Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Mar 19 2008

Three Days to Go

electionOk, this incident was really confusing; why would KMT legislators do something so potentially damaging to their own campaign efforts? It just didn’t make sense, so I did a little digging. Apparently, the legislative committee was questioning the head of First Bank about what part of its building the DPP was renting, the rates and so one, and the guy said “The first three floors.” The committee knew that they were also using the 13th floor, and said so, but the bank’s general manager said it wasn’t so.

Now, a week before that, or two weeks ago, the DPP had similar concerns about Ma’s campaign office, which is rented from the city government, so a group of DPP city councilors went to Ma’s campaign HQ to investigate, and were allowed to, but they found nothing suspicious, and the issue was quickly forgotten.

So these four lawmakers said to the general manager and the Minister of Finance, which is the authority concerned for state bank properties, “Come with us and we’ll take a look.” When they got there, they took the elevator to the 13th floor, but were blocked from getting off. So they went down to the 3rd floor, where they were not only blocked from getting off the elevator, the staff cut the power and kept the elevator there for half an hour while the DPP called up a mob of people to come and gather downstairs.

After half an hour, they were allowed to go down to the first floor, where they found a large group of hostile people, and it seems one of the legislators called the police. The crowd attempted to beat the legislators and seriously damaged the police car that arrived on the scene when after they got inside.

Afterwards, the press had a field day with the story. The party whip resigned his position, and the Finance Minister stepped down as a result. Ma issued a formal apology and condemned the violence, but Hsieh took umbrage at Ma’s statement. “It wasn’t violence,” Hsieh said. “Can you say a girl slapping a man trying to rape her is committing an act of violence?”

For a while I wondered if this was our Bizarre Event, but it didn’t seem to be the case, as it was too small in scale and effect, and if the DPP had truly planned it, they wouldn’t have needed to keep the legislators at the campaign headquarters while they called people over. Also, Hsieh is continuing to attack Ma over an alleged green card. We only have three days left, so look for a slew of allegations flying back and forth, some of which are bound to be entertaining, at least. I’m guessing someone is going to “reveal” some scandal or document soon. Let’s just hope we don’t have any more violence.

So far, this election itself is almost a bizarre event. I still maintain that Hsieh could have run a much better campaign had he taken a page from Obama’s campaign and exercised his considerable charisma in convincing people of his own merits rather than continuously harping on Ma and his family. Ma has been remarkably restrained in returning the attacks, but then again he has been promising everything under the sun to everybody and his dog, promises that seem impossible to keep even under the best of circumstances. In my opinion, neither candidate has made it clear that they are up to the monumental task the next leader of Taiwan faces. This election is the closest I’ve come to being an undecided voter in many years. And we have three days left.

So fasten your seatbelts, boys and girls. Something tells me it’s going to be a bumpy night.

posted by Poagao at 4:21 am  
Mar 10 2008

Another Saturday

After Tai-chi practice on Saturday at CKS Hall, I called up Prince Roy to see what he was up to. As is his wont, he was planning to visit a couple of political rallies later, so after a particularly delicious lunch at the Yongkang Sababa, we walked back towards Hangzhou Road to see the DPP’s Women’s Day rally. On our way, however, we saw a bunch of people staring at a building. “What’s going on?” I asked some women peering out of a nearby shop.

“We don’t know,” they said. “We saw some people looking, so we’re looking, too.” Just then a motorcade pulled up to the building, and none other than Ma Ying-jeou stepped out and walked into the building. PR was hot on his heels, no doubt looking for another handshake picture to add to his collection. I followed the crowd down to the packed meeting room in the basement where Ma was speaking. Encouraging slogans were being shouted under a giant portrait of Sun Yat-sen. I spotted PR’s colorful hat near the middle of the room. Having gotten his picture, he was ready to leave.

We continued walking up the road to the Zhongxiao East Road intersection, where the Women’s Day rally was being held. Though most of the seats were empty, music was blasting out of huge speakers, and dancers were on the stage. Tables full of stuffed dolls and other figurines resembling Frank Hsieh and Su Tseng-chang had been set up nearby, as well as two rows of port-a-potties that were the exact shade of aquamarine the DPP has chosen as its campaign color.

protestPR and I walked up to the stage and watched the singing and dancing for a while as various groups from around Taiwan arrived and filled the seats. The crowd was mostly older women, and the line for the row of port-a-potties grew quite long. Yeh Chu-lan gave a speech, and I wondered if she felt at all disappointed that she didn’t get the VP candidate slot. In the crowd, old men who looked like they’d never seen a diploma held signs protesting the recognition of any such documents issued by Chinese universities.

