Friday, April 22, 2011

Belief ... not math, not science

"Conservative" icon Steven Colbert long ago identified the neurological disorder and labeled it 'truthiness'. Like much of conservatism's ideological IQ, it has little to no basis in facts or reality (those have a well-known liberal bias, again first observed by Colbert). Here's Gail Collins' latest as it relates to the Texas strain of this insanity. I'm reposting the piece and adding some links and emphasis ...

One of my favorite stories about the Texas State Legislature involves the time Senator Wendy Davis was trying to ask a colleague, Troy Fraser, some questions about a pending bill. Fraser deflected by saying, “I have trouble hearing women’s voices.”

Really, she was standing right there on the floor. Holding a microphone.

These days in the budget-strapped, Tea-Party-besieged State Capitol, you can be grateful for any funny anecdote, no matter how badly it reflects on Texas politics in general. Like the time Gov. Rick Perry defended the state’s abstinence-only birth control program by saying that he knew abstinence worked “from my own personal life.”

Right now, the state is wrestling with a fiscal megacrisis that goes back to 2006, when the Legislature cut local property taxes and made up for the lost revenue with a new business tax. The new tax produced billions less than expected to the shock and horror of everyone except all the experts who had been predicting that all along.

Governor Perry blames the whole thing on President Obama.

Texas’ problems are of interest to us all because Texas is producing a huge chunk of the nation’s future work force with a system that goes like this:

• Terrible sex education programs and a lack of access to contraceptives leads to a huge number of births to poor women. (About 60 percent of the deliveries in Texas are financed by Medicaid.) Texas also leads the nation in the number of teenage mothers with two or more offspring.

• The Texas baby boom — an 800,000 increase in schoolchildren over the last decade — marches off to underfunded schools. Which are getting more underfunded by the minute, thanks to that little tax error.

And naturally, when times got tough at the State Capitol, one of the first things the cash-strapped Legislature tried to cut was family planning.

“It’s in total danger,” said Fran Hagerty, who leads the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas.

One of the best family-planning efforts in Texas is the Women’s Health Program, which provides an annual health exam and a year’s worth of contraceptives to poor women. For every dollar the state puts into the plan, the federal government provides $9.

The state estimates the pregnancies averted would reduce its Medicaid bill by more than $36 million next year. But when a budget expert told the Texas House Committee on Human Services that the program saved money, he was laced into by Representative Jodie Laubenberg for using “government math.”

“You speculate that,” she snorted.

Meanwhile, on the House floor, anti-abortion lawmakers were stripping financing for other family-planning programs. Representative Randy Weber successfully moved part of the money into anti-abortion crisis centers for pregnant women.

“There’s been research done. ... It actually shows the highest abortion rate is among women actively using contraceptives,” Weber insisted.

“These folks are anti-abortion, anti-contraception and anti-science,” said Representative Mike Villarreal, who tangled with Weber during the debate.

Villarreal has had a rather dark view of the rationality of some of his colleagues ever since he tried to improve the state’s abstinence-only sex education programs by requiring that the information imparted be medically accurate. It died in committee. “The pediatrician on the committee wouldn’t vote for it; he was the swing vote,” Villarreal recalled.

Welcome to the fact-free zone. This week, U.S. Senator John Cornyn gave an interview to Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune in which he claimed that the battle in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood “was really part of a larger fight about spending money we don’t have on things that aren’t essential.”

There are a lot of fiscal conservatives in the anti-abortion movement, and it’s apparently hard for them to admit that destroying Planned Parenthood is a money-loser.

There’s also a resistance to government support for contraceptive services. “There are some people in the pro-life movement who think birth control pills of all kind are abortifacients,” said Senator Bob Deuell, a Republican. “But I don’t see any medical evidence.”

Deuell is one of those rare abortion opponents who is dedicated to the cause of helping women avoid unwanted pregnancy in the first place. He says his allies in the anti-abortion movement haven’t objected to his approach, but he admitted that they haven’t been handing him any medals either.

We’re currently stuck with a politics of reproduction in which emotion is so strong that actual information becomes irrelevant. Senator Cornyn, in his interview, was reminded of the great dust-up his colleague Jon Kyl of Arizona created when he claimed that 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood did involved abortions. When challenged, Kyl’s staff said the figure “was not intended to be a factual statement.”

So did Cornyn agree that Kyl screwed up?

“I’m not so sure,”
Cornyn said.  

Rick Perry has proclaimed today, Good Friday, through Easter Sunday to be Days of Prayer for Rain in order to help in putting out the wildfires engulfing our once-Great State. Because that would be better than, you know, socialism. And also because the invisible hand of the free market is busy right now giving women the finger.

I intend to ask God -- and the Easter Bunny -- for some other things too while I'm at it, like deliverance from evil, a new governor, some new state legislators, a different Democratic party or the necessary tools to fix the one we have ...

Because Santa Claus only comes at the end of December, and I don't think we can wait until then.

Or maybe I'll just get busy on doing that work myself, since Santa and the EB and God all appear to be occupied with some more pressing matters.

Update: Both Hal and John suggest some prayer wording.

No comments: