China Censoring Tibetan Blogs

Dechen Pemba, writing at Global Voices, reports that the Chinese government has recently shut down a large number of prominent Tibetan language blogs and blog hosting services. Pemba tells us what is particularly suspicious and disturbing about this series of events:

Quite alarming to report that all of the most popular Tibetan language blog hosting sites (except one) have been inaccessible for almost three weeks now.

Although it is fairly common practice for Tibetan language blog hosting sites to be taken down (sometimes for “maintenance”) at times deemed sensitive by the authorities (see ‘All Quiet on the Tibetan Blog Front‘), this month holds no particular political significance as far as I can see.

Pemba includes a number of screenshots of the silenced Tibetan blogs. Additionally, and perhaps coincidentally, she reports that the Chinese government has, for the first time, launched a Tibetan language version of the state rag, People’s Daily.

As Dechen notes, this censorship is happening at a time where the online space is a particularly critical outlet amidst a tightly controlled Tibetan plateau. The Chinese government is shutting down not only the particular bloggers whose writing and politics they don’t like, but entire avenues for discussion online. The vacuum of news and discourse for Tibetans is simultaneously being replaced by official Chinese government propaganda outlets. These are not welcome developments and a clear sign that the Chinese government is seeking to tighten its control on Tibet as a means of preventing any further protests or disturbances by the occupied people.

Dodd’s Eulogy of Kennedy

Senator Chris Dodd delivered this speech Friday night at the memorial for Senator Kennedy in Boston. It’s a great tribute from one of Ted Kennedy’s closest friends in the world and a sign of what three plus decades of collaboration can achieve for a nation.

Tonight, we gather to celebrate the incredible American story of a man who made so many other American stories possible, my friend Teddy Kennedy.

Unlike his beloved brothers, his sister Kathleen, and his nephews, Teddy was granted the gift of time – he lived, as the Irish poet suggested, not just to comb gray hair, but white hair.

And if you look at what he achieved in his 77 years, it seems, at times, as if he lived for centuries.

Generations of historians will chronicle his prolific efforts on behalf of others. I will leave that to them.

Tonight, I just want to share some thoughts about my friend.

And what a friend he has been – a friend of unbridled empathy, optimism, and full-throated joy.

Examples of his friendship are legion.

Many years ago, a close friend of mine passed away. Teddy didn’t know him.

I was asked to say a few words at the funeral.

As long as I live, I will never forget that, as I stood at the pulpit and looked out over the gathering, there was Teddy, sitting in the back of the church.

He wasn’t there for my friend. He was there for me, at my time of loss.

That was what it was like to have Teddy in your corner.

When our daughters Grace and Christina were born, first call I received was from Teddy.

When I lost the Iowa caucuses last year, not that anyone thought I was going to win, first call I received was from Teddy and Vicki.

When my sister passed away last month, first call I received was from Teddy, even though he was well into the final summer of his own life.

And two weeks ago, as I was coming out of surgery, I got a call from Teddy, his unique voice as loud and booming as ever.

“Well,” he roared, “Between going through prostate cancer surgery and doing town hall meetings, you made the right choice!”

And though he was dying, and I was hurting, he had me howling with laughter in the recovery room as he made a few choice comments, I cannot repeat, about catheters.

As we all know, Teddy had a ferocious sense of humor.

In 1994, he was in the political fight of his life against Mitt Romney.

Before the first debate, held in Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall, I was with Teddy and his team and, along with everyone else, offering him advice.

“Teddy,” I cautioned, “We Irish always talk too fast. Even if you know the answer to a question, you have to pause, slow down, and appear thoughtful.”

Out he went, and, of course, the first question was something like this: “Senator, you’ve served the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for nearly 35 years in the United States Senate. Explain, then, why this race is so close.”

Teddy paused. And paused. And paused. Five seconds. Ten seconds.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he answered.

After the debate, I said, “Good Lord, Teddy, I didn’t mean pause that long after the first question! What were you thinking about?”

He looked at me and replied, “I was thinking – that’s a damn good question! Why IS this race so close?”

In these last months of his life, I have so treasured our conversations.

At 6:30 in the morning of July 16th, the morning after his Senate health care committee finished five weeks of exhausting work on the bill he had written, and that I believe will be the greatest of his many legacies, my phone rang.

