Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Talim is here and furious

!0:00 Aug 31. The dark howls. Typhoon Talim, a strong violent monster, has landed on Taiwan. The wind is screaming and throwing everything loose around -- my neighbor's house, deserted after their landlord sold out from under them, but full of stuff, is filled with the sound of crashing and broken glass. I can hear banging and booming all around the neighborhood.

This one is bad.

Donating against Katrina

New Orleans inundated (from Washington Post)

I've haven't blogged much today because, frankly, I have been sitting around depressed about hurricane Katrina. I just donated some $$ to the American Red Cross. I hope you will take time out of your busy day to make a small donation too.

Lee of Singapore comments on Taiwan Strait in Der Speigel

Letters from China excerpts Lee Kuan Yew's comments on the Taiwan Strait situation in a recent interview.

* * *

Spiegel: How do you explain that China is spending billions on military modernisation right now?

Lee Kuan Yew: Their modernisation is just a drop in the ocean. Their objective is to raise the level of damage they can deliver to the Americans if they intervene in Taiwan. Their objective is not to defeat the Americans, which they cannot do. They know they will be defeated. They want to weaken the American resolve to intervene. That is their objective, but they do not want to attack Taiwan.

Spiegel: Really? They have just passed the aggressive anti-secession law and a general has threatened to use the nuclear bomb.

Lee Kuan Yew: I think they have put themselves into a position internationally that if Taiwan declares independence, they must react and if Beijing's leadership doesn't, they would be finished, they would be a paper tiger and they know that. So, they passed the anti-secession law to tell the Taiwanese and the Americans and the Japanese, "I do not want to fight, but if you allow Taiwan to go for independence, I will have to fight." I think the anti-secession law is a law to preserve the status quo.

* * *

That's an interesting interpretation of the Anti-succession law......

A note to ESWN

ESWN left this on his blog a few days ago. There's no link....

[Administrative Note] Someone out there does not like what I have to say about Taiwan. Well, much of what appears on ESWN about Taiwan is directly translated from publications such as Apple Daily and The Journalist. I don't personally agree with what they have to say. In fact, I am often annoyed and disturbed, but I cannot pretend that they don't exist. I note that the English-only reader can only access western media, China Post, Taipei Times and Taiwan News, and that is hardly representative of what appears in the Chinese-language media. I translate from Apple Daily because it is the single most popular newspaper in Taiwan right now. There is no point in rebutting this or that story on the details or the reasoning. The real deal is to explain why such stories should be so well received by the people of Taiwan. This is what they want to read and I, for one, do not like where this is going and I want you to think about how this came about. You should ought to figure out why this is happening.

ESWN, the real question is not "Why is this happening?" -- for as it has been observed since at least the time of Plato, the great mass of people seem to prefer crap -- but the far more urgent "Whose interests does crap analysis serve?" That is, ultimately, why analyzing crap is so useful. It throws light on the way power distorts the presentation of information in society. It lets me know where writers, thinkers, and the media stand. That is why I and other Taiwan bloggers will continue to rip apart the trash that passes for political analysis, particularly among the pro-Blues, here in Taiwan, and the uninformed tripe that AP, Reuters, and other western news media typically put out. Besides, it's just plain good fun.

BTW, regarding your comments on the accusations by a PFP legislator, Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄), that the Ministry of Transportation spent a ton of $ to prepare for the visit of the President:

The instant Apple Daily public opinion poll of 408 respondents found 81% think that this was a waste, 10% think it is not and 9% with no opinion. On most issues, opinions tend to fall along party lines. But this case as presented is so egregious that it is difficult to imagine what the 10% is thinking.

Maybe that 10% represents people with critical thinking abilities. (1) Liu provided no evidence for his claims.(2) Liu is from the PFP, a party that is anti-Chen and has some very serious corruption problems, and (3) Liu has a history of making absurd accusations -- last year he accused Chen Shui-bian of bribing the former President of Panama to the tune of $1 million and the former Panamanian President retaliated by threatening to sue him. All in all, I bet the 10% here have a better grip on things than the 81%.

Dan-dan Goes to Fourth Grade

My daughter entered fourth grade [insert obligatory "It seems like only yesterday...." remark here]. The new class is in the same old school, but with a new teacher. "I wish I was a dog," wailed my daughter. "They don't have to go to school." In fairness, I don't blame her. There are tons of homework, the textbooks are often poorly written, erroneous, contradictory, and misleading, and the school building is old.

Sheridan's school.

Her class does have another half-n-half like her, though. And everyone likes her very much. Once she actually gets to school, she seems to enjoy it.

Students busy cleaning.

The students have to clean the schools at all levels, from elementary through college. This keeps costs down for everyone. Cleaning detail is often given as punishment.

Mom comforts Sheridan as she faces her classroom on the first day.

