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.


Michael Fahey said...

Wow! That was truly impressive.

Michael Fahey said...

Even if you did overlook Sniff!

Michael Turton said...

Did not! I stopped by the other day! Your blog is great! But we had blogged on the same stuff...hang on, I'll pop you in there....

Anonymous said...

You talked about KMT's Ma and concluded that "Taiwan needs healing".

I agree, but don't you see....
to heal, a person needs to acknowledge the damage and then endeavors to get to the root cause of it. Most Taiwanese, IMHO, are too busy to bother with this serious soul searching.

When forced to examine their past history and identity, they like to hide behind the sugar sweet philosophy of "let's all get along, let by gone be by gone". KMT and Waishengren very cleverly manipulated Taiwanese with this scheme. And I hate to admit this brain washing tactic still works wonders in Taiwan today.

To be truly free, Taiwanese can't merely stop at freeing themselves of the KMT old guard's physical rule. They have to go one step further, to fully comprehend where they were and how not to go back again. An enslaved mind dreads total freedom and independence. Without this soul searching step, Taiwan's newly gained liberty and democracy could evaporate.

TeaMasters said...

What a great review! And thanks for including Teamasters in it!

I also appretiate your humble position not to write about the complex situation in the Middle East. That's a wise thing to do on such a passionate issue. I recently came accross It's a great way to fly over the earth. You can then also see how small Israel is. But even this map must be taken with caution: it has a pro-palestinian bias (Arab villages are mostly mentioned, but jewish ones not always: I couldn't find the kibbutz I worked for in 1993, but all the arab villages around were mentioned). Still, it's fascinating.

Big Ell said...

I have heard about Ma spying many times from a few different sources. Surely someone who reads theis excellent blog must have some articles or info to link to?

Michael Turton said...

I also appretiate your humble position not to write about the complex situation in the Middle East.

LOL. I already have controversies enough with Taiwan. I love your blog, BTW. The pics and commentary are wonderful.