Friday, September 02, 2005

Friday, Sept 2, Blog Round-up

A mournful week of hurricanes in both the countries I love. The American Red Cross accepts donations online here.

Typhoon Talim: The big news in Taiwan this week was typhoon Talim, with warnings posted on many blogs, and the news of another big typhoon, Nabi, barreling along right behind it. The New Hamphire Bushman not only posted great info before Talim, but also some shots of another super-typhoon from last year, Aere (we got some great pics of the East Coast in the hours before Aere struck the island last year). Taipei, Taipei blogged on the stress of typhoon anticipation and life in Taiwan. B@Taiwan also posted a few thoughts, after a long hiatus of non-posting since the last typhoon (not to worry B, not just you, a lot of blogs went dead after Haitang in July. Dunno why. Creepy....)

The typhoon was pretty much gone by Thursday night, leaving everyone to blog on the near misses and power outagges. I got out early Thursday morning after the typhoon arrived on Wednesday and took a few pics. I took more pics on Friday morn. Big Ell, Taichung's Grand Master of Snark, left some snarky thoughts on Talim:

Typhoon Talin appears to have left Taiwan to begin terrorizing China. Normally I enjoy Typhoons as much a sthe next guy. The positives of time off work and clean air for a few days far outweigh the negatives of deth and destruction. Typhoon Talin wasn't a very friendly typhoon. First, he knocked out my power. Second, he scared the shit out of my dog causing many accidents. Third, he scared the shit out of my wife and I; fortunately only a few small accidents. Fourth, he knocked out our power making the enjoyment of a day off even more difficult. Fifth, he knocked out our cable making my wife bored and a little testy. Well anyway the power is back on and I have some time to update my blog with more Wasting Time.

In Taichung, Talim seems to have been more sound than fury, luckily. Mesheel in Taipei agrees. Taiwan news has an early report on Thursday. Friday morning Taiwan News sums up the damage: 6 dead, many injured:

As of 6 p.m. yesterday, statistics presented by the Ministry of Economic Affairs showed that more than 780,000 households were still suffering from power outages. Also, the number of households without water had increased to 48,500 as water rationing was scheduled to take place in Taoyuan's 635,000 households early this morning.

In the south, nore than 8,600 households in Tainan County were flooded while landslides buried three households. Luckily, no one was hurt because all the homes had already been evacuated.

As the rains continued in central and southern Taiwan, the Council of Agriculture issued a "red alert" for 426 rivers around the island while inhabitants along the other 808 rivers were advised to be wary of the possibility of flash floods or mudslides.

Taoyuan is on water rationing, again....Now we await Nabi....

Kudos to ESWN for assembling a nice summary of the recent postings in the Taiwan media on the "horse fart culture.

This is rather pathetic, less about politics than media reporting. In an authoritarian society (such as Taiwan under Chiang Kai-shek), horse fart culture had its place because it reinforces authority. In a democratic society, horse fart culture is a major political liability as the current feeding frenzy shows. I cannot imagine that Chen Shui-bian demands any of this type of thing from his people as this serves no purpose. Instead, it is usually some 'ass-kisser' bureaucrats who wants to please the boss. In the case of the air force base inspection, there had been explicit orders coming down from the top NOT to do anything extraordinary (such as cancelling soldiers' leave) but somebody still ignored those orders and did it anyway. In the case of Chao Chien-ming's appointment, this is a voluntary non-paying committee and he seems to have some qualifications with respect to dioxins.

My own experience of this is that it is hardly limited to events involving the President, or even Taiwan. I could list the grounds of dozens of non-profit organizations all over the world as a good example. Humans are social primates cursed with the need to defer to status.

Jonathan Benda blogs on a conference on deliberative democracy in Taiwan.

As the editorial points out, however, there is a great deal of "political polarization" in Taiwan--particularly in the Legislature--that would make "a bill that would require citizen discussion of proposed laws and programs" hard to pass. They suggest "an independent institution under the Cabinet or under the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission or its proposed replacement National Development Commission" as an alternative.

Heh. The RDEC was the font of many reforms in the 1990s, including the service quality drive that paid off in shocking rises in service quality in the island's central and local governments. Here is another example of what David at Jujuflop blogged on last week with respect to the Control Yuan: the creation of bodies independent of the legislature, beholden solely to the executive, and carrying out government functions. This may work under the DPP, which is both committed to democracy and thumbfingered, but it will set a dangerous precedent for the day when the KMT returns to power.

