Showing posts with label mayor_ko. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mayor_ko. Show all posts

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Mayor Ko is a Gay-hating, Misogynist Turd

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doctored image (test and arrow mine) from Wikiquote



So, I've tried to be a Very Good Blogger these past few months by keeping my swearing and general foul-mouthedness in check, so I think I've earned this one.

Because I think it's most appropriate to the story to do an end-run over the serious-faced analysis about what it means and what are Ko's intentions exactly and just call it like it is without any of the wannabe pundit BS, I'm just gonna say it straight: Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je is a homophobic, sexist buttclown.

The misogyny has been amply covered, because there is a lot of it. I won't re-tread on that - links to his previous comments about women are covered in the link.

The gay-hating, though? That's new, so let's rumble.

According to Liberty Times (link in Mandarin), while in the USA - which was its own whole drama thing - Ko commented that he voted against marriage equality referendum in the last election, but that he "allowed Taipei to hold the Pride Parade" which shows that "Taipei City is very tolerant".

Don't let his talk about "tolerance" and Pride fool you. First, that's a basic human right (the freedom of assembly) in Taiwan. Oh, thank you so much, Mayor Ko, for giving LGBT people the right to freedom of speech that they already had anyway! Barf.

Second, "tolerance" is not enough. Equal rights and tolerance are both necessary: without tolerance, equal rights can ring hollow as people, even when exercising their rights, may face discrimination. But without equal rights, merely "tolerating" someone else's existence doesn't confer upon them the dignity of actual equal status.

Voting against marriage equality is an anti-gay, anti-equal rights act. Simply put, if you do not think same-sex couples do not deserve the same rights that opposite-sex ones enjoy, you do not believe in equal rights, and you specifically want to deny them to LGBT people. That is a fundamentally anti-gay viewpoint. There's no other way to put it. The two cannot be reconciled. You can talk all you want about "being tolerant" but if you want to deny a group a human right, that is not "tolerant". You are telling opposite-sex couples that they shouldn't be alowed to inherit from each other, make medical decisions for each other, have visitation or next-of-kin rights, adopt, be on each other's insurance or any of the other things opposite-sex couples can do just because they have different junk.


That's anti-equality. Period. There is no "loving" or "decent" way to interpret this.

What's more, "but I allowed Taipei to have Pride!" is a weak-kneed cop-out. Tolerating someone's existence without open comment or harassment and letting them march down the street, but wanting to keep them second-class citizens, is simply not good enough, and is not actually tolerant. Tolerance means accepting that people who aren't like you are human too and therefore have the same goddamn rights you do, period.

Anything less - oh it's so nice, we're so nice to you, you can march and walk and wear your costumes! - is not good enough. There is no excuse. There is no cover. There is no sappy, manipulative "love the sinner" or "acceptance" or "lifestyle" rhetoric.

Either you believe in equal rights or you do not, and Ko Wen-je does not believe in equal rights.


I also wonder what he hoped to accomplish with these comments - his most supportive base are the youth, who are also overwhelmingly pro-equality. Did he expect that he could say this to win older anti-equality voters, but keep the youth with his comments about Pride?

I hope not, because that would mean he thinks the youth are stupid. I certainly hope they don't let this go.

Confusingly, this comes after addressing the right-wing Heritage Foundation touting Taiwan's social values as akin to those of the West (marriage equality is common in the West now) and talking about elections as social movements toward change. To a bunch of right-winters. Huh.


Which...okay, if you think that, why did you vote against the goals of the biggest social movement since the Sunflowers, and arguably the most progressive and Western-aligned, which asked for the most evolution from Taiwanese society?

Because you're a jack-bucket who says whatever and doesn't care, that's why. You proved that with women; now you're just adding LGBT people to the roster. Screw you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Yes, Ko Wen-je said a sexist thing again

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The ladies of Taipei according to Ko Wen-je


So, it's time we all just admitted frankly that Ko Wen-je is a sexist jackass.

This time, it's over comments that "Japanese women make themselves up more beautifully" than Taiwanese women, with Taiwanese women not wearing makeup "go directly outside and terrify people", and that being aesthetically pleasing not only shows dedication but is a responsibility (presumably, of women).

I mean, I totally understand. What with Ko Wen-je being such a well-manicured hottie, he sure takes great care of his 'aesthetics' and women can't help swooning over him, I mean, just look at that carefully-maintained visage that makes ladies' hearts go a-flutte - -


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Oh yeah THAT guy really has standing to talk about how women need to make themselves prettier. 



Oh, wait, that's not him. Sorry. The other guy is Ko. Hmm. Gotcha.

Do you like gardening, Mayor Ko? Because that is one massive glass house ya got there.

Obviously, it bothers me that the mayor of the city I live in, who is likely to be re-elected, is a sexist jerk.

