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.

How To Stop The Next Trump Using Technology

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Because of Twitter we’re doomed to suffer the indignities of a Donald Trump presidency. What’s worse, Trump uses Twitter now to stir the pot and as well as to keep the common touch with his hordes of deplorables. But what technology creates, it can also eliminate.

Now, before I begin, let me note that I have no money, can’t code and don’t want to learn. But I have given this a huge amount of thought and it is something to think about. It’s fun to daydream about and, who knows, someone will some money, somewhere, might take me up on some of these concepts and help us stop the next Trump before he occurs.

Let’s think for a moment as to what the problems we have with Twitter and they helped Trump’s rise. One of the major problems with Twitter is how much “fake news” gets injected into the system through bots and paid Russian trolls. Those memes are, in turn, picked up by loons like Trump who also happen to have a lot of money and the means to use those memes for ill.

But what if there was a “Twitter killer” designed from the ground up to not only produce high quality content, but also designed for longer type posts that might discourage the 140 character pithiness of a Trump-like candidate. So, let’s go through my vision for such a service. If you’re really all that interested in this service, I suggest you look at my Instagram account where I have gone into great detail about it all.

First, I would suggest that this startup not only be a Twitter killer, but also a disrupter of the newspaper business. In my imagination, I could see a newspaper company like Tronc setting up a startup that they would use to disrupt no only themselves, but the newspaper industry in general. I could also see Time Inc doing something like this.

So what would this startup’s interface look like?

Well, I would have it rely upon Verified Accounts a lot. In this sense, there would be certain features that only Verified Accounts would have. If this was a startup funded by a publishing company, then you could easily seed the service with writers from the company, be it Tronc or Time Inc.

So, this service would be divide into Sections that had general topics like Arts, or Sports, or whatnot. Then within those Sections there would be Groups that divided Sections even more. Only Verified Account holders could create Groups.

The neat thing about this would be you could then create Discussions within Groups that allowed for entire Webpage length Posts that were threaded and had strong real-time chat feature built into them. If you designed such a service I think not only would you have a lot stronger conversations, but the discussions you had in general would be built from the ground up to be longer and more weighty.

Hence, instead of some racist, misogynist, bigoted bully using the platform to spread his hate, you would nearly force people to write cogent, longer types of Posts that would help public debate, not hurt it like Twitter does.

Of course, this is all very much a daydream, but right now, it’s all I got. This is not a perfect concept — people are stupid and they’d probably think of some way to ruin it eventually, but it is at least a little bit of hope. Maybe if instead of having only 140 characters to fill, you and entire page, people might, just might, give a little bit more thought into what they had to say.

While I don’t really have that much hope, it is fun to speculate.

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.

Tsar-A-Largo: Trumplandia, The Russians & Ukraine

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

One thing that Donald Trump made clear from the beginning of his campaign is he loves the Russians. Now, there have been various explanations for this, from his general love of strongmen to a “pee tape.” But I suspect the actual reason is much more prosaic.

It’s money.

My guess is Trump has so many dirty deals involving the Russians that he has many fiduciary reasons to be nice to the Russians. You hear reports about this or that oil deal that will go through should sanctions be lifted by the American government, but that, at least not yet, has not happened.

But let’s talk about that for a moment.

Trump is supposed to meet Russian President Putin in July as part of a broader summit and the question that lingers is, will the Trump Administration lift the sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama Administration as some sort of nefarious quid-pro-quo. Though I have my doubts, I still am not ready to say this won’t happen. It’s still possible. It might happen. Maybe.

Given that Trump had no problem firing FBI Director James Comey and then admitting he had Russia on the brain when he did so, it is not too much of a stretch to believe Trump might lift sanctions on Russia after a personal meeting with Putin.

The reaction on the party of Trumplandia probably would be muted. There would be the usual rationalizations on the part of the center-Right and the usual insane outrage on the part of the center-Left. But in the end, things would settle down.

I am much more concerned about what might happen with Ukraine. The Ukraine front has been really quiet the last few years and it is difficult to believe that President Putin would give up a historic opportunity to invade Ukraine in a general way given that it’s likely Trump wouldn’t say anything about it.

That’s something that we really haven’t seen yet — an outside crisis not of Trump’s making. Most of the damage to Trump’s administration since Jan. 20th has been self-inflicted. If the Russians would to invade Ukraine abruptly as part of a huge land-grab that might be a crisis that Trump simply would not be prepared for. His Russian sympathies would be put to the test in an epic manner and I think ultimately he would show he has zero backbone when it comes to the Russians.

But, as I noted, I doubt that would really matter much to the stalwarts of Trumplandia. They won’t care. All they care about is abortion and tax cuts. The bullshit of FOX News has hardened to a smell diamond and there is little we can do it about for the time being.

It is kind of sad that we are going to have to wait until for months, if not years, before the Special Counsel’s investigation into Trump comes to any kind of conclusion. Trump can do a huge amount of damage between now and then and it’s sad that we have to wait that long.

Our only real hope is the 2018 mid-terms. But even then, my expectations are muted. We’re no longer a Republic, so it’s possible we’r screwed for good.

Oh My Pod: Pod Save America Vs. FiveThirtyEight

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Because of Donald J. Trump’s completely bat shit behavior, I find myself listening to podcasts significantly more than in the past. I used to a podcast of sorts way back when, but the platform I used — Blab, does not exist anymore.

Given the opportunity, I would do a podcast again, but I am going to kind wait and see about that for the time being.

Regardless, there are a few go-to podcasts that I really enjoy. There is Pod Save America that I really enjoy, even though it fills me with liberal rage whenever I listen to it because it makes me think the end is neigh. Meanwhile, there is the FiveThirtyEight political podcast that I also like. As it is obvious to see, I am pretty much completely obsessed with Trump news.

