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Nov 30, 2006

68% say Iraq in Civil War; 1/32 Americans in prison system

Majority of Americans Believe Iraq Is in 'Civil War', Poll Finds (WSJ)

My majority they mean 68%. Only 14% said it was not a Civil War and 18% aren't sure.

I hope this will settle this debate.


7 Million in U.S. Jails, on Probation or Parole (AP)

A record 7 million people - or one in every 32 American adults - were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to the Justice Department. Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday....

Racial disparities among prisoners persist. In the 25-29 age group, 8.1 percent of black men - about one in 13 - are incarcerated, compared with 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men. And it's not much different among women. By the end of 2005, black women were more than twice as likely as Hispanics and over three times as likely as white women to be in prison.
I mean, wow. Do we really need to be putting all those people in jail? I think not.

Ethical Realism and Islamofacism

Authors Urge 'Ethical Realism' in Foreign Policy (NPR, by John Ydstie)

Explosive violence in Iraq and Afghanistan has generated intense discussion about U.S. foreign policy. In a new book, two scholars say America's strategy in emerging democracies and elsewhere is flawed because it's based on idealism and moral imperatives.

"That doesn't mean that we don't see the United States as a force for good in the world," says John Hulsman, co-author with Anatol Lieven of Ethical Realism. "That doesn't mean we don't see the United States as anything less than the first among equals for the foreseeable future. It does mean it's imperative you work with allies. And it's important to have humility at the basis of what you do because that leads to prudence and that leads to a foreign policy that's sustainable in the long run."

This seesm to me to be a relatively straightforward analysis that is nto very dogmatic and has a great point to it. They call for an Iraqi partition, which doesn't seem very realistic to me.

Moving on ...

Why 'Islamofascism' May Create New U.S. Enemies (NPR's Guy Raz)

I think the word was clearly a political ploy to get people to associate these guys with Nazis. And that's just silly.

Taiwan roundup 今天的台灣新聞

國務費案遭起訴 吳淑珍遭民進黨停權一年半 (中央社記者黃瑞弘)
羅文嘉批扁 民進黨轟忘恩負義(中國時報記者: 林晨柏、曾薏蘋、林諭林)
批扁挨罵 羅文嘉:幫他走正確的路(聯合報記者蔡惠萍)
DPP members pan Luo (Taipei Times)

邱毅:陳致中投資的公司總部在L.A. (中廣新聞網)
邱毅爆料文件 移民專家:疑點多 (TVBS)
邱毅爆料 綠委:馮京當馬涼 (自由時報)
邱毅指陳致中證件造假 再提誣告並求償三億 (中央社記者黃名璽)
Chiu Yi claims president's son plans to acquire green card, emigrate to US (Taipei Times)
President's son suing Chiu Yi for defamation (China Post)

紅衫軍搬新家 更接近總統府 (聯合報記者李志德)
紅衫軍搬家 宋致意被嗆 (自由時報)
The red shirts moved to a new place. Great.

密會馬幕僚 AIT憂心馬領導危機 (中時記者:蕭旭岑) 我想這個的是亂報
美國防部長提名人蓋茲:美須軍事預備 抵禦中國攻台 (自由時報張沛元)
Bush's nominee for defense chief says U.S. must be ready to resist if China attacks Taiwan (AP)
Gates: U.S. must help if China attacks Taiwan (Airforce Times)

On the State

The Wronged Man (Washington Post)
Unjustly Imprisoned and Mistreated, Khaled al-Masri Wants Answers the U.S. Government Doesn't Want to Give
Washington Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, November 29, 2006; Page C01, RICHMOND, Nov. 28

Khaled al-Masri was supposed to have been disappeared by black-hooded CIA paramilitaries in the dead of night. One minute he was riding a bus in Macedonia, the next -- poof -- gone. Grabbed by Macedonian agents, handed off to junior CIA operatives in Skopje and then secretly flown to a prison in Afghanistan that didn't officially exist, to be interrogated with rough measures that weren't officially on the books. And then never to be heard from again -- one fewer terrorist in the post-9/11 world.

... Dressed in white shirt sleeves and a modest maroon vest, Masri is waiting to see if the judges will allow the CIA to disappear [his case].

... [The CIA argues], citing the state-secrets privilege, that to proceed with the case would damage national security and that this damage outweighs any legal rights Masri may have.