It bothers me that he remains popular despite being a sexist jerk (if he'd committed actual sexual harassment he'd probably be a goner politically, but apparently stupid, sexist comments aren't enough), and that the media seem to cover for him.

I mean, there's no excuse for his recent comments, but please enjoy some smokescreens for sexist comments in the past:

Ko "clarifies" that both unmarried women and men over 30 are a "national security risk" (note verb choice)

"Gaffe-prone" Ko says he's "still learning to be a politician", which sounds like apologia for comments that are shitty even when non-politicians make them - note the way the prominence of Ko's "explanation" and the use of "gaffe" downplay the nature of what he actually said. And not just one thing - this is over two separate comments, both of which were horrible!

It also implies, from Ko's perspective, that everyday men say these things and that's OK (men I know have assured me they and other men typically don't, even in all-male company), but politicians shouldn't. No, dude. You shouldn't make comments that a woman is "so pretty" that she's not fit to be mayor but that she should instead "be a receptionist or model for tourism promotion materials", or "I didn't become a OB-GYN because I'd have to make a living between women's legs" even if you are not a politician. So there's nothing to "learn" to not say about women in order to be mayor. You're just an asshole.

You really think after these sorts of comments that the women of Taipei think you can do a good job as their elected representative? What woman would want to be governed by you?


So, this time around, let's not do that, okay? Let's call it what it is. Ko Wen-je definitely has his distinct personality and so he makes off-color remarks. Fine. I do that too! I live for off-color things (as long as they're not mean to the wrong people). But can we just admit that off-color sexist remarks belie sexist beliefs no matter your personality? Thanks.

But what bothers me more is that he's the best choice we've got in the upcoming election.

I don't care about one stupid comment, not really. I care that he keeps making them and yet there's no other solid choice to vote for.


I'm not writing this stuff because I want to trash Mayor Ko for no reason, and I'm not writing it because I want him to lose the upcoming election (what I say here won't matter in that regard anyway). I'm aware that the other two choices are worse: Ting Shou-jung is a China-loving, anti-independence sack of empty slogans and Pasuya Yao...I mean, lol.

If anything, that's the problem: Ko is a jackass - a smart, hardworking jackass, but a jackass nonetheless - yet we don't have a better choice. We finally get the first non-KMT mayor since Chen Shui-bian and he's...a jackass. It burns.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Why is everyone so upset that Ko said Taiwan is a "product on a shelf"?

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The screenshot that launched a million words


Because I'm gonna say it: he's right. 



Taiwan must focus on making itself more valuable to President Donald Trump and accept its status as a pawn in the great power game between the U.S. and China, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je said.


Nobody likes to hear that they "must accept their status as a pawn" - but that doesn't make it untrue. We absolutely should not overestimate the US's willingness to defend Taiwan.

And he's not only right about Donald Trump, who is absolutely not a reliable ally to anyone and sees everything as an opportunity that can bolster his own self-image or worth or a threat to be eradicated (or at least shouted at incoherently), he's also right about the US in general. Not only that, it's been true for awhile.

This doesn't mean Taiwan shouldn't deal with the US, or should refuse its help, but that's not what Ko said: he said we needed a strategy to deal with this reality. That's just a correct statement.

But it seemed as though nobody wanted to hear it. What struck me was the swiftness and absolute horror of the reaction from Taiwanese activists, commentators, friends and other people involved in the struggle for a better Taiwan. The general feeling seemed to be, essentially "how could he say such a thing?"

I was a bit curious about that so I asked around, paid attention to various comment threads (like this one) on the topic, and generally just tried to get a sense of what was so terrible about essentially making an accurate, if damning, statement about the US's commitment to Taiwan.

The main point of anger doesn't seem to be the idea that Taiwan is a "pawn", but that the Ko has not equally addressed the fact that if Taiwan is a poker chip to the US, then it's also one to China. Essentially, he's speaking out about how the US sees Taiwan, but is seen by the public as worryingly - and oddly - growing closer to China.

There's a sense among many Taiwanese that Ko has questionable motives, from using China's language on two sides of the strait being "one family" to gaining Chinese state television endorsements to rumors that China is encouraging Taishang (Taiwanese businesspeople in China) to return to vote for Ko and is supporting him for a 2020 presidential run on the assumption that the KMT can't win, with Ko himself not doing much to dispel these notions. I've even heard rumors about some deeply weird cross-party alliances that...well, I won't even go there.



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From 幹幹貓: probably one of the most common things I read to improve my colloquial Chinese. It's all in Mandarin but you should check it out!

There's also the general sentiment - captured in the Fuck Fuck Cat cartoon above - that so many Taiwanese voters and politicians are willing to bend over for China at a few sweet words promising economic incentives, ignoring China's stated and obvious intentions. These (often same) people will blast the US-Taiwan relationship as something they can't trust, despite all sorts of actually good things the US has done, from the Taiwan Travel Act to arms sales, without anything close to the ill intent of China.

