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Aug 28, 2008

Beijing: No UN specialized agencies for Taiwan. MOFA: We figured

Great, let's give up our bid to enter the UN for a downgraded status what will also be rejected. ICRT reports ...

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it is unsurprised by China's opposition
to Taiwan's United Nations bid.

The United Nations' Secretary General received a letter from China earlier
this month, expressing Beijing's unchanged stance toward Taiwan's U-N bid.

However, the M-O-F-A says that despite China's opposition, it still sees some
good will from Beijing.

In the letter, Beijing that relations between Taiwan and China have shown
"a good momentum of improvement and development" since March, thanks to
the concerted efforts of both sides of the Taiwan Strait, and that both
sides should continue to work toward further peaceful development.

However, the letter was also said that a proposal to allow Taiwan more
meaningful participation in specialized agencies within the U-N intends to
create "two Chinas" ... or "one China, one Taiwan" ... which the Chinese
government is firmly against.

The M-O-F-A has responded in a statement reiterating that the basic rights
of the people of the Republic of China to participate in international
organizations and activities should be respected.

Aug 27, 2008

Ma optimistic on economy

ICRT reports:

President Ma Ying-jeou is upbeat on the local economy ... saying Taiwan is
expected to post growth of 4.8 pct in 2008 despite higher oil prices and the
resulting surge in import prices.

The projection is higher than the government's latest forecast of a 4.30
percent increase in gross domestic product this year.

Ma, who marks his 100th day in office today ... is quoted as saying the
government's recent string of deregulations concerning trade with China is
unlikely to have an immediate effect.

However, he did note that at least 17 Taiwan-invested companies listed in
Hong Kong have shown interest in seeking a home listing or issuing Taiwan
depositary receipts.

Ma also said he is not worried about the smaller-than-expected number of
mainland tourists recorded since July as the Chinese authorities are ready to
allow visits to Taiwan in September.

Aug 26, 2008

Ma government to lower lots of taxes

Or that's the plan, anyway. I heard some details on ICRT this morning and can't recall the numbers, but they involved reducing the corporate income tax, tax paid by foreigners working here, reducing and eliminating the inheritance and gift tax in some cases.

Now the Milton Friedman Foundation has been running an ad like crazy for a few weeks now about how lowering taxes will improve Taiwan's economy. That ad has not gone over well universally, but I think it will probably have a powerful effect on how people think about this issue. I mean, taxes are never popular.

I myself find these issues really, really complex and don't like to make blanket statements on them. Except, of course, for the fact that taxes are in effect legalized robbery. But putting aside my dreams of a non-coercive, stateless society, the government is going to have to make its money somehow ...

Aug 25, 2008

Ma will grant landing visas to Chinese in Jinmen; DPP goes ><

From ICRT:

Opposition DPP lawmakers are voicing their strong opposition to President Ma
Ying-jeou's promise to offer Chinese visitors landing visas to Jin-men.

DPP legislative caucus whip Lai Qing-de accuses Ma of trying to seek eventual
unification with China by putting in place such a measure.

DPP lawmaker Zhang Hua-guan also points out that few countries around the
world have agreed to give Chinese tourists landing visas for fear that they
would take advantage of it and then disappear after arriving.

Ma, in his speech delivered in Jin-men yesterday, said in order to accelerate
the outlying island's economic development, his administration is planning to
offer landing visas or multiple visas to Chinese visitors.

Travel agents in Jin-men have been complaining about the time-consuming
paperwork needed for those visitors to obtain Taiwan's visas.

They believe the long process has attributed to the much lower number of
visitors from China over the past several years.

Aug 22, 2008

Urban birds

Most people who are very interested in birds spend time going birding (aka birdwatching), and if you're one of them you probably know about this resource.

But you know, I've always been very interested in the bird species you're likely to see flying around your house and neighborhood.

Now I live in Kaohsiung County not far from the city, so I see mostly urban birds with a few water birds mixed in. I thought I would put some information up on the birds I frequently see so that you can use this to identify birds yourself.

I've identified many of these birds using this fine book, which I suggest you buy either online or at the Taiwan Store (Taioan e tiam) along a Xinsheng S. Rd. alley if you're in Taipei.

