Sunday, November 16, 2014

Taichung election, Sunday Linkfest, and Comments

Updated map of Taipei metro with opening of new Songshan Line. Note that the lines are now numbered. This was done "for the foreigners". Nobody asked us if we wanted that, it is totally unnecessary. h/t to David Reid. 

Practically giddy I am: Frozen Garlic actually mentioned me in a post the other day:
It seems like this will be a lost year for Frozen Garlic. I have lots of things that I would like to write about, but I just don’t seem to be able to find any free blocks of time when I have the energy to write. I don’t know how other bloggers find the time and energy to write regularly while still balancing full-time jobs, family, and other considerations. Let’s just say that I’m no Michael Turton.
Actually, I just decided to give up sleep. My productivity has risen sharply, and the little purple elves that dance around the edges of my vision are very entertaining.

The post is, in the best Frozen Garlic fashion, a great analysis of the Taichung election (and don't miss the excellent comments), really informed. First Froze discusses the decision to implement the BRT, a bus line with a dedicated lane after the city had been promised a metro system. The BRT is really a sensible plan and lots of us sensible observers who are pro-Green nevertheless thought it a great idea. Nobody wanted to see a repeat of the crater in the budget that is the Kaohsiung metro. Informed observers tell me that Hu's policy people really are wonks and that they saw the BRT as a way to determine where the popular lines are, after which they may think about an MRT, but above all, they would avoid the Kaohsiung MRT fail. Froze observes....
Traffic is one of the most important responsibilities of local government, and failing to effectively deal with traffic could significantly damage a mayor’s reputation. However, the BRT case is not simply a matter of traffic. There a broader narrative that Taichung has been stagnating under Jason Hu for the past 13 years. The 2010 election was critical in crystallizing this argument. At the beginning of 2010, Hu was widely thought to be a wonderful mayor. By the end of the campaign, the DPP had effectively demolished that reputation, and Hu squeaked into a third term by a razor-thin margin. The DPP’s attacks were most effective in the realm of pubic security, where several high-profile violent incidents and a renewed focus on crime in Taichung created the impression that Hu was either uninterested in fighting organized crime or outright collaborating with them. In 2001, Jason Hu came to Taichung as a KMT superstar, a widely liked former Foreign Minister with presidential aspirations and untainted by the dirtiness of local, factional politics. By 2010, he was transformed into just another KMT politician, deeply embedded in local faction networks, sullied by contact with organized crime, surviving by spreading around city money to politically useful projects rather than on public policy merit. Why did the Taichung City government need to scrimp on the transportation system when Kaohsiung did not? It might be because Hu has been spending money on other projects designed to keep the local factions happy. Unfortunately, he hasn’t finished enough of these or convinced normal voters that they are that important. For example, the newly opened Taichung Opera House took far longer than planned, entailed large cost overruns, and DPP figures suggest that it still isn’t completely ready but Hu is opening it before the election anyway.
Hu had two problems, really -- his plan for the city was grandiose and requires lots of time and money, and the local KMT's longtime connections to local organized crime. A wise friend noted that Hu wanted another term in part so all his plans would come to fruition under his own aegis, because you know Lin Jia-lung will ruthlessly claim credit for them if he wins (and recent polls show Lin ahead by less than five).

The crazy thing is that Lin's campaign amounts to either doubling down on Hu's wackier policies (did you know the city government gives massive subsidies for false teeth, which Lin says he'll double?) or simply running on CHANGE. Because CHANGE is good. His campaign amounts to saying "Hu has been in there too long, it's someone else's turn", a sort of upscaled appeal to the Taiwanese cultural preference for outcome fairness in social situations. Several times I've run into people who know I am pro-Green and who have asked in despair if I can give them a reason to vote for Lin, since he hasn't given them one himself.

Sound trucks everywhere, the candidates are saturating the neighborhoods. We're also getting lots of pamphlets and materials from pan-Green candidates in our isolated neighborhood....