I would like to point out that this essentially amounts to the point that says: if the state is threatened, in a real verifiable way or in a perceived way, then the state should be able to do whatever it wants to take care of itself. It doesn't matter who you trample on.

This is the same argument that has been used and which is continually used to keep information classified (even though the real purpose is only to protect people who made unacceptable authorizations and orders), to intern Japanese in internment camps (Wiki-- In 1944, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the exclusion, removal, and detention, arguing that it is permissible to curtail the civil rights of a racial group when there is a "pressing public necessity"), to do just about anything that's clearly unconstitutional. And there simply isn't and never was a good enough reason. The system rests on the proposition that rights guaranteed in the constitution are not granted by the government, but natural rights that nobody may be deprived of.

This is related to another article:

Iranian President Makes Direct Appeal to Americans (Washington Post)
In an unusual letter to the American people, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday called for the pullout of U.S. forces from Iraq and charged that Bush administration policy is based on "coercion, force and injustice."

The five-page letter, which was both conciliatory in references to "Noble Americans" and scathing in lambasting Jewish influence in the United States, said there is an urgent need for dialogue between Iranians and Americans because of the "tragic consequences" of U.S. intervention abroad.

Leaving aside that the Iranian president has no room to make such criticism, the thing is he's right-- about the policy based on coercion, force, and injustice. It is the basis of how all states operate. They coerce their people into various degrees of obedience, even for idiotic laws,
always with the threat of their legal monopoly on force in the background.

Pullback-- what? Is that a Pullout or not?

Iraq Panel to Recommend Pullback of Combat Troops (NYT)

...The report recommends that Mr. Bush make it clear that he intends to start the withdrawal relatively soon, and people familiar with the debate over the final language said the implicit message was that the process should begin sometime next year.

The report leaves unstated whether the 15 combat brigades that are the bulk of American fighting forces in Iraq would be brought home, or simply pulled back to bases in Iraq or in neighboring countries. (A brigade typically consists of 3,000 to 5,000 troops.) From those bases, they would still be responsible for protecting a substantial number of American troops who would remain in Iraq, including 70,000 or more American trainers, logistics experts and members of a rapid reaction force....

“I think we’ve played a constructive role,” one person involved in the committee’s deliberations said, “but from the beginning, we’ve worried that this entire agenda could be swept away by events.”
I think the reactions on all sides to this will be quite interesting. Especially if it's rather unclear what exactly they mean.

美國"伊拉克研究小組"達成建議共識,將於12月6日向政府提出建言 (路透社)

路透社沒有紐約時報的消息 , 就是說伊拉克研究小組的共識包括折返美軍.被翻譯以後 , 你可以用 "伊拉克研究小組" 在Yahoo上亦或在Google News上來找報到. "折返" 是拉回到伊拉克國內的美軍總部,還是到美國內, 還是到中東地區的美軍總部 , 都還不清楚.

伊總理突然取消與布什高調晚宴 (香港文匯報) 分析:伊拉克政府緣何禍起蕭牆 (新華網)
美質疑伊總理能力 (多維新聞 ) 特稿﹕伊總理為何突然取消與布什的晚宴 (多維新聞)

Nov 29, 2006

Make Chen Chih-chung come home? 抓致中回來嗎

民進黨自嘲:去美國抓致中回來 (TVBS)
Future birthplace of president's grandson becomes big issue in Taiwan (AP)

Officials from Chen's [A-bian's] ruling Democratic Progressive Party or DPP have urged him to summon son Chen Chih-chung and his wife home from the United States before she gives birth in two to three months — or risk losing the remaining shreds of his popularity.
Well, I just wonder-- on exactly what authority does anyone have a right to go and tell him to come back to Taiwan? He is not a politician and it's his life now. Leave him alone and don't politicize a pregnancy, please. Do you really think A-bian would run to America to live? Come on.


Update: see what has been said by Lin I-hsiung?

國務機要費 林義雄:好好檢討,扁孫是美國人沒關係 (ET Today 東森新聞報)
"A-bian has a lot of explaining to do on the state affairs fund; A-bian having an American grandson doesn't matter."

Nov 27, 2006

Diamond Sutra 經剛經:須菩提,所謂佛法者,即非佛法。

"Subhūti, that which is called the buddhadharma is not the buddhadharma."



