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馬英九’s government is a no-gut, middle of the road, government December 30, 2011

Posted by hslu in Economics, Global Affair, Politics, Taiwan.
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馬英九’s government is a no-gut, middle of the road, government

Taiwan has been plagued by elections at many levels: they cost too much, they raised the hatred between party loyalists; the blues and the greens, and they kept the society in general on edge because of constant uncertainty in the political system.

A few months back, the current government, under 馬英九, decided to look into combining the upcoming presidential and legislator elections. Instead of deciding the outcome based on its own merit, the government chose to conduct a survey to see how popular this idea was. And to raise the bar a little further, the government conducted a press conference to make sure every voting citizen knew about this.

Well, the survey came out positive as shown by this picture from the Chinese World Journal and sure enough the elections were combined into one to be held in mid January, 2012.

Chinese has a perfect term for this kind of behavior: “牆頭草” “qiang2 tou2 cai3,” or grass on top of a wall. It bends both ways depending on the directions of the prevailing political wind.

Same can be said about 馬英九’s decision not to continue with the chemical plant in central Taiwan because he catered to the demand of the environmental group before the election. Ditto on Taiwan’s nuclear power plants.

The decision was also influenced by the decision of the opposition party which came out against both projects. I thought this was a very unwise move because it will

  • Further reduce the Taiwanese economy to a serviced-based economy for generations.
  • Continue relying on imports for necessary chemicals from foreign countries such as Singapore, and
  • Eliminate high-paying jobs which are desperately needed in a society filled with low-paying jobs such as taxi drivers and foot massagers.

It demonstrate once again that politicians such as 馬英九, have a pair of weak knees and they bend easily just like a “牆頭草.”

Air Canada – Toronto to Shanghai December 30, 2011

Posted by hslu in China, Food, Shanghai, Travel.
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American Airline and United treat their customers like a herd of cattle, especially those in the cheap section of their Pacific route flights. I don’t like them even though their prices are usually cheaper than offered by other airlines.

For our November 2011 trip to Taiwan and Shanghai, I chose Air Canada just to see what they have to offer. Their price was ~5% more than what was offered by AA and United. A two- to three-hour stopover at Toronto airport wasn’t too bad either.

The food served on Air Canada’s Pacific route was better than the junk served by AA and United and Air Canada offered free wine if you ask for it.

The flight attendants are very friendly and usually treat us low paying customers with a smiling face.

In general, I like Air Canada and I don’t mind taking it again for our future trips to Far eastern.

However, there is something about Canada to gripe about:

  1. A cheap ear phone will cost you $3 on Toronto to and from DC flights.
  2. I eat instant noodles from time to time: late night snack when the fridge is empty, too tired to cook a real meal and occasional craving for the unique taste of the semi-firm noodles.

But eating cup noodle at 37,000 feet, twice in three weeks, was a first for me on our Air Canada flighst to and back from Shanghai from Toronto.

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Although the instant noodle was nothing special to remember of and the brand was the one I will never buy, the experience was quite memorable not for the taste of the noodle or the soup but for the fact that Air Canada comes up with this ultra cheap ideal on their oriental flights.

I also did some checking about the price of the instant noodle at our local Costco and I was surprised that Air Canada even has the audacity to serve this stuff to its oriental flight customers:

       $6.75 for a case of 24 or precisely $0.28125 for a 2.5 oz cup.

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That’s a little more than a quarter per customer. Cheap!

Please, Air Canada, don’t cheapen the maple leaf with this kind of cheap stuff.

I hope I don’t have to see this in my future flights.

Merkel beat Obama December 12, 2011

Posted by hslu in Congress, Economics, Global Affair, jobs, Obama, Politics.
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The root causes of 2008 financial crisis and great recession were the greed of Wall Street and corruption by willing participates in the Congress and the White House.

With a financial crisis on hand, the United States chose to flood the market with tax money and Federal Reserve’s printing press which bailed out politicians’ bodies on the Wall Street and covered their own asses. In the process the politicians in the United States and Bernanke ignored the threat of inflation in the future, disregard the enormous financial burden on our kids and grandkids and arguably avoided a short term collapse of the financial system in the world.

