Terribly Normal

Trump announces transgender ban in military; Amazon skunkworks lab tackles healthcare; and more.


  • Trump watch: “This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire,” a senior House Republican aide told Politico’s Rachael Bade and Josh Dawsey, regarding President Trump’s sudden decision via Twitter to ban transgender people from the U.S. military. So-called conservative Republicans were only hoping to get the Pentagon to stop paying for gender reassignment surgery and other medical services for transgender service members.

  • “At the Pentagon, the first of the three tweets raised fears that the president was getting ready to announce strikes on North Korea or some other military action,” Cora Lewis, Dominc Holden and Nancy Youssef report for BuzzFeed. “Many said they were left in suspense for nine minutes, the time between the first and second tweet.”

  • “I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology,” Trump declared during his speech at last summer’s Republican National Convention. Obviously, that didn’t include protecting them from hateful domestic ideologies.

  • There is no evidence that allowing trans people to serve openly in the military affects combat readiness (Trump’s stated reason for his ban), as a 2016 RAND Corporation study found.

  • Trump’s daily excretions are so astounding that neither the New York Times, The Washington Post or Politico bothered to report that on Tuesday night, at a campaign rally in Ohio, he claimed that drug-importing gang members would “take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15—and others—and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before any die.” As Adele Stan wrote in The American Prospect, “A more perfect encapsulation of the proclivities of the president’s poisonous psyche could not be imagined by even the likes of Quentin Tarantino. It’s all there, the racism, the dehumanization of immigrants, and a sexualized violence involving bleeding women—or, in this case, girls.”

  • She adds, “I know how it is to want to scream or cry as the republic slips away and you’re still trying to do your work, trying to stop some small part of it from happening while the nation seems oblivious to the consequences….THE WORST PART of all of this is how terribly normal it has all become.”

  • Trump may be failing “at what used to be thought of as the presidency,” but he’s “succeeding at reality television like no one ever has before,” Ben Smith writes in BuzzFeed.

  • David Apol, the new head of the Office of Government Ethics has a “loosey-goosey” approach, his predecessor, Walter Shaub, told Eric Lipton of The New York Times. For example, as the office’s general counsel, Lipton reports, Apol “had argued that a former government official, who had helped oversee the issuance or management of a government contract, should be allowed to take a job with the company that won the contract and then interact with his former colleagues, despite a ban on lobbying by former agency officials. The argument [he] made was that this work was not necessarily an attempt to influence the government, which is prohibited, but instead might be just helping the company deliver services.”

  • Future, Imperfect: Amazon has a skunkworks lab called 1492 that is exploring opportunities in health care, Eugene Kim and Christina Farr report for CNBC.

  • Susan Crawford offers a provocative analysis of Microsoft’s proposal to the FCC for re-classifying the use of TV “white spaces”—it sounds good for expanding rural broadband, but it’s really about helping the giant company’s plans for “smart cities” and the Internet of Things.

  • Wired’s Nicholas Thompson catches up with our friend Tristan Harris, who is hard at work trying to convince tech designers to stop “hijacking…the human mind.” One intriguing suggestion he offers: “Imagine we replace the Comment button with a Let’s Meet button. When we want to post something controversial, we can have the choice to say, ‘Hey let’s talk about this’ in person, not online. And right underneath, there’s an RSVP, so people can coordinate right there to talk about it over a dinner.”

  • Crypto-wars, continued: New documents released to the ACLU show that during the Obama administration, the NSA improperly violated the privacy of Americans far more than previously disclosed, John Solomon reports for The Hill.

  • A phone number belonging to Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner is registered in Signal, the secure encrypted messaging app, Kashmir Hill reports for Splinter, which means he’s likely violating government document retention laws.

  • Apply: Kickstarter co-founder and CEO Yancey Strickler announces that the crowdfunding platform is searching for its next CEO.

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