Monday, December 30, 2013

movements of the yuan

the chinese yuan strengthened to a twenty year high against the dollar this past week.  at the end of the 27th, the yuan was trading at 6.0686 to the dollar.  the historic high signifies a buoyant chinese economy, but on the flip side, this present success can only mean that american exports in china could become more competitive even as the chinese economy opens up to foreign exports.  apple begins selling its iphone through china mobile in january.

unfortunately, a lot of the money being created in china comes from a shadow banking system that the chinese central bank has been slowly trying to quell this year.  banks in china "typically scramble for short-term cash to meet month-, quarter- and year-end regulatory requirements. Demand for cash is also high among Chinese companies seeking to meet year-end payments, too." individuals with political or business connections have been able to borrow money from state controlled banks which receive loans from the central bank at very loan interest rates.  these individuals then provide loans to the wider chinese economy at extremely high interest rates.  several problems develop from a system like this.  first, wealth becomes concentrated abnormally in the hands of just a few shadow bankers while state run and private banks do not make the returns they could if they had loaned the money directly.  second, artificially inflated interest rates from shadow banking make it harder for individuals and business to repay loans, and the inflated repayment means that less money is being directly injected into the economy.  third, the high interest rate loans are less likely to be repaid and are thus across the board more risky.  subsequently the state controlled banks are less likely to be able to re-pay the central bank, producing fears of a wider financial instability.

the chinese government has attempted to rein in this risky lending, but has been mostly unsuccessful as of yet. writers for the new york times note that, “the central bank allowed rates late last week and early this week to soar to unsustainable levels. Instead of regularly scheduled open-market operations, the bank tried unconventional methods of guiding money markets.” However, the central bank was forced to quickly inject fresh money into the banking sector as interest rates soared.

this seems like the creaks and groans of a giant, growing economic system.  more growing pains for a young economy.  the central bank wants to move the financial system away from the artificial risk created by the shadow banking system.  the question now will be whether banks will be able to clean their balance sheets of the toxic loans before a financial meltdown not orchestrated by the central government occurs.  if the central government does more to investigate and imprison politicians and businessmen directly involved in graft (as it has been recently doing,) the banks might correct their lending practices directly.  this correction would still produce some short term jolts as less money could potentially be made, but more long term stability.  

Saturday, December 21, 2013

chinese bluffs

china may be aggressively asserting itself on the international political stage, but there’s no reason to believe a global take over by china is militarily or politically imminent.  in this article from the telegraph, writer james delingpole entertains assertions that china is about to call an end to the game and the world as we know it is about to change.

in terms of economic change in china, dalingpole quotes economist michael snyder who notes that economic governors in china have discussed limiting the country’s foreign currency investments, particularly the american dollar.  snyder quotes a chinese official as saying, “The monetary authority will ‘basically’ end normal intervention in the currency market and broaden the yuan’s daily trading range.”  though such a move would be detrimental to american investment, particularly in the short run, but the move is a sound financial decision that i think any economist would offer as advice to china.  america and western europe’s currently shaky markets do make investment in their monies particularly attractive.  in the long run, if china does shake its peg of the yuan to the dollar and its trading range is broadened, the effects could be good for american exports in the future.  american economists have been trying to convince china to make a similar move for decades.

delingpole also quotes a scholar who believes a military strike against the west is inevitable and will probably occur soon.  china has definitely ramped up its aggressive stance in the past few months, but its behavior should not be compared to pre-war japan.  china has claimed sovereignty over certain islands in the sea of china and recently claimed an extended air space, but it has committed to aggressive actions beyond this posturing.  “Ego would also play a large part in the decision for a pre-emptive attack.  China wants to be recognised as the most powerful country on the planet.  Successfully driving the United States from the western Pacific would put that beyond doubt.”  with the second largest economy on the planet, china is already an economic powerhouse and may soon be the most economically powerful country in the world before too much longer.  even with the largest standing army on the planet, china does not have the naval, air, or technological prowess that other countries have.  the limitations of its military are widely known.  though it may be attempting to assert itself now militarily or territorially, as it grows economically, and grows economically secure, it will more and more be able to secure what external resources it requires economically.

these military threats are indicative of economic growing pains.  these should be seen as bluffs.  these should be seen as actions to secure power, intimidate.  but i cannot see any evidence that china would follow through on its threats and that it would especially make a strike against more powerful western nations.

