Tuesday Reads: Damned If He Does; Damned If He Doesn’t, and Other News


Good Morning!!

Syria is still the top news story today, and its still very unclear what is going to happen. The latest CBS/NYT poll found that 56% of Americans disapprove of the president’s handing of the Syria situation, and 61% are opposed to military strikes.

Yesterday President Obama told CBS’ Scott Pelley, “I understand” American people aren’t with me on Syria strike. You can read the transcript of the interview at the above link. The interview ended this way:

SCOTT PELLEY: The people aren’t with you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah, well, not yet. And I, as I said, I understand that. So I’ll have a chance to talk to the American people directly tomorrow. I don’t expect that it’s gonna suddenly swing the polls wildly in the direction of another military engagement. If you ask the average person — including my household — “Do we need another military engagement?” I think the answer generally is gonna be no.

But what I’m gonna try to propose is, is that we have a very specific objective, a very narrow military option, and one that will not lead into some large-scale invasion of Syria or involvement or boots on the ground, nothing like that. This isn’t like Iraq, it’s not like Afghanistan, it’s not even like Libya. Then hopefully people will recognize why I think this is so important.

And that we should all be haunted by those images of those children that were killed. But more importantly, we should understand that when when we start saying it’s okay to — or at least that there’s no response to the gassing of children, that’s the kind of slippery slope that leads eventually to these chemical weapons being used more broadly around the world. That’s not the kind of world that we want to leave to our children.

Obama will address the nation tonight, and it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to shift public opinion dramatically enough to get support for military intervention in Syria. According to the CBS/NYT poll linked above, Republicans oppose Obama on Syria even more overwhelmingly that Democrats do; and it’s not clear to me that the opposition is just about military action. As far as I can tell, the hatred for Obama at this point is so strong among Republicans–and among many Democrats as well–that he can’t do anything right. If he had ignored the chemical weapons attacks in Syria, he would have been called weak, but now that he wants to act, he’s suddenly a warmonger. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

Currently the focus is on whether Obama can convince Congress to support action on Syria. If, as is most likely, his speech tonight doesn’t magically change public opinion, he’ll apparently be seen as an utter failure, both nationally and internationally. From The Boston Globe: Credibility stakes high for Obama in Syria speech.

President Obama’s speech to the nation Tuesday night has turned into a defining moment for the remainder of his term. The outcome of his call for Congress to authorize military strikes against Syria could determine both his credibility on domestic issues and his power on the international stage, analysts said Monday.

The stakes remained high even in light of Monday’s development that Russia is pushing Syria to allow United Nations control of its alleged chemical weapons. In an interview with CBS, Obama said Monday night that any proposed diplomatic solution must be backed by the “credible military threat from the United States.” [….]

“If he loses, then clearly, his lame duck status probably starts more than a year earlier than normal,” said Elaine C. Kamarck, a Clinton administration veteran and now a senior scholar at the Brookings Institution. “Also if he loses, it’s difficult to say how the bad guys in the world, like North Korea and other places, interpret this.”

President Obama said he will go ahead with his speech on Tuesday, outlining the rationale for US military action. The task has been made much more difficult because Obama has seemed uncertain of his own course. He initially drew a hard line on chemical weapons and then, once convinced that the Syrian government had used them last month, spoke and acted as if a military strike were imminent.

But of course if Obama hadn’t asked for Congressional approval, he would have been excoriated by the press for that and his second term would have been written off anyway. I just don’t think Obama can win at this point, regardless of what he decides to do on Syria or any other issue. Even the endorsement of popular former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can’t turn around the current judgment that Obama is always wrong.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday endorsed President Obama’s call for military strikes against Syria and said “it would be an important step” if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad surrendered his stockpile of chemical weapons.

“The Assad regime’s inhuman use of weapons of mass destruction against innocent men, women and children violates a universal norm at the heart of our global order, and therefore it demands a strong response from the international community, led by the United States,” she said.

Clinton, a potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, made her first public remarks on Syria during a previously scheduled appearance at the White House. She said she had just come from a meeting with Obama, during which they discussed a proposal advanced by Russia to avert U.S. military strikes by having Assad turn over control of the country’s chemical weapons to international monitors.

She said that such a move would be important but that “this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction, and Russia has to support the international community’s efforts sincerely or be held to account.”

