Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Uber, Lyft decision coming

Today's the day... maybe. The Examiner explains that only the amendments or a substitute ordinance are taggable, and like them I would say that's likely to be the case.

So, to recap...

Charles' post from Monday is a good update that sets the field for this afternoon's vote, filled with linkage worth clicking.  CM Stephen Costello took the 'pro' in the TribTalk faceoff, with Noah at Texpate taking the 'con'.  For deep background, my two-part series from a year ago (Part I and Part II) are among the most clicked posts here, and make the top five on the front page at Google for "Uber Houston".

Uber and Lyft have been going rogue in Houston for some time, which IMHO pees on their prospects for today. They also recently got stung locally, which has the Texas Department of Insurance yellow-flagging them.

And that's where I'll begin, with my experiences last month in Dallas with UberX and two cab companies (Yellow and Executive). When I decided to do this I wanted the experience to be as bias-free as I could make it; if I used the Houston services I might encounter someone I knew, for just one example. So the state Democratic convention at the Omni last month gave me the best opportunity to see how things were going.  Like Houston, Uber in Dallas still awaits city council's final approval, and aren't waiting around to get it.

The primary sticking point -- among many -- is who's carrying the insurance if an Uber car is involved in an accident, particularly one causing injuries or death.  Uber says it's their drivers; their drivers don't seem to know.  From the KHOU article linked above...

Houston-based attorney for taxi and limo services, Martin Hill, said everyone is at risk.

There is absolutely no coverage for these hailed trips or these repeat business trips, said Hill. The passenger is at risk, any third party is at risk.

A woman by the name of Olivia, who did not want KHOU 11 News to use her last name, is a former Uber driver who claims she was eventually fired.

It s almost out of control, she told the KHOU 11 News I-Team as she talked about the confusion she had over the company's insurance policy.

She says even when she was working as an Uber driver she had unanswered questions about the company s insurance coverage.

KHOU: So at this point you have no clue what kind of insurance you had?

Olivia: With Uber? No. None.

It's at least a little more clear when someone hails an Uber, as they would a cab, without using the app and paying cash instead of being billed by smartphone: Uber declares they are not responsible.

In an effort to prove their point, attorneys for local cab companies hired private detectives who wore hidden cameras. The detectives did not go through the app. They just hailed an Uber driver who they found in the area.

Undercover video shows the detectives approaching the Uber driver s window and asking him for a ride. The driver accepted the ride.

The detectives paid in cash for their ride and at the end of the trip, asked for the driver s cell phone number so they could call him for a future ride. The driver willingly gave his number to the detectives.

Later, the detectives made a call to that driver and the driver picked them up at a location near downtown.
I figured, shoot, it will be easier and you can make more money and pay your cash. We don t have to do that other stuff, the private detective said to the driver.

You can hear the driver respond in the undercover video.

At least I don t have to give my 20 percent, he said referring to the percentage Uber gets from each ride that goes through the app.

And that is precisely what I did in Dallas.  But from the top...

We walked out the front door of the downtown Omni and hailed a Yellow cab there to take us about eight blocks to the Sixth Floor Museum, at Dealey Plaza.  The driver was Middle Eastern, the vehicle an older model Chrysler minivan, not in bad shape.  When I told him I like cabs and not Uber, he was diplomatic: "There's plenty of business for everyone", he said.   The ten-minute ride was under 6 bucks and I gave ten.  I also asked for his card in order to come back and get us in a few hours, and he did so, arriving withing 15 minutes of our summons.  He was grateful for the repeat business, and I gave him a twenty this second trip.

The following evening we called for him but he was unable to take our trip, so we again walked out the front lobby doors and asked a bellman to hail us a cab.  The last one was pulling away with another fare, and as we waited in the heat, the bellman walked over to a man in front of a late model black Chevy Tahoe, returned and told us we could take his car... an UberX.  I said to the Caucasian driver, well-dressed and professional: "I don't have the app, I'll have to pay you cash" and he said that was fine.  So off we went to Deep Ellum for sushi, a twenty-minute ride that cost $17.  I gave him a twenty, asked for his card for a return, and he graciously accommodated.

After dinner, we stepped outside the restaurant and before I could call the number, the wife was hailing an Executive Cab (the blue ones) driving by.  We piled in -- like the Yellow, an older Dodge minivan, nothing fancy, but good enough -- and broke the ice again with our African driver and his girlfriend about not liking Uber.  He laughed and said something similar to our previous cabbie.  The return trip to the Omni was shorter and cheaper for some reason: $12.  I gave him a twenty.

