America 2029: Immersive Media & The Death Of The Film Industry

by Shelton Bumgarner

I’m not going to get into the economic, political or environmental dystopia I believe the United States will be in by 2029 unless some very drastic, very radical things change, like, now. So let’s take a walk down what the online media world might look come January 2029.

First, let’s start with a little speculative anecdote.

You’re in your self-driving car, watching the local news as you head home from your 1 day of physically being in the office. (Immersive media has rendered physically going into work nothing more than a cultural chore of habit.) You notice that Gone With The Wind has been released and using a combination of eye movement and non-audible voice commands, you “subscribe” to the “experience” so you and your wife can “play” the immersive movie when you get home.

Your car parks itself and out of middle-aged habit, you check your snail mail. Your neighbor walks by with his dog. The two of you are Facebook friends and as such you barely have a traditional conversation. You eye what’s floating around each other and interact with the immersive Facebook quickly and silently. You might interject a word or two simply because something you interact with is interesting, but in general the event is simply a pause that ends as quickly as it begins.

Walking into your home, you sync up with the home’s IOT environment and as such learn what may or may not have happened in the house while you were busy at work. You always have the option to do this via MX at work, but it’s frowned upon. Your wife comes up and and you hug and see that your young child continues to grow quickly and in a cute fashion. The baby is asleep in her crib, but you see via MX some of the cuter moments of the day. Your wife is on leave because of the baby and will soon return to work. The two of you go to the Ready Player One-type tread mills and proceed to “play” within the Gone With The Wind environment. Thousands of other people have approximately hours to roam around the environment and get to not only see, but interact with, AI actors playing the different parts of the original movie, only now you have photo realistic Vr instead of the passive nature of film. All of this will be produced not by a film studio, but by a gaming studio.

It seems to me that the movie industry in 10 years will be where the newspaper industry is now — contracting in what seems like a moment-by-moment basis, leaving a lot of people looking at each other and wondering, “Why does it still exist?” Leaving out the possibility of a vinyl record-type revival at some point, it’s likely that the video game industry will battle and defeat the movie industry with the rise of immersive media.

I say this because the movie industry — like the newspaper industry — is slow to change and based on a business model that makes some assumptions that will soon enough no longer be true. With the newspaper industry it’s that people are willing to wait as long as 24 hours to read the news, while with the movie industry it will be that people will want to passively watch a story being told in the dark with a group of loud, often rude people. Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love movies. I love everything about them. I love how they’re made. I love the rise and fall of stars and I love the sparkly nature of showbiz itself.

But, alas, I love newspapers, too, and in 10 years time, I doubt very many of them will exist.

So, what will replace the movie industry? I suspect it will be the video game industry hyped up on the technological advancements of immersive media. By “immersive media,” I mean what some people refer to as MX (AR/VR). Any media where you are assumed to interact with the media in some way. So once social media becomes integrated with AR, then some basic assumptions we have about the fate of Facebook and Twitter may fall by the waist-side. Meanwhile, the entire movie industry, I fear, simply won’t exist as we know it in 2029. Or, if it does, it will be a fraction of its size or own entirely by different gaming companies.

While in some ways, this is kind of old news, I think from a practical economic and social stand point, we’ve barely scratched the surface of trying to understand how immersive media will change every day life.

Shelton Bumgarner is a writer and photographer living in Richmond, Va. He is working on his first novel. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail (dot) com.

A Deep Dive Into The Immediate Fate Of Online Advertising

by Shelton Bumgarner

Let’s take a serious look at what comes next when it comes to funding online content. Pretty much, the entire business plan of online content is based on a 25-year-old lie. It’s a fundamental, systemic lie that will be extremely painful to overcome. First, we have to get a few things out of the way — first, with the rise of AR/VR the very nature of online content is about to change dramatically. A back-of-the-envelope guess is that within about 5 years, yet another major shift in the consumption of online content will have occurred and everything will be rebooted in the sense that we’ll be talking more about the battle to the death between the video game industry and the movie industry, not the fact that the newspaper industry — other than The New York Times and The Washington Post — faded into nothingness.

