Friday, December 02, 2005

Friday, Dec 2, 2005, Taiwan Blog Round-Up

What's Friday?
(frd, -d) n. Abbr. Fri. or Fr. or F The sixth day of the week.

[Middle English Fridai, from Old English Frged�g. See pr- in Indo-European Roots.]
Fridays adv.


Public Announcement: I am suspending the blog round-up for the moment. I enjoy it very much, but I just don't have time any more. I'd like to finish my book on the Gospel of Mark, and another book I am working on, write up a couple of articles for journals, and start my book on Acts of the Apostles and on Taiwan.


: With the local elections tomorrow, the noise and sound have reached apocalyptic levels. Newspaper reports fly back and forth. Election observers have flown in from many countries, but especially Hong Kong and Macau. David at jujuflop points out that 99% of Taiwanese are annoyed by the election.

Now, one thing to remember is that Taipei City and Kaohsiung City aren’t having any elections this time around (they both elected their mayors a couple of years ago). Given that over 4 million of the 22+ million Taiwanese are resident in these two cities, only just over 80% of Taiwan is involved in any election. Now factor out the estimated 800,000 people who were involved in political rallies over the weekend, and what does that leave you? By my maths, 78% of people living in Taiwan are either not living in an election area, or participated in a rally last weekend. Or, to put it another way:
99% of non-rally attending voters are annoyed by this election.

And don't miss David's round-up of Taiwan's pre-crime police department and related items. Wandering to Tamshui meanwhile goes over the races:

In the Taipei County Commissioner's race, KMT hatchet-man Lee Ching-hua (brother of disgraced PFP lawmaker/ hatchet-woman Diane Lee) has charged that DPP candidate Luo Wen-jia paid supporters NT$200 each to stand and hold hands across the Guandu bridge during his big rally in Sanchung over the weekend. Lee says he was told about the election law violation by a member of the Investigative Bureau, who has been asked by prosecutors to present any evidence he may have over the matter.

There was also a flap in the papers today about vote-buying on the part of the DPP (can the DPP even afford it?). Old-timers might recall that when Su, the previous DPP Commissioner of Taipei County, ran for the county chief position in Pingtung, he lost to his KMT rival when vote-buying allegations were made. Lo and behold, it later turned out that the KMT was behind the vote-buying, a dirty trick. Probably more of the same, this time against Su's annointed, Luo. WtT logs another common accusation:

Also on the military front, PFP Legislator Chao Liang-yen has accused the DPP of politicizing the military by allowing pro-independence personnel leave on Saturday to vote in areas of flagging Green support. Ever the PFP attack dog, Chao has yet to produce any proof to back up her claims, while the Ministry of Defense pretty much said that's the fucking craziest thing they've ever heard. Ditto for me.

The same bullshit claim was made in the last Presidential election as well. All of these are actually old KMT tricks, in fact. I have often remarked how entrenched local advantages translate into wins for the KMT, and The Lost Spaceman also bemoans the inertia advantage the KMT enjoys on the East Coast:

This surprises me to know end given the way the KMT has treated the aboriginal population on this island over the past half century. Under the DPP they have been given special status, more rights and freer access to education, much to the chagin of the Chinese population who don't particulary like concessions being made where they may not be deserved.

And yet, the aboriginal population, as a voting bloc, still vote overwhelmingly KMT in Hualien.

Many observers have bemoaned the lack of good opinion polls in Taiwan. Consequently the DPP has turned to monitoring the gambling on the election as an indicator of how things might be going, as East Asia Watch notes:

It's important to remember that these markets are limited by the information available, and they don't predict the future so much as reflect expectations by distilling all of the available information into a price, or in this case odds. However as information becomes more freely available and more informed participants engage themselves in trading/betting, these kinds of markets will only become more accurate.

I don't know if it is an error to consider gamblers less than well-informed. They are quite likely to know about vote-buying and other operations that require inside information, especially since the gangs are localized. The punters themselves may be uninformed, but the odds-setters probably know quite a bit of information not available to the public or to the media. BTW, there is nothing new in the political parties monitoring the gambling industry here for information on their chances. That is old hat.