Friday, December 6, 2013

freezing fog

a freezing fog had come and gone before i woke, leaving white footprints over the morning: grass that crunched under foot, solid white car windows, a spider web thickly crystalized on the railing. it didn’t smell like snow, but almost. it could. it could be soon. even in oregon, even in alabama.
and i remember a morning in bed, back in birmingham, watching the snow fall, the window directly in front of us full of static. cold, we stayed wrapped up under the covers. i read the paper and he flipped through a book filled with pictures of paris.
clear skies with a chance of snow. i want one of those mornings with adam. i want to wake up with him and see flurries, to decide it’s too dangerous to go into work, to drink coffee and stay in bed. i want the day to be so quiet, the city stopped by magic. i want to re-live all these memories with this man who i now love.
having dated adam for a while, memories that were once cherished and meaningful and beautiful to me have changed. moments that i once lamented as lost, times i would have gladly lived again, i now want to re-edit with adam in that picture. these reminiscences have turned sour and i question how happy i had been, how much i loved any moment. i wonder if i had just been delusional or naive.
this is unfair to my memories and to the people that i loved. adam and i won’t eat sesame tofu at my favorite chinese restaurant in birmingham. i’m not even vegetarian anymore! but we do search portland for good chinese restaurants and authentic chinese dishes. recently adam introduced me to dan dan mien, thick spicy ground beef over noodles like spaghetti. adam can’t coo in french with me but teaches me mandarin, the tones awkward and stilted as they come out of my mouth, my throat hoarse from strangling the 3rd tone.
adam and i might miss the snow. the weather report threatens snow tomorrow but we won’t wake up together. tonight, i’ll sleep at my house, take care of my cat who has become listless and sad because of the cold weather. we’ll wake up separately and go to work. and tomorrow after work we might warm ourselves with whiskey, bundles up against the un-snowy cold.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

changes in china

china looks like the united states one hundred years ago. and china looks like the united states three decades ago. and china and the united states mirror each other now. the asian country has seen different changes and trends, both economic and social, compressed together in a way that echoes the development of the united states economy but varies radically.
the chinese government made two important announcements recently: the government will ease restrictions on the national one-child policy and will abolish labor re-education camps.
the one-child per family policy has always been contentious internationally. passed in the 70s, the law reflects a consciousness by the government of a problem that has beleaguered chinese governments for centuries. in europe and north america, where population rates hover around zero or lower, many see the policy as unfair, a violation of human rights. reporting on the change in the law points out the shift may be more than an apologia on human rights. a labor shortage haunts china.
damien ma and william adams have written about the labor shortage in china for foreign affairs:
“By early 2010, job postings began to outnumber jobseekers for the first time since the start of China’s resource-intensive economic boom at the beginning of the twenty-first century, a period we call the Panda Boom (after that cuddly creature’s voracious habit of eating 10–15 percent of its body weight in bamboo each day).”
since the industrial revolution in the united states and western europe, the economies in these countries have seen a similar shift. as once workers pressed for jobs in factories and the population (particularly in america) changed from an agrarian civilization to an urban workforce, the labor pool grew immensely and unemployment grew. however, post-world war ii prosperity, with the export of american products and culture, changed the labor market in america, shifting production overseas as it followed cheaper labor.
china currently finds itself in a similar position. even before the global recession, china couldn’t meet the entire global demand for cheap labor even with its massive populations. factories in india, malaysia, indonesia, thailand, cambodia, and bangladesh provided more, and often cheaper, labor for factories producing merchandise for north america and europe. and ma and adams note that in China “Occupational safety, collective bargaining rights, and other costly labor protections were vastly less important, and summarily ignored,” but this was a problem both countries have faced in their history. 
chinese growth and prosperity during the last few decades has created a bubbling middle class with extra income to spend and a desire for something more for themselves and the next generation. even during the recession, ma and adams note that chinese wages grew faster than gdp. the writers also point out that, “From 2000 to 2010, the number of young people enrolling in higher education programs rather than entering the workforce after high school tripled, growing from 2.2 million to 6.6 million.” this greater population of educated citizens points to a larger affluence but also indicates a growing population that will look for work outside low-paying factory work, adding to china’s labor shortage.
as china comes into its own as a middle class country, the united states struggles to maintain its economic status quo. china has enacted seemingly extreme measures to control its population and provide prosperity, measures that seem unreasonable from the comfort of our middle class stability. we should not forget the negligence, violence, and instability of our own past when attempting to understand the quick and momentous transformation currently taking place in china.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

