Stevens: “I haven’t been convicted of anything”

Ted Stevens engages in what must be a late-in-the-game effort to break Begich voters’ jaws by causing them to hit the floor with previously unseen speeds that they remain hospitalized on election day:

“I’ve not been convicted yet,” Stevens said Thursday in a meeting with the editorial board of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. “There’s not a black mark by my name yet, until the appeal is over and I am finally convicted, if that happens. If that happens, of course I’ll do what’s right for Alaska and for the Senate. … I don’t anticipate it happening, and until it happens I do not have a black mark.”

Stevens reiterated that position during a televised debate late Thursday night, declaring early in the give-and-take with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, “I have not been convicted of anything.”

First, this is just factually and legally a lie. A big lie. Stevens is a convicted felon, seven times over. That’s what the whole trial in DC was about. As old as he is, I can’t imagine Stevens has forgotten the judge, the jury of his peers, the FBI tapes where he says to VECO CEO Bill Allen, “that the worst that could happen to the two was if anyone found what the company had done for him was that they’d have to spend a lot of money on lawyers – and perhaps serve a little jail time.”

Second, if we were to grant Ted Stevens his big lie, we would also be forced to concede that any number of murderers sitting on death row while appealing their convictions were, in fact, not convicted of anything. Except, you know, the sentence to death I suppose. I’m sure this is bully news for lots of those convicted felons on death row, though I’m not sure what it means from a practical standpoint.

Ted Stevens has been convicted of seven federal felony charges of corruption. The conviction by a jury of his peers was a statement of his breaking the trust with Alaskan citizens. That he has the audacity to flat out lie to Alaskan voters is simply appalling and offensive to the notions of both the rule of law and honest government. I never thought I’d have to go so far as to call out a convicted felon, but shame on Theodore Stevens. Stop lying. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to Jail.


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Concern Trolling Perfection

A few days ago my friend Fred Gooltz wrote about the great steps media outlets are going to appear balanced and in so doing fail miserably to report fact in politics.

Across town at the Old Gray Lady, the funniest headlines are the ones that try the hardest to not be criticized as liberal. The New York Times is apparently scared of being called liberal. How else to explain this headline:

Democrats See Risk and Reward if Party Sweeps

Holy. Slippery. Fuck. What!?

The point of a political parties is to win elections. This year, Democrats are going to win the big elections. To report such is not liberal. It is fact.

To feign an argument that a win for the Democrats is somehow a bad thing is so stupid that when the Philadelphia Phillies win the World Series on wednesday, and when there isn’t a pearl -clutching headline in the Times to the effect that:

Phillies Win, Worry Sinks In


Phillies Win, Will Phillies Lose?


Phillies Win, Lose

There’s a lot of this sort of nonsense going around and we’ll only see more of it into the election and in the immediate aftermath.

Chris Bowers of Open Left identified even more of this media concern trolling, both in terms of the Times’ article Fred posted about and bold pronouncements of risk for Obama purchasing 30 minutes of national tv time.

Look, the raison d’etre electorally focused political party is to win as many elections as possible. To argue that winning more seats is somehow a negative for any political party is exactly as stupid as arguing that it is bad for a sports team to win a championship. To even attempt an argument that winning an election is bad for a party is to enter the final level of concern troll mastery, where you begin to take on a light glow. …

Arguing that tonight’s commercial could hurt Obama is akin to arguing that campaigning at all could hurt Obama. It doesn’t quite give you the concern troll mastery glow, but it does mean you have almost achieved that level.

What has to be recognized in this is that this sort of coverage doesn’t stop after the election. Every positive action Obama and the Democratic majority take will be met in the press by some level of concern trolling about the potential risks associated with it. The source of these concern troll narratives will be the Republican Party, conservative business lobbies, and Blue Dog Democrats who will seek to undermine the progressive parts of Obama’s agenda.

It’s going to be a rough ride, folks, and we need to prepare for previously unimagined levels of stupidity from the punditocracy.


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The Palin-Giuliani Simulacrum

Maybe it’s not a worthwhile comparison, but for a few months after 9/11 Rudy Giuliani was a national celebrity. Those few months gave birth to a presidential campaign.

Sarah Palin was a national celebrity for a few weeks following being picked as McCain’s running mate (and has since been defined by series of train wrecks outside the Republican base). Those few weeks when she was a star, though, may bring about a presidential run.

