Friday Talking Points [432] -- Trump Advisor Apologizes Without Getting Fired!

[ Posted Friday, April 14th, 2017 – 17:52 UTC ]

This week saw some history made in the Trump White House. For the first time (at least in our memory), a White House top aide actually apologized for saying something stupid. So far, being Donald Trump (or being a Trump spokesperson) has meant never having to say you're sorry over any idiocy that gets said or tweeted, but this week saw Sean Spicer being forced to apologize for apparently forgetting about that whole Holocaust thing. While defending Adolf Hitler, on the first day of Passover, no less.

While there were loud cries for Spicer to be fired over the idiocy that came out of his mouth, and while Trump famously doesn't think anyone should ever apologize for anything, it looks like Spicer's job is safe for the time being. This proves that apologizing will not automatically get you fired by Trump, which is why it is such a historic milestone. Perhaps others will learn a lesson from this episode? One can only hope.

Spicer was trying to justify attacking Syria when he came up with this doozy of a statement:

You -- look, we didn't use chemical weapons in World War II. You had a -- someone as despicable as Hitler, who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons. I think, when you come to sarin gas, there was no -- he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. I mean, there was clearly. I...

Loud protests interrupted him, after which he bizarrely continued:

Thank you, I appreciate that. There was not -- he brought them into, the Holocaust center -- I understand that. But I'm saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent -- into the middle of towns. It was brought to it, so the use of it and I appreciate the clarification and that was not the intent.

Um, "Holocaust center"? Seriously? And this guy is supposed to be the most accomplished communicator in the entire White House? Wow. Spicer tried to both defend his comment and walk it back, later. Later still, he appeared on CNN and gave a much more convincing apology, essentially stating he never should have gone there in the first place.

There was other news in the "Republicans crashing and burning" category this week, of varying permanence. Rumors are swirling inside the Beltway that Steve Bannon may be on the way out of Trump's White House, which would indeed be a wonderful thing if it came to pass. Also wonderful if true is the rumor that Bill O'Reilly's hastily-announced "vacation" from his Fox News show might just become permanent. He's lost something like half of his advertisers so far, so at this point he's kind of a liability. Will Bill-O return at all? Stay tuned!

In the "definitely permanent" subcategory, Republican Governor of Alabama Robert Bentley was forced to resign this week under a cloud of scandal surrounding his extramarital affair with a political aide. Bentley was facing imminent impeachment proceedings as well as criminal charges for misusing campaign funds, and he cut a deal to give back $37,000, perform 100 hours of community service, and to never again run for office. That's pretty permanent, you've got to admit. From the governor's mansion to getting your mug shot taken, all in one week!

Speaking of sleazy, Salon ran an article this week on what Rudy Giuliani's been up to with the tagline: "New Gig Almost Too Sleazy To Be True." Rudy's gone from calling the Obama administration's deal to return $440 million of Iran's funds from U.S. banks "trading with the enemy," to now defending in federal court a Turkish businessman accused of doing exactly that -- trading with the enemy -- in deals with Iran. Lo, how the righteous have fallen, we suppose.

What else? A top Republican lawmaker in North Carolina intelligently killed a bill some of his fellow Republicans had introduced to outlaw all gay marriages (even ones performed in other states). The "Uphold Historical Marriage Act" would have followed the state's embarrassment over the "bathroom bill," so the speaker of the statehouse declared the bill dead on arrival, sparing North Carolina Republicans some more egg on their face.

From the Department of Karma comes word that Representative Joe Wilson from South Carolina -- the guy who infamously called out "You lie!" during an Obama State Of The Union speech -- was just roundly heckled at a town hall meeting, complete with a 30-second chant of "You lie!" when he tried to claim he had done everything he could to stop violence against women. The crowd's reaction was entirely justified, since Wilson voted against extending the federal Violence Against Women Act in 2013. Everyone all together now: "Karma, Karma, Karma, Karma Chameleon...."

In other anti-women news, President Trump signed into law the ability of individual states to defund Planned Parenthood. Tellingly, unlike most of his bill signings, Trump did so with no media in the room.

