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Aug 29, 2009

I <3 sashimi

US$6 worth of sashimi in Pingtung.

Aug 28, 2009

ECFA referendum request rejected

Lōa Io̍k-sin of the Taipei Times has the story of the day, which is being overshadowed the usual gossip and, of course, the Dalai Lama's impending visit. But I find this committee's 13-4 decision shocking and really didn't see this coming. Key paragraphs below.

The Executive Yuan's Referendum Review Committee yesterday turned down a petition submitted by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) asking for a referendum on the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) that the government plans to sign with China....

The majority of committee members felt that the question in the referendum petition was not clear enough,” committee chairman Chao Yung-mau (趙永茂) told a news conference after the meeting. “It does not ask the public to express its opinion on a proposal of a legislative principle, a major policy decision, or concrete issues of a major policy.”

Instead, it asks the public to vote on something that has not yet happened — since the ECFA is not a concrete policy yet. Hence, we decided that the petition did not meet the criteria for a referendum as stipulated in the Referendum Act (公民投票法),” he said....

Holding a referendum on whether a referendum should be held is not a question that can be asked in a referendum as stipulated in the Referendum Act,” Chao said.

The committee is composed 100% of Ma appointees. But could it be that politics is not the main factor here? To evaluate how reasonable this decision is, we have to take another look at the referendum wording:

Do you agree that the government ought to put an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) signed between Taiwan and China to a referendum before the Taiwanese people?
The DPP got a lot of flack for this phrasing -- it simply asks people if they want a referendum later instead of asking people if they want an ECFA outright -- but in retrospect, you could also say they predicted the committee's objections!

Instead of trying to reject a hypothetical ECFA, the referendum asks if the public wants the government to submit this future agreement to referendum. That wording seems to override committee objections, being both clear and asking the public to make a concrete policy decision -- specifically, whether the public should have direct oversight of the final wording of the ECFA.

The final objection, that you can't hold a referendum on whether there should be a referendum, seems to me to not be addressed by the Referendum Act at all, and is a subjective reading of the statute. To reach that conclusion, you'd have to argue that referendum oversight is not a concrete issue of a major policy.

There is one sense in which the DPP question may be unclear -- namely, that if the ECFA that is signed between Taiwan and China and then goes to referendum, what happens if the public rejects it? The ECFA would already be signed. Does it have to be shredded? That's clearly the DPP intent, though the referendum wording does not specify the end game.

More from the article:
National Taiwan University law professor Chen Miao-fen (陳妙芬), who voted in favor of the petition, said that she did not endorse the committee's conclusion.

“We didn't have a thorough discussion before the chairman called a vote on it,” Chen said, adding that while the meeting started at 2pm, they did not start discussing details of the proposal until around 3:30pm and that Chao rushed to close the discussion and call a vote at 5:30pm.

“We voted on whether to close the discussion, and the result was 9 to 9, meaning that half of the people still thought that we needed more time,” she said. “But the chairman ruled to end the discussion — I thought it was quite abrupt.”
Democratic process at work!
The DPP is expected to file an appeal.
That appeal, would go to the Central Election Commission.

Aug 25, 2009

Funny business?

Check out Dan's interesting post about the lack of US insignia on military planes helping in the relief effort here.

Aug 21, 2009

KMT business.

Rumors abound about splits in the KMT. But I think this is pure speculation. Most of the most vocal legislators, if not all the dissidents, are former PFP people, who have no loyalty to the party and less influence; if anything, this is a bid for power on their part destined to fail. Calls for James Soong to become Premier, emanating from one or two voices inside these dissidents' ranks, are not going to get any attention at all. Do not expect anyone to split off from the party.

However, the KMT is experiencing the beginnings of an internal power struggle. And to support that thesis, I would note two things. First, the complete absence of commentary of appearances from Wang Jin-Pyng, who must indeed be doing something behind the scenes. And second, the lack of any comments from Lien Chan or current KM chair Wu Po-hsiung. The Old Guard are quiet, and not showing their hand. That cannot be good news for Ma.

How things go depend a lot on the next couple of months and, perhaps, even couple of years. But Ma no longer has a free pass to run either the party or to be the nominee come 2012.

Aug 20, 2009

Must read at FESP.

Aug 19, 2009

Ma feeds the fire at his feet

The pro-KMT China Times has a biting news piece on Ma's painful press conference yesterday. Translated below:

President Ma Ying-jeou's press conference, designed to dampen criticism aimed at his typhoon response, was instead full of surprising language. Examples include statements that the damage done by this typhoon has "taught a lesson" to many people [victims unable or unwilling to evacuate], and that in the future they would cooperate better. Vice Premier Chiu Cheng-hsiung (邱正雄), responding to questions of how victims could find information regarding compensation, said "The Executive Yuan website already has that information [as if victims have easy internet access]." The string of gaffs managed not to sooth public anger, but rather to inflame it once again.

