Saturday, March 22, 2008


Recent elections in Taiwan are usually much ado about nothing, because the democracy hasn't really progressed to issue-oriented politics, and the two major parties have no real differences in domestic policy approaches. What separates the "blue" from the "green" is their respective attitudes towards China and unification, which is a false issue because virtually nobody in Taiwan actually wants to decide just yet.

Anyway, the KMT won back the presidency in dramatic fashion today, capturing 58.45% of the votes. It's not instructive to look back at 2004, because that was an odd election involving an assassination attempt on the sitting president, among other things. However, if we look back at 2000, the KMT had just splintered into two because of squabbles over who would run for president, and ultimately captured 23.1% and 36.84% of the total vote.

Here's where it gets interesting, because the total of those two numbers is 59.94%. The 2000 KMT had sent up a charmless candidate, while the splinter party was formed by a popular ex-governor. One would expect that centrists would be disappointed by the bickering and look elsewhere. One would also expect that excitement over the first real shot at unseating the long-reigning KMT would skew the count somewhat. In other words, the total "blue" vote in 2000 should be somewhat lower than their true support levels.

Coming back to 2008, the ruling DPP is reeling from bad economy and multiple scandals implicating top party figures. The candidate they managed to put forward is not nearly as charismatic as Chen was in 2000 (who was a former opposition defense lawyer and former mayor of Taipei with great approval numbers), while the squeaky-clean Ma from the KMT is probably the most charismatic (although I personally find him a bit too slick) political leader they ever put forward. China has also realized that any move it makes only helps the DPP, and kept a very low profile throughout the election cycle. Put another way, the situation could hardly be any more favorable for the KMT.

Yet it lost about 1.5% of the total votes compared to 2000. What's going on here? A real shift in demographics?

Either way, it's healthy for Taiwan to switch things around every so often.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Logic, Logic Everywhere

President Bush wants Congress to pass a law to retroactively provide immunity for telecommunications companies that are accused of handing over customer records to authorities without a warrant. His rationale is that private companies should not be penalized for cooperating with government.

I agree completely, except for two small bits:

One, I don't hear how he's planning to punish the government officials who may have abused this cooperation. If the telecoms cooperated in good faith yet constitutional guarantees to privacy were violated, then I want heads to roll. What government official or lawyer said this was okay?

Two, these are not poor little private citizens who don't understand the law. These are behemoth corporations worth many billions of dollars, and more importantly, have legal departments. I have no sympathy if you have a legal department and break the law. Fire your lawyers (or the company official who ignored their advice) and face the music.


In other news, I was listening to NPR and Ralph Nader was on. Because he had refused to pull out of the presidential race in 2000 (presumably so Al Gore would win), a caller held him responsible for all the problems caused by President Bush, including the war in Iraq. It boggles my mind that people can be so stupid. If, between event A and event B lies a person's will, then the person who caused event A cannot be held responsible for event B. In this case, the will of President Bush to launch a ridiculous war. If we take this dumb logic to its conclusion, you might say that if not for Nader, Gore would've won and would not have made the film Inconvenient Truth, and then earth would be destroyed. Nader may have hurt America, but really he saved the planet!