So while my cab rides in Dallas were less expensive and less flashy, it's easy to see what Uber (as a company) wants to do: skim the cream off the top of the market, with very nice cars, very courteous drivers, and a luxury price point.  The premium experience at a premium price.  The affinity branding that so many upscale folks prefer.

But I have my doubts as to what might have been the outcome had we been T-boned in an intersection with our driver at fault.  I get the impression we would have been SOL in more ways than one.

So that's another reason for me to emphasize that while Uber and Lyft have every right to participate in the market, they need to do so according to Texas law and city ordinance.  Those laws and ordinances exist for reasons that are NOT monopolistic and not cumbersome to decades of ride-for-hire entrepreneurs before them.  They exist because people were injured -- or killed -- and the drivers and the companies who employ them had to maintain legal responsibility for that possible occurrence.

Play by the rules, or get penalized when you don't.  Uber seems to want to have it both ways.  This homie don't play like that, and expects his CMs to do likewise.

Read this Forbes article about the "bear" case for the company.  One excerpt:

Across North America and Europe, taxi and limo drivers’ unions have been lobbying legislators to regulate or outlaw peer-to-peer services, and occasionally succeeding. “What they’re trying to do is get all their competitors to have to incur the same costs they do,” says Samuel Staley, who teaches economics and urban planning as director of Florida State University’s DeVoe Moore Center. One industry group, the Taxi, Limousine and Paratransit Association, claims that 30% to 40% of a traditional taxi’s operating expenses consist of regulatory costs Uber is now avoiding, especially primary commercial liability insurance. (Uber requires drivers to have their own insurance, although it does provide secondary coverage for certain situations.)

Uber might actually play by the rules if they are compelled to do so.  Let's count on someone at Houston council to convince them that there shouldn't be lawsuits from maimed passengers or their survivors before they do.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Latest YouGov: Abbott 54, Davis 37

Not the TexTrib this time, but CBS/NYT commissioning the poll.  I saw it first at DK early yesterday morning, posted about it here and Tweeted that at lunchtime, and the Houston Chronicle had it yesterday afternoon.  As disclosure, I was included again among poll respondents.  The results for the US Senate race in Texas ran similar to the gubernatorial, with John Cornyn ahead of David Alameel 51-35, and the generic Congressional Democrat coming in behind the R, 50-31 (counting leaners in both).

It's also important to note that there were no third party candidates included in the poll questions, just 'independent' in the Congressional query.  That's how you get such a small number of undecideds -- 'other' and not sure', in this case.  The most significant finding to me was the 7% who declared they would not be voting at all.

YouGov's polling methodoly has long been questioned because of its online, opt-in nature.  The best explanation of this comes from the NYT.

YouGov’s work is worthy of its own discussion because it’s the first set of data from an online panel this year. The other nonpartisan surveys have used traditional, random-digit dialing to reach a sample of adults by telephone.

Random-digit dialing has long been the gold standard for public polling, but declining response rates may be complicating the ability of telephone polls to capitalize on the advantages of random sampling. Most polls underestimated President Obama’s standing in 2012, perhaps because young and nonwhite voters were least likely to own a landline and least likely to respond to telephone pollsters. Polls may also have exaggerated Mr. Romney’s gains after the first presidential debate, because Mr. Obama’s supporters were less willing to respond after his weak performance. The phenomenon is known as “differential non-response.”

CBS/NYT had YouGov poll over 100,000 members in all fifty states.  The full tabs for the Texas races can be found at this link.

As the young voters who are less likely to respond to telephone surveys become an ever-greater share of the population over time, it is probably more important for analysts to have an ensemble of surveys using diverse sampling and weighting practices.

YouGov has emerged as a part of that ensemble. It has tracked many of its respondents over months, if not years, which gives it additional variables, such as a panelist’s voting history, to try to correct for non-response. After the first 2012 debate, YouGov showed less of a swing than many other polls, and its final pre-election polls were as good as or better than many other surveys in forecasting the results.

There are still questions about the effectiveness of web panels, which can reach only the 81 percent of Americans who use the Internet. That’s worse than the 98 percent of households that can be reached by a live interview telephone survey, although it’s better than the 63.5 percent of Americans who have a landline telephone and can therefore be contacted by automated polling firms, which are prohibited by federal regulations from calling people on their cellphones.