I had to go back to Bitan by that point, though; the Muddy Basin Ramblers have a show next Friday at Bliss, so we needed a practice. The weather was nice enough that we could hold forth on the riverside, though only on our side of the river as the other side’s completely torn up. Getting home, putting my things away and gathering up my instruments seemed to take forever, and it was getting dark by the time I joined the other Ramblers down by the horseshoe. It was good to be jamming again, and David introduced some nice new tunes for us to chew on. Even at such an isolated spot we managed to draw small groups of people, some of whom took out their phones and called their friends: “Hey, you’ll never guess what I found by the riverside in Bitan! Foreigners! And they’re playing music! Yeah, I KNOW!”

“Could you speak up?” Thumper told the excited girl who was yapping on her phone two feet away. “I can’t quite hear everything you’re saying over the music.”

Later, we all went to Athula’s for our traditional post-jam rottis. Alas, he was again out of tuna. Oh, well; more fried rice at home, then. Still plowing through the endless gigabytes of Tokyo photos. Hopefully soon they’ll all be up, and the video done and posted too, and maybe then I’ll feel a little less behind with everything.

posted by Poagao at 3:49 am  
Feb 29 2008

2/28 events, and Chalaw’s CD party

IMG_9296-01I met Prince Roy yesterday afternoon at the best Sababa in Taiwan, the one near Yongkang Street, for lunch and conversation on the veranda. I’d brought my trumpet because David Chen and I were going to play at Chalaw’s CD release party in Gongguan later that night. Neither of us had to work as it was a national holiday to commemorate the 2/28 Incident of 1947. It was also one of the DPP’s last chances for publicity before the presidential election next month, and many events were scheduled. PR had arranged to meet up with several other bloggers at CKS Hall, where the DPP was holding an event and marching from there to the Songshan Soccer Stadium, so I thought I’d tag along. I didn’t feel like going all the way back to Bitan, and it was just a short walk from Yongkang Street.

A large stage was set up for a symphony performance in front of the actual hall, but the actual event was being held by the gate. PR and I were both reminded what a poor job the designers had done with the new inscription, which looks like it was drawn by four different people and then photoshopped together by drunken lemurs. Ok, maybe it’s not that bad, but lord, it ain’t good. At least they didn’t tear down the walls, as they had threatened to at one point.

presidentDue to the importance of the event and the lovely weather, I was expecting a huge crowd, but there weren’t that many people there, less than had witnessed the changing of the inscription. President Chen showed up and walked around a bodyguard-controlled corridor shaking hands. PR and I were just standing around and somehow got within a foot of him; PR even shook his hand. I saw the symbol of irony that is the Minister of Education, Tu Cheng-sheng, posing for pictures. We also saw Craig Ferguson and spotted David Reid, who, having had his cheek stamped with a DPP stamp, got a good spot amongst the wall of TV cameras and wasn’t going to budge. I also saw Darren there. Later, Wayne and Mark showed up, but it wasn’t clear exactly what was going to happen. The small crowd seemed lackluster and muted.

birdgateAs the sun dipped towards the horizon the weather got substantially cooler. Large flocks of birds flew around between the gate and nearby trees. Eventually some marchers who had been making their way on foot up the island showed up with flags, along with some loudspeaker trucks, and people began to move off towards the street. Wayne and Mark followed, while the rest of us headed for the subway. David and Craig were going to take the MRT up to Zhongshan to get ahead of the marchers, while PR, wallowing in indecision, said he was going home.

I met up with Chalaw, Honghao, Doug and the others at a noodle shop next to the Riverside and Kafka by the Sea for some dumplings. There was also a guy I hadn’t met, a Spanish guitar player named Ramses who is in Taiwan studying Chinese. He’s hoping to switch to a kind of musician’s visa soon, he told me. After we’d eaten we went up to the cafe and drank some rice wine Honghao had thoughtfully provided. It tasted like those little Yakult yogurt drinks you see everywhere here in lunch boxes.