So it makes sense from their perspective to worry that he'd be so dismissive of Taiwan as a commodity of the US, but silent on how China views Taiwan.

I get that too - here he basically says there is no such thing as "cross-strait relations": one could charitably parse that as "China is a foreign country like any other", but I can see how someone might hear it as "cross-strait relations don't exist because we're all the same" given some of his language choices in the past.

He goes on, however, to basically speak truth to power: saying that Trump has repeated "America First!" ad nauseam, and it's foolish to not believe him. When one reporter said "but some are insisting that you really shouldn't say 'Taiwan is just a product'", he replied, basically, "I dunno, what else am I supposed to say?"

Which...yeah.

I'm sure there are people under Trump who care about Taiwan as more than a 'product', and they've had enough say in the US's recent Taiwan policy that we've seen some real benefits. But an entire book could be written on how past administrations have seen Taiwan as a poker chip - from Bush speaking out against Taiwan independence in 2003 to Obama "selling so few arms to Taiwan that he came close to violating the Taiwan Relations Act", as a friend once put it.

The Bloomberg piece that created this poopfest goes on to say:



The outspoken former surgeon and potential presidential contender told Bloomberg News that Taiwan shouldn’t overestimate the U.S.’s willingness to defend the island from an attack by its much bigger neighbor. Ko, 59, said Taiwan needed to boost its worth to America by strengthening shared values, such as democracy and economic transparency (emphasis mine).


Again, yeah. What reasonable person would argue with that?

I could argue that playing up values like 'shared democracy' wouldn't matter - the US has a history of ignoring human rights abuses, or responding flaccidly to them, when economic benefits might be at stake (including the US's response to Tiananmen Square after 1989). That doesn't mean we shouldn't make this a selling point for Taiwan, however.


But, this is apparently not good enough: there are all sorts of rumors about his having a role in organ harvesting (getting discounts on organs from China? Something like that. I'm not too clear), on the nature of his previous visits to China and other things I won't bother with.

I'm not saying I believe all of this - I'm just pointing out that this is what is being said.

Some of the above are clearly election season character-smearing trash or at best should be taken with a Tainan Salt Museum mountain of salt, yet a lot of the comments I've been seeing slamming Ko for calling Taiwan a "product on the shelf" for the US reference the above rumors as though they are fact, and therefore prove that Ko wants to move away from a stronger relationship with the US and towards a friendlier one with China. Of course, they prove no such thing.

I don't know. I see their point vis-a-vis China - I too have been disappointed with Ko's rhetoric in this area (though much more worried about his only serious opponent's even stronger pro-China talking points). I find it odd that he'd be so quick to abandon the base that voted him in, of not-quite-DPP pro-Taiwan voters and Sunflower-energized youth to start talking like a weird old unificationist, and yet, I remain agnostic on the notion that he actually is a unificationist. I also remain agnostic on the idea that he has some deep-level "four-dimensional chess" strategy going on to deal with China: the evidence doesn't support that, either.

And I've been deeply disappointed with some in the Taiwanese electorate who are willing to believe any and all claptrap from China, who really is our enemy, and then are so quick to turn around and criticize the US.

Anyway, I get it. We big-noses are talking about how Ko is "telling it like it is" because we're just thinking about his comments vis-a-vis the US, without looking at how they stack up to his comments about China. Removed from that context, we're right. Put back in context, however, I see why this angers a certain subset of Taiwanese.

Finally, there's a sentiment among some as well that Ko supporters are becoming overly rabid themselves - acting like extremists or fundamentalists, balking at the slightest criticism (I've seen this in action, by the way - it is, in some cases, a thing). Among Ko supporters, there's a sentiment that everyone knows the guy speaks bluntly and undiplomatically, and we all say we want politicians who say what they mean, so are you really going to crucify him every time he does exactly that?

And yet, I can't repeat it enough: when you strip all that away and look at US-Taiwan relations specifically, and ignore the rumors dogging Ko in other areas, you have to admit: he's absolutely right. Trump keeps repeating "America First" - and when people tell you who they are, believe them. 


Friday, September 21, 2018

Yes, Ko is using Xi's language on "one family"

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from ETToday


A piece by former Sunflower leader Lin Fei-fan came out today, warning of Ko's embrace of Xi Jinping's and China's oft-repeated phrase, "the two sides of the Strait are one family", essentially calling Ko's seeming doublespeak on China a strategy out of the Ma Ying-jeou playbook: insisting he's not pro-unification and then acting the opposite.

I'm already anticipating the criticism that'll flow in over such a prominent figure in Taiwanese Third Force politics essentially taking a shot at Ko as the Taipei mayoral election nears and no better pro-Taiwan candidates are running (or arguably, none who could actually win Taipei exist).

