Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Lien's Drive for the Top Continues?

I've been following Lien Chan's non-campaign for chairmanship of the KMT with much ironic relish, and today events took a new turn. One of Lien's chief opponents is the pretty but feckless mayor of Taipei, Ma Ying-jeou. Today the Taipei Times, among other local newspapers, reported that Ma's father supports Lien Chan.

In an embarrassing development for Ma Ying-jeou, Ma Ho-ling urged Lien to run for another term as chairman.

Ma Ho-ling said that his son "has no experience" in party operations, and that only Lien could unite the pan-blue camp.

In response, Ma Ying-jeou yesterday said that he respected his father's opinion, but planned to continue with his campaign for the party chairmanship.

The other candidate, Wang Jyng-ping, a popular Taiwanese KMT stalwart, is widely perceived as a threat by many of the party's Old Guard

While Lien has said on numerous occasions that he has no plans to run, supporters have argued that only Lien can unite the KMT. They contend that a contest between KMT vice chairmen Ma and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) will only end up dividing the party.
Lien Chan has lost two elections, and his supporters seem to be suffering from historical amnesia, forgetting that "uniter" Lien Chan broke the KMT the first time he ran for President. Remember folks? The KMT split into two parties, spinning off James Soong and the PFP and taking many unreconstructed mainlanders with it, in opposition to Lien. A few years I had the sneaking suspicion that Lien Chan's bumbling incompetence was actually Lee Teng-hui's tool to destroy the KMT, but it is pretty clear that the KMT is capable of doing that all on its own.

I think many outside observers would agree that the photogenic, Harvard-educated Ma or the dapper, widely-admired Wang would make far more effective presidential candidates than dour, ugly Lien Chan. But Wang is a Taiwanese, and after the Party's experience with Lee Teng-hui, it seems few of the mainlanders are ready to support a Taiwanese. Thus the Old Guard KMT, who seem to support Lien Chan, are nursing a rather bizarre fantasy:

Only if Lien continues as chairman, they say, will the KMT be able to win the 2008 presidential election.

Let's see, Lien has lost two elections in which he was the favorite. Meanwhile the DPP grabbed six million votes in 2004, up from 2 million in1996. There seems to be something wrong with Lien's leadership, guys. Like maybe, it doesn't work.

This thought was reflected today in the report that many of the Taipei neighborhood bosses had contributed to erect a giant sign saying "Grandfather Lien, Don't Run Again!" The sign was a parody of the welcome sign that Lien met when he went to the school in China.

The National Assembly began meeting today. Have to visit David's blog to check that out....


Monday, May 30, 2005

Triads In Taiwan: the Dragon Rears an Ugly Head

There was a graphic public demonstration of the power of organized crime in Taiwan yesterday as 10,000 gangsters showed up to thumb their noses at the police at the funeral of "Mosquito Brother."



The funeral began at 12:30pm and drew to a close at 2:30pm. After the funeral service, Hsu's ashes were brought to Taipei County's Chinpaosan cemetery. Thousands of gangsters walked behind Hsu's hearse in a procession that stretched for about 10km along Minquan E. Rd, temporarily blocking traffic. Hundreds of family members and gang members waited at the cemetery for the funeral procession to arrive.

Police set up roadblocks around the cemetery. They also said the funeral services affected the surrounding area, and inconvenienced the nearly 50,000 junior high school graduates in the city who were taking their high school entrance exams yesterday.

My things have certainly changed since the go-go days of the 1990s, when President Lee Teng-hui attended the funeral of a prominent gangster in the same part of town, as I recall.

Not.

Lots of people write paeans to the "low crime" of Japan and Taiwan. Few foreigners ever really come into contact with the rampant crime in those two countries since they do not stay for long nor come to any understanding of the way those societies actually work. But here was an extraordinary surfacing of the underworld that deserves closer attention. For every mugging that doesn't happen in Taiwan or Japan, there's an act of extortion or a con game that doesn't happen in the US. Crime, like everything else, is cultural.

My friend Nikola Pazderic writes perceptively on the 1990s, the KMT's use of Triads in ruling Taiwan, and Taiwan's gang atmosphere here. He notes:

During the postwar era, this pattern found expression in the public sphere vis-à-vis crime; for crime provided an official cause for state control of local areas, a control enforced through the unofficial alliance of government and local, criminal ("black society") gangs. Yet, following the November 21, 1996 murder of Taoyuan County Chief Liu Bangyou and eight others (including two county councilors and two other Taoyuan County Government officials at Liu's official residence) and the December 3, 1996 discovery of feminist activist Peng Wanru's raped and naked corpse in a Kaohsiung County field, the chaos, sickness and danger appeared as an overwhelming and unstoppable tide(1). For following the execution-style killing (believed ordered by black society Mafioso involved in the construction industry), many began to fear that Taiwan would become a "little Sicily"-- rendering its vitally important emergent status as a democratic state lost; and, after the death of Peng Wanru, an admired reformer who advocated that at least one fourth of all Democratic Progressive Party candidates be women, women across the island felt their fears about the safety of the streets, in general, and taxis, in particular, to be demonstrated for all to see. (Peng was last seen in a taxi, a vehicle that serves as a sign-- despite the professional demeanor of most drivers-- of regardless individualism, lawless social relations, aggressive male domination and unrestricted urban migration). Moreover, the deaths proved what people beholden to the ways of emergent, middle class life already believed: namely, that the social conditions from which they sprang, including the long-time alliance of government and organized crime and the actions of uncontrolled capitalists required continued and aggressive cleansing and re-ordering.
The 1990s were also the era of Lo Fu-chu, the self-proclaimed "spiritual head" of the island's organized crime syndicates. Asiaweek reported:

Indeed, the skeptics point to another development to bolster their claims that the anti-corruption effort is but window-dressing. Legislator Lo Fu-chu, widely suspected of being the godfather of the same gang that kidnapped lawmaker Liao, recently cut a deal with the legislature�s KMT caucus and was appointed co-chairman of the assembly�s Justice Committee.
Here's another Asiaweek story from 2000 on the gangland past of one of the island's billionaires. This story gives a different take on the emergence of Taiwan's gangs than most:

