Saturday, July 13, 2013

The battlefield shifts now

Just two minutes before midnight, the Texas Senate passed the controversial anti-abortion legislation, now known as House Bill 2, that has roiled crowds outside and inside the statehouse for weeks. The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Perry to be signed into law. That will likely lead to a protracted court battle over whether the measure creates an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions.


While passage of HB 2 was expected, it didn’t come easily. It took an all-night debate in which the GOP majority rejected 20 Democratic amendments and in which several protestors were ejected from gallery after outbursts. Before the final vote, a dozen senators gave impassioned speeches for and against the bill, laying bare the raw emotions of the abortion debate.

Where to now, indeed.

The day that this bill is signed by the Governor, expect there to be a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court. Given that the plaintiffs will most likely seek a temporary restraining order, it will be filed in the Western District, based in San Antonio, because that court has jurisdiction over Austin.

Noah's got much more at TexPate, but expect the decision made at this level to be appealed to the 5th Circuit. Conservatives like their chances there, but other states' bills that are similar in nature to Texas' have already been struck down. And the showdown will be with the Supremes at some point in the future, who will surely get a chance to take on (or take down) Roe v. Wade. Or maybe they will pass on that. Update: Edward Garris at Burnt Orange expands on this.

In the meantime, there must be a political cost extracted from the legislators who brought this bill into law. From Rick Perry to David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick, all the way down to the five Democrats in the House.

Symbolism we got plenty of. There's been protests, rallies, and motivation aplenty. Now we need some concrete organizing and political action. The tactics must adjust if Texas women and those who support their freedom can claim an ultimate victory, regardless of what judgment any court renders.

In a similarly revolting development from last night, Department of Public Safety officers confiscated from gallery entrants various feminine hygiene products, claiming protestors would throw them at the senators below. The irony of allowing those carrying concealed handguns to pass in unfettered was lost on them.

The Tampon Troopers also claimed they confiscated -- oops, "discovered and disposed of" --  several jars of "suspected" urine and feces, but unlike the tampons, minipads, and even diabetic medicines they purloined, there were no pictures of a single jar of anything. Hats off to the Texas Tribune for clarifying that bit of radical conservative propaganda which put the state police into totalitarian mode.

Social media blew up again as all this business went down yesterday and into the night. But once you get past the outraged Tweets and indignant Facebook posts, the real job of making the changes in Austin that will result in different legislation starts now, and there'll be a test based on the success of those efforts in November of 2014.

If you want more like last night, then I am certain you will get it from Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick and the rest of those. If you don't, there's a lot of work to be done.

Friday, July 12, 2013

More bad political science

And then again maybe it's just poor journalism. Hard to distinguish here.

More people identify themselves as pro-life than pro-choice: A Gallup poll found 50 percent of people call themselves pro-life and 41 percent pro-choice. The latter is a record low.

However, a strong majority of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned: 63 percent say they would not like to see the court completely overturn Roe v. Wade; 29 percent would.

But the same Pew poll finds a plurality objects to abortion on moral grounds: 47 percent say it’s “morally wrong,” compared with 13 percent who say it’s “morally acceptable.” Twenty-seven percent say it’s not a moral issue. Nine percent say it depends on the situation.

Support for abortion rights drops dramatically after the first trimester: A Gallup poll found 61 percent of people believe abortion generally should be legal in the first three months of pregnancy while 31 percent disagree. But only 27 percent of people believe it should be legal in the second trimester and only 14 percent believe it should be legal in the third trimester. Gallup has found that pattern each time it has asked the question since 1996.

There's a lot of contradiction in there, but when you look at this bipartisan poll of Texans from last month, you see a completely different picture.

"Texans disapprove of the legislature taking up abortion bills during the special session by 80%, according to a bipartisan poll conducted from June 17-19, 2013. In addition, 63% of Texas voters think the state has enough abortion restrictions, and 71% say the legislature should be focusing on the economy and jobs. ...

74% of registered voters say that personal, private medical decisions about whether to have an abortion should be made by a woman, her family, and her doctor -- not by politicians. And the support is wide across the spectrum: 76% of independents and 61% of Republicans agreed."

Who or what to believe here?

Gallup's record in presidential polling -- a category subject to considerably less nuance than abortion -- has been slipping a lot in recent years. Pew has been more accurate. The outfit cited by Progress Texas above, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, fared best among these in 2012, according to the wizard of polling analysis, Nate Silver.

But this, written by Karen Tumulty at the LA Times 24 years ago, via HuffPolians Mark Blumenthal and Ariel Edwards-Levy, seems definitive enough with respect to polls about abortion.

"Abortion is a topic that leaves most people feeling uncomfortable and confused. Theirs is 'a conditional, complex, middle position,' says Thomas W. Smith of the University of Chicago's National Opinion Center, which has been tracking public sentiment on abortion since the early 1960s...Surveys on abortion often yield contradictory results. Ask a question one way, and a solid majority of Americans will say that abortion should remain legal. Change the wording a bit, and the same group will favor banning it. Nonetheless, from these surveys comes what both sides realize is the winning strategy in the nation's war over abortion. 'Just as the polls come out according to the way the question is asked, so will the outcome of elections depend on who is more successful in framing what the question is all about,' [Democratic pollster Harrison] Hickman says."

Time and again I've posted my opinion of public polling. I'll repeat: polls have all of the utility of a few squares of toilet paper about to be used for their intended purpose. And once utilized, experience the most rapid of diminishing marginal value. If you wanted to be less crude than me then you might say "it's a snapshot in time". Except it would be one of those Polaroid shake-its that fades fairly quickly to nearly invisible.