Fourth grade means going the whole day, but I'm hoping we can only get her to go a half day, so we can homeschool her in English as well.

The view toward Tanzi town (in distance) over the rooftops of the local homes.

Breakfast for students from 7-11.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

New Blog on the Block

I'd like to welcome The Other Side, a new blog that, among other things, is pro-KMT, a rarity among the English-accessible blogs. The Other Side writes:

This blog has been formed to counter a perceived bias in the English-speaking media and nascent blogsphere of Taiwan. Newspapers and media outlets in Taiwan must pick a side in the polarized political environment of Taiwan, and at this time the majority of Western writers overwhelmingly support the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. Intelligent bloggers such as Jerome F. Keating, Michael Turton, and Wandering to Tamshui color otherwise excellent analysis with an unquestioning bias toward the DPP. The title of this blog comes from the perspective of the 'other' 50 percent of the country that is not represented in 'pro-green' English media, a generation whose ideals built this nation into what it is today. My personal political views are pro-KMT or 'blue'.

This blog seeks to go beyond simplistic analysis such as KMT (blue) is bad because it is old and corrupt; DPP (green) is good because it is new and pure. Such an analysis dismisses the fine contributions of both parties while overlooking their modern incarnations and challenges.

I hope that we won't see any further incarnations of strawmen like "unquestioning analysis" and "simplistic analysis such as (KMT) blue is bad because it is old and corrupt and DPP (green) is good because it is new and pure." Most of us who support the DPP do so because of its long, strong support for a democratic and independent Taiwan. We oppose the KMT because historically the KMT has opposed those ideals.

Heh. A discussion question already! TOS defines his quest as asking: "Is this good for the people of a Chinese society, the R.O.C. / Taiwan?" Is Taiwan a "Chinese" society?

ACLU: Peace Groups labeled terrorist

The FBI has released documents that associate the terrorist label with peace groups, according to the ACLU.

The American Civil Liberties Union today released an FBI document that designates a Michigan-based peace group and an affirmative action advocacy group as potentially "involved in terrorist activities." The file was obtained through an ongoing nationwide ACLU effort seeking information on the FBI's use of Joint Terrorism Task Forces to engage in political surveillance.

"This document confirms our fears that federal and state counterterrorism officers have turned their attention to groups and individuals engaged in peaceful protest activities," said Ben Wizner, an ACLU staff attorney and counsel in a lawsuit seeking the release of additional FBI records. "When the FBI and local law enforcement identify affirmative action advocates as potential terrorists, every American has cause for concern."

We have got to repeal the Patriot Act and get out of Iraq before the nation is completely torn apart.......

Monday, August 29, 2005

Gangsters and the KMT: From Whence Cometh the Link?

Budding Sinologist from the quality blog MeiZhongTai asks an interesting question in the comments of a previous post....

Can you recommend a good source--or maybe you know the answer--about the origin of the KMT-gangster relationship in Taiwan? Was it a leftover of the KMT's alliance with Big-Eared Du (Du Yuesheng) on the Mainland or was this started anew in Taiwan? seems to have been KMT policy from the beginning to work with organized crime. Tu's organization fell apart when the Japanese took Shanghai and the gangsters fled to Hong Kong and cast off his authority (or so it says here) so what went on afterward cannot be connected to him personally. But the policy of cultivating organized crime remained. Fires of the Dragon, which takes as its theme the Henry Liu murder in examining KMT intelligence activities in the US, says that during the late 40s and 50s the KMT used the tongs to control the US Chinese community. Once the PRC took over China, in many Chinese communities KMT controlled businesses became the only route to getting Chinese food, so in many communities businessmen became "loyal" to the KMT. Another factor in its rise among overseas Chinese communities in the US was the McCarthyite witch hunts, which were conducted by the INS and the FBI in the 1950s. In a little-known episode, the KMT seized this opportunity to destroy its opponents by reporting them to the US law enforcement community. One of the many people caught up in this dragnet was the missile scientist Tien Hsueh-shen, who had been in the US for 17 years hoping to become a citizen. He had helped design US missiles during and after WWII. Arrested on hearsay in the FBI sweeps, he was stripped of his security clearance and imprisoned. Released, he turned against the US and went to China, where he helped father China's A-Bombs. It goes without saying that the Chinese community was totally loyal and no spies were found.

I can't offhand think of a good source for what went on in Taiwan (Martin Booth may have something in The Dragon Syndicates, which I have not read). I have often wanted to write a book on organized crime and the Kuomintang in Taiwan, but a childish cowardice prevents me....

UPDATE: In response to the comments on the previous post, Jason from Wandering to Tamshui suggests that we try a book called Heijin by Chin Ko-lin. "A fantastic overview of the origins and machinations of patron-client politics." Its Amazon page is here.

