Friday, June 23, 2017

John Courage Wins SA City Council

San Antonio experienced a change in direction Saturday night when the election results were posted. Ron Nirenberg’s mayoral win over Ivy Taylor and John Courage’s win over a traditional conservative, Marco Barros, in the most conservative council district in the city go a long way toward effecting that change. The election cycle knocked out several incumbents and replaced them with more progressive leaders.

John Courage is a military veteran, a public school teacher with nearly 30 years of service and a longtime progressive activist who has worked for decades to bring accountability to local and state government. Courage was a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders and won the endorsement of Our Revolution, the political organization formed by Sanders and activists connected by his presidential bid.

Our Revolution San Antonio (ORSA)—a local group of volunteers—endorsed Courage and recommended him to the national Our Revolution organization, which accepted our local recommendation and posted it on the national website. ORSA endorsed Courage after he and other council candidates made presentations to ORSA about their platforms and requested endorsement. The local organization pitched in to help contact prospective voters for months and that effort paid off.

I'll bet the folks in District 9 found it refreshing to hear John say, “There’s no such thing as a liberal streetlight or a conservative pothole.” What Barros seemed to overlook when he declared that he would win District 9 handily because we are a “very conservative” district is this: listening to the voters and learning what their issues are is more important the wearing a label such as “conservative” or “liberal”.

Unlike Barros and much of the local media Our Revolution San Antonio was not shocked by the results of the runoff.  Only those not on the ground knocking on doors were surprised.  ORSA endorsed Courage, not because he claimed to be liberal or conservative, but because he and his team put together a transparent, service-oriented campaign that focused on communicating with and serving voters. 

ORSA’s mission is to engage citizens to participate in local governance as activists as well as to recruit and support progressive candidates to fill positions as party precinct chairs, city and county commissions, school boards, city council and county commissioners court.  Progressives want progress, to get things done in a democratic environment where we all are respected as stakeholders who are entitled to accessible government, an opinion and a vote.

John Courage and others like him are the beginning of a new day in representative government.  Keep in mind that Courage will take votes that affect all of San Antonio, not just District 9, and he will help shape a new City Council that hopefully will move toward a better, more representative government.  We encourage other citizens who share these progressive values to get engaged with Our Revolution or other organizations that have been awakened by the deterioration of our government, to start making a difference where you live.

Our Revolution San Antonio is the regional umbrella for people in the city and all the surrounding counties who believe in the principals that Bernie Sanders ran on during the 2016 primary. We support universal healthcare, tuition free public universities and a $15 minimum wage among other principals. If you believe in similar principals we invite you to contact us through our Facebook page Our Revolution: San Antonio Area.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Republican Dodgeball

When Donald Trump, Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott were kids I’ll bet they were all great at dodgeball. Today they dodge taking care of real pressing issues by latching on to fringe issues like a pit bull grabs its prey by the neck and shakes it until its neck is broken. There are many important issues our elected officials could address which would improve the lives of most Americans if they were willing to raise taxes on their super-wealthy campaign donors but rather than lead they avoid biting the hand that feeds them.

Most Americans now understand that climate change is a real and pressing threat to our way of life and human civilization as a whole. Instead of working to address it Trump has announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. He dodged the issue by claiming that converting to green energy sources will cost Americans their jobs. The reality is that there are already more people working in the solar energy field than there are in the coal industry and the difference is exploding.

Instead of leading on addressing climate change Trump is still pushing his Muslim travel ban which multiple federal judges in a variety of jurisdictions have tossed out. Even if his ban were to go into effect it is unlikely to stop a single terror attack. Most terror attacks carried out in the U.S. and Europe since 9/11 have involved either citizens or long term residents not recent immigrants. In fact more than half of all deaths in terror attacks have been caused by white United States citizens.

Democrats in Congress have been pushing for a climate agreement for years and President Obama finally was able to sign one last year. If anything staying in the agreement and fulfilling our goals, which are strictly voluntary and have no enforcement measures would have been a boon to our economy creating tens of thousands of jobs but costing oil, gas and coal companies profits.

Here in Texas our Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick, spent the entire legislative session pushing his infamous Billion Dollar Bathroom bill, SB 6, which could cost the state up to $8.5 billion and 185,000 jobs. This legislation is a solution in search of a problem which Speaker of the House, Joe Straus, wanted nothing to do with. Dan Patrick just didn’t want to deal with finding the money to adequately fund public education in Texas. He made lots of noise and satisfied some of his small minded voters while avoiding raising taxes on his campaign donors.

