Saturday, July 31

bureaucratic risk-aversion

Tyler Cowen argues, bureaucratic risk-aversion
brings groupthink, excess formalism, protecting against yesterday's threat, and an unwillingness to take responsibility for mistakes. Furthermore it can make effective pre-emption virtually impossible; decisionmakers and their allies will no longer trust their intelligence communities.

Rather than making intelligence agencies more accountable, how about making them more independent? Create some small, elite groups and staff them with the best people we can find. Pay them well. Give them [arms]-length protection from political pressures....Give them a culture of internal pride.
What a great idea. It'll never happen, though.

Maybe Taiwan should try a similar argument

Tim Cavanaugh, writing on Hawaiian independence, remarks he
...wouldn't mind losing the eyesore of the poorly scaled island chain inserted into the lower left corner of the U.S. map, where it ends up looking like a dropping behind the steer shape of the lower 48.
But what does Taiwan look like next to the big chicken?

Professor Morton Masius

It was only a few years ago that when I was reading about Max Planck and his stating that "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it" (Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers) that I realized Professor Masius had translated Planck's Theory of heat radiation. I knew he had worked on a couple of physics texts, but I don't remember him ever mentioning Max Planck. I have only just discovered that in addition, he also translated Louis Rougier's La matérialisation de l'énergie as Philosophy and the new physics; an essay on the relativity theory and the theory of quanta. Here's a review from The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 28, No. 11/12. (Nov. - Dec., 1921), p. 455:

The only philosophers I ever recall him mentioning were John Stuart Mill, and possibly, Bertrand Russell. In any case, he would have been uncomfortable with Rougier's involvement with the Vichy government and later the French right wing. As I recall, the Professor was a yellow dog Democrat and a typical liberal in the American sense. I don't think he'd have much liked Rougier's "neo-liberalism."

I found out a little about Rougier's later career from Investigating Rougier (pdf), by Mathieu Marion. It was interesting to learn that the journalist Walter Lippmann was an exponent of traditional economic liberalism, like Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek, with whom Rougier associated, and that he was also influenced by Lucien Lévy-Bruhl's idea of mentalité. (In fact, mentalité also helps explain Planck's problem in getting his ideas accepted.) Marion tries to put Rougier's contribution into perspective, and argues that a lot of the hostility against him is due to the fact that he was a logical empiricist and a neo-liberal, and French philosophers are hostile to empiricism, logic and liberalism.

The Rougier translation is found in over 100 libraries worldwide, whereas the
Planck translation is found in over 600, and was republished in 1988. A search for Morton Masius at turns up History of Science in the United States: An Encyclopedia by Marc Rothenberg, which has this excerpt:
The [translation] into English of the second edition of Planck's [Wärmestrahlung] by the American Morton Masius in 1914 encouraged the introduction of quantum theory into the curriculum of universities in the United States.


Here's something one of the Professor's granddaughters wrote about Edith Bailey Masius:
Her son Morton was my grandfather. She was married to Alfred (or Albert, or Edmund, unclear! ) Masius near Wellsboro some time @ 1880, against the wishes of her family. They had two sons, Roderick and Morton, both born in Egg Harbor City, N.J. When the boys were young, Edith and Alfred (?) divorced (shocking for the time) and Edith moved to Leipzig Germany to study the new field of experimental psychology with Willem Wundt (at the time she was his only American woman student.) The boys went to the school attached the famous church where J.S. Bach was organist and choir director. Edith remarried, to Bernard Liebisch, who was a widower. They had a daughter Mildred (called in the family 'little Mildred', to distinguish her from Big Mildred, Denver Mildred etc.). Edith never returned to the U.S. Edith became ill and on her deathbed extracted a promise from her younger sister Mildred to care for her boys. Mildred Bailey gave up her own engagement (to a man in the Wellsboro area) to remain in Germany caring for the boys. She married her sister's husband Bernard Liebisch. They had a son, Arnold Llewellyn.

Roderick married a woman called Lillian, they are in the 1920 U.S. census enumeration, shown as living in St.Louis. As far as I know they had no children. Family lore has it that he killed himself after being caught robbing the mails. Certainly he asked his brother Morton for money frequently.

Morton stayed in Germany, married a German woman, Paula Marie Wagner (my grandmother), from a wealthy family in Leipzig-Gohlis. He studied chemistry at the University of Leipzig, earning his Ph.D. in Chemistry in @ 1907. Paula also was a Ph.D. student in Chemistry, the first woman in that department at the university. After a two year Fellowship in the U.S. at Harvard, Morton went back to Germany. He and Paula married in 1910, and came to the U.S. where Morton took a position as Professor of Physics at Worcester Polytechnic in Worcester MA. My mother Vera Mildred Masius was born in Worcester in 1919; her older sister Marguerite was born in Worcester in 1917. They are both alive, Marguerite lives in Paris with her husband Robert Hammond and my dad, Alan D. Ferguson, died a number of years ago. My mother lives nearby here in Lexington, MA. There is a slew of kids and grandkids.

My grandparents never went back to Germany to live, since WWI broke out soon after and it became impossible. My mother believes that she has Liebisch cousins in Germany, but because Leipzig was in East Germany, and due to the chaos of WWII, she has never been able to find out.

My mother also has wondered what happened to the mysterious Masius. I located a story in the Washington Post from 1907 when a Rosa E. Masius committed suicide and the police suspected her husband Alfred G. Masius. They appear to have lived in D.C. from at least 1890. (He was released by the police and never charged!) So, any more information on him would be welcome. An Alfred G.Masius shows up as a newly naturalized citizen age 24, emmigrated from France around 1879, but the dates don't match up with the husband of the dead Rosa. An Edith A. Bailey shows up in the Wellsboro Agitator as marrying an Edmund A. Masius in 1880. Those dates match, but I believe she was the Edith Maud Bailey who was Roderick and Morton's mother. Any more information would be welcome.

