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The greatest deliberative body in the world?

“The Texas Senate is the greatest deliberative body in the world.”

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. Texas state Senators of both parties love to say it.

I wonder if they even noticed, before last night, that it’s not true anymore?

Yeah, about last night.

Last night made it clear that these days, The Greatest Deliberative Body In The World may not even be the greatest deliberative body in the building.

Perhaps it was the first point of order sustained against filibustering Democratic Senator Wendy Davis, in which this great deliberative body, where virtually all things are usually ruled germane to debates, suddenly ruled that Davis’ discussion of past legislative family planning budget cuts wasn’t germane to a bill on abortion restrictions.

Or perhaps it was the second point of order sustained against Davis, in which she was ruled out of order because another Senator decided to help her with her back brace. Yes – a point of order was sustained against a Senator based on an entirely different Senator’s action.

Or maybe it was Davis’ third strike – which called her out and ended her filibuster – the Republican point of order sustained against her in which Davis’ discussion, on how other legislation on the topic of abortion restrictions could affect this bill,was ruled not germane.

Let that sink in: debate on the topic of abortion restrictions is unrelated to legislation on abortion restrictions. That was the Republican claim, and that was the Republican ruling. Everybody watching in the building and around the world knew that Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, was the referee who threw the game. It was intended to end Wendy Davis’ filibuster. It may have instead ended some Republicans’ careers.

Dewhurst shouldn’t have been surprised when it also ended the last shred of patience with the hundreds of pro-choice Texans watching upstairs from the Senate gallery. Ignited by Senator Leticia Van de Putte’s angry pronouncement that a female Senator’s motion wasn’t being recognized over a man’s, the upstairs crowd exploded, and their deafening noise took over the building for more than ten minutes and ran out the clock.

It’s terrible precedent for a Senate gallery to take over the Senate floor. It’s worse precedent for the majority party to cheat in order to win. Thousands of people swarmed into their Capitol building last night to see how their government works, but once they got there they found out that, these days, it doesn’t work at all. Republicans shouldn’t have been surprised at their reaction, which was essentially to rise up with one voice and declare “up with this shit we will not put!”

I’ve been watching the Texas Senate for almost 25 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve also never seen anything like this level of clock mismanagement by  legislative leadership, which is why this anti-abortion bill ended up in the red zone in the first place, vulnerable to Wendy Davis’ ultimately-successful filibuster.

Ironically, despite Dewhurst bumbling just about everything he touched last night, he’s also the lone Republican in state leadership who first raised the alarm bell mid-last week, and turned out to be exactly right in urging the House leadership to hurry up and return the legislation to the Senate, lest the bill get into Democratic filibuster range. The House scoffed at him, declined to meet Saturday, and put off final debate until a day later. Dewhurst’s warning turned out to be an accurate premonition.

This morning, the special session is over. The anti-abortion bill, currently dead, faces an uncertain future at the hands of Governor Perry’s decision of whether to call another session. People like Democratic Senators Wendy Davis, Senate Democratic leader Kirk Watson, and Senator Leticia Van de Putte are suddenly progressive heroes, the former propelled into international political stardom. Tens of thousands of Texas progressives and Democrats are suddenly feeling more empowered than they’ve felt in a generation.

And it’s entirely possible that none of it would have happened, if the Republicans in charge had managed the clock and run a fair fight.

Greatest deliberative body in the world indeed.

I’ll leave you with my own point of personal privilege, which not only demonstrates how proud I am of Wendy Davis and the Senate Democrats, but also proves that this woman can filibuster for 13 hours late into the night, and still be up and awake by 9 am the next morning:

 

wendytext

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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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Revisited: the Second Worst Church In The World

Remember the Second Worst Church In The World, the Church of Corinth near Dallas, at which the church’s minister was arrested for attempted sexual performance of a child? Some in the congregation responded by believing that the accusations were nothing but an attack by Satan and silenced people who dared express any concern for the underaged victim.

Guess who meets monthly at that church? Go on – give it a shot.

Meet the Denton County Republican Party.

In fact, the county Republican Party evidently attracted Peggy Venable, the Texas director of Americans for Prosperity, as a guest speaker at last Thursday’s meeting at the church, which is the same location the pastor is accused of victimizing the child.

Americans for Prosperity was a big spender for Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, who embarrassed has fellow Republicans last year when he said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

This is all starting to make more sense to me now.