Father Bauer on Religion

Once a week I drop in at the China Post, the pro-KMT English newspaper, to see what Daniel Bauer has to say. Bauer is a priest and a prof at Fu Jen U, whose beautiful campus is just outside of Taipei. This week he is writing on religion:

Religion is all around us. Religion often intrudes into politics (or does politics intrude into religion?). Religion may try to tell us how we should do our work, use our leisure time, raise our children, or how to treat our bodies by proscribing certain foods or beverages. And, always and everywhere, religion will insist on a dialogue with us about the four great questions.

You can probably guess the questions I have in mind. What is the meaning of suffering? What is the meaning of death? What do I do about sex in my life? How can I be happy?

What a strange selection of questions....the question of sex is important for religious authorities, part of the urgent need of religions to control the behavior of their adherents, but I sincerely doubt that it belongs in the Big Four (note that none of these is a question about the behavior of society as a whole or our privileges and responsibilities in it-- only about individuals. For religions, society is an annoying interference in the assertion of control over the individual). More importantly, what would be the Big Four for a Taiwanese, and how would they approach them?

Mayor Ma's Discourse: Taiwan News Editorial

Taiwan News wrote eloquently on the topic of history, Mayor Ma and the KMT yesterday:

Instead, Ma has refused to depart from the position of his predecessor, Lien Chan, that these assets were "legally" acquired, presumably just as agents or judges of the KMT authoritarian regime "legally" executed or jailed tens of thousands of Taiwanese.

Ma evidently aims to end the controversy by selling off the rest of the KMT's ill-gotten goods and keeping the proceeds. An example is the new pact to sell the party's "National Development Academy" to a construction firm for NT$4.3 billion.


If Ma wants to display that the KMT puts "Taiwan first," he can launch a motion to drop "China" from the party's name.

If Ma wants to display the KMT's "Taiwan identity," the new chairman can dump the confusing notion of finding China through linking with Taiwan and put Taiwan at the center of a new discourse instead of treating it as a platform.

If Ma wants to display the KMT's support of "Taiwan subjectivity," he can repudiate the KMT's tacit "united front" with the Chinese Communist Party and instead form a true "people's front" with the 23 million people of Taiwan.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Political Analyses of Different Stripes.....

Recently the various papers have been kind enough to offer several different types of political analyses....

Apple Daily chimes in courtesy of ESWN with the first....
In a separate story, Apple Daily provided a re-iteration of the worst cases of "Black Gold" politics in Taiwan, showing that the local legislatures and governments are run just like in Sicily.

- In 1996, the Changhwa County Legislature Vice-President was the first elected representative to be shipped directly by helicopter to Green Island under the Chihping Anti-Gangster Program. However, he was found innocent during a re-trial and regained his legislator status. After ascending to the position of Legislature Vice-President, he continued to monopolise public works projects and directed his subordinates to shoot and kill others.

- In 1994, the former Pingtung County Legislature President ignored the fact that his friend's mother was kneeling in front of him and begging him to spare her son's life. In cold blood under the full light of day, he fired dozens of bullets into his friend, just like in a gangster movie.

- The Kaohsiung City Legislature President was involved in an election bribery case as well as a tax evasion case for several hundred NT$ million, and fled overseas. Even so, he was able to control the elections and enabled his children to be elected.

- In 1998, the Chiai County Legislature President was the subject of a manhunt under the Chihping Anti-Gangster Program, but he was still re-elected as legislator in the election.

According to an academic scholar, "Black Gold" politics is a characteristic of local elections in Taiwan. For one thing, these elections cost far too much and campaign donors (especially corporate owners with gangster backgrounds) must surely have ulterior motives. This was the cause for the prevalence of politician-business-gangster collusion.

The "analysis" presented at the end in ESWN's summary is the usual fact-free horse manure. It's quite true that local politics are completely corrupt, an issue I have discussed both on my website and on my blog. But the idea that Black Gold exists because of elections is asinine. Black Gold exists because the KMT forged links with gangsters to control local elections and murder political opponents. Money influences elections everywhere, no question. There are even gangsters involved in elections elsewhere. But the particular widespread and systemic juxaposition of money, gangsters, and politics in Taiwan is the result of KMT policies that included erecting a construction-industrial state where money flowed to construction companies through public works projects and filtered down to gangsters, who in turn supported the ruling party. The worst examples of Black Gold are not even on Apple Daily's list -- they include things like the murder of writer Henry Liu in the US by gangsters working for the Taiwan government in 1984, and the use of gangsters to break up protests and discredit the democracy movement. But then Apple Daily probably thinks history began about 1990 or so.

ESWN thinks he is insulting Taiwan by comparing it to Sicily, but the comparison is apt, though in a way that ESWN probably doesn't realize. Unlike the facist KMT in Taiwan, Mussolini crushed the gangster state in Italy as a rival political force. It was the US that revived it as part of a cold war CIA project to use the mafia to eliminate the Communists in Italian politics. It is probably not a coincidence that two US puppet/allied governments carried out exactly the same political program of linking the ruling party to local gangsters in a move ostensibly aimed at Communism....