There was Teddy, beyond ecstatic that we had finished our work, and that his committee had been the first to report a bill.

Always the competitor.

Teddy was never maudlin or self-pitying about his illness, but he was always fully aware of what was happening.

Every Irishman’s dream, of course, is to attend our own eulogies. That’s why we call the obituary page the Irish sports page.

And I know he enjoyed a uniquely Celtic kick out of hearing people who abhorred his politics say incredibly nice things about him.

Volumes, of course, will be published by those attempting to unlock the mystery of why Teddy was such an effective legislator.

Was it his knowledge of parliamentary procedure? His political instincts? His passionate oratory? His staff?

Please let me save the pundits and political scientists some time – and all of you some money – and tell you what Teddy’s secret was: People liked him.

Now, he always had a great staff, and great ideas, but that only counts for so much in the United States Senate, if you lack the respect and admiration of your colleagues.

And Teddy earned that respect.

He arrived in Washington as the 30-year-old brother of a sitting president and the attorney general of the United States.

Too many people drew their conclusions about him before he spoke his first words in the Senate.

And over the years, he became a target of partisans who caricatured him as a dangerous liberal.

Now, liberal he was, and very proud of it!

But once you got to know him, as his Senate colleagues did, you quickly learned he was no caricature.

He was a warm, passionate, thoughtful, tremendously funny man who loved his country, and loved the United States Senate.

If you ever needed to find Teddy in the Senate chamber, all you had to do was to listen for that distinctive thunderclap of a laugh, echoing across that hallowed hall as he charmed his colleagues – and, more often than not, got them to vote for whatever it was he was pushing that day.

He served in the Senate for almost a half-century alongside liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, and he befriended them with equal gusto.

It’s great to see his friends Senators Orrin Hatch and John McCain here.

It is to their great credit that they so often supported Teddy’s efforts.

And, I say in some jest, it is to Teddy’s great credit that he so rarely supported theirs.

But Teddy’s personal friendships with Orrin and John, and so many other conservatives, weren’t simply the polite working relationships that make politics possible.

They are the real and lasting bonds that make the United States Senate work.

That’s what made Teddy one of our greatest Senators ever.

Some people born with a famous name live off of it. Others enrich theirs. Teddy enriched his.

And, as we begin the task of summing up all that he has done for his country, perhaps we can begin by acknowledging this:

John Fitzgerald Kennedy inspired our America; Robert Kennedy challenged our America; and Teddy changed our America.

Teddy was involved in every major debate in the last half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st.

Nearly every important law passed in the last half century bears his mark, and a great many of them bear his name.

Teddy was defined by his love of our country, his passion for public service, his abiding faith, and his family.

His much-adored Vicki, his children Kara, Teddy, and Patrick, his step-children Caroline and Curran, his grandchildren, nieces and nephews – all of you need to know, you brought him unbounded joy and pleasure.

Teddy was a man who lived for others.

He was a champion for countless people who otherwise might not have had one, and he never quit on them, never gave up on the belief that we could make tomorrow a better day. Never.

Last August in Denver, one year to the day before his passing, Teddy spoke at our national convention.

His gait was shaky, but his blue eyes were clear, and his unmistakable voice rang with strength.

As he passed the torch to another young president, Teddy said: “The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.”

He spoke of the great fight of his life – ensuring that every American, regardless of their economic status, is guaranteed the right to decent health care.

We are all so saddened that he did not live to see that won.

But in a few short days, we will return to our work in Teddy’s Senate.

The blistering days of August will be replaced, I pray, by the cooler days of September.

And we will prevail in the way Teddy won so many victories for our country: by listening to each other; by respecting each other and the seriousness of the institution to which we belong, and where Teddy earned an immortal place in American history.

As he so eloquently eulogized his brother Bobby 40 years ago, Teddy doesn’t need to be enlarged in death beyond what he was in life.

We will remember him for the largeness of his spirit, the depth of his compassion, his persistence in the face of adversity, and the breadth of his achievement.

We will remember him as a man who understood better than most that America is a place of incredible opportunity, hope, and redemption.

He labored tirelessly to make those dreams a reality for everyone.

Those dreams, the ones he spoke of throughout his life, live on like the eternal flame that marks President Kennedy’s grave, the flame that Teddy and Bobby lit 46 years ago.