 

[h/t to blog reader Wayne]

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Democratic National Convention, day 2 recap: los dos Presidents

Was it just yesterday, after a picture-perfect first day, when I said this?

But never fear, Republicans – we are Democrats. We are well-versed in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We still have two nights remaining to screw something up.

Why yes, yes it was indeed just yesterday when I said that. And then the Democrats screwed something up. But Bill Clinton made sure it won’t matter, and Cecile Richards made me proud. Here’s what happened:

Bad Democrats: platform stupid human tricks

The first night of the convention was so utterly picture-perfect the Republicans could find little to moan and groan about. But since it is their sworn duty to moan and groan, they were forced to do a little reading before they went to bed, and they found two things in the party platform to complain about: God and Jerusalem.

Say what? Glad you asked. Apparently when comparing this year’s platform to the previous one, the new platform omitted the word “God.” Never mind that people who are experts on, and rather fond of God were not complaining about this. Also, never mind that the mention of God in the previous platform had nothing to do with religion, but in context was a reference to growing the middle class. And finally, never mind that the new platform has an entire section on faith. They complained. It’s their job.

The new platform also omitted a previous plank regarding support for Jerusalem being the capitol of Israel. Similar to the God thing above, never mind that pro-Jewish and pro-Israeli groups didn’t seem to be complaining about this. Also, never mind that those groups participated in the two public hearings the convention’s platform draft committee had held, and had never brought it up, despite sharing input on several other Israel-related planks of the platform. And never mind that as this dust-up gained steam, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States declined to say much about it beyond, “…bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.” Also, never mind that no matter what the platform says, it is simply a matter of fact and record that it is, indeed, President Obama’s stated policy that Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel. And finally, never mind that it is Republican President George Bush, not the Democrats, who resisted Congressional attempts to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Never mind all that stuff. Complaints must be made, and the platform dust-up dominated convention coverage all day. The whole thing floors me, since the party platform is among the most manageable departments associated with a national convention – that Democrats were clumsy enough to give the Republicans ammo is bad enough. But when the President weighed in and directed the convention to fix the platform, the Democrats got even more clumsy.

Oh, they fixed the platform alright. Except that they forgot to mention this big plan to anybody who would vote on the fix, and when they gaveled the convention in yesterday afternoon and immediately voted to fix it, confusion reigned supreme. It looked like amateur hour.

God remained unavailable for comment regarding either platform screw-up. But Republicans, always eager to explain to us what God thinks, were in abundant supply.

Did the Republican attack work? Well, we’re discussing it here, aren’t we? It was a dumb unforced error.

Good Democrats: Big Dawg to the rescue


I bet I’ve watched Bill Clinton give 75 speeches, and I bet I’ve watched 15-20 of them in person. Never was he better than he was last night.

Clinton is the only man alive who can get away with explaining facts and figures to people and still make it interesting. He became a one-man Politifact-esque wrecking ball, and utterly demolished every major charge the Republicans leveled against President Obama at their gathering last week in Tampa. He explained the economic recovery. He explained Obama’s health care reform act. He explained why the Republicans’ proposals don’t add up. He explained the national debt. And yes, while all that all sounds pretty boring as convention fodder, he did it all so well that he had trouble getting the delegates to stop partying their asses off and laughing with him at the Republicans.

By the time Clinton finished dismembering the Republicans 48 minutes later, even the conservative talking heads on the nets were throwing in the towel.

While there were many speakers on last night’s schedule who moved delegates and TV viewers, there is no doubt that Democrats fully intended for Clinton to dominate the news cycle, and he did. Of all the national conventions I have watched or attended over the years, there are, maybe, five to eight game-changing speeches I remember. Bill Clinton’s speech last night takes its rightful place among them, and if President Obama wins re-election this fall, Clinton’s speech last night may be one reason why he does.

…and a point of personal privilege: Cecile Richards

I have known Cecile Richards for more than 20 years. I worked for her mother. I worked with her husband. Her dad – the world’s oldest practicing lawyer – and I have been, and remain, BFFs. Her oldest daughter Lily used to draw me pictures back in the day when she was a little girl, and those pictures lived on my refrigerator door and made me smile.

To sum it up, Cecile and I are acquainted.

Cecile, now the President of Planned Parenthood, showed any few remaining doubters last night that she lives in nobody’s shadow. She very articulately explained why women are, and should be, insulted by Republican efforts to go back on reproductive rights, economic or personal freedoms, and just by-God basic issues of fundamental respect. She laid out the case for the Democrats, and did it well.

