Monday, March 31, 2008

Cheating Honor Codes

A little rule of thumb. If it at all can be avoided, do not plagiarize your own honor code.

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Students apparently copied honor code

Sun Mar 30, 3:20 PM ET

SAN ANTONIO - Their goal was an honor code that discouraged cheating and plagiarizing.

However, the wording in a draft by students at the University of Texas at San Antonio appears to match another school's code — without proper attribution.

The student currently in charge of the honor code project said it was an oversight, but cheating experts say it illustrates a sloppiness among Internet-era students who don't know how to cite sources properly and think of their computers as cut-and-paste machines.

"That's the consequence of the Internet and the availability of things," said Daniel Wueste, director of the Rutland Institute for Ethics at Clemson University. "It doesn't feel like what would be in a book. You Google it and here it comes."

Student Akshay Thusu said that when he took over the project a month ago he inherited a draft by earlier project participants, including a group of students who attended a conference five years ago put on by The Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson.

Materials from the conference, which are used by many universities, were probably the main source of UTSA's proposed code, Thusu said. That's why parts of the Texas draft match word-for-word the online version of Brigham Young University's code.

BYU credited the Center for Academic Integrity, but the San Antonio draft doesn't.

That will change, said Thusu, who plans to include proper citation and attribution when the draft is submitted to the faculty senate.

"We don't want to have an honor code that is stolen," Thusu said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080330/ap_on_fe_st/odd_plagiarized_honor_code_1
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This is nothing new for those of us in academia. One of the unfortunate consequences of the internet is that students cheat now more than ever. Academics, too. If there was an honest assessment of every dissertation and published article in peer review journals, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that about a third of them have some problems with plagiarism (usually due to a lack of citation or lifting of ideals and concepts without giving proper credit). There are many a department who should breathe a sigh of relief that their faculty "scholars" do not have their writings subjected to the review of a Stephen Ambrose or Ward Churchill (including some of the increasingly overrated products from our Ivy League institutions).

I do not even bother to assign long paper assignments in my class anymore, but instead make my students write several shorter assignments, to force them to get to the point in their writing and make it more difficult for them to cheat (since copied term papers are longer). And I still catch students cheating (and not infrequently copying and pasting from sites, almost word-for-word). It is to the point now that I make my students take all-essay exams, to look at their writing style, and check to see if it is similar (knowing that they cannot plagiarize in the controlled atmosphere of the classroom during an exam). The smart ones will mix up the words, reducing the probability of the anti-cheating programs. I have caught quite a few over the years through this, but if it is not similar enough to show high correlation there is little a professor can do (knowing most of the universities will side with the students, since they or the parents of these little hucksters pay their salary).

Ultimately, there is no way you can entirely stop cheating, except to force the students to write everything during class time. And even then, they are adept to using electronic and digital mediums to bridge the cheating gap (you have to look out for the hats and long hair, used to disguise earphones). If these kids were as studious as they were dishonest, they could probably get A's, but our culture of instantaneous gratification makes such study and work habits seem antiquated.

Witch Beating in the Hinterland

There is only one thing worse than a ghost story--the people stupid enough to believe in it.

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Indian 'witch' tied to tree, beaten by mob

From Tess Eastment
CNN
NEW DELHI, India (CNN)
-- An Indian woman accused of being a witch was tied to a tree and beaten by a mob, with television footage of the incident aired in India on Friday.

art.beating.jpg.jpg

Nishant Tiwari, a police official in northeastern India, said a journalist who filmed the beating called him Thursday to report the incident, which took place in the village of Dumaria in central eastern Bihar state.

He arrived to find the woman tied to a tree, her hair partially cut and her complexion ruddy from being slapped. She had no serious injuries.

"I was appalled at what I saw because people should be more socially responsible than to do this," Tiwari said.

Authorities arrested six people, including the man who admitted to hiring her services as a witch. They were due to appear before a magistrate on Friday.

Ram Ayodhya, who could face up to seven years in prison for his role in the attack, told police he was justified in beating the woman, Tiwari said.

Ayodhya said he paid her to use magic and prayer to improve his wife's health.

When his wife's condition deteriorated, Ayodhya accused her of performing black magic, Tiwari said, and a crowd soon gathered and tied her to the tree.

The woman seen being attacked is expected to testify when the suspects appear before the magistrate.

Tiwari said he was disturbed by the fact that a journalist filmed the incident before contacting authorities.

"The media filmed the incident, then called the police -- instead of the police first," Tiwari said.

CNN's partner network, CNN-IBN, reported that the incident took place close to the local police station.

It reported that there had been other such occurrences of mob justice in the state.

In Bhagalpur district in August 2007, a man caught trying to snatch a woman's chain was beaten up, with police looking on, and later tied to a motorcycle and dragged around by a police officer.

In September, in Lucknow's Wazirganj area, an angry mob beat a man to death after a 2½-year old girl was allegedly found sexually assaulted and murdered in his house.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/03/28/india.beating/
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Here are some of the village lumpens at work.



I think this is what Marx meant when he referred to the "idiocy" of rural life.

Still, seriousness aside, this incident does take me back to a childhood movie memory.



You have to admit, she did weigh as much as the duck.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hillary Clinton in Bosnia

Finally, the truth is out.



As I told my class today, if you are looking for honesty, whatever else, do not look for it in a politician.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hillary 2012: The Destroy Obama Campaign

Is Hillary planning for a 2012 run by undermining Barack Obama's chances in 2008? It would seem so. She has no chance of the nomination now, and it was the Clinton campaign who began the race-baiting, giving the Fox News Channel its template for how to flack for the Republican Presidential nominee.

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March 24, 2008
Hillary's Berserker Campaign ... for 2012


Blonde Ambition

By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

Hillary Clinton can not win the Democratic nomination for president. The numbers tell the story. Even with robust victories in Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky, Hillary will trail Obama in popular votes and pledged delegates as they enter the convention hall in Denver.

Any other candidate would have been shamed into dropping out long ago. But these are the Clintons and they have no shame.

So why does Hillary persist? Because she hasn't abandoned her aspiration for the White House. Not in 2008, but for 2012. Here's the perverse logic at work.

If Obama defeats McCain in November, it will take an act of treachery beyond anything even the Clintons have ever conjured from their grimoire of political demonology for Hillary to challenge him in 2012. She will be 69 in 2016, almost ready to move into one of the Beverly Nursing Homes, owned by a company she once represented as a corporate lawyer, aggressively protecting the bottom line against such extravagances as healthy meals, clean sheets and proper medical care for the elderly.

Hillary Clinton is the prisoner of an unimpeachable mathematics. So she makes the most of a remorseless situation by doing what the Clintons do best: commit political fratricide. Quite literally, in this case, by knocking off a brother.

