Saturday, January 26, 2008

In the U.S. south, is Canadian a new racial slur?

So Canadians are the other, eh? I guess that's better than being identified as a peer by the stupid crackers that came up with the term.

In the U.S. south, is Canadian a new racial slur?
Graeme Hamilton, National Post Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008

It was a routine e-mail from the boss sent to congratulate a junior prosecutor in Houston, Tex., who had won manslaughter convictions against an intoxicated driver.

"He convicted Mr. Sosa of a double intoxication manslaughter, got a weak jury to give him 12 years in each, and then convinced Judge Wallace to stack the sentences," Harris County assistant district attorney Mike Trent wrote in an office-wide memo. Then came the odd part: "He overcame a subversively good defence by Matt Hennessey that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant and forced them to do the right thing."

The e-mail was sent in 2003 but came to light only this month as part of an unrelated controversy with his office, forcing Mr. Trent to defend himself against accusations of bigotry -- not because he offended the people of Canada, but because "Canadian" has apparently become a code word for blacks among American racists.

"There is a double meaning to that word and I didn't know it. I was horrified when I learned what it was, and I immediately addressed the issue with the people who brought it up," Mr. Trent told a local Fox News reporter in a recent interview.

"I'd never heard of Canadian being used as a term for a black person or for a racial slur," he said.

"If I had, I would never send that out in an office-wide e-mail that's going to go to people who are going to be offended if they recognize it as such. That would be crazy.... I'm not a racist. I'm not a bigot," Mr. Trent said.

Mark Vinson, who was a chief prosecutor in the Harris County office at the time, said he was puzzled by the reference to Canadians when he got the e-mail but was too busy to give it much thought. Then some colleagues informed him about the slang meaning of Canadian, and he felt crushed.

"So much has been accomplished in terms of equal opportunities, and the office had a super reputation," Mr. Vinson, who is black, told the National Post. "I just couldn't imagine someone in the office who would engage in that conduct."

He said he believes Mr. Trent's assurance that he had simply repeated a term used by the prosecutor on the case, Rob Freyer. Mr. Freyer did not return a message left yesterday.

"I know Mike. We laugh and talk about the [Dallas] Cowboys," Mr. Vinson said. "I truly don't believe that Mike knew what he was saying."

It is unusual that a seasoned attorney like Mr. Trent would not have wondered how a Harris County jury came to be stacked with Canadians. (There were no Canadians on the jury but there were some black members.) "The only way that there could have been Canadians on the jury, was if they were born in Canada and then became U.S. citizens, and then became citizens of the county in which the case was tried," Mr. Vinson noted.

Mr. Trent told Fox News that was not out of the question. "It would not be impossible or unusual for people from other countries to be on our juries," he said. "That's what I was told, and I took it as the literal meaning."

The bigger mystery is how "Canadian" came to be code for black. An online directory of racial slurs defines Canadian as a "masked replacement" for black.

Last August, a blogger in Cincinnati going by the name CincyBlurg reported that a black friend from the southeastern U.S. had recently discovered that she was being called a Canadian. "She told me a story of when she was working in a shop in the South and she overheard some of her customers complaining that they were always waited on by a Canadian at that place. She didn't understand what they were talking about and assumed they must be talking about someone else," the blogger wrote.

"After this happened several times with different patrons, she mentioned it to one of her co-workers. He told her that ‘Canadian' was the new derogatory term that racist Southerners were using to describe persons they would have previously referred to [with the N-word.]"

A similar case in Kansas City was reported last year on a Listserv, or electronic mailing list, used by linguistics experts. A University of Kansas linguist said that a waitress friend reported that "fellow workers used to use a name for inner-city families that were known to not leave a tip: Canadians. ‘Hey, we have a table of Canadians.... They're all yours.' "

Stefan Dollinger, a postdoctoral fellow in linguistics at University of British Columbia and director of the university's Canadian English lab, speculated that the slur reflects a sense of Canadians as the other.

"This ‘code' word, is the replacement of a no-longer tolerated label for one outsider group, with, from the U.S. view, another outsider group: Canadians. It could have been terms for Mexicans, Latinos etc. but this would have been too obvious," he said. "What's left? Right, the guys to the north."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

An Open Letter to Frank Xie and Ma Yingjiu

Thanks to Michael Turton for posting this first in his fine blog, The View from Taiwan.

