Stand up, men, women's contraception is our contraception too. The assault on women's health care by the Misogynistic Armies of the Right is an assault on men as well. Think about it. If Rush Limbaugh called your wife or girlfriend a slut, wouldn't you want to break his nose? In a sense, that's what he's done, and it's time we recognized our moral and political responsibility.
Jim Moore and I co-authored a piece on this subject this morning at Huffington Post, "Where the Boys Aren't." We included a new ad, "Stand Up Men."
Rick Perry is busy claiming that he's gonna find a way to fund the Women's Health Program while keeping up his aggressive attacks on Planned Parenthood. It's a dodge, of course. Perry and his cronies have already cut 70 percent of family planning money in Texas. Planned Parenthood is the only source of health care for tens of thousands of Texas women. In a sense, women are being sacrificed to promote a barbaric ideology that makes women second class citizens.
It won't be enough, though, to just make our argument and move on. The Right won't stop their attacks. That much ought to be obvious. Sometimes we think our arguments are so just and rational that when we make them all thinking people will simply agree. Doesn't work that way. If voters are going to hear our point of view, we're going to have to speak just as loudly as the Right. So step up, stand up, and tell Rick Perry to shut up.
They are like two old show dogs sleeping on the front porch of a Classical Revival mansion while their owners sip Kentucky bourbon and bestir themselves with tales about the parlous condition of their portfolios.
I'm talking about Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison, the thoroughly domesticated governor and U.S. senator. I mean no offense. Both, after all, would prefer we assess their lengthy tenures in dog years. Perry's nine becomes a youthful one-plus and Bailey's 16 becomes a little more than two.
In this way these old curs can argue with long, straight faces that it's time to throw his/her mangy rascal of an opponent off the porch and hire someone who'll do the job right.
This is a bad time for old tricks. If 2008 was an election about change, 2010 is shaping up to be an election about spare change, as in do you have some.
Texas has lost more jobs than every state but California. The mailman brings nothing but bad news, including these mysterious toll road bills generated automatically when we drive to the corner store, thereby doubling the price of our lottery tickets.
The oil fields are playing out, the water holes are drying up, few can afford to see the doctor, and our state education leaders want to teach that Fred Flinstone and his pet dinosaur Dino were historical figures. We better not count on science to get us out of this.
And two of the old dogs that led us into this cul-de-sac are each baying about how it's all the fault of the other one. If this were more than a metaphor, the bear would have eaten them both by now.
Now, there's something to be said for experience. I wouldn't trade mine for a toll road transponder. But experience is one thing. Fleas are another.
The Republican gubernatorial primary really is something like a senior tour version of the Westminster Dog Show. It's got little to do with the real folk of Texas and everything to do with rival Republican kennels. Grooming the burrs out of Perry's coat are homebuilders and insurance companies. Hutchison's getting her hair teased up by more "moderate" bidness types who dab a little eau de public mindedness behind their ears before attending black tie charity events.
The Houston Chronicle's Rick Dunham captured all you need to know (actually, all there is to know) about the GOP primary with a blog post about a pissy little dog-walking dominance dance between the campaigns. Hutchison's 18-wheelers surrounded and hid a Perry truck hauling an anti-Hutchison sign thereby winning the daily message contest.
And you thought I was just being poetic with the dog thing.
The press doesn't much cover dog shows, and so they'll be hard-pressed (pardon the pun) to call this match-up what it is. Better it be seen as a clash of titans, or at least a rumble in the tumbleweeds.
Texas voters are so alienated from affairs in Austin that it's still up in the air whether Tom Schieffer or some new Democratic pup will emerge to show up the show dogs. They'd run away with it if Texans knew what was really going on.
You can't blame newspapers or local network television affiliates, really. Well you can, but what's the point. State government probably has more impact on the lives of people than government at any other level. But darn, it's expensive to cover and readership surveys just don't give it high marks.
