Heroes and scoundrels

Texas Sen. Wendy Davis is a hero.

Texas Sen. Tommy Williams, by contrast, isn’t even a gentleman.

Davis is in now in the final three hours of a thirteen-hour ordeal to block a law that would make legal abortions virtually unobtainable in most of Texas by creating unmeetable rules (e.g., the physician must hold admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic). As it happens, Davis only holds office due to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which prevented the Republicans from districting her out of her seat.

The Texas Senate filibuster rules require a single senator to hold the floor and to remain standing at all times, without food or water. The senator must keep speaking unless relieved by colleague who asks a question, but must keep standing in any case, without leaning on anything or receiving assistance from anyone to remain standing. That sounds to me like a rule against holding someone up.

But when a colleague helped Davis adjust her back brace, the low-life scoundrel Williams raised a point of order, the coward David Dewhurst, presiding, lacked the guts to make a ruling, and the Republican majority in the Senate duly voted that Davis had broken the rules. She was called out on another occasion for what the Republicans held was non-germane speech. If they find a third excuse to ding her before midnight, they can then invoke cloture.

Alas, Rick Perry has the power to call the Legislature back into session, so Davis’s heroics probably won’t succeed in stopping the bill from becoming law. But she has already succeeded in forcing the GOP to demonstrate, once again, how utterly removed it is from the basic human decencies. I have a feeling – and a hope – that we will be hearing from her in the future.

Footnote If you Tweet, the hashtag is #standwithwendy. Davis has already gotten a Twitter shout-out from the President.

Update Dewhurst has now ruled that Davis’s remarks on Texas’s transvaginal sonogram law – a law passed for the same purpose as the measure under debate, to wit vitiating the right to choose under Roe v. Wade by making its exercise uncomfortable, expensive, and impracticable – were not germane to the debate. The Democrats are now extending the filibuster by raising points of order of their own and attempting to force a debate on overruling Dewhurst’s ruling.

It’s not looking good for the good guys. The moral of the story, once again, is that Republicans lie, cheat, and steal to get their way. Is it – barely – possible that today’s antics in Texas and Washington will spark a backlash at the polls in 2014. It seems to me that Barack Obama, having already earned his Not An Angry Black Man merit badge, needs to show some righteous anger.

Second update After the presiding officer twice refused to recognize a female Democratic Senator to make privileged motions, she called him out with a “parliamentary inquiry”: “At what point does a female senator need to raise her voice to be heard over the male colleagues in the room?”

That set off the crowd in the galleries, who are still making so much noise that the vote on the motion on the previous question could not be completed for fifteen minutes. Unless there’s a “stop the clock” rule, I think the good guys managed to run the clock out. Astounding!

Third update No, they’re voting on the bill, clearly after midnight. Remarkable what you can get away with when there’s no limit on your willingness to cheat.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

26 thoughts on “Heroes and scoundrels”

  1. Since you mentioned “human decenies” let’s talk basic human decencies. Where is the human decency in championing making it more accesible, comfortable, and legal for a mother to have her unborn child killed? Davis and those who stand against the sanctity of the most vulnerable of human life are the lowest form of human decency. There is only one villian in this story, and it is Wendy Davis. Kudos to the Texas legislature for apparently being close to making it harder for more of our unborn children to be murdered. If you find the agenda of the likes of Davis despicable, the hashtag is #standforlife.

    1. Gosh, if only real life were as simple as the dreams of coservatives. We could all live on Beaver Cleaver’s street where the sun is always shining.

    2. Yes, let’s talk basic decencies. Where is the pro-life decency in not championing basic guaranteed provision of sufficient nutrition, shelter, healthcare, and education to all those who are the most vulnerable of human life? Where is the pro-life decency in not championing the free availability of contraceptives, sex education, and family planning?

      And, most importantly, with approximately 50% of fertilized eggs spontaneously aborted, most very early in the pregnancy and the remainder during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, where is the pro-life decency in failing to champion research into this holocaust of millions of gametes, blastocysts and zygotes? And then, of course, there are the spontaneous abortions, incomplete abortions, and stillbirths that occur at or after the 24th week.

      I hope you realize that those unborn children are not smiling, babbling and cooing little babes in arms. You and your cohort certainly can’t be that naïve.