Non-Internet users tend to be less educated, less affluent and more likely to be Hispanic or over age 65. These concerns aren’t strictly theoretical: YouGov most likely underestimated President Obama’s share of the Hispanic vote in 2012. Its final survey showed Mr. Obama with 59 percent of the Hispanic vote, far lower than the 71 percent in the exit polls.

So the silver lining for Davis (and Alameel and other Dems down the ballot) is that younger voters and Latinos are widely under-represented in these numbers.

Another issue is that the YouGov panel does not use probability sampling, the theoretical underpinning of modern polling. In a probability sample, every voter should have an equal chance of being randomly selected, making the sample representative. Phone numbers provide a device for randomization that is impossible online.

Instead, YouGov attempts to build a large, diverse panel and then match its panelists to demographically similar respondents from the American Community Survey, an extremely rigorous probability survey conducted by the Census Bureau. This step is intended to mimic probability sampling. But it can require significant assumptions about the composition of the electorate, including partisanship. These assumptions are contestable and based on varying amounts of evidence.

All of this is controversial among survey methodologists, who are vigorously debating whether a non-probability web panel should be used for survey research. At the same time, they’re also debating whether the sharp rise in non-response is undermining the advantages of probability sampling. Only 9 percent of sampled households responded to traditional telephone polls in 2012, down from 21 percent in 2006 and 36 percent in 1997, according to the Pew Research Center.

John Zogby is the fellow who pioneered this polling model, and everyone should be familiar by now with his reputation for accuracy.  YouGov has refined its methods over time, and to its credit, has managed better outcomes in predictive analysis.

While the methodology debate rages, it’s probably best to have an eye on a diverse suite of surveys employing diverse methodologies, with the knowledge that none are perfect in an increasingly challenging era for public-opinion research.

One striking aspect of the YouGov results is that they are broadly consistent with previous data on the campaign. Republicans appear to have narrow leads in enough states to win the Senate, but only narrow leads. The Republican lead is less than two percentage points in Michigan, Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina. In Arkansas, Tom Cotton, a Republican challenger, leads Senator Mark Pryor, the Democratic incumbent, by four points.

The panel provides its best news for Democrats in Colorado, where Mark Udall, a Democratic incumbent, has a four-point lead. That’s far better than a recent Quinnipiac poll, which showed Mr. Udall trailing by two points, but it’s about the same as a recent NBC/Marist poll, which showed Mr. Udall up by seven points among registered voters.

Real Clear Politics summarizes polling for US races in a way similar to what Nate Silver does: taking all polls and averaging them to come to a consensus.  Here's that for Texas.  Rasmussen is widely understood to oversample Republicans, PPP is run by DK so it's suspected of having a Democratic bias.

My humble O is that YouGov is weighted too far right in this poll to the tune of about 5 points, which would leave Davis, Alameel, in the 49-42 range or thereabout, which makes much more sense.  Irrespective of what the polling reveals, Abbott will blitz the airwaves beginning soon, and Texpate thinks Davis should as well.  I don't agree with him on that, but we'll see what happens.

Democrats should simply ignore the inevitability meme and keep grinding away on the phones, keep walking the blocks and keep donating what they can.  Wendy Davis still has a puncher's chance against Greg Abbott, and the rest of the Democrats down the ballot may have better than that, as they won't have to contend with the multi-million dollar broadcast onslaught from a well-heeled Republican opponent.

The race isn't over, even as much as the GOP and the corporate media would like to keep saying it is.  It's entering the homestretch, however, and Davis needs to make a move.

Update: If you needed reminding about why you should be skeptical about polls... here you go.

Update II: Forrest Wilder at the Texas Observer has a terrific suggestion for something the Davis campaign could emphasize: Medicaid expansion.

It is understandable that Davis hasn’t made abortion—or even women’s health—a cornerstone of her campaign. This is Texas, after all, and it’s wise for a Democrat to run on issues that are more unifying. But why not a seven-city tour on, say, Medicaid expansion? Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act will not only save lives and put more than a million Texans on health insurance, it’s a terrific deal for the state. The feds will pay 90 percent of the cost. By rejecting the expansion, Rick Perry and Abbott are leaving $100 billion on the table, according to recent estimates.

It’s good politics too—even if Republicans start hollering about “Obamacare.” (They will anyway.) Democratic governors in some red states, like Kentucky, have made Obamacare a winning issue. In Arkansas, Gov. Mike Beebe—one of the most popular governors in the nation—got a Republican-controlled Legislature to sign off on a Medicaid model that uses federal dollars to help people buy private insurance. That’s the same basic idea touted by some Republicans in the Texas Legislature. Polls, including one by Rick Perry’s own pollster, also show that a solid majority of Texans favors expanding Medicaid.

