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"Taiwan is not a province of China. The PRC flag has never flown over Taiwan."

Stick that in your clipboards and paste it, you so-called "lazy journalists"!

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

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Traitors within Taiwan's DPP cry foul, Taipei Times editors skip a dose

"Irony" out the details

It's like watching someone trapped in quicksand -- the more they struggle, the deeper they sink. After the hosts of the pro-independence radio show Taiwanese Club (台灣人俱樂部) criticized eleven "bandits" within the DPP, and party chairman Yu Shyi-kun stated that he wouldn't allow the China Times access to party officials, the "bandits" -- being bandits and all -- started flailing their arms about more wildly than usual, and they're already about chest-deep in the quicksand.

According to the Taipei Times article linked above, Taiwan's "Joe Lieberman," AKA Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄) went crying to -- can you guess who? -- the China Times to say that the eleven people named by the radio hosts "should rise together and fight back against the party's 'fundamentalists' so as to 'wake the party up.'" You see, that's been the problem all along. Now the quicksand is up to your neck, you fool.

Here's the kicker. Instead of trying to rekindle a "rational debate," these traitors struggled even harder with counterproductive statements such as this whopper:
"Party members would do better to attack our enemies [rather than us]," Tung said.
As there's no one named Tung anywhere else in the article, that is most likely Tuan Yi-kang speaking, and as I recall, it was these guys who attacked the DPP first. Now they're crying because people who vote for the DPP because of their platform don't want to be fooled again by people like Tuan, Shen, and Lin Cho-shui who go against the party platform at every turn? Dudes, the quicksand is already up to your nostrils, and true green supporters aren't gonna be the ones to extend a stick so you can pull them down with you.

Freedom of stupidity
The editors of the Taipei Times must be off their meds again as evidenced not only by the strange typo above, but also by today's editorial ("Yu slaps himself in the face") calling DPP chairman Yu Shyi-kun's statement about not allowing party officials to grant any more interviews to the mendacious China Times "self-defeating" and saying that "Yu's complaint stems from a piece of shoddy China Times journalism..." Tsk, tsk. If only it were that simple.

It isn't just a single "piece of shoddy [...] journalism" that is the problem. It's a long-running pattern that can be seen almost every day simply by reading the China Times' front page headlines and comparing them with reality. Why on earth would anyone willingly join in that unwinnable game? (Possible answers: They're fools or double agents.)

The Taipei Times editors go on to say, "The real question is whether he is entitled to cut off contact between the newspaper's reporters and the DPP." Did Yu do something illegal or immoral? Doesn't "freedom of speech" include "the right to remain silent"? The unmedicated editors continue with, "[T]here are now hundreds of new tantalizing sources for China Times reporters." Say, what?! Did those sources spontaneously come into existence when Yu spoke? Did the China Times never before use anonymous sources to smear the DPP? Don't kid yourselves!

Yu didn't shut the friggin' paper down, for cryin' out loud! Go get your prescriptions refilled or something, and stop slapping your readers in the face.

RELATED ARTICLE: 'China Times' ban gets mixed reaction

UPDATE: When I posted the above, I hadn't even seen Feiren's hard-hitting, well-detailed post from earlier today on the Yu Shyi-kun/China Times dispute. Be sure to give it the careful look it deserves.

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Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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Enemies of Press Freedom

ESWN's Roland Soong does a great service with his translations of Chinese-language media articles and often insightful commentary. His recent coverage of the bizarre case of a National Yunlin University of Science and Technology professor who may have cast a Taoist spell on another member of the faculty is a good example of his keen eye. I would be the first to say that I have learned a lot from his prolific posting.

However, when it comes to Taiwanese politics, Roland has an unfortunate tendency to select and amplify the views of Taiwan's pro-China media. This is doubly unfortunate because of the influence Roland apparently enjoys on foreign correspondents based in China. Rebecca MacKinnon recently posted the results of her survey on blogs and China correspondents, in which she noted:
ESWN and Danwei appear to be substantially more important to correspondents than other English-language China-focused blogs. [MacKinnon's emphasis]
In this rather long post, I summarize and comment on a typical example of ESWN's misleading work on Taiwanese politics: ESWN's treatment of DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun's dispute with the China Times and then translate an unrelated Chinese-language post that gives a far different impression of the whole affair. What I find particularly objectionable and intellectually dishonest are ESWN's rhetorical gestures toward objectivity by giving 'both sides' of the story and his suppression of the context that even relatively informed readers (such as China-based correspondents) need to make a critical judgment.

Yu Shyi-kun and the DPP: Enemies of Press Freedom?

ESWN paraphrases coverage of DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun's order prohibiting members of the party's leadership from giving interviews to the China Times and the China Times editorial response. ESWN's account however strongly suggests that Yu and the DPP are intolerant of press freedom, or in the very least are willing to sacrifice press freedom in the name of political expediency.
The Taiwan Journalist Association said yesterday that when the media publish inaccurate reports, the subject has the right to ask the media to retract/clarify as well as take legal action. Public figures have the obligation to be monitored by the media and criticized by the public Meanwhile, the media should stick to the professional duty to report accurately in terms of investigating and commenting.

Yesterday nineteen journalists on the DPP beat signed a joint letter to criticize the DPP for violating the reporting rights of the media. But the appropriate DPP officials called and applied pressure at several electronic media outlets. Shortly after the letter was released, the reporters from FTV and TTV withdrew their names from the letter.
In other words, professional journalists believe that Yu is "violating reporting rights." And the DPP strong armed dissident journalists who work for pro-DPP media outlets into withdrawing their voices from this consensus. But note carefully the unexplained statement that "the media should stick to the professional duty to report accurately in terms of investigating and commenting." This appears to be a general statement about the professional duties, but it in fact refers to a very specific and egregious breach of that duty as we shall see. ESWN chooses to let this pass without comment.

Next DPP sources are cited to show that even Yu's own party doesn't think much of the prohibition.
DPP legislator Huang Wei-Cher said that Chiang Kai-shek even read People's Daily. He believes that a boycott of China Times would have no effect. Another legislator said that the people of Taiwan generally suspect that the media are biased, and Yu is merely reflecting that belief. The boycott of China Times this time can be considered a tactical ploy by Yu in his presidential run.
While the nameless DPP legislator admits that Yu's prohibition will probably be popular with his party's rank and file, he then quickly reduces it to a cynical 'political ploy.' Yu doesn't actually believe in the boycott himself. He's just pandering to his supporters. In fact, one of the DPP's most important successes in the last year or so has been to convince its supporters that the mainstream media is dominated by pro-China interests who are eager to sell Taiwan down the line. This was borne out by the recent mayoral election results that shocked so many experts. Unlike the experts, DPP voters are tuning out the pro-China media.

Back to ESWN. Having set the table by quoting a neutral source and DPP sources, ESWN can now balance his story by translating the voice of the other side. A complete translation of the China Times editorial response to Yu's order follows. I'll comment on this in another post, but the point is while gestures have been made toward journalistic objectivity by quoting the two sides of the story plus a neutral authority, the take home message is that Yu (and extension the DPP) are enemies of press freedom.

Far worse in my view though is ESWN's failure to explain why Yu is suing the paper and why he feels that the China Times can't be trusted to report responsibly on the DPP

Who Said 'Chinese Pigs'?

