Monday, April 30, 2012

The Red Menace Grows

The Red Army menace grows even as the government cuts the budget....
The total area in Taiwan affected by exotic red fire ants has increased by nearly 50 percent since 2003, but despite the growing infestation, the government budget for pest control was cut from last year’s NT$40 million (US$1.36 million) to NT$20 million this year.

Listed among the world’s top 100 most-invasive species, the ants, native to South America, were discovered in Taiwan in 2003 and have alarmed residents by quickly spreading through urban areas in Greater Taipei, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli and Chiayi counties.
Fire ants, often called red ants, first appeared in Taiwan in 2003. According to a landmark genetic study, fire ants are spreading out of the US into the world along global trade routes. The US is in fact the origin for all subsequent transmissions, a total of eight separate waves. The Taiwan case was special: while other transmissions went directly from the southern US outward to places like New Zealand, the Taiwan-bound group of ants came to California before continuing on to Taiwan. The article above describes:
Biologists had certainly considered this United States–bridgehead scenario of invasions, Ross says, “but without data, it was anybody’s guess.” To track the invasions, an international research team analyzed ants from 2,144 colonies in a total of 75 places in 11 countries and looked at several kinds of genetic information, including dozens of DNA markers.

“Most studies don't come close to those numbers,” says Goodisman.

Ross explains that looking closely at fire ants in their native range in South America revealed 322 distinct genetic types. Only 11 of those types were found in the southern United States, including three that were very rare in the native range. Yet the populations from newly invaded territories had combinations of the three rare variants from those U.S. types, not the others left behind in South America. Additionally, the researchers ran computer models of how gene patterns in populations change as invaders bud off into new territories. The scenarios that fit the data best, alas, showed the United States as the source, Ross says.

This analysis raises the possibility that the rigors of invading the United States and then of moving on toward world domination have winnowed out weaklings and less invasive ants. Populations now erupting from the United States could be specially adapted as super-invaders, Ross says.
Fire ants like disturbed terrain, of which there is plenty on the overdeveloped Beautiful Island. When disturbed, they attack aggressively in swarms, and their venom can cause shock and even death in a small percentage of cases. Arriving in Chiayi and Taoyuan in 2003 in what appears to be two separate infestations, they quickly spread across Taoyuan county and are now entrenched in urban areas around the island but especially in the north. In 2006, to help root out the problem, Taiwan began to train beagles to smell out fire ant nests.

According to this 2009 paper, the core of the infestation in the north is in Taoyuan: Dayuan, Jhongli, Luiju, Taoyuan, Bade and Pingjhen, but it reaches well into Hsinchu county. The figure below gives a glimpse of their distribution:

Polygyne and monogyne refer to their social organization of nests that have multiple queens and single queens, respectively. Note that dead center of the infestation in the north is Taoyuan International Airport. The authors argue that the infestation in Chiayi came entirely from ants with two or more queens per social unit, and that the nests with single queens are a later development, implying that the island was infested twice, seemingly in the same year. They also say that while the infested area in Chiayi is basically stagnant, the one in the north is expanding at a constant rate. Brr.....
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Daily Links, April 30, 2012

A juvenile Malaysian night heron, a common sight around Taiwan.

A friend sent this from the China Times around: "A ship carrying pesticides and herbicides manufactured in Africa and China ran aground and sank off the coast near Fuzhou earlier this month. The contents of the ship has spilled into the ocean and is making its way toward northern Taiwan. The pesticides are reportedly highly toxic. You might want to stay clear of the beaches in the north. Of course, that won't help the ocean life." What else is out there?

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Good Old Days

From about 1951 or thereabouts. My thanks to a dear friend and longtime reader for sending this around.

My father in law gave my wife a great old rain jacket made in the late 1960s which he had kept all these years. In a pocket she found an old NT$50 bill printed in 1972.
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Saturday Round up

Lots of stuff going on....

DPP takes by-election in Lukang. A friend writes: "DPP candidate Huang Chen-yen (黃振彥) scored a major victory in Saturday's by-election for the mayorality of Lukang Township in Changhua County, defeating KMT candidate Tsai Ming-chung by a margin of 22,225 votes to 8,889 (as of 5pm) . The 70.5% to 29.5% margin was considerably more decisive than the margin by which Tsai Ing-wen took Lukang on January 14 (25,150 or 50.7 percent to Ma's 22,863)." True enough, but it is a mayoral election in a small town in Changhua.... when we see a trend across several elections, it might be meaningful. But Ma's current unpopularity won't last.

CNA reports that Christopher Marut will replace William Stanton as head of AIT in August.

Huge news.... Josh Rogin at The Cable over at Foreign Policy says the Administration has done an about-face on F-16s for Taiwan.
The White House policy shift was codified in a letter sent to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) Friday as part of a deal to get the Texas senator to release his hold on the confirmation of Mark Lippert, a close confidant of President Barack Obama whose nomination to become the top Pentagon official for Asia has been held up since October over the issue of selling F-16 fighter planes to Taiwan.

"We are mindful of and share your concerns about Taiwan's growing shortfall in fighter aircraft as the F-5s are retired from service and notwithstanding the upgrade of the F-16A/Bs. We recognize that China has 2,300 operational combat aircraft, while our democratic partner Taiwan has only 490. We are committed to assisting Taiwan in addressing the disparity in numbers of aircraft through our work with Taiwan's defense ministry on its development of a comprehensive defense strategy vis-a-vis China," Robert Nabors, director of the White House office of legislative affairs, wrote in a letter today to Cornyn.

"This work will be a high priority for a new Assistant Secretary of Defense in his dialogue on force transformation with his Taiwan counterparts. The Assistant Secretary, in consultation with the inter-agency and the Congress, will play a lead role as the Administration decides on a near-term course of action on how to address Taiwan's fighter gap, including through the sale to Taiwan of an undetermined number of new U.S.-made fighter aircraft."

