Video of a Taiwanese fellow sinking rapid free-throws at a basketball arcade. From a Spanish-language vlog based here. I count 174 points in 30 seconds - does that really work out to 2.9 baskets per second?
Over at The View from Taiwan is a post about falling afoul of unwritten rules here. The examples are new to me, but they brought to mind an amusing description of the medical football players have to take before they are ever considered for the NFL. What follows says nothing about Taiwan, but maybe something about human nature:
When you get to the hospital, you are herded with the others into a long hallway to wait. Chairs line the way and at the end of the corridor is a door. A woman pops her head out the door every so often and beckons to the body filling the seat nearest the door. In the true spirit of the thing, the masses have somehow determined that the correct way to proceed is for all forty remaining bodies to lift their carcasses up, only to drop them immediately in the remaining empty seat. It's a truncated and ridiculous version of musical chairs without the music. At that rate, you will get up and sit down seventeen times before you are beckoned. You revolt. You decide to sit and not move. You'll wait for ten or so spaces to open up before you shuffle on down.
When four empty chairs are between you and the next guy, those behind you start to shift uncomfortably in their seats. Someone is not obeying the rules. That's not a good thing. You start to feel like the grandpa snaking through the mountains on a single lane highway with twenty cars crawling up his back because he's going five miles under the speed limit. You surrender and take up your role in the mindless shuffle. Despite your sense of the absurdity, you feel much better.
An article on China's history of developing them, and its motivation for doing so:
“Far more than any other country, the U.S. depends on space for national and
tactical intelligence, military operations, and civil and commercial benefits,”
as Robert L. Butterworth, president of the space consultancy Aries Analytics,
recently put it. This “provides a clear incentive for attacking American
spacecraft.” Such an attack on American satellites would not have to be very
extensive to be devastating—as long as it were well-planned. “Even a small-scale
anti-satellite attack in a crisis against fifty U.S. satellites (assuming a mix
of targeted military reconnaissance, navigation satellites, and communication
satellites) could have a catastrophic effect not only on U.S. military forces,
but [on] the U.S. civilian economy,” according to a recent report by China
analyst Michael Pillsbury. [emphasis added]
Three American responses are discussed, with the author concluding that active defense is the best policy:
The chief failing of the diplomatic approach to dealing with the new reality of
space weapons is that it is blind to the reason a potential adversary like China
would seek access to space in the first place—namely, the desire to be able to
inflict a crippling blow against U.S. military and economic might by
decapitating its surveillance and communications abilities. Those pushing for a
new treaty or a code of conduct have yet to explain why China would abandon
capabilities that threaten the “soft underbelly” of American military power. The
Chinese regime clearly aspires to develop such capabilities; there is little
reason to believe it would negotiate them away.
The United States should instead adopt an active defensive posture, beginning by
expanding and invigorating the research and technical base needed to defend or
replenish space assets. In the absence of defensive systems, the United States
government would do well to invest in small satellite development and rapid
launch capabilities. The combination of the two, once achieved, changes the
strategic calculations of prospective adversaries. Instead of achieving
strategic surprise by decapitating America’s critical space-enabled weapons, an
adversary would only have attained a momentary advantage. Unfortunately, the Air
Force and Department of Defense budgets show little intention of investing in
From a journal called The New Atlantis. Which sounds a little New Age-y to me, but I guess it's based on a Francis Bacon book written in 1626 about a utopian society coping with the advantages and problems of science and technology.
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said the decision to
grant Britain's highest honor to Rushdie, who wrote the controversial novel "The
Satanic Verses," was an insult to the Muslim world.
"Awarding a person who is among the most detested characters in the Islamic
society is obvious proof of anti-Islamism by ranking British officials," said
Hosseini during his weekly press conference.
