Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Iran Must Free These Imprisioned Bloggers

Today, we express our solidarity with those imprisoned in Iran for their beliefs and their writings. This day which honors that greatest warrior in pursuit of freedom, George Washington, is a good day to contemplate the struggle of those in China who would be free but for the oppressive hand of the Chinese Communist Party.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Ain't HE Sweet?

Here is the letter I wrote to James Taranto regarding his Thursday column:

I think it is sweet that you, who, without any
particular flair or talent, is allowed to "write" a
daily column at a major newspaper, albeit on their
website that they allow anyone to read for free. You
must be very grateful to have a woman who "helps" you
compile the submissions of 31 others, Google hits on
"experts" and links to Reuters articles all of which
you publish with a byline. What puzzles me is that
someone so dismissive of the writing of others lacks
the discernment to tell when someone is using the term
"mainstream media" ironically, and hides behind the
dictionary definition of "amateur" when someone
exposes your small-mindedness and bile.

If what you display on your website everyday is all it
takes to get a high paying gig with the WSJ, I would
advise you not to waste your money on lottery tickets;
you have exhausted your lifetime supply of luck.

I do, however, particularly like the way you sprinkled
"[sic]" when you quoted David M to completely undress
him. Ha ha ha, what a hoot! You are really going to
crack up the Swells in the Hamptons when you show them
your Thursday column. No better way to put an amateur
(and his lack of an editor!) in his place than to mock
his misspellings.

By your writings, you and Peggy Noonan and the rest of
the WSJ editorial staff expose your contempt for us
rubes out here. I am sure you would prefer that we
all just shut up and click the ads that run along side
your columns. Sad to say, I am not going to be
visiting your site anymore, at least not until you
hand over the keyboard to your helper and go away.
Here is a suggestion, maybe you could stumble from
school district to school district to mock
administrators in person, although I doubt very much
you would have the courage to stand up and face the
average middle school assistant principal who you
regularly hold up to ridicule in your columns.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Foreign Brides and Their Influence on Taiwan Society

Foreign brides for Taiwanese men are becoming more common in Taiwan for many reasons. For some, this is a worrisome development; “Another story about those Southeast Asian and Chinese brides!" some exclaim when they see a report about these women on the television news. Others who see these stories express indifference or figure that the government should just keep its nose out of people’s business. (Liu, para 1) Regardless, more and more Southeast Asian and Mainland Chinese women come to Taiwan to marry local men. There are a number of trends which have resulted in this phenomenon.

One is an undeniable demographic trend in Taiwan. Taiwan has more women than men of marriageable age. The reasons for this trend seem pretty clear cut. Women in Taiwan are waiting longer to have children and their husbands are older. Although older men generally donate sperm that results in more female children certain trends have eroded this biological advantage toward female children. The introduction of high-definition low-cost ultrasound technology, the preference for one-child families and male children, and the easy availability of abortion in Taiwan have combined to ensure that men outnumber women here. This trend has been more marked in recent years, and seems likely to accelerate in the future.

Taiwan women wait longer to marry primarily because marriage is such an unattractive option for many Taiwanese women. Irrationally, “the value of Chinese women lies in obedience to fathers, husbands, and their sons.” (Huang) With “obedience” as the prospect awaiting them, many Taiwanese women instead opt for independence and freedom outside of marriage. Taiwanese women are generally better educated that their potential mates and are unwilling to “marry down.” This puts further pressure on Taiwan men, especially those at the lower socioeconomic levels, who find it increasingly difficult to find brides.

Still another trend noted in Taiwan is the abundance of elderly, single men who originally arrived from the Mainland with Gen Chiang Kai Shek (蒋介石)。These men were forbidden to marry while they remained in the barracks, and they were unable to leave the army while the state of war still existed between the Republic of China and the People’s Republic. Consequently, many of these men reached middle and old age still unmarried, and eager for companionship in their declining years. As previously noted, there is a dearth of females in Taiwan, and those who are available are relatively uninterested in marriage. As a consequence of these trends, many of these men have sought brides from Southeast Asia and from Mainland China. These men use marriage brokers. These businesses specialize in finding foreign wives for Taiwanese men. Marriage brokers now charge customer fees ranging from US$6,000 to US$9,000 for Chinese and Southeast Asian brides.

This phenomenon, which was only noticed around 2001, has become so common and so lucrative, that organized criminals on both sides of the Strait have moved to satisfy this demand. Women on the Mainland, mostly from poor and rural areas, have been recruited, coerced by fraudulent promises and in some cases, kidnapped and smuggled to Taiwan. While in Taiwan, these women who are not immediately pressed into arranged marriages are forced to prostitution while their procurers attempt to arrange marriages for them.

The increased prevalence of foreign brides in Taiwan has led to concern among many people here. A recent poll shows that a majority of local Taiwanese is “worried” about the presence of foreign brides and a significant proportion is in favor of “discrimination” against those brides. (Wang)

“Others are concerned that Chinese brides come here as a cover for criminal activity and rabble-rousing. In terms of social security, bogus marriages are often used to smuggle in Chinese, enabling them to engage in various illegal activities in Taiwan. Marriage has become simply a way to smuggle people into the country. In fact, some Chinese brides, under manipulation by some political groups, are used as a means to discredit the government, and to engage in political protests under the pretense of human rights and humanitarianism. This has not only impacted on the stability of the families and created confused values about the marriage institution, but has led to various family disputes and social problems. This is not to mention the social chaos that may result from ethnic rivalries.” (Liberty Times)

What concrete policies are advocated to further this desired discrimination is unclear, but it seems that many Taiwanese would be in favor of forced repatriation or restraints on marriage to foreigners. While these negative attitudes seem to be a visceral reaction against foreigners, there are more worrisome trends to consider.
At present, foreign brides do not appear to have proportionately more children than Taiwanese women although this interpretation of the data is open to dispute. Liu argues that “According to data published by the Ministry of the Interior this June, some 100,000 Southeast Asian and 168,000 Chinese immigrant spouses currently reside in Taiwan, 90 percent of whom are female. Together, they constitute about 1 percent of the island's population of 23 million. Although that figure may seem insignificant, a major worry of policy-makers is the fact that, presently, about 8 percent of Taiwan's newborn are mothered by Southeast Asian wives and 4 percent by Chinese wives.” However, according to 2000 population figures from the US government, the female population of Taiwan for 15-64 year olds was 7,629,195. (CIA Factbook)

Assuming an even distribution across this range of ages and assuming that the birthrate of women under 17 and over 40 is statistically insignificant, the number of women in the prime of their fertility is around three million. Of these, approximately 300,000 are foreign brides, or 10% of women in the prime of their fertility. If we further assume that the figures from the Ministry of the Interior are correct, then foreign-born women, who represent 10% of the fertile women in Taiwan are having 12% of the babies. While the number of babies they are having is disproportionately large, the figure is only marginally disproportionate. However, as trend seems to be for more and more foreign brides entering Taiwan, even this small statistical anomaly portends a much more disproportionate number of children born to these foreign women.

Additionally, evidence suggests that these foreign-born women are younger than and more willing to have more children than Taiwan-born brides. Younger, or older but more willing Mainland mothers will produce more children during their child-birthing years than older, less willing Taiwan mothers. In the last 15 years, the average age of all first time brides in Taiwan has increased 1½ years to 22.7 whereas the age of college educated brides has increased to 26.48. (Ministry of the Interior, 2001) Meanwhile, Southeastern Asia brides are on the average 23 years old, while the Mainland brides are 30. (Taipei Times, 16 Dec 03)

Although the Mainland Chinese average age seems high, the average is skewed by the presence of many women who have been in Taiwan for many years and have had multiple marriages. “Statistics have shown that two Chinese brides topped the number of marriages with nine each, followed by three Chinese brides who have married eight times. …There are 491 who have married four times and 3,000 who have married three times.” (Chang)

In the future, we can expect to see increasing birthrate of these women compared to Taiwan mothers. Foreign brides are recruited from impoverished areas, and mostly lack basic skills or literacy. They are brought over to be wives and mothers, so are likely to fill that role more or less exclusively unless they turn to the sex trade. And without traditional economic means upon which to fall back, the likelihood is that these foreign brides will produce additional offspring. Additional children in these families means there will be an ever-larger proportion of children living in Taiwan who are born to a mother who has recently arrived from the Mainland or Southeast Asia.

In some ways, the increased birthrate will have the effect of invigorating the Taiwanese population. Without the Mainland wives and their children, the population of Taiwan will age more rapidly. According to US Census data for Taiwan, unless Taiwan makes policy changes, in 20 years, there will be a large population bulge of those in middle age and relatively few of the younger generation to replace them. The Population Reference Bureau defines “replacement level fertility” as that situation “when couples have just enough children to replace themselves as adults in a population.” Statistically, in developed countries like Taiwan, replacement level fertility is 2.1 children per couple. The most recent figures for Taiwan show the fertility rate at 1.76 children per couple. At that rate of fertility, Taiwan’s population will age, as seen in the chart, and eventually, lose population. Unless Taiwan can increase the fertility rate against the resistance of the native born women, the government must relax restrictions on immigration. Otherwise, an aging population, an expanding welfare safety net and lack of workers will doom the Taiwan economy.