A remarkably detailed post by He Bi over at Hi-on casts a very different light on Yu and his beef with the China Times. My translation follows with my notes in square brackets []. The headings in this section are He Bi's:
The first hearing in DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun's lawsuit against the China Times over the "Chinese Pig incident" was held on Dec. 28th. While taking questions from the media at Taipei District Court that morning, Yu announced that starting Dec. 28th, DPP party headquarters would no longer allow the China Times to cover party headquarters and that the DPP will no longer endorse or confirm China Times reporting about the DPP.

Yu said that the China Times used to be a liberal paper [in the sense of classical liberalism] and was comparatively objective and neutral. But ever since Wang Chien-chuang became editor in chief of the China Times, the paper's news coverage had gone badly off key.

[Note that Wang Chien-chuang was the editor of The Journalist when Annette Lu succesfully sued the magazine for defamation after the The Journalist ran a story that they couldn't prove claiming that Annette Lu had said in taped phone call that Chen Shui-bian and Hsiao Bi-kim were having an affair. The bad blood between the DPP and Wang goes back along way.]

[Skip a paragraph about Yu's silly punning on the name of the China Times.]
Archives of the 'Chinese Pig' Incident

The Sept. 25th edition of the China Times ran a front-page story stating that "DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun's comments about 'Chinese pigs' 中國豬 is causing controversy within the DPP." [underlined in red in the scan below.]



The China Times Ignores Yu's Protests

Beginning on September 21st, the China Times ran repeated stories mentioning that Shih Ming-teh or Wang Li-ping had said on multiple occasions that DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun had called people in the anti-Chen movement 'Chinese pigs.' The DPP released several statements denying this, but the China Times not only refused to publish a retraction, but also went ahead and published the front-page Sept. 25th story on the broad political situation in which the paper said that Yu's "incendiary comments about 'Chinese pigs' 中國豬" were triggering opposition within the party." Yu decided to sue the paper for libel based on this story.

Let's review the real facts. The phrase 'Chinese pigs' first appeared on page A3 of the Sept. 19th edition of the United Daily news and page A4 of the China Times. A China Central News agency story released at noon the same day also used the phrase.

On the night of Sept. 18th anti-Chen demonstrators and Chen supporters clashed in Kaohsiung. On page A3 of its Sept. 19th edition, the United Daily Newss ran a story by Chen Jinsheng 陳金聲 and Xiong Naiqi 熊迺祺 with the headline "Six Hour Standoff Ended by Dawn Strike." The story stated:
"This is Dog Beating City [Kaoshiung] not Taipei City. Chinese Pigs go home." At around 11:00pm nearly 2,000 Chen supporters were staring at less than 100 red-shirted anti-Chen demonstrators across a police line and crowd control barriers. The Chen supporters were highly emotional: Shouts of "Go A-bian! Go Taiwan!" were mixed in with screams from air horns. One could smell the explosive atmosphere.
The United Daily News story did not identify who said "Chinese pigs," but from the context, the story seems to be identifying someone in the crowd of Chen supporters as having shouted the phrase. Incidentally this story was very quickly quoted in the [Malaysian] Sin Chew Daily and other overseas Chinese media.

The China Times ran a story by Jiang Huizhen 江慧真 and Fanjiang Taiji 范姜泰基 headlined "Shih Ming-teh: Bloody Conflict Only Hurts the Chen Regime" on page A4 of its Sept. 21 edition. This story was the first time that the phrase 'Chinese pigs" was uttered by Shih Ming-teh, the leader of the Red Army on Ketegalan Boulevard:
...Shih Ming-teh went on to accuse DPP headquarters of deliberately twisting the anti-Chen movement into "Chinese bullying Taiwanese" and wanting "Chinese pigs" to go back home. [The DPP's] inflaming and controlling the passions of the ten percent or so of the people will only lead to more polarization and greater divisiveness in Taiwanese society...
The Central News Agency then released a story headlined "The Double Tenth Siege? Wang Li-ping Says No Need to Apply for Permit" at 12:53pm the same day by reporter Wen Xianggui 溫貴香. The story reported:
...Wang Liping went onto the stage and told the sit-in participants that Yu was a "politcian without a conscience" for called anti-Chen protestors "Chinese pigs." She said that the chairman of the ruling party was creating internal contradiction within Taiwan by constantly dividing, provoking, and tearing apart the Taiwanese people and that his love for Taiwan was a love that excludes...
On September 22, the China Times ran a story on page A3 by reporters Luo Rulan 羅如蘭 and Xiao Xucen 蕭旭岑 headlined "Anti-Chen Headquarters Criticizes Electronic Media for Smearing them Red: Plans to Sue." The story stated "...Anti-Chen Movement Vice Convener Wang Liping criticized DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun for having called the anti-Chen movement Chinese pigs and said that he was "politcian without a conscience."

Shih Ming-teh and Wang Liping Stuff 'Chinese Pigs' into Yu's Mouth

The Sept. 22 edition of the China Times ran a story on page A4 by reporter Luo Ru-lan headlined "Shih Ming-teh Apologizes for Red Shirt Demonstrators' Beating People." The story reported:
...Shih Ming-teh said that Yu had called [罵] the anti-Chen movement for being "Chinese bullying Taiwanese" and had called him [Shih] " a Chinese pig." Shih said that he had at least led Yu Shyi-kun and Chen Shui-bian onto the streets to shout down [the KMT government]. "Do you mean that you were being led by a Chinese pig back then?"...
The Central News Agency released a story on Sept. 23 at 11:01pm by reporter Lin Yijun with the headline "Shih Ming-teh Cries: Feels Hurt at Being Called Chinese Pig." The story stated:

...Anti-Corruption Campaign Convener Shih Ming-teh said today that he was really very sad that his DPP friends had fallen so far. Even someone like him was being called a "Chinese Pig," "a Chinese Bullying Taiwanese," and the "Number One Warrior in the Sell Out Taiwan Gang." Shih was so hurt by this that he cried on stage and off stageIn its Sept 25th front page story by Lin Shuling 林淑玲 and Cai Huizhen 蔡慧貞 "Going over the head of the Party and the Presidential Office, Su [Tseng-chang] Invites Leaders from All Parties to Discuss National Affairs" the China Times said that:...DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun's recent moves to counterattack against the anti-Chen movement and his incendiary comments about "Chinese pigs" are triggering opposition within the party. President Chen meanwhile accepted Yu's invitation to attend a "Seminar on Constitutional Reform" and said that there was a need to resolve issues in the current constitution relating to national territory. As anti-Chen demonstrations rage on, the president and the party are aligning themselves with the depp greens. But Su Tseng-chang is holding bipartisan meetings that are putting him on a very different path than the one Chen and Yu are on: a path to the center...
TVBS then ran a story at 6:16pm on Sept. 25th entitled "Who Said Chinese Pigs? Yu Accuses Wang Liping: Wang Says She Doesn't Remember." The story reported that:
Wang Liping has changed her statements and is now saying that she doesn't know who said it:...But if we look for the source, we find that reporters from most papers have quoted Wang Liping as publicly saying at the sit-in on Ketagalan Boulevard that Yu Shyi-kun had called the anti-Chen movement "Chinese pigs." But while giving an interview to a TVBS reporter, she has changed her story and is distancing herself from the statement in low key way....[Wang said] she doesn't know who said it and that legal disputes should be left to Yu and the media to resolve.
The China Times Issues an Apology the Next Day with a Brief Statement