Here are some of the birds I see most frequently. Feel free to add your own to the list in the comments:

Egrets are also the most commonly seen water bird in my area.

You can also listen to bird calls here. Sometimes you can't see but can only hear a bird. Learning to tell the calls and songs apart is hard but rewarding.

Let me know what birds you see around your place!

Aug 21, 2008

Another day dominated by Chen...

Latest from ICRT:

The Ministry of Justice says it has received positive responses from
Switzerland and Singapore to its requests for assistance in getting to the
bottom of the growing money-laundering scandal involving the former first

Justice Minister Wang Qing-feng said today that Taiwan has applied through
formal channels for aid from the two foreign governments in investigating the
alleged financial wrongdoing of former president Chen Shui-bian, his wife,
and their relatives.

Wang says her ministry has received favorable responses, with both foreign
governments expressing willingness to cooperate.

As to reports that Taiwan had received reports from Singapore early last year
about the current scandal, Wang said those reports may be indicating a
different case, such as the Papua New Guinea diplomatic fund scandal.

Wang also urged any individual or business involved in the burgeoning money
laundering case to turn themselves in to receive protection under the law.

Aug 20, 2008

Casinos around the corner

Taipei Times reports...

A total of 38 forums will be held around Penghu County this fall to gather the opinions of locals on the development of casinos. The forums, scheduled to be held between next Tuesday and Sept. 22 at various locations around Penghu, including the rural islets of Jibei (吉貝), Hujing (虎井) and Niaoyu (鳥嶼), are targeted at reaching a consensus of all Penghu residents on casino development in their hometown, officials from the Penghu County Tourism Bureau said. Eight academics from National Penghu University and National Taiwan University of Science and Technology are expected to join county officials and representatives of Penghu-based travel agencies at the forums to inform Penghu residents of the advantages and disadvantages of developing tourist casino hotels in .

The forums came after Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) announced at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday that decriminalizing gambling in offshore areas of the country would be one of the administration’s goals.

Wrap up

From ICRT.

Odd case connected to the Chen scandal ...

The wife of former first lady Wu Shu-zhen's brother has been released from
hospital following a suicide attempt.

Chen Jun-ying reportedly attempted to overdose on sleeping pills following
her husband, Wu Qing-mao's, revelations that he had been involved in wiring
money overseas for the former first family.

... According to doctors, while Chen's blood pressure remains high, her other
vital signs have all stabilized.

However, one hospital worker says Chen's condition may have been faked.

The worker told media that urine tests after Chen arrived showed no signs of
medication, and that she wasn't taken to an intensive care unit, but rather
was just given an IV drip instead in the regular ward.
Also, one of the downsides of a super free media -- they print total BS.
A cultural row appeared to be brewing over what nationality Confucius was or
which country invented soymilk ... although South Korea's Chosun Daily has
chalked the whole thing up to bad reporting by Taiwan media.

Reports in Taiwan newspapers attributed to the Chosun Daily stories that had
South Korea laying claim to key aspects of Chinese culture ... including the
invention of Chinese characters and construction of parts of the Great Wall
of China.

They are also said to have claimed both Confucius and Lao Tze were Korean.

The Chosun Daily says it never printed such stories ... and that Taiwan media
never even bothered to check the accuracy of the stories before reporting on

Apparently, the whole thing was fabricated by Internet pranksters in China.

However, according to the Chosun Daily ... Taiwan media never even bothered
to call and check with the paper if it had indeed printed such stories ...
adding South Korea's national image has been damaged as a result.

The Foreign Ministry here is said to have asked Taiwan media to pay more
attention to checking sources for its stories.
No surprise there. Taiwanese love to believe that Koreans think they invented everything, including Michael Phelps.

On a media side note, TVBS 2100 outdid Talking Show after the Chen scandal broke for the first time in a long time.

Also, Former ambassador to the Dominican Republic John Feng (馮寄台) will be the nation’s new representative to Japan. He does speak Japanese. The Premier says he hopes Japan and Taiwan can cooperate ... on investment in China.

