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Dec 31, 2007

KMT Central Standing Committee: don't take referendum ballots

Now that the KMT has more or less agreed to a one-step voting procedure, they won't be able to blog the referendum on party proprty just be confusion.

Therefore, despite the fact that they have their own anti-corruption referendum going, the KMT Central Standing Committee has passed a resolution calling on KMT supporters not to take the ballots for the referendum.

Fantastic use of your money gathering signatures, KMT!

DPP's prospects

Blogger Bent's latest post is on the DPP's prospects in the upcoming legislative and presidential elections, and he is not particularly optimistic. The topic is on every one's mind lately, including mine. I was talking to Feiren (who also posts at Taiwan Matters!) and we also concluded the DPP's chances do not look good for a few reasons:

+ The DPP campaign is stuck in 2004, with obsessive references to protecting Taiwan 守護台灣, excessive focus on the KMT's past and few imaginative slogans with little focus on the future.

+ Dissatisfaction with rising costs of living and stagnant wages.

+ A feeling that Ma Ying-jeou can't sell Taiwan out even if he tries because of referendums, meaning that even if I'm right and he does sign a peace agreement saying Taiwan will not become independent, people will feel they still have the referendum to protect them from unification. Ma may bring some benefits in cross-strait economic exchanges at no real cost.

+ Every one's just being sick and tired of A-bian.

+ The trouncing the DPP will suffer in the legislative election could work out in the KMT's favor, since everyone loves a winner.

Dec 28, 2007

Legislative prediction: KMT 65-72, DPP 37-43, NPSU 5-6

I've decided to get a little bolder with the map predictions since there's more information out in the form of the TVBS polls, the UDN polls, the electronics market. I also made a better analysis of the individuals running for election. I now have made a prediction for all but one district (Taipei County-2) because I think there's enough info to at least hint at the winner.

Basically, I figure it'll break down like this:

In districts, I'm counting on two seats fro the NPSU in districted seats and figure they alone can break the 5% threshold necessary to get at large seats. I also think the KMT will gather between 44 and 46 seats to the DPP's 25-27.

For at large seats, I believe the KMT can pull in 16-20 seats while the DPP can only hope for 12-16. I also see at least 5 of the 6 aboriginal seats going to the KMT, and figure the NPSU could get one seat there if they're lucky. Don't think the DPP will win any of the aboriginal seats.

This brings the KMT damn close to their dream of a 2/3 majority (which would allow them to impeach or initiate a recall of the president), but they still don't quite reach it.

Dec 27, 2007

CEC clarifies: one step, but made to order

OK, I think I've finally sorted through the mess of what the CEC really said.

You have to have a one step voting system setup -- which means you have two tables next to each other, one for legislative ballots and one for referendum ballots. But, if a citizen opted to, they could only take half of the ballots the first time (either set is fine, apparently), go cast their ballot and then come back in line to pick up their other ballots, as long as they don't leave the voting building.

To be honest, it seems to me to be a perfectly acceptable solution because it's exactly what you would get with any one step set-up, even if those who wish to boycott the referendums will have a slightly easier time. And it's a hell of a lot better than a total mess of an election procedure.

One or two steps, still a bit confusing

On one hand, the CEC has moved to be able to fire anyone who doesn't follow legal procedure in the upcoming election. Taipei Times reports:

Amid heated debate, the Central Election Commission (CEC) yesterday approved regulations that would allow the premier to remove local election commission members from office upon the CEC's request.

The move is seen by many pan-blue politicians as a measure giving the Cabinet the power to replace local election commission members who insist on adopting the two-step voting scheme.

On the other hand, the CEC spokesman apparently said a person could pick up a different ballot they didn't pick up the first time as long as they don't leave the voting room. This has been taken by some of the blues to signify the CEC will allow cities and counties to set up a two-step method, while the greens are apparently saying it means the set up still has to be one step (ballots all can be picked up together), but people could pick them up in two different trips if they so desired.

The CEC itself is saying you still need a one step set up for the election, even if people can take the ballots in two steps. We'll see what happens, there's still some time!

Dec 25, 2007

Map update, Vote-buying in my district?

One, just added the latest TVBS poll numbers for Taipei County to the map (for what they're worth).

Two, there's a story in Liberty Times today about an investigation that both candidates are suspected of vote buying. The article doesnt' name names, but says that one candidate is suspected of handing out presents (tea, alcohol, and cash -- 1-10K bucks), and the other candidate making bribes with the water projects fund (since both candidates are sitting legislators, we can't use this to tell who's who).

The article notes there's no hard evidence yet on either case, but that police have questioned about a hundred people.

The district is likely to go green under normal circumstances.

KMT election spending

Talking Show had some documentation last night on the KMT's election expenses in 2000 and 2004.

In 2000, the KMT spent around NT$12 billion (US$352 million), while the 2004 costs inflated to a staggering NT$40-50 billion (US$1.2 - 1.5 billion) (though this later figure seemed to have weaker documentation to me).

This money appears to come in part from massive stock sales that spike just before and after elections-- over the last seven years, those stock sales from the KMT's main three investment houses (they own seven) have been at least NT$339 billion (nearly US$10 billion), according to their publicly available documents.

That's really a shitload of money, man (the US campaign cost US$1.2 billion in 2004 -- and that was both parties)!

No wonder the KMT was so pissed they lost. And they have simply got to go broke eventually if they're spending like this.

Looking more like one step

After the Central Election Commission threatened to replace any city and council election commission members who would not agree to a one step method of handing out ballots (and gave them two days to make up their mind), the city governments have sort of quieted down on the topic.

The Cabinet yesterday issued an ultimatum to local election commission heads,
stressing that those who failed to implement the one-step voting format during
the Jan. 12 legislative election would be dismissed, replaced, brought to
justice and disciplined...

Upon learning of the possibility that the CEC could replace the heads of the local election commissions in pan-blue-governed cities and counties, KMT caucus whip Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) yesterday threatened to sue the CEC for malfeasance.

The blue counties appear to be getting ready for a strategic retreat, though the Taipei City government has some rather vague statements amounting to "switch the personnel if you want," while they avoided using the words "two-step method." There was also a quotation from an un-named CEC member that said local governments said they would be willing to use a "one-step method" as long as they didn't have to emply that particular phrase.

I've also discovered from talking to my reporter buddy that in this election, even if your ballot goes into the wrong box, it will be counted (just maybe after most of the ballots that were in the right box are counted). So there's no real basis that the DPP can somehow use the one-step method to make the election luan (亂).


Also, a couple of other notes on the legislative election: First, both myself and a friend have recently been taking note of election activities in a few places (Dashe and Meinong in Kaohsiung County, Pingtung City, Yunlin, and Chiayi County). Our general (and biased?) feeling is that the DPP is working hard-- candidates are in at temples, at Sunday street fairs, even isolated mountain villages. They are driving around their campaign trucks in person, they have widely distributed merchandise (hats, flags, bumper stickers), and they're dealing with voters.

In contrast, besides a ton of bus and bus stop ads, the KMT seems to have the following going for them in the places the two of us have observed:

1) Some hungover looking worker dudes hanging up flags by the road in Meinung
2) Some campaign people for a Yunnlin county candidate hanging out in Caoling at a coffee shop on the grounds of a China Youth Corps hostel.
3) Some old man handing out flyers in Pingtung City and "reminding" people not to even take a referendum ballot.

I'd like more reports on election activities in your area. Have you seen candidates? How does the street-side flag coverage work out? What about trucks or other campaign activities?

Dec 21, 2007

Two steps?

When voting on the budget yesterday, the legislature passed a resolution and funding which would force the referendums being held with the legislative and presidential elections to be held in a "two step" voting process (you first pick up your legislative ballots, fill it out, drop it in the box, then go get your referendum ballots). The DPP caucus is calling the move illegal and unconstitutional, and therefore invalid.