It was hard to find any good news this week, but we'll end on a hopeful note anyway. When Congress returns after their long spring break, they'll have only days to put together a deal to keep the government open for business. This is a short-term budget deal to continue the money flowing for the current budget year. The positive news is that, for once, both political parties seem to be already working together to avoid any threat of a government shutdown. We'll see how it all turns out -- we fully suspect the Tea Partiers will make a last-minute attempt to include all sorts of poison pills in the bill (such as funding Trump's border wall, for instance), but for now the signs that bipartisan compromise might win the day seem to be fairly good.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We've got one special award to hand out and one Honorable Mention this week before we get to our main award.

He's not eligible for our regular awards since he's (1) not a Democrat, and (2) not even an American, but we had to create a special Impressive Foreign Leadership Of The Week award this week for Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of our neighbor to the north, Canada.

This week, legislation was introduced to fully legalize marijuana for recreational uses across all of Canada. This would make it only the second country on the planet to do so (Uruguay already claimed first-ever status, a few years back). What's really impressive about this development, though, isn't that the bill was introduced but rather that the bill was introduced because Trudeau campaigned on it. He promised the voters he'd legalize weed, and now he is following through on his promise.

We consider this an inspirational political tale, and one we sincerely hope Democrats in the U.S. of A. learn from. It is not political suicide to run on legalization. In fact, it drives a segment of one-issue voters to the polls. Sooner or later American politicians will (hopefully) follow in Trudeau's footsteps. One can only hope.

One American politician staged a rather amusing bit of political theater this week, which is why West Virginia Governor Jim Justice deserves an Honorable Mention award. While explaining why he was going to veto the budget his legislature had sent him (in which Republicans refused to raise any taxes and instead would grab $90 million from the state's rainy-day fund), Justice unveiled three props to describe the bill. First up was an empty hamburger bun -- a "nothingburger." Next was a mayonnaise sandwich. Justice unveiled the third while saying: "We all should take ownership for this, but what we have is nothing more than bunch of political bull you-know-what. For that very reason, I'm signing my name on the budget veto, and I hope and pray that the silliness will stop and we'll do the right thing." On top of a pile of papers (the budget bill) was a goodly-size bovine patty. And not the type you'd be interested in seeing fill up that nothingburger, either. Yep, Governor Justice brought some actual bullshit into the conversation on his state's budget. As political theater, it was absolutely priceless.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award goes to none other than Bernie Sanders. First came the news that Bernie topped the list of "most popular senators" with a 75 percent approval rating from his constituents in Vermont. Vermont voters are overall pretty happy about their representation in the Senate, because Pat Leahy came in second on this list. At the very bottom? The least popular senator was none other than Mitch McConnell (at 44 percent approval in his home state). Seems about right. Bernie didn't just top this list, though, he's also the most popular politician in the entire country as well, with a nationwide approval rating of 61 percent. Seems that actually standing up for what you believe is quite popular -- who knew?

But Bernie didn't win the MIDOTW award for just being popular, he also has to be at least partially credited with a big win in the leadership category as well. This week, New York state passed a law giving any student (from a family that annually earns less than $125,000) free tuition at state universities. The new program will begin to take effect this fall. While New York legislators (and Governor Andrew Cuomo) deserve a lot of credit for this milestone, does anyone truly believe it would have happened if Sanders hadn't championed the issue during his presidential run?

Bernie was criticized by establishment Democrats (led by Hillary Clinton) during the campaign for being too idealistic. His plans simply weren't practical. They were not sufficiently incremental. They were pie-in-the-sky that sober Democrats were supposed to cynically scoff at.

In reality, most of Bernie's platform was indeed possible, given a sufficient amount of political willpower. New York just proved that in a very big way. Sometimes big political dreams can come true.

So Bernie Sanders -- both the most popular senator in his own state and the most popular politician in all of America -- was at least partially vindicated this week by New York's new free-tuition program. Showing such leadership is what makes you politically popular, and it's also enough to win you another Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

[Congratulate Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

At times, we hand out the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award not for disappointing personal or political behavior, but rather for disappointing results. This is one of those weeks.

James Thompson bravely ran in a special House seat election in Kansas, to replace a GOP representative who had been tapped to lead the C.I.A. When the votes were counted, Thompson fell seven points short of victory.

This showing was actually pretty impressive for a Democrat, since his margin was 20 points better than Hillary Clinton did in this district only five months ago. This is a pretty reliably-red district that gave Trump 60 percent (and Mitt Romney 62 percent) of their votes. So it is notable indeed that a Republican only squeaked by with a seven-point margin.

