Monday, November 29, 2004

Lies are the mortar that bind the savage individual man into the social masonry. -H.G. Wells

The guys over at Something Awful have had this flash gem up for awhile. Don't watch this at work unless your colleagues already think you are a complete kook. (Oh yeah, click the poorly drawn arrow on the flash to get it moving.)
Working for the government ...

As many of you know, my full-time job is with the ROC government. The building I work in is very close to the Executive Yuan and the national police building. And it's only a few blocks away from the Legislative Yuan. This means that roughly once a month, some nutjob feels that the government needs to redress a grievance. This is frequently done either with a megaphone or a little bravado brought on by the bottle.

Taiwan is proud of its democratic traditions. The man hollering outside of my office, making it difficult for us to concentrate on our work, has been out there for nearly three quarters of an hour. No one has asked him to go away.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

I am a monster after ...

One blini disaster. (tip: do not kill the yeast!) And to top it off my cat peed on my curtains. I'm cranky and I'm gonna get a cup of coffee.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Franz Kafka (and his handsome dog).

Something on the man.
To the barricades.

Timothy Garton Ash weighs in on the struggle in the Ukraine here.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

For the citizens of the Ukraine ...

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. --Vaclav Havel

Let's hope that Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych accedes to the recount demands and that Vladimir Putin is able to rein in his anti-democratic longings. Above all, let this be settled peacefully. Lech Walesa is on the way to mediate. Canada, the EU, the US, Germany and NATO have all expressed reservations about the legitamacy of the elections.

Lien Chan makes me laugh ...

The party chairman of the KMT, a man who has led his party into three consecutive losses (and it looks like it may be four soon), including two presidential defeats and a loss of seats in the last legislative election, says he is willing to make peace with President Chen Shui-bian, if of course the president will compromise on a couple of issues.

Lien says the KMT will pass Chen's defense budget which Chen has been trying to push through for well over four years now if Chen will be a gentleman and cut it in half. As I pointed out in my very first post here, Taiwan, if the initial budget is passed, will still be paying only 2.8 of its annual GDP on defense, less than Singapore, less than South Korea, less than the US.

Here on the eve of the legislative elections, it looks like Chairman Lien is getting the heebie geebies. He has sniffed defeat one time too many and if he goes down this time, it's off to the abattoir.

His other offer? That if the Chen administration will not interfere with the 319 Special Truth Investigation committee, the KMT will accept its findings. My what a generous man you are Mr. Lien!

For those who have no idea what the hell I'm talking about, this committee was formed to investigate the shooting of the president on the eve of the presidential election. Formed under the auspices of a pan-blue vote (the opposition to the president, many of whom still believe that the president had someone shoot him in order to gain a sympathy vote to win the election), the committee is clearly unconstitutional and has extralegal powers, powers the judiciary and police might envy.

Lien, when he speaks of interference, is referring to the ruling party's legal challenges to the constitutionality of the committee. So if the ruling party will let this farce of a committee distort the constitution and the judicial process, he will accept the results.

This from a man who has already implied that any result that goes against his wishes (notice the sense of entitlement here) must be a result of illegal, political interference. Lien threw such a temper tantrum a couple of weeks ago when the court threw out his party's case to annul the election that, in a moment of calculation surprising for such a dullard, he used a classical Chinese idiom that could be interpreted as a call for violence in a speech he gave after the court's ruling. In everyday Chinese, what Lien said could be taken to mean that since the president had stacked the courts (a ridiculous allegation by the way) and had won his election through fraud, anyone was entitled to kill the president. Of course, the nuance, the spirit in which the idiom was intended in its original form meant that anyone could admonish or punish the president for such behavior.

Lien has not accepted a single result that has run counter to his belief that he and only he deserves to be in power since he lost the presidential election. Why on earth would he start now?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Well hell ...

A Hmong hunter went on a killing spree in Wisconsin. Some scientists say that chocolate may be good for a cough (That's good news!) And all I can think about right now is how to make Blini. Anyone have a good recipie?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Vaclav Havel is here ...