So we train our eyes on the old front porch. Every once in a while one of the dog owners will toss a ball into the yard. A tail beats idly on the hardwood. Dog eyes get a "do I have to?" look. A dog rises slowly, shakes itself, and ambles down the porch steps. The ball is fetched. Treats all around.
(Now that the Sotomayor hearings are on lunch break, I wanted to put this back atop the page. It is real, real big news for the day...until Hutchison announces her campaign totals later this afternoon. - promoted by Phillip Martin)
Texas newspaper publishers are talking about sharing their content -- outside the usual Associated Press pick-ups, sources say. The implications for the depth and breadth of state government and political news are huge. And dire.
We may have seen the first evidence of new sharing arrangements this weekend. Emily Ramshaw of the Dallas Morning news ran a story Saturday morning about the notorious private prison company, GEO Group,taking over a private psychiatric hospital in Montgomery County. The company's prisons have a history of sexual abuse, riots and suicides.
Texas officials wary of prison company contract
Copyright 2009 Houston Chonicle
July 11, 2009, 8:00PM
Did you catch that? "Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle."
No credit to the Associated Press, the normal avenue for stories taken from other papers. Maybe this was a copydesk error. However, word is that some editors have begun briefing their staffs on the new sharing arrangements.
Sources say publishers and editors have ratcheted up their efforts to come up with news while cutting staff. Additionally, word that Austin investment guru and innovative thinker and businessman John Thornton will soon begin publishing a Texas online newspaper has these same editors and publishers worried.
By sharing content, they hope to head-off competition from a well-funded, hard-hitting, aggressive, online news source that could do in Texas what Politico or Huffington Post have done nationally.
The distance between Austin and voters is already enormous. Layoffs and shrinking space for news in the troubled newspaper industry have meant a dramatic decline in coverage of state politics and government. Chasing distracted audiences, local television affiliates for the most part gave up on state political news long ago. Fires, wrecks, murders and sex are much more salable.
How many Texans even knew there was a regular session of the Legislature this year? How many know what happened? Damn few.
The fate of the dwindling capitol press is very much in doubt. Keep in mind that these are plum jobs, or were plum jobs. Typically, only the best and most responsible journalists were given a chance at the capitol beat. Lose them -- and we've already lost many great ones -- and Texas suffers.
If newspapers are already agreeing to share content, how long before they further reduce their Austin offices?
It's impossible to overestimate the importance of a large and diverse press corps. Not too many years ago, a major event in Austin would attract eight or more cameras and a dozen or more print reporters. Those multiple perspectives were key to accurate, broad reporting. Competition among journalists kept things lively.
We are in a Dark Age of state political and government news. Maybe it's just a transition period. But state blogs -- and there are many good ones like BOR -- have nowhere near the resources, the reporting experience or the reach of newspapers and local TV affiliates. There are high hopes that Thornton and maybe others will succeed in new era publishing. But it hasn't happened yet.
I don't have much sympathy for the corporatized ownership of newspapers. Their commitment to the public's right and need to know has long played second fiddle to their bottom lines. They've rationalized, downsized, and minimized their coverage of state news for years. Texans are paying the price, and that price could get much steeper in coming months and years.
Late in the session, I had an online exchange with Texas Monthly's Paul Burka regarding the fight over voter suppression/voter I.D. In the course of that argument, Burka mocked concerns over fundamental voting rights. "Principles, Schminciples," he said, leading TM's president, Evan Smith, to refer to his lead political writer as "Mr. Schminciple."
I bet Burka would like to take back that comment, betraying as it does the emptiness of a focus on process. Burka loves politics, as do I. But I love it because it's full of people and it's about people, whether they live or die or get an education or an opportunity to succeed. Burka loves the mechanics of politics. In Burka's world, end results, as measured by the lives of Texans, matter little so long as the proper form is followed.
Burka is not alone in his approach. Many experienced and inexperienced political journalists believe a focus on process guards against bias in their reporting. Also, Burka writes in good faith. I just disagree, and I think the issue at stake is a critical one.