In order to realize her vaulting ambition, Hillary must mortally wound Obama as candidate in the fall race against John McCain so that she can run against McCain in 2012.

McCain is at best a one term president. The signs of this are as clear as the scar jagging down his face. McCain, whose resemblance to Lon Chaney becomes eerier by the day, is already an old man, older than Reagan when he was first elected. He is plagued by a cancer he refuses to speak about, a war he refuses to end and an economy that is collapsing beyond the point of recovery. Add to this prospectus, the fact that McCain is prone to the most self-destructive impulses of any American politician since Aaron Burr. His political fate will be sealed before he even swears his oath.

Thus Hillary's berserker strategy against Obama. (For more on "berserkerism" see the SF novels of Fred Saberhagen.)

Down in Mark Penn's dark computer lab, the data culled from pulse polls and focus groups probing the hidden prejudices in the psyche of white America are being packed like shrapnel into political landmines set for Obama: he's unpatriotic, he's un-Christian, he's a Palestinian symp and, yes, he's black. That's three strikes and one head shot.

Exploitation of racial panic is second nature to the power couple Ishmael Reed calls Ma and Pa Clinton. Bill Clinton launched his 1992 campaign by personally overseeing the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a brain-damaged young black man. He wagged his finger at the rapper Sister Souljah, denouncing her music and political opinions as a danger to young minds. The Clintons pilloried their one-time friend Lani Guinier, for her legal writings on the status of blacks and women and booted Dr. Jocelyn Elders from her position as Surgeon General for her refreshingly candid statements about the utility of condoms and masturbation for sexually active youths.

And that's how they treated people they knew. At a structural level, the Clintons' economic and social agenda, incubated at the conservative Democratic Leadership Council, struck directly at poorest precincts of America, targeting blacks and Hispanics with a fervor not seen since Pat Buchanan and Kevin Phillips crafted the infamous Southern Strategy for Richard Nixon. Hence, the dismantling of welfare, harsh federal crime bills, the refusal to intervene against racial profiling or redress the grievous injustices caused by the racially-motivated sentences handed out for crack cocaine.

The fallout from Ms. Clinton's racially-tinged blitz against Obama will spread far and wide across her party like the toxic particles from a nuclear blast. They've done it all before. The Clintons' reckless first two years in the White House, from the heavy-handed Travel Office fiasco to the fires of Waco and HRC's sophomoric bungling of the health care reform, spurred the GOP takeover of congress in 1994, which they used to their political profit. Then in 1996, Clinton refused to allocate DNC money to tight senate and congressional races, a miserly tactic that allowed the faltering Republicans to retain control of both houses of Congress. It was a cynical decision that many high-ranking Democrats believe constituted a deliberate sabotage of the party's prospects, designed to secure a monopoly-like control of the party apparatus for the Clintons, turning the DNC into their own private PAC.

That's the logic of triangulation. The daisy-cutter tactics of Hillary's current campaign might be called pre-emptive triangulation. The Clintons enrich themselves politically by looting the ruins of their own party.

Look how swiftly her campaign knee-capped her friend Bill Richardson. After working sedulously for Richardson's endorsement only to lose out to Obama, Mark Penn dismissed the governor as "irrelevant." On Good Friday, Clinton intimate James Carville denounced Richardson as "a Judas."

Clinton believes she must destroy the party in order to save it-for herself. But her campaign geared at women and white working class voters relies on a perversion of the past. The recent past at that, as if they believe that the American electorate is blinking out from a kind of political Alzheimer's, where the short-term goes first. Perhaps that's why Penn and his pack of geeks geared their themes to appeal to geezers and grandparents. Clintontime is recast as a glittering epoch of peace and prosperity. Yet this was a decade when Iraq was bombed every three days and a half-million people died under the cruel sanctions regime, when cruise missiles where launched on Sudan and Afghanistan to divert popular attention blow-jobs and thong-snapping interns, when an illegal air war was orchestrated against Serbia, racking up thousands of civilian casualties and the ongoing bloodbath against peasants in South America known as Plan Colombia, the drug war that keeps on killing.

The Clinton 90s was a time when the economic chasm in America between the rich and everyone else deepened and widened profoundly, under the command of Alan Greenspan and Wall Street maestro Robert Rubin, and the social safety nets protecting the most vulnerable among us where shorn in the name of political pragmatism. The Clintons evoke a nostalgia for a time that never was. If you require objective confirmation of the economic enervation unleashed by the Clinton program consult Contours of Descent, economist Robert Pollin's brilliant dissection of that dismal era.

This coarse reality is transparent to those who lived through it and still suffer the aftershocks of the Clintons' neoliberal program. That's one reason why almost the only blacks to back HRC are encrusted members of Congressional Black Caucus and corporate shills like Andrew Young, who whitewashed Nike's crimes against workers in its Asian sweat-factories. Both camps are old hands at palming political gratuities and walking around money.

Meanwhile, Obama plays the role of willing victim like he had trained for it at Actor's Studio. He exudes a sense of entitlement nearly as all-engrossing as the Clintons and compounds this with a martydom complex that dramatizes the wounding of each sling and arrow lobbed his way.

Although it's not strictly attuned to her peculiar pathology, Hillary could almost call it quits right now, even before she claims Pennsylvania as a scalp. She has fatally toxified Obama and almost certainly secured the White House for her good friend John McCain.

Hillary is following the Reagan model. In 1976, Ronald Reagan bled Gerald Ford through the long winter and spring months, before bludgeoning him the late primary in Pennsylvania. As told in Adam Clymer's new book, Drawing the Line at the Big Ditch: the Panama Canal Treaties and the Rise of the Right, Reagan finally found a theme to his weird internecine challenge in the Panama Canal Treaty. Reagan fell short in the end, but he had hobbled Ford, who stumbled and fell against Carter in the fall election. Carter inherited a stagnant economy, soaring oil prices and a simmering crisis in the Middle East. Reagan easily unseated Carter in the 1980 election. The Clintons are shrewd enough to detect the striking historical parallels here and craven enough to exploit them for their own long-term advantage.

The Clinton war room may still throb to the beats of Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." But late at night, when Mandy Grunwald has slipped on her flannels and Mark Penn has powered-down his Cray super-computer, Hillary and Bill will surely toast their strange time-delayed victory to the chords of McCartney's "Live and Let Die."

