Taiwan Votes 2008!

Taiwan has voted for a new legislative, and the KMT has secured a big majority. Congratulations to the new legislators.

The incumbant DPP administration has been hammered and in many ways rightly so. It is still obsessed with droning on about what the KMT did many years ago, Taiwanese identity, etc. Whilst they all have their places in campaigning, they can’t put food on the table or give someone a job. In contrast the KMT generally focused on domestic issues like the economy. Sure it isn’t that bad, but Opposition parties never admint that in an election – in every country they exaggerate the problems and failures, whilst ignoring the successes. Why help your opponents?

I believe that the KMT are now in a very strong position to win the Presidential election in March. The legislative election reminds me of John Major’s (Conservative Party) defeat in the 1997 UK general election. Things were not really that bad in the UK, but Labour came in with a “time for a change” campaign. This often happens in democracies – people get tired of the incumbants and look for another party to mix things up a bit. That the legislative has been controlled by the KMT and its allies hurt the DPP’s legislative programme, but voters normally blame the executive for lack of initiatives – that’s the price of living in a democracy (people can be unreasonable).

Yes, the KMT ruled Taiwan for decades in a repressive manner, but the Labour Party used to campaign for CND, making the unions powerful and high taxes – that didn’t stop them in 1997 presenting a new image. Similarly the KMT has reinvented itself in Taiwan. The DPP’s problem was that it refused to accept the KMT could change and wouldn’t adapt to fight them in the present day. They seem to act as if we were still in the 1980s. “Fear the past” campaigns rarely help keep incumbants in. It failed in 1997 for John Major and will probably fail for Gordon Brown (Labour Party) when he fights David Cameron (Conservative Party) at the next general election.

It would probably be a disaster if the DPP won the presidency, not because of the candidate (I think Frank Hsieh would be a good leader), but because the legislative would fight with the executive again. If the KMT had only won a small majority, it might have had its expectations quashed. But now it will want the presidency back – failure to win it will result in another four years of bitter confrontation. The idea that the KMT would split after another presidential defeat is probably wishful thinking, especially now that it has such a large majority – it could easily survive a modest split. Furthermore the KMT will have the ability to initiate the recall of the president as it has more than a 2/3 majority. I’m sure they would play that card at some point, further causing trouble.

A unified legislative and presidency would allow Taiwan to actually do what it has to do. The legislative would stop playing around with the budget and spending to spite the DPP – the military would be able to get new weapons more quickly (the KMT does want to order new equipment but blocked orders for years out of spite towards the DPP). I’m not suggesting a legislative and presidency should always be controlled by one party, but in Taiwan’s special position (i.e. threatened by China and diplomatically isolated) unified political leadership can be helpful.

Yes, the KMT will push for better ties with China – that’s good. There will be no “surrender” because the KMT does not trust the CCP and never will. On the other hand, China will have no excuses. There will be no alternative administration it could hope to negotiate with. It will be the KMT or no one. Further troublemaking on its part will finally demonstrate that China, not Taiwan, is the problem. If on the other hand Beijing and Taipei reconcile it would be good for both sides.

So what about the DPP? Well it has taken a small but necessary first step – Chen’s resignation as party chairman. He was a disaster in leading them through the election, not fighting on issues people really care about. After he finishes his term in office, he needs to disappear from politics and let those with new ideas rebuild. Because the DPP does need to change. It needs to fight on issues that affect people on a day-to-day basis. China and the KMT’s past aren’t relevant until you’ve got the core issues wrapped up with a good manifesto. After March the DPP will need to focus on the first rounds of local elections to rebuild support at that level.

Taiwan isn’t heading back to a one party autocracy because the democratic system is too firm – the public wouldn’t allow the KMT to go back to their old ways. Furthermore, if the KMT take the presidency they will have no excuses – they will have the ability to do whatever they want, so failure will be down to them. Eventually the electorate will want to give the DPP another go provided it shapes up. If the KMT turn into the Taiwanese equivalent of the LDP in Japan, it will be because of the DPP’s inability to make itself electable.