At yesterday's press conference, President Ma Ying-jeou affirmed local government efforts to evacuate areas prone to heavy damage, such as Hsin-shan Village in Nantou County's Shui-li Township (南投縣水里鄉新山村), where Village Chief Lin Mei-ling (林美玲) successfully evacuated 50 villagers. "I asked her, 'How is it that you are so amazing and foresaw the mudslides?' She said she followed her training from the Water Conservation Bureau." Ma approved of the effectiveness of WCB training, which explain to everyone the extreme dangers of mudslides, and noted that Chief Lin had saved the lives of her villagers by following her training [AG: As last night's Talking Show covered, many destroyed villages were following disaster evacuation plans but it made no difference as emergency convergence areas were destroyed as well].

Afterward, Ma emphasized that he hopes to quickly establish an effective [evacuation] system; "This typhoon has taught many people a lesson, and they will cooperate more fully in the future. Human effort is the decisive factor, and effort can be made."

Responding to questions that the military had not activated enough units, Defense Minister Chen Chao-min (陳肇敏) cautiously started by saying such things as "I am Taiwanese, and Taiwan is my home." [A-Gu: This is a given for most of the public, who are probably just bewildered by and suspicious of this kind of introduction, because it seems to show Chen fears he'll be called a non-Taiwanese in a time where such accusations are not really flying around.]

When asked by the media about how citizens could get details on how to ask for compensation from the disaster, Vice Premier Chiu arrangements for shelter allowed each person to get NT$5,000 of compensation, which would be provided by the red cross over a period of three days. Those households who had suffered damage from flooding by water over 50cm high would receive NT$20,000 in compensation, which would be distributed by local governments. Should their funds be inadequate, the central government would foot the bill. "This plan was decided Monday by the Executive Yuan and announced on the website."

Vice Premier Chiu further explained that compensation for rent for those forced to move would be 30,000-50,000 per household and could be obtained immediately. "Those with any questions can contact the relevant government departments; relevant phone numbers are on the Executive Yuan website." As soon as Chiu made these remarks, media were dumbstruck, and had no choice but to ask him in response, "How are flood victims who have been stripped of all their possessions and have a flooded house going to get online to find these phone numbers?"

For the record, the last two days of Talking Show have been excellent, fact-filled shows about the government's response and its inability to present a plausible reason for its paralysis. Start watching them here (Monday) and here (Tuesday).

Aug 17, 2009

Tone deaf

I've checked out the KMT website to see what they're doing for damage control since the typhoon. Besides information on how to volunteer with the KMT, they have a montage at the top of the page, and the pictures mostly carry slogans like "Heartless typhoon, loving compatriots" to express sympathy for the victims and emphasize the work people are doing to help out. They look something like this, showing both politicians and volunteers at work to help victims:

(The DPP for its part has a similar montage but the only recognizable politician is Tsai Ing-wen).

But one picture struck me as particularly tone deaf: it reads, "Sending Northern love South, bringing comfort to the disaster zones."

Now I say this is tone deaf because, as so often happens, it is being written from the perspective of Taipei. Trust me, nobody is complaining about the vast number of volunteers from the North (thank you all!), or the KMT Youth Corps, who are coming to disaster zones across the country to help out.

But there are plenty of Central/Southern/Eastern residents who are going in any number of directions to help out people in other disaster areas. The simple-minded idea that the North is helping/saving the poor, helpless South is ... well, patronizing and annoying.

Aug 3, 2009

Round up 8/3

The DPP has done a good job marketing the referendum for the ECFA, with most people across party lines supporting a referendum, and few people know what the ECFA would consittute, according to Taiwan Thinktank's latest survey.

More than 90 percent of people do not know what the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) that the government intends to sign with China is, a poll conducted by Taiwan Thinktank showed.

The poll also suggested that more than 60 percent of respondents supported the holding of a referendum on the cross-strait agreement....

The poll was conducted at the end of last month, with 1,085 valid samples collected randomly nationwide. The think tank is generally regarded as leaning toward the pan-green camp.
Secondly, Taiwan killed China 13:1 with amatuers in the Asian Baseball Championships, after having beaten Korea 5:4 and just losing to Japan 6:5

And finally, the latest update to the map is done, reflecting recent nomination news for the 2009 County Magistrate/mayoral elections. The KMT is more or less finished nominating, needing only to pick a candidate in the Matsu islands and verify the Pingtung candidate. I find it interesting they're going after both Kinmen and Matsu, the only remaining enclaves of non-absorbed PFP and New Party officials. Meanwhile, the DPP will likely need to finalize candidates in Taoyuan, Miaoli, and Hualien soon; I imagine they'll leave Kinmen and Matsu to the pan-blues.

View 2009 County Magistrate/mayoral elections 第十六屆縣(市)長選舉 in a larger map