Oh, Come On: Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly Is Bullshitting Us

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said today on one of the morning talk shows that some of the leaks coming out of the White House could be considered, “darn close to treason.”

I call bullshit on that.

I do so because while yes some of the leaks have caused damage, most of them were the result of people deep inside the government so completely freaked out by the bad behavior of high level Trump officials — I’m looking at you Jared Kushner — that they were willing to risk it.

If that doesn’t send shivers down your spine, I don’t know what will.

It will be interesting to see if there are any consquences to all these leaks, in the sense of if any of the people doing them will be found and prosecuted. But we’re all looking at each other and worried that maybe there are traitors working in the White House, I think some pointed leaks are worth it.

These are desperate times, and we may look back at this era of Trumplandia with no little amount of regret if you don’t do something and something quick.

Trumplandia Eats Its Own: H.R. McMaster’s Reputation Edition

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

The Twitter world is abuzz today with the publishing of a Politico Magazine piece by Thomas E. Ricks. The crux of the article is Ricks no longer believes reputable people like H.R. McMaster can faithfully perform their duties respectfully.

To me, this is kind of a “No duh” moment.

Of course this is the case and the notion that “adults in the room” could get baby man Donald Trump to do anything of note other than talk about the size of his hands or his crowds is pretty crazy. It just isn’t going to happen. Here is one of the more telling moments in the article.

But I have watched and waited, and I don’t see McMaster improving Trump. Rather, what I have seen so far is Trump degrading McMaster. In fact, nothing seems to change Trump. He continues to stumble through his foreign policy—embracing autocrats, alienating allies and embarrassing Americans who understand that NATO has helped keep peace in Europe for more than 65 years.

Thinking over this, I worry that having people like McMaster around Trump simply enables Trump. Mature national security specialists seasoned in the ways of Washington simply lend an air of occasional competence to an otherwise shambolic White House. By appearing before the cameras, looking serious and speaking rationally, they add a veneer of normality to this administration. In the process, they tarnish their own good names.

It’s pretty obvious that Trump is a lost case. No amount of baby sitting is going to get that man to act presidential and if you hang around him he’s only going to inevitably through you — and your reputation — under the bus.

Of course, things would really get serious if Gen. Mattis at Defense were to stepdown. It’s odd that he has been quite quiet during the turbulent birth of Trumplandia. I doubt he will ever resign, though. He’s too good a solider and he would have to be pushed the breaking point for that to happen.

But he a person to keep an eye on.

Regardless, we’ll see. It’ll be interesting to see if McMasters actually does step down or if he remain to try to steady the ship of state. I am not one of those who think Trump will ever be impeached or resign without a huge, epic battle. So, we’re fucked.

We’re all totally fucked and we’re just going to have to make the best of the situation.

Can The Resistance Ever Bridge The Gap With Trumplandia?

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

In this age of The Resistance and Trumplandia, it begs the question: can these two sides ever come to some agreement? Is it even possible that The Resistance could woo over enough of Trumplandia to actually win in 2020? Because of a personal history quirk or two, I find myself knowing a few more residents of Trumplandia than perhaps you might expect.

The issue is — Trumplandia is not nearly as a united front as you may expect. Trumplandia contains different factions and ideologies that for various reasons are united by one thing: Donald Trump. The problem The Resistance faces is because of technology (at least in my opinion) the most partisan views are the only ones that thrive. It’s kind of like how because of people not taking their antibiotics properly, there are increasingly resistant strains of major diseases floating around.

Technology causes us to think anyone who doesn’t agree with us is trolling us, when, in fact, the ability to have a cogent conversation with someone who disagrees with you is actually the crux of civil discourse in a democratic Constitutional republic such as ours. This is a problem I’ve seen with both sides. Both sides are at fault on this one.

Each side seems so repulsed by the notion of talking to someone they disagree with that the United States has become almost impossible to govern. The question, of course, is how to fix that? How to bridge that gap? Is there anyway out?