The lie that online business plans are based on started in about 1994 when three things happened. One is, Wired Magazine under the guise of Hotwired produce the first banner ad. The stakes were pretty low and so no one really gave much thought to the basic fact no one, but no one cared about online advertising. Online advertising is a lie, pure and simple. And, really, the only metric you can base it on is engagement and maybe a half-assed amount of general mindspace and branding. In short, online advertising is useless and has been since its inception. Now, this did not happen in a vacuum. At the same time, Netscape revolutionized pretty much everything when it gave its signature product, Netscape Navigator, away for free. (Yes, I know that “free” came with conditions, but to the average consumer it was free.) That established in the consumer’s mind the idea that you could get something for nothing online. About this same time, in the rush to make money in the bubble, content companies — using the lie established by Hotwired and facilitated by Netscape Navigator being free — gave away their most valuable product, their content, for free as well, hoping to make money off of online advertising.

So here we are, 25 years later, and the little white lie of Hotwired is now the basis for an enormous online advertising industry. The whole thing is shit. It’s complete and total bullshit. And that’s why I would suggest that sometime in the next five years three datapoints will crash into each other in a pretty dramatic fashion.

First is, the end of net neutrality. Soon enough, the potential fiduciary upside of bleeding consumers dry will simply be too much and there will be a never-ending mixture of plans for speeds and content. So you’ll have the option of a Netflix & Chill plan that gives you great speeds for video, but at the expense of shitty speeds for, well, everything else. And the list goes on. This will strike horror in the hearts of New York City media people, so there will be a lot of wheeling and dealing to piggy back on different plans. So just for subscribing to Xfinity, you’ll get, say, a limited-time subscription to The New York Times, or whatever. Another aspect of this I suspect will be in their craven desire to squeeze every last drop of blood from consumers may at some point market a plan for “super fast email” that will be the first step towards a de facto tax on email which, given how Republicans have completely screwed us over by cutting taxes on the wealthy, Congress may at some point have no other option than to actually officially put a tax on email of some sort. (That’s kind of hazy and iffy, but it’s something to think about.)

Meanwhile, there’s the problem of abuse of data on the part of Facebook. Facebook may eventually come under enormous strain to at least give people the option to op-out of Facebook’s original business model and as such that will be a huge turning point in how consumers interact with the main utility of the Internet — Facebook. The ripple effect of this can not be overstated. If Facebook starts a subscription option — even if it initially is just an option — all bets are off. The very nature of how people interact with online content in a very basic fashion will change and what would have happened in 1994 had Netscape charged for Navigator will happen now — people will be conditions to pay for any any every service they interact with online.

Now, at some point these other two things will come crashing down on the lie at the center of online advertising — it doesn’t work. So, with these two other things swirling around, what should have happened 25 years ago, will finally happen. Various subscription models — in the context of the end of net neutrality — will spring up and what you’ll likely see is something very akin to AOL et al in the 1990s. Once you establish that consumers have to pay for online content for each and every Website they access, content providers and service providers have a vested interest in working together to promote content. So, in one scenario, when you sign up to Verizon’s Internet, you would have many, many speed and content plans to choose from. So many, the average person not only will be extremely confused, they will be screwed over unless they read the many explainer articles produced by the now thriving online media industry. So, in other words, what happens is — there might be a profit sharing program between smaller Websites that would piggy back on the plans thought up by the big boys. That might be, maybe, how a lot of smaller Websites will survive in the first place.

I would go so far as to suggest that it’s even remotely possible that portals like Yahoo might suddenly become relevant again for no other reason than it would make a lot of sense to pay $24.99 a month for access to aggregated content found within a portal than be nickle and dimmed to death subscribing to dozens of small Websites. Maybe. That’s a possibility.

Again, let me be absolutely clear — this is just a back of the envelope guess for the next five years. Anything beyond that and we’re talking about AR/VR and a completely different way of interacting with online content. We’re going to be fighting over the idea of “immersive media” and if the “gaming killed the movie star.” Once you have immersive media in a meaningful manner, all of this fighting over how to fund traditional text media online is rather quaint. Once you are all but forced to engage with advertising in an immersive media environment, well, what’s the point of what I just talked about in the first place?

But immersive media is a little bit down the road and the exact nature of it is very much up to debate. I do think, however that very soon, things we’ve all taken for granted about online content will fall by the way side in a pretty abrupt manner.

Shelton Bumgarner is a writer and photographer living in Richmond, Va. He is working on his first novel. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail (dot) com.

