Monday, 17 April 2017

Three Recent Irritants

I want to quickly write down my thoughts on three recent things in the news. 

First, a friend sent me news of the decapitation of the Yoichi Hatta statue at Wushantou reservoir the other day. Here's the Taipei Times report. I agree with the writers in their suspicion that this was the work of stupid kids in retaliation for the vandalization of Chiang Kai-shek statues elsewhere in Taiwan by college students. The question to ask is whether this kind of thing is happening now due to increasing political polarization as seen in the West? It's possible, and I have written before about the asinine function of Taiwanese politics in lionizing Hatta, whilst ignoring the legacy of those engineers responsible for Taiwan's other reservoirs (this is important: Wushantou reservoir would be nowhere near as effective as it is today without the construction of Tseng-wen reservoir between 1967 and 1973 during the martial law period). The complaint is not that Hatta doesn't deserve praise and memory for his excellent work, but that other engineers do too for their work not only at Taiwan's other reservoirs, but at other critical infrastructure projects (e.g. the massive power plant in Taichung). Yet instead of praise these men are purposefully ignored almost certainly for political reasons related to the ethnic and ideological divisions in Taiwan.  

Second, I noticed a few articles (e.g. here) arguing that should the Trump administration offer to sell F-35Bs to Taiwan then the Taiwan government should refuse. Among the arguments used to justify this was cost and lack of effectiveness and I think both of these are flawed, although the argument from cost is more serious. 
    The F-35 B is very expensive obviously, but the argument from cost was that Taiwan's Airforce would have to retire its fleet of F-16s in order to pay for the maintenance of the F-35s, and I think this indicates a misunderstanding. The point of the F-35 is to augment existing military assets by means of its' superior situational awareness capabilities, not to replace them. Funding the procurement and maintenance of the F-35 might require a reorganization of how the military is funded, for example by (long overdue) budget cuts to education and increased debt. Those possibilities were not considered, and I would think a serious budget cut to education would be a very good thing on its' own as the universities and high schools are bloated and it should be increasingly obvious that much of what they purportedly achieve can be shifted online for a fraction of the cost. 
    The argument from lack of effectiveness is that in an all-out military assault on Taiwan, China would eventually prevail by destroying not only runways but also airbases and their logistical support facilities. This is a specious argument for several reasons. First it is not specific to the F-35 but to Taiwan having any sort of airforce at all and discounts entirely all other scenarios in which Taiwan might want to deter Chinese intrusions into Taiwanese airspace short of all out war. Second, it does not take into account that runways and airbases are fairly easy to repair - the high value targets are the expensive jets themselves, not the cheap runways and office buildings. Third, the F-35 has probably the best aircraft radar in the world at the moment - the AN/APG81 -  as well as a suite of sensors that provide the pilot with a very great advantage in situational awareness and one which is communicable to other military assets such as other fighter aircraft, surface vessels, land-based missile defense systems and submarines. Instead of regarding the F-35 B as just a fancy jet capable of short take off and vertical landing, it needs instead to be seen as a force multiplier.  

The third thing I wanted to note was my yawn at the recent legislative "landmark step" of amending the Animal Protection Act to double the punishments for cruelty to domestic pets. What angers me about this is the idiocy of using legislation as symbolism to "send messages". It's fucking stupid and has nothing to do with the actual problem. The problem is a moral one which has cultural and economic ties - cruelty to cat and dogs arises from personal irresponsibility, not from a lack of legal deterrents. It was only a month or so ago that I found yet another abandoned puppy in the park and adopted her - why always me? It's either that I'm a sucker who is soft on dogs, or because I'm the only person who is willing and able to assume the responsibility of looking after these animals. A big part of the problem as to why Taiwanese mostly do not adopt stray dogs is aesthetics. They typically want either a "cute" toy breed, or they want a relatively exotic, large breed dog (e.g. a Siberian Husky, or an Irish Setter) that is unsuited to the hot and humid climate. Another aspect of the problem is the old people, because old people in Taiwan typically view dogs as dirty pests to be either eaten or regarded with fear. Yet another part of the problem is women, because - in general - women are the ones who want to get dogs, but in general they only want a cute, toy breed and aren't capable of looking after a larger, more robust and energetic Taiwanese mongrel. I could rant about this all day, but it should suffice to say that this legislative change is not going to magic the problem away and will achieve little beyond making lazy, irresponsible people feel better about themselves - that instead of taking action on their own personal powers to address this problem, they successfully lobbied the government into pretending to give a shit. It's not that laws against animal cruelty aren't necessary, it's that the problem can't be solved without a bottom-up effort that involves individual people assuming responsibility. A prediction: there will be a decline in the stray dog population in the cities, and an increase in the stray dog population in the countryside, where many of them will fall sick, get injured and run over by trucks in the middle of the night. That's what Taiwanese people do: they drive the dogs out to the mountains and abandon them because they have a fucking Narnia-like view of nature.

I am going to be busy making videos for a while between work and other responsibilities, but I need to get back to my reservoir work soon. I am nearly finished my field work, but it is already the middle of April and I've done very little since the end of last year.

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