Democrats in the state legislature have fought tooth and nail to address the outdated and inadequate public school funding formula. Now Gov. Greg Abbott has called a special session which among other things will address Dan Patrick’s Billion Dollar Bathroom bill. Gov. Abbott has also included formation of a public school finance commission but if Dan Patrick hadn’t wasted so much time on who uses which bathroom this could have been dealt with during the regular session.

None of that gets Greg Abbott of the hook though as the special session call includes such terribly important issues as anti-abortion insurance legislation. He’s asking the legislature to make it illegal to sell health insurance that covers abortion.


Democrats in the legislature would rather work on strengthening the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) by fulling funding it rather than cutting benefits to the people who taught most of us the three R’s but again that would cause a few billionaires to pay more taxes and they pay good money to avoid that.

Published in the Seguin Gazette June 9, 2017

Friday, June 9, 2017

Time to End the War on Terror

In October the “War on Terror” will have been going on for 16 years. It is now a bi-partisan war in that it has been fought by both Republican and Democratic administrations. "The world is a battlefield and we are at war; therefore the military can go wherever they please and do whatever it is that they want to do, in order to achieve the national security objectives of whichever administration happens to be in power." That's the logic which reportedly drives the Joint Special Operation Command known for directing SEAL Team Six among other special operations forces.

“The world is a battlefield” isn't just a vaguely aggressive point of view; it's the legal underpinning of the use of military force in today's War on Terror. This legal definition comes from the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which Congress passed on Sept. 14, 2001 which gave the President of the United States broad power to fight terrorism around the world.

Al-Qaeda is now a shadow of its former self but other groups have taken up the call so terrorists still strike anywhere in the world including here. The United States continues to send troops, drop bombs, and fire missiles in more than a dozen countries today. ISIS is now the focus of much of our attention and while it has inspired many terror attacks including the recent Manchester, England slaughter it is not sending out directing or coordinating large scale attacks like September 11, 2001.

Terror is not an ideology regardless of Trump’s recent assertion on Twitter. Terror is a tactic and you can’t fight a war against a tactic. The followers of ISIS and other similar groups aren’t fighting because they believe in terror they’re fighting because they believe that their people are oppressed. They attack us and European countries because we prop up and in the case of the Shah of Iran install and support their oppressors. Regardless of that they have committed many more attacks on their own people and killed many more of them.

Some of the ISIS fighters are religiously motivated and some aren’t. While the leadership may claim religious they’re creating a religious state as called for in their view of their religious text it’s clear to most people of the world, including those of the same faith, that ISIS and groups like it aren’t inspired by their holy book so much as they use selected passages from it to defend their baser instincts.

The War on Terror isn’t winnable in the sense that there is capital or leader to capture, no one to accept peace terms, no country to conquer and rule. All we can accomplish by continuing to spend blood and treasure is insure that there will be other mothers losing their sons and more young people angry over lost family members killed by American bombs.


We would do well to reconsider who our friends are around the world. Instead of supporting oppressive regimes just because they allow American companies to plunder their natural resources as we have done in Central America, Africa and the Middle East perhaps we should show support for governments that are truly democratic regardless of whether they are capitalist or socialist or somewhere in between. After all many of the European nations we’re allied with are social welfare states to one degree or another. Standing up for human rights would put us on the moral high ground. Of course that might mean rescinding the $110 billion arms deal Trump just approved with one of the most oppressive governments in the Middle East.

Published in the Seguin Gazette, June 2, 2017

Friday, June 2, 2017

Trump Lied and Americans Will Suffer

Almost two years ago when Donald Trump was just a candidate for president he set himself apart from the rest of the Republican field by promising to "save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, without cuts. Have to do it. Get rid of the fraud, get rid of the waste and abuse, but save it."

Now Donald Trump is president and his budget director Mick Mulvaney released a budget that cuts Medicaid funding nearly in half by 2027 when combined with the proposed cuts already passed by the House in Trumpcare, the American Healthcare Act or AHCA.

There are $610 billion in Medicaid cuts in the budget in addition to the $880 billion cut in Trumpcare. Nearly every American will be affected one way or another because either they or a loved one will suffer from those cuts. Nearly one in four Americans is covered by Medicaid. The elderly and disabled account for about 6 of every 10 dollars in Medicaid expenditures, with the disabled and mentally ill, accounting for $4 of every $10 of spending.

Do you have a parent or grandparent in a nursing home or likely to be in one in the not to distant future? If so, get ready to turn your garage into a bedroom because they’ll be living with you instead. You and your spouse will be doing the care too because this budget is likely cut off payments for them.