Morton Masius was born in 1883 and died in 1979. Since the above was written, Vera Mildred Masius and Marguerite have both died.

Further updates, from a transcript of the Wellsboro Agitator mentioned above:

Married at Stony Fork Apr 28 1880 by Rev. J. A. Boyce, Mr. Edmund A. Masius and Miss Edith A. Bailey.

Mrs. Edith Bailey Masius, who is well known in this borough, ws married on the 8th instant to Mr. Bernhard Liebisch, at Leipsic, Germany.

Dead in Germany - Last Friday a dispatch was received here announcing the death of Mrs. Edith Bailey Liebisch at Leipsic, Germany that morning. She died of consumption with which disease she had been suffering for months. Mrs. Liebisch was the daughter of John W. Bailey. She went to Leipsic about five years ago to study in the university intending to fit herself for a teacher. Soon after she met Prof. Bernard Liebisch, a dealer in rare books and they were afterward married. When her health began to fail her sister Miss Mildred Bailey went to her and has ministered to her during her sickness. Mrs. Liebisch was nearly thirty three years of age. She leaves three children, two of them by a former marriage with Mr. Masius.

And here's his obituary from Physics Today -- April 1980:

Cherries! Pick 'em while they're hot!

Postmodernism encourages people to sift through culture (art, literature, history, etc.) to find something about race, gender (which usually seems to mean something connected with women or gays), or class, or any combination thereof. Then they hold up the handful of examples they find, using them to prove their argument that these various groups have been unjustly oppressed. It's not that I disagree that they've been oppressed, but to me, that's only a tiny part of what most culture is about, so I'm distressed by the way they cherry-pick examples to prove their case.

So it's disheartening to see Bryan Caplan's evaluation of Roderick Long's "Rituals of Freedom: Austro-Libertarian Themes in Early Confucianism" (pdf) as "an amazingly interesting and learned paper". While Long is right about Laozi not being much of a libertarian, his argument that the Confucians are much more supportive of libertarian principles seems to completely ignore the fact that Confucians are far more interested in discussions of morality, and not in a way that generally concerns libertarian principles.

Meanwhile, I'm writing a literature paper now. Writing about literature almost inevitably seems to encourage cherry-picking.


A couple of weeks ago we saw Zhang Yimou's 张艺谋 House of Flying Daggers 十面埋伏. (That's a lousy English title--it sounds like pidgin English.) Zhang's going downhill: it's a very pretty movie, but the plot is silly. Still, the blind bean-shooting scene near the beginning is cute, and the bamboo forest fight is better than Ang Lee's 李安 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 臥虎藏龍 bamboo fight.

Are Girls Pretty?

Is Girls Are Pretty one of those blogs I saw and then lost?


Fafblog via The Peking Duck (no relation) has some good convention blogging. On the non-convention (unconventional?) side, I also liked Gay Marriage Amendment: THE FALLOUT

Welcome to the Dark Side, Scott

After reading Scott Simon's take on Michael Moore, I've got to admit I admire him after all. What sounds like unctuous pontification is only his style. (At this rate, one day I'll find myself forgiving Michael Moore, but only if he says something I agree with.) But like some of the commentators at buzzmachine, where I found this, I wonder why he had to publish it in the WSJ. Even if he hasn't come over to the Dark Side, Mikey's supporters will say he has.

Wednesday, July 28

Take that, DPP!

According to a Business Weekly poll
Sixty-three per cent of Taiwan people are in favor of signing a peace treaty with mainland China under which Beijing promises not to invade Taiwan and Taiwan promises not to declare independence for the next 50 years, a new survey published Thursday showed...

51 per cent feel cross-strait relations have been poor over the past year, compared with 33 per cent who have no opinion, and 15 per cent who said that relations are good. Sixty-four per cent believe that there won't be a war in the next three years, compared with 11 per cent who said war would break out.

If Taiwan creates a new constitution in 2006, 38 per cent said war would not happen, compared with 28 per cent who said there would be war.

However, if Taiwan announces independence, 58 per cent believed that there would be a war, compared with 21 per cent who said that this would not be the case.

Fifty-one per cent of those polled also said that if cross-strait war erupts, the United States would come to Taiwan's aid, compared with 23 per cent who think that the [U.S.] won't make such a move. If the U.S. won't assist Taiwan, 59 per cent said that Taiwan is incapable of defending itself, while 26 per cent disagreed.

The survey also found that if Taiwan announced independence through democractic process, and mainland China decided to attack Taiwan, 47 per cent think that Taiwan shouldn't fight with mainland China to preserve its democracy and independence, compared with 34 per cent who are in favor of a fight.

Thirty-four per cent favored the status quo, advocating making decisions later, compared with 24 per cent who are in favor of maintaining the status quo forever, 14 per cent who are in favor of maintaining the status quo and moving toward independence, 11 per cent who are in favor of maintaining the status quo and moving toward unification. The ratio of those who favor "unification as soon as possible, " and "independence as soon as possible" account for less than 10 per cent, respectively.
Half of Taiwanese think the US is going to help Taiwan. Dream on! And at the same time, a substantial majority thinks that Taiwan can't defend itself. Moreover, nearly half also think that Taiwan shouldn't defend itself if attacked after it declares independence. It sounds to me like they haven't clearly thought out the consequences of their actions. And in fact, a full third want to make decisions later. I guess that means they hope the problem will go away eventually. I hope they're right. In any case, over two thirds are opposed to independence at this time.

Sunday, July 25

Taiwan Aborigines Protest Remarks

Annette Lu's remarks date from the 9th of July, and for the most part were not specifically directed at aborigines. Over two weeks later, the AP picks up the story apparently only because of a demonstration. And the aborigines don't come out looking too good, either. It looks like all they want is special privileges.

