Planned Workouts and scheduled races

Every Wednesday: Bigfoot Cycle Workout (Dali) 5:15 am
Every Saturday: Bigfoot Swim Workout (Dali) 6:00 am

8/28 Vision Bigfoot Duathlon (Qingshui) 8:00 am
9/4 Taiwan P.E. University Cup 5000m 4:00 pm
10/1 Beauty of Taidong Triathlon (Olympic Distance) 8:00 am
10/30 Gaomei Wetland Marathon (Qingshui) - (Marathon distance) 6:00 am
11/5 NeverStop West Coast Bike Race (200km) 5:00 am *
11/13 Taoyuan National Marathon (Marathon distance) - TBA 11/20 Mizono Marathon Relay
12/18 Fubon Taipei Marathon (Marathon distance) 7:00 am (Boston Marathon qualifying attempt)

* reconsidering the NeverStop race due to the date change to November, which would result in four race weekends (perhaps five if the Supau Cup is on 11/27) in a row.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lee Indicted

Yesterday, Taipei prosecutors dropped a bombshell; they indicted former president Lee Tung-Hui on charges of graft and corruption. Lee was president of Taiwan from 1988 to 2000 and ushered in democracy to the island-country with legislative elections in 1992 and the first direct presidential election in 1996, which he won despite (or perhaps because of) Chinese missile threats. He was kicked out of the KMT shortly after leaving office and has been of the leaders the movement to formalize Taiwan’s already de facto independence.

Over the past few years, we have seen the apparatus of the state used against the opposition. With the unfair trial against former President Chen Shui-bien which fell well short of international standards and may even have violated Taiwanese law and prosecutions of local DPP officials, the already unfair deck against the DPP is being stacked even further. The thinly veiled attack against DPP presidential nominee Tsai Ing-Wen through this current indictment of Lee has not gone unnoticed.

Tsai herself has thus far shown herself to be clean. She has taken the moral high road on issues of import to Taiwanese, including the controversial 18% preferential interest rate for former public officials and employees. Legislator Chiu Yi was even burned with his false claims that she did not give up the preferential rate. Now, Chiu and others are making links between Lee and Tsai from the time the latter served in the administration.

This bears close watching. There are many instances in recent memory of leaders and ruling parties, while maintaining the façade of democratic institutions, have made it impossible for the opposition to compete in fair elections. I would not be surprised to see further attacks in the coming months, especially on opposition media. Stay tuned.

Lightning strikes, World Cup, and the DPRK

Now, we all make excuses. "The dog ate my homework" is probably almost as old as the world's oldest profession. The latest excuse to enter the lexicon is as original as it is bizarre.

The FIFA Women's World Cup is ongoing in Germany. The USA defeated North Korea in each sides first match by a score of 2-0. Following the match, the coach of the North Korean team had a highly original, though hardly believable, excuse for the loss. Lightning struck as many of five of their players.

Yes, lightning struck five of their players, sending them to the hospital. Of course, they didn't mention this until after the loss and given the secretive nature of the state, we will never be able to verify its accuracy. However, this is evidence that as much as we love to redicule North Korea, on this case, they get an "A" for originality.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

North Korea to chair UN disarmament panel?

Excuse me? The same DPRK (North Korea) who openly flouts the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is the new chair of the United Nations Conference on (Nuclear) Disarmanent. How much sense does this make? Now, while the United Nations has done many thing to help people around the world, politically, it is just an absolute joke. Bad enough that it does not admit Taiwan as a member, but it has long become a place that coddles dictators. It should also be noted that the DPRK was congratulated by the likes of China, Burma and Iran. Yep, a who's who of responsible members of the international community, to be sure.

China and Her Friends

Of course you know the maxim that you judge someone my the friends that they keep. Well, shouldn't we also judge the governments of states by the friends that they keep? Of course, with the visit of Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, China's choice of friends once again comes under the spotlight. Al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity relating to activities in the region of Darfur. However, we should all remember that this is not China's only good friend.