Easing the ability of foreign-born wives and their children to enjoy full rights as citizens is a good step in the direction of a sensible immigration policy for Taiwan. Currently, it takes eight years of continuous residence in Taiwan for a foreign bride to receive citizenship. Proposals in front of the Legislative Yuan would extend the waiting period to eleven years, but remove the continuous residency requirement. (BBC) There are also restrictions on the type of work that these women can do. Changes in this antiquated policy should aim to provide additional workers now, and to provide replacement workers in the future. More women coming to Taiwan to have children will result in a younger population of workers contributing to the economy that will mend and repair the fraying social welfare safety net.

However, there are other long-term implications for Taiwan for allowing foreign-born women and their children to assume more rights. Fifteen to twenty years in the future, these children will constitute a substantial voting bloc. This bloc would feature voters who have grown up with a Mainland Chinese mother, who probably stayed in the home because she lacked skills to work in Taiwan’s economy, and probably never fully assimilated into Taiwan’s society. She probably did not speak Taiwanese language, and she was always looked upon as a foreigner. She also likely pined to return to China, and always looked to China as her home. Also, because her husband was more likely of lower income, and from central and southern Taiwan, these children also will have grown up in DPP strongholds. It is likely that these new voters will demand increasing accommodation with China which would be all the more important because they would be from constituencies that are traditionally more confrontational with China.

Of course, there are sociological counter-forces at work as well. There is a chance that these Mainland women would assimilate into Taiwan and become patriotic citizens with voting patterns that mimic those of their neighbors. However, the patriotic infusion seems unlikely unless some current educational and outreach missions are successful. New organizations are starting to ensure foreign brides have full access to rights and services in Taiwan. One such organization is the Transnational Sisters Association, a support group for immigrant brides. This organization’s “aim is to create a network of resources in Taiwan to address the issues of ethnic equality, social welfare, education and the extension of basic human rights to foreign spouses in Taiwan.” Further, the TSA hopes their efforts “will help foreign wives integrate into their new communities and foster the creation of society-wide ethnic harmony in Taiwan, in which these new immigrants are accepted and treated with dignity and equality.” The fact that groups like the TSA see the need to promote “society-wide harmony” shows that there is a negative perception in Taiwan regarding immigrants. (Fanchiang)

There is another troublesome aspect of this migration of women from the Mainland. Currently, the Mainland has approximately 25 million more men than women of marriageable age. There are more than three Taiwan’s worth of men in China without mates, yet there are still seem to be more than enough Mainland women for Taiwan men. What could account for this? Are Taiwan men in the lower economic strata more desirable than China men in the same strata? Or is there something more sinister at work?

Examine the numbers. It is true that Taiwan’s economic situation is better than that of the vast majority of China. The city of Shanghai has a per capita GDP of around USD$4000, while Taiwan’s is about USD$12000. The cost of living in Shanghai is only a fraction of that in Taiwan. The possibility for a destitute woman to improve her standard of living is about the same in Taipei and Shanghai. However, the absolute cost of getting to Taiwan is quite high, compared to entering Shanghai. Yet, there are still many women entering Taiwan from China. The reason these women are still making their way to Taiwan is because they have assistance from the Chinese government.

It is not a coincidence that the Mainland smugglers are often found to have ties with local governments. There is also some question about the background of the “hostesses” who are ubiquitous at functions attended by Taiwanese businessmen on the Mainland. There is no doubt that the PRC has taken the “long view” regarding Taiwan reunification. It is certainly within the realm of possibility that China is using one of its’ most precious resources, its scarce marriageable women, to facilitate reunification.

There are also other implications. If Taiwan’s government and society eventually decide that these women and their children are as “Taiwanese” as anyone else born here, there will be more pressure to recognize other nation’s wives and children as “Taiwanese.” And if it is possible to be accepted as “Taiwanese” by marriage, it is a short intellectual step to accept any long-term immigrant from anywhere as “Taiwanese.” At that point, being “Taiwanese” would be divorced from racial identification, much as the term “American” has become. Taiwan and the “Taiwanese” would truly pass from being a part of China to being a modern Western-style state, something unique in Asia. It is ironic that such a result might be brought about by some nefarious PRC plan. The trend of increasing numbers of Mainland brides in Taiwan presents Taiwan with some interesting challenges. The initial opposition to these brides seems to be based on visceral opposition to these women because of national origin or language. However, even if you ignore these parts of the opposition to Mainland brides, there are still reasons to be worried about the presence of so many foreigners from a hostile neighbor. There are also implications for the concept of being “Taiwanese.” The trend bears careful scrutiny.

Chang Yun-Ping, Chinese brides concern lawmakers.
2003/03/07/197068 March 7, 2003.

Michael Bristow. Taiwan’s Foreign Brides.
2603991.stm 25 December 2002.

ABC News. Demographics of China.
demography.asp?countryID=170 2000.

Worldwide Media Relations. CIA Factbook:
Taiwan Facts and Figures. 2000.

Amber Wang. Many favor restricting number of SE Asian,
mainland Chinese brides.
detail.asp?ID=42847&GRP=B 5 November 2003.

Michael Hsiao. The danger brought by our guests
from China.
Nov 05, 2003.

Chang Yun-Ping. Poll reveals fear of immigrants
from China.
Oct 27, 2003.

Liberty Times Staff.
Better national security net needed.
Nov 16, 2003.

United States Census Bureau International Database. 2000.

Population Reference Bureau. Frequently
Asked Questions.
&ContentID=9787 July 2001.

Louise Liu. Foreign spouse influx: boon or bane?
7 November 2003.

Ministry of the Interior. Demographic Fact Book.
ewtable1.xls 2001.

Taipei Times. “Men opt for foreign brides.”
16 Dec 2003.

Celia Fanchiang. “Women's groups come to aid of
foreign brides.”
FCJ/past/03121921.html 16 Dec 2003.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Taipei Centralization

In simple terms, spatial models consider labor concentrations and markets to calculate the optimal location for new factories. These models use straight-line distances to make the calculations. There are many limitations with such models, perhaps the most glaring is that the models ignore the role human psychology plays in decision making. An example of this is in the attempt to model the decision people must make about where to live, factoring population density, rents, size of domicile available and commuting time. This paper will explore the decision that people make regarding where to live by examining the variables involved in the choice. Further, the paper will attempt to determine whether there is a cultural difference in the perception of how far from his place of employment a particular worker will choose to live. Finally, the paper will include a comparison of particular workers in Taipei, Taiwan, ROC and Dallas, Texas, USA.

Classic spatial development theory asserts that factories are built in areas to minimize transportation costs of raw materials and finished goods. Walter Christaller, German geographer in 1930’s argued that in the ideal situation, (something he called his Central Place Theory or CPT), which he defined as an even, undifferentiated plain with unlimited transportation choices in every direction, capital would chose to locate factories where the aggregate transportation costs are lowest. As a corollary to this, people who would work in the factories would move adjacent to these work centers to provide the necessary labor. (University of Georgia, 2002) Christaller called the phenomenon whereby capital and labor coalesce around a particularly useful point to both, centralization. Further, Christaller's also based his model on the premise that all goods and services are purchased by consumers from the nearest central place, that the demands placed on all central places are similar, and that none of the central places make any excessive profit.

Taipei exemplifies Christaller’s theory. The vast majority of residents live quite close to their place of employment. The average commuting time for Taipei resident is 24 minutes. (Asiaweek, 2000) At the average commuting speed of 16.6 kilometers per hour (10 miles per hour), the average Taipei resident lives 6.64 kilometers or about 4 miles from his place of business. (UITP, 2003) This is in contrast to the United States’ city with the closest approximate population to Taipei, Chicago, Illinois. The average commuting time for residents in Chicago is 28.8 minutes. Since the average commuting speed is approximately 30 miles an hour, the average commuter lives 15 miles from work. This means the average Chicagoan lives 4 times farther from his work than the average resident of Taipei. For someone commuting to work 24 kilometers from home to Taipei’s city center would mean that person is commuting from Taoyuan or Keelung. Remarking to someone who lives in Taipei that one commutes from Taoyuan or Keelung would leave the listener aghast. In the personal experience of the author, remarking to Taipei residents that I live in Muzha has brought similar expressions of sympathy for my long commute to Taipei city center.

Taipei is an extremely dense city with approximately 9600 people per square kilometer. (Taipei City Government, 2000) Chicago is approximately ½ as dense as Taipei, with a 4921 persons per square kilometer. (, 2000) Living close to work in a city like Taipei to enjoy the benefits of a hassle-free commute does require tradeoffs. In the city center of Taipei, residents must endure small residential quarters and high per ping costs for those small quarters. Additionally, in the eyes of Westerners, the quality of living is much lower in Taipei than in cities in the West primarily because of the relative and absolute high population density of Taipei. Westerners have a perception that a city is too crowded and uncomfortable when the population density reaches a certain level. Sociologists have not pinpointed the exact level of density that triggers this reaction in Americans, but two general assertions can be made. 1) Culturally, Chinese seem more tolerant of higher levels of population density than Americans. 2) The population density of Taipei is in excess of the level with which most Americans are comfortable.

