I know many of you are at the cottage, not glued to your computers in the office, pretending to work while watching for news, so I'll recap the week for you.
On Wednesday morning, U.S. President Donald Trump announced in a series of tweets that, forthwith, transgender people will no longer be permitted to serve in the U.S. military "in any capacity."
His initial Tweet read "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow ……" and that just hung there for nine long minutes.
This left many, including, it was reported, some in the Pentagon, wondering whether the United States was about to issue the world's first declaration of war by Twitter-thread and bomb North Korea or whatnot.
With any other world leader, the mere use of "my Generals" would be cause for something falling between "Mild Consternation" and "Alarm" on the Richter scale of public opinion. Mr. Trump's use, however, of the singular possessive pronoun in reference to the high-ranking military leaders of a democracy went mostly unremarked upon.
It would be fashionable of me to argue that the six-dotted mutant ellipsis that Mr. Trump left dangling like that served as a clever distraction from the verbal quasi-reverse-military-coup the President seemed to have just orchestrated.
Warning that whatever ridiculous, cruel, or possibly criminal thing Mr. Trump has just done is merely a distraction from whatever ridiculous, cruel, or possibly criminal thing Mr. Trump did right before that has been a popular trope since before the election.
We're frequently asked to believe that scandals and idiocies artfully hide more scandals and idiocies, as if what we are shown nearly daily were a series of scandalous, idiotically decorated Russian nesting dolls, the last of which may well contain that Russian ambassador who keeps popping up everywhere. That guy is like that one Facebook friend that everyone you know is Facebook friends with but that no one seems to remember meeting.
For those of you who had a campfire on Tuesday, that evening Mr. Trump addressed the Boy Scouts of America, telling the crowd, "You set a record today," making the event about his power to draw crowds, before attempting to instill in the boys a life-long passion for whining about their own press.
"By the way," Mr. Trump said, "what do you think the chances are that this incredible, massive crowd, record-setting, is going to be shown on television tonight? One per cent or zero? The fake media will say: President Trump – and you know what this is – President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today … Fake media. Fake news."
The President regaled the lads with tales of a man he saw at a "cocktail party" attended by "the hottest people in New York." He stopped just short of advising the Scouts to forgo earning their small-boat sailing badge and try for the "taking her furniture shopping" and "moving on her like a bitch" badges.
The President repeatedly congratulated himself on winning the election, asking the too-young-to-votesters, "Do you remember that incredible night with the maps?"
He gamely slammed his former opponent like the gent he is.
He just can't stop running against Hillary Clinton. We are indeed through the looking-glass. It's as if Donald Trump is compelled to run faster and faster just to keep in the same place; Red Queen, meet the Orange King.
Many were stunned by Trump's Boy Scout address. Mouths dropped. There was virtual silence. It was as if the whole world saw a loon at once, and then that loon called out across the lake, "Hey, I'm on the dollar coin! Not a lot of people know that! The Fake Great Lakes Media won't show you that! The Blue Heron? It's not on any coins!"
There were those who insisted that teaching Boy Scouts that they need to Be Prepared to Emotionally Masturbate Their President was a clever ruse, a distraction from the Russia Investigation, or from Mr. Trump's daily flagellation of the man he only just appointed attorney general. We're told that he only says these things so people will stop talking about the things he told The New York Times last week – he seemed surprised that France has airplanes, and to believe that health insurance costs $12 a year. But there's no evidence that Mr. Trump is strategic enough to devise a distraction or self-controlled enough to carry one out were it devised for him.
The notion that Mr. Trump is some sort of media-manipulating master of misdirection – throwing out 140-character smoke bombs to cover up his nefarious schemes – rests on the very shaky premise that there is some method to his madness.
The President cited "medical costs" as the reason for his policy change on transgender people in the military. Perhaps you caught the fishy tale end of his Twitter stream. You just popped out of the cottage for some "birdwatching." Later you told your family, "Yes, I, umm, spotted a San Franciscan blue newsbird."
It was quickly pointed out that, while a Rand study estimated that treatment for soldiers undergoing gender-reassignment surgery would potentially cost the military between $2.4-million and $8.4-million (U.S.), the Department of Defense currently spends $84-million annually treating erectile dysfunction, about 10 times the amount they spend on the transition-focused medical care of transgender service members on active duty.
It's a comparison that somehow both misses the point and makes it at the same time. Erectile dysfunction isn't a joke, a somewhat freakish complaint to be giggled about. It's a medical condition that drastically affects a person's quality of life – although not their ability to serve their country. Because a highly medically effective treatment for this condition exists, good health insurance, the kind military personnel and veterans deserve, covers it.
I don't think anything more needs to be said about that except that there are between 6,000 and 15,000 trans people (estimates vary), many decorated, currently serving their country, and decent medical coverage is part of what they earn.
I'd love to believe that this week's nastiness was designed to distract people from say, Jared Kushner's innate sketchiness, much displayed last week. It's chilling that my faith in Mr. Trump would rise if I thought he was intentionally throwing his administration and the United States military into chaos to drown out embarrassing news stories. Nothing would thrill me more at this point than to learn this was a skillfully executed maneuver designed to draw attention away from the Republican Party's desperate, flailing attempts to repeal or replace or "skinny-repeal" (which sounds like a drink I'd never order) or "soft repeal" (which takes the prize for Sounds Like a Sex Move I Really Don't Want To Try) the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans are labouring to strip just enough people of their health insurance to satisfy the conservative wing of their party without alienating the at-least-recognizes-that-many-of-their-constituents-rely-on-medicare wing of that bird, and it's not going well.
Canadians watch Americans grapple with health care and it's like we're watching early man, standing frozen half to death in midwinter. We're all like "Guys, just rub two sticks together!"
But, no, 300 million Americans stand there, teeth chattering, each holding a stick, arguing day-in-day-out, "What is to be done?"
Thursday, brand-spanking (don't linger too long on that image) new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci insinuated on Twitter that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus had "leaked" Mr. Scaramucci's publicly accessible financial disclosure forms and that he'd be reporting this "felony" to the FBI and Department of Justice.
He later cold-called a New Yorker journalist and, in a professional capacity, described Mr. Priebus as "a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac" who was "cock-blocking" Mr. Scaramucci. He tried to "Pretty please, with patriotism on top" the journalist into revealing a source – threatening to start firing everyone in the White House communications department until he co-operated. Using less than New Yorker-ish language he declared that, unlike some people (Steve Bannon) enjoying Mr Trump's largesses, he was not one to self-fellate.
In summation, cottagers, you've missed, essentially, a five-day episode of Game of Thrones, in which every character on the show is Cersei, minus the veneer of competence.