first movements

i usually can’t even remember a fraction of a refrain.
those first few notes are warming. and i think, “oh, yes. exactly. this is exactly it.” and the rest of the music is memory after memory as the progression folds out before me, as each modulation of the melody returns to me.
don’t let me pretend i really know anything about the history of music, but i’ve had a very long love affair with tchaikovsky’s first violin concerto in d. at sixteen i listened to the first movement every afternoon. after having come home from school, i watched the sun set in the west from my bedroom window and i listened to tchaikovsky.
even if you can only remember a few bars from swan lake, you know tchaikovsky can be dramatic. sentimental and sweet then suddenly tragic. this concerto swings back and forth, walking a fine line between each. the reach of the sweetest arpeggio suddenly turns into a minor chord, a saddest underscoring it all. petite violin solos puff and swell into the full-throated rejoinder of an orchestra.
maybe that’s why i liked it as a teenager: i liked how dramatic it was. i liked how the darker side of the melody could match my melancholy and then suddenly stand at odds with my mood all together. i liked that the loneliness i felt in that music, undertones of sadness despite the plucky phrases that supported the composition. i liked loosing myself in thought, sitting on a stool by the the window, the sun setting in line with my bedroom window. i liked thinking about myself listening to this music every afternoon; i liked building this image and ritual for myself.
now, this music functions on a different level for me. the concerto is precious to me. when i hear it again, not only does the long walk through the movement’s architecture map itself in front of me, but all these teenage emotions and memories compound themselves up, turrets and walls and great halls and hidden passages. i recognize the melodrama of the composition now. more mature, my relationship to the emotion of the movement has changed. i can take a step back from its swelling emotion, its bipolar shifts. i can think about it more objectively.
lovely, i can leave this for a while, then come back for its key, press play, and let the music construct again my memory.

Monday, November 11, 2013

iran access

here's a beautiful little graphic from the new york times that shows iran's current nuclear capacity as well as presenting some ideas as to what an agreement concerning iran's nuclear program could look like.

iran has quickly agreed to allow the iaea access to some of the nuclear processing sites that had been previously mostly inaccessible.  but let's remember: they still are not allowing anyone access to the contentious parchin site, where it is suspected "that Iran has been testing triggering devices for nuclear weapons."

Friday, November 8, 2013

friends and enemies

diplomatic relations change. where for decades the u.s. brushed aside the communist party of china and provided all our support to the kuomingtang and taiwan, friendlier relations with the people’s republic became an eventuality. russia and the u.s. are frienemies, for lack of a better word, allies at each other’s throats. and we’re slowly warming to cuba. slowly.
but diplomatic relations don’t change quickly and iran’s sudden smile does not seem completely genuine.
while new attempts to reach out to western europe and the u.s. from the newly elected iranian president hassan rouhani could be genuine, the sudden supportiveness of the supreme religious leader of iran, the grand ayatollah khamenei, seems suspect. this man has vehemently denounced the united states and squashed any iranian support for negotiations with western countries. turning on a dime the ayatollah now supports the rouhani effort to work with the united states.
the burgeoning possible diplomatic relations with iran could indicate two developments: the economic pressure put upon iran has either convinced its leaders to work with western europe and the united states to regulate and survey and suspend its nuclear development or the iranians realize that with a little bit of a sugar and a lot more stalling they can complete their goals and lift the economic squeeze on its population.
Iran has achieved the ability to enrich uranium up to 20 percent purity, and it is then relatively easy to increase enrichment to 90 percent.”
though i think the world should be cautious in its trust of the iranian supreme leader, what else can we do but embrace diplomacy and flexibility? the international community must come to completely embrace non-proliferation and demand that every community follow suit. at the same time we must show compassion for every population and patience in brokering agreements with the leaders protecting these populations.
if iran is reaching out to us now, what can we do but cautiously resume negotiations and hope we do not get burned?