On Sept. 26th the China Times ran a story on page A2 with the headline "Yu Shyi-kun Sues Media for Reports that Yu Said 'Chinese Pigs.'" The story reported on Yu's denial and that he had filed a lawsuit. That same day the paper also ran a brief statement of correction (小啟) from the "China Times Editorial Department" stating:
DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun recently had made statements including "the anti-Chen movement is Chinese bullying Taiwanese" that have raised concerns about ethnic conflict in all sectors of society. We have, however, reviewed this matter and have determined that Chairman Yu never said the phrase "Chinese pigs" as reported in this newpaper's front page on Sept. 25th. We hereby rectify [this error] and apologize to Chairman Yu.
An Apology in the Back Alley? Yu Shyi-kun to Press Suit

Faced with clear evidence of its error, the China Times formally apologized in Sept. 26th. But the paper failed to change its practice of "Cussing people out on main street but apologizing in a back alley."
On Sept. 30th, the DPP held a "Taiwan Stand Up" rally in Kaohsiung. Yu Shyi-kun issued a Three Dont's policy against the China Times: "Don't buy, Don't read, and Don't advertise." Yu criticized the paper for its unfair coverage over the last year and its outrageous smears against and distortions of the DPP. In particular, Yu said, his recent discussion of national identity had been twisted into an attempt to stir up ethnic issues. In fact, Yu said, those who are actually stirring up ethnic issues are in the "pro-China media" He accused the China Times of having no journalistic integrity and said he would pursue them to the extent of the law.

[End of translation]
Imagine for a moment if the New York Times falsely reported in a front page story that the chairman of the Republican Party had called anti-war protesters 'niggers' and that the paper then had reluctantly published a rinky-dink half apology inside the paper after the subject of the story had attempted for days to correct the story. You bet our hypothetical chairman would be furious. And that his organization wouldn't be granting (note the discretionary nature of the English word) any interviews to the Times. I'd also bet that the editor of any self-respecting paper who made an error like this would be fired. But no, Yu and the DPP are enemies of press freedom.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

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Pro-independence group wants Taiwan's DPP to take out the trash

Spies like them, they like spies?
Hosts of a pro-independence radio show called "Taiwanese Club" (台灣人俱樂部) are asking for some necessary housecleaning to be done within Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and this sounds like something I can agree with. Yesterday's Taipei Times detailed the hosts' "Surgical Blade Action" (手術刀) campaign:
The action was aimed at members of the DPP's former New Tide faction -- such as former legislators Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康), Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) and Lin Cho-shui (林濁水), and Legislators Hong Chi-chang (洪奇昌) and Shen Fa-hui (沈發惠) -- who are known for their outspokenness, and for finding fault with the party's action and rhetoric.

Former legislators Lo Wen-chia (羅文嘉) and Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄) and Legislator Kuo Jeng-liang (郭正亮), all of whom do not belong to the faction, were also targeted because they have often criticized the party.

In a recording posted on the campaign's official Web log, one of the hosts nicknamed "A-sheng" (阿生) said: "Many party officials made comments that broke [DPP] supporters' hearts at critical moments. We, as DPP supporters, have put up [with their comments] for a long time. It's time to show our anger."

"If they are the party's nominees or candidates for national constituency in next year's legislative election, we will not vote for them. The DPP is going to lose some [legislative] seats," he added.
The enemies within
It's about time. If the entire group isn't spies running black ops for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or even China, they might as well be, and their foul odor has been stinking up the place for way too long already.

What have they done to deserve this?
It's not just about "criticism." In case you're unaware, here are a couple of the things which put these so-called "light greens" clearly in the "blue-to-deep blue" category:
* Tuan Yi-kang was on Tuesday night's "Talking Show" (大話新聞) attempting to defend his criticism of the DPP. One argument that he made was that the China Times had "misquoted" him. However, he didn't complain about their supposed misquote until host Cheng Hung-yi asked him about it, and furthermore, he did little to counter the accusation. Finally, he could only hem and haw as to why he kept giving interviews to the China Times when they had repeatedly -- in his own words -- "misquoted" him. To me, that paints him as quite "un-green."

* Whenever Lin Cho-shui appears on TV, I wonder what anti-DPP talking points he's going to spew and why at that point in time. Just about two weeks ago he had this to say, "I don't see any reason to oppose the three direct links or why the [current China-bound investment] cap of 40 percent [of a company's net value], which I had ten years ago, is still in existence." I saw Lin recently on former New Party legislator Kao Hui-yu's (高惠宇) talk show "Hui-yu Looks at the World" (惠宇看天下), and there didn't seem to be a smidgen of disagreement between them. He'll abuse any chance to kick the DPP when they're already being attacked by the opposition. Green? My ass!

* Shen Fu-hsiung (AKA "Taiwan's Joe Lieberman"), who always seems to be talking at people down his nose and over his shoulder, "doesn't regret becoming business partners with dedicated unificationists" Dr. Timothy Ting (丁庭宇) of the fake "Gallup Taiwan" organization and UFO Radio chairman Jaw Shaw-kong (趙少康). They were partners, by the way, "in a polling company joint venture." I can't determine if it's one and the same with the fake Gallup, but there isn't a speck of green to be found on Shen's side of the fence.
Here's a much longer and more detailed list (Hanzi) of why this housecleaning is necessary.

Does this have anything to do with "criticism," "discussion," or "press freedom"?
In response to a counterattack on Luo Wen-chia by others within the DPP for what was at best some poorly-timed criticism, Luo said on his personal blog, "Has our society become so crazy that there is no room for reasonable discussion?" That question baits the reader with a false argument. To rephrase the question better, I'd ask, "Does Luo's criticism count as reasonable discussion?"

My own answer is a resounding "No!" and here's why. When I have suggestions or criticism of people I consider to be on my side, I try to present them in private -- not in speeches on the other side of the world to be broadcast by ETTV, as Luo did, or in interviews with the mendacious China Times, as Tuan did. Those types of things most certainly don't count as "reasonable discussion." These guys have done this repeatedly, and it's high time it stops.

DPP chairman Yu Shyi-kun just announced a "boycott" of the China Times. Today's Taipei Times says that the DPP will "refuse [China Times reporters] access to party officials." Although the article doesn't mention Tuan Yi-kang, it does bring up a case where the China Times "claimed that Yu used the pejorative term 'Chinese pigs' to refer to anti-President-Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) protesters in a front page story on Sept. 25." Even though the China Times acknowledged that the article's accusations were "groundless," Yu continued with his lawsuit against the paper.

The China Times' response to Yu's statement yesterday reveals much about their own position. As told by the Taipei Times: "In an official statement issued late last night, the China Times said that [Yu's] comments would be regarded as slander." My interpretation: "We can lie about you, but if you stop talking to us because of it, it's slander." Don't try too hard wrapping your brain around that. It's absolute nonsense!

The above article goes on to show the China Times defending those within the DPP who are apparently friendly with that paper. (See the subsection headed "Damaging.") Excise those names from the DPP roster before the 2007 legislative election gets too near. They won't be missed.

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Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

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Dr. Hsieh and the Pro-Blue Prosecutors

The recent case of "corruption" in the Tainan Science Park vibration damping technology bid isn't what it looks like on the surface. What's really going on? Well, the defendant is Green, and the prosecutors are Blue.... Taipei Times gave the bare facts (AP gave a report here, with no suggestion, of course, of what is actually going on). Read carefully:

Former National Science Council deputy minister Hsieh Ching-chih (謝清志) has been indicted on corruption charges for allegedly collaborating with a private company to profit from a construction project, prosecutors said yesterday.