Jeffrey St. Clair

http://www.counterpunch.org/stclair03242008.html
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And you wonder why so many African Americans are in a hunker down mode about Senator Obama at this point? Can you blame them? Of course, according to white conservatives, that is the problem. For these nice people, like instapunk, the problem with African Americans is that they do not see beyond their own "prejudice" against prejudiced people like themselves. But hey, "patriotic" whites like them can talk about how ATF agents should have their heads blown off, or wave Confederate flags made by people who tried to break apart the US, and that is not a problem--so long as critics of the US are not black. The most depressing part about this campaign is that it is only going to get worse.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

US Immigration Officials: Sex for Green Cards

This is not something new. There have been stories in the past about US government officials using their bureaucratic positions for sexual advantage. Of course, the Tancredos and Limbaughs could care less (in the case of Limbaugh, even more so, since he likes to take Viagra with him during prostitute runs to Latin America with his friends). Welcome to the world of American immigration law.

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An Agent, a Green Card, and a Demand for Sex
Published: March 21, 2008

No problems so far, the immigration agent told the American citizen and his 22-year-old Colombian wife at her green card interview in December. After he stapled one of their wedding photos to her application for legal permanent residency, he had just one more question: What was her cellphone number?

The calls from the agent started three days later. He hinted, she said, at his power to derail her life and deport her relatives, alluding to a brush she had with the law before her marriage. He summoned her to a private meeting. And at noon on Dec. 21, in a parked car on Queens Boulevard, he named his price — not realizing that she was recording everything on the cellphone in her purse.

“I want sex,” he said on the recording. “One or two times. That’s all. You get your green card. You won’t have to see me anymore.”

She reluctantly agreed to a future meeting. But when she tried to leave his car, he demanded oral sex “now,” to “know that you’re serious.” And despite her protests, she said, he got his way.

The 16-minute recording, which the woman first took to The New York Times and then to the Queens district attorney, suggests the vast power of low-level immigration law enforcers, and a growing desperation on the part of immigrants seeking legal status. The aftermath, which included the arrest of an immigration agent last week, underscores the difficulty and danger of making a complaint, even in the rare case when abuse of power may have been caught on tape.

No one knows how widespread sexual blackmail is, but the case echoes other instances of sexual coercion that have surfaced in recent years, including agents criminally charged in Atlanta, Miami and Santa Ana, Calif. And it raises broader questions about the system’s vulnerability to corruption at a time when millions of noncitizens live in a kind of legal no-man’s land, increasingly fearful of seeking the law’s protection.

The agent arrested last week, Isaac R. Baichu, 46, himself an immigrant from Guyana, handled some 8,000 green card applications during his three years as an adjudicator in the Garden City, N.Y., office of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the federal Department of Homeland Security. He pleaded not guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges of coercing the young woman to perform oral sex, and of promising to help her secure immigration papers in exchange for further sexual favors. If convicted, he will face up to seven years in prison.

His agency has suspended him with pay, and the inspector general of Homeland Security is reviewing his other cases, a spokesman said Wednesday. Prosecutors, who say they recorded a meeting between Mr. Baichu and the woman on March 11 at which he made similar demands for sex, urge any other victims to come forward.

Money, not sex, is the more common currency of corruption in immigration, but according to Congressional testimony in 2006 by Michael Maxwell, former director of the agency’s internal investigations, more than 3,000 backlogged complaints of employee misconduct had gone uninvestigated for lack of staff, including 528 involving criminal allegations.

The agency says it has tripled its investigative staff since then, and counts only 165 serious complaints pending. But it stopped posting an e-mail address and phone number for such complaints last year, said Jan Lane, chief of security and integrity, because it lacks the staff to cull the thousands of mostly irrelevant messages that resulted. Immigrants, she advised, should report wrongdoing to any law enforcement agency they trust.

The young woman in Queens, whose name is being withheld because the authorities consider her the victim of a sex crime, did not even tell her husband what had happened. Two weeks after the meeting in the car, finding no way to make a confidential complaint to the immigration agency and afraid to go to the police, she and two older female relatives took the recording to The Times.

Reasons to Worry

A slim, shy woman who looks like a teenager, she said she had spent recent months baby-sitting for relatives in Queens, crying over the deaths of her two brothers back in Cali, Colombia, and longing for the right stamp in her passport — one that would let her return to the United States if she visited her family.

She had another reason to be fearful, and not only for herself. About 15 months ago, she said, an acquaintance hired her and two female relatives in New York to carry $12,000 in cash to the bank. The three women, all living in the country illegally, were arrested on the street by customs officers apparently acting on a tip in a money-laundering investigation. After determining that the women had no useful information, the officers released them.

But the closed investigation file had showed up in the computer when she applied for a green card, Mr. Baichu told her in December; until he obtained the file and dealt with it, her application would not be approved. If she defied him, she feared, he could summon immigration enforcement agents to take her relatives to detention.

So instead of calling the police, she turned on the video recorder in her cellphone, put the phone in her purse and walked to meet the agent. Two family members said they watched anxiously from their parked car as she disappeared behind the tinted windows of his red Lexus.

“We were worried that the guy would take off, take her away and do something to her,” the woman’s widowed sister-in-law said in Spanish.

As the recorder captured the agent’s words and a lilting Guyanese accent, he laid out his terms in an easy, almost paternal style. He would not ask too much, he said: sex “once or twice,” visits to his home in the Bronx, perhaps a link to other Colombians who needed his help with their immigration problems.

In shaky English, the woman expressed reluctance, and questioned how she could be sure he would keep his word.

“If I do it, it’s like very hard for me, because I have my husband, and I really fall in love with him,” she said.

The agent insisted that she had to trust him. “I wouldn’t ask you to do something for me if I can’t do something for you, right?” he said, and reasoned, “Nobody going to help you for nothing,” noting that she had no money.

He described himself as the single father of a 10-year-old daughter, telling her, “I need love, too,” and predicting, “You will get to like me because I’m a nice guy.”

Repeatedly, she responded “O.K.,” without conviction. At one point he thanked her for showing up, saying, “I know you feel very scared.”

Finally, she tried to leave. “Let me go because I tell my husband I come home,” she said.

His reply, the recording shows, was a blunt demand for oral sex.

“Right now? No!” she protested. “No, no, right now I can’t.”

He insisted, cajoled, even empathized. “I came from a different country, too,” he said. “I got my green card just like you.”

Then, she said, he grabbed her. During the speechless minute that follows on the recording, she said she yielded to his demand out of fear that he would use his authority against her.

How Much Corruption?

The charges against Mr. Baichu, who became a United States citizen in 1991 and earns roughly $50,000 a year, appear to be part of a larger pattern, according to government records and interviews.

Mr. Maxwell, the immigration agency’s former chief investigator, told Congress in 2006 that internal corruption was “rampant,” and that employees faced constant temptations to commit crime.

“It is only a small step from granting a discretionary waiver of an eligibility rule to asking for a favor or taking a bribe in exchange for granting that waiver,” he contended. “Once an employee learns he can get away with low-level corruption and still advance up the ranks, he or she becomes more brazen.”

