Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Taipei Mayor Fun-n-games

The KMT machine continues to grind smoothly on, while the DPP appears to be unable to find its collective excretory orifice with a map and a flashlight. The Taipei Times reported yesterday that the DPP is still discussing who it might run for Taipei mayor in the upcoming election.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Yu Shyi-kun yesterday denied speculation that he would enter the Taipei mayoral election, as DPP members voted in the first part of primaries to choose candidates for the Taipei and Kaohsiung city elections.


In Taipei, the DPP was left without a candidate because no one registered for the primary.

After former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said last Wednesday that he had no intention of joining the Taipei mayoral election race and that the DPP should not wait for him, some speculated that Yu planned to run for the position.


But Yu yesterday said he would not contest the election.

"No one has talked about it [a run for the Taipei mayorship] with me and I have never had this kind of plan, either," Yu said in Ilan County, where he voted in the primaries.

"Now that I am the chairman of the DPP, a position that takes on huge responsibility, I will not escape from it," he said.


Yu said he still expected Hsieh to become the party's Taipei candidate and had been negotiating with him.

"If Hsieh eventually refuses to take the field, the DPP will enlist another candidate through the party's mechanism."

Meanwhile, when asked his opinion about Yu running for Taipei mayor, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said he thought Yu was also a strong candidate and he would support Yu joining the campaign.

The DPP is highly unlikely to win in the mainlander and Blue stronghold of Taipei, so whatever candidate gets thrown into the ring is more or less a sacrifice to the democracy gods. If James Soong, Chairman of the PFP, really does enter the race in all seriousness and splits the pan-Blue vote between a PFP and KMT candidate, that might allow the DPP candidate a real shot at the mayor's seat. Meanwhile the KMT machine purred through its primary:

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chose Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) as its candidate for the Taipei mayoral election yesterday, with Hau winning a 60 percent support rate from party members and Taipei residents in the party's primary.

Hau, a former Environmental Protection Administration chief, won the primary with an overall 59.68 percent rate of support. His rival, KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), scored a 40.31 percent support rating.

The winner was decided through a telephone survey and a vote among members, with the survey accounting for 70 percent of the final outcome and voting making up 30 percent. The party conducted a random telephone poll from May 21 to May 23, followed by a vote by members yesterday.

Ting, however, won the most support among party members, attracting 10,730 votes yesterday compared with Hau's 6,412. The voter turnout rate was 38.7 percent. But Hau won the most support in three surveys conducted by three different polling firms, with an average 60 percent of those polled backing him, while Ting received an average support rate of 30.76 percent.

The interesting fact about this article is buried toward the end:

KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) earlier yesterday expressed his expectation for the party to remain harmonious during the primary, and urged KMT members to support the final candidate.

"I hope all party members will support the party's nominee whether or not they supported him before," Ma said after voting at Chin Hsin Elementary School.

Hau cast his vote with his father, former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村), while Ting accompanied former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) to vote.

Hau was the head of the EPA when during the Chen Administration and is the son of the reactionary mainlander politician who served in numerous posts in the old regime. He thus is attractive to members of both the Blue and Green camps, "Blue skin and a green head" is one way he is often described. When criticized by Blues for working for Chen, he retorted that he was working for Taiwan, an answer that did much to make him look centrist. He did take a hit for allegedly mismanaging the plastic bag policy, but that was bumbling, not corruption, and thus forgiveable. As for Ting, all you have to do is look who voted with him: two-time Presidential loser Lien Chan. It's clear he was the party insiders' man.

Typhoon over Taichung

I grabbed some shots of the typhoon that blew across us last month. Here's a good pic of the way the clean air driven by the typhoon leaves a clear view of the permanent haze of pollution over the city.

Just before it rains, the air is clean and still.

Rain on rooftops.

A wall of rain moves across Taiping and Dali.

The same shot, minutes before the rain.

The sun shines through the rain.

The typhoon passes....

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Annexation/Status Quo/Independence Polling Data over Time

ESWN has a pointer to this graph showing different polls on independence and annexation. The graph is not shown in its entirety on the page, so you have to download it or display in a separate window to see it all.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Electricity Rates to go up in July

Taiwan's electricity rates are headed up this summer...

Taiwan's electricity tariffs will likely rise by 5.8% on average starting July 1, the Ministry of Economic Affairs' Vice Minister Hou Ho- shong said Monday.

The electricity and natural gas pricing committee under the ministry has agreed to adopt one of Taiwan Power Co.'s two proposals on a fee hike to stem a further decline in the government-run company's earnings, Hou told reporters after a special meeting of the committee.

The fee hike still needs the final approval of Hwang Ing-san, the Economic Affairs minister, he said.

Taiwan Power, or Taipower, is the island's sole electricity provider, and the fee hike, once finalized, would be the company's first in 23 years.

It's amazing, and symptomatic of how low utility prices are here, that it is the first rate hike since the 1980s. I think I'll go and enjoy some of my US$4 a month water now.

Taiwan Wine

My sister in law was so grateful for the emergency repairs I did on her computer this weekend that she sent me home with a bottle of red wine named Mollac. I looked it over and wondered that the country of origin was not proudly displayed on the label. Why? I suspect it's because the wine hails from Taiwan's own Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation. The good: the bottle is sensibly capped with an easily opened plastic top. No more fishing half-destroyed corks out of the wine! It's quite sweet, however. Still, it's probably as good as anything imported in its price class, more or less.

UPDATE: my brother in law, a wine collector, sent me this:

TTLC launches new wine, features new combination

Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation (TTLC) announced yesterday that its self-developed Mollac will now be officially available at the Taiwan market.

According to TTLC, Mollac was produced by combining the red yeast with 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The red yeast provided the nutrients needed during the process of fermentation. TTLC said the wine will taste sweeter with the addition of the red yeast. In addition, drinkers of the wine will get the benefit of health from taking in red yeast as well.

The new wine was developed by Tzann Feng Lin, director of R& D department with TTLC. Lin had a doctoral degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has been conducting extensive research on the health benefits of the red yeasts.

The wine will come in three types of packages: NT$300, NT$500 and NT$1,000.


Mmm, all that yummy red yeast! I hate to say, but usually the yeast is removed before barrelling, so you don't get to chew on it much. And we all know how big MIT is on oenology! ;-)

Still, it is good that they making wine there. Can't be much worse than some of the Texas reds we've had over the years. It's just too darned hot here for the grapes to properly ripen and build up their sugars to a tasty level for fermentation. Some Texas grape growers have taken to growing Mediterranean grapes such as Sangiovese and Primitivo, which seem much better suited to the Texas climate than the Bordeaux grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Given the latitude for Taiwan (20-25 N) vs. that of Austin (30 N), maybe those varietals would work there too.

So there you are. I thought the sweet was sugar smothering something....

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Arms Purchase: background info

This excellent essay on the arms purchase and Taiwan's defense was posted to the Taiwan Forum discussion group. Very informative...


There are many, many reasons why I avoid casting blame for the special budget. If one did feel inclined, there's enough to go around. Here's a few things to consider:

-- The Bush Administration released around 14 systems to Taiwan in April 2001. Taiwan already had been cleared for others the year before, such as the Po-Sheng, the long range UHF early warning radar, AMRAAM, etc.

-- In 2001, Taiwan suffered its first negative GDP growth in history. It was related to the worldwide economy, but it had a signficant effect. In 2001 and 2002, Taiwan asked the USG for co-development of, or a major role in, a ballistic missile defense interceptor and diesel electric submarines. Idea was to adopt the same approach as almost every other country in the world. Taiwan and Saudi Arabia are the only two U.S. security assistance partners that rely on Foreign Military Sales (i.e., buying from the US government) to meet most of their weapon systems and spare parts requirements (in Taiwan, it's about 50%).

-- Almost every other country in the world has a significant defense industry, and will sometimes buy from the US government and sometimes go for licensed production or play a significant role in the design, R&D, and or production of that system. Of course, if a program isn't structured right, and Taiwan goes 100% indigenous, it's normally about 20% more expensive. But there are benefits that are indirect, such as creation of jobs and income, technology spin-offs to the commercial sector, etc. Ideally, the best approach is a workshare arrangement between a foreign industrial partner and US defense industry to provide the customer with quality, cost effective system.

-- In October 2002, the USG, after developing a perception that Taiwan was not moving fast enough on its force modernization program, began a policy review on how to encourage Taiwan to move faster. The Bush Administration, especially one senior individual at AIT who should have known better and went to DC to whip up anti-Taiwan sentiment, didn't quite grasp the seismic changes underway in Taiwan's defense establishment (political shock of the DPP win, economic downturn, defense transformation and reorg, etc).

-- In Feb 03, at the annual US-TW Business Council Defese Conference, the US began its pressure campaign at senior levels, including Doug Paal (the senior AIT official) and reps from DC meeting and writing letters to CSB, Chiou Yi-ren, and Tang Yiau-ming, etc. Public statements began to be made as well, with veiled threats made on a consistent basis, like "if you don't buy more weapons from us, then we may drop our support for you."

-- Between 2000 and all the way until now, the Taiwan military has been undergoing a major transformation. The two defense laws (National Defense Law and Defense Reorganization Act), sent to the LY and promulgated in 2002 and 2003, forced a huge structural change in Taiwan's defense establishment. Entire planning staffs (J-5, etc) had to move to a newly established Office of the Minister of Defense, with new departments responsible for strategic planning, operational analysis, manpower, etc. All this moved from under the Chief of General Staff to the Office of the Minister of Defense -- reorganizatons in large, conservative bureaucracies are very disruptive. These two laws, which also mandated that somewhere between 1/4th to 1/3rd of the Office of the Minister of Defense had to be civilian.