I’ve spent my entire adult life being proud of, and fond of, folks in the Richards family. And I’ve never been more proud than after watching Cecile’s performance last night. Job well done, my friend.

 

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How to destroy your campaign in 30 seconds or less: violate the “dog whistle” code

Meet Todd Akin of Missouri, the Republican Senate nominee. He’s the guy other Republicans across the country were depending on to give Republicans the majority in the U.S. Senate. Until he said this:

The scariest part isn’t that Akin was making up his own science, although that’s scary enough. The scariest part isn’t that he inadvertently demonstrated the extent to which Tea Party Republicans have nothing but disdain for women, their health, and their fundamental rights, although that, too, is utterly terrifying.

The scariest part is that Akin did not in any way misunderstand the question. He understood the question perfectly, and he answered very sincerely and articulately, with an answer he clearly believes. He answered it with made-up facts that don’t exist, demonstrating a very sincerely-held attitude that shouldn’t exist, which lays bare an attitude about women which should not stand.

Republicans across the country spent the rest of the news cycle yesterday disavowing Akin (particularly difficult for Paul Ryan, who has — oopsie! —  praised him in the past). But they’re not disavowing Akin because he violated a fundamental value Republicans hold. It’s because he articulated one – but got caught doing it.

There’s a very good reason that “Republican dog whistle” is a political term of art. The term is used when Republican candidates say things specifically calculated to signal to Republican activists, in a way deniable to everybody else, that the candidate is with ‘em on issues that they can’t get caught admitting to in public. Akin’s unforgivable sin, in the minds of his fellow Republican leadership, is that he didn’t use the dog whistle – the command only the dogs can hear – to call the dogs. Instead, he shouted the command where everybody could hear it.

The war on women is alive and well in America, stoked by Tea Party fires. But it’s not just a war on women. If you listen closely, the dog whistles are everywhere. When Rick Perry toys around with “secession” talk without taking a particular position, and talks endlessly of “states rights,” it’s a dog whistle, intended to remind his voters that he shares their values, in the context of That Other Time when Southern governors openly discussed secession and states rights.

When Tea Party activists persist in their accusations that Barack Obama was really born in Kenya…or is really a secret Muslim, that’s a dog whistle, meant to signal to their fellow travelers that the President of the United States should be defined by his race, which you may have noticed is not White.

They have dog whistles for women. They have dog whistles for minorities. They have dog whistles for gays. They have dog whistles for the poor, and the elderly, and the undereducated. And all those dog whistles together are meant to create for their voters a clear picture that everybody who isn’t just like you is a threat, and they merit your fear, your anger, and your opposition.

Todd Akin went over the line – he laid it bare yesterday – and he will be punished for it by his fellow Republicans. Which fellow Republicans will punish him? Why, it’s the funders – a group that has its own dog whistle term-of-art: “the job creators.” They get their own especially-complimentary dog whistle, as well they should. They’ve been paying for the research and development of all the other dog whistles. And not by coincidence, their own special dog whistle creates for themselves the rare exception to the above rule: “no, we’re not like you, but we are not to be feared and loathed like the others – we are to be admired…we are your beloved benevolent dictators.

And it is in this context that Republicans are currently accusing Democrats of dividing the country. The field of psychology calls this “projection,” a condition in which one projects one’s own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings onto someone else.

Projection is why Republican candidates lodge complaints about Democrats’ “angry rhetoric.” Let that sink in: Republicans are complaining about Democrats’ angry rhetoric. The people who question the President’s very birth and his citizenship, question almost everybody’s patriotism, question war heroes’ combat records, and throw around the words “socialism” and “un-American” and “Godless” and who wage wars against the rights of women, minorities, and LGBT Americans, and who characterize as lies things which have been proven by science – THOSE are the people who are complaining that the Democrats are playing too rough.

Dog whistles indeed.

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Let’s us make this little ditty against the war on women go viral

Apparently, on the war on women, the last straw is being reached by some women, including this one.

I stole this fair and square from Juanita Jean, who linked to it but didn’t post it, because she’s scared of her mamma, or something. Luckly, her mamma doesn’t have my number, so enjoy:

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The war on women: the stakes

Lone Star Project get down to the bottom of it in this powerful new video.

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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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Women’s Health Program – Buzz from the TV show

On the latest episode of Capital Tonight on Austin’s YNN and Time-Warner’s Texas Network, Republican Ted Delisi and I were asked about the demise of the Women’s Health Program in Texas. It will shock you to know that we are not in agreement.