Another resolution requires the Central Election Commission (CEC) to hold the
legislative and presidential polls and four referendums either by using a
two-step voting procedure, or by issuing the referendum ballots separately from
the election ballots.

That resolution will cause controversy because the CEC has decided to follow a one-step procedure for the Jan. 12 legislative elections and the referendums -- one initiated by the DPP on recovering the KMT's stolen assets and an anti-corruption referendum initiated by the KMT. Under this system, voters will receive their legislative and referendum ballots together when they enter a polling station.

The Cabinet has said any ballot cast through a two-step procedure would be considered invalid...

The resolution passed yesterday states that the CEC cannot refuse to provide a budget for local election commissions that use a two-step system...

Teng declined to comment when asked if the CEC would approve additional funding for two-step voting if local election commissions asked for more money.

"The commission has decided to employ the one-step voting scheme, and that's our set policy," Teng said.

This problem seems unlikely to go away, and since even though the CEC seems to have the right to decide how to hold the system but has no way to enforce it, I think the pan-blue camp has the upper hand. This resolution only helps their cause. The DPP can only insist it will replace any poll-workers who won't cooperate with a one-step system. I'm not sure they have guts to do it, or what the negative consequences would be.


I think the difference in the two systems can be easily analyzed: if you do everything in one step, you'll have higher referendum participation and also a slightly lower number of invalid votes cast (after all, with four ballots, even color-coded, there will be a higher chance you'll put the ballot in the wrong box). With a two-step system, you'll have lower referendum participation and a smaller number of invalid votes. There's no "secret ballot issue," since with either system someone can tell if you are taking the ballot or not.

The DPP wants to hold this in one step to raise voter participation in the referendum.

The KMT is opposing it reduce that participation. But they can't say that! So the only excuse they have left is that the one-step system would be a mess, and raise the number of invalid votes. So their argument focuses on saying the DPP intentionally wants to make the election a mess. And the only way they can explain is that the DPP wants to postpone the election, or declare martial law, or find some other way not to give up power.

And this is why they continue to cling to these absurd fantasies about A-bian wanting to become emperor, because it's their only argument to discredit a one-step voting system and their insistence on using a two-step voting system in defiance of the CEC.

I want on the blacklist Ma was on!

Yesterday in a new book that Ma Ying-jeou published, he tries to counter recent accusations that while in college in Boston, he was a KMT spy who helped put pro-Taiwanese independence kids on a blacklist, which resulted in most of them being stopped from coming back to Taiwan for years.


In his book Ma Ying-jeou notes that during his college years he was
actively involved in the campaign to protect the Diaoyu islands [a set
of islands disputed by China, Taiwan and Japan]. Some of his fellow students
accused of of being a radical activist. Several years later, when he ran into
Chief Prosecutor Shen Chi-yue (沈之岳), Shen told him: "Mr. Ma, we used to
have the wrong impression of you." It was only at this time that he realized he
had been on the Prosecutor's office "blacklist." Ma Ying-jeou said that when he
later went to study in the United Sates, although he did write articles
attacking leftists and Taiwanese independence, he would not report on any
of those students, since they would not be able to come home.

OK, this is fairly laughable. If you can get on a blacklist and then win scholarships to study overseas and come home and immediately become the President's personal English secretary, I want on that blacklist!

If you ask me, this is really a campaign tactic to try and (1) understate the gravity of being on a blacklist (2) insulate himself from accusations of being part of the privileged class (3) deflect questions about his reporting of those students.

There's plenty of eyewitness accounts of Ma taking photographs of Taiwanese Independence activists in the states and then being chased by them, since they knew the photos would be sent back to KMT headquarters; and there's even some accounts of professors at the school knowing he was a KMT spy. Now basically, it's all hearsay, and none of it is real evidence. Any such hard evidence would be locked up somewhere in KMT headquarters anyway, I'd guess.

Dec 20, 2007

Regular correspondence in Taiwanese and Mandarin initials

In Chinese phonological studies, there is a tendency not to talk about vowels and consonants, but rather to talk about initials, medials, and finals. This is because it is the framework used by Chinese scholars before Westerners scholars began studying the language. Also, it has to do with Sinitic syllable structure. I don't want things to get complicated here, but just know that all initials are consonants.

So here is a table showing the regular correspondence between Holo Taiwanese initials (Tai-lo romanization) and Mandarin initials (zhuyin). Since Taiwanese is "older" phonologically, we show the split in relationship to the Taiwanese sound.
The area with the most unstable and unpredicable correspondence is marked in red.


You'll notice some peculiar things about this. The aspirated initials are more stable than the unaspirated version; Mandarin ㄍ and ㄅ have an asymmetrical split ('g' does not generally become ㄎ while 'p' can become both ㄅ and ㄆ). Voiced initials that exist in Taiwanese but not Mandarin tend to disappear; 'n' and 'l' have easily cross over (but both are still relatively stable); and it is hardest to predict the pronounciation of the Mandarin retroflex initials in Taiwanese.

Note: I sorta made up the table data based on observations, so if anyone has something to add to it, please let me know.

Regular correspondence in Taiwanese and Mandarin tones

I got the idea for this post after reading Kent. A Lee's paper on Chinese tone sandhi and prosody.

Everyone knows that trying to study Holo Taiwanese can be difficult, even if you speak Mandarin. One of these difficulties is the complicated tonal system. But there is a quick and easy way you can guess a Taiwanese tone using the Mandarin (or the other way around). This little entry will only be useful, however, that you know how to pronounce the different tones of both languages, and I’m not particularly interested in getting into a lesson on that here.

In Middle Chinese, there were four tone categories: the level tone, (平), a rising tone (上), a falling or departing tone (去), and an entering tone (入), with the entering tone being marked by a stop at the end of the syllable such as –p, –t, –k, or –h.

At some point a little later, when some of the oldest rhyme tables were being made, each category had split into two different tones, and they were then marked Yin and Yang. The result is eight different tones.

Although tones in the Sinitic language family have undergone drastic different splits and mergers in each language, there is still an underlying unity that allows you to use an understanding of these original tonal categories to gain an understanding of the relationship between tones in these languages.

Take Taiwanese, for example. Most students know that the sixth tone merged with the second tone, leaving only seven tones in modern Taiwanese.

What they normally don’t teach you in Mandarin is that a very similar thing happened. The four mandarin tones correspond to traditional tone categories: Mandarin 1st tone to Yinping, Mandarin 2nd tone to Yangping, Mandarin 3rd tone to Yangshang, and Mandarin 4th tone to Yinqu. The other traditional tone categories were merged; the two separate shang categories merged, the two qu categories merged, and the ru category disappeared as Mandarin lost final stops. Old ru category words mostly merged into modern day Mandarin second and fourth tone, but there are a good number of exceptions.

The following table should go a long way in helping you put the pieces together. Tones that disappeared or merged with others are marked by parenthesis.

M.C. Tone Yinping
Holo Tone 1 2 3 4 5 (2) 7 8
Mandarin Tone 1 (3) 4 (mostly 2,4) 2 3 (mostly 4) (mostly 2, 4)

You can see that 發's Mandarin pronounciation did not go to second or fourth tone, but rather to first. The entering (ru) category is the hardest to guess on things like this, but there is another hint that can let you know a modern Mandarin word was a ru word (if it ends in a vowel).

Now you’ll notice the beauty this system can have in helping you use your knowledge of one language to guess the pronunciation and tone in the other. Easiest of all, the 1st tone in Taiwanese and Mandarin almost always match, as do the Mandarin 2nd and Taiwanese 5th tone. For the others, there can be a couple of possibilities, but it’s still surprisingly helpful.

Let’s run an exercise both ways:

From Mandarin: 典, pronounced dian3; Mandarin 3rd tone corresponds to Taiwanese 2nd tone. Is 典 pronounced in 2nd tone in Taiwanese? Yes!

