Sat, Nov 15, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's News Watch: A juicy slab for a prime convict

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

It’s comforting to know that our long-time best pal Uncle Sam is as concerned about us as we are about him. Why, just last week our man in Washington, Jason Yuan (袁健生), was busy delivering a handwritten message from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to one of Barack Obama’s chief advisers that eagerly congratulated the president-elect on his victory and the US democratic process.

This week it was Washington’s turn. Its man here, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Stephen Young, could hardly maintain his concentration on Thursday as he fended off an inevitable query on our rapidly deteriorating “democratic process” and the detention of former splittist-in-chief Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), or “2630” as he is now known to his cellmates.

In fact, Young looked slightly bored by it all as he rattled off the boilerplate responses about “transparency” and “fair trial” before getting on to the most important subject of the press conference — selling stuff.

Yes, apparently we poor Taiwanese are not being allowed to eat enough US beef, and it’s all our government’s fault. It has nothing to do with the fact that US cattle ranchers can’t vouch for the sanity of their herds.

The fact that only 32 percent of the beef eaten in Taiwan is sourced stateside has irked US government officials. So much so that they have refused Taiwan’s invitations for further cross-table trade tete-a-tetes until we open the floodgates to more boatloads of American bovines.

Young sat there, looking like a rootin’ tootin’ ambassadorial Marie Antoinette as he said, in effect: “Let them eat beef.”

Never the shrinking violet, and not one to underestimate everything our starred and striped friends have done for us over the years, I have come up with an idea to help our American cousins boost sales.

My suggestion would see the Ministry of the Interior sign a deal with AIT to provide healthy, nutritious US beef dinners to all of Taiwan’s prisoners.

Maybe Washington, given the cordial relations it enjoyed with his administration, could convince Chen to give up his hunger strike/beauty diet to become the poster boy for the campaign.

I can picture it now: A-bian sitting in the detention center’s canteen in striped, prison-issue gear, holding a knife and fork and donning a 10-gallon hat and cowboy boots, topped off with a trademark Douglas Paal shit-eating grin as he looks down on a steaming, gigantic slab of Texan T-Bone.

“Geez, I was so depressed when them thar judges sent me to the detention center. But that was before I found out there was US beef on the menu,” the caption could read.

Hell, I’m betting that the aroma of a succulent, barbecued, USDA-approved 12 ounce rib eye might even be enough to tempt Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) to break her fast and tuck in.

Yeehaw, pardner! Budweisers all round.

It would also be a great propaganda coup for the government, as it would show that the Taiwanese judiciary does have a heart after all, and that it looks after every single prisoner — even the (allegedly) political ones. Just think of the boost that could give to Ma’s flagging popularity, which right now is falling faster than global stock markets.

Maybe Ma’s plummeting approval rate is the reason for the Presidential Office’s new, harder image. Anyone openly opining contrasting views on cross-strait policy these days is greeted with a “Ya Boo, sucks to you! We won the election.”

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