The second piece appeared in the Taiwan News...We're going to contrast it with a similar but opposite piece in the Taipei Times that appeared the followed day. The first argues that Taiwan's politicians lack maturity. It writes:

Instead, the bulk of the news media and politicians are feverishly occupied with trying to deceive the people or keep them in the dark about the real motives and issues at stake in our political life through activities that smack more of fundamentalist revival meetings than rational or substantive political discussion or discourse.

As a result, Taiwan society remains deeply ideologically divided between dogmatic "blue" or "green" quasi-religions that mask the nature of the real interests, problems and questions that our citizenry must decide.

In this state of affairs, politicians are either using the media or being manipulated by the media. In any case, what neither the bulk of the media nor most politicians are inclined or able to realize is substantive policy discussions on issues.

Politics is Taiwan is mostly for show and fails, no matter how extremely views may be offered, to be "radical" in the sense of dealing with fundamental matters.

It is easy to see why my students write so poorly, since their mentors do. No evidence is given for these charges, and there is no use of history. History-free writing is a hallmark of bad analysis. But contrast this with an analysis of Mayor Ma of Taipei that appeared in the Taipei Times the other day:

The person who is pointing straight at the KMT and calling it an alien party is a former KMT chairman -- former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). In 1993, when Lee met with a Japanese author to discuss the tragedy of being born in Taiwan, he frankly pointed out that "the KMT is also an alien power." Lee pointed out a historical fact that Ma now is afraid of facing up to and recognizing.

If Ma is to connect the KMT with Taiwan, he must not be afraid of recognizing people such as Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水), a Taiwanese social activist during the Japanese era. But let's not talk about what Ma doesn't say. If the Qing government in the end was maintained by Zeng Guofan (曾國藩), Li Hongzhang (李鴻章), Hu Linyi (胡林翼) and other Han Chinese, then why did Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) continue to call the Qing dynasty foreign? Ma says that it was because Sun made a great mistake. Ma is holding up Sun's premiership, but how can he justify doing so?

Note the references to history, to a tradition, to shared ideas.....nothing like the first one. Regardless of the political position of each, the second is basically a much better piece, because it is cognizant of history and puts forth concrete facts in support of its argument. The first is trash.

Observe too how the first one, having renounced history as a source of understanding, ends on a remarkably stupid note:

We hope that factional politics and dogmatic ideological strife can "wither away" from Taiwan political life, along with related maladies such as quasi-religious mobilization, vote buying and "voting for the winner."
Be serious. Taiwan presents the unique case, totally unlike Japan, of where one political party is dedicated to the destruction of the nation as a democratic political entity and its absorption into a large neighboring country. Given this basic fact, how then can Taiwan's politics be expected to "mature?" How can politicians serve 'the country' when one set of them believes that there is no country?

So let this be a lesson to you, chilluns: when writing, there are only three rules:

1. Be concrete.
2. Be concrete.
3. Be concrete.

It's surprising that Taiwanese aren't better writers. I mean....concrete is just so widespread in Taiwan.....

The Weekend in Taipei: Robin Gibb in Concert, and the Museum of World Religions

We were out of town again this weekend as we headed up to Taipei to see Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees doing a solo concert at the Taida Sports Arena. The kids had a blast....

Advertizing Robin.....

We hadn't told the kids what we were coming up to Taipei for -- it was just a surprise. So as we walked to the auditorium Zeb spied the banners for Robin Gibb with "Bee Gees" on them and said "Hey, look, Dan-dan! It's Robin!" Dan-dan looked at the banners and then riposted with the world-weary cynicism of the ten year old. "But it can't be him, that's impossible." Moments later she added. "Wouldn't it be great if he were here. But that will never happen." Juying and I were in stitches. So you can imagine their happiness when they found out it really was him.

Taiwan University Campus as dusk falls...

We got there at 6:30 and grabbed our seats -- 9th row on the balcony. They sound like awful seats, but in fact we were closer than most of the people in more expensive seats. Incredibly, the layout was so badly designed that it was possible to get seats in the $5800 range that were closer than seats in the $6,800. Ours cost $2,800, and we were closer than probably a third of the $5,800 tickets. Yes, that's right, we blew $11,200 to see Robin, but how many chances do you get?

Robin sings....

The audience didn't get warmed up until halfway through, so I filled in the relative quiet with a yip! that Robin heard and gave a thumbs up to. My son talked about that in an awed voice all night.

....and sings.....

Halfway through the audience was on its feet and everyone was dancing and clapping. The kids sang along -- my daughter knows the words to every Bee Gees song -- and we had a ball dancing and shouting at the top of our lungs.