The Buddha feared that those who had just resolved to be bodhisattvas (Buddhists), and who had heard that all the Buddha and his dharma could be found in this sutra, would also cling to this sutra; so he immeidately told Subhūti, "that which is called the buddhadharma is not the buddhadharma." This is to say: although all the Buddhas during their practice can leave behind forms, realize perfect knowledge, and realize correct universal intelligence, they still know in their heart that there is no Buddhist path to accomplish, now knowledge to be obtained. It is as the Perfect Enlightenment Sutra states: "All true enlightenment and the most wonderful of hearts, know that there is no bodhi or nirvana, there is no becoming a Buddha or not becoming a Buddha, no unreal reincarnation and no real reincarnation. However, in common understanding cause and effect has a form and it says: this is only buddhadharma. (In other words,) if we speak in line with the reasoning of the noble truths: the perfect knowledge, proven by the buddhadharma, is already very distant from all forms, it is unattainable, unspekable, and should not be grasped at. If one grasps at a Buddha to become, or at a dharma or doctrine that could be attained, then this "is not" the true "buddhadharma."


The Buddha first says that practicing the dharma will bring prosperity and improvement, that one can leave life and become a Buddha, in order to drive away (the thought of) emptiness; he then says the the buddhadharma is not the buddhadharma, in order to drive away (the thought of) existence. The goal is to cause people to understand that in the concept of cause and effect in ordinary or worldly truth says: there is the common and the holy, the confused and the enlightened, a cause and an effect, practice and revelation; can one throw away the idea of cause and effect and fall into (the idea of) emptiness? But the categories of (true) reality state: All dharmas are by nature pure; originally no one thing existed; from where could the holy and the common, confusion or enlightenment, contamination or purity, cause and effect come from? Is there really a form to grasp at? And in this way emptiness denies two different things, the absolute and relative truth are resolved, and one can finally begin to follow the middle path. This use of negating different things in the passages below such as "this name," make obvious the logic of the unity of the three doctrines.*


Subhūti said to the Buddha: "World Honored One. When the buddhas attain peerless perfect enlightenment, is it the case that actually nothing is attained?"

"Exactly right. Subhūti, as far as peerless perfect enlightenment is concerned, I have not attained the slightest thing. This is why it is called peerless perfect enlightenment."

English of Diamond Sutra translated by A.C. Muller; commentary (written by Rev. Sik, Man Chu) translated by me.

* To quote Soothill, the three dhogmas can be explained thus: "三諦 The three dogmas (空假中). ... (a) by 空 śūnya is meant that things causally produced are in their essential nature unreal (or immaterial) 實空無; (b) , though things are unreal in their essential nature their derived forms are real; (c) ; but both are one, being of the one reality.


問:持名念佛,即為多善根,多福德,有何聖教為證?答:...大莊嚴論云:佛世一老人,來求出家,舍利弗等諸大弟子,觀其多劫無有善根,俱不肯度。於是老人悲傷更切,啼泣不已。佛告大眾,此人可度,無量劫前,為採薪人,猛虎逼極,大怕上樹,稱南無佛;以此善根成熟,遇我得度,當證道果。此即持名多善根之明證也。 ... 又大品般若經云:若人散心念佛,亦得離苦,其福不盡,況定意念。...


More trouble in Iraq

Following the bombing in the Shiite slum of Sadr City, a lot of bad things have happened.

Al-Sadr loyalists took over a TV station. A crowd stoned the Prime Minister's convoy. A US military base caught fire thanks to mortars. The US figures the Iraqi insurgency can fund itself. And the UN reveals that Israel set mines in Lebanon during the last conflict, on top of the maybe one million cluster bombs. And on an unrelated note, the theft of polonium 210 and other weapons grade radioactive material is not encouraging.

Jordanian King Abdullah has made the observation that the region faces the prospect of three very destabalizing civil wars. This is, i think, a rational analysis deserving of some very immediate attention since all three situations are actually pretty close to the brink. This is of course in addition to the very strong possibility of Turkish intervention in Iraq's Kurdish north, (which could inspire Iranian entry or the entry of several neighboring countries).