I believe a two prong approach might be right. On one hand, The Resistance really needs to listen to the issues that face the individuals who make up Trumplandia. We can’t dismiss coal miners, or anyone else who serves as Trumplandia’s core. How exactly to go about that is something I find very difficult to understand. The Resistance rightly opposes the racism and bigotry and misogyny that Trump managed to fed upon. Yet we have to stop being so mad about it all that we don’t actually try to talk to the residents of Trumplandia. They aren’t going anywhere and only by trying to understand them can we ever hope to regain power.

Meanwhile, I am still intrigued by the concept of a startup to challenge Twitter. A “Twitter Killer,” if you will. Maybe if we change the question, then the answer will be so fundamentally different that the problem will be fixed a lot easier. This presupposes a lot — no startup is an assured success. And, besides, most VC people are interested in VR and AR now, not social media. So, in the end, we may be talking more about UBI forced upon us because of automation than we will any hypothetical startup.

But let me stress, if we allow our blind fury over the many horrible things that Trumplandia voters have accepted to blind us to them altogether, we’re doomed to failure. Something has to be done. Only after we solve the problem of getting Trumplandia voters to leave their country of the mind will anything happen to end this tragic era in American political life.

The Dog That Didn’t Bark: Where Are All The Protest Songs?

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

It is interesting that in the shock and awe that the birth of Trumplandia has brought, one aspect of civil society that has not really responded much, if at all, is pop music.

While The New York Times and The Washington Post are having a newspaper war to see who can bring the Trump White House down, and the late night talk shows have joke after joke about the surreal nature of Trumplandia, the music business has been rather mum about all of this.

The closest we’ve got to what I suggest we need is “woke pop” as championed by Katy Perry. But where are our protest anthems to chant during massive protests? It is odd that for the most part pop music is rather aggressively apolitical. It’s all very puzzling.

Maybe I’m just being to impatient. Maybe there are marketing reasons for this. Much of the entertainment business is in shock over the triumphant of Trumplandia and so maybe the creative braintrust responsible for pop hits are taking a wait-and-see approach to all of this. I have heard of the occasional protest song being written here and there by some major names, but none of them have punctured my little media bubble.

So, what is likely going to happen is at some point in the near future, a well written and produced protest song will come out of left field and surprise us all. What it will take for this to happen eludes me. Music is a crucial aspect of American political life and it could be that the very forces that have drained all quality out of pop music are the very ones that are preventing us to go from “woke” pop to “protest pop.”

I mean, imagine the cultural consequence of Taylor Swift going rock and performing a cover of “Fortune Son” or something. Something of that magnitude would fundamentally change the music business and potentially force us into an era of good music not seen since the late 60s or early 70s.

But maybe I am being delusional. Maybe the Kraken of pop music jumping into the political fray is something happens only in extreme times when the youth of the nation feel as though they have a vested interest in politics. As you may recall, once the draft was ended by Nixon, much of the wind left the anti-Vietnam War protest movement.

Or maybe I’m being too cynical. Maybe it just is going to take some time. Maybe this time next year, we’ll be in a regular pop music Renaissance. But I am not expecting much. Surprise me, Ms. Perry. Excite me, Ms. Swift.

The Vision Thing: We Need A New Startup Blog To Cover Trumplandia

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

No one is reading this blog. No one. Less than 10 people right now read it on any day and it’s unlikely that is going to change anytime soon. I just don’t have the resources to promote it and grow it and, honestly, I’m probably not quite the right guy to do what needs to be done: found a Gawker-like startup devoted to picking apart Trumplandia. This is for no other reason than I didn’t go to an Ivy League school and I don’t live in New York City if no no other reasons.

Given that the system completely failed us over the last 18 months and gave birth to Trumplandia in the first place, it is now up to civil society to pick up the slack. It is interesting that comedy, not journalism — online or otherwise — has not done this as much as you might expect. Yes, The Washington Post and The New York Times seem to be in an old fashion newspaper war, but there really isn’t a site online that sticks out as a place for “real news” and commentary about Trumplandia.