On a side-note, if anyone complains the system isn’t fair – well it isn’t. But that’s because the DPP didn’t want a fair system where seats were allocated pretty much in line with the votes obtained nationally, they wanted a system where they could get a majority of seats without a majority of votes (like we have in the UK). That’s why they and the KMT voted for it, whilst the smaller parties objected. The DPP paid the price for being greedy.



“Iraqi Solutions”

TPM Muckraker offers an excellent look at how the Bush administration is using language to obfuscate the fact that the surge failed to meet nearly all of its stated objectives. As I’ve thought for years, we’re just going to quietly pull out and say, well, it’s up to the Iraqis now – and then the real chaos will begin.

The one thing that saves Bush from total revolution is the shockingly short attention span and memory of the American public, as the aforementioned post indicates in its first sentence. To repeat a simple but often forgotten point, the surge was about achieving a series of measurable benchmarks. Its end goal was not a reduction in violence but political reconciliation. It has thus far been yet another failure.


40 percent

That’s how much gold is up since I urged readers to buy it almost one year ago. Maybe I can retire earlier than I’d expected. (Well, not really; I am still recovering from my losses from the dot-com crash. But this has definitely been my year for bouncing back.)


Zhou Enlai

This is an example of blogging at its very best. Anonymoused for your convenience. Thanks to Danwei for the tip.


Still the China I knew and loved

This was just put out by the Foreign Correspondents Club of China:


Plainclothes personnel riding in a marked police vehicle detained AP correspondent Bill Foreman, and authorities escorted him out of the village of Dongzhou in southern Guangdong province. He went there to confirm reports of renewed protests in the village where two years ago three men were shot and killed in demonstrations against government land acquisition. At the time, residents said the government gave them inadequate compensation for land taken to build an electric power plant. In December 2007, Radio Free Asia reported that about 1,000 riot police fired tear gas at protesters in Dongzhou. Residents were reluctant to speak about the protests to a foreign correspondent. Foreman said while he was walking down a narrow side street lined with shops, four plainclothes officers in a marked police car grabbed him by the arm and put him in the car without saying what he had done wrong. At the police station, after 30 minutes, a vice director of the propaganda department of the local communist party committee showed up. He wanted to see Foreman’s passport and press card. He also wanted to know to whom he had talked [to] and what they said. (Foreman said he couldn’t understand anyone because they spoke in dialect). Foreman brought up the new media guidelines, and the official said the law allows local governments to declare that certain places are off limits because of security concerns. Another official said reporters would probably be allowed to return to Dongzhou by February…

It’s still far from being a free country. We in the big cities need to remind ourselves of that every once in a while. The laws are there on the books, but when officials can ignore them and break them at will and impose their own “laws,” you have a situation akin to a police state.


The Comeback Kid

I would prefer Obama to win the nomination, but I was happy to see Senator Clinton win in NH tonight. I have been ashamed of our media going after her for choking up at a difficult moment, as I was when they went wild with clips of the “Hillary laugh” a couple of months ago. As I said in comments to the previous post, I believe her display of emotion actually helped her, humanized her – and the laying on of attacks only generated more sympathy for her.

The nomination process shouldn’t be signed and sealed in Iowa, so I’m not unhappy with what we are seeing in NH. I do worry about McCain winning, as he is the best candidate the GOP has and the only one who could possibly win, and we don’t want a far-right (on most issues) hawk winning the presidency again. I admire McCain in some ways, but I also know he has a fiendish temper and at times a disgusting mind. (This is my favorite example: McCain, reveling in adoration at a June 1998 Republican fund-raiser and sure his joke would go no further, said: “Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father.” Funny, ha ha. Still, if there’s a pearl among the swine it’s McCain, even if the pearl has some nicks. (You’ll find lots more of what I mean if you click that link.)

Getting back to the poor treatment of Senator Clinton (I am no longer referring to her as “Hillary” since a commenter pointed out how sexist it is; when you think about it, it’s true)… Today Gloria Steinem has a thoughtful column about the bias against Senator Clinton (subscription required) – both the media’s and our own. It made me think (not change my mind, just think).

