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The six percent

Today’s a big day for Democrats in the state legislature. And at the end of the day, they’ll probably think they won a big one.

Thankfully, they’re working hard to kill a bill which, if it passed, would be among the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. In fact it’s probably unconstitutional.

The bill outlaws most abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy (that’s most of the “probably unconstitutional” part – the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade is generally agreed to protect abortion rights until about the 24th week), requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of a clinic, requires clinics to meet standards so strict that it would close all but a few clinics in Texas, and requires that abortion-inducing medications be taken in the presence of a doctor. Proponents of the bill claim it’s about improving women’s health, but can neither point to a current related problem nor identify how their bill solves it.

The fact that doctors’ professional organizations oppose the legislation would normally be enough for most Texans to conclude that the Texas Legislature is practicing medicine without a license.

But there’s nothing normal about this “special” legislative session, and there isn’t anything about this issue aimed at “most Texans.” There’s also nothing normal about the way the Republican leadership has handled it – which brings me back to the top: at the end of the day, Democrats will probably think they won a big one.

But are Democrats winning, or is it more that Republicans are losing?

In light of a million trillion pronouncements from all manner of Republican leadership that this is magically The Most Important Issue In The World, consider the following:

– Governor Rick Perry (who exclusively controls the agenda of a special session of the legislature) didn’t add abortion legislation to the agenda until they were well-into the special session.

– The presiding officer of the Senate, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, who aggressively pushed Perry to add the issue to the agenda, spent at least a week of the 30-day legislative session in Europe. (Perry didn’t add it until after Dewhurst returned)

– The presiding officer of the House, Joe Straus, adjourned the House of Representatives for a two-week period of the 30 day session.

All of the above contributed to where we are today – the last day of the special session – during which it is likely that Senate Democrats led by Wendy Davis of Fort Worth will kill the legislation via filibuster, following heroic efforts by House Democrats over the weekend to slow down the process and put the bill in range of Davis’ efforts.

I hope this legislation is dead by the end of today. The whole situation would be laughably wacky, except that if the bill passes, it will kill women. It wouldn’t make abortions less necessary for the women who need them, it would just make them less accessible. It would make illegal and dangerous back-alley abortions more likely, and make life-threatening outcomes inevitable. To the extent it prevents any abortions, it doesn’t make affordable prenatal care any more accessible by the women forced to continue their pregnancies. It does nothing to make day care for these children more affordable, and nothing to improve the quality of the public education these children deserve.

But I’m not going to change any minds with this piece. What I can do is point out the truth behind this shady process.

The fact is, the Republican leadership has done just about everything they could do to mishandle the legislative session, leading to the Democratic minority being in range of killing the bill. And I’m glad they are, since advocates of the policy aren’t representing mainstream Texans in their efforts – they’re playing to a very limited crowd: Republican primary voters.

Republican officeholders are terrified of their own primary voters. Aside from the stray post-redistricting election here and there, the vast majority of Republican incumbents who lose their re-election efforts do so in the Republican primary – in most district elections and statewide, Democrats have been little threat to them. The pro-life stance in the abortion debate is the big motivating issue for only one voting segment: Republican primary voters.

So who are these voters? Of the 25 million people who live in Texas, it amounts to fewer than 1.5 million people. That’s about six percent of Texans.

Six percent. That’s the entire audience Republican officeholders are playing to, while the other 94 percent of Texans look on as spectators to this sham. That six percent are also the folks who have been electing all the statewide officeholders around here for almost 20 years, since the only two things a candidate has to do to get elected statewide in Texas are to win in the Republican primary, and to not get hit by a bus until after the general election.

Both the safety and liberty of Texas women are being sold down the river for the sake of that six percent. The legitimately important issues of concern to mainstream Texas families stay on the back burner for the sake of the six percent. And virtually all the public utterances of the Republican leadership in Texas are aimed squarely at attracting the six percent.