This was only the first of five special elections happening since Trump won. Of the others, one is reliably Democratic (in California). This leaves three Republican districts, and Democrats are actually competitive in at least two of them -- a race in Georgia and one in Montana. The Georgia contest will happen next week, which will be watched much more closely than the Kansas election, because Democrats have a better chance for an upset (in Newt Gingrich's old district!).

Thompson did his best, so this week's MDDOTW award doesn't really reflect on him personally. We should also hand out (Dis-)Honorable Mention awards to both the state and the national Democratic Party apparatus, which didn't invest much of any money in this race (the Republicans got scared at the last minute and made a major push, which is when some party resources could have helped Thompson).

Democrats looking for an upset House win as a harbinger of a wave election in 2018 will have to wait at least another week. If Thompson had won, it would have been enormous news for Democrats to tout about the size of the anti-Trump backlash. Because he didn't, though, he sadly wins our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week -- but through no real fault of his own.

[In fact, because we feel that James Thompson ran the best campaign he could given the resources available, we cannot in good conscience urge anyone to express their displeasure to him personally.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 432 (4/14/17)

The first two of these are bit unusual, since one is a call to action rather than a normal talking point, and the second can only be delivered by one particular Democrat.

While Congress enjoys yet another multi-week vacation (out of the many, many they take each year), we certainly hope that everyone else gets at least some time to relax in spring break fashion. With that in mind (especially for our penultimate talking point this week), let's get started.



This one isn't so much a talking point as a call to action.

"For the next three weekends, I would like to encourage anyone in the D.C. area and beyond to show up at the anti-Trump rallies which have been planned. The resistance to Trump and all he stands for needs to grow in size over time, to build momentum for stopping his radical agenda. Trump's approval ratings are the lowest of any new president since polling began, and we have to drive that message home over and over again. For the next three weeks, protests are planned to very publicly show this disapproval, and anyone with the means to show up and stand up for what they believe should make the effort to show Trump how big the resistance to him is getting."


   Want a tax deal? Show us your taxes!

This is actually from an earlier article we wrote this week, and is quite specific. While most of these talking points are constructed for any Democrat to use, this one can only be realistically delivered by Chuck Schumer. Earlier this week, he floated an excellent idea. Now he just needs to make his position unequivocal. So this is what we'd like to hear Schumer say, this weekend:

"You know what? I think every American who is currently filling out their income tax returns deserves to see President Trump's taxes. So I'd like to announce that Senate Democrats will have absolutely no interest in making any deal with Republicans on tax reform -- unless part of that deal is the public release of Trump's tax returns for 2015 and 2014. If we're going to negotiate over how to change America's tax system, then the public deserves to know precisely how each proposed change will personally affect the president. It's only fair, after all, and we don't think this is too much to ask."


   Flip-flops in the Oval Office?

Trump seems to be flipping and flopping more than a dying fish, these days. So point it out!

"Donald Trump apparently needs his very own Ministry of Truth to clean up after him. He's been changing his mind on so many issues, it'd actually be hard for him to erase all his previous statements and positions even if he did have an Orwellian department dedicated to fixing the past. Just this week alone, they'd have had to issue some sort of statement to keep everyone informed about Trump's flip-flops: 'China now doubleplusgood. China not manipulating currency, and Trump never said they were. NATO now plusgood, and Trump never said they were plusungood. Janet Yellen now good, and low interest rates now plusgood. Export-Import Bank now plusgood, and Trump never called for it to be abolished on the campaign trail. Also, Trump never said he'd pay off the national debt in four years, because everyone has always known this is impossible to do. Bombing Syria now doubleplusgood idea, and all those Trump tweets calling it doubleplusungood when Obama was in office have gone down the memory hole. And finally, Russia is now doubleplusungood -- indeed, Russia has always been doubleplusungood. Oh, and war with Eastasia has been scheduled for this weekend, just for everyone's information.' Orwell would have felt right at home watching Trump's flip-flops. And remember -- all of these 180-degree shifts have come in the past week alone. Looks like Trump is on track to break more campaign promises in his first 100 days than any U.S. president ever!"


   Dogs won't eat the dogfood

Hoo boy. They're not even trying to defend Ryancare....