Sheen was born on the mainland in 1947, eldest son of an officer in the Kuomintang army. He moved to Taiwan the following year as the KMT forces, led by Chiang Kai-shek, began to retreat from the advances of Mao Zedong's communists. The KMT regulars were not popular in Taiwan, where many natives considered them an invading force. Children like Sheen were ready targets for the animosity. Weak and scrawny, Sheen formed a gang with other "mainlanders" for protection. Over time, similar groups, often started by the sons of KMT military fathers, morphed into Taiwan's biggest and most notorious crime syndicates. The triad tradition of secret societies goes back hundreds of years among Chinese, but the strongest organizations in Taiwan today are typically less than 50 years old.
Fortunate those days are long past, eh?

*sigh*

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Couldn't find a job

A letter writer complains...

My website says:

"Really, though, any time is good. Teachers are in demand year-round in Taiwan, and you cannot fail to find work."
That's not true. The hostile I stayed at for 4 weeks was owned by a couple that had never seen anyone try as hard as I did to get a job with a visa. I stayed up till5am loooking on the interent for who to all and email. I sent over 500 emails while there. At 9am-11am I began my day calling and I walked on foot to various towns all over Taipei and visited about 20+ schools I found asking for work, soetimes causeal, sometimes in a Brooks Bothers suit. THEY DON'T LIKE TO GIVE OUT WORK VISAS. They have a TON of canadians that will work without them. It was so bad that I took my return flight home.

Sorry! But nothing is 100%.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

ESWN on Taiwan in the Chinese Press.

ESWN, a blog of consistent high quality, has a fabulous article on what China needs to understand about Taiwan. The article it discusses appeared in the Chinese press...
The appearance of an article in a mainland Chinese newspaper has caused quite a stir. Here are the factors that made this simple event so significance. First, the newspaper is the Chinese Youth Daily, an organ of the Chinese Communist Youth League and therefore an article of this nature must have received official blessing from higher up. Second, the author is Lung Ying-tai, one of the top public intellectuals brought up in Taiwan, educated in the United States and Germany and presently affiliated with Hong Kong University. Third, the topic of the article is Taiwan and its mainstream values of democracy and freedom. This article goes a long way to explaining that the overall reluctance of the people of Taiwan for immediate re-unification has little or nothing to do with any independence movement but much more with a lifestyle that has democracy and freedom ingrained in every aspect of daily life.
ESWN does make one error of misunderstanding...the reason we have these democratic practices in Taiwan is because of the independence movement, which was also a democracy movement.

Another error lies in ESWN's analysis here:

In our society, some people say that Taiwan should become independent quickly, some say that Taiwan should be unified quickly with China, and others say that the status quo should be preserved. Which do you agree with?
- 16.0% be independent quickly
- 7.4% keep the status quo, and then work towards independence
- 41.2% keep the status quo and then watch what happens
- 9.7% keep the status quo forever
- 7.8% keep the status quo and then unite with China
- 6.1% unify with China quickly
- 11.9% don't know/no response

Both immediate independence and unification are minority preferences. Why does the majority want to maintain some form of the status quo? What are they looking for? The translated section of this essay offers an explanation. Simply put, the people in Taiwan have lived in a democratic system with certain freedoms and rights taken as granted as part of their daily lives.
That's only part of it. What ESNW doesn't mention is that the reason so many opt for the status quo is that China points 700 missiles at Taiwan, and threatens to murder Taiwanese should they assert their democratic right to independence. That's a powerful incentive for the status quo. If China did not threaten to murder Taiwanese in large numbers, then they would all opt immediately for independence. ESNW should also note that those who want immediate independence outnumber those who want immediate annexation by 2.5 to 1.

It's not often you get someone writing a piece for the mainland press that is so perspicacious

People in Taiwan are accustomed to living in a democratic system. This means that the democracy system holds the same place in their daily lives as as daily necessities such as tea, rice, cooking oil and salt.
Good spot, ESWN!

I am Really, Really, 42 Years Old

Yes, it's true. How do I know? I bought a weightlifting machine. I always liked to lift weights when was younger and svelter, instead of older and swelter. So here's me rediscovering my inner jock:



We ordered the machine off of Yahoo direct from the factory in Changhua. It cost 11K installed by two very nice people who came over and did it for us. The service was great, and they gave us a set of free weights too.

Well, off to rest my aching muscles and overworked back.

Michael

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Ghostwriters Threaten University System

Some publicity on a long-running problem. There are just so many ways to cheat.
During a press conference held to raise awareness about ghostwriting, Huang and three other DPP legislators, including Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬), Eva Hsieh (謝欣霓) and Winston Dang (陳重信), invited a graduate student and ministry officials to talk about the problem.

A Google.com search of college Bulletin Board System sites displayed at the press conference showed that information about thesis ghostwriting services or ghostwriter advertisements were easy to come by on the Internet.
I've had inquiries about this myself. But I couldn't compete even if I wanted to...some of these services charge as little as $70K.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Stephen Carter: Destroy the Pan-Blues

Stephen Carter, a former teacher at my university, had an angry editorial in the Taipei Times today that the paper entitled "Destroy the Pan-Blues." Carter, a pro-Bush Canadian who once, upon hearing me critique our incompetent and authoritarian President's foreign policy, asked me why I hated America. Carter's rant said:
The sad truth is that no KMT or PFP member has answered in a court of law for their repeated, routine and blatant acts of corruption. No KMT or PFP member has done the right thing and divested (or put into escrow) holdings which bring many of them into clear violation of conflict of interest rules. No KMT or PFP member has answered for the pathetic brawls they initiate in that august chamber.
Actually, quite a number of both parties have done time for corruption. Carter goes on to say:
Their anti-democratic demagoguery, their belittling of everything this nation tries to accomplish, their open consorting with a vicious, totalitarian enemy, their corrupt behavior in and out of the legislature -- they should answer for all of this.
Not likely to happen, just as Bush is unlikely to be punished for behaving in exactly the same way.

