Sunday, January 15, 2017

My Opinion: This Has Nothing to Do With Trump

I got an e-mail from a friend in the U.S. which simply said, “We are nervously awaiting the inauguration.” I replied:
You sound like there will be a coup after he speaks. I was at the inauguration of George W. Bush, both times.  We rioted in the streets. I hung out with the Black Block anarchists who turned newspaper boxes and trash cans over, threw a few through Starbucks windows, used others to block the roads where police cars were chasing us. There weren't enough of us. Most demonstrators lined the parade route and shouted at them as they drove by. Some threw eggs. The bastard got cozy in the spring, vowing revenge for his Daddy's loses in Iraq, took the summer off, and was sincerely surprised when the WTC buildings were leveled. 
That was the end for me; I knew I had to double up my activism. I became more and more involved with the IWW believing that through a grass-root unionizing of all workplaces, the peaceful revolution from corporate domination could be done. I still think that way, but most Americans sat on their asses; most of my colleagues just covered theirs as union benefits kept being fretted away. I ran for chapter leader and was obstructed by the clique of egotist liberals; they were my truest enemy because most people believed their gentile natures would guide us through. I knew they were obstructionists for something urgent that had to be forcefully attended to immediately; the Pacifica radio station,WBAI, had a coup and the political programming was re-routed. That was 2001. 
Where was Bernie Sanders in 2004? How could Americans be fooled into Obama? Thinking he was different because his skin wasn't white?  Like a woman president would be different because she wasn't a man? The Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same rusty coin. I see no hope for America as it continues its corporate fascism; I don't fear Trump; he doesn't make me nervous. He is a natural extension of corporate WASP U.S. imperialism, a filthy beacon to fascists all over the WASP world, from Kosovo to Ukraine, Germany to England. 
Any enemy of the U.S. is a friend of mine; any country that will react to any more U.S encroachment on their territory and cultures. The darkest spot is right under the lighthouse; most ignorant Americans are fooled, and the intelligent Democratic Liberals are politely fooled. This has been a long time coming. Either join the underground or exodus and help "the enemy" of the U.S. defend itself. 
      My point was it has nothing to do with Trump; the same thing would be happening if Clinton was chosen. The president is just a figurehead for deeper CIA/FBI policy of a secret agenda that is not so secret at all; starve off any chance of democracy because the people will benefit from democracy and the corporate state will suffer from it. 

US military club reopened on Yangmingshan

US military club reopened on Yangmingshan

Staff writer, with CNA

The bar, which was originally a swimming pool, at the renovated Brick Yard 33 1/3 on Taipei’s Yangmingshan is pictured after the area’s reopening on Thursday.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

The Grass Mountain Teen Club, a brick compound on Yangmingshan (陽明山) that served as a club for US soldiers and their families stationed in Taiwan from the 1950s to the 1970s, has reopened as a public space for music, food and nostalgia.
The former club, built in the 1950s and named Grass Mountain Teen Club in 1968, has been renamed the Brick Yard 33 1/3 (BY33). Combining indoor and outdoor spaces, it is a place where people can listen to vinyl records, eat food inspired by southern US cuisine and savor the atmosphere.
The project was undertaken under the Old House renaissance program launched by the Taipei City Government in 2012. Private investors were encouraged to join the project to restore “cultural properties” that had been abandoned and “revive” them by transforming them into cultural and creative spaces.
In 2014, U-Tech Media Corp won a public tender to renovate the US soldiers’ club, which consisted of red-brick buildings and two swimming pools on a nearly 3,300m2 site on a Yangmingshan hillside.
The compound, which was part of a cluster of dormitories for US military personnel stationed in Taiwan, was a key leisure site of the soldiers and their family members in the 1950s to 1970s.
At the BY33 opening ceremony on Thursday last week, U-Tech Media chairman Steve Chang (張昭焚) said the company budgeted NT$70 million (US$2.22 million) to restore the old compound, but spent NT$95 million because it wanted the renovation to be as close to its original state as possible.
Gordon Yeh (葉垂景), chairman of the Ritek Group, which founded U-Tech Media, said the company was determined to restore the buildings using their original construction techniques and it scoured the nation for builders with knowledge of traditional skills to assist in the project.
His team located the factory that produced the roof tiles used when the club was remodeled more than 30 years ago and found more than 10,000 of the same tiles still in the factory’s inventory, Yeh said.
After more than two years of construction, the club was transformed into a multipurpose complex divided into three areas: a dining room, a music room and a public bar.
There are also plenty of indoor and outdoor spaces for exhibitions and performances, according to U-Tech Media.
“We hope to attract locals, schools and other organizations,” U-Tech general manager Lo Yi-fu (羅宜富) said. “We built an exclusive space for people to listen to vinyl records and hold performances, mixing old and new music, Western and Oriental music.”
BY33 is open every day from 11am to 9pm except for Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 during the Lunar New Year holiday.
Access may be restricted when there are exclusive activities, but admission is free.

