you really think we would be better off without a process of regulating what businesses can do, from agriculture to banking.

Blunt is running against Democrat Jason Kander for a Senate seat. Blunt is a poster boy for the Christian Right. With the help of Southern Baptist hellfire and brimstone, he has risen to leadership in the Republican Party.

Oh my, he without sin. He preaches a good political sermon but veers from a righteous path. The epitome of his matters of state lie with his chicanery involving a rider to a bill that would have benefitted  only one company, a company his which his girlfriend, Abigail Perlman, was a lobbyist. oh, by the way, Blunt and his wife divorced and he married Perlman.

The Daily Kos has a terrific story on Blunt. The internet news site said he’s a man who somehow not only survived being caught up in the Abramoff scandal back when he was a member of the House, but also went on to be elected to the Senate in spite of also doing favors for the tobacco industry, Phillip Morris.

The Blunt family have been repeated subjects of investigations by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics; lobbying firms have a habit of hiring Blunt’s wife and two children and corresponding votes to reward this arrangement.

His legislative proposals generally harm and you and me and help them. The says volumes about his stands against you. “The Blunt Amendment” attempted to strip women of having contraception covered by their insurance plans. In 2013, Blunt wrote what many critics described as the “Monsanto Protection Act” to allow the corporate agriculture company to plant seeds even if they were deemed genetically or biologically unsafe — and, of course, he received contributions from Monsanto. According to Kos, he voted for the 2013 government shutdown and against the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy, measures on pay equality and raising the minimum wage and against Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform.

The Kos story said, “Now one of the most current ongoing sagas of the GOP Senate being, frankly, useless, is their obstinate refusal to do their jobs, and hold confirmation hearings to appoint a Supreme Court Justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia, who passed away with eleven months left in the Obama presidency.”

After a few weeks of vetting nominees, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, a man who many consider to be the most qualified nominee, but there have been no confirmation hearings as the Senate leadership sandbags the process. Blunt was one of the senators who wouldn’t even have a face-to-face meeting with Garland.

According to Kos, Blunt blames the student debt crisis on the students: “Yes, back in April of 2015 Blunt blamed high student debt on ‘higher living standards’ that college students were enjoying these days.”

Kos also listed Blunt’s voting record from the past year to show his use of right-wing beliefs and obstructionist tools:

  • September 22, 2015: Voted for the Pain Capable Unborn Child Act, which would have banned abortion at 20 weeks.
  • December 3, 2015: Democrats produced common sense gun legislation, that anyone who was found to be on a terror watch list during a background check should not be allowed to purchase a firearm or explosives. He voted against it.
  • January 20, 2016: Voted for the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, reacting to the terror attacks in Paris by jihadists from France and Belgium by trying to create greater restrictions to keep out Syrian refugees No Syrian was involved in those attacks. One terrorist had a fake passport of a member of Assad’s army, apparently to create a false trail to help in their escape, or hoping that the attacks would be blamed on Syrian refugees, and the governments of nations like France and the United States would fall for it and not allow refugees to escape ISIS abroad. And Blunt fell for it.
  • June 20, 2016: After the mass shooting in Orlando, the Democrats filibustered the Senate for a vote to keep individuals on the “no fly list” as known terrorists and stop them from being able to buy firearms. Nine out of 10 Americans favor the common sense measure, but Blunt voted against it.

Missouri no longer is the bellwether state and over the past few years has trended to becoming dark red. With Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket now, is Blunt aware that his road back may be a bit more bumpy? He skipped the 2016 Republican Convention for the first time in 16 years. A little concerned about being identified with Trump, huh.

Blunt is polling five or six points ahead of Kander. This is a crucial seat for Missouri and the Democrats throughout the country.

Talking out of both sides of a politician’s mouth is a common practice in Washington, D.C., and Blunt is a champion at it.

Is he for the well-being of the country? He voted against the Reed-Mikulski amendment, an amendment which would boost U.S. national security in the fight against ISIS; respond to critical healthcare emergencies including the impending Zika crisis; and increase spending on U.S. law enforcement at the border.

Kander released a statement: “This is just the latest example of Senator Blunt saying one thing in Missouri and doing another in Washington. He talks about being tough on ISIS, how we should provide funding to fight Zika, and that we need to secure our border, but instead of voting to get all that done, he decided to fall in line and do what his political party asked instead of what Missourians need once again.”

To beat Blunt, Kander must continue to attack.

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Singular Email Issue Dogs Hillary While Trump’s Lies Multiply

Donald Trump delivers so many fabrications that fact-checkers can’t keep up with him. On the other hand, the only big negative thing against Hillary Clinton the Republican instigated scandal over her emails.

But the right-wing machine attempts to broaden the negatives with one dishonest statement after another, like an assembly line under deadline pressure. And there is Trump spewing falsehoods at every rally. And they’ve been documented.

A story on Huffington Post cited observations from Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University, and Theda Skocpol, a government and sociology professor at Harvard, on how Trump lives in a world of lies.