And in all the years I knew and loved him, that eternal flame has never failed to burn brightly in Teddy’s eyes.

Now, as he re-joins his brothers on the hillside in Arlington, may the light from that flame continue to illuminate our path forward.

And with the work of our own hands, and the help of God, inspired by Teddy’s example, may we lift up this great country that my friend Teddy loved so much.

Honoring Kennedy

Jake McIntyre at Daily Kos has a very important post that should help shape how we as a country think of Ted Kennedy’s memory and how we seek to honor his life’s work in coming days and years. The emphasis should be on passing legislation on the three areas Kennedy most championed over his career, the Teddy Trilogy: healthcare, labor, and immigration. McIntyre says it is not possible to honor Kennedy and oppose universal healthcare, giving all Americans the right to organize in their workplace, and pass comprehensive immigration reform that is just and fair.

More importantly, I like McIntyre’s take on framing how we must have a political memory of Ted Kennedy. He was a true liberal leader and he must be honored as such; his memory cannot be sanitized by Republicans seeking to diminish the political philosophy he fought tirelessly for until his final day.

When Paul Wellstone died they told us that we couldn’t celebrate him him as a political actor, that to do so would be crass and opportunistic. But the entire reason we knew Paul Wellstone, the reason we were crushed by his passing, was his political activism. It would have been a lie not to celebrate that legacy. It would have been crass to act as if Paul Wellstone hadn’t been first and foremost a progressive hero, to feign nonchalance over political concerns as we eulogized the man, and in so doing stripping him of his essence. Likewise, it would be a lie today to pretend that the reason we loved Ted Kennedy had nothing to do with his leadership for working people. And it would be crass to attempt to celebrate him with mere words, rather than the action he demanded from us in life. How can we not “politicize” his legacy? The man was who he was because of his wholehearted commitment to his politics. The real obscenity — the real opportunism — would be for his political opponents to now try and depoliticize a quintessentially political life.

This is actually reminiscent of a line from Senator Patrick Leahy’s statement yesterday on Kennedy’s death.

The powerful have never lacked champions. Ted Kennedy was a champion for ordinary Americans and for those who struggle. He believed everyone in this great land deserves the opportunity to pursue the American Dream.

Kennedy’s greatness was in no small driven by his moral commitment to helping those who were without privilege, without defender. That he came from one of America’s most successful families only underscores his commitment to public service to help preserve the American Dream for everyone. His life-long pursuit of service in honor of those who had less than him, even after his family had paid in blood three brothers to that cause, is a testament to his commitment to his beliefs.

Members of Congress, especially Democratic ones, need to honor Ted Kennedy’s lifetime of service by pressing forward with truly progressive legislation in the areas of healthcare, labor, and immigration. We need healthcare reform that includes major regulation of the insurance industry and Kennedy Insurance (formerly known as the public option). We need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, so America’s workers can come together to make their lives better. And we need comprehensive immigration reform that will ensure our country continues to be a melting pot for people who seek to realize the American Dream and work to have a better future. These are all goals that speak to the beliefs, efforts, and principles that defined Ted Kennedy’s life. To pursue these is to honor Senator Kennedy. But to fail to achieve these is to do disservice to his memory.

China Pressuring Taiwan on Dalai Lama Visit

It’s not surprising that the Beijing government is pressuring the Taiwanese government to rescind their invitation to the Dalai Lama to come visit their country. Despite the fact that the Dalai Lama has visited Taiwan twice in the last twelve years, the Chinese government is now actively waging a campaign against the Dalai Lama. One of the key planks in their strategy is to get him dis-invited from visits to countries that he has previously visited without objection. Recently this pressure has been used to get South Africa and Belgium to drop their invitations to His Holiness. The Chinese government has also pressured France, Australia, the United States, and other European countries regarding visits by the Dalai Lama or his participation in events.

This is a craven and dangerous tactic by the Chinese government, but what is worse is that some governments are listening to China and shutting out the Dalai Lama. I hope the Taiwanese government stays strong in the face of Beijing’s pressure and threats, but we shall see.

Memories Adjacent to Ted Kennedy

I never met Senator Ted Kennedy, though my political life has often run close to him and his work.