BrianMathes notes that DPP stalwart and Taiwan Veep Annette Lu expects the DPP to lose, and points to a Businessweek article that blames Chen. Upon inspection, the article turned out to be the usual bog-standard pro-KMT propaganda that gets picked up by the foreign press, even citing Emile Sheng, the pro-KMT political analyst whose name pops up often in these puff pieces. A commentor smacked it down:

My goodness, I think this article was faxed in to your office by the KMT. I particularly like the way that, "the opposition-controlled Taiwan Parliament has routinely blocked Chen's attempts to introduce fiscal and banking reforms so that the resulting lack of improvement will help them win the next election" (clearly putting their own self-interests before national interests)is, in your article, rendered, "Chen has failed to navigate banking and fiscal reforms -- needed to curb a ballooning budget deficit -- through the opposition-controlled Taiwan Parliament." And actually regarding the United Daily News (manufactured) poll as a credible source of "information." Come on! Check out their Presidential election polls and compare them to the actual results.

This comment from Enjoy Life, a blog by a local in English, portrays the attitude that many locals have toward their candidates:

Recently there are many news and activities for Taiwanean's elections.From many TV news reported, it makes still dispointed. So much criticism from each candidates for opposited candidates. Taiwan always has this kind of the situation appeared if each election held in four or three years. From those news, still feel why the high-educated candidates have not chaged the election activites although they got Master or phD degrees. You never hear what are really proposals for the public and what they will put those proposals into effect. WHy? Taiwan is still the same when elections started. just for personal selfish for policy.
If our attitude or behavoir are good, others will be learn from and know those guys are great. Dont forget " Cause and effect". So please stop critizing and think how to improve Taiwan

I think it shows: (1) the nigh-on superstitious awe that many here have of advanced degrees, which candidates frequently flaunt, and (2) the disgust with the negative campaigning. There's a deep longing here for positive policy....

In a lighter frame of mind, Pinyin Info blogged on mascots and the deerly contested elections:

Here, for example, is an image from the campaign literature for Zhāng Hóng-lù (張宏陸). Zhang has chosen a deer as his mascot because the final syllable of his name sounds like the Mandarin word for deer, lù (鹿). (Yes, that's supposed to be a deer, not the result of some unholy experiment involving Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and an inflatable Bambi.)

I attended a rally for Chiu Tai-san, the DPP candidate for Taichung County Chief, and had great fun. Here are some pictures. Here is Chiu's HQ. And don't miss my election ads page.


Over at the leaky pen there's a good explanation of why the higher ed system here is so awful.

One reason local universities are so bad is that the Taiwanese insist they be bad. Ask any aspiring Ph.D. in Taiwan where they want to study—9 out of 10 will tell you the name of some school in America. This is because they realize that going abroad, preferably to America, is a virtual necessity for landing teaching jobs in Taiwan's universities. What is disappointing is that, although many professors will go to graduate schools in the US, they will come back without any desire to change the status quo of Taiwanese education since, after all, to do so would be to jeopardize their own positions.

Yep. And even worse, they don't publish, and attack those who do.


Can a round-eye get a debit card in Taiwan? Not a chance.

About two and a half years ago, I went to 10 or 15 banks trying to get a debit card. Some didn't offer debit cards at all; they weren't that popular in Taiwan at that point. However, China Trust and Taishin have them. Unfortunately neither will give them to foreigners. The question is why not? Since they don't let you borrow money, there's no risk to the bank. One clerk said that since I'm American I "could just leave Taiwan at anytime". So what? I could leave Taiwan, and then the bank would lose nothing since I couldn't have borrowed anything from them. In fact, after I left, whatever balance remaining in my bank account would be theirs.

A man burning himself to death in front of the Presidential Palace in Taipei was the subject of several bloggers. The Gentle Rant mused on the history of self-immolation in Taiwan and concluded:

So there is a scattered history of self-immolation on Taiwan. The police are looking into yesterday's incident. I would suggest that they check to see how much local election coverage the man has been watching every night and how many of those little blue election trucks have been trolling past the man's house each morning with their tom-toms pounding and their loudspeakers blaring. This tragic act may have more to do with the elections than it appears. I wish someone would start lighting those little trucks on fire. I mean, in the wee hours, when no one's driving them, and only after they've been proven empty. I'm not out for blood, just some peace and quiet. Maybe that's all Mr. Wang needed as well.