    3. I have to confess, I am a murderer. What’s worse, I don’t even have the courage to do my own killing. In fact, I probably couldn’t bear to watch it were I in the room. Although I know it is wrong, it does give me solace to know that billions of other meat-eating humans do the same everyday.

      We ought to pass a law.

    4. Before anyone can discuss the issue with you, and some others below, there is a bit of education needed, with understanding on your part.

      The issue is not about championing abortion. The issue is allowing a woman and her doctor, and anyone else she wishes to consult, to make a decision about herself and the unborn. Until you understand this we are unable to have a discussion.

      Even the vaunted Sarah Palin took advantage of The Choice. She admitted that she took a pregnancy test when in New Orleans. She realized she could spend a couple extra days in the city and have an abortion but decided not to. The Choice she had is being denied today by the GOP wherever they can.

      The Texas GOP does not even want to allow exceptions for rape or incest.

      The real crux of the bill was that abortion clinics are going to be regulated out of existence by imposing unnecessary rules that are nearly impossible to meet, especially in the far west of Texas.

      Everyday decisions are made that trade off one life for another. Who gets a donor organ? How much money should be spent for road or airline safety versus the cost of doing so? You and I do not even know all of these decisions that impact our lives.

      All progressives, liberals, WOMEN want is to make the decision about abortion themselves. It is no different than all the other tradeoff decisions that are made daily.

      1. Thank you. If that isn’t crystal clear enough then, indeed, there is no basis for discussion.

  2. “to block a law that would make legal abortions virtually unobtainable in most of Texas by creating unmeetable rules (e.g., the physician must hold admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic)”

    Um, if abortion is a legitimate part of “basic health care” then why is it an “unmeetable” rule to require that the physicians who perform abortions (which quite frequently are surgical procedures) to hold admitting privileges?* Abortions often go sideways (because, well, they are surgical procedures after all) and so a regulation that requires those performing abortions to meet the basic standards of care for outpatient surgical procedures seems like a common sense health and safety regulation. If a state legislature passed a law saying that physicians who perform outpatient surgical removal of intestinal polyps needed to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic would you oppose this (keeping in mind that the last time I checked one had a right to have one’s intestinal polyps removed).

    Now, perhaps you are arguing that those who support the proposed Texas law do so not out of a generalized concern for proper standards of surgical care but out of a desire to make a political stand regarding abortion. Fair enough. But if you’re trying to suggest with a straight face that those who oppose the Texas law do so for any reason other than that the logic of the pro choice position requires that they oppose any and all regulation of abortion regardless of whether they would support similar regulations for other medical procedures, then well, ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

    Or put another way, I’ll believe that Kermit Gosnell was an “outlier” that is in no way representative of the larger universe of late term abortion providers when I see “pro choice” folks show even the slightest bit of interest in making sure that there are no opportunities for future Kermit Gosnells to fly under the regulatory radar.

    *Oh yes, it not just the “admitting privileges” requirement – its the fact that the privileges in question must be with a hospital within 30 miles.

  3. I’m watching the live feed of the debate right now. Man, you have to be tough to be a Democrat in Texas, and Wendy Davis, Kirk Watson, and the others supporting the filibuster are definitely tough.

    1. And the Texas GOP are currently attempting to end Davis’s 13-hour filibuster on a technicality, i.e. that in her filibuster she mentioned last year’s sonogram bill, which they are arguing was not “germane” to her argument on the abortion bill.

  4. Bux, Liberal pussy, just checking: You would advocate that a woman who arranges her own abortion should be charged and sentenced for first degree murder, right? Is life without parole OK, or do you hold out for the death penalty?

    1. Arranges her own abortion? Is that done with a time machine, and wouldn’t it create some kind of paradox? How can she arrange for her own abortion if she was aborted?

      Not just a joke: Women don’t arrange for their own abortions. They arrange for somebody else’s abortion.

      Anyway, the usual line I run into, when the subject is an ACTUAL right in the Bill of Rights, not one created out of a crime by judicial fiat, is “If it saves one life”. Maybe we should start asking, “If it stops one Gosnell”. Who, let us not forget, got his patients by referrals from the supposedly legit clinics.

    2. Yes Michael, a woman who arranges for the abortion of her unborn child should be charged and sententenced for murder. I am in favor of the death penalty, but that’s a whole other discussion.