Upon reflection, the tolerance that that ethnic Chinese or more specifically, Taipei residents, seem to display may be less a function of cultural preferences than of economic and geographic necessity. As the dominant city in Taiwan, Taipei has attracted the preponderance of capital and therefore the preponderance of labor. However, Taipei’s severely constrained geography has given the people who have migrated in from China and from the countryside of Taiwan nowhere to go, literally, but up into ever smaller apartments in ever higher apartment buildings. Also, Taiwan’s relative lack of affluence compared to America’s level of affluence delayed the onset of the “car culture” in Taiwan that predominates in America, and around which American cities have grown.

Because cars are so important to Americans for transportation and some would argue, American’s personal identities, cities were forced to accommodate automobiles in ways that Taipei has not. And because cities could accommodate automobiles, Americans had the luxury of living farther out from the location of their work in the city, which meant the average American worker had and still has access to larger domiciles. With such access, there is little demand for smaller apartments closer in to the city center, when the savings in time is relatively minor. The American mental calculation is now skewed firmly towards a preference for larger homes, with the cost being slightly longer commutes in both time and in absolute distance.

As mentioned earlier, Taiwan spatial development proceeded along different lines out of necessity, a necessity that has brought about a cultural preference for the type of city living that predominates in Taipei. Since most residents of Taipei lack cars, almost every block provides all the shopping necessities for those who live on the block. Stores and restaurants are small and generalist and must fulfill what Christaller calls the “central place functions.” (University of Georgia, 2003) Taipei residents have expectations that all their central place functions will be provided in walking distance from their home and that their workplaces will be not much farther afield. Hence, their perception of distance will be informed by these expectations.

Americans are more sanguine about traveling longer distances for their central place functions. The combination of cities built to accommodate cars and the near ubiquity of cars in American households means that Americans can tolerate moving longer distances and time compared to what Taiwanese can tolerate.

Capitalists use American tolerance of distance to locate factories in areas that would be considered too far a commute were the located an equal distance from Taipei’s city center. As a result, capitalists in America can seek lower rents farther from cities confident that the supply of American labor will follow the factory. This phenomenon proves the adage that America is a place where 100 years is a long time and 100 miles is a short distance.

Agarwal, Pragya; Walter Christaller: Hierarchical Patterns of
Urbanization, Center for Spacially Integrated Social Science, 2004.

American Express; Global Reports, 2004.
resources/expanding/global/reports/11173090.shtml; Top 50 Cities in Asia, 2000.
asiacities2000/05taipei.html; Chicago Neighborhoods: Population &
Population Density: 1980 to 2000, 2000.

International Association of Public Transport; The
Relationship Between Transportation and Quality of Life,
22 January 2003.

Government of Scotland; Effect of Road Traffic on Residential
Property Values, 2003.

Ma Ying-jeou; Building a CyberCity: The Taipei Experience,
Taiwan Government, 2000.

Martin, Dr. Deborah; Models and Theories of Urban Systems,
University of Georgia, 2004.
geog3630_dgmartin/lect78.html; US Metropolitan Areas with Largest
Central Business Districts: Travel Time by Mode, 1990.

US Census Bureau; Demographics, 1990.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Today's Gospel Reading

After Jesus returned from the dead, he visited Peter and the other disciples who, instead of preaching the truth as Jesus had commanded, were back to fishing. Peter, dumb old Peter, the rock upon whom Jesus built his church, let fear, instead of faith, dictate his actions. Jesus returned to Peter for a pep talk. Jesus knew Peter, even after everything that had happened, even after all the miracles, even after betraying Jesus’ trust, even after Jesus rose from the dead, still did not get it. Jesus had chosen Peter to found the faith. Jesus would have to make it explicit to Peter what He expected, even if it meant repeating Himself.

John 21:15-22

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?

Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when He had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; (which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?) Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.

Eventually, Peter got it and became the evangelist Jesus knew he would be.

However interesting this exchange is to illuminate Peter’s psychology and Jesus’ leadership style, the most interesting part of this passage is where Jesus says “What is that to thee?” That is the central answer to all who question the hard truths of Christianity. You know the questions I mean…”why is there evil in the world?” “Why does God allow children to die?” How can God create humans whom he will condemn to death?” I admit that there are many hard parts of Christianity which to my limited intellect don’t make any sense or seem pointless.

Here are my questions, “Why did Jesus want us to eat his body and drink his blood?” “What is baptism all about?” “Why was Jesus so maddeningly vague?” And although I have the questions about these things, I also have the answer. What is that to me?

Jesus is God. He came. He did what He did. He said what He said. He wants us to believe. That is all we need to know. The “why” is unknowable now, and will be revealed to us when we see Jesus.

Sunday's Junior Brown Lyrics

The first time I heard this song, I was pretty puzzled. 12 Shades of Brown is the third CD by Junior that I bought, and the first one that has one of his socially conscious songs on it. As we review his career in subsequent weeks, you will see what I mean. You can divide Junior's lyrics into Straight Country, (which turn out to be mostly covers), Hawaiian Songs (which are pun filled and ironic), Novelty Songs, Rock Covers, Instrumentals and his Message Songs. These message songs are the weakest part of his catalogue, but he continues to include them in his CD's. I have not heard him play them in concert, which would indicate to me that his fans don't like them. But the way I look at it, I like what he plays, so if this is what he plays, I will listen respectfully, and wait for whatever comes next.

So, read with an open mind.

They Don’t Choose to Live That Way
(J. Brown) Copyright © 1990 Mike Curb Music/Jamieson Brown Music (BMI) All rights reserved / Used by permission

Their house is made of cardboard
And the street is where they lay.
Their children beg for money
To make through another day.
When they can find a paying job,
They’ll find a place to stay.
It sad to say that people think
They choose to live that way.

Folks think that if you’re on the street
It’s some big happy family
The drunks, the losers, looney tunes
And demons in the night.
And when good people lose their home
They’re treated like they want to roam.
But all they ever did
Was let the payments get behind.
They don’t choose to live that way,
And you don’t choose to change your mind.

There’s a certain attitude
That some folks seem to have today
Who’ve always had good food to eat
And a decent place to stay.
It really gets me angry
When I hear those people say
That homeless folks don’t want a home,
They choose to live that way.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Time to Strike North Korea is Now

Once again, the Fox News All-Stars betrayed their fundamental ignorance and cowardice on Friday night. In response to Jim Angle’s question about what to do with North Korea and Iran and their nuclear weapons, all three pundits threw up their hands. The ignorant included the normally astute Bill Sammons, and especially disappointingly, Charles Krauthammer. The liberal 1/3 of the all-stars was one of the clueless-on-everything women they trot out there so her lack of acumen on this subject is unremarkable. Her money quote last night: “Kim Jong Il is not wacky, he is a wack-a-doodle!”

But the issue is not really about the inability of “inside-the-Beltway” types to think creatively about a troubling problem. After all, these guys did not get to where they are by offering observations that are outside the boundaries of what their friends and bosses would think reasonable. So what you get from the “All Stars” on issues like Iran/North Korea nukes is little better than uniformed blather that the timid would find acceptable.

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, there ARE military options for dealing with North Korea and Iran. With Iran, the course of action I would advocate is a blockade to stifle oil production and force a crisis that would lead to regime change. For North Korea, the one option we have is increasingly clear. The National Command Authority of North Korea must be destroyed for three reasons. The North Korean leadership must be destroyed to prevent them from either 1) blackmailing the US by threatening to detonate a nuclear weapon, 2) actually detonating a nuclear weapon and 3) to forestall Taiwan and Japan from arming with nuclear weapons to counter North Korea’s threat.

The type of blackmail I am talking about would entail North Korea threatening to detonate a secreted nuclear weapon unless America grants NK some demand, probably on the order of pulling our military forces out of Korea and Japan. Such a demand would force President Bush into an untenable position; either he keeps the forces in place and risks losing an American city, removes the forces and making America susceptible to future blackmail or he can strike North Korea in retaliation.

North Korea might instead opt to pre-emptively strike one of their historical enemies, the US or Japan. There is a school of thought in intelligence circles that Kim Jong Il is truly mentally ill and might be capable of doing something completely irrational. Shooting a nuclear weapon at another country without warning would be irrational UNLESS China could be counted on to assure the destruction of whosoever would retaliate. With the tacit or explicit support of China, pre-emptive attack on Japan or the US would be a marker thrown down by China and North Korea jointly that THEY were the new world power, and would not hesitate to act as ruthlessly as possible to consolidate their power. North Korea detonating a nuclear weapon would have three immediate benefits for North Korea and China. 1) Japan would be intimidated into recognizing China’s supremacy in the region. 2) Taiwan would immediately be pulled back into China’s orbit. 3) America would be forced to withdraw from the region, ceding the Western Pacific and East Asia to China. Such an outcome would not be the result of mental defect, but of ruthlessness.