The White House does not explicitly promise to sell Taiwan new F-16 fighter jets, as Cornyn wants, promising only to give the matter "serious consideration." But it does pledge an "underdetermined number" of new aircraft and the White House promised that Lippert would use the U.S.-Taiwan Defense Review Talks to conduct a full review of Taiwan's long-term defense strategy.
It's a positive and significant step, but let's recall that the Ma Administration and the KMT do not want these fighters. There's a long way to go before we see any new fighters, so basically I'll believe the Administration's noise when I see the verifiable physical results -- new aircraft on Taiwan's runways. Paul Mozur's WSJ piece has more.

I wrote a couple of posts down about how the ROC's bizarre claims to the South China Sea are dragging Taiwan into conflict with its neighbors. Today the Taipei Times published a commentary from an academic arguing that the Philippines claims to the Scarborough Shoal are bogus and the ROC actually owns the shoal and the Spratlys. It's a good insight into the kind of mind that lives in this alternative universe.

Manila's claims are laid out in the Manila Times. The author of the Taipei Times piece is correct, the Mapa General, Islas Filipinas Observatorio de Manila does not appear to color the shoal the same as the Philippines. Ironically, his rhetorical question "If all land shown on the map belonged to the Philippines, why would the southern part of Taiwan be shown at the top and part of Borneo at the bottom? Does this mean these places belong to the Philippines too?" actually reveals his ignorance: to this day Manila claims the northeast side of Borneo island. Nor does the author of the Taipei Times piece seem aware that Manila has not given up its claims under UNCLOS. The commentary in the Manila paper states that clearly, observing that Philippines has been trying to resolve the issue under UNCLOS in international court. Today's paper says the Dept of Foreign Affairs is trying to get the Court to hear that without Chinese consent, as the standoff between China and Manila has now reached its 17th day. No doubt if the Court rules in Manila's favor, as seems likely under UNCLOS, China will simply ignore the Court.

Note also that the Philippines has pretty much the same clause in its Constitution saying that  "all other areas which belong to the Philippines on the basis of historical rights or legal claims" belong to Manila. In other words Manila can assert a historical basis for its claims -- just like the Chinese do -- under the Philippine Constitution. *sigh*

Daily Links:

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Taiwanease App Out at Apple iTunes store!

Anthony van Dyck of Taiwanease sent around the press release for their new app...., a website created for Taiwan’s International Community by a small team of long term foreign residents, has just released the eponymous app “Taiwanease” on the iTunes App Store.

The Taiwanease App is an essential tool for international living in Taiwan. Access our massive database of events listings and venue addresses with or without an internet connection. Fast, sleek, and intelligently put together, the Taiwanease App is elegant in its simplicity. Whether it’s Nightlife, Shopping, Dining, Hotels, Art, Theatre, Events, or Addresses and Maps, the Taiwanease iPhone Application puts all you need to know about Taiwan at your fingertips.

Key Features of the Taiwanease App include:

  • Up-to-date Event Listings
  • Thousands of Directory Listings in dozens of categories, from Restaurants, to Accommodation, to Travel.
  • A “Near Me” feature to tell you what’s close by.
  • A “Favorites” function that stores all your preferred locations in a handy list.
  • Full Screen Taxi Cards that tell your driver exactly where you want to go in Chinese.
  • Maps that will pinpoint your current location, even in a moving vehicle, as well as your destination. If your taxi driver is taking “the scenic route”, you’ll be the first to know!
  • Up to date contact information for restaurants, including addresses in English AND Chinese, clickable links to websites from within every listing, as well as “one-tap” phone dialing.
  • Emergency Numbers, for Police, Fire/Medical, English Directory Assistance, and the Foreign Affairs Police.
  • MRT Maps for Taipei and Kaohsiung
  • An “Add an Establishment” feature that lets you instantly submit a venue to our directory right from your phone!

The Taiwanease App is available on the iTunes App Store now, for only $2.99.
For more information please contact Anthony van Dyck (潘龍泉) at
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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Combo Post: Beef, Polls, Economy, ECFA

The stock market is still in shock that stock transaction tax and capital gains taxes are being contemplated by the Ma Administration. These are good moves, like raising prices for gasoline and electricity -- though if the taxes fail to go through, it will leave the impression that, once again, regressive policies fall on the poor and middle class while the monied classes get off with low to no taxes. In any case, kudos to the Ma Administration for at least contemplating these eminently sensible and long recommended moves.

Meanwhile the cutting of growth predictions continues apace as TIER released its latest prediction, dropping 2012 growth from 3.96% to 3.48%. Note that this is .48%, not .50%. Actually, research shows that 61.57% of all statistical claims are simply made up on the spot....

ADDED: The Taipei Times observed a couple of weeks ago:
Last week, the Asian Development Bank predicted GDP growth of 3.4 percent for Taiwan this year, which was lower than the 3.85 percent projected by the government in February. Some foreign banks have recently adjusted their GDP growth forecasts for Taiwan in response to the new risk factors, with UBS saying the economy would grow by just 1.5 percent this year, compared with Barclays’ 3 percent, DBS’ 2.9 percent, ANZ’s 3.56 percent and Citigroup’s 3.7 percent.
Apparently outsiders are far more pessimistic than the locals about the state of the economy.

The Ma Administration took another hit on the heels of the price increases for gas and electricity. US Beef imports? Hahaha. Another case of mad cow found in the US. This will only increase the dread factor and probably stop the Ma Administration's drive to resolve the beef mess with the US dead in the water.

I was suspicious of the pro-Green Taiwan Thinktank poll that showed Ma's popularity at post-Morakot levels but the rabidly pro-KMT TVBS backs them up. Their latest poll has Ma's approval rate at just 22% with 61% disapproving. It's just temporary; he'll return to the basic 30% approval level sooner or later.

Finally, a friend reminds me that the trade figures for March are out. He points out that March trade statistics showed that while overall exports declined by a y-o-y 3.2%, exports to China were down 7%, on par with the decline of exports to the US, but worse than the fall off in exports to Japan. Further, the only export growth was to the ASEAN-6, a large 11% increase. For the whole first quarter, the decline in exports to China (-9.7%) is greater than the decline in exports to the US (-7%), Japan (-6.8%), and Europe (-6.8%). Once again the only bright spot is the ASEAN-6 with a 7.7% growth in export to the region. (Total exports for QI are down 4.0%).