Remember, China's other good friends include the likes of the DPRK (North Korea), Burma (Myanmar - the state that denied permission for outsiders to help people suffering from a devastating cyclone), Pakistan (yeah, the state that harbored Osama bin Laden), Iran (who wants to wipe Israel off the map), Zimbabwe (Mugabe having run that country into the ground after driving white farmers out of the country), Cuba and Venezuela (you know, that Chavez guy who has expropriated private property and shut down the opposition). Those are China's best friends. Yes China, we ARE judging you by the friends that you keep.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Beijing is the problem, not Taipei

After reading a news article in the Taipei Times last week about President Ma’s response to a paper written by Tsinghua University professor Chu Shulong (楚樹龍)for the Brookings Institution, I had to look up the paper and read it for myself. On one hand, I must commend Dr. Chu for doing something most other Chinese scholars have tremendous difficulty with, that being thinking outside tbe box. In my years dealing with this issue since graduate school, I have time and again been at loggerheads with Chinese. However, he is still severely constrained by the fact that, being a professor at a Chinese university, he is unable to take an honest and frank look at the most important question that must be addressed in any discussion in the relationship between China and Taiwan: that being whether or not China has any legal claim to Taiwan.

This essay will consist of responses to some specific points in Dr. Chu’s paper and will conclude with a brief explanation of why China does not, in fact, have a legal and legitimate claim to Taiwan and its associated islands.

… “The Academic Dialogue series is intended to help the governments and societies of Mainland China and Taiwan to locate the problems, concerns, demands, and misunderstandings of the two sides across the Strait, (sic) in order to improve the communication, stabilization, and progress in cross-Strait relations.”


The overwhelming majority of the problems in this arena comes from the west side of the Taiwan Strait. First of all, Taiwan’s society in general is far more open than Taiwan’s is. To be fair, China has come a long way in many areas, but not in terms of being able to openly and frankly discuss matters of a historical and/or political nature. In this regard, Taiwan is far more freewheeling. Taiwanese can get away with criticism that would land a Chinese person in jail.

Also, it is the Chinese side that blocks many websites on the Taiwan side from the view of the Chinese populace, including Taiwanese governmental sites, news sites, blogs and social networking sites commonly used by young people in Taiwan. Of course, the concern from Beijing could very easily be that opening up these sites to the eyes of the Chinese would bring the realization to people inside China that the majority of Taiwanese, especially amongst its young, have no desire to have a political union with our neighbors to the west.

It is also well known that it is Beijing that is issuing all of the threats. It is Beijing that launched missiles in 1996 to intimidate Taiwanese voters prior to our first presidential election. It is Beijing that is targeting more than one thousand missiles. It is the Chinese army that conducts drills to simulate an invasion of Taiwan. Taiwan is not doing any of these things. Taiwan has no designs on China or its territory. The true problem here is Beijing, not Taipei.

“…the requirement that tourist trips take place in groups was one of the problems…”
(referring to the fact that, until this week, Chinese tourists coming to Taiwan were required to be in tour groups)

It must be understood that Chinese tourists in Taiwan is a sensitive issue and thus many in Taiwan support reasonable restrictions on Chinese tourists. It must be remembered that China’s government claims the entire country of Taiwan as its own territory, so Chinese tourists are suspect by many. There is also the behavior of Chinese tourists here. Many Taiwanese have become disgusted by the rude behavior of many tourists once they are here. I have been witness to some of this behavior myself. And while Dr. Chu downplays the issue, there already is a problem with illegal Chinese immigration in Taiwan. Restrictions put in place are with the aim of reducing the risk of further illegal Chinese immigrants remaining in Taiwan.

“One of those ‘political issues’ is the very concept of ‘political talks’ between the Mainland and Taiwan. Mainland participants have tried hard to explain why political talks are necessary, the importance of the talks in ‘normalizing’ cross-Strait relations…”


During the administrations of both Lee Tung-hui and Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan desired to talk to China. It was the Chinese side who balked initially, and then imposed pre-conditions that were not acceptable to President Chen. The notion that Taiwan must accept the idea that it is a part of China is opposed by most of the people in Taiwan. Typically, the goal in talks is to come to a compromise, but if Taiwan gives up on the key issue as a condition of talks, what is the use of compromise?

“…the Mainland side has to rely on military deployment to some degree, to deter possible Taiwan movement toward the (sic) independence, especially is a pro-independence force such as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) comes to power in Taiwan in the future. Besides, the Mainland participants try to convey to the Taiwan side that the Mainland military deployment along its co(a)st (sic) is no longer focusing on Taiwan, but increasingly goes beyond Taiwan and counters growing American military activities in the Western Pacific, which are certainly a threat to China’s national security.”


