Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday Lazy Links

A wasp drags a paralyzed spider back to her lair to lay her eggs in its body.

Lovely day. Feeling lazy....
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Monday, July 28, 2014

....Simply Shows How Out of Touch Sean Lien Is

Bird and owner out for a cycle trip.

Sean Lien, the son of KMT Honorary Chairman for Life and KMT mayoral candidate for the KMT fiefdom of Taipei stunned the political universe this week by lunching with a bunch of foreigners. The event was widely mocked by netizens for its $500 NT lunchboxes (normal ones go for a fifth of that price), once again displaying the Lien clan's total lack of the common touch. The foreigners touched on various issues, Lien gave the KMT party line. Boring, and Lien dismissing claims that the FPEZ opposition is just pro-independence types, as longtime KMT observer Ketty Chen noted on Facebook, simply shows how out of touch Lien is.

In fact, you can simply follow any activity of Lien's with the phrase "...simply shows how out of touch Lien is."

More seriously, overheard on the internet: since Ko Wen-je in Taipei is an independent candidate, he cannot appoint election supervisors to count the ballots, according to the law independent candidates can't do that. Since the DPP and TSU have no candidate, neither can they appoint election supervisors. Hence, according to this longtime political observer, all election supervisors, responsible for assessing the validity of ballots, will be KMT.

Color me Sean Lien this week.
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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Our Colonial Administration

A spider protects its hatchlings.

A while back I wrote on how the north of Taiwan is the center of a colonial state, whose periphery is essentially everything south of Hsinchu. The reflexive nature of this state is apparent even in the small stuff.

Let us recall that "independence" is in part a regional response to the way the north parasitizes the rest of the nation, sucking up its development money, exploiting its resources, impoverishing its governments, and eating up its promising young people. What people in the south want independence from is the colonial government in Taipei.

Thus, one of the DPP's most important policies is regional development balancing, and part of this are initiatives for moving government offices down to cities in central and southern Taiwan. Lin Jia-lung has even floated the idea of moving the legislature to Taichung (would save a lot of travel money, and think how easy it would be for legislators to keep up with their gangster contacts). A commentary in the Taipei Times yesterday recounted:
The administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) promoted more even allocation of resources, starting with the relocation of central government agencies south. Chen heralded the Council of Agriculture’s Fisheries Agency as the advance guard in this initiative.

When President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office, this policy was thrown into reverse and the agency began working on its return to Taipei, a process due to be completed by the end of this month.
The Chen Administration had sent the Fisheries Agency to the south. Immediately the Ma Administration, reflexively anxious to preserve and re-assert the coloniality of the north, recalled that Agency to Taipei (that's more of that famous pragmatism, no doubt, for which Ma was so touted by delusional media and experts prior to the 2008 election).

Hand-in-hand with the colonial structure of the government is the colonial attitude that southerns and Taiwanese are inferiors. That too was exampled this week as academics complained about the appointments to head the Museum of Taiwanese Literature -- two individuals with no expertise in that area.
Lung appointed the museum’s director and deputy director, but neither of them has a related academic background, nor authentic connections to Taiwanese literature studies, they said.

The move led prominent figures in the nation’s literary circles to charge that the museum’s mission statement has been abandoned to become a haven for political appointees and the museum has been turned into Lung’s “personal fiefdom.”
The move doesn't signal that Lung has made it her personal fiefdom. What it signals is that Lung hardly considers the positions to be serious and important.

UPDATE: Ben responds and adds
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Sony DSC RX100 Mk 2 is in the house!

Our dog is totally excited to be going on a walk with the new Sony DSC RX100 II. He scratched a huge hole in the skin on his head so we have to make him wear that til it heals. Annoying for all parties.

A couple of years ago I bought a Canon Powershot SX260 (post). I ended up scratching the lens and rendering it useless, so I returned to using my venerable old Canon Powershot S95, which is a fantastic camera that I still love. Perfect in conception, easy to use, that camera is a dream. But unfortunately it is old....

#FirstWorldProblems

Taiwan consumer complaints from the Consumer Protection Agency of the Executive Yuan. Number 1 and number 2 [shakes head].
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EVENTS:
2014 The International Conference on Formosan Indigenous Peoples: Contemporary Perspectives
Dates:15-17 September 2014
Venue:Humanities and Social Sciences Building, Academia Sinica
Link: http://www.ioe.sinica.edu.tw/2014icfipe

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Politics as Usual

The 193 north of Ruisui.