Remember when ECFA was going to save the economy by boosting exports to China AND give us FTAs with many other nations? Exports to China are not exactly exploding, while the growth is in the region where we don't have the FTAs we were promised. In fact, we have no FTAs at all. As my friend pointed out, the economy under the Ma Administration is actually vindicating the Lee Teng-hui/DPP "go south"/diversification policies.....
Daily Links:

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ROC Drags Taiwan into Beijing's South China Sea Cloud Cuckoo Land

Cain Nunn had an excellent piece in The Diplomat that echoed the concerns in my post from a couple of days ago....basically because Taipei claims to be the government of China, it claims the entire South China Sea (remember, the ROC proffered the famous Cow's Tongue map showing the entire area as China's prior to the PRC). This claim puts it at odds with potential allies, and hugely complicates America's security picture. Nunn has some great quotes:
Taipei makes its claim under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which would be fine if it was a party to UNCLOS, or any other U.N. body or agreement. But the Republic of China was expelled from the United Nations in 1971, when the General Assembly recognized “the Peoples’ Republic of China as the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations.”

While Beijing’s oft-criticized “nine-dotted line” claim has been ridiculed by its Association of Southeast Asian Nation neighbors, Taiwan’s virtually identical declaration has been hammered as “frivolous” and “out of touch with Asia’s diplomatic reality.”

“I wish they would shut up. There isn’t a single Asian country that even recognizes them. How are they relevant?” asks one Southeast Asian diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They lost their war 65 years ago and they still act like they are a great power. You would think show some humility where these frivolous claims are concerned. Discretion being the better part of valor, and all that.”
Even more importantly....
“They are working with China on this because our claim backs up Beijing’s. It’s this arrogance of a grand ultra-nationalist vision. But I would argue that if you want to use claims like this as potential bargaining chip in negotiations with China then there should be some credibility to them,” says Michael Kau, a former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs under the independence leaning Democratic Progressive Party. “This idea of treating this huge body of water as ours by right of dubious historical claims, it’s not only not credible, it’s crazy.” 
The DPP/KMT stability effect is not so easy to sort out. The PRC might be happy with Ma because he shares their right-wing Chinese nationalism -- in some ways the ROC is even farther right than the PRC. Recall that when the US handed back Okinawa to Japan the ROC protested -- Okinawa is "stolen territory" to many right-wing Chinese, awaiting recovery....

But here, as I have noted many times, is where Washington's Asia policy embodies a serious contradiction. Having Ma in office complicates things in the South China Sea -- where the US just conducted military exercises with Manila. Beijing rescuing Taipei in a confrontation is not yet in the cards, but it is barely visible on the horizon, like a false dawn, the kind the Arabs call the wolf's tail...

Ideally the DPP might be persuaded to be more rational about Taiwan's claims, as the quote from Michael Kau indicates. Problem is, that when the DPP was in office it used those islands for PR stunts while enhancing sovereignty claims. President Chen visited the Dongsha Islands three times while in office, and it was under him that they were designated a national marine park. He also visited Taiping Island in February of 2008 just before the election. It would be great if the DPP would spend some time educating its followers that Taiwan independence means being independent of Beijing's claims to the Senkakus and the South China Sea.

BTW, Nunn's claims about the national territory of China and the ROC Constitution are mostly wrong. Bo Tedards took the Taipei Times to task for similar mistakes a few weeks ago. Great article....

In a related view, The Taiwan Link has another high quality post that asks how the US should adjust its policies to the new realities in this part of the world. A taste:
The key question we should be asking is this: How could U.S. policy toward Taiwan best reflect a more accurate representation of the status quo in the Taiwan Strait? An unintended consequence of a thoughtful review of the TRA is the introduction of alternatives. When compared side by side, normalization of relations with both sides of the Taiwan Strait -- the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) -- is more consistent with US interests than abandonment of principles through repeal of the TRA. The more the Beijing and its supporters push for abrogation of the TRA, and by extension full adoption of the CCP position on sovereignty, the more attention should be directed toward the most viable alternative -- normalization of diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Go thou and read!
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Monday, April 23, 2012

Democrats Abroad Global Primary!!

Come out and vote! This is your chance to actually cast a ballot for a US primary election right here in Taiwan! If you haven't and don't plan on participating in your home state's primary election this year, you can vote in this year's Democratic Party Global Primary.

What is the Global Primary? Basically, Democrats Abroad, internationally, is treated as if it were a 51st state party -- and just like the states have presidential primaries, so do we! Now, our choice for president is really simple this year -- it's Barack Obama. However we'll also be electing the delegates from within the Asia-Pacific region who will attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC in September!!

Click on Read More for more information!

Yet another convicted big name goes missing before prison date

When is it going to stop? In Taiwan, after you have been convicted, the judiciary orders you to appear to start your sentence instead of remanding you to custody immediately like the do in many other countries. This results in countless cases like the one this week where a major criminal simply doesn't show:
Former legislator Lo Fu-chu (羅福助), who was convicted of securities violations, has gone missing days before starting a four-year prison term, leading to airports and seaports being put on a state of alert.
Lo is a famous politician and former "spiritual head" of the island's organized crime alliance (more). Lo has probably not left the island yet, but if he does, the likely goal is China, the land of choice Taiwan criminals who fail to show up to start their sentences. Ironically, there's a trickle in the other direction, the China Post notes in a case about a judge who had been repatriated after fleeing to China to avoid a bribery sentence:
Such bilateral cooperation goes both ways. A 30-year-old Chinese national surnamed Huang, who was charged with murder in Jiangsu Province, China, and had been hiding in Taiwan for eight years. Huang was repatriated from Taiwan to China via on Friday night.
However, as the Taipei Times reported in the massive Rebar case in 2007, when Rebar head Wang You-theng fled first to Hong Kong and China ahead of the bankruptcy of his company....
Although China and Taiwan have a very low-key extradition program, it is almost invariably reserved for petty or violent criminals. It is rare, if not unprecedented, for people suspected of white-collar crimes or corruption to be returned to Taiwan.
The Taipei Times observed three years ago: "Of the 85 major Taiwanese economic criminals who have fled to China over the past 10 years, only one has been returned to Taiwan..." Famed white collar criminals now in residence there include Chen You-hao, who left behind US$2 billion in bank loans, and Tseng Cheng-jen of the Kuangsan Group. National Security Bureau chief cashier Liu Kuan-chun, who allegedly embezzled US$5.9 million, disappeared to China in 2000. While China has repatriated over 100 criminals, few have been really big names such as those.

