Taking a break from foreign politics

Let’s take a break from foreign politics for a bit and look at some of the issues in domestic Taiwan politics.

The biggest critically important current affair is whether or not farmers can sell Mangoes to mainland China. No, this is not the lead-in for a bad joke.

When the KMT and PFP party leaders (the parties of the opposition blue camp, but which hold a majority in the legislature) went to talk to PRC CCP officials in mainland China earlier this year, they were offered some lovely parting gifts. In particular, the offered a pair of pandas and a lifting of fruit tariffs. No strings attached. You’d think people would treat this as good news! But, no…

The DPP and TSU (the green camp, of which the DPP is the ruling party) were solidly against party officials going to China at all, and complained bitterly that any agreements of any sort between them and the CCP officials would be completely illegal, and riots nearly broke out at the airport when protesting their departure. Never mind that this sort of whining comes from nearly the same spirit as when the PRC complains about any current or former ROC officials visiting foreign countries, whether in an official capacity or not.

The blue camp danced around the issue by saying that no agreements of any kind had been made, but that the CCP kindly offered the panda and fruit concessions. The panda issue has been pushed aside for now because the issue needs planning and research. But the issue of fruit has been more pressing. While officials here have been hemming and hawing, the PRC went ahead and lifted tariffs on their own late last week. This now has officials here running around complaining that even a single mango sent to the PRC will lead directly to communists taking over Taiwan.

Why is the green camp so upset about this issue? There’s broadly three reasons at play. The first is that green camp believes that the blue camp want reunification at any cost and will happily sell out to the PRC. The second is that the green camp almost automatically will oppose anything the blue camp is in favor of. (To be fair, the blue camp has the same problem, and has been holding up legislation on a variety of issues that they’d probably otherwise support.) The third reason is they fear that the PRC is trying to woo political support from farmers away from the green camp.

This last point is actually a fairly reasonable fear. In general, northern urban areas lean to the blue camp, and southern rural areas lean to the green camp. By offering something that clearly appeals to a core constituency of the green camp, the PRC may indeed end up weakening their parties. The PRC is very much afraid that the green camp will move to formal independence at some point, so they definitely have a motive to try to weaken the green camp.

But if that’s their fear, they have a funny way of addressing the problem. You’d think they’d welcome the change, try to take partial credit for it, and push for more tariff reductions. Instead, they are so fearful that it might make the blue camp look good that they are willing to screw the farmers in the process. I’m not sure where the logic in that is.

The Taipei Times tends to lean in favor of the green camp, so it was quite a surprise to read their editorial today which pretty much slams the green camp for making too much of the fruit tariff issue. Read it here: Fruit war the wrong battle to fight.

I’ve already pointed to some of Richard Hartzell’s articles claiming that under International Law, Taiwan is legally a US Territory. Today there was also a letter to the editor which nicely sums up my opinion of it: Nice theory, but who cares?

Arianna has more on Judy Miller

Arianna Huffington has posted another article today: Judy Miller: How Deep Do Her Connections Run?

I’ve tried looking for other sources of this information, and the current stories all seem to point back to the HuffPo. It’s interesting how this story is being ignored by the press, because even if there are inaccuracies, you’d expect this sort of thing would be looked into. Or could it be that the press think it’s more important to continue touting her as a martyr to freedom of the press? (Note to reporters: One of the key problems with the current administration is a complete inability to admit they were wrong about anything. Don’t fall into that same trap.)

Anyways, here’s a sampling of the latest:

– Miller spoke to Cheney adviser Scooter Libby (the other alleged White House source) a few days before Novak published his story exposing Plame’s identity

– Miller was able to get an embed assignment with the team hunting WMDs in Iraq and allegedly wielded inappropriate influence over it (and even with all her help, they found nothing)

– Miller has a relationship going back 10 years with Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi dissident who is the now discredited conduit of many pre-war allegations against Iraq

It just about makes one’s head spin. I would really like to see other reporters do some followup on these threads, if nothing more so it can’t be just dismissed as crazy rantings of a leftist blog.

Was Judy Miller the source of Plame leak?

Since the excuse that Rove got Plame’s identity from a reporter, rumors have been swirling about whether it was Judy Miller, the New York Times reporter in jail for refusing to reveal her source, was the one who told Rove her identity. The theory goes that she’s refusing to reveal her source not because of principle, but because she was the one that started the scandal. For more, see the article Judy Miller: Do We Want To Know Everything or Don’t We?