Ah, the KMT, still the world's richest political party. Ma had promised to sell off the Party's assets and put everything in trusts. LOL.

For weeks I've been wondering when the lack of professionalism of Ko Wen-je, the pan-Green candidate for Taipei mayor, would show itself. This week it was the Ko campaign's hiring of an alternative service military conscript as the campaign office's technical advisor that gave us a double whammy -- first, hiring in-service military people for political campaigns is probably technically legal, but not a bright thing to do. The man is technically a soldier. And second -- you mean the guy is running for mayor of the nation's most important city and his tech people aren't professionals with years of experience? Oy ve.

Can't help but note that with all the out and out gangsters involved in politics all over the nation, the fact that there is a media flap over this, however tiny, is ridiculous.

The KMT news organ was saying that Shen Fu-hisung is in despair over his low polling in the Taipei mayor race and will probably drop out in August. It will be interesting to see what happens in the polls, then.

I've been wondering what the KMT was thinking with Keelung -- was the whole thing with former KMT candidate, now likely independent candidate Huang Ching-tai, a setup to distance the KMT from an allegedly corrupt candidate? Nope, it's really a screw up. The KMT removed Huang from the party candidacy but had no one waiting in the wings to take up the cudgel on the Party's behalf. Rather embarrassing, that. Now they found someone who appears to be squeaky-clean and wants to run for the Keelung mayor position. In the past they've had some trouble producing candidates with both those qualifications (remember Hsu Tai-li?). Meanwhile the spurned Huang Ching-tai says he has the signatures to run as an independent. For the first time in years the DPP may actually have a shot at the Keelung mayoralty if Huang seriously pursues his candidacy and splits the KMT vote.

More seriously, Taipei Times reports that Taiwan is being flooded with tiny pro-annexation parties that coordinate their activities.
Taiwan Thinktank councilor Tung Li-wen (董立文) said that since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) assumed office in 2008, a total of 116 new political parties have been registered, and more than 80 percent of these have a manifesto based on “promoting cross-strait exchanges and cooperation; advocating unification with China.”

“The Chinese government is using these small parties to infiltrate Taiwanese politics to cultivate and propagate more pro-China organizations,” Tung said.

“During last month’s visit by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), these groups were mobilized for a show of force. Plans are now underway for more ‘drill training’ at the elections later this year. Their main aim is to ‘mobilize their troops to impact on the presidential election in 2016,” Tung said.

As of May 2008, there were 138 registered political parties, according to Ministry of the Interior figures, while as of last week there were 254, an increase of 85 percent.
The gangs here are largely pro-China. But it should also be recalled that political parties are excellent frameworks for money laundering, which may be what much of this activity is. The sheer number of them make excellent camouflage for moving Chinese money into Taiwan politics. But if you are bringing in Chinese money, why put pro-China noises in the party charter and call attention to this fact? And if you are only engaged in money laundering, why put pro-China noises in the party charter? Ideology trumps common sense again? Or what?

Note also the Chinese spouses...
“Another development is that Chinese women married to Taiwanese men have formed and registered several political parties. We estimate that by the 2016 presidential election, the Chinese spouses could have a voting bloc of between 120,000 to 240,000 ballots,” Tung said.

“China provides support to Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing parties which are also known as ‘loyalists.’ Through elections, Communist China’s political control of Hong Kong is assured. The experience there shows that it can be done. So China is copying that template and applying it for Taiwan,” he said.

This is because China has realized that by controlling only 3 to 5 percent of Taiwan’s electorate, it can sway the presidential election, and thus decide Taiwan’s future, Tung said.
Yep. Chinese spouses do not have to give up their Chinese citizenship, unlike the rest of us foreigners and can become citizens relatively quickly. There are well over 300,000 such spouses in Taiwan. Even a third of them might turn an election if they vote as a bloc -- recall that Chen Shui-bian's margin in 2004 was not even 30K votes.... and China's screaming and yelling across the Strait at Taipei to stop "discriminating" against Chinese spouses signals its awareness of the power of this bloc.
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Backyard Sanity break: Answering a question

Went to the backyard to take a sanity break today. Ordinarily I don't shoot leafhoppers, but this shot was so lovely I broke my rule.