Notoriously, many Taiwan gangsters have moved across the Strait to start new lives in the rich criminal underworld of China. If Lo flees there, it seems likely he'll fit right in....
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Daily Links, April 23, 2012

Some links for you to wallow in....


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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vietnam vs Taiwan in the South China Sea

In recent weeks a number of pieces have discussed the prospects and issues swirling around deeper US involvement in Asia and its meaning for Taiwan (Hsiao/Stokes, J Michael Cole). An apparent confrontation between forces from Vietnam and Taiwan highlights an aspect of this issue -- Taiwan cannot join a US-led alliance to contain Chinese expansionism because its government imagines that it is the legitimate ruler of China and thus makes exactly the same claims to the South China Sea that Beijing does. This means that it is confronting the same nations Beijing is.... and causes the same tensions. Let's hope the next government is wiser.

This week media reports started trickling in from several Asian papers saying that the Vietnamese had engaged in a little realpolitik with Taiwan over the Spratlys. The China Post reported:
The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) yesterday confirmed that Vietnamese patrol vessels twice intruded into Taiwan-controlled waters in the South China Sea last month and were forced to leave the country's territory by coast guard forces.

The Vietnamese vessels were found in restricted waters near Taiping Island, (太平島) the largest island in the Spratlys archipelago, on March 22 and 26, the CGA said.

On March 22, two of the Coast Guard's M8 speedboats were dispatched to intercept two patrol vessels at near Taiping. The Vietnamese vessels left after the CGA speedboats arrived. On the March 26 incident, two Vietnamese ships also entered waters near the island, according to the CGA.

The two ships later left the restricted waters shortly after discovering they were being monitored by the Coast Guard's radar, the CGA said.

No weapons were fired during both incidents, according to the CGA, refuting media speculation that both sides exchanged warning shots during the March 22 confrontation, which has escalated the already heated sovereignty dispute in the region.
The CNA reported on it a couple of days ago. Just imagine if the Chinese started backing up Nationalist forces in a confrontation.....

This story appears as providential justification for Taiwan's purchase of four Perry-class warships from the US.....

REFWiki on the Spratly dispute
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Saturday, April 21, 2012

US-Taiwan relations

Blogger switched me over to the new blogger look today. The new Google reader look was just awful, like watching an iceberg melt in a dull gray ocean against a flat, overcast sky. Then they decided to change Gmail to a similar look. Felt rather like a prisoner on death row with only one tiny overhead window in the cell. Now this week they've switched Blogger over to the same look, like an aged leper, painful to behold, and uglier than the first 500 sins committed by drunken soldiery plundering a captured city. I know it's a revolutionary idea, but why not simply give the user a choice of looks and styles? Imagine that.... Fortunately they are letting users revert to the easy to use old look.

Lots going on this week with US-Taiwan relations and East Asian foreign policy affairs. At the CSIS forum, American academics emphasized that Taiwan remains a vital interest of the US:
Answering a question from the audience, Gregson dismissed the idea of the US abandoning Taiwan to foster a better relationship with China.

“Abandon Taiwan? Absolutely not,” he said, adding that the US had vital interests in the region.
Gregson was speaking at a forum on “US Strategy in Asia and Taiwan’s Future” hosted by the US-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies.

At a roundtable discussion, US economic adviser Kevin Nealer said the US would like to see Taiwan join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in its formative stage to help shape the regional economy.
“We think it’s in our interests. We think it’s in yours,” he said.

Abe Denmark, a senior project director for political and security affairs at the National Bureau of Asian Research, presented his views on the US’ new strategic guidance released by the US Department of Defense earlier this year.

Denmark said the US’ rebalancing strategy in Asia has three implications for Taiwan — although Taiwan is not specifically mentioned in the guidance.
I can't help but note that people are constantly talking about this "rebalancing" or "pivot" as if something is actually happening. Hello! Can anyone point to abundant concrete examples of this new policy? Troop and ship redeployments? Drawdown and termination of the stupidity and folly in Afghanistan? Increased investment in weapons systems needed to fight wars in far-off Asia? It looks for now like another of the endless examples of Obama trying to create reality through better rhetoric. Indeed, the US has "rebalanced" by increasing its outrageously stupid and criminal drone war in the Middle East. Future historians will be driven to opium consumption when they contemplate the monumental stupidity of US Middle East policy under Bush Lite and Obama.

J Michael Cole, tiger of many talents, left his spoor in The Diplomat with a sturdy piece on what the US needs to do if it wants to deter a clash over Taiwan -- make the island bristle with missiles:
Although MTCR play an important role in countering proliferation, their enforcement on Taiwan, a state that has no expansionist ambition whatsoever, while China continues to extend the range and precision and destructiveness of its own missile arsenal thanks to technology passed on by (or stolen from) Russia, makes no sense. In light of this, and to rectify the “balance of terror” in the Taiwan Strait – which under current conditions is one-way – the U.S. should within reason allow Taiwan, if not quietly assist it, to develop longer-range ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as artillery capable of acting in a counterforce role, and coastal suppression munitions, which is already found on some of Taiwan’s air-launched Harpoon missiles. Dispersing the deployment of such forces, as well as making them mobile through the use of transport erector launcher (TEL) vehicles rather than fixed bases, would also increase the deterrence value.