Early on the audience sat like parents at a recital.

The music was great, of course, but the screen show in the back was sheer high school. The acoustics of the auditorium, needless to say, were less than stellar. Robin did not speak much to the crowd, and introductions were very limited.

Here we are having a great time.....

The irony is that I came of age in the late 1970s, the disco years, when popular music was blighted for half a decade by the worst trash imaginable. So I hated the Bee Gees until a few years ago (I had never realized how prolific and talented they were, simply associating them with the disco scene and dismissing them).

Robin says good-bye.

The show was over all too soon and we headed home, hoarse and exhausted, but happy. The kids have a memory that will last forever.

Posing on the museum steps.

Sunday morning we visited the Museum of World Religions in Yungho next to Sogo, that Mecca of shopping. The Museum is on the 6th & 7th floors of an office building. Bring your teacher's ID if you have one, as you'll get a discount from the tickets, which are $150.

Z & D marvel at the Egyptian exhibit.

The Museum is, at that price, a complete rip-off. I've seen some good press for it, but really, it is bland and insipid, and not very informative even where it permits itself to speak.

Zeb checks out the models of famous religious buildings.

There are several problems. First, the exhibits are hardly what anyone would call comprehensive. Religions that have exhibits include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Judaism, and Taiwanese folk religion. Egyptian and Mayan religions also have displays. Not shown are hundreds of major religious beliefs.

The hall of life experience

The exhibits are full, but small, and can hardly even begin to encompass the various sects and ideas of each religion.

The gift shop, for worshippers at the shrine of Mammon.

A second problem is that the museum is dedicated to the idea that all religions are about peace and love. Everything negative about religions is banished, nor is anything that might call them into question or give them a historical context presented. There is no mention of Christianity's bloody involvement in slavery and western colonialism, and Islam's brutal spread across Asia and Europe is ignored. From reading the exhibits one would never know that Lao-tze is generally considered a myth, and there is no credible external evidence for Jesus' existence. The temples at Khajuraho are mentioned, but the fact that they are covered with intricate carvings of people having sex in every imaginable position and with both humans and animals is left out of the display. The result is a very insipid museum.

Inside the children's area

There is also a children's activity area that is stupid beyond belief and costs $100 a crack to enter, separate fee. It is supposed to teach kids about love, and there is a guide there, but it is aimed at children from another planet who are infantile and passive. Note the animals from the exhibit pictured below.

One of the animal displays...

Children have vivid imaginations that contain plenty of violence -- my daughter's favorite movie for a long time was Minority Report, which she loved for the scenes with the eyes in the plastic bags -- and they love the outre and the gross. What were they to make of this display that somehow managed to infantilize children? I recommend giving this activity a wide berth, and spending the cash on The Twits or A Wrinkle in Time.

The Shanghai Hsaio Guan

We ended the day at The Shanghai Hsiao Guan, one of the best restaurants in Yungho.....

UPDATE: Some others have blogged on the concert. Here's a tale from a local missionary who encountered a courteous and tolerant old man outside the auditorium......

Still more from the hatemail stack

I got another bit of hatemail today......consisting of three lines:

This really is a warning sign for poisonous snakes and bees, not tapeworms.
Also, the "Purple" filling is blueberry. If you can't tell taro by the appearance, read the sign.
If you don't like Taiwan, get your butt out of my country!

Actually, the bit about tapeworms was humor. I've changed it to make it more obvious, and corrected the error about taro for blueberry. Maybe I should actually read the signs *sigh*.

English Teachers Busted for Dope Smuggling: Thanks, guys!

Us Big Noses took a PR blow yesterday as the Taiwan Coast Guard arrested a bunch of gaijin for dope smuggling. I'd just like to take a moment to thank our hardworking friends adding another black mark to the record of foreigners in Taiwan.
The Coast Guard Administration's Keelung mobile-investigation team yesterday arrested an international drug smuggling ring based in Neihu (內湖) allegedly led by a Canadian who teaches English in Taiwan, a Central News Agency (CNA) report said.

Seven other foreign nationals and three Taiwanese Americans were also arrested in connection with the drug ring.

Many of the suspects worked as English-language teachers, the report said.

Now the rest of us have to live in the stink you left behind....

UPDATE: I should mention that when I got up on Sunday morning not only was there this article on the front page of the Taipei Times, but it was all over the TV news too (first thing I saw on the news at my in-law's on Sunday morn) with lurid shots of their collection of dope-related books, and stacks of illegal drugs. I like the way that the headline said not FOREIGNERS but ENGLISH TEACHERS. Those hairy eyeball English teachers, always knew they couldn't be trusted....