One thing in particular I expect to hear, which I'd like to dismantle right now, is the idea that Ko's and Xi's exact wording don't match: that Xi uses "兩岸一家人" (a translation of "one family" that implies a single household or very immediate relatives) and Ko uses "兩岸一家親" which implies a more distant familial relation, like cousins: the idea being that you can share ancestors or be related, but not be under the same household.

However, CRNTT/China Review News/台灣中評, essentially Chinese state-sponsored media in Taiwan and Hong Kong, published a lengthy article on the 19th Party Congress in 2017, in which the latter phrase - the one used by Ko - is explicitly quoted as being used by Xi:

兩岸一家親”是習近平總書記積極宣導的兩岸關係和平發展新理念,這一新理念的內涵極為豐富。“兩岸一家親”的基礎是兩岸同屬一個民族和國家。“兩岸一家親”的對台政策意涵是用“一家人”的思維和邏輯,“將心比心”更加彈性地處理台灣問題、兩岸分歧和對台讓利。“兩岸一家親”理念要求兩岸同胞彼此信賴,彼此扶持,不斷擴大和密切兩岸交流交往,在融合發展中撫平歷史的傷痕,共同推進中華民族偉大復興的歷史進程。

My rough translation: "The two sides of the strait are one family" is a new concept for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations actively promoted by General Secretary Xi Jinping. This new concept is extremely rich in content. The basis of the phrase "two sides of the strait are one family" is that both sides of the strait belong to one nation. This policy towards Taiwan is to use "family" rhetoric and logic to "reconcile hearts" and deal more flexibly with the Taiwan issue, cross-strait differences, and benefit Taiwan. The "cross-strait family" concept requires compatriots on both sides of the strait to trust each other, support each other, continuously expand cross-strait exchanges, smooth the scars of history in the development of integration, and jointly advance the historic process of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Barf.

Anyway, that's what Chinese media in Taiwan is saying. It's useful to get a sense of what the Chinese government thinks, and they are explicitly using the exact same phrase as Ko: not 一家人, but 一家親. Here's another source from ETToday and another from China Times (pan-blue/pro-China media in Taiwan) which contains extensive quotes from Xi. Here's an English translation of Xi's words in 2017. You have to dig, as this wasn't one of the top points of his address, but it's there.

Basically, it seems as though Xi used the old phrasing  (一家人) up through about 2013, then switched to the newer one echoed by Ko after that (一家親), while occasionally switching back to the more 'immediate family' (一家人) translation. However, both retain the same translation in English.

I am sure that China does this sort of thing intentionally - taking words that have subtle, hard to parse translations in other languages  and twisting them to suit their own ends. Because it's hard to explain these things in English, those who don't know Mandarin buy too easily into CCP-approved ways of thinking about these concepts.  Another key example is the way they allow confusion to blossom over the concept of 華人 (Chinese, as in, something from Chinese culture) and 中國人 (from the nation called 'China'): essentially trying to control the debate about what it means to be 'Chinese' by equating it linguistically with anything 'Chinese' being 'a part of China'. Both words, however, translate as 'Chinese' and it's difficult to explain the difference unless you learn the language. It's also difficult for people who don't want to be lumped in under the CCP's idea of what it means to be 'Chinese' to use these words.

"一家親" in its "extended family (not necessarily of one household)" context might have been embraced by many Taiwanese, just as having Chinese cultural heritage (華人) might have been. Now, you can't say those things - you can't express an opinion that you are proud of your Chinese ancestry but don't want to be a part of China - without sounding like a unificationist. That suits some people very well indeed.

Note, in fact, that these points on the Chinese renderings of the phrase "two sides of the strait are one family" are not included in Lin's article: there's just too much you'd have to say to make it clear, and you'd lose readers' interest. It takes up valuable digital real estate - but the fact that it is so hard to discuss in other languages is exactly the point.

Some might ask whether Ko really means to echo Xi and China in his choice of words. I don't know - he's the kind of person who would stumble into this sort of thing unintentionally, having a tendency to...um, not think too much about how he comes across when he talks. He tends to stumble around answers to questions he really should see coming and have rehearsed, polished answers to, but apparently doesn't - not that I generally find Taiwanese politics very polished, mind you.

There's also the terrifying fact that Ko's milquetoast KMT opponent Ting Shou-chung uses the old, even more pro-unification "兩岸一家人" - a sign that Ting, not Ko, is the one in China's pocket? That both are useful idiots, blathering pro-China rhetoric that may sound different to Taiwanese voters but is seen in exactly the same way as China - and that this is intentional on China's part? That Ting is using the phrase in a bid to get the KMT back into the CCP's good graces - they miss their Daddy it seems - but the CCP has decided Ko is a better bet? I don't know.