Hsieh was accused of helping his friend Hsu Hung-chang (徐宏彰) win a contract for a construction project in an industrial park in southern Tainan County to reduce vibration from the high-speed rail line affecting the park.

Prosecutors sought a 15-year jail term and a NT$30 million (US$920,000) fine for Hsieh and a 12-year jail term and a NT$500 million fine for Hsu, who was charged with violation of company law.

Hsu was also asked to return the NT$3.4 billion of illegal profit.

Eight others were also indicted for graft and bribery in the case, including another council official and the seven members of the project's evaluation committee.

Hsu's firm won the bidding for the NT$8 billion project in 2002 and later contracted other firms to carry out the construction, which cost him NT$4.6 billion.

However, the project, aimed at reducing the impact of the high-speed bullet train when it passes by the industrial park occupied mainly by high-tech companies, was criticized as ineffective.

What's actually going on? More political prosecutions, apparently. Taiwan's prosecutors are pro-Blue, and Hsieh is a Green appointee. Taiwan News has a formal commentary lamenting the politicization of the prosecutorial offices:

A notable example is the indictment handed down by Tainan District Prosecutor Kao Feng-chi against former National Science Council vice chairman Hsieh Ching-chih for "corruption" in relation to an NT$8.4 billion "vibration reduction" for the section of the North-South High Speed Railway that passes through the Tainan Science-Based Industrial Park.

According to Tainan District Prosecutor Kao Feng-chi, the project was "unnecessary" and the cost of the US$250 million bid awarded to the Hong Hua Company was "exorbitant." Citing an evaluation by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp that showed that the vibrations would be a problem and that several other semiconductor companies that moved into the Tainan Science-Based Industrial Park had built their own vibration reduction or protection systems, the prosecutor claimed that Hsieh and his "accomplices" had "created a totally unnecessary project."

Even though the prosecution offered no evidence of bribery, its indictment maintains that Hsieh had "illicitly passed favors" to Hong Hua, whose owner was also indicted with a requested 12-year sentence through the "exorbitant" price granted to the company to implement its solution to the vibration problem. The indictment alleged that Hsieh agreed to changes in the construction method and allowed Hong Hua Technologies, whose owner was also indicted and which allegedly had no professional experience in civil engineering, to win an NT$35 million contract.

The former National Science Council vice chairman, who has impressive academic and professional credentials and experience in civil and aeronautical engineering, maintains that there was a real problem, that Hong Hua had been chosen because it found the best solution to the complex and unique engineering problem, and the company's NT$8 billion price tag was higher than an alternative firm's NT$1.8 billion because of its unique solution, the success of which was not guaranteed, and that the key price determinate was an estimate of the value of Hong Hua's intellectual property, not the physical construction costs.


You have to read the whole editorial to really get the flavor of how complex the case actually is.

An extremely well-connected and knowledgeable Taiwan advocate had this to say in a recent discussion of the issue:

The decisionmnaking process within NSC on the vibration reduction for the Tainan Science Park was a long and drawn-out process. It had been lingering aimlessly for some 7-10 years before Dr. Shieh picked it up in 1999, and decided to make it work. He went through all the hoops of decisionmaking (Advisory Committees, consultants etc) required by the NSC.

It is true that the winning bid was considerably higher than the losing bid, but several technical studies had shown that the losing bid was not technically feasible....

Interestingly, the original charges in June (never formally stated, but leaked by the prosecutor to the press -- interesting way of carrying out justice....) was that Shieh himself had pocketed money. But now the prosecutor apparently cannot make that stick, so he is indicting him and the whole evaluation committee of "helping the winning company make enormous illicit profits". I am sure the company made profits, but it was a very high-risk project. In addition, the price for the contract was set by a separate financial/technical committee... not by Shieh and the evaluation committee.

The case is thus a rather transparent attempt by the pan-blue prosecutors to get rid of another high-profile green civil servant.

The prosecutor, Kao Feng-chi, was last heard of in 2004 when he investigated the assassination attempt by a Blue supporter on Chen Shui-bian.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

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"Gallup Taiwan" isn't Gallup at all

First the background
On December 5, 2006, Feiren commented on a Kathrin Hille article in the Financial Times. In that post, he sought the truth by asking, "I have always heard that Gallup Taiwan is notoriously blue and in any event has had a very poor record of predicting elections. Anyone know more?"

In a comment replying to that question, I wrote:
The Gallup and Sutton bits look to be the kinds of things which the more they're said, the more they're supposed to become true. I truly hate that kind of "reporting" in the run-up to elections.

The FT has clearly made such "attempts to influence the future" before. If you look at the links beneath "Editor's Choice" at the upper right of that page, there's a link to an article from November 6 titled "Taiwanese pleas for president to quit may succeed"
(also with a Kathrin Hille byline) which contains this wishful pan-blue thought about the soon-to-fail third attempt to recall President Chen:
- - -
[T]his time it has a chance of succeeding.
- - -

Funny how that didn't even come close to happening.
Michael Turton then demonstrated similar powers of observation, saying "Feiren, I've also heard that Gallup is pro-Blue as well."

Truth to the fore: Johnny Neihu gives us the scoop
The Gallup Organization wasn't having any of that. They told the tale in yesterday's edition of Johnny Neihu's Mailbag:
Gallup vs Gallup Taiwan

Dear Johnny,

I just read your piece from last Saturday titled "You love farce? Send in the clowns." Toward the end you commented on Gallup and polling results from the recent election.

Gallup did not do this work. We are the only owner of the Gallup trademark in Taiwan and in 100 other countries around the world. We had a licensee in Taiwan who used the name up until 2002 when we revoked the rights. The poll that has used our name is a counterfeit. The individual [Dr. Timothy Ting Ting-yu, 丁庭宇] or his organization does not have any rights in the trademark Gallup and any unauthorized use is infringement of our registered rights. We respectfully request a correction.

Chris Stewart

Global Brand Manager

The Gallup Organization

Washington

Johnny replies: Interesting. And there was silly me blindly assuming that Gallup Taiwan was in all good faith a branch of The Gallup Organization. After looking at samples of the wisdom of Dr Tim, I notice that this pollster spends a lot of time barracking for political positions and telling Taiwanese what they should think about politics instead of measuring what Taiwanese think about politics. I've said before that sociologists are vulnerable to conflating cheerleading with science, but this former National Taiwan University faculty member takes the cake.
That's pretty funny coming on the heels of someone arriving at Taiwan Matters! via a Google search asking "why is all the foreigner blogger in asia dishonest" [sic]. The most dishonest ones in this area are the pro-China media, as recently demonstrated by both Taiwan Echo and myself. Open your eyes, and you will see.

More updates
I've added an overblown translation/explanation to Feiren's post of a YouTube video about the China Times this past Thursday. If you didn't quite understand the video, check out the update.

I also passed on a YouTube video to Wulingren of Frank Hsieh's (謝長廷) graceful concession speech after his showing in the December 9 mayoral election in Taipei. Keep an eye open for an update to his post.

Piecharts: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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Vote Buying and Taiwan

Today the Taipei Times hosted an call from several local pro-Taiwan academic societies for more aggressive handling of vote buying cases...after noting the inadequacy of local investigative efforts:

To begin with, the fact that police did not catch up with Ku until several days later in such a major case makes it clear that too little effort was put into the investigation process.