"Republican House member Greg Walden just got an earful at a town hall meeting this week, and even through he was one of the House leaders who crafted the Ryancare bill to throw 24 million people off their health insurance, it seems he wasn't even interested in trying to defend Ryancare to his constituents. Instead, he tried to convince the crowd that the new Republican plan was good because of all the parts of Obamacare it kept. That's a far cry from where Republicans have stood on 'repeal and replace' for the past seven years, it should be noted. Now that we've seen what people like Walden came up with, the GOP seems to be in a defensive crouch. This led one audience member to tell Walden: 'Why don't you go back to Washington in the spirit of bipartisanship, grow a pair, sit down with Nancy Pelosi and say "Let's fix Obamacare"?' Boy, that's gotta hurt. I wonder if Obamacare covers treatment for that burn...."


   Because the first one went so well

Rarely does political thinking enter the realm of "from before Noah's flood," but when it does there's a dandy word to describe it.

"Jeff Sessions seems to be trapped in time and stuck in a bout of what can only be called antediluvian thinking. Not only is he ramping up Trump's promised 'deportation force' but he's also indicated that he's about to launch a whole new War On Drugs. Even though eight states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use and even though more than half of the states have legal medical marijuana, Sessions is chomping at the bit to shut it all down. Because, you know, the first War On Drugs was such a smashing success. He'd better hurry, though, because when California starts legal recreational sales next year, he's going to need hundreds of thousands of new federal cops to even make an attempt at shutting down a marketplace of 40 million people. Antediluvian seems the right word to use for someone who seems hell-bent on copying King Canute's order for the tide to retreat. Thankfully, Sessions will likely be about as successful in his madcap scheme to lock up every pot smoker in the country as King Canute was at turning back the tide."


   The Easter Bunny speaks

Just in case anyone's forgotten already, a little over a month ago photos were dug up of Sean Spicer wearing the Easter Bunny costume for the White House Easter Egg Roll. But, alas, it seems that even with a former Bunny in the press office, Trump might be headed for an embarrassment this Easter weekend.

"Will Trump's first White House Easter Egg Roll be as much of a trainwreck as all the other things he touches? Salon reported this week that it might just be a 'disaster in the making.' Seems that area public schools haven't heard anything from the White House, when they normally get 4,000 tickets to distribute to children. Military families who usually get 3,000 tickets have also not been contacted. Even members of Congress haven't heard a peep about the tickets they normally get. While the event usually is staffed by 1,000 volunteers, this year they're only going to have 200 on hand. They've only ordered half the normal amount of wooden eggs to hand out as souvenirs, even though the company who makes them publicly begged the White House to 'Please reach out,' on Twitter. Team Trump was so late in organizing the event that only one PBS Sesame Street character will attend. Maybe they can get Sean Spicer to dress up as the Easter Bunny again -- maybe that'd help?"


   Court jester

Not that it was ever really in doubt or anything, but with all the palace intrigue in the Trump White House, we now have an official Court Jester to provide some comedic relief.

"Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson was in the news this week. On a visit to some public housing in Florida, Carson got stuck in an elevator and had to be rescued by the fire department. Can't wait to see how Saturday Night Live handles this one! After getting rescued, Carson returned to Washington to work on the Trump administration's plans for slashing the safety net's budget. Because, you know, if the elevator had just been allowed to grind to a permanent halt, then the problem never would have happened -- the brain surgeon would have taken the stairs!"

-- Chris Weigant


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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post


34 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [432] -- Trump Advisor Apologizes Without Getting Fired!”

  1. [1] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    Good set of TP's to take us into Easter ( although for me it has been all week, other places call it Semana Santa).

    That being said I am surprised you didn't knock trump for "improving" the ACA in favor of the insurance industries or for the fact that under his steady hand enrollment was down.

    I was also surprised that you didn't take the easy drive by opportunity to point out that " draining the swamp" requires secret visitor logs at the WH. Who knew darkness was good for ethical governance...right?

    Personally, I disagree with the MDDOW award, I think you got it backwards, the national "democratic" apparatus should have gotten the award for not jumping in and proving to everyone that they did not really learn anything from the last set of losses handed out in the election. I don't think Thompson was to blame solely for the loss, the DCCC however showed that they still think they can win running things the old fashioned way... not that the DCCC helping would have notched a W, it would however, have sent a signal that we the people have been heard.