"For Taiwan, A Dream Dwindles"

CNN has an article out on Taiwan's "dwindling" support of independence that seems to be rather ignorant and one-sided (but what do you expect from the Cheerleaders for Bush on Iraq?) The article quotes Emile Sheng, who appears from other articles I've seen him involved in to be a pro-KMT "analyst", and Shelley Rigger, who is normally quite sharp on Taiwan affairs. The article comes from the AP, so it is impossible to see who wrote it, but it clearly misrepresents affairs, whether out of maliciousness or ignorance is impossible to tell.

Anyway, enjoy yourselves on comments like:

The main support for Taiwanese independence has traditionally come from the descendants of people who emigrated to Taiwan from China's Fukien province beginning in the 17th century. They make up about 70 percent of Taiwan's population.

These so-called "native" Taiwanese have much looser ties to China than people whose families arrived in 1949, following the communist victory over Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists on the mainland.

Actually, guys, they make up closer to 85%, and they do not have any ties to China. Talk about re-writing history!

UPDATE: David at Jujuflop works up a brilliant and detailed analysis.

China Grabbing Taiwan not Expansionism!

This commentary by a retired Australian diplomat was printed in the Japan Times a couple of months ago and is now making the rounds on a couple of discussion lists. While I appreciate his plea to reassess China's role in world affairs, his claim that China's annexation of Taiwan is not expansionism because everyone approves of it is not only wrong but completely illogical. He writes:

That the Western media have largely gone along with Tokyo's claims over Yasukuni is further proof of just how easily they accept distorted views of China. Other examples include the Tiananmen massacre myth (check the now declassified cables from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing at the time for the true story), the claim that China's claims over Taiwan are expansionist (check the terms on which every major power has accepted Beijing's sovereignty over the island), or Beijing's constant reference to Taiwan as a "renegade province" (check the English-language Web sites for the main Chinese newspapers to find the reality). And so on.

Frankly, you'd have to be on crack to write something that illogical. Think, Greg: everyone approved Japan's grab of Taiwan, and no one has ever argued that it wasn't expansionist. There's no logical connection between "approval of the international community" and "expansionism". It's a credit to China's diplomatic and economic weight that it has gotten the world to approve of its expansionism, but it is not less expanionist simply because the world has agreed to be quiet about it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Friday, August 26, Blog Round Up

It's Friday, that day of days, and once again time to take in the vista across the Taiwan blogsphere.

Scott Sommers is back, better than ever, with a couple of entries, one on the low quality of the university system, and one on Skeptics:

As such, CSICOP has implications for all sorts of conventional thinking, ranging from government to how one leads their daily life. The emphasis of CSICOP on strange claims, such as ESP and astrology has more to do with its scholarly origins and existence than anything else. Just as university professors specialize in minute aspects of the problems in which they are experts, so the scholars of CSICOP have specialized their inquiry on a particular aspect of their. For historical reasons, this has come to be strange claims. Nevertheless, the purpose of CSICOP is to map out the definition of what a legitimate claim constitutes and to do this in a way that professional scholars find meaningful.

As a lifelong Skeptic, I am an avid reader of CSICOP. I don't know if I agree that it is "scholarly" although it certainly seems rigorous. I rather prefer one reader's comment that CSICOP is an advocacy group, one that advocates for rationality.

David at jujuflop calls our attention to some (potential)(rampant) corruption and a constitutional crisis that never happened....

Back in January the GIO, in association with the charities listed above, held a successful fund-raising event; they set up a trust in a bank to handle the money, along with a committee to oversee allocation of funds. The charities went ahead and started their aid programmes, while the committee...sat on the money doing nothing. Nothing that is until the Control Yuan's Ministry of Audit noticed, and pointed out that the GIO shouldn't be setting up trusts outside normal governmental channels, and that the money should be transferred to the GIOs account before it could be spent.

Taiwan...ya gotta love it, because if you didn't love it, you'd tear your hair out. Just wait until you read how the Control Yuan exists only because no one seems to have notice that it doesn't exist....

The Thai worker protest left ripples in the blogsphere. David on Formosa had a rundown on it, with links:

The workers responsible for starting the riot will be deported. However, the remaining workers will return to work and management has agreed to meet their demands. It will be interesting to see how well the Taiwanese justice system works and whether any of the Taiwanese management who denied the workers their rights will face legal action.
ESWN offers links and info as well, with many pics and translations. Anarchy in Taiwan also dropped a few comments online.

Taiwanese religion is also a common source of commentary in the blog commons. David on Formosa remarks on it this week stimulated by the exhibition on Taiwanese folk religion at the Museum of World Religions.

The museum features exhibits related to ten major religions. Ghost month seems an appropriate time to launch a special exhibition about Taiwanese folk religions. The exhibition entitled "Pursuing Good Fortune - Taiwanese Folk Cultural Artefacts" runs until 10 February 2006. Read more about it in this Taipei Times article.
I haven't been there yet, but hopefully when we get up to Taipei on Saturday, we'll get a chance to stop in.