She also suggested that the Russian proposal came about only because of a “credible military threat by the United States.”

I think that’s probably true. Personally, I hope there’s a diplomatic solution, and the fact that Obama and Putin discussed such a possibility last week–and even before that–gives me some hope.

In other news,

Four men have been convicted in the gang rape of a women in Delhi, India last year. From BBC News:

The 23-year-old woman was brutally assaulted on a bus and died two weeks later.

Her death led to days of huge protests across India in a wave of unprecedented anger.

The case forced the introduction of tough new laws to punish sexual offences. The four men are expected to be sentenced on Wednesday.

Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta denied charges including rape and murder, and lawyers for three of the men said they would appeal against the convictions.

They face the death penalty over the attack on the physiotherapy student after being found guilty of rape, murder and destruction of evidence.

Read more at the link.

Will the verdict affect attitudes toward violence against women in India? Nita Bhalla discusses this question at Thompson Reuters: As India gang rape trial ends, a debate over what has changed.

The serial rapist stalks her for days. Eventually he breaks into her home when she is alone and tries to rape her at knifepoint. But she somehow manages to overpower and trap him.

Now, with the help of her two housemates, she has to decide what to do. Kill him and bury him in the garden? Or call the police, who are known to be insensitive and may let him off?

The plot is from “Kill the Rapist?” – a provocative new Bollywood thriller which aims to embolden Indian women to report sexual assaults – and to deter potential rapists by making them “shiver with fear before even thinking of rape” the film’s Facebook page says.

Controversial? Yes, but it is part of a growing awareness in India about violence against women since the high-profile fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus in December.

“Like most Indians, I had become used to hearing about rapes and other crimes against women. I would read about them, then turn the page and forget,” says Siddhartha Jain, the 39-year-old producer of “Kill the Rapist?”

“But the December incident shook me to the core. I didn’t want this just to be another story that would be forgotten in a year. My film, which will be released on the anniversary of the incident, is an excuse to amplify the discussion of women’s security and hopefully bring about some positive changes.”

It sounds a little like that play from the 1980s, “Extremities,” that Farrah Fawcett starred in. Perhaps India is getting its consciousness raised?

Meanwhile, check out this info I just pulled off Twitter: Study: 1 in 4 men across parts of Asia admit to rape. Some highlights:

1  A UN study in 6 Asia-Pacific countries found that 1 in 10 men admitted to raping a woman other than his wife or girlfriend. Counting wives and girlfriends, the figure rose to 24%. More than 10,000 men were interviewed in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka.
2  The percentages of men who admitted to rape varied by country. In Bangladesh, 11.1% admitted to rape; in Cambodia 20.8%; in China 22.7%; in Indonesia 31.9%; in Papua New Guinea 60.7%.
3  More than 70% of those who admitted to forcing a woman to have sex gave reasons that fell under the study’s category of “sexual entitlement.” Nearly 60% said they were bored or wanted to have fun. 40% said they were angry and wanted to punish the woman. Only half said they felt guilty and 24% had been imprisoned for rape.
There are citations at the end of the piece.

Here’s an economics story from Wonkblog for Dakninkat to opine on. Why doesn’t Fed policy pack more punch? Blame Grandpa.

One of the great frustrations of the last few years has been that, even as central banks around the world have taken extensive steps to try to prop up growth, the impact hasn’t been that great. Indeed, over the last generation, there’s lots of evidence that changes in interest rates don’t pack the punch, in terms of both jobs and inflation, that they used to.

A researcher at the International Monetary Fund has a novel explanation for one reason  why this may be: namely,  a growing proportion of the world population, and especially in advanced nations, that is elderly.

“We will argue that monetary policy also has a weakened effect on the economy due to changing demographics,” Patrick Imam writes in a working paper. “The elderly used to account for a small share of the population, but technological breakthroughs and social changes over the last two centuries have transformed this demographic structure.”

The gist is that young people are more likely to borrow money, while older people tend to live investments, so lower interest rates have less effect on an aging society overall.

When just embarking on a career, a young person might take out major loans for education and for buying a house and car. As they reach middle age, they will tend to have paid down some of that debt while also building savings. By the time they hit retirement age, they should be net creditors, with significantly more savings than they still owe in debt.