    Just look at what happened in the Illinois local elections this week in red territories to get my point.

    Now for the real item of importance, the Easter egg roll, is it even going to happen? trump has yet again dilly dallied off to line his pockets at Mar-a-Swampgo.

    Nothing will prove more to the American people that this "administration" is focused on the American peoples interests and that the WH is the peoples house better than not having an Easter Egg roll, or, having one that Trump and Fam would actually participate in and actually be exposed to us normal people... At least in Mar-a-Swampgo he will be showing that the "forgotten voices" are being heard.

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    meet the new swamp, same as the old swamp?

  3. [3] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Trump has been good for one thing: we can now begin to compile a list of Things That Republicans Never Actually Gave a Crap About, which would include now: NATO, Chinese currency, Repealing Obamacare (who knew they'd roll over so fast?), The Federal Reserve, and a balanced budget. Oh, and the whole thing about not being 'the world's policeman' (but that was insincere when they said it the first time).

    And his popularity among Republicans hasn't budged an inch. Imagine that. All it took to get the left to call Hillary unacceptable were a few vague articles about the Clinton Foundation. This guy rips everyone off to play at his own private golf club every weekend, and everyone on his side of the aisle just shrugs.


  4. [4] 
    TheStig wrote:

    RE Rudi:

    "Lo, how the righteous have fallen"

    Shouldn't that read:

    "Lo, how the self righteous have fallen" Rudi is the guy who coined "America's Mayor" for himself.

    Also, at what point does political theater slide into political performance art?

    "Holocaust Center" (????!!!!!????) conjures up images of 18 foot SS air dancers and strings of triangular flags with swastikas on them. "Common down-free bratwurst for the kiddies" Spicey is an example of the "anal-ity" of evil. When a press secretary needs his own press secretary, it is time to give it up.

  5. [5] 
    neilm wrote:

    On Tax Day we should remember just how lucky we are - we've been underpaying our tax bill for decades - let's hope our kids will forgive us before they choose our retirement housing:

  6. [6] 
    neilm wrote:

    As suspected, 45 got a dead cat bounce from throwing around some Tomahawks. Back to reality:

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    approval rating came back down to 41, disapproval stayed level around 51. i think "throwing around some tomahawks" doesn't do the move justice. assad and his ilk only understand one language, and an american president has finally started to speak that language, albeit at the merest whisper.

    considering how many things donald has done poorly so far, what's so wrong with giving the man credit if i think he's finally done something right?


  8. [8] 
    TheStig wrote:


    What is the USA trying to achieve in Syria and in what way did the US missile strike advance our progess? I don't think anybody has figured out the first part, so evaluating our whisper seems to me premature. The bad guys, and they are bad guys, know how to wisper back. Until I see something actually change in Syria I'm going to stick with "expensive fireworks" and "same old civil war of attrition."

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    i would say that the objective achieved by shooting a few missiles is to let assad and putin know that we're willing to start shooting if we think they have violated their agreements. being who they are, they won't believe we will unless we do. to be honest i think that objective - getting them to believe that we are willing to engage militarily - is even more important than stopping the chemical attacks. not that they have needed chemicals to exact bloody carnage on the local civilians.


  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    so, a showy missile strike that does no real damage is really the best possible move. what matters isn't how many planes or runways we took out, what matters is that we have an arsenal and now they know we might use it.

    There's a saying in interrogation: "Violence perceived is violence achieved." You don't want someone screaming, you want him asking questions - asking, "What is he doing with that knife?"
    ~burn notice

  11. [11] 
    neilm wrote:

    i would say that the objective achieved by shooting a few missiles is to let assad and putin know that we're willing to start shooting if we think they have violated their agreements

    Fair argument. But it only hold true if we see consistency. If this is a one off, then all we are showing is the limit of our commitment.

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    There is something else that matters that the two of you are forgetting ...

    Unless winning the GWOT isn't the least bit about winning hearts and minds of people in the Muslim world.

    But, if it is even the least bit about that, and it should be if it's not, then dropping those bombs has FINALLY sent a message to the suffering Syrian civilians that the mighty United States of America has not completely abandoned them and that they can harbor some hope that America and promise of America is really a force for good.

    I watched the reaction of just one Syrian activist who, after having pleaded with President Trump a night or two before the missiles landed to do something to help the Syrian people, who cried tears of joy when he found out what had happened and he thanked America for doing something.