Saturday, July 24

Anti-Americanism among the European elites

Bruce Bawer makes many excellent points in his book review on anti-Americanism among the European elites. (via aldaily)

Friday, July 23

Required propaganda

Earlier I posted on what Chinese college students had to study. These four courses are generally known as 两课 (two courses) for some reason. Deng Xiaoping Theory now formally includes Jiang Zemin's 3 Represents:
  • 马克思主义哲学原理
  • 毛泽东思想概论
  • 邓小平理论和三个代表重要思想概论
  • 马克思主义政治经济学原理
There is a single 100 point test on these topics lasting three hours.
  • About 22 points on Philosophical Principles of Marxism 马克思主义哲学原理
  • About 20 points on Principles of Marxist Politics and Economics 马克思主义政治经济学原
  • About 18 points on Introduction to Maoist Thought 毛泽东思想概论
  • About 20 points on Introduction to Deng Xiaoping Theory and "Three Represents" 邓小平理论和“三个代表”重要思想概论
  • About 10 points on form and policy 形势与政策
  • About 10 points on one of two questions: either on Modern World Politics and Economics "当代世界经济与政治" or using ideas from Philosophical Principles of Marxism, Marxist Politics and Economics, Introduction to Maoist Thought, and Introduction to Deng Xiaoping Theory and "Three Represents" to analyze an important problem in the world.
I've heard some people take exception to the argument that the commies are just a new dynasty. Maybe not, but this test is not unlike the old civil service exam based on the Confucian classics, with a nod towards practical application. It's interesting to note the progression of points, with Marx more holy than Mao; since Deng and Jiang are together, that makes them less holy than the M's. And "Modern World Politics and Economics", which is after all a full course, is actually much less important than I realized in my earlier post.

I've seen a little buzz about 两个务必 "two duties", which is apparently Hu Jintao's contribution, so in the future, they may well add that. (Mao Zedong made a speech at Xibaipo 西柏坡, the commie headquarters just before they took over China, in which he used the phrase liangge wubi, sometimes translated as "two must", and glossed as "The comrades must be taught to remain modest, prudent and free from arrogance and rashness in their style of work. The comrades must be taught to preserve the style of plain living and hard struggle." 务必使同志们继续地保持谦虚、谨慎、不骄、不躁的作风,务必使同志们继续地保持艰苦奋斗的作风。)

Something inside me

This article on children adopted abroad starts with Tim Moore, 32, who was born in Mexico and adopted by an American family at 3 months. He
grew up in a California home with a shag rug and sand-colored sofas, but his soul screamed for color. "I liked reds and oranges," he said. "Only later did I understand why. You like certain things because your ancestors liked certain things, and it is inside you."
Oh, definitely. I've got something inside me, and it comes out as farts.

It's great to see people taking an interest in foreign culture, but the idea that culture is somehow intrinsic to someone who has no memory of it is ridiculous. I'm more Chinese than some of these ABC's.

Preventable deaths

JANE E. BRODY reports on The Real Risks to Children
Many parents worry that their children may be harmed by exposure to environmental factors they cannot avoid or control, including pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables, approved food additives, chlorinated drinking water and hormones in milk.

They fear electromagnetic fields as a cause of childhood leukemia, a mercury preservative in vaccines as a cause of autism, and alar, a growth stimulant on apples, as a cause of cancer.

None of these are actual hazards. But even if they were, they are hardly the main threats...

Accidents are the leading cause of death in children under 15.
They include
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Falls
  • Vehicular & pedestrian accidents
  • Burns
  • House fires
  • Poisoning
  • Drowning
  • Choking
  • Guns
  • Electrocution
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Sunburn (what?)
  • Sports injuries
  • Power tools
  • Obesity
Anyway, it's a start.

Sunday, July 18

Kaohsiung Voters Support Corruption

Chang Yun-ping cites commentators who view the by-election for Kaohsiung City councilors as a victory for the "Taiwanese identity", which means people who say that they are Taiwanese and not Chinese. But Chang also says,
...a mockery was made of the city's electoral politics as Kaohsiung's vote-buying culture proved that it is alive and well with the election of Chu Ting-shan (朱挺珊), who ran in the by-election on behalf of her father, Chu An-hsiung (朱安雄), a former city council speaker who has been convicted of vote-buying...

Three of the nine candidates from the bribe-taking families were elected. They are, in addition to Chu Ting-shan, Tsai Wu-nan (蔡武男), son of former councilor Tsai Ching-yuan (蔡慶源), and Chen Li-nah (陳麗娜), wife of former councilor Yang Ming-lang (楊敏郎).

More Kaohsiung pics

Available at 高雄行人. Many of them show what kind of boondoggles the mayor and the city council have used taxpayer money to pay their cronies to build.

Friday, July 16

Crocodile sistah too "excuse me/sorry"

According to a recent report, hoping to make some extra cash, a seventeen-year old girl tried to prostitute herself over the internet with her boyfriend acting as her driver, but she only had one customer because her appearance was too 抱歉 (literally "excuse me/sorry", but it's become an idiomatic term meaning ugly--I guess because when a guy sees such a girl, he says "excuse me/sorry"), or as the report also said of her looks,


...she looked worse than a dinosaur, terrifying people, and was called
"crocodile sister", and the customers felt that NT$3500 (US$103) was too

I feel sorry for the girl, held up to such ridicule. The story reminds me of Dengtu Zi 登徒子, who is a legendarily lustful man. The reason is that he fathered many children with his wife, who was very ugly. So according to Chinese thinking, men who don't mind plain women are dirty old (young) men.

Thursday, July 15

Dark Meat

In Crossing Over to the Dark Side MARK BITTMAN says, Michel Richard, the chef at Citronelle in Washington, says,
"In France, of course, most people think dark meat is better."