I was a bit nervous as I hadn’t played the songs from the album in months, and I hadn’t even picked up my trumpet since well before the new year. I’d forgotten the pieces I’d learned for the album, but I was able to follow along and accompany well enough. As we were running through a few of the songs from the album, a heavyset young man with long dreadlocks walked in. Later he played a few songs with Chalaw, including a couple of Cui Jian covers as well as his own works. I was impressed with his voice as well as his songs, but most of all the way the music seemed to move him. His name is Matzka, from the Paiwan tribe, and he’s just starting out.

I glanced out the window and saw a long line of people waiting to get into Riverside downstairs. Apparently the drummer from Matzka’s group was playing down there. We finished up and moved our stuff so that people would have a place to sit while they opened the doors.

kafka showThe crowd wasn’t huge, but they were enthusiastic. David and I got off stage after we’d finished the songs we played on. I sat at a table in the back, by the window, watching the show and traffic outside. The original band members’ voices mixed well, the harmonies tighter and better than before. David had pointed out that Honghao was still wearing his shiny black police shoes, and I wondered if he might be on standby in case of a 2/28-related incident.

During the break later, fans ran around getting people from the band to sign their CDs. It didn’t seem fair that so many people wanted Ramses’ signature, even though he didn’t play on the album; the excellent slide guitar work on the actual album is actually David Chen’s doing.

Matzka, at least, knew this, and was impressed by David’s slide guitar work on the album, he told me in the smoking room towards the end of the show. These days he plays at a dive in Bali on Tuesday nights with two other guys playing bass and drums. His songs have a kind of reggae/ska vibe and could some more instrumentation, I think.

The show ended late, after 11pm. I said good-bye to everyone who remained (David, quite drunk, had departed with Robyn already), and went to a nearby KFC for a snack. I was reading one of Asimov’s robot novels when I looked up to see Wayne and Mark staring hungrily through the window at my fries. They’d lost interest in the DPP march halfway through and gone for dinner with Prince Roy instead. We chatted a bit before they, too, headed home.

I took the MRT back, reaching Bitan after midnight and dreading the view of the desolation along the riverbank. All of the buildings have been torn down on both sides of the water, save for the public restrooms, leaving a only huge swath of debris where once we lounged, talked, ate and played. It’s a truly depressing sight, somehow even worse in the emptiness of the night.

posted by Poagao at 4:54 am  
Feb 29 2008

2/28 events, and Chalaw’s CD party

IMG_9296-01I met Prince Roy yesterday afternoon at the best Sababa in Taiwan, the one near Yongkang Street, for lunch and conversation on the veranda. I’d brought my trumpet because David Chen and I were going to play at Chalaw’s CD release party in Gongguan later that night. Neither of us had to work as it was a national holiday to commemorate the 2/28 Incident of 1947. It was also one of the DPP’s last chances for publicity before the presidential election next month, and many events were scheduled. PR had arranged to meet up with several other bloggers at CKS Hall, where the DPP was holding an event and marching from there to the Songshan Soccer Stadium, so I thought I’d tag along. I didn’t feel like going all the way back to Bitan, and it was just a short walk from Yongkang Street.

A large stage was set up for a symphony performance in front of the actual hall, but the actual event was being held by the gate. PR and I were both reminded what a poor job the designers had done with the new inscription, which looks like it was drawn by four different people and then photoshopped together by drunken lemurs. Ok, maybe it’s not that bad, but lord, it ain’t good. At least they didn’t tear down the walls, as they had threatened to at one point.

presidentDue to the importance of the event and the lovely weather, I was expecting a huge crowd, but there weren’t that many people there, less than had witnessed the changing of the inscription. President Chen showed up and walked around a bodyguard-controlled corridor shaking hands. PR and I were just standing around and somehow got within a foot of him; PR even shook his hand. I saw the symbol of irony that is the Minister of Education, Tu Cheng-sheng, posing for pictures. We also saw Craig Ferguson and spotted David Reid, who, having had his cheek stamped with a DPP stamp, got a good spot amongst the wall of TV cameras and wasn’t going to budge. I also saw Darren there. Later, Wayne and Mark showed up, but it wasn’t clear exactly what was going to happen. The small crowd seemed lackluster and muted.

birdgateAs the sun dipped towards the horizon the weather got substantially cooler. Large flocks of birds flew around between the gate and nearby trees. Eventually some marchers who had been making their way on foot up the island showed up with flags, along with some loudspeaker trucks, and people began to move off towards the street. Wayne and Mark followed, while the rest of us headed for the subway. David and Craig were going to take the MRT up to Zhongshan to get ahead of the marchers, while PR, wallowing in indecision, said he was going home.