Friday, November 1, 2013

understanding obamacare

i’ve come to believe that a lot us, including myself, may not understand the nitty gritty of the affordable care act. we’re scared of change. we don’t know what obamacare is going to do to us. we want to keep our health insurance the way it is. and for those of us without insurance, the price of coverage still seems too expensive.
also, what does up to 400% of the poverty level mean? ‘cause i’d always like to make more money, but i still don’t think i’m living anywhere near that.
to help us all understand why our existing insurance policies are changes, our rates may increase a little in the short run, and what exactly obamacare will do for you and me and every average american, i’ve started collecting a few links from the new york times for your perusal:
here we discover why some people (though only a small fraction of those americans with plans) might see their rates increase. bottomline: your plan wasn’t doing enough for you before. for preventative medicine to provide economic savings in our health system, everyone has to have access to preventative medicine.
a lot of the people who have to choose news plans or whose plans will change will be those people who do not have insurance through their employers. most of these plans and rates reflected the sex, age, and pre-existing conditions of the insured and insurance companies are no longer allowed to take any of this into consideration when issuing coverage. you’ll also find a very simple q & a about health insurance costs and benefits.
finally, there is this nifty little calculator provided by the kaiser family foundation for estimating the subsidy you may be eligible for through obamacare. enter in the state you live in, your zip code, your income, and the number of dependents you have. voila! the calculator will give you an estimate for how much your yearly premium should be, the subsidy you would receive, and what that means you would subsequently pay. for example, a person with an income of about $25,000 in birmingham, alabama, will probably pay about $144 a month.
and remember: “You can have the government pay the insurer directly or receive a credit when you file your taxes.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

portland fog

it’s like that moment just before waking or sleeping when everything could be real or not, except this blanket is cold in the morning. i biked up north williams from adam’s house to my own apartment and the fog seemed to thicken around me. in and out of pockets of cold damp, the water drawn together by the magnetic polarization of that molecule, i found my corduroy jacket lacking and wished for a scarf.

sometimes my perspective gets foggy, the periphery of the past and future disappearing momentarily. when one lives in a city long enough, the trajectory of that place stretches out forward and back, obscuring any other history. one’s life becomes enmeshed.

an indian summer in portland is still rather chilly. but beautiful. and welcome. talking to the bartender at the red fox the other night, i told him i had expected this year to be particularly cold. i recalled a white winter five years ago. my friends had returned to alabama for the holidays and asked me to take care of their cats while they were away. i went to work everyday then returned home then trudged through the snow to feed those damned cats. that was my first year in portland and i lost much of my appreciation for the snow.

the bartender told me it had been the red fox’s first year, too. they opened their doors that snowy week in december. the toilet seat broke and that bartender found himself trekking through the snow to fred meyer to purchase a new seat for the throne.

adam and i went out for chinese food the other night. and found a chinese restaurant we actually liked, though it wasn’t the least expensive. before finding this restaurant, i had written chinese food off in portland, unable to find anything i liked. i had stopped craving chinese even.

birmingham seems to love chinese. good and bad, chinese food can be found all over town. i loved this little place in five points south called new chinatown. sesame tofu. i ate there once a week. the woman there was nice but would also made fun of me. i fell in love with a boy there who had ordered sesame tofu as well.

biking back from the chinese restaurant, adam said, “let’s live there!” and pointed to a cute apartment building checkered with warm glowing squares of lamp light, white arches over the louvered windows. sometimes it seems like everything fits, like portland is atlantis and that we’re all just coming home.

my cat, born in alabama, doesn’t mind the rainy winter in oregon. she hates that i’ve taken to wiping her paws whenever she enters the apartment to avoid the patter of paw prints. the rainy winters in oregon can be tough. but one can get used to them.

Monday, October 21, 2013

jordan, never down and out

i said, “good morning.  how are you?”

she said, “fine.  but it’s evening here.”

morning in portland, oregon, i was just beginning the day with a cup of coffee and a newspaper.  jordan, in england, was drinking wine in a library.

jordan reminded me this morning that it has been ten years since we first met.

that first fall together in college, jordan and i spent hungover mornings on the steps to the new men’s dormitory with coffee and black & mild cigarillos we had obtained from the anxiety inducing gas station down arkadelphia road.  happy groups of students and families strolled across the quad, avoiding eye contact, worried by our troubled languor.

i met jordan one night when my friend ryan took me to her dorm room.  jordan stood over her bed, looking at a dress laid out over the covers, a contemplative frown on her face as if she wondered whether she could bear to put it on or not.

jordan always maintained an easy elegance.  she did not like to be seen where her sweatpants.  she did not want to be caught with her hair down.  she liked shirts and a nice pair of flats.  she wore large sunglasses, like a starlet from the fifties.  

on friday night she seemed at home greeting the owner of our favorite restaurant, bottega favorita, as if he were an old friend.  the young college going friend to an established chef with three restaurants.  

while not a sister herself, all the sorority sisters loved jordan’s company, her attention, and she floated between all the social groups as a freelancer.

we were nineteen then and twenty-nine now, but jordan always seemed a little older than so many of our peers at college.