-- The combined effect of these two laws was on a par of the US 1947 Reorganization Act and Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 combined. It took DoD 15 years to settle into the new structure, and trying to enforce the 1947 Reorganization Act was so frustrating that it drove a US Secretary of Defense to suicide. Militaries all around the world are perhaps the most conservative establishments in government, and are resistant to change -- it's the nature of the profession. Militaries that are able
to transform with the times dominate. Those that don't lose.

-- Taiwan had just had a wave of force modernization. When it buys, it tends to buy in waves. The systems approved in the 92/93 timeframe, F-16s, PATRIOT, Mirage, Lafayette, PFG-2s, etc were deployed and began operations in 1997/1998. As these were coming on line, the US began emphasizing "software" over hardware forms of assistance -- training, logistics, C4ISR, strategy, etc).

-- The Bush approval in April 2001 was a shock -- no one expected this much to be approved. After coming in each year since 1982 with a dozen or so requests for new weapons, only a couple would be approved. Was like that under Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton. The approval of around 10 out of the 14 systems Taiwan asked for was a shock. Total value was around US $30 billion, if one includes AEGIS. People forget about AEGIS now, but there was what was called a "soft approval" in 2001. It wasn't denied, only "deferred" until the program could be defined in more detail (i.e., platform, combat system, etc).

-- Tang Yiau-ming was an Army guy. And very powerful since he ensured the military stayed in its barracks when the political party they were programmed to hate won in 2000. These were Army guys who ran the Taiwan Garrison Command and other instruments of oppression -- they had still been putting DPP guys in jail in 1991 (i.e., Lee Ying-yuan), only 10 years before. But Tang Yiau-ming deserves alot of credit for ensuring a stable environment during Taiwan's first transition of national power from one party to another in 50 years. But as an Army guy in a very parochial environment, Tang, and all the Army generals he took with him up to the Office of the Minister of Defense in 2000, likes Army things -- attack helicopters, tanks, arty, etc. He did not like PAC-3.

-- In May 2003, the DPP decided to go for a special budget for three systems. They already had lots of programs underway -- Posheng, the EWR, the KIDDs, the AnYu programs (radars and air defense command and control), AMRAAM, MAVERICK, etc. The staffs were pretty maxed out. Managing programs isn't so easy from a bureaucracy perspective. The US Navy was screwing Taiwan, and there wasn't, and still isn't, much support for PAC-3 in the military. They didn't ask for PAC-3 in 2001 -- only after US pressure in Spring 2003 did they cave and agree to submit a request. P-3s were fine.

-- The KMT and the military are very close. They talk on a regular basis, much more than the military talks with their own DPP leaders. The trust isn't there, and there's still lots of underlying tension. If the military as an interest group wants to use someone as a cut out, it's the KMT or PFP. This is at a different level than the guys in the Office of Minister of Defense, such as Lee Jye. He has to balance his political leaders with the interests of the military. Not an easy job. The real military are the warfighters.

The military wants their airplanes to fly by having a steady supply of spare parts, good training, trucks and tanks to run, ships to sail, etc. Who has been the strongest advocate of fixing the military's readiness problems (i.e., lack of spare parts, training, etc)? Lin Yu-fang from the People's First Party -- he has been over the last few years. And the KMT's Shuai Hua-min, a retired lieutenant general who was a leading military reformer and #1 war planner in the General Staff's Operations Directorate. He knows his stuff,although he did get a little political with the Bulletgate thing.

The military has been asking for a rise in the annual budget on a yearly basis, dating back at least until 2000. Every year, the DPP has said no. Last year, the military sent up a budget request for an additional NT $70 billion. After a DPP party meeting, before Lee Jye signed off on the budget proposal to be sent to the EY for integration with the other portions of the national budget, the DPP decided to go for only NT $7 billion instead.

-- Right now, because of the overemphasis on force modernization (i.e., new weapon systems), what the military has in its inventory now it is having a hard time using. That's why the Mirages are being mothballed. Spare parts problems. And ditto with two Knox destroyers that sat in Suao harbor for a year waiting on spare parts. The budget portion for operations and maintenance (including training and spare parts) is only 25% and going down.

In short, there is a significant segment of the military, the warfighters and military planners, and not the political guys, are not that enthusiastic about these systems. When field grade officers have to live three to a room in barracks (US officers always have their own rooms in base officer quarters), and they see the US cramming weapons down Taiwan's throat, such as PAC-3, and they've done the homework and analysis in terms of cost effectiveness (keep in mind that a PAC-3 fire unit (one radar and six launchers) can only handle about seven ballistic missiles at one time. This is both technical and the human limitations of one operator looking at a scope and calling th shots). Anything over seven, and that fire unit would lose its radar, command vehicle, etc, now that the PRC ballistic missiles are orders of magnitude more accurate and lethal than they were 10 years ago. Add the first generation of land attack missiles into the equation, and it gets even more complicated. But the US wants Taiwan to buy the PAC-3, over 350 some odd missiles, at more than US $2 million apiece, at least in part because it needed the Taiwan buy to drive down overall unit costs for the US Army. There was a viable option on the table for US defense industry to work with Taiwan on its Tiankung program to make it almost as good as the PAC-3, and at least have an equitable creation of jobs and income in the US and Taiwan. The US Army said no -- they needed Taiwan to buy the PAC-3.

And the Bush Administration was, and is, pressing on the US national missile defense program, despite significant opposition. Having a Taiwan that said no to PAC-3, despite the fact that it faces perhaps the most daunting ballistic missile threat in the world, then it would weaken the Bush Administration's arguments in favor or spending billions on missile defense (but what's missed is that the two situations are different -- the missile problem is becoming so great, it is almost becoming like conventional artillery. Would South Korea, for example, invest in a very pricy system to knock out artillery shells in the air? There would be too many targets in the air, and it's not cost effective to hit them one by one in the air.

-- For missile defense in the kind of environment that is unfolding, you harden, and develop a counterstrike capability. Of course, the US government freaks out over any hint of Taiwan having a real defense capability and being able to hit missile command centers, logistics depots, airfields, etc on the ground before they are launched or before a second salvo. This is the most cost effective means of missile defense -- this is not "offensive" as many like to characterize strikes against targets on the mainland. Taiwan's strategy is defensive in nature, and by
extension, any capability that aids in its defense is defensive in nature.

Submarines -- US Navy undermined this program from day one. Submarines being built in US shipyards scare the hell out of them. When the first diesel powered submarine comes off the assembly line and half the cost of a nuke submarine, the fear is that Congress would force the US Navy to also go with diesels. And Pacific Command doesn't want Taiwan to have submarines -- they assume they will have to intervene. The Taiwan military would just get in the way. It's better not to have any more subs in the water in this area since they would only complicate an already complcated ASW mission for the US.

-- So, with PACOM being Navy-dominated, and US Navy opposed to Bush's decision (but they can't say so of course and so have to be supportive on the surface, but were smart in undermining through a "death by bureaucracy" approach), they gave Taiwan sticker shock in Jan 02 with a price estimate that was more than double what Taiwan was expecting. They know how much subs are -- they've been wanting a 10 submarine force since the 1970s and have been searching all over the world to fill this requirement, as long as the cost is fair. It was a cruel trick to finally release submarines, and then make it as difficult as possible for the LY to approve.

-- I've been saying "Taiwan" as if its a unified entity with no bureaucratic infighting over resources. Not so -- even in the military. Tang Yiau-ming, former Army CINC, then Chief of General Staff, then Minister of Defense, was given the direction to come with his priorities to meet the DPP's direction to come up with a package valued at US $15 billion. What does Tang do? He picks the systems for the special budget that he likes least, and keeps the annual budget open for what he and the Army do want -- attack helicopters, M1A2 Abrams tanks, and M109A6 Paladin artillery. He knows this special budget, which is mostly Navy systems and the PAC-3 that few wanted anyway and the US was forcing down Taiwan's throat, is going to get hung up. The Army has been trying to get rid of the strategic air defense mission (PATRIOTs, TKs, etc) for years, and finally succeeded a few years back with the formation of a special Missile Defense Command directly under the Chief of General
Staff, which has now been shifted over to the Air Force.

-- The special budget was developed in large part to get the US off Taiwan's back. From the military's perspective, having the budget get hung up in the LY gave it time to heal itself after major surgery from major reorg and transformation. The systems selected for funding through the special budget are the ones the Army-dominated Ministry of National Defense didn't care about. So then when the budget goes to the LY, it started taking hits from the start. The military doesn't want PAC-3 -- DPP does, and that's for political reasons, and because the US is pushing it. So the KMT became the cut outs, the bad guys. And there are some in the KMT that truly are sell outs, but this is the exception and not the rule.

-- Back to submarines -- 130 membersof the LY were clear in their position. No local role, no appropriation of funds. This transcended party lines. And the price was grossly inflated. No responsible legislator in the world would appropriate more than US $10 billion for something that they had no idea what they were getting. There was no defined system -- only a general concept of what they needed.