What? You mean sound trucks aren't quaint and cultural? ESWN turns to Apple Daily for a dose of the weird, stating darkly:

This particular story appears in Apple Daily (Taiwan), and it is extrememly graphic at the bottom. You have therefore been forewarned. This is an example of a story that the English-language media will not cover at this detail.

The English-language media ignored it probably because, as ESWN notes moments later, there's no story here. It's just the sad tale of sick man who couldn't get the help he needed -- which is really the story, and one too often heard here. One might also question the ethics of such extensive coverage in any media, as it will only encourage more people to toast themselves for their 15 minutes of fame. But then the only reason to mention ethics in the same sentence with Taiwan media is to deny there is any connection between the two.


Bourdieu Boy has a great entry on China's claim to Taiwan. Not to be missed:

The Chinese claim over Taiwan is a complex issue, but two aspects may be distinguished. Firstly, is the claim by the government of the People's Republic of China for sovereignty over the island of Taiwan as national policy. Secondly is the ideology, widely-held in the PRC that Taiwan is a part of China. The second informs the first, and the two are entirely conflated in practice. However, the two are conceptually distinct: Government policy on China's territorial claim is a set of codified, although changeable conditions of government action, whereas the idea that Taiwan is part of China is an ideology maintained socially as well as politically and with which the government must contend, manipulate and manage in its interests.


POTS has been putting out an unending stream of high quality stuff on the foreign worker issue here, and had another offering this week.

While governments in Taipei and Bangkok have scrambled to make adjustments, labor activists still feel that key issues are not being addressed. Links have yet to be made between abusive working conditions and official bribe taking. The scramble to assess blame and purge political liabilities has hardly extended beyond the political arena. And in Taiwan, possible adjustments to labor laws or enforcement policies have barely been addressed.

If there is an echoing criticism among the workers rights movement, it was voiced by Ms. Lek when she, sitting in a local Bangkok coffee shop, set out her organization's simple mantra: "The recruitment process is the root cause of suffering of migrant workers everywhere."

"If the Thai Labour Campaign has one main goal when it comes to migrant workers, it is to abolish the private recruitment process," she said. "We believe it should all be G-to-G" - i.e. government-to-government.

This issue has been lost in the string of scandals, and it is good to see someone out there banging the drum in English.


Wandering to Tamshui posts his translation of a fascinating article on Taiwanese spirit mediums.

His father was disappointed and angry, of course. Despite the bitter criticism he received, A-Tsai had made his decision. He was reluctant to completely leave the "trade", but he was unwilling to pay the price that comes with being a medium. Wanting to start over in a direction that was socially acceptable, he chose to study interior renovation. A-Tsai dedicated himself completely to his craft, and as the months went by he was able to make a comfortable living. He realized how normal his life had become, and while he had no way of knowing what was in store for him in the future, he at least knew it wouldn't be as frightening as his former life when he was constantly tormented by nightmares.


The Lost Space blogs on Mormons, a sort of "Once you've been here long enough you have to have a laugh about it" topic.

Despite the fact that they did not ring the buzzer at the front door or ask whether it would be alright for them to drop by, they marched full throttle into their churchy spiel. Iris, who is far too polite to ever tell a couple of Mormons to "get the hell out of my house," stood and waited for her chance to say "no thank you," and shuttle them off back to Utahtown.

The chance, apparently did not present itself before they realized that Iris was teaching English. With a degree of arrogance that defies logic, these Mormons craned their necks far enough inside the apartment to let Iris' students know of a meeting the following Wednesday where they could receive free English lessons.

Besides the fact that they are religious imperialists and all around asses, where the hell do they get off undermining a Taiwanese person's bread and butter. For a group that wants to paint themselves as friends and supporters of the people, they have a funny way of showing it. Overtly trying to take business and money out of the pocket of a hard working Taiwanese person all in the name of conversion. How is one supposed to keep an open mind about religion when they, time and again, prove to be nothing but self-serving zealots?

