A Texas lawmaker threatened to kill a colleague and an Oregon GOP leader wants armed private militias to protect Republicans. (More)

“There was a threat made … to put a bullet in one of my colleagues’ heads”

Yesterday a fight broke out in the Texas State House, including at least one death threat:

Lawmakers scuffled on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives on Monday after a Dallas-area Republican told Democrats that he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers on protesters in the House gallery.

“We were just on the floor talking about the SB4 protests, and [state Rep.] Matt Rinaldi came up to us and made it a point to say, ‘I called (ICE) on all of them,’ ” state Rep. Philip Cortez (D) said. “And this is completely unacceptable. We will not be intimidated. We will not be disrespected.”
At one point, some of the language between the two sides apparently turned violent.

“There was a threat made from Representative Rinaldi to put a bullet in one of my colleagues’ heads,” state Rep. Justin Rodriguez said during the news conference. “That kind of threatening language, he needs to be called out and held accountable for.”

In a Facebook post, Rinaldi blamed Democratic state Rep. Poncho Nevárez:

During that time Poncho told me that he would “get me on the way to my car.” He later approached me and reiterated that “I had to leave at some point, and he would get me.” I made it clear that if he attempted to, in his words, “get me,” I would shoot him in self defense.

“Get me” may or may not have been a threat of violence. There’s no such ambiguity about Rinaldi’s response.

“There are now belligerent, unstable people who are convinced that Republicans are like Nazis”

Meanwhile in Portland, Oregon – where a white supremacist murdered two men and wounded another this weekend – the chairman of the local Republican Party wants armed, private militias … to protect Republicans:

Multnomah County GOP chair James Buchal, however, told the Guardian that recent street protests had prompted Portland Republicans to consider alternatives to “abandoning the public square.”

“I am sort of evolving to the point where I think that it is appropriate for Republicans to continue to go out there,” he said. “And if they need to have a security force protecting them, that’s an appropriate thing too.”

Asked if this meant Republicans making their own security arrangements rather than relying on city or state police, Buchal said: “Yeah. And there are these people arising, like the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters.”

Asked if he was considering such groups as security providers, Buchal said: “Yeah. We’re thinking about that. Because there are now belligerent, unstable people who are convinced that Republicans are like Nazis.”

He seems to think the best way to convince those “belligerent, unstable people” that you’re not “like Nazis” is to have armed goons accompany Republicans at public events. Like … you know:

The Sturmabteilung … played a significant role in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Their primary purposes were providing protection for Nazi rallies and assemblies….

That’s gonna work out well.

“A precious little snowflake who melted at first thaw”

The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer says it’s all consistent with conservatives’ history of celebrating cowardice as courage:

You wouldn’t say that Preston Brooks sucker-punched Charles Sumner in the Senate chamber in 1856 – but only because he used a cane. Brooks, a South Carolina congressman, began bludgeoning Sumner, the anti-slavery Massachusetts senator, while Sumner wasn’t looking, and beat him unconscious as Sumner was still bent under his desk trying to stand up.

Brooks and his supporters in the South saw the incident as an act of great valor, as the historian Manisha Sinha writes. Brooks bragged that “for the first five or six licks he offered to make fight but I plied him so rapidly that he did not touch me. Towards the last he bellowed like a calf.” The pro-slavery Richmond Enquirer wrote that it considered the act “good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in consequence.” Other “southern defenders of Brooks,” Sinha writes, praised Brooks for his “manly spirit” and mocked Sumner for his “unmanly submission.” It would have been manlier for the unarmed Sumner not to have been ambushed.
Despite Brooks’s public bravado, many of his contemporaries understood that what he had done was an act of cowardice. Anson Burlingame, a representative from Massachusetts, denounced Brooks on the House floor. “Strike a man when he is pinioned – when he cannot respond to a blow! Call you that chivalry? In what code of honor did you get your authority for that?” Mocking both Brooks and Butler as the “gallant nephew” and “gallant uncle,” Burlingame declared, “when we utter something which does not suit their sensitive natures, we desire to know it.” The speech was so memorable that the New York Times cited it in Burlingame’s 1870 obituary.