On the positive side: The Israeli/Palestinian truce is mostly holding for now, and Israeli PM Olmert has said he's willing to do prisoner exchange and come to a comprehensive peace. I believe he is sincere on the first point, but I'm not sure about the second. Also, the upcoming report by the Iraq Study Group is likely to suggest that the US talk to Syria and Iran about how to stabalize the situation, but I'm not convinced either of them can really do much. I believe TIME is right to suggest Iraq is spinning out of anybody's control, even militia leaders'.

Nov 21, 2006

Kissinger: Iraq Win Impossible 季辛吉:打贏伊戰不可能

Let's not forget that Kissinger knows what he's talking about when to talk to dictators, when to try to get them on your side, and when to wholeheartedly (if secretly) support them. Anything I would say here would be uninteresting in comparison.



認最好國際斡旋解決 馬侃促增兵穩局勢

Kissinger: Iraq Military Win Impossible
Nov 20, 12:44 AM (ET)

LONDON (AP) - Military victory is no longer possible in Iraq, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said in a television interview broadcast Sunday.

Kissinger presented a bleak vision of Iraq, saying the U.S. government must enter into dialogue with Iraq's regional neighbors - including Iran - if progress is to be made in the region.

"If you mean by 'military victory' an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible," he told the British Broadcasting Corp.

Nov 20, 2006

This one might stick

倫斯斐遭伊蘭橋美國公民卡爾 (Cyrus Kar)的起訴

卡爾.自伊蘭移民到美國.去伊拉克拍與戰爭無關之電影.因基乘車司機跟反抗著合作而被視為反抗著.美軍把他送到古巴關達那摩灣美軍基地. 被關55天,其中被關單獨監禁53天.

Cyrus Kar, American-veteran and Iranian American, suing Rumsfeld for wrongful imprisonment and the violation of his Constitutional rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union of California filed the federal lawsuit in July on behalf of Cyrus Kar, 45, of Los Angeles. It alleges the filmmaker's detention violated his civil rights, the Geneva Convention and the law of nations. Defendants include Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other military officials.

In response to the lawsuit, U.S. attorneys cautioned the court to carefully consider getting entangled in military operations overseas and said Kar cannot challenge the government's policies without "a realistic threat that he will again be subject to detention in Iraq by the United States military officers."
Raw Story version, with video link and a transcript.

Feds seeking to dismiss the suit.

Nov 18, 2006

Poll shows [Taiwanese] kids live in fear

By Max Hirsch
Saturday, Nov 18, 2006, Page 2

Seventy percent of elementary students nationwide are afraid of being abducted, with 54 percent fearing that they will accidentally plunge to their deaths from high-rise apartments. ...

In addition to widespread fears among youth about falling prey to kidnappers or accidents in the home, the survey also indicated that 21 percent of children are regularly struck by their parents, with 19.3 percent often sustaining injuries at home.

Wow. There can't possibly be that many kidnappers and falls from apartments. The abuse can't possibly help. But this makes me think of how the kids are probably scared because tehir parents always tell them to worry about those things. Just like the kids who become scared of dogs because their parents always say they'll get bitten by a dog.

The future

Looks like I'm not the only one who wanted a google brain implant. But Stu Wolf of DARPA has an even better idea.

Stu Wolf, one of the top scientists at Darpa, the Pentagon's scientific research agency which gave birth to the Internet, seriously believes we'll all be wearing computers in headbands within 20 years.

By that time, we'll have super fast, super tiny computers that make today's machines look like typewriters. The desktop will be dead, says Wolf, and the headband will dominate.

"We already know we can trigger neurons mechanically," he says. "You can interact directly with the brain without implanted electrodes. Then the next step is being able to think something and have it happen: Flying a plane, driving a car, operating household machinery."

Controlling devices with the mind is just the beginning. Next, Wolf believes, is what he calls "network-enabled telepathy" - instant thought transfer. In other words, your thoughts will flow from your brain over the network right into someone else's brain. If you think instant messaging is addictive, just wait for instant thinking.

Awesome! Now combine this with the knowledge that soon we won't need tethered power supply for short distances and the upcoming e-paper (so that you can can electronically and wierlessly send and receive data that isn't so easy to think about) and the whole world is really transformed in an awesome way. The information won't even be at our fingertips anymore; we'll just have it almost in our heads already. It's going to kick ass.

