I can't start this week's column without touching on the Stephen Young controversy. True to form, the pro-blue-camp press have been manufacturing a personal attack (or at least a good old psychological profiling) on the good director of the American Institute in Taiwan -- all for saying it might be a good idea to buy weapons if someone says he will attack you.
If you think the Americans are despairing at the stupidity coming out of Taiwan, you have good reason. But the idiots aren't just on Taiwanese soil. Read this transcript of an exchange between a reporter and the spokesman for the US State Department at a press briefing in Washington on Oct. 27:
Question: Based on the strong reaction from Taiwan's opposition, under such circumstances, Mr. Stephen Young is -- seems to be a liability rather than an asset. So do you have any -- under such [sic] current situation, do you have any plan to recall him or anything else?
Mr. McCormack: No.
Question: Does he [sic] still have confidence in him?
Mr. McCormack: He's doing a good job.
You've heard of push polling, right? This is typical Taiwanese "push reporting" -- or asking leading questions -- in which a reporter turns a personal opinion ("seems to be") into a statement of fact ("under such current situation"). Most responses can then be twisted to make the reporter's opinion look like fact in the write-up, though Sean McCormack in this case very professionally chose not to play the game.
If you watch the video on the State Department Web site, you can sense the contempt McCormack feels toward his interrogator. And my spy in Washington tells me there was some embarrassment among the other reporters.
And who is the sterling journalist? Liu Ping (
Of course, we could mock Liu for tying the definition of "liability" to "the pan-blue camp doesn't like you," or for going over the top on Young's would-be removal for doing his job (following Washington's instructions), but that would be too easy.
It's just his nakedly hack approach that grates. Don't let facts get in the way of a good beat-up, eh, Mr. Liu? Yours is a form of propagandizing that would make the Falun Gong blush.
So I say Liu should stop humiliating himself in front of the world's media and return to Taipei and try out what he must be itching to do: run for public office.
We are now in the "empty circle" phase of campaigning for the Taipei and Kaohsiung city council elections. This is led by more aggressive candidates who get their literature, banners, bus advertisements and sound trucks out before they are allocated a number on the ballot. Hence, the empty circle on their advertising where a number should be.
The councils are becoming much more important for the aspiring thug politician as legislative seats dry up. And one of the reasons we will continue to see flotsam candidates in these contests is because the old multiple member system is still in effect. All you need is (1) a small but dedicated band of knuckle-dragging supporters, (2) some media exposure and (3) a prominent legislative patron. Then you can prop up your political career for another four years before casting a wider net.
So, let me take you on a little guided tour of some of the fine people you can vote for in Taipei (party and electoral district are in brackets).
Mike Wang (王育誠, PFP: Shilin/Beitou): This classic conman fronting as a media personality is hoping to save his seat on the council after being convicted for fabricating evidence that funeral parlor owners were recycling food offerings to the dead -- by selling them to restaurants serving the not-yet dead. This permanent injury to his credibility doesn't concern the People First Party, which still endorses him. But for mine, Wang is the kind of guy the Taipei City Council needs because he has the guts to wear white turtle neck sweaters in public.
Lin Ruey-tu (林瑞圖, Independent: Shilin/Beitou): This former legislator, Taipei City councilor and annoying muckraker has over the years accused Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), Lien Chan (連戰), the family of James Soong (宋楚瑜), the head of National Taiwan Normal University, corporations and high court judges of illegal behavior. His image has suffered, however, for lack of serious evidence of their wrongdoing. Any evidence. Later, he hung around with former DPP chairman and Little Red Engine That Couldn't Shih Ming-teh (施明德), who set him up as a top campaign official for Shih's last embarrassing run for the legislature (he scored 4.43 percent of the vote in a field of 22 for 10 spots). According to TVBS on Nov. 21, 2004, Shih said of him: "Taiwan has new hope." Now why should that come as a surprise?
Rosalia Wu (吳思瑤, DPP: Shilin/Beitou): I was confronted by this cutie-pie candidate's sound truck over in Beitou one evening as I was taking a walk down memory lane with my gal Cathy Pacific. Treasured recollections of open-air hot spring cavorting and flimsy miniskirts were shattered by Wu's campaign song, which drones her Chinese name in such a way ("Wu Ssu-yaaaooooo, Wu Ssu-yaaaooooo") that you would swear a cat was being castrated and fed into a grinder. Wu is one of DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim's (蕭美琴) "Charlie's Angels" running for council along with Hsu Shu-hua (許淑華, Songshan/Xinyi). I don't know much about Wu's policies -- but who cares? You can be sure that if Bi-khim's on your side, then you'll look really hot in a bikini. Certainly, as Wu's patron legislator and one of the top 10 recipients of campaign donations at the last legislative elections, Bi-khim has the cash to invest in a few items of sexy swimwear. Oh, and Wu has a slogan in English just to make her appear really cool: "Expect the best." Expect the best? Oh I do, Rosalia baby, I do.
Chueh Mei-sha (闕枚莎, KMT: Nangang/Neihu): A member of the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) Army, it will be interesting to see how Chueh and the other Ma-endorsed candidates fare in this test of Ma's standing as KMT chairman. They look confident on their poster, with Ma standing beside a very pretty Chueh and joining her leaning forward and clenching fists with upraised arms. The problem is, they look like they're about to give a cow a rectal exam. Every time I see a bovine's butt now, I can't help thinking of Taipei's mayor and his protege. Whether or not Chueh makes it to City Hall, on present form I say she would make one helluva veterinarian. Moooo.
Hung Shih-chi (洪士奇, PFP: Songshan/Xinyi): This jolly fellow is the head of the emergency department at Chung-Hsiao Municipal Hospital, and he wants you to know it, folks. "Dr. Husky" (his English nickname, I kid you not) wears a surgical gown and stethoscope in his posters. If you probe deeper into the scarier parts of the World Wide Web, you'll find him clad in other disarming outfits: biohazard gear, rescue apparel and the customary PFP goon jacket. He sure likes to dress up. I wonder what else he has in his closet? Anyway, I wish him well in his quest to revive a flatlining council.
The TSU team: What better way to wrap up this preview than go ape over the video promotion for the Taiwan Solidarity Union line-up? It's called CSI: TPE 台北 and imitates the popular US television show (see an earlier version at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q01SQMdiAg4, and say guys, did you speak to CBS about copyright?). Exult as "Lydia, juvenile delinquency authenticator" (盧靜儀, Da-an/Wenshan), "Li-ling, technology and law e-anchor" (廖林麗玲, Neihu/Nangang), "Library, spokeswoman for the minorities" (杜淑觀, Zhongzheng/Wanhua), "Big John, social issue denunciator" (陳燦鴻, Songshan/Xinyi), "Yu-yen, media violence protestor" (簡余晏, Zhongshan/Datong) and "Park, Taiwan sovereignty assertor" (陳建銘, Shilin/Beitou) camp it up as investigators into Taipei's "CSI situation" -- the city is "covered in fear" according to the uploader of the video. Rounding out this minor classic is TSU mayoral candidate Clara Chou (aka Coco, 周玉蔻), who is the "dream builder."
Well, if Clara gets more than a dozen votes, she might be the nightmare builder for DPP mayoral candidate Frank Hsieh, who'll probably need a new career.
How about journalism, Frankie? With a bit of luck the China Times will be looking for a new Washington correspondent pretty soon.
Heard or read something particularly objectionable about Taiwan? Johnny wants to know: firstname.lastname@example.org is the place to reach me, with "Dear Johnny" in the subject line.
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