-- In the US, there are milestones that have to be passed before the next stage in the budgeting process -- having a design is the first step. After that, you go back in to the legislative branch and ask for additional funding when you can show it's worth the taxpayers money. US Congress would have rejected a budget proposal for the entire amount for a program without any idea of what they were getting in return, just like the KMT/PFP did. P-3Cs should have been a no-brainer. But the DPP refused to split the systems apart for individual consideration. So it got stuck as well.

-- KMT said raise the annual defense budget to 3% of GDP and fund the systems that way, and this was from day one. This is the same view as the military -- they had been asking for a rise in the annual defense budget since 2000. The DPP refused to raise the annual budget up to the standard 3% of GDP, although they have recently agreed to do so. Its not that easy. There are caps on annual expenditures in the national budget.. Limits on borrowing, and the central government is maxed out on borrowing -- the budget deficit is at an all time high, a very different approach for an economy that has traditionally been fiscally conservative (ie., balanced budget). This began to change with Lee Teng-hui in 1992, started in large part by the last big special arms budget for F-16s, Mirage, Lafayette, etc.

-- A rise in the defense budget means a decrease in another area. There are opportunity costs for education, S&T, welfare/health insurance, infrastructure, etc. Or the DPP could raise taxes -- but if they did, the DPP would lose votes. Voters don't like more taxes. Expenditures in areas such as welfare, S&T, infrastructure, education, etc win votes. The benefit is clear to the voter who thinks locally. Weapons bought from the US don't provide a direct benefit to the taxpayer/voter. Unless it creates jobs or income. Then it's different. If Taiwan, working with US industry, were able to make expenditures on systems that have a more equitable creation of jobs and income in Taiwan, and in the US, then again, the story would be very different. A legislator can say no to a weapons purchase from the US because it doesn't create jobs and income for voters and taxpayers.

-- This seems pretty important at a time when grumblings over the state of the economy are rampant. Don't believe GDP figures -- when the average individual monthly income in Taiwan at the laobaixing level is around NT $25,000 a month, and hasn't gone up in 10 years, and inflation is going rising albeit at a modest pace (could be worse if gas prices weren't subsidized), then this metric at the individual level is more important than GDP.

Anyway, bottom line is that these three systems valued at US $15 billion would be useful in Taiwan's defense. But is Taiwan going to crumble if it doesn't get subs, PAC-3s, and P-3Cs? The answer to me is no. They would be nice to have, but Taiwan would be OK without them. The subs in particular would be useful.

-- But Taiwan, out of approximately US $8 billion spent of defense annually, about US $1 billion is spent every year on new equipment. People don't see this because everyone's eyes are on these three systems. Taiwan is upgrading its command, control, and communications system (the US $1.4 billion Posheng program, spread out in payments over about five years); a large EWR (US $800 million, same payment schedule); four KIDD-class destroyers (US $800 million, same payment schedule); air defense command center upgrades (about US $250 million); eleven new surveillance radars from Lockheed Martin; 100 AMRAAMs (not enough but a start); a new buy of HELLFIREs; and the list goes on and on. And this doesn't even include the indigenous programs (CM-32 LAV, KH-6 FABGs, HF-2E, Tianlei MLRS, etc).

This whole special budget thing turned into a political circus. It was used by both sides of the political spectrum to gain political mileage. But underneath, it wasn't all as big of a deal as everyone makes it out to be.

-- If someone wants to get into the blame game, then I would look to the US in large part. Especially on the submarines. And to some extent, PAC-3s, since the military, at least since Tang Fei left, hasn't, and still isn't, that keen on spending US $4.3 billion on upgrades and six new fire units when they know there are about 800 increasingly accurate and lethal ballistic missiles, including some medium range systems (DF-21C and extended range DF-15) that would have reentry speeds that the PAC-3 missile would never even make it off the rail before the fire unit lost its command center and radar.

So blame the KMT as traitors? I'm not so sure. Some -- absolutely yes. Usually unscrupulous types who have personal business ties on the mainland mostly. But the other guys, especially the most powerful KMT faction -- Huangfu Hsing -- that consists mostly of retired military officers and their relatives (KMT legislator and Taipei mayoral candidate Ting Yu-chou's father in law is very, very close with Hau Po-tsun; and the other KMT candidate for Taipei mayor, Hau Lung-pin's father is Hau Pei-tsun. And the key KMT guy on the LY Defense Committee, Shuai Hua-min, a retired Army lieutenant general who is the father of Taiwan's reform effort that started in 1998 that culminated in the defense laws. He, like so many others, want a strong military. He, different from many of his Army collegues, wants submarines -- after the US government changes its attitude and plays fair. Shuai, like ADM Ku Chung-lien (PFP) understand very well the problems in the military now, such as coping with this massive transformation that still hasn't quite worked itself out yet; the getting jerked around by DPP guys who, with some exceptions (i.e., Lee Wen-chung on the Defense Committee, Michael Tsai, and Ko Chen-heng are all decent), who don't care or know much about defense. I like the DPP -- most at least. Some are more than willing to shed every drop of American blood for their own independent state. Not all are like this though. But most DPP types just don't put alot of emphasis on defense. They flap their lips alot, and have the matra down, counting each and every time the Procedures Committee doesn't let the budget move to the Defense Committee. But this is all political BS -- if they cared enough about defense, they would do this the right way and raise the defense budget. But they haven't. Welfare and agricultural subsidies have gone up, which is fine. The DPP is a classic liberal party that tends to place social justice (i.e., welfare) and environmental protection over defense, not too different in many ways from Democrats in the US or the SPD or Greens in Germany. There is an underlying anti-military sentiment in the DPP -- can't blame them after many spent years jailed by the Army, tens of thousands slaughtered in 1947, daughters and mothers killed as recently as 1979, and even CSB's wife run over by a van in an act that most believe was KMT directed. Actually, the DPP since coming to power has kept their cool pretty well, and didn't go for retribution. Of course, just to hedge, the NSB burned any file that could implicate anyone in a wrong doing after the DPP assumed power. The DPP is very adept politically, which is why I think they'll recover just fine after all this stuff with CSB's son-in-law blows over (and the Kaohsiung scandal, Tainan Science Park, insider trading, etc). They'll transform themselves and come back stronger than ever. They are survivors.

Enough rambling. When it comes to defense issues, the guys I listen to are the field grade officers and soldiers. Not the politicians, either DPP or KMT. Ask the field grade officers and enlisted what they need -- it's being able to do their job. The Taiwan military has lots to be proud of, especially at the unit level, and would love to have the types of logistics support and training needed to protect homes and families. Many really don't care whether or not they get PAC-3s, subs, or P-3Cs. They want what they have now to work right, decent living conditions, good training for reservists that would fill out units in a crisis, etc.

Partying in Hsinchu

Ran up to Hsinchu this weekend to hang out with the in-laws and visit my friend Michael Klein (Michael's version of the visit is here).

Michael lives in an industrial area near Hsinchu, and like many such areas of Taiwan, there are large numbers of foreign workers from Thailand and the Philippines. Consequently a whole infrastructure of support for the workers has arisen, with bars, cantinas, and grocery stores. Even ordinary Taiwanese grocery stores often carry products aimed at this market.

A Filipino grocery store in a factory area in Taiwan

The Thai bar where Michael and I hung out

A nerighborhood in a factory district

Another neighborhood in a factory district.

Parked cars crowd cramped neighborhoods

The cantina

Michael and Hui-chen took me to one of the local Filipino factory worker hang-outs. The place was run by the Filipino wife of a local man, friendly and efficient.The great thing about hanging out with the Filipinos is that the music consisted largely of familiar songs in English, instead of unfamiliar songs in Taiwanese. And the Filipinos, especially the women, could often sing beautifully. Confession: I've never liked karaoke, because I can't stand listening to people who can't sing butcher a song at the top of their lungs. But I became a convert this weekend. Had an absolute blast.

Nothing like fried fare to stimulate the thirst.

Belting Out Behind Blue Eyes

A kind of cream soup, like a bisque. Delicious.

Heidi does a number.

At the end of the evening everyone begged Heidi, one of the staff, to come out of the kitchen to sing. She had a voice like an angel.

Red Horse Beer. 7% alcohol. Goes great with karaoke and deep-fried squid.

Here's Michael belting out a song. Michael is a professionally trained musician with many years of experience playing on the road with bands you probably have heard of if your brain cells can still recollect the '60s and '70s, and hundreds of hours as a sound engineer in the studio. He has a fantastic voice, and it was a privilege to sit next to him and sing with him.

The Thai bar

A great night, but the weekend lost some of its savor when the Indonesian woman working for my in-laws turned out to be from the area affected by the quake this weekend. Like many working abroad, abandoned by her husband, she had left her three children in the care of her grandparents. Unfortunately she was unable to get hold of them as of this morning, and her brother told her that their house had collapsed.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Great New Blog: the Bala Daily

The Bala Daily. Looks very promising. Here is their write-up of the recent Hankuang simulation of a PRC invasion of Taiwan:

The military has been holding the Han Kuang 22 (漢光 22, HK 22) exercises for the last week or so simulating a full scale PRC attack in 2012. For a long time, military exercises were just big fireworks shows for the brass and PR using live ammunition. Even computer simulations were halted once the first PLA (People's Liberation Army) boots stormed ashore.

We finally seem to be getting serious this time around... HK 22 continued past a PLA landing to, what some have dubbed... "the bitter end". Below is some information translated from the local media. Bear in mind that the local media isn't always the best source for military related information as a) most reporters couldn't tell the difference between a PAC-3 and Pacman, and b) the media has a long history of sensationalizing pretty much everything.