On other fronts, one wonders why in the world the story of the teacher who had sex with her 12 year old student and then married him after she got out of prison made the front pages of the Taipei Times. Guys? We got Darfur, the nuclear option, global warming, a thousand other things more important.

Annette Lu, an entertainment industry all by herself, expressed regret at the Legislature's manhandling of the National Assembly.

"In [last Saturday's] election, 83 percent of voters backed parties that support the constitutional amendment package, translating to 249 seats in the National Assembly. Supposedly the constitutional amendments would pass without the need to convene the National Assembly," Lu said.

Not only does the law governing the functions of the National Assembly require a three-quarters majority of votes, it also allows representatives to abstain, a move that the vice president was made "in bad faith."

Lu also said the legislature had turned the National Assembly elections into a joke by passing the law.

"What if some National Assembly representatives who were supposed to vote for the amendments abstain from voting? Should they still get paid?" she said.

There's something wonderfully local about that last comment. Well, Annette, if you people had conducted the legislative elections with a more localized, on-the-ground, get-the-vote-out approach, you might not be facing this problem, eh?
When asked about her teaming up with Shin Kong Wu Ho-su Memorial Hospital deputy superintendent Huang Fang-yen (黃芳彥) to run in the 2008 presidential election, Lu said she may do so, but only under the DPP banner.
Can't wait to see what Annette would say as President.

Meanwhile, Jackie Chan continues his pro-KMT, anti-Taiwan ways.
The GIO minister's remarks were in response to Chan's comments last Tuesday. When asked by reporters, Chan said that for the next four years, he will not step foot in Taiwan to avoid being attacked at the airport -- an implicit reference to the clashes that took place when Chinese Nationalist Party Chairman (KMT) Lien Chan (連戰) left on his trip to China last month.
Jackie, my man, we won't be watching any more of your movies. BTW, it is "set foot" not "step foot." Although I should add that the Taipei Times does a fairly good job of catching the boners, considering the time pressure and the multiplicity of languages.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Nancy Pelosi Discovers China is Bad

The Taipei Times reports today that veteran Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi says US China Policy is a Total Failure. No kidding? Really? Does this mean that the Dems are going to refund the money they took from the Chinese during the Clinton years? Oh, but then you already had to. So the Chinese got everything they wanted, and you guys didn't even get to keep the money. Pathetic. Ms. Pelosi moans:
Pelosi said US officials missed a golden opportunity to wield influence on China in the area of human rights and trade a decade and a half ago -- when the trade deficit was not as large.
Well what did you expect when money was flowing across the Pacific into Democratic pockets? That anything useful would be done?
"The United States had much more leverage early on with the Chinese ... before we gave them Most Favored Nation status permanently with nothing on their side ... before we smoothed the way for them to go into the WTO," she said.
No shit, Sherlock. And if the Dems handn't shilled for Beijing during the Clinton Administration, and rolled over for the Republicans during the Bush Administration, maybe you'd have leverage. But now we here in Taiwan have to reap what you sowed.

Thanks, Dems!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Swamped again

I'm snowed under here, so I am curtailing posts to this blog this week. But I did want to note that the Project on Defense Alternatives has its Iraq report

Vicious Circle: The Dynamics of Occupation and Resistance in Iraq

Up and ready to be read. It's damning stuff, and should be read by anyone with an interest in our ongoing and broadening defeat there.

There's a mass of articles collected here on Chinese Military Power ...David, Maddog? Should keep you guys busy for some time. I think the first chapter of my Taiwan book is going to be Misrepresenting Taiwan

Michael

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Mormon Dancers are here!

Spent a wonderful evening tonight watching a group of Mormon Dancers from the US on tour, stopping by Taichung for an evening. Tickets were had courtesy of a close friend, for which I am eternally grateful. Taichung has so little culture that even the smallest dollop goes a long way.

One nice thing about the evening, which I shall shortly present in pics below, was seeing a side of Mormonism one ordinarily doesn't see. The Mormon facade of scripted smiles and hearty handshakes is so offputting for outsiders that one begins, automatically to associate Mormonism with those clueless JoSmithBot missionaries one sees wandering about Taiwan, so naive about both the island and the books they promote that all one can do is wipe their noses, pack them a brown bag lunch, and send them on their way hoping that they don't get killed crossing the road (note to Mormon central: I've written a commentary on Mark. Please, next time, send me some missionaries who actually know something about the Bible). So "creativity" is not usually a word that pops up in my brain when someone mentions the word "Mormon."

Nonetheless, the dancers we witnessed tonight were definitely a creative joy to behold, and so was the kindness of everyone we interacted with, from the people who guided us to the right seat to the local Taichung Mormon leadership. The program's music varied from Beethoven to Norah Jones, plus several intense pieces I couldn't identify. Even better than my own enjoyment was watching my kids sitting in rapt fascination, especially for the two dances that were humorous and energetic.

The evening started off at the hideous Noble Steak House, steak for the masses. My son had some of the chicken feet as an appetizer. My wife and kids love chicken feet.


I'd just like to say as a former Peace Corps volunteer in Africa and traveller all over Asia, that there is no food more revolting than chicken feet. I'd rather eat termites any day of the week....

Chung Shan Auditorium, named after Sun Yat Sen, was the venue. The place was packed.


I had expected a light turnout, but every Mormon in central Taiwan had heard the summons. There were also some other groups in attendence as well.

The reception area was also packed, with corn-fed Mormon boys and girls towering over us locals.


The kids were very excited.


We did have one moment of real comedy when the representative of one of the local charity organizations attempted to say the word "Jesus" while on stage making announcements, and came out with the Chinese equivalent of Jist Kresus, which he quickly "corrected" to Susje after apologizing for his nervousness. The Mormon in charge of the show, in a state of terminal agitation, leaned over and supplied the proper pronounciation. My wife and I, Infidels both, were in stitches.