In many other parts of the world, too, which explains why more than 30 percent of the dark chicken meat produced in the United States is exported ¡ª up to $1 billion worth in some years. The rest of it is sold domestically, often at bargain prices. is because legs have more fat that they taste better. "Breast meat is 99 percent white fiber muscle," said Casey M. Owens, an assistant professor of poultry science at the University of Arkansas, "and white fibers store a great deal of glycogen, which is used for short bursts of energy." In chickens, that means wing-flapping. "Darker muscles, like those found in the leg, are for endurance. They carry more oxygen and myoglobin, which is largely responsible for their color," Dr. Owens said.

"Darker muscles also have a higher amount of fat," he added, "and flavor compounds are typically fat soluble." Because of the muscles in chicken legs, they contain some "seam" fat, which adds flavor.

Dark meat may have four times as much fat as white, but the absolute numbers are still low compared with many cuts of red meat. For a compromise between flavor and fat content, you cannot do much better than leg meat, which is suitable for all forms of cooking.

Follow the money?

In Caveat Emptor: The best science money can buy, Ronald Bailey writes,
"Follow the money" is always a good rule when evaluating claims. If someone has a financial interest in something, there's always the possibility that their judgment might be somewhat biased...
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) acknowledges that science can benefit from business. But they also
claim that corporations use a range of tools to illegitimately influence science, including sponsoring research to put their products in the best light, downplaying and sometimes even suppressing inconvenient research findings, undermining health policy groups...and by sponsoring nonprofit groups to influence policy and the media...

CSPI wants scientists to disclose who funds their research before it is accepted for peer-reviewed publication. It also advises journalists to disclose the corporate funding of scientists they quote in their articles.
But the CSPI doesn't mind quoting the work of scientists who receive corporate support when it suits its own purposes.
The point is not that the research on which CSPI is relying ... is flawed, but that "follow the money" is not the only rule to adopt when considering scientific claims. Simply denouncing research as corporate-sponsored doesn't tell you whether that research is any good or not.

"The more a putative answer conforms to one's emotional needs, economic self interest, religious predilections, or political aspirations; the more group support and pressure there is to believe something; and the more those in authority wield their power in support of some answers and against others, the easier it may be to accept some answers and reject others and the harder it becomes for others to dissent," warned Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) in his keynote address at the CSPI conference. The congressman's advice applies not only to journalists and businesspeople, but to activists as well.
That's good as far as it goes, but if one always assumes "those in authority wield their power in support of some answers and against others", one can't believe anything.

Frank Hsieh drops the ball again

In 'Black gold' haunts Kaohsiung again, Jewel Huang writes on the Kaohsiung election:
The by-election on Saturday is being held to replace the 18 former councilors who lost their seats for accepting bribes in last December's council speaker election, which is the in Taiwan's election history for a municipal government.

Chu An-hsiung (朱安雄), who won the speaker seat through bribery, was sentenced to 22 months in jail. Chu now tops the nation's 10 most wanted list of fugitives, as he fled the country after being released on NT$5 million in bail prior to reporting to jail to serve his sentence.

The Southern Taiwan Society yesterday said that the local vote captains were still trying to buy votes because the punishment for bribery is so minor that no one is intimidated.

In a press release, the society asked the Ministry of Justice to revise the law and strengthen the punishment for bribery to uproot the inveterate vote-buying culture.

In the by-election, 47 candidates will contend for the 18 city councilor seats. However, 11 of the candidates are family members of the city councilors who were ousted, mostly the wives or daughters of dismissed councilors.

For example, Chu's daughter, Chu Ting-shan (朱挺珊), will run as an independent candidate. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has also nominated three candidates from the families of disgraced councilors.

As the DPP's campaign mastermind, Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) held a low-key attitude about DPP's nomination, saying an exclusive interview with the Taipei Times that democracy was decided by the people, and that he believed in the wisdom of the people.
Earlier, Lee Chuan-chia (李全教) laid out the case against Su Hui-chen (蘇惠珍).
Su turned to DPP officials for help in a bid to salvage her Zanadau venture, a multi-billion-dollar plan to build a giant shopping mall in Kaohsiung County, according to Lee.

"At least eight DPP heavyweights took bribes of between NT$10 million and NT$30 million from Su after she sought in vain to obtain loans through the China Development Industrial Bank," he said.

Lee singled out [Senior Adviser to the President Yu Chen Yueh-ying (余陳月瑛)] for criticism, saying the former Kaohsiung County commissioner, who briefly served as Zanadau president, exploited her post to boost her own wealth.

The lawmaker also urged investigators to probe Yu Chen's son, Interior Minister Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲), who, Lee noted, quickly approved licenses for the Zanadau project after succeeding his mother as Kaohsiung County commissioner.

"Investigators cannot solve the puzzle if they pass over the Yu clan, which played a key role in the rise and fall of the venture," he said.
Hsieh's reputation has been tarnished because he failed to provide clear explanations about the role he played in the speakership election," the official said.

The scandal erupted after the election of the council speaker on Dec. 25, when prosecutors found evidence that almost 30 councilors on the 44-member council had sold their votes at NT$5 million each to the controversial and already scandal-tainted Chu An-hsiung (朱安雄).

Although Hsieh never stated a preference for any particular candidate before the election, reports have said that he tacitly endorsed Chu. It is difficult for Hsieh to avoid the fallout from the controversy because his aide, Wang Wen-cheng (王文正), the director of Kaohsiung's Civil Affairs Bureau, has admitted that he lobbied for Chu.

Wang was detained last week on suspicion of approaching city councilors on Chu's behalf and later delivering bribe payments.