China’s military build-up, Anti-Succession (sic) Law and insistence that Taiwan agrees to its pre-conditions only proves that China is not the sincere party. The reality is that international law does not support China’s claim to Taiwan and its surrounding islands. Also, it is the Chinese military that is a national security threat to many of its neighbors. Japan, South Korea, Viet Nam, the Philippines, Indonesia in addition to Taiwan are all wary of China based on its actions, along with the actions of its proxy in the DPRK. U.S. action in the area is in response to protecting its friends and allies in the region. The U.S. conducted exercises with South Korea in response to aggression against the latter by the DPRK, a state who receives material and political/diplomatic support from the government in Beijing. China has caused increasing angst in the South China Sea in the territorial waters and EEZs of Viet Nam, the Philippines and Indonesia. It is clear that it is China and its friends that are the threat to the national security of other states in the region, including, of course, Taiwan.

“If the DPP regains power next year, the impact on cross-Strait relations and the ‘normalization process’ between the two sides would be fundamental and significant.”


Tsai Ing-wen, the DPP presidential nominee, has repeatedly said that she supports engagement with China. However, what she and the rest of the DPP reject are China’s unreasonable pre-conditions. The only way there will ever be normalized relations between Beijing and Taipei will be when Beijing realizes that Taiwan is not part of China and that Taiwan’s people have no desire to be a part of China.

“The Mainland side insists that the ‘One China Principle” and “the 1992 Consensus” form the necessary foundation and pre-condition for official contact, dialogue, and improvement of cross-Taiwan Strait relations in the past, today, and in the future.”


The problem is that the existence of the so-called “1992 Consensus” is denied by people in Taiwan who were in a position to know about discussions between the two sides in 1992. Furthermore, Taiwan’s government was not yet elective, thus it can be said that it did not represent the will of Taiwan’s people. The Chinese side has to understand that Taiwan today is a democracy and that the government needs to reflect the will of the people. The reality is that Taiwan’s people do not accept the premises of the so-called Consensus.

“Therefore, if the DPP wins the election in Taiwan next year, cross-Strait relations may come to a standstill again, even if the confrontation of a few years ago may not resume.”


Once again, this would be because the Chinese side calls off talks or imposes unacceptable pre-conditions to those talks. It is incumbent on Beijing to drop its pre-conditions for plausible talks to progress.

“It will certainly not progress to reunification (sic) until far into the future.”


The Chinese side needs to realize that a large majority of Taiwan’s people have no desire for unification with China. And with the passage of time, that majority grows ever larger.

“Only after the 2005 talks and joint statement by the KMT and the Communist Party of China (CPC) about cross-strait (sic) relations, (sic) did the Mainland begin to agree to talks, (sic) and even call for them itself.


You, of course, fail to note that in 2005 the KMT was not the governing party in Taiwan, the DPP was. The KMT did not represent Taiwan at that time. And once again, Beijing’s calls were with pre-conditions that are not acceptable to most Taiwanese people.

“Elections in the past twenty year indicate that the so-called Pan Blue, Pan-Green and the Middle (sic) each has roughly one-third of (sic) support on major political issues in Taiwan, including on cross-Strait relations.”


This is an over-simplification. Yes, in general this is indicative of party support in Taiwan. However, if you think only one-third regard Taiwan as a separate country, you really have a problem in China. Nearly the entire “middle” already regards Taiwan as separate from China and many light-Blues also agree. Most people speak of living in “Taiwan” (臺灣), not in “China” (中國) or the “Republic of China” (中華民國). This is a reality of the everyday language of most in Taiwan and is indicative of the mindset of the people.

“Therefore, the DPP would continue its basic line on Taiwan independence and opposition to anything related to Mainland China (feng zhong bi fan), including evening welcoming pandas from Mainland China to zoos in Taiwan…”


Well, of course the DPP will continue its line on independence. This is a basic right of Taiwan’s people. And as for the pandas, you seem to be ignoring the basic reasons for that opposition. One regards the names of the pandas, which when translated means “unify”, which is offensive to many in Taiwan. Another relates to the fact that China refused to file paperwork with relevant agencies related to the transport of endangered animals from one state to another state.

“…even violent approaches to carry out their strategies and policies, including physically beating the Mainland officials…”


It is not a policy of the DPP to use violence against Mainland officials. There was an unfortunate incident in Tainan, but the nature of that is in dispute and is not as clear an act of violence as many would like to portray it as.