jordan could keep up with the parties and the twittering of sorority socialites, the flirtations of fraternity boys.  she could act like the perfect hostess, a veritable madame de guermantes of young birmingham-southern society.

jordan stayed with me at my apartment for thanksgiving our sophomore year.  we made dinner together.  drank wine.  watched movies.  sighed at how exhausting our classmates could be.  laughed about how much we loved our art  history professor, dr. spies.  frigid that year, we opened a window, dressed in sweats, our throats wrapped in scarves, and blew cigarette smoke at the screen in the window.  as adverse to the cold as we were, the smoke refused to drift out the window.

i loved our downtime together.  i love how snarky she could be.  and then with a flip of a switch, a smile, and some grace, she’d be clever and lovely.  a hostess.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

news cycles

“Until recently, her emphasis on unemployment would likely have disqualified her for the job, and it has already inspired opposition from some Senate Republicans and investors concerned that she would not be sufficiently vigilant in guarding against inflation.”

i read this sentence three times this morning trying to discern its meaning.  the  cold medication i have been taking religiously for the past two days has not done much for me.  additionally, i feel out of it.  i cannot concentrate.

ten years ago, during my first year in college, i attended a current events discussion group.  lacking anything but nyquil i took a dose to help alleviate the cold symptoms from which i had been suffering.  sitting through the meeting proved hellish - difficult to stay awake and focused, the room spun around me.  but after that first miserable afternoon, i attended that current events discussion group every week for the next several years.

adam came over and took care of me last night, brought me dinner, sat and watched tv with me.  sick, i usually feel like a wounded animal, averse to being touched, to being cared for, but this time it was nice to have him around.  he turned off the lights before i fell asleep.

the republicans are holding up budget and debt ceiling negotiations again this year.  politics and economics have their own cycles.  another budget, another budget showdown.  we saw a government shutdown one decade ago.  we will find ourselves in the full circus of another presidential election in three years.

my favorite mornings are the ones in which i wake to find adam in bed with me. he's usually awake already, waiting for me to wake up, waiting for breakfast. on the weekends we often go out for brunch. sometimes its pancakes. and sometimes lox and cream cheese. and sometimes a breakfast burrito. and sometimes some new place we've just heard about.

i read the paper every morning.  new legislation.  new conflict.  new technology.  some things never change.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

bipartisanship italian style

what does the g.o.p. have to do with the italian senate?
there’s no punchline here but republicans should be paying attention to the recent political developments in the italian senate. berlusconi, former prime minister recently convicted of tax fraud in italy, asked senators from his center-right party to topple the current coalition governing. senator’s from berlusconi’s party said no. important lieutenants from silvio berlusconi’s party would rather preserve the fragile stability of the italian government during a time of economic danger in europe than support a fallen man attempting to save himself.

you know i understand that republicans, that anyone out there, can have a different opinion concerning what policies will keep our country most prosperous. but at this point, a government shutdown is not helping the american people at all. we all need to understand that at some point something must be sacrificed, a goal delayed or idea suspended, to maintain stability in the present.

republicans, especially speaker of the house john boehner, need to look at italy. they need to note that internal political solidarity at times must be disregarded in order to uphold national stability. italian senators spurned berlusconi for this reason. and now american politicians, too, whether they support the affordable care act or not, must come together with the rival political party and negotiate a bipartisan path to maintain american economic stability. they must look at our debt and our budget and think of the greater american economy. you can come back to the obamacare later, but there are more pressing issues now.

there is no reason italian politicians should respect the citizens they represent more than our own elected officials. it’s time that republican congress members insist that boehner violate the hastert rule, to consider voting against members of their own party, in the interest of the country’s economy.

Friday, September 27, 2013

letter writing

i love receiving letters.

they often say nothing, don’t really describe anything.  i don’t live in victorian england, writing letters back and forth to share the details of our lives away from each other.  the phone is more convenient, easy, expedient.  my sister and i talk a couple times a week.

but every once in a while i receive a postcard or a letter from her in the mail.  simple, whatever she has written always seems to underscore something we discussed earlier, maybe something i missed, reminding me of something important perhaps.  i can read it over and over.  i can stick it in a book and take it with me.

“Someone just asked me if I go crazy here in Charm being by myself all day.  Yes, but no.”

and even emails from old friends.  

the best part about a letter from a friend may be hearing their voice.  written in even the simplest terms, a letter aids my memory.  i can hear their voice exactly.  i received an email from my friend in austin and i can hear her southern twang, her nearly monotone delivery, served with a smile at the end.  her jokes are always in the words and never in the performance, never in the rise and fall of her voice.