Brinkley said,  “In American history, we’ve never had a major presidential candidate who fabricated facts with the regularity of Donald Trump. He just simply makes things up.”

Skocpol agrees that Trump’s dishonesties have set a new standard, saying,  “Trump lies constantly and shamelessly. I do think he is in new territory.”

Right-wingers trying to attack Clinton over her emails are growing increasingly frustrated with Trump’s near-daily false statements. Even Republicans are saying they nominated a fabulist.

As for the overplayed email scandal, many in the media, unfortunately, have not grasped the details of Clinton’s handling of the situation while she was Secretary of State in the Obama administration.

Again and again and again, I have noted that the emails in question were not stamped as classified. As I pointed out before, movies show these documents with a big-lettered heading CLASSIFIED on the front. In real government life, that isn’t protocol.

But, quite honestly, it’s difficult to nail down exactly what the protocol is.

However, Clinton’s defense is sound.

She has insisted all along that none of the emails she sent or received on her private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State was marked classified at the time. Yet, FBI Director James Comey says a small number of the emails were classified. Then the New York Times determined that the number was just two. And now the State Department has confirmed that the two emails in question weren’t actually classified at the time, and had merely been marked incorrectly during the course of the investigation.

My research shows that three small c’s were placed in the body of the emails. That could have implied that someone made a telephone call on them; it could have implied that the part was classified. Whatever the implication, proper protocol wasn’t followed.

Plus, the media keep mentioning that 120 emails were marked as classified. That’s a problem. Two emails contained the C’s and they kept being sent to various addresses that multiplied the minor classification. That certainly would cause the number of classified emails to be overstated.

What’s also interesting in all this is that not one single negative result has been reported on the interchange of the emails.

In fact, the two emails sent to her by her aides in 2012 were harmless in nature. Both were merely used to schedule phone calls with foreign leaders, and on their face, clearly could not have possibly been classified at the time. Sure enough, a spokesman for the State Department has confirmed that they were not classified.

CBS News has reported that Clinton had asked the NSA for a secure smartphone for her email immediately upon taking office as Secretary of State, and had been turned down.

The details emerging in piece-meal fashion make the estimated $21 million to run the congressional investigations all the more ludicrous.

Republicans were frothing at the mouth to get these hearings in front of the public. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said while the committees geared up for questioning Clinton that the hearings were aimed to sink her poll numbers. His gaffe reverberated across Capitol Hill and was a major factor in his decision to drop out of the race to replace outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Later, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) told a radio talk show audience: “This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton.”

The parents of two Americans killed in the 2012 terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against Clinton.

In the suit, Patricia Smith and Charles Woods, the parents of Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods, claim that Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server contributed to the attacks. They also accuse her of defaming them in public statements.

Smith was an information management officer and Woods was a security officer, both stationed in Benghazi.

While no such connection has ever been established, their lawsuit called it “highly probable” that Clinton sent and received information about the activities of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

In a speech to the Republican convention in Cleveland, Smith said, “I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son.”

The parents were represented by Washington, D.C., lawyer Larry Klayman, a frequent critic of the Clintons.

In response to the suit, Nick Merrill, a Clinton campaign spokesman, said “While no one can imagine the pain of the families of the brave Americans we lost at Benghazi, there have been nine different investigations into this attack and none found any evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton.”

And one campaign official noted that Klayman is the founder or “Freedom Watch,” a conservative group that “has been unsuccessfully attacking the Clintons for decades.”

In fact, Klayman has made a career out of attacking the Clintons. With all his legal might, he huffed and puffed and never blew their house down.

He’s still trying, though. He sued to get access to the notes from a three-hour interview the FBI had with Hillary about the emails. That interview wasn’t taken place under oath and no official transcript would be available. Klayman and Republican in Congress have been trying to get their hands on those for the past month.

Now they will have access to them and no doubt will cherry-pick items that might favor their rhetoric.

Bill Clinton was in Las Vegas this week and, according to television news reports, a Democrat asked him after his speech: Why should Americans trust the Democratic nominee when she lied about her emails?

“Wait a minute,” he shot back said. “It’s not true. First of all, the FBI director said when he testified before Congress, he had to amend his previous day’s statement that she had never received any emails that are classified. They saw two little notes with a ‘C’ on it. This is the biggest load of bull I’ve ever heard.”

He said Hillary and her colleagues were never being careless with national security.

Meanwhile, Trump is out there serving up the lie of the day.




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Parking Fee, Prevent Defense Become Costly Items for Chiefs

So the NFL pre-season is among us. I’ve been so fixated on the astonishing announcement of the Chiefs charging $40 for parking that my brain is having difficulty focusing on any analysis. Geez, I saw a sign near Arrowhead Stadium that a motel room cost $37.99.

Am I just thinking cheap or is that game-day parking fee some kind of price gouging?

I’ve touched on the costs before but it seems as if the prices are going, going, gone. Can you imagine a family of four coming into the city for a weekend and a Chiefs game! The costs! Maybe they could stay in that $37.99 motel room — doh!