The exercise was conducted using JTLS (the Joint Theater Level Simulation) provided by the US over a period of 5 days. The "Blue team" (defenders) were led by general officers from the ROC military, while the "Red team" (the PLA) was controlled by professors from the National Defense University. US military intervention was not included in the simulation. A U.S. advisory group under former PACOM commander Adm. Dennis Blair observed the exercise but did not otherwise participate. Notably, this was also one of the first exercises to take the effect of psyops and the reactions of the civilian populance into account. A "news channel" was reportedly created for the purpose of the exercise both for realism and to see the effect misiformation would have on the participants.

Nelson Report: Chen Screws up Again

The Nelson Report says that President Chen sent a five page letter to President Bush...

While officials directly involved refused comment on the letter, other sources confirm that it contained Chen's personal explanation of the New Years Day speech which caused a furor over his proposed abolition of the National Unification Council. Poignantly, Chen is said to have noted that it was unfortunate the two presidents could not meet to discuss the situation face-to-face.

Unfortunately, Chen still hasn't gotten the point:

We also reported that high officials at State were warning Chen that the results of these discussions would influence the disposition of any transit visa request he might make to attend the inauguration, in May, of Costa Rica's of the three dozen nations extending official recognition to The Republic of China.

Sources say that Chen's March letter did not address the "four noes" concerns.

It's not difficult to make US officials happy -- simply promise to not to do anything that would upset things in the Straits, and let them know ahead of time of any major diplomatic moves. Instead of building trust by addressing US concerns, Chen is fostering distrust. Fortunately US officials have consistently stated that Chen is merely a passing problem and will not affect fundamentally good US-Taiwan relations.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Excellent IPO

WANTED: Investment partner(s) for long-term growth project.
WORKING TITLE: Incredible Parental Obligation (IPO) for Daughter's Braces
Attractive investment in high-precision metalware with excellent long-term growth prospects. Some unruliness expected in short-term. No known enviromental issues despite regular emissions of effluents and some noise pollution. Primary investor is willing to share administrative authority, especially in short-term. Investors interested in this project may also be invited to participate in future investment opportunities, including Daughter's College Tuition and Wedding Reception.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

June Swenson's Meetup

Jerome Keating sends around the following:


To all,
We will have our June meeting for breakfast as Swensen's again--same venue as the last couple of times [MT: ADDRESS 9:30 am at the same place as last month; Swensen's #81 Keelung Rd. Sec. 2, Taipei.]. Saturday June 3rd. 9:30 am
Our speaker will be Avron A. Boretz

Assistant Professor, Department of Asian Studies, University of Texas at Austin (since 1998), where he teaches courses that focus on Chinese and Taiwanese society, religion, culture in general, and history

As a Texan, I will vouch for UT Austin as one of the top schools in the State--however any Texas Aggies will differ on that point (State joke)

Avron has his Ph.D. Cornell University (Anthropology) 1996; MA, Chinese Intellectual History, University of Chicago 1984

He first came to Taiwan as a student (Stanford Center) 1982-84; altogether has spent about 8 years here, much of that doing participant-observation fieldwork, mostly in Taidong (3+ years), Taizhong, and Taipei. Currently (since September 2004) Fulbright Research Fellow and Visiting Fellow, Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica.

His research interests include Taiwanese and Chinese folk religion; secret societies and martial arts associations; ritual and social violence; and the social and cultural aspects of Taiwan’s “shadow economy.”

If you can't find anything in the above that interests you, then you don't belong in Taiwan!!

Talk Topic: “How and why violence and manhood have historically been (and continue to be) linked in Taiwanese working-class society”

And you thought it was only in the Legislature.

Looks like a great topic, hope to see you there,


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Exiting Blogging

I've decided that the Net has taken over my life, and I need to regain control. So expect a drastic drop in posting.


Round up

No round up, too busy.


WaPo on new Taiwan Security Strategy

The Washington Post has a good summary of the newly-released Taiwan security strategy.

In describing Taiwan's security environment, Chen's government compared the Chinese military to the Nazi war machine in World War II and asserted that China is bent on long-term military expansion that requires it to control Taiwan and the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait. In a recent interview, Chen said Taiwanese intelligence had information that China has a plan to attack the island within 10 years, but this assertion was not repeated in the strategy declaration.

Only by building up its own military and economic strength, the document declared, can Taiwan preserve its de facto independence and democratic system. To make that possible, it said, the government will boost military spending from 2.5 to 3 percent of gross domestic product.

Chen's government has been trying without success for the last several years to increase the military budget to accommodate an $18 billion purchase of U.S. weapons. The Legislative Yuan, controlled by the opposition Nationalist Party, has refused to approve the funds, saying the weapons package is too expensive and not appropriate to Taiwan's needs.

In addition, the document said, the Defense Ministry will go ahead with previously announced plans to reduce the 300,000-member military by a third over the next two years, in part by cutting back the length of required service from 18 months to one year.

The strategy declaration emphasized that overall national strength, not just weapons and soldiers, is key to Taiwan's security. It said Taiwan's position in the world should be enhanced by forging relations with more nations and international organizations, for instance, and the economy should be reinforced to avoid presenting China with new opportunities for pressure.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ma and KMT corruption

If Ma Ying-jeou, the Chairman of the KMT, mayor of Taipei, and KMT fair-haired boy, has a weakness, it is the fact that the KMT's longstanding links to local faction machines force him to endorse again and again individuals who appear to be slimy. Today's Taipei Times has criticisms of Ma from the TSu for supporting a candidate for mayor of Keelung whom Ma knew to have issues...

"Ma owes an apology to Keelung's citizens, as they may have made the wrong decision to vote for Hsu because of Ma's recommendation," Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Chen Chien-ming (陳建銘) told a news conference. Chen vied with Hsu for the Keelung mayorship last year.

Hsu, who was re-elected last year, was indicted on charges of corruption by the Keelung District Prosecutors' Office on Thursday.

The prosecutors said in the indictment that Hsu's decision to buy a piece of land for the city's bus park was made for his personal benefit.

"Ma should have known that Hsu had a problem of integrity, as Hsu was indicted before when Ma was justice minister. Ma should give Hsu a stern reprimand," TSU Legislator David Huang (黃適卓) said.

People First Party (PFP) Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄), who also vied with Hsu in the election, also demanded Ma's apology, saying that "citizens of Keelung were deceived by Hsu and Ma into thinking that Hsu would be a good mayor."

"Integrity is a basic requirement for a public servant, but Hsu lacks even that," Liu said.

The System is such that businessmen need to purchase politicians in order to make the system work. And thus, no matter who is in charge, the System goes on...

It will be interesting to see whether any of the KMT mud will eventually stick to Ma. He's taken fire for his support of corrupt local candidates before, without ill effects. One funky comment here: The TSU politico alleges that Hu was indicted before Ma was Justice Minister. That was in the early 1990s...the wheels grind slow around here!

KMT to Move on Arms Budget

Seeing is believing....and I'll believe it when I see it:

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday said that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has told him he hopes the legislature would make a final decision on the long-stalled arms procurement budget as soon as possible. Wang said that he met with Ma yesterday morning and talked about the issue, noting that the KMT will have a discussion on this issue within the party in the coming days. Wang also discussed the issue in private with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) after he attended a National Security Council meeting chaired by Chen on Thursday. "The government's position on the arms bill remains the same. The back the bill revised from the initial package, which includes the budget for assessing the necessity of submarines, buying 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and upgrading the PAC-2 Patriot anti-missile batteries," Wang said.

Women and Marriage in Taiwan

A new poll out from Commonwealth, though unscientific, does give some indication of the state of singlehood among the island's females.

Modern Taiwanese women seem to be increasingly nonchalant about marriage, with more than 70 percent having toyed with the idea of remaining single. About 40 percent of them, both married and single, fancy having more than one lover and almost ten percent have had that experience, according to a poll by Common Health magazine.

According to the magazine 7.7 percent of all married women who responded to the survey have had more than one lover, but 80 percent of them still believed in true love and accordingly were still waiting for their "Mr. Right," and refused to make any compromises in the search.

I often tease my students about their dating habits, for they date one man and stick with him for years.....

"How old are you Tammy?
"How long have you been going out with your boyfriend?"
"Three years."

....but when they go to Sogo, they try on fifty before they find the right one, I'll tell them. But teacher, comes the reply. Men are more important than shirts. Just so, I say, which is why you should date a few of them to find out what a good man is. A large number of my students seem to be resigning themselves to never having a man, and another sizeable component is living with their boyfriend, although few admit it. But for your foreign men, there are lots of single women in their 20s and 30s with jobs, good English, and searching for Mr. Right.

May 21, Sunday, Passport 2 Taiwan Taiwanese-American Festival in NYC

Shrimpcrackers passed this out to the TaiwanFocus list:

The Celebration of Taiwanese American Heritage Week in New York Union Square Park North (17th St & Park Avenue) Sunday May 21st, 2006 12PM-5PM, Admission is Free! Over 50,000 people attend, the largest Taiwanese event in the United States!