The former Czech president, political dissident and playwright is here in Taiwan. Yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian awarded him the Order of the Brilliant Star for his continuing support of Taiwan and Taiwan's democracy. Havel, when president of the Czech Republic, refused to make state visits to China and also barred dictators from Belarus and The Ukraine from entering his country on the grounds that they abused human rights and were therefore not welcome.

Of course, he is known as one of the key authors of the Velvet Revolution and his book Open Letters has one of his most powerful essays,"The Power of the Powerless." Here are some excerpts.

Monday, November 22, 2004

A mish-mash.

Taiwan's shares fell on weak tech stocks. President Chen Shui-bian, out campaigning for the legislative elections, is talking about a new constitution and perhaps a referendum "if China pushes too hard." One wonders if this has anything to do with the recent braggadocio summoned up by Chen's rival, the KMT's Lien Chan, who challenged the president to have a referendum on independence. Chen had already sworn to reform the constitution when he was running for his second term. This referendum talk, though, is nothing more than political posturing. Chen and the DPP know full well that China has explicitly said that it will not stand for a referendum on Taiwan's independence.

In other news? Timothy Garton Ash says the US and Europe need to get along. The story about the Chinese nuclear sub in Japanese waters is well over a week old now but making Japan nervous will play out in other ways, such as Japan seeking to solidify its relationship with Taiwan and possibly the US. More here.

And this is the banality of the day, perhaps a good study if you are a poor twenty something living in New York and wanting to throw parties.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Music as an education.

David Eggers has an amusing column up in The Guardian about how pompous references in pop songs get us to scramble to the library or dictionary. He claims the British drop literary references more often than American artists do, but I'm not sure that's the case. I just think overall the Americans are a bit subtler.

In Ballad of a Thin Man, Dylan sings :

With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks
You've been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald's books
You're very well read
It's well known
Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

And anyone who has been following the surge of "research" into Dylan's lyrics should know by now that most of his songs are chock full of literary references, prompting one critic to call him a "magpie poet." Dylan's album Time Out of Mind has a great song called I'm Sick of Love. That title was taken straight from the Songs of Solomon in the Bible. And earlier this year there was a kerfuffle over Dylan's having snatched a few lines from an obscure Japanese writer Junichi Saga for the song Floater on his 2001 album Love and Theft.

And what about Lou Reed? I mean a song called The Sword of Damocles?

While Randy Newman may not drop names from the stacks, he has opened up listeners eyes to historic figures and events across the American landscape. There's an Austin, Texas band that named itself after a William Faulkner novel. There's more, but this is too long already.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The essay.

I've always been an avid reader of essays, and I think my fondness for them is what helped me make the leap from the lake of fiction to the sturdier realm of travelogues, reportage and history. Yet coming from fiction first has its advantages. One can spot the yarn buried within, the fable brandished as fact. Once fiction makes a cameo in an informative piece, it is up to us, the readers, to judge what master it serves.

Here's a good book review on a compliation of essays.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Why don't we do it in the road?

Here's why. Because it's immoral, in fact simply alluding to it is clearly a bad idea. At least that's what the congressman from Indiana thinks. Don't laugh at this. Stop it. Am I going to have to make you go out and strip a limb off the Birch tree?

From Ohio, with love.

A friend who lives here in Taiwan sent me a picture of his absentee ballot, which he received today, some two weeks after the election. Click on the image to enlarge. There you can make out that the Ross County Board of Elections in Chillicothe, Ohio sent his ballot to sunny Jamaica instead of Taipei. Better luck next time, huh?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Who will rid me of this meddling priest?

President Chen accuses rivals Lien Chan and James Soong of attempting to overthrow the government. Read on.
Don Knotts as Dubya.


Sunday, November 14, 2004

DPP supporter holds a rose.
Feeling glum or glib?

"I know what you're thinking about," said Tweedledee, "but it isn't so, nohow. " "Contrariwise," continued Tweedledee, "if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic." -Lewis Carroll,Through the Looking Glass.
Tired of losing arguments with your mates and family? Maybe Stephen's Guide to the Logical Fallacies makes for good Sunday reading.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The illuminati ?

For all you conspiracy theorists out there. Whaddya think?
And if that isn't spooky, well, this is.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Iris Chang dead at 36. R.I.P.