I'd say it's obvious proof that British officials still think free speech is worth a damn. But the most intriguing part of the story came two paragraphs later:
Rushdie says he receives a "sort of Valentine's card" from Iran each year on
February 14 letting him know the country has not forgotten the vow to end his
Gee, isn't that the sort of thing one expects from a psychopath in a bad slasher flick? Certainly not from a certified member of the Axis of Kindness:
(Image from the Apr 7/07 edition of the Taiwan News)
UPDATE (Jun 22/07): When I said the knighthood proves British officials still think free speech is worth the damnation of tyrannical people, I may have been mistaken. It may simply be proof that they're WOEFULLY out of touch with the real world:
The committee that recommended Salman Rushdie for a knighthood did not discuss
any possible political ramifications and never imagined that the award would
provoke the furious response that it has done in parts of the Muslim world, the
Guardian has learnt.
It also emerged yesterday that the writers' organisation that led the
lobbying for the author...to be
knighted had originally hoped that the honour would lead to better relations
between Britain and Asia. [emphasis added]
The truth, or an after-the-fact attempt to evade blame? Would they really admit that they knew this would rile Islamofascists up?
Prince Tuan: You must be the American who had the unfortunate encounter with the Boxers this morning.
Maj. Lewis: I'm afraid it was the British missionary who had the hard time, sir.
Prince Tuan: The Chinese government is most distressed, but you must not conclude that all Boxers are bandits. Most of them are harmless vagabonds. Entertainers in the marketplaces (nodding toward Baroness Ivanoff) - much like the gypsies in your country.
(Favorite quote: "The Chinese foreign ministry rejected [last month's Pentagon] report as 'brutal interference' in internal affairs and insisted that Beijing's military
preparations were purely defensive.")
[Whale feces pioneer Rosalind Rolland] began taking along sniffer dogs that can detect whale droppings from as
far as a mile away. When they bark, she points her research vessel in the
direction of the brown gold, and as the boat approaches the feces—the excrement
usually stays afloat for an hour after the deed is done and can be bright orange
and oily depending on the type of plankton the whale feeds on—Rolland and her
crew begin scooping up as much matter as they can using custom-designed nets.
#5: Coursework Carcass Preparer
Remember that first whiff of formaldehyde when the teacher brought out the frogs
in ninth-grade biology? Now imagine inhaling those fumes eight hours a day, five
days a week. That’s the plight of biological- supply preparers, the folks who
poison, preserve, and bag the worms, frogs, cats, pigeons, sharks and even
cockroaches that end up in high-school and college biology classrooms.
#3: Elephant Vasectomist
What’s one foot across and sits behind two inches of skin, four inches of fat
and 10 inches of muscle? That’s right: an elephant’s testicle. Which means
veterinarian Mark Stetter’s newest invention—a four-foot-long fiber-optic
laparoscope attached to a video monitor—has to be a heavy-duty piece of
equipment to sterilize a randy bull pachyderm.
Anyway, about a week ago, we started our first tour in several years in
typically grand fashion, playing at a computer store in New York City. We had to
cut down on the pyro effects for this show, due to the low ceilings. But I think
it was a nice way for people to get to see us up close and check their e-mail at
the same time. We played a short set which was billed as "acoustic" because at
least one of us played an acoustic instrument. The after-show debauchery
included intense discussions with the sales staff about the upcoming release of
the Apple phone.
And then we have a short break from "the road" before heading off for a few shows in Europe, which has become overrun with Europeans in recent years.
Thursday's Taipei Times revealed that the unveiling of the memorial provided a rare opportunity for Taiwan's representative in Washington, D.C. to meet with the American president. Careful, Mr. Bush, China might accuse you of PROVOKING it:
US President George W. Bush shook hands and chatted with Representative to the
US Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) on Tuesday while attending the dedication
of a memorial to those killed by communist regimes around the world.