It would be cool if there was a site that generated buzz by eviscerating Trumplandia and its perfectly horrid cast of characters. There obviously is both a market and an audience for that online and it wouldn’t require that much of investment of resources to pull it off if you had enough vision.

My vision for things would be a site a lot like the old Gawker.com that tore into Trumplandia on a regular basis and generated buzz by being the opposite of Axios. But really tearing into Trumplandia in a serious, straight journalistic manner with a bit of wit and snarkiness. That would be really cool and I think it would be an instant hit.

It is interesting how civil society has responded to the rise of Trumplandia. It’s interesting that Twitter seems at the epicenter of the rage a lot of people like me feel towards Trumplandia. But I would suggest that comes more from there not being a Gawker-like site for them to read than anything else.

If such a site was started, I would definitely suggest it lean on video a lot. I think the modern media consumer expects video to be a part of any offering.

Anyway, it pains me that I won’t be able to be the guy to do it. I just don’t have any money. I have the experience and talent — to some extent — and I definitely have the vision to do it. But, as I just said — no money. I can have all the vision I want, but if I can’t pay people to help me out, squat is going to happen.

So, I am going to just keep writing on this blog for my own enjoyment.

Trumplandia As The Ultimate Expression Of The Post-Gawker Era

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Now, let me get some things out of the way. By the time Gawker.com closed its doors on August 22, 2016 because of the vengeful machinations of billionaire Peter Thiel, it wasn’t very good. In fact, I kind of hated it. I hated it because it committed that worst of media sins: being boring.

I could never quite tell the origin of this existential malaise. What it because its founder, Nick Denton, was married and wealthy now and did not want the trouble or was what? There just didn’t seem to be much vision as to what, exactly, Gawker was. And, it had gone from being snarky to just being nasty for no reason than it could be. It just wasn’t cool anymore.

Having said all that, all I can say is we sorely need Gawker now in this era of Trumplandia. We need a snarky Website that tears down the bizarre characters that Trumplandia seems to generate on a nearly daily basis.
The Gawker of, say, 2004 or 2005 would have really dug in deep into the glaring foibles of Eric Trump, for instance. I know I would have loved to have read some of the better writers of Gawker’s Gold Age mull what the significance of Trumplandia was. And given that it was felled by a member of Trumplandia itself is also interesting.

The fact that Trumplandia came into being just about the time Gawker folded is telling. We lost Gawker and now we have Axios, which is generally regarded by the media industry as the Trump Administration’s lap dog. They trade their self-worth for “access journalism” is the conventional wisdom as best I can ascertain.

The old Gawker, the Gawker of its prime when it was more snarky than nasty, would have had a filed day attacking the Trump Administration. It’s weird how not only did we lose Gawker right before Trumplandia, but we lost Jon Stewart’s version of the Daily Show as well. Maybe Bernie would have won the Democratic Primaries had there been Jon Stewart to egg on progressives.

Regardless, I really miss Gawker now as virtually ever day seems to bring with it new, insane revelations from Trumplandia. Gawker was well known for its investigative journalism, so maybe they would have managed to dig up the “pee tape” that everyone wants to see.

Instead of Gawker, now we have Fusion. Which I never read, but seems the bi-lingual corpse of Gawker in some respects, with many of Gawker’s old writers working there. It is telling that right now there is no go-to Website for Trumplandia coverage. Also there are any number of podcasts which are really interesting that cover Trumplandia, but that’s about it. Though there’s New York Magazine and The New Yorker, but really these days it seems TV — and Twitter itself — is where all the interesting Trumplandia coverage is to be had. I suspect if Nick Denton was actually engaged in the Gawker product, that maybe the hypothetical modern Gawker would really be an interesting read again.

There certainly is enough to write about when it comes to Trumplandia, no one wish the resources of Gawker exists right now that I find all that interesting. I wish someone would fill that void. I am doing my little part, but no one is reading this blog and generally no one cares what I have to say. But I find writing relaxing and I am writing this for no one but myself right now.

