Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Taiwan Election 2010!

I have Taiwan Election 2010 Pictures!

Also see Jenna's election coverage here.

Elections are Saturday, November 27 for the mayorships of Taiwan's five biggest municipalities, as well as a host of lesser offices. Taipei is now absolutely covered with signs for various candidates, and the streets are full of campaign workers distributing flyers to passers-by as if to say, "Here, you throw this away".

Little cartoon avatars of the candidate are pretty common, as you can see with Popeye here. If it's common in Taipei it seems to be even more common in Kaohsiung, which is full of cute little Chen Chu cartoons.

In Kaohsiung, Tainan, and Taichung the mayoral races are not expected to be especially close. DPP candidates are generally expected to win election in Kaohsiung and Tainan, and the KMT mayor is expected to be re-elected in Taichung.

That leaves Taipei and Sinbei, the latter of which is not, properly speaking, a "city", but rather the suburbs of Taipei packaged together and newly incorporated to form the new largest municipality in Taiwan.

The incumbent mayor of Taipei is Hau Long-bin, seen here in improbable clothing on the side of a Taipei City bus (if I'm reading the Chinese correctly, it's about Hau's tireless efforts to prevent flooding).

Here's Hau with a local City Council candidate. It's common on election posters for local, lesser-known candidates to pose with a much more prominent member of the same party.

Hau's opponent is Su Tseng-chang of the DPP. It's universally believed that Su's real goal is to be elected president (he unsuccessfully campaigned for the DPP's presidential nomination in 2008), and many go so far as to say he entered the Taipei mayoral race expecting to lose, hoping the publicity and campaign organization would give him a stronger platform from which to challenge Ma in 2012.

If that's so, it looks likely to backfire for him. A year ago, nobody thought Hau's numbers would be as weak as they are now. Su looks very likely to actually topple Hau, which will put him in the position of either having to scuttle his 2012 ambitions or going back on his promise to serve out his term if elected. (I'm not certain, but I believe he'd be legally obligated to resign as mayor if he ran for president.)

Local candidate Zhou Ni-an's truck there has lots of political imagery. That's not only Su Tseng-chang in the right background, but former president Lee Teng-hui on the left. He's the former KMT president who has since turned his back on his former party and actively campaigns against it every time election season rolls around. On the right there's a pun, which is pretty common on election posters; it says something like "Wishing you well," which sounds like Zhou's name.

I don't live in the not-yet-existing Sinbei City, but as it comprises most of Taipei's suburbs, plenty of Taipei city buses whose routes are partly in Sinbei are festooned with Sinbei campaign advertising.

On the left is Sinbei mayoral candidate Chu Li-luan; on the right is a local candidate for, I believe, city councilor. They're trying so hard to convince us that they're cool, with their "MiB" getup.

Chu, universally referred to in the English-language media by his Anglo name Eric, is considered the KMT young handsome rising star right now. If you asked Taiwanese people to predict the likely KMT presidential nominee in 2016, you'd hear Chu's name more than any other.

Tsai Ing-wen is the chairwoman of the DPP and Chu's opponent for mayor of Sinbei. She's also generally thought to be planning to challenge Ma in the 2012 election, which means the DPP will be in an interesting position if Tsai and Su both win their respective elections.

I'll probably make another election-themed post in a couple of days once we know more of the fate of Mr. Hau, Mr. Su, Mr. Chu, and Ms. Tsai.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The DC Metro

From the Washington Post: Commuter describes harrowing climb on Metro escalator, as he found himself climbing up a stopped escalator as the only way to exit Tenleytown station:

Murphy, 51, arrived on a train from his job downtown with the American Sociological Association about 4:10 p.m. and found that two of the three escalators at the Tenleytown exit were out of service. The only functioning escalator was carrying customers down.

A bit miffed but not surprised, Murphy, together with at least four other people, selected his route - the closest halted escalator - and started trudging up the long metal path. There were no warning signs or barricades at the bottom, and as a result they decided not to rope together for the climb.

Huffing and puffing, they neared the top, Murphy recalled, only to be horrified at the obstacle that lay ahead.

"Imagine our shock to find a giant HOLE where several steps should have been!" Murphy wrote in an e-mail.
It gets better:

Once over the crevasse, the group huddled, catching their breath, and a Metro employee approached.

Murphy and other customers told her of their ordeal, but she was cold and unsympathetic, he said. "All she really said is, 'You shouldn't be there.' She said it over and over," Murphy said. The businessman also tried to get through to her, but the Metro employee appeared unfazed. "She had her line and she kept repeating it," Murphy said.

I've spent about six years of my life, total, living car-less in DC and taking the Metro on a near-daily basis. Sadly, there's nothing in this article that I find difficult to believe.

To leave the station, one either had to take a cramped elevator (which might well have been out of service) or climb up a stopped escalator? Unfortunately, that's just about par for the course. Taking the Metro regularly gave me countless chances to thank Fate I was healthy and able-bodied.

The stalled escalator turned out to have a great big HOLE in it that was invisible from the lower level? That never happened to me, but really I can't say I'm terribly surprised.

But, for me, the real gem of this story, the icing on the cake, the final indignity for these commuters, was the attitude of the station staff after the commuters had nearly gotten themselves killed trying to get the hell out of the station.

I could deal better with a subway system that suffered from frequent delays, broken escalators, broken elevators, and various other annoyances if it were staffed by personnel who displayed even the slightest understanding that the people who rode their trains were actual human beings.

I feel like sympathy and empathy are sucked out of Metro employees as an administrative policy. My mother says she was in a DC Metro station once and she saw a bunch of tourists ask a janitor for directions. The janitor was friendly and he helped them out, only to then be chastised by an actual Metro employee. Apparently, as a janitor, he was not supposed to interact with the Metro riders.