    Unfortunately, this part of the equation gets short shrift in the grand scheme of things and is one of the main reasons why the longest war will continue, perhaps in perpetuity. Which is sadder than sad.

  13. [13] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    good point.


  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    By the way, if I was Trump, Spicer would be history.

  15. [15] 
    TheStig wrote:

    NYP22- 11 "so, a showy missile strike that does no real damage is really the best possible move. what matters isn't how many planes or runways we took out, what matters is that we have an arsenal and now they know we might use it."

    There was already plenty of evidence that we "might use it." Iraq One and Two, Libya and so on. There is plenty of evidence the US can competently take down air defenses. Would the US be willing to do that to a Russian client state? Would the American Public get behind committing US ground forces into combat? Those are the big questions, and weren't exactly addressed by the Tomahawks.

    Neilm 12- Exactly.

    Liz 13 - The Doolittle Raid Effect. Moral boosts are important, but they have to be quickly backed up with follow on efforts resulting in noticeable progress - or the effect fades. What is that grateful Syrian civilian thinking a week later, when nothing in his village has changed for the better? Hope can change to cynicism very quickly. By the way, and Altohone brought this last week, we probably don't want that civilian's clan to win control of Syria any more than Putin does.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Of course, ineffective action or poorly thought out foreign policy leads to cynicism. And, certainly, one action or one week is not going to make a significant difference in the lives of the Syrian people who just want to live in peace.

    The big takeaway from my point is just that the concept of winning the hearts and minds has taken a back seat if it's even in the car at all. And, that doesn't bode well for winning the GWOT - now, any time soon, or ever.

    We need only consider the cuts pending at the State Department to know that the US is nowhere near understanding what it will take to win the war of ideas and we are destined for endless military action without the essential political initiatives necessary to make sustainable progress.

    By the way, and Altohone brought this last week, we probably don't want that civilian's clan to win control of Syria any more than Putin does.

    Oh, really? Why is that? What do you think is the endgame for Syria?

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What is that grateful Syrian civilian thinking a week later, when nothing in his village has changed for the better? Hope can change to cynicism very quickly.

    I just have to say that I think the Syrian people are far more realistic about their situation than most Americans can even fathom. You think cynicism has changed to hope with a single air strike using multiple missiles targeted on one site? That's ridiculous!

  18. [18] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    There was already plenty of evidence that we "might use it."

    disagree. most of trump's past rhetoric has been pro-russian and isolationist. in addition, obama hadn't made a military move in syria. so, until we actually fired a shot, assad and putin had every reason to believe we never would.


  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    In other words, TS, the US has quite a lot of work to do if it wishes to change cynicism about its formulation and execution of foreign policy to hope ...

  20. [20] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Liz - 17

    Why would the US would not be happy if the rebel faction controlling Khan Shaykhun wins?

    The town is controlled by the Fateh al-Sham Front, a militant Islamic group affiliated with al-Qaeda.

    What is the endgame for Syria? I wouldn't hazard a guess, but I expect the stalemate to continue for years, maybe decades. Remember Lebanon? How about Irish Troubles?

    There are 4 main factions controlling swaths of Syria.

    There is The Government faction, dominated by the minority Alawite sect, backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. Russia considers Syria as it's toe hold in the Middle East, and has some nostalgic attachment to boot based upon Orthodox Christian ties.

    There is The Syrian Opposition, a coalition of factions (one of which is Fateh al-Sham Front) and supported by Turkey, a member of NATO

    ISIL is a third faction

    The 4th faction is Rojava, which is basically Kurdish oriented and supported by the US and other western oriented governments.

    A faction map of Syria resembles a metastasized tumor, it's hard to envision any of these meandering zones of control as a functioning independent nation...Syria is effectively balkanized along ethno/religious/geopolitical lines.

    Ultimately, I think the problem will be talked out, but I think we may have to wait past the tenures of Assad, Putin and Trump.

    Has anybody else ever noticed that Assad bears an uncanny resemblance to Beaker, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's poor suffering lab assistant from The Muppet Show?

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Why would the US would not be happy if the rebel faction controlling Khan Shaykhun wins?

    Well, that is not what you asked. You asked why would the US like it if the clan of the Syrian activist I mentioned ruled the country, did you not?