I’m supporting Senator Clinton because like Senator Obama she has community organizing experience, but she also has more years in the Senate, an unprecedented eight years of on-the-job training in the White House, no masculinity to prove, the potential to tap a huge reservoir of this country’s talent by her example, and now even the courage to break the no-tears rule. I’m not opposing Mr. Obama; if he’s the nominee, I’ll volunteer. Indeed, if you look at votes during their two-year overlap in the Senate, they were the same more than 90 percent of the time. Besides, to clean up the mess left by President Bush, we may need two terms of President Clinton and two of President Obama.

But what worries me is that he is seen as unifying by his race while she is seen as divisive by her sex.

What worries me is that she is accused of ‘playing the gender card’ when citing the old boys’ club, while he is seen as unifying by citing civil rights confrontations.

What worries me is that male Iowa voters were seen as gender-free when supporting their own, while female voters were seen as biased if they did and disloyal if they didn’t.

What worries me is that reporters ignore Mr. Obama’s dependence on the old – for instance, the frequent campaign comparisons to John F. Kennedy – while not challenging the slander that her progressive policies are part of the Washington status quo.

The key phrase: “Indeed, if you look at votes during their two-year overlap in the Senate, they were the same more than 90 percent of the time.” In other words, maybe the meme that Hillary is right of center is just that, a meme.

Again, I am hoping Obama wins, but again, I’ll support Senator Clinton if I have to. She has been so demonized by commentators on both sides, though it hurts me the most to see her savaged by the left. Despite her alleged ties to the status quo and to big business and to the “old system,” few on this planet have done more to pursue noble liberal goals. Her votes on Iraq may constitute a serious mistake, but she doesn’t deserve the kind of contempt I’ve witnessed in recent weeks. Shameful.

Onto the next primary. The weeks ahead will be interesting, to say the least.


500 fewer Communists

I’m not necessarily in favor of China’s one-child policy (I hate it, but I also wonder if there’s much choice in the matter – something drastic had to be done, thanks to Mao’s stupidity in advocating higher birth rates). I am, however, in favor of governments applying their laws to all citizens, including those in the government. So I’d say the CCP did the right thing in expelling these 500 party members who defied the law.


You can’t make this up

Really. Very, very funny and even more revealing.



Is it morning again in America? Yesterday we saw, from all sides, a total and resounding rejection of Bush and of the status quo that allowed his sins to metastasize. The rejection of Mitt Romney and the other Republican candidates who had aligned themselves closely with the Bush doctrine must have the Grand Old Party in a state of rage, hysteria and despair. And this wasn’t the public at large, but hardcore Republicans (only hardcore party members vote in primaries) who actively gave the finger to their president, our disaster,

Maybe this is exactly what’s needed to convince Democrats at the center and center-left, like my own parents, that supporting Obama is not a dreamy waste of time. He is not Eugene McCarthy and this is not 1968. He really can win. When I heard his victory speech today, I felt my original confidence in Obama resurge after a brief relapse (I wasn’t happy with his recent description of Social Security as being in a state of “crisis” – a popular Bush talking point – and there were other minor gripes, but no one is going to delight me 100 percent). Go listen to the speech, and tell me if this is not an orator of monumental talent, intelligence and political savvy, almost someone to whom I would assign the overused “G” word for communications.

We’ve just started. Watch for both Huckabee and Obama to be demonized on a whole new level as those who felt the presidential nomination was their divine right realize just how seriously they are threatened. Watch a new distancing from the Bush doctrine as it sinks in that the American people despise the nasty little man and all he stands for, and want sweeping change, not just a little housekeeping. The entire presidential race was tossed on its head yesterday. Giuliani, thank God, seems totally irrelevant – no one will win on a pro-Bush, pro-war platform. Let’s hope Obama retains his magic and that his message spreads and takes hold.

It’s not quite morning again; we still have another year of Bush, and it will take a long time to undo the damage he caused. But there’s some light seeping into the tunnel, and it really looks as though epic change is at hand.


Scenes from the Cultural Revolution

In case you didn’t see this recommendation today by eswn, here you go. You will not want to miss these clips.



I’m reading a book now on how Pol Pot got as far as he did, and how he moved the common man to join him and happily commit unimaginable crimes against humanity. Watching these videos drives home the formula monsters like Mao and Pol Pot implement to achieve “utopia.” Mao could have been Pol Pot’s tutor.