Ma's report card

The Research, Development and Evaluation Commission of the Executive Yuan announced a poll it took to get an evaluation on the satisfaction rate for Ma's government after his first 3 months in office. Satisfaction for Ma stands at 47%, and 41% for the Premier and 44% for the cabinet.

Not exactly a fantastic start.

Poll was taken on the 14th and 15th, just as the Chen scandal was breaking. So it's possible that gave Ma some sort of bounce in relation to memories of the last government.

Aug 19, 2008

What if McCain dies during the campaign?

Talk about political theater.

ICRT wrap of Chen scandal

Wu's older brother admitted today to having put a shitton of money in his account for Wu Shu-chen, Chen's wife. Here's the wrap in full:

Former President Chen Shui-bian and his wife - Wu Shu-ren - have been listed
as suspects in a money laundering case and have been barred from leaving the

According to the Supreme Prosecutors Office .... other suspects in the
ballooning case are Wu's elder brother - Wu Qing-mao - and Chen's son Chen
Zhi-chong and daughter-in-law Huang Rei-qing - both of whom have left the
country and face possible detention on their return.

Speaking to reporters .... lead Prosecutor Chu Zhao-liang .. said that the
former first lady's brother has admitted to be instructed to wire money into
various overseas bank accounts - some of which was transferred via an
underground banking system.

Prosecutors say that Wu Qing-mao also confessed that he began to handle his
sisters finances when Chen served as Mayor of Taipei between 1994 and 1998.

The former first lady had told prosecutors that all overseas funds came from
the balance of Chen's campaign election expenses, his earnings as a lawyer
before entering politics, her dowry and her investment gains.

Chen admitted last Thursday that he did not faithfully report election
campaign expenses from his two mayoral elections and two presidential
elections between 1993 and 2004 ... but said that he was unaware that the
balance of the funds was wired abroad by his wife until early this year.

Meanwhile ... Chen's daughter has claimed that her father used the funds at
the center of the ballooning financial scandal to help the election campaigns
of several D-P-P heavyweights.

According to Chen Xing-yu ... the D-P-P members who received election
subsidies from her father did not file reports about those funds .. and nor
did they report any surplus funds honestly.

Chen claimed that former Premiers Su Zhen-chang and Frank Xie as well as
Gaoxiong Mayor Chen Chu are among a long lost of party members who received
financial assistance from her father during their election campaigns.

Yelling a reporters who followed her to her place of work yesterday ... Chen
described the investigation into the former president's suspected money
laundering as a "political struggle" ... adding that politicians from the
K-M-T have also filed dishonest reports regarding election campaign

All of the D-P-P heavyweights Chen claim's received funds have denied the

Prosecutors have also questioned former Ministry of Justice Investigation
Bureau chief .. Yeh Sheng-mao over alleged concealment of information
regarding suspected money laundering by members of the former first family.

At issue is a report from the Egmont Group -- an international anti-money
laundering organization -- that Yeh allegedly received in January detailing
the status of overseas bank accounts created by Chen's family.

Yeh admitted that he did not deliver formal documents concerning the
sensitive information to State Public Prosecutor-General before his
retirement last month because of what he claimed was his "personal

However, Yeh has said that he made an oral report to Chen Cang-ming in
early February -- a claim that the prosecutor-general denies.

The case has been assigned to the Taipei District Prosecutors Office,
instead of the special investigation unit of the Supreme Prosecutors Office
headed by Chen ... in order to avoid any conflict of interests.

A note on the extent of Chen's damage

In case it wasn't perfectly obvious, I thought I'd outline why I think Chen's actions have now totally shattered what was left of the defeated DPP:

+ The party put all its political capital in him personally. Through all the previous corruption allegations, the party stood by him (even castrating those who dared to try and draw a line between the DPP and Chen, the so-called '11 bandits'). They let Chen run the legislative campaign, a disaster. And now it's simply too late to break with him. Even a ritual suicide wouldn't be enough.

+ Chen surly gave at least some of these campaign donations to other party members running for election (as his daughter stated flatly when chased down by reporters yesterday). That information will leak out over the next couple of months, further decapitating the party. Tsai Ing-wen is likely to be the only charismatic person left standing at the end of this.