Workers demand compensation

Workers demand compensation

LOST IN TRANSLATION:A government Web site that publishes information on foreign workers who want to change employers is in Chinese, a campaigner said

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Indonesian workers protest outside New Taipei City Hall yesterday, demanding contract extensions and compensation for agency fees and lost work time.

Photo: Lai Hsiao-tung, Taipei Times

More than 100 Indonesian workers yesterday protested outside New Taipei City Hall, demanding that their contracts be extended and compensation be paid for agency fees and lost work time.
“These workers paid the equivalent of three years of agency fees, but will be sent back after working only one-and-a-half to two years,” said Chen Hsiu-lien (陳秀蓮), a Taiwan International Workers’ Association member who led the demonstration.
The workers in 2013 signed three-year contracts with Hwang Chang General Contractor, but received no salaries until more than a year-and-half later when they were hired for construction projects, such as an athletes’ village in New Taipei City’s Linkou District (林口) for this year’s Summer Universiade, she said, adding that agency fees for job placement came to more than NT$110,000 (US$3,461), about five months’ salary.
The workers are faced with the possibility of paying agency fees for a second time because of the construction company’s unwillingness to directly rehire them, she said.
Amendments made last year to the Employment Service Act (就業服務法) allow foreign workers to renew their contracts or transfer to a new employer after working for three years without having to return to their home nation.
However, foreign workers have had difficulty using the right to change employers because of language barriers and a lack of government support, Chen said.
“The government Web site that publishes information about foreign workers seeking to switch employers is in Chinese, so they cannot verify if they have been put on the Web site by their employers,” she said.
“Even if their employer has completed the paperwork, they are in effect in the hands of agencies, because they do not have time to look for work, and they do not know where and how to find employers,” she added.
She called on the government to provide incentives to employers who hire or rehire foreign workers who are already in Taiwan.

Gender gap still wide at top of businesses

Gender gap still wide at top of businesses

MIND THE GAP:The gender gap reflects a tradition of business owners passing control to their sons, with many companies run by men, with women as only the nominal head

Staff writer, with CNA
Although the percentage of women in top-level positions in Taiwanese businesses is at a record high, there is still a big gap in the ratio of male to female chief executive officers, a Ministry of Finance official said yesterday, citing ministry data.
As of the end of 2015, there were about 1.33 million companies in Taiwan, 36.1 percent of which were headed by women, the official said.
However, although the percentage of female chief executive officers was the highest in Taiwan’s history, it still represented a wide gender gap and was only a 0.5 percentage point increase from 2010, the official said.
The gender gap was most likely wider than about 28 percentage points, as in some cases women are only nominal heads of businesses that are actually run by their husbands, the official said.
In a breakdown of the various sectors, the statistics showed that about 45 percent of companies in the catering and restaurant, as well as service, industries were run by female chief executives in 2015.
In other industries in general, 60 percent of the chief executive officers were male and the figure was more than 70 percent in the construction, manufacturing and transport, as well as storage sectors, ministry data showed.
Among businesses with paid-in capital of more than NT$10 million (US$312,560), the gap between male and female chief executive officers was 49 percentage points in favor of males, while among those with paid-in capital of less than NT$100,000, the gap was 18 percentage points, the data showed.
The wide gender gap at the top of bigger companies reflected a tradition of business owners passing control to their sons rather than to their daughters, the official said.
In the case of smaller companies in the catering, restaurant and service sectors they are usually started by female entrepreneurs, the official said.

Low wages, pensions top labor unions’ concerns

Low wages, pensions top labor unions’ concerns

WORKERS’ RIGHTS:The rise of industrial unions has provided healthy competition to company unions and helped improve working conditions, a survey showed

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter
Low salaries, inadequate retirement guarantees and low organization rates are the top concerns of the nation’s company unions, a survey released yesterday by the Taiwan Labour Front showed.
Eighty percent of unions surveyed by the organization said that low salaries were a top concern, while 57 percent cited lack of adequate retirement guarantees and 38 percent cited low union organization rates.
“If we compare the results with a similar survey we conducted in 2000, there has been a huge change. Unions then were mainly worried about foreign workers, union independence and high unemployment — wages and working hours were far down the list of priorities,” Taiwan Labor and Social Policy Research Association executive director Chang Feng-yi (張烽益) said.
“This is the result of neoliberal globalization and increasing corporate powers, which have forced back salaries,” said Lin Thung-hong (林宗弘), an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology. “Since 2000, we have opened up cross-strait trade and investment, and joined the WTO, which has pounded the traditional manufacturing sector and given corporations ever greater bargaining power over wages.”
Factory closings have also led to the shuttering of many unions, contributing to a sharp drop in union organization rates, he said.
Enhancing prohibitions against illegal behavior, passing a minimum wage and reducing working hours topped policy concerns of unions in the survey, which also found that 27 percent of the unions had never negotiated a collective bargaining agreement, while only 36 percent believed the agreement they had signed was effective.
More than 70 percent of company unions said that the new industrial unions, which have become increasingly prominent since 2010 amendments to the Labor Union Act (工會法), have helped increase organization rates, with more than half stating that the new unions have provided healthy competition and helped improve labor conditions.
Kuan Shao-chun (管紹君), executive secretary of Bank SinoPac’s company union, said that industrial unions were sometimes more effective in mobilizing workers because their officials are not necessarily employed by the same company as the workers they mobilize, making them less vulnerable to pressure and cooption.
The survey was sent to all 895 company unions registered with local governments, with a response rate of 20 percent.

