Sort of Odd?

Adam Serwer, writing at Greg Sargent’s place, writes:

It’s sort of odd that in an election where Democrats are doing badly because they failed to do more to revive the economy, they’re foundering for a message while facing opponents who are promising to do even less.

It is something more than sort of odd. It’s a demonstration of a truly massive failure to seize their opportunity, fix the economy, and make the Tea Party (or, even better, the Republican Party) electorally insignificant. And as a result, it’s likely that voters will end up voting in a party who only promises to make their lives and this economy worse. Yes, this is more than sort of odd.

Songs About Tibetan Unity

High Peaks Pure Earth has posted translations of two popular Tibetan songs about unity by prominent Tibetan musicians. Here’s a piece of the analysis:

Both songs share the same topic of unity amongst Tibetans but are markedly different in style. Whilst these two songs indicate that Tibetan identity and unity amongst all Tibetans were themes in songs both before and after the turbulent year for Tibetans with the protests of 2008, “Mentally Return” is the more cautious of the two songs in terms of the way the messages of the song are conveyed and the lyrics are arguably even more powerful and poetic in their subtlety. For example, in “Mentally Return”, the word “Tibet” (in Tibetan, bod) is never mentioned and instead, Tibet is referred to as the “bountiful land on the roof of the world” or the “Land of Snows”. The metaphor of the Tibetan circle dance is used to indicate unity and Tibet is also called both the fatherland and the mother – a place of comfort with the feeling of home. Tellingly, the singers are also from various parts of this “bountiful land”, Yadong, Kunga and Tsewang are from Kham and Gangshuk is from Amdo. Their places of origin in themselves are at odds with the map – none of them are from the place marked today as “Tibet” (Xizang in Chinese, known by Tibetans as U-Tsang, central Tibet).

On the other hand, Sherten’s 2010 song “The Sound of Unity” directly addresses “Tibetans” and boldly uses politically loaded phrases and words such as “three provinces”, “nation” and “freedom” – all studiously avoided by “Mentally Return” but implied nonetheless. Whereas “Mentally Return” inferred a unity that was related to an inner geography, “The Sound of Unity” literally calls on Tibetans traditionally of all three provinces Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang to unite and to draw strength from each other.

Today in Tibet, the cultural has become political. Music, art, poetry, film and writing have all become major channels for Tibetan political self-identification and expression. In response, the Chinese government has jailed dozens of leading intellectuals and artists, as well as prominent community leaders. But as the Chinese government’s crackdown on art and intellectual life with political intonations has increased, so too has the pace with which Tibetans are turning to culture as a means of expression.

It’s hard to imagine a situation in Tibet, short of the Dalai Lama returning, that is more frightening to the Chinese government than the one that is ongoing today. Culture is fueling a political awakening in Tibet and in turn, an increasing politicized Tibetan populace is turning to art, music, and poetry to express their political views in the open.


I watched almost all of Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally this past Saturday from the comfort of my living room. I’m not a conservative Christian and am obviously not the target of his speech, but it struck me as phenomenally long, rambling, and incoherent. There was no arc to it. The only takeaway in this ostensible non-political speech was that Beck thinks America is turning its back to God and, you know, America shouldn’t do that.

Greg Sargent has a great piece evaluating what Beck (and collaborator Sarah Palin) sought through their demagoguery. On the apolitical nature of the event, he writes:

Beck repeatedly claimed that his rally wasn’t meant to be “political.” As high-minded as that may sound, the real point of stressing the rally’s apolitical goals was political in nature. The idea was to relieve himself of the responsibility to pinpoint who, precisely, he wants his followers to blame for leading us away from God and for tarnishing our honor. Beck wants this all to be drawn by inference — classic political demagoguery.

I agree that this apolitical speech was actually very political in nature. But I think this isn’t about relieving Beck of responsibility for the conclusions his followers make vis a vis President Obama and the Democratic Party, though that is certainly a benefit of the speech. No, I think Beck’s apolitical rally was a massive call to the Religious Right in which Beck is saying: I am one of you, I have a soft side, I may be a Mormon, but I share the same concerns about God in American life.

It’s hard to imagine someone who is as high profile and as egomaniacal as Glenn Beck to not harbor some aspirations for higher office. He already casts himself as a martyr in waiting. Running for President (or Vice President) must not be too far from his mind. Unfortunately, the horse that is pulling his cart is the Tea Party, a political “movement” that is so far outside the American mainstream that association with it could be disqualifying for a national candidate. To soften his image and, more importantly, broaden his base, the “Restoring Honor” rally gave Beck the opportunity to embrace the Religious Right.