Having said all that, Gawker, I miss you. I really do. We need you right now.

Mad Dog Mattis, The Republic & The Tyrannical Madman President

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

When Donald Trump appointed Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis as Secretary of Defense, I was still so angry about Trump winning that I struggled to figure out some reason to hate it. But, alas, now that time has wore on and I have calmed down some, I can see that for once Trump actually did something right. Though I have to note that this “right thing” was a not a policy choice but rather a personnel choice.

In general, I am completely, totally opposed to Trump’s policy with every fiber of my being. Trump is a national embarrassment and the worst president since at least Andrew Johnson, if not James Buchanan. So, with that in mind, I read with great interest the New York Magazine piece about Gen. Mattis’ role in the Trump Administration. I found the article good-to-great…and yet it wasn’t as pointed as I thought it might otherwise be.

The article makes the case that because Trump is, well, not only immature but nuts, the “Generals” like Mattis who surround Trump are potentially the only people that stand between the Republic and outright destruction. As the article states:

Trump himself — who avoided the draft because of a “temporary” problem with his feet — seems most interested in Mattis’s supposed barracks nickname (“Mad Dog”), no-nonsense speaking style, and “central casting” square jaw and steely visage. He is Trump’s “favorite,” joke White House officials. “I love the generals,” says Trump. Whatever the reason, it is usually lucky he does. He dropped lusty campaign-trail calls to reinstate water-boarding after Mattis told him torture doesn’t work. Iraq was omitted from the rewritten Muslim ban, thanks to reminders that American and Iraqi troops are together battling ISIS in Mosul. Military leaders helped puncture the idea of a grand bargain with Vladimir Putin. Mattis has flown around the world telling allies that the United States can still be counted on, an attempt to clean up messes of Trump’s making. “We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil,” he said on his first visit to Baghdad, contradicting Trump’s lusty campaign-trail calls to do just that. The only thing as compelling to Trump as a man in uniform is a man in a $10,000 suit.

Regardless, I continue to worry about the fate of the Republic despite the assured hand of Gen. Mattis. The New York Magazine article says as much itself, but I felt as though there wasn’t any particular aspect of the article that popped out to me as particularly well stated on the matter.

I left the article feeling like I did not quite know what the point of it all was. But I guess what they were trying to say was Gen. Mattis can only do so much. He’s not perfect and the damage that Trump as president could do to the Republic through sheer ineptitude far out way how Gen. Mattis might be able to protect it. Trump, according to the article, has given the U.S. military almost complete free reign. As the article itself states:

Yet their influence can go only so far. The military can execute a missile strike on Syria with efficient professionalism, but that doesn’t make up for the lack of a broader strategy. Mattis can block especially noxious personnel choices, but his alternative picks have been repeatedly rejected by the White House. At any moment, the best-laid plans can be upended by a predawn tweet or the preferences of a 30-something real-estate heir. While Trump may listen to his generals when they’re with him, he is just as likely to take cues from a lecture by Xi or a segment on Fox. And the role that hopeful outsiders have foisted upon Mattis and the military is one that runs counter to principles drilled into them over decades. They are as aware as anyone that it is not a healthy sign for a democracy, or for civil-military relations, when salvation comes in uniform.

Regardless, it doesn’t make me feel any better that Trump is so nuts that we have to put our hopes in the steady hand of a general like Mattis instead of, well, the president. That should worry all of us.

The Rise Of Donald Trump: A Personal History

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

My entire life, I have known of Donald Trump. He’s always been a celebrity whose name I’ve been aware. The weird thing is, 30 years ago, he was sort of a self-aware comic character. It seemed as if he was in on the joke. He had a sense of humor.

He went on Late Night with David Letterman frequently and a good time was had by all. Trump was always a celebrity, not a politician. I guess this distinction is pet peeve of mine because there are people who want to bitch a moan about how center-Left celebrities should just shut up about politics when they, themselves, not only listened to a center-Right celebrity, they voted for the fucker!