Also at issue is the NT$2.8 million Hsieh received from Hsu Wen-liang (許文良), the chief of the Yu Huang Temple. Whereas Hsieh claimed the money was a political donation during the mayoral campaign, prosecutors suspect the money was a payment for Hsieh's approval of an illegally constructed part of the temple.

Hsieh has developed a reputation for being articulate but evasive in the face of disputes.

Before the election, Hsieh offered ambiguous explanations in response to accusations from opposition lawmakers that he had received a NT$4.5 million check from Zanadau majority shareholder Su Hui-chen (蘇惠珍) in 1994 as part of an influence-peddling scheme.

Regarding the vote-buying scam and the payment from the temple, Hsieh has been vague about whether he knew Wang was helping Chu and about why he accepted the payment from Hsu.

The thing is, Frank Hsieh is being mooted as Chen Shuibian's successor. He'd be a disaster!

Wednesday, July 14

Who's legitimate?

Roger L. Simon wrote:
Mr. Sharon, Tear Down that Wall - NOT

How ironic that the judge who read the ruling declaring Israel's security barrier illegal comes from China - the country that ate Tibet whole and has a human rights record somewhere South of Attila.

"The wall ... cannot be justified by military exigencies or by the requirements of national security or public order," said Judge Shi Jiuyong of China as he read out the ruling.

Public order? Well, the Chinese wrote the book on that.
According to Shi Jiuyong's 史久镛 biography at the International Court of Justice, after getting an M.A. in International Law at Columbia University in 1951, he stayed on to do research in international law until 1954. Then he returned to China, and was apparently unharmed during the "anti-rightist" campaign of the late fifties as well as the Cultural Revolution. More recently, he's been a Council member of the Institute of Hong Kong Law of the Chinese Law Society in Beijing. It's difficult to believe that he's fought for the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong.

In any case, the Chinese legal system is such a joke, it's hard to see what legitimacy Shi Jiuyong has, and for me, his presence on the World Court undermines its legitimacy. Speaking of which, several days ago on CNN here in Taiwan there was a panel discussion where the legitimacy of the Iraqi government was called into question. It looks to me as if the speaker considered it illegitimate because so few countries recognized it. So does that mean that Taiwan's government is illegitimate? Hey, let's ask the world court! (more here)

The Taipei Times criticizes Chen Shui-bian

DPP hasn't fulfilled its promises, Taipei Society report says By Huang Tai-lin
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration has fallen short of its promise to push reforms over the past four years, a group of academics said.

In a paper released over the weekend assessing the government's achievements in pushing reform, the Taipei Society, a group founded in 1989 by scholars from universities and Academia Sinica, called on President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his administration to implement reform in order to fulfill the promise of "believing in Taiwan and insisting on reform."

The paper harshly criticized the government for "getting a failing report card" in terms of constitutional, educational and environmental reforms, as well as in the areas of cross-strait economic exchanges, social welfare, media and academic development.

The paper stated that the DPP administration had achieved little in its work in implementing reforms and had blamed opposition parties for its own poor performance in pushing reform.

"Although it is true that the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] and the People First Party [PFP] obstruct reform, the government however can not put all the blame on the opposition parties for its own administrative fault and failure," the paper said...

The group also called on the pan-blue alliance to step out from under the cloud of the March 19 assassination attempt, put aside the election conflict and be dutiful in its role as the opposition.
This characterizes the Taipei Society as a "pro-independence group". Is that right? Look at how Tsai Ting-I from the normally pro-Chen characterizes them in the first sentence (italics mine):
In a bid to provide a clear picture for the future benefit of the DPP, Taipei Society (澄社), an intellectual organization similar to Britain's Fabian Society, yesterday released an evaluation paper on the DPP's achievements in reform over the past four years. The report warned that the ruling party has slowly moved toward corruption and has become an obstacle to reforms.

"The DPP administration has been approaching 'black gold' politics, which is a wide departure from President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) campaign slogan of 'Believe in Taiwan, Persist in Reform,'" said Taipei Society chairman Hong Yu-hung. It is the opposition's responsibility to oversee the government's performance, he added.

The paper stated that the DPP has achieved little in terms of educational, financial, legislative, social welfare, media, environmental, and juridical reforms, and additionally has attributed its failings to obstruction by the opposition parties over the past four years.

"The failure to implement educational reforms is because of the administration's weak capability for executing policies," the paper stated, adding that most reform measures could be achieved without the opposition parties.

Commenting on the DPP's efforts in respect of media reforms, the paper cited the controversial personnel issue at the state-controlled Chinese Television System, where the manager Chiang Hsia (江霞) is someone who had campaigned for President Chen in the run up to the March election. This is another sign of the DPP's failure to free the media from political influence, the paper noted.

Stressing the ideal of an independent media, the paper suggested that the government introduce new regulations to separate politics and the media, and to promote the establishment of public TV stations.
I wonder if Asia Times online will pick up on any of this, or continue to print Laurence Eyton's unending criticisms of the KMT.

*As for the Fabian Society, according to its own website, "The Fabian Society is the UK's only membership based left of centre think tank." I'm not sure how left/right apply to Taiwan. I mean, if you think of the left as pro-commie, or at least as less anti-commie, then the KMT is leftist--right?


Online philosophical classics in Chinese.

The Chinese Classics online

Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Of course, since they went for stuff in the public domain, they're mostly ancient iffy translations, but if you're not near a decent library...

Saturday, July 10

I can't believe I'm agreeing with Annette Lu

According to the Taipei Times,
Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday vowed that disaster relief would always primarily be the responsibility of government...

Chen's comments were interpreted as correcting Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), whose recent comments triggered an angry response from people affected by the devastation.

Lu had said, "It should not be considered genuinely merciful to rescue people who over-cultivated the mountain areas of Central Taiwan and ruined the soil."