Does anyone think that Palin could fair better than Giuliani? Her natural base is much wider than his would be, but his celebrity didn’t arise from a partisan moment. Moreover, Giuliani’s quasi-fascistic tenure as Mayor of New York City never received the same level of scrutiny concurrent with his celebration as America’s Mayor.

My guess? Palin will start off a less viable presidential candidate than Rudy Giuliani did, but would have more staying power. She’d be in competition with Mike Huckabee for support of the religious right, but there are a lot of men who will continue to support her because she winks at them.

I envision a Palin presidential campaign to be something like the offspring of  the Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and Bill Richardson presidential campaigns. Like Rudy, it would be driven by an overwhelming sense of entitlement based on short-term celebrity, yet met with the odd reality that the more people get to know the candidate, the less they like her. Like Thompson, it will carry itself by on high theater, but be as substantive as wet cardboard. And like Bill Richardson, it will be so filled with gaffes and misstatements that even her opponents will hang their head in sorrow for the poor gal.

Palin 2012? You betcha!

The Obama Campaign in One Video

I’m fighting back tears watching this video of an Obama campaign named Charles from Boulder, Colorado.

This video is a distillation of the entire Obama message — change, hope, bringing people together. But that’s not what makes it powerful. What makes it powerful is that unlike a campaign ad or debate soundbite, this is true, demonstrably true. Attaturk is right:

I’ve yet to see a McCain ad that emits on one-hundredth of the emotional pull of this simple video, and contrary to what the McCain Campaign and rightwing pundits claim, McCain’s emotional ads are always about why he deserves to be President, never why we will have a better country when he is President.

McCain’s ads can’t do this, cannot be this emotionally powerful because they just wouldn’t be true.

Via Attaturk and Digby.

Republicans Against Stevens

Credit where credit is due – national Republicans have been pulling no punches when it comes to their reaction to Ted Stevens’ conviction on seven felony counts of corruption.

Senator John McCain:

“It is clear that Senator Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will be spurred by these events to redouble their efforts to end this kind of corruption once and for all.”

Sarah Palin:

“As Governor of the State of Alaska, I will carefully now monitor the situation and I’ll take any appropriate action as needed. In the meantime, I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system and I’m confident that Senator Stevens from this point on will do the right thing for the people of Alaska,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

“This is a sad but serious day. Sen. Stevens was found guilty by a jury of his peers, and now must face the consequences of those actions. As a result of his conviction, Sen. Stevens will be held accountable so the public trust can be restored.”

NRSC Chair John Ensign:

National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman John Ensign (Nev.) offered a strong condemnation of Stevens and seemed to hint that this conviction would lead to his defeat.

“This is a sad day for the United States Senate,” said Ensign. “Ted Stevens served his constituents for over 40 years and I am disappointed to see his career end in disgrace.”

Of course, these people have to distance themselves from their friend and colleague as he is lead off to jail. Ted Stevens is a losing commodity nationally. He is an anchor to be hung around the necks of McCain, Palin, McConnell, and Ensign. That they turn around at try to bury his connections to them is a political necessity. I don’t know how well it will work for them, but at least they’re generally saying the right things.

What hasn’t been done yet is honest talk by McCain and Palin about what comes next:

  1. Will Sarah Palin vote for Ted Stevens for Senate?
  2. Will McCain pledge to not pardon Ted Stevens?
  3. Will McCain and Palin specifically ask President Bush to not pardon Ted Stevens?
  4. Will Palin begin immediate efforts to encourage the Anchorage International Airport to be renamed, in consultation with the Municipality of Anchorage?

Hopefully some intrepid reporters will be asking the Republican ticket these questions.


Palin pushes more chips into the pot, calling on Stevens to resign even if he’s reelected:

“I had hoped Senator Stevens would take the opportunity to do the statesman-like thing and erase the cloud that is covering his Senate seat,” she said in a statement. “Alaskans are grateful for his decades of public service, but the time has come for him to step aside. Even if elected on Tuesday, Senator Stevens should step aside to allow a special election to give Alaskans a real choice of who will serve them in Congress.”

No word yet if Palin will vote for Stevens before he resigns.