Further, apart from Tsai Neng-hsiang (蔡能祥), nicknamed Hei Song (黑松), there was allegedly another middle-aged woman passing out money on the bus. It is still unclear who she was.

Also, when Ku turned himself in, he said the money was provided by a Yang Ching-te (楊慶德). Yang, however, departed for China on the day of Ku's arrest. Why couldn't prosecutors and investigators get hold of this information in advance?

Su Wan-chi (蘇萬基), the executive of the KMT mayoral candidate's campaign team, admitted that he had asked Yang, who also is from Yunlin, to help mobilize support for the candidate. But did Su give Yang NT$60,000 to pay voters to participate in rallies? If he did not, then where did the money come from?

Lin Ping-feng (林平峰), chairman of the Yunlin Association, admitted to prosecutors that the association rented 10 buses for Huang's election-eve rally, but that it did not include the two buses Yang had organized for his mobilization activities.

However, Su, a former chairman of the Yunlin Association, had already admitted that he asked Yang to mobilize supporters for the rally, and he managed to fax the map of the rally to Ku.

Why did the incumbent and former chairmen contradict each other? Is there any connection between the Yunlin Association and Ku's NT$60,000 ?

Furthermore, and most importantly, why would the city councilor candidate be involved? The electoral number of both candidates surnamed Huang was No. 1. If the vote buying occurred, what is the connection between the two Huangs?

Is there some one manipulating this complex case from behind the scene?

If Chen Chu really made up the case as Huang's camp claimed, how did her camp collude with Yang, Ku, Tsai and the middle-aged woman on the bus to set up a secret relationship that was so systematic and sophisticated?

This is an old problem, despite all the headlines: Vote buying probe nets more. Suspect turns himself in. ESWN comments and has stories in translation. Those are recent headlines about the Kaohsiung mayoral election. But as far back as you go, the headlines look the same...to 2001...

Kaohsiung prosecutors and police officers on Saturday arrested two vote captains for People First Party legislative candidate Chung Shao-ho on vote-buying charges.

Investigators interrogated more than 20 vote captains and voters who had accepted gifts from Chung's campaign offices in Fengshan city, Tashe township, Taliao township and Meinung township, all in Kaohsiung County.

Prosecutors said that among the suspects, most of the vote captains have admitted that they had tried to help Chung's campaign by offering to buy votes, while most voters said that they had accepted gifts from Chung's campaign headquarters.

And of course, there was Chu An-hsiung, who bought the 2003 Kaohsiung city council speaker election:

The scandal that has erupted around the Kaohsiung Speaker vote is almost wearily familiar as part of Taiwan's corrupt local politics as usual. What makes it remarkable is the size of the corruption, the determination of the local prosecutors to get to the bottom of the case and the volume of evidence that is amassing from those who were involved.

It is also interesting because its chief protagonist is almost a textbook example of the wheeler-dealer politician-businessman who dominate Taiwan's political life, because the case itself shows the effort of the major parties to try and distance themselves from what are euphemistically known as "traditional political practices" and a rising anger on the part of the public at such shenanigans that might express itself in a disillusionment with democracy - the development of which in the past decade is, in many eyes, Taiwan's chief claim on the world's respect.

Chu An-hsiung's career is typical of his class. He started off as an accountant in the Formosa Plastics Group. He entered politics in 1973, when the then governing Kuomintang (KMT) was still largely composed of exiles from mainland China but local elections were being opened up for ambitious Taiwanese willing to toe the party line. Chu won a set on the Kaohsiung City Council. After two terms there he won a seat on the now defunct Taiwan Provincial Assembly from where he was elected by the assembly to the Control Yuan, Taiwan's supreme government watchdog body. Meanwhile his wife used the family's clout in Kaohsiung to get herself elected as a legislator. From the mid-1980s until the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, the Chus used their political influence along with their business connections to build their An Feng Group into Taiwan's third-largest steelmaker.

And from the 2000 presidential election, came this review of vote buying practices -- and an illustration of how the KMT maintains its grip on the local level:

It also offers $500,000 for information leading to the conviction of vote buyers. But Mr. Huang conceded that convictions were rare, in part because many of the recipients of gifts regard the practice as customary.

"In traditional Chinese culture, people view gifts as a gesture of respect for their act of voting," said Bau Tzong-ho, a professor of political science at National Taiwan University.

An afternoon in Chin Jin illustrates why vote buying is so deeply rooted. Although the nearby port city of Kaohsiung is a stronghold of the Democratic Progressive Party, Chin Jin votes reliably for the Nationalist Party, local officials said, because its fishermen depend on the state for access to fishing grounds.

"This whole district has been bought and paid for the KMT," said Chuang Ming-tsong, 53, a restaurant owner and opposition supporter, using the initials for the party's Chinese name, Kuomintang.


The article also notes that the tradition of gambling on Taiwan's elections is a form of covert vote buying:

Even the opposition parties say the Nationalists will be careful about handing over cash, for fear of getting caught. But they say the party has developed more sophisticated strategies. The latest craze in Kaohsiung and other cities is gambling parlors, which opposition officials contend are linked to the governing Nationalist Party. People place bets on the candidate they believe is favored by the owner, and if that candidate wins, they receive a large payout.

Frank Hsieh, the mayor of Kaohsiung and a Democratic Progressive, says the system is a disguised form of vote buying and has asked the local police to investigate.


The article also notes the KMT practice of paying "election monitors" who "monitor" outside local election offices...and constitute votes for the KMT.

If you think things are bad, just glance at how it used to be....in the 1990s Taiwan was the focus of a Clean Election Campaign that made fantastic progress:

Liu Ren-Jou, a worker with Initiatives of Change (then MRA) described what happened: ‘In 1991, Taiwan conducted its first general elections for members of the National Assembly. Vote-buying was rampant. The atmosphere was such that the election came under great criticism from the public. [The National Assembly is the constitutional organ and has no legislative power. That resides with the National Legislature or Parliament.]

‘Towards the end of 1992, when the first complete electoral reform for legislatures was scheduled, one could predict that the main political power would move to Parliament. One day in May I was having lunch with two members of the business community who were very worried that the mood for vote-buying would favour only ambitious politicians, and enable financial groups to enter Parliament in great numbers, thereby worsening future politics. Business opportunities in Taiwan would become even more unfair. Fair competition and management and the development of the economy would certainly regress, the general environment would worsen and very soon Taiwan would lose hope. ‘The next day during a time of reflection, I had a strong inner thought to initiate a clean election campaign.

.........

The campaign was certainly one factor in the swing of public opinion against vote-buying. It also helps explain the broad public support for then Justice Minister Ma Ying-Jeou’s crackdown on corrupt practices in the city and county elections of March 1994. Twenty-three were arrested—including a Speaker, a Deputy Speaker and nine councillors from city or county authorities—on charges of buying votes or accepting bribes. They were found guilty and The China Post reported that Ma’s move had been ‘like an earthquake measuring more than six on the Richter Scale, rocking not only the DPP but also the Kuomintang’. Ma told me that the Clean Election Campaign had a positive effect on his crackdown campaign. The two campaigns had interacted with each other.

Following the arrests, the regional chairman of the KMT resigned. A senior official of the KMT pointed out that if Ma continued his relentless attack on corruption the grassroots structure of the KMT could collapse. A group of KMT legislators warned Ma that if that happened he would be held responsible. Ma responded by telling the Legislature that anyone believed guilty of vote-buying would be prosecuted, regardless of his background and political affiliation. The fight against corruption was not for personal show but an ongoing national policy. Nevertheless political pressure from within the ruling KMT on the President led to Ma’s eventual departure from the Ministry of Justice. But he told me, ‘After three years of crackdown as the minister I was able to prosecute more than 5,000 government officials and 7,500 people involved in vote-buying. The conviction rate when I left the Ministry (and most cases were still pending) was 40 per cent.’