Mr. Maxwell’s own deputy, Lloyd W. Miner, 49, of Hyattsville, Md., turned out to be an example. He was sentenced March 7 to a year in prison for inducing a 21-year-old Mongolian woman to stay in the country illegally, and harboring her in his house.

Other cases include that of a 60-year-old immigration adjudicator in Santa Ana, Calif., who was charged with demanding sexual favors from a 29-year-old Vietnamese woman in exchange for approving her citizenship application. The agent, Eddie Romualdo Miranda, was acquitted of a felony sexual battery charge last August, but pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to probation.

In Atlanta, another adjudicator, Kelvin R. Owens, was convicted in 2005 of sexually assaulting a 45-year-old woman during her citizenship interview in the federal building, and sentenced to weekends in jail for six months. And a Miami agent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement responsible for transporting a Haitian woman to detention is awaiting trial on charges that he took her to his home and raped her.

“Despite our best efforts there are always people ready to use their position for personal gain or personal pleasure,” said Chris Bentley, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Our responsibility is to ferret them out.”

When the Queens woman came to The Times with her recording on Jan. 3, she was afraid of retaliation from the agent, and uncertain about making a criminal complaint, though she had an appointment the next day at the Queens district attorney’s office.

She followed through, however, and Carmencita Gutierrez, an assistant district attorney, began monitoring phone calls between the agent and the young woman, a spokesman said. When Mr. Baichu arranged to meet the woman on March 11 at the Flagship Restaurant on Queens Boulevard, investigators were ready.

In the conversation recorded there, according to the criminal complaint, Mr. Baichu told her he expected her to do “just like the last time,” and offered to take her to a garage or the bathroom of a friend’s real estate business so she would be “more comfortable doing it” there.

Mr. Baichu was arrested as he emerged from the diner and headed to his car, wearing much gold and diamond jewelry, prosecutors said. Later released on $15,000 bail, Mr. Baichu referred calls for comment to his lawyer, Sally Attia, who said he did not have authority to grant or deny green card petitions without his supervisor’s approval.

The young woman’s ordeal is not over. Her husband overheard her speaking about it to a cousin about a month ago, and she had to tell him the whole story, she said.

“He was so mad at me, he left my house,” she said, near tears. “I don’t know if he’s going to come back.”

The green card has not come through. “I’m still hoping,” she said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/21/nyregion/21immigrant.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&sq=bernstein&st=nyt&scp=1
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No doubt, this is what Jesus had in mind when he was writing up the Republican Party platform two thousand years ago.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Voting in America

Is voting in the US a useful tool for democracy? Putting aside the argument that we are actually a democracy, assuming we are, is the act of voting a real contribution of citizenship to our political system? Consider the money it takes to run for national office in this country. In the 2006 midterm elections, the average winner of a Senate seat spent $9.6 million and the House $1.2 million. The President is over a $1 billion and likely to approach $2 billion. People with economic resources that donate to campaigns for the most part have profiteering and non-altruistic motives (otherwise, they never would have money to begin with), so it is being spent as an investment for future consideration, at least for the largest donors. The consequences for the average voter, who does not have the disposable income to subsidize these campaigns, obviously undermines or devalues the vote.

I ask the question about voting not as a negative proposition. It remains an open question, one I deal with on a frequent basis with my own students. Of course, as a political science professor, I tell them, yes, it is an important function of citizenship, but personally it is debatable to me. In the affirmative, here is a speech from the late great Frederick Douglass, one of the most underrated and ignored people in American history. An ex-slave and later anti-slavery and social justice activist, as well as being one of the greatest orators of the 19th century or any time, this is Douglass's case for voting.

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(At the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in Boston, April, 1865, Douglass delivered the following speech on the subject: The Equality of all men before the law; Note that this was given within days of the close of the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln.)

WHAT THE BLACK MAN WANTS

I came here, as I come always to the meetings in New England, as a listener, and not as a speaker; and one of the reasons why I have not been more frequently to the meetings of this society, has been because of the disposition on the part of some of my friends to call me out upon the platform, even when they knew that there was some difference of opinion and of feeling between those who rightfully belong to this platform and myself; and for fear of being misconstrued, as desiring to interrupt or disturb the proceedings of these meetings, I have usually kept away, and have thus been deprived of that educating influence, which I am always free to confess is of the highest order, descending from this platform. I have felt, since I have lived out West [Douglass means west of Boston, in Rochester, NY], that in going there I parted from a great deal that was valuable; and I feel, every time I come to these meetings, that I have lost a great deal by making my home west of Boston, west of Massachusetts; for, if anywhere in the country there is to be found the highest sense of justice, or the truest demands for my race, I look for it in the East, I look for it here. The ablest discussions of the whole question of our rights occur here, and to be deprived of the privilege of listening to those discussions is a great deprivation.

I do not know, from what has been said, that there is any difference of opinion as to the duty of abolitionists, at the present moment. How can we get up any difference at this point, or any point, where we are so united, so agreed? I went especially, however, with that word of Mr. Phillips, which is the criticism of Gen. Banks and Gen. Banks' policy. [Gen. Banks instituted a labor policy in Louisiana that was discriminatory of blacks, claiming that it was to help prepare them to better handle freedom. Wendell Phillips countered by saying, "If there is anything patent in the whole history of our thirty years' struggle, it is that the Negro no more needs to be prepared for liberty than the white man."] I hold that that policy is our chief danger at the present moment; that it practically enslaves the Negro, and makes the Proclamation [the Emancipation Proclamation] of 1863 a mockery and delusion. What is freedom? It is the right to choose one's own employment. Certainly it means that, if it means anything; and when any individual or combination of individuals undertakes to decide for any man when he shall work, where he shall work, at what he shall work, and for what he shall work, he or they practically reduce him to slavery. [Applause.] He is a slave. That I understand Gen. Banks to do--to determine for the so-called freedman, when, and where, and at what, and for how much he shall work, when he shall be punished, and by whom punished. It is absolute slavery. It defeats the beneficent intention of the Government, if it has beneficent intentions, in regards to the freedom of our people.

I have had but one idea for the last three years to present to the American people, and the phraseology in which I clothe it is the old abolition phraseology. I am for the "immediate, unconditional, and universal" enfranchisement of the black man, in every State in the Union. [Loud applause.] Without this, his liberty is a mockery; without this, you might as well almost retain the old name of slavery for his condition; for in fact, if he is not the slave of the individual master, he is the slave of society, and holds his liberty as a privilege, not as a right. He is at the mercy of the mob, and has no means of protecting himself.