But Lin puts forward a convincing case that we should at least keep our eye on Ko, and hold him accountable for his words: that CCTV seems to endorse him, and that China certainly is looking to co-opt Third Force and third-party politicians in Taiwan as it sees its inability to push its agenda forward through the KMT, and that his city-level exchanges with Shanghai are problematic. While he doesn't say so explicitly, the CCP's use of specific terminology is very deliberate. These exact phrases - like 兩岸一家人/一家親, or 中華民族偉大復興的歷史進程 ("the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation") - are significant to them and are generally deployed using exactly the same language each time. They are signals, to some extent dog whistles to those they've co-opted. If Xi has changed his wording, Ko is using it too (and defending that use), the phrase seems to have been given prominence above the language of the so-called "1992 Consensus, and CCTV is happy about all of this, it could very well mean something.

This isn't to say that I think Ko is a unificationist. He strikes me as more of a too-smart-for-his-own-good catspaw or useful idiot. It wouldn't be the first time a seeming pan-green loyalist was manipulated into doing the CCP's bidding, but I don't know what motivates Ko. All I can do is point out that, when it comes down to the very specific terminology put out by the CCP, Ko's words do in fact match up.

I certainly don't think Taiwanese voters will embrace this "one family" doctrine either: when it comes to actual sentiments of most Taiwanese people, Ko's words are not as divisive as some may believe. Just because he's selling potentially problematic ideas doesn't mean the electorate is buying them.

Some will probably say Lin is trying to tank Ko's re-election. If you read between the lines of what Lin is saying, however, it's not that we should not elect Ko. I would bet CA$H money that he fully expects Ko to win, and that he's fully aware that Yao's a joke who doesn't stand a chance and Ting is far worse a choice than Ko. Ting's clearly anti-independence stance is a huge problem, and Yao's off partying like it's 1999, naming Chen Shui-bian (yes, that Chen Shui-bian) his "supreme advisor". LOL.

I'd bet a full case of wine that Lin's goal is to get the world to look more closely at Ko and hold him to account for his words, but not necessarily to refuse to vote for him. He's someone who pokes holes in establishment narratives and criticizes where criticism is due, regardless of the consequences. That's often (though perhaps not always) a good thing.

I am sure he doesn't believe that Taiwanese voters will suddenly go pro-China either: several times in the piece it points out that the KMT is not likely to regain its lost popularity, and that Ko's words on China do not echo the sentiments of the Taiwanese people. His concern is that the Taiwanese people are deliberately ignoring his words out of convenience, for lack of a better candidate, and that's a dangerous path to follow (see: Ma Ying-jeou).

I'm not sure this is the best way to make the case for Taiwan in English in international media, as it's really something for Taiwanese voters to think about and Taiwan gets limited screen time on any media outlet. The rest of the world is confused enough by China's consistently winning the rhetoric war on the China-Taiwan debate (though less so these days), and needs to hear a clear, clarion-bright call bringing the case for Taiwan: not muddy, difficult, unclear domestic political situations that Taiwan is trying to hash out itself. I'd like to see more 'clear cases for Taiwan' and less 'domestic Taiwanese politics' for global readers.

But that doesn't mean Lin is wrong.

And every time the 1992 Consensus is called out for the pro-China garbage it is in English-language media, the better. I am only sad that the word "fabrication" was not used, because that's what it is. More of that, please.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Light News Petiscos and Wine

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Greetings from Coimbra! Their university is great except they have a Confucius Institute. But the building is well-marked and I kind of spat at it, so...that accomplished nothing but felt good. 



Hello from Portugal, where we are traveling for a bit before I take up my 2nd semester at Exeter. Because I’m on the road, I won’t be keeping up much of a regular blogging schedule. But, here are a few takes for you - perhaps a bit behind the news cycle but whatever - I’ll try to keep them quick. I have wine to drink and lots of it. Also, port.

We’re not really getting beyond the tourist hotspots, which a few years ago I’d say was a shame. And, in fact, I’d love to have the time to explore the lesser-known gems of the country. But, as I grow older and travel more, I grow more at peace with staying on something like a tourist circuit while abroad, unless I have good reason to depart from it. I don’t have a special connection to the countries I visit other than (I hope) helping their economies with my well-spent tourist dollars, zero dollars of which go to buying cheap trinkets in souvenir shops, so what connection would I have to a regular neighborhood of no particular interest to travelers? Trying to pretend the local cafe or restaurant, the local park, the local place of worship has any meaning for me as an outsider feels cheap, like a debased way of seeming like I’m better than a regular tourist, which of course I am not. You build connection by returning to places frequently over time, which as a traveler I cannot do.