In other words, Americans get used to kick the can down the road unlike what Chinese people have been taught for thousands of years: “積穀防饑 未雨綢繆,” “ji1 gu3 fang2 ji1 wei4 yu3 chou2 mou2,” which means “ save some grains for the hard times in the future” and “ fix your houses when it is not raining.”

This is the all too familiar Wall Street and American corporation mentality: our top priority is our next quarter’s results and the performance of our stock prices. We’ll worry about our long term problems when we have to in the future.

Ditto for American people in general when time was good: enjoyed life now with borrowed money, credit cards and home equity loans, so that they could have regular vacations, flat panel TVs, boats, fancy cars and big houses. They did it to show off their fancy life style, pump up their egos and satisfy their short term pleasure in life.

The disastrous results are clearly laid out in front of our eyes when things are not that rosy: near zero savings rates, high credit card debts, lost homes, foreclosed mortgages, soup lines, food stamps and welfare. Even worse, the Americans are not equipped to handle the consequences of globalization bought on by the very free trade policy that politicians are so proud of; American people are ill-prepared to compete with billions of hard working people in foreign countries, be it Chinese, Indians, Mexicans, Salvadorians, Thailand, or Koreans. In general, Americans lack the necessary education to compete in the high tech fields and Americans are lazy when competing with Mexicans and Salvadorians in low wage jobs. If you do not believe me, just look at the sorry state American’s public school system is in. And on the low wages job market, have you seen any white people cutting grass for you or washing dishes in restaurants? They choose to stay at home, watch TV, collect food stamps and use up their 99-week unemployment benefits instead.

This feel-good-now mentality is unfortunately reflected in American’s slow decline orchestrated by none other than Obama who thinks that America shouldn’t always take the lead on the world stage.

This is where Germany’s Mrs. Merkel comes in.

Germans work hard and they have their economy to prove it. They do not believe in short-term satisfaction on the back of future generations. They also believe that the financial market should be given a whack on the side of their collective head with a 2×4 so that they can be taught a lesson that they will remember. They despise countries like Greece, Spain and Italy and do not think they should use Germany people’s tax money to bail out people in these countries.

Because of this deeply rooted value system, Mrs. Merkel chose a vastly different route despite Obama’s calling right before the latest EU summit of all member countries:

“There’s a short-term crisis that has to be resolved,” Obama reminded Merkel, “to make sure that markets have confidence that Europe stands behind the euro.”
Mrs. Merkel, like some Germany officials, believed that the short-term crisis Obama referred to was actually his diminishing chance of re-election in 11 months, which will be damaged further by a prolonged recession without flooding the European economy will tax payers’ money. Mrs. Merkel and many Germans believe, not dissimilar to Chinese’s philosophy; me included, that when time is tough, one has to cut back on one’s spending and not piling on more debt for the sake of avoiding short pain, however unpleasant it may be. However, since Germany is bonded together with these countries by the common currency and a weak EU treaty which gave Mrs. Merkel little leverage to force these feel-good-now countries, including France, to do what is necessary to right the wrong for the sack of long term stability, i.e., cutting back on government spending, reducing public workers’ pension benefits, stopping the lazy life style of their citizens, giving up part of country’s solvency by allowing European commissions to exam their national budgets and adapting German’s style of governance and financial practices.
Mrs. Merkel used the threat of the imminent breakup of the Euro to force everyone in the room, including France’s Sarkozy, to adapt German’s financial practices and fiscal policies and follow Germany’s lead to whip the European countries in shape in the long run.

There is no doubt that there will be short term pain to be paid from a pending recession bought on by reduced government and private sector spending from many European countries. But Mrs. Merkel achieved one thing that no one was able to do in the past: forging the European Union into a more integrated entity which will no doubt out-perform the United States, a declining country saddled with crushing debt and the threat of inflation, in the future.

Mrs. Merkel’s German beat Obama’s America hands down. Europe nations will suffer now but American’s problem will come just about the time when Europe begins to stand up from the ashes.

But Obama is happy because Obama got his wish that America is no longer the lead nation in the world.