I met up with Chalaw, Honghao, Doug and the others at a noodle shop next to the Riverside and Kafka by the Sea for some dumplings. There was also a guy I hadn’t met, a Spanish guitar player named Ramses who is in Taiwan studying Chinese. He’s hoping to switch to a kind of musician’s visa soon, he told me. After we’d eaten we went up to the cafe and drank some rice wine Honghao had thoughtfully provided. It tasted like those little Yakult yogurt drinks you see everywhere here in lunch boxes.

I was a bit nervous as I hadn’t played the songs from the album in months, and I hadn’t even picked up my trumpet since well before the new year. I’d forgotten the pieces I’d learned for the album, but I was able to follow along and accompany well enough. As we were running through a few of the songs from the album, a heavyset young man with long dreadlocks walked in. Later he played a few songs with Chalaw, including a couple of Cui Jian covers as well as his own works. I was impressed with his voice as well as his songs, but most of all the way the music seemed to move him. His name is Matzka, from the Paiwan tribe, and he’s just starting out.

I glanced out the window and saw a long line of people waiting to get into Riverside downstairs. Apparently the drummer from Matzka’s group was playing down there. We finished up and moved our stuff so that people would have a place to sit while they opened the doors.

kafka showThe crowd wasn’t huge, but they were enthusiastic. David and I got off stage after we’d finished the songs we played on. I sat at a table in the back, by the window, watching the show and traffic outside. The original band members’ voices mixed well, the harmonies tighter and better than before. David had pointed out that Honghao was still wearing his shiny black police shoes, and I wondered if he might be on standby in case of a 2/28-related incident.

During the break later, fans ran around getting people from the band to sign their CDs. It didn’t seem fair that so many people wanted Ramses’ signature, even though he didn’t play on the album; the excellent slide guitar work on the actual album is actually David Chen’s doing.

Matzka, at least, knew this, and was impressed by David’s slide guitar work on the album, he told me in the smoking room towards the end of the show. These days he plays at a dive in Bali on Tuesday nights with two other guys playing bass and drums. His songs have a kind of reggae/ska vibe and could some more instrumentation, I think.

The show ended late, after 11pm. I said good-bye to everyone who remained (David, quite drunk, had departed with Robyn already), and went to a nearby KFC for a snack. I was reading one of Asimov’s robot novels when I looked up to see Wayne and Mark staring hungrily through the window at my fries. They’d lost interest in the DPP march halfway through and gone for dinner with Prince Roy instead. We chatted a bit before they, too, headed home.

I took the MRT back, reaching Bitan after midnight and dreading the view of the desolation along the riverbank. All of the buildings have been torn down on both sides of the water, save for the public restrooms, leaving a only huge swath of debris where once we lounged, talked, ate and played. It’s a truly depressing sight, somehow even worse in the emptiness of the night.

posted by Poagao at 4:54 am  
Jan 14 2008

A full schedule

101 circusThursday was the going-away party for Forumosa’s Stray Dog, aka Sean, so I decided to take the opportunity to check out the new Alleycat’s on Songren Road. It was quite a walk from the City Hall MRT Station, but I took some interesting shots over the wall of some construction nearby with Taipei 101 in the background. Thankfully nobody saw me sticking my camera over the metal enclosure.

The Songren Alleycat’s is nice. It was officially the Forumosa.com Happy Happy Dance Dance Hour, but I wasn’t really in the mood for socializing and spent most of my dinner eating alone and reading. Afterwards, I thought I’d make my way, aided by GPS, through the alleys to Liuzhangli Station instead of walking back the way I came. Guided by the Google Maps app on my phone, I found my way through the maze very easily, and got some more interesting shots in the process.

I’d gotten a call from Thumper late Wednesday night. He was in Da-an Park with a group of guys who were playing country music. “They need a washtub bass player to fill in for theirs on Friday,” he told me. He said he was going to play with them there at Bliss as well, and Slim was going to come, so I thought I’d go and check it out. After dinner on Friday in Gongguan at a hot-pocket stand and picking up a new backpack, I went back to Bitan to retrieve my tub and stick, and took the MRT to Da-an Station, where I got another call from Thumper, this time informing that their bass player had decided to show up anyway. But I was practically there, so I figured I’d go anyway.