Come to Union Square on Sunday May 21st to explore the many wonders of Taiwan. From mouth-watering delicacies to high-tech gadgets, arts & crafts and live stage shows, you will be surrounded by vibrant energies of the Taiwanese American. Come try costumes from different aboriginal tribes, beat the drum that makes the lion dance or find your way around Taiwan with our exciting exhibitions. Taste exotic snacks that can only be found in Taiwan's night markets and watch breathtaking dance and music performances throughout the day! For more information, visit Passport 2

Anyone, of all backgrounds is invited to help volunteer for Passport2Taiwan. Everyone gets a good time, lunch, and a great cultural experience. Meet new people and make new friends. We usually meet at Taiwan Center and dinner is served. For more information, visit

Presidential Son in Law Scandal

I was going to comment on this, but ESWN has a good survey. The local Chinese papers are saying that the family of the President's son-in-law has always been this way, and a number of anecdotes about their alleged avarice are now in circulation in the local media and gossip. Anyway, ESWN has the call:

The background first (China Post): This gigantic scandal arose from a stock transaction. Chao-Chien Shui-mien, the mother of Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian's son-in-law, bought some shares in Taiwan Development from the Changhwa Bank for NT$10 million and has now made profits estimated to be at least NT$100 million. So what? Maybe she is an astute investor just like the first lady.

Inevitably, the first son-in-law Chao Chien-ming was asked about this amazing turn of fortune. His initial response to the world was something like: I don't know what my mom does.

Fair enough. Soon, events unfolded gradually over the days as one after another piece of information became known. For example, it was established that Chao went to a banquet on a Friday with Su Teh-chien ( board chairman of the Taiwan Development Corporation), Chang Po-hsin ( board chairman of the Chang Hwa Bank) and the middleman Tsai Ching-wen ( a member of the board of directors of the Waterland Financial Holding Company). Then on the Monday after, his mother bought NT$10 million in Taiwan Development stocks at a special rate from Changhwa Bank. This kind of deal was not open to the public, which does not know that Taiwan Development had just secured a huge bank loan that would allow it to emerge from a financial crisis that drove its stock down to a penny stock. The first son-in-law had to admit being in attendance, but claimed that he had no idea who was going to be there nor was anything discussed about stock transactions. The other banquet attendants have conflicting recollections as to who organized the banquet as well as the purpose. Later, it would turn out that there were three such banquets (that is, this is what is known so far). In addition, it was unclear just who was footing the bill for the stock transaction, and so on. New revelations are still appearing from day to day.

Anyway, the first son-in-law was called to the carpet by the first lady, who said: "崁頭鰻,不知生死門." (in translation: "A blindfolded eel has no idea whether it is going to live or die." According to UDN, eels are blindfolded before being butchered so that they don't know when they are going to die. In Minnan dialect, this is a saying about someone who is clueless about what is going on and quite unaware of the severity of the situation. She implied that he was clueless about what he was getting into.

Chen's ratings have been holding pretty steady under 20%, and I doubt this will damage them much. In fact, he might get a public sympathy bounce, since it seems that the Presidential son-in-law abused his connections without Chen's knowledge.

Private Consumption Weaknesses Retard Growth

Economic growth in Taiwan is being held back by weak private consumption...

Nationally, GDP was 4.93 percent during the first quarter, lower than the 5.06 percent estimated in February by the government's statistical agency. The first-quarter figure of 4.93 percent growth also compares to a 6.4-percent expansion registered during the final quarter of last year, the fastest pace for six quarters, according to DGBAS figures."Private consumption is much more sluggish than we expected, primarily because of a sharp drop in automobile sales," Hsu said. According to statistics compiled by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, sales of new cars in Taiwan dropped by nearly 25 percent in the first quarter from the same period a year ago. Private consumption, which makes up about two-thirds of Taiwan's total GDP figure, only increased by 2.07 percent instead of the 2.97 percent projected by the government. But, the exports of goods and services grew at a faster-than-expected annual rate at 14.1 percent during the first three months, compared to the earlier estimates of 12.1 percent, Hsu said without giving detailed figures. Manufacturing production, the biggest component of industrial output, also increased rapidly, rising 8.21 percent from a year ago, he said. But, rocketing crude oil prices and high levels of credit and cash-card debt, which were partly blamed for sluggish personal consumption during the first three months, were concerns, Hsu said.

In a country where people pay have historically paid something like 20% a month for informal loans on the underground financial market, it was totally forseeable that credit card debt would be a problem.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Corss-language Jokes

One trend of noticed of late -- probably years behind, knowing me -- is jokes that require the listener to have some understanding of English and Chinese. My students have forwarded me several, and I saw this one at McDonald's the other day in the bathroom (lots of restaurants now post jokes above the urinals)...

[Chinese]A manager at a large company does some research and discovers a possible business opportunity in Europe. He makes a report and has his secretary forward the report to the big boss. The boss is happy with the report, so he asks for permission to fly to Europe and explore the opportunity. The big boss sends back [English]"Go ahead!" [Chinese]The manager puts in the request for tickets and makes his plans.

[Chinese] The appointed day comes and he astonished to find that no tickets were purchased. "Why are there no tickets?" he asks the secretary. "Tickets? What are you doing?" "I'm going to Europe!" replies the manager. "The big boss told me to [English] 'Go ahead.'" "What? You've been here how long, and you don't know how bad the big boss' English is? When he said [English] 'Go ahead.' he meant chu ni ge tou."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fishing Boat Follies

From time to time interesting articles pop up in the world press about Taiwanese Out There. Here's one about Taiwanese fishing boats in the Falklands breaking the rules in the Falklands. Who could imagine Taiwanese ignoring bureaucratic regulations?:

All vessels licensed to fish in Falkland waters have, as part of their licence requirements to provide adequate means by which Fisheries Department officers may board to make inspections. An accident earlier this year, due to an inadequate ladder having led to a Fisheries Officer falling into the sea while attempting to board a vessel for inspection, had demonstrated the importance of compliance with this requirement.

During a routine inspection of the Ming Man on 11th May, Fisheries Department officers had discovered that the licence conditions relating to the pilot ladder had not been complied with.

The Court was informed that further inspection of the vessel in Port Stanley had also led to suspicions that catch reports filed between 9th March and 12th May had been inaccurate. Inspection of the ship’s hold by three officers of the Fisheries Department confirmed these suspicions.

214 tonnes of squid had been reported in the catch records, but estimates of the actual amount made respectively by the captain of the vessel and its local agents, Fortuna Ltd. after the inspection, varied between 420 and 469 tonnes.

The Court was informed that the estimated market value of the discrepancy between the reported and actual catches was between $US 224.000 and $US 254.000.

Chen approval at 5.8%?

A Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) poll shows that Chen's approval ratings are baaaaaaaaaad:

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) approval rating has dropped to a new low of just 5.8 percent, with 88 percent of respondents dissatisfied with the performance of Chen's administration over the past six years, according to the results of a survey released yesterday.

The survey was conducted by the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) -- the Democratic Progressive Party's ally in the pan-green camp -- on 69 civic groups from May 5 through May 12.

The respondents gave the administration's overall performance a failing grade of 57.5 percent.

Ho Min-hao (何敏豪), head of the TSU's policy committee, said the survey results reflected the government's failure to pay attention to domestic affairs.

While 64 percent of respondents thought that the government has not worked hard enough to improve the nation's economy over the past six years, 72 percent were dissatisfied with the deteriorating law and order situation, the survey found.

The TSU is a DPP ally in the legislature. The poll shows the success of the Blue strategy of paralyzing the nation and then blaming the President, the recent corruption charges, the long-term changes in the Taiwan economy that are causing growing income inequality, and weakness of the Taiwan President's position constitutionally.

UPDATE: I meant to crap all over this earlier -- had trouble with the @&#@%#$ posting system of blogger, whose anti-spam measures often fail to appear, leaving me unable to post -- but ESWN beat me to it. It's a baaaad poll.

Beaches, Tourism, and Development in Taiwan

Wild at Heart, the environmental group, has an interesting post on the intersection of national parks, local development and illegal land use in Taiwan:

“Why should I pay to walk on Shawei beach? Jibei Island is my home!” laments Mr. Jhuang, one local who is actively involved in trying to win Jibei’s prime tourist destination back from the businesses that have occupied it since 1983. The dispute came to a head in recent years after the PNSAA announced its plan to invite more private businesses to the island to develop and operate a major expansion of the resort facilities, disregarding the fact that the majority of the 18 hectares used by Sea Paradise was appropriated illegally.

In a 1998 lawsuit, Kaohsiung High Court found the lessee, Mr. Chen Si-nan, guilty of illegally occupying 16.8 hectares of government land, having only received permission in 1983 to use 1.2 hectares for construction of a few simple facilities: a washroom, a break room, a changing room and a restaurant. By subsequently enclosing and developing the remainder of this tourism gold mine, owners of Sea Paradise succeeded in turning profits of about NTD10 million a year as the percentage of Penghu-bound tourists traveling to Jibei rose to over 74 percent, while small local tourism enterprises struggled to compete.

The situation is similar in Kenting, where in the "National Park" the beachfronts are privately owned. The article is an excellent introduction to "development" in Taiwan works, with the government ignoring gross violations of the law, immense strain on local resources, covering the natural environment with cement structures, no oversight of tourist behavior, subsidies for lawbreakers, and so on. Jibei island, the subject of the article, is especially famous for its traditional stone weirs used to catch fish.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Online Shopping for foreign foods in Taiwan

Here's an idea whose time has come, courtesy of Karl at Chewin in the Chung. Now it just needs to be massively expanded. Like, for example, where's the parmesan cheese?