Davis, when asked recently by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, was unequivocal in her support (“I absolutely do”) for Medicaid expansion. And in mid-June, she unveiled her economic development plan, which included Medicaid expansion. But otherwise she’s rarely discussed health care so far. The word “Medicaid” doesn’t appear once on her campaign site. 

Democratic strategists I spoke with cautioned that it’s still early in the campaign; that the Davis grassroots effort feels and sounds different than the “messaging” in the media; and that her team has been frustrated by the media’s indifference to her policy ideas.

As Paul Burka of Texas Monthly has pointed out, if she made it a central issue she’d have the doctors on her side, the hospitals, and much of the business community, not to mention local governments and—most important—millions of Texans who would see the benefits of healthier families.

Go read the whole thing.

Still never going to be casino gambling in Texas, and maybe no more lottery

First, a correction: in my post about the Astrodome last week, I mentioned that a potential Governor Greg Abbott would never sign legislation supporting gambling in Texas. Specifically I wrote the following...

As for the Dome being converted into a hotel/casino... that will NEVER happen as long as Talibaptist Republicans rule in the Lege.  And a Governor Greg Abbott would veto it even if Hell caught a polar vortex blizzard and a bill did pass legalizing casino gambling in Texas.  How do I know this?  I point you back to this post about campaign finance reports, and this sentence from Wayne Slater's story within it.

Abbott’s largest out-of-state contribution was $50,000 from the Chickasaw Nation political committee, which operates casinos in Oklahoma.

What's incorrect is that the governor of Texas has no say whatsoever in any legislation that regards amending the Texas Constitution.  In order for there to be casinos in the Great State, there would have to be a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Texas Legislature approving the measure, after which the proposal becomes a ballot referendum for Texas voters.  The excerpt does beg another question, though:  what did the Chickasaws buy with their 50 large to Abbott?  A lobbyist?  Who does Abbott think he is, Michael Quinn Sullivan?

We know how Texans would vote on casino gambling if  they ever got the chance.  But they won't.  And just so everyone is clear, there is still no chance the Republicans in the Lege will approve anything that even sounds like gambling.  John Carona tried last session, and he lost his primary this year (to one of the men mentioned in the next excerpt).  Today in the TexTrib...

Five Republican nominees for seats in the Texas Senate voiced opposition Monday to a proposal that would allow a controversial new form of betting on horse races in Texas.

Paul Bettencourt of Houston, Konni Burton of Colleyville, Bob Hall of Edgewood, Don Huffines of Dallas and Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, urged the Texas Racing Commission to reject the commission’s proposed rules allowing historical racing, saying in a joint statement that it “would effectively authorize Las Vegas-style gaming in Texas.”

Go to the link above for an explanation of historical horse race betting.  I consider it as ridiculous a betting proposition as I do polling political races after the fact, but speaking as a horse player myself, it seems fairly innocuous. Since thoroughbred and quarter horse racing is already legal in Texas, what could possibly be the problem?  The message is clear: there will never be any slots at racetracks, no offtrack betting, no poker parlors, no nothing like that and certainly no blackjack or craps at resort hotels in the metros or along the Gulf coast.  It's Satan preying on the po' folk, and we need the GOP to save us from that (the party of less intrusive government and personal responsibility, after all).  The Trib again, having gotten granular polling data when the gambling measure got close last year, is cautious even in forecasting that an amendment would clear the voters.

But given the strength of the socially conservative wing of the Republican Party, coupled with the opposition of radical fiscal conservatives to gaming, a bet on gambling might still be a longshot. 

I grow weary of people saying the Dome should be a casino.  It's the hallmark of an extremely low information voter, one who probably casts a straight Republican ticket.  To be fair however, it's not just Republicans.  Speaking of poor people being preyed upon, one of the most liberal Democrats in the Texas House, Garnet Coleman and the Texas Lottery are in the news.

House Speaker Joe Straus on Thursday announced his appointments to the Legislative Committee to Review the Texas Lottery and Texas Lottery Commission, a new panel charged with studying the ramifications of ending the lottery, along with examining charitable bingo and how its revenue is distributed.

The appointees include three Harris County lawmakers, one of whom is a vocal lottery critic.

Houston Democrat Garnet Coleman has accused the lottery commission of a cozy relationship with the game operator and criticized how most players are poor. He will be joined by Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston; Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land; Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake and co-chair John Kuempel, R-Seguin.