Last year, when I was working in Alaska for Mark Begich’s Senate campaign, there was a lot of talk about the Kennedy family and the state’s history in presidential elections. John F. Kennedy was the last and only Democratic presidential candidate to campaign for president in Alaska, though he lost the state to Nixon in 1960. Part of the lore I heard about the Kennedy family in Alaska was that Teddy had given the keynote at the Alaska Democratic Convention the night of the California primary in 1968. Upon finishing his speech, I’ve heard, he was told that his brother Robert had been shot. I’d never check until now, but this story isn’t actually true. Ted was in San Francisco speaking on his brother’s behalf the night RFK was murdered in Los Angeles.

It turns out that Ted Kennedy was in Alaska in 1968 and was indeed filling in for his brother Robert, but it was a speech at the Alaska Democratic Party Convention in Sitka on April 17th on the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. You can download a digital version of this speech from Alaska’s Digital Archives.

It seems that I was told a history of Ted’s time in Alaska that merges two stories from that spring of 1968, though the convergence of his talk on Dr. King’s assassination and his brother’s assassination weeks later is powerful.

But my strongest connection to Senator Kennedy is through my work for his dear friend, Senator Chris Dodd. I worked on Senator Dodd’s presidential campaign and had the privilege of traveling with him on essentially all of his political trips during 2007 and early 2008. A constant from my travel’s with Senator Dodd were his regular calls with Senator Kennedy.  As Dodd traveled Iowa, New Hampshire and many points in between, it was common for Teddy to call and check in on how he was doing, how life on the campaign trail was treating him. Often Dodd would leave the stage for a speech and when we returned to the car to drive to the next event, he would pull out his cell phone to find a missed call and a voicemail from Teddy. As we’d pull out onto the road, Dodd would call Kennedy back and give him a rundown on the event, on the nature of the crowd and how he was holding up on long, grueling trips through the Iowa heat.

But the times that were most special were when Dodd would get a call from Senator Kennedy  at a free moment, when he could answer the phone and talk to his dear friend. Often Teddy would update Dodd on his time on his boat with his wife Vicki. Once I recall Senator Kennedy calling Dodd to gush with pride about winning a sailing race over the weekend, beating a bunch of young whipper-snappers with style and grace. Dodd’s face would light up while talking with Kennedy and on a tough campaign, they were moments when it was clear how happy he was to hear the voice from a close friend.

I always had real regrets that Senator Kennedy never stepped up and endorsed Senator Dodd for president, especially once it was clear that Teddy would almost certainly get to make another endorsement after Dodd ended his campaign. Many members of the Kennedy family endorsed Senator Dodd; in fact, without the fire fighters and the Kennedy family, I doubt the Dodd campaign would have made it as far as we did.  But Teddy never did and I can’t imagine how that may have hurt Senator Dodd. If it did, he never showed it to his staff — and so people like me who worked for Dodd briefly bore a grudge that our boss would not.

My most fond memory overlooking the friendship between Chris Dodd and Ted Kennedy came on December 17, 2007. It was in the midst of the FISA fight and at a time when Dodd had just effectively blocked progress on the legislation that would dramatically undermine the rule of law in America. That night, Countdown with Keith Olbermann had aired back to back clips of Senator Kennedy and Senator Dodd charging hard to defend civil liberties on the floor of the Senate.

Democratic presidential candidates oppose immunity, but when the FISA debate began today, only one had left Iowa to fight the battle in Washington.  Senator Chris Dodd vowed to filibuster as long as he could to block the immunity provision from the overall FISA bill which is intended to bring the government‘s electronic eavesdropping within shouting distance of constitutionality.  Despite the absence of other candidates, Dodd did get help on the floor today.


SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  The president said that American lives will be sacrificed if congress does not change FISA.   But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity.  No immunity, no FISA bill.  So if we take the president at  his word, he‘s willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.

SENATOR CHRISTOPHER J. DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Don‘t tell me the legal departments of AT&T and Verizon didn‘t know what the law was.  Of course, they knew what the law was.  To suggest that, somehow, first year law students are pro bono operation here advising them is, of course, phony on its face.  They knew exactly what the law was, as the Qwest company did when they said, “No, give me a court order, and I‘ll comply.”