Do you know anyone working in a nursing home? You’d better tell them to start looking for a new job because when the funding dries up and the patients are forced to leave there won’t be any work for them.
Nursing homes are expensive, average annual cost is $80,000. Medicaid is the largest source of funding for nursing home residents covering about 40% of the total costs. Six of every ten nursing home residents are beneficiaries of those funds because Medicare doesn’t cover those costs.

Oh, you say none of your family will be in a nursing home anytime soon, are any of them disabled and on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)? The Trump budget cuts that too. SSDI is funded through your FICA payroll taxes so cutting it won’t have any effect on the national budget. Just like Social Security for those over 65, SSDI recipients must have worked a certain number of years and have accumulated social security credits, but be younger than 65. Social Security Disability isn’t easy to access contrary to some claims, in fact only four out of ten applicants are approved for benefits. The standards for receiving it are much higher than they are in other developed countries while the benefits are nearly lowest of all developed nations.

Recipients of payments aren’t getting rich off of SSDI, since payments average under $1200 per month with many receiving much less. The actual amount varies depending on how long you worked and how much you earned while working just like regular Social Security. Can you imagine paying rent, utilities, food, clothing and medical expenses on less than $1200 a month? Now think about doing on 25% less or even no benefits at all since some people will simply lose benefits or those who would have previously qualified will now be denied.


Candidate Trump promised to take care of the people of this nation especially the most vulnerable. President Trump is cutting off their lifeline. Donald J. Trump is a liar and the sooner we all recognize it the sooner we can take action to prevent further harm to the American public.

Published in the Seguin Gazette May 26, 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

Concept for a New Economy

The economies of developed countries will soon reach a point where there aren’t enough private sector jobs to employ most people. The reason for this is that automation replacing workers in factories is the end, it’s just the beginning. Already computerized systems have replaced humans writing financial reports and similar documents. Brick and mortar retail stores and the sales staff and management that go with them are being replaced by Amazon, eBay and other websites. Dozens of chains have been scaling back or have ceased to exist over the last decade.

Someone countries are considering “Universal Basic Income” as a way to address the fact that large percentages of their populations will likely never be able to find a job because those jobs simply don’t exist. In the United States I don’t see that idea being accepted due to the generally accepted notion that everyone should work if they can. There’s also a feeling of value that our culture imparts for doing meaningful work. I think I have a better idea, one that addresses all concerns.

Those that are not otherwise employable in the private sector should be able to earn a living working for their communities. In a sense this idea is modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps and Civil Works Administration of the Great Depression era. We have national and state parks suffering from years worth of maintenance backlogs. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set out to put Americans to work his administration found a wide range of valuable tasks for people to do and many of those projects still benefit us today nearly a century later. Have you ever driven across a bridge with CWA impressed in the cement?

We have infrastructure like roads and bridges, remember the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi river in Minnesota that collapsed a decade ago, that need to be replaced. We have water lines, think Flint Michigan, in older cities that need replacement. There are schools and hospitals that are crumbling all over America. What if we put people to work rebuilding and expanding those things?

We have childcare shortages such that people who have jobs or the skills to get one can’t find childcare at an affordable price. We have eldercare shortages such that assisted living facilities and nursing homes are not only very expensive but also only provide medically necessary care. We have classroom over-crowding due to insufficient numbers of teachers and aides. What if we put people to work caring for others, providing day care and pre-school assistants, teacher’s aides, nurse’s aide’s and companions for folks in eldercare facilities?


We have much to gain by insuring that people have honorable work to do and a living wage is earned for doing it. We can simultaneously reduce or eliminate poverty while increasing empathy in our society which likely would reduce many forms of crime and substance abuse. Conservatives could stop complaining about paying people who don’t contribute and liberals could stop worrying that people aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve to earn a living.

Published in the Seguin Gazette May 19, 2017

Friday, May 19, 2017

Another Terrorist Group Announced Plans to Kill Americans

Last week another terrorist group announced plans to kill Americans, far more than Al-Qaeda or ISIS. The group then met to celebrate with their recently selected supreme leader, a prickly fellow known for rambling speeches exhorting his followers. No this wasn’t in a far off land, it was in Washington, D.C.

I’m talking about the House Republicans who voted for Trumpcare. The vote shows that Republicans like Lamar Smith and Paul Ryan are real American terrorists because they are guaranteed to have blood on their hands if the Senate Republicans choose to pass it. By repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act which provided expanded Medicaid and subsidies for health insurance purchased on the exchange they have endangered the health of 24 million Americans, thousands of whom will die and tens of thousands of whom will suffer bankruptcy while trying to stay alive.