There's hardly anything more dehumanizing than a someone out to convert you to their brand of Deity-Belief. I've blogged on this issue before, discussing the Mormon idiot who ran out into the street. What's really funny is how the Mormons make alliance with the Religious Right, which will almost certainly destroy them if it really comes to power in the US, while disdaining organizations like the ACLU and Americans United that protect minority religions. Mormon religion may be absurd, but their politics are suicidal.


Kudos to James Lick for a letter to the editor on foreign spouses.


There was a flap this week about the silly promise of Chen Shui-bian to the Vatican rep to make Christmas a national holiday again. Nobody blogged on it.


SHORTS: Scott Sommers, who blogs often on diploma fraud and diploma mills, is involved in an exchange with the founder of one of those operations here and responding here. Steph at Tea Masters offers up another informative post on the history of porcelain in Europe. POTS hosts the sadly comic tale of how not to go to Kenting. Cold Goat Eyes gloats about UK weather and takes a few Saturday pics. The Taipei Kid finds out that Starbucks thinks Chess is gambling. ApplePea introduces the outdoor sculpture museum in Juming. Biking in I-lan with iffy Chinese and dancing girls. Don't miss the podcasting at Getting a Leg Up, The Bluesman's Killing Floor, Misadventures in Taiwan, and Ugly Expat. As always, great photos at 35togo, Unplugged, the forgetful's photo gallery, the forgetful's photo gallery, amateur commune, andres, Clarke vs Matt, Cat Piano, T_C at Fotolog, battphotos, Fotologging Taiwan, Photoactionboy, leftmind, MaMaHuHu, Everything Visible is Empty, Roger in Taiwan, Love Songs (Are for Losers), Photoblogging Taiwan, Eight Diagrams, Tagging Taichung, and This Life.


Anyone else noticed this mistake? "Mike" is "Charlie" in Chinese and vice versa in this ad for the recent Willy Wonka flick.


New Blogs on the list:

  • A_musing Ac_dropout
  • Fred's Story Park
  • The Life & Times of Mathew T. Crichton
  • A little piece of me
  • The Make-Do Studio
  • Michelle Chi's Diary
  • Junior Writing
  • Nick's Asian Adventure
  • Warrior's Paradise
  • The Utter East
  • Run With Patience
  • my site
  • Clairewhispers
  • NE-968.4a/RTM*xxix3
  • Nelvoz
  • Enjoygooddesign
  • shebesav

  • ++++++++++++++++


    225712012 said...

    What a shame. It was the highlight of my week (i dont get out much).

    Taiwanonymous said...

    I'll miss the roundup too. Thanks for all the work. Any hints about the subject of the Taiwan book?

    David said...

    I greatly appreciated the weekly blog round up. Thanks for your efforts.

    Is it too early to say Happy Christmas!?

    Ryan said...

    You can almost hear the quality of Taiwan blogs deflating with this announcement.

    So sad.

    Jason said...

    Arrrrgh! Now what the hell am I supposed to do on Friday mornings, WORK?!

    We'll all miss the roundups (and the extra traffic the generate), but I want to thank Michael for the effort and time he put into them. Good luck with the books, man. (Especially the Taiwan one, which I hear is a quasi-fictional erotic thriller featuring Annette Lu and her exploits as an undercover betel nut girl in Sanchung. Think of it as "Showgirls" meets "All the President's Men".)

    Michael Turton said...

    I'll miss the roundup too. Thanks for all the work. Any hints about the subject of the Taiwan book?

    I wanted to write the "Dogs and Demons" of Taiwan but I'm afraid I'm not that good.So I thought I'd sort of refract Taiwan through my own experiences of the island. I'll post a draft of the introductory chapter tomorrow and see what everyone thinks.

    Thanks everyone! I didn't think anyone was actually reading the Roundup....I'll resume ASAP.


    Anonymous said...

    I'll miss the roundup too. It is the best place to find the interesting news/topics in Taiwan.


    Anonymous said...

    i will certainly miss the roundup!!!!!!!

    the the roundup is my highlight of the week!

    wondering what your background is since you are writing books on the various books of hte bible?

    Michael Turton said...

    wondering what your background is since you are writing books on the various books of hte bible?

    I have no formal background. I am entirely self-educated from reading and participating in serious discussion groups at Internet Infidels, Jesus Mysteries, and several scholarly groups.