The Keyboard Is Not Mightier Than The Gun

My immediate, unvarnished reaction to news that a mass shooter has killed five journalists in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland is that an authoritarian reactionary is responsible.

I want to be clear that I don’t know if this is true. It’s a gut feeling, and gut feelings are notoriously unreliable. What’s remarkable to me is it’s so easy to jump to this (perhaps erroneous) conclusion. We’re living under the rule of a would-be autocrat who has branded the media the ‘enemy of the American people’. On a nearly daily basis, he slanders media outlets that take a critical stance, sometimes assassinating the character of individual journalists who really get under his skin. And the fashies who cheer their dear leader’s maneuvers to obliterate a society that allows dissent go even further. Only two days ago, Milo Yiannopoulos encouraged vigilante squads to gun journalists down.

I could be wrong, and I hope I am. No matter the cause, it’s a needless waste of human lives. My thoughts are with the staff of the Capital Gazette, their friends and their families.

What Are They Hoping For?

Upproping the idea that 45 will become presidential the longer he’s in the position is a tendency that never seems to completely die in wistful quarters of the political media. The outward expression of their desire had abated as the White House sank into tragicomic bedlam, but the appointment of Department of Homeland Security secretary and four-star marine general John Kelly as chief of staff has revived the spirits of those who just want to believe.

Even reliably oppositional outlets express some hope that Kelly can whip Trump into shape. I get it. Seeing one of the seats of power in the federal government so off balance is perturbing, and the fetishization of the military is deeply ingrained in our culture. The Fourth Estate yearns for things to be as they’ve always been with mild and easily reportable variations. But with their barrage of Strong and Tall Kelly instituting military discipline in the organization stories (“Kelly Closes Door!”, “Kelly Fires Patrick Bateman!”), one wonders if they’ve considered the consequences of what they’re hoping for. Do they want a competent Trump administration?

Here’s just a few of the things the administration has been able to accomplish despite six-plus months of legislative non-starters and the kind of podunk tomfoolery that puts Moonshiners to shame: a sharp spike in coordinated deportations, road blocks to legal immigration with a much harsher measure on the horizon, an open endorsement of police brutality, the growth of the carceral state, war on what could generously be called the free press, withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, attacks on LGBTQ rights…

All this from the shambolic version of the administration. And if you too are yearning for Kelly to turn the West Wing into a well-oiled machine,  remember that Kelly was Trump’s DHS secretary. He’s on board with much of Trump’s vile repitilian agenda. It’s the botched execution that stuck in his craw.

We wish General John Kelly the greatest success in at least one part of his mission, though: his agreement with Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis that one of them is always in the country in case Trump tries anything really, phenomenally, “this will kill us all” stupid.

(Year Zero/Day One Hundred and Ninety-Seven)

Ledes At The Bottom Of The Mariana Trench

The ledes in news reports, like pocket change, are sometimes found much further down than was hoped. In two recent stories of national import, the ledes weren’t buried; they were deposited at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Let’s survey the inhospitable depths.

Story One: Four top law firms turned down requests to represent Trump by Michael Isikoff for Yahoo News.

The opening paragraph: 

Top lawyers with at least four major law firms rebuffed White House overtures to represent President Trump in the Russia investigations, in part over concerns that the president would be unwilling to listen to their advice, according to five sources familiar with discussions about the matter.


The lede: 7 paragraphs in, we’re told

Others mentioned potential conflicts with clients of their firms, such as financial institutions that have already received subpoenas relating to potential money-laundering issues that are part of the investigation.

State or federal investigations into Trump-connected money laundering have entered the subpoena stage. But let’s talk about how the president is high-price lawyer kryptonite. Good plan.

Story two:

Intelligence Contractor Is Charged In First Leak Case by Charlie Savage for The New York Times.

The opening paragraph:

An intelligence contractor was charged with sending a classified report about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to the news media, the Justice Department announced Monday, the first criminal leak case under President Trump.

The lede: A staggering 15 paragraphs in, it’s confirmed

The American intelligence community has concluded that Russia conducted a broad influence campaign for the purpose of undermining Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and sowing doubts about the democratic process if she had won.

In October, when the Obama administration accused Russia of stealing and releasing Democratic emails, it also said there was a pattern of probing of voter registration-related systems that was traceable to Russian servers but stopped short of saying the Russian government was behind it. The intelligence report, citing unspecified information the N.S.A. obtained in April, suggests the government is now satisfied that Moscow was the culprit.

The leaked report shows Russian interference with the 2016 election extended to hacking voting machine software, so you’ll excuse me if I forego the obvious “Reality Winner” jokes.

One shouldn’t stay in the Mariana Trench too long. The pressure is immense. The human body is not designed to withstand it for too long. Remember to take your time returning to the surface, as you most certainly don’t want to get the bends.

(Year Zero/Day One Hundred and Thirty-Eight)

In Which We Accurately Predict The Remainder Of Today’s Breaking News Headlines

“Bored and left alone for five minutes, Trump reveals existence of intergalactic alien visitors to foreign press” (The New York Times)

“Trump denies providing name and location of every American spy to Vladimir Putin” (Washington Post)

“Jesus confirms end times are nigh, that believers are idiots if they didn’t figure that out after latest American election” (Christian Science Monitor, Deseret News, L’Osservatore Romano)

“Report: Kushner Imposed ‘Breathing Fee’ On Tenants” (TIME)

“US president caught on hot mic proclaiming Prophet Mohammed can ‘suck my dick'” (Al Jazeera)

“Trump denies stealing NBA players’ talent with magic orb” (ESPN)

“Officials: Trump did not realize Saudis were actually Bond villains” (Wall Street Journal)

“Putin denies ever speaking to President Trump, even after his inauguration” (RT)

“Source: Trump plans to name Michael Flynn to FBI Director”  (Associated Press)

“Sean Spicer Breaks Down In Tears During Press Conference, Whimpers ‘I Only Asked For One Thing'” (McClatchy)

“Four ancient Egyptian jars discovered in White House, Jeff Sessions still missing” (Reuters)

“FBI Denies Witch Hunt, Confirms Wizard Hunt” (Los Angeles Times)

(Year Zero/Day One Hundred and Twenty-Six)