Group decries low pay for alternative military service

Group decries low pay for alternative military service

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter
Salaries for alternative military service in private firms should be adjusted to reflect market rates, labor advocates affiliated with the Taiwan Higher Education Union said yesterday.
“The government has the nerve to use low salaries to encourage industries to use these people and then say it is recruiting talent for them,” said Su Tzu-hsuan (蘇子軒), a member of the union’s student action committee. “This can only wreak havoc on the labor market and worsen youth poverty.”
While the Ministry of National Defense has announced plans to phase out mandatory military service in 2018, men born prior to 1994 will still be obligated to perform at least one year of alternative military service, with those in “technology” or “research” service subject to longer terms.
While ordinary alternative military service consists of work in government bureaus, technology and research alternative service allows for employment at universities and in corporations.
Employers pay a fixed fee to the National Conscription Agency, which in turn sets and pays initial wages.
The National Conscription Agency’s wages for technology service are far below prevailing market rates, including for those with a bachelor’s degree, labor advocates said.
“If you are serious about building an all-volunteer military, you cannot keep holding on to this useful and cheap labor,” youth action committee member Tzeng Fu-chuan (曾福全) said. “The government should not be in the business of using its military personnel to profit private corporations.”
While corporations pay between NT$28,000 and NT$38,000 a month to employ technology service members, these are still substantially lower than the average wage when labor insurance and other mandatory expenses are taken into account, advocates said.
While alternative service members are allowed to negotiate their salary after an initial period, restrictions on transferring reduce their bargaining power, Tzeng said.
“They cannot leave because if they do, their time served will be discounted,” he said.
Alternative service personnel also lack proper channels for appeal in the event of an accident or labor dispute, he said.
The advocates called for Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) regulations to be fully applied to alternative service members and full work-based compensation, as well as the gradual abolition of both the service and mandatory military training that is to replace conscription.

TRA wary of Alishan railway takeover

TRA wary of Alishan railway takeover

TRANSFER:The agency voiced concern over the forest railway’s financial difficulties should it assume ownership as stated in a contract it has with the Forestry Bureau

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

A train runs on the Alishan Forest Railway in an undated photograph. The Forestry Bureau on Tuesday said that the bureau has no plans to terminate the Alishan train service.

Photo courtesy of the Forestry Bureau

The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) on Tuesday said it would not take over the operation of the Alishan Forest Railway until it has sorted out its financial and asset transfer issues.
Launched in 1912, the railway was built for logging purposes, but was converted into a passenger transport system after the government banned logging in Alishan Forest in 1963.
It has since been managed by the Forestry Bureau, which outsourced the operation of the railway to a private contractor.
In April 2010, a train derailment caused by a falling tree killed five commuters and led to the termination of the contract.
The bureau later entrusted the task of operating the forest railway to the TRA, with funding provided by the bureau’s Forestry Development and Forest Building Fund (林務發展及造林基金).
A contract signed by the two government agencies stipulated that ownership of the railway was to be transferred to the TRA by Dec. 31, 2015. However, the transfer was delayed, because the railway was severely damaged by Typhoon Dujuan in September 2015.
On Tuesday, a report in the Chinese-language United Daily News claimed that the forest railway might be shut down because the Forestry Development and Forest Building Fund would soon run out of funds.
The report added that the bureau had insisted that the TRA take over the operation of the forest railway.
TRA director-general Jason Lu (鹿潔身) cited the high cost of maintaining the railway because the slopes are prone to landslides during inclement weather.
Lu said the government subsidy has to be in place before the TRA can fully take over the operation of the system, which has been logging annual operating losses of about NT$300 million (US$9.3 million).
The TRA will also need to ascertain how funding for the railway’s operation should be budgeted and ways to address the financial losses, he said.
“The TRA only assists the bureau in operating the forest railway, and it is the bureau’s job to figure out what it has to do with the Forestry Development and Forest Building Fund. [The bureau] cannot force us to take over the forest railway, because we are experiencing financial losses as well,” he said.
Bureau Deputy Director-General Yang Hung-chih (楊宏志) denied that the fund would soon run out of money, adding that the bureau has budgeted NT$6.7 billion for the fund this year, which would pay for forest-building initiatives and maintenance of forest parks nationwide.
Both agencies are negotiating issues relating to the ownership transfer, which has been rescheduled for the end of this year,
The bureau would submit a more detailed plan in March, he said.
The forest railway generated an annual revenue of NT$100 million when the bureau was in charge, with annual losses limited to NT$300 million, Yang said.
Since the TRA began operating the forest railway, annual revenue and operating losses have expanded to NT$120 million and NT$400 million respectively, he said.