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Dec 25, 2006

like duh

There is a recent article bemoaning the decline of English among British youth. The study mentioned in the article seems to be good research, and it's most important conclusion is that

The top 20 words used, including yeah, no, but and like, account for around a third of all words, the study says. Teenagers had a vocabulary of just over 12,600 words compared with the nearly 21,400 words that the average person aged 25 to 34 uses.
Now on the first point, I'd have to say it's relatively meaningless. Larger studies of speech and writing in Britain show that 20 words make up about 1/3 of all our words anyway. In speech, the "Top 20" make up just under 1/3 of the total words (32%) and the written Top 20 makes up a similar 28% of all our written text. Nothing new or unusual here, move along.

According to the WordCount website, which says it bases its lists on the same research cited above (though if you click the links you'll see the lists are slightly different), the top 20 English words are: the, of, and, to, a, in, that, it, is, was, I, for, on, you, he, be, with, as, by & at.
That's 6 prepositions, 5 conjunctions, 4 pronouns, 3 be-verbs, and 2 determiners.

Now the second point about a reduced vocabulary I believe. This is because I think our exposure to written and spoken material is increasingly colloquial and entertainment rather than information driven. People also just read less now than they used to, and they are reading material that isn't particularly challenging or rich in language.

I don't know how I feel about it though. One one hand, I always dislike the tendency to artificially inflate language by using a lot of Latin/French words rather than Anglo-Saxon words, so maybe it's quite OK. On the other hand, a major advantage that English has is the richness and depth of its corpus.

I guess they should follow up in five or 10 years to see if the kids will know more words when they're older. Maybe these older adults learned a bunch of these words later on in life, at work or in their leisure and newspaper reading.

Dec 19, 2006

Just damning

White House, Joint Chiefs At Odds on Adding Troops (WaPo)

The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate.

Dec 13, 2006

A poll

Check out the results of this poll:

自己是台灣人 I am Taiwanese自己是中國人 I am Chinese自己是台灣人也是中國人 I am Taiwanese and Chinese無答 No Answer
「獨立」對台灣前途比較好 Independence is better for Taiwan's future「統一」比較好 Unification is better「維持現狀」 Maintain the status quo無答 No answer
「若現狀無法維持時,會選擇獨立或是統一?」 If there were no way to keep the status quo, would you pick independence or unification?
選擇獨立 Independence選擇統一 Unification維持現狀 Maintain Status-quo無答 No answer
「擔不擔心台灣對中國大陸高度集中投資的現象,會對台灣的經濟發展有不利影響?」 Are you worried about Taiwan's high level of investment in the mainalnd will result in an unfavorable effect on Taiwan's economy?
「非常擔心」 Very worried「有點擔心」 A little worried「不太擔心」Not too worried「一點也不擔心」 Not even a little worried無答 No answer

The survey also showed solid support for bringing in Chinese tourists, that 60% want the Chinese to talk to Taiwan's government and not just the KMT, and 60% think that Chinese actions toward Taiwan are more ill-intentioned than good-intentioned.

Now there are three things I want to point out here:

First, the number favoring the status quo is staggeringly low. How does this compare to previous years? If we look at this MAC poll, we find a little different break down because of a different question, so perhaps the 22% drop is a result of the different phrasing.

Second, notice that about 20% of people don't want to answer questions on either independence/unification question. Notice that between the first independence question (now) and the second (later), of the 24% of status quo-ers 6% still want a status quo (they must not have understood the question)), but the rest split almost evenly in each direction, for independence or unification (about 9% each way). The secretive respondants remains 20% in both cases. So which way do they lean? It seems that those people who prefer not to answer poll questions are more likely to lean green lately, but at worst it shold be about half and half. This makes the independence leaners a majority, and should give the KMT pause. Maybe they should change their name to Taiwan Kuo-min-tang after all and let the Taiwan-oriented faction have some prominence or time in the spotlight, even if they won't want to give up the party center.

