Why the transgender military ban?

Nice explanation in Politico, actually:

After a week sparring with his attorney general and steaming over the Russia investigation consuming his agenda, President Donald Trump was closing in on an important win.

House Republicans were planning to pass a spending bill stacked with his campaign promises, including money to build his border wall with Mexico.

But an internal House Republican fight over transgender troops was threatening to blow up the bill. And House GOP insiders feared they might not have the votes to pass the legislation because defense hawks wanted a ban on Pentagon-funded sex reassignment operations — something GOP leaders wouldn’t give them.

They turned to Trump, who didn’t hesitate. In the flash of a tweet, he announced that transgender troops would be banned altogether.

Trump’s sudden decision was, in part, a last-ditch attempt to save a House proposal full of his campaign promises that was on the verge of defeat, numerous congressional and White House sources said…

The president’s directive, of course, took the House issue a step beyond paying for gender reassignment surgery and other medical treatment. House Republicans were never debating expelling all transgender troops from the military.

“This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire,” said one senior House Republican aide. The source said that while GOP leaders asked the White House for help, they weren’t expecting — and got no heads up on — Trump’s far-reaching directive. [emphasis mine]

Oh, and also, they think they always win on culture war stuff (they don’t), so why not just trans people under the bus.  And, I’m sure I’ll have more later on the fact that it’s just stupid to kick people out of the military who are doing a good job serving their country.  Ugh.

Where the Republican Party is

Apparently, for many, it just means backing Trump no matter what.  A couple excellent takes on this recently from that too-rare breed of Republicans with integrity.  First in the National Review, David French (and kudos to them for being more than anti-anti Trump):

Yes, the president may very well try to fire the special counsel. He may try to force out the attorney general. He may grant mass pardons to family members and close aides. While I think it’s unlikely, he may even try to pardon himself.

If he does any one of these things — much less several in combination — the GOP will have to decide, once and for all, if it is an American political party or a craven, fearful instrument of Donald Trump’s personal brand. [emphases mine]

There are very few true-believer Trump allies on Capitol Hill. Sure, there are many folks who are genuinely impressed with the man’s electoral victory and admire his intense connection with his base, but even most of them would admit that he was their last choice in the primaries, that they voted for him because they considered the alternative to be worse, and that the main attraction of his presidency is the chance to pass conservative policies and confirm conservative nominees. They don’t trust him and they don’t like him. But — and this is important — at some level many of them fear him, or at least fear what he could do to their careers.

Fear is a powerful motivator. Here we are, six months into his first term, and aside from the Judge Gorsuch nomination, meaningful conservative victories have been few and far between. Scandals and self-inflicted wounds abound. Planned Parenthood is still funded, Obamacare is still alive, and tax reform is still mainly a pipe dream. Trump has proven that he can and will blow up any and all news cycles at will. He’s proven that he sees loyalty as a one-way street: “You’re for me, and I’m for me.” No matter your record of previous support or friendship, you must do what he wants or face his public wrath. Yet still the GOP wall holds…

Call me pessimistic, but we’re moving toward a political reality where GOP silence and loyal GOP defenses may lead Trump to believe he can do virtually anything and escape accountability. The GOP is enabling his worst instincts. After all, Democratic rage is meaningless to him, and he relishes conflict with the “fake news”–peddling mainstream media. Because of its current capitulations, the GOP may find itself facing a president truly out of control, willing to do or say anything to escape meaningful scrutiny or accountability.

Years from now, GOP leaders will look back on their careers and describe their actions in these crucial days. They’d like to be able to tell their friends, their families, and future historians that they stood for truth. They’d like to be able to say that they did their part to preserve the American republic and defend its constitution. As the days wear on, however, it’s becoming increasingly clear that they can stand for truth or they can stand for the president.

Either way, we know Trump won’t stand for them.

And Rick Wilson:

To remind my Republican friends for the hundredth time, the Trump base isn’t your base. His supporters hate you as much as Trump hates you. Trump devotees don’t care about shrinking the size and scope of government. They don’t care about the Constitution. They’re not Republicans, except as a flag of convenience. If you haven’t noticed the theme from Fox to Rush and across the rest of the Trump-fanatic clickservative media isn’t “My God, this bill was political death for anyone who voted for it.” Instead, it was “Why won’t Republicans follow Donald Trump over the cliff? What good is a majority if it won’t destroy itself in a vote that 70 percent of the population hates?”