More from the local news radio station.

“Lottery money is stagnant, we raised the same billion dollars in the early 1990s, nothing more per year,” the Houston Democrat tells KTRH News. “So in terms of the lottery being a solution for public education, its not.”

Sugar Land Republican Rick Miller has his own concerns.

“How effective is this? How much money is going to the school fund? What's the overhead for this administration?” Miller asks.

Coleman and others believe the lottery is just another form of gambling which preys on the poor.

“What the lottery has had to do is create more games that have a worse chance of winning, and get the people who play to play more and more,” he says.

Miller believes there is some truth to that.

“It is what might be considered a tax on the poor,” he says. “How they look at it and do they have the resources to participate, that is a question. But it is still a personal choice.”

I would have to say I would be shocked if the Lege let the sun go down on the state lottery.  A billion dollars -- it's actually more than two -- is a billion dollars, and there would still seemingly be the multi-state lotteries like Powerball and Mega Millions, which presumably would not be affected here.  Even with Texas running a budget surplus now, $2.2 billion leaves a pretty large hole to be filled.  Which is why the Lege crawfished last year.

Sometimes it's about the money, and sometimes it's not.  And when it isn't, you can be almost certain it's about Jesus.  Specifically, Republican Jesus.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance prioritizes due process over expediency as it brings you this week's roundup of the best of the left of Texas from last week.

Off the Kuff is happy to hear that there will be exit polls in Texas this year.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson, an interesting reaction to a sexual assault conviction in Williamson County: The Case Of Greg Kelley.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos notes that while John Cornyn rails bemoans federal inaction over the Texas/Mexico border crisis, Mr. Cornyn and Ted Cruz have not advanced one name for nomination to the six current federal judicial vacancies in the state: Cornyn rails against political malpractice while practicing same.

Texas statewide candidates have been separated at birth from their fraternal twins: Junior Samples and Jim Hogan, Archie Bunker and Sid Miller, Glenn Hegar and Jethro Bodine, Greg Abbott and Dr. Strangelove. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs admits that once you stop laughing, it's a kind of a scary thought that these guys stand even the slightest chance of getting elected.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme knows that Republicans blow smoke when they're not blowing hate. What we really need are solutions to problems for the flood of immigrant children.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote about the need for modern victory gardens to combat climate change and all the toxic food we are offered each day. All People Have Value is part of

It's no surprise to Texas Leftist that marriage equality makes economic sense for the Lone Star State. But thanks to a new report from the Williams Institute, we finally have numbers to show just how much business Texas is losing.

In the wake of Harris County district attorney candidate Kim Ogg's declaration to end prosecutions for misdemeanor marijuana offenses, Texpate took a look at whether the laws regarding other intoxicants might be worth revisiting.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Socratic Gadfly responds to the corporations who blamed first responders for the West fertilizer explosion.

Isiah Carey had video of the dueling Palestinian and Israeli protests near the Galleria in Houston.

TexasVox points out that some of your household cleaning products are worse for you and the environment than the grime that you're cleaning up.

BOR posted Texas' rankings for states with the highest energy costs (10th in the nation) and production of greenhouses gases (first).  Why do we have to pay through the nose twice?

Lone Star Q examines the impact of LGBT donors on Wendy Davis' fundraising.

The Bloggess explains what feminism is all about, and why feminists are (in a good way!) like sharks and bees.

Equality Texas calls on AG Greg Abbott to drop the appeal of the ruling that struck down Texas' ban on same sex marriage.

SciGuy thinks it's time we consider going back to the moon instead of going to Mars.

Beyond Bones tells us what Jurassic Park got right -- and wrong -- about dinosaur anatomy.

Todo Texas points out the cost of Austin's longstanding "gentleman's agreement" on minority representation on city council.

Juanita Jean comments on Louie Gohmert's national prominence.

Lone Star Ma has an easy and inexpensive way for anyone with a little compassion to help the young refugees from Central America.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

More Texas Republicans and their twins, separated at birth

Starring Glenn Hegar as Jethro Bodine.

Both of them.

Starring Sid Miller as Archie Bunker (in a hat).

And without.

Unhappy Sid.

Unhappy Sid again.

Previous editions include Greg Abbott as Dr. Strangelove.  More as they develop.

Update: Sid Miller doesn't get the jokeAnd can't take it, either, since he removed my comment and blocked me from further posting to his page.  "Dislike", Sid.  Sid left up my second post, linking back here, and is engaging with me there, so it's all good!