He’s made himself more of a mainstream Republican figure, at least on Saturday. We know that come tonight’s broadcast, he’ll be spewing the same hateful, dishonest invective against all Democrats (Christian or otherwise), labor unions, and progressive organizations. We shall see if the Religious Right welcomes him into their fold. We’ll see if his Tea Party supporters who shelled out hundreds if not thousands of dollars to travel to Washington to see Beck dish out red meat are still enthusiastic about his rambling sermonizing. We’ll see if this rally proves a jumping point for Beck to run for office. But for now, here are my predictions: The Religious Right won’t fully embrace Beck – sure, there will be some affiliation where there is common cause, but a Mormon isn’t going to become a figurehead leader of movement evangelicals. The Tea Party base that came out for Beck will stick around, because he’s going to be in Full Blown Hatred today about something or Other.  And in the end, Beck will talk about running for office at some point, but like most talk show hosts from Chris Matthews to Lou Dobbs, Beck will remember that it’s a lot nicer to sit in a comfy chair and talk than it is to put it on the line as a public figure. Time will tell, but I really hope that Beck comes nowhere near even thinking about running for higher office. It’s too scary a thought.

…Adding, Steve Benen points out that the early reception from thought leaders on the Religious Right is not going so great for Glenn Beck.

Scott McAdams

Steve Aufrecht of What Do I Know? shot this video of Alaska’s Democratic Senate nominee Scott McAdams in Anchorage on Wednesday. McAdams is the mayor of Sitka, Alaska, and though he isn’t widely known across the state like a couple other Alaskan mayors, he is the real deal.

Dave Weigel at Slate asks a good question:

Do you reach a point where $250,000 in Alaska is worth more than $250,000 to bail out Blanche Lincoln? I think you’re already there.

I hope the party is ready to get behind Scott McAdams. If he ends up facing Joe Miller there is no doubt that he can win. I met him briefly at Netroots Nation and was very impressed with him. All of the Alaskan bloggers I talk to think McAdams is a great candidate and a great Democrat. He would be a great representative for Alaska and a great addition to the Democratic caucus (especially when you think about what Joe Miller might do if he’s given a vote in the Senate).

I’ll be watching this race closely.

Chinese Police Shoot Tibetan Protesters, Killing 4, Injuring 30

This first broke earlier this week on Phayul, but Radio Free Asia now has more details. Chinese security forces opened fire on a crowd of Tibetans who were peacefully protesting in Palyul county. The Tibetans were protesting ” the expansion of a gold mining operation they say is harming the environment.” The shooting took place on August 17th and it is believed that 4 people were killed and as many as 30 more protesters were wounded in the shooting by Chinese security forces.

RFA reports that Palyul is being locked down by overwhelming Chinese security presence:

Drime Gyaltsen, a Tibetan monk living in India, said he was informed by sources in Palyul that additional security forces had been sent to the area to quell further unrest.

“Additional forces arrived from the neighboring Kardze and Dege counties. Right now all the roads leading to Palyul are blocked and residents are not allowed to move about freely,” he said.

An on-duty officer who answered the phone at the Palyul police station said he had only recently joined the force and was not fully informed regarding the confrontation.

“That incident is not resolved yet. I don’t know the details. You can call tomorrow when our senior officials come to our office,” he said.

The cause of the protests were concerns by local Tibetans of the damage mining activities were inflicting on the area.

The group complained that gold mining operations by the Chinese-owned Kartin Company had led to an overcrowded population, severely degraded the fertility of their farmland, and adversely affected the local grassland habitat.

“The county officials refused to hear their plea and, instead of listening to them, had the petitioners detained,” Drime Gyaltsen said.

“The Tibetan villagers saw this as deliberate bullying, and about 40 additional Tibetans arrived at the Palyul county center demanding the release of those detained and calling for officials to compensate them for the destruction of their land,” he said.

The group picketed in front of the county government office for three days, and in the early hours of the fourth day police used an incapacitating gas on the crowd and attempted to take them away in waiting vehicles, Drime Gyaltsen said.

“When some of the protesters affected by the gas were being forced into the vehicles, their comrades who were unaffected … resorted to shouting and began protesting. At that time, the police fired their weapons,” he said.

Tibetans are not consulted when Chinese mining (or logging or drilling etc) companies come to Tibet to extract Tibet’s natural resources. When Chinese companies (or Western companies for that matter) come to take Tibet’s natural resources, they bring cheap laborers from China. There is no consultation about where the mining can and should take place, leading to the destruction of Tibet’s sacred lands and spiritual places. Throw into the mix the consequences of mining – polluted water, degraded soil, reduced grazing lands and so on – and you have a mix that almost guarantees that indigenous Tibetans will reach a breaking point. Unfortunately, while the Tibetans in Palyul expressed their frustration in peaceful protest, Chinese security forces used homicidal violence to quell Tibetan dissent.

