Saturday, July 02, 2011

Tommy Lee Jones, the Senator from the Great State of Texas *update*

Happy Fourth weekend. You are aware that you're outlawed from blowing off your fingers and ruining your hearing? There's a wildfire hazard, you know.

Public Policy Polling reveals that Woodrow F. Call remains the Texas Democrats' only real shot at a statewide office in the 2012 cycle:

Tommy Lee Jones for Senate? We included him in the poll because there is a movement drafting him to run. He actually has a better favorability rating, at 28/14, than any of the candidates more likely to make the race. He has the sort of bipartisan appeal a Democrat would need to win statewide in Texas, with Republicans giving him a 25/12 favorability spread and independents a particularly good 35/12 one. He polls the best of any Democrat not just against Dewhurst but also against GOP hopefuls Ted Cruz and Tom Leppert. A Jones candidacy is probably a pipe dream for Democrats but the numbers do suggest he would have the potential to be a strong nominee.

Geoff Berg has been at the head of the movement, and he notes that US Marshal Sam Gerard Jones hasn't responded so far to any of the previous public entreaties. TLJ appears to be consumed at the moment with Men in Black 3, currently filming in New York but experiencing severe production delays and associated cost overruns. That movie, if it is on time, will reach theaters on Memorial Day weekend 2012. Which is just about perfect timing for a big movie star running for the United States Senate.

Help us, Agent K. You're our only hope.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Texas vows to reclaim title of "Most Regressive State" from Arizona

But Alabama and Mississippi also promise to be 'competitive'.

AUSTIN, TX—Following a series of embarrassingly backward laws recently enacted in Arizona, Texas Governor Rick Perry pledged Wednesday to do everything in his power to reestablish his state as the most regressive in the nation.

"I commend Arizona for its commitment to exceedingly draconian social policies, but [Arizona Governor] Jan Brewer should know that we still have some real doozies up our sleeve," said Perry, referring to Arizona's passage of the strictest immigration law in recent U.S. history, as well as its measures allowing concealed weapons to be carried without a permit and banning ethnic studies programs in public schools.

"Don't forget, we just put an ultraconservative stamp on our educational curriculum that's going to affect the textbooks the whole country uses, and I'm still the only governor nutso enough to float secession. Mark my words, we'll be back and more fucked up than ever!"

Sources close to Perry said that Texas may soon start storing undocumented migrant workers in dog cages while courts decide their immigration status, though Arizona plans to counter with a giant cannon that will be used to shoot anyone with a skin tone darker than ochre who crosses the border from Mexico.

God, don't you wish it really was a joke?


Arizona High Schools To Now Teach Spanish Entirely In English

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Perry's "strategic victory on sanctuary cities" 2.0

I've been on Mark Jones at the Baker Institute like white on rice about this, as regular readers will attest. His original premise, you will recall, was that the demise of "sanctuary cities" (sic) legislation in the regular legislative session represented a 'strategic victory' for the governor. Today Jones posted his revised postulate.

Did the Texas Republican Party leadership (principally Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus) repeatedly fumble the ball in its drive to pass “sanctuary cities” legislation? Or, instead, was the legislation’s failure, in the end, the leadership’s collective desired outcome?

Let's allow Jones to reset the stage, beginning at the beginning.

At the start of the legislative session in January, the Texas Republican Party leadership had three broad options regarding state-level immigration reform. The first was to do nothing based on the belief that either state-level immigration reform legislation was not in their — or the state’s — best interest or that, because immigration is a federal responsibility, all reform efforts should take place in D.C., not Austin. The second was to follow the Arizona model and pass wide-scale, state-level reform designed to root out and arrest undocumented immigrants, crack down on businesses that employ undocumented immigrants, reduce undocumented immigrant use of social services by imposing citizenship verification requirements, and, in general, make undocumented immigrants and their families (many of whom are U.S. citizens or legal residents) feel unwelcome and unsafe in the state — thereby encouraging them to leave/never come in the first place. This is, for example, the path followed by Alabama and Georgia, which each passed legislation in line with the Arizona model earlier this year.

Presented with these two options, Governor Perry chose neither, opting for a third approach — that of a narrow focus on the largely symbolic issue of “sanctuary cities” which he declared to be one of six “emergency” items in January.  The goal was to satisfy the Republican base by prioritizing immigration reform legislation while at the same time blocking efforts to implement more controversial Arizona-style legislation, which Perry does not consider to be appropriate for Texas (or, one can assume, for the United States more generally). This strategy was quite effective, with very limited public discussion of Arizona-style legislation during the legislative session and with conservative activists expending their energy trying to get the comparatively innocuous “sanctuary cities” legislation passed rather than the more draconian legislation their peers in Alabama and Georgia were working on.

A very good point here: The Texas legislation was weak and watered down (per Cal Jillson at SMU), but it also had the desired psychological effect of mollifying the TeaBagger/bigot base of the Republican Party of Texas, who are long on emotion and short on intelligence. They believed that their legislators, especially the newly-elected Tea Party darlings, were actually going to finally do something about Ill Eagles.

By early March, the prospects for any Arizona-style legislation even being debated in committee had faded, and the Republican leadership focused on the “sanctuary cities” legislation (House Bill 12) which, while primarily symbolic, still caused serious rifts within the party. Supporters of the legislation included a large majority of Republican senators and representatives who, due either to ideological conviction and/or pragmatic concern regarding potential reprisals from conservative activists and Republican primary voters, at least publicly favored the bill’s passage.