+ As much as the greens would like to talk about what really matters to them, standing up for Taiwan's sovereignty and (now) closing corruption loopholes, there is no way for them to control this narrative or even a single news cycle. And this will go on through the December elections. Nobody is going to pay any attention to what Ma's government is doing. He'll probably effortlessly get his way on everything -- up until the 'peace agreement,' which will be a tougher sale.

+ Even B.S. allegations will stick in people's mind, which is why people like Chiu Yi are slinging everything they can make up before a morning press conference.

+ The DPP's attempt to paint itself as clean, anti-black gold party are now doomed for the foreseeable future. And Ma really will look like Mr. Clean. I think he gets one more free term now.

Aug 18, 2008

On the UN thingie

Tip off from Maddog via e-mail. The article explains the UN application process better than I did earlier:

Taiwan said Friday it has changed tact in its United Nations membership bid by seeking to access special organizations of the global body instead.

"The motion raised by our allies this year is to urge the UN assembly to propose that its special organizations accept the meaningful participation of Taiwan and its 23 million people in their respective bodies and activities," said Vice Foreign Minister Hsia Li-yan in a news conference in Taipei.

Instead of seeking to join the United Nations as it has done every year since 1993, Hsia said it would be more practical for the island to join the UN special organizations, including the World Health Organisation.

He said 17 of Taiwan's 23 diplomatic allies submitted the motion to the UN General Assembly Thursday as a provisional agenda for review in next month's assembly in New York.

Taiwan will accept using any title, including Chinese-Taipei, in order to gain accession to those special bodies. "But of course, we will not consider the 'China's Taipei' title," he added.

More on Chen's case ...

From ICRT:

A Taiwan prosecutor just back from Switzerland is optimistic authorities
there will cooperate in helping to get to the bottom of allegations of money
laundering against the former first family.

Qing Qi-ren said Taiwan and Swiss officials are working to freeze a bank
account at the centre of the investigation involving former president Chen

Upon returning to Taiwan Qing said a request for the return of any illegal
funds stashed by Chen or his family in Swiss banks was well received.

She said Swiss investigators also indicated their willingness to cooperate in
turning any suspicious materials over to Taiwan as well.

Qing's disclosure of her efforts in Switzerland came as Chen and several
others involved in the case have been barred from leaving the island pending
the outcome of their investigation.

A total of three people including Chen and former first lady Wu Shu-zhen ...
as well as her brother ... are among those who have been barred from leaving.

The daughter of former president Chen Shui-bian threw a temper tantrum in
front of reporters this morning ... suggesting her father is being singled
out, and that other members of the DPP are not saints.

Cornered by local media ... Chen Xin-yu screamed that before she dies she
intends to tell on everyone in the DPP who has come asking for money from her
father at election time.

Chen denied their family has taken any money that wasn't theirs ... saying if
that was the case she could lie at home everyday and not worry about having
to work.

She then turned her tirade on the top members of the DPP ... asking "has Su
Zhen-chang not taken money? Has Frank Xie not taken money? Has Gaoxiong mayor Chen [Chu] not taken money?

She said now that her father is in trouble DPP politicans are acting like
they're saints who have never done anything wrong.

Lowering her voice only to answer a phone call ... Chen asked if all the DPP
politicians who took election money from her father reported it or just put
unused funds into their own pockets.

TDMH/CKSMH name change?

Taipei Times' Flora Wang reports:

The Ministry of Education kept a low profile yesterday after a media report said it was planning to change the name of the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall back to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

Chu Nan-hsien (朱楠賢), the director-general of the Department of Social Education, which supervises the hall, said that before the ministry makes budget requests for the next fiscal year, it would only address regulations related to the hall.

Chu was referring to the Organic Statute of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂組織條例), which the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government had sought to abolish before changing the hall’s name to Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall on May 19 last year.

However, the legislature did not approve the then-Cabinet’s proposal to abolish the statute. It also blocked another organic statute of the democracy hall proposed by the Cabinet.

Asked if the ministry would remove every plaque in the hall that bore the title “Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall,” Chu said the ministry was still deliberating the matter.