So, to my Republican elected friends, there are a lot of reasons that GOP Trumpism won’t work, but the biggest one is this: Donald Trump hates you. You are, at best, props and extras in “The Apprentice: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” No matter how many times you abase yourself before him, no matter how much you grovel, it will never be enough. The moment you do anything to preserve your own political fortunes, he will turn on you. The moment you deviate from constant service to his colossal ego, you’re going to end up on blast. He has no allies. Only fluffers and foes…

This week we’ve seen Trump in his most loathsome and essential form—an abusive, reckless child demanding more more more and offering not a shred of discipline, loyalty, or responsibility in return. Mommy and daddy in this case are a House and Senate willing to overlook Little Donnie’s propensity to kill small animals, set fires, and mutter darkly about how he’s going to teach the other kids at school a lesson they won’t forget.

In the meantime, how’s that wall coming? [emphasis mine]

Damn, some nice truth-to-power from both.  Really, it is incredibly eye-opening and distressing to see just how easily our democracy can come to such a low and dangerous point.

Photo of the day

As long as I took so many of my own photos I liked last week, I’ll go back to that well.

I find the 16″ guns of WWII battelships endlesssly cool.  Here’s my son with them on the USS North Carolina.  Actually, even more so than the guns, I am always amazed (and this was my third visit) by the technological and logistical sophistication that was required to keep this thing properly manned and functioning.

When policy means nothing 

In theory, Senate Republicans will vote on health care policy today even thought they don’t even know what they’ll be voting for.  Seriously!!  This is so nuts.  This is so irresponsible.  Paul Waldman:

Tomorrow, the Senate is set to vote on a Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. What Republican bill? The senators themselves don’t even know. Here’s how Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) described it yesterday on “Face the Nation“:

It appears that we will have a vote on Tuesday. But we don’t whether we’re going to be voting on the House bill, the first version of the Senate bill, the second version of the Senate bill, a new version of the Senate bill, or a 2015 bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act now, and then said that somehow we will figure out a replacement over the next two years.

I’ve often argued that Republicans in Congress aren’t serious about policy, but this is taking their unseriousness to the level of farce. After complaining for years that the ACA was “rammed through” Congress — in a process that involved a full year of debate, dozens of hearings in both houses and 188Republican amendments to the bill debated and accepted — they’re going to vote on a sweeping bill that had zero hearings and that they saw only hours before, because who cares what’s in it? It’s only the fate of the country at stake. If taking away health-care coverage from 20 million or 30 million Americans is what it takes to stave off a primary challenge from some nutball tea partier, then that’s what they’ll do…

Instead, what they say is, “We made a promise, and we’re going to keep it.” If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) handed them a bill saying that all children on Medicaid would be taken to the desert, buried up to their necks in the sand, and covered in fire ants, at least 40 of them would say, “It may not be perfect, but we have to keep the promise we made to repeal Obamacare, so I’m voting yes.” [emphases mine]

Chait, also, lets loose:

One of the most powerful indictments of the Republican health-care strategy is that, after its plan underwent large, involuntary revisions Friday evening, party leaders did not even pause. In case you missed this news, which my colleague Ed Kilgore summarized, the Senate parliamentarian ruled out of order numerous elements of the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Some of the rescinded elements, like a ban on funding for insurance covering abortion, are ancillary to the bill’s major purpose. Others are central: The bill’s idea to replace the individual mandate, a six-month lockout period, is now scrapped.

Any remotely conscientious governing party, faced with a setback on this scale, would take a few weeks, or at least a few days, to develop a fallback design. Instead they are plunging ahead, on schedule. There is probably no example in American history of Congress and a president attempting to pass major social legislation on this scale with such manifest disregard for its design and effect. It is the domestic equivalent of invading Iraq without a plan for the occupation.

Honestly, I think that’s actually be unfair to the GWB administration.

Anyway, both posts are worth reading in full.  In a remotely serious democracy, Republicans would be severely punished for behaving so incredibly cavalierly with the American economy and millions and millions of lives.  Alas, the Republicans have taught us we are not a remotely serious democracy at the moment.


Surprising headline of the day

From the failing Washington Post:

Trump labels Attorney General Jeff Sessions ‘beleaguered’

Honestly, I was surprised that beleaguered was even in Trump’s 6th grade vocabulary.

Photo of the day

I’m almost never fortunate enough to actually have a camera with me when flocks of pelicans go by at the beach.  Last week, I finally was.

