Sat, Jul 07, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's NewsWatch: Suffrage is best shaken, not stirred

Never let it be said that a democracy doesn't throw up some real characters. Like a county commissioner who offers Muslim sportsmen a succulent pig for lunch. Or a presidential candidate who's more Austin Powers than 007. Or a veteran journalist who gives nostalgia for autocracy a free kick.

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

Despite a cosmopolitan surname and a respectable global footprint, I'm still a hick at heart. I often find myself not knowing which of those stupid metallic implements to use when eating out with my gal Cathy Pacific.

Being a trolley dolly who has traveled the world far more widely than I, she can be a trifle snobbish about such things and often gets embarrassed at my awkward fiddlings with a knife and fork when we dine out at one of Taipei's Western eateries.

This is something she has in common with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and its upper echelons, which have always delighted in torching the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for being a bunch of uncultured bumpkins -- lacking the required refinement not only to govern the masses but also to make a good impression with foreign guests.

Well, now the DPP has a chance to exact some revenge. Tuesday's Liberty Times reported on how KMT Taipei County Commissioner Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋) recently made a cultural faux pas of the highest order.

Chou made the balls-up on Monday while presiding over the opening ceremony of the Jones Cup, an annual international basketball tournament being held in Sinjhuang (新莊) this year.

With all the tact and sensitivity of an Abu Ghraib jailer, Chou stepped forward to greet the competing squads with a selection of Taipei County's finest produce, in this case the "four treasures of Shenkeng (深坑四寶)": tea, crispy green bamboo shoots, a smorgasbord of tofu and last but not least, some "black pork."

Imagine Chou's surprise when the teams from Qatar, Iran, Jordan and Lebanon indicated they were not too keen on sampling the fourth treasure.

After some polite refusals the commissioner was forced into a tactful withdrawal of the dead porker before everyone politely tucked into some crispy tofu washed down with a cup of green tea.

What can we expect next from this class act, one wonders? A trade delegation of Taipei County beef farmers heading to India, perhaps? Or maybe a couple of sacrificial piglets to celebrate Yom Kippur in Banciao (板橋)?

While we're on the subject of KMT members wearing their provincialism with pride, those old allegations about great white hope Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) university life resurfaced again this week.

No, sadly, it's not a question of did he or didn't he inhale. It's more a question of did he or didn't he don dark clothing and sneak around Harvard's campus with a camera and notebook while prying on the activities of Taiwanese students who supported independence.

Our very own Taipei Times on Wednesday reported that Government Information Office Minister Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) accused Ma of being a "professional student," which is code for "campus spook."

Now, being labeled a "professional student" in other parts of the world is an insult because it infers you are a bit of a bum and take 20 years to graduate from what should be a four-year course.

But in Taiwan it takes on a different connotation, evoking images of espionage, international intrigue and betrayal.

Even so, it's hard to imagine a big girl's blouse like Ma abseiling down the side of Harvard Law School's Hemenway Gym in a white tuxedo with a babe in one arm and the latest high-tech midget camera in the other.

"The name's -jeou, Ma Ying-jeou" just doesn't sound right.

In fact, Ma comes across as more of an Austin Powers than a James Bond. Haobuhao, baby!

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