Monday, January 16, 2012

“You may be sad, but don’t give up.”

Tsai Ing-wen's concession speech

[Note: Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, presidential candidate for the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan lost the election to the Nationalist Party's (KMT) incumbent president Ma Ying-jeou. As I wrote two days before the election, I thought that that KMT's unparalleled wealth would be the decisive factor. I think it was, but that is for a later rehash if at all.

My dear friend, Dr. Peng Ming-min, eighty-eight years old working at the pace of a young person, created an International Committee for a Fair Election in Taiwan He sent this note today about the election: 
"One may try to find some consolation in the fact that in the past decade at every election, the number of the KMT supporters has been declining, and those of the DPP’s increasing ; if this trend continues, one day in the future the latter may take over eventually.  But we cannot forget our terrible neighbor who holds so many cards to play and manipulate (military, economy commerce, international and Taiwan’s internal politics in collusion with KMT).  When Ma wants recklessly push Taiwan into the same status as Hong Kong, can the opposition mobilize sufficient strength to apply brake against it?  We do not know. I hope Tsai will continue to lead the DPP for the next four years."   
I suggest you click on this link to Dr. Tsai's concession speech on Saturday night, even if you don't speak Chinese. As you watch her speak and the massive crowd that gathered in the rain. read the translation of her speech below.  

January 14, 2012

Thank you everyone for being here, especially in this rain. I would like to say thank you! Thank you everyone!

For our friends who are present here today, for those watching on their television sets and the Internet, good evening!

We concede and accept the decision made by the Taiwanese people. I know that many of our supporters feel heartbroken as they listen to me say this.  However I would like to congratulate President Ma.  I hope that over the next four years, he listens to the voices of the people, governs with diligence, caring equally for every citizen, and absolutely not disappoint the people’s expectations.

I understand what people are thinking at the moment. I believe that many people expected a victory today, but, although the reality was not to our satisfaction, I would like to encourage our supporters to be strong. We will continue to be strong and we will even be stronger than anyone else. We are the DPP, and when we faced our darkest times, we didn’t falter. We did not falter in the past, and we won't now.

I ask you to recall the despair of four years ago. When we wanted to climb the highest mountain, but we feared that it would be unattainable. However, we clenched our teeth and forged ahead with party unity. In these four years, step-by-step, we moved forward. This time, we just came up short of reaching the peak.

Even though these results are regrettable, we counted on the faith placed by the people in the little piggies fundraising campaign, which established the roots of a new political model, and also counted on our policy proposals for the future development of Taiwan, our key strength in this campaign.

What is most important is our power of unity, a force that cannot be ignored, one that will neither collapse nor disappear.

Please do not worry or feel despair. Taiwan cannot afford to be without an opposition voice or be without checks and balances. Even though we will not be able to achieve our ideals from a governing role in the next four years, this does not mean that the opposition will have no power.

I believe that as long as you continue to stand behind us, giving us your support and encouragement, we will have a future and will climb at last to the top of the mountain.

As party chair, I would like to offer my sincere appreciation for your support of our legislative candidates allowing us to increase the number of DPP seats in the legislature. In the future, they will speak for the people in the Legislative Yuan, placing the people’s hardships in their hearts, exerting all their efforts to raise the quality of public policy and striving to provide adequate care for the people.

The reform and transformation of the DPP will not cease. We will continue to stand by the people, especially those that are disadvantaged in our society. We will continue to stand by our policy ideals, and we will continue to insist on disassociating ourselves from corporate money and rely on small-sum donations. We will continue to forge ahead, believing that one day we will gain the trust of the majority.

Even though we gave our all in attempting to achieve our ideals, this road will take longer than expected. We can do better in the future. Facing the results of this election, the DPP will consciously carry out self-examination and continue to remain alert.

For this election result, I take full responsibility. Just a few moments ago, I announced that I will resign my position as chair of the Democratic Progressive Party. I have faith that the next chair will continue leading the DPP towards reform and transformation, will continue our forward momentum.

I personally wish to thank all of you for accompanying me on our common journey.  It has been a beautiful four years as we fought side by side. In my heart, you are not only the people who voted for me, but you are also my best companions.

Tonight, I understand that everyone must have feelings of sorrow, and if you really do feel that way, let these feelings come out. You can cry, but do not feel discouraged. You can feel sorrow, but never give up because tomorrow we must be brave just like we have been in the last four years, and fill our hearts with hope. Because we also must bravely, responsibly fight for our country and we must continue to positively fight for our Taiwan. No matter in position we hold, we must continue to love and cherish this country of ours.

To all the dear people of Taiwan: one day we will come back.  We will not give up. On this day of 2012, those who supported the DPP and me and should feel proud. Let us keep our heads up and continue to walk bravely forward with strong steps.

Thank you! My heart will always stand with the people of Taiwan.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why We Can't Wait - Memories of Dr. King

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day. It is a day to remember.