Iris Chang, the young historian who chronicled Japanese war crimes in China during World War II in her book The Rape of Nanjing committed suicide. For years Chang was harassed and threatened by right-wing Japanese nationalists in an effort to intimidate Chang and prevent her from further research. More here.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Waste of time and money...

I just finished a novel called Overtaken by Alexei Sayle. And although the one Amazon reader who felt it worthy of a review raved about it, overall I thought it was crap. The guy's dark sparkling humor coarses through the book, but both the denouement and the surprise ending were overtly contrived and risible. I fear Mr. Sayle has been reading a surfeit of Martin Amis, as his cast of characters are all too uniquely despicable.
Again, again and again!

We had two more earthquakes over the past 24 hours, one last night a t 10:48 which weighed in at 5.5 on the Richter scale. The epicenter was in the Pacific ocean. And we had another one today that measured 6.0. Enough already!

On to other things. Sorry I haven't posted as much in the past week, the US election results knocked the wind out of me, but I'm recovering.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Reaching out ...

Uh, I know this could sound silly, but I think sometimes my limited Internet reading needs some expandin'. So what I would like if you have the time is to send me some esoteric links you've found. You can either lay a few on me in the comments section or, if you prefer, in me email box, which you can find at the bottom of the sidebar. Thanks!
Whole lotta shakin' going on ...

That one is too hard to resist! For those of you who either slept through it and never speak with your colleagues or don't live here, we had another decent earthquake last night. At first gently swaying from side to side, the tremor made the light fixtures dance around a bit. Last night on the news it was reported at 5.7 on the Richter scale, but the Taiwan seismology center has changed that figure to 6.7. Fortunately, no one was hurt. More here.
Hey there!

You could also check out my other blog here. Yet I have to warn you, nothing has been done over there. Just a concept at this point.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Angry and honest ...

One of the better rants I have seen since Kerry's loss.
Another food movie ...

I watched a fairly good food movie last night, not the best but decent. Mostly Martha is a German film about an incorrigible cook who lets her guard down for a niece and an Italian cook. It's too sentimental at times, but the scenes of Martha dealing with ignorant, finicky customers are priceless.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

In the lions' den ...

Taiwan madness hooks up with US political satire here. And yes, the man was actually trying to convert the lions.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Herbert Herbert

Most parents want their children to succeed beyond their expectations, but one wonders if Poppy was secretly hoping for Dubya's defeat. At the next big family holiday at Kennebunkport, will irascible George do the endzone dance in front of his Pa?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The 11 states.

I was having a conversation tonight with an Ohio voter living abroad. He claims that as soon as he saw the gay marriage amendment on the Ohio ballot, he thought the Bush people had pulled a brilliant move, and could very well go on to win the election. But he also said he thought the amendments were placed on the ballots in 11 key states, all states in which Bush would have to rally his base and get them to the polls.

I must admit I didn't pay much attention to which states had the amendment on the ballot. I knew about Arkansas because that's my home state, and somewhere I read about Oregon. But that's it. So the 11 states are: Mississippi, Arkansas, Oregon, Montana, Ohio, Utah, Kentucky, Michigan, North Dakota, Georgia and Oklahoma. And take note here, the amendment was not on the ballot in Florida or Pennsylvania.

It seems to me that Mississippi, Montana, Utah, Kentucky, North Dakota, Georgia and Oklahoma were never in play for Kerry anyhow. Of the four left Oregon and Michigan were leaning toward Kerry, but were still in play to some extent just as Arkansas leaned toward Bush with some hope that it might be the only southern state that could go blue. And then there's Ohio. I know that this is an issue that energized Bush's base, but I'm not sure I buy the argument that it was a concerted Republican Party effort to get gay marriage on the ballot in key states to help swing the election. Eight of the 11 states were already red.
Spoiling for a murder ...

Well, if you think politics in the US is ugly, take a gander over here. As KMT Chairman Lien Chan and his party wait for the ruling by the High Court this afternoon as to whether the March election will be annuled, they have little to hope for. But one of the lawyers representing both the KMT and the People First Party told the KMT Central Standing Committee that it doesn't matter what the judges say, the election was illegitimate. In response, Lien had this to say:
No one is so great that people cannot touch him. As long as we see anyone who makes frauds or unlawful actions, every one could put this guy to death.
Everyone in Taiwan, on both sides of the political fence, knows precisely what Lien is getting at here. He is advocating the murder of President Chen Shui-bian. Yet because Lien is one of the wealthiest and most powerful people in Taiwan, he'll get away with this. He may take some flak or be forced into retracting the statement, but he'll continue to walk among us enjoying the liberties that, had he attempted this in most countries, would have evaporated in the confines of a prison cell.