Actually, that's not why I brought the subject up at all. The real reason is that one line in the story reminded me of something I wanted to write about a month ago:
The VOC Memorial was more than a decade in the making. The US Congress passed an
act in 2003 on the establishment of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation
to raise funds to build the monument in memory of the more than 100 million
people killed by communist regimes -- from China and Soviet Union to Cambodia
and North Korea. [emphasis added]
Recall that a month ago, cost was one of the major complaints raised against renaming the Chiang Kai-shek memorial in Taipei. It seemed to me at the time that one of the best ways to counter that argument would have been to call for the establishment of a private charity to raise funds for the renaming. After all, "It costs too much," can hardly be said once people OTHER THAN YOURSELF voluntarily commit to paying for it. Pass the hat around, and see just how much the Taiwanese value the re-dedication. Those who hate the idea would be free to give nothing. But I'll bet those who WERE committed would've given, and given generously.
Both the World War II Memorial and the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington were funded chiefly by private donations. While I'm sure their respective foundations encountered the problem of free ridership, I note that in the end, the memorials DID manage to get built. What we have here is a nice, small-government approach to the problem, which has the additional virtue of helping build civil society at the same time.
[Chinese officials] expressed stern-faced concern and spoke of dire consequences during
a press conference as China made clear its fury that Bush had even chosen to
acknowledge Wu’s visit.
“We insist to keep the current peaceful relations as we promised Taiwan’s
citizens. We have prepared to stop (prohibit) any activities, conduct and any
excuses to divide Taiwan away from China in whatever cause, the activities are
going to cause serious harm. Chenshuibian’s (President of Taiwan) conspiracy of
an independent Taiwan causes serious harm in our peaceful relations. We will
resort to military action if they continue these irresponsible actions,” said
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yang Li. (rough translation). [emphasis added]
Just collected all I've written on De-Chiangification & Name Rectification into a category of its own. The main posts should all be there, though it's quite probable that some posts may have been missed (particularly when the subject was mentioned in an update or as an aside).
Last week, Costa Rica switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, leaving Taiwan with only 24 diplomatic allies. As a result, Chinese Nationalist Party presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou took the current government to task:
"We had as many as 30 allies when the KMT was in power ... It was clear that we
made some progress diplomatically when we had a consensus with China ... Chen's
foreign policy has lead Taiwan to a dead end," Ma said during a visit to Taipei
Port in Bali Township (八里).
Chen's foreign policy has led Taiwan to a dead end? An invitation if ever there was to take a closer look at where KMT foreign policy has led the beautiful isle:
During the time the KMT ruled Taiwan, how many net diplomatic allies did it lose? 80? 100? 130? On top of that, how many new U.N. member states were given the opportunity of recognizing Taiwan, and chose China instead? I can think of at least 15 - the old Soviet Union used to consist of 15 republics - and NONE of them recognized Taiwan when they gained their freedom. Come to think of it, neither did any of the newly-freed Eastern-bloc countries, either. All those potential allies up for grabs on the KMT's watch - and the KMT let them slip right through their fingers.
So, back to the question: how many diplomatic allies, real and potential, did the KMT lose for Taiwan? I'll guess 100 (and be grateful to anyone who can provide a more accurate number). That means that over 50 years, the KMT lost 2 diplomatic allies per year, on average. Does this record compare favorably to that of the Taiwanese nationalists?
I'm afraid it doesn't. Under a Taiwanese nationalist president, Taiwan suffered a net loss of 6 diplomatic allies within a period of 7 years. Unless I'm mistaken, that works out to an average loss of 0.86 diplomatic allies per year. Nothing to brag about, to be sure, but it sure beats the KMT's loss of 2 per year.* Which is to say nothing of the KMT's loss of Taiwan's security council seat, and their idiotic refusal to accept the consolation prize of a general assembly seat instead.
* In reply, supporters of the Chinese Nationalist Party might offer two defenses. The first, Ma Ying-jeou has already mentioned:
"It was clear that we
made some progress diplomatically when we had a consensus with China."
OK, I'll bite. Just how many new diplomatic allies did Taiwan pick up after it reached the mythical "One China, two interpretations" consensus in 1992? I wasn't here, so I don't know. Was it two? Three? Four? Undoubtedly, Ma would insist this was a result of goodwill from Beijing. But could he be suffering from a bad case of post hoc ergo propter hoc? In other words, might there be some OTHER possible explanation for the increase, besides some sort of imagined "goodwill" on the part of revanchist communists?