Taylor Swift & The End Of The Center

by Shelton Bumgarner

I’ve mentioned this before, but feel like talking about it again. While I generally think of myself as a moderate liberal, some of the people on the Left who absolutely hate someone like Taylor Swift for what she symbolizes — the center — really bug me. I’m empathetic to these Leftists and I understand what bothers them about Swift and The Center, and, yet I rather like having some sort of “center’ (both politically and culturally) that we can use as a frame of reference.

Swift is the last vestige of the America I grew up in, in her own way. It is understandable why insane Nazis thought she was some sort of idyllic Norse demigod. Thankfully, she put their beliefs to rest. But the fact that even Swift, of all people, can’t simply be in The Middle without both the Left and the Right hating on her for what they believe she is — or isn’t — is a sad testament to where our nation is headed.

What’s even more interesting about this is America is hurdling towards a moment when it’s going to be minority majority. And, as such, the very thing that Swift represents middle brow centrist white America, will, in itself, be a thing of the past. We risk, of course, having no center at all and if that happens then, well, the United States collapses for lack of shared values, if nothing else.

We’ll finally be two countries — rich, young multicultural Blue States on the coast, and poor, old white Red States in the interior. At that point, the question will be how many people die when “purple” states like Virginia tear themselves apart. But that’s still a ways down the road.

I guess what I’m trying to say is the Left is doing itself no favors long term by hating on the Center. We need a Center as a place where our shared values come together long enough for us know, well, what they are. If we all simply worry about intersectional this or that cultural / political “ism,” then the Right — which has a much more uniform ideology — will grow only more and more powerful for no other reason than many people who would be empathetic to the Left will be turned off by its shrill nature and bank Right.

I don’t know. These are just some thoughts off the top of my head. No one listens to me and when they do they usually get mad.

Creative Destruction: What Happens When Online Advertising Finally Fails

by Shelton Bumgarner

I have been using the Internet since about 1994. I remember when using e-mail was a novel concept, one that was difficult to explain to the average person. Anyway, over 20 years later, we finally have come to a crossroads. After experimenting with video and after Facebook has gotten into a huge amount of trouble because of its systemic abuse of users’ data, it’s slowly becoming obvious that we might be about to enter a new age in online media.

One where you have to, like, pay, to consume it.

Before I got any farther, let me make some observations. One, I’m aware that there’s a growing trend towards paywalls for online media. Two, nothing I’m about to write would indicate that in the short term newspapers are going to rebound. Newspapers — except The New York Times and The Washington Post — are doomed unless they do something really, really, really radical. I’ve proposed they put all their content into an app, but no one listens to me.

Anyway, the point is, there may come a point when what is self-evident — that online advertising isn’t a viable business model — will become so glaringly obvious that what probably should have been done, what would have been done but for Netscape in 1994, will happen: virtually every website, be in social media or otherwise, will have some sort of subscription model.

What would be the consequences of this?

Well, if you throw in the death of net neutrality in the coming days, it seems pretty obvious that agreements will spring up between the telecoms who provide Internet access and the content providers. So, a complex — meant to confuse — series of plans will spring up with the explicit point of screwing the consumer over to the greatest existent possible. But gradually there’s at least the possibility that content providers and service providers will figure out some sort of sweet spot for access to content. Probably what will happen is sometime between now and 2020 there will be a tipping point and all hell will break loose. I would suggest it will be when for various reasons Facebook finally converts to some sort of subscription model. Initially, this will hurt Facebook a great deal, with a similar, free service coming at it — and doing quite well. But after the shock wears off, I would predict there will be something of a gold rush on the part of content providers and service providers as they squeeze every nickle they can out of hapless consumers.

So, by about 2020, not only will you be paying for different speed levels, you also be paying for 99% of the content you want to access on the Internet. This will, in itself, create a new, more mature ecosystem for the media industry. Having a subscription-based economy is something that media companies can understand.

But, like I said, I just don’t see newspapers being able to take advantage of this opportunity. Other than The New York Times and The Washington Post, I see most newspapers will gradually grow either completely based on the AP or vanish altogether. But a new breed of online content provider — one built from the ground up on the assumption you’ll pay, say, $5-$19.99 a month (year?) for access to their content — will arise. It may take a few years, but it’s going to happen the way things are going.

This, of course, doesn’t even begin to address how AR/VR will influence things. It could be that just about the moment when subscription services take off, AR/VR will slam into it and make everything I’ve just written painfully moot.