Last, this shows that the country is headed toward a solid Taiwanese identity. I'm going to make an assumption that the 9.6% of people who don't answer question 1 at all fall into the "Chinese" or "Taiwanese/Chinese" catagory but don't want to say it. Let's say they split evenly. That leaves about 20% that say they're Chinese, 20% that says they're both, and 60% that just say their Taiwanese. Which is about the number that feel negatively about Chinese investment and the Chinese goverment's intentions. So I figure you're at 60% solid Taiwanese identity at this point.

One question seemed poorly designed. You could have as easly asked if a higher degree of investment in the mainland would be favorable to Taiwanese comanies and got a different answer.

Top Two

Iraqi Army Plans for Wider Role in Security of Baghdad (NY Times)
Saudis Give a Grim What If Should U.S. Opt to Leave Iraq (NY Times)
White House to Delay Shift on Iraq Until ’07 (NY Times)
Army, Marine Corps To Ask for More Troops (WaPo)

These are the main 4 pieces of news coming out of Iraq today.

I'd say the likely direction things are going to take is for the Iraqis to continually call for more autonomy and control, and the Americans to become hesitant about it. Eventually, it could come to a vote in Iraqi parliament that sets its own timeline for American troop withdrawl and handing over of duties. That would give us few, if any options, and we might seriously consider clandestinly supporting a coup d'état. At least, I wouldn't rule it out given the new fault line that's being drawn even between this Iraqi government and the Americans. Imagine what happens if they have an internal power shift.

BBC also has a story today on the increasing exodus from Iraq. It isn't good news that we could *easily* see massive destabilization at this point in not only Iraq, but Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, especially considering the prospects of Saudi, Turkish and Iranian involvement in Iraq. This is starting to redefine what would constitute "spiraling out of control."


As for Taiwan, two great stories today: the first is about a dog that has been taught to sell betlenuts.
檳榔伯訓犬 母狗當西施 (自由)
Man teaches dog how to sell betel nuts (Liberty Times)

And the second story is that Liberty Times had such an accurate poll in Kaohsiung when everyone else was 10-20% off, the pan-blue media that had such bad polls is wanting to know their methodology and hinting that it's some kind of voter fraud.

真的這麼準?自由時報應公布民調方法 (中時)

Dec 12, 2006



善哉善哉 ! 弊在賂秦 ,聲名狼藉之國民黨該思之也。


Dec 11, 2006

More of the same

Taliban and Allies Tighten Grip in North of Pakistan (NY Times)

This is bad of course. We don't need Talibanistan.

U.S. Report Rejected By Iraqi President (

What can we do if they don't like our plans?

Iraq army weapons wind up on black market (NY Times via Seattle Times)

Not the first time, but it goes to show how hilariously self-destructive our efforts can be. It also makes it clear why we won't give the Iraqis tanks of their own or airplanes.

扁舉家搬到高雄? 卓榮泰:看緣分 (東森)
扁搬家高雄 綠委擬提案遷都公投 (東森)
藍委:中央黨部 搬到南部 (中時)

haha 大家要搬到南部.但是問題在於說民進黨是要把它的北部支持度弄更高一點.都南部會被視為輕視北部的作為.

提選舉訴訟 黃營兩項指證 都是烏龍 (自由)


避免拖到最後翻臉 民進黨決提前合併總統立委初選 (中時)


禍不單行! 橘委再爆出走 (民視)
選舉結束 批馬聲浪起 (民視)


台聯立委:除非解散 沒出走空間 (中時)
5席議員保不成 台聯黨主席蘇進強請辭 (民視)


Dec 9, 2006

You win some, you lose some.

Well, our green friend Chen Chu won in Kaohsiung, but Frank Hsieh has lost in Taipei. However, his performance was significantly better than Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) did in 2002 (he won only 35% of the vote). This means that 6 or 7% of people that voted for Ma last election went to vote for Frank Hsieh this time. not such great news for the KMT. So overall, a really good performance for the DPP in the face of all their recent troubles.