Well, let's see...1992...That would be, what, THREE years after the Tienanmen Massacre? That was a time at which horrified American and European investors had ceased, or significantly slowed, their investment into the Middle Kingdom.
Wealthy Taiwanese industrialists had fewer scruples, however. They saw untapped opportunities in China that Americans and Europeans weren't taking advantage of, and they jumped in. Fortunately for the Butchers of Beijing, the slack in foreign investment was picked up by the Taiwanese, who pumped money into China big time.
Under this unique set of circumstances, what would China have had to gain by wholesale thievery of Taiwan's diplomatic allies? Only an angry government in Taipei, which might have gotten serious about staunching the flow of capital to China, that's what. Better to let Taiwan have its two, three, four, new allies. A few diplomatic gains for Taiwan weren't going to change the big picture anyways, and would have ensured those NT dollars kept a-comin'. It might even have convinced a few fools in Taipei to think some sort of detente had been achieved. Later, when American and European investors returned to the market, the relative importance of the Taiwanese contribution diminished. China could then afford to put the screws to Taiwan, secure in the knowledge that a cessation of Taiwanese investment would have limited impact, with Americans and Europeans on the scene willing to pick up the slack.
Now for that second objection. A supporter of the Chinese Nationalist Party might dismiss all of this, pointing out that THEY weren't responsible for the loss of Taiwan's allies. The People's Republic of China was to blame. The communists were the ones who twisted arms, or bought governments off. Against them, tiny Taiwan just couldn't compete in the diplomatic game.
Funny how that's an excuse Chinese nationalists aren't gracious enough to grant in turn to others. From Taiwan's China Post:
The ROC government need not fault Costa Rica for leaving
it. Nor should the DPP administration accuse Beijing of trying to deprive Taiwan
of international space. The DPP should instead look at its own attitude and
behavior. [emphasis added]
There we have it. When Chinese nationalists lose allies to the PRC, it's the PRC's fault. And when Taiwanese nationalists lose allies to the PRC? Well, in THAT case, the PRC is entirely blameless. The fault can ONLY lie with Taiwanese nationalists, naturally.
If I didn't know better, I might think someone was arguing in bad faith!
But...let's pursue this all the way to the end:
The DPP itself has not been very peaceful. Its chairman, Yu Shyi-kun, has
publicly advocated a possible retaliatory missile attack on Shanghai...
Jeez. RETALIATORY strikes hardly rate up there with the KMT's old "Retake the motherland" tomfoolery on the ol' warmonger-ometer, but we're not supposed to notice that. We're only supposed to feel disgust that the victim of Chinese aggression would ever dare defend itself.
Let me paraphrase Charles Krauthammer here: When under attack, no nation is obligated to collect permission slips to strike back. But the Chinese nationalists at the China Post think otherwise. Clearly, in the event of a Chinese attack, Taiwanese ought to bend over and ask, "Please sir, can I have some more?"
(Come to think of it, that's EXACTLY the way the Taiwan News felt America should have handled Afghanistan after the attack on 9-11. But it's late now, and that's a whole 'nother topic.)
UPDATE (Dec 20/08): The approval I gave to the KMT in this post was entirely unwarranted. A year-and-a-half after this post was written, Taiwanese police were still conducting household inspections.
Unaccustomed as I am to putting up headings like that, I think this time it's deserved:
The [Taiwanese] legislature [on Tuesday] abolished a 60-year-old system in which the police
were responsible for carrying out household inspections, in a move experts said
would improve public order and advance the protection of basic human rights.
My place has never been inspected by the local police, so I had no idea this relic of the martial law era was still in place. Or that it was EVER in place, for that matter. The opportunities it once provided Big Brother are not difficult to fathom:
"In the past, the inspection system was often used as an excuse for the police
to enter people's homes and collect information about ordinary people," [the Vice-Minister of the Interior] said when the amendment was presented to the legislature for a preliminary
review in March.