It may be objected, however, that this pressing of the Negro's right to suffrage is premature. Let us have slavery abolished, it may be said, let us have labor organized, and then, in the natural course of events, the right of suffrage will be extended to the Negro. I do not agree with this. The constitution of the human mind is such, that if it once disregards the conviction forced upon it by a revelation of truth, it requires the exercise of a higher power to produce the same conviction afterwards. The American people are now in tears. The Shenandoah has run blood--the best blood of the North. All around Richmond, the blood of New England and of the North has been shed--of your sons, your brothers and your fathers. We all feel, in the existence of this Rebellion, that judgments terrible, wide-spread, far-reaching, overwhelming, are abroad in the land; and we feel, in view of these judgments, just now, a disposition to learn righteousness. This is the hour. Our streets are in mourning, tears are falling at every fireside, and under the chastisement of this Rebellion we have almost come up to the point of conceding this great, this all-important right of suffrage. I fear that if we fail to do it now, if abolitionists fail to press it now, we may not see, for centuries to come, the same disposition that exists at this moment. [Applause.] Hence, I say, now is the time to press this right.

It may be asked, "Why do you want it? Some men have got along very well without it. Women have not this right." Shall we justify one wrong by another? This is the sufficient answer. Shall we at this moment justify the deprivation of the Negro of the right to vote, because some one else is deprived of that privilege? I hold that women, as well as men, have the right to vote [applause], and my heart and voice go with the movement to extend suffrage to woman; but that question rests upon another basis than which our right rests. We may be asked, I say, why we want it. I will tell you why we want it. We want it because it is our right, first of all. No class of men can, without insulting their own nature, be content with any deprivation of their rights. We want it again, as a means for educating our race. Men are so constituted that they derive their conviction of their own possibilities largely by the estimate formed of them by others. If nothing is expected of a people, that people will find it difficult to contradict that expectation. By depriving us of suffrage, you affirm our incapacity to form an intelligent judgment respecting public men and public measures; you declare before the world that we are unfit to exercise the elective franchise, and by this means lead us to undervalue ourselves, to put a low estimate upon ourselves, and to feel that we have no possibilities like other men. Again, I want the elective franchise, for one, as a colored man, because ours is a peculiar government, based upon a peculiar idea, and that idea is universal suffrage. If I were in a monarchial government, or an autocratic or aristocratic government, where the few bore rule and the many were subject, there would be no special stigma resting upon me, because I did not exercise the elective franchise. It would do me no great violence. Mingling with the mass I should partake of the strength of the mass; I should be supported by the mass, and I should have the same incentives to endeavor with the mass of my fellow-men; it would be no particular burden, no particular deprivation; but here where universal suffrage is the rule, where that is the fundamental idea of the Government, to rule us out is to make us an exception, to brand us with the stigma of inferiority, and to invite to our heads the missiles of those about us; therefore, I want the franchise for the black man.

There are, however, other reasons, not derived from any consideration merely of our rights, but arising out of the conditions of the South, and of the country--considerations which have already been referred to by Mr. Phillips--considerations which must arrest the attention of statesmen. I believe that when the tall heads of this Rebellion shall have been swept down, as they will be swept down, when the Davises and Toombses and Stephenses, and others who are leading this Rebellion shall have been blotted out, there will be this rank undergrowth of treason, to which reference has been made, growing up there, and interfering with, and thwarting the quiet operation of the Federal Government in those states. You will se those traitors, handing down, from sire to son, the same malignant spirit which they have manifested and which they are now exhibiting, with malicious hearts, broad blades, and bloody hands in the field, against our sons and brothers. That spirit will still remain; and whoever sees the Federal Government extended over those Southern States will see that Government in a strange land, and not only in a strange land, but in an enemy's land. A post-master of the United States in the South will find himself surrounded by a hostile spirit; a collector in a Southern port will find himself surrounded by a hostile spirit; a United States marshal or United States judge will be surrounded there by a hostile element. That enmity will not die out in a year, will not die out in an age. The Federal Government will be looked upon in those States precisely as the Governments of Austria and France are looked upon in Italy at the present moment. They will endeavor to circumvent, they will endeavor to destroy, the peaceful operation of this Government. Now, where will you find the strength to counterbalance this spirit, if you do not find it in the Negroes of the South? They are your friends, and have always been your friends. They were your friends even when the Government did not regard them as such. They comprehended the genius of this war before you did. It is a significant fact, it is a marvellous fact, it seems almost to imply a direct interposition of Providence, that this war, which began in the interest of slavery on both sides, bids fair to end in the interest of liberty on both sides. [Applause.] It was begun, I say, in the interest of slavery on both sides. The South was fighting to take slavery out of the Union, and the North was fighting to keep it in the Union; the South fighting to get it beyond the limits of the United States Constitution, and the North fighting to retain it within those limits; the South fighting for new guarantees, and the North fighting for the old guarantees;--both despising the Negro, both insulting the Negro. Yet, the Negro, apparently endowed with wisdom from on high, saw more clearly the end from the beginning than we did. When Seward said the status of no man in the country would be changed by the war, the Negro did not believe him. [Applause.] When our generals sent their underlings in shoulder-straps to hunt the flying Negro back from our lines into the jaws of slavery, from which he had escaped, the Negroes thought that a mistake had been made, and that the intentions of the Government had not been rightly understood by our officers in shoulder-straps, and they continued to come into our lines, threading their way through bogs and fens, over briers and thorns, fording streams, swimming rivers, bringing us tidings as to the safe path to march, and pointing out the dangers that threatened us. They are our only friends in the South, and we should be true to them in this their trial hour, and see to it that they have the elective franchise.

I know that we are inferior to you in some things--virtually inferior. We walk about you like dwarfs among giants. Our heads are scarcely seen above the great sea of humanity. The Germans are superior to us; the Irish are superior to us; the Yankees are superior to us [Laughter]; they can do what we cannot, that is, what we have not hitherto been allowed to do. But while I make this admission, I utterly deny, that we are originally, or naturally, or practically, or in any way, or in any important sense, inferior to anybody on this globe. [Loud applause.] This charge of inferiority is an old dodge. It has been made available for oppression on many occasions. It is only about six centuries since the blue-eyed and fair-haired Anglo-Saxons were considered inferior by the haughty Normans, who once trampled upon them. If you read the history of the Norman Conquest, you will find that this proud Anglo-Saxon was once looked upon as of coarser clay than his Norman master, and might be found in the highways and byways of Old England laboring with a brass collar on his neck, and the name of his master marked upon it. You were down then! [Laughter and applause.] You are up now. I am glad you are up, and I want you to be glad to help us up also. [Applause.]