Speaking of David at Jujuflop, he logged a sterling dissection of a poorly researched article that made the rounds of a number of China and Taiwan blogs.
Either Western journalists do not have the most basic understanding of Taiwan, or they think it is too complex to explain to their readers. That is my conclusion after having read the latest article about Taiwan which fails completely to dig beneath the surface and get any more nuanced than describing a battle between absolute independence and absolute unification.
Tough choices there, David. It fills me with fear to read the stuff written on Taiwan, and then to read about places I know nothing about, like Brazil or Qatar. Is the reporting this bad everywhere? Or is it just Taiwan?

Poagao takes a fascinating journey back into his previous incarnation as a soldier on a now abandoned base in Miaoli.

I fought my way through the dense undergrowth to the rear wall, went up and over a low spot I remembered, scaring some cats as I pushed through the briars and around the barbed wire...let's see, where was it? Oh, yeah: a little slot I could just scrape through. If you didn't know about it it would be nearly impossible to find. Odd that I was trying to get in to a place I'd often wanted to get out of so badly back then.
In the empty mountains where no one is seen,
The voices of humans echo,
Reflected sunlight flickers into the deep forest
The green moss shines anew.
-Wang Wei "The Deer Enclosure"

Karl at Chewin on the Chung scores with a seriously funny post on America's Empirical Domination of Iraq.
The sun burns angry and red over the dusty village, as a U.S. Army HUMVEE pulls up in front of an Iraqi market. Four marines in full combat gear exit the vehicle, their weapons ready. The marines approach the market, stopping when they spot an Iraqi farmer and a shopkeeper engaged in intense discussion. The marines surround the two Iraqis, and a sunburned marine sergeant in Ray-Bans growls "What are you two doing?"

The Iraqi shopkeeper responds: "Well sergeant, based on fundamental propositions of logic and mathemetics, which can be intuited by everyone, we are constructing a comprehensive metaphysical system."
Don't miss the joke in the comments either: "A Rationalist and an Empiricist are traveling on a train......"

David on Formosa blogs on Annette Lu's proposals for redrawing administrative boundaries in Taiwan.

Taiwan's Vice President Annette Lu is well known for making controversial comments. The Taipei Times reports that yesterday she put forward a proposal to move the capital to the south and creating four administrative regions to replace the current 22 cities and counties.

While the idea of relocating the capital is sure to meet with considerable resistance plans for reducing the number of local governments are not new and have been put forward by both sides of politics.

I am not sure redrawing the counties is wise. Taiwan's county boundaries follow watersheds in many cases and thus make water policy convenient. Relocating the government and administrative capital, perhaps back to Tainan, or perhaps Taichung, which has the best of the island's insufferable weather, is probably not a bad idea, but unrealizable.

Taiwan's Other Side, a new pro-KMT blog out there to counter perceived pro-DPP bias in the Taiwan blogsphere, apologizes for the martial-law era killings, arguing:

From a historical perspective of developing democracies, poor, uneducated, unemployed people do not value democracy over food on the table. Democracy is a luxury, and not a natural state. Modern Russia's slide back to authoritarianism is one example of this. Democracies are also poor at generating the consensus necessary for massive economic and social changes. Thus, temporary oligarchy a la Plato's Republic until improved quality of life, education, and social values permit democracy to flourish. It's not crazy - it's realistic, and it has the best intentions.

I think it is important to consider the 'crimes' of martial law within their context, as being done with good intentions. Locking up the opposition in a time of war is a tradition found in western democracies. Lincoln did it, Wilson and Roosevelt did it too. Killing the opposition isn't quite so American, but who are to devalue those choices now with the omniscience of hindsight? I credit today's democratic debate as v
indication of those tough choices.

Enjoy yourselves with this one.....I will just put in this quote (from Marc Cohen's excellent 1988 book Taiwan at the Crossroads), which was posted to Forumosa a little while back:

"On October 17, 1984 (Two days after the Liu murder), the key officials involved in censorship held a secret meeting. Those present included Chang Ching-yuh, The U.S. educated director of government information; James Soong, the KMT's Cultural Affairs chief; the Garrison Commander; the chiefs of the National Police Administration, the Investigation Bureau and the Political Warfare Department of the Defense Ministry; and the Deputy chief of the National Security Bureau. The first two officials, long considered liberals by American supporters of the KMT, appeared to take as hard line a stance on censorship as the security personnel.

An employee of the GIO later leaked the minutes of the meeting to the opposition press on Taiwan; he received a short jail term as a result. Although the government heavily censored those magazines which printed the minutes, they enjoyed wide underground circulation. The London-based Index on Censorship printed a translation, along with a commentary by James Seymour, a leading US analyst of politics and human rights on Taiwan. Seymour's analysis and translation were reprinted in the record of a U.S. Congressional hearing...(In the minutes) The Garrison commander spoke of the need to 'suppress' what he called ' thought pollution' and referred to censorship as a form of 'warfare'. The minutes also portray government spokesman Chang as making repeated referenceto the ' illegal' and 'extremist' nature of the opposition press, and openly suggesting that the mere expression of an opinioncan, in and of itself, be illegal. In addition, his remarks clearly seemed to imply that the officials involved in censorship see no distinction between the party and the government.