In return, Taiwan should commit to ensuring that whatever missile technology is acquired from the U.S. won’t be proliferated, while boosting efforts to ensure that critical information isn’t passed on to, or stolen by, China. While self-evident, Taiwan should also commit to a no-first-use policy, thus making its offensive capability a purely defensive one. One advantage for the U.S. in adopting such a strategy of assistance for Taiwan is that the political cost of doing so in terms of Washington’s relations with Beijing would likely be smaller than, say, in releasing F-16C/Ds or approving a submarine program. Another benefit in the long term is that the resultant deterrence capability for Taiwan would make war in the Strait less, rather than more, likely, as the cost for the PLA of launching an attack on Taiwan would have been increased. For Taiwan, embarking on such a program would prove far less straining on its finite military budgets than the acquisition of billion-dollar platforms of questionable utility in a modern Taiwan Strait context.
I've been saying this for years. It's time to give Taiwan what it needs to keep Chinese forces at bay until the cavalry arrive. Missiles are a cheap and useful deterrent.

Also, a couple of weeks ago a delegation of the US Republican Party visited Taipei. Here's a key part of their report:
American-Taiwan relationship issues raised by Taiwan officials during our meetings included:

1. Their desire to purchase F16 C/D aircraft as well as other sophisticated military hardware.

2. They would also like to receive Visa Waivers.

3. Concern that South Korea would soon receive tariff- free status, putting Taiwan at a commercial disadvantage.

At our meeting with AIT, the issue of American beef and pork imports was discussed. Taiwan does not allow American beef or pork to be imported because of their concern over a chemical feed additive, ractopamin, that we consider safe, so their market is off-limit to US farmers. AIT said that pork producers are a powerful political block in Taiwan.

Taiwan now has robust economic ties with mainland China. Many manufacturers have their products made in China. There are now hundreds of weekly flights between the two countries, with thousands of mainland Chinese visiting Taiwan. Many believe that with more mainlanders visiting Taiwan, they will learn about a free society and may have a better understanding of how democracy works. During the recent presidential election, millions of mainlanders intently followed the election on the internet.

As Taiwan seeks a closer relationship with mainland China and as their economic ties with China become intertwined and increasingly dependent, they are keenly aware of the precarious position they may be creating. One graphic statement by the Vice President of the KMT, the political party in power, illustrated this concern. He stated that Taiwan is “Dancing with a wolf…while holding a dagger at its side for protection …the dagger representing American strength and support.”
Curiously, the KMT continues to insist it wants F-16s -- remember when the party blocked them from reaching the floor of the legislature more than 60 times during the Chen era. They are just playing a game....

Just for fun: Lee Teng-hui this week said the Senkakus actually belong to Japan. ChinaSMACK picked up some of the reaction from the Chinese netizens. They've imbibed PRC propaganda so deeply that I've come to believe that a democratic China would be just as expanionist.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

One Country, Two Systems = My Way or the Highway

Cloud over Taichung city.

Some of you may remember the poll from a while back that showed growing identification as Hong Kongers rather than PRC citizens in Hong Kong.... a friend passed this around, remarking that it gives great insight into what "One Country, Two Systems" really means to the imperialists in Beijing....

Dear Colleagues,

There will be a motion debate on "Defending academic freedom and institutional autonomy" moved by Mr. Cheung Man Kwong, Legislative Councilor (Education Constituency) next Wednesday (25th April 2012). We are preparing the speech. Suggestions and comments are welcome. The wording of the motion is listed below:

Defending academic freedom and institutional autonomy

Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong to move the following motion: (Translation)

That this Council condemns HAO Tiechuan, Director-General of the Publicity, Culture and Sports Department of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, for publicly criticizing a number of times the public opinion poll on Hong Kong people’s ethnic identity under the charge of Robert CHUNG, scholar of The University of Hong Kong, as ‘unscientific’ and ‘illogical’, and creating a chilling effect through political interference in academic pursuit, which is in contravention of the spirit of Article 137 of the Basic Law which provides that ‘[e]ducational institutions of all kinds may retain their autonomy and enjoy academic freedom’, as well as the provision of Article 22 of the Basic Law, i.e. ‘[n]o department of the Central People’s Government and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with this Law’; in this connection, this Council urges the Government and educational institutions to legislate for safeguarding academic freedom and to ensure that scholars can enjoy academic freedom in accordance with law, free from any interference and fear; academic freedom is the cornerstone for promoting social civilization and progress as well as an integral part of the autonomy of educational institutions, and therefore universities must not respond in silence to the interference and intimidation faced by their teaching staff and students, and not curry favour with and bow to the rich and powerful in the face of their enticement and pressure, in order to defend the legitimate autonomy and dignity of universities.
(Legislative Council Meeting Agenda)

If you have any opinions about this motion, please feel free to e-mail us.

Best Regards,

Fung Wai Wah
HKPTU President
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

CNN iReport on Taiwan's Nurses

A Taiwan nurse speaks out on CNN:
When all of the medical workers in an unhealthy working environment, the patient must to facing a high risk care quality, because in Taiwan, every nurse should take care of at least eight patients in morning shift, even more. Over twelve patients in afternoon shift and almost take care of nearly twenty patients in night shift! That’s pretty incredible.

Nurses in Taiwan are not only superwomen or supermen, but are also patients. Staff shortages happened in past ten years, the trickiest thing is that Nurses do not have right to sick anymore, only because of nurses shortages. Taiwan's hospitals manager will not let their nurse get a sick leave if the nurse still able to walk even in public hospital system.

The Nurse’s working hour in Taiwan often over ten hours every shift, even more. However, the hospital did not give overtime fee; they only give nurses unreasonable pay to buy their break off. The medical environment of the culprit was created by the National Health Insurance System.
The emoting here is offputting, but the information is correct, as I noted in the post a few posts below this one. It would have been great if she had found a native speaker to edit it properly. But it would have been even better if she had identified the real culprit: the fact that many hospitals are essentially for-profit concerns that run by farming the government subsidy, and thus, nurses represent costly labor rather than profit centers. Taiwan institutions, whether public or private, health or manufacturing, all treat labor the same way. The real issue is not the NHI but that in Taiwan a nurse is like most laborers, without a real union.
Daily Links:
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Irrigation Annexation

The irrigation associations were in the news this week as the KMT proposed a bald-faced annexation scheme for them....
A proposal by the Taiwan Joint Irrigation Association (TJIA) president to have presidents and commissioners of irrigation associations directly appointed by the government rather than elected from among representatives has sparked accusations of being anti-democratic.