Kaohsiung 高雄

註記 號次 姓名 性別 得票數 得票率 推薦政黨
5 陳 菊 379,417 49.41% 民主進步黨

1 黃俊英 378,297 49.27% 中國國民黨

3 羅志明 6,599 0.86% 台灣團結聯盟

4 林景元 1,803 0.23%

2 林志昇 1,746 0.23% 保護台灣大聯盟
投開票所 已送/應送:839 / 839 資料更新時間:19:25

Taipei 台北 (still counting a few, will update when finished)
註記 號次 姓名 性別 得票數 得票率 推薦政黨

5 郝龍斌 674,190 53.90% 中國國民黨

3 謝長廷 510,590 40.81% 民主進步黨

4 宋楚瑜 51,953 4.15%

1 李敖 7,560 0.60%

6 柯賜海 3,554 0.28%

2 周玉蔻 3,291 0.26% 台灣團結聯盟

Damn them

Houston suburb objects to mosque plans
By RASHA MADKOUR, Associated Press Writer Thu Dec 7, 2:24 PM ET

Hopefully these silly and paranoid and racist neighbors will get some sense sooner or later.

Taiwan Election in international media

Taiwan Opposition Party Shows Strength in 2 Largest Cities (NY Times)
Taiwan second city's mayoral vote seen as bellwether (Reuters)
Taiwan cities vote for new mayors (BBC)
Taiwanese Vote in Mayoral Elections (AP)
China stays out of Taiwan's voting (Washington Post)
Youthful enthusiasm (Economist)

Dec 8, 2006

Uneasy Havens Await Those Who Flee Iraq (NY Times, Hassan M. Fattah)

The strain that immigrants are putting on Jordan and Syria is really quite large. About 3,000 Iraqis flee every day. Some cities in Syria and Jordan have seen a sudden explosion where now 1/3 of the people in a city are displaced Iraqis. It's affected rent and food prices and has started to make local populations uneasy. It's also starting to cause strains within the Shiite and Sunni communities of those countries. Egypt and Lebanon are feeling some hurt too.

This is a reminder of hwo far reaching the consequences of a little invasion can be.

Dec 7, 2006



林義雄出馬 挺北謝南菊 (自由時報記者邱燕玲)
DPP若敗選 林義雄復出擔重責?(中時電子報林君宜)
國:林義雄為回鍋當黨主席 犧牲神主牌招牌 (中廣新聞網蔡佩芳)

弟一的報導好消息, 因為陳菊贏得上的可能性不夠高, 沒林義雄我猜他會輸給中國國民黨4-7%.

林義雄復出擔重責, 因為入黨參選黨主席必須要一年以上,我覺得民進黨為他修改黨章可能性滿低,弟二我不覺得他願意做黨主席, 連他要的話我相信他寧可先等阿扁下台才會這麼做.但是也要說,當然期待他出來幫忙.


宋要告謝游 嗆藍:放馬過來(自由時報)
宋楚瑜告游錫堃亂放話 游:我說的都是事實!(東森新聞網郭羿婕)


Who cares about 游宋會 if it didn't happen? 真的得告人嗎?

Dec 5, 2006

As I Ponder'd in Silence

As I Ponder'd in Silence
by Walt Whitman

As I ponder'd in silence,
Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,
A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,
Terrible in beauty, age, and power,
The genius of poets of old lands,
As to me directing like flame its eyes,
With finger pointing to many immortal songs,
And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,
Know'st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards?
And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,
The making of perfect soldiers.

Be it so, then I answer'd,
I too haughty Shade also sing war, and a longer and greater one than any,
Waged in my book with varying fortune, with flight, advance
and retreat, victory deferr'd and wavering,
(Yet methinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last,) the
field the world,
For life and death, for the Body and for the eternal Soul,
Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles,
I above all promote brave soldiers.

Lots of news

Votes in Doubt, Bolton Resigns as Ambassador (NY Times, Helene Cooper)

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

U.S. Military Shifts Troops in Iraq Into Advisory Roles (NY Times, Thom Shanker and Edward Wong)

The troops have been reassigned by commanders, who have not sought additional combat troops to replace them. While the troops have not been through the special program for trainers set up by the military, they are working in their areas of expertise, commanders said.

Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American commander in the Middle East, told Congress last month that he envisioned doubling the number of American trainers, but senior military officers now say they are drawing up plans that would at least triple the number of troops assigned to training.
I suppose that's relatively positive news. They're focusing on Baghdad first, so let's see how that goes. I don't think it could help too much, but it seems like the right direction to take things.

Blurring Political Lines in the Military Debate (NY Times News Analysis, Michael Gordon)

The stupid thing about this is that there was no rationale for the debate becoming bipolarized in the first place. With such a complicated and multifaceted issue, there was no reason for there to be "two sides." or for clear political lines. I think the Democrats demonstrated that pretty well, since they were unable to come to any particular conclusion and had 4-5 different takes you could hear regularly. So in otherwords, such blurring is long overdue. General Zinni, mentioned in the article, has written a report for the World Security Institute with his own ideas about how to improve Iraq.

Bush Urges Shiite Leader to Support Premier (NY Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg)
President Bush met Monday with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of the most powerful Shiite leaders in Iraq, and urged him to “reject the extremists that are trying to stop the advance of this young democracy.”
Well, obviously that can't be bad, but remember that said polititian is leader of SCIRI (The Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) and has a major militia called the Badr Corps, and here's what their own website says:
SCIRI has secret cells all over Iraq which are involved in gathering information, media work and military activities. (now to the wiki article:) Its members have entered the new Iraqi army and police force en masse and gained virtual control of Iraq’s Interior Ministry. Currently based in and around Karbala, the Badr Organization effectively rules that city and other parts of southern Iraq.
And in a related article (Iraqi Shiite Leader Speaks Bluntly in Washington, WP, Robin Wright and Peter Baker) we see the following quotation:

"The strikes [the insurgents] are getting from the multinational forces are not hard enough to put an end to their acts, but leave them to stand up again to resume their criminal acts," Hakim said in a speech at the United States Institute of Peace. "This means that there is something wrong in the policies taken to deal with that danger threatening the lives of Iraqis."
The only way to eliminate the danger of a civil war, he added, was through "decisive strikes" against insurgents once loyal to former leader Saddam Hussein. "Otherwise we'll continue to witness massacres . . . against innocent Iraqis."

So yeah. Moving on:

Non-Asians Show a Growing Interest in Chinese Courses (NY Times, Natasha Degen)

This is definitely bad news fro me, if they learn well enough. Or perhaps good news, if I'm always on the more experienced end of this coming wave of people competing for my job.

NASA Plans Permanent Moon Base (NY Times, Warren E. Leary)

That sounds pretty cool.

U.S. Army Battling To Save Equipment; Gear Piles Up at Depots, Awaiting Repair (WP, Ann Scott Tyson)

Well obviously that's no good.

Lawyers Demand Release of Chinese Muslims; Court Documents Allege Lengthy Detainment at Guantanamo Is Part of Deal With Beijing (WP, Josh White)

Possibly true, possibly some good just good lawyering.

House to Consider Abortion Anesthesia Bill; Conservatives Vow More Tests for Democrats on Social Issues When Congress Returns (WP, Jonathan Weisman)

In a parting gesture by social conservatives before Republicans relinquish control, House leaders plan to bring up a bill tomorrow that would declare that fetuses feel pain and require abortion providers to offer pregnant patients anesthesia for their unborn child.
See, that's just like them, to wait until they're almost out of power to try that crap. By the way, where do they get off making scientific declarations as the basis for a law? The whole topic is still hotly debated by doctors, but Congress wants to require the doctor to say there is "substantial evidence" the fetus would feel pain. Still, it's politically quite smart, as the article points out, because it will divide the Democratic caucus.

