They Write Op-Eds

Tenzin Tsundue of Friends of Tibet India is one of the Tibetan exile community’s strongest young voices for independence. He has a powerful op-ed on China’s occupation of Tibet and the history of Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule in the Indian weekly news magazine Tehelka.

The protestors of the 2008 uprising knew they, too, would suffer loss of life, incarceration and torture. Yet shepherds born under Mao — who had never seen the Tibetan flag — photocopied the design from a book smuggled into Tibet and flew it gaily in the air. A friend’s uncle, a nomad from a remote mountain region in Amdo, reported on the phone that since there were no Chinese in the mountains, he was running about with other nomads searching for them. The group hoped to “raise our fists and shout in their faces: ‘Chinese Go Home!’”

The 2008 uprising happened in the wake of the failing “dialogue process” between Dharamsala and Beijing. It historically signifies Tibetans’ rejection of Beijing’s bribes of material comforts and individual security. They repudiated Beijing’s lofty claims of development and its “gifts” like modern schools, hospitals, highways, shopping malls, discotheques and the much-admired railway linking Lhasa and Beijing. The Chinese Government described the people’s uprising as a “disturbance” instigated by the “Dalai Clique,” thereby belittling the Tibetan nation’s aspirations and insulting the ­intelligence of the six million Tibetans inside Tibet. This is symptomatic of colonial powers that treat colonies as treasure islands and their citizens as exotic beasts on leashes.

Beyond his report on Tibetan’s unrelenting patriotism, this paragraph on young Tibetans’ pursuit of their birthright stood out to me as one of the best encapsulations of what Tibetans seeking independence think in contrast to the TGIE’s search for an autonomous solution.

Beijing is not confident enough to invite the Dalai Lama to Tibet or China and has repeatedly rejected his autonomy proposal. Most Tibetan youth believe they can regain their identity and dignity of life through independence, and that without independence Tibet will die under the Chinese weight. Tomorrow, even if autonomy is granted, our struggle for Independence will continue in Tibet. The Tibetan people’s struggle to re-establish their lost independence is, therefore, not a secessionist movement — the difference is more philosophical than ideological.

Many prominent Tibet Support Groups advocate independence, not merely autonomy.  While achieving meaningful autonomy for Tibet would be a great step, many of these groups would continue to campaign for independence until it was achieved. Individual Tibetans would not cease their pursuit for freedom because a facsimile of it was given to them. Autonomy is a political solution to the problem that continued Chinese occupation of Tibet will almost certainly result in the annihilation of the Tibetan people and culture. But autonomy is not a human right — self-determination is. Until Tibetans are given their right of self-determination, there will be a moral imperative for Tibetans and their supporters to continue to campaign for Tibetan independence. As Tsundue wrote, this is a philosophical movement and it will not cease.

China’s Global Cyber Spying

The story has been circulating for a few days, but I wanted to highlight it anyway. The Tibetan Government in Exile, other world governments, and many Tibet Support Groups have been the target of malicious cyber attacks and spying from China. The New York Times has a long piece on China’s GhostNet and the research team at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto who have been tracking it. Here’s an excerpt:

The newly reported spying operation is by far the largest to come to light in terms of countries affected.

This is also believed to be the first time researchers have been able to expose the workings of a computer system used in an intrusion of this magnitude.

Still going strong, the operation continues to invade and monitor more than a dozen new computers a week, the researchers said in their report, “Tracking ‘GhostNet’: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network.” They said they had found no evidence that United States government offices had been infiltrated, although a NATO computer was monitored by the spies for half a day and computers of the Indian Embassy in Washington were infiltrated.

The malware is remarkable both for its sweep — in computer jargon, it has not been merely “phishing” for random consumers’ information, but “whaling” for particular important targets — and for its Big Brother-style capacities. It can, for example, turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of an infected computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room. The investigators say they do not know if this facet has been employed.

The researchers were able to monitor the commands given to infected computers and to see the names of documents retrieved by the spies, but in most cases the contents of the stolen files have not been determined. Working with the Tibetans, however, the researchers found that specific correspondence had been stolen and that the intruders had gained control of the electronic mail server computers of the Dalai Lama’s organization.

The electronic spy game has had at least some real-world impact, they said. For example, they said, after an e-mail invitation was sent by the Dalai Lama’s office to a foreign diplomat, the Chinese government made a call to the diplomat discouraging a visit. And a woman working for a group making Internet contacts between Tibetan exiles and Chinese citizens was stopped by Chinese intelligence officers on her way back to Tibet, shown transcripts of her online conversations and warned to stop her political activities.