An infuriated Brooks challenged Burlingame to a duel. Burlingame accepted. The two men were meant to meet in Canada, where, according to the New York Times, an eager Burlingame hurried after stopping in New York to ensure that his skills with a rifle had not atrophied. The Times reported at the time that the proprietor of the shooting gallery “had witnessed, in his time, some accurate shooting, but nothing that equaled this.”

A member of Brooks’s entourage was spying on Burlingame, and according to the Times, witnessed “the shooting of the Broadway gallery.” He telegraphed Brooks in Philadelphia, who suddenly decided not to proceed to Canada on the grounds that he would have to travel through “a hostile country.” Brooks’s headstone would later say that heaven itself never opened its arms to a “manlier spirit.” It is perhaps kind to describe that as an exaggeration. Brooks was a precious little snowflake who melted at first thaw.

Serwer says that shouldn’t surprise us, as “The antebellum South was a society built on the violent exploitation of defenseless people.” And he sees direct parallels in today’s GOP:

Physically attacking journalists for asking questions is cowardly. Every single person who defends it is engaging in an act of cowardice. The notion that [Montana GOP candidate Greg] Gianforte was merely channeling the rugged frontier culture of Western mountain men when he attacked someone who asked him a question is laughable and patronizing.

It is not 1856, but these are the politics of a false valor forged by fear. It is the undercurrent of a politics that defends grown men who stalk black teenagers in the night and then gun them down when they raise their hands in their own defense; it is the politics that rationalizes Ohio police shooting a 12-year-old boy with a toy gun without so much as a chance to surrender; it is the politics of mass deportation and Muslim bans and Blue Lives Matter bills. It is the political logic of frightened people who need to tell themselves they are brave. This is not valor; it is the celebration of violence against those who cannot respond in kind.

That logic is properly realized in the avatar of a president who mocks those who served and suffered while having avoided service himself; who brags about sexual assault behind closed doors and threatens to silence the women who say he assaulted them; who ridicules disabled people then denies doing so; who calls the press the “enemy of the people” when reporters write stories that upset him; who attacks religious fundamentalism from the safety of a podium in this country and then genuflects before its most powerful representatives abroad. Brooks is long dead, but the heirs to his peculiar notion of bravery govern America still.

Add to that list a House Speaker who was praised for his “courage” after proposing a budget that attacked poor people and children. Fact is, modern conservatism loves bullies. They propose laws to protect bullies. As they see it, stealing a kid’s lunch money – whether you do it in a school corridor or in the federal budget – takes real courage.

“Most people do not know why they don’t get hired. Most people do not know why they do not get paid the same as somebody else.”

Meanwhile, at the Department of Labor Bosses:

The Trump administration is planning to disband the Labor Department division that has policed discrimination among federal contractors for four decades, according to the White House’s newly proposed budget, part of wider efforts to rein in government programs that promote civil rights.

As outlined in Labor’s fiscal 2018 plan, the move would fold the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, now home to 600 employees, into another government agency in the name of cost-cutting.

Out House sewer spewers insist it’s all about eliminating redundancies. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs would be folded into the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Except those two agencies have very different missions:

Historically, the two entities have played very different roles. Unlike the EEOC, which investigates complaints it receives, the compliance office audits contractors in a more systematic fashion and verifies that they “take affirmative action” to promote equal opportunity among their employees.

Patricia A. Shiu, who led the compliance office from 2009 to 2016, said the audits are crucial because most workers don’t know they have grounds to file a complaint. “Most people do not know why they don’t get hired. Most people do not know why they do not get paid the same as somebody else,” she said.