I remember when I was a pastor at age 18, a lifetime ago on a circuit of two churches west of Fort Worth. Having just completed his doctorate in theology at Boston University, Dr. King was catapulted into leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Many people in my two country churches, as well as throughout the rest of the South, said that King was a communist. I didn’t believe that but I whispered to Dr. King, seven hundred miles away, “Dr. King, I believe in what you are trying to do, but you’re going too fast. Slow down, give us whites a chance to get on board.”

Dr. King came to speak at a voter registration rally in Dallas in 1960. My ethics professor took three of us to hear him. We were just about the only whites in an auditorium of two to three thousand people. He was supposed to speak at 7:00 but didn’t actually begin until 10:00, but when he started he had us all in the palm of his hand. I have never had another experience so powerful. When it was over, the ethics professor said to me, “I’m glad we’re on the same side.” The time was soon to come when Dr. King would wonder if we were indeed on the same side.

On April 16, 1963, when he wrote his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” I was beginning to have a glimmer of understanding. But when he spoke at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 announcing his opposition to the Vietnam War, "A Time to Break Silence," I whispered again to Dr. King from my vantage point in Taiwan eight thousand miles away: “You’re right about the war, but your opposition to the war may well undermine what you’ve done on civil rights.” I whispered the same thing a few months later when he announced the beginning of the Poor People’s Campaign focusing on jobs and freedom for the poor of all races.

But thank goodness he didn’t listen to my whisperings. He was right each time. And at each stage he dragged me further out of what is now called my “comfort zone.” Today, I remember his words to white clergy in his letter from Birmingham. Finding time to re-read the letter tomorrow is not a bad observance for the day. To me, the words still sting with the ring of truth:
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
Think with me and imagine for a few minutes. If Dr. King were alive now, I wonder  

  • What would he tell us about the war in Afghanistan, and about freedoms lost in the name of fighting terrorism?
  • What would he think about government policies from the national to local levels approving budget cutting measures that routinely hurt the poorest and reward the wealthiest?
  • What would he say about the Occupy Wall Street movement? 

I think we can imagine what he might say to those who choose to sit on the sidelines uninvolved. And he would be right again.

If not the memory of Dr. King, what will it take to get us to act on what our consciences are surely telling us?  

- Milo

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Putting Lipstick on a Hog

Funding Elections in Taiwan and in the U.S.

My head and heart are in two different places today, but concerned about one issue in both places: money. 

Within a few hours as many as seventeen million voters in Taiwan will begin casting their ballots in that nation’s presidential, legislative elections and local elections. The Nationalist Party (KMT) Ma Ying-jeou is the incumbent President facing an unexpectedly strong challenge from the Democratic Progressive Party candidate Tsai (DPP) Ing-wen. Standing on the outside is the People’s First Party candidate James Soong who could be a spoiler for the KMT. 

If Ma wins, this could be the point of no return as he would move Taiwan more into the orbit of Beijing’s control. If Tsai succeeds in becoming the first woman President she faces the extraordinarily difficult task of undoing damage Ma has done in undermining the country’s independence.

In view of his performance over the past three and a half years, how could the people of Taiwan, the majority of whom repeated polls make clear have no interest in being absorbed by China, vote Ma back into office?

The answer is not too difficult to find: money! The KMT is one of the world’s (not just Taiwan’s) wealthiest political parties.  According to the KMT-run Ministry of the Interior in July, KMT income for the year stood at $121 million (U.S.) while the DPP had a relatively paltry $20 million (U.S.). Most of the KMT funds come from investments, not political contributions.  Michael Turton, a friend in Taiwan, has done a little math on these “official” figures in “KMT wealth management” and has calculated that the KMT’s income is based on investment assets of over $2 billion (U.S.).

These, of course, are only assets the KMT has chosen to make public. One may be forgiven for concluding there is much much more that is unreported. Where did the wealth come from? First, when Mao and the Chinese Communists defeated Chiang’s Nationalists and retreated to Taiwan they brought everything of monetary value that could be transported across the Straits. Second, they came from the appropriation of Japanese colonial era assets as well as seizing Taiwanese land and businesses. During the period of White Terror (1947-1987) confiscations of Taiwanese resources continued and there was almost no difference between the ruling party KMT coffers and those of the government.
And what has the KMT done with this “impossibly wealthy” golden goose?  
“The political party once held to be the world's richest was never shy about using its money to buy support. At the peak of its power in the 1990s, Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT) rewarded its members with stock options, lavished expensive gifts on journalists and opinion makers, and lured tens of thousands to political rallies and election booths with the promise of free food, hats, flags, jackets, and zou-lu-kun red envelopes stuffed with petty cash. The party even dipped into its own coffers to bolster flagging stock markets or to buy diplomatic support from impoverished nations.”
A recent poll shows that Taiwanese are aware of the disparity of the wealth of the KMT and everybody else and believe it to be unfair:
“More than 77 percent of respondents in a survey conducted by a polling company on behalf of the Zero Party Assets Alliance felt that the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) huge assets create unequal competition between political parties, the alliance told a press conference yesterday.”
National Taipei University department of public finance professor Huang Shih-hsin (黃世鑫) said the obvious:
“…as long as the KMT asset issue exists, normal democratic development in Taiwan is be impossible.”
If Dr. Tsai wins tomorrow it will be nothing short of a miracle, just as it was when Chen Shui-bien won in 2000 and 2004. 