The Odd Case of Jeffrey Epstein, #MeToo & Donald J. Trump

by Shelton Bumgarner

I’m no expert on this situation. In fact, in real terms, I barely know what’s going on. But I do know that there is credible evidence linking skeezy billionaire Jeffrey Epstein and Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States. Trump has, in the past, called Epstein something like his “best friend.” And there’s enough evidence floating out there publicly to indicate that Trump is, in fact, some way connected to Epstein and his sinister flying pleasure mobile.

I only bring this up beyond the obvious icky nature of it all because the only thing that brought down Italy’s Trump, Silvio Berlusconi, is, well, an underage prostitution ring. So, in a sense, I guess what I’m saying is we should seriously look into Trump’s involvement in the Epstein affair, no matter where it takes us.

Bill Clinton was also a member of the murky sinister world that Epstein was involved in and if he happens to get wrapped up in whatever criminal proceedings occur while we go after Trump, so be it. I honestly don’t fucking care. As I’ve said for 3 years now, Trump’s an existential threat to the American Republic and we have to figure out a way to bring that fucker down politically.

It’s just odd that this story hasn’t gotten more publicity. The Epstein case is like the motherload of all potential targets for the #MeToo movement. And, yet, it continues to be hidden in the shadows and the fact that Trump is / was really tight with Epstein — or at least was about the time he was committing his heinous crimes should be enough for us to take a second or third look at what, exactly, happened.

Will anything come of this? Probably not. The men involved are simply too powerful and they’ve already shown that they can bend justice to their will, so I don’t honestly see anything different happening going forward.

It’s a tragedy, however.

Putin’s Ukraine Strategy Is A Blackbox, & Yet A Trump-Influenced Endgame May Exist

by Shelton Bumgarner

I’m not an expert on any of this, but I’m pretty good at strategic thinking. I have the Ukraine — Russia situation on the brain, so here I am writing yet again about it despite my lack of anything to base my opinion on beyond the chatter of my Twitter feed. But having said all that, let’s take a hard look at where things stand.

Putin’s Ukraine strategy is a blackbox for a number of reasons, chief amongst them being, we really don’t know what his endgame would be should he decide on a general war against Ukraine. He knows on a basic level that he simply doesn’t have the resources to take and keep a big chunk of Ukraine long-term. So, really, unless there’s something going on we don’t know about, he’s probably just going to continue to fake us out on the topic. He’s probably going to continue to screw with the Ukraine government’s mind with no intention of actually doing anything big.

And, yet, there’s one specific datapoint that sticks out: Donald J. Trump.

If Putin had any dream of actually gobbling up a big chunk of Ukraine, he must know that it’s pretty much now or never. It’s like Trump is going to do anything if Putin attacks Ukraine in a big way and, what’s more, Putin could actually help Trump in a big way should he attack Ukraine. Think about it, first and foremost, the first month of any such war would suck out all the air of any other news story and it would be the perfect cover for Trump to fire Bob Mueller and pardon everyone he needs to pardon. Meanwhile, Trump simply doesn’t address what’s going on in Ukraine and NATO is left to send support to the now rump state of Ukraine.

But that still doesn’t give us any sense of the endgame. That just gives us the beginning of the story. But what would be the end? What would be the point, from Putin’s point of views in starting a general war with Ukraine. I honestly don’t know. So, maybe he doesn’t start a general war, but simply attacks Kiev, overthrows the government and backs off? He had his chance to do that a few years ago…and he didn’t.

So, I don’t know. Honestly, the only datapoint that points to any conflict at this point is Trump. Trump being a Russian toady might be the historical fact that leads to a war, even though I struggle to figure out what the endgame would be.

The Conditions Exist For A General War Between Russia And Ukraine

by Shelton Bumgarner

Now, let me be clear — the conditions for a general war between Russia and Ukraine have existed for years. It’s just that in the last few days things have grown significantly worse, so much so that pretty much it’s just up to Putin at this point if anything happens. Let me explain.

1. Putin is corning Ukraine
It appears as though Putin is putting the squeeze on the Ukrainians in such a way that they might feel the only course of action they have is to attack the Russians in a big way, which would, of course, give Russia the cover it needs to start a general war with Ukraine. By “general war,” I mean one in which the endgame is to take Kiev and establish a rump state in the portion of Ukraine that could stretch from Odessa in the west all the way around Crimea then all the way around some more to Kiev.