The band consisted of three guys, all enthusiastic young foreigners, one on guitar, another on banjo, and one playing his bass, which was a metal soup pot with a steel wire attached to a plank. It wasn’t as deep or resonant as my plastic tub, and the action of the stick was a lot more sensitive to the slightest movement. I tried to play it a little and managed to get some notes out of it, but I prefer my tub.

The band said that it was their third public performance. They were nervous before taking the stage. As for the show…well, let me put it this way: the highlight of the evening, music-wise, was when we all stopped playing at the same time at the end of one song. I know it sounds strange for a member of a band highly lacking in the polish department to call another band “unpolished”, but there you have it: They need work. During the show the band members were supposed to tell jokes in between songs. The banjo player decided to make me the subject of his, which was a story that included me wishing to a talking frog for a beautiful princess. I didn’t know which part of that combination was less likely, but before I could think of something clever to say another guy yelled out, “Maybe he’d wish for a prince instead!”

“Nah, he’s a guy, he’d wish for a princess; come on, let me tell the joke!” the banjo player complained, and went on with the joke.

Afterwards, I was ready to go home and go to bed, for it had been a long, tiring day, but Thumper and Slim were going to hang out at a local park for a bit, so I nabbed some fried rice from a convenience store and joined them. As always, it turned out to be a lot of fun, and we stayed up until the wee hours and the not-so-wee hours talking. The sky was getting light when a group of old ladies swept across the park, picking through our trash for recyclables. The city was coming to life around us, and suddenly the park wasn’t the private enclave it had been during the night, so we bade Thumper farewell and grabbed a taxi back south.

Saturday was election day for the legislature. Our voting post was located in the old Bitan KTV Club. The voting went smoothly. As usual, nobody had a problem or even raised an eyebrow when I showed up with my voting notice, though I got scolded for taking pictures from the street. I skipped the referendums because I don’t agree with using them for election campaigning instead of on real, meaningful issues. Afterwards, it turned out that about 75% of voters agreed with me.

The DPP was completely routed, of course. Chen Shui-bian, as predicted, stepped down from the party chairmanship to let Frank Hsieh emerge from his cocoon and start campaigning with as little stigma from the election loss as possible. If there’s one thing the DPP knows, it’s how to run an election campaign, I’ll give them that. I see the results more as a vote against the DPP than for the KMT, and I hope the latter doesn’t let it go to their heads or take it to mean that everything they stand for is hunky dorey with everyone. I’m still waiting for the usual bizarre turn of events that precedes every election here. I’m thinking it will happen in March, but I could be wrong.

After voting, I went to Darrell’s for some looping with Graham, who was back in town on vacation before returning to Singapore. Dow Jones is moving him to Tokyo in late February, and a long chain of foreigners sitting in the various musical chairs related to the job are all moving around correspondingly; it seems I know quite a few of them.

b/w bitan and skySunday morning I had just awakened to the sound of jackhammers pounding away at the Bitan riverfront steps when I got a call from Harry, who was on his way to the Dimu temple in Wantan with his religious friends. I dressed and walked across the bridge and down the “niaoley” (the piss-covered alley) between the buildings to the ferry dock. On the way over I chatted with the ferryman, who told me some unsettling news. According to him, some legal knot has been resolved, and they’re planning to develop the lovely rural fields of Wantan with ugly high-rises. He told me they were even planning to build a 12-meter-wide bridge from Bitan over to Wantan. I had thought that there was no development on Wantan because it was a water preservation site, but it seems that even that’s not enough to stand in the way of developers with their eyes on the money they could make from such developments. It would be a great loss, as I love to walk through that area.

At the Dimu temple, Harry and his group, some of whom were dressed all in Temple Yellow sweat suits, did their thing while I sat by quietly, listening to the things going on around me. I like going there to just sit. It’s not really meditation, as I’m not disciplined enough for that. It’s just sitting and being quiet. Spacing out.

colorviewThat afternoon Slim and I took a cab up to Conor’s lofty Muzha mountaintop pad for some MBR practice, including some dangerously racy songs about Jesus. Conor’s pad has the usual foreigner-pad style from the rugs hanging on the walls to the various instruments from a plethora of cultures. Outside, rainclouds hung over a great view of the city; the weather had become typical winter fare, cold and wet with just enough rain to make you miserable without actually raining hard enough to make an umbrella worth the trouble.

posted by Poagao at 11:44 am  
Dec 07 2007

Barbarians at the Gate

protest gateI was going to name this post “20 years at CKS Hall”, but it hasn’t quite been that long since I sat for four days and three nights in the large square between the opera house and the concert hall as part of the “Wild Lily” student protest in early 1990. Of course, your perspective changes as you get older, but I couldn’t help but recall those times when I saw the protests against President and DPP Chairman Chen Shui-bian’s moves to change the name of the hall and remove the inscription from the main gate in the run-up to legislative and presidential elections.