I couldn't resist getting a picture of this brain-dead T-Shirt.

Yes, sweetheart, I HAVE read Fukuyama's Basic Genetics.

I'll let the rest of the pictures speak for themselves.


















All this beautiful expression of the human spirit could not be sustained, however. As if to put a cork on any potential human autonomy that might break out, the dancers ended by singing a hymn to You-Know-Who. It was strikingly reminiscent of those Soviet-era ballet visits to the US, where the dancers had to constantly affirm their loyalty to the Soviet system. It's sad when everyone has to stay on-script at all times.

I was struck by watching the Mormon missionary population hard at work guiding everyone in and out. The missionaries who go door to door or stop people on the street have an almost zero success rate -- most conversions are through developing social relationships with the target. Why do they go door to door? Simple. To give young Mormons, while they are still young, the visceral, constant experience of rejection, so that they learn to identify, down in their gut, with the Mormon myth that Mormons are a rejected, persecuted minority in a hostile world, instead of learning to see themselves as the powerful, wealthy, and influential cult that they actually are. The real purpose of Mormon missionary work is to missionize its missionaries.

Thanks, everyone, for a joyous and insightful evening.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Media Talks on the National Assembly Elections

The New Zealand Herald says that Taiwan rejects China offers as hopes for talks dim.
TAIPEI/BEIJING - Taiwan has rejected Chinese offers of economic sweeteners and a new formula to define current bilateral ties, dashing hopes for fresh talks between the rivals and prolonging a dangerous stalemate.

James Soong, head of Taiwan’s second-biggest opposition party, and Chinese President Hu Jintao proposed a "two sides, one China" formula on Thursday as a basis for talks between Beijing and an island it considers its own.

China also offered to ease employment for Taiwan residents on the mainland, simplify entry and exit procedures and reduce tuition fees for Taiwan students. The move came as Soong ended a nine-day visit, the latest in a string by opposition delegations.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Herald has two locals reporting that the
Taiwan poll defies China’s claim to rule, a rather strange interpretation.

As of 4:50 PM the Washington Post does not have an article up. Probably checking with Xinhua to see what they should say.

The Taipei Times reports correctly that DPP wins surprise victory in election,
Despite pouring rain and a record low turnout rate, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) managed a surprise victory against the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in yesterday's National Assembly elections, earning 42.52 percent of the vote, compared to the KMT's 38.92 percent.

In addition, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) beat the People First Party (PFP) and became the third largest party for the first time in yesterday's election, gaining a support rate of 7.05 percent compared to the PFP's 6.11 percent.

Forgot to mention the rain before, but it was awful today.

The Washington Times, following the AP report, reads the outcome to say
Vote backs Taiwan's ruling party.
The result appeared to be vindication at home for Mr. Chen's independence-leaning policies, after recent visits to the mainland by two opposition leaders put him on the defensive and transformed yesterday's National Assembly election into a test of strength for his ruling party.
Fox News reports that Taiwan's Ruling Party Wins Elections, but follows the AP report.

The Beeb takes a less judgmental approach with Taiwan's Chen wins crucial vote.
Mr Chen will see the result as a vote of confidence in his policy towards China, says the BBC's Chris Hogg.

Beijing had tried to build support for anti-independence parties.

It invited opposition leaders to Beijing for historic talks in the run-up to the poll.

After the result, Vice-President Annette Lu congratulated the party and criticised China.

"I would like to thank the Chinese Communist Party, because each time there is pressure from China, the people show that democracy is what people embrace here in Taiwan," she said.
We love Annette Lu!

CNN taks its cue from the Rueters report Taiwan Chen's DPP wins most votes.
The poll was to elect an ad hoc, 300-member National Assembly to ratify constitutional amendments approved by parliament last year. But Taiwan-China ties dominated the agenda and the election was viewed as a vote of confidence on Chen's China policy.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Moments from life

One great thing about Taiwan is of course the food, and going out with good friends. Here's a feast at a local restaurant with my close friends and neighbors Steve and Rhonda


Yummm!!!

Here's Steve doing his Paul Newman impression:

Sexier than Paul Newman?

And Rhonda with their son Josh.

Rhonda's warmth and energy grace any table.

And just to make your mouth water...

Spring onions with beef in a garlic-flavored sauce. Heaven.

It's the rainy season, and the kids insisted on going outside in the rain to play in the mud.

What's childhood without mud and colds?

One good thing about the rainy season, in addition to the cool weather, is clear skies for photography. Here is a shot of eastern Taichung from Chaoyang University.


At my daughter's school, the hunt for Face continues:

SCHOOL OFFICIAL: So, how come your daughter didn't participate in the speech contest last week?
WIFE: (extemporizing desperately) Well, my husband was a judge.
SCHOOL OFFICIAL: So? There's no rule that says a judge's child can't participate!

Our school PTA meetings are a blast. The PTA chair has bucks, and brought 50 (count'em) cases of beer to the last meeting. No one can now recall what was said. A butcher, he is a perpetual drunk who keeps a water cooler full of hooch under the counter of his butcher shop, and offers cupfuls to anyone who walks in. Last year he and the previous principal, and a couple of teachers, came to our house to visit my wife after she was voted to the PTA (because the locals thought she was rich and expected her to donate money). They were pretty well lit up when they arrived one evening. The best part was when our dogs hid their shoes that they had left outside when they came in the house. There's nothing like having four drunken Taiwanese school officials search your yard in complete darkness, employing their best colorful local expressions.

Congratulations to my students Robbie and Queenie, who got married yesterday.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Letters from Abroad

I get a lot of letters like this:


Dear Sir,

This is _____ from the Philippines. I just read your web site about Taiwan View and employement on language teacher. Sir, where can i apply for a teaching position? I am a graduate of Master's Degree and I am very much willing to teach in Taiwan. Presently, Im an Instrutress from one of the university here in the Philippines. Before, I handled English subject in Secondary School, presently I am hadling College students majoring computer subjects like Information Technology and Computer Technology.
I'm hoping for your kind consideration. Thank You and God Bless!