China Hand at the China Matters blog also has a long analysis of China’s GhostNet and the research into it that’s worth a read.

The full University of Toronto report can be viewed here. Researchers at Cambridge University who participated in the Munk research have published their own independent report as well: “The snooping dragon: social-malware surveillance of the Tibetan movement.”

Perfect Contrast

Just after hitting publish on the post below on the country’s love for President Obama qua partisan Democrat, I read this post by Chris Bowers at Open Left about the craven and cynical positioning of Democratic Senators Reid and Bayh to disingenuously appeal to moderate voters in their home states. Bowers notes, “Democrats keep saying, in public, that the only reason they support certain positions is to trick people into thinking that they are moderate.” This isn’t to say that these sorts of Democrats are actually liberal. Rather they are most likely without any strong ideology and are simply creatures of politics.  This is, again, the group that I think is a key audience for the Rasmussen poll that shows strong support for Obama’s governance as a strong Democrat. Rather than going out and lying to the public about where they really stand, senators like Bayh and Reid should stand up for real Democratic values, which at some point in their lives these politicians must have held strongly enough to decide to go into public service. President Obama is proving that this is what the American public wants. Democratic “moderates” shouldn’t stand in Obama’s way for the sake of doing what they wrongly believe makes home state voters happy. Now is the time for them to stand up for the President’s agenda and show America what real Democratic governance looks like, free from hemming, backroom deals, and cynical posturing.

A Radical Idea

This Rasmussen poll gives strength to the long-standing netroots critique of timid Democrats – namely that by standing strongly for Democratic principles and by being an unapologetic partisan for a Democratic agenda, Democrats can succeed at a higher rate than we currently do. There’s a strong case to be made that our electoral successes of 2006 and 2008 came on the backs of Democrats being willing to create strong points of contrast with Republican incumbents. But now we see that this applies to governance, too. The poll shows that 11% more Americans think President Obama is “governing as a partisan Democrat” than two months ago, while simultaneously showing an increased approval rating of Obama. Which is to say that Obama has become more popular, not less, for being a Democrat who stands up for his beliefs about how to steward the country.

There are two relevant audiences for the meaning of this information: the press and the Democratic establishment (of which the White House is a subset). The media needs to start recognizing that Obama is under no obligation to govern as a post-partisan – he can stand up for his ideas and he should be judged according to his willingness and ability to realize them — as opposed to, say, judging him on his ability to live up to John McCain’s campaign progresses (see: no earmarks in the budget). Simultaneously, the Democratic establishment and especially the White House need to see this data as a sign that they have to be forceful in their pursuit of a progressive agenda, unapologetically. As Oliver Willis has long said, we’re right. Let’s not forget that.

Educating on Employee Free Choice, Part 24

Representative Donna Edwards, in a live chat on FireDogLake, talked about the Employee Free Choice Act. Edwards is the most progressive member of Congress and a strong advocate for working Americans. Her case for Employee Free Choice was clear, as was her perspective on the opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act.

I know everyone has seen all the ads — slick, aggressive and a pack of untruths. The opposition claims that somehow workers won’t be able to choose a secret ballot — as though somehow a secret ballot with your employer standing over your shoulder makes the election legitimate. The Employee Free Choice Act is about workers choosing how they want to organize, either by signing up or casting a ballot — either way, it would be the workers’ choice and not the boss’.

While this series has focused on the merits of the Employee Free Choice Act, I think this political point from Rep. Edwards bears repeating.

We have problems on the Senate side on a lot of things. It’s time to call the bluff on the filibuster so we can pass important legislation with the majority we have. As long as we are held by the grips of fewer than a handful of quixotic Senators, it will be even tougher to get measures out of the House.

This is key. It’s clear that the debate on the Employee Free Choice Act is being waged on the margins with about 10 senators and no one else. These senators are only important because of the Republican use of the filibuster to stop proceding to debate on the Act in the Senate. As a result, a few swing votes are shaping the course of this critical election, when a clear majority supports the Act. Unless there’s a way around the Republican filibuster, it’s likely that working Americans will be handed a watered-down bill that doesn’t give them the rights and protections they need and deserve.

Smoke and Mirrors

I know the GOP has had a pretty good run of winning over the Inside the Beltway crowd over the last sixteen years through smoke and mirrors in lieu of actual substance, but that doesn’t mean it will always work. Budgets have numbers and you can only hype smoke and mirrors so long. When you show the press that you’ve hyped nothing, you look like the ideologically bankrupt fools that you are.