From Taiwanese: 語, pronounced gi2 or gu2; Taiwanese 2nd tone corresponds to Mandarin 3rd tone. Is 語 pronounced in 3rd tone in Mandarin? Yes!

I’ll make another post covering regular correspondence of consonants and vowels soon between the languages and tone sandhi. Between these three pieces of knowledge, you can really have an easier time improving your listening skills in the Taiwanese (or Mandarin) because you’ll be much better at guessing vocabulary.

One step, two step STOP

The Cabinet yesterday said it would proceed with the one-step voting system for
the legislative elections and two referendums on Jan. 12 and did not rule out
replacing defiant local election personnel.

Cabinet Spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) told a press conference after the
weekly Cabinet meeting that the government was determined to "remove all
obstacles" that could sabotage the rule of law and threaten social order in the
run-up to the elections.

He ruled out deploying the military, however.

"There are many ways to achieve this goal. Relieving election personnel of
their posts is one of them," he said. "Taking over election affairs is another.
We are in the process of preparing for replacements and replacement personnel
are ready [if needed]."

So yeah.

In other news, the KMT has sold a total of NT$390 billion in stock over the last seven years, selling the most right before and after elections. And where did all that money goes? Nobody knows.

They also managed to spend NT$10 billion their losing election campaign in 2000.

Dec 19, 2007

map update: Taipei County more competitive than thought?

A UDN article believes several Taipei County districts are more competitive than thought. I've added the quote from the article into those counties on the map and changed a few districts colors around. Basically, the KMT is shooting for 8/12 seats while the DPP is hoping to win at least 6/12.

Dec 18, 2007

KMT legislator caught vote buying on tape

A DPP legislator held a press conference to announce it yesterday, then waited for Chiang Lian-fu's (江連褔) denial. Today, they released the second part of the video where he puts the money in his pocket while saying, "no, no no, I can't do this." Here's a China Times story on it.

He's in Taichung County-3 running against only one DPP candidate in a blue district -- this should mean an unexpected pick up for the DPP.

Video of Chiang's denial press conference.

Why Ma's election means surrender and no hope of independence

I know that the blue fans out there really hate when the greens say that Ma would sell out Taiwan. But I just I don't buy that Ma's a safe choice.

Ma wishes to end any chance of future Taiwanese independence within his first term, and if he is elected he would try to pull it off without any sort of referendum.

From the KMT's website. Translation mine.


Based on the above ideals, Ying-jeou's position is as follows:

(1) Fundamental position: (a) On the foundation of the Republic of China's constitution and the "92 consensus", and on the preconditions of equality and respect, with the principle of "no independence, no attack--" encourage peaceful cross-strait exchanges and cooperation; (b) use the five point consensus agreed on with the mainland by Chairman Lien in Beijing, develop cross-strait relations; (c) use this party's think tank as a platform, encourage party-to-party agreements and cooperation.

(2) Four principles: (a) Do not change the status quo; (b) Taiwan first; (c) Peaceful co-existence (d) equal agreements

(3) Five positions: (a) end the state of hostility with a peace agreement; (b) strengthen economic exchange and implementing protections on investment; (c) struggle for international space and fully open up cross-strait flights; (d) open up tourism, recognize degrees [from China], and encourage agricultural cooperation; work together to fight crime and protect social harmony.

Now. There are a lot of issues with this proposal of course; any agreement China enters into, no matter how Taiwan wants to spin it, will not be equal because China considers itself the only legal government and will never recognize the ROC (Ma only says "we'll find a way to work it out" at this point). There's also the complaint about total economic integration. In any case, I think the more important point is laid out in bold.

Ma Ying-jeou will sign a peace agreement with China that will no doubt include his own most fundamental principal for resuming talks, which is "no independence, no attack." This will formalize that Taiwan is a part of China and if Taiwan ever seeks to say otherwise, effectively agrees to a Chinese attack. It is, in essence, a surrender agreement that would also allow Taiwan to pretty much continue ruling itself for a while as long as it doesn't change the status quo.

Problem is, the current status quo is that Taiwan is effectively independence (though the KMT prefers to ignore that). The status quo after such an agreement is that Taiwan is a part of China. And changing that would authorize war.

In any case, that's how China and the rest of the world is going to take it. It will be game, set, and match. It will be a formal agreement that Taiwan is a part of China and permanently end any chance anyone would fight on Taiwan's behalf. It would, in the long run (and probably within a few short years), mean that "one China" thinking would permeate education in Taiwan. It would very likely mean a serious blow to the independence movement that would virtually guarantee Taiwan fight a war if it ever wanted to be independent.

The KMT's worst nightmares

The KMT came out with a list of 15 scenarios they believed the DPP may pull out before the election in order to win. Apparently, to you know, "vaccinate" against them and to be able to say "I told you so!" later on.

The list is sometimes hilarious for it's obviousness, sometimes for its total improbability, and sometimes because it demonstrates their own worst fears.

Here are the fifteen things the DPP could do and my comments:

  1. Try to spark a fight with China by talking about Taiwanese independence, and try to blame the Ma-Siew ticket for cooperating with China to suppress Taiwan [AG: The DPP always talks about independence from China before the election, and Ma clearly is cooperating with China to prevent Taiwanese independence.]
  2. Set of an explosive at its own headquarters or Hsieh's campaign headquarters and blame China, the red-shirts or the ethnic mainlanders. [AG: good idea, say now that any act of violence directed against the DPP is actually the DPP's own doing.]
  3. Talk about the referendum to try and distract people from the poor economy and corruption of the administration. [Well, they'll certainly talk about the referendum, but also the economy.]
  4. Stir ethnic tensions by saying Ma is from Hong Kong and not fit to be Taiwan's president. [It has nothing to do with him being from Hong Kong and everything to do with his self-identification.]
  5. Assassinate its own candidates so it can blame China and delay or cancel the elections. [Ha!]
  6. Have an official policy to buy votes. [That's rich.]
  7. Use the underground gambling market to alter the general mood before the election. [Would this even work?]
  8. Use telephone calls to harass election workers and service people. [Riiiiiiight...]
  9. Make a video bashing Ma. [Already been done, sirs.]
  10. Use underground radio to spread false rumors and bash the Ma-Siew ticket. [I listen to underground radio daily, and they certainly spend about 90% of the political air time bashing the KMT and the Ma ticket, but they don't particularly have to use lies to do so.]
  11. Threaten voters. [... what?]
  12. Prevent Taiwanese businessmen from coming back to vote. [How?]
  13. Pretend the gods favor the DPP to influence the people's votes. [... they DO favor the DPP ;) They're just sore that Ma-tzu loves the UN referendum.]
  14. Conduct a kidnapping, poisoning or car accident on its own people, just as Chen Shui-bian did all those years ago [I'm speechless. How tasteless to add the last comment! She's almost dead for Christ's sake.]
  15. Pretend to make a vote-buying crackdown, but arrest only the KMT vote buyers. [the DPP doesn't control the organizations that conduct crackdowns on vote-buying...]

one-step, two-step three-step four...

Yesterday during questioning at the Legislative Yuan, CEC Secretary-General Teng Tien-yu (鄧天祐) was asked if the election will either be halted or postponed if any county which uses the two-step voting system, though I don't really know how he answered for sure (I presume in the negative due to the follow up question). He was further asked if the counties using the two-step voting system would be declared valid or invalid, to which he said, "They would probably be valid."

This caused predictably conflicting responses from the two parties. KMT presidentialy candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) instantly declared this to be the right interpretation. President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) predictably said that the CEC decides the procedure, that they've picked the one-step voting system and that any county that used a two-step system would be violating the law and the election would be invalid there. Chen said there could not be two election systems for one country.