Enough for this post, I have two more I want to get done today. On to the links....
  • Taiwan in Cycles: The Sun Moon Lake bike trail is a trail for non-cyclists. It is boring, stupid, and dangerous.
  • Taiwan in Cycles: the Takata Hill Climb. Awesome. Great pics as always.
  • Frozen Garlic looks at the island's powerful political families. Froze contends 
    There is a difference in the nature of KMT and DPP family politicians. The percentage of incumbent KMT candidates with family ties is roughly twice as high as for incumbent DPP candidates. However, the DPP has a much higher percentage of legacy candidates among newcomers. Over a quarter of DPP newcomers have family ties. For some reason, the DPP has embraced family politics in this election cycle.
    This shows how the KMT is actually run for the benefit of a few powerful families. While Froze's observations that the list he provides from the 翻轉選舉運動 lacks "balance" are basically correct -- "non-partisan" pan-Green stuff often discredits itself because it is so obviously pro-Green -- it might have been good had he note the other major difference between the DPP and KMT family politicians: few, if any of the DPP politicians come from families that made their mark and their family fortunes serving the murderous authoritarian state.  
  • ETRC group looks at elections. Here is third post in the series.
  • GOOD STUFF: Longtime Taiwan scholar Don Rogers on how Ma still runs an imperial presidency despite being deeply unpopular.
  • Taiwan Insider's link collection.
  • Julia F on US-Taiwan relations after the midterm elections.
  • Bleach used to 'cure' bean sprouts. Bleach is sometimes used by vendors in night markets to spiffy up their fruit. *sigh* And another huge company admits using animal feed oil for human consumption in 2012.
  • Critique of U-bike. This is my experience as well. The government added the program to Taipei, essentially adding thousands of vehicles to the streets without adding the requisite physical and regulatory infrastructure.
  • Touring Taiwan by bike for a month. Great pics
  • Scotch whisky makers scoring big in Taiwan
  • Police shut down gay website for obscenity. Meanwhile porn sites for straights are going full blast.
  • SecState Kerry meets former Veep Vincent Siew, then calls for "market reforms" so that it can join the TPP, which is a giveaway to US multinationals in the guise of a trade agreement. I could have told you, Vincent, the world was always meant for one as dutiful as you. 
  • Min of Education moves capital to Nanjing. LOL.
  • Kerry Brown argues for an Aussie relationship with China that is independent of Washington's
  • ECONOMIC FANTASIES: SCMP: Sends around another piece on the fantasy of Taiwan makers in China returning to Taiwan to set up businesses. Businesses come and go, with its selective emphasis on businesses returning, both the Chen and Ma Administrations hoped to create the impression that more are coming than going. Nope. A more interesting piece might be done on the foreigners who have left China because they constantly get ripped off to come here and open businesses because Taiwanese are more honest and trustworthy than Chinese.
  • ECONOMIC FANTASIES: Ketagalan: Korea-China deal sends shockwaves throughout Taiwan. Well, through the big government subsidized companies and the media who serve them. In the best shock doctrine style, some big firms immediately demanded that the minimum wage be lowered so they can make even more money off government-regulation wage suppression on one side and government direct and tax subsidies on the other. Wage earners get it coming and going, since they pay the subsidies. You can see what the actual political function of the OMG KOREA! discourse is: to drive acceptance of wage discipline, subsidy farming, and tax avoidance by big firms. It has nothing to do with the reality of Korea-Taiwan competition... there's other good stuff there, don't miss it. 
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

"A trusted source tells us that while the nice people at the MOE were debating where to situate the capital of the ROC (Taiwan), some high-ranking folk at MOFA (surely without even a hint of pressure from upstairs or coming from the high tower at the end of K-Boulevard) didn’t know what to do. Faced with this dilemma, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to simply not mention a capital city." Wrong. The decision was taken at the MOFA on the basis of advice from the Ministry of the Interior. There was never any confusion or doubt.

Anonymous said...

Lemme guess, the denture subsidy is related to a local manufacturer with great lobbying?

On the bright side, I can see the multiplier if being able to chew keeps more aging low-income residents coming to area restaurants. And you can't say Taichung policy is toothless, bwahahaha.

Anonymous said...

YouBike riders present a problem for the same reason that all Taiwanese present a problem when driving, riding motor scooters, or walking. The culture simply isn't adapted to predictable, regulated movement of any kind. Why this should be the case has never been clearly explained. I say keep adding bikes to the mix because at least they are quiet and don't pollute.

Anonymous said...

Now lists capital as "Taipei City":

Anonymous said...

Re: the new MRT line, its another positive achievement to improve the quality of life in Taipei -

But....damn, the exit maps are all flipped upside down and backwards. On one exit North is South on another North is West... WTF?

What is the logic behind this?

Do Androids Dream said...

Re the exit maps on Taipei MRT: Back when I was the (ahem) English consultant for DORTS, I was told that the maps are placed as if the viewer were upstairs leaving the exit.

I mentioned the convention for all maps to be held with North at the top and was promptly laughed at. Taipei MRT engineers know better than me.

Hope that helps.

Brian Castle said...

Re the unnecessary numbers on the subway map - it really depends on the foreigner doesn't it?

For most long term residents one would hope they have either learned enough Chines or are interested enough in learning Chinese that using the names isn't an issue. (I remember when I arrived in Taiwan I insisted on buying and using a Chinese-only bus map).

But for visitors who are only going to be there for a week or two, or for people who have jobs that require a lot of time and leave little time for experiencing the culture, short-cuts may be necessary.

Use the romanization? Not if you can't remember it (much less pronounce it). Use the colors? Some people are color-blind. I imagine that red and green could be very hard to distinguish.

So put in the numbers. They're easy to remember. They're universally recognizable. (out of space)...

Brian Castle said...

The numbers can be communicated quickly and easily by people of any country, culture or language. Late for the train and need to ask someone which one is the line you need? Hold up three fingers and look around with a questioning expression and a helpful local can literally point you in the right direction.

Long-term expats aren't the only foreigners around.