--

It is clear that the problems in the relationship between the two comes from the Chinese side. It stems from the fact that China fails to recognize that Taiwan and its people have legitimate rights in the international community. China has no legal claim to the island. Qing China, the prior sovereign, signed away its rights to Taiwan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895. It is a clear principle of international law, based on a long history of state practice, that the only way territory can be transferred from one state to another state is through a signed, ratified, and executed treaty. The post-war treaty, the San Francisco Peace Treaty (signed in 1951, ratified and executed in 1952) provided no mechanism for a transfer to Chinese sovereignty. Japan waives its own claim to the island, but there is no transfer as required under international law for China to claim sovereignty. Thus, the Taiwanese people and only the Taiwanese people have the right to chart Taiwan’s future. It is in the interest of China to recognize this and accept the fact that Taiwan is not a part of China and that Taiwan’s people have no desire to be a part of China. Most of Taiwan’s people of all political stripes want to have good, friendly, and mutually beneficial relations with China. However, it must be a relationship based on mutual respect and equality.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Obama Should Be Impeached, but Won't Be

In President Barack Obama's more than three years in office, he has had his own share of controversial decisions. From the to handling the border; IMF funding with a controversial signing statement to missile defense, Obama has made decisions that has caused many on the other side of the aisle to wince. However, find a president who has not made such decisions and I will show you a president who is not doing his job. One of the Founding Fathers himself, Thomas Jefferson, made a very controversial stretch of the Constitution and his own core beliefs when he signed a treaty with France by which a vast territory known as Louisiana came into American possession. Looking back at that, we all know now that it turned out pretty well for the United States.

However, now we have what is arguably the most controversial decision of the Obama presidency; that being the current involvement in Libya. The Constitution of the United States clearly gives the power to declare war to the Congress. Article 1 Section 8 Clause 11 gives Congress the power, "To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water." Well, Letters of Marque are clearly antiquated today, but it makes it clear that Congress and only Congress may commit the United States to any form of military hostilities. At the same time, the Constitution also grants the President the responsibility to be the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Article 2 Section 2 Clause 1 reads, 'The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment." The Constitution by design gives Congress the power to authorize the use of the military while it gives the President the responsibility to lead it once its use has been authorized.

The War Powers Act

The Congress of the United States, in meeting its responsibilities under the Constitution while also recognizing the changing nature of the world, passed the War Powers Act during the Viet Nam Conflict in 1973. This Act was vetoed by President Nixon, but the veto was overridden by supermajorities in each House of Congress. This outlined the authority the president has to use the military in times of emergency for a short period of time. This Act, which while every president since Nixon has denied its Constitutionality, is a law that the president is obligated to enforce, gives the President sixty days to gain the approval of Congress for a military action and a further thirty days to withdraw if it is not granted. As Senator, Obama endorsed the provisions of the Act by stating that the President has no authority to use the military unilaterally unless the security of the nation under imminent threat. Libya poses no imminent threat to the United States. Furthermore, there has been no Congressional approval for the Libya action and the ninety-day deadline has now expired.

Hostilities?

While not denying the validity and Constitutionality of the Act, President Obama is now saying that it does not apply to Libya as the United States is merely acting in a support role through refueling, reconnaissance and the like. As such, according to the President, this does not amount to hostilities and thus the act is inapplicable. However, one has to wonder if such an argument actually rings true to Americans. After all, the United States invaded and overthrew the Taliban government of Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. Afghanistan did not attack the United States; al Qaeda did. Afghanistan was merely aiding and harboring them. So, to use Obama's logic, the Taliban was not engaged in hostilities against the U.S. and there was no legitimate reason to attack them.

Were Iran to attack the United States homeland with logistical support from, say, Cuba and Venezuela, do you think Americans would accept the argument that Cuba and Venezuela were not engaged in hostilities against the United States even though it merely supported Iranian actions rather than actually engaged in direct attacks? Of course not. Americans would, quite justifiably, call for the heads of Castro and Chavez to be on the same platter as Ahmadinejad's.

With this in mind, do you think for one minute that the government of Libya, as reprehensible and illegitimate as it is, does not consider U.S. logistical support as engaging in hostilities against that country?

Anyone who takes a look at this situation with an open mind must come to the conclusion that the President is in violation of the War Powers Act. This is a violation of his Oath of Office where he swore to, "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." That Constitution gives the Congress the right to pass laws, including the law that President Obama is currently violating. This is clearly an impeachable offense.

While I personally agree in principle with the policy the President is engaged in presently in Libya -- and in fact, the U.S. should have been doing something like this in the 1980s -- this must be done in accordance with the rule of law. Following the rule of law supersedes any desired policy goals. How can we call on other governments to adhere to the rule of law when the president of the United States is unable to? Given that he is in violation of the law respecting the use of military force and to put forward an example to the rest of the world the commitment of the United States to the rule of law, President Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. must be impeached.