Nov 17, 2006

US town bars foreign flags in swipe at immigrants

What do they think they're doing?

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A Nevada town passed a law this week making it
illegal to fly a foreign nation's flag by itself, the latest swipe by
a U.S. community at illegal immigrants.

The town council of Pahrump, which lies in the Mojave Desert west
of Las Vegas, voted 3-2 on Tuesday to make flying any foreign flag
above the U.S. flag or alone an offense punishable by a $50 fine and
30 hours' community service.

The meeting also pushed through measures to deny services to
illegal immigrants and make English the official language in Pahrump,
a commuter town of 40,000 residents some 60 miles (97 km) west of Las
These people certainly do not deserve to be on a city council. What a
bunch of losers. Not to mention that Stromberg v. California already
ruled that you can't restrict display of a flag. That decision ruled
the following California unconstitutional:
1919 California Penal Code, § 403a Any person who displays a red
flag, banner or badge or any flag, badge, banner, or device of any
color or form whatever in any public place or in any meeting place or
public assembly, or from or on any house, building or window as a
sign, symbol or emblem of opposition to organized government or as an
invitation or stimulus to anarchistic action or as an aid to
propaganda that is of a seditious character is guilty of a felony.
And did the Pahrump city council pass this ordinance because of
dangerous dissent? No. Rather because,
All of the illegal alien protesters are waving Mexican flags, and
we just got tired of it," town board clerk Paul Willis told Reuters in
a telephone interview.

"This is the United States, and the Stars and Stripes should fly
supreme," he added.
百藍坡獨尊英語 民權及移民團體關注



Nov 16, 2006

Wikipedia allowed around the Silk Curtain again

Wikipedia ban lifted in China! Except for seaches for sensative words like "Taiwan Independence," "June 4" and other such topics.

Activity on nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation's Chinese Wikipedia site has skyrocketed since its release, which Internet users in China first started reporting on Nov. 10. Since then, the number of new users registering to contribute to the site has exceeded 1,200 a day, up from an average of 300 to 400 prior to the unblocking. The number of new articles posted daily has increased 75% from the week before, with the total now surpassing 100,000, according to the foundation.


舍利弗!若有善男子善女人,聞說阿彌陀佛,執持名號,若一日、若二日,若三日,若四日,若五日,若六日,若七日,一心不亂。 (阿彌陀經)


若一日,至若七日,乃是剋期取證。 ... 剋期念佛,纔經一日,即能一心不亂,入於三昧。梵語三昧譯云正定。 ...剋期念佛,經於七日,一心不亂,常住三昧之中。 ...

本經宗要,即在一心不亂一句,此句為念佛工夫之極則。 ... 心佛一如,能所不二。寂而常照,照而常寂。 ...


Carville says Dems should dump Dean over "Rumsfeldian incompetence"

. . . come again?

Carville, during coffee and rolls with political reporters today, said Democrats could have picked up as many as 50 House seats, instead of the nearly 30 they have so far.

The reason they didn’t, he said, is the Democratic National Committee did not spend some $6 million it could have put into so-called “third tier” House races against vulnerable Republicans.

Mr. Carville please bring me some of that so we can smoke it together next time. Don't be a hog.

This brings me to a point I've been wanting to make for a while though, which is that I give Dean a lot more credit for the upset with his 50 state strategy and his spending in traditionally "lost cause" districts and states. And let's remind the Democrats of their promises: honest government, real security, energy independence, economic prosperity, affordable healthcare, retirement security, protecting our environment, civil rights and justice, election reform.

That's a tall order.

Nov 15, 2006


Three suggestions for the Democratic Progressive Party:
第一:已終於目標為重 (1) Consider the main goal.

The main goal is for Taiwanese self-determination and Taiwanese democracy to become mature. To accomplish this goal, the party can do anything. A-bian (President Chen Shui-bian) himself can't compare to this goal. Cutting your losses in this case is worthwhile.

第二:慮選舉 (2) Consider the elections.

2007 and 2008 are the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)'s last hope. If the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) can beat them again, then the KMT will be forced to localize. If the KMT loses and can't sell out Taiwan's self-determination on a platform of "No independence, no war," then they will have to let that go for the next election.

第三:保護民進黨之乾淨形象 (3) Protect the DPP's clean image.