Now to be fair, the Chinese Nationalist Party framed their arguments in terms of police efficiency, rather than human rights:
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇),
who had proposed the amendment, said that the objective of the revision was to
lessen the burden on the police force....
Wu said the original regulations had required the police to spend a total of
801,840 hours a month conducting household inspections nationwide, given the
assumption that each officer needed an average of 20 hours per month to carry
out the task.
"If an officer is on duty for 240 hours per month, the removal of the duty would
be equivalent to having 3,341 more police officers in the country," Wu said. [emphasis added]
Nevertheless, KMT claims of pragmatism in no way change the bottom line that they're doing the right thing.
One quick media coverage observation: the Taipei Times (no friend of the KMT) was quick to credit the Chinese Nationalist Party. (Third paragraph in a front page story). Yet the China Post, a pro-KMT paper, failed to mention the KMT's role in the legislation even once.
Hey fellas, why the sudden bashfulness here about praising your own side?
UPDATE (Jun 11/07): Sunday's Taipei Times editorial gave a brief summary of the former system for home inspections:
Those who are familiar with the practice of household inspection know that it
was a practice under which police officers would periodically knock on the door
of each home and ask to examine the identification cards of the individuals in
that home to see if they conformed with the household registration and to see if
there was anything suspicious about the residence. The police did not need to
have any reasonable or grounded suspicion about criminal activities before
requesting entry. This practice was far removed from Western practices under
which police cannot enter private households without either a search warrant
issued by a court or an urgent need to stop the perpetration of crime.
Generally speaking, in the past, when a police officer conducted a household
inspection, he was supposed to ensure that the inhabitants of a house were the
people whose residence was registered at that household. If there were strangers
in the house, the police were supposed to find out whether there were any
suspicious circumstances underlying the guests' presence.
The more I think about this, the more I wonder if the KMT's spearheading of this law is simply an effort on their part to make up for their (absurd) defense of Chiang Kai-shek with Taiwanese voters. Which would be a more cynical interpretation than the one I gave earlier.
Next year, China hosts the Olympics, and it fears reformers, and dissidents of
all sorts, will use the huge influx of foreigners as an opportunity to stage
anti-government demonstrations...The government considers it essential for Chinese prestige, as a "major power",
that the Olympics go off without a hitch. To that end, the government will round
up all known troublemakers and dissidents and put them in preventive detention
for the duration of the Olympics. [emphasis added]
President Chen Shui-bian showed up to give a speech in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, despite a ban on ranking Taiwanese officials from visiting the capital:
State Department guidelines implemented in 1979 ban Taiwan's president and other
senior officials from visiting Washington, as part of Washington's "one China"
policy. A 1994 law passed by Congress overrode those restrictions, but no
administration has implemented the law's provisions to allow Taiwan's president
and other high-ranking officials to visit Washington.
Except, President Chen didn't really SHOW UP show up. Instead, he delivered his speech via teleconference to the National Press Club. He was in Taipei the whole time.
In Taipei. Didn't set foot in America.
None of this pleased the State Department:
One prominent State Department official responsible for Taiwan policy...[charged] that Chen was "using teleconference technology to
circumvent the ban on Taiwanese presidents coming to Washington," a Taipei
Times source said.
Good Lord. This isn't Osama bin Laden sending instructions to a gang of Jihadis in a New Jersey mosque somewhere. We're talking about the popularly-elected head of a LIBERAL DEMOCRACY, giving a SPEECH to members of the press.
What is the State Department going to do when the first 3-D tech comes out? Dear Captain Picard: It has come to our
attention that Chen Shui-bian has been appearing on the holodeck....
It's often claimed that China will grow more open as it interacts more with democracies. But the troubling response to Chen's speech in this case highlights the possibility that the reverse may happen. Perhaps in the end, it will be us whose values are corrupted by authoritarian China, instead.