That’s not to say I never have a reason to go out of my way: in Greece we traveled far beyond the tourist center of Athens, to seek out the church where my great grandfather had worked, and which my grandfather had attended as a child. We had coffee from the local shop and walked around the local streets, and had good reason to: my ancestors had lived in that neighborhood for many years. It goes without saying that a good restaurant recommendation will get me to go anywhere.

And, of course, Taiwan is no longer ‘abroad’, it’s home. That’s different. I have connections there. 

All that to say, yes I’m just going to Lisbon, Sintra, Coimbra and Porto, but I’m okay with that. 

Anyway, there’s a hot take for you. Here’s another - let's talk AIT. 

I don’t know what to say about the new AIT opening - some people say it’s a sign of ‘upgraded relations’. Others write ludicrous headlines (“angering China”? I'd say "eat me" but CNN is clearly chowing down on something way meatier) Still others say it doesn’t mean much, which seems like it could be the case given that the US sent no-one important to attend. Personally? I think it’s just as confused and schizophrenic as US policy on Taiwan has always seemed - even if, officially, it is clearer (and more pro-Taiwan) than people think. We want to build a big office in Taiwan! But we don’t want to draw attention to it! We care about Taiwan relations! But we don’t want to talk about that! It’s the same old dance - he loves me, he loves me not. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Though if you really want to know, at the end of the day, what those who matter in the US think of Taiwan, skip the new AIT opening and look at who makes decisions about arms sales to Taiwan. 

Moving on. Korea. 

The Facebooks are ablaze with WHAT IT ALL MEANS!!! re: the Xi Jinping Marionette Spectacular I mean Trump-Xi oops Trump-Kim meeting. You already know what I think it means. Few, however, seem worried that China would surely seek to fill that void of regional influence - after all, better that the regional power in Asia be Asian, yes? Plenty of people are talking about how anything that gets US and US imperialism out of Asia must be a good thing.

I don’t know if those people like Chinese imperialism, or just aren’t aware it’s a thing (though I would guess it’s the latter). It’s an easy thing to overlook: it’s not fully realized yet and the CCP is trying hard to make sure it stays under everyone’s radar, whereas US imperialism - and all those bombs we drop to advance an agenda mostly beneficial to us - is well-known and more than fully-realized. It’s easy to criticize.

It’s even easier to criticize knowing that you can do so and you won’t get shot. Try criticizing Chinese expansionism in China and see how long you are not ‘disappeared’. That’s the key difference of course - both China and the US are primarily interested in what’s best for them, and despite what they say the US doesn’t really stand for either global democracy or human rights - but at least under a US-led system you can say so.

What worries me is that in the wake of WHAT IT ALL MEANS!!! is that until perhaps just today, not many people seemed to be talking about China at all. Even those otherwise criticizing Trump's performance. I am certain - and anyone else who is watching ought to be as well - that this was all manipulated to benefit China (before you accuse me of ‘anti-China hysteria’, remember that I live in Taiwan, a country China has said obliquely it will annex by force.) Not to sound like a tired cliche-ridden “China expert”, but isn’t the Art of War all about conquering through manipulation or a clever strategem, so that your opponent doesn’t even realize they’re losing, and only if that is impossible to use force? Well…

So who realizes that we’re losing? Not The Atlantic, who mentioned China 7 times in this piece (I counted) but didn't seem to be able to pinpoint who was both manipulating the show and who benefitted from it. Not the BBC, which I had on most of yesterday evening in Sintra. The National Post gets it, but nobody I know reads it. My preferred outlets continue to not understand Asia. South China Morning Post, for the first time since they became a CCP propaganda tool, seems to get it right. But nobody I know in the US regularly reads SCMP.

But, because the average US liberal or moderate doesn't read these outlets, this particular observation seems lost on them. Not a peep. You’d think China wasn't even a player. A lot of my smarter friends hadn’t even seemed to consider that they were (“Why a [fake] Chinese proverb for a Korea summit?” one friend asked. “Because Xi Jinping is running the show,” I replied, to their surprise - they’d been expecting I’d agree that this summit had nothing to do with China, because none of the media they read have mentioned it.)


And Hau “Muppetface” Lung-pin went to China to talk about his hope for "unification" because he’s a massive jerk-off, being all kinds of Mean Girl to Taipei mayoral incumbent Ko "Reminds Me Of My Dad" Wen-je. As in he jerks Chinese authorities off. Fine. What bothers me isn’t this - Hau’s gonna Hau - but that it won’t matter. The vast majority of Taiwanese not only don’t agree with Hau’s far-right jerk-offery, they vehemently disagree with it.

But it doesn’t matter. Those who hate Hau (or even mildly dislike him, or think he looks like a Muppet but isn’t as smart as one - I don’t mean the Muppet characters, I mean the actual cloth Muppets are made of) are gonna find him odious anyway. Blue voters who watch blue media will either not know he said this - because the media they watch won’t report it - or assume he meant something milder, or defend it saying it’s his “personal views” which he is entitled to (and he is, but that doesn’t make him less of a jerk-off who’s dumber than a scrap of fake fur with google-eyes). Why would they assume this? Because if the media they watch does report it, this is the commentary they will offer, which people will swallow.