NSA spying on Salon

Dailykos provided a link to a interview with

Having studied the NSA and its history extensively, were you surprised and concerned to discover that, since 2001, the agency has been amassing a database of phone records, and possibly other information, on U.S. citizens?

The fact that the federal government has my phone records scares the living daylights out of me. They won't learn much from them other than I like ordering pizza on Friday night and I don't call my mother as often as I should. But it should scare the living daylights out of everybody, even if you're willing to permit the government certain leeways to conduct the war on terrorism.

We should be terrified that Congress has not been doing its job and because all of the checks and balances put in place to prevent this have been deliberately obviated. In order to get this done, the NSA and White House went around all of the checks and balances. I'm convinced that 20 years from now we, as historians, will be looking back at this as one of the darkest eras in American history. And we're just beginning to sort of peel back the first layers of the onion. We're hoping against hope that it's not as bad as I suspect it will be, but reality sets in every time a new article is published and the first thing the Bush administration tries to do is quash the story. It's like the lawsuit brought by EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation] against AT&T -- the government's first reaction was to try to quash the lawsuit. That ought to be a warning sign that they're on to something.

I'll tell you where this story probably will go next. Notice the USA Today article doesn't mention whether the Internet service providers or cellphone providers or companies operating transatlantic cables like Global Crossing cooperated with the NSA. That's the next round of revelations. The real vulnerabilities for the NSA are the companies. Sooner or later one of these companies, fearing the inevitable lawsuit from the ACLU, is going to admit what it did, and the whole thing is going to come tumbling down. If you want some historical perspective look at Operation Shamrock, which collapsed in 1975 because [Rep.] Bella Abzug [D-NY] subpoenaed the heads of Western Union and the other telecommunications giants and put them in witness chairs, and they all admitted that they had cooperated with the NSA for the better part of 40 years by supplying cables and telegrams.

The newest system being added to the NSA infrastructure, by the way, is called Project Trailblazer, which was initiated in 2002 and which was supposed to go online about now but is fantastically over budget and way behind schedule. Trailblazer is designed to copy the new forms of telecommunications -- fiber optic cable traffic, cellphone communication, BlackBerry and Internet e-mail traffic.

O my country!

Taiwan Mulls F-16 Purchase

The media reports that Taiwan is considering purchasing more F-16s to augment its fighter force. Jon Lin over at Taiwan focus points out that the number appears to fit the number of archaic F-5 fighters that will be retired over the same time frame as the purchase.

The acquisition of the advanced model F-16C/D Block 52 fighter jets would be discussed during talks in Washington on May 25-29 between the two countries, the US-based weekly Defense News quoted a US defense source as reporting.

Taiwan's air force consists of 146 less sophisticated F-16A/B fighters, 128 locally produced Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDFs), 56 French-made Mirage 2000-5s and 60 or so aging F-5 Tigers.

"Taiwan needs to modernize its fleet to counter the advanced fighters the PRC (People's Republic of China) is fielding now," the source said.

"Even if Taiwan decides to purchase the aircraft this year, Taiwan won't see the aircraft until 2011-2012 due to paperwork and production timeline. By that time, the IDFs will be close to 20 years old and the F-16A/Bs will be over 15 years old."

Regrettably the US side is making the purchase, something Taiwan desperately needs, contingent on the current arms package.

But a source at F-16 maker Lockheed Martin said formal progress toward a Taiwanese purchase of the fighters would likely have to wait until Taipei decides on a weapons package that the United States proposed for sale in 2001.

Taiwan's opposition parties have blocked the 10-billion-dollar arms purchase bill even though the ruling party has scaled it down from 19 billion dollars.

The bill, proposed by the defense ministry, has yet to win approval by the procedure committee of the opposition-controlled parliament, a necessary step before it can be heard in the full house.

The bill calls for the purchase of eight conventional submarines, 12 P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft, and six PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile systems.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sunday, May 14, 2006, Taiwan Blog Round-Up

Time to serve up another helping of blogposts, courtesy of the Taiwan blogosphere. Typhoon Pearl seems to be passing us by, leaving nothing but cool air and clean skies. Very sweet of her too.

Scott Sommers posts on educational reform in Taiwan, including some interesting comments on sports and education, whose problems mirror those we have seen in the United States.

Less well-known is the extent of this problem in Asian universities. I have taught at Korea University in Seoul. Newsweek ranks the school as one of the best in Asia. However, it is a private school, and has developed its own system of admissions and completion. I had the privilege of teaching students majoring in Physical Education. All of them were on school sports teams. Some of them were on the National and Olympic teams. I had the privilege of teaching one young women who was on the national archery team, which is one of the top teams in the world. Unfortunately, I only saw her once. Students on school teams can receive a grade no lower than a 'D' and are therefore guaranteed graduation without ever attending even a single class.

On the other hand, the students who did come to class were fantastic. Not only were they really interesting people, they really wanted to come to class.

I understand that universities in Japan have a similar system, but I have no personal knowledge of this. I was told by a Japanese informant that talented baseball players can get scholarships to top schools and then get hired by top companies to play on a company baseball team without ever demonstrating academic ability. I understand this is the same for rugby.

I have also been told that the fairness perceived in the current system of student selection in Taiwan is a relatively recent innovation. For most of the post-War period in Taiwan, schools and professional examinations had quotas. Students whose families came from the various provinces of mainland China were given special position in application to university or professional licensing exams. While students from Taiwan competed against each other, students from Hunan, Hubai, or other mainland provinces were selected from provincial quotas.

The educational system favored mainlanders in other ways was in Mandarin, not the local language, Taiwanese. The necessity for intense study means that it favored nuclear families that could afford to invest heavily in children's education. And so on.....Scott's interesting point is that an attempt to be fair is actually new to education in Taiwan.

Speaking of education, Jon Benda reported on a conference at Tunghai of directors of university language centers in Taiwan, "Perspectives on the Language Centers in Taiwan's Universities" Symposium:

I'm not going to summarize each person's presentation, but I want to mention a few of the major themes that came out of the presentations. In no particular order, here they are:
  • There's an increasing attempt to reach out to honors or otherwise advanced students through special semester-long or short-term courses. The program at one school (and possibly more) is also feeling pressure from the rest of the school to offer courses and other kinds of help to graduate students and faculty who now are feeling more pressure to publish in English-language international academic journals.

  • Most of the language centers would probably be better labelled "language programs" because they are responsible for the required first-year English courses and elective language courses. There was one (if I remember correctly) language center that did not have the responsibility for the FY-English program. It operates more as a center that offers short-term courses, lectures, study groups, and other activities for extracurricular English learning. (And the staff there consists of one director, 2 staff members, and no faculty.)

  • There are more and more attempts to make use of computer-aided self-study systems so that students can learn on their own. Some programs require the computer-aided learning to be graded as part of required courses; some just provide the learning stations and hope that students will come. (One director mentioned that they had increased the number of computers in one lab from 7 to 41, but only the same 7 students were showing up...)

  • Most of the directors complained of being understaffed, particularly in terms of full-time faculty. As one director put it, the problem is not a sense that part-time teachers are not as hard-working; the problem is that because it is difficult to give part-time teachers the same level of pay and facilities as full-timers (office space, etc.), part-timers usually have to teach at more than one school and therefore cannot be around for program activities, office hours, or important program meetings. This makes it harder both for students to have more interaction with their teachers outside of the classroom and for programs to be as unified as directors would like. [This is my recollection of what was said--if it doesn't quite accurate to others who were there, please let me know!]

  • I felt a sense that teachers and administrators in the language center are not as highly respected as teachers or administrators in regular departments. The term "second-class citizens" was used more than once in characterizing the language centers' status.

  • Related to this, I noticed a concern that language center faculty will end up being evaluated in the same way as faculty in other departments (in other words, a heavy emphasis on research), despite the heavier teaching responsibilities that come with teaching English to the entire freshman class, teaching English electives to upperclass students, and running various programs to encourage students to use English outside of class and to ensure that the English proficiency of the students meets some sort of externally defined standard (the GEPT or TOEFL, for example).

This pretty much confirms what I've seen at the language centers I've seen and taught at.

Jon Benda at Notes of a Former Native Speaker has also written a wonderful three-part review of A Pail of Oysters:

The exchange between Li Liu and Barton is arguably the climax of the novel, and in it Sneider depicts an embodied rhetoric of empathy that emphasizes personal emotional connections as leading to political commitments. Li goes to the Friends of China Club and stands outside, staring in at Barton, "knowing not why, except that the man with the dog lived there. The man who was the friend of his friend Didi. The man who had been glad for him when he learned his god had come back to Chung Hwa Road" (299). Li Liu appears unsure himself about what he wants to do, but he knows that there is an empathetic connection between the two of them. Barton has shown friendship to Li's friend and has shown common feelings with Li over something important to the latter. In effect, Li goes to Barton because the American has successfully demonstrated empathy for others, which is a highly valued part of the sentimental ideal of engagement that Christina Klein argues is part of the Cold War era middlebrow aesthetic of commitment.

This is the kind of writing that makes blogging so useful.