And unfortunately, that 10th Amendment stuff is not at all where I intended to go with that argument (gotta love live TV). What I should have said – and what is accurate – is that the State of Texas’ action prevents women from choosing their own doctors and health care providers Therein lies the fatal violation to the federal rules and regs, and why the feds have absolutely no choice but to discontinue the program.

You can watch the entirety of this discussion, as well as the entire episode of Capital Tonight, this Sunday at 11 am on YNN Austin, Time-Warner’s Texas Network in other Texas media markets, or right this minute online.

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Sid Miller’s social media lesson – the comments he didn’t want you to see

Texas State Representative Sid Miller (R-eject), the author of the invasive sonogram law in Texas, got a quick lesson in social media today, when on Facebook he posted the Doonesbury cartoon featuring state legislator “Sid Patrick.” The cartoon lampoons the sonogram legislation Miller and state senator Dan Patrick passed.



Round Two of Doonsbury today. This time he refers to the house arthur (Sid) and the Senate sponsor( patrick) Well as long as they are talking about you, right.

Sid “JR Ewing” Miller

Yes, it was really spelled “arthur.”

It wasn’t long before angry people began posting on Miller’s Facebook photo. So Miller hid the photo from his wall, not realizing that those who knew the web address at which the photo was located would be able to continue posting. Miller ultimately deleted the photo, and thus the comments.

Except that we grabbed ‘em first.

Here are the best of them:

I’m experiencing a heavier than normal period combined with debilitating cramps and a migraine. Ordinarily I’d go to my doctor for advice, but now that I’ve learned that the VA legislature knows more about my ladybits than my doctor does I figured I’d come to you for advice. What do you recommend I do?


Yay for mens and their dangly parts making all the choices for wimmins. Gots to keep us barefoot, pregnant, and ignorant. Maybe every man who goes for a vasectomy should have to look at images of the millions and millions of little babies hSee More


I just want to thank you Mr. Miller. I know I could never make a decision about my own health without your help. In fact, I have a question for you. I am currently on my period and it’s a decidedly strange one. There are extra clots that i See More



Hi Sid, you know I think you’re totally on to something here and I’d just love it if you could see your way to introducing a bill that would have men be responsible for every uterus they come in contact with. Heck I’d rather not have to makSee More



Hey Sid! I’m having some heavy menstrual cramps this month, and I’m not sure what to do about it. I was going to call my doctor, but you seem to be an expert on the female reproductive system, so I figured I’d just ask you! Why go to the doSee More



I’m going to send you my daily vag report so you can help me navigate the tricky business of being a woman. Without Vag Mr Wizards like yourself, ladies would be lost. I’m sure you have that magic cure for PMS or endo or cramps, See More



Come on guys, Sid studied at Cisco Junior College, he is obviously highly trained and informed on medical practices.



Fetuses are people til they become women.


Dear Sid, You are a moron. So is your bill.


Since you are so concerned with my vagina, I’ll give you an update! Because of my birth control, my Vagina is doing fine and dandy today. I have an IUD, so I don’t get a real period. But around the same time every month I get a slightly brSee More


WTF is a house arthur? It sounds like a strapping young man in cut-off Levis who serves drinks and rubs feet.



oh, god… you don’t even know the difference between “author” and “arthur”. Why the hell are you trying to legislate my healthcare when you’re clearly barely even literate?


As awful and unamerican as this bill is, I think I might be more horrified that a physician (as Austin claims to be) cannot spell the name of a commonly-discussed medical procedure. I hope you don’t have any plans to arthur any legislation, like Mr. Miller.


Hey Sid how’s it going? Look, I know you’re busy campaigning and all, so I figured I’d save you some time and leave you a report to peruse at your leisure. For some reason, ever since I passed 40, my pubic hair seems to be growing toward mSee More


this procedure prices a lot of women out of options. but sid isn’t going to pay to feed, clothe or educate the unwanted children once they are born.



Rep. Miller: How come you and your ideological colleagues don’t apply the same logic here as you do with firearms? After all, abortion is LEGAL in this country. So, why should you put so many Big Government restrictions on it?

Update: at the moment, the good Representative still doesn’t have his Facebook page locked down, and despite him deleting the photo, people continue to share their feelings regarding his sonogram bill there.

Another Update: apparently the good Representative has finally awakened his staff, who are removing non-supportive comments now. But they do seem to stay put for a little while at least.

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