Yang Ming-feng (楊明風) said the direct appointments would help curb rampant bribery and violence surrounding the votes.

Yang, who doubles as president of Chia Nan Irrigation Association, submitted the proposal during a members’ convention of the TJIA earlier this month, in which he proposed an amendment to the Irrigation Association Organization General Principles (農田水利會組織通則) to replace the current system for selecting association presidents and commissioners with direct appointment by the government.

Before 1994, members of irrigation associations were put in charge of selecting their representatives, while the latter took charge of electing association presidents, the proposal said.
However, such an election system led to vote-buying and violence, forcing the legislature to amend the principles.
The irrigation associations (and fisheries and farmers associations and similar) are important sources of local patronage for construction and other industries, and thus, centers of local political struggles. From the national point of view, they are key associations for local agriculture, an important locus of opposition to the Ma Administration's ECFA and China trade moves.

The last election for the associations was in 2010. At that time the DPP held just one seat but increased to four seats after the election, perhaps a sign of dissatisfaction with the Ma Administration (but perhaps also just the result of temporary local factors). The death grip of the KMT on local politics, an important source of its power, is shown right there -- prior to that election the KMT held all but two of the irrigation association directorships.

The associations are government funded via the COA (2.3 billion NT in 2010), and the Ma Administration wants them under the thumb of its appointees. The KMT's ability to bring the institutions of society under its control is a key factor in its continuing dominance of the island's political life. If the Ma Administration is able to put its own people in those posts, its ability to punish and reward will be greatly magnified, especially in areas where there is widespread opposition to its policies.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Daily Links, April 17, 2012: Day late edition

Sorry! Much too busy yesterday! Only a short list for today....

DON'T MISS: Project 2049's report Chinese Reactions to US Arms Sales to Taiwan. Discussions, history, references, chronologies. Very useful.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Stokes and Hsaio on the US Strategy and Taiwan

Somebody is at last saying openly that Taiwan needs greater integration into the US defense screen. Stokes and Hsiao rock the conventional wisdom in explaining Why the US Military Needs Taiwan....
Addressing these challenges requires greater collaboration not only within the U.S. defense establishment, but effective leveraging of talents of allies and ad hoc coalition partners in the region. The U.S. reportedly has begun examining how to diversify defense relations with traditional allies in the region, such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia. Yet, little consideration appears to have been given to the significant role that Taiwan could play in an evolving U.S. defense strategy, including the JOAC and Air-Sea Battle. Taiwan’s future and U.S. interests in regional security are intimately related. Indeed, Taiwan is a core interest of the United States and has a pivotal role to play as an ad hoc coalition partner in Air-Sea Battle, JOAC, and the strategic rebalancing in the Asia-Pacific.

First, Taiwan should be the central guiding focus of defense planning in the Asia-Pacific region. In assessing JOAC and Air-Sea Battle-related requirements, the greatest emphasis should be placed on contingency planning for a PLA amphibious invasion of Taiwan with minimal warning. Based on a premature and faulty assumption that cross-Strait trade and investment will inevitably lead toward Taiwan’s democratic submission to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authoritarian rule, prominent analysts have asserted that the focus of U.S. defense planning should shift toward the South China Sea and defense of the global commons.
Stokes and Hsiao call into question the inevitability thesis, that sooner or later China will absorb Taiwan as the inevitable result of increased links between the two. Like the way the US inevitably absorbed Canada... Consider also...
The fact is that no free and open society understands China as well as Taiwan. Unfortunately, few U.S. military officers conduct in-country training in Taiwan, and there are no known students attending Taiwan’s National Defense University (NDU) or other intermediate/senior service schools. More educational exchanges between the two defense establishments are warranted, particularly for junior and non-commissioned officers. Even as the Pentagon has actively pursued deeper and broader military-to-military relations with the PLA, the number of U.S.-Taiwanese conferences held on the PLA has dwindled.
Taiwan is a fabulously under-utilized platform. This piece would have been stronger if Hsiao and Stokes had explained how the US is going to get around the interpenetration of Taiwan's intelligence services by Beijing. Or how the US is going to work on deepening the alliance when a pro-China ideologue like Ma is in power. What S and H are really arguing is that the whole strategic thrust of US policy is headed down the wrong road. Those who envision standing up to Chinese expansion while handing over Taiwan to China are setting out to fight with one hand tied behind their back. This also means that the US is supporting the wrong party in Taiwan's politics; making the Chinese feel secure about Taiwan simply allows them to ramp up tensions elsewhere. But that goes without saying.

As if an ill omen of the coming hegemonic conflict in Asia, the standoff at Scarborough Shoal (the A on the map) is still ongoing as of yesterday....

Philippines has no real navy to speak of, China can simply brush it aside if it came to conflict. But the US has a security treaty with Philippines. I don't know how Washington interprets that treaty (would we go to war over some shoals in the South China Sea?). But I loved this report:
On Thursday, a Philippine Coast Guard vessel and a third Chinese ship from the Ministry of Agriculture arrived. Shortly after, BRP Gregorio del Pilar and one of the Chinese maritime surveillance ships pulled out of the area.
Does the Ministry of Agriculture in the PRC operate armed fishing vessels? It would indeed seem that way.
Daily Links:
  • Haha. Last time this ad was forwarded to me, "Amy Livingston" was in Taipei. If you run some Google searches you'll soon find that Amy is one of the great world travelers of our time, having made thousands while living in Dar es Salaam, Addis Ababa, and Goth Hashim Khan.
  • KMT wusses out, won't hold KMT-CCP forum in Taiwan. This means that the party forums are always held in China, where they can't be seen by pesky democratic eyes or protested by pesky democratic protesters. 
  • Satellite views of Taiwan
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Nursing a Grievance

This is a video of 500 nurses holding a meeting to complain about conditions at Taipei's Rungzung Hospital, a situation replicated all over Taiwan. The hospital was successful in keeping the media out of the meeting so this video comes from the cellphone of a participant.