The fall.

... from Morn to Noon he fell, from Noon to dewy Eve. - John Milton, Paradise Lost.

This passage in the first book describes the descent of Hephaestus after Zeus has thrown him off Mount Olympus, whereupon Hephaestus falls for a full day.

That day came again on Nov. 2. Hephaestus went on to fight more battles. He was ugly, gimply and a cuckold, as Ares, the god of war, took his wife Aphrodite, but his hands crafted the gods' most treasured possessions and his anvil produced their armor.

Ares had two sons, Phobos and Deimos, terror and fear. George W. Bush goes into his second term on the shoulders of those two, and as many have noted, he is inheriting the pall of his first four years in office. His administration is already wracked by dissention and scandal. And though he may be able to stem the rancor in the White House with a number of Cabinet appointments, it's difficult to imagine that he'll be able to stanch the leaks and investigations already pouring forth.

"He who troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind."-Proverbs 11:29. Inheritance has been Dubya's lifelong pursuit, so he may as well follow it to its bitter end.

Well, the Democrats in the US got clobbered. They lost in the marketplace of ideas. I haven't lived in the US for some time so I really don't have a feel for what goes on there now, but the windows into the Democrat community there suggested that the race would be tight, but John Kerry would prevail. It didn't happen. Yet now there are some powerful organizing tools in place and those leading the Democratic party are going to have to do some real soul searching after losing two elections in a row. I think it's time for new blood.

Here in Taiwan, as if US politics wasn't exasperating enough, there is a legislative election around the corner.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Twenty-four hours to go ...

And we should know the results. I am hoping that John Kerry will become the 44th president of the United States, and the folk who make up the Bush administration, curs one and all, are thrown out on their ass.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Copper's case ...

The piece that I cited below should be taken with a grain of salt. Copper gives us very few sources to back up his claims. In the eighth paragraph, he says that some of Kerry's supporters even advocate ceding one of Taiwan's outlying islands to China as a warning against independence for Taiwan. This sounds like complete shiite to me. It's the Fox News technique of "well, some people say ..." Since Copper neglected to tell us who these supporters were, shall we guess? Maybe he went to find some mainland Chinese Kerry supporters in Flushing, Queens.

In the fifteenth paragraph, Copper tells us that it "has been reported" that Kerry received funds from China for his presidential campaign. Yet Copper refuses to tell us who reported this scandalous gem. Newsmax perhaps, Rush Limbaugh, or better yet the Drudge Report?

If within the next 36 to 48 hours, George W. Bush gets voted out of office, I will be ecstatic. I still think that a Bush presidency would be more beneficial to Taiwan, but not because of Copper's argument. It's a pity that a man whose career has been dedicated to chronicling Taiwan's journey, as well as many other works on China and Asia, marshaled his reputation for this piece of partisan hackery. Then again, my guess is he's done it before. John Copper's CV says it all.
Kerry bad for Taiwan?

The whole reason I brought up Powell to begin with was to further the argument that a Republican president will be better for Taiwan in the long run. A couple of things caught my eye today, one of which I think drives the point home.

First, on Yahoo news, we find that China would prefer a Kerry presidency because Beijing is opposed to the Bush doctrine. I wonder why?

Also, the Taipei Times has an opinion piece written by Rhodes College Professor John Copper on why a Kerry presidency may not bode well for Taiwan's future. The link. Take this one with a grain of salt. More later.
Oh hell, I'm nervous ...

Here in Taiwan, we should know the results of the US election Wednesday morning. According to a number of polls, Osama bin Laden's tape didn't seem to have much of an effect on voters over the weekend. Republicans have been push-polling minority voters in West Virginia to convince them that they are not registered to vote. Sounds like its crazy out there.

More coming on Kerry and Taiwan soon.