    Are there any Syrians in your mind who can qualify to run the country AND make the US happy?

    Thanks for the history lesson. But, that's not really what I was asking and you have ignored the point of my post.

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Why would the US would not be happy if the rebel faction controlling Khan Shaykhun wins?

    Well, that is not what you asked. You asked why would the US like it if the clan of the Syrian activist I mentioned ruled the country, did you not?

    Are there any Syrians in your mind who can qualify to run the country AND make the US happy?

    Thanks for the history lesson. But, that's not really what I was asking and you have ignored the point of my post.

  23. [23] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    The US's official position, and policy, if any, on Syria remains the dominant issue in part because NK blew (up) their missile launch.

    Former Conservative Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind told the BBC that "there is a very strong belief that the US - through cyber methods - has been successful on several occasions in interrupting these sorts of [NK missile launch] tests and making them fail" ( )

    The scarcity and location of the world's chip foundries form a strait, as heavily monitored as the Strait of Hormuz. Turning logic and encryption circuits into hardened guidance and communication systems has to go through that bottleneck, and never anonymously so.

    It's possible that western electronic warfare is informed as much by what NK missile guidance systems cannot currently entail as by knowing directly what they do entail.

  24. [24] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Don Harris,

    NY isn't offering free degrees in "TV & VCR Repair" or any of the equally useless degrees offered by Trump University! Free tuition for eligible applicants is a great thing!

    Why is a nursing degree useless?

    Why is a teaching degree useless?

    I think you fail to recognize that "paid tuition" does not automatically result in a "college degree". Students still have to earn their degrees!

  25. [25] 
    TheStig wrote:


    "Former Conservative Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind told the BBC that "there is a very strong belief that the US - through cyber methods - has been successful on several occasions in interrupting these sorts of [NK missile launch] tests and making them fail"

    The relatively new term "Left of Launch" is Pentagonese for cyber/signals warfare directed at ballistic missiles. The New York Times ran a piece on this a couple of days ago, which was the first time I encountered it.

    According to NYT, it may be working, North Korea's uber reliable missile development program has lately been suffering a roughly 50% launch failure rate.

    While this seems good news for the US with respect to North Korea, Left of Launch has negative implications for Great Power nuclear deterrence, where stability depends upon all sides being confident their missiles and warheads will work with high reliability. In future we might see a Left of Launch Ban Treaty. We will certainly see all nuclear powers hardening their missile electronics.

  26. [26] 
    TheStig wrote:


    A free high school education isn't getting people employed we should ax it!

    Same with free middle school....same with free grade school!

    Kindergarten is an indentured (half-day) scam, there are not enough jobs for kindergarten grads, who are wasting time with crayons and glitter when they could be getting a jump on survival mode jobs!

    From Voucher Vendetta page:

    "I have none of the credentials normally listed in a bio. No degrees, no years of running a successful business and no experience in political campaigns or activism. I am simply an average person that has been working and living at survival mode."

    The above is no surprise.

  27. [27] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Stig, Don -

    Being many years out of school, I can see the pros and cons of both sides of your debate.

    For one, Stig backs into the argument that certainly the Trump victory doesn't exactly make the argument that there are too many educated people in America right now. In elections worldwide in fact, it's invariably those with less education that have been voting for Brexit, nationalists, and strong men. Putin's base is mostly rural, as is that of Iran's hard-liners. Worldwide, rural, less educated folk think that urban, educated folk Suck, and authoritarian dicks have rushed in to fill that market niche. That's a problem.

    On the other hand, Don has a point when he points out that too many educated, unemployed people warp employment markets in ways that hurt the poor and disenfranchised in a manner that adds insult to poverty - when your manager at McDonalds wields a Master's Degree, your path to a better life just got much harder, and you get the blame for it.

    Neither of you has mentioned the technology gap. Millions of older Americans, now in their fifties, have been shut out of better jobs because they're unable to keep up with younger workers who are "up" on newer technologies. Their suicide rate has jumped alarmingly in recent years.

    Add to that, the workers whose jobs are being displaced by incremental technology improvements that aren't even related to computers - mining jobs, factory workers, even taxicab drivers.

    Moreover, the 'bulge' of unemployed and unemployable workers is in the middle: very highly skilled workers (in Silicon Valley, for instance) and very low wage workers (in the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant, for instance) are still in great demand; the problem is, folks in the middle either can't (in the former case) or won't (in the latter case) fill those jobs anytime soon, and Trump has just declared War on the immigrants who can and do.