I knew about the appropriation of the inane title “Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall” (is Democracy spread out on a slab inside now? Maybe they’ll put it where CKS’ Cadillacs used to be), but I didn’t know about the latest developments in the DPP’s campaign to remove the characters “Da Zhong Zhi Zheng” that allude to the formal title of late President Chiang Kai-shek until the government announced that it now had jurisdiction over the hall and would commence with the move on Thursday. The DPP’s choice to replace the offending inscription is the painfully unoriginal title of “Liberty Square”.

protestI noticed a few protesters sitting under the massive gate as I walked by on Tuesday evening after badminton practice, so I went over to talk to them. A couple of them were dressed in red from head to foot, and they had improvised a small fake “shrine” to Chen Shui-bian with a cardboard sign predicting that anyone who took down the inscription would suffer a stroke, just as controversial Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu did after doing something similar down there. They huddled in the cold wind and sat on cardboard, waiting just in case the DPP was planning to jump the gun and tear down the inscription in the middle of the night.

I didn’t have my 20D on me at the time, so I went back the next evening with it and took some pictures. The number of protesters had grown, but it was by no means a massive crowd. The media practically outnumbered them. The protesters were a motley group and included serious young men, dumpy middle-aged housewives and one dapper elderly gentleman with white hair wearing a black overcoat and red scarf, looking not unlike a Chinese Peter O’Toole. Another man wore camos and boots. “The Second-wave Anti-Chen Movement: Now is the Time for a Million People to Bravely Take to the Streets!” read his placard. Police barricaded the main memorial stairs and milled around, apparently not sure what they were doing there. I went up to one officer and asked, but he looked away, ignoring me. I picked out another, apparently senior officer, and asked him what the workmen were doing. “I don’t know,” he said. “We’ve just got orders to be here to ‘assist’.”

There weren’t even a hundred protesters, much less a million, of course. Most people know that the move is purely for election uses, to gain the support of our deep-green friends down south as well as goad the deep-blue contingent into making themselves look bad on TV. At one point yesterday a small truck ran into the crowd, which had spilled out onto the streets after police put up a barbed-wire barricade around the gate, seriously injuring a cameraman. Police are investigating whether or not it was on purpose.

forbiddenI went back to the gate last night to take another look, and the gate was still behind barbed wire and barriers reading “Safety First”. The politically incorrect characters had been torn off in the afternoon by a couple of workers who took hours and many tools to wrest them from the gate, though their imprint could still be seen on the stone surface. The workers had painted over the company name on the crane before the job.

That night, police and reporters still lingered on the scene, chatting and playing chess on makeshift tables by the TV trucks. Only a handful of protesters remained, however, moving a single ROC flag around in front of the wall of barbed wire and taking pictures of the empty space.

posted by Poagao at 12:20 pm  
Apr 20 2007

Primary games

Taiwan should ensure its international reputation with a show called “Who Wants to Be President?” I’m wondering if anyone does. Both parties seem to be tripping over their own feet, making colossal mistakes even though the race is still in the primary stage. Su Zheng-chang and Frank Hsieh have been at each other with such animosity that it will hard to believe they could ever share a ticket. Hsieh, in any case, has made it clear that he has chosen Yeh Chu-lan as his running mate, with the whole “Say Yes!” campaign slogan all picked out (“Hsieh-Yeh” sounds like a Taiwanese person trying to say “Say Yes”). Su has wasted no time in pointing out that he is “cleaner” than Hsieh, who has been involved in several corruption cases in Kaohsiung concerning the MRT and the city council elections. Hsieh says Su is a bad premier, and Su says he would be a better premier if the last premier (Hsieh) hadn’t left such a mess behind him.

One of the interesting things about this mess is that Su is favored by the New Tide faction of the DPP, which has historically supported every winner the DPP has had (including Chen Shui-bian, who is from the Justice Alliance faction) while Hsieh belongs to the less influential Social Welfare faction. Su has all the resources of the premiership available, yet Hsieh, who doesn’t have the experience Su has, remains more popular in the polls (Su threw a fit when the pan-green camp published polls suggesting Hsieh was more popular, and the party has passed a rule that candidates cannot publish polls in the future). Su also successfully dodged Losheng-related accusations that he did nothing to obstruct the plans to tear down the leprosarium when he was Taipei County magistrate by deciding as premiere that it should be saved. We’ll see how that works out.