After Dodd’s intense day on the Senate floor, I came to his house to record a brief message from the Senator to the netroots community that had stood with Dodd against retroactive immunity for telecommunications  companies that helped the Bush administration illegally spy on Americans. As I entered the house I could see Dodd talking on the phone, laughing and smiling. He was talking to his dear friend Teddy and the two of them were complimenting each other on their great speeches on the floor of the Senate. Both got a big kick out of appearing in back-to-back clips on Countdown. It was an incredible moment and a remarkable thing to witness. Elected officials aren’t elected to become friends – they’re there to do the business of helping the country become a better place. But in the case of Dodd and Kennedy, two men who worked together in the Senate for more than three decades, their friendship came together through hard work towards common goals.

Senator Dodd’s statement on Senator Kennedy’s death is heartfelt and powerful:

“I’m not sure America has ever had a greater Senator, but I know for certain that no one has had a greater friend than I and so many others did in Ted Kennedy.

“I will always remember Teddy as the ultimate example for all of us who seek to serve, a hero for those Americans in the shadow of life who so desperately needed one.

“He worked tirelessly to lift Americans out of poverty, advance the cause of civil rights, and provide opportunity to all. He fought to the very end for the cause of his life – ensuring that all Americans have the health care they need.

“The commitment to build a stronger and fairer America, a more perfect union, was deeply ingrained in the fiber of who he was, and what he believed in, and why he served.

“That’s why he stands among the most respected Senators in history. But it was his sympathetic ear, his razor wit, and his booming, raucous laugh that made him among the most beloved.

“Whatever tragedy befell Teddy’s family, he would always be there for them. Whatever tragedy befell the family of one of his friends, he would always be there for us. And in this moment of profound grief, our hearts are with his wonderful wife Vicki, his fantastic kids Ted Jr., Patrick, Kara, Curran, and Caroline, his grandchildren, and the wide and wonderful extended family for whom he was always a safe harbor.

“I will miss him every day I serve, and every day I live.”

It’s the last line that hits me so hard, because I know that it is true. My heart goes out to Senator Kennedy’s family and our common friend, Senator Chris Dodd.

There will be many, many eulogies and shared memories of Senator Kennedy today. His record is simply too long and too accomplished to adequately summarize, so I won’t bother to try. Our country has last a real hero, a patriot and unequaled civil servant. His presence in the Senate and his character as a leader will be sorely missed.


Glenn Greenwald on what the appointment of a prosecutor to investigate torture by Attorney General really means:

As a practical matter, Holder is consciously establishing as the legal baseline — he’s vesting with sterling legal authority — those warped, torture-justifying DOJ memos.  Worse, his pledge of immunity today for those who complied with those memos went beyond mere interrogators and includes everyone, policymakers and lawyers alike:  “the Department of Justice will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.”  Thus, as long as, say, a White House official shows that (a) the only torture methods they ordered were approved by the OLC and (b) they did not know those methods were criminal, then they would be entitled to full-scale immunity under the standard Holder announced today.

This quite likely sets up, at most, a process where a few low-level sacrificial lambs — some extra-sadistic intelligence versions of Lynndie Englands — might be investigated and prosecuted where they tortured people the wrong way.  Those who tortured “the right way” — meaning the way the OLC directed — will receive full-scale immunity.

Fig leafs are all the fashion in DC this summer. Rule of law-shredding, global standing-sinking fig leafs.

Holder’s announcement almost certainly means that the senior level administration officials who thought up, legalized, authorized, and then ordered torture will be immune from investigation and punishment. The people who effectively followed their orders to torture detainees but got slap-happy along the way will shoulder all the blame. As Greenwald notes, this will effectively create a two-tiered system of justice in the  United States and make the Bush administration’s torture policies the accepted law of the US government. Marcy Wheeler describes what is happening as a move to “shift focus away from those that set up a regime of torture and towards those who free-lanced within that regime in spectacularly horrible ways.”

There’s no doubt in my mind that people who exceeded the illegal and immoral guidelines set by John Yoo and other Bush administration lawyers should be punished for what the did. But to limit the Obama administration’s pursuit of justice to these people is to miss the entire point of the need to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the torture regime under the Bush administration. It’s not about the operators who did too much, it’s about the top officials who told them to walk down this path at all.

As of now, it looks like Attorney General Holder and likely by extension President Obama simply do not get how damaging this course of action is to the country and the rule of law.