2. Trump is historically weak
Trump is a historically weak president on a number of fronts, most especially Russia. Does anyone really expect Trump to do anything, anything at all if Putin starts a major war against Ukraine? There will be a major reaction by the Pols and the rest of NATO when it comes to sending arms and advisers to what’s left of Free Ukraine, but the United States under Trump is unlikely to say anything at all.

3. Trump’s in trouble.
It seems pretty clear to me that given the two things stated above, that Putin might try to help Trump by starting a major war against Ukraine, one big enough that it would distract people in the States to such an extent that Trump would feel comfortable firing Bob Mueller, pardoning half a dozen people and then hunker down for the House to officially flip in January.

Now, there are some major reasons why Putin wouldn’t do anything at all.

The biggest reason off the top of my head is while Putin’s forces could take Kiev in “two weeks,” it’s highly unlikely that they could keep it long term. It’s very possible that Putin has long ago done the geopolitical calculation in his head and he just doesn’t see a general war against Ukraine as worth it, ever. Even with a historically friendly Trump Administration in office, it just doesn’t make any sense for Putin to risk the existential threat associated with a war with Ukraine that he knows long-term could very well cause his downfall.

So, there’s a better than even chance that this is all nothing. This is just the usual geopolitical scuffling that goes on between the Ukrainians and the Russians and it’s all a big false alarm. We’re likely to know one way or another in a few days.

A Crisis Of POV Characters In The #Scifi #Novel I’m Developing #Writing

by Shelton Bumgarner

I keep coming to major points in the scene summary I’m writing and finding enormous structural problems that force me to return to the start to fix. One of the latest is I did all this work and realized I had way, way too many scenes using the POV of characters who weren’t the two main characters.

In a sense, I wasn’t giving the two main characters enough “screentime,” if you will.

So, now I have to go back and figure out how I can address the issues I want to address using the POV of the two main characters a lot more. That’s my immediate task, at least. Once I straighten that out, I think I can start to move — again — out of the first act and into the first half of the second act. As I’ve mentioned before, my goal for that portion of the novel is to use the same dynamic associated with my relationship with the late Annie Shapiro when then two of us were in Seoul about a decade ago. That’s going to be the heart of the story, at least.

It’s going to require a lot of fancy footwork to plop what happened in Seoul into the scifi world I’ve managed to think up. But I honestly can’t think of any other thing off the top of my head that would give the story a “heart.” What happened between Annie and me in Seoul is really, really interesting and using the dynamic of that situation (which I know oh-so-well) would be a great way to not only flesh the characters out, but to move the plot along.

Anyway, wish me luck. I have no idea how well yet another reworking of the story is going to go.

The Existential Threat Of Trump’s Silence On Ukraine — Russia, Or, ‘The Birth Of Novorossiya?’

by Shelton Bumgarner

I’m merely an armchair observer on all of this, so if you want any scholarly insight into what’s going on, please look elsewhere. But having said that, it seems as though the conditions are there, at least, for a Russia to make a major land grab in Ukraine. I say this because Trump has been completely silent on what’s going on between Russia and Ukraine.

It definitely seems to me, at least, that Putin could see that silence as tacit acknowledgement from Trump that Putin can do whatever he likes in Ukraine without any threat of the United States doing anything. Hence, it definitely seems the ball is in Putin’s court. Putin could start a general war in a wide swath of Ukraine stretching for Odessa in the west to the border between Ukraine and Russia in the east and do some serious damage to the existing order in Europe.

Putin, as I recall, has repeatedly bragged that his military could take Kiev in two weeks, should the mood strike him. Of course, the reason why he hasn’t attempted that is he knows that while he could take Kiev, he probably wouldn’t be able to keep it. It would be Afghanistan all over again, only on a much larger scale and with much higher stakes. Putin knows Soviet involvement in Afghanistan contributed to that empire’s downfall and he’s smart enough not to repeat the mistake.

Hence, that’s why Putin’s been very, very cautious in what he’s done with Ukraine. He’s used “little green men” to do is bidding and what makes the recent navel scuffle in the Black Sea so out of character is how brazen it is. Under any normal American administration, the president would make a strong speech condemning the action and that would be enough for Russia and they would back off.