Let’s see, cost of a room probably is near the $200 a night range, four tickets at a minimum of $100 each, dinner and breakfast at decent restaurants maybe $200, goodies at the game another $80 and gas at $2 a gallon. More than $600 for the weekend, a football weekend. Wow!

And those folks with season tickets who grub on tailgating, well, they gotta make the Chiefs their extracurricular lives. No question about it. With all they do, including charcoaling, parking and tickets — would it run maybe 10 grand for the season? Dunno. But it would be a lot. A chunk of change to say the least and no doubt a nice slice on the budget.

Of course, if you’re into megabucks, it’s no big deal, huh.

With all the costs, I intend to watch the games on TV, as I did Saturday. Things got off to a bad start when I wondered what the heck was going on — no pre-game show, as the schedules showed. Did the station try to trick us to watch all those infomercials? Bad deal, boys.

And then those sideline and press box interviews during the game. They are so annoying. Oh well. I didn’t pay the high costs to attend the game.

Would you unload that sum to watch these Chiefs in person? Well, they dominated Seattle for 59 minutes Saturday at Arrowhead but fell victim to the dreaded prevent defense. Seattle’s Trevone Boykin, a rookie quarterback from TCU, engineered a last-minute, 88-yard touchdown drive in four plays, hitting Tanner McEvoy with a 37-yard scoring pass, and Tyvis Pope scored the 2-point conversion with no time remaining for a 17-16 victory.

So little to learn from this game unless you plan on sitting in with the Chiefs coaches during post-game video sessions. The prevent defense? Yeah, the staff needs to look at that loser.

One thing proven Saturday is that both teams certainly put the foot into football. They kicked six field goals, including ones for 49, 49, 50, 52 and 58 yards.

Little else passed the naked eye test, unless you understand that the five Chiefs quarterbacks present an untenable situation. Fewer reps in practice mean more blunders.

The Chiefs will break training camp this week in St. Joseph and then head to Los Angeles for a game against the Rams on Saturday.

Yes, it’s too early to make definite points about the Chiefs and certainly difficult to analyze the finish for the AFC West.

ESPN analysts believe the Chiefs will go 10-6 this season with Adam Teicher, a former Kansas City Star writer, saying, “The schedule doesn’t contain many minefields. The Chiefs will play just five games against 2015 playoff teams. Their record against those opponents last season: 4-1. The Chiefs also have a more balanced schedule rather than one stacked with road games early. That was a factor in last year’s 1-5 start.”

The Chiefs had to win their final 10 games last year to finish the regular season at 11-5. They won’t get off to such a rotten start in 2016, but they also won’t finish with such a flourish, Teicher said.

Teicher believes the Chiefs will post a 3-0 record, beating San Diego at home, Houston on the road and the NY Jets back home. The Chiefs have beaten the Chargers four games in a row. Teicher said, “The Chiefs will get another road victory over the Texans, following the two they had last season. This game will be more competitive than the other two. It’s a great omen for the Chiefs to begin a season with three straight wins. They’ve done so eight times in team history and have made the playoffs in each of those seasons.”

The first loss? That will come against at Pittsburgh. “The winning streak ends in a most difficult place for the Chiefs to play. Their losing streak in Pittsburgh is five games and extends back to 1986, when a victory in the final regular-season game put the Chiefs in the playoffs.”

Week Five is a bye. So here’s how the rest of the season will pan out, according Teicher: at Oakland, lose; New Orleans, win; at Indy, lose; Jacksonville, win; at Carolina, lose; Tampa, win; at Denver, lose; at Atlanta, win; Oakland, win; Tennessee, win; Denver, win; at San Diego, lose.

There’s a four-game winning streak in there.

So, how will the other three AFC West teams fare? ESPN analysis:

  • Denver 11-5. The Broncos put together a run that included four consecutive AFC West titles, two Super Bowl trips and a title in Super Bowl 50 with quarterback Peyton Manning. But there will be a Super Bowl hangover. The Broncos have enough talent to find their way into the postseason again and win another division title, but the opening three games against Carolina, Indianapolis and Cincinnati will be tough. They will also face Kansas City twice and New England in the final six weeks of the season.
  • Oakland 10-6. The rejuvenated Raiders have a stiff test to open the season, traveling to New Orleans and playing in the din of the Superdome before the schedule evens out a bit in the middle. A mettle-testing end to the schedule, including the regular-season finale at the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, will decide whether the Raiders advance to the playoffs, let alone have a winning record for the first time since 2002.
  • San Diego 6-10. Worst to first? Not this year. The Chargers will be improved, but are at least a year away in terms of talent on the roster in order to realistically compete for a playoff spot in an AFC West Division dominated by talented defenses. San Diego has the best quarterback in the division in Philip Rivers and an improving young defense. But, the Chargers will still struggle to score points with an offensive line that should once again have trouble staying healthy.
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