Forever Discredited

Nick Kristof really has no business writing about Sino-Tibetan relations. He has limited academic knowledge, effectively zero personal connections to Tibet, and never bothers to disclose that he’s married to a Chinese American woman. But frankly, all of that is miniscule in terms of what Kristof reveals of his personal biases in a post he put up on his NY Times blog yesterday. In writing on the falling apart diplomatic situation between Beijing and the Tibetan Government in Exile following the Dalai Lama’s comments about losing faith in Beijing’s willingness to ever budge off its absolutist position on the occupation of Tibet, Kristof consistently writes from the premise that Tibetans will turn to violence. He paints in broad brushes and does so without a hint of grounding in evidence of how Tibetans inside and outside of Tibet have pursued independence over the last thirty years.

But, frankly, Kristof’s continued efforts to create Conventional Wisdom that says Tibetans will turn to violence if the Dalai Lama dies without returning to Tibet is beside the point next to the goals Kristof believes ought to be met to preclude such violence. Kristof writes:

I and others have outlined the terms — basically, the Dalai Lama accepts Beijing’s political rule over Tibet and thus grants legitimacy, and China does more to protect Tibetan culture, religion and way of life, particularly from immigration. It’s precisely the kind of agreement that Mao reached in 1951 and that Deng Xiaoping/Hu Yaobang were pushing at the beginning of the reform era, and it would leave everybody better off.

If this is Kristof’s idea of resolution, all he’s really asking for is for the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet with vague assurances that Tibetan religion, language, and culture will be protected in ways it is already protected on paper by Chinese law.  That is, take the brutal situation in Tibet today, add a splash of Dalai Lama, and Kristof thinks all will be right in the world.

Moreover, look at what Kristof sets out as an ideal: the 17 Point Agreement signed in 1951. What is a defining feature of this agreement? It was signed under duress and lacks no international standing. Here’s some history from a white paper by the Tibetan Government in Exile, which would be the definitive source on what agreements agents of the Tibetan people and government took part in.

In April 1951, the Tibetan Government sent a five-member delegation to Beijing, led by Kalon Ngapo Ngawang Jigme. The Tibetan Government authorised its delegation to put forward the Tibetan stand and listen to the Chinese position. But, contrary to the claim made in the White Paper that the delegation had “full powers,” it was expressly not given the plenipotentiary authority to conclude an agreement. In fact, it was instructed to refer all important matters to the Government.

On 29 April negotiations opened with the presentation of a draft agreement by the leader of the Chinese delegation. The Tibetan delegation rejected the Chinese proposal in toto, after which the Chinese tabled a modified draft that was equally unacceptable to the Tibetan delegation. At this point, the Chinese delegates, Li Weihan and Zhang Jin-wu, made it plain that the terms, as they now stood, were final and amounted to an ultimatum. The Tibetan delegation was addressed in harsh and insulting terms, threatened with physical violence, and members were virtually kept prisoners. No further discussion was permitted, and, contrary to Chinese claims, the Tibetan delegation was prevented from contacting its Government for instructions. It was given the onerous choice of either signing the “Agreement” on its own authority or accepting responsibility for an immediate military advance on Lhasa.

Under immense Chinese pressure the Tibetan delegation signed the “Agreement of the Central People’s Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” on 23 May 1951, without being able to inform the Tibetan Government. The delegation warned the Chinese that they were signing only in their personal capacity and had no authority to bind either the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan Government to the “Agreement”.

None of this posed an obstacle to the Chinese Government to proceed with a signing ceremony and to announce to the world that an “agreement” had been concluded for the “peaceful liberation of Tibet”. Even the seals affixed to the document were forged by the Chinese Government to give it the necessary semblance of authenticity. The seventeen clauses of the “Agreement”, among other things, authorised the entry into Tibet of Chinese forces and empowered the Chinese Government to handle Tibet’s external affairs. On the other hand, it guaranteed that China would not alter the existing political system in Tibet and not interfere with the established status, function, and powers of the Dalai Lama or the Panchen Lama. The Tibetan people were to have regional autonomy, and their religious beliefs and customs were to be respected. Internal reforms in Tibet would be effected after consultation with leading Tibetans and without compulsion.

The full text of what came to be known as the “Seventeen-Point Agreement” was broadcast by Radio Beijing on 27 May 1951. This was the first time the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government heard of the devastating document. The reaction in Dromo (where the Dalai Lama was staying at that time) and Lhasa was one of shock and disbelief.