Subsidies and Medicaid expansion aren’t the only parts of the Affordable Care Act that will get the axe under this legislation, coverage for pre-existing conditions is lost and lifetime caps are back. My friend Sean’s son, Navin, was born with a congenital heart defect which has already cost over a million dollars to treat. My wife has had five surgeries and spent months in intensive care and therapy in her 50 years. Well over a million dollars has been spent on her healthcare. Under Trumpcare both could be denied coverage for future medical expenses.

Some apologists claim that pre-existing condition coverage isn’t removed by the bill but that’s a lie because it allows states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act requirements and Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin, has already announced plans to do so. Other states will surely follow and if your employer has operations in one of those states they’ll have the option of choosing to use the rules of whichever state suits their financial goals and if that means their workers get a poor quality insurance plan then too bad.

Trumpcare also allows states to waive the requirement that ill and healthy individuals pay the same rates and gives the states the option to setup high risk pools again. Having had my wife insured through the Texas high risk pool I can tell you the rates will once again be outrageous. There were years where we spent as much as 25% of my gross pay in healthcare. If I had earned a lower wage we could never have afforded it.

All this and more was done so that Republicans can give huge tax breaks to their biggest campaign contributors. Trumpcare provides $27 billion in tax breaks each year for the top 4.4 percent, people earning $250,000 a year or more. Donald Trump alone could save $30 million a year under the House bill.

The 217 men and women who voted for Trumpcare chose tax breaks for billionaires over the lives and health of their fellow American while claiming to be good Christians. With friends like these why are we worried about al-Qaeda or ISIS?

Congressional Republicans aren’t the only group to blame though, every one of you who voted for a Republican in 2016 is complicit in the suffering this will cause millions of Americans, young and old alike.


Published in the Seguin Gazette May 12, 2017

Friday, May 12, 2017

Truth Lost On Trump Voters

When will the American public recognize that we have not only been lied to on a few of Trump’s campaign promises as is generally expected of any candidate but we’ve been lied to about the kind of man that Trump really is. He claimed to have wonderful, super, incredible plans for healthcare reform, so good you won’t believe it. It turns out he had no plan at all as shown by the fact that Paul Ryan is the one pitching an Obamacare replacement plan that doesn’t do any of the things that Trump promised during the campaign. Trump said his plan would cover more people at a lower price and continue to cover pre-existing conditions. The current iteration of the Republican Repeal and Replace does none of those things.

Trump said “I'm a really smart guy.” He also said “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things. . . . My primary consultant is myself, and I have, you know, I have a good instinct for this stuff.” If those statements had a shred of truth he’d have known that President Andrew Jackson was long dead by the time of the Civil War which Trump recently claimed Jackson would have avoided. He’d also have know that Frederick Douglass, a celebrated historical figure, was a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln and therefore dead for over a century so he wouldn’t have said “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice.”

That “big, beautiful wall” Trump promised Mexico would pay for and so many voted for him over isn’t happening either. At least he’s backing off that one slowly, now it will only be in “certain areas” because “you don't need” it where “you have these massive physical structures” or “you have certain big rivers.” Of course Texas Republicans are strong proponents of property rights so the use of eminent domain to acquire the land necessary to build and support such a wall is anathema not to mention the landowners along the border wanting none of it. The budget deal that will keep the federal government’s lights on until September doesn’t include a dime for the wall so it’s looking more like it will never be built.

According to Trump during the campaign, China is a currency manipulator and would be treated as such once he was in office. He quickly changed that tune, probably while eating the “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen” with Chinese President Xi Jinping and ordering 59 Tomahawk missiles to strike Syria. Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, considered the missile strike “after dinner entertainment” which “didn’t cost the president anything.” Of course the fact that those missiles cost taxpayers between $480,000 and $1,000,000 each and didn’t do enough damage to stop Syrian pilots from launching aircraft from the very same facility just hours later meant nothing to Trump. On the positive side the president did make a killing on the stock market as his shares of Raytheon, which makes the Tomahawk missile, went up 1.45% on news of the strike.


It isn’t just campaign promises and lies though, the Washington Post has been tracking his statements since he took office and during the first 100 days there have only been 10 for which they haven’t recorded at least one lie. Most days there are several lies. Sadly 93% of Trump voters still support him. How much damage will he have to do before they turn against him?

Published in the Seguin Gazette May 5, 2017