The DPP won their elections because people felt they had a clean image. If you let go of this impression, then there's no hope.

Are you in or are you out?

The New York Times is running a piece (Get Out Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say) which basically makes the point that Democratic plans to put pressure on the Iraqi government by starting a phased withdrawl won't work since Maliki doesn't have any ace up his sleeve in terms of exercising control. If our troops leave, they don't have anything to put in place short of Shiite militias who might engage in wholesale ethnic cleansing. The alternative presented is something like:

Before considering troop reductions, General Batiste said, the United States needs to take an array of steps, including fresh efforts to alleviate unemployment in Iraq, secure its long and porous borders, enlist more cooperation from tribal sheiks, step up the effort to train Iraq’s security forces, engage Iraq’s neighbors and weaken, or if necessary, crush the militias.

Indeed, General Batiste has recently written that pending the training of an effective Iraqi force, it may be necessary to deploy tens of thousands of additional “coalition troops.” General Batiste said he hoped that Arab and other foreign nations could be encouraged to send troops.

Well that's a fair and reasonable sounding argument, I think. But you've got the following issues. Unemployment can't be helped because useful, job creating investment is almost zeron because the security situation is so dire, going to work is dangerous; securing the border is almost impossible anyway because of the size, and if all the army was over there they wouldn't be fighting the insurgants; we have no sway with tribal sheiks and are unlikely to start developing much now; Iraq's security forces are almost hopelessly sectarian, tied to militias and unwilling to fight outside their home area; and many Shiite ilitias are so tied to the government, there's no chance they'll be dismantled The prime minister's body guards are militia members, for God's sake.

The real insight he has is that to make the situation better, we'd need maybe tens of thousands of mroe troops. The fact is that our military manpower on the ground is inadequate and we can't really train enough Iraqis to do better as long as the situation is so insecure and tons of recruits are being blown up all the time. Arabs sending troops would be great in our mind, but something the Iraqis fear and which may not help at all if they become partisan and get dragged into the war.

But I agree that if we want to have a chance of breaking somewhat even on this invasion, we need to send in more troops. A lot more troops. Troops we don't have. And which others are unlikely to provide, and who we won't (and shouldn't) draft to get either. We certainly aren't winning, and if we pull out now, who knows how bad it will get. Of course, if we send in more guys or pull in neighbors, who knows how bad it will get. It's just a messy situation.

Related issue

This talk on immigration issues brings up an issue related to the last post, and I consider this very good news.

Dem Congress may scrap border fence

I think one of the more convincing reasons-- to those who would support it-- to oppose this plan had to do how it affects Americans.

Border Fence
Plan Worries Texas Ranchers

Downriver in Brownsville, where the jalapeno and lima bean fields run down to the water's edge, farmer Fermin Leal is wondering whether the government intends to cut through his crops, run irrigation pipes under the fence, or buy him out.

"Most of our land goes up to what's supposed to be the border, and yes, we need access to river water," Leal said.

Let's home the Democrats also manage to pass some comprehensive immigration reform and get a reasonable guest worker program.

English as official language?

Farmers Branch council OKs illegal-immigration measures (Farmers Branch, TX)

Council Passes English Only Measure (Taneytown, MD)

These headlines are sad to me and make one cultural difference between the U.S. and Taiwan really stand out.
In the U.S., the right wing seems to have the following expectations:

  • adults moving to America should all learn English.
  • children of immigrants should enter English only education.
  • immigrants should basically culturally assimilate in terms of food and some habits, such as number of people living together and standards of politeness.

In contrast, in Taiwan, I am not expected to know Chinese (people are shocked if you do). I am not expected to like Chinese food. I am not expected know how to use chopsticks. I am not expected to know anything about culture-- people will automatically forgive me for doing something impolite just because I'm a foreigner. Even the police are willing to let foreigners go for driving without a license because its just too much trouble to deal with them.

And while these sorts of privilges are greater for Western foreigners, the whole tone of discussion is different. For example, many Asian foreigners such as Thai or Vietnamese marry Taiwanese here, and there is concern that their kids aren't learning enough Mandarin in school and are isolated. But the concern is entirely about them, the kids who are becoming socially isolated or not learning enough skills to do well in the future. There's no resentement about them taking away from Taiwan's culture or country.