Nihowdy reflects on pet rocks, Taiwan style:

Under a big sky workers toil. Cutting swaths for rocks. Truckloads are carted away to be seperated from their kin. New walls are built, canals, dykes, topsoil added. Farmers get one check for stones. One bill for dykes. Lots of dust, and the limitation of two rice or yam crops for the year.

My kids love big rocks! Send some my way....

Jerome F. Keating, who often posts on Taiwan's history and politics, discusses the roots of the KMT:

The spirit and roots of a sense of opposition in Taiwan and therefore its legacy to the DPP, however, go back much further in time far beyond the coming of the KMT. This is a part of understanding Taiwan that is lost on many. This is what many, particularly the hard core KMT cannot fathom. That the KMT think as elitist waishengren is understandable from their background. They are from the outside and their perception of their ideology paints them as "saviors." That some of them think and live as "guests" on the island ("I am living here but China is my home.") is also understandable. However, that they insist on perpetuating the charade that they are the true representatives of China, and that in this charade Taiwan should be China's subservient little brother or that they alone know what is best for Taiwan is ludicrous and unacceptable to Taiwanese. With their long history of opposing exploitative outsiders bent on "saving the island," Taiwanese have a totally different perception of history and an opposite paradigm of their identity.

Keating also logged on the KMT election:

Does Ma have that substance? Ma has always been one to play to the gallery and court an image. He has always tried hard to keep his feet in the proverbial two boats. Anyone that has watched him over the years and has a memory has seen his inconsistencies. His past as a campus spy for the KMT in the United States has never been fully examined. As he reported on democratic activities of his fellow Taiwanese students was he simply trying to be a dutiful and loyal son of the party? How many lives and careers of fellow students were brought down by his reports?

This is an aspect of Ma's career that I was not aware of, and also shows the failure of the DPP and the media to exploit this, as well as the way that the White Terror has been buried in modern Taiwan. It is permissable to speak about 2-28 and the political executions. It is not permissable to speak on the way the White Terror corrupted wide swaths of Taiwan society, and to imagine that anything be done about it, either in righteous punishment or healing. Why is there hatred in Taiwan? Here is one answer: Taiwan needs a healing.

Jason at Wandering to Tamshui blogs on the sad situation in Nantou, where once again DPP politicians split off from the party because they cannot grasp that it is bigger than they are.

It looks like the DPP's vote will be split in this December's local elections: Lin Tsung-nan is dropping out of the DPP to run for re-election in the Nantou magistrate's race.

I've discussed this potentially damaging situation before and it looks like the DPP is now saddled with a major handicap in its quest to hang onto Nantou County, having failed to come up with an offer Lin couldn't refuse.

Taiwan News has the story. Factionalization is the curse of Taiwan politics....

Michael Fahey at POTS had a great commentary on bicycling and public policy in Taipei.

The paper begins by acknowledging that in Europe and the United States, urban planners have been trying to configure public spaces in ways that encourage people to walk and bicycle rather than drive. In other words, walking and bicycling are viable alternative modes of transportation. But in a familiar rhetorical shift, the white paper claims that Taipei has some unique quality that makes it impossible to do what is done in other countries. In this case, Taipei's traffic is "too complex" to allow bicycling to ever become a viable, legitimate form of transportation.

Historical figures cited in the paper show that this was not always the case. In 1959, Taipei had 168,897 bicycles, 4,752 motorcycles, and just 2,459 automobiles. By 1967, there were 207,216 bicycles, but the number of motorcycles had exploded to 71,623 and the number of cars to 10,871. Taipei was a city of bicyclists.

Fahey's commentary alludes to many of the problems common in Taiwan's public policy thinking: the idea that order = similarity, that each thing must be numbered and counted, that anything not under control is in anarchy and to be shunned....the Sung Neo-Confucians have a lot to answer for.

Freedom Slopes reminds of the destruction wrought by rains and typhoons this year. My comfort in low-temp, overcast days in Taichung is bought at the price of destructive rainfall in the mountains that creates great hardship for the people there:

Since the rains last summer Maolin has only been punished further. The recent typhoon that swept through Taiwan in July smashed Maolin. Large areas of the main road were completely washed away. Other sections of the road were covered by large landslides or have slid downhill leaving the road in a questionable state of safety. The first waterfall has lost the public bathroom next to it and when I was there the second waterfall was inaccessible. The hot spring in the village of Dona which was the main Tourist attraction and helped bring money into the local economy was completely washed away and there is no trace of it left. One wonders what the local businesses that depended on the tourist dollars will do.

When I asked a local man about what he thought he just shrugged his shoulders and said with a blank look on his face, " What can we do?"

What will they do? Go on -- until the next rains. Don't worry, the government will make everything right by firing the water minister.