Lu had also suggested that storm victims and other residents of central Taiwan move to Central America to assist those countries with development...
Actually she's quoted as saying "如果只是去搶救幾個應該負起濫墾責任的人,以為就是慈悲,往後年復一年,一再做這種事,那是沒有用的,顯然國人沒有從921學到教訓,沒有敬天惜地。" Note what the above quote omits: "It should not be considered genuinely merciful only to rescue a few people who ought to bear the responsibility for having over-cultivated the mountain areas, ruining the soil, and repeat [such rescues] year after year; that is useless. Obviously we [Taiwanese] have learned nothing from the September 21 earthquakes; we have not learned to respect nature." The TT gives her the last word:
Lu's office yesterday defended the vice president, saying she had simply proposed that the nation's mountain resources be allowed time to recover.

"I suggest that the government establish a special administration for mountain-area protection and allow the island's mountain areas a period of time so that they can rest," Lu said.
Still, her suggestion that they move to Central America is ridiculous, and shows how impractical she can be.

Friday, July 9

Man bites dog

2 Sentenced in China for Eating Tiger

Bad news for Chen?

National Security Adviser, in Beijing, Offers U.S. Aid in Building Dialogue
U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice met top Chinese leaders Thursday and rebuffed their demands for an end to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, a senior U.S. official said. But Rice also told them the Bush administration was willing to help establish a dialogue between Beijing and the self-governing island.
Bad news because his policy seems to be restricted to trying to goad the Chinese into over-reacting, while avoiding substantive talks.! Republicans!

In her review of Neil Boyd's Big Sister: How Extreme Feminism Has Betrayed the Fight for Sexual Equality (via aldaily), Jessica Warner writes,
This is a serious book. The title is off-putting. And it is about a movement that is not exactly famous for its sense of humour. I did not expect Big Sister to be entertaining or even funny, and yet it was both. In many ways, it reminded me of David Lodge's academic spoofs. The reader is treated to an insider's view of the squabbles, both personal and ideological, that are the stuff of academe. At times, the book is downright gossipy, not that this is a complaint. Did you know that a certain prominent academic who shall go nameless lost her virginity at the age of 27? Did you know that the feminist lawyer and pundit Catharine MacKinnon has Republicans in her family?
(italics mine) I don't have much of an impression of Catharine MacKinnon--if I recall, she's pretty far left--but who cares what party some of her relatives belong to? Even if you believe that Republicans = Nazis, that's their problem, not hers.


Supposedly Maitreya, the friendly, benevolent Buddha of the future and often portrayed with a gold ingot, which seems awfully worldly to me. This guy argues that he's not Maitreya at all. (This and the following two pictures are from the site.)


Here's Guan gong, whom I mentioned earlier as Guan Yu 關羽.


Jin gang means a number of things.

Exposé of Peasants' Plight Is Suppressed by China

By JOSEPH KAHN. The book is called 中国农民调查 in Chinese (An Investigation of China's Peasantry); the authors are 陈桂棣 and his wife 春桃; Chinese sources don't give her surname. The book details examples of
what many rural experts consider the biggest peasant problems: corruption and abuse of power.
Big surprise!

Who's dumping on American consumers?

Steve Chapman writes,
Do you like shrimp but wish it cost more? Need some bedroom furniture but hate getting a good deal on it? If so, you're very different from most Americans. You are, however, one of the few people who can rejoice in our national trade policies.

Politicians know that consumers in this country are more than happy to buy foreign goods if the quality is sufficient and the price is right. They also know that explicit efforts to shut out imports are usually political fool's gold, more likely to bring defeat than victory at the polls...

A spokeswoman for the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration, when asked how many anti-dumping orders are currently in effect, responds as though I've invited her to count all the cactuses in Arizona. She can't come up with a tally on short notice but says the number is "in the hundreds, maybe more than hundreds." And that's not including all the ones that are pending.

For an administration that boasts of its devotion to tax cuts, these efforts represent an unnoticed and unwarranted tax increase, which will come out of the pockets of American manufacturers, retailers and consumers. It's also a violation of President Bush's supposed faith in free trade, which he touts as a contrast to Democrats who believe that, in his words, "the solution to jobs uncertainty is to isolate America from the world."
Emphasis mine. (via Daniel Drezner).

Thursday, July 8

The dumbest people on the planet

From Brian Reade's worshipful interview with Michael Moore
Take his description of his fellow countrymen and their blind pursuit of the American Dream: "They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet... in thrall to conniving, thieving, smug pricks.

"We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don't know about anything that's happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing. National Geographic produced a survey which showed that 60 per cent of 18-25 year olds don't know where Great Britain is on a map. And 92 per cent of us don't own a passport."
Speak for yourself, Mikey.

Wednesday, July 7

Is the Taipei Times turning against the DPP?

Editorial: The DPP buckles on media reform
Last week's reshuffle of the Chinese Television System's (CTS) board of directors and the appointment of Chiang Hsia (江霞) as general manager shows that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is not heeding warnings to avoid political appointments to media management positions. Chiang herself has not denied that her appointment was a political reward. The result is that the CTS board, which theoretically is to recover its proper role as a public organization, will be little more than another bunch of marionettes controlled by the Presidential Office.

When the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was in opposition, it strongly criticized the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) monopoly on media ownership, saying that the media were being used as a government mouthpiece. It therefore advocated the removal of party politics from the media. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Chen invited a group of academics and media figures to draw up a white paper on media reform, laying out plans to make the state-owned media an independent public institution. But after winning the election, the Chen government failed to enact the reforms that were anticipated.
The DPP's doing its best to turn into the KMT.

Although the editorial omits this:
The new president of Taiwan's Chinese Television Service (CTS) yesterday vowed to ban mainland-produced programmes from the station.

Liao Ying-ying, a former TV actress better known as Chiang Hsia, also said she would blacklist two Taiwanese artists who supported the opposition in the March presidential elections...

