Why it's wrong to joke about threatening to shoot people (and other reasons Greg Abbott is not getting a Christmas card from me this year)

You may or may not have heard that Texas governor Greg Abbott went to the shooting range and made a joke about using his prowess with a gun to intimidate the press:

Abbott proved a good shot and, proudly displaying the target showing his marksmanship, the governor joked, according to the Texas Tribune reporter and photographer who were within earshot, “I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters.”

Ha ha. The governor's Mike Huckabee-esque sense of humor didn't play well in the press (go figure), but some folks thought it was fake outrage since it was, you know, "just a joke." Texas Monthly even went so far as to waste some virtual ink publishing a think piece headlined "Panicking Over Paper Cuts - The hysteria over Governor Greg Abbott’s joke at a gun range is ridiculous." 

I'm not going to pretend that Abbott's joke was anything but a joke, but that doesn't mean it's the sort of joke the governor of Texas should be making. What if, instead of "reporters," Abbott had joked about threatening "women," or "Mexicans," or "queers," or "blacks?" Instead of Abbott making the joke, what if Obama had proudly displayed his shooting target and said "I'm gonna carry this around in case I see any Christians?" 

It's exactly the same joke. If you don't see any problem with these variations, then so be it. If, however, you're fine with what Abbott said but you're upset or offended by the others, then you're not ok with the joke; you're just ok with the target.

EDIT: Just in case you haven't been paying attention, reporters have been under attack from politicians all over the country. Their crime? Doing their constitutionally-protected job. 

It really says something about Abbott that I can write about another incredibly stupid thing he's said and still not address his frankly awful positions on women's health and sanctuary cities. No, I'll leave those for another time. Instead, I'd like to take a moment to react to his inserting himself into the dispute between Austin and the big ride-sharing companies, Lyft and Uber.

If you're not familiar with the history of the dispute, I'll give you the short version: Lyft and Uber prefer to operate in markets where they don't have to play by the same rules as cab companies, so they attempt to get local laws changed in their favor so they have a built-in competitive advantage.

In Austin, they wanted to use less-expensive methods of vetting their drivers instead of the fingerprint check required for cabs. So, they spent a crazy amount of money to get an initiative on the local ballot to carve out an exception for themselves. Despite having stacked the deck in their favor by having a confusingly-worded ballot question, having the election on a weekday, and being the only initiative on the ballot (not to mention running absurdly misleading ads), their exemption went down in flames.

So they left. They weren't forced to leave. They decided to punish the city for not giving them regulatory advantages over the competition.

But they weren't done with Austin, oh no. They decided to go over the city's head and get a state law passed that would force Austin to give in to their demands. And, today, Governor Greg Abbott signed this law, and in doing so, stated: 

Today I signed a law to overturn the City of Austin’s regulation that trampled freedom and free enterprise.

He went on to say:

"What today really is is a celebration of freedom and free enterprise," Abbott said during a signing ceremony. "This is freedom for every Texan — especially those who live in the Austin area — to be able to choose the provider of their choice as it concerns transportation."

I'm not sure this qualifies as "Orwellian," but it's certainly a bald-faced lie. Greg Abbott is doing exactly what Republicans say they don't want government to do: He's picking a winner instead of letting the market sort it out. He just signed in to law a preferred status for ride share companies. Uber and Lyft wanted to change the rules to ensure they won, and Abbott was only too happy to help them.

The "why" of it is up for debate. Uber in particular is a particularly odious company with a history of not paying the non-employees and of treating women badly, so it could be that he just sees in them a kindred spirit. Abbott is also reliably against anything Austin, so it could just be an act of spite. The sad thing is that these are the two least-nefarious explanations I can think of for his going against everything conservatives supposedly stand for.