(To be fair, if this story is true, there’s still someone who leaked Plame’s identity to her. And this doesn’t get Rove and Libby off the hook either.)

Another little bump

Less than a week since the last noticable one.

2005/07/26 21:37 Magnitude: 5.4 No.: 124 (0726213754124)

07月26日21時37分 規模:5.4 編號:124 (0726213754124)

Typhoon –> Earthquake

Had a nice little shake about 25 minutes ago.

2005/07/20 21:06 Magnitude: 5.4 No.: 123 (0720210654123)

07月20日21時06分 規模:5.4 編號:123 (0720210654123)

More on Rove

The current claim by the Republicans is that Rove was told by a reporter that Plame is CIA, not the other way around. The funny thing is that he then turned around and passed this information on to the other reporters. And forget the fact that going around leaking a CIA agent’s identity is dangerous no matter where you got that information. And now the White House says that only a criminal conviction would result in someone being fired.

I guess that whole ‘values’ thing the Republicans claim to have wasn’t about honesty and responsibility. It turns out that ‘values’ is only about hating homosexuals and cutting taxes.

Only a few days ago, they were saying it would be inappropriate to talk about ongoing investigations, but now it’s fine for them to float these new theories about what really happened. That and try to divert the issue by continuing to smear Wilson’s reputation. They continue to claim that Wilson was a liar and his claims that Iraq didn’t buy uranium were proved false. That’s quite surprising, considering that the press has yet to cover the part where anyone was able to prove any truth at all that Iraq tried to buy uranium. Not a thing.

And then there’s the part where they complain that the Democrats don’t have the decency to let this scandal sit until the investigation is completed. Which is quite hilarious when you compare it to any of the Clinton scandals where the Republicans were out slamming on Clinton from the day he entered office until the day he left. Democrats have nothing to be ashamed of in not dropping this issue as long as the Republicans continue to spin the issue with deceptions and smears.

As long as there is any reasonable suspicion of White House wrong-doing, don’t let the issue drop.

Typhoon updates

News is now reporting there are some people killed by the storm, so we didn’t get off so easy after all. The numbers vary depending on which channel you watch though.

To give you an idea of the scale of the storm, Taipei got 641mm (25.2 inches), and other areas got as much as 1273mm (50.1 inches) so far from this one storm. In just a couple of days. And it’s still raining. In comparison, the average yearly rainfall in Santa Barbara is around 18 inches, and a storm that leaves 2 inches is considered big.

While today’s forecast shows 100% chance of rain for most of the island today, in Taipei at least the rain is not heavy today.

Typhoon petering out

This time we got off relatively easily. Our neighborhood didn’t get flooded, and the storm had mostly petered out by noon. It was calm enough that I went out to get snacks in the afternoon and there was just a bit of a drizzle. There was a lot of leaves and small branches and assorted garbage littering the street, and there were some motor scooters and bikes that got knocked over, but nothing seriously wrong in our immediate vicinity. The eye of the storm is just leaving the east coast, so while we may get some heavy rain yet from the tail of the storm passing through, but we’re probably over the worst of it.

Other parts of Taiwan are not so lucky. There was lots of flooding, rivers overrunning their banks, bridges washed out, signs knocked over, cars bashed in, etc. Fortunately there is nobody reported dead though, so that’s good news. Three things from TV stuck out about the storm:

When we go to Hualien on the east coast, we stay at the Parkview Hotel there. It’s close to the airport and fairly nice and modern. One of the nice features was the ground floor restaurant where we ate breakfast each morning. It was off the lobby in a large 3 story high atrium with huge glass windows surrounding the dining/buffet area. This is kind of a small picture, but it’ll give you an idea of what it looked like:

I use the past tense because the typhoon blew out all the windows in the atrium and completely destroyed the dining/buffet area. Hualien is more or less at the center of where the Typhoon made landfall.

A temporary construction trailer next to a parking lot was ripped from it’s foundation and hurtled 50 meters through the air to the other side of the parking lot, badly damaging three cars and crushing two others.

And on the lighter side, there was a hilarious video of some farmers rescuing some bulls from flooding. They used a rope to pull the first bull up out of the water and as soon as he gets out he runs straight at the camera, just missing the camera operator, and as the camera swings around the bull is running into the street which is covered by quite a bit of water and then fwoop, he loses his footing and lands on his ass.

In somewhat related news, burglars took advantage of the typhoon to rip off a Gucci store on here in Taipei, taking off with a large stash of high end purses, shoes, etc.