According to the video, the hospital is short 171 nurses, and thus each of its nurses care for too many patients. Rungzung is famous; it has a 95% occupancy rate. The nursing shortage is paradoxical -- there are more nursing students then places for them, but then they leave the profession at greater rates than they enter when they realize how awful it is. At some hospitals the nurses clock out at the end of the shift as required by law but then work unpaid and unrecorded overtime, exploitative, illegal, and dangerous.

This is not a health industry problem but is par for the course in all sorts of production situations in Taiwan, especially where there is a moral or public service element involved (the police also have brutal schedules) but in general workers in offices and factories who work overtime without pay don't kill people when they make inevitable errors. These problems are only the tip of the iceberg, I hope to do some interviews of nurses before the summer and expand the list of issues. What I've already heard will make your hair turn white.

The first nurse to rise complains that they make $30,000 month as a nurse; on her recent trip to a Taichung night market she encountered a student worker making $33,000 a month selling fried octopus meatballs in the night market. "Shouldn't I go sell octopus balls in the night market?" she says, to everyone's laughter and resounding "yes!" Then she goes on: "those of you who have been here three years, four years, have you been promoted?" "No!" The next woman who stands up complains that the money the hospital has been spending on purchasing flowers to beautify the place should be going to paying the nurses.

Because it is doctors who generate income for the hospital by taking on patients, hospitals seek to maximize doctors and minimize nurses, who represent a cost to the institution, which are often privately owned and like so many large corporations in Taiwan, farming Taiwan's subsidy regime. At the bottom of the institutional pecking order, often from working class families, nurses are the target of the System's attempt to reduce costs by exploiting labor. The job is so awful that even nursing positions that pay as much as college professor positions go unfilled.....

Clearly reforming the NHI is going to involve much more than simply adjusting the billing and payment regimes. The whole approach to the use of labor is going to have to be rethought.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Another day of South China Sea Follies

A few days after a Communist Party mouthpiece denied plans for tourism in the Paracels, sure enough, Chinese tourists cruised there. Xinhua reported:
Tourism to the Paracels is important as "it is a declaration of sovereignty over the islands ... that have been a part of Chinese territory since ancient times", the official added.
The tourism angle has been appreciated for its sovereignty aspects by other nations as well. Layang-Layang Island in the South China Sea was built up for the Malaysian military and is now a world-famous dive site. It helps sustain Malaysia's claim to certain regions of the South China Sea (also claimed by China). Of course, Taiwan has designated the Dongsha a national park, upgrading its sovereignty over the area.

This news was overshadowed by the widely-reported standoff between Chinese gunboats and a Philippines cutter yesterday....
The two navies engaged each other after the Philippine vessel—a former Coast Guard cutter provided by the U.S. Navy—attempted to arrest the crew of several Chinese fishing boats who were anchored at Scarborough Shoal, off the Philippines' northwest coast but which is also claimed by China. The Philippine government said Chinese surveillance vessels intervened to prevent any arrests, leading to the standoff, and that Filipino sailors who inspected the Chinese vessels on Tuesday found illegally collected corals and live sharks in one of the fishing boats.
US policy is very interesting. In the case of Taiwan authorities here have heard nothing but abuse from American officials about "provoking" China -- Beijing won a huge victory there -- but Manila can kick as much sand in the face of the Chinese giant as it likes and from the US comes only....silence. This suggests that Philippines has US approval for what it is doing. Indeed the two nations are slated to begin military exercises this week. By prolonging the stalemate, US signals and satellite intelligence analysts can get a good picture of Beijing's communications with its forces in the South China Sea, its control over its various weapons systems, as well as snapshots of its logistical preparations.

The Philippines has deployed a second ship to the area to back up the first. Both sides appear to be moving toward a "diplomatic solution."

The importance of the South China Sea cannot be overestimated. It contains massive oil and gas deposits, the fourth largest reserve on earth according to PRC estimates. The PRC routinely threatens other nations for conducting geological surveys in the area. It also contains a third of the world's marine biodiversity along with more than 10% of the world fish catch. Much of the world’s oil and other products shipped to Asia passes through the South China Sea, roughly a third of the world's total shipping.

Note the careful neutrality of the news reports, which go out of their way to make a balance between Chinese and Philippine claims by merely reporting that the claims exist (with no thought to the history, which goes without saying). Recall the relentless pro-Beijing slant of the media when discussing China's desire to annex Taiwan. *sigh*

REF: Wiki for Scarborough Shoal

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) in Taiwan

A few posts down from this one I posted part of a conversation I had with a young nurses in the health system here. She had spoken of the lawsuit from the family of an accident victim against a team of neurosurgeons. Sure enough, today the Taipei Times hosted a piece  on the Increasing Cost of Saving Lives:
Seven years ago, surgeons at Tung’s Taichung MetroHarbor Hospital operated on a man who had suffered a head injury in a traffic accident, but the outcome was that the man ended up totally paralyzed and blind. At the end of last month, the -Taichung branch of the Taiwan High Court ruled that the hospital and the three doctors who performed the operation must pay the man’s family more than NT$33 million (US$1.1 million) in compensation.

One of the doctors is neurosurgeon Lee Ming-chung (李明鍾), who is famous for his valiant, though ultimately unsuccessfu, efforts to save the life of another brain trauma patient, a little girl surnamed named Chiu (邱), who had been turned away by several other hospitals.
The Chiu case was quite sad. Readers probably recall it. The girl had been beaten unconscious by her father and then refused at hospitals all over Taiwan claiming they had their quota of neurosurgical cases. She finally wound up at a hospital in Taichung, where she died.

Tung's is the big building with the rotating restaurant easily visible from almost anywhere between the slopes of Tatu Mountain and Taichung Harbor west of Taichung city. Despite its unusual name it is a first-rate and extremely well run hospital, where foreigners from ships in the harbor are taken for medical help. The sons of the founder ran for legislator posts in the recent election, some Blue, some Green.