And nobody who has a message to get out to those who aren't listening is either trying, or able to get their attention, whether that's in Taiwan or the US. And the blue voters will vote blue and the Americans will talk about Korea as though it wasn't a massive back-door win for China, and we're all going to die.

And so it goes.

And if you’re feeling low,
Stuck in some bardo
Why, even I know the solution
Love, music, wine
And revolution!

It’s time for wine. 

IMG_4028-1
Brendan is happier than he looks in this, he just...does this for cameras? I dunno. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

It's time to stop those pro-China protesters

Yeah, China!

Awhile back, I ran into those odious but seemingly-legal pro-unification protesters that sometimes pop up at major Taipei landmarks. Imade the case that, as strongly as I disagreed with their views and goals, that as Taiwanese citizens they had the right to protest. I find it ironic that they have been protesting in support of Taiwan being unified against its will with a country that would immediately take away their right to protest, but they still had, I argued, the right to protest. Their ironic goals make them stupid, but don't negate their rights. 

I want to take that back. I no longer feel they should be allowed to demonstrate.


This is not because I vehemently disagree with their views (though I do). I disagree with lots of people, but it doesn't mean they don't have the same rights I enjoy. It is not even because what they essentially advocate is the termination of the existence of the nation they live in: if Taiwan were to democratically decide to unify with China, I wouldn't like it one bit (I'd probably sob for days), but there wouldn't be much I could say about it if the vote was fair and not done under threat. A nation can, in theory, vote to terminate its own existence. I don't even feel this way because their views are so out of line with the vast majority of Taiwanese - they would still have the right to voice them through legal protest.

No - they should not be allowed to demonstrate for a few key reasons, none of which go against the basic rights of freedom of speech and expression that I believe in.

The first is that they are one of the few protest groups whose violence is internal. 

Violence sometimes erupts even at peaceful protests - which the vast majority of protests are in both intention and execution - for what I have observed are three reasons (says this person who is not an expert in social movements or protest). The first is because law enforcement or some other force is pushing back on them in a way that begets violence. Even if your intentions are peaceful, if the police (or some other group) are coming at you with clubs, mace, smoke bombs and water cannons, or trying to keep you from exercising your right to protest through aggressively breaking up groups or fencing them in, it's easy for what is intended to be a peaceful demonstration to get out of control. The second is when an outside group or force - perhaps loosely in agreement with the protesting group, perhaps in opposition to it - intentionally steps in to sow a bit of chaos. This is what often happens in Taiwan and Hong Kong when gangsters, in the employ of other forces, try to incite violence by aggressively bullying peaceful demonstrators. The third is when the injustice set upon an aggrieved community is so great that people just snap. 

None of the reasons above is cause to dismiss the idea of peaceful demonstration.

However, there are also groups who use aggression and violence as a tactic - as above, their violence is internal. Perhaps they do it to create fear among another group (anti-abortion protesters do this, to the point that some women feel unsafe going to a women's health clinic - and that's the point). Perhaps they are in the employ of someone who wants to discredit the idea of protesting at all. Or, perhaps it is simply to anger others into striking back, or simply to get media attention.

The pro-China protests in Taiwan cannot be classified as one where violence is brought in by outside forces. They are one of the ones for whom it is a tactic - most likely for media attention. They need it - there are only, what, five of them? They have been aggressive and will continue to be aggressive because it is intrinsic to their goals to do so, not because law enforcement, gangsters with dubious motives or the righteous anger of deep injustice. They were given several chances to stop the violence and protest peacefully, yet they persisted.

Update: apparently the most recent video of protest violence is not of this group but of another gangster-led pro-unification group. Still, my point stands - they're not going to demonstrate peacefully because nobody will pay attention to them if they do, so it's time to stop them for good. Freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to be violent. They had their chance, and now they need to go.

Even when they are not physically violent, they purposely skirt noise ordinances: there is no way their Musical China Douchemobile is within the legally allowed decibel level for...whatever it is they are doing. Blasting pro-China opera songs? Yet it's difficult to stop them because they are hard to report when they keep driving around. 

Another reason why they ought to be stopped? Because I am no longer convinced that they are simply private citizens with a strongly held opinion demonstrating for what they believe in. I am sure there are a few sincere pro-unificationists running around Taiwan: every society has its extremists. However, I truly don't believe that this group is so sincere. Given how common it is for pro-China, anti-localist and anti-self-determination protesters in Taiwan and Hong Kong to have ties back to gangs who, in turn, have ties back to government (it seems to usually be the Chinese government, but I wouldn't put it past some of the more radical deep blue factions of the Taiwanese government to do this too), it is not crazy to think these guys might also be paid PRC stooges, too. If - and this is a big if, but I think a plausible one - the PRC has something to do with the little show they put on at various high-traffic sites around the city, then that amounts to a foreign government sticking its hands into Taiwanese affairs. Governments do this all the time, but that doesn't mean it should be tolerated.