More conventional balance of power theory would indicate that once a smaller power, such as North Korea, acquires nuclear weapons, then other small powers in the region would be compelled to arm themselves in self defense thereby restoring the balance of power. These days, those who fancy themselves as practitioners of real-politik advocate that America arm Taiwan and Japan with intermediate range nuclear weapons just as President Reagan sent Pershing missiles to Europe in the mid-80’s. There is a problem with this calculus. The situation in NE Asia is unprecedented. The historical animus among these minor powers, combined with heightened tensions which would naturally follow in a period of widespread nuclear proliferation combined with an increased opportunity for stand off attacks is unprecedented. Balance of power theory assumes that national leaders will act in their own best interest. The situation in Northeast Asia, with five powers, all armed with nuclear weapons, all with interest vectors that are not perfectly aligned or in opposition, would be unprecedented and uniquely dangerous. Ethnic, and racial hatred, lust for regional and worldwide hegemony result in the LIKELIHOOD that nuclear weapons will be used, once these weapons are in everyone’s hands.

President Bush has one course of action that could prevent all these possibilities. He could neutralize North Korean aggression, keep Taiwan and Japan from going nuclear, maintain American presence in East Asia, and keep America as the pre-eminent power in the region. America must strike North Korea without warning, and to destroy their national command structure. Destroying the ruthless, aggressive criminal North Korean regime would teach anyone else who would contemplate proliferation.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Testimonial to the Versatility of Meals Ready to Eat

This was from a friend of mine. Sorry about the profanity.

"I had a date the other night at my place. On the phone the day before, the girl asked me to "Cook her something she's never had before" for dinner. After many minutes of scratching my head over what to make, I finally settled on something she has DEFINITELY never eaten. I got out my trusty case of MRE's. Meal, Ready-to-Eat. Field rations that when eaten in their entirety contain 3000+ calories.

Here's what I made: I took three of the Ham Slices out of their plastic packets, took out three of the Pork Chops, three packets of Chicken-a-la-King, and eight packets of dehydrated butter noodles and some dehydrated/rehydrated rice. I cooked the Ham Slices and Pork Chops in one pan, sautéed in shaved garlic and olive oil. In another pot, I blended the Chicken a-la-king, noodles, and rice together to make a sort of mush that looked suspiciously like succotash. I added some spices, and blended everything together in a glass pan that I then cooked in the oven for about 35 minutes at 450 degrees.

When I took it out, it looked like, well, ham slices, pork chops, and a bed of yellow poop. I covered the tops of the meat in the MRE cheese (kinda like velveeta) and added some green sprinkly thingys from one of my spice cans (hey, if it's got green sprinkly thingys on it, it looks fancy right?)

For dessert, I took four MRE Pound Cakes, mashed 'em up, added five packets of cocoa powder, powdered coffee cream, and some water. I heated it up and stirred it until it looked like a sort of chunky gelatinous organism, and I sprinkled powdered sugar on top of it. Voila--Ranger Pudding.

For alcoholic drinks, I took the rest of my bottle of Military Special Vodka (yes, they DO make a type of liquor named "Military Special"--it sells for $4.35 per fifth) and mixed in four packets of "Electrolytes - 1 each - Cherry flavored" (I swear, the packet says that). It looked like an eerie kool-aid with sparkles in it (that was the electrolytes I guess.. could've been leftover sand from Egypt).

I lit two candles, put a vase of wildflowers in the middle, and set the table with my best set of Ralph Lauren Academy-series China (that sh!t is f ***ing EXPENSIVE... my set of 8 place settings cost me over $600), and put the alcoholic drink in a crystal wine decanter.

She came over, and I had some appetizers already made, of MRE spaghetti-with-meatballs, set in small cups. She saw the dinner, saw the food, and said "This looks INCREDIBLE!!!" We dug in, and she was loving the food. Throughout the meal, she kept asking me how long it took me to make it, and kept remarking that I obviously knew a thing or two about cooking fine meals. She kind of balked at the makeshift "wine" I had set out, but after she tried it I guess she liked it because she drank four glasses during dinner. At the end of the main course, when I served the dessert, she squealed with delight at the "Chocolate mousse" I had made. Huh? Chocolate what? Okay... yeah... it's Chocolate Moose. Took me HOURS to make... yup.

Later on, as we were watching a movie, she excused herself to use my restroom. While she was in there, I heard her say softly to herself "uh oh" and a resounding but petite f@rt punctuated her utterance of dismay. Let the games begin. She sprayed about half a can of air freshener (Air Freshener, 1 each, Orange scent. Yup. The military even makes smell good) and returned to the couch, this time with an obvious pained look.

After 10 more minutes she excused herself again, and retreated to the bathroom for the second time. I could hear her say "What the hell is WRONG with me???," as she again send flatulent shockwaves into the porcelain bowl. This time, they sounded kinda wet, and I heard the toilet paper roll being employed, and again, LOTS more air freshener.

Back to the couch. She smiles meekly as she decides to sit on the chair instead of next to me. She sits on my chair, knees pulled up to her chest, kind of rocking back and forth slightly. Suddenly, without a word, she ROCKETED up and FLEW to the bathroom, slammed the door, and didn't come out for 30 minutes. I turned the movie up because I didn't want her to hear me laughing so hard that tears were streaming down my cheeks.

She came out with a slightly gray pallor to her face, and said "I am SOOOOOO sorry. I have NO idea what is wrong with me. I am so embarrassed, I can't believe I keep running to your bathroom!!" I gave her an Imodium AD, and she finally settled down and relaxed.

Later on, she asked me again what I had made for dinner, because she had enjoyed it so much. I calmly took her into the kitchen and showed her all the used MRE bags and packets in the trash can. After explaining to her that she had eaten roughly 9,000 calories of "Marine food" she turned stark white, looked at me incredulously, and said "I ate 9,000 calories or dehydrated food that was made 3 years ago?" After I concurred, she grabbed her coat and keys, and took off without a word.

She called me yesterday. Seems she couldn't sh!t for 3 days, and when she finally did, the smell was so bad, her roommate could smell it from down the hall. She also told me she had been working out nonstop to combat the high caloric intake, and that she never wanted me to cook dinner for her again, unless she was PERSONALLY there to inspect the food beforehand. It was a fun date. She laughed about it eventually, and said that that was the first time she'd ever crapped in a guy's house on a date. She'd been so upset by it she was in tears in the bathroom while I had been in tears on the couch. I know, I'm an a$$hole, but it was still a funny night."

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Similarities in Japan and KMT's Colonial Rule of Taiwan

Although the argument can be made that both the KMT and the Japanese colonized Taiwan, the similarity ends in the definition of colony. The basic definition of a colony in the Taiwan sense is a region politically controlled by a distant country. In both the Japanese period from 1895-1945 and in the post-war period of KMT rule, people speaking a language foreign to what the Taiwanese understood came to Taiwan to rule. In the case of the Japanese, Taiwan was a colony in the classic sense; Japan intended to use Taiwan to enhance the economy and later the war effort of the Japanese. The Japanese never had any intention of providing political equality to the Taiwanese or of formally integrating Taiwan into Japan proper. The Japanese were linguistically and ethnically distinct from the Taiwanese, and the Japanese felt themselves to be a superior race to the Chinese/Taiwanese found on Taiwan. These differences defined the Japanese approach to Taiwanese.

The KMT came to Taiwan after World War II with the intent also of exploiting Taiwan for their war effort against the Communists. The KMT was linguistically distinct from the local Taiwanese. The Taiwanese did not speak Mandarin and many Taiwanese by 1945 in fact spoke Japanese. Further, the KMT saw many local Taiwanese as collaborators with the Japanese at best, and, at worst, as part of the enemy. Initial relations between the KMT and the Taiwanese, after a brief honeymoon, reflected the antipathy between the two groups. The biggest change and that which represented the biggest difference between the treatment of Taiwan by Japan and the KMT, occurred when the colonial power, the KMT, was forced by circumstance to relocate to the colony. Whereas during the Japanese period, Taiwan was an entity to exploit, and whereas the KMT initially intended to use Taiwan for the same purpose, suddenly in 1949, for the KMT, Taiwan became their last refuge. Of necessity, the colonial masters would have to change their approach to the colony.

This essay will describe the state/society relations during the Japanese period. In general terms, the relationship between the Japanese and their Taiwanese colonial subjects can be characterized as that between any benign colonial power and their relatively calm and productive colony. This essay will also describe the relationship between the KMT and their colony which later became their home, Taiwan. The relationship between the KMT and Taiwan is more complicated than that between Japan and Taiwan. The KMT/Taiwan relationship started promisingly, worsened precipitously as KMT showed their contempt for the collaborationist Taiwanese. However, once the KMT realized that Taiwan was to be their last refuge, wise minds decided that there needed to be comity between the rulers and those they ruled on Taiwan.