And that’s exactly how things will continue around here until Democrats win a statewide election, and Republicans suddenly remember the other 94 percent. There are 23.5 million Texans Republicans haven’t had a conversation with in 20 years.

But the longer Republicans pander to their precious six percent, the more likely it is that Democrats will be back in the game sooner rather than later. The lack of leadership around here isn’t indicated by Republicans mishandling the clock. It’s best indicated by them ignoring the 94 percent.

Thank the House Democrats for their amazing round-the-clock efforts in the last few days in slowing down this legislation. Be grateful for the Senate Democrats standing strong and united yesterday in blocking the rule suspension which would have greased this bill through. Cheer on Senator Wendy Davis today as she hopefully carries the ball over the finish line and kills this bill.

But then, after all that, don’t be surprised when the Republicans immediately call a do-over, and legislators are back in Austin for a second special session.

Because, dear 94 percenters, the other six percent must be catered to.

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Irony of the week award

Rick Perry complained about “charlatans and peacocks.”

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Sacramento radio stations continue to celebrate Rick Perry-related windfall

Funny thing about that dust-up between Texas Governor Rick Perry – who famously arranged for a tiny radio buy inviting California businesses to move to Texas – and California Governor Jerry Brown, who called Perry’s efforts “barely a fart.”

Turns out they’ll let just about anybody put up a radio buy in Sacramento. The Lone Star Project did so this morning – warning Californians about Rick Perry’s snake oil salesmanship. Listen up:

I guess Rick Perry really can create an economic windfall – for California radio stations.

Read more on this from the Lone Star Project.

 

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Breaking thought for the day so far

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Rick Perry state-of-the-state spoiler

Today near the lunch hour, Texas Governor Rick Perry is slated to deliver his state-of-the-state address to a joint session of the Texas Legislature.

But here, let me save you some time – I know you don’t want to cancel your lunch plans. You can thank me later.

We’ve all been through this before – Perry’s state-of-the-state has become like groundhogs day, just without the laughs.

First, he’ll brag on the Texas economy. It’s the best in the known galaxy, you know. He’ll take credit for it too. After all, the fact that the Texas economy is strong can’t possibly have anything whatsoever to do with the gumption and wherewithal of the Texas entrepreneurial spirit, or the fact that we have an abundant supply of cheap labor, real estate, international ports and other transportation, and natural resources in Texas, all of which predate Perry. Noooo, that’s not it – it’s All About Rick Perry.

Somewhere in there, he’ll call for more of the same. Probably a tax cut. He always calls for a tax cut. It gives them a little tiny stiffie when he calls for tax cuts.

He’ll also throw in some “Nixon goes to China” thing nobody’s expecting. Like the time he called for mandatory HPV vaccines. Or the time he called for privatizing the state lottery; that was a good one. The legislature always ignores his Nixon goes to China moment.

Perry makes remarks at the Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC) in Washington

Perry: please believe me?

He’ll complain bitterly about The Evil People In D.C., and blame them for everything Texans don’t like. I have no idea how he’ll blame them for the Astros’ dismal win-loss record, but I’m sure he’s working on it.

He’ll probably complain that the legislature hasn’t done nearly enough to control women’s bodies yet, so get ready for the thrill of a new proposal on that front. I’m sure he thinks y’all gals got way too uppity in the last election to suit him.

And most of all, he’ll say stuff to make you believe that he’ll stay relevant and run for re-election again. This should be taken with every ounce of the credibility you placed on his promises that he would never, ever, not in a million years, no-sir-ee-bob-tail, run for President. You should completely believe every word he says about his future political plans, because being surprised later when it doesn’t happen the way he says is much more fun.

So there you have it – now you can avoid canceling your lunch plans. I should bill you people for this incredible insight. This has been your Letters From Texas State-of-the-State preview.

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Scandal-ridden Texas cancer agency is offensive

On last week’s “Capital Tonight” show on YNN Austin, the subject of the criminal investigations of CPRIT, the Texas cancer agency, was front and center. Here’s my take.