Post-session, legislators are waiting breathlessly for TM's infamous Ten Best/Ten Worst list of legislators. While they wait, I wonder if they could answer the question, ten best and ten worst at what exactly?
I respect Burka's experience, and the online reporting of Burka and his colleague, Patricia Kilday Hart, was terrific. But over the years Burka has reduced the Ten Best/Ten Worst to a hollow ritual.
If Burka reported on the 10 best or worst surgeons in Texas, he wouldn't give much attention to the patients who lived or died. Instead, he'd hold forth on operating room technique. We'd learn who had scalpel envy, whose surgical team had the most panache.
Now, it's true that Burka will be especially kind to the surgeon with polished scalpels who is lucky enough to save a patient. And Burka's wrath will come down on bumbling fools who can recite the Hippocratic oath backwards but kill patient after patient with rusty saws.
It's in the non-obvious middle ground that Burka fails. The legislator who puts principle over process precisely because he or she is concerned about saving lives - that person scores low on the Burka scale. There's a particular group who also is uneasy around this kind of person - lobbyists. Lobbyists adore, how shall we put it, "flexibility of conscience."
It's the attachment to the ideals of process that leads to legislative cowardice and failure. It has proven impossible in Texas to fix public education, build roads, make college affordable, and get health care to kids. You know why? Because "process" is the last refuge of scoundrels.
Unsurprisingly, sacrificing principles to process gives an enormous advantage to the unprincipled.
The good news is that voters know all this in their guts, and that's one reason why Burka's Ten Best/Ten Worst makes little difference in campaigns. Sure, people have attacked their opponents unlucky enough to have the scarlet W for Worst sewed to their jacket. And the gold B for Best finds its away into the lucky winners' ads. It's like checking off a box, and voters aren't moved either way.
For voters, what's it really mean? Again, ten best or ten worst at what exactly?
Being best at the process that has led Texas into its current mess can't really be much to brag about.
John Cornyn is back-peddling a bit from his criticism of Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich. He told Dallas KRLD radio host Scott Braddock this afternoon he doesn't like Judge Sonia Sotomayor's comments about her unique insights as a Latina either.
But, Cornyn said after re-stating what he claimed was inappropriate about Sotomayor's statement, he didn't think anyone should call names while pointing out what's inappropriate about Sotomayor's statement.
You can listen to the Cornyn interview with Braddock here.
Hey, I know, it's tough at the top, John, what with the challenge of avoiding GOP lynch parties yourself while calling them out for being lynch parties, but suggesting that, in the end, the reason for this particular lynch party is a good one, it's just that they ought to use a different kind of rope.
I don't agree with Judge Sotomayor's comments at all, to the contrary, that's one of the things that our legal tradition has recognized that justice is blind...I'm very troubled by her comment. Where I disagreed with Rush and Newt is I think it's just not very helpful to start name-calling right out of the chute...
Save the name-calling for the right time, right John?
Well, if Rick Perry, Joe Straus, David Dewhurst and their GOP conspirators couldn't successfully deny the vote to hundreds of thousands of Texans, they succeeded in denying them unemployment benefits.
I've seen a lot of black-hearted things in the Capitol, but I've never been as disgusted as I was when I saw GOP House Caucus Chair Larry Taylor grinning like the Cheshire Cat as Straus and his henchmen used the very device they'd been whining about -- slow talking -- to kill the unemployment insurance bill.
They were grinning like cats, but they were behaving like wee, witless errand-folk for Perry. Perry opposed the UI bill because he had to object to something in the federal stimulus package. Refusing a few hundred million from Barack Obama seemed just the ticket to raise his creep-cred with the far right. Even if it raised taxes on businesses about $700 million. Even if it increased the suffering of 200,000 Texans who've lost their jobs because G.W. Bush and Perry almost destroyed the economy.
Straus and the Republicans used their majority power to rig the House calendar. They should have made the calendar by cutting letters from newspapers and magazines and pasting them on plain paper like a blackmail note in the movies. You want your voting rights? Then we'll let our friends in the insurance industry steal more of your money, etc. etc.