Today, to his credit, CEC Chairman Chang Jeng-shyuang (張政雄) clarified that by law, a full meeting of the CEC alone that must formally decide if an election is valid or invalid, and must do so within one week of the election. He said CEC Secretary-General Teng Tien-yu's comments were his own opinion and he could not speak for the entire CEC.

Personally, I'm not sure how the CEC will have to handle this. On one hand, they can't simply let themselves be ignored and then retroactively say, "oh well, we'll have to count it is valid because that's better than having riots in 18 counties." On the other ... well, I don't want riots in 18 counties and another election that the KMT can pretend is somehow corrupted. So hopefully this can be negotiated in some way before the election and be very clear.

The KMT is likely to be very emboldened by this split within CEC opinion and will probably use Teng's statement as leverage to insist that the CEC clearly state before the election that a two-step system will be valid. Very smart politically.

Dec 17, 2007

Vote buying rampant?

An article in the United Daily news indicates that vote buying in the new single member districts has become rampant due to the lucrative nature of the new seats. An unnamed local in Taichung tells the prices of the vote buying net.

A community leader (鄰長) -- an elected appointed official -- may be chosen to lead the effort in his community (the smallest administrative unit in Taiwan, apparently), and is offered a one time payment of NT$300,000 (a marked increase over the old price of NT$50,000). These community team captains will then wait until about a week or two before the election and offer up to NT$1,000 for individual votes. Their timing will make them harder to catch in all likelihood.

Vote buying will carry a maximum penalty three to ten years, while vote sellers could face six months to three years.

On the blind loyalty of media; and why I still like Talking Show

On Sunday night, I saw a live program on TVBS titled Win Taiwan Back (把台灣贏回來). This program was actually a public forum in Taichung thrown by the KMT itself. On stage were three of the KMT's candidates running for election in Taichung city's three districts. The "host" was a woman dressed in blue who's only task was apparently to summarize any speech one of the candidates made.

The substance of the show was the KMT's recent talking points: A-bian's "plans" for martial law, his willingness to suspend the election so he can be president forever, the "out of control" Central Election Commission, the vitality of having the referendum and general ballots handed out at different times ... and on and on and on.

The ticker was removed for the program, replaced with a gigantic KMT party seal alongside the show's title, a slogan in and of itself.

I couldn't help but be even more shocked at the naked partisanship displayed by the station. This was free air time for a political ad, nothing more.

On the other hand, this was more or less a one-time event. In contrast, Formosa TV has a weekly show titled Legislative Weekly Report (國會週ㄅㄠˋ) hosted by DPP legislator Wang Shu-hui (王淑慧). Unsurprisingly, all of Wang's guests are current DPP legislators. They get their hour minus commercials to make the DPP's legislative report. It's also a naked free political ad.

So I guess what it comes down to is that I don't see why the two most extreme stations, TVBS and Formosa TV, are so willing to be the point men for politicians who they know are lying.

Speaking of this, I saw a rather damning episode of SET-TV's Talking Show last night (you can view the Dec. 16 episode here soon). This was one of their best, most comprehensive reviews of Ma's democratic credentials and showed the documentation of Ma's own published articles, interviews or public statements in which he opposed every single step of Taiwan's democratization: ending martial law (from when he was in Boston), holding legislative elections to end the Ten-thousand Year Congress (from 1988), holding direct presidential elections (from 1991), writing a referendum law (I think from 1991 too, and he said that public opinion polls were just as good). The most self-destructive line was his statement from the late 80s saying that he believed "American-style free speech" was not good for Taiwan.

The reason I liked Talking Show's presentation of all this was the heavy reliance on documentation and factual summary. Sure, most of the guests used most of their time to slam the KMT and Ma as well, but I wanted the documentation. I've heard in the past that Ma opposed all these steps toward opening up and democracy, but never saw the proof, and even recall someone in the KMT denying it and asking someone to produce the evidence.

That being said, there's no question the show has done a pretty sharp turn to the green side in the last year or so. Maybe it's just my daily dose of self-indulgence. But damn, I love that show.

Dec 13, 2007

DPP predicts it will win 45-50 seats

DPP public predictions about their own performance tend to be pretty accurate. This one doesn't seem unreasonable.

A-bian defends his record

In the latest issue of his electronic newsletter, President Chen Shui-bian defended his record.

He points out the extreme difficulties his administration faced right after the 2000 election, when the new government immediately had to deal with post 921 earthquake reconstruction. A-bian noted that he was only elected with less than 40% of the vote and did not have a majority in the legislature. He says he has has to contend with the KMT's constant obstruction in the legislature as well as un-ending pro-KMT media attacks, as well as the KMT's continued selling of party property to boost their standing with their business buddies and influence in the media.

A-bian states the second issue he had to deal with was a rising and threatening China, which has tried to use the influence it can command over Taiwanese investors in China to get what it wants in Taiwan. At the same time, the military threat only increased and Beijing took extra measures to try and rob Taiwan of its remaining allies. 


And more fundamentally, during the rule of the old [KMT] government, the
question of Taiwan's national status was deliberately blurred. Following the increased political democratization and social liberalization that came with the 2000
election, on one hand the sense of Taiwan as a new country and community continually increased. But I we have also discovered that the latent discrepancies in just what people believe in their hearts our country is have also started to manifest. Every time an election rolls around, these discrepancies foster an anxious state of affairs.

A-bian points out that Taiwan must uniquely deal with matters of democratization, national security and internal solidarity, tasks that cannot be solved in a very short time period and which the DPP government is not responsible for creating in the first place. He notes that the DPP has sometimes stumbled in its efforts to solve these issues. But he believes the administration also has much to be proud of to go with its regrets.


We dare not say that this has been a perfect 8 years of rule. There are
many things deserving of self-criticism and reflection. But I am most gratified
that at the times when Taiwan faced a severe state of affairs, [AG: He's likely
referring to after the 2004 election and the "red shirt" campaign] we did
everything we could to make things better.


Now my myself, I was actually thinking during the talk shows last night what the DPP's record really looks like. Personally, I don't think the economy is that bad, and I can't imagine how the KMT would have handled things any better (I have the same sort of attitude about the US economy -- it's rarely the president's actions that decide if the country's economy does well or poorly, especially if you're not out there starting wars). So I sort of thought of the following five contributions the DPP has made in the last seven years.
  1. Referendum. No matter how stupid the topics chosen, the fact is that the referendum is now so central to Taiwan's political life that any decision to change Taiwan's status quo will always require a referendum to pass, whether that's a unification or independence referendum. And that is just great.
  2. Arresting their own people. The DPP didn't really do this actively; they just didn't intervene to stop the arrest of the President's son-in-law or the charging of his wife as the KMT would have in the past. Lee Teng-hui's secretary once said, "The KMT established the court" to explain why they wouldn't be pursuing a certain corruption case. That's a really different attitude and a great precedent. And it'll get better when A-bian's charged after stepping down.
  3. One side, one country. This would have been an unthinkable phrase for an ROC president to utter before A-bian. I was shocked when he came out with it! But what he's done is turn that into the mainstream position and understanding, and even Lien Chan was forced to agree with it before the 2004 election (China protested in their press and the KMT hasn't really raised it again since). But this is now a perfectly normal statement, and Ma's inability to say it will be a problem for him in this coming election.
  4. Shutting up to preserve calm. This was all A-bian personally. But you noticed, after his razor thin victory in 2004 and when the red-shirts came out, he just shut his mouth for the most part and sat by quietly. He knew how much he could stir the pot from the bully pulpit, but decided not to. And he knew he had won anyway.
  5. Pulling down Chiang Kai-shek from his divine status. This is obviously the most controvertial point on the list, but I think it's great that it's finally done and he'll be able to be judged on what actually happened under his authority.

I have some other things I'm happy about, like the educational reform and mother language classes, but just how effective those reforms have been is a bit harder to say, so I kept them off the list.

