Free Tibet

Via This week’s Citizen Editorial Page:

I have not heard back from my congressman, who I wrote to several days ago concerning the violence visited upon protesters in Lhasa and other places in Tibet.

I do not expect much help to come from the United States government in this area. Officialdom abandoned Tibet long ago in pursuit of the markets and manufacturing of China.

Now, with the Olympics putting a spotlight on the country, there are clear and unsettling reminders of what we got from that bargain and what has happened and what is happening in Tibet.

I’ve got a little different perspective on the place and its people, having grown up in a small college town in the Midwest where a considerable number of refugees, including the Dalai Lama’s own kin, started settling in the late 1950s.

Over the years, I heard stories firsthand of the aftermath of China’s takeover, of considerable hardship, oppression, starvation and determination. And then there was the final solution – the relocation of millions of ethnic Chinese to the annexed region. Writing about that in the New York Times in 1991, A.M. Rosenthal called the effort “a criminal, genocidal attempt to erase Tibet’s reality.” Tibetans became a minority in their own country. The rule imposed on them was harsh, intolerant and often bizarre. Under rules passed just last year, Tibet’s living buddhas are not permitted to reincarnate without first obtaining permission from the government.

Now, the twisted story line from the government-controlled China media is that the Dalai Lama is fomenting rebellion in Tibet to hold the Olympics hostage. If they haven’t been leveled already, charges of terrorism aren’t far away.
And while the little we’ve heard leaking out of Lhasa is horrendous, there is little doubt that what is taking place in prisons mirrors the brutalities of the past. And with the spotlight suddenly on the worst of China’s rule, the outrage in the official rhetoric is license to pour it on.

At one time, North Carolina was a bastion of bipartisan support for the people of Tibet. For some, the fight was one against communism; for others, it was over the oppression of religion. But for everyone who has stood on the side of the Tibetan people, the prime motivation is a profound sense that a unique and rich culture and a philosophy that espouses compassion and a desire for a peaceful planet is steadily being erased from the face of the Earth.

Later in the column mentioned above, Rosenthal offered this comparison between the justifications given for the first Gulf War, then in progress, and the silence over the cause of Tibet.

He said: “Tibet asks no soldiers from the United States, no Patriots, just attention, and plain words to its oppressors that genocide is as ugly in the mountains as in the desert.”

Banks and NC

One thing to wonder in the unraveling of the mortgage debt crisis story is how this will effect North Carolina, a state which has a huge banking industry due to its unique laws allowing banks to avoid taxes by plowing profits into local government bonds.

This is an analysis left to much smarter people than me, but I’m wondering how this will play out.

People are talking openly about BB&T’s exposure, for instance. And Bank of America and Wachovia are hip deep in this, especially since BoA is buying one of the progenitor companies of the crisis – Countrywide, which, by the way, called their loan officers “marketers” and is having a lot of trouble of late. I have no idea whether the buzz about banks is valid, but it can’t be good for business.

And it might not be good for the state, if, for instance one of the major sources of local bond investments, i.e. bank profits, slows to a trickle. There’s also a good deal of philanthropy, personal spending and local investing done by these institutions. So, here in the NC one might feel a certain coziness. The rest of the country isn’t going to be so nice.

Via Dean Baker:

Under the rules of the Federal Reserve Board’s Term Auction Facility (TAF), Citigroup, or any bank, can borrow money at an interest rate that is below the discount rate, and put up mortgage backed securities, which could be nearly worthless, as collateral.

This sounds like a good deal if you can get it. Do we want to keep our major banks operating? Of course we do, but don’t we want to replace the incompetent managers that ran them into the ground and make the shareholders take their full hit? After all these people don’t share their huge salaries or the gains on their stock in good times with the rest of us.

Another backlash is coming in the area of mortgage-based redlining. Black and Latinos borrowers are getting a disproportionate share of the so-called subprime loans – in many cases even if they qualify for a better deal. That means that the effect on the downside of this is going to lead to some serious charges.