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Rick Perry calls on Satan to help Romney win [with video]

Earlier this week, Texas Governor Rick Perry participated in a conference call with evangelical Christians, in which he said that the separation of church and state was is devil’s work.

Perry didn’t mention the probability that separation of church and state is more likely the work of James Madison and the Federalist Papers, but I’m sure he just forgot about that teeny weeny detail.

Did Perry say it because he’s trying to advance the principles of Christianity? Of course not. He said it for partisan purposes – trying to help drag Mitt Romney over the finish line. This marks the bazillionth time Perry and other Republicans have used God as a political prop.

Here’s what I said about it on YNN’s “Capital Tonight,” which you can view in its entirety this Sunday morning at 11 am, on YNN in Austin or on the Texas Channel in other Texas media markets:

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Texas political leadership needs a Prozac prescription

Following yesterday’s primary run-off elections, it seems as good a time as any to review some of the reasons why your current state government might suck. Last night’s election results serve to amplify that suckage factor, and help focus in on why Texas is last or near-last in every people-oriented measure of importance.

To be blunt: your state government at the moment is really grumpy.

Here’s the run-down:

You have a Governor who made it very clear that he’d rather be in the White House than doing his current job. Yet, he’ll be expected to do it for another two years, for at least three reasons, one of which he usually can’t recall. Oops.

You have a Lt. Governor who made it very clear that he’d rather be in the U.S. Senate than doing his current job. Following his loss last night, he too will be expected to do a bit of Lt. Governing for another couple of years.

You have a state Attorney General who would rather be Governor, and a Comptroller, Agriculture Commissioner, and Land Commissioner who would each rather be Lt. Governor.

With the exception of House Speaker Joe Strauss, listed above is the entirety of the elected leadership of Texas government, and not one of them has much reason to be particularly focused on the job they were elected to do – they’re all focused on a job they don’t have, and in most cases, can’t get. They’re saying and doing the things they imagine might score them points for their future electoral goals, and if it’s not costing in the quality of their current jobs, that may just be coincidence or dumb luck. So far.

Meanwhile, you’re also stuck with a Texas Senate in which a third of the membership had conned themselves into believing that their colleagues might elevate them to the vacancy in the Lt. Governor’s office that now doesn’t exist, and a clear majority is clinically depressed this morning at the mere thought of another two years of Dewhurst occupying their principal’s office. And this dispirited bunch is supposed to be the serious deliberative body.

Thanks to one-Party rule and the war against the Republican Party waged by Republican tea party activists, they just had themselves a little primary election yesterday in which an incumbent who forces women to have invasive transvaginal sonograms against their will, and another incumbent who wanted to allow people to carry guns onto alcohol and hormone-infested college campuses, were turned out of office because they’re the liberal ones.

Republican legislators were challenged in high numbers from within their own political Party this year, and those who were still on a ballot last night probably lost, most resoundingly. How, in that atmosphere, are the surviving incumbent Republican legislators to be expected to make the tough decisions and take the tough votes that keep this state’s trains running on time, when their primary electorate is so utterly terrifying?

Whatever happened to state leadership which is focused on the jobs they were hired to do? Whatever happened to public officials who went about their daily jobs, without being terrified of the lunatic fringe primary election voters who have already deducted two strikes against any candidate who won the previous election, assuming that incumbency is a disease worthy of eradication?

Whatever happened to just doing your job?

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Where’s the bold business leadership in Texas?

Whatever happened to bold business leadership?

Here’s what the politically active folks in Texas business believe:

They believe that Texas is a Republican state. Fair enough.

They believe that their business interests are best served when they involve themselves in the political process, usually in a big way. Undeniably true.

They believe that if they hitched their wagons to Republican candidates, those candidates would have a better chance of winning elections, and as a result, those business people have a better opportunity to be heard in policy-making, since the candidates they support tend to win. So far, so good.