A message was immediately sent to the delegation in Beijing, reprimanding them for signing the “Agreement” without consulting the Government for instructions. The delegation was asked to send the text of the document they had signed, and wait in Beijing for further instructions. In the meantime, a telegraphic message was received from the delegation to say that the Chinese Government representative, General Zhang Jin-wu, was already on his way to Dromo, via India. It added that some of the delegation members were returning, via India, and the leader of the delegation was returning directly to Lhasa.

The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government withheld the public repudiation of the “Agreement”. The Dalai Lama returned to Lhasa on 17 August 1951 in the hope of re-negotiating a more favourable treaty with the Chinese.

On 9 September 1951, around 3,000 Chinese troops marched into Lhasa, soon followed by some 20,000 more, from eastern Tibet and from Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang) in the north. The PLA occupied the principal cities of Ruthok and Gartok, and then Gyangtse and Shigatse. With the occupation of all the major cities of Tibet, including Lhasa, and large concentration of troops throughout eastern and western Tibet, the military control of Tibet was virtually complete. From this position, China refused to re-open negotiations and the Dalai Lama had effectively lost the ability to either accept or reject any Tibet-China agreement. However, on the first occasion he had of expressing himself freely again, which came only on 20 June 1959, after his flight to India, the Dalai Lama formally repudiated the “Seventeen-Point Agreement”, as having been “thrust upon Tibetan Government and people by the threat of arms”.

In assessing the “17-Point Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” and the occupation of Tibet two factors are crucial. First, the extent to which China was violating international law when the PLA marched into Tibet, and second, the effect of the signing of the “Agreement”.

The law governing treaties is based on the universally recognised principle that the foundation of conventional obligations is the free and mutual consent of contracting parties and, conversely, that freedom of consent is essential to the validity of an agreement. Treaties brought about by the threat or the use of force lack legal validity, particularly if the coercion is applied to the country and government in question rather than only on the negotiators themselves. With China occupying large portions of Tibet and openly threatening a full military advance to Lhasa unless the treaty was signed, the “agreement” was invalid ab initio, meaning that it could not even be validated by a later act of acquiescence by the Tibetan Government.

Contrary to China’s claim in its White Paper, the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government did not act voluntarily in signing the “Agreement”. In fact, Mao Zedong himself, in the Directive of Central Committee of CPC on the Policies for our Work in Tibet, issued on 6 April 1952, admitted:

(N)ot only the two Silons (i.e., prime ministers) but also the Dalai and most of his clique were reluctant to accept the Agreement and are unwilling to carry it out. … As yet we do not have a material base for fully implementing the agreement, nor do we have a base for this purpose in terms of support among the masses or in the upper stratum. [Selected Works of Mao Tsetung, Vol. 5, Foreign Language Press, Peking, 1977, p.75] [Emphasis added]

So, to back up, Kristof is putting forth an agreement signed under duress by a delegation that was not empowered to act on behalf of the Tibetan government. Discussion of the agreement was ceased following the Tibetan delegation’s objections to its content and the Chinese government, with troops poised at the border, threatened to invade Tibet and topple the Tibetan government if the delegation did not sign the agreement. The agreement itself, when signed under duress by people with no authority to approve the contents of the agreement, included provisions that allowed for the invasion of Tibet. Which is what Mao and the PLA did — invaded Tibet, conquering cities, defeating strong armed resistance across eastern Tibet in Kham and Amdo.

While the 17 Point Agreement did include some cursory protections for Tibetan religion and culture, they were never met. The only thing that came true out of the agreement made by Mao in 1951 that Kristof approvingly cites is that the PLA invaded Tibet. By citing the 1951 “agreement” Kristof reveals his lack of competence to write about Tibet. There are many histories which corroborate the narrative of diplomatic efforts laid out above. Kristof is fetishizing an illegal document that lead to a military invasion because it included the patina of language protecting religion and culture. Which, if Kristof were at least passingly familiar with the Cultural Revolution’s manifestations in Tibet, he would know never did one damned thing for protecting Tibetans under Chinese military occupation.

Nick Kristof is a joke. He has no business writing about Tibet and China. Every time he does, he reveals himself to be ignorant of modern Tibetan history, contemporary Sino-Tibetan relations, and the current desires of Tibetans inside Tibet and in exile. This is beyond embarrassing. This is the sort of punditry that leads to good people saying nothing while genocide, crime, and cultural destruction are committed. It’s time for Kristof’s editors at the New York Times get him to stop writing about Tibet.