Friday, July 25, 2014

And starring Junior Samples as Jim Hogan

I can't claim having made the first comparison but I can sure riff off it.

While Hogan, who resembles the old Junior Samples character in Hee Haw, has granted a few interviews to Texas Observer and Fort Worth Star Telegram, (Hogan said) he's not going to do any more interviews. He notes NBC requested an interview, but Hogan wanted no part of it.

According to Randy Hanna, Democratic party parliamentarian for the Johnson County Democratic Party, where Hogan resides, "Jim Hogan is a nice enough fellow, but he's no Democrat."

Hanna says he was horrified when he attempted to determine Hogan's position vis a vis public school lunch programs, which are overseen by the agriculture commissioner.

"He said what poor people need to do is plant gardens and that would solve a lot of problems with the lunch programs," Hanna recalls. "I couldn't believe he was serious, that he would even say that, but he was dead serious."

Johnson County Democratic Party secretary LuAnne Leonard said she was stunned when Hanna related details of his interview to her.

"The kids in the lunch program here are from low-income families and a majority of them live in apartments, so I was flabbergasted when I heard the 'plant gardens' statement. Hogan really has no clue."

No straight ticket voting this year, Democrats.  Leave Hee Haw to the GOP.

Not a single politician or party operative we've spoken with can pinpoint any specific reason why Hogan is seeking the job, but many suspect some kind of backroom Republican shenanigans similar to Rush Limbaugh's 2008 Operation Chaos. (Limbaugh wanted Republicans to cross-over in the primaries and vote for the weakest Democratic candidates to ensure Republican victories in the general election.) In other words, Hogan could well be an insurance policy for Republican interests in a race where both Republican runoff candidates -- former state representatives Sid Miller and Tommy Merritt -- are weak and seen as fairly vulnerable. [...]

A check of Hogan's voting records finds that he usually votes in the Republican primary, but voted in the Democratic primary in 2008, presumably as Limbaugh urged. So the general consensus that Hogan is a straw-man candidate meant to be a weak sister who will be crushed in the November general election by Miller doesn't seem all that far-fetched.

Maybe it's not a conspiracy; maybe the vast majority of people in Texas really are this stupid.

Hogan has been an object of fascination for political junkies and media types. He may have won purely by chance, but his inexplicable success offers some relief from the absurdity and occasional cruelty of Texas political life. A Tumblr set up by admirers records his exploits. A Texas Monthly piece highlighted Hogan’s runoff win as one of the few bright spots of a generally disheartening night. A column Hogan wrote for the op-ed website TribTalk may go down in the record books as the most memorable piece of political rhetoric from the 2014 election:

It has been reported that I am unknown and do not campaign. If you will pause for a moment and Google “Jim Hogan Texas Agriculture Commissioner,” I believe you will be amazed at the amount of information available about me. I think you will agree that those reports can be put to rest.

Why is he doing this? Does he think he can win? Is he a playful imp, or Chauncey Gardiner? After meeting Hogan, it remains difficult to say. This much is certain: Hogan’s not a fool. He knows Miller will be the likely victor. But, he says, he wasn’t supposed to win the last two times. So who knows? He’s got a healthy belly laugh.

Everybody that can't vote for either Hogan or Sid Miller -- as if there's a difference-- is going to have a better option in November.  His name is Kenneth Kendrick, and he'll be the Green Party's nominee in this race.  More on him shortly.

Texpatriate has another vintage television show in mind, but the resemblance to Bob Crane just isn't there.  Nobody is, for only one example, suggesting that Hogan might be some sort of sexual deviant.

He's just a moron, and perhaps a trickster, a stooge for Sid Miller.  And that's lousy enough for everyone to vote for someone else all by itself.

Democratic consultants: pay me five grand and I'll tell you how to win

I have long chastised local political goofball (it's like a curveball, except dumber) Marc Campos for this sort of "hire-me-and-I'll-tell-you" baloney, and it's not really surprising to see a carpetbagger like Jeremy Bird recognizing a huge business opportunity in Texas when he sees one.

Two top veterans of President Obama’s campaigns are asking political campaigners to pay $5,000 per person for the chance to learn their secrets and then work for five weeks in an unpaid campaign job somewhere in America.

Democratic operatives and progressive activists are questioning this training program launched by Obama campaign architects Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird. The $5,000 program promises access to the wizardry of Obama’s presidential bids — and a five-week, unpaid gig on an “important Democratic campaign.”