Last month I shot these aliens in my backyard. Posting on Facebook, someone opined that they might be ladybug larva.

Sure enough, I caught one in mid-transformation today. Hard to tell, but I think it is turning into...

...something like this.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Just to get the flavor of central Taiwan; Courtney Donovan Smith's Roundup of our news

Kenting, four years ago.

BREAKING: Fuxing Air plane crashed in Penghu. Reports still in, but apparently of the 54 on board, 6 were sent to the hospital. 48 didn't make it.

+++++++

Courtney Donovan Smith of ICRT posted to Facebook:

My report this morning on ICRT was a laundry list of nepotism, corruption and criminal behaviour by politicians...and I only cover Taichung, Changhua and Nantou.

Son of Nantou County Assembly Speaker arrested
The son of the Nantou County’s legislative speaker has been arrested along with 8 subordinates. The 39-year-old reportedly had been running a violent racket targeting wealthy businesspeople and more frequently their rich offspring. Using his father’s name he would offer invitations, the kind you can’t refuse, for these princelings to gamble at his underground casino. The casino was rigged so the victims would always lose, which would lead to beatings, violent extortion from the rich parent--or frequently both--if the victim couldn’t pay. His father, KMT lawmaker and speaker of the Nantou County Assembly He Sheng-feng (何勝豐) distanced himself from his son, saying they were not frequently in contact. The lawmaker himself, who is currently out on bail on charges of shooting a man who was beating him up in a KTV, is suspected of also having run a violent extortion and gambling racket in the past.

Sticking with Nantou, Lee Chao-ching’s wife ends political speculation
Impeached Nantou County Commissioner Lee Chao-ching’s wife has ended speculation she would run in a legislative by-election, and launched her first campaign billboard in her run for county commissioner. The ad, prominently and somewhat oddly features the slogan ‘a new choice’. When her campaign was announced, her husband--currently out on bail pending corruption charges-- openly made clear she was running on his behalf, announcing his wife was going to carry out plans he conceived while he had had time to rest in jail. Failing to register in time to run in the KMT primary, she is running as an independent. In other similar news, the daughter of impeached lawmaker Yen Ching-piao, jailed previously on gun and corruption charges, is running for Taichung city council. Her brother is the current legislator for the area, having won his father’s seat. Like her father, she is running as an independent. She says her father has only given her one piece of advice: to lose 30 kg.

As if that weren’t enough
The cousin of the Changhua County Commissioner and a lawyer friend of his were sentenced to 1 year 8 months and 2 years respectively. The cousin was approached by the brother of the county commissioner in 2010 to use his name to purchase a property in Taipei. The cousin instead introduced him to a friend of his, a lawyer. Using money borrowed from the family and govt contractors, the property was purchased. The brother ran into a series of difficulties, including corruption allegations and receiving a nine-year sentence for stealing campaign funds from the 2012 Ma Ying-jeou presidential run. The lawyer then refused to return the property, keeping it for himself. By refusing to return it, he and the cousin received sentences for breach of trust. The county commissioner himself was not involved in the case.

Pan-green trouble in Changhua
Refusing to bow to ever-increasing pressure from the DPP and TSU, including a visit from Tsai Ying-wen and losing her TSU party membership, ex-TSU lawmaker Huang Wen-ling (黃文玲) has reiterated her determination to see the race for Changhua County Commissioner through to the end. Though running as an independent, she is expected to take away votes from the DPP, and a recent opinion poll had her support and the DPP’s Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) support combined roughly even with that of the KMT’s Lin Cang-min (林滄敏). However, the pan-blues may have trouble of their own, with the camp of KMT primary loser Ke Cheng-fang (柯呈枋) refusing to rule out running in the race as an independent. Ke vehemently accused Lin of cheating in the primary.

Taichung transportation milestones
Last week saw the trial launch of Taichung’s iBike bicycle rental system. Though initially only 3 stations with 100 bikes, it is expected to hit 60 stations and over 1500 bikes within 2 years. It was also announced that Taichung’s iBike system will be mutually compatible with Changhua’s Youbike system. In related news the Bus Rapid Transit Blue Line is scheduled to begin semi-normal operations at completed stations starting this Sunday at noon. How many stations will be complete by Sunday is uncertain, but construction does appear to be accelerating. The bulk of the buses running along Taiwan Blvd are scheduled to be effectively turned into shuttle buses to the BRT, freeing up the slow lanes.