Respectfully Yours,
______


What can I do?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Guardian on WWII: Get a Grip....on the Facts, please

The Taipei Times, Taiwan's best newspaper, recently published an article on from the Guardian on WWII. I wish some people would catch up to recent research....
In reality they needed each other. Soviet efforts required the flow of resources under the "Lend Lease" program. Weapons were few, and the Soviets regarded them as second-rate. But the supply of raw materials, food and communications equipment was essential. It allowed Soviet industry to concentrate on weapons to fight back with.
"Weapons were few?" Are we smokin' dope here? Hello.....the US supplied the Soviets with half of their aviation gas, and taught them how to make high octane gas. No high octane, no avgas. No avgas, no Russian victory in the East. That the Soviets regarded them as second-rate is a bit of postwar Communist legendizing. The reality is that the Soviets equipped several Guards armored units with US tanks (the 3rd Guards, for example), and several entire units were made up of US-issue equipment. The reality is that US equipment was widely admired in the Soviet Union. Lend-lease supplied most Soviet trucks and almost all USSR locomotives and most of its rolling stock. 40% of the food came from the US, along with nearly half of their explosives, most of their radios, communications wire, etc, etc, etc,. Tanks and aircraft equivalent to 10% of USSR production in those two categories were sent. Given this, the oft-fantasized clash between the US and the USSR in Germany in '45 would have resulted in a resounding USSR collapse, for they were completely dependent on the US to sustain their war effort.

Just thought I'd correct a few errors here.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Washington Post Article Blasts Chen

The Washington Post, that paragon of journalistic perspicacity that once labeled James Soong a democratic reformer, came out with an article today on Chen Shui-bian, gleefully claiming that the President's status in local opinion polls is falling. It also repeats attacks on Chen for having no principles.
"People are fed up with the stalemate and the tension," said Antonio Chiang, a former National Security Council official in Chen's government. Chen "has never been for independence for ideological purposes. He just played the issue for the election. Basically, he's very pragmatic."
Anybody on the island for more than 15 minutes knows that Taiwanese are reflexively critical, and that polls reflect merely the last 5 minutes of political events. The Post also says that Chen will sell the island out:
Analysts and party leaders say Chen's shift reflects his calculation that independence is a lost cause. Taiwanese increasingly eschew the idea of confrontation with China, and the Bush administration has chastised Chen for provoking the Beijing government, raising doubts about whether the United States would come to the island's aid in a war. That leaves Chen with only one way of securing a significant place in history: reaching out to China.
I don't know where Post writer Peter Goodman has been for the last 5 years of the Chen Administration, but A-bian has stated repeatedly that he would be delighted to talk to China. It is China, not A-bian, that has cut off negotiations. The Post ends on a dismal note:
As Wang, the ruling party legislator, sat in his office here greeting disenchanted constituents, he heard little warmth expressed toward the president.
Note to Goodman: there's nothing new here. The national sport is bitching about Chen Shui-bian. Get some perspective, eh?

Michael

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Daily Kos Blast at NYTimes for lecturing bloggers

The Dailykos, the liberal democratic blog, offers a hysterical rip of the NY Times lecturing bloggers on -- of all things -- ethics. ROFLMAO to that excellent Fisking. Many thanks to McMouse for pointing me to this excellent blog a while back.

Lots of things blogged today! Rain all day...did get out for a hike...but whole day spent working in front of computer....

The Dog Gets A Trim

I came home to discover that my wife had turned our Golden Retriever into a Labrador by whacking off its fur. She's got blistas on her fingas......!


The Furless One guards my chair.

The Defeat in Iraq Continues: Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone presents The Quagmire: As the Iraq War Drags on, it's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Vietnam. An excerpt:
In private, however, senior military advisers and intelligence specialists on Iraq offer a starkly different picture. Two years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq is perched on the brink of civil war. Months after the election, the new Iraqi government remains hunkered down inside the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, surviving only because it is defended by thousands of U.S. troops. Iraqi officials hold meetings and press conferences in Alamo-like settings, often punctuated by the sounds of nearby explosions. Outside the Green Zone, party offices and government buildings are surrounded by tank traps, blast walls made from concrete slabs eighteen feet high, and private militias wielding machine guns and AK-47s. Even minor government officials travel from fort to fort in heavily armed convoys of Humvees.
Sometimes "Told you so" rings so hollow its painful.

Michael

Toilet Bowl Restaurant in Hsinpu?

Here's the site. A Toilet Bowl-themed restaurant located in the Hsinpu metro stand. Taiwan....

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Karl and Mike Sweep the Board

Karl and Mike are the new Axis and Allies champions of Taichung after overwhelming Aaron and Malv in a contest of endurance that featured 28 minutes of actual game play and three and a half hours of rabbinical discussions of the rules, scurrilous gossip about people we've never met, various forms of emotional and mental abuse, and much mutual huffing about who had real organs and who had mere organelles. Karl has blogged this seminal event.


The realization sweeps over Aaron that yes, Malv is his partner.

The new rules changes, new units, and vastly different board made for tense moments as participants struggled to pronounce the territory names. Alcohol ensured that this process went more smoothly than it might have.


The realization sweeps over Malv that yes, he has just implemented Aaron's plan.

Although Malv and Aaron didn't realize it, they were up against a Sicilian with death on the line, AND committed to a land war in Asia. These are two famous no-noes.

The results were grim.


"No, Michael, you cannot invade Italy. Italy is MY territory."

The turning point of the game was when the British invaded France and, horrified at their mistake, promptly returned it to the Germans.


Karl grins as Malv's Russian infantry toss more boxcars than an earthquake in a switching yard.