The main reason for Hsieh’s popularity, which many say was exhibited in the Taipei mayoral election, is that he is simply more charismatic than Su. Another is that he panders more to the moderates and undecideds. He recently caught flack from deep greens when he suggested that he didn’t have a problem with the constitution’s China policy. I suspect he isn’t actually that moderate, but he does recognize that he needs those votes to win an election. The reason I say this is because Hsieh’s GIO minister appointment, Pasuya Yao, was a lot more aggressive about controlling the media than Su’s man Zheng Wen-tsang, who is scheduled to leave his office soon after being caught suggesting that TTV should be sold to the pro-DPP Liberty Times Group.

The way the DPP primary works, however, is 30% party vote and 70% opinion polls. Hsieh is favored to win the opinion poll, while current party Chairman Yu Shyi-kun has an advantage in the party vote, though he is last in the popular polls (being bested by Lu has to hurt). Where does this leave Su? Something tells me that Chen Shui-bian, though he would prefer to see his man Yu take over his job, he knows that Yu is not as electable, and that Su is the next best choice. Chen and Hsieh have been rivals for a long time, and I can’t see him supporting Hsieh if Su is still in the race. Chen’s influence is waning, however, so there may not be much he can do at this point. In the spirit of the tradtional DPP male/female tickets, I’m guessing that Su would most likely choose vice-premier Tsai Ying-wen as his running mate. Everyone’s waiting to see what happens in the primary. When that’s settled, many things will be able to proceed, e.g. the budget will have to be settled before a potential new premier takes office, requiring a new budget review, and a new GIO minister, presumably hand-picked by the new premier, as is the usual custom. The new powergrid will affect things like the current power struggle about who gets to control the CEC and the NCC. The opposition is trying to gain the upper hand by pushing a bill to make membership of the CEC party-proportional, rather than being entirely picked by the ruling party. The fact that the NCC’s makeup was chosen in such a fashion rankles the DPP to no end, resulting in a ruling that such a method was “unconstitutional.”

Meanwhile, back at the equally disorganized opposition camp, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng was apparently not content to just wait for Ma Ying-jeou’s corruption trial verdict, and came out a few days with a bizarre set of comments straight out of the DPP’s campaign book. He said, all but pointing to himself as he did do, that a “majority” candidate should lead Taiwan rather than a “minority” candidate (guess who that’s directed at). Imagine if Rudy Guliani said people shouldn’t vote for Obama because he was a minority (or just wait; you might not have to imagine it). In any case, it was a poor choice of words. But Ma couldn’t be graceful about it and hinted that Taiwan would be “lucky” to have a minority leader, when he should have quoted Chiang Ching-kuo and proclaimed himself Taiwanese. Which he later did. Though I have to admire the man’s pure testicular fortitude in saying he’ll run even if he’s judged guilty of corruption, I wonder how much of it is balls and how much of it is cluelessness. Perhaps we’ll find out. Similar investigations into the special funds of all four DPP hopefuls has just begun, but I can’t believe that after seeing what happened to Ma they haven’t made moves to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to them.

The KMT, fearing a guilty verdict, has moved its primary up to later this month, but the DPP is trying to push through a bill effectively barring Ma from running by making candidates found guilty in the first trial ineligible to run at all. Their only hope to pass such a bill lies with the disaffected members of the PFP, who want more autonomy in elections from the KMT.

Wang won’t participate in the primary, because Ma is still much more popular than he is, corruption allegations and all. Are there any other KMT candidates worth mentioning? There’s former Kaohsiung Mayor Wu Den-yi, who is a bit past his prime. Wu lost the position to Frank Hsieh after Hsieh accused him at the last hour of having inappropriate relations with a reporter (later proven false, but Hsieh was in power already. It’s a common political tactic here). Health concerns rule Taichung Mayor Jason Hu out. Taoyuan County Magistrate Zhu Li-lun is a rising star, popular with younger voters and might have a chance for running mate status this time around. But it seems to me that the KMT is just waiting for the trial verdict, just as the DPP is waiting to see who wins its primary. Once we have real candidates to play with, it will be another game altogether.

posted by Poagao at 3:53 am