Run by Bird and Stewart’s consulting company, 270 Strategies, the new program’s emphasis on placing paying customers in essentially volunteer roles on Democratic campaigns is atypical in the campaign training industry, and some Democrats say it sets a dangerous precedent. The firm’s first-ever “270/360 Training Intensive” program is scheduled to begin in September.

The program’s website describes a six-week program, consisting of five days of “intensive” campaign training at 270’s Chicago HQ featuring Stewart and Bird and other “architects of the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns,” followed by five weeks of volunteer work on an “an important Democratic campaign in the United States.”

The cost for the five-day training with Bird and Stewart is $3,500. It costs $1,500 more if a student wants the five weeks of work experience. Critics say those costs are way above the market rate for campaign trainings.

“It’s deeply concerning that leaders in our party are launching a ‘pay to play’ system for would-be campaign staff,” said a Democratic campaign veteran. “As Democrats, we should be working together to eliminate workforce barriers — such as unpaid internships — rather starting programs that further discourage participation in electoral work.”

I saw a Tweet from Houston's uber-Dem-activist Erik Vidor about this -- seeming to offer his own experience for hire -- and breezed on past it, thinking he was just being, you know, entrepreneurial.  But in context he's miffed, and then I saw that Juanita Jean was pretty steamed.  When she goes off on a Democrat about something, you know it's gotta be bad.

Yeah, it’s Jeremy Bird doing his damnest to turn Democratic politics into WalMart.

He also owns Battleground Texas (where they fight each other) and Ready for Hillary (where they openly admit that they want you to collect emails and phone numbers for them so they can “sell” them to Hillary if she decides to run).

When you put politics in the hands of people who want to get rich off of free labor, you’re might as well try to make honey out of pig poop or go on and elect the Tea Party because that’s what they want, too.

Worthless as corn flake recipes.   I’ll tell you something  - I’d rather have a four card flush than these guys.

Progressive Texans don’t know whether to laugh our butts off or to be totally mortified.  Mostly, we’re pretty damn mortified.

Democrats have long forgotten that they're supposed to be the party of "socialism" -- in the sharing sense of the word -- and not pure, raw, brutal, naked-and-afraid capitalism.  They've abandoned it because, like the the denigration of the word liberal (which only goes back to the Reagan administration) it's become a perjorative that they shirk from.

Give conservatives credit for being masters at framing the discussion.

Besides that, you might have noticed -- if you carefully read the links above -- a certain amount of frustration that extends to the Wendy Davis campaign.  As Kuff likes to say, make of that what you will.  I think it's notable that we haven't gotten to August yet and the criticism is starting to go public.  Another reminder that when someone says 'nobody pays attention to elections until Labor Day', that person is full of shit.

As far as paying a political expert for anything, you should know how I feel about that.  As far as paying a political expert this kind of money for this kind of experience, my advice is to negotiate a train car of lubricant for the sellers to throw in.  It's not like anything is going to blow up in your face, it'll just feel better after you have completed your training.

P.T. Barnum at work here, people.  It's just business.  My only question: is this a facet of the booming Texas economy for which we need to thank Rick Perry?

Unlike the credit he gets for having killed and buried all those dinosaurs millions of years ago in places like the Permian Basin and Spindletop and elsewhere across our Great State, in this case I would have to answer 'yes'.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The battle for control of the US Senate, updated

I'm not changing my mind; I'm just adding some point/counterpoint for the sake of watching the trend.  These updates deserved their own post.

Point (Booman):

I can't blame Stu Rothenberg for bitching about a polling firm that won't show its work, but I think he's just annoyed that polling keeps coming out that doesn't look good for Republican Senate candidates and governors. In the end, Rothenberg doesn't even really doubt that the race in Montana has grown closer and he lists it as a Toss-Up/Tilts Republican race, which is maybe even a little more of a pessimistic assessment than is warranted by the polling. I'd say that Montana Leans Republican right now, and the only toss-up part of it is that a lot can change between now and November.

A look at the latest polls shows Gov. Scott Walker in real trouble in Wisconsin, Gov. Rick Scott trailing in Florida, Udall and Hickenlooper up narrowly in Colorado, Sen. Kay Hagan up in North Carolina, Gov. Andrew Cuomo up by 37 points in New York, Michelle Nunn crushing David Perdue in Georgia, Rep. Gary Peters up by nine in Michigan, Mary Landrieu up in Louisiana, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen comfortably ahead in New Hampshire. People have already written obituaries for Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, and the Republican governors of Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, and Michigan aren't looking like they're in too great a shape, either. The last poll out of Maine has Democrat Mike Michaud win a narrow lead in a three-way race.