When the Japanese first took over Taiwan in 1895, they inherited an agricultural island with the very beginnings of infrastructure in place. The Japanese, partially to show they were as modern as any Western colonial power, and more importantly, to augment the food supply on the Japanese mainland resolved to rule Taiwan in a modern, progressive fashion. Taiwan could also be called a colonial experiment for the Japanese. The Japanese realized that to exploit Taiwan to the fullest would require a more robust infrastructure than have been left by the Qing Dynasty. The Japanese put money into developing Taiwan’s infrastructure including a west coast railway, improved roads and even a rudimentary educational system.

The Japanese also inherited an agrarian society that featured few individuals who might be considered “intellectuals.” Since there were few intellectuals, Taiwan was much less fertile for colonial revolution than other successful rebellions around the world, such as in the North American Colonies against England, the South American colonies against Spain. As a result, there was little that might be called organized resistance to the initial arrival of the Japanese. The Japanese did recognize that there needed to be some level of education for Taiwanese in order to maximize efficiency of the workers in the colony. As a result, the Japanese offered basic education in Japanese and offered the best Taiwanese students a chance to study medicine in Japan in order to care for workers on-island.

The Japanese also organized the island into small bureaucratic entities, which roughly corresponded to 10 families each, and made the senior man in the senior family responsible for the behavior of all those for whom that man was responsible. The Japanese also provided, as their colonial representative in every township, a policeman who also served often as the local schoolmaster as well. It is quite indicative that the Japanese provided a policeman as the symbol of their authority. He provided, in each neighborhood and township, a tangible example of overwhelming Japanese military force that was available to Japanese colonial authorities should such force be needed to put down insurrection. And since Taiwan was an “experiment,” should the relatively benign rule the Japanese were attempting prove counter-productive to the successful operation of the colony, Japan could always resort to the brutally repressive approach they were using in Korea and Manchuria.

The Japanese approach to building their colony in Taiwan proved to be successful. Resistance to the Japanese was disjointed and haphazard. Most Taiwanese were grateful for the relative economic benefits of Japanese rule, and were happy to be in effect sitting out World War II. Ironic testimony to the effectiveness of Japanese rule could be found in the KMT’s perception of the ethnic Chinese residents they found on Taiwan after the retrocession. Because the local Taiwanese had never fought the Japanese, and because so many spoke Japanese and affected Japanese names, the KMT suspected the Taiwanese of collaboration and disloyalty. Hence, the KMT was content to mistreat the Taiwanese and steal stockpiles of food to support the war effort on the Mainland against the Communists. The Mainlanders treated Taiwan as they would treat any colony populated with sullenly hostile people who speak a foreign language, with a mixture of repression and contempt.

The mistreatment of the Taiwanese at the hands of the ROC troops squandered the goodwill many Taiwanese harbored in advance of the retrocession. Even though the Taiwanese had not actively resisted Japanese colonialism, the ethically Chinese on the island looked forward to integrating into the Republic of China. Immediately after World War II, the leadership of the ROC, if they even gave a thought to the resentments of the Taiwanese would have shrugged them off. Taiwan was a long way from the seat of power in the ROC, and furthermore, the inhabitants had been disloyal. If they were unhappy with the coming of the KMT, well, that was just too bad.

However, in one of history’s ironies, this little island the CKS and the rest of the ROC leadership treated with abuse became the last redoubt of the ROC. To the KMT’s credit, either out of foresight or necessity, the Party quickly moved to solidify their foothold in Taiwan. On one hand, the KMT brought overwhelming force to the island which forestalled any real chance for the locals to arise in resistance. On the other hand, the KMT recognized that long-term, there would have to be some kind of rapprochement with the people of Taiwan in order to ensure that the ROC had breathing space necessary to regroup and counterattack the Mainland. To that end, the KMT hit upon the policy of land reform and import substitution to jumpstart the Taiwan economy. These policies were spectacularly successful in keeping the bellies of the Taiwanese full, and the rank and file content. Additionally, the KMT imported their excellent intelligence gathering apparatus that they grafted onto the Japanese political organization that allowed the KMT to quickly move to crush dissent, but also to quickly co-opt any good ideas that tended to bubble up from the grass-roots.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

What do the Fox News All-stars and Iranian Mullahs have in common?

Once again, the pundits on Brit Hume's show on Fox, ironically called "The Fox All-stars" fired blanks when opining ignorantly about Iran. "Nothing we can do militarily," "pray that diplomacy can make a difference," and "blah blah blah, with a further blah."

Iran is building nuclear weapons. They have had Pakistan's help in this endeavor, and they probably have some of Saddam's gear that he spirited out of the country in the run-up to the war. President Bush has made it pretty clear that he will not countenance a nuclear armed Iran with the mullahs in power. And SecState Rice said "The question is simply not on the agenda at this point" in reply to a question after having listed U.S. criticisms of Iranian policy.Link That reminds me of President Bush's assurance that the plans to invade Iraq were "not on my desk."

Iran seems pretty smug that America can't strike their nuclear facilities, and to that, as a targeter, I say, not so fast. We have nuclear weapons, we COULD strike their facilities, pretty effectively. Israel has nuclear weapons, and submarine launched cruise missiles to deliver them. Anything that blows up could be called a internal nuclear accident.

But if you want a low risk, high return miliary strategy, it is time to turn to the Navy. To now, the Navy has pretty been sitting out the war. But we have the largest Naval fleet in the world. We could blockade the Strait of Hormuz. Or, more effectively, we could declare any tanker laden with oil from Iran to be contraban, and seize or sink them as we find them. We could shut down the Iranian economy which should cause enough internal pressure to start that wide-spread uprising in Iran that has been long anticipated but slow to materialize.

Iran can't imagine this, and neither can the "All-stars" but it doesn't mean the imaginative planners in the Pentagon are similarly stumped.

Chen's Assailant's Pistol Manufacturers Jailed

Virtually no one who reads English will know what that headline means, but the pistol that was used to shoot Taiwan's President Chen on the eve of his last election was one manufactured in a motorcycle shop. The miscreants made the weapons, one of which ended up in the hands of a gambler who shot Chen, to wound him but not to kill him, to try to swing the election to Chen in an upset. Mission accomplished.

One of my classmates in Taiwan sent me a text message the day Chen was shot that said "CHEN WAS SHOT!!!!" I quickly asked "WHERE?" His response was "TAINAN" (a city in southern Taiwan) To which I replied, "SHOT IN TAINAN, THAT HAD TO HURT"


I came across a really cool website that takes census data for individual communities across the US and puts it into appealing, readable form. It is called Epodunk

A couple of interesting tidbits: Jacksonville NC has 175 unmarried men for every 100 unmarried women which is the most disproportionate ratio in the country. Median rent in Quantico, at the time of the 2000 Census, was $429. That means someone in town is paying $258 a month!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Today's Gospel Reading

Jesus approach Capernum, a town with a Roman garrison commanded by a centurion. The Centurion had a servant who was gravely ill. Word of Jesus' miracles had preceded His arrival to Capernum, and the centurion, a man who had seen much in his travels and was educated, grasped the essential fact that Jesus was God, and appealed to this God walking the earth to save the sick servant in the soldier's house. Jesus' response tells us all we need to know.

MATTHEW 5: 8-13

And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

As thou believed, so shall it be done unto thee. This theme of "belief" which runs through Jesus' gospel is neatly summarized in those words to the soldier. You believe, so your desires are satisfied by the Christ who loves you.

Sunday's Junior Brown Lyrics

Junior told an interviewer in the Washington Post, the link to which article is currently unavailable, that this is the first song he ever wrote. "Too Many Nights" really rocks. When he plays this one in concert, you can feel the energy in the crowd really surge.

Too Many Nights In A Roadhouse
(J. Brown) Copyright © 1985 Nunn Publishing Co. (BMI) All rights reserved / Used by permission

Too many nights in a roadhouse
Too much wine, women, and song
Too many days on the highway
Then I run around all night long
I take a good look in the mirror
In the cold grey light of dawn
Too many nights in a roadhouse
Has run a little good boy wrong.

Runnin’ with my buddies on the wild side
Caused me a run of bad luck
Out all night with the roadhouse crowd
Then I am down to my last two bucks.
I’m pushin’ way too hard
Tryin’ to live way too fast
Puttin’ too many wrinkles on.
Too many nights in a roadhouse
Has run a little good boy wrong.

It’s some kinda life I was livin’
And it wasn’t too hard to tell.
That the blues come around
When the sun went down
And my days didn’t fare too well.
I sure did want a taste of the good life,
Till the good times come along.
Too many nights in a roadhouse
Has run a little good boy wrong.

Some people just need killing

I need to say a few words about the folderol surrounding the comments in San Diego by LtGen Mattis regarding his fondness for shooting people during war. I have a few observations about this.

Observation 1: John Kerry was mocked pretty mercilessly for advocating a more sensitive war on terror. Yet, when an active duty Marine General speaks a few words that represent a living repudiation of the Kerry Doctrine, the press gets a case of the vapors.