I said at the outset that my head and heart were in two different places but concerned about one issue. Yesterday, I received a letter from U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent from Vermont, expressing concern about how democracy in this country has been undermined by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on December 10, 2010 overturning a bi-partisan election reform bill allowing corporations and billionaires to spend unlimited sums of money, without disclosure, in political campaigns.

 Sanders asked what I ask:
Will the United States survive, in any significant way, as a democracy in which ordinary people can control their future? Or, will "democracy" simply become another commodity owned and controlled by billionaires and corporations in order to serve their own purposes? Today, as a result of the absurd Citizens United Supreme Court decision,  that is exactly what they’re doing:

“Karl Rove’s American Crossroads has already pledged to spend at least $240 million in the elections of 2012. The extreme right-wing billionaire Koch brothers may be spending even more. And then there is Wall Street, the oil and coal corporations, the insurance and drug companies and the military-industrial-complex with all of their money.”

“The goal of the top 1 percent is simple. They will spend as much as it takes to elect candidates who support a right-wing corporate agenda. They will spend as much as it takes to defeat those candidates who are fighting for working families. And that’s about it!”

Sanders is proposing a Constitutional amendment, the Saving American Democracy bill, to overturn Citizens United. This amendment states that:
  1. Corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as human beings.
  2. The people have the right to regulate corporations.
  3. Corporations are prohibited from making campaign contributions.
  4. Congress and states shall have the power to set reasonable limits on election spending. 
I don't know if this amendment has any chance of passing Congress or if the States will ratify it. But we've got to do something because our democracy is at stake. The same is true of the wealth of the KMT in Taiwan. 

Instead of trying to make pretty what is inherently ugly, like putting lipstick on a hog, give Taiwan real democracy. And while we are at it, let's restore democracy here in this country.

 - Milo

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Life's Curiosities

 One of life’s greatest curiosities is death. Some are sure of what they will find on the other side of the veil that separates life from death, but I’m not one of them. Others have had “near death” experiences and believe they’ve had glimpses of the “other side.” I’m not one of those either.   And sometimes I’m curious, but not when I am confronted with the death of a friend or loved one. My experience tells me that this person is now distant from me in a way different from miles.

The death of my old friend Jon Walters was the reality I confronted at the moment I started to work on the January 1 issue of Village Life. This is the monthly newsletter I edit for High Desert Village, a non-profit group started by a group of friends three years ago to help seniors stay in their own homes safely. I was considering the content and layout when an email popped up in my box informing me of the death of Jon’s death.

Jon and I had been friends since the 1970s. After spending much of his career working on behalf of disenfranchised people in Indiana, I persuaded him to go to Alaska where he worked for eight years. He was working among the Choctaw people in Mississippi when he died suddenly the day after Christmas.

When I read the message, I was not curious about the mystery of life and death. All I felt was personal loss and the loss his family and friends were experiencing. After not being able to reach his immediate family, I talked long with one of Jon’s best and oldest friends.

I realized (again!) that life goes on, even without Jon and while the rest of us grieve. The newsletter was waiting.

“This is the New Year issue,” I said to myself. “I’ll put some wise words about the changing of the calendar.” The only problem was that I wasn’t feeling at all wise and didn’t have any ready words of wisdom.

I went on a Google search for wise words for the changing of the year. And I found a lot of them; some of them, I confess, didn’t sound very wise to me; but then my eyes fell on this poem:
Another fresh new year is here . . .Another year to live!To banish worry, doubt, and fear,To love and laugh and give!
This bright new year is given meTo live each day with zest . . .To daily grow and try to beMy highest and my best!
I have the opportunityOnce more to right some wrongs,To pray for peace, to plant a tree,And sing more joyful songs! 
William Arthur Ward (1921-1994)
 I read the twelve lines several times and then began to think they were written for me: “Another fresh new year is here...Another year to live!” It’s not another year to live for Jon, and who knows when any of us might cross that line, but for whatever days we have they are days to live! And, they are days of opportunity. What more important agenda for the year could I ask?

I knew these were the words for the cover. But who is the author, William Arthur Ward? I didn’t think I had ever heard of him, so I did another search, this one to find out who he was.

Can you imagine my shock when I found out that, in addition to learning that he was one of America’s most quoted writers of life maxims, this was the man who helped me get through college? I knew him simply as “Bill Ward.” He came to Texas Wesleyan in 1955, the year I did; but I came as a freshman and he came as Assistant to the President. He helped me find enough scholarship money and jobs to get through my first and second years.

On a day I lost a friend I found comfort from one I had forgotten. Life really is full of curiosities, isn’t it?

None of us knows the number of our days. My hope for all of us is that we seize each one “to right some wrongs, to pray for peace, to plant a tree, and sing more joyful songs!”

Happy New Year!

- Milo