The story of our inferiority is an old dodge, as I have said; for wherever men oppress their fellows, wherever they enslave them, they will endeavor to find the needed apology for such enslavement and oppression in the character of the people oppressed and enslaved. When we wanted, a few years ago, a slice of Mexico, it was hinted that the Mexicans were an inferior race, that the old Castilian blood had become so weak that it would scarcely run down hill, and that Mexico needed the long, strong and beneficent arm of the Anglo-Saxon care extended over it. We said that it was necessary to its salvation, and a part of the "manifest destiny" of this Republic, to extend our arm over that dilapidated government. So, too, when Russia wanted to take possession of a part of the Ottoman Empire, the Turks were an "inferior race." So, too, when England wants to set the heel of her power more firmly in the quivering heart of old Ireland, the Celts are an "inferior race." So, too, the Negro, when he is to be robbed of any right which is justly his, is an "inferior man." It is said that we are ignorant; I admit it. But if we know enough to be hung, we know enough to vote. If the Negro knows enough to pay taxes to support the government, he knows enough to vote; taxation and representation should go together. If he knows enough to shoulder a musket and fight for the flag, fight for the government, he knows enough to vote. If he knows as much when he is sober as an Irishman knows when drunk, he knows enough to vote, on good American principles. [Laughter and applause.]

But I was saying that you needed a counterpoise in the persons of the slaves to the enmity that would exist at the South after the Rebellion is put down. I hold that the American people are bound, not only in self-defence, to extend this right to the freedmen of the South, but they are bound by their love of country, and by all their regard for the future safety of those Southern States, to do this--to do it as a measure essential to the preservation of peace there. But I will not dwell upon this. I put it to the American sense of honor. The honor of a nation is an important thing. It is said in the Scriptures, "What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" It may be said, also, What doth it profit a nation if it gain the whole world, but lose its honor? I hold that the American government has taken upon itself a solemn obligation of honor, to see that this war--let it be long or short, let it cost much or let it cost little--that this war shall not cease until every freedman at the South has the right to vote. [Applause.] It has bound itself to it. What have you asked the black men of the South, the black men of the whole country to do? Why, you have asked them to incure the enmity of their masters, in order to befriend you and to befriend this Government. You have asked us to call down, not only upon ourselves, but upon our children's children, the deadly hate of the entire Southern people. You have called upon us to turn our backs upon our masters, to abandon their cause and espouse yours; to turn against the South and in favor of the North; to shoot down the Confederacy and uphold the flag-- the American flag. You have called upon us to expose ourselves to all the subtle machinations of their malignity for all time. And now, what do you propose to do when you come to make peace? To reward your enemies, and trample in the dust your friends? Do you intend to sacrifice the very men who have come to the rescue of your banner in the South, and incurred the lasting displeasure of their masters thereby? Do you intend to sacrifice them and reward your enemies? Do you mean to give your enemies the right to vote, and take it away from your friends? Is that wise policy? Is that honorable? Could American honor withstand such a blow? I do not believe you will do it. I think you will see to it that we have the right to vote. There is something too mean in looking upon the Negro, when you are in trouble, as a citizen, and when you are free from trouble, as an alien. When this nation was in trouble, in its early struggles, it looked upon the Negro as a citizen. In 1776 he was a citizen. At the time of the formation of the Consitution the Negro had the right to vote in eleven States out of the old thirteen. In your trouble you have made us citizens. In 1812 Gen. Jackson addressed us as citizens--"fellow-citizens." He wanted us to fight. We were citizens then! And now, when you come to frame a conscription bill, the Negro is a citizen again. He has been a citizen just three times in the history of this government, and it has always been in time of trouble. In time of trouble we are citizens. Shall we be citizens in war, and aliens in peace? Would that be just?

I ask my friends who are apologizing for not insisting upon this right, where can the black man look, in this country, for the assertion of his right, if he may not look to the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society? Where under the whole heavens can he look for sympathy, in asserting this right, if he may not look to this platform? Have you lifted us up to a certain height to see that we are men, and then are any disposed to leave us there, without seeing that we are put in possession of all our rights? We look naturally to this platform for the assertion of all our rights, and for this one especially. I understand the anti-slavery societies of this country to be based on two principles,--first, the freedom of the blacks of this country; and, second, the elevation of them. Let me not be misunderstood here. I am not asking for sympathy at the hands of abolitionists, sympathy at the hands of any. I think the American people are disposed often to be generous rather than just. I look over this country at the present time, and I see Educational Societies, Sanitary Commissions, Freedmen's Associations, and the like,--all very good: but in regard to the colored people there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just, manifested towards us. What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. [Applause.] The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. Gen. Banks was distressed with solicitude as to what he should do with the Negro. Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, "What shall we do with the Negro?" I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature's plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! If you see him on his way to school, let him alone, don't disturb him! If you see him going to the dinner table at a hotel, let him go! If you see him going to the ballot- box, let him alone, don't disturb him! [Applause.] If you see him going into a work-shop, just let him alone,--your interference is doing him a positive injury. Gen. Banks' "preparation" is of a piece with this attempt to prop up the Negro. Let him fall if he cannot stand alone! If the Negro cannot live by the line of eternal justice, so beautifully pictured to you in the illustration used by Mr. Phillips, the fault will not be yours, it will be his who made the Negro, and established that line for his government. [Applause.] Let him live or die by that. If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live. He will work as readily for himself as the white man. A great many delusions have been swept away by this war. One was, that the Negro would not work; he has proved his ability to work. Another was, that the Negro would not fight; that he possessed only the most sheepish attributes of humanity; was a perfect lamb, or an "Uncle Tom;" disposed to take off his coat whenever required, fold his hands, and be whipped by anybody who wanted to whip him. But the war has proved that there is a great deal of human nature in the Negro, and that "he will fight," as Mr. Quincy, our President, said, in earlier days than these, "when there is reasonable probability of his whipping anybody." [Laughter and applause.]
(Foner, Volume Four, pages 157- 165)
http://www.frederickdouglass.org/speeches/#wants
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Who could disagree with sentiments like this? For special effect, nothing tops the cynicism of the fake news site Onion News Network. What makes this outfit so entertaining and depressing is not just the use of the absurd, but just how often its satire is close to the truth. Revealing the 2008 election results early (in this, I hope they are wrong), here is ONN's preemptive take on the elections.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama: Lessons of Race in America

One of the more unfortunate incidents of this Presidential campaign, which was predictable in many ways, was the manner in which the media and opposition would impose and infuse the issue of race against an African American candidate. The greatest limitation of being an African American candidate for national office in this country has always been the marginalization of such candidates in the eyes of white voters, who see such candidates as black-only candidacies. This is what doomed Jesse Jackson’s run for the White House in 1984 and 1988.

What is being done to Barack Obama by the media and the Hillary Clinton campaign is no less subtle. That Senator Obama would even have to make a speech about race, in the backdrop of Reverent Jeremiah Wright, is nothing short of white privilege’s way of reminding blacks of the extra responsibilities they have to prove they are worthy of white political support. This is a harsh statement to make, and I write this as a white man, but it is undeniable to anyone who pays attention.