Observation 2: For some who have experienced combat, as William Sherman stated, “war is hell.” For others, combat has it’s appeal. According to Robert E Lee, “it is well that war is so terrible, else we should grow too fond of it.” And even though Sherman is quoted saying “War is hell,” he nonetheless knew the necessity of the battles he fought. Sherman knew that the South would never accept the fact that they were beaten until he marched his Union soldiers right into the belly of the Confederacy. Sherman did what he had to, as did LtGen Mattis. The difference perhaps lies in their reflections on their service after their part was done.

Interestingly, Sherman and Mattis are alike in other ways. Both Generals insisted on the strictest discipline from their troops, and the both hated the values of their enemies.

Observation 3: The most offended of those offended by Gen Mattis’ remarks was our old pal Barbara Starr. She rushed onto the air to breathlessly relate his remarks, then she played tape of everyone she could find doing what she said was “condemning” the General’s words. Although, I think a reasonable, non-biased personality would have a hard time characterizing General Hagee’s words or General Pace’s words as a condemnation. Gen Hagee: [Gen Mattis] should have chosen his words more carefully…Throughout our history, Marines have given their lives in the defense of this nation and human rights around the globe. "When necessary, this commitment helps to provide us the fortitude to take the lives of those who oppress others or threaten this nation's security. This is not something we relish, yet we accept it as a reality in our profession of arms. Lt. Gen. Mattis is a superb leader and one of the Corps' most courageous and experienced warriors I remain confident that he will continue to serve this nation with dedication and distinction."
Gen Pace: "The last three times that that general has been in combat, when he was leading Marines in Afghanistan and the two times that he led his division in Iraq, his actions and those of his troops clearly show that he understands the value of proper leadership and the value of human life."

Not exactly the verbal equivalent of a beatdown.

This whole episode highlights something that many others have noted, in ways much more profound than I ever could. There is a real divide in this world between those who recognize the enemy in this war for what he is and those for whom the only enemy is America. LtGen Mattis has closed with the barbarians who oppress women and hack people’s heads off. LtGen Mattis hates those barbarians, and relishes the opportunity to exact retribution for their crimes. There is satisfaction in that. Some people in America respect that, and admire the manliness and soldierly virtue of Gen Mattis. Marines certainly do. Barbara Starr and her band of America-haters at CNN do not.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

"Way aheads" are worthless

This is a post of mine that I sent to Powerline a couple of weeks ago. They were making fun of the poorly written and unimaginative products that the intelligence community puts out. Here is what I wrote to them:

You guys are right on. These big unclassified "way aheads" written by the intel community are invariably bureaucratic, unimaginative and pointless. They are a waste of manpower to write and a waste of time to read. Unfortunately, the classified reports we give the policy makers get is pretty much the same. Two reasons: 1) everyone is afraid to make an "assessment" (prediction) that will turn out wrong. This attitude is puzzling because... no one ever gets fired! And 2) Classified raw data is so bad. Human intelligence is laughable. The reports we work from are full of "Could possibly's" and "could tend to indicate's" and my favorite: "This source, if accurate, could be indicating..." We might as well guess, which is what the policy makers have to do when they get the reports we write them. And the Electronic stuff we work with is maddeningly vague. But, if you try to put an imaginative interpretation on it, some supervisor in thrall to condition 1) above will edit that assessment out.

If you want good analysis, ignore leaked docs or pretty much anything written by the intel bureacracies for public consumption and read what the free-lancers, who are fusing the open sourse stuff, are writing.

Mark Steyn made this point as well, much more eloquently that I ever could.

Everything that is wrong with the agency was made plain a few weeks ago with the much-anticipated release of a classified CIA "Presidential Daily Brief" from August 6 2001. This was supposed to be the smoking gun which would reveal that Bush knew 9/11 was coming. It turned out to be far more damaging than that. It revealed somewhat carelessly that the CIA - the most sinister acronym in the world, the all-knowing spooks behind the dirty tricks in a thousand Hollywood thrillers - crib most of their info from television shows and foreign intelligence services.

Steyn skewered so effectively the pretentious nonsense that passes for analysis in the intelligence field. He ended with a call for an organization more robust and targeted to the main threat of our time, much as the OSS was in WWII. I am all in favor of that.

Intelligence has no value unless it is helping policy makers make the right diplomatic decisions to advance America's interest. Military intelligence has no value unless it helps commanders bring fire onto the enemy to break up his units, destroy his gear, and kill his troops. Both of these disciplines require aggressive, smart analysts willing to make hard decisions and close calls.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Europe and China, They Deserve Each Other

If I were a prime minister in Europe, I would be pushing to sell to China for a couple of reasons. The first reason is the prosaic one, Europe makes a product that China has the hard currency to buy. For the governments in Europe, this is a great deal. Virtually all the other countries in the market for arms demand discounts for impoverishment. Or, they truly are impoverished, which obliges the EU or individual European countries to make the delta between what the market can bear and what the producers need to be paid. When you find a country that can pay, you can only put them off for so long. Bonus points if that country is a LOOOOOONG way away from Europe, and unlikely to kill or break anything that any European holds dear.

The other benefit is that strengthening China allows Europe to play Balance of Power politics on the cheap. Arming China forces America to spend money and energy to counter China. In classic BOP politics, the diplomacy is zero sum. One country or bloc is up, another is down. When a country is down, those on the other side can exert their will in the world. With America distracted, Europe has more of a free hand to what it wants in opposition to America. The big difference these days from the heyday of BOP is that Europe really does not have anything that they want to accomplish, other than thwarting America. So, Europe moves to sell arms to China, essentially to infuriate America.

The Europeans are in the midst of reverse colonization. Islamists are taking over their inner cities, and threatening to move into the suburbs. Unemployment is stuck at around 10% and productivity it 80% or so of America, and dropping. Europe really is just exhausted, and good for little more than standing against anything that America is or does.

Europe sells arms to China because they can and it is something the US is against. It really is as simple as that.

Wanna hear about my fantasy?

Fantasy baseball season is back! I can hardly wait for the draft, then Opening Day! I always play American League only leagues, because I like the chance that the best players in the league can get traded, and you are stuck scrambling to make up their production with rookies who are left on the waiver wire. And if you get lucky and get a mega stud pitcher or reliever, you can run away with it. I remember the year I picked up Tim Hudson on the waiver wire…ah, the good ole days!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Calisthenics Workout

Below is my standard workout. I usually do the warm up, upper or lower and finish with abs. Give yourself 30 minutes, and go for it.

Warm UpUpper BodyLower BodyAbdominals Back
Fore & aftPush ups
Down & around
Boot slappersCrunches
Fist on head
Reach between
Reach around
Pull the rope
Grab the bar
Biceps on ears
Cross arms
Heel to heel
Ankle on knee
Knees on deck
Flutter kicks
Side to sideMountain climbersFriendly monkeysKnee to chest roll-upsSuperman
Cherry pickersSquat thrustsRocking chairsBicyclesAlternate Superman
Bend & reachSnow angelsWedding marchFlutter kicksDonkey kicks
Side/straddle hopsFly-awaysNo step in betweenHello dollysCobra stretch
Half jacksSun godsStep forward, step backDirt gods
Steam enginesBody buildersWall sitsAround the world
6 45 90

You can't call it football, but the soccer boys have a good idea

The soccer boys in Europe have a good idea that, as much as it pains me to write these words, we should emulate. They determine some of their champions by a two game series. If one team sweeps, they are the champs. If the teams split, then they count the aggregate goals to figure a winner. So if A beats B 1-0 in the first game and B beats A 3-1 in the second, then B wins the series 3-2 on aggregate.

Now, imagine how cool that would be if the NFL picked a champion that way. Two games, two different sites, two weeks, two games. Say Philly wins the first game 13-10 in Jacksonville. Then, the whole show up and moves to Waco Floyd Casey Stadium or some other garden spot, and the teams play again. This time, New England wins 41-14 to get a split and wins 51-27 on aggregate. However, if score of the second game was, say, 24-21 New England, the teams would be tied 34-34 on aggregate. In Europe, they have “penalty kicks” to break ties, a method decidedly lacking in testosterone when it comes to deciding a champion. In America, we use “sudden death.”

The pluses to this plan: Fans would get more than one game to decide the champion, TV and advertisers would get 10 hours of programming, and football analysts would actually have something to talk about on ESPN. The downside: the new is scary.

Bring it on!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

China's Marlin Strategy Towards Taiwan

Consider for a moment the current context; terrorists with a totalitarian ideology attacked the United States. In response, President Bush decided the old strategy of measured response, i.e., small attacks, diplomatic pressure and essentially ignoring the larger problem of state sponsored terrorism, would no longer suffice. He adopted a bold strategy of literally attacking the states that sponsored the terrorists, and demanding that the rest of the world declare that they are “…either with us, or with the terrorists.” (President Bush, Message to Congress, Sept 20, 2001) President Bush took bold steps to personally intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict while at the same time allowing Israel to destroy Palestinian terror groups. He bluntly warned Syria and Iran that he is watching them closely to ensure they harbor no al Qeida terrorists or weapons of mass destruction. He told Europe that changes are coming to NATO, with many US troops now based there heading to other regions of the world. After labeling them as part of the “Axis of Evil,” the President has unflinchingly confronted North Korea over that country’s nuclear weapon’s program and has instituted a form of blockade with the help of Australia and Japan. President Bush also told the Republic of Korea that US troops are moving out of there as well so American soldiers will not be subject to North Korean nuclear blackmail.
he common theme that runs through all these various responses to the events of September 11, 2001 is boldness. The world is now in an era of new thinking to confront what have to now seemed to be intractable problems. The relations between the PRC and Taiwan would certainly meet the definition of a “seemingly intractable problem.” Hence, approaches that might have been unthinkable two years ago can now be seriously entertained. And it is only by utilizing a previously unthinkable solution will Taiwan be able to find a solution to the PRC threat.