Republicans thought Democrats would blink. They didn't. It was the Republicans who refused over and over again to place insurance reform and the unemployment bill ahead of the voter I.D. measure. They rigged this blackmail from the beginning, and they will pay the price in 2010.
Those post-unemployment bill podium grins from Republican Larry Taylor, Warren Chisum and Phil King were sinister. They were actually happy to increase the unearned suffering of their fellow Texans.
Still, congratulations to House Democrats and all who helped you defeat the voter suppression measure. Take a few moments to celebrate, even while you continue to work overtime to save insurance reform and other critical bills the Republicans booby trapped.
House Speaker Joe Straus and dozens of GOP House members who signed their names to blanket objections which block insurance reform are doing what Republicans do best: serving their masters in the insurance lobby.
When they placed their partisan voter ID bill at the top of the regular calendar -- ahead of the Texas Department of Insurance sunset bill, they hoped to block key insurance reforms. Like the common-sense, pro-consumer amendment that would require Insurance Commission review and approval of insurance rates before companies could assess them.
Of course, if they succeed in passing voter suppression legislation, they'll put into law bureaucratic barriers to the ballot box. They'll have fewer angry voters to overcome because fewer angry voters will be allowed to vote. That's the whole point of the GOP voter ID plan: put structural barriers into the law that guarantees them power no matter how voters might feel.
Democrats have tried several times to move insurance reform to the top of the calendar. Republicans have said no. But they've made it clear they put their cronies in the insurance industry before the needs of hardworking Texans who now pay the highest insurance rates in the nation.
In this, new Republican House Speaker looks more and more like the man he vanquished, notorious former Speaker Tom Craddick. It's a shame, really. No matter the face in the chair, it's the insurance industry that controls the Republican Party. It's not really a party at all. It's an insurance industry PAC.
Harvey Kronberg's Quorum Report makes the good point that insurance reform is so popular with voters that the Republicans blocking a rules suspension may pay a price in 2010.
Quorum looks at the popularity of insurance reform in a recent poll, and concludes:
[The poll's release is]a message to the Republican signators blocking a suspension of the rules.
Democrats have offered several times to suspend the rules to take up critical policy matters falling beneath Voter I.D. on the calendar. But Voter I.D. is the GOP's top 2009 priority, and they are willing to sacrifice insurance reform and other critical issues to get what they want.
Fifty-nine or 60 of them are on the record in the House journal opposing suspension. (They've filed three such suspension blocking letters. I can only find one online so far in the official House Journal.) Not hard to link that on-the-record block to the failure of insurance reform. Here's the list of GOP members, taken from the House Journal, who are on the record against insurance reform.
The following members gave notice of a standing objection to suspending the regular order of business:
Isett, F. Brown, Bohac, B. Brown, Anderson, Smithee, Keffer, Truitt, Flynn, Eissler, Fletcher, J. Davis, Berman, Jackson, Hardcastle, Paxton, Cook, Driver, Lewis, Hunter, Jones, Hartnett, Orr, Taylor, Laubenberg, Harper-Brown, D. Miller, Button, Parker, Zerwas, Kolkhorst, Sheffield, Hamilton, W. Smith, Branch, Kleinschmidt, Hancock, Swinford, Madden, Weber, Aycock, S. King, Otto, Creighton, S. Miller, Craddick, Crownover, Geren, Bonnen, Christian, T. Smith, McCall, Shelton, Hughes, P. King, Woolley, Patrick, Darby, and Hilderbran.
UPDATE -- It's also clear this afternoon that the GOP, including Speaker Straus, is today trying to spin a spurious connection between this year's GOP voter suppression bill and a '97 proposal involving ID requirements for voters not on the rolls and without a voter registration card. Straus called it "complete hypocricy" for Dems to oppose this year's proposal if they supported the '97 proposal. This year, of course, the GOP wants additional IDs from voters on the rolls and with a voter registration card. This sort of poor, half-baked opposition research is laughable. The bills are radically different.