It also calls into question exactly who the police are listening to when they cordon off or act aggressively toward peaceful protesters (harassing the indigenous rights protesters at night, or isolating peaceful marriage equality demonstrators), but allow this group to start fights unchecked until the mayor steps in (and similarly do little to stop anti-marriage-equality protesters, blue-camp-aligned protesters or actions by groups organized by known gangsters such as White Wolf).

This is quite similar to my reasoning behind supporting laws that do not allow non-residents to participate in protests or demonstrations beyond observation: if we allowed it, thousands of paid Chinese "protesters" would be on the next flights over from China, marching in the streets for unification. Stopping that may mean that some well-meaning people who don't have the right visa can't engage, but I find this a reasonable price to pay.

The final reason why I think it's time to pull the plug on this group is related to the point above. I do not think they are sincere because they don't seem that concerned about actually convincing anybody. That's good in one sense, because if they were, they'd be failing. It raises the question, though, of who exactly they are protesting for. My best guess - and a lot of my friends agree - is that they're doing it to create good photo ops in China. Perhaps for a time they were there to put on a show for Chinese tourists streaming into Taipei 101 - look, we were right, our Chinese brothers across the strait do want to be a part of China, you can see them protesting for it against their evil government right here! - but those are basically gone now. Now, I'd put money on it being done for photo ops that can be strategically placed in Chinese media.

In short, they're not there to convince Taiwanese. They're there to make Taiwanese society seem more divided on the issue than it really is (as it's not actually that divided at all).

Freedom of speech and assembly comes with some basic assumptions: that you are acting of your own accord and not in someone else's shadowy employ; that your motives are sincere and your goals genuine; that you are not a part of some foreign government's strategy and that your intentions are non-violent.

This doesn't mean I think we should ban all pro-China or pro-unification protests. Not even close - as much as I disagree with it, the actual viewpoint being expressed is not the problem. My problem is with this particular group.

While it's difficult to say for sure, my honest opinion is that these specific pro-China protesters meet none of these standards. In such a case, I truly do not believe it violates the basic right to freedom of expression to stop allowing them to demonstrate.

The chances of the Taiwanese government investigating, let alone doing something about this?

Most likely zero. I'd love to be proven wrong.

I suppose we can look forward to them blasting music and pushing us around for awhile yet.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Mayor Ko and the "importing" of foreign brides

Link in Chinese

Apparently when speaking at a women's equality forum, Mayor Ko, to use the words of other commentators, "gaffed" by pontificating on how there can be more unmarried Taiwanese men than women when Taiwan "imports" foreign brides, using the word for "import" that is used for objects rather than people (is there a word in Chinese for importing people?).

I tend to agree - this was a gaffe, one of many for a mayor whom I generally support, but still have reservations about regarding his views on women. I know, people say dumb things, people speak poorly, or they get in a fit of pique and say things they don't really mean or that don't reflect the entirety of their worldviews (or just aren't accurate in light of their entire worldviews).

But he's done this more than once: in the past saying he - a doctor - couldn't have been a gynecologist because he didn't want to spend his career "with his head between a woman's legs". I've thought for awhile these "gaffes" are more than poor choices of words, and veers into the "when people tell you who they are, believe them". In terms of his views on women, I can't help but think Ko is telling us who he is, and perhaps we should listen. Especially in light of his more eloquent handling of almost every other matter - why does he keep getting this one wrong if his statements don't belie some deeper belief that he doesn't dare acknowledge in public, in a country that despite being deeply traditional is also one of the most, if not the most, progressive in Asia, and possibly the best country in Asia for women.

What makes it tough is that, well, I like the guy. I cheered when Ko won the mayoralty (then again, who wouldn't given the opposition?). I like a solid progressive anti-establishment maverick, and it's no secret that I despise the KMT and support the goals of the DPP, even though I find it hard to support the DPP itself (Ko is not DPP, he's an independent with DPP-leaning views). It's easy to shout down or mock someone you don't like having views you find abhorrent - to give American examples, for me it wasn't hard to laugh at Mitt Romney, and it's quite easy to roll one's eyes at say, Chris Christie or dismiss Bush II for the idiot he is. It's a lot harder to, say, come to terms with the fact that Hillary Clinton is a terrible person, or that Obama has foreign policy goals that horrify me.

Such as it is with Ko - how do I square his statements about women, telling us who he really is, with the fact that I support and even like him?

I don't know. Watch this space.