First some background on relations between China and Taiwan. After Chiang Kai Shek withdrew to Taiwan in 1946, the PRC treated the ROC as a hostile power. The PRC overly threatened invasion of Taiwan and actually shelled Jinmen and Matsu Islands. However, subsequent to 1950 when President Truman sent 7th Fleet to patrol the Taiwan Straits, the PRC was forced to temper its desire to forcibly reunify with Taiwan, knowing that attacks on Taiwan itself would bring a military response from the US.

The late 60’s saw a shift in the dynamic amongst Taiwan, China and the US. Because the US was looking for ways to counterbalance the USSR, President Nixon began the process of reaching out to China to the exclusion of Taiwan. This policy reached its culmination in 1978 with President Carter, and the Second Communiqué. Among the many results of this policy was the rekindling of the notion within the minds of some in the PRC that should “peaceful reunification” not work out, then Taiwan could be forcefully brought back to China without risk of intervention by the US. This notion was finally dashed in 1996 when the most pro-PRC President the US has ever had, President Clinton, once again sent 7th Fleet to the coast of Taiwan in response to China’s menacing missile shots.

This intervention by the US was a wake-up to the Communist Party. While their desire to rule Taiwan did not lessen, it is clear that a decision was taken to adopt a new strategy to achieve their ends. Bullying and treats were not effective, and were, in fact, counterproductive. The threats energized the people of Taiwan to elect an explicit proponent of independence, and compelled an otherwise pro-China US administration to intervene on behalf of Taiwan. So, instead of bullying, China decided to be as accommodating as possible to Taiwan business interests on the theory that peoples’ hearts and minds will be where ever their wallets are. As a result of this change in policy, Taiwan investment this year in China is up approximately 3000% from 1996 levels. MOEA, June 2003 link

While the PRC’s attempt to militarily coerce Taiwan into reunification was a failure in practical terms, it was successful in one respect. It instilled or at least helped foster a sense of fear among people living in Taiwan that the next time, China would launch missiles into, rather than over, Taipei. The events of 1996 also caused many in Taiwan to look inside their own desires to determine the type of relationship Taiwan should have vis-a-vis the PRC. Broadly speaking, the choices are two; independence or status quo. When polled, the people of Taiwan by large margins say they support the status quo and the promise of some kind of peaceful resolution to the cross-strait standoff. To most people in Taiwan, there are legitimate fears that talk of independence is likely to bring missiles raining down on Taipei.


The status quo, or “strategic ambiguity,” as it has been called, allows those in Taiwan who support the status quo to color it with their own aspirations. There are those who hope that the Taiwan authorities would say little to draw attention from Beijing so that Taiwanese businessmen could continue making money on the Mainland without disruption. Others favor the status quo so that Taiwan can continue to refine its democracy to serve as an example to pull China towards freedom. Both these groups of status quo supporters favor engagement with China. The entrepreneurs do so to continue making money in the Mainland gold rush. The “freedom exporters” (a phrase ironically coined by Karl Marx; Link) do so in order to serve as examples of free Chinese living in the midst of the people of the PRC.
The concrete results of these policies are the large investment transfers mentioned above and the large number of Taiwanese businessmen living on the Mainland. For example, there are approximately 50,000 businessmen and a total of 500,000 Taiwanese living in China. These people are a large moneyed constituency which has a strong interest in protecting their investments and maintaining their access to the Mainland market. Changes in the status quo, especially a status quo that is working to make money would be upsetting to this group, and would be resisted.

There is nothing uniquely “Taiwanese” to this point of view. Businessmen everywhere in the world prefer governments to have policies that encourage business. What makes the point of view of the Taiwanese businessmen notable is how it dovetails with PRC political and foreign policy interests. The PRC has effectively given up the policy of military coercion and has instead adopted what might be called the “marlin” policy.

When a deep-sea fisherman hooks a marlin, the fisherman allows the fish to take as much line as it wants, while at the same time backing the boat toward the fish and reeling the line in when he can. The marlin will jump high out of the water, thrash around, swim wildly away at high speeds, yet all the while, the fisherman’s boat is slowly, quietly moving toward the fish, as the line is patiently reeled in. The end result is a tired fish in the boat, waiting to be made into a trophy.

The PRC has used this policy to great effect in the last few years. While the examples are many, four stand out. These include: an increased deployment of offensive ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, a commitment to accept Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP), relentless pressure to isolate Taiwanese diplomats and an absolute refusal to acquiesce to Taiwan’s participation in international organizations. First, the missiles.

China has approximately 600+ ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. These missiles represent the combined explosive power of almost 20 fully laden B-52s. China has put two Sovremenyy Class Destroyers to sea, each with missiles capable of sinking an aircraft carrier. China has upgraded its coastal submarine fleet and its air force. Day by day, China becomes a more lethal adversary. Yet in the face of this threat, Taiwan has cut its defense expenditures, a move which is deeply worrying to the US. 14 Feb 2003 Link

Coupled with this increased actual threat has been a reduction in the level of overt threatening rhetoric. While it is probably not good to characterize the Chinese policy as a “charm offensive,” perhaps it is better to label it a “lack-of-bile offensive.” Even though Taiwan authorities have consistently made pronouncements in the last few years that would have caused Beijing to rattle sabers in response, since the ascension of Hu to the Premiership seven months ago, Beijing instead has reacted with measured statements read by low-level staffers. Most recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that passports would include the word “Taiwan” on the cover. The PRC Foreign Ministry put out a bland statement in response:

The Taiwan authority is using the so-called 'official name' as an excuse, always changing their tactics, to pursue ‘gradual Taiwan independence.’ This kind of motherland-splitting base conduct is unpopular and doomed to failure. 13 Jun 2003, MSNBC Link

The face Beijing presents to the world is calm, while at the same time, China increases arms deployments threatening to Taiwan without fanfare. Yet still, even knowing Beijing as it does, Taiwan cuts its defense spending. Has Taipei also been lulled by China’s relative calmness? Or is there just no more money for defense? The answer is probably “both,” with China’s new found accounting practices hastening the capital flight away from Taiwan’s coffers and toward Mainland industry.
China accounting standards have long been plagued with a troubling lack of transparency. The accounting problems which hinder financial transparency in China as noted by the World Bank include: the presence of guanxi, stock exchange listing rules demanding profitability, the shortage of trained accountants, and a rudimentary legal framework, among others. Link

The PRC government recognized these deficiencies and worked with foreign firms to bring China’s accounting standards into compliance with international standards. Great strides have been made in this regard since 2001, increasing investor confidence. It is no coincidence that investment in China from Taiwan has increased significantly in this time period, further strengthening the links between Taiwanese business, and the location of their money, China. Link

In the diplomatic sphere, China has quietly been able to scuttle visits by Taiwan diplomats to numerous countries around the world. Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia have all felt the pressure from China and rescinded invitations to Taiwan diplomats in the past year. Most disgraceful was the treatment afforded President Chen by Belgium in March of this year. These episodes highlight the fact that China is willing to threaten anyone with undiplomatic language to thwart Taiwan’s leadership. The fact that small democracies in Asia submit to this type of pressure is regrettable but understandable. But why Europe would show such pusillanimity bears more scrutiny.

The text of the letter written by China’s ambassador to the EU, Guan Cheng Yuan, is undiplomatic but on the surface, not overly threatening:

This not only runs against the One China policy that the EU sticks to but will also be seen by the Taiwan independence force as a kind of connivance and support for their attempt to separate China. If the invitation is extended, it will deeply hurt the feelings and the national pride of the Chinese people and gravely undermine the China-EU relations. (17 Mar 03, Agence France Presse Link

The language here is not particularly bellicose, so how to explain the EU’s cowardice? Possible explanations include: 1) The EU is full of cowards afraid of any controversy and therefore susceptible to even mild threats. 2) China made even more explicit economic and/or diplomatic threats behind the scenes, in an effort to prevent Chen Shui Bian from traveling. If the second explanation is the case, then it is clear that China will do all it can, especially behind the scenes, even risking the ire of the large, important European trading bloc, simply to further isolate Taiwan.