They believe that the stick works as well as the carrot: that when an officeholder fails to heed their advice on what is best for business, they can pour money into the campaign of their opponent, and the course can be corrected. Yup…standard operating procedure for a decade or more.

All fair enough, so far; it’s a system. And if you’re a politically active business person in Texas, you probably think it’s worked pretty well for you more times than not.

Except, oops. What are they going to do when Ted Cruz’s of the world defeat the David Dewhursts? How will they react when they wake up in early August and find out that everybody knows the emperor has no clothes?

How much clout do they believe they’ll have next January, when they walk into the Capitol building and begin talking with all those new members of the Texas legislature, who all got there because they defeated their business-backed Republican opponents in this year’s Republican primary elections? And how much respect will those new legislators have for business interests, knowing that despite all the money that Texas business poured into so many legislative campaigns, their candidates were easily defeated by the Tea Party inmates who took over the asylum?

So much has been written about the inability of Texas Democrats to be more effective in elections, and not without merit. But hardly anything has been written about the extent to which Texas business interests are losing their grip on the political party it birthed, nursed, educated, and raised as their own.

Elections don’t exist for the sake of political parties, nor do they exist for the sake of business’ ability to do business. They exist for the more well-rounded purpose of representing people. For too long, Texas businesses which have chosen to organize and participate in politics have ignored every aspect of the political process, except for the Republican primary process. They’ve assumed that what’s good for people is bad for their tax rate. They’ve paid little attention to long-term planning for success, too obsessed with the next fiscal quarterly report to the SEC. They’ve ignored their own business strategy of diversification, and have failed to diversify in the political process, instead betting it all on one team. And the likelihood that their interests are increasingly being pummeled by the ideologues elected on that team should be of grave concern to them.

Ideology aside, as the heart of things, what is good for business can be very good for people. It’s just common sense that the best economic development program for any family is a job. It has always been true that a trained and educated workforce is good for the economy. It is undeniable that a strong middle class is one which has plenty of cash to spend in the marketplace. It is common sense that an unhealthy workforce is an unproductive workforce.

So how did it come to pass that Texas business remains solidly behind the people who have devastated education funding, denied Texans affordable health care, and failed to fund a state infrastructure, both human and physical, which would best support its needs? How is it possible that Texas business continues to cower in fear at a governor who, purely for political and ideological reasons, stands in the way of literally billions and billions of health care dollars flowing into the state, to be spent and re-spent in the economy, and to make the state’s workforce significantly healthier?

If I were a 900 pound gorilla in the business community, I would quietly call a private summit of my peers. Once gathered, I would announce that anybody who arrived with their ideological baggage on their sleeve can immediately leave, with no hard feelings. And then I’d spend the rest of the weekend among the grown-ups, discussing how it could possibly be, when we’ve funded the lion’s share of political spending by those who have won most of the elections around here, that the things of highest priority to us are deemed unimportant by those in the political party that we built in the first place. We would discuss the fact that the things that best build an indestructible powerhouse economic future have somehow been thrown in the back seat with last week’s empty fast food wrappers, while we, along with the rest of Texans, are inflicted with never-ending babble about distractions having little or nothing to do with building a state or a country, and more to do with last Sunday’s church sermon.

And after that business summit, perhaps those titans of business would remember how to lead, instead of gamely following behind the ideologues who can’t even get a fact straight, much less lead a state with one of the largest economies on the planet.

Like I said, whatever happened to bold business leadership around here?

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Perry’s health care policy: “Screw you. No.”

The folks busy parsing every little detail of health care reform utterances in Texas are closely studying every single tree, while the forest burns down unnoticed.

A duly-elected United States Congress passed the health care reform bill. A duly-elected President of the United States signed it into law. A Constitutionally appointed United States Supreme Court has now said the measure is constitutional. Haven’t we all heard Governor Perry touting various parts of the Constitution as being his guiding light? Yeah, apparently that crap ain’t in this week’s talking points.