.........

In the recent past, 10 per cent of the members of the Legislature, around 20 members, had backgrounds associated with gangsters, he told me in an interview. In the present Legislature following the December 2001 elections, however, only one member was considered to have a ‘mafia’ background. The London-based Financial Times said that these elections were the cleanest in the history of Taiwan. The China Post conducted a poll two days after the election and found that 70.1 per cent of those questioned considered that vote-buying had been greatly reduced, and were satisfied that the election was fair.

In case you think this is a KMT problem, a scholar at the Academia Sinica pointed out several years ago:

To monopolize political power over a long period of time, the KMT turned a blind eye to vote-buying, allowing it to become an insidious but established political practice. In the past, KMT leaders had no intention of eliminating the practice, which endangered the nation's democratic development. They even relied on "black gold" to prolong their grip on power. A handful of DPP politicians keep "nominal" party members (人頭黨員) to openly engage in vote-buying.

In sum, it's vital to see vote-buying as a structural issue of Taiwan's electoral politics, especially at the local level. Bruce Jacobs notes in an excellent review of the three in one elections last year:

My best understanding of these lower-level elections comes from regular research in "Mazu" Township (the name "Mazu" is a pseudonym), a rural area in southern Taiwan where I first lived 35 years ago. Despite Chen Shui-bian winning about half of the Mazu vote in 2000 and 63 percent in 2004, the DPP had developed quite slowly and only made progress when it aligned to a major county faction in 2001. Even then, it remains unclear whether the DPP or the faction deserves credit for various achievements.

These lower-level elections, while having a partisan overlay, remain essentially nonpartisan. Thus, in both 2002 and in the recent elections, the KMT nominee for township executive received substantial and important support from key DPP leaders be cause he had proved competent and refused to buy votes. In contrast, the DPP nominee for township executive in 2005 had run as a nonpartisan in the 2002 county assembly election, when he bought substantial numbers of votes. In addition, he did not help President Chen Shui-bian's 2004 bid for re-election despite promises to do so. And, as a member of the county assembly, he had not helped the county executive.

In the words of one local DPP leader, the DPP nominee belonged to the "watermelon faction," the faction which sought the largest slice for themselves. In addition, the DPP nominee had clear organized-crime connections, though he personally had not been convicted of any crime.

How did this man obtain the DPP nomination for township executive? According to DPP rules, if only one DPP member of two years standing runs for an office, he or she gains the nomination automatically. Clearly this rule requires revision as it tied the hands of local party leaders and nominated a man who clearly did not meet the DPP's vote-buying regulations.

Although, in 2002, the KMT nominee for township executive won easily with substantial informal DPP support and despite his opponent's vote-buying, this time he lost because the DPP nominee bought votes comprehensively. In addition to spending NT$1,000 (US$30) to buy all of the township's votes, on election eve the DPP nominee also spent NT$2,000 and NT$3,000 in selected locations. The KMT candidate lost with 46.41 of the vote despite open support from many key local DPP leaders.

The necessity of allying with powerful local factions and clans in order to achieve local success means that pernicious behavior will remain an key component of Taiwan's electoral practices for many years to come...

In Chiayi County, which Chen Shui-bian won with about 50 percent of the vote in 2000 and over 62 percent in 2004, the DPP only won the county executiveship and a majority of assembly seats after an alliance between the DPP and the Lin Faction--a powerful, traditional electoral machine--in late 2001. Even today it remains unclear whether the DPP or the Lin Faction dominates this alliance.

Party identification also remains weak even among politicians. Of the 15 candidates for county executive and the assembly in 2001 in Chiayi County, fully two-thirds had changed party affiliation within the previous two years. And since then some have again changed party. This is a weakness that the DPP must overcome before it can hope to run Taiwan effectively.

The KMT engages in more vote buying precisely because it is a power at the local level, and money is the lubricant of its local links to organized crime, powerful local families, and local businessmen. Vote buying will cease to be a problem only when Taiwan's local level undergoes extensive change.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

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See Wang Run


The struggle for the soul of the KMT was on display yesterday and today as Taiwan News reports on KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's rival Wang Jin-pyng's rumor-mongering his way into a presidential candidacy:

Dismissing the issue of who might want to make a bid for representing Kuomintang to run for the presidency as not worth speculating, Wang, however, said that the person who might want to run for the presidency "might not be the one the media imagine," and even if it is, the person "would not say what is in his or her mind at the moment."

A Wang candidacy would be a very interesting historical moment for the KMT. I've commented before (KMT Cult: Theology, Charisma, Discipleship, KMT: Theology, Identity, Crisis, and KMT: the Great Rift Folly) on the splits in the KMT and its identity problems, papered over for the last twenty-five years by the ability of the Machine to generate money for its candidates. Wang is a Taiwanese and is the scion of party insiders who dislike Ma intensely. However, as a Taiwanese, Wang will never be supported by the Deep Blue mainlander base, which remembers Lee Teng-hui's betrayal with hatred. A Wang candidacy might well force the KMT to decide whether it is the repository of a pro-China mainlander colonial identity, or an actual political party embracing a multitude of social and ethnic interests. Additionally, Wang is someone welcomed by many -- he is close to James Soong, Ma's rival and Chairman of the PFP, has the support of party elites, and would probably also be more welcome than Ma to the majority of Taiwanese voters and to the DPP. In short, picking Wang to head the ticket would be supremely rational, so don't expect the KMT to do it.

The gaffe in the next sentence is quite appropriate:

As for his next possible move, Wang said he never told his friends that he wouldn't want to stay at the Legislature. He is busy taking care of the businesses in the Legislature, and it is not appropriate for him to think about whether he should team up with Ma to run for the presidency in 2008, Wang said.

Yep, Wang is certainly taking care of businesses...

A Ma-Wang ticket might do very well, but bear in mind that there has been a steady current of calls for Lien Chan to step up to the plate again. Ma has taken a beating from the receipts scandals and the Shih Ming-teh protests, and is now looking vulnerable. The international media, which duly followed the local media in anointing him the next President, hasn't really caught up to the changed situation yet. The Taipei Times observed yesterday:

Virtually every article that mentions the 2008 poll slips in something about the supposed inevitability that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will be Taiwan's next leader.

But this simple-minded assuredness that Ma's smile will win the day exposes a blissful naivete of the nature of Taiwanese politics and ignorance about what poll results from every election in the past six years have indicated.

Ma may have succeeded in trouncing his KMT rival in the chairmanship election last year and may have performed well in the Taipei mayoral elections. But none of this is indicative of how he will perform nationally.

A close examination of election results at every level since the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power shows that, on a national level, support for the major parties is almost evenly split. The most recent election reinforced this data.