Weekend Report

I spent the weekend listening to underground (green) radio here in Kaohsiung and let me tell you: the green supporters are pissed and panicked. A-bian's impropriety here has screwed over the DPP cause more than anything the blue camp has done in the last eight years.

This will kill enthusiasm for the 8-30 rally; it will drain blood from the DPP daily as the year-end County Commissioner and Mayoral elections approach; it will distract from what Ma does in office; and it has made a joke of the DPP's cause. Remember, the problem isn't just the corruption. Chen stole from his own supporters, many of whom made sacrifices to make donations to his campaign.

As Feiren pointed out in a chat:

The worst thing is that it confirms the Taiwanese belief in conspiracies and rampant corruption everywhere, and the attitude that I should just go get my stack first and fuck everyone else.
The whole Independence-oriented media, like Liberty Times and the underground radio, is calling for the same direction: disown Chen and continue to stand up for Taiwan's right to self-determination. All good in theory, but very difficult to execute at this point.

Now what? Frankly, I think the best we can do is wait and pray. Because we are royally screwed.

Aug 15, 2008

TVBS jumped the gun; MOFA will try to participate in UN as "specialized agency"

This plan stands some chance of passing versus applying as a country, but I doubt very much it will work out. DPP lashes out in response, of course.

Update: To be clear though, even if China accepted this idea, Taiwan would not be considered a country in any way, would not have any voting power and I assume would not be able to speak at the General Assembly or anywhere else, though I'll have to research just what the hell a specialized agency is.

Here is a list of these UN specialized agencies from Wikipedia.

Second update: A loyal reader makes an important distinction:

The article in your "TVBS jumped the gun" post doesn't say the Ma admin wants Taiwan to join the UN *as* as special agency. It says to *participate in* special agencies of the UN.

Breaking: A-bian, wife to leave DPP

Now that A-bian's heavier dead weight than the sunken Titanic, he's announced he and his wife will leave the party almost immediately. It is about the only contribution he can still make to the DPP and Taiwan's cause, and this did not go unnoticed.

Wow. Just wow. What an incredible and disappointing finish.

Former VP Annette Lu points out A-bian's resignation is just too little, too late.

(For more about the scandal, check here.)

(For once, I beat Michael Turton to a post on something like this. Too bad it has to be over such a sad story.)

Baseball: Taiwan looses to China 7:8

The office is dead quiet.

TVBS: Ma wants to use "ROC(Taiwan)" for UN application

It's either a well timed leak or idle speculation.

Update: Idle speculation.

If UN bid will fail, why compromise on the name?

Since it will fail, I don't see the point in adopting "Chinese Taipei" or some other "flexible and practical" name.

DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) said the government’s strategy would weaken Taiwan’s sovereignty and confuse national identity.
I fear it's too late. The pile of crap is really getting scary: Chinese labor, dropping of the presidential title, acceptance of demands that amount to symbolic deference to China. This is not the policy the Taiwanese people want; Taiwanese people want their future to remain firmly in their own hands. At what point will the KMT overplay its hand, showing they're not interested in just showing China goodwill, but of deciding Taiwan's destiny in favor of unification?

Follow up on Chen scandal ...

Michael Turton beats me to it for now.

IHT: U.S., Poland sign missle deal due to fears of Russia

It's not particularly surprising, but it goes to show the U.S. was always interested in placing this shield in Poland not because of Iran, as Bush continually insisted, but because of the shield's usefulness against Russia, which is what the Russians always contended and what infuriated them so much. On this topic, few people have said so much as well as

Aug 14, 2008

Chen laundered money?

ICRT reports ...

A lawmaker claims to have proof that former president Chen Shui-bian
laundered money through his son and daughter-in-law.

Hong Xiu-zhu claims to have a letter from the Swiss government saying it is
investigating bank accounts opened under Chen Zhi-zhong and Huang Rui-qing's

According to Hong, Huang had originally opened two Swiss accounts, one with
over 20 million U.S. dollars, the other with over 70 billion NT.

The funds were later transferred to a company set up by Huang in the Cayman
islands, though 10 million dollars were transferred once again to a Swiss
account under Chen Zhi-zhong's name.