But what does the KMT have to show for the last seven years?

Dec 12, 2007

Wu predicts legislature: Blue 71, Green 42

Chung-li Wu (吳重禮) of the Academia Sinica's Institute of Political Science spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and made his analysis of the future Legislative Yuan, predicting 71 seats for the KMT-PFP alliance, 39 for the DPP and 3 districts for the TSU.

Wu saw a strong KMT performance in the North and Center of the country, while predicting the DPP would win most seats from Chia-yi down to the deep south.

The KMT calls this prediction overly optimistic, citing the difficulties of making a sweep of Taichung and the likelyhood of loss in a few Taipei districts as well. He also mentioned the KMT's hopes for some Tainan and Kaohsiung seats.

A darker vision of the new Legislative Yuan

There's a very well reasoned analysis of the upcoming legislature in the China Times that was brought to my attention by blogger Feiren. It is a longish article but raises some great points and has a very different -- and perhaps darker -- vision of what the Legislative Yuan will look like.

The article's conclusion? Legislators elected in districts, all 73 of them, will be able to turn into their own version of Yan Ching-piao (尊顏清), the independent legislator who commands the respect of both political parties despite his ties to mobsters and corruption.

And what do 73 Yan Ching-piaos mean? That each legislator will be fiercely independent, outside of the control of party leadership, be safely re-electable in his district, and won't bother with fist fights.

In my analysis, the party center controlled the legislator instead of the voters. In this China Times analysis, it is the legislator who will control his voters through his newly massive local influence, and therefore the party center's influence will be marginalized.

Why? The author outlines several reasons he believes these legislators will have reached what he calls "political samadhi" (政治三昧). In summary, these are:

  • A strong political network. Because city councils, township magistrates, county magistrates and mayors of all parties will be forced to depend on their legislator to provide funding for projects and to spread the pork, legislators can expect respect and some degree of support from everyone at local government levels. They will also be closely connected with the local farmers and fishermans' associations.
  • A strong economic network. As Distributor of Pork in Chief for his district, each legislator can expect to get the sort of pats on the back and to cooperation from business ventures, legal and illegal, that the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union now has.
  • Strong social influence. The article points to Yan Ching-piao heading the Matzu temple in his district as an example, but I'm not sure this point is all that different from the first two, and don't expect every legislator will be involved in his locale's biggest temple.
  • The primary/opinion poll oriented nominations system will give the party less influence, as they will essentially be forced to either let the legislators do their own thing or risk turning the legislator into non-partisan pork distributing heroes in their districts. The article states that Wang Jin-pyng is worried that even if the KMT wins the legislative election, a rapid slew of defections could mean the KMT doesn't get to pick the speaker.
  • New challengers will have a much harder time getting media attention or challenging an incumbent. In the current system, a guy could get elected with far less popularity and work his way up; in the new system, that won't be a possibility. The article cites American state government, where re-election rates are over 90% for incumbents. (Think, return of the ten-thousand year legislature (萬年國會).)

He talks about some likely consequences of this system.

  • Because each committee has some 14-15 seats, and because many legislators sign in but don't participate in the meeting, it will only take two or three legislators to control the meeting of the five or six legislators who actually participate.
  • Small parties are likely to get some legislative seats, be able to form a caucus (it will only take 3 legislators, vs the 7 required now) and influence the direction of legislation just as the NPSU does now. As Feiren pointed out in a discussion, this gives small parties huge power since they will have to be bought off to get any legislation passed (any party with at least three seats will be able to stop legislation from reaching the floor).
  • More corruption and stronger local factions with plenty of power centered in the incumbent.
  • The other branches and legislature itself will have to take steps to limit the negative consequences.

So, this vision of the Legislative Yuan is very different than the one I outlined in the last post, but perhaps more likely to become reality. Both analyses, however, don't fill you with hope for an effective Legislative Yuan just around the bend.

Dec 11, 2007

Don't expect much from the next Legislative Yuan

There are expectations that the quality of legislators will improve thanks to the single member district / two vote system. There was even a well-reasoned article by Max Hersh on how halving the legislature might reduce deadlock by putting fewer people on key committees and increasing their power. Unfortunately, I have to take issue with both expectations for improvement and the likely results of halving the legislature. Allow me to outline my main points below.

1. Legislators don't run campaigns aimed at their district's needs

Legislators don't run a campaign suited for their district. What do I mean? Their ads generally fail to highlight even a single issue that might be important locally and instead count on vague statements about development, non-corruption and competence, or highlight that the candidate is supported by such-and-such party heavy weight. The candidate virtually begs the public to vote for him while providing very little substance.

This applies to billboard ads, driving truck ads, radio ads and even television ads. Most voters will know very little about a candidate's actual positions when they go to cast a vote, unless the candidate was a former high-profile city level politician, in which case he tends to be judged on his performance there.

Photos like this from Michael Turton's Politics and Elections set on Flickr are a perfect illustration. Where's the substance? The only way you'd learn what a candidate thought was if you visited his blog or met him in person.

On the other hand, there might be something else to this -- the lack of real disagreement between candidates on most issues. In the US issues like abortion, national healthcare, tax rates, fair/free trade, immigration, gun control and a war policy divide the electorate into very different slices in each district which don't necessarily divide the same as the party line. In Taiwan, all of those issues are basically social concensus issues, with the only real issue on the table being relations with China and identity.

2. The hard party system makes legislators accountable to party leadership, not to voters

First, candidates are chosen by the party apparatus rather than through a primary system that directly involves the voters of the district. Candidates depends on the party center just to get a nomination. [Edit: The DPP did use a primary + opinion poll system to pick it's districted candidates and an opinion poll + appointment method for at large nominees. This is hugely more democratic than the KMT's method of appointing everyone, but the details of that system (how the primary and opinion polls are weighted) are subject to the party center's decision making apparatus and could be very different next time around. More importantly, it doesn't change the below points of caucus control of the legislators].

And considering the Leninist-style organization of the KMT (which the DPP copied far too much for my taste), the party center is not all that accountable to voters or the party rank-and-file either. But that's just the beginning.

In a place with single member districts like the United States, the party actually cannot force a member to vote any one way on any one issue. Well, they can apply various pressures, and the party's National Committee could even help a rival candidate in a future legislative primary, but they certainly couldn't revoke your party affiliation for voting against the party line.

US representatives may vote against the party line on any issue, but they still provide the majority party with control of committee chairs and the legislative agenda, so the national parties considers it a worthwhile trade-off. In other words, the parties just have to live with not being able to control the legislators on every issue in the United States.

And in Taiwan, that couldn't be further from the truth. Caucus leadership listens to a party's central committee leadership and rarely acts with any initiative. On contentious legislation, legislators must show their ballot to caucus leadership before casting it in the Legislative Yuan or risk being disciplined by the party leadership -- the caucus will even threaten to revoke your party membership (and your funding, and your support...) if you don't cast the "right" ballot.

So in other words, it basically doesn't even matter that the candidate can't run a campaign tailored to the district -- he wouldn't be able to follow through on any promises if the party center didn't like it. Might as well not make any specific promises.

3. At-large lists are being used to protect both the wackos and the most powerful, including current chairs

The parties have used their at large lists for the upcoming election to protect both the attack dogs in each party like Chiu Yi (邱毅) and Wang Hsing-nan (王幸男), and to protect most of those people who are already in the chairs and co-chairs of committees. This is where I disagree with the expectations Max talked about.

Hopes that the halved legislature would have an easier time negotiating because of fewer powerful incumbents doesn't make sense, since most of these incumbents aren't even marginally responsible to a district's voters in any way, and instead depend on their popularity with the party leadership for their at large nominations. So what makes anyone think things will be different after the next round of voting?