What do you think your cat does at night? Have you seen those videos where they strap little cameras to the cat collars? So much carnage....”

i miss her.

and i wonder if i moved from portland who would write me still.  who would send me emails?  who would keep up with me, send me letters to fill me in and maintain all the jokes and turns of phrase that generate inside a relationship?  i appreciate the time it takes to write a letter, to respond and reply and develop a new thread or thought.  i appreciate the punchlines, carefully crafted and thought out because you know you will not be there to explain it to the other person.  i appreciate the talk about the weather, comparing the still hot days of summer in birmingham or austin to the increasing chill here in portland.

Friday, September 20, 2013


despite their name, there's nothing expedient about the nightly bedtime ritual of the vaux swift.  the community of birds that descends each year upon portland during september spends a couple hours each night swarming and swooping, funneling above the old chimney of an elementary school in which they take up residence during their migration south to mexico.  they chirp, flap their wings, congress with their family, and take their sweet time tucking in as the last of the sunlight melts behind the west hills.

i wish i could fly to mexico each year to winter.

adam and i sat watching the show the other night with a chirruping gaggle of portlanders.  i turned to him and said, "don't you sometimes think it would be nice if we lived in a small town where there was nothing to do each night except go to town gatherings like this everyday.  like everyday in september we'd watch the swifts.  and then in october the pumpkin festival.  and november would bring the turkey convention."

there are certain things i do each night before bed.  brush my teeth.  wash my face.  think about what i could do to prepare for the next day and then not do anything but strip naked and get under the covers.

each year has its rituals.  christmas eve at embers.  the ice cream social on north mississippi avenue.  as many pilgrimages as possible to rooster rock during the summer.  and so very soon: spookitinis, the party that rob throws yearly, same time, same place, and one of my favorite parties of the year.

the only flight i may take during the year is through the seasons.  or through glasses of wine.  and though i enjoy adventure, i somehow always look forward to the ritual event, the unfailing community.  i want to be so comfortable and so predictable.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

liberal justifications

"liberals" in america do not support president obama's proposal for intervention in syria.  "liberals" in america need to reconsider what liberalism means.

i support social liberalism in america, because i see an importance in fostering equality for all people over absolute freedom.  political and social equality: equal treatment of all people socially and legally, equal access to a pursuit of happiness, equal guarantees of safety.  this means the freedom of others may sometimes be limited.  an entrepreneur cannot use a river or a parcel of land if the activities he conducts pollute those resources, causing harm or limiting the activities, health, or pursuit of happiness of others.

liberalism's fierce protection of equality over liberty puts its goals in opposition at times to conservative and libertarian america, but our ideals as liberal americans, our sympathies and compassion, should not crumble at the border.  liberal america is understandably tired of war, but we also seem to have lost compassion for those people in the world who do not live in a society like ours.

obama is not proposing we go to war.  he's not even proposing we involve ourselves in another war.  he is merely proposing that we have compassion for other people and solidarity with the international community.  chemical weapons should not be used against any people and we have an external, technological advantage to the situation in syria to discourage the use of chemical weapons by the assad regime.  a strike by the united states would not commit u.s. forces to the conflict, would not aim to kill syrian citizens, would not cripple the assad regime, nor aid to any great extent the syrian rebels.  the strike proposed by the president would hopefully dissuade the assad regime from continuing the desperate and monstrous use of chemical weapons on the people it ostensible governs.

the diplomatic compromise worked out by russian president vladimir putin (and john kerry) to destroy the chemical weapons held by the assad regime will probably just lead nowhere.  the country is a morass of a civil war.  according to experts and history (see qaddafi), the destruction of chemical weapons can be difficult even without a war and time-consuming.  we haven't even started the process of negotiating with syrian president assad.  we have not been able to actually negotiate the destruction of these weapons with the syrian government.  this is just an idea floated by the russians.  meanwhile the syrian civil war continues and maybe the assad regime will again use chemical weapons against its own people and half a year from now we will again find our president asking for permission to conduct strikes against the assad regime.  we will find ourselves right back where we are and without even putting boots on the ground we will america sunk in this.

i think the united states will be influential in the world for a long time yet.  we do not have to champion democracy; we do not have to fertilize the world with our goals and ideals; we can make it a goal of ours to protect and encourage all humans so that they may pursue their own purposes.  if universal equality is ever an ideal, we must take measures to protect life equally.