China has also been adamantly opposing Taiwan’s entry into international bodies. The situation with the World Health Organization (WHO) is particularly illustrative. It would seem that in the midst of a worldwide outbreak of a killer disease that was hitting Taiwan particularly hard, China would not oppose Taiwan from simply “observing” WHO activities. Yet China came out forcibly against even this simple humanitarian gesture and was able through pressure to prevent the WHO from seating Taiwan. This callous disregard for Taiwan makes sense when it is seen as part of a larger plan to exhaust Taiwan and make it more amenable to reunification. China has been able to prevent the movement of Taiwan’s leadership and has thwarted Taiwan’s entry into even humanitarian organizations. Taiwan is arguably more isolated now than it has ever been, while China continues to rise in worldwide esteem from its post Tianamen depths. Now, go back to the marlin analogy; the fish thrashes to no avail, only tiring itself more quickly and allowing itself to be captured. However, if the fish would cut the line with its swordlike nose, it could escape. Taiwan screams and rages that it is prevented from joining WHO, that its diplomats cannot travel and that it is hemorrhaging capital to China. Taiwan continues to work through accepted diplomatic channels but China has become ever more adept at countering Taiwan’s efforts. Realistically, there is only one thing for Taiwan left to do that would ensure its equitable treatment in the world, and that is to make a decision between independence and reunification.


Regardless of how much many in Taiwan may wish to continue with the status quo, the status quo is no longer tenable. The status quo requires good faith on both sides of the Straits, but it is apparent that the PRC has decided they prefer something in variance from the status quo. Taiwan should consider taking a similar decision. Taking such a decision would require great courage, but as mentioned in the introduction, we are now in an era where statesmen display courage and are rewarded with great, fortuitous changes in their nation’s fortunes. The world is also in an era where democracies are ascendant; Eastern Europe is democratizing at a rapid rate, the Middle East now has three new democracies, and South America has repudiated would be dictators in Venezuela and Argentina.

Further, there is little likelihood that China will alter its “marlin” policy towards Taiwan; the policy has proved too effective. The Taiwan’s response to the policy has played into the hands of China, exhausting the Taiwanese, and has made reunification on China’s terms approach ever closer. Continuing of the current path will result in yet more instances where Taiwan is thwarted, and its small allies gradually picked off by China until Taiwan is utterly isolated and completely exhausted. Most ominously, it is probably only a matter of time before China compels the WTO to change Taiwan’s status. As displayed in the Chen-EU Visa situation, the one thing that international bureaucrats lack when standing up to China, is the courage to stand up to China.

The current trend in the world coupled with China’s contrary intransigence points to an obvious course of action for Taiwan, if Taiwan wants to maintain the freedom to dictate its own way in the world, and that course of action is independence. Scholars recently echoed this thought, that the world can no longer abide “strategic ambiguity” but will accept the PRC interpretation of it in the absence of anything more compelling from the government of Taiwan:
“Unfortunately, the world would not play along with the game of inconsistency." The scholar Hu Ching-Shan, recommended the country add to its Constitution a clause - saying unequivocally Taiwan and China are two separate states - as the first step to cast off the inconsistency. (16 June 2003, Etaiwan News Link

And soon, the Taiwanese people will given the opportunity to cast off this inconsistency. The upcoming presidential election will have the Pan-blue (Guo Ming Dang, or KMT and the People First Party or PFP) ticket of Lien Chan and James Soong against the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) ticket of current President Chen Shui Bian. The Pan Blues have made no secret of their desire for reunification with China whereas the DPP was originally formed as a pro-independence group. For the core supporters of these two parties, the issue of cross-strait relations is paramount. The Pan Blue faithful demand that their representatives speak soothingly of eventual reunification. The DPP faithful want talk of independence. However, the key to the election will be the undecideds in the middle who make up perhaps a 1/3 of the electorate votes on economic issues. Both sides will work hard to keep their base supporters happy, while promising economic benefits to those in the middle.

Who will win is not clear. But what seems clear is that in March voters in Taiwan will present the world with a clear statement on how Taiwan perceives itself. And the voters of Taiwan must not lie to themselves but should recognize the facts. A vote for the Pan Blues will mean Taiwan prefers the status quo which will inexorably lead Taiwan into the “boat.” A vote for DPP will signal the world that Taiwan is prepared for independence.

The key is the reaction of the US. The US should unambiguously say to the world that it will respect whatever decision that Taiwan makes for itself, a policy consistent with America’s recent championing of democracy around the world. And that if Taiwan decides on closer integration with China, the US would find this as acceptable as independence. Such a signal from the US would allow Taiwan to make a decision based on the merits and on Taiwan’s own desires.
China’s reaction to such a democratic expression of will should it go against their interests, is unclear. There is a real chance that China would lash out with their missiles and aircraft, perhaps even try some kind of invasion. But scholars are now saying what even casual observer have noticed, the current US President will not allow dictators to menace democracies: Koh Sekai a Japanese professor at Providence University noted that “the U.S. would not sit around watching China bully neighboring states.” 16 Jun 03 Etaiwan News Link The PRC leadership knows this about the US as well. The leadership of China may well decide that militarily confronting Taiwan and risking a clash with US forces would be so fraught with danger to their own grip on power that the better course of action would be to continue the “marlin” policy as if nothing had changed.

There should be no mistake, Taiwan is in a decisive era of its history. When its people go the polls in March, they will be deciding on the direction Taiwan will take for the immediate future and for their children’s future. Making such a decision, regardless of the path chosen, requires real courage. Taiwan must not shirk from this duty.
The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.
Thomas Paine, “American Crisis”

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

I Can Draw a Line, Therefore I See the Future

This bit of ignorance is floating around the internet, masquerading as analysis. It is written by an retired Army Lieutenant Colonel.

"China has the right to protect it's vital interests, oil being a biggie, same as any nation. The fact that their economy is going gangbusters and absorbing all the oil, cement, steel, and other raw materials not nailed down makes the sea lanes of greater importance than ever before in Chinese history.

"China, for normal reasons of self defense, will come in conflict with other powers, most likely those on their periphery with priority to Taiwan as both the US and China recognize the status of Taiwan as belonging to China.

"They also have claims on Okinawa, taken by force from them over a century ago (they had rented it out to local Japanese feudal lords who then turned Okinawa over to the Emperor on his "Restoration". Chinese from Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Mainland all assert the claim.

"China has now passed the U.S. as Japan's number one trading partner. Japan is the key to U.S. defense or offense vis-a-vis China. Neither of us can get to each other without Japanese support or neutrality... Not unless we can get our bases at Subic back.

"The Chinese dragon has awoken, and it is a huge dragon with long dormant talents and creativity. We can either cope with it or make the extremely stupid error of trying to blast the Dragon back to sleep.

All I can say to this is "huh?" Okinawa is Chinese? Does that mean Taiwan is Japanese? How long does a piece of land have to stay in the possession of one country before it is insured from reverting? Do we need to worry about Texas? Or Alaska? Of course not. Whoever has it and administers it has the right to transfer it. Whoever they give it to has it, with no takebacks allowed.

And how does that relate to the idea that Japan will accede to the will of China? The argument that because China and Japan are trading partners, Japan will play nice is just silly, especially if you have argued in the proceding paragraph that the PRC is pressing some kind of fantastical claim to Okinawa. The Japanese may outwardly be mild, and when compared to the Chinese, outnumbered 7 to 1, but the Japanese are certainly NOT going to be pushed around by the Chinese. And the Chinese may be pretty ignorant about the world but they know that Japan will not tolerate any substantial territorial claims. Okinawans may be second class citizens in Japan, but they are still citizens of Japan, in the eyes of all the Japanese people.

Regarding the idea idea that the US needs to pay obesience to China because their economy is firing on all cylinders and is about to overwhelm us. The truth is that China is the classic bubble and is ready to burst. Only fools listen to the economic data published by criminals like the Chinese Communist Party. The LTC has made the common mistake of most intelligence analysts. The easiest prediction to make is that the future is a straight line on the same vector from the direction it is going right now. However, the one thing that you can be sure of when predicting the future is that where ever a country is going is NEVER a straight line from now.

Fred and Ginger, Gay Divorcee Posted by Hello

I watched Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in "Gay Divorcee" last night. This movie had witty writing, one of my favorite tunes, "Night and Day" by Cole Porter and the really incomparable dancing of Fred and Ginger. When "Night and Day" came on, I just stopped what I was doing, to watch. Fred sang it in a tempo I had never heard, and when he finished, he and Ginger danced to the melody. Just mesmerizing.

Here is where I would bemoan the fact that Hollywood just doesn't make movies like this anymore. But the problem is less with Hollywood than with the the lack of talent in the performers. I mean, name someone these days who can sing like Bing, or dance like Astaire, or has timing like Hope AND who has a gentle, laughing personality that radiates off the screen. Tom Cruise? Richard Gere? Please. Maybe someone like Ray Romano has the timing, but can he dance? Almost anyone on American Idol can sing, but would you pay to watch any of them in a movie? No chance.

It probably has something to do with the lack of a "minor league" for all around talents. Not that vaudville was intended as a feeder system for movies, but it just, through historical anomally, worked out that way. Those days are gone.

It is good we have movies like this that chronicle those lost days.