While a crackdown is ongoing in Palyul, RFA reports that local officials are negotiating with Tibetans and the Chinese government may begin an investigation into how mining is affecting the area. This is a step in the right direction, though I doubt it would have happened in the absence of Tibetans protesting the mining and the Chinese forces then murdering them. The inability for the Chinese government to find ways to develop Tibet with consultation of and input from local Tibetans is one of the kinetic forces that is going to continue to drive protest and Tibetan self-identification. This is a huge problem for the Chinese government and their continued military occupation of Tibet.

Bad Bai

Matt Bai is back and playing his best Adam Nagourney role of concern trolling Democratic politics and policies. This time his target is Social Security and, not shockingly, Bai adopts conservative deficit hawk talking points which are devoid of any basis in reality in order to make the case that any Democrats who oppose Social Security cuts are nuts. Dean Baker takes Bai to task over his assertion that Treasury Bills are “often referred to as i.o.u.’s”:

This is of course absurd. The business pages of major newspapers are full of references to Treasury bonds all the time. The bonds are never referred to as “i.o.u.’s.” The article then includes the bizarre assertion about government bonds that the only way for the government to make good on the bonds it has outstanding: “is to issue mountains of new debt or to take the money from elsewhere in the federal budget, or perhaps impose significant tax increases — none of which seem like especially practical options for the long term.”

Bai’s opinion, it is radically at odds with perceptions in financial markets. These markets view it as almost inconceiable that the government will not honor its bonds, which is why the interest rate on long-term bonds is near its lowest level in the last 60 years.

Bai also describes the process of the government selling bonds in this absurd manner:

So this is sort of like saying that you’re rich because your friend has promised to give you 10 million bucks just as soon as he wins the lottery.

No, selling trust fund bonds is more like you gave your friend $10 million and he’s promised to pay you back $10 million, plus interest.

Scarecrow at FireDogLake (as well as Dean Baker above) both have problems that the Times ran Bai’s piece as news, when it’s clear he’s editorializing and advancing political opinions that aren’t based in reality. Scarecrow writes:

This is the big con, folks, maybe the biggest con in an era of big cons, and it’s all designed to take money paid by middle class and seniors and put aside for their retirements, and use it as a cover for tax cuts for the richest people in America. Matt Bai just told us he is a dupe in that con, but what excuse do the New York Times editors have?

I don’t think it’s surprising that a reporter who likes punching hippies is punching hippies on our key issue. But there is a real question about how some of this bunk slipped its way past the Times’ editors.

Of Cows & Simpson

Keith Olbermann had a great segment last night on Social Security Deficit Commission co-chair Alan Simpson and his bizarre email rant attacking a Social Security and its beneficiaries as “a milk cow with 310 million tits.” Simpson has since offered a non-apology apology and the White House has said they will keep him on the panel.

I actually think that this is an OK outcome for those of us that don’t want to see Social Security cut. Simpson is a crank and clearly not a respectable character. But the more relevant side of this incident is that it reveals Simpson and the commission writ large as being incapable of thinking thoughtfully about the range of opinions on Social Security.  Eric Laursen points out some of the things beyond character that Simpson’s comments are instructive of the prejudices he brings into the commission:

So while they perhaps wouldn’t use quite the same language, it’s reasonable to suspect that many or even most of Simpson’s colleagues share the attitudes about Social Security that are reflected in his comments. The commission’s most important meetings are held in secret. It would be nice to know the substance of their discussions, but also the tone: Do they see Social Security recipients as human beings, or as leeches? Do they regard the program itself as a worthy enterprise, or as a multi-million-headed beast, sucking the taxpayer dry?

Do they have any sense of what life would be like for most Americans without old-age or survivors’ benefits?

It’s likely that were Simpson ousted, he would be replaced with someone who shared the very same opinions of Social Security, the misguided and ideologically driven assumption that it added to the deficit (it does not), and these prejudices would be masked by a demeanor less offensive than Simpson’s. That is, at least with Simpson we have a wolf in wolf’s clothing. A replacement might be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

As Laursen points out, the best way to ensure that Simpson’s prejudices are not dominant ones in the commission is for the commission to hold all of their meetings open to the public and the press. This should be happening anyway, but Simpson’s repeated outbursts make a shift towards openness critical. Otherwise it’s hard to conclude that the Fix is not already In.