The other 'liberal' at the meeting went even further, according to the minutes. He spoke not only of the 'control of culture', words used by the Garrison Commander as well, and of ' illegal opinions', but of 'the elimination of dissent'. Most significantly, both he and Chang pointed to the use of libel suits, brought ostensibly by private individuals, as the most appropriate way to attack the opposition press, since, in Soong's words the ' suits are a normal practice in democratic countries'.

Soong, a liberal? That's also a extremely negative commentary on the way US policymakers think.

Kerim at Keywords blogs on the China-Taiwan trade relationship:
This Foreign Affairs article by George J. Gilboy focuses on trade between China and the U.S., but it has some good news for Taiwan. I remember reading many alarmist articles a few years ago, at the time that both Taiwan and China entered the WTO, about how China was catching up with Taiwan in the hi-tech sector, and how Taiwan simply wouldn't be able to compete unless it managed to find some new miracle sector - like biotech. Well, it turns out that Taiwan isn't doing so bad.
In the mid 1990s there was a flap about human capital investment and the Asian Tigers. One scholar, I've forgotten who, noted that the GDP per capita of the Asian NICs all tended to line up in order of entry into the industrialization and remain in that same relationship, with South Korea bringing up the rear. If this holds up, and I see no reason why it shouldn't, China will never pass Korea. It will still have a larger overall GDP than America's, and a larger number of people with excess money to spend, but most of China's people are doomed to remain poor. Of course, that assumes that China will continue growing and obtaining needed resources....

One thing that Japan and Taiwan benefitted from land reform, which gave smallholders a stake in the new economy. Private ownership of land does not really exist in China. Taiwan's industrialization was accomplished by transferring resources from agriculture to industry -- see former President Lee Teng-hui's landmark Intersectoral Capital Flows in the Economic Development of Taiwan 1895-1960 for the statistical analysis of the unequal pricing schemes for agricultural goods and industrial goods in Taiwan. Essentially, the colonizers Japan and the KMT both set agricultural prices too low and industrial goods too high, resulting in transfers of $$ out of farmers' hands and into industry. The KMT was more successful in this policy than its Japanese predecessors (see the great book by Ka on Japanese colonial policy in Taiwan, Japanese Colonialism in Taiwan: Land Tenure, Development, and Dependency, 1895-1945). Ho's classic The Economic Development of Taiwan 1860-1970 is another good source on how agriculture was squeezed to support industry. As agriculture declined throughout the 1960s, Taiwanese farmers turned to export industries to support themselves, and their children migrated to factories in Taipei, where they picked up skills from Japanese and US firms, and then brought them home. Without land ownership, how will Chinese farmers duplicate the experience of farmers in Japan and Taiwan? Moreover, in both Japan and Taiwan, farmers have been a source of support for the conservative parties who funneled money to them in the form of subsidies and construction projects. How can China's government reproduce this stability without land ownership?

Speaking of China and growth, Eight Diagrams blogs on China, the US, oil prices and interest rates:
Reading through the world press about rising oil prices, I have long been surprised at how many writers have ignored the link between the price moves and "easy money" conditions in the United States. The Economist does not make that same mistake.
The Economist is a great rag, whose prose is a joy to read.

Jerome Keating logs another fine post on Ma Ying-jeou's rise to power and the problem of the KMT's looting of Taiwan:

Shortly after Ma Ying-jeou became chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) he announced that they would be selling the Institute of Policy Research and Development and its land. The KMT party was allegedly "divesting" itself of its assets.

The Institute is one of innumerable properties and businesses that the KMT claimed as its own when it took over Taiwan as a one-party state. That the price tag of this one property alone is NT$4.3 billion and that the KMT has hundreds of such properties, gives some indication of how much wealth the KMT actually did grab in its fifty years of control over Taiwan.

On the surface, it would seem that Ma is doing something commendable. It is the right image. He is divesting the KMT of the properties that have come to be known as its "ill-gotten gains."

Heh. Like I much KMT mud will stick to the squeaky clean Ma? Lotsa fun to watch and speculate!

Jason at Wandering to Tamshui has a fabulous post on Taiwanese Folk Religion.
One of the most vivid memories I have of my time in Taiwan is the first time I personally saw a "乩童" (dan-gi, or "Spirit Medium") while at a folk religion festival in Tainan. A dan-gi is usually a young man who has recovered from some sort of childhood disease, thanks to the protection of the local "Earth-God", or "Tu-di Gong" (土地公).
I hate to confess that I have been in Taiwan basically since 1989 but have never seen a folk medium in action. Looks like I've been missing quite a lot!