I've never thought Ma could beat a good DPP candidate -- national level elections favor the DPP, after all. Ma's no shoo-in -- but he will be formidable. Recall that in the Kaohsiung mayoral election the KMT got out 17,000 more votes than in 2002. The KMT base will come out for Ma. Who will the DPP base come out for? In a country where people vote their identities in national elections, that may be the most crucial question of all.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

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More Fact-free Speculation about Taiwan

Fee over at Forumosa alertly flagged Lonely Planet author Joshua Samuel Brown blogging about the packaging of snack foods in Uni-President's Taiwan Nostalgia (台灣回味) line. Uni-President is the conglomerate that owns 7-Eleven Taiwan. Brown "likes to think" that the "revolutionary era artwork" on the package is Uni-President "...using this archipelago halfway between Taiwan and the Mainland as a petri dish for this lovely bit of cross-strait artistic, commercial cross-pollination." Brown came across the packages while he was in Penghu.

Here's the packaging in question:











Brown says that he hasn't been able to find them anywhere besides Penghu. He hasn't been looking that hard. As Sandman immediately pointed out, this line of snack foods in available in 7-Elevens across Taiwan.

Brown's idea that this is a "ovely bit of cross-strait artistic, commercial cross-pollination" is even further off. An ETToday article from November explains that Brown's 'revolutionary-era artwork' is in fact drawn from Taiwanese movie posters from the 1940s and 1950s. The whole point of the marketing campaign is not to foster cross-strait understanding, but rather to exploit the popularity of the Taike phenomenon with a generous dollop of nostalgia.

Brown also stereotypes supporters of Taiwanese independence as the"betel-nut chewing 'us-or-them-independence-or-die' crowd." There is a strong whiff of ethnic prejudice against Taiwanese people as 'low class' in this poor attempt at humor.

It is also unfortunate that Brown uncritically reproduces Beijing's terminology by referring to China as 'the Mainland' as if it has already been settled that Taiwan and 'the Mainland' are in fact parts of the Greater China polity. One hopes that this terminology will not carry over to the finished guidebook.

Lonely Planet's Taiwan guidebook is one of the most influential books about Taiwan because it helps shape the views of travellors and new residents. Let's hope that Lonely Planet uses this influence wisely and reflectively in the service of the ethos of freedom that its popular guidebooks champion.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

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In Front of Our House

Great video from Kuso8. The China Times is located on Dali St. in Taipei and, along with the United Daily, is known as one of the most pro-unification media (tong3mei2 統媒) outlets around.



[UPDATE by Tim Maddog: Having a bit of spare time and my wife's assistance, I did up some linguistic and cultural translations of the video. The tune is a parody of the song "我家門前有小河" ("There's a Small River in Front of My House"). You can read the lyrics and listen to audio of someone doing a karaoke version of the original here.]

Mandarin
Translation
Onscreen
Explanation
包子! 包子! 饅頭! 包子!Steamed buns! Steamed buns! Mantou! Steamed buns!Both types of food and a newspaper are seen as anthropomorphized forms. Blue readers (pan-blue supporters) are "eating up" the contents of the China Times with their hungry eyes."Steamed buns" ("包子") sounds similar to the Mandarin pronunciation of "newspaper" ("報紙"). Mantou is a similar type of food. Both are commonly sold by vendors who identify themselves as "mainlanders." The accent is definitely non-Taiwanese.
我家門前大理街Dali Street is in front of my houseChina Times building, paper, and arrow with the characters for "China" written as "支那" (zhi1 na4) instead. The sign at the top says Dali Street."支那" is an ancient name for "China."
對面有報社Across the street there is a newspaper company.We see another paper which has a mustache and is smoking a pipe. On the paper's "forehead" is the word "總" (manager, leader). At the bottom it says "China is good." 
報社上面的小伎者The paper's little reporters/trickstersThree grimacing reporters/newspapers. On the first one, it says "統一大業" ("the great cause of unification"). The second says "操控" ("take control"). The third is wearing a blue KMT hat.The word for "reporter" ("記者") is replaced by an exact homophone which means "trickster."
思想紅似火Thoughts a-red like fireA red flag with the thumbs-down symbol of Shih Ming-teh's "Depose Chen" movement.The red actually represents China.
假民調搞烏龍Fake surveys, causing troubleA graph where the blue result is low, but is artificially inflated until it goes through the roof while the others "sweat." The background is a spinning KMT "sun."The KMT is "the man behind the curtain."
阿九的傳聲筒A-gao's "mouthpiece."A red-hatted "presidential hopeful" giving orders to the China Times."A-gao" is KMT chairman Ma "Don't paint me red" Ying-jeou, but the name here is pronounced in Taiwanese.
余公若知報格變質If Mr. Yu knew how the quality would change...A teary-eyed, monochromatic, dead Mr. Yu reading the China Times and crying. To the left is a red character (China) waving two pistols around. To the right is a blue character (KMT) waving money.The late Mr. Yu is the former owner of the China Times. The current owner is his son.
低頭唱哀歌... he'd hang his head, and sing a sad songThe mustachioed, pipe-smoking paper pops up into the frame, and dead Mr. Yu falls down. 
Sigh!A steamed bun releases a puff of steam. It says "meat" on the forehead.Hey, it's a steamed bun!
(music) People reading the China Times and turning bluer and bluer. Eventually, the KMT symbol appears on their foreheads. 
Sigh!A steamed bun releases a puff of steam. 
我家門前大理街Dali Street is in front of my houseSame as first time 
對面有報社Across the street there is a newspaper company.Same as first time 
報社上面的小伎者The paper's little reporters/trickstersSame as first time 
快要沒工作will soon be unemployed!The boss paper, laughing, knocks the reporter offscreen. 
花大錢買三中Spent big bucks to buy the "3 Chinas"Piles of money used to buy the "three Chinas": 中影 (China Movies)、中視 (China TV)、中廣 (China Broadcasting) 
沒錢僱員工Nothing left to hire any employees.Somebody opens their pay envelope and finds NT$1. 
余公若知如此亂搞If Mr. Yu knew WTF happened to his paper...Readers of China Times turning redder and redder as envelopes reading "媒體公正" ("media justice") and "職業道德" ("professional ethics") fly away. 
黃泉唱哀歌... he'd be singing sad songs in the netherworldTeary-eyed, monochromatic, dead Mr. Yu moves into view as each of the red readers finally become the 5-star flag of China."Singing sad songs in the underworld" seems to be the cultural equivalent of "turning in his grave."
Sigh!A steamed bun lets out another steamy sigh. 
一鞠躬Bow once!3 figures in funeral garb bow. They are "道德" ("morality"), "公正" ("justice"), and "公理" ("self-evident truths").They're performing a traditional funeral ritual.
再鞠躬Bow again!Same thing, different angle. 
三鞠躬Bow a third time!This time, we see that they're bowing to the
deceased China Times' funeral portrait, pipe still smoking.
 
上香Hold your incense aloft!Over the portrait, the name "China Times" is half visible.Another part of the funeral ritual.
家屬答禮Family members, return the salute!A blue figure in funeral garb at left (KMT) bears the characters "政治化" ("politicization"). The red figure on the right (China) says "統媒" ("pro-unification media").The last two words sound like the "Dali" in "Dali Street" but with different tone on the "da."


[/END UPDATE]

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

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Show me the Middle


The other day (post below) I wrote:

Meanwhile, lets think about these numbers. Two elections in a row, the Greens get 386,000 votes. The KMT gets 361K followed by 378K, down from a peak of 383K in Kaohsiung. The so called "light blues" or "light greens" don't exist. There is no middle. There are no swing voters. There is no segment of the electorate that policy arguments have to impress -- on many policies, everyone already agrees. Why are politics in Taiwan so identity oriented? Because victory doesn't depend on moving toward the middle to grab the swing voters, the way it might in the US. Victory depends on the simple ability to mobilize one's own base. Thus, the question Bruce Jacobs asked in an excellent piece in today's Taipei Times is answered:

This being the case, why has Ma since then courted the far-right of conservative politics? Why has he tried to do deals with People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) and gain the small minority of Mainlander votes rather than going for the localist Taiwanese center?