I have noticed some interesting similarities and differences between these podcasts. Pod Save America is funnier and more loose, while the FiveThirtyEight is a bit more formal and it deals with more wonkish thing. While Pod Save America seems to be a conversations between friend who served in the White House — which is it is — the FiveThirtyEight podcast seems more focused.

In general, I really like Pod Save America more than FiveThirtyEight, but both are really strong. Both of them tend to make me really angry because Trump makes me angry, but I think the Pod Save America fits my own personal world view a little bit better.

Regardless, here is here a handy chart to give you some sense of the differences between the two podcasts.

 Pod Save America  Four Thirty Eight
 Ring Master: Jon Favreau  Ring Master: Nate Silver
Funny Guy With Unique Voice: Jon Lovett  Droll Guy With Unique Voice: Harry Enten
 Comic Bit: Trying to get through the promos with a straight face  Somewhat witty banter, more of a serious edge.
 Focus: Giving context relative to Obama  Focus: Polls, polls, polls

Trump Is Tearing America Apart

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I recently went to my 25th high school reunion and it was an interesting experience, to say the least. Now, let me start by saying that I everyone met was gracious and kind and I don’t have anything against them. But there definitely was big pink invisible GOP elephant in the room, as it were.

You see, I went to a private military academy and of the approximately 30% of the electorate who will travel to the gates of hell with Donald Trump, all of them I went to high school with. I am ardently ant-Trump and they know this, so this lead to an interesting dynamic.

Unfortunately, there was a huge amount of unnecessary tension in the air. Since Nov. 9th, I have for months raged on Facebook at how completely surreal Trump’s election is and I have lost probably a dozen Facebook friends because of this. I am not ashamed of this, I am old enough to own something like this. If I make controversial remarks in the public, I’m not going to run from them.

But this personal anecdote is an example of how divisive Trump is and how there probably is no going back. It’s not like I’m going to get any of the people I alienated from all my ranting back into my life even if something dramatic happens to Trump politically. And that’s just sad.

We have entered a scary new period in American history where the basic building blocks of our society are being ripped apart by Donald J. Trump. There are no easy answers. My fear, of course, is we’ll look back on this period of time as the obvious moment when something we’ve taken for granted for over a hundred years — the unity of the American Republic — started to be in danger.

Do I think there will be another Civil War?

I doubt it for various reasons. But I do think the United States is no longer a Republic in the traditional sense. We’re now some sort of weird quasi-Empire went an elected emperor. I think this will be proven correct when Trump is re-elected.

Maybe I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I just don’t see Trump going anywhere and the damage he does to the collective America psyche may be irreparable. It is difficult for me to understand who it is that anyone would vote for someone like Trump. Period. At all. There is so much wrong with Trump that it makes me angry just thinking about how people in my life could possible vote for the man.

But I know this is what he wants. He wants to divide us. Yet I don’t know any easy answers as to fix the situation. I don’t know how to bridge the gap. It just doesn’t make any sense. I can’t understand how otherwise normal people would act like the classic “Good German” and vote for someone as horrid as Donald Trump.

And yet they did.

What the center-Left has to do is figure out a way to address the economic fears of Trump voters in a way that strips it of the racism and bigotry that Trump tapped into.

I’d just hope that at my 30 year high school reunion we will all be able to look back at Trump and laugh — and not cry.

Trump As Celebrity

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Some time ago, it was popular amongst those in Trumplandia to disparage left wing celebrities as obviously not having any influence in America’s political thinking, given how popular Donald Trump continued to be. Something about this really pissed me off. It continues to make me angry.

I don’t know about you, but Donald Trump has been a celebrity — a household name, even — for about 30 years. So, when a center-right person I know said it was “ironic” that his ilk thought people did not want to hear the political views of celebrities, I grew a little bit furious.

It is so glaringly obvious that Trump is and was a celebrity that it just boggles my mind that anyone would think otherwise. It is just crazy. It’s not “ironic,” it’s hypocritical, plain and simple. This, of course, raises the question of how can the volk of Trumplandia square the circle of this situation.

I have struggled with this for some time. There is no easy answer. Either they’re just too stupid to realize that they’re being hypocrites or they don’t care. It all boils down to the fact that while Trump is a celebrity, he’s their celebrity.

So, in a sense it’s all tribal politics. They are all so wrapped up in wanting to Make America Great Again, that basic things like facts and logic escape them. Remember, not only was Trump on TV for several years for The Apprentice, but he also was the subject of a Celebrity Roast on Comedy Central. I sent this to my center-right acquaintance, and that did not seem to make any difference.

But I guess for me the question is — is there any way we can bridge the divide. Is there anyway we can, maybe, from a center-left perspective, “pull a Trump” and get a popular liberal celebrity to run and win office. While Al Franken is one notable example of that happening, it’s actually kind of rare.

The one person I wish would run for major elected office, is Jon Stewart. He’d be perfect. In this new world where politicians are celebrities and celebrities are politicians someone like Stewart fits the bill as the “perfect candidate.” Ideally, he’d run for governor of New Jersey or something like that, but I am so desperate that I would give him a slide and let him run for president.

Though, of course, it would be interesting to see how his comedy industry friends responded to that.

All of this does not address the central issue — why do the residents of Trumplandia, which is are all of us really given political reality, feel so willing to vote for a celebrity in the first place? We have reached a strange new time when people are so angry with the established political order that people are willing to give one of the most powerful jobs in the world to a complete moron who’s only real talent is going bankrupt and being a loudmouth on TV.

The amount of willingness to ignore cold hard facts about Trump on the part of his supports is something that we’re all going to spend a lot of time debating and mulling in the years to come. I suspect that 20 years from now we’ll still be talking about all of this and we won’t understand what has happened or why.