Looking forward to next time, when Karl will have to make significant alterations to the profile on his blog after he faces me.

Chalmers Johnson on Taiwan and China

In March on Anti-War.com Chalmers Johnson has an article on the US, China and Taiwan called Coming to Terms With China . This article is fairly clueless about Taiwan. It uncritically accepts China's claims, and defends Chinese positions while attacking Taiwan for wanting freedom and independence. The authors also seems to accept the KMT's spin on Taiwan politics. I'd like to take a moment and go over its multitude of misunderstandings.

Johnson began his article with the following observations:
Japan may talk a lot about the dangers of North Korea, but the real objective of its rearmament is China. This has become clear from the ways in which Japan has recently injected itself into the single most delicate and dangerous issue of East Asian international relations – the problem of Taiwan. Japan invaded China in 1931 and was its wartime tormentor thereafter as well as Taiwan's colonial overlord. Even then, however, Taiwan was viewed as a part of China, as the United States has long recognized. What remains to be resolved are the terms and timing of Taiwan's reintegration with the Chinese mainland.
Johnson's article starts out by accepting that the claims of the Chinese side are true, while ignoring history almost completely. The US had no objection to Japanese colonial occupation of Taiwan and never claimed that Formosa was part of China until after Pearl Harbor. As George Kerr points out in Formosa, it was Roosevelt alone who made this decision uncritically, while the military and strategic advisors recognized that the island was going to be a complex problem with profound strategic implications. The problem of the postwar status of Taiwan is a postwar problem, and the reason that China is not named as the recipient of Taiwan's sovereignty in the San Francisco Peace Treaty is precisely because US leaders realized that the Formosans did not want to be part of China. Both US and British leaders repudiated Cairo as simply a wartime statement of aims that had no binding force. The growing strength of independence sentiment throughout the 1960s is recognized in key US reports, such as the Conlon Report (which points out that it would be immoral to permit China to annex Taiwan without the locals approving) and in academic work on the island at the time (Mendel's The Politics of Formosan Nationalism, for example). In other words, the US position on Taiwan is complex, cognizant of many angles, and nowhere near as clear-cut as Johnson appears to claim here.

Johnson's ignorance of the realities of Taiwanese nationalism are clear in the last sentence of the abovementioned paragraph:
Taiwan has since matured into a vibrant democracy and the Taiwanese are now starting to display their own mixed opinions about their future.
Perhaps Johnson could catch up to the 1940s, when Taiwanese were already discussing their open aspirations for independence with foreigners. Certainly by the 1960s desire for self-rule was widespread. Had the government not ruthlessly suppressed it during the period known as the White Terror, perhaps Johnson might have realized that it is not a product of the current era of freedom in Taiwan.

Note how Johnson's rhetoric obscures the realities of KMT and PFP desires:
A native Taiwanese (as distinct from the large contingent of mainlanders who came to Taiwan in the baggage train of Chiang's defeated armies), Chen stands for an independent Taiwan, as does his party. By contrast, the Nationalists, together with a powerful mainlander splinter party, the People First Party headed by James Soong (Song Chuyu), hope to see an eventual peaceful unification of Taiwan with China.
See the keywords peaceful, eventual, and unification? They are all nonsense intended to slant the reader's sympathy in the direction of the Nationalists. Taiwan was never part of any imperial Chinese state and no ethnic Chinese emperor ever ruled the island. China wants to annex, not unify, Taiwan. And to imagine that the KMT and PFP are peace parties is to profoundly misunderstand two corrupt, power-hungry political agglomerations whose most recent actions involve sending Lien Chan to China to sell out Taiwan, and hiring gangsters to cause a riot at the airport when he left, attacking peaceful DPP protestors. Either Johnson's understanding of Taiwan is incompetent, or Johnson is serving KMT interests. The reader is invited to choose.

More malicious rhetoric than follows.
In May 2004, in a very close and contested election, Chen Shui-bian was reelected, and on May 20, the notorious right-wing Japanese politician Shintaro Ishihara attended his inauguration in Taipei. (Ishihara believes that Japan's 1937 Rape of Nanking was "a lie made up by the Chinese.") Though Chen won with only 50.1 percent of the vote, this was still a sizable increase over his 33.9 percent in 2000, when the opposition was divided. The Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately appointed Koh Se-kai as its informal ambassador to Japan. Koh has lived in Japan for some 33 years and maintains extensive ties to senior political and academic figures there. China responded that it would "completely annihilate" any moves toward Taiwanese independence – even if it meant scuttling the 2008 Beijing Olympics and good relations with the United States.
It's impossible to overestimate how vicious this construction is. First, Johnson notes that the election was quite close (very true). Then, in the very next clause, he happens to mention a nasty Japanese right-winger who attended Chen's inauguration. Many people of all political stripes attended Chen's inauguration, so the only reason Johnson mentioned Ishihara is to smear Chen. In case you missed that it was a smear, Johnson has helpfully supplied the fact that Ishihara is a right-wing revisionist. This has nothing to do with Taiwan; Johnson included it only to smear Chen. Johnson then goes on to refer to the KMT and PFP as "the opposition" as if Chen were some kind of imperial President -- another subtle smear, in two important ways. First, the two "opposition" parties have a majority in the legislature (and thus their "opposition" status is questionable). And second, Johnson ignores the fact that the KMT continues to hold the power throughout society, running key positions in the military, business, and academia. To the extent that Johnson's article fails to make it clear to the reader how pervasive KMT influence is, it is misrepresenting Taiwan.