Let's look at the chairs of the Home and Nations Committee, Foreign and Overseas Compatriot Affairs Committee, Defense Committee, Finance Committee, Economy and Resources Committee and the Budget Committee, to see where they're running:

AT LARGE: 8 孔文吉 薛凌 林春德 張顯耀 高志鵬 羅志明 賴幸媛 吳明敏
COMPETITIVE DISTRICTS: 5 徐國勇 張碩文 蔡啟芳 李和順 翁重鈞

NOT RUNNING: 3 蕭美琴 謝文政 蘇起

So what makes people think the chairs will suddenly be able to get more done in the future, given their current performance record, their unaccountability to voters and their dependence on the party's central leadership?


So though that was a rather long-winded post, I hope you see why I have no expectations for the next legislature to be any more responsible than it is now. They'll simply be more powerful (think about it -- far fewer bribes to hand out!) and at least as slavish to the party's central leadership, a perect formula for a legislature that will STILL not be able to negotiate shit.

Dec 10, 2007

China Shrinks

Interesting NYT article today about a re-evaluation of Chinese Purchasing Power Parity.

Few people noticed, but China got smaller the other day. According to new
estimates, the colossal Chinese economy that has been making marketers salivate
and giving others an inferiority complex may be roughly 40 percent smaller than
previously thought: worth $6 trillion rather than $10 trillion. That means it
lost a chunk roughly the size of Japan’s output....

This is not a mere technicality. Suddenly the number of Chinese who live
below the World Bank’s poverty line of a dollar a day jumped from about 100
million to 300 million, roughly the size of the United States population. And if
you thought China’s energy consumption was dismally inefficient, consider that
it still uses the same amount of energy to produce 40 percent less stuff. The
reassessment does not just involve China. India is also likely to be downsized.
And, by the way, global growth has very likely been slower than we

You can read the whole thing here.

Dec 7, 2007

Characters down!

A reporter friend called me live from the scene about 10-15 minutes ago to say all the characters are finally down at the gate and on the memorial building itself.

I heard the crowd, which was cheering and very happy.

He said that as the construction workers were removing each nail on the final character at the gate, they would turn around and held hold it up to show the crowd, which cheered. As they finished and were coming down from their raised platform, they also waved at the crowd which again cheered them.

That phone call really made my day. :) Between tonight and tomorrow, and I imagine tomorrow, the new characters for Liberty Square will go up, as will the characters showing the renaiming of the hall.

Sign harder to take down than expected

So work had temporarily stopped last time I checked at 12:30 with no characters were taken down yet. But they're starting with zheng (正).

Also, after watching the Sanlih video of the truck incident yesterday, I realized the blue truck driver actually does run into both the Taiwan Independence Alliance truck (but just barely) and does hit one of the supporters standing there (but not so hard as to knock him down). And with everything else we now know about him, it's obviously a politically motivated attack.

Dec 6, 2007

more map updates

The list of candidates on the map is now complete, although a little over half are now lacking in English names because I have yet to look them up (others can help with that if you want).

I don't expect anyone but TVBS will be conducting polls due the the expenses involved. San-Lih television's evening 8:00 pm special (台灣新戰國) on the legislative election also just uses analysis of how the district might have gone last election.

And while the parties have conducted their own internal polls, we're unlikely to see those announced.

Ma promises to replace characters at gate of CKS

Ma promised yesterday that if elected, he would undo any changes the executive branch has made to the gate at CKS memorial hall.

My only question is, if the Executive Yuan never had the right to change it in the first place, on what authority can Ma do anything to change it back?

A reader noted that the DPP overrid the legislature with an executive order to change the name. The situation is slightly more complicated, but still very controversial, so I'll paste what seems to be a pretty fair history of the renaming process from Wikipedia:

The Memorial had been listed as a "third tier" landmark on the government's
list of protected heritage sites. The Executive Yuan subsequently demoted the
Memorial Hall to a "fourth tier" landmark, enabling changes to be made to the
hall without Legislative approval. The Executive Yuan said the name change
complied with laws stating that fourth-tier landmarks may be modified by the
Executive Yuan directly via Organic Regulations, rather than via Organic Acts
which require the approval of Legislature.
Taipei's city government, controlled by the KMT, responded by designating the
27-year-old hall and its surrounding walls a "temporary historical site" to make
alterations to the structure unlawful according to city ordinances.
[7] ...

The legality of the Executive Branch's move has been disputed by the
Pan-Blue Coalition.
Legislator Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) said: "According to the Constitution, any
administrative order that goes against an existing law is invalid. So if the
Legislature has not yet abolished the organic act of the CKS Memorial Hall,
which has the same legal status as law, the newly proposed organic regulation,
which is an administrative order, is invalid." The
of the Republic of China
gives only the Legislature the power to enact,
amend, or repeal laws.
KMT legislators contend that the move by the Executive Yuan encroaches upon the
powers of the Legislative Yuan, thereby violating the separation of
powers. ...

On June 7, a joint meeting of committees in the Legislative Yuan repealed the Ministry of Education's Organic Regulations of the National Taiwan Democracy Hall that established the name change[3]. The move effectively voided the legal basis for the change, though pan-Blue legislators refrained from declaring the new name dead or the old one preserved. One legislator involved in the repeal was quoted as saying the final designation for the hall remained a political issue to be resolved through political means. [17] Wang Shu-hui, DPP deputy caucus whip, said that the legislature had "infringed upon the power of the central government by abolishing measures governing organizations under its jurisdiction".[18]
On 2007 Nov 6, The Council of Cultural Affairs officially designated the memorial hall and its surrounding park a national historic site, which puts control over alterations to the site in the hands of the central government's heritage bodies.[19]

So there you have a brief history of this issue. Who's right on the procedural question? Beats me.

Note that the KMT must complain about the procedural side of this issue, and not the name change itself, because they no longer dare not say anything defending Chiang Kai-shek himself but still require the votes of those who were brainwashed into worshipping him.

Reports indicate the government will start physically taking down the characters tomorrow morning at 8:00 am.

On a sad note, there have been several clashes at the hall today and one violent incident when a passing motorist slammed his car into a truck decked out by the Taiwan Independence Alliance. Several journalists were injured.

It wasn't like this at all, apparently (video). There was not necessarily a political motive for the situation at all. A blue truck driver came up next to the Taiwan Independence Alliance truck and had to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting two guys from the TIA who were standing on the street. One of those two men immediately came up to the driver's open window and started to push him around, a crowd of reporters and others instantly surrounded the car, and the driver hit the gas to get away, running over a cameraman who got caught and dragged under the car about ten meters. The guy hit the gas another two times, continuing to try to get away, even when the police were the ones trying to drag him out of the truck. Finally, the police pulled him out.

The driver was also slightly injured by the crowd that tried to beat him as the police pulled him out of the vehicle, and the driver proclaimed innocence, saying he thought he was being robbed and was just trying to get away.

The story is weak, and his supposed reasons for being in Taipei or that part of the city are not holding up under scrutiny, but if you ask me it did look pretty crazy and I can see him only hitting someone out of panic.

KMT airs misleading ads

The KMT has a pair of ads that were really emotionally powerful and moving. I thought they were actually the smartest ads the party had ever run. Honestly, when I was watching them my confidence in a DPP victory hit a new low! Here's one of the two.

Unfortunately, Mr. Fang, who runs a breakfast shop in Pingtung City (18 second mark), actually has pretty good business; Mr. Su the banana farmer who is the final speaker, is not only a party member but worked for the party before; and at least one person in the sister ad is a party worker as well.

I thought it was an effective ad. They shouldn't have shot themselves in the foot with it by picking guys who would make the ad appear rigged. They easily could have found non-KMT members to complain about the DPP's performance!

Dec 5, 2007

Taipei City, Central Government to clash

The central government has promised to take down the four characters honoring Chiang Kai-shek at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall's Gate of Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness (大中至正) between dawn tomorrow and Friday.