POTS, always a great read, has the story of the fight for Taiwan's last leper colony, removed to make way for progress....

MORE THAN half a century ago, Chen Zai-tian (陳再添) was quarantined away from society as a leper, a disease that then had no cure and has taken away all of his fingers and both of his feet, leaving him with claws for hands, prosthetic lower legs, and a slight deformation on his face. But lately, the 73-year-old has returned from a seclusion he had grown used to. He's done it to fight for his home, the Lesheng Sanatorium (樂生療養院) in Banqiao, which has already been sold to by the government to make way for a new MRT line, and now awaits bulldozing as around 80 former residents continue to squat in what has been their home for decades.
Sold the place right out from underneath the residents, without consulting them...

The sordid tale of the drug dealing English teachers made surprisingly few blogs, I thought. Freedom Slopes commented, though, and the Taipei Kid laid down some snark as well.
Just in case you were getting tired of cocky 20-something foreign English teachers/clubbers, the Keelung Coast Guard decided to help get rid of some of them for us. (Christ, I knew English teaching was sometimes rough, but 600kg of blow?
For the curious, the Taipei Times story of this sad tale is here.

MeiZhongTai explains everything you always wanted to know about stealth technology.
If China can detect our B-2 Spirit or F-117 Nighthawk; how much does that impair the USAF's ability to conduct (or threaten) air strikes against China in the event of a crisis? It could also seriously affect our defense procurement plans, most notably the F-22 and F-35, in planning for wars over the horizon.
Read on, and be enlightened.

Last week Maoman points us to the Beijing Olympic Tank, courtesy of Andre from The net is already spreading the love around, according to Maoman. Let's give it another boost.

Kerim at Keywords speaks for many when he talks about Katrina, with a number of good links. It was emotionally devastating to watch a great city be destroyed by the power of a hurricane, even as we in Taiwan were fortunate to be able to shrug off a lesser cousin of Katrina, Talim. A great many issues have made the blogsphere this week and will be discussed for some time to come, so I won't take up space here further, nor pontificate about politics. But I weep for my country.......

SHORTS: Anarchy in Taiwan has a cute pic of a PETA protest of KFC in Hsimenting in Taipei. Debra meets Karen Mok and shoots a commercial for SK II. Last week I missed this Taipei City Government survey of the Top Ten Night Market foods, blogged at Me from Taiwan. Rank tells the tale of an encounter in Qingquan. Ryan and Iris' September issue is out -- take a look at life in Taiwan from the Hualien point of view. Taiwan Troll has moved. The Wilds of Taiwan recommend a cool party trick out of Chinese history. Unplugged serves up some great B&W photos. a better tomorrow, as always, has some nice pics too.

A number of blogs sending from NO. The Interdictor posts from a high-rise in the city. Others are listed here.

Remember the victims of Katrina. Please give to the American Red Cross.


Anonymous said...

One thing that Japan and Taiwan benefitted from land reform, which gave smallholders a stake in the new economy.

I argue (in my dissertation) that the benefits of land reform in Taiwan have been greatly overstated. In fact, land was fairly equitably distributed in Taiwan before land reform - ever since the Qing era in fact. This actually explains something discussed in Ka's book: the fact that the Japanese were not able to force Taiwanese sugar farmers into a plantation economy like virtually every other sugar growing economy in the world. Instead, they remained independent producers sub-contracting to the government. (Ka traces all this back to the unique system of land ownership which developed in Taiwan as opposed to that on the mainland. The rising price of rice during the wartime economy was a secondary factor.) In order to get the farmers to be more productive, the Japanese were forced to increase productivity, leading to an early "green revolution" in Taiwan.

Moreover, land reform, when it happened, simply continued the process you describe of channeling money from agriculture into industry. Landowners were paid for their land in worthless shares of stock in large state-owned enterprises!!!

Anonymous said...

Regarding the ESWN post, why on Earth does he translate 馬屁 as "horse fart" ? The expression that he's referring to is 拍馬屁, right? So horse's ass would be a better translation, right?

rmdazwdv said...

Michael, the hyperbole in the bible seems to have overflowed into your blog... typhoon Nabi is going to miss Taiwan
... and the Canadian English Teachers had 600g of Bolivian marching powder, not 600kg.

Michael Turton said...

Yes, Freedom Slopes already pointed out the error in the amount of cocaine in the news. It is good to hear Nabi will miss us. Hooray!

Michael Fahey said...

Michael-your new format with the big capital letter at the beginning of each story is making it a ittle less pleasant to read your blog on an RSS newsfeed. The first letter is missing in each story--a bit annoying.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks, feiren, I'll stop then.