Johnson moves on to once again leave out key facts and misrepresent reality:
Contrary to the machinations of American neocons and Japanese rightists, however, the Taiwanese people have revealed themselves to be open to negotiating with China over the timing and terms of reintegration. On Aug. 23, 2004, the Legislative Yuan (Taiwan's parliament) enacted changes in its voting rules to prevent Chen from amending the Constitution to favor independence, as he had promised to do in his reelection campaign. This action drastically lowered the risk of conflict with China.
The idea that Taiwanese independence is the result of the machinations of American Neocons and Japanese rightists is a laughable KMT fantasy that Johnson has reproduced here as if the entire struggle for democracy and independence from the 1960s to the 1990s had never taken place. Johnson then goes on to say that people of Taiwan are open to negotiating with China "over the timing and terms of reintegration". The first half of this is true, but the second is nonsense. Hardly anyone here, except for some diehard mainlanders, wants to annex the island to China. Nor are the negotiations about that, and nor do the people want them to be about that. They are touted by all simply because talk-talk beats fight-fight any day. Johnson's lack of understanding of the situation in Taiwan is appalling.

The situation of misrepresentation is worsened here because Johnson goes on to say: On Aug. 23, 2004, the Legislative Yuan (Taiwan's parliament) enacted changes in its voting rules to prevent Chen from amending the Constitution to favor independence as if this were something "the people" favored, rather than a move by the KMT and PFP, which have a majority in the legislature, in their ongoing struggle to suppress Taiwan independence.

What Johnson does not make clear in his essay is that Constitutional changes are notoriously necessary in Taiwan. The KMT-drafted Constitution was never meant for a modern democratic state. It was intended as a shell to show the world, with the real power being held by the Leninist KMT. The authority of the Chiangs and Lee Teng-hui stemmed from the position of power as head of the KMT, not from their authority as President. It was one of Lee Teng-hui's underappreciated achievements to move the Presidency from the highest post of a right-wing Leninist state toward that of a serious executive in a multiparty democracy. But formal change is needed. By freezing out such change, the KMT and PFP are throwing an anti-democratic monkey wrench into the machinery of reform. Johnson does not make it clear to his readers where a progressive's sympathy should lie, nor does he appear to understand the politics that underlie the decisions.

_______
David corrects me in the comments below:
This [Johnson's remarks] is so wrong it's painful - but I don't think your explanation was correct either. This is a proposed change to the constitution (not just a change of 'voting rules') and was supported by ALL parties at the time and (if it goes through) will result in any proposed constitutional change being decided by a referendum - which was a core part of Chen's platform for constitutional reform. One of Chen's few successes in getting agreement between the Greens and the Blues.
_________
Can't be right all the time? But at least I don't make up stuff, unlike some writers I could mention.

Johnson then describes the legislative elections in December 2004.
The next important development was parliamentary elections on Dec. 11, 2004. President Chen called his campaign a referendum on his pro-independence policy and asked for a mandate to carry out his reforms. Instead he lost decisively. The opposition Nationalists and the People First Party won 114 seats in the 225-seat parliament, while Chen's DPP and its allies took only 101. (Ten seats went to independents.) The Nationalist leader, Lien Chan, whose party won 79 seats to the DPP's 89, said, "Today we saw extremely clearly that all the people want stability in this country."
Once again Johnson characterizes the KMT as "the opposition," a rhetorical move designed to garner sympathy for that pro-authoritarian party. The DPP lost for complex reasons. It was the democratic opposition until 1987, and still has not yet overcome KMT power at the local level. The KMT has tight links to organized crime, which serves its interests, both when muscle is needed, and during elections, in getting out the vote. Because the construction-industrial state is run by the KMT, it has fostered long-term loyalty among locals. It will be years before the DPP is able to break into this system and develop its own local networks. Note that Johnson closes the paragraph with a quote from Lien Chan that said the election was about "stability." Nothing could be further from the truth. It was actually about the ability of the KMT, and the continuing inability of the DPP, to deliver the votes on the local level. By quoting Lien Chan, Johnson is once again presenting a slanted version of reality for the unwitting reader.

Johnson then moves on.
Chen's failure to capture control of parliament also meant that a proposed purchase of $19.6 billion worth of arms from the United States was doomed. The deal included guided-missile destroyers, P-3 anti-submarine aircraft, diesel submarines, and advanced Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile systems. The Nationalists and James Soong's supporters regard the price as too high and mostly a financial sop to the Bush administration, which has been pushing the sale since 2001. They also believe the weapons would not improve Taiwan's security.
Since Johnson has withheld the KMT's political position from the reader, the reader cannot make judgments about this information. Recall that the KMT is anti-independence and pro-China, as is the PFP. Had Johnson made this clear from the start of the article, the reader could then make the informed judgment: the KMT opposes weapons purchases in principle because they tend to reinforcement Taiwan independence. It is quite true that the weapons are too expensive and are a sop to the US. But then, Taiwan needs the US, so a sop now and then is probably a good idea. Thus the reason that the KMT and PFP oppose the sales is not that they won't improve Taiwan's security, but rather, because they might. Another reason, rarely mentioned, is that because the KMT is out of power, no deal money will flow into Party pockets.

A following paragraph betrays the same slanted pattern of presentation.
It appears that this is also the way the Taiwanese read the message. On Feb. 24, 2005, President Chen Shui-bian met for the first time since October 2000 with Chairman James Soong of the People First Party. The two leaders, holding diametrically opposed views on relations with the mainland, nonetheless signed a joint statement outlining ten points of consensus. They pledged to try to open full transport and commercial links across the Taiwan Strait, increase trade, and ease the ban on investments in China by many Taiwanese business sectors. The mainland reacted favorably at once. Astonishingly, this led Chen Shui-bian to say that he "would not rule out Taiwan's eventual reunion with China, provided Taiwan's 23 million people accepted it."
Astonishingly? Chen has made similar statements before. Note that the key clause is the last one -- if the people of Taiwan would accept it. But of course, Chen, like everyone here, knows perfectly well that the majority of Taiwanese oppose joining the mainland. The Febuary agreement was purely for local legislative consumption. Chen needs Soong's PFP votes in the legislature, and agreements between Soong and Chen rebound to the detriment of Soong with his fellow mainlanders. In other words, it was a shrewd move by Chen, and to view it only in terms of its international repercussions (minimal) is to slant and misrepresent it.

