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

By Shelton Bumgarner

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

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

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

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.

Hindsight Is 2020: Where The Race Stands Right Now

by Shelton Bumgarner

With all the talk of impeachment in the air these days, it’s kind of easy to miss sight of the obvious: it’s very possible Donald Trump will neither be impeached nor resign by the time the 2020 elections roll around. So, with that in mind, let’s look at some of the individuals who might run against Trump then.

Mark Zuckerberg
I would say Zuckerberg is probably, relative to my personal political leans, the best prospective candidate out there. He’s young, charismatic and very very wealthy. But he has some serious downsides relative to virtually everyone else who might look at him as a serious opponent to Trump. One is, I get the impression that Zuckerberg is definitely in the technocrat conservative business wing of the Democratic Party, pretty much about in the same spot as Mike Bloomberg. Given that by 2020 we may, as a nation, be completely polarized by such titanic forces that only about 2% of the electorate will be up for grabs, Zuckerberg running for office could very well tear the Democratic Party apart, which would allow Trump to — sigh — win reelection.

Jon Stewart
This, at least right now, is a rather fanciful daydream. Stewart would be, in some respects, the Democratic Party’s direct answer to Trump. But, for personal reasons, I doubt Stewart would run. He just wouldn’t be willing to take the leap into serious politics. He’s too interested in being a comic to risk what might happen to his life if he stops being silly and is serious about political change. But, having said that, he’d be a great candidate and I think he would do a lot to energize the base of the Democratic Party.

Al Franken
Franken is pretty much perfect from a political standpoint in this era of Trumplandia because not only is he a celebrity, but he’s a comic as well. And as we all know, the only person who stands up to a middle-school bully is the class clown. So, Franken could be a serious political contender in 2020. He has the most traditional political arc to doing it, at least. I think he would have a better than 50/50 chance of actually pulling it off because of his skill set. A lot would have to do with the state of the economy in 2020.

Elizabeth Warren
While I think she would do a great job, she can come off a little shrill to people who are immediate fans, and the very same misogyny that sunk the Hillary Clinton campaign would do the same thing to Warren. She is good at holding her own, though, and she might be a darkhorse.

Sally Yates
Ms. Yates is a potentially great candidate because she is something of a martyr for the cause. She may be a little bit too conservative for some people in the Democratic Party, so there’s that to take into consideration. And there are no signs that she wants to be president, given that she won’t even run for governor of Georgia as the Democratic Party there wants her to. But she’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Corey Booker
Booker is another one of those candidates who seems great on paper, but in practice might not be as good as we would like. His progressive credentials have been tarnished a little bit these days and though he’s charismatic, it would be interesting to see if that translates as well as a presidential candidate as you might think.

Really, my main fear is keeping the Resistance together. It is too likely that the Obama wing will bolt from the Bernie wing and you might have to major candidates running against Trump in 2020, thus assuring he wins again.

Hindsight Is 2020: Run, Jon Stewart, Run

By Shelton Bumgarner

Though it is highly unlikely this will ever happen for various reasons — and if it does, we’re probably going to have to wait eight, not four years — I think Jon Stewart should run for office. And do so as quickly as possible.
While Minnesota Sen. Al Franken — an SNL alumn — is probably the person who will actually run, it seems in this weird world of Trumplandia that we live in Jon Stewart would be the perfect guy to bring some level of sanity back to our political process.

Don’t get me wrong, Sen. Franken would be a great guy to be president. He has the political experience and wit to crush someone like Donald Trump in debate. And he’d be a good president. But he’s maybe a little too droll for his own good. He’s funny, but it’s someone like Jon Stewart who could mobilize the center-Left base to the extent needed to win.

But there are lots of problems with this proposal.

First, it seems as if Stewart has no desire to be in the public eye at all. It seems as if he would prefer to pet stray animals in a zoo than change the world. That’s why I think not until we have to suffer through eight years of Donald Trump will Stewart finally decide to change his mind and do something that might help America get back on its rational feet.

Now that the precedent of a celebrity such as Trump becoming president has been set, it doesn’t seem that odd that someone like Stewart might run for president. I keep expecting him to run for governor of New Jersey, but that seems like something of a pipe dream.

And there’s a lot about his state of mind we don’t know. Would he be willing to make the cognitive leap to be taken seriously? Would he actually be willing to stop cracking jokes long enough to be serious about politics? That doesn’t even begin to address the issue of the various personal issues he’d have to deal with when it comes to putting himself in the public eye the way a major political candidate has to.

My guess is he won’t do it — ever. It’s unfortunate, too. He has all the qualities needed to run for office in today’s media environment.

Though, I would note something to keep an eye on. Should Stewart join Twitter, then I think maybe he’s thinking about running for office. Stewart doesn’t use any social media right now as best I can tell and should that change, all bets are off.

It would be really cool if Stewart ran for office, but, alas, it may remain a daydream for the writer of a blog no one reads.

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

by Shelton Bumgarner

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

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

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

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.