Bamboo Union shooting
A top Bamboo Union leader, by some reports the head of the triad in New Taipei City, was gunned down at close range on Monday. The so-called temple-master was attending a banquet at a temple in Changhua’s Erlin Township when he was shot seven times at close range, killing him instantly. The baseball-capped shooter then escaped in a waiting car. Police suspect the assassins followed the gangster’s car from the north, possibly for the entire trip.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Robert Sutter Rocks on China

Danger lurks behind every leaf.

Robert Sutter, the longtime US government Taiwan specialist, nails it in a brilliant piece saying, essentially, it's about time the US actually imposed some costs on China for its behavior. He then goes on to lay out some of the actions that the US can take. That the piece is at CSIS, a corporate establishment thinktank which usually advocates unicorns and rainbows for China, is even more impressive. The key point for us is the Taiwan part [emphasis mine]:
2)Taiwan is an area of acute sensitivity for China; one where the United States has several options to raise significant costs for China. As the United States seeks to check China’s recent coercion and intimidation of neighbors, it could devote more attention to Taiwan – which has faced unbridled Chinese military coercion and intimidation for almost two decades. One option is to complicate Chinese defense plans and overall strategy toward Taiwan by allowing the sale of the 66 F-16 fighter jet long sought by the Taiwan government. The cost to China of such action involves not just the planes themselves but the significance of the substantial US demonstration of support for Taiwan in the face of China’s pressure and threats. Another option would involve a more active US posture in support of Taiwanese free expression and identity represented by the so-called Sunflower Movement on the island. Beijing has shown no postive response to the rising importance of such demonstrations of Taiwan identity at odds with Chinese interests. The demonstrations tend to support Taiwan’s political opposition’s wariness on dealing with China. US support for such expressions of Taiwanese identity could further shift Taiwan politics in favor of the opposition against the unpopular government of President Ma Ying-jeou. China would face costly and difficult reevaluation of its reasonably successful policy toward Taiwan, should the opposition win the 2016 presidential election.
Hello! We out here have been advocating these two positions for a while now. Good to see someone in Washington catching up. As I pointed out in 2011:

In need of an update, but still relevant. I'll note once again, as I have so many times, that the constant call for a sell out of Taiwan simply moves the defense against China back to the Senkakus -- uninhabited rocks, without 23 million people who don't want to be part of China, armed forces, and a forward position. Taiwan is a massive inconsistency in US strategy. Not does the US not include it in this strategy, the US even supports the pro-China party in Taiwan. Should they survive our climate policies, future historians will scratch their heads in puzzlement....
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Monday, July 21, 2014

Just some links

Typhoon to make landfall on Wednesday. Typhoon track as of noon on Monday. Central Weather Bureau typhoon link.
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Northern Cross Sanity Break

Resting in Lower Baling with my good friends Kenji and Jeff.

Saturday and Sunday I ignored my currently enormous workload and rode one of favorite routes, the Northern Cross Island Highway from Yongning Metro to Yilan Train Station with my redoubtable friends Kenji and Jeff. Click on Read More to see more....

Friday, July 18, 2014

Vacation daze....

Off to hit the mountains for a couple of days. No blogging until Monday. Enjoy a few links to tide you over the weekend.
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

International Law = Taiwan's friend

The Zhoufu Industry Road in the Rift Valley.

My friend and fellow member of the Ohio Diaspora Brian Benedictus (his excellent blog) and I spanked Julian Ku hard in The Diplomat today: US Policy and International Law: Taiwan's Friend. Enjoy...
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Taipei Mayoral Election polls


FormosaNation sent around these two images. He's bullish about the prospects of Ko Wen-je in Taipei against Lien Chan's son Lien Sheng-wen (Sean Lien) and has been twitting Ben Goren at Letters from Taiwan and I about our pessimism. The top image shows the China Times poll that has Ko at 38%, Lien at 30%, and Shen Fu-hsiung, a former DPPer, at 10% with the remainder at no opinion/undecided. The bottom poll is even more terrifying if you are a KMTer: Ko is on the left and even or winning in traditional KMT districts. FormosaNation pointed out to me that KMTers are wailing and gnashing their teeth, but Ben observed that complaining that things are hanging in the balance is a common KMT election tactic.