Among the OFCCP’s recent victories:

But the compliance office also scored some major recent legal victories, including a $1.7 million settlement with Palantir Technologies over allegations that the data-mining company’s hiring practices discriminated against Asians. In a case involving Gordon Food Service, which serves the Agriculture Department, the Pentagon and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the office found the company had “systematically eliminated qualified women from the hiring process.” The firm agreed to pay $1.85 million in wages to 926 women who had applied for jobs and hire 37 of them. Gordon Food was also forced to no longer require women to take a strength test.

The God-King’s budget would also eliminate the EPA’s environmental justice program, whose employees focus on “pollution that poses health threats specifically concentrated in minority communities,” along with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Oh, and his staff are working on a rule to let more employers deny contraceptive coverage to employees. But none of this is about re-empowering white male supremacy. Oh no….

“All the more responsibility falls to Europe”

On the plus side, the Washington Monthly’s James Bruno reports that a more united Europe may replace the U.S. as the primary guardian of democracy:

“Angela Merkel, whether she wants the job or not, is the West’s last, best hope,” noted POLITICO, running a photo of the German Chancellor with the headline “The Leader of the Free World Meets Donald Trump.” Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper countered, “Germany cannot occupy the place that America under Donald Trump has just vacated. All the more responsibility falls to Europe.”

Indeed it does. The conflict in Syria continues to worsen as Russia, Iran and their allies have acted virtually unchecked, the targeted U.S. strike against Syria notwithstanding. Refugee flows to Europe are likely to continue. Meanwhile, Russian efforts to destabilize Ukraine and the Baltic countries – and to weaken NATO – proceed unabated. Even the Swedes and Finns are questioning their traditional neutrality in face of Russian provocations. Europe must act swiftly to fill the void being left by the United States, but also must shield itself from erratic and incompetent leadership in Washington. How does it do this?

While fraying EU unity has been dominating the headlines, a trend toward greater security cooperation and coordination among the Europeans has been quietly playing out since the dawn of the new century. The 1999 Kosovo War spurred the Europeans toward the development of an autonomous military capability. In 2009, the EU adopted the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) setting the framework for EU military operations abroad. And between 2002 and 2014, the EU has carried out thirty operations using civilian and military resources in Europe, Africa and Asia under the CSDP.

European Union nations don’t yet have the communications, intelligence, and logistical resources to achieve the CSDP’s stated goal of “strategic autonomy.” But they have a large enough economy to develop those resources. They also have renewed vigor to do so, as Britain was the primary dissenting voice in that project:

While the UK’s withdrawal from the EU removes 25 percent of the EU’s military capability, also gone will be London’s unflagging opposition to an enhanced EU defense and military role. After the Brexit referendum, Germany, France and Italy issued a joint declaration reaffirming their commitment to European unity, and, on the defense side, to joint operations, enhanced military capacity and industry. EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had earlier stated, “a common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union.” Without Britain, this process will likely accelerate. At the same time, there is interest in UK policy circles in forging arrangements to continue British participation in EU defense structures.

In short, the Pax Americana that replaced the Pax Britannia after World War II may soon be supplanted by a Pax Europa. If so, we must hope that Europe’s leaders will have learned from Britain’s and our mistakes. New French President Emmanuel Macron gave some substance to that hope yesterday:

French President Emmanuel Macron, standing alongside Russia’s Vladimir Putin, on Monday dubbed two Russian media outlets “agents of influence” which he said had spread fake news about him during his election campaign.

In one of the sharper moments of a news conference marking a visit by Putin, Macron added that he had already raised the issue with the Kremlin leader in a post-election phone call, going on to say the episode was in the past and would stay there.

“When I say things once, I don’t usually repeat myself,” he said.
With Putin alongside him, the 39-year-old Macron repeated the accusation in a reply to a journalist’s question, saying: “During the campaign, Russia Today and Sputnik were agents of influence which on several occasions spread fake news about me personally and my campaign.

“They behaved like organs of influence, of propaganda and of lying propaganda,” he said.

Memo to conservatives: That’s what real courage looks like.


Photo Credit: KTXS


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