Some of these points are related to an article I read in the weekly Taiwanease by a foreigner with similar experiences. But I think they bear repetition and emphasis at this time.

Why can't a country as huge as America, with an immigrant culture, be more tolerant about these things?




Nov 14, 2006

馬英九特別費案 and Pelosi/Murtha

2006/11/14 21:51 東森新聞記者倪鴻祥/台北報導

還不知道這樣的情況有甚麼效果 ... 我希望這個案子最後會讓馬無法參選。重點在於讓一個本土黨在贏,讓中國國民黨在哭累了。如果中國國民黨三次連續地輸,他們才會本土化。

台北市政府秘書長李述德14日晚間臨時對外說明,最近清查馬英九市長特別費單據核銷過程,發現其中一名已調職的前承辦科員取巧,拿金額較大的本人及他人發 票,代替原先零星發票,核銷市長特別費,時間長達3年6個月,貪圖省事核銷總金額約80萬元;該名前承辦員已函送檢調單位偵辦。 ...
On a related note, there's a good Washington Post article on Pelosi backing Murtha for House majority leader, and the rather shocked reaction some people have:

By Jonathan Weisman Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, November 14, 2006; Page A01

Pelosi (D-Calif.) directly intervened in the heated contest between Murtha (D-Pa.) and House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) on Sunday by circulating a letter to Democratic lawmakers. The letter voiced her support for Murtha and put her prestige on the line in a closely fought leadership battle. Some Democratic lawmakers and watchdog groups say they are baffled that Pelosi would go out of her way to back Murtha's candidacy after pledging to make the new 110th Congress the most ethical and corruption-free in history.

Murtha, a longtime senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, has battled accusations over the years that he has traded federal spending for campaign contributions, that he has abused his post as ranking party member on the Appropriations defense subcommittee, and that he has stood in the way of ethics investigations. Those charges come on top of Murtha's involvement 26 years ago in the FBI's Abscam bribery sting.

The article goes on to mention a lot of specifics, such as contracts that were given to a company that happened to be one of Marta's biggest contributors and happened to employ his brother as a consultant. It also mentions Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington or CREW, a Democratic-leaning group that was shocked by Pelosi's decision.

I just want the Dems to do a good job here, so I hope they don't humiliate themselves in anyway.

Nov 13, 2006

When the Iraq war started, I was not at all a fan. Not because I didn't think Saddam had weapons or a weapons program; in any event, most everyone thought he at least had a program and Saddam was spreading false information because he felt an image of a strong Iraq would actually prevent an American invasion. At the time, I didn't like the oil argument either, since it seemed that there was not a great deal of reason to undergo such a massive operation just to get our hands on oil they would already sell to us at about the same rate as they could produce it.

I didn't like the idea of going to war because it seemed like we were taking on an impossible task. It was a massive country, cobbled and held together with an iron fist. I didn't see us being able to transform it into a peaceful democratic regime, especially with what passed for our plan. I thought we'd get another Vietnam-- a constantly escalating war that did nothing but harm our national security.

After the war started, the press started talking about Shiites and Sunnis. Then it became clear that the public had on the whole missed a rather large chunk of this equation until it was too late. And it also became clear that every Middle East state had been quite clear on this divide and what it would mean not only for holding Iraq together, but how it could expand sectarian conflict in their own countries.

I remember thinking before the war that the Middle Eastern states who said we were doing it for oil maybe didn't understand Bush's personal convictions or were acting a bit paranoid when it came to the oil.

Now I think that to those government officials in Egypt, Turkey or Kuwait who know we weren't doing it to declare war on Islam, it was at the very least so obvious that this Iraq thing could only end badly for everyone, and they figured we must want something a lot to justify the invasion. Something valuable. Something that many foreign countries, including our own, have made every effort to control since it became useful-- often using military means, sometimes just propping up unpopular people would want to sell us as much as they could. And they came to the conclusion that oil was the only item which might logically explain the invasion.

It seems that they were right all the way around, at least on what would happen if we invaded Iraq. And we won't get either our stated or unstated goals: not a safer middle east, not a democratic beacon, not a more friendly government sitting on Iraq's oil reserves. . . probably we'll all just be in worse shape for it. And I dont' see much of a way to fix it.

First Entry


Most of what I write here will probably be political in nature, and so few people would be interested in readin git. Sorry about being so boring.