For the purpose of this post let's go back to the first excerpt above and note the Houston Chron's Todd Ackerman being surprised at the pro-life versus pro-choice polling results. As we already know about polls, it's all in how the question is asked. In this case it is all about how the term "pro-life" is interpreted by the pollee as well as the reader of the poll. (Very important: not defined, but translated.)

For one thing, it isn't pro-life but actually just "pro-birth", especially as Texas Republicans and those in other states have chosen to implement legislation. From 2008 to 2011 -- the years of greatest economic turmoil in the the US -- 72 percent of women who sought an abortion already had children. Which makes it more obvious that the choice women have to make turns on economic reality more than some moral judgment. And it is no stretch to say that children born into dire financial circumstances are poorly nourished, lack basic medical care, and are further punished economically now if their parent is so much as spending time around someone else who smokes marijuana.

That is simply by no accurate definition, translation, or interpretation "pro-life".

But because Republicans have lots of corporate money with which to drive this and other false messages home -- not to mention having, you know, God on their side --  they can sway the unwashed masses into believing that their definition of pro-life is to be exalted.

Besides, those libruls are just baby-killers.

If you would like to better understand the complex socio-economic and moral dilemmas women must endure, not to mention the emotional quandaries and barriers to exercising their reproductive choice, then read this.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Finishing her testimony

The afore-blogged Sarah Slamen gets the Last Word after all.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Mark Jones tries to take down Wendy Davis

And fails. As usual.

Since her filibuster on June 25, activists, politicians and pundits within and outside of Texas have been discussing a possible 2014 gubernatorial bid by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. However, beyond her pivotal role in temporarily derailing a strict omnibus anti-abortion bill and her compelling life story, most Texans, let alone most Americans, know little about Davis. An analysis of her voting record on the Senate floor helps partially fill this informational lacuna, highlighting that during her tenure Davis has been one of the Texas Senate’s most liberal members.

Now you can click over and read Jones' data and interpretations for yourself, but you don't have to possess a doctorate to recognize political quackery disguised as political science. Just use Dr. Jones' own figures.

Jones asserts Wendy Davis is the 4th most liberal senator, and then charts a voting record that is all but identical to six of her colleagues. His words: "Her ideological position is statistically indistinguishable from that of the other six Democratic senators."

So if that's true, what weight is given data that makes her fourth most liberal and not one of the 6 others? By this same measurement, Jane Nelson -- yeah, that Jane Nelson -- is the 4th most conservative state senator, more so than Troy Fraser, Tommy Williams, Glenn Hegar, and Bob Estes. And every Republican in Texas is laughing out loud right now. Update II: In preparing my personal legislative scorecard at the Texas Tribune, Nelson was the Republican whose votes I agreed with the most often (a stunning 86%).

And if you have a bias hiding somewhere in the numbers that's so obvious that I can see it.... why are you even trying to hide it?

This is called cherry-picking... and then making Robitussin with the cherries instead of wine. Jones has hacked up a "too-librul" furball and needed some cough suppressant.

To be clear, I have excoriated Dr. Jones and his opinions more frequently in this space than even I had thought. Here's what I wrote two years ago when he suggested that the defeat of sanctuary cities bills in that legislative session was a "strategic victory" for Rick Perry. Jones was eventually compelled to back up and rewrite on that, and I kicked him while he was down. In searching for those I found about ten more posts eviscerating the good doctor. And when I say 'eviscerate', I mean his lower GI tract was removed and replaced with PVC pipe.

I stopped reading his dreck a while back because the sniffs I heard at the end of every sentence were just too obnoxious to endure, but I gave him another chance recently when he appeared on teevee with Khambrel Marshall and David Big Jolly Jennings. I couldn't make it to the end of the broadcast without calling my dentist to schedule a gum-scraping. I figured that would be less painful.

I am not joking; compared to Mark Jones, Marc Campos has searing political insights -- and real keen baseball knowledge, too.

Anyway, Jones buried the lede.

Paul Burka, Patricia Kilday Hart, Ross Ramsey and others have identified multiple hurdles Davis would face were she to run for governor in 2014. To those I would add one more: Davis would be competing for statewide office in what is still a very red state with the legislative voting record of a relatively liberal Texas Democrat.

Well knock me over with a feather: Texas is as red as a baboon's ass in heat and hasn't elected a statewide Democrat in a generation. And Wendy Davis is a Democrat. You don't think the past might be prologue, do you? Let's gather some data and plot a graph.

(This baloney makes almost as much sense as the TexTrib's own polls. Yeah, I've blogged about those too until I'm tired of doing so. They're so mad at me they don't link over here any more.)

Dr. Jones should have simply saved himself the trouble and just gone all Ronald Reagan "librul-librul-librul" on Sen. Davis. He could have at least updated Reagan's smear with some of Rush Limbaugh's or Ann Coulter's spew; they've both made fortunes off that 'Liberals-R-e-VILL!' schtick. But I suppose he thinks what he's doing isn't the same thing.

Actually, it is. Calling someone the "most liberal senator" was the very first argument made against both John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008, and Jones knows it's a dog whistle only right ears can hear. But he had to go and ruin his credibility again. 

I have a hard time believing that Rice University cannot do better than this in the poly-sci department, and that's even if they wanted someone who was the academic equivalent of Karl Rove or Frank Luntz. Mark Jones must be tenured harder than the mortar between the bricks under the ivy. I'm guessing that without something that meets the definition of moral turpitude, they're stuck with him out there for another twenty-five years or so.

And I doubt that remains a long enough time for him to see any librul get elected governor of Texas.

Update: Greg has a similar opinion of Dr. Jones (it's more courteous than mine, but still pretty harsh on his figures and his conclusions).