      1. Then you must necessarily be for a charge of involuntary manslaughter for natural failed pregnancies.

        1. Yes, just like a believe that vehicular homicide should be prosecuted implies that you should prosecute somebody whose tire blows out and sends them across the median.

          1. So an infinitely precious human ‘life’ is akin to the material failure of an automobile? I mean really, Brett. In this instance you are all gung ho for the full on intervention of the monopoly power of the state in a personal matter, a position that under all other circumstances you make pains to inform us of your abhorrence, especially if it is done by a black Democrat who happens to be president. You have effectively refuted your own position that these little fertilized eggs are in fact ‘precious’ in any sense.

            Way to go.

          2. What about the issue if intent? I.e. Accidental vs negligent. You, like all the rest of your ilk, simply want to wish away the tough questions about individual liberties that you happen to disagree with.

      2. OK, Brett, about 15 to 20% of women who know that they are pregnant suffer a miscarriage. Do you think that the government should investigate each miscarriage?

        Miscarriage increases with maternal age and the risk increases if the woman has had previous miscarriages. If a woman at high risk of miscarriage knowingly becomes pregnant and miscarries, should she be prosecuted for reckless endangerment? After all, she know that she was likely to lose the pregnancy when she chose to become pregnant. Infertility clinics often have such women as patients; should these clinics be required to report pregnancies to the government for monitoring?

        What say you, Bux, if you are still around and following the discussion?

        1. I think a miscarriage should be treated as any other death (it in fact is a death). A coroner should investigate cause of death. If there is suspicion of foul play, then an investigation should occur.

          The threshold for “high risk” would need to be set through a scientifically informed discussion, but yes I would say a threshold for high risk should be set and if a woman intentionally gets pregnant despite being a high risk then she should be prosecuted for something like reckless endangerment. Same thing for a woman who drinks alcohol or uses drugs while pregnant.

          1. Come on Bux, why stop there? What about failing to get prenatal care? Or eating foods likely to have microbes which are dangerous to a fetus like undercooked eggs, sushi, and unpasturized dairy products? Let’s prosecute pregnant women for reckless endangerment if they participate in sports that have a risk of falling, like skiing and horseback riding. Surely you don’t want any of those murderesses to get away!

  5. In case anyone didn’t already do due Googleance on her, I wish to note some-all from Wikipedia about Wendy Davis :

    Wendy Davis was born on May 16, 1963, and grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. Raised by a single mother, Davis began working at age 14 to help support her family. By 19, Davis became a single mother herself. After learning about a two-year paralegal program from a co-worker, Davis enrolled at Tarrant County College and later transferred to Texas Christian University, where she graduated first in her class. After becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college, Davis went on to earn her law degree with honors from Harvard Law School.[1]

    My wife is a TCU Texan, too, just sayin’.

    It’s never wise to mess with Texas women.

  6. You didn’t really expect them to follow the rules, did you?
    What, do you expect the Supreme Court to toss the law because it was improperly passed as well?

    Hate being a cynic, but sometimes life won’t show the other options.

    1. Hmmm…if the current US Senate rule was in effect in Texas, Wendy Davis could have said “I filibuster” and the motion would have been tabled unless/until the Republicans could have mustered a cloture vote. She wouldn’t have to REALLY filibuster at all.

      If that makes sense to you, then you support the requirement for a “super majority” for every vote. That’s OK if you want to take that position; I’m just clarifying your position.

      Alternately, there was a perfectly good filibuster rule/procedure in effect in the US Senate up to about 50 years ago. The filibuster could go on as long as it could be sustained by one or more members of the opposition. They could say anything they wanted (like reading from the phone book). They had to stand at the dais to speak, but they could lean on it, etc. Most importantly, if there were more than one in a team, they could “yield the floor” to one of the other team members.

      The important difference was that they could filibuster, but they had to REALLY filibuster, so the entire nation could see them at work blocking the legislation. That way, if their position was favored by a large minority, they could force the majority to compromise, while if there position was an extreme of obstructionism, it would be publically exposed as such.

  7. Remarkable what you can get away with when there’s no limit on your willingness to cheat.

    as Gov. Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans have been demonstrating for some time now.

    1. All it takes is the cheaters assuming there will be no consequence to their actions. If Walker, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, et al are never punished, why would they not cheat? And, at least in Texas and Wisconsin, they own the system that issues punishments. A paradox.

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