That would imply that in an older society fewer people are actively using credit products. Which should in turn imply that a central bank turning the dials of interest rates will be less powerful at shaping the speed of the overall economy.

As usual, it’s the baby boomers’ fault. Anyway it’s an Interesting theory . . . we’ll have to see what Dak has to say about it.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comment thread.


55 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Damned If He Does; Damned If He Doesn’t, and Other News”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Syria still saying they favor a handover of their chemical weapons, as proposed by Putin. France preparing US resolution.

    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem strengthened Tuesday his nation’s backing for a Russian proposal to see his nation turn its chemical weapons stockpiles over to international control to avoid a U.S. military strike, even as his Russian allies worked to hammer out the details of the proposal.

    After meeting with the speaker of the Russian parliament, al-Moallem said his government quickly “agreed to the Russian initiative,” adding that Syria did so to “uproot U.S. aggression.” His statement sounded more definitive than his remarks Monday, when he said that Damascus welcomed Russia’s initiative….

    France, meanwhile, announced Tuesday it would put forward a resolution in the U.N. Security Council aimed at forcing Syria to ultimately dismantle its chemical weapons program, seizing on the diplomatic opening created by the Russian proposal.

    France, a permanent member of the 15-nation council, was to start the resolution process on Tuesday under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which is militarily enforceable, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters at a quickly arranged news conference.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    From ABC’s The Note: Hillary Clinton expected to address Syria tonight.

    ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE and DANA HUGHES: After her White House stop yesterday, Hillary Clinton is again expected to address Syria this evening. She was slated to discuss national security and civil liberties during the speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, which she announced at the American Bar Association conference in California last month, but an aide to Clinton told ABC News that was no longer the case. “What she alluded to last month in her ABA speech was overtaken by events some time ago,” the aide said. “Given the developments in Syria over the last few weeks, plans for a robust policy speech in Philadelphia where she is to receive the Liberty Medal on Tuesday night were put on hold. It’s simply and obviously not the right time. Furthermore, she is very mindful that she will be speaking only an hour or so before the President addresses the nation.” The aide said the speech will not be a “major address” nor “more expansive remarks on Syria,” but “if that’s what draws people to the very unique moment of Jeb Bush presenting Hillary Clinton with the National Constitution Center’s 2013 Liberty Medal, so be it.” The speech will be less than two hours before the president addresses the nation to make his case to the American people for a military strike in Syria, but it has been a long-planned event. Another potential 2016 presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, the chairman of the National Constitution Center, is presenting Clinton with the organization’s 2013 Liberty Medal.

    • Fannie says:

      I certainly hope that Syria turns over the chemical weapons, as soon as possible. And that they are destroy, and gone for good.

      I’ve been on the fence over Syria, and was just about ready to go out on a limb. You know I was around with Srebenica, we all were. I did know people who were like family, who shared their stories, and sought to identify and work on their graves and cemetery site. Radovan Kardzic sticks in my mind forever. Those people loved the Clintons, story after story they loved Hillary, and shared photos they had of her and the children who survived.

      I feel like I must always shine the light on the problems that some say “it’s not my problem”.
      I’ll use a few examples, like the catholic church that has for centuries abused and raped our children, and gotten away with it, cause God forgave them. But I won’t forget the boys who are telling their stories about rape. It like Jerry Sandusky getting away for years and years, while other just looked the other way and said “it’s not my problem”. I don’t have to mention the number of women raped in Bosnia, in India, and in America, and people have said “it’s not my problem”. Then there is Sandy Hook, and no one wanted to hear the screams of those children, the answer to that problem was to buy more guns. Even though 85 % of population want gun control and back ground checks, we couldn’t even win on that account.

      I can’t help when I hear that 65% of the country wants to focus on issues at home, I just don’t believe them. If they did we would have jobs, we would have a support system for health care, we would have child care, we would have better educational opportunities, instead everybody seems to have been looking the other way, because they don’t deal with the problems at hand. They would rather disrupt and shut down our government, they would rather hate. I don’t know how long this kind of behavior here will go on, and the hating of Obama has nothing positive to offer. It’s created terrible conditions.

      Another name sticks in my mind, and another day. That was the death of Osama bin Laden, that was the best news I evah heard. Thank you President Obama.

      Am I suppose to say, when it comes to wars, you can’t win them all? Or say hey he/she was just following orders?