Lawmaker Hong alleges that this money was provided by former president Chen,
who is currently being investigated for abuse of a special state affairs
fund, and that the various transactions were meant to cover up the
A-bian has admitted that there were discrepancies in his expense report tax report but denies wrong-doing admits wrong-doing, but I'm not clear on the details yet. Let's wait until tomorrow.

We'll see how this goes; this can be nothing but a demoralizing blow to the already crawling DPP.

Aug 8, 2008

College degree worth nothing

As the acceptance rate into college in Taiwan approaches 100%, employers are just yawning at bachelor degrees. We can call it education inflation. And it adds a lot to costs for education that probably aren't teaching most of the kids that much at all.

DPP sues Ma Ying-jeou for treason

Updated: After Ma nullified the classification of the documents related to Chen's State Affairs fund, the DPP has opted to sue him for treason in the Taipei District Court, A-bian's lawyer has asked for the Constitutional Court to decide if this constitutes treason, claiming it was an act of political revenge. As the Taipei Times reported today,

The documents contained information pertaining to six diplomatic missions and were therefore protected under the Classified National Security Information Protection Act (國家機密保護法), [Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) lawyer Richard] Lee (李勝琛) said. ...

Following Ma’s inauguration, instead of declassifying the documents, the Presidential Office granted the court access to them. The Special Investigation Section of the Supreme Court Prosecutors’ Office said however that access was inadequate and sought again in June to have the documents declassified.

On Tuesday, the Presidential Office said it would declassify the documents, adding that they should not have been classified in the first place.
Who knew you could sue someone for treason?

Aug 6, 2008

Ma nullifies classification of Chen state affairs fund documents

The decision to "nullify" the classification rather than declassify hints that the Ma administration believes the documents should never have been classified in the first place.

Aug 5, 2008

When there's no news, make some

Nothing serious happening today.

The Presidential Office has indicated it will probably decide whether or not to declassify documents related to President Chen's special affairs within a day or two.

Green groups are preparing for a parade on 8-30 in Taipei in front of the Presidential Office.

The name change of Taiwan Post to Chunghwa Post continues to draw cross-partisan fire.

Robberies in Taiwan are largely committed by meth addicts, and the problem makes for ugly crime statistics.

The Taitung County Commissioner's ill-timed trip abroad continues to provide fodder for the green camp.

Ma denies a shifting policy on purchasing US weapons.

Taichung Mayor Jason Hu may have taken official observation leave as an excuse for vacation in April.

Ma pledges good relations with Japan.

Aug 4, 2008

KMT legislator: TDMH -- > CKS Memorial

KMT legislator Chiang Yi-hsiung (江義雄) said today there is hope that the legislature will "rectify" the name of Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall back to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall next legislative session. The argument goes like this: the last Executive did not get Legislative approval for the name change, so next legislative session the KMT can make an official strike down of that name change.

What a very sad misappropriation of the word for name rectification (正名).

Olympic issue

Besides the "Chinese Taipei" vs. "Taipei, China" name use issue which seems to be resolved in favor of "Chinese Taipei," Beijing had one other trick up their sleeve. That's to place Taiwan in the "Z" C section of the opening ceremony, while Taiwan has always been in the "T" section (as the official abbreviation for the team is TPE).

Edit: An anonymous reader makes a correction:

The Taipei Times has mentioned in at least four articles that the procession order will be based on "the number of strokes in the first character of each country's Olympic designation in simplified Chinese script."
- - -
Under this system, Taiwan will be the 24th team to enter the stadium after Japan and before the Central African Republic and Hong Kong.

Some in Taiwan fear that this is will be used by Bejing as a future precedent. The Presidential Office has been very low key and just indicated it would be "difficult" to simply boycott the opening ceremony.

Coming in the wake of all the measures Ma has taken to placate Beijing, this seems like a real dickhead thing of the Chinese to do. As my wife put it, 「他們連這種小豆腐也要吃。」

It's probably too late to expect any sort of real protest from the Taiwanese side.

Flood control

Given the two recent typhoons and the unexpectedly wide-spread flooding from the first (and weaker) one, there's been lots of talk in the local political scene about flood-control measures. In particular, some have wondered aloud if part of the damage could have been prevented if the KMT legislature had passed the DPP flood-control budget back in the old administration.