"In the future, CTS will only air locally produced programmes. We will also reduce the number of programmes that were filmed by Taiwanese producers in China," Ms Liao said.

Among the island's four free-to-air television stations, CTS's news programming has the highest ratings. Ironically, the station has achieved popularity recently by showing the same mainland-produced soap operas that will now be banned.
Its news programming has the highest ratings among the island's four free-to-air television stations, which suggests more people watch cable. Also, if she drops the mainland program, maybe she can just run the station into the ground.

Homarus americanus

Pots of flesh colonial days in North America the crustacean was so plentiful and cheap that it was used to feed prisoners and indentured servants in place of valuable cod and mackerel. One group of Massachusetts servants became so fed up with their diet of lobster that they took their owners to court and won a judgment that it not be served to them more than three times a week.

Force consumers to pay for my job!

Shrimp Tariff Ruling Late for Fishermen
The shrimp catchers of Lafitte and surrounding bayous should be happy: After years of complaining about unfair competition, the U.S. government has proposed tariffs on shrimp imports from China and Vietnam.

But many believe the effort is a little too late.
So what do they want? Guaranteed jobs for life?


Exiled Saudi Is Dissident to Some, Terrorist to Others By Glenn Frankel:
While Faqih says he advocates nonviolence, he blames "extreme American arrogance" for bringing about the Sept. 11 attacks. And besides, he concedes, "support for al Qaeda is so immense in my country right now that it would be politically incorrect to denounce them."
Of course it's "politically correct" to criticize the US,

Tuesday, July 6

Taiwan is wrong

Kenneth Lieberthal, a Sinologist at the University of Michigan, said Taiwan is wrong when it assumes Beijing is "all bluff when it talks about the use of force."

"The second assumption is: if the first assumption is wrong, then Chen nevertheless has a military blank check from the United States...I believe both assumptions are wrong," he said.
Sinologist with a capital "S"? I don't think so. Otherwise, I agree.

We're talking about China

End the one-party dictatorship!

Monday, July 5

Land of cotton

In Soft landing?, a subscriber-only article:
Since 1999, the Chinese government has relaxed its control of the cotton industry. Farmers no longer have to sell part of their crop at set prices and no longer have the certainty of guaranteed purchases by the state. The government has given up its monopoly over purchasing and distribution. As a result, private traders have surged into the market (though imports and exports remain under state control). And textile manufacturing, once dominated by the state, has become a fiercely competitive industry, with many mills in private hands.
After some talk about futures markets, the writer notes,
Domestic cotton production, restrained by government efforts to turn more land over to grain, will continue to fall short of demand.
Da gummint knows best.


Chinese Pressure Dissident Physician By Philip P. Pan
Chinese military and security officials are forcing the elderly physician who exposed the government's coverup of the SARS epidemic to attend intense indoctrination classes and are interrogating him about a letter he wrote in February denouncing the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The officials have detained Jiang Yanyong, 72, a semi-retired surgeon in the People's Liberation Army, in a room under 24-hour supervision, and they have threatened to keep him until he "changes his thinking" and "raises his level of understanding" about the Tiananmen crackdown, said one of the sources, who described the classes as "brainwashing sessions."

But Jiang, who became a national hero last year after blowing the whistle on the government's efforts to hide the SARS outbreak, has refused to back down, and said in a recent note to his family that he would continue to "face the problems confronting me with the principle of seeking truth from facts," according to a person close to the family.

The standoff is the culmination of an extraordinary battle of wills that has been quietly unfolding for months between China's ruling Communist Party and an individual who has already challenged the authorities and forced them to back down once...

The move represents a high-risk gamble by the leadership because of Jiang Yanyong's public stature at home and abroad. Photographs of his wizened face have been displayed on the covers of national magazines, and state newspapers have published articles crediting him with saving lives around the world by forcing government officials to confront the SARS epidemic.

If the leadership succeeds in silencing Jiang, it would send a powerful message to potential critics about its determination to crush dissent. But Jiang's detention could also trigger a backlash against a party already struggling to maintain its monopoly on power as there is rising social discontent. And if Jiang is not released, he would almost certainly become China's most famous political prisoner.

One senior military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was broad support for Jiang even within the party and that it will be increasingly difficult for the leadership to hold him as news of his detention spreads. "I consider him a man of honesty and courage," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of the people support him."

Sunday, July 4

China's divide-and-rule tactics

From the Economist, regard Hong Kong:
Joseph Cheng, an academic and pro-democracy activist, says the democrats still need “a small miracle” to gain a majority. Even if they do, he adds, they should not underestimate the effectiveness of China's divide-and-rule tactics. One of the most prominent democrats, Szeto Wah, has publicly accused a well-known trade unionist, Lau Chin Shek, of being like “Judas” after Mr Lau made conciliatory remarks about China. Mr Cheng admits that the democrats are probably not well enough organised to cope with China's unexpected overtures.
They do that with their labor organizers, too.

Zizania latifolia Turcz.

This is a picture taken in the market. On the right, cabbage; on the left, jiao1 bai2 sun3 茭白筍 (or sometimes jiao3 bai2 sun3 腳白筍, but that's jiao3, not jiao1, as sticklers would have it.), known in English as water bamboo or Manchurian wild rice. Mas Yamaguchi writes that it belongs to the same family as the common bamboo and is closely related to wild rice of North America. (Parts of it look like rice, too.) It has been grown since ancient times in East Asia.
...­stem enlargement occurs after about 4 months growth due to a fungus, which prevents floral initiation but allows the stem to elongate and enlarge. Harvest must be made before the fungus goes into the reproductive phase when the black smut (spores) is produced. With time there appears black longitudinal streaks in the swollen stem and eventually the entire stem turns black, very much like the corn ear smut.
Funny thing: other varities of Zizania are known as zizanie in French, but apparently not this one (zizanie means discord in French).