Did Hillary Clinton have to make a speech on race after her campaign finance manager, ex-Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, declared that Obama is only getting attention because he is black? Not only did she not give a speech about the event, Senator Clinton waited for more than a few days, particularly after the Mississippi primary, knowing that Ferraro’s words would help her to re-whiten her base of support, before formally separating herself from Ferraro's remarks.


When the late Jerry Falwell endorsed John McCain for the White House right before his death in 2007, there were practically no criticisms in the major media outlets about Falwell’s past statements on 9-11. Most amazingly, when Falwell died in May of last year, he received numerous medias tributes as a “man of God.” This is the same man of the almighty who called the civil rights movement a Communist plot designed to destroy the US. The same man who claimed the Teletubbies were part of an international gay conspiracy. The same man who claimed that gays, feminists, and pagans were the reason the US was attacked on 9-11. All we heard about, though, was how swell and nice a man Reverend Falwell was.


Enter right-wing tv shock jock Sean Hannity, a self-professed fan of southern culture and country music--a person who has about as much in common with the aspirations of black people as a man on the moon. Realizing that Obama is the more viable candidate, by his own admission, his friends at Fox “News” conducted an extensive background check on Obama and Reverend White, and they discovered some of his past sermons, among many over the course of a few decades, making controversial remarks about 9-11, race, and America. Suddenly, Jeremiah Wright, according to Mr. Hannity and his allies at the New York Post, transformed into a “preacher of hate,” a “black separatist,” “anti-white racist,” and “America hater.”


Notice, where was Sean Hannity and the editorial board of the New York Post when Jerry Falwell endorsed John McCain? It is worth noting that the New York Post is headquartered in the city that Reverend Falwell claimed “deserved” to be attacked on 9-11. Where were Sean Hannity and the editorial board of the New York Post when John Hagee, a televangelist, endorsed John McCain, in spite of the fact this is a man who has previously claimed Jews were destined for hell and caused their own misery during the Holocaust? In fact, when McCain was quizzed on Hagee’s views, he refused to repudiate the good reverend’s beliefs, an act, had it been Obama refusing to denounce any of the remarks of Reverend Wright, that would have earned screams for Senatorial impeachment from the commentators of Fox News.


To put it bluntly, if Barack Obama was white there would be no attention paid to what his preacher said (anymore than the Sean Hannitys care about John Hagee's allegations that the Jews caused the Holocaust). There is even less uncertainty that because Senator Obama is black, he is being politically coerced into delivering a speech on the issue, knowing that as a candidate of a community that represents a seventh of the population, he has no choice but to placate voters--voters being hammered daily by Mr. Murdoch’s news outlet about how un-American Obama is because of his preacher's past statements.


The racial hypocrisy is disturbing enough, but should it surprise us? We hear constantly from the Bill O’Reillys and Rush Limbaughs about how we have reached a post-racist panacea in America. Their denial of race is simply a mirage, all the more so when they decide to rediscover the issue from the speeches of a reverend whose church they would never be caught dead frequenting. It is even more remarkable because so many of these conservative commentators have their own race problems, initiated by their past statements on the issue--be it Rush Limbaugh’s past claims that Africans have “bones in their nose[es],” or discounting the voices of African Americans as “just 12 percent of the population…who the hell cares what they think.” To Fox News hosts like John Gibson, who claims the white race is being imperiled by a lack of breeding and non-white immigration. To Bill O’Reilly, who claims that immigration from Mexico undermines the white power structure, to which he asserts protects America.


If you want to see the way the average white conservative in this country thinks, just watch and listen to the more honest ones. There are exceptions, to be sure, but for every one libertarian that only cares about making money, there will be a couple of Michael Savages reminding everyone of the evils of Spanish speaking peoples.


And yet, how often will the mainstream media call these people to account for their views? When was the last time The New York Post lambasted John Gibson on its front page? And these are not the views of their preachers. These are the actual people. However, Senator Obama is expected to answer for his pastor. Such is the moral hypocrisy of the “white power structure” that Bill O’Reilly sees as the bulwark of civilization.


For the record, Senator Obama delivered what was probably one of the most eloquent speeches on the issue of race in recent memory by a public figure, even if compelled by the injustices of an intolerantly manufactured political landscape. Whether it will work in diffusing the issue to the point that Senator Obama can build on his support base, only time will tell, but it is probably not an accident that Hillary Clinton is ahead in the polls for the first time since Super Tuesday. Operation Chaos, as the white-right on radio talk show dubbed their campaign, is in full swing. Of course, for them, there is nothing discriminatory about it. After all, according to Rush, "blacks are only 12% of the population in this country, so to hell with them." Who could not enjoy having a country populated with such loving people?

The Speech

My sympathies for Senator Obama over Clinton notwithstanding, it is not an exaggeration to say that he delivered a wonderful speech on Tuesday about race in America, probably the best in the last generation. It is impressive not only in its scope, and seeming honesty (if one believes a politician can actually be honest anymore), but also in his ability to confront the issue of racism within his own family, challenging us to do the same in ourselves and to use it as a building block for a better polity.

On the off chance anyone missed it, without further ado.


Monday, March 17, 2008

The Problem of Tibet 2

"...if the situation was such that there was only one learned lama or genuine practitioner alive, a person whose death would cause the whole of Tibet to lose all hope of keeping its Buddhist way of life, then it is conceivable that in order to protect that one person it might be justified for one or 10 enemies to be eliminated."--Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

Acceptable Independence Movements
?

I ask the question about Tibetan independence not as an ideological proposition or statement, but as a search for when it is truly acceptable and legitimate for a group of people to seek independence from their government. There may be those who would say never, but even China once had to free itself from foreign control, as well as the US. At some level, most countries have to concede that there are some circumstances when it is acceptable.

Of course, the most obvious are those states that were invaded by an alien power, occupied, and their governments replaced by the invading authorities. These are not just cases of nations being occupied, but real existing independent states being targeted for elimination from a foreign invader. Those are classic cases for legitimate national liberation struggles, which engulfed much of the Third World around the time of de-colonization in the 20th century (and dating back to the 19th century, if you include Latin America, and maybe even the US, if you accept that the European settlers in North America were oppressed natives).

The second cause would be those nations who have lived under a state not of their making, have accepted over time its jurisdiction, but have seen its remaining rights taken away by that government. That in and of itself is not enough, of course--otherwise, the Confederacy during the American Civil War was right. The important feature of this scenario is that the national group is given no legal recourse to air their grievances. More importantly, on those occasions when they do try to deliver those grievances, their actions are met with a repressive reaction that further discriminates against the national grouping and enslaves them to the will of an oppressive government that allots the locals with no true political representation. National groups like this are abound and usually have existed as colonial tributaries or subjects of a dominant nation state (like the Tartars under the Russians or Africans under Arabicized Egypt).