Mark at Doubting to Shuo? frequently blogs on interesting teaching programs. Here he discusses one that is hard for me to believe:

The best program for first and second graders I’ve ever seen is one in Neihu, run by a guy called Ross. He doesn’t have the same phonics system, and so his kids don’t quite match mine in terms of new word recognition and pronunciation. But what he does have is a full fledged cultural studies program. The kids learn about a different part of the world every couple of weeks, learn some key facts about it, do some related activities, and move on. After they’ve covered the whole planet, they start going back and learning about smaller places in more detail, and learning about history. By the third year, they’re re-enacting the Persian wars on the whiteboard, taking roles as various Greek Gods in their writing assignments and talking about playing Age of Empires. While this may not sound like such a great thing for an English program, it is. The kids have tons of things that they can talk about, things that they want to talk about, in English. In my whole time in Taiwan, I’ve never met other kids who like history, but at Ross’s school, they do. I’ve seen them play a Civilization/Risk kind of board game on the whiteboard in which the kids are literally arguing like this:

Sudent one: Let’s attack Russia. We can use the diamonds.
Sudent two: No no no! The blue team has Canada, they can start building ships with all the trees. We shou-
Student three: Let’s build things this turn. Wait. Move next turn, ok?
Student one: But Russia has oil, too…

Ross gave them a minute or so to agree on a move and then went on to the next team. They could harvest natural resources from areas they controlled, and then use them to build all kinds of different things. He said they didn’t play these games very often, but it was a sight to see. Oh, and after a couple of years of doing this, the kids’ pronunciation gets pretty good, too.

Wish my college students were this motivated.

David is on Formosa! I finally met him at the Saturday, May 6, Swenson's Breakfast Club meet up last week. He's so different from his pic (much better looking) that I didn't even recognize him (much to my chagrin). This week he reviewed the Far East Pinyin Chinese-English Dictionary, the venerable title we're all familiar with...

One of the best things about this dictionary is its compact size. It is easy to handle and not too heavy or bulky so you can easily carry it round and refer to it. All the characters are arranged in alphabetical order according to Hanyu Pinyin. There is a Hanyu Pinyin index at the front of the book. It seems a little redundant, but it might be useful if you are not sure about the exact pronunciation of a character. There are also radical indexes and stroke number indexes at the back of the dictionary.

The format of the entries is very easy to read and particularly useful for someone who has a good knowledge of pinyin, but not characters. The entry for each character begins with the pinyin followed by the character in red type. There is then a definition or definitions of the character in English. Following this there is a list of words that begin with that character. The list is arranged with the word written in bold in pinyin first, followed by the character and a definition in English. The definitions given are clear and concise, but there are no example sentences and it does not state whether the word is noun, adjective, particle, etc.

David also had a great post full of pics on his recent trip to the ceramics center in Yingge, which I shamefacedly confess I have never visited.

David at jujuflop, whom I also at the Saturday, May 6, Swenson's Breakfast Club meet up last week, turned another sparkling analysis, this time of the mayoral elections in Taipei and Kaohsiung. The DPP looks godawful.

However, you can’t take this at face value, because it comes hot on the heels of Frank Hsieh (who has been under heavy DPP pressure to apply for the job) announcing that he wouldn’t apply, but would be willing to be drafted if noone else applied. Given that Shen received a phone call from DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) before deciding not to apply (and got lavisly praised by Yu for doing so), you’ve got to wonder exactly how much pressure was applied to stop Shen standing.

When it became clear that noone was going to stand for the DPP candidacy DPP Legislator You Ching (尤清) realised he had a chance to sneak in when noone was looking. By picking up an application form and applying right at the last minute You nearly threw a huge spanner into the DPPs machinations. After a very frantic inspection of the form, the DPP managed to find a minor mistake in the application, and (with a huge sigh of relief) threw out the application.

So, after pressurizing a candidate who wanted to stand to stop him, and throwing out the candidacy of another on a technicality, the DPP is left with no candidate. This leaves them free to draft a candidate who has publicly stated that he has no interest in the position. In other words, the DPP are in a complete mess - and their process can be called neither particularly democratic nor progressive.

Redundant saying: the DPP must get its house in order.

Wulingren joins the joins the media:

It's nice to sit outside and blog. Don't know why there aren't more people doing it, considering so much effort has gone into making the city wireless. I guess people think of the computer as an indoor mechanism, not something you use in a park or by a stream or on a high mountain in the clouds or in paradise. Where did that come from? The writer tends to be influenced by the environment in which he/she writes. Right not right?

Well, some of you are perhaps wondering how my first week as a radio broadcaster went. It went well. In the beginning (as I create my own world), I will focus mainly on news preparation while I get trained. Frankly, I'm relieved I haven't been immediately assigned to do my own program. It is kind of a "man man zou" (take your time) attitude. However, if you start listening to RTI, you might already at a random moment hear my voice, and it will reveal itself with greater frequency. Yesterday, I already recorded two actualities (an actuality is radio talk for a sound bite, an actual quotation in a story, really the actual voice of a character being reported on). For a few brief moments, I was the voice of President Chen Shui-bian on his return to Taiwan after an eventful trip pretty much all over the world (all because he wasn't allowed to land in the States). Then, Shirley asked me to read an actuality for her show after she did the news. It was a friend of hers--who she described as a Taike臺客 (that is, a person who loves everything about Taiwan)--talking about Taiwan Beer and how it is better than other beers: "I like American beer, but it is too strong. Taiwan Beer is like water. So good." That was very funny. I know there are people who think American beer--at least large-scale commercial beers like Budweiser--is like water. And that's not usually a good thing.
I hope to catch Wulingren's show one of these days. Why don't you post the info so we can all tune in?

Taiwan's Other Side, pro-KMT blogger extraordinaire, revels in recent KMT success and DPP failure:

I’m no expert on KMT internal politics, but this sounds like wishful thinking to me. If Wang were going to make a move, he would have done it a long time ago, with the sour grapes and momentum of the campaign for the KMT chairmanship behind him back in July. Sitting on the sides sniping at Ma does nothing for a broader campaign - it just distinguishes Wang as a respected power within the party rather than a mindless boot-licker. A bit of criticism shows that Ma is rocking the boat and making an effort to actually reform the KMT. The split fantasy is all that is left for the idea-bankrupt DPP, a repeat of the lucky happenstance that got current ROC president 陳水扁 Chen Shui-Bian elected in 2000 and the only thing that can save the party from a much-needed reckoning.

I personally feel that Wang isn't going to make a move until Ma screws up big time. Then look for revenge. Those accusations of Ma's that Wang was engaging in vote buying and cheating must still rankle.

It's official: TLP Clo'd fo B'iness. the leaky pen, one of my favorite Taiwan blogs, closed up shop this week:

This is an announcement that I'll be giving up on blogging at the leaky pen. It's not because I'm sick of politics and culture-critique in Taiwan. Neither is it the "international community's" consistent indifference to my ramblings about the plight of Taiwanese culture. I have some readers, friends mostly, who comment with stuff "Uh, wtg man," or "dude, you misspelled ass-pirate" and stuff like that. Nor am I convinced that no one worth a shit is really reading what I'm writing. There might not be, and you wankers may well have grown too cynical and unimaginative to read the rants of this demented Taiwan blogger--but that's not the reason we're abandoning the leaky pen either.

You'll be missed, and by many people. And not just tlp -- Big Ell's blog passed away as well:

Another month gone and another month without a post, normally I would apologize to my 3-4 readers but this happens so frequently that I don’t really care anymore. With my two year blog-anniversary coming quickly, I continue to struggle to come up with things to write or comment about. It appears that I am not alone as some other Taiwan blogs (much better then mine) have also closed up shop. MeiZhongTai, Suitcasing and the Leaky Pen were all excellent blogs and have all shut down for a variety of reasons. I am close to making the same decision but will stick it out for the next couple of months and see if I can get my motivation back. Maybe I will just start posting pictures or links, who knows. Blogging used to be fun but it’s turned into a job, an unpaid job.

I hear ya. At Suitcasing someone posted this Slate column on why I shut down my blog:

"I realized something: Blogging wasn't helping me write; it was keeping me from it."

Sean at The Gentle Rant attacks jetskis and other assaults on nature and civilization at Kenting:

PWC’s are personal water craft, better known by their brand names; Waverunners, Seadoos, Jet Skis, Whaledenters, or Oilshitters. They look like marine snowmobiles. According to the lady with the bin lang soiled metal teeth who tried to rent one to me, there are around sixty of the craft on Nan Wan alone and they rent for 1600 an hour.

I’m a swimmer, by nature but I believe my views on these little Antichrists to be shared by sailors, surfers, paddlers and sunbathers alike. You’re swimming through the water, unwinding from the concrete jungle when suddenly the air is full of violence; Japanese zeroes seem to be dive bombing the beach, their wakes splashing salt water up your nose as they narrowly miss your face. Lucky there’s no propeller.

On the Kenting National Park government website, under the heading Important Information, it states, “According to Article 13 of the National Parks Law, the following behaviors are prohibited in the national parks: burning plants, (insert pot joke), hunting or fishing, polluting the air or water, picking flowers or damaging plants, carving in trees, rocks, or signs, littering, driving off designated roads, or any other behaviors prohibited by the administrative authority of national parks.” (3)

My son was almost killed by badly driven boats at Kenting a couple of years ago. I know just how you feel.

Someday they are going to make a horror flick entitled I saw a Mormon in Taiwan! starring every single naive, deadly Mormon on the island. Sean writes:

Saturday or Sunday I was passing by the Nobel bookstore on the corner of Kung Yi and Chung Ming Nan and I saw three Mormons standing on the corner preparing to go out and hassle motorists trapped by the red light. Not two, three. They appear to be massing. I am pretty sure that, despite the temple, Taiwan has some sort of legislation against that sort of thing.