The Taipei City government has promised it will arrest anyone who tries to take those characters down and has amended regulations to make that more possible.
Of course, the law clearly states that if the city government regulations contradict the central government's regulations, they're invalid.

This should be interesting.

Yahoo! Legislative Election website improves

They did some serious upgrading and made a pretty slick page with a good bit of information. Only 37 days until the election!

Dec 4, 2007

Map update

OK, It took a while but I have gotten down the list of districts all the way through Taipei City updating who all is running. I've also incorporated the TVBS polls and updated aboriginal seats.

Still trying to find the SET-TV poll data online -- no luck so far.

It's still going to be a while before the map is fully up to date.

Ma would turn Chiang Kai-shek, Ching-kuo's graves into tourist site.

Hey, China has a similar area dedicated to "Mr. Chiang," and it pulls in lots of money!

Ma said today that if he were elected, he would turn the gave area of Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo into a tourist attraction for all those Chinese tourists that he'll be bringing along.

But I wonder just what sort of information would be placed all around this tourist spot. More of the same old stuff about Chiang being the savoir of the country and democracy? Or a more realistic assessment of his rule?

It's still not all about identity ...

The latest issue of the Taiwanese Dispatch (TGB通訊) is out (issue 99). I was particularly impressed by an article written by Tek-hôa titled, "A movement, or an election company?"

While the article attacks the DPP from a particularly pro-independence point of view, I believe the criticism that the DPP has "lost its way" and is more interested in power than its ideals are felt widely across the country and especially in the light-green spectrum.

There's also annoyance with the identity rhetoric even among some deep-greens.

Here is my favorite paragraph from an article in the Dispatch titled "After the Taiwanese Nationalist Party." I've added English and converted the romanization into the leading candidates for the standardized Taiwanese chracters when possible. I think you'll find it makes the Taiwanese easier to read.

* * * * *

有一寡獨派的朋會講, 2008 年若予馬英九提去, 第 2 工五星就會̄ chhah 佇台灣的土地. 這款講法予我愛笑. 若準連保衛家己國土的決都無, kan-taⁿ 數想用 1 張選票 tō 欲解決所有的代誌,
按呢莫講家己是獨派. 我個人認為投機派較適合一寡人 iah 是團體。


Some supporters of independence will say that if Ma Ying-jeou wins in 2008, the Chinese flag will be flying all over Taiwan the next day. I find it hard not to laugh when I hear this. If you don't even have the determination to protect your own country and want to depend on getting a vote to solve all your problems, then please don't call yourself a member of the independence faction. I think the title vote-getting machine faction is more appropriate for these individuals or groups.
* * * * *

Dec 3, 2007

44.9% openly support independence for Taiwan's futre

According to the latest survey by the Mainland Affairs Council,



I am Taiwanese


I am Chinese


I am Taiwanese and Chinese


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


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
42%31%? (article doesn't say, can't find survey at MAC site)?

If you read that rather poorly formed table correctly, then you'd notice a 44.9% support rate, today, saying independence is better for Taiwan's future! That's 10% higher than last year's figure.

Intrestingly, if some people had their hand forced today, they would apparently switch their support away from independence -- interesting.

We can compare those results to 2006, which I also blogged on ...

228 & Martial Law Period Investigation Bill

DPP caucus whip and professional racist* Wang Hsing-nan (王幸男) was one of two DPP lawmakers who introduced a draft law to the legislature today called the "Special Draft Law on Investigating and Assigning Responsibility for Illegal Government Actions the 228 Incident and Martial Law Period" 「二二八事件及戒嚴時期政府違法責任追究特別條例草案」. Now that's a mouthful.

The draft law calls for a legal investigation into such illegal actions committed by government personal of the time. The fourth section of the law, according to CNA, states that the relatives removed up to three generations (isn't that what 三等親 is?) will have "the right to act on the part of the accused in court,"「代行訴訟法上的權利」a phrase that caused an explosive debate today.

The KMT basically tried to spin the bill as a DPP attempt to have the children or grandchildren of former hoodlums put on show trials; Wang Jin-pyng asked, "What era are we living in?" to imply what he considered the inappropriateness of such a bill; Ma Ying-jeou said this bill does not fit with Frank Hsieh's aim for the parties to co-exist in harmony; Frank Hsieh stated the bill would help provide answers to future generations on what happened in this period; Wang Hsing-nan himself accused the KMT of entirely distorting his bill, which apparently they have.

I mean, the media or the KMT (it's hard to tell which used the phrase first) even said that this portion of the bill was reviving the ancient Chinese practice of "Implicating the nine clans" (株連九族) in a dead person's crimes -- to get an idea of the debate over just how many relatives that really involves, look here (simplified Chinese).

I heard of this first on underground radio on my way to work this morning, and even though the station spun it in a fairly pro-Green way, I was unimpressed and really fairly disgusted with the bill.

Then, I actually read the article being debated, and it seems really quite reasonable -- even a sort of window for the families of the accused to get their fair word in instead of having their dead ancestors mocked at an empty trial.

At this time, the Legislature has not discussed the bill and it has very few sponsors. In fact, I even think they didn't get enough people to come to meet quorum today, so ... expect to see this whole thing replayed again some day very soon.

* I make this comment based on his dislike of foreign workers having a chance to apply for permanent residency and his calling that opportunity a "loophole" that needed to be closed.

Nov 29, 2007

Fetishes (exploitation?) in Taiwan

A video (Chinese) about a classy establishment in Tainan. It's a pool hall and serves tea and some other drinks -- and all of the waitresses are dressed as nurses. The nurses will play pool with you too.

Here's a few more articles about the place (Chinese).

It's strikingly similar (English) to a place near Taipei Main Station otaku everywhere will love where the serving women are dressed in a maid's outfit and waiting on you like your personal slave. It's even called the Fatimaid Cafe. Check it:

For Akiba-types who can't make the pilgrimage to otaku town, Fatimaid is the
place to be. A direct copy of Akihabara's meido cafes, in this fantasy escape,
young women wearing French maid costumes pamper customers with exaggerated
humility and carefully scripted dialogue — just like the heroines in maid
romance anime and comics. "Welcome home, master," says a maid, greeting a guest. ...

There are three maid cafes in Taipei, and one each in Kaohsiung and Tainan. Opening late last year in Ximenting was the Moe Moe Center (萌萌動漫資訊館), with bookstores, a maid cafe and a shop where cosplay fans can get made up to look like their favorite anime characters.

Perhaps par for the course for a country where betel nut (檳榔) is sold by beautiful girls in skimpy clothes.

AIDS in Yunlin

A TVBS video report yesterday mentioned the massive increase in AIDS infections in Yunlin County over the last two years. The number of confirmed infections stands at 599, a seven fold increase over two years ago.

The entire video spends all it's time showing pictures from KTV-fronted brothels. Oh wait, blaming this problem on prostitution isn't enough -- it's the Vietnamese prostitutes. So dozens of images show KTV/brothels that advertise their Vietnamese working girls.

Just a little problem, as the report itself notes near the end -- of the 599 cases, 513 are IV-drug related. And there's apparently no evidence that Vietnamese prostitutes have anything to do with remaining infections.

Surely such an openly racist and sensational presentation of the issue should cause some sort of outrage.

Nov 28, 2007

Taiwanese in the classroom

A Tainan teacher who teaches in Taiwanese in his elementary school class. For math, the class ends up being about 30-40% Taiwanese (as Mandarin is still used for technical nouns). For the social studies class, 90% can be conducted in Taiwanese. For the Mandarin class, vocabulary and readings are done in Mandarin but explanations and discussion are conducted in Taiwanese, making that class about 60-70% Taiwanese as well.

The kids in the class perform on par in testing.

I really prefer this model for native language teaching to the model currently in use of an extra class twice a week in the native language.