The Taipei Times piece observes that one reason health care is cheap in Taiwan is because doctors are often not insured. Because litigation is so common -- it is not even more common because of the undersupply of lawyers -- doctors are becoming shy about entering professional specialties where the likelihood of lawsuits increases. The writer goes on:
Taiwan has the highest rate of PVS [persistent vegetative state] in the world. The number of PVS patients in the US is estimated to be somewhere between 15,000 and 40,000. According to available information, Taiwan had a total of 4,792 PVS patients as of 2008, and 6,000 PVS patients are now registered for care with the Genesis Social Welfare Foundation, a charity that specializes in this field. These figures suggest that not only does Taiwan have a very high rate of PVS, but the number of cases is increasing very fast. As to why people end up in this condition, the most common cause is scooter accidents, followed by overmedication.
I found this paragraph astonishing, since I'd never heard this distressing claim. The author notes that rates of PVS in Taiwan are 60% higher than in the US. In Taiwan PVS patients cannot be taken off life support at the request of the family; who must also help pay for the upkeep. This probably increases the number of  PVS cases. Another cause is likely the enormous number of scooters in Taiwan. Maintaining such patients is presented by the MOI as a "pro-life" position. Taiwan Panorama had an article on the local hospice system a while back, with some comparisons to similar systems in Japan:
The costs, in terms both of money and manpower, of the Japanese model are huge-monthly care for the average patient costs roughly NT$380,000, a world apart from the NT$50,000 spent by CSWF. As the majority of PVS patients in Japan entered their states through automobile accidents, much of the funding for their care comes from fees levied on vehicles for that very purpose. CSWF, on the other hand, receives only 10% of its funding from the government, with the remaining 90% coming from public donations.

After starting initial work on the hospice in 1980, Cao was finally able to open the hospice six years later, taking on patients from poorer families free of charge. To date, CSWF has cared for nearly 500 such patients.

Patients in vegetative states are cared for by professional caregivers at CSWF, with nurses providing care 24 hours a day over three shifts. Every two hours the patients are rolled over, patted on the back to help clear their airways, and have their linen changed, and they are fed once every four hours. They are washed every two days, to help maintain their cleanliness and hygiene, as well as their dignity.

Over the past 18 years, CSWF has opened branch hospices around the country. The goal is to have 23 locations in cities and counties throughout Taiwan, Cao says. Thus far they have completed 13, with another four in the planning stage, and the organization hopes to meet its goal within the next five years.
The GSWF home page is here.

UPDATE: A nursing professor explained to me that in cases of terminal disease, if the entire immediate family and the succeeding generation signs a DNR and the hospital ethics committee approves, then the tubes can be removed by doctor. This change was made last year. But for a coma patient whose prognosis is uncertain, that is still not possible.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Electricity, gas, water price spikes: politics as usual

Reuters reports:
Taiwan's economic ministry said on Monday that said Taipower has applied to raise electricity prices by mid-May in response to a surge in global crude prices this year.

State-owned Taipower has proposed raising electricity prices for industrial use by 20-30 percent and residential tariffs by up to 10 percent and commercial rates by more than 20 percent, the ministry said.
Taiwan Today offers additional information:
The latest statistics released by the U.S. Department of Energy reveal that Taiwan’s electricity rates for households and industrial users are the second and fourth lowest in the world.
The subsidy regime encourages the development of businesses like naptha cracking whose profitability derives largely from massive subsidies to electricity and water. One wonders whether the Ma Administration let the proposed naptha cracker in Changhua die because it realized that the project was going to be uneconomical once higher water and electricity prices were factored in, and the protests of environmentalists provided a convenient excuse.

The DPP is criticizing the government for hiking prices and for keeping them low before the election, and for not reviewing the CPC's pay policies. What they really should be doing is criticizing the government for its narrow-minded, unimaginative policies -- not providing monies and policy initiatives for weatherization and solarization, not promoting building codes to green Taiwan's infrastructure, not promoting cycling to work, not installing utility-scale wind, and similar. The DPP's criticisms lack vision.... for years Taiwanese have lived in a bubble created by subsidized water and electricity prices. Rude awakening time -- the DPP really ought to be thanking Ma for doing what Chen lacked the courage to do during his second administration.
Daily Links:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

A New Book: National Identity and Economic Interest

A great new book on Taiwan and its relationship with China.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Harvesting the Periphery

Readers will recall that at the end of 2010 Taiwan created new municipalities in Kaohsiung, Tainan, and Taichung in which the metropolitan areas swallowed the counties that surrounded them.

This took place because those counties were being shorted in the perennial struggle for flows of development money from the central government, which lavishes funds on Taipei city.

An additional factor here is that local governments are deeply in debt. Probably because their administration is a mess, the big municipal governments would say.

A couple of weeks ago we got a bill for over NT$1288 for water and garbage collection. This was done by the address: every house in our neighborhood -- us with 4 people, neighbors with 11, old lady up the street who lives alone -- got billed exactly the same amount. The bill was sent to everyone in the new Taichung municipality who used to live in what had been Taichung county but which had been annexed. There was naturally no vote held on whether or not we would be annexed to Taichung city -- in that respect it is rather like the KMT's attitude toward Taiwan and China.

The bill was for water and garbage collection for the previous year. Everyone who was using underground water, like us, from a private water source, had to pay even though we have been faithfully paying our private water supplier. Yes, that's right, we are paying twice for the water and no, it makes no sense whatsoever since we now have to pay for water we never received. But I can be content knowing that big manufacturers have subsidized water and they are making plenty of money and that's really what's important, right?

For those on government water, if you used the government water company's water, you had to present proof with the bill that you had paid by attaching the previous year's bills. This was despite the fact that all the clerk had to do was scan the bill against your address to see whether you had paid. The purpose of requiring extra paper gives every appearance of being to extract extra money from people who had lost/trashed their receipts, or were too lazy to find them. Fortunately my obsessive wife keeps all our stuff going back seven years against just this sort of bureaucratic extortion.

Meanwhile, the city government has stopped paying subsidies to many low income families since the merger because, it claims, it is still combining the systems and can't find them. How much do you want to bet they all got water bills?
Daily Links:
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.