My own view remains that Shen Fu-hsiung's 10% means nothing. That figure is a protest vote against the KMT. In the end those people will go into the voting booth, stare at Shen's picture, and then mark their ballots for Sean Lien. James Soong, a far more recognizable candidate for KMT voters, took just 4% as the alternative in 2006. My thinking is that Shen will probably get 3-4% and Lien will collect the other 6%. This means that Ko and Lien are actually neck and neck.

That is no small feat when you recall that Hau crushed Frank Hsieh 53-40 in 2006 and then actually increased his proportion to 55-43 against Su Tseng-chang, who ran a much better campaign than Hsieh in 2010. That means that in Taipei 55% of the people are willing to vote Blue even when the alternative is one of the most personally attractive and competent politicians in Taiwan. So don't underestimate the slavish devotion of Taipei's KMT voters to their social identities.

In 2002 Ma Ying-jeou crushed Lee Ying-yuan 64-35, but Lee was a relatively unknown and uncompelling candidate, hence the election scores are anomalous. The vote counts for the other elections are:

2006
KMT 692,085 (53.81)
DPP 525,869 (40.89)
Other 68,135 ( 5.30)

2002
KMT 873102 (64.1)
DPP 488811 (35.9)

1998
KMT 766377 (51.1)
DPP 688072 (45.9)

1994
KMT 364618 (25.9)
DPP 615090 (43.7)
New 424905 (30.2)

It's easy to see that the DPP in a competitive election typically takes 40-45% of the vote, the KMT makes up the rest. The only way the DPP can ever win is if the KMT vote is split between two strong candidates, which is what happened in 1994, when the New Party outpolled the KMT.

Ko is a totally new factor in the last two decades, a strong and nominally independent candidate who is not a former KMT politician. However, his ceiling is probably still 45% of the vote -- and that figure was from 1998. For Ko to win, many light blues are going to have to decide to stay home or make protest votes. Shen Fu-hsiung is just going to have to collect that 10% of the vote. Or the earth god will have to intervene...
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Monday, July 14, 2014

Events+ John Garnaut on the PRC, White Wolf, Triads, Taiwan, and Hong Kong

The road up to Xitou, on the west side of the gorge.

John Garnaut has a trio on triads, the White Wolf, and PRC expansionism, annexation, and nationalism. From this one:
"White Wolf?" snaps one of Chang An-lo's assistants, a man with a huge forehead and pockmarked face, who eyes me suspiciously. "What White Wolf? "Whoever calls him that? You mean you are looking for President Chang!" It's only after I name-drop members of the Chinese Communist Party aristocracy that he ushers me into an inner office space, where he jots down my details and gives me an undertaking that my name will be passed on to the "President". In an adjacent room I notice a resplendent dragon, carved from a million-dollar slab of Burmese jade, suggesting that the business of pan-Chinese patriotism has some pay-offs. Last year another CUP branch office was raided by the police, who alleged that it was a front for one of Chang's Bamboo Union proteges to engage in organised crime, extortion, illegal ownership of guns and drugs, and rape.
There are two others, here and here (on Hong Kong).

EVENTS: sorry, wanted to post this: Jerome Keating's next meetup is Sunday the 20th of July:

Speaker: Brandon Thompson
Brandon is from Canada, entertains in 3 languages. Sings, plays instruments and acts. a consumate entertainer.
He trained with Second City Training Center, Toronto (nothing to do with Rob Ford)
Has participated in Taiwan's Spring Scream, Peacefest, and Canada Day.
Acts with Taipei Players and Taipei Improv.
One of the bands he is with is Adoga Band.

Topic: Ex-pats and the entertainment business in Taiwan; want to get in? what are some pitfalls to watch? What about visa issues and work permits?
Brandon has APRC by the way and has been around the Taiwan block.

The venue is the same as it has traditionally been. Time is 10 am.
The meeting location is the restaurant 婷婷翠玉 at 174 AnHe Road, Section Two. (rough translation of name is Tender, Pretty Green Jade.) You will be able to tell the restaurant by the lace curtains on the window--it was used in a TV commercial a while back. (We will have the downstairs room--breakfast cost will range between NT$100 and NT$150. Everyone buys their own)

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