Johnson then goes on to make a very conventional analysis of possible futures for China and Taiwan:
If the United States and Japan left China and Taiwan to their own devices, it seems possible that they would work out a modus vivendi. Taiwan has already invested some $150 billion in the mainland, and the two economies are becoming more closely integrated every day. There also seems to be a growing recognition in Taiwan that it would be very difficult to live as an independent Chinese-speaking nation alongside a country with 1.3 billion people, 3.7 million square miles of territory, a rapidly growing $1.4 trillion economy, and aspirations to regional leadership in East Asia. Rather than declaring its independence, Taiwan may try to seek a status somewhat like that of French Canada – a kind of looser version of a Chinese Quebec under nominal central government control but maintaining separate institutions, laws, and customs.
Let's make it clear. The difficulty with living next to China as an independent ethnic Han nation does not stem from anything about Taiwan. It stems from China's insatiable drive to annex Taiwan, to crush its democracy, and to suppress Taiwanese nationalism. The difficult is that China points 700 missiles at our island and has promised to destroy it should it move to full independent, democratic status. Johnson never makes this point clear for the reader. It is China, not Taiwan, that is the perp here. Johnson's article argues essentially that democracy and independence for Taiwan are wrong things. And that position is one no progressive should ever take.

He then concludes with a pathetic fantasy:
China fears that Taiwanese radicals want to declare independence a month or two before those Olympics, betting that China would not attack then because of its huge investment in the forthcoming games.
This scenario is absurd and will never occur. There are no 'radicals' who would support such a venture. Everyone knows that a declaration of independence would result in China attacking Taiwan, which is why Chen himself vowed not to do it when he was first elected (a fact ignored by Johnson in his slanted presentation). The reality is that the 'radicals' sit in offices in Beijing, point missiles at Taiwan, and threaten to sponge off the island's population with nuclear weapons, while allying themselves with right-wing mainlanders in Taiwan who constantly seek to thwart local democratic development. Coercion is not peace. That Johnson presents none of this to the reader is an indictment of Johnson, not of Taiwan.

Let me close with one final comment. Anti-War.com was complaining about its fundraisers in an announcement on the website today:
It is now Day 5, and we've only raised a bit over $30,000 – which is only enough to get us through half the next quarter.

Quite frankly, this fundraiser has been a disaster so far. Unless the contributions start coming in, Antiwar.com will start making radical – and I do mean very noticeable – cutbacks starting this coming Monday.

As relatively tiny as our staff is, we'll have to get rid of most of it. Our operating costs are $60,000 dollars a quarter. Without that, there will be no one to research hundreds of sites each day, no one to continuously update the news. No more regular columns – there won't be anybody to edit them, or to pay the writers and syndication costs.

In short, what this means is no more Antiwar.com as the watchdog of peace – and the War Party will have good reason to celebrate.
It's easy to see why, folks, if this article is any indication. Good riddance, I say!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

School Face II: Testing

My daughter's school is conducting random tests by the County of the English program at the elementary level. The classes were "randomly" selected. What a coincidence that out of all the classes in the school, my daughter's class was one of two. And just by happy coincidence, it has two girls whose fathers are American.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Letter on Car Theft:

Here is an interesting anecdote from a letter I was sent....

Car ransoms.
My good friend had his new Nissan stolen and was immediately phoned for a ransom. They knew all his details. He paid $40,000 into a bank account to get it back.
BUT ! It was stolen again a few months later and again they called him. He complained that he was paying too much as it was stolen not long ago. To his amazement the girl said that their computer didn't register the previous theft! She apologized, gave him a low ransom fee and promised it wouldn't be stolen again!! Can you believe that?
My bitch - the officials in the motor reg branch with all the details could be easily caught, and worse still, the banks don't give a rat's ass about account authenticity. Anyone can open a false account whereas it's so difficult back home.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A slow week ahead

Busy with work and other things. May not be around until the end of the week!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

New Left Review:

New Left Review has an article on Taiwan and China:

A TALE OF TWO NATIONALISMS

Highly slanted....
Since every time Beijing issued some threats, popular resentment mounted among Taiwanese voters, a fundamentalist wing in the Green camp started to argue that the Taiwanese were not really Han at all, but racially distinct descendants of a fusion between settlers from the mainland and the aboriginal Malay-Polynesian inhabitants of the island.
Whew! Like it's not fundamentalist to argue that the Taiwanese are Han? But some of it is quite sensible:
Therefore, the current situation is not one in which Taiwan is moving towards ‘secession’ from a ‘standard nation-state’. Rather, the reality is that the roc and the prc have lived in separation for many years and what Taiwan truly needs is a registration of this reality. Such a registration would not cancel the possibility of future reunification, any more than it has done in the case of the two Koreas: it would simply allow a more normal environment in which different possible scenarios for the island could be honestly discussed by the peoples of Taiwan and China, be it reunification or Taiwanese independence. Only such a formal registration of Taiwan’s de facto separation from the prc could form the basis for calm and rational negotiations over the future of its 23 million citizens, with respect to their democratic rights. Confusing such a prospect with the issue of Taiwanese independence has been a widespread error in recent years. It would not represent a covert form of it, but an acknowledgment that what is—or should be—really at stake in the new Taiwanese self-consciousness is the legitimate desire for equal standing in any political negotiations with the central government in Beijing, and for these to be handled in a democratic way, free of military threats, and without preconditions over definite reunification in the future. In other words, if Taiwanese voters so desire, they should be given the option of independence, just as they should that of reunifying with the mainland.
Awwwright!

Kill Lien Chan?

Thanks to my friend Thesto Neroses at Infidels for spotting this one. Here the TT appears to advocating that somebody whack Lien Chan for them. Not a good idea, guys. What could you have been thinking?

Lien's latest betrayal can only have us wondering how long it will be before Taiwanese decide his antics must be stopped. English King Henry II once asked of Archbishop Thomas Becket, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" We ask: Will no one rid Taiwan of this treacherous Lien Chan?