But, oddly enough, Trump has been completely silent on what’s going on between Russia and Ukraine and, as I mentioned, that might be enough for Putin to push things a little bit farther than he might otherwise. And, yet, Russia remains a weak regional power outside of its many, many nuclear weapons and as such its economy probably couldn’t handle a general war between Ukraine and itself. Putin is wily enough that he probably is content — hopefully — with the point he’s made and now he’ll just wait for his buttboy Trump to be his lap down at the G20 meeting.

That seems to be what is going to happen. But given how weak Trump is in regards to Russia, on a geopolitical level, Putin might see the Trump Administration as a historic opportunity to get as much as he can from Ukraine while he can. Or not. Who knows. Putin works in murky blackbox ways and anything is possible.

We’ll see.

The convention wisdom was, at least at one point in the last few years, that should the Russians start a general war with Ukraine that the first phase of the war would see a quick victory on the part of the Russians once they took Kiev. They would then hunker down on a huge chunk of Ukraine and attempt to organize the puppet state of Novorossiya. Then the rump state of Ukraine would organize a counter attack with a flood of arms from Poland and other interested states. But all of that worked on the assumption that the United States would take a lead role in all of this.

It’s very possible in today’s weird political climate that the Russians might — just might — feel they could risk a general war with Ukraine because the United States is pretty much a Vichy state at this point. But, again, I just don’t know. I honestly have no idea what is going to happen.

I think nothing is going to happen. Putin’s made his point and he’s just going to wait until just the right moment to come out of his spider hole to do a little mischief. But that could be years in the future.

Shelton Bumgarner is a writer and photographer living in Richmond, Va. He is currently working on his first novel. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail (dot) com.

Armchair Observations About The State Of Play Between Ukraine, Russia…And Trump?

by Shelton Bumgarner

I am no expert on relations between Ukraine and Russia, but I do have an interest in it and a little bit of time on my hands, so here we are. Take it for what it is. Just me rambling in general terms about what’s going on.

The key thing, for me, is the dynamic between Putin and Trump. It would make a huge amount of sense for Putin to do what he’s long been interested in, taking a huge chunk of Ukraine (even bigger than he already has), and do it in a way that would benefit his best bud Trump. Right now, a lot rests with the Ukrainian response. If they simply declare martial law and, well, that’s it, then things will get and stay tense for a while but gradually fade back to where they were before today’s incident.

But if you really wanted to be paranoid, you’d say that Putin will see the declaration of martial law as a provocation in itself and respond accordingly. So, while Putin has historically show a huge amount of caution about any direct attacks against Ukraine, he might see the writing on the wall for Trump and decide he would rather strike now while he has Vichy Trump in power. What’s more, by attacking Ukraine in a big way now, he would likely give Trump the cover he needs to fire Mueller, pardon half a dozen people and tweet up a storm that “now is on the time to worry about witch hunts” as Ukraine and Russia have at it in a big way.

This nightmare scenario works on the pretty big — and potentially erroneous — assumption: that Putin is actually interested in risking his long-term survival in a costly, needless war with Ukraine. It also assumes that Putin’s weighed the global order and sees a huge upside in attacking Ukraine and, say, taking Kiev and attempting to form a puppet state out of a huge chunk of seized Ukrainian territory. The thing is — Putin has shown zero indication that he actually is interested in doing that. He just wants to keep Ukraine off balance and unnerved enough to prevent it from fully uniting with the West. Or, at least, that’s my personal interpretation of things.

If Putin is going to act, it seems logical that he would act almost immediately. Like, tonight. But as best I can tell, he’s not going to do anything and, as I mentioned, it seems like tomorrow will be pretty perfunctory. Ukraine declares martial law, there’s some saber rattling and…nothing happens. And, really, the only reason why I am a little nervous is the connection between Putin and Trump. Like I said, logic would say that Putin will attack now not only because he’s wanted to attack Ukraine in a big way and Trump is likely to look the other way, but a really big war in Ukraine would be just the excuse, the cover, that Trump needs to not only wrap up the Mueller investigation, but have people “rally round the flag.”

At least, that would be the miscalculation that might lead us all down a major war between Ukraine and Russia. Or not. I won’t even go so far as to say “things are in flux.” Given the existential threat to Putin’s regime a long-term occupation of a huge chunk of Ukraine would be, it’s very possible simply nothing will happen. Everything will be on paper and generally we’ll forget about the incident quite quickly.

But who knows. As of this moment, it definitely seems as though there is an outside chance it could go either way.