Instead of reviewing and things up or down, back during Chen's administration the KMT preferred to bottle things up in committee forever. That included Chen's Control Yuan nominees, who were not reviewed at all, causing the Control Yuan to effectively shut down for, I think, close to two years; it included the annual budget at one point; and it also included this flood control budget. Not to speak of other bills.

Well, the budget was stalled for a total of about 2 years starting from the time Frank Hsieh was Premier. But it was passed before the end of the DPP term, and local governments did get to spend the money. I can't find much proof that stalling the budget limited any flood control measures from being implemented.

My guess is that no matter what Taiwan is doing about this, there are two major issues: poor drainage in cities and lack of water-holding reservoirs in rural areas. So it's pretty tough to do much about flooding until you take large scale measures in these two areas.

Aug 1, 2008

The Immorality of the State

In discussions related to how people judge the morality of various governments, including Taiwan's, the US's and China's, one fact is always ignored.

The State's only drive is to preserve itself. In rare cases this leads to some peaceful, neutral and economically powerful State (as in modern Northern Europe or Switzerland). In most cases it leads to the government visiting ruin on rival States, its own population or both.

The below essay by Bakunin discusses the immorality of the state as an institution. The article in full gives you a much better sense of it, but I'll also take a few paragraphs as below:

by Mikhail Bakunin [1814-1876]
From "The Political Philosophy of Bakunin" by G.P. Maximoff
1953, The Free Press, NY


...Every State, whether it is of a federative or a non-federative character,
must seek, under the penalty of utter ruin, to become the most powerful of
States. It has to devour others in order not to be devoured in turn, to
conquer in order not to be conquered, to enslave in order not to be enslaved -
for two similar and at the same time alien powers, cannot co-exist without
destroying each other....

This transcendent, super-human, and therefore anti-human morality of States is not only the result of the corruption of men who are charged with carrying on State functions. One might say with greater right that corruption of men is the natural and necessary sequel of the State institution. This morality is only the development of the fundamental principle of the State, the inevitable expression of its inherent necessity. The State is nothing else but the negation of humanity; it is a limited collectivity which aims to take the place of humanity and which wants to impose itself upon the latter as a supreme goal, while everything else is to submit and minister to it....

Therefore what do we see? Every time a State wants to declare war upon another State, it starts off by launching a manifesto addressed not only to its own subjects but to the whole world. In this manifesto it declares that right and justice are on its side, and it endeavors to prove that it is actuated only by love of peace and humanity and that, imbued with generous and peaceful sentiments, it suffered for a long time in silence until the mounting iniquity of its enemy forced it to bare its sword. At the same time it vows that, disdainful of all material conquest and not seeking any increase in territory, it will put and end to this war as soon as justice is reestablished. And its antagonist answers with a similar manifesto, in which naturally right, justice, humanity, and all the generous sentiments are to be found respectively on its side....

This explains to us why ever since history began, that is, ever since States came into existence, the political world has always been and still continues to be the stage for high knavery and unsurpassed brigandage - brigandage and knavery which are held in high honor, since they are ordained by patriotism, transcendent morality, and by the supreme interest of the State. This explains to us why all the history of ancient and modern States is nothing more than a series of revolting crimes; why present and past kings and ministers of all times and of all countries - statesmen, diplomats, bureaucrats, and warriors - if judged from the point of view of simple morality and human justice, deserve a thousand times the gallows of penal servitude....

What is permitted to the State is forbidden to the individual. Such is the maxim of all governments. Machiavelli said it, and history as well as the practice of all contemporary governments bear him out on that point. Crime is the necessary condition of the very existence of the State, and it therefore constitutes its exclusive monopoly, from which it follows that the individual who dares commit a crime is guilty in a two-fold sense: first, he is guilty against human conscience, and, above all, he is guilty against the State in arrogating to himself one of its most precious privileges.

Postal service to be renamed again

The Taiwan Post, soon to be renamed the Chunghwa Post, will be the first state run enterprise renamed since Ma has taken office.