Arrayed against the bill within the Republican Party were two principal groups. The first were those in the Republican establishment (elected officials, consultants, donors) who believed the passage of “sanctuary cities” legislation would have a negative electoral impact on Republican candidates in the state via a reduction in the proportion of Hispanics who vote Republican combined with an increase in Hispanic voter turnout. In 2008 and 2010, Texas GOP presidential, gubernatorial, and senate candidates received an average of 36% of the Hispanic vote, a noticeable contrast to California where similar Republican candidates averaged only 28% of the Hispanic vote. In 2008, only 38% of eligible Hispanics voted in Texas, compared to 65% of Anglos and African Americans.  Once again, the contrast with California is noteworthy, with 57% of eligible Hispanics casting a ballot in the Golden State, and the gap between Hispanics and Anglos (69%) and African Americans (65%) much narrower than in the Lone Star State.

The second group was business leaders (who, of course, also tend to fall into the donor category above) who opposed the legislation for two principal reasons. First, passage of the legislation (viewed by many as discriminatory and anti-Hispanic) would have a negative impact on the state’s national and international image and, thereby, an adverse effect on investment, corporate re-location and tourism.  Second, passage of the legislation would cause some undocumented immigrants and their family members to leave the state, as well as lead some future migrants to avoid Texas — thereby slightly reducing the supply of available labor for the agricultural, construction, and service industries.

You should be familiar with their names by now: Norman Adams and Steven Hotze in the first camp; homebuilder Bob Perry, grocery magnate Charles Butt and their political consultants HillCo Partners in the second. As for that second group, there's dozens more just like them -- wealthy conservative business owners who give a lot to Republican campaigns and are big fans of cheap labor -- but the key point is that these two guys don't give a damn whether their names get published in the paper or not. They consider themselves above reproach from everybody, certainly a Republican primary voter.

Jones then repeats the long-refuted tactic of scapegoating Wendy Davis for the special because she filibustered to the end of the regular session. We know that's bullshit, though. The governor was going to call a special anyway to deal with the unresolved windstorm insurance legislation.

Let's cut to the chase.

Recall also that during the regular session, the “sanctuary cities” legislation was approved by the House on a 100-to-47 party-line vote, only to be blocked by Democrats in the Senate on a 12-to-19 party-line vote. But during the special session, essentially the same legislation was approved by the Senate on a 19-to-12 party-line vote (the two-thirds rule was not in force during the special session) — only to fail to make it out of the House State Affairs committee, the same committee which in early May had heartily endorsed it on a 9-to-3 party-line vote.

This is important: Speaker Straus and Governor Perry quickly blamed Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock for not allowing the "sanctuary cities" bill, once it had quietly died in House committee, to be attached to the must-pass school finance reform bill in the Senate. The Senate passed the school finance bill, sending it to the House ... and then quickly adjourned sine die, a day early. The House then rejected the school finance bill with mere hours to go in the special ... the GOP members caucused, twisted some arms, and finally passed it ... without "sanctuary cities".

But Ima letchoo finnish, Mark.

After one regular session and one special session, no “sanctuary cities” legislation has passed (in contrast to a great deal of other controversial items on topics ranging from education spending to abortion and voter identification). There are several optics from which to view this reality.

One is that the Texas Republican Party leadership is inept and/or feckless and this failure is the result of a combination of a variety of factors including Republican legislators being bested by their Democratic colleagues in legislative procedural battles, Republican legislators caving under the weight of the last minute public intervention of a few influential Republican donors, the inability of Republican legislative leaders to conduct business in an efficient and timely manner due to the absence or distraction of their party’s “exhausted” legislators, and, most recently, the obstinate behavior of a single Republican senator.

Another, very distinct, view is that after a cost-benefit analysis of the alternatives, the demise of the “sanctuary cities” legislation was the Republican leadership’s collective preferred outcome.

For those who have labored through Jones' ponderous, academic prose, here's the bottom line: no matter how it happened, the Tea Ps are seething over this betrayal and they are going to make someone pay for it.

They'll primary Robert Duncan in west Texas because Perry and Straus have declared him the scapegoat, despite other GOP senators coming to his rescue. They're already blaming Perry for pretending to do something about the perceived Ill Eagle "problem" and then folding like a cheap lawn chair in fealty to his big-money donors. Maybe that's why this recent poll shows Obama ahead of the governor in Texas (as for that, nobody believes it will hold up, whether Perry is on the '12 ticket somewhere or not).

But I will grant Jones that this outcome does give cover to all the incumbent GOP state legislators in their 2012 primaries against TP challengers, enabling them to say: "I WOULDA voted fer it -- hell, I DID vote fer it -- but th' _______ (House/Senate) didn't let it come up fer a FINAL vote".

And I predict that the TeaBaggers will swallow that lie. Hook, line, and sinker.

So ... it's not so good as originally thought for the governor and his presidential aspirations -- that's good for Texas, and the nation for that matter -- and it's real good for jacking up the Tea Partiers again. That's bad for Texas.

Whether it's good or bad for Republicans depends on what kind of Republican one is.

Update: Then again, this might be the law that does the job that "sanctuary cities" doesn't.

Fourth of July under attack in Houston

In fact it's nearly the entire "pinko nanny" Great State that is imposing individual mandates on freedom-loving Texans this holiday season. Via Kate Shellnutt, Stephen Colbert:

*cocking shotgun* "Texas: you'll get my fireworks when you pry them from my cold, dead, fingerless hands."