My own favorite Metro employee experience came when I lived on Columbia Pike. One cold evening I was waiting for a bus at the bus stop adjacent to Pentagon station. A woman asked an employee about the bus schedules. She sounded a bit peeved; apparently she'd been waiting for over half an hour for a bus up Columbia Pike. The employee spoke to her in a soothing voice. Clearly he knew how to deal with an irate customer. In a tone that said he knew she was exaggerating but he understood her feelings anyway, he reminded her that buses up Columbia Pike departed every fifteen minutes, and this evening was no exception.

I'd been there for longer than the woman. I'd been there for about forty-five minutes. THERE HADN'T BEEN ANY GODDAMNED BUS.

The woman didn't pursue the matter any further. I still regret that I didn't confront the station employee; chalk it up to my own non-confrontational nature.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Republican Party Loses in 2010 Elections

WASHINGTON - Democrats expressed joy and relief this morning as they emerged from their bunkers in the nation's capital to realize that the long-feared Republican offensive of November 2, 2010 had failed completely.

The numbers hinted at the full extent of the Democrats' victory: in the 435-member House, it was estimated that possibly as many as 195 Democrats, enough to fill between one third and one half of the chamber, were still in power. Even more impressively, subsequent investigations revealed that all of the several dozen Democrats who had held seats in Congress, but were dislodged from it on November 2, were still alive.

The party confirmed late Wednesday morning that not a single Democrat had perished. Tears of relief were observed among party faithful who had been terrified by Republican promises to exterminate Congressional Democrats and sterilize their children, bringing an end to each of the 255 individual genetic lineages among the Democrats of the 111th House.

Efforts to name Rand Paul as Most Honored Philosopher-Mentor failed; Mr. Paul found himself unable to secure anything more than a Senate seat. Similarly, Pat Toomey was unable to install himself as His Excellency the Keeper of the Grand Treasury, which would have entitled him to stroll about central Washington wearing a suit of pure woven gold. Instead, he will also have to content himself with a simple Senate seat.

Threats to catapult Russ Feingold into the searing heat of the Sun came to nought, as did pledges to reduce Blanche Lincoln to a slowly expanding cloud of elementary particles in interstellar space. Both politicians were, in fact, still alive as of Wednesday morning.

Republican Chairman Michael Steele gamely tried to put a positive spin on his party's losses, but general opinion was that his message was diluted as a result of the the scene that immediately followed, in which furious Tea Party chief Sarah Palin hurled henchwomen Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle into a shark tank. They were both torn to shreds in a bloody feeding frenzy as punishment for their failures. Another minion, Joe Miller, is confined to a tiny metal cage in a remote part of Alaska. Senior officials are said to be carefully reviewing his recent performance; if they judge him a failure, he will be fed to polar bears.

President Barack Obama emerged from his bunker seventeen miles below Washington DC at about nine o'clock Wednesday morning. "We ceded some ground," he said, blinking in the sunlight as he addressed reporters. "Our party does not control as many seats in Congress as it did last week. But in the future, when times may be dark for our party, we will look back on November 2, 2010. And we will remember it fondly as the day when our opponents, the Republicans, sought a glorious victory but instead met only spectacular failure."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Civility: Some Rambling Thoughts

So I’m at a loss about what we’re supposed to do in the world according to Jon Stewart. Hey, all you people working for gay and lesbian equality, all you women asking for equal pay, all you workers trying to unionize, all you peaceniks trying to end the war in Afghanistan, all you nurses and doctors and clinic workers trying to maintain reproductive freedom and keep women alive, all you teachers trying to teach science and history without censorship, all you citizens trying to build a rational health care policy, all you scientists and doctors who want our country to progress in medical research, all you damned secularists who want to keep religion out of our schools and government, hey, hey, HEY, you! Tone it down. Quit making such a fuss. You’re too loud. Shush. You’re as crazy as the teabaggers if you think your principles are worth fighting for.
That's Pharyngula on the message of the Stewart/Colbert rally. Zunguzungu has similar thoughts here and here.

I agree ninety percent, but I think I half-disagree as well. That implies a total of a hundred and forty percent. I'm weird like that.

What am I trying to say? Well, let's look at the Tea Party brand. I don't agree with what the Tea Party stands for, but I don't think it's necessarily racist at its heart either. But it's impossible to deny a lot of loud people in the movement say a lot of really, truly racist things.

In the past I've wondered why the most prominent promoters of the Tea Party brand haven't loudly spoken out against this kind of moronic tomfoolery. Wouldn't that be leadership? But then (this is going to sound a little conspiracy theory-esque) I realized to just what extent the Tea Party brand was promoting the idea among Tea Partiers that they're looked down upon by elitist snobs. Tea Partiers are condescended to. Not understood. Not listened to. Oppressed. So it makes sense to get liberals to believe that Tea Partiers = Bigots and Morons. The better to encourage Tea Partiers to go into defensive formation and support Tea Party candidates all the harder.

If I had to summarize that on a bumper sticker or protest sign:

If you think your political opponents condescend to you, you'll enter a defensive formation. Defensive formations cause echo chambers. Echo chambers cause whacked-out beliefs. I wonder if climate change denialism would be so popular in the United States if not for the fact that it's big dumb liberals who are telling denialists climate change is something they need to be concerned about. Some people believe what they believe chiefly to differentiate themselves from segments of the population, real or imagined, that they hate and don't want to identify with.

I'm not an idealist. I don't want us all to join hands and sing Kumbaya. I like to think I'm pragmatic. And getting people to calm the hell down and talk in civil voices to each other is a big part of that pragmatism.