James Lick blogs on a rarely-seen topic, the good things that locals do for us.

It's pretty common on web sites for ex-pats in Taiwan to see a lot of complaints about the behavior of Taiwanese people. And actually I've seen some bad examples of this myself. But I've also seen plenty of examples of kind and considerate Taiwanese people.
Me too! And it's always kind to recall them too....

I have to admit that I love Tea Masters. My experience has been that blogs dedicated to a single topic, and written by people passionately interested in it, are usually excellent. So it is with TM. I always put off my weekly stop there until last because I know I will enjoy entering a world I know nothing about, even though I have no particular liking for Chinese teas. This week Tea Masters brings us news of Pu-erh Tea:
A reader wrote me that Puerh prices are "skyrocketing" in San Francisco and that many vendors are sitting on their inventories and are waiting for prices to level. From my side, I can report that the Taiwanese importer I get my Pu-er from came back from Kunming, Yunnan last month without placing a single order for the 2005 harvest. Too expensive, he told me. Prices are at record levels this year. The booming Chinese economy and wealthier Chinese consumers may explain this inflation, but is it the only reason?
Nope! And Tea Masters will give you the lowdown....

Naruwan brings us this dictionary definition to the left there. There's nothing like local dictionaries for English errors....

Out in the World has some beautiful musings on traveling in China.

Life is everywhere, and it is revealing itself - the everyday lives of these people, the routines that carry them through their days, right in front of you. It is not what you are used to, or how you live. Even if you are used to it, something inside of you trembles at the rawness of it all, at the thought that the world's first big cities were probably not much different from this. Interaction is impossible to avoid. Being a stranger you receive stares. Being a photographer you attract attention. You are photographing their lives, and you see something when certain people take a moment to stop and be photographed. You see that they are changing their face the tiniest bit, wanting to appear just a bit more handsome, a bit more at ease. Others, though, don't know how to do this. They try to pose themselves, or put on a smile and they can not do it. Their awkwardness is beautiful in its way, and again revealing. Some people, they don't care. They want you to see them just as they are.

It's fascinating how many Taiwan bloggers blog on the Middle East. The pullout from Gaza, which the Israelis staged as nice bit of political theatre, was blogged in several places. Kerim at Keywords has some very good thinking here, while the Gentle Rant had a few comments here. Hope Klein at Shalom from Taiwan put up a bunch pictures of the pullout. Unfortunately her understanding of the situation is comic book (Israel = good, Palestinians = bad) and she seems to have fallen hard for the Israeli media circus. I wonder what she would make of this pic of Hamas she put up if she knew that US officials say Hamas was Israeli-funded in the 70s and 80s? Can you say "blowback"? (aside to Hope: not only will Bible Study not teach you anything about the world, it won't teach you anything about the Bible either). As several commentators have pointed out, the settlers will simply be redeployed to the West Bank to carry on the illegal occupation there, the building of the wall there will continue, and Israel will continue to control Gaza's airspace, coastlines, and borders. Counterpunch put it nicely when it called Gaza the world's largest open-air prison.

Many years ago, as I blogged earlier, I met Richard Bush, the ex-head of AIT and longtime Taiwan expert, and asked him why his boss Stephen Solarz, then an influential Jewish congressman from NY, was interested in Taiwan. Solarz, Bush explained, saw an analogy between Israel and Taiwan as besieged small states surrounded by enemies who would crush them and supported only by the US. Nowadays, of the two choices I tend to see Taiwan as more like the Palestinians (although neither is very good as an analogy to Taiwan's situation). I have done a lot of reading on the Middle East over the last few years, but the Middle East situation is so complex that I personally do not blog on it. I'd like to second Kerim's recommendation, though:

I wanted to add that anyone interested in understanding the history of Jewish settlement in the occupied territories should read Avishai Margalit's 2001 essay "Settling Scores." It will cost you $3, but it will be $3 well spent. You even get a nice map! If I have time I'll write something about it ....[note: this link actually takes you right to it]

Another good read is Oren's Six Days of War which demythologizes the Israeli victory in the Six-Day war and shows how much of it was driven by decisions by the military acting without the express authority of the civilians. The world is a complex place, and the Middle East situation is hellishly complex. What's fascinating is that so many here make a link between their own lives here and the situation there, if only by discussing it in their blogs.

SHORTS: Jonathan Benda has a sensitive book review of a book on the White Terror. Mengshin Journal reflects on the lost sex life of their dog. David at jujuflop has some links and observations on Taiwan's attempts to participate in the WHO. The Taipei Kid lists out the comical reasons the GIO shut down the TV stations. MeiZhongTai reports that Taipei is talking about co-producing helicopters with major US makers. Good pix over at andres. Rank has some choice observations on Mayor Ma and the KMT here and here that shouldn't be skipped. Don't miss Asiapundit which always has a great collection of stuff.