I'm so disappointed in this blurry picture, but...

This is how it looks cooked; it's cut in slivers together with tree fungus, pork and hot peppers in the bowl on the right. The dish is the middle is bitter melon, and the one towards the top is lotus root. The rice in the bowl doesn't have bugs; it's a mixture of different grains.

I'm a lotus eater!

Real estate bubble

The glass building in front and the grey shell right of the center have been empty for years. There are several buldings like that in Kaohsiung.
I've moved most of the traffic pictures to .高雄行人.


Bougainvillea by the river.

Saturday, July 3

Who to believe?

A Correspondent in Iraq: Scenes of Hope and Dread By DEXTER FILKINS includes a section on the Iraqi finance minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi
Over dinner, it seemed pointless to ask why Mr. Mahdi, a brilliant, funny man with two master's degrees and a farmhouse in France, would put himself at such horrible risk. For Mr. Mahdi, like so many other Iraqi political leaders, this wave of Iraqi violence is merely a continuation of what they had already known, politics as usual...

I asked Mr. Mahdi if it had all been worth it: the invasion, the guerrilla war, the car bombings, the assassinations. He gave a surprising answer.

"We were expecting much worse than this," said Mr. Mahdi, who does not discount the possibility that Iraq could slide into civil war. "Much worse."

"We never imagined this would be easy," he said. "We were telling the Americans, you will have a mess. It is mostly the psychological situation. The suffering."

Slavish cut & paste.

Or do I mean knavish? Jim Treacher writes about a funny blog, saying
It's the kind of blog where I had originally set aside today to start getting my life back together, but now I've decided to read through his archives instead. In other words, it's another convenient excuse to avoid doing anything worthwhile with the precious time you've been given. Which you know about, because you're reading this.
Worse, I'm just quoting. And here I go again: Wayne agrees with Conrad
that the US is going to have to use tougher words (both literal and figurative) to prevent cross-strait tensions from escalating, but I think it has to go both ways. Not only do we have to show China that we'll hit them so hard it'll make their head spin if they attack Taiwan unprovoked, but we also have to tell Taiwan in no uncertain terms that if they try to unilaterally change the status quo (namely through Chen Shuibian dicking around with the ROC constitution), that Taiwan is up shitcreek on their own.

Or at least that's what basic game theory would suggest. The only problem is that I'm not sure that the US can credibly guarantee that they won't defend Taiwan if Taiwan goes ahead and violates their promise not to change the status quo unilaterally. If Chen Shuibian were to cross the line, it would still be in the US's interest to prevent the PRC from seizing Taiwan if only because the PRC would gain greater control of the South China Sea.
Yep. For the record, I have no objection to Taiwan's becoming independent (or Texas', for that matter; I believe in self-determination). In other circumstances I would say morally, it's their choice. The long period of Japanese colonialism followed on its heels by Kuomintang governance alienated or gave rise to sense of disconnect among a lot of the earlier immigrants to Taiwan, something the pro-independence people have played on to stoke their anti-mainlander populism. But unfortunately, the Chinese commies have cultivated a kind of populism, too, staking their legitimacy on eventual reunification. Their moribund propaganda still paints the Americans as supporting Taiwan not because of any belief in democracy, but rather as a part of a nefarious plot to hurt China. Even if Chen doesn't actually declare independence, but somehow pushes them over the edge, there are definitely elements on the mainland that would love to fight. The funny thing about these two groups--that is, the rabidly unificationist commies and the rabidly pro-independence Taiwanese--is how similar they are, with their appeals to populism: a lot of Chinese (or Taiwanese) people find the idea of resisting the foreign devils (or mainlanders) more appealing than worrying about any of the domestic problems they've got with pollution, corruption, and yes, abuse of power by officials. And if Chen et al. miscalculate, it's possible the US is going to be dragged into a conflict we'd rather avoid.

Friday, July 2

Is the Communist Party the legitimate ruler of Hong Kong?

Pictures of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. One the left, a portrait of Sun Yat-sen and a couple of Republic of China (Taiwan) flags.

said the huge turn-out for a second year running sent a clear message to the communist government in Beijing that it could not ignore Hong Kong's democracy movement.


EastSouthWestNorth pretty much says it all.

It's amazing the sense of disconnection in Taiwan. The evening news that we were watching the night after the demonstrations in Hong Kong was devoted to the case of a Taiwanese girl who was killed in Japan.

Still raining on us

Thursday, July 1

Who to believe?

I laughed at the EPA's announcement about US air quality. I figure I've already lost a few years by frequent visits to Kaohsiung. In this version of their announcement, the following caught my eye:
"The air is getting cleaner, but our standards are getting tougher," said Bharat Mathur, acting regional administrator in the EPA's Chicago office.
I was wondering about the announcement when I saw this. So I wanted to check up on Schwartz, and google led me to Harvard Magazine:
"The public and the courts long ago decided that it benefits the public to fund neutral, disinterested investigators to do research that supports public policy," says Joel Schwartz, an associate professor of environmental epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "There are already numerous mechanisms to verify and correct shoddy research. This is not about public access. This is about industry access."

Schwartz speaks from experience. Both at Harvard, where he has done extensive analyses of air pollution's health effects in the late 1980s and 1990s, and previously at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where he did work in the late 1970s and early 1980s that helped inspire the ban on lead in gasoline, he has spent much of his time countering industry-funded campaigns to debunk his findings.
But this epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health himself got a three-year $196,000 grant from the EPA. Wait a minute, though--he's not the same one, according to the Clean Air Trust, which at one point named Competitive Enterprise Institute "adjunct scholar" Joel Schwartz the "clean air villain of the month". Of course Reason likes the American Enterprise Institute guy.