      Using chemical weapons is absolutely deplorable, and I can’t stand by and say that’s not my problem. You know what I mean, and what I am trying to say?

      I hope these serious problems are worked out.

  3. ANonOMouse says:

    Kerry just testified again and Hagel is testifying now.

    And “damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t” sums it up.

    • RalphB says:

      It’s interesting that as the “permanently offended” pro left types began to hate on Obama, I started to like him more. I think it has something to do with my basic belief that hyper privileged trust fund babies crying out as victims of oppression are really just assholes.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        I had a similar experience in my warming up to Obama. Mine began at JWS when the self-proclaimed “former liberals” began hating on social security recipients, food stamp recipients, unemployment insurance recipients, Medicare/Medicaid & social services recipients and blaming Obama for social and economic circumstances clearly created by the ineptitude of GWB. Ironically the folks who bitched the most and the loudest, revealed overtime that they were well off or setup to become well heeled. I’m still not sure any of them were ever liberal/progressives.

        • RalphB says:

          I don’t believe they were liberals, certainly, I don’t even know what a progressive is since it seems a pretty slippery term.

        • Beata says:

          Mouse, you just don’t understand how difficult it can be to find and keep a good pool boy these days. It’s hard! I know because an online psychic told me so.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            ROTFLMAO!!! Is your online psychic a clairvoyant, intuitive who will teach you how to manifest your hearts desires using the “law of attraction” for only $3 a minute?

      • bostonboomer says:

        Same here. The more the irrational Obama hate grows, the more I sympathize with him. No president is perfect, and that is what the emoprogs are demanding. The Republicans just hate his guts, mostly because he’s black.

        • RalphB says:

          There’s a politico headline that proves that “The United States of weakness” about the deal with Syria. The story is as dumb as the headline, picking winners and losers. Yuck!

        • ANonOMouse says:

          “The Republicans just hate his guts, mostly because he’s black.”

          Sad, but true. And if you even suggest that their feelings against Obama may come from an ugly place, they go all to pieces and begin accusing you of racism.

          I thought I disliked GWB as much as one could dislike a POTUS, but my feelings toward GWB, which I would characterize even now as “a loathing”, don’t hold a candle to the hatred the GOP and right wingers feel for Obama.

  4. ANonOMouse says:

    Very good post, BB. My favorite was your response to the boomer blamers “As usual, it’s the baby boomers’ fault.”

    Hey, none of us oldies need to borrow money, we’re living that glorious. luxurious Social Security, busted 401k High-Life. 🙂 Perhaps we don’t borrow money because we can’t pay it back, we’re just holding on and hoping our house, our car, our clothes last as long as we do.
    Although I did put a few things on a credit card in August, $280 worth of prescription meds not covered by my prescription drug plan. That was about 1/2 of our monthly food budge. So the choice was either credit card the meds or go without food. I decided to eat .

    • bostonboomer says:

      Yes, I’m living on my investments . . . in Social Security.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Sounds like we’re riding the same boat, BB. I did have a nice experience this morning. When I was walking my dog a butterfly landed on me. It landed on my head first, I watched it fly toward me and I was stunned when it landed because it was a huge orange, brown/black monarch. I reached up to touch it and it flew to my arm. I walked all over the yard with the butterfly on my arm. Does that mean anything, like I’m too sweet or special or something?

      • RalphB says:

        Thank goodness for Social Security!

        • bostonboomer says:

          The good news is I recently qualified for a Mass. Health buy-in, which means the state will pay for my Medicare premiums, some co-pays, and I get prescription coverage at no cost. Plus I’m going to get a refund on what I’ve paid to Medicare since May 1. Oh the joys of living in a blue state.

  5. bostonboomer says:
    • bostonboomer says:

      Breaking from Politico

      President Barack Obama has agreed to engage in discussions at the United Nations to “explore seriously the viability” of Russia’s proposal for Syria to hand over control of its chemical weapons to the international community, a White House official said Tuesday.

      Obama spoke to his French and British counterparts on Tuesday morning and “they agreed to work closely together, and in consultation with Russia and China” on a deal that would ensure the weapons’ “verifiable and enforceable destruction.”

      Efforts will begin Tuesday at the U.N. and will include discussion of a potential Security Council resolution.