But now Perry says he’ll drag up on every aspect of health care reform he still has some measure of control over. Ignoring for a moment that it’s not Perry’s decision to make, but the state legislature’s, he says he won’t authorize the health exchange (leaving it to the Federal Government he claims to so detest – except, what happened to that “Texans can run Texas better” message?), and he won’t expand Medicaid to account for the countless Texans who will fall through the health care hole if he doesn’t.

I’m tempted to break with my fellow Democrats on Perry’s position on the exchange, but that’s mainly because a health care exchange Perry’s in charge of is liable to end up being a cluster-eff. I’m not sure the Feds will do much better, but they’d certainly do better than somebody who hates the program he’s implementing.

But on Medicaid expansion, it’s pure politics, driven by Perry’s irrational level of hatred of the President. If Texas fails to expand Medicaid, the taxes Texans already paid will go to another state’s health care needs. If Texas fails to expand Medicaid, hospitals will (correctly) scream bloody murder, since Perry will in effect be signing their financial death warrants. And if Texas fails to expand Medicaid, countless Texans will continue to not have affordable health care. To hear Perry talk, Medicaid expansion will bust the state budget. Could somebody please make the man settle down long enough to inform him that for the first few years of expansion, the Feds are paying for ALL of it, and after that, the Feds are paying 90 cents on the dollar of it?

Oh yeah, and remember the point of all this – people having access to health care, so that when they’re sick, they can get the care they need without either dying or going bankrupt? Somehow that’s been lost in the debate. It is, after all, about people. Non-corporation people, which is probably why Rick Perry forgot about ‘em. And Texas is, after all, the state with the highest percentage of people without health insurance coverage in the nation. And a new study says the quality of the care people get is the worst in the nation.

So, just to review: Texans not only have the least health care, they also have the worst health care, and Governor Perry’s health care plan is to just say no. That might score him political points with the lunatic fringe overwhelming Republican primary elections these days, but it doesn’t do anything to keep people alive, keep people healthy, and keep those peoples’ families from going bankrupt because Uncle Bubba got a cyst.

But Rick Perry hasn’t mentioned much about keeping people alive and healthy, has he?

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Buzz from the TV show – Rick Perry’s “Compact”

On the most recent episode of YNN’s “Capital Tonight,” I was asked about the Governor’s so-called “Compact” which Perry had announced earlier in the week.

You can watch the entire show from last week, which also features Texas Senator Wendy Davis and State Representative Donna Howard, online any time. And you can watch this week’s episode this Thursday night at 6 pm on YNN Austin, or on the Texas Network, channel 888 on Time-Warner systems, in other Texas media markets.

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Buzz from the TV show: Hutchison rips Perry

No, the above headline isn’t a flashback from a couple of years ago. Yesterday, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison ripped Rick Perry a new one for messing up the Women’s Health Care Program in Texas.

So of course this came up in this week’s episode of YNN’s Capital Tonight. Here was my reaction:

You can watch the entire episode of Capital Tonight in its entirety this Sunday morning at 11 am on YNN Austin, elsewhere in Texas on the Texas Network, channel 888 on Time-Warner systems. Or you can watch the episode on the web any time.

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Actually, there’s a certain logic to this

Especially if you’re a Saturday Night Live writer. They, of course, would be near the front of the line to want Rick Perry to rejoin the race for President.

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Buzz from the TV show: Perry’s post-Presidential fortunes

On last week’s “Capital Tonight” on YNN Austin, Paul Brown asked me about Rick Perry’s fortunes looking forward. Here’s what I said. It’s a theory that’s out there.

You can watch the entire show online here, and you can catch us on Thursdays at 6 pm and 10 pm, and Sunday mornings at 11 am, on YNN Austin, or on Time-Warner’s Texas Channel (channel 888) in other Texas media markets.

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Post-Perry Presidential pontification

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