So, it was only over the last five years or so that things changed. I don’t know what exactly it was. Something happened and Trump stopped being a fun, aspirational character and he simply became mean. The thing we have to keep in mind is — he was a celebrity who made his political name pushing a bizarre, racist conspiracy theory.

The issue for me now is we still have to come to grips with what, exactly, Trump has managed to do to America. I mean, I honestly am pretty angry at some people I know for supporting Trump. It just boggles my mind that anyone would willingly vote for a racist, misogynist, bigot like Trump and even be proud of it.

I want to understand these people. I really do. I want to understand why they would do such a thing. But it is really difficult to bridge that divide. But, going forward, that is something we’re going to have to do. It is not going to be easy, but it something that must be done.

If we don’t I fear for the fate of the Republic because the more Trump manages to divide America, the more powerful he and his forces become.

Jared Kushner & The Russian Backchannel: A Personal Theory

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I have a personal theory about the backchanel that Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner tried to set up with the Russians. Since he wanted to use their super-secret communications equipment, it may have been that Donald Trump at that point was really paranoid about the U.S. government tapping his communications just in general and so he told Kushner to do it.

That seems to make the most sense to me.

This, of course, does not explain what, exactly, they wanted to talk about in the first place. It also does not explain the continue fascination with the Russians that Donald Trump continues to display. It just makes no sense. I don’t get it. I don’t understand what is going on.

There is all this smoke, it makes you wonder what the fire is. I am troubled that even if it does come out that Trump and his associates were actually doing something treasonous, that because of America’s tribal politics, the alt-Right and their ilk won’t blink an eye at it.

That is the truly troubling thing about all of this.

The War For Trumplandia: Can This Administration Be Saved?

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

The Washington Post is reporting that the Trump White House is going to set up a war room like the Clinton White House did 20 years ago during all of its troubles.

In a sprawling article, the publication goes through the wide-range of things that the Trump Administration is considering doing. Besides the War Room, Trumplandia is also considering bringing back some old names like Corey Lewandowski.

But the problem for Trumplandia is a fish rots from the head and not much is going to change the totally batshit insane nature of Trump himself. They can change everything they like, but Trump is still going to be Trump. Really, the question is: how dire are things for Trump?

There is always a lag time between when Something Bad happens to an administration and when the consquences are full realized. The fact that Jared Kushner allegedly did something as bonkers as try to set up a backchannel with the Russians using their own equipment is so bad and potentially politically devastating to the Trump Administration that one has to wonder if they fully comprehend what they’re up against. It seems to me that they’re playing with fire.

They are going to need to do more than just setup a War Room. They need to talk to Trump himself about changing his behavior, but even then that’s a lossed cause. The man is 70 years old, he’s not going to change. Trump is a national embarrassment of the highest order and you simply can’t put ice cream on shit and not have shit at the bottom of the cone.

Probably what is going to happen is things are going to grind along for weeks, and months — if not years — and really won’t change until Congress is flipped. The Republicans simply are too Vichy. They simply can’t find the wherewithal to stand up against Trump. They don’t want to alienate the base and so they’re willing to take their brand — and the nation’s international standing — down as far as it will go.

One interesting thing I noted in the Post article is they are considering using Facebook Live instead of formal press conferences. That would be interesting to say the least. Say what you will about Trump, he’s actually an amazing politician in some respects. He taps into some dark part of the American psyche and maybe if he leans into online video it will resonate with people even more than tweeting. He’s sure to get a lot more of an earful, though.

I idly wonder if maybe he might look into using Instagram video instead of Facebook Live. That might be one way for him to connect with people even more so than he usually does. I don’t. Like I keep saying, the head of the Trump Administration is the problem. That problem isn’t going anywhere.

Donald Trump isn’t Ronald Reagan, remember that.

I just don’t see any way this isn’t just a long-term disaster for everyone involved. As I said so many times during the campaign — you break it you buy it. The Republicans broke it by nominating Trump and then having him win, now everyone else has to pick up the pieces.