      For more information… http://www.politico.com

      • dakinikat says:

        There’s still a Presidential prime time speech tonight. We’ll have to live blog it and see what the deal is

        • bostonboomer says:

          He’s going to have to do another revision now.

        • RalphB says:

          If I were Obama, I’d say I love the flag, NASCAR, that Lee Greenwood song, the Troops committed to overseas conflicts and liver, then would announce my newest public awareness campaign against people pissing on live light sockets.

  6. dakinikat says:

    That last article is based on the permanent income hypothesis which has been around for some time. The problem is that a lot of borrowing comes from corporations, government and other sources. Plus, there’s the fact that home prices are taking up a higher proportion of real incomes so those buying houses–not the elderly for the most part–also are a large portion of consumer borrowing. Plus, the huge growth borrowing is student loans. I’ll have to read the particulars, but I think that hypothesis is a bit of a stretch.

  7. RalphB says:

    Moving right along…

    ABC: Talking Diplomacy in Syria, Obama Goes to Congress

    Pushing military might and raising hopes it won’t be needed, President Barack Obama threw his support Tuesday behind a plan for U.N. Security Council talks aimed at securing Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, even as he pushed the fallback idea of U.S. airstrikes against Bashar Assad’s regime if that effort fails.

    Seizing on that two-track strategy, a bipartisan group of senators crafted a reworked congressional resolution calling for a U.N. team to remove the chemical weapons by a set deadline and authorizing military action if that doesn’t happen.

    Obama discussed the plan for U.N. talks with French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron before traveling to Capitol Hill to discuss diplomatic and military options with Democratic and Republican senators growing increasingly wary of U.S. military intervention. He was poised to address the American people from the White House on Tuesday night, still ready to press the case for congressionally-approved military action if diplomacy falls short. …

    • RalphB says:

      McCain’s becoming an ally. He was all for this as soon as word first went out yesterday.

      The bipartisan group drafting the measure included Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Democratic Senators Carl Levin of Michigan, Charles E. Schumer of New York Chris Coons of Delaware, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was in consultations.

  8. dakinikat says:


    Robert Scheer (agreeing with Peggy Noonan of all people)

    The use of chemical weapons cannot be ignored, even though the U.S. did just that decades ago when then-Mideast special envoy Donald Rumsfeld embraced Saddam Hussein after he deployed those heinous weapons on his own people and in his war with Iran. A strong response to the use of those weapons is in order, but instead of more violence that would inevitably kill innocent people, why not give peace a chance? At the very least, even if the Syrian government continues to deny responsibility for the chemical attacks, it must abandon its arsenal of these weapons that are inherently inhuman.

  9. RalphB says:

    Little more leftwing pundit hate, from The Nation. Rotten scum!

    Russia Trumps Obama War Plan

    It’s tempting to enjoy the moment, that is, the humiliation of President Obama and the short-circuiting of his war push by a brilliant coup conducted by Vladimir Putin, that sly old dog and ju-jitsu expert, along with Russia’s ally, Syria. President Obama might as well not bother giving his Oval Office speech tonight,

  10. Fannie says:

    Ralph, just reading the first two sentences of it, you can tell it’s slanted, and I wasn’t about to read the rest.

    • RalphB says:

      The Nation and The Weekly Standard probably agree that Obama is just terrible and on nothing else in the world. That tells me there’s something very right about Obama.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        Ralph….I think this is the beginning of an internal party schism. We’re about 2 years out from choosing up sides on who will be supported by the Dem power structure as the Democratic POTUS Candidate and from my vantage point Obama has positioned himself as a Clinton supporter. From all indications Hillary is totally behind Obama concerning his position on Syria and everything else. I don’t think Obama will turn his back on Biden, but I do think that Obama would prefer to hand over the reigns to Hillary. The internal politics of the Democratic Party is vicious, as we saw clearly when the powers picked Obama over Hillary in 2008, I’m not surprised at this sort of journalism, or whatever you want to call it, we’ve seen this ugly premature back biting before.

        • RalphB says:

          I think a lot of it is racism or classism. Part of the more ludicrous left I really think believes they should be speaking for those people not to them. The fact that Obama continues to be smarter than them has to be a blow to the big ego.

          Then again it could be a split like 2008?

  11. RalphB says:

  12. bostonboomer says:

    New post up above.