Obama Won't Be Impeached

But he won't be. Congress is likely to use every weapon at its disposal to curtail the actions of the President, but they will all fall short of impeachment. There is still an ugly taste among both politicians and the American public following the Clinton impeachment in the 1998. There was only one other impeachment in the history of the U.S. presidency; that in 1868 when President Andrew Johnson was impeached and fell only one vote short of conviction in the Senate. Both prior incidents of impeachment were clearly partisan in nature and though there is strong legal justification for impeachment in this case, the abuse of the procedure in the past has given it partisan feel that just won't sit well in the current political climate.

It is also a reality that this situation is causing a split in both major political parties. While some Republicans support the policy while many others believe it is misguided and lacks direction. Similarly, many Democrats have long supported the use of the military for humanitarian purposes and of course they wish to protect their president, however there are others who are upset at this executive usurpation of what is clearly a legislative power.

For his part, President Obama does have some political capital to risk in the aftermath of the successful operation to kill Osama bin Laden. He is clearly putting that on the line here in a gamble that, if successful, can be carried into the election cycle next year.

Republican leaders are watching closely. They clearly feel that this is an overreach by the President with no clear goals and this can work in their favor next year in the election cycle. Even if Qadhafi is ousted from Libya, there is no guarantee that he will be replaced by a democratic regime. If Libya turns out to be a mess, this can be used against the President for not having a clear plan.

Similarly, Democrats who support the action are convinced that a successful resolution in Libya will bolster their course two years after the history-making shellacking they took at the mid-term elections last year.

Both sides are taking a political gamble. The result of the action in Libya has the capability to shake up both the Presidential race as well as the Congressional numbers depending on how it turns out. The Republicans feel that they can gain further momentum while the Democrats feel that they can regain the initiative. Either way, this suits political pundits and commentators just fine.

note: This was originally prepared for the Yahoo! Contributors Network, but after six days of no response, I didn't want to let this languish any longer.

Miaoli Mountain Mania




You know, and I have said this many times, Taiwan has so many beautiful places to go, visit, and see - if you get outside of the cities. Taiwanese cities are pretty blah, but get into the mountains and it is almost paradise on earth.

Yesterday, I rode on my bicycle with a couple of guys from Taichung to Miaoli County and back. We rode around the Mingde Resevoir before returning to Taichung. This was an unusual ride for me as it wasn't really a training ride, and what I mean by that is that I wasn't riding with guys who were working to make this fast or for me a solo ride where I was riding a time trial pace. It was a leisurely ride with a couple of other guys and we just wanted to enjoy the ride, the scenery around us and one another's company.



We picked up Taiwan route three in Dongshi District and headed up into Miaoli County. Route three is generally much more picturesque than other major roadways in central Taiwan. We were surrounded by mountains, resulting in some climbing throughout the morning. It also resulted in some beautiful scenery, seeing the mountains in the background with clouds remaining from a typhoon that had just passed by the day before left for some stunning visual images. We also met and chatted with a few people at a local Family Mart where we stopped for supplies. After a morning of riding up route 3, it was time for the real climbing work of the day.




Route three brought us to one of the many routes that cross from the major north-south highways. We crossed on route 126, a picturesque, mountainous route north of the Mingde Resevoir from Shitan down into Touwu, north of Miaoli City. It was also the same road that we used for a duathlon last year in Miaoli, though we came in the opposite direction. Of course, this ride was very different in that it was far more leisurely, allowing me to enjoy the natural surroundings and the fresh air. We saw many butterflies and birds throughout the road. I even saw a squirrel playing in the trees near the top of the ride. It was a thoroughly enjoyable ride which was in start contrast to the last time I rode on that road.







Once we reached Miaoli City, we found a small noodle shop where we had wonderful fried noodles. I got myself a plate of mutton fried noodles. I was surprised both by the size of the plate and the amount of meat included. And then, I was very pleased with the taste of the noodles. They were very well prepared with a relatively low amount of oil. They also put some pepper on it to add just right right amount of flavor. Great place. I hope I can remember where it was so I can return some day.




We then made our way back to Taichung. By the time I got back, I had totalled more than 150 kilometers. While it was slower than I would normally cover that distance, I had the chance to enjoy some of Taiwan's natural beauty and have the companionship of a couple of nice guys who in many ways are similar to me in that both have children with local mothers. Despite our other differences in beliefs and lifestyle, that one fact, along with the bikes, gives us something that can always create a bond.


I have a message for my Taiwanese friends. Get out of the cities. Enjoy the beautiful scenery that nature has blessed this beautiful island country with. There is so much to see.

All photos curtesy of Michael Turton