KMT will seek to chance CEC law

In order to get it's way on the referendum / legislative election ballot issue, the KMT plans on trying to amend the law again next session. The DPP has vowed to prevent it, even if it means starting a fight.

Nov 27, 2007

Video of A-bian talking about martial law

From last night's Talking Show, with discussion. The video tape of A-bian starts at about the 1:00 minute mark. You will understand best if you can understand Taiwanese :) You can see his original comments and a later "clarification."

Standardizing Holo Taiwanese writing

Edit: A great article in the Liberty Times about how bad the media is at writing Taiwanese.

I was able to get my hands on that draft copy of the government's efforts to standardize written Holo Taiwanese to facilitate teaching it in school. The file is a PDF contains:

* An explanation of the principles the committee considers when choosing a standard written character.

* A review of the government's initial decision on the first 300 standardized characters (called the 臺灣閩南語推薦用字(第1批)).

* The draft copy of some of the next 1500 characters to be standardized (the draft contains only 100 of these).

Anyone interested in seeing the new darft should contact me via comments or email. The first 300 are available here. Below I discuss some of the more interesting words under consideration:

袂 bē/buē
Mandarin: 不、不能、不會
Examples: 袂食袂睏、袂行、袂來

偌 guā/luā/juā
Mandarin: 多少、多麼 Examples: 無偌久、偌濟 Also considering: 外、若

Mandarin: 得 Example: 食甲足飽、講甲足投機 Also considering: 、徦、到

Mandarin: 甭、別、不要 Examples: 莫去、莫講 Also considering: 勿、「勿愛」

啥乜 siánn-mih
Mandarin: 什麼 Example: 啥物代誌 Also considering: 啥麼、啥物

佗位 tó-uī/toh-uī
Mandarin 哪裡 Examples: 欲去佗位、學校佇佗位 Also considering: 叨位

Nov 26, 2007

Martial Law? Delayed election?

Caution: China Post has been installing a piece of malware on visitors computers that has to be manually deleted from the temporary itnernet folders and which most virus checkers won't see. "Tool-Evid" and it hides in your temporary internet folders. I've killed the direct links to the site.

A-bian turned the heat way up on the referendum/legislative election issues, while others are trying to calm the situation. This post isn't much, but it should bring you up to speed.

Chen raises martial law specter (Taipei Times)
Taiwan's president vows not to reimpose martial law to end vote dispute (China Post)
Hsieh asks central, local governments to stop threats (Taipei Times)
Dispute escalates over election voting format (China Post)

Lu: Let's not go down that road again (Chinese, TVBS)
Ma: I'll respond when things are calmed down, Hsieh should say something (Chinese, CNA)
Ma: Don't pay too much attention to A-bian on this (Chinese, CNA)
A-bian: CEC will discuss postponing the election (Chinese, CRI)
Wang: The legislature would have to pass a law to delay the election (Chinese, CNA)
KMT legislator Su Chi: A-bian's already started to get ready for martial law (Chinese, CRI)

Nov 23, 2007

It's not just identity...

Edit: An article that says there is little question on identity left in the north as well ...

As I was discussing with a friend last night, the ideological battle for Taiwanese centric identity and for Taiwanese sovereignty has already been won in the south -- it's primarily playing itself out in Taipei only.

But that doesn't mean the south will all vote for the DPP. There are lots of people who will say things like, "We're all Taiwanese here, but I think it's time we switched parties in power again. We're all disappointed."

Here's a sarcastic video clip from a local show that sort of encapsulates the general frustration with rhetoric on Taiwanese identity. "You're preaching to the choir, but I want to hear how you'll make things better."

And let's hope Hsieh's focus on the economy can do just that.

Stage two of Holo Taiwanese script standardization

An unofficial draft of the next 1500 proposed standardized Taiwanese characters [called the 臺灣閩南語推薦用字(第2批)] was released on the 9th and 15th of this month at two conferences in northern and southern Taiwan by the Ministry of Education.

Unfortunately, the total lack of transparency on this issue means that they did not even really announce the conference as far as I can tell, and did not fully open it to the public (the ministry tells me that this was due to the high interest and limited number of seats).

I am working hard to get my hands on this draft list. Anyone with a resource on this one, please let me know.

Once the government finalizes the list, future textbooks in Taiwanese for public schools will be required to use the standardized character choices and romanization system -- unlike the early years of DPP rules where the government let each school pick to quicken and ease the transition.

Nov 21, 2007

Registration for election complete

Thirteen parties registered for at large seats while 286 people are fighting for the districted seats. You can see all the data here [], and I'll be updating the map as soon as possible.

Article with some analysis on the difficulties third parties will have in districts but how they may sway the election when it would otherwise be close.

Nov 20, 2007

Li Ao won't run!

Li Ao announced today that he's done with politics as he released a new book. He blamed the voters for not being clear enough on the issues to support him.

Good riddance to bad rubbish!

NYT on China's pollution

Well written article with hard facts on the magnitude of the problem, the consequences of ignoring it and the political difficulty in facing it right away. Money quote:

President Hu Jintao’s most ambitious attempt to change the culture of fast-growth collapsed this year. The project, known as “Green G.D.P.,” was an effort to create an environmental yardstick for evaluating the performance of every official in China. It recalculated gross domestic product, or G.D.P., to reflect the cost of pollution.

But the early results were so sobering — in some provinces the pollution-adjusted growth rates were reduced almost to zero — that the project was banished to China’s ivory tower this spring and stripped of official influence.

A-bian compares UN referendums to unification referendum

Note that he did not say it was about independence -- just unification.

Chen said that picking between the KMT's "re-joining" the UN referendum and the DPP's "entering" the UN referendum was the same as picking sides on a unification referendum.

The "Red" party registers too

A bunch of guys from the old anti-corruption campaign aimed at ousting President Chen Shui-bian have also registered an at large party list, calling themselves the red party. Cute!

I probably won't post any more about registrations until the CEC makes the list official and I can make a more thorough map update.

A-bian loses first appeal in libel lawsuit

A-bian lost his first appeal in the libel lawsuit related to his charge that the KMT and PFP tried to orchistrate a "soft coup" after the 2004 election. Background here [Taipei Times] and here [Taiwan News]: A-bian can still appeal once more.

Chiu Yi free

Chiu Yi (邱毅), now out of jail, made continuing being an asshole his first order of business upon release from jail. The 11-12 kg lighter, still bald Chiu Yi promised to release more rumors as soon as possible while his supporters fed him and adorned him with flower garlands. Video here.

Yesterday's highlights

Consider this to be the same as one of those daily brief columns on the far side of the newspaper. It highlights the things that caught my eye most yesterday and the day before.

Today last day for legislative election registration

Expect a flood of people and some last minute surprise splits.

Ballot colors

The Central Election Commission decided [.doc] that in the upcoming legislative election, the at large ballot will be white (so that the colored symbols of the parties will be more clearly distinguishable); the districted seats ballot will be yellow; and the two referendum ballots will both be pink. Boxes will be be covered in a similar color to help prevent people from dropping their ballot in the wrong box.

In a related article, last Saturday's China Times editorial trashes the CEC for handing out the ballots in one line and says the organization bowed to political pressure.

Election outlook

The United Daily News reports that the DPP fears it has only 10 safe legislative seats and could be entirely wiped out in the north, citing a DPP internal poll leaked to them. According to the Liberty Times, The DPP itself says it is confident of 30 seats and hopes to capture between 50 and 60 seats.

Autonomous Aboriginal Districts

The DPP-lead cabinet again submitted a draft of the Autonomous Aboriginal Districts bill to the Legislative Yuan. The original submission back in 2003 was trapped in committee with the four versions the KMT had put forward at the time. Expect a similar result with this bill.

TVBS polls

TVBS conducted polls in several close districts on the seventh of this month, something I caught on their channel last night. I will add these poll results to the map analysis as soon as possible.