The news isn't all good. Some races are scarily close, for example, the Senate races in Iowa, Arkansas, and Colorado. But only in Arkansas does an incumbent look to be in truly serious danger. Unless these races all tilt against the Democrats in the end, the GOP is on course for a galactically bad election night. 

Counterpoint (Associated Press, referencing the Montana contest in the first paragraph above):

Montana Sen. John Walsh's thesis written to earn a master's degree from the U.S. Army War College contains unattributed passages taken word-for-word from previously published papers.

The Democrat is running against Republican Rep. Steve Daines to keep the seat Walsh was appointed to in February when Max Baucus resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China, and national Democrats said Wednesday they remained "100 percent behind Sen. Walsh."

The apparent plagiarism in Walsh's 2007 thesis, titled "The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy," was first reported by The New York Times in a story posted online Wednesday afternoon. Walsh submitted the paper to earn his Master of Strategic Studies degree nearly two years after he returned from Iraq and about a year before he became Montana's adjutant general overseeing the state's National Guard and Department of Military Affairs.

Walsh's campaign said the senator did not intend to plagiarize and that he would speak to The Associated Press later Wednesday.

Walsh is saying he was suffering from PTSD at the time he "wrote" the thesis in question.

I think that race is safe for the GOP.

Safe abortions decline in Texas; late-term and unsafe ones rise

When abortions are outlawed, only outlaws will have abortions.  The actual effect -- not the Lege's intended one -- is already showing up in the statistics.

A new study released Wednesday reports in the six months since Texas' new anti-abortion law took effect, the number of legal medical abortions has dramatically declined while the number of second-trimester abortions has risen, suggesting to researchers that women are being forced to wait for the procedure.

HB-2 limits medical abortions, a non-surgical method, by restricting the time window during which the drug can be prescribed from 9 weeks to 7 weeks, and by forcing patients to return to a medical provider to ingest the medicine in front of a doctor four separate times rather than taking the regimen at home something not all women can afford financially or logistically. The law also requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, which many hospitals can't accommodate, and bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

HB-2 went into effect last November and has already had a dramatic impact on women's access to reproductive healthcare in the months since.

Of the 41 clinics open in May 2013, only 20 remain open, causing the number of women of reproductive age living more than 200 miles from a facility to jump from 10,000 to 290,000, according to the report.

Medical abortions, which allowed women seeking abortion early in their pregnancy to avoid an invasive and potentially traumatic surgical procedure, have dropped by 70 percent under HB-2.

Legal abortions have decreased 13 percent, 9,200 fewer than last year, and researchers, noting surprise this number wasn't higher, credited the state's network of non-profits and abortion funds helping to finance women's reproductive healthcare with mitigating the decline.

Many of the state's Republican leaders are going to celebrate this news. That would be a grave mistake on their part.

Despite the overall decline in abortions, the number of second-trimester abortions actually increased, suggesting the decrease in access to clinics and medication abortions is forcing women to wait until later in their pregnancies to have the procedure.

That's just the ones that are included in the official numbers.

Between HB-2's sweeping restrictions which limit access and Texas' 2011 cuts to family planning funding, Grossman says he expects the unintended birthrate to rise and worries the rate of self-induced and illegal abortions will rise as well.

"[Researchers] suspect that self-induced abortion will rise in Texas as access to clinic-based care becomes more difficult," Grossman told the Huffington Post. "Depending on the method used and when in pregnancy women attempt to do this, there may be health risks for women associated with self-induction."

'Suspect' and 'may be' are a little cautious, which is appropriate for a medical research analyst.  That person might be unaware that do-it-yourself abortions are already rising.

When the Texas Lege -- and many other states, to be clear -- passed reproductive rights restrictions in 2011 (the ultrasound law), state legislators were shocked to return in 2013 and discover the same thing that is happening now: more poor women were giving birth to more babies.  Any concerns they may have had about psychological trauma inflicted on the women involved, the extra expense associated with the waiting period, and the fact that they weren't changing any hearts or minds might have gotten lost in the fiduciary worries.

We already know how Texas Republicans feel about babies who are actually fetuses and zygotes.  "Once that umbilical cord is cut, kid, you're on your own."  And they DO mean 'on your own'.

We're in the process of watching the fruit of compassionate conservatism come to harvest.  And the damage is much deeper than the rare pricked conscience of someone like David Simpson.

More on clinic closings from Andrea Grimes.