    It seems that every proposed solution exacerbates the problem. Free tuition would result in a surge of workers in the middle, corporate and business tax relief would encourage more of the same.

    Real solutions won't fit easily into slogans. It may require private-public partnerships (anathama to the Left) and expanded migrant worker visas (anathema to the Right), for instance.

  28. [28] 
    neilm wrote:

    Jobs and the World's Biggest Liar:

    45 promised that he was going to be God's gift to job creation. Well, as we've seen, he is off to a flat start. But as Jesus said to Peter, "Oh Yea of little faith". So can 45 walk on water?

    The current employment rate is 4.5%, and the U4 rate is at 4.8% (includes "discouraged" workers). Demographics predict that we will add about 1.5M workers per year for the next four years. So even if we stay at 4.5% employment, we will add only about 100,000 jobs per month. If unemployment rises because say, somebody stupid in Washington starts a trade war, or heaven forbid, a real war, markets will contract. If this raises unemployment to its historical average of about 6%, then the greatest jobs president God has ever created will be looking at 0 (zero) monthly jobs figures.

  29. [29] 
    TheStig wrote:


    "College is about extra skills and knowledge not basic skills and knowledge."

    Define basic.

    "You did not address the fact that there are not enough high paying jobs to justify the expense for the majority of college graduates"

    Neither did you. You simply asserted it was so. We do import foreign talent you know. Some very good jobs get farmed out because the US doesn't produce enough qualified candidates. I went to graduate school (science) in the eighties. Half of my fellow grad students were foreign, and they were recruited in large part because American's didn't want the slots. When I got into the work force, we had to recruit foreign applicants, mostly because there weren't enough Americans applying - although the fact that immigrants were willing to work for less did play a role as well.

    Not all colleges are created equal. There are a lot of bullshit colleges (ITT tech type or Trump U.) and a lot a degrees that don't have a lot of income potential. Many of these low income potential tracks are available at many outstanding and pricey Universities and fine if you are incredibly talented and lucky - or born rich. There is a certain amount of overselling on the part of colleges, and some outright fraud (Trump U.), so education buyer beware. There is also a need for some tighter regulations, and that is only going to get worse in the next 4 yrs.

    In my experience you cannot predict with great precision how well your education will fit the market place when you get out...or as you go forward. I was only employed for a short while in work related to my degrees - but what I learned (math and stats, field craft and proposal writing) made me useful in career choices I would never of thought of - and in fact, some of which hadn't existed while I was in school(s).

    College debt can be a big problem for students, especially if you are 1) not born to wealth and 2) take a specialized degree in a low paying or entirely bogus field. Students need to make realistic choices and manage (not ignore) their risks. College advisers are of little help in my experience. Advanced degrees are surprising easy to afford in many technical fields...graduate assistantships go begging and the better deals cover all or most of your costs. Shop around, and not just for good weather.

    DH, what you are proposing sounds an awful lot like Imperial Rome. Bread and circuses for the uneducated masses. I think the US should aspire to more. Progressives should aspire to more. We need a floor, but need more! You are proposing something socially regressive that will further impair the US economy and worsen the gulf between haves and have nots. Education is a traditional upward path for the disadvantaged...who are also disadvantaged in their ability to get educated. That gap is what needs to be repaired.

    Bernie gets it, you don't.

  30. [30] 
    neilm wrote:

    Education is a traditional upward path for the disadvantaged...who are also disadvantaged in their ability to get educated. That gap is what needs to be repaired.

    Well said TS.

  31. [31] 
    neilm wrote:
  32. [32] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    That's really good, neilm. First irony of the week!

  33. [33] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    higher education serves more purposes than just job training, and lack of education causes problems beyond earning potential. i'm on the side of making higher education economically viable, regardless of whether or not it ends in a high-paying job.

    "i love the poorly educated."
    donald j. trump

  34. [34] 
    Kick wrote:


    Has anybody else ever noticed that Assad bears an uncanny resemblance to Beaker, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's poor suffering lab assistant from The Muppet Show?

    Mee, mee, mee, meep... with the exception of Beaker's Trumpian hair, of course.

    What actor should play Assad? Edward Norton

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