This isn't going to stop until people are hurt and others go to jail. A couple of weeks ago I encountered two idiots attacking helpless drivers trapped at a red light down by China Medical College....and wrote a letter to the Taipei Times about it:

Today marked the third time in as many months that I ran across Mormons proselytizing in the street. As I was making a left turn into a narrow street I was forced to swing out wider than I had intended to avoid a Mormon on a bicycle importuning some luckless local on a motorcycle in the middle of the intersection.

The Mormons smiled patronizingly at me when I yelled at them colorfully to stop hassling people in the road. They were indifferent to realize how dangerous such activity is. As the light turned green, they were still there, preventing the scooter driver from moving forward.

This behavior really has to stop.

Mark Forman, whom I've always want to mention here, does podcasting in a big way, and is now working on getting people the tools so that they too can join the internet world. He's building a big website at

Hey posse (no Tonto jokes Ken). Here's a mini-cast on recent developments. If the spirit moves you, please get involved. The rest is in the mp3, thanks. Carolina Chapter and the Minnesota Chapter are both having meetings on 3/25/06. Please try to attend or steer some friends that are interested in getting their "Web" feet wet(learn to blog/vlog/podcast).

Some members Dave Slusher, Ken Nelson, James Slusher, Garrick Van Buren, Eddie
Dickey, P.J. Cabrera, Jer.

I'm too busy at the moment, but maybe you can find the time to help the project.

Jerome Keating was back with some fiery stuff, taking on the Nelson Report, the US, the media all in one week. Go Jerome! Here he goes after the Nelson Report's information:

There are ways to read the Nelson Report (NR) and then there are ways to read the Nelson Report. The NR is not about truth; the NR is not about reality, no the NR is simply about those that reside within the Washington D.C. Beltway and how they perceive the truth and reality of where they work. In the NR we can glean the thoughts and motives that these people have for their decisions and actions, but what may be more important, we are getting via their expressions the way they wish or hope that the public perceives the thoughts and motives behind their decisions.

Recently there has been a lot of flap, over how President Chen Shui-bian of the democratic country of Taiwan requested landing rights and stopover privileges in the U.S. Chen was limited to the choices of Alaska or Hawaii where there would be limited media attention for this renegade president who was always complicating world affairs. If any insult was taken by this president of a democracy who was being told in effect to use the “servant’s entrance and not to linger too long," the storm of insult would exist in Taiwan and not in Washington. Chen was looking through the wrong side of the telescope and had been getting bad advice on what the real thinking in the Beltway is. These perceptions need to be examined.

Chen is said to be out of step with reality. Further the State Department allegedly wanted to punish Chen because he did away with the National Unification Council (NUC). That the NUC was based on false premises, that the NUC had never been followed by China, that the NUC had not done anything in over six years, that the NUC had no budget etc. these were all irrelevant. The China that violated what was stipulated in the NUC still thought that the NUC should be a mythic reality and that Chen should not do away with it. Since China believed this myth, then the U.S. State Department was told it should believe the myth. Supposedly this made the myth reality for the world. Chen was therefore told that he was upsetting this status myth and he should sit in his corner and not complain.

The Nelson Report is a long-time insider consulting report on what goes on inside Washington. Don't miss his piece on the NUC:

The National Unification Guidelines: What Everyone Talks About but Few Have Read
Sunday May 14

The misquotes, shocks, and misinterpretations over Chen Shui-bian's jettisoning of the National Unification Council (NUC) Guidelines continue to be so numerous that it is time to put them down in black and white so that everyone knows what exactly we are talking about and who has not been fulfilling them. I have already commented on them in my piece "Inane Flap Over an Outdated and Inept National Unification Council" posted February 27, 2006, which briefly puts them in a historical perspective. Here below are the guidelines as taken from Taiwan's Mainland Affair's Council's Mainland Affairs Information and Research Center and published by the Taipei Times. I have placed my own running comments in parenthesis.

Good information and comments.

Battlepanda, new to my blogroll, posts on changes to the national health insurance system:

There's been some recent and unpopular changes in the Taiwanese National Health insurance system. The employer's share of the burden has gone down while everybody 'premiums are adjusted upwards, with the double-income-no-kids crowd getting screwed the hardest. (Gee, I wonder why...) People are not happy.

I don't think I've been here long enough to evaluate whether the adjustments are just or necessary. But I think it provides a useful reality check to see how those new increased premiums compare to what the average, insured family in America has to pay, which Kate has provided . Of course, Taiwan is a much less wealthy country than the States. Taiwan's GDP per capita is about half. So lets stack the deck against the Taiwanese system by only looking at the premiums paid by the top income bracket, which is naturally the highest (those making more than 4.6 millions NT [or about $140,000 USD] annually or more.).

So, after the unpopular premium hike, the most anyone pays for the NHI scheme in Taiwan is 3000NT or about 9o dollars a month. That comes out to $1080 annually. The vast majority of the population pays much less. Compare this to, say, the average individual rate in the United States at $3,495. Even taking into account that the GDP per capita in Taiwan is half that of the U.S. and thus wages of doctors and nurses and so on must be cheaper, the NHI is still a bargain.

I understand that a lot of apples are getting compared with oranges. This is just a quick reality check. C'mon, people. If Taiwan can do it, we can too.

If only....

Mark at posts on the best OCR system for Pinyin:

What’s the best way to run optical character recognition (OCR) on texts written in Pinyin with tone marks? Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Standard, the most advanced such software I have on my computer, doesn’t have a “Pinyin” setting. I’d be surprised if any OCR software currently does.

Getting second tones, fourth tones, and umlauts to be read correctly shouldn’t be a big problem, given how the same marks are standard in the orthographies of many European languages. But first tones and third tones are a different matter. The best that can probably be hoped for at present is a more-or-less regular rendering of vowels with first- and third-tone marks as something else that can be fixed quickly through a search-and-replace procedure.

Jason at Wandering to Tamshui, his roving eye fixed on the moments of madness that give the Beautiful Island its unique flavor, discovers the Kaohsiung eye in Tales of InnoValue™, Pt. 12: Inapt pupil:

As we continue our coverage of Kaohsiung’s unstoppable surge toward global dominance, word comes that the Uni-President Corporation is planning on building the “Kaohsiung Eye”, a wholly tasteful giant ferris wheel based on the equally tasteful Eye of London, with an attached shopping mall to boot.

The Foreigner blogs on Friendship between the CCP and the KMT:

But now, despite that kind of idealistic commitment to the truth, the KMT helps the CCP bury corpses. Say it ain't so! Someone wants to look into whether the Communists murdered members of a religious minority and harvested their organs? Why, a trivial little matter like that, and the KMT's appetite for investigations vanishes. Let's just quietly kill this in committee instead, they whisper.

What's remarkable about the entire affair is that even members from the People First Party (a heavily pro-Communist political group) were in favor of the measure. Their allies in the KMT would have nothing of it, however. An investigation like that would destroy all of the KMT's hard work to cozy up to the Communists. An investigation like that would look bad when China makes a grab for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. An investigation like that would make the Taiwanese reluctant to hitch their wagon to China's star.


Rank has two awesome posts about biking through Taiwan: Great Taiwan Bike Rides Part II: Taidong to Hualien...

Hualien to Taidong via Route 11 too easy for you? Here's a more strenuous version that criss-crosses the Coastal Mountain Range three times! You should be fit, ready to ride about 120 km both days, and be able to handle climbing up to 900 meter in one day on moderate (by Taiwan standard) grades. Rank advises riding from about 5:30am till 11:00 am and then 3:30pm till 6:00pm if possible. It can get really hot--sunscreen and precautions against sunstroke are in order. Assume that you can buy water every 5km unless we say otherwise.
Photos, advice, everything. Very cool. And the first great ride:

Cycling from Hualien to Taidong on Route 11 down the coast is a classic ride suitable for beginners. Almost anyone in reasonable shape can enjoy this ride, which can easily be completed in two days. Rank recommends doing this ride from Hualien to Taidong because you will have the wind at your back most of the way. There is one short climb at about 25km up to about 300 meters. Be sure to stop at the Baqi (Baci) lookout point at km 33 or so for a coffee and an ice cream to reward yourselves. Spend the night in Shitiping around km 63 at the hostel above the big seafood restaurant (NT$800/double) but eat at the friendly seafood place behind this one up the hill.

I tried doing this, got sunstroke, and had to quit. The Lost Spaceman also had entries on biking on the East Coast:

When engaging in discussion about the world's great cycling destinations, I have often announced to startled listeners that Taiwan may very well be one of the best. There are thousands of kilometers of coastal and mountain roads out there to be explored by cyclists of every experience level. From downtown cycle paths to the cross-island highways, Taiwan is a web of surprising discoveries for those who travel by pedal.

One of my favorite rides on the island is Highway 193 from Guang Fu to Hualien. It's a simple afternoon ride inside the Coastal Range and a perfect long ride for beginner or intermediate riders as the climbs are gradual and the scenery evolves along the way.

You guys are making my mouth water.


Maddog wants you:

Jerome Keating has written a scathing open letter in protest of the way Chen Shui-bian, the democratically-elected president of Taiwan, was treated with respect to potential transit stops on a recent diplomatic mission to Central America which comes on the heels of the treatment of Hu Jintao, the unelected leader of China, as a VIP during his recent visit to the White House.

Go read Jerome's letter, then add your name to the rapidly growing list of Taiwan's supporters by filling in the blanks here.

I signed. So should you.