UPDATE # 2 -- Here is language from bill analysis of the '97 bill being spun by Republicans as equivalent to this years bill.
Current election law does not allow for a separate ballot box for the affidavit ballot. Quickly locating ballots voted by affidavit is essential to a smooth-running, non-controversial election.
Get it? The '97 proposal applied to people not on the registration rolls and without registration cards -- and it gives them a way to vote by affidavit. It made it easier to vote. This year's proposal restricts voting even by people on the registration rolls and with a registration card. And under the '97 proposal, a voter not on the rolls and without a registration card could vote just by signing an affidavit.
This is a weak and deceitful argument from Republicans.
Back in January, Senate Democrats rightly argued that the Legislature should take up serious issues -- unemployment, insurance reform, etc. -- before getting bogged down in the GOP's top 2009 priority: protecting their power by building a wall between Texans and the ballot box with burdensome, multiple-ID requirements for voters. Republicans even trashed the Senate rules in order to protect themselves.
Now, House Republicans have once again made voter suppression their priority. It was placed at the top of the calendar, ahead of Texas Department of Insurance Sunset, ahead of unemployment insurance, ahead of windstorm. House Dems have made several good faith efforts to get on with work on these issues. They attempted several times to suspend the rules to move these issues ahead of Voter I.D. Republicans said no. Over and over and over again.
In other words, the GOP is holding these important bills hostage while claiming that it's their opponents' fault. They've kidnapped insurance reform, then called the police (the press) to report the kidnapping, claiming its others doing the hostage-taking. And right there in broad daylight they're refusing over and over again to release their hostages. It's just a version of the old story about the adulterer caught red-handed, "Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?"
The GOP Strategy: Our Way Or the Highway.
We've seen this before. Under Tom Craddick. You know, the former speaker chased from office because of his disregard for his own members, the state's interests, or any interest other than his own.
Craddick's back. The Strausian waltz of good feeling, never much more than a tenuous hope, has disappeared altogether into Craddick-driven ugliness and ill-will. Make no mistake, Craddick is pulling the strings, and he is greatly enjoying the fact that he has organized an impasse that's making Straus squirm.
This is a case of a very old and mangey tail wagging a young dog.
Straus can cut off that tail. And return the House to more pressing matters. This is Straus' first real opportunity to show he's not Craddick. He can, if he will find a way to put the critical bills ahead of voter I.D., demonstrate that the interests of Texans and the membership of the House come before partisanship. Or, he can catch the Craddick Mange.
A reminder: At stake in the House proceedings this weekend is a proposal that will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, voters in the cities, voters in the country, voters along the coast, voters in Austin.
The fight over voter I.D. is this era's civil rights fight. Republicans want to diminish voting by the elderly, the poor, people of color, by women -- in other words, voters who tend to vote for Democrats.
Richard Posner, the federal appeals court judge who wrote the opinion approving an Indiana voter I.D. law admitted it: the law will diminish votes for Democrats. Posner said he just didn't care.
There is no more fundamental issue in a Democracy than the right to vote. Republicans deny they want to suppress votes. They say they want to diminish voter impersonation. There are no cases of voter impersonation. Their argument is laughable. Their intent is to return Texas to the era of poll taxes and segregation. This time, the segregated will be women, the elderly, and those who, like my daughter before this year's city election, have their license stolen two days before an election.
These last few days the fight has been carried out through procedural means. Legitimate procedural means. That can lead people to forget the moral stakes. Tactics take focus and planning, and the core issue can temporarily be lost in such an effort.
This is an issue that defines who we are. It's no less than that. Do any legislators really want to be known as members of the Legislature that returned our state to a pre-civil rights era? I don't think so.
Paul Burka asked me to tell him what the "end game" was of the Democrats' valiant effort this weekend. I asked him how Martin Luther King Jr. would have answered that question in 1960. Because the answer to that, evidenced by today's legislative fight, is that we have still not reached the end of King's historic battle.