The third cause would be those groups who actually retained autonomy, but then faced a rescinding of those rights by the home government. In such cases, the group’s appeals are met with greater repression to guarantee their acquiescence. Hence, the group would feel as though it had no choice but to rebel in some way against the overarching state. A prime example of this would be Kosovo, whose autonomy was repealed by the Yugoslavian government, precipitating an independence movement that culminated in Kosovo’s independence this last month (thanks to the KLA and its friends in NATO).

All of these scenarios have one theme in common. The national group lacks some kind of recourse to appeal its cause and rights. With no recourse, the group feels it must use some type of resistance to make its case.

A Nation By Any Other Name

The biggest feature of these movements is that they represent a nation with a territory to call its own (and a territory that the group in question has historical claims to). This is one of the greatest rooms for debate, as there are numerous groups whose claims to identity are disputed or denied. In addition, there is almost always more than one group with some kind of claim to a chunk of land. Poland at one time extended much further into eastern and central Europe, and at one time Germany encompassed much of today’s Poland. How do you decide which group has the most legitimate claim? There really is no right or wrong answer to this question. I suppose at the end of the day, the side who wins is able to write its history about how it was able to justly claim the land as their own. This is what has taken place in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but even there it is anyone’s guess what the results will be.

The other quandary of national liberation movements is what really constitutes a national group of people? Most of today’s Jews are descendants of Eastern European Jews, most of whom are not historically part of the original twelve tribes from ancient Israel. Palestinians are not even an ethnic group, but a hodgepodge of ancient Canaanites, Arabs, and neighboring groups, most of whom never even spoke Arabic until after the Middle Ages and were Christian into modern times. The Germanic tribe, the Huns, originally migrated into today’s Germany from the Volga River, in Russia--meaning that descendants of this German tribe are actually Slavic, something I am sure the bohemian corporal from Austria omitted when rhetorically exhorting his blonde-haired, blue-eyed beasts in their war against the Russians. Indeed, there are probably very few ethnic groups on this planet that can claim to be rightly pure or a product of their own national ethos without outside influence or bastardization.

So, when is a national group really a national group and not a bunch of interbred peoples? There is no acceptable standard to this, which means that it depends mostly on the ability of the movements to write their own culturally dominant and accepted narrative about the origins of their group. That is not exactly the same as saying your nation is truly a nation. The politics of nationhood means that such questions, more often than not, will be determined by some means of legitimization.

What About Tibet?

It is undeniable that Tibetans are a national group with a claim to a land that they call their own, and have done so for centuries. Even the Chinese government recognizes this, as Tibetans are one of the 55 state-sanctioned ethnic minorities of the PRC (and the province of Tibet encompasses the same historical land as its ancestors). There is even less doubt the autonomy that Tibet possessed was forcibly wrestled away by the Chinese government, through a military invasion that inflicted much greater damage on Tibet than any of its monks could have dreamt of.

Politically and legally, the lack of recourse for Tibetans is something that is not even a consideration, because it is self-evident to anyone in Tibet, or for that matter in Beijing, that it is non-existent. The PRC has a federal system on paper, but the locals, no matter how local, are always tied in some way with the CCP or someone in a position of political leadership. And while the central government would love nothing more than to placate its minorities (after all, the PRC’s ethnic minorities, including the Tibetans, are not subject to the One Child policy), it is not a government that values highly what it perceives to be any challenge to its authority.

The ultimate problem with Tibetan independence is that it is a movement that has no chance of politically and strategically succeeding in the PRC. This is a government that has no qualms about crushing dissent and dissenters when it feels it necessary. The Tibetan independence movement has nothing outside of its message and some sympathizers, most of whom are not even in the Tibet or China to begin with.

The best the Tibetan independence movement can hope to do is to embarrass the Chinese, now and later at the Olympics, but even then it is questionable how successful such tactics will be. The Chinese, for their part, have made it clear that they will respond to such criticism by clamping down on any pro-independence expressions--be it tightening the regulations on outside entertainers who visit China, access to Tibet by foreigners, and a sustained campaign of denial and reverse victimology when attacking the Dalai Lama for being a clandestine terrorist.

The history of Tibetan autonomy has always been intertwined with political changes in China itself. When the Empire of China collapsed, the Republic of China deemed it advantageous to grant Tibet greater self-rule. When the People’s Republic was declared, the Communists quickly reversed this policy to invade and formally annex Tibet. Thus, for the current situation in Tibet to change, because of its lack of size and inability to project itself in a meaningful way (outside of the living room of Steven Seagal), the change will have to start with the government in Beijing. If the Tiananmen Square incident has illustrated anything, it is that the central government of Beijing does not care much of what the outside world thinks of it. That is as true now as it was in 1989.

So, for the Tibetans, what is to be done? This is an open question. Even if their cause is right, their movement is polluted by a theocratic leadership that makes the Kosovo Liberation Army appear legitimate by comparison. For over four decades, the Dalai Lama was on the payroll of the American taxpayer through the Central Intelligence Agency (and that is by the Dalai Lama’s own admission). And what kind of government would the Tibetans have, even if they replaced the CCP in Tibet? Considering its past, there is no guarantee that it would be democratic.

Lastly, if the Dalai Lama did come back, under perfect circumstances, and become the philosopher king of an independent Tibet, what kind of ruler would he be? He might pass himself off as a Gandhian pacifist to useful idiots in the West, but this is a man who has within the last several years reaffirmed his hatred of gays, abortion, and rationalized the potential violent elimination of opponents of Buddhism in Tibet. And note the Dalai Lama’s recent comments about how the Chinese government was committing “cultural genocide” in China--this would seemingly mean that revolutionary violence was not only acceptable but a must to preserve what they believe constitutes their Buddhist culture in Tibet.

And how is it exactly that the Chinese can invade Tibet, kill a million of its people, import hundreds of thousands of ethnic Hans, to the point that they have become the dominant economic actors inside of Tibet, and the Dalai Lama waits until a couple of monks are arrested to accuse the government of committing genocide? These are the kinds of questions that people should be asking, but of course they do not. Being a historical victim of some wrong does not obfuscate the political responsibility of any party. If the national liberation movements in the Third World in the 20th century have taught us anything, it is that the process of independence is more important than gaining independence itself, because it will dictate what kind of government (for better or worse) that the national group will have upon gaining their independence. At this point, as a non-Buddhist and believer in disbelief, I cannot say that I would prefer to live under the likes of a Dalai Lama or any of his tolerantly intolerant monks.