They shoot dogs, don’t they?

Meant to post this from Conor Friedersdorf before vacation, but forgot.  Still worth it.  When one looks at all the problems with American policing, the fact that they are rampant and needless dog murderers (extensively documented by Radley Balko) may seem like relatively small potatoes, but, in truth, this very much speaks to the systemic cultural problems that are so problematic:

The police officer shot a dog that was approaching him while wagging its tail in a friendly manner—a dog that does not, in fact, appear to have been “charging” him. Then he stood his ground and shot another dog. If a non-cop were caught on camera shooting two dogs who approached in a park in the same manner, there is little doubt that they would find themselves charged with a crime, even if they possessed the gun legally and claimed self-defense. “Ciroc was shot in the jaw, Rocko in the side, face and shoulder,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribute reported. The animals survived after emergency care…

And even when humans are neither struck nor at risk nor bereaved at the loss of a beloved pet, the frequency with which dogs are shot by cops in America is alarming—and revealing.

How frequent is it?

There is no comprehensive tracking, no official number, but as I put it in a previous article, if I told you that American cops kill 50 dogs a year, would you think that’s high or low?

Well, that is the rough figure for metro Atlanta alone.

The Nationhas noted a Department of Justice estimate of 10,000 dogs per year killed by police.

Last year, Reasondug up records showing that two Detroit police officers had killed 100 dogs between them over the course of their careers. And Reasonobtained the best available data on dog shootings from several major jurisdictions that maintain some records:

A Justice Department official speculated in a 2012 interview with Policemagazine that the number could be as high as 10,000 a year, calling it “an epidemic.” That figure that is often repeated in media reports about dog shootings, but it’s little more than a guess. A 2012 study by the National Canine Research Council estimated that half of all intentional police shootings involved dogs.

Radley Balko, who has done more than any other journalist to expose these killings, has gleaned one of the keenest insights by comparing cops to others who encounter dogs:

Not every dog killing means an officer acted wrongly or maliciously… Many of the shootings occur when police attempt to control dogs that are reported to be dangerous or to have attacked someone. Making sudden movements can cause officers to reflexively reach for a weapon, and dogs greeting strangers are just about the most erratic and sudden movers of all. Officers have been knocked down and bitten by dogs they were called in to help control. About a dozen dog-bite fatalities occur every year, with most of the victims children and the elderly. Dogs can pose a real threat.

Yet killing isn’t necessarily the only option. After all, just like police officers, postal workers regularly encounter both vicious and gregarious dogs on their daily rounds. But letter carriers don’t kill dogs, even though they are bitten by the thousands every year. Instead, the Postal Service offers its employees training on how to avoid bites. (In addition, the agency keeps a centralized database of dog bites, a marked contrast to the lack of data on police killings.) At the sessions, handlers put postal workers through sample scenarios using live dogs, teaching them how to calm a dog, distract a dog and even fend one off if necessary. Similar training for meter readers has massively reduced instances of bites. Trainers say that in many cases, officers simply have no idea how to read a dog’s body language. [emphases mine]

It is not unreasonable to ask police officers to display the same degree of courage in the face of sometimes hostile canines that we ask of every United States postal carrier. Cops unable to marshal it cannot be trusted to put the public’s safety before their own.

And it is not unreasonable to ask police departments to train cops as well as meter readers when the failure to do so predictably results in needlessly killed pets and endangered humans. But many police departments don’t care enough to go to the trouble.

The final lesson from Saturday’s Minneapolis shooting is that police officers sometimes misrepresent the circumstances that ostensibly justified their decision to shoot––and that their accounts should not be presumed accurate absent corroborating video.

Says the Star-Tribune:

The woman whose dogs were shot and wounded by police in their north Minneapolis backyard — an encounter captured on residential surveillance video — wants the officer prosecuted for filing a false report that said the animals charged at him.

Attorney Michael Padden, in a statement issued Tuesday on behalf of Jennifer LeMay and her family, alleged that officer Michael Mays should be disciplined, “up to and including termination,” for what he alleged in the report filed Saturday night a few hours after shooting the dogs. Padden said it’s against the law for a peace officer to file a false report, prompting him to call on Police Chief Janeé Harteau to ensure criminal prosecution of the officer. A Police Department spokeswoman declined to respond.

If there are no consequences for filing police reports that do not reflect what actually happened, expect America’s police officers to keep filing them at the current rate.

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