Why can't Ma move toward the middle? Because there is no middle. Where could Ma go that he wouldn't leave his Deep Blue base behind?

I was reflecting on this in light of this old piece from the Straits Times of Singapore, 1998, after Ma won the Taipei mayoral election when a fellow Blue New Party candidate backed out and asked his supporters to vote for Ma. (Question: There are three Blue splinter parties that have cost the Blues a couple of major elections. Why do people keep admonishing the DPP for being split?). The reporter, the same Ching Cheong now wrongfully jailed in China, wrote:

The success of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) in last Saturday’s three-in-one elections marks the end of ethnic politics in the island and the beginning of a New Taiwanese identity.

This was the consensus among politicians, observers and the media after KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou won a hard-fought battle to wrest the Taipei seat from incumbent mayor Chen Shui-bian of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Yesterday, Mr Ma said his victory signified the end of an ethnic rift that has marked Taiwan’s politics over the past five decades.

The victory of Ma Ying-jeou is an important symbol and a new milestone of ethnic integration. I hope all ethnic issues will become a part of history and will not continue to haunt the people of Taipei, he told a press conference yesterday. He garnered 51.13 per cent of the vote as compared with the 25.89 per cent his party took in the last mayoral race in 1994.


Anyone remember where the New Taiwanese identity went? Into the same dustbin as the APROC plan, I think. The whole idea of a Taiwan centered identity carries with it the idea that people are going to vote for the party that will take the best care of Taiwan. Is this really the case? Let's check out those numbers....

..........Taipei Mayoral Elections

Year.................Blue.................Green
1994.................56%..................43%
1998.................51%..................46%
2002................64%..................36%
2006................53%..................40%

When you look at the last four elections, the Taipei mayor elections all show a similar pattern of Blues at 50-55% and Greens at 40-45%. The only exception was 2002, when turnout was somewhat below the usual 1.4 million figure. Where are the swing voters? Did Ma's popularity hinge on his brilliant guidance of Taipei, or the constant drumbeat of positive publicity the pro-Blue media hands him, as well as his good looks? I doubt anyone out there would argue that policy was the issue in the 2002 mayoral election.

On Dec 18 the Taipei Times hosted an excellent commentary on the Kaohsiung elections. In addition to hacking on the local media for their inane interpretations of the elections, the author submitted some very interesting statistics, arguing that Taiwan does have swing votes.

In the Kaohsiung city councilor elections, the total vote counts for the KMT, the People First Party and the New Party constituted 42.76 percent of total votes, a figure that shows that the pan-blue camp enjoys massive support in the city.

By contrast, the percentage of city councilor votes for DPP and the Taiwan Solidarity Union candidates only came up to 36.23 percent, a figure well below that of the pan-blue camp. It is worth noting that 21.01 percent of voters voted for independent city councilor candidates, which indicates that the Kaohsiung electorate is composed of a substantial proportion of undecided swing voters.


Does the election of "independent" candidates really imply the existence of swing voters as we know them in the US? I would argue that it does not.

First, "independents" in Taiwan tend to be pro-KMT in practice. Second, and more importantly, there is a major disconnect between how people vote at different levels of government. In our area there is a mix of DPP and KMT people at different levels -- our village chief is KMT, but our neighborhood chief is DPP. Why? Because people at the local level tend to vote by personal affiliations such as clan and business links -- how well do I know this guy, and how? Party loyalties are not so strong. I suppose one could argue that this is a "swing voter" but the "swing" does not occur because someone offers better policies or a better vision of the future.

Despite the Blue/Green divide over identity, I would argue that the parties are insufficiently differentiated from one another across a wide range of policy issues. No major party is out there arguing that the National Health Insurance system be abolished, for example. No major party is arguing for the fundamental changes in environmental policy that will be needed to clean the island up. No major party is arguing for change in the government-business relationship. No major party has a concrete plan to solve income inequality. No major party is fighting for organized labor. Both the KMT and DPP are center-right nationalist parties, one pro-China, the other pro-Taiwan.

Taiwan voters, I suspect, "swing" because they are following a crude version of the decision strategy known as "Take the Best." For example, in selecting a mate, if one values brains more than beauty, then if one has to choose between two potential mates, the smarter one will get the nod. If two candidates are equal in both brains and beauty, then choose randomly, because it doesn't matter.

Since in any election major opposing candidates offer little deviance from the parameters of public policy as established in Taiwan, voters have to fall back on their personal affiliations with the candidate. Essentially, they have to choose randomly since candidates are more or less the same. Naturally, for the higher offices where voters are unlikely to have interacted with a candidate, they go with their identity. At lower level offices, where voters might personally be connected to a candidate, they go with their personal connections.

Thus, I would argue, there are no 'swing' voters in Taiwan. What we are looking at is votes slowly finding an equilibrium over time -- across several elections -- and settling into predictable patterns at the national level, and unpredictable ones at the local level.

Note also another emerging pattern -- the smaller parties are getting creamed. The PFP lost 4 of 6 seats in Taipei, and 3 of 7 in Kaohsiung. The TSU took 2 seats in Taipei and only 1 in Kaohsiung. The conventional wisdom is that in 2007, when the Legislature shrinks to 113 seats, these parties will disappear at the national level. I see no reason not to believe that at the moment.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

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3-in-1 example of Chinese propaganda in Taiwan

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.
- comedian Groucho Marx


Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it.
- director Alfred Hitchcock


Declare independence from this
Earlier tonight, after having dinner in the food court at Carrefour, I got up to take a picture of the nearest TV. I did this with the sole purpose of illustrating how the citizens of Taiwan have a hard time escaping the influence of the pro-China media. Wouldn't you know, this was the very first thing I saw:



Maddog the Clairvoyent?
Let's play "psychic word association," shall we? If I said "panda," I bet you'd say... China! Was I right?

The next thing I noticed was the logo at the upper right corner of the screen. Wouldn't you know, it's that goddamned bane of Taiwan, CTiTV, where the "C" stands for China. Here, we see channel 36, their so-called variety (綜合) channel "enlightening" the viewers about such "varied" things as China, Chinese, and Chineseness.

Thirdly, I noticed the text at the upper left of the screen reading "經典中國" ("Classics of China"). Are you with me so far? My "third eye" tells me you are.

All your eyes are belong to us
This is the kind of propaganda that is broadcast on televisions in public places all around Taiwan, and many people are fed up with it. Follow these links to find out who some of them are: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

What else can you do?
Did you ever wish you could say to those idiot boxes, "Begone!"? There is a way. A device called TV-B-Gone is available for online purchase and seems like a way to bring peace of mind to many a public place. It's a type of "universal remote control" which can turn off most television sets within 17 seconds via a single click.

If you should ever find yourself at the hospital visiting the doctor because of high blood pressure, and you're sitting in the waiting room with the TV blasting lies and hatred at you, you might be able to help yourself before you even see the doctor. Tense and nervous, and you can't relax? Kill the TV signal! Qu'est-ce que c'est? Turn that sucker off, and go do some reading!

I wish I'd had one of those devices earlier tonight.

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Cross-posted at It's Not Democracy, It's A Conspiracy!

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