Offering Video, Israel Answers Critics on War (NY Times, Greg Myre)
Israel’s military, which has been accused of abuses in its war against Hezbollah this summer, has declassified photographs, video images and prisoner interrogations to buttress its accusation that Hezbollah systematically fired from civilian neighborhoods in southern Lebanon and took cover in those areas to shield itself from attack.
I'm a bit blown away by this, since it seems perfectly obvious that Hezbollah would do that (and it is a war crime, btw), and since it cannot possibly justify the destruction of whole neighborhoods, buildings with large numbers of civilians, land mine planting or cluster bomb dropping. The Israeli military also takes cover at civilian sites or uses human shields while operating in Gaza and the West Bank. Those war crimes are all well documented.

Dec 4, 2006

Afghanistan training, Iraq uncertainty

Report Faults Training of Afghan Police (NY Times, JAMES GLANZ and DAVID ROHDE)

Five years after the fall of the Taliban, a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department has found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone.

In fact, most police units had less than 50 percent of their authorized equipment on hand as of June, says the report, which was issued two weeks ago but is only now circulating among members of relevant Congressional committees.

In its most significant finding, the report said that no effective field training program had been established in Afghanistan, at least in part because of a slow, ineffectual start and understaffing.

I think last time I checked, training security forces and getting them equipment would be pretty much the single most important parts of providing security for a large, mountainous country facing prospects of warlordism and resurgent Taleban. Yeah, yeah, after a double check that's still the case.

This just reinforces the case that we would have been a lot better off trying to do Afghanistan right before running nose first into Iraq. What the hell is wrong with the people in charge of planning? Was it really so hard to see that we needed to do a lot more planning, ground work, and then actually improvement in at least one of the two countries we invaded?

Here's the Iraq round up lately:
Rumsfeld Memo Proposed ‘Major Adjustment’ in Iraq (NY Times, MICHAEL R. GORDON and DAVID S. CLOUD)
Memo Text (NY Times)
Annan Calls Iraq Situation 'Dangerous' (AP in WP)
Baathists Demand U.S. Exit From Iraq (AP in Guardian)
Bush Is Weighing Options for New Strategy in Iraq, Aide Says; Hadley Says Previously Rejected Ideas Are on Table, Including Suggestions in Rumsfeld's Memo (WP, Charles Babington)

Dec 1, 2006

Pullout by '08?; Iraqi forces 'ready by mid-2007'

Iraq Panel to Urge Pullout Of Combat Troops by '08 (Washington Post, By Peter Baker and Thomas E. Ricks)

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group plans to recommend withdrawing nearly all U.S. combat units from Iraq by early 2008 while leaving behind troops to train, advise and support the Iraqis, setting the first goal for a major drawdown of U.S. forces, sources familiar with the proposal said yesterday. [...]

The panel included a significant caveat for the 2008 goal for troop withdrawals by recommending that commanders should plan to pull out combat units by then unless "unexpected developments" make them decide that such a move would be unwise, the sources said. Still, they said, the plan would put the onus on U.S. commanders to try to meet the goal or explain why they failed to.

Although it was not clear how many U.S. troops would be left in Iraq by 2008, some people knowledgeable about the commission's deliberations have said that it might be possible to reduce the force of 140,000 to half by then. "There'll still be a presence there that will be significant just because of the nature of embedded forces," said one of the sources familiar with the commission's report. "It won't be what we have now, I'll tell you that."

Well, that's more specific than yesterday's NY Times scoop. But let's see... 1) I don't think they're really saying much at all, except to transfer all responsibilities ASAP, which as far as I know was the plan all along; 2) They suggest not withdrawing but escalating if the situation deteriorates, which I think it will, and I don't know if that's the right solution; and 3) A reduction of half sounds better than nothing, but I'm not sure if it would be enough.

And add to that. . .

Iraqi forces 'ready by mid-2007' (BBC)
According to a transcript released by ABC in advance of the broadcast, Mr Maliki outlined a plan to transfer security control to the Iraqi army.

"At the beginning of next year we will increase the training of our forces... when they reach an acceptable level, we can talk about transferring power from multinational forces to Iraqi forces.

"I can say that Iraqi forces will be ready, fully ready to receive this command and to command its own forces, and I can tell you that by next June our forces will be ready," he said.
Maybe this is the beginning of the end of the occupation. I wonder what it means for Iraq.