This morning Apple Daily published an open letter from respected Taiwan scholar Bruce Jacobs, directed at the two presidential candidates.


An Open Letter to Frank Hsieh and Ma Ying-jeou

By Bruce Jacobs (家博)

Over eighty per cent of the residents of Taiwan (台灣住民) want this country (本國)to be a member of the United Nations. As both of you have recognized in the past, this country is a sovereign nation (有主權的國家). According to international law, the best definition of a sovereign nation appears in the “Convention On Rights And Duties Of States” signed in Montevideo on December 26, 1933. According to this Treaty, a sovereign state has four characteristics: “a ) a permanent population; b ) a defined territory; c ) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.” This nation clearly has all four of these characteristics. In addition, the people of this nation freely and democratically elect the nation’s government.

This clear unity among the people of this nation in desiring to participate in the United Nations has been lost in partisan bickering. I urge you both to put aside partisan interests and to concentrate on national interests.

In order to demonstrate to the world the desire of the people of this nation to belong to the United Nations, I would urge you both to reach a three-point agreement:

1. In discussing membership of the United Nations, you put aside the issue of “name” and do not refer to “Taiwan” or the “Republic of China.” In discussing membership of the United Nations, you can both refer to “this country” (本國).
2. In discussing membership of the United Nations, you put aside the issue of whether this country shall “join the United Nations” (入聯) or “return to the United Nations (返聯).” Rather, you can both refer to “participating in the United Nations” (參加聯合國).
3. You both urge all voters to support both UN referenda in the March 22 election.

With both of you supporting the two referenda, it is highly likely that both referenda will pass. This will send an important message to the world community that this nation is a sovereign nation that both wants and deserves to be a member of the United Nations. On the contrary, failing to pass the two referenda would send exactly the wrong message to the world community.

Such an agreement between the two of you would also go far towards diminishing political division in this nation and help to forge a new national unity.

Respectfully yours,

J. Bruce Jacobs (家博)



Of course nothing will happen. The KMT has no vision, and the DPP has no finesse (although I suspect Frank Xie might.) Whatever - Jacobs is right, regardless.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Trudi on the telephone

Like father, like daughter

Now Trudi and I have matching hair styles!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sleeping Beauty

KMT wins by a landslide

So Saturday we had legislative elections here in Taiwan, and the Chinese Nationalist Party, aka the Kuomintang (KMT), won by a landslide.

I have mixed feelings. I've grown increasingly disgusted with Chen Shuibian's administration over the last eight years. He has proved himself to be just as corrupt and ineffectual as any KMT president. The insider trading scandal involving his family members was also shameful, and he never properly acknowledged that betrayal, I feel. His cabinet was also a joke. He went through premiers faster than he went through clean socks, his Ministry of Education and the Government Information Office both became weekly, if not daily subjects of scorn and ridicule in the public eye thanks to the words and actions of their chiefs.

Still, I expect the media to interpret this election entirely incorrectly. Already I'm reading that this is a move towards China, i.e. unification, but I don't think that's correct. I don't believe that there are any significant numbers of people in Taiwan that want political unification with China, but I also don't believe most people are in favor of the cultural de-sinification that's become an important part of the DPP's bentuhua or localization policy.

I believe this election was a vote against localization, a vote against Chen Shuibian's administration, and a vote for change, although frankly, I think people are being a little naive in putting so much faith in Ma Yingjiu, the leader of the KMT and their candidate for the presidential election in two months. I haven't seen anything from him that suggests he has real leadership qualities. And I've heard nothing at all from him about his long-term vision for Taiwan. The KMT stresses that now is not the right time for unification, but of course the underlying message is that at some point it will be the right time for unification, which is something to which I'm deeply opposed. Taiwan's politics might be silly, but China's politics are dark, twisted, and evil. I wouldn't want my daughter growing up under such a horrible regime. The DPP, for all of its other mistakes has always gotten the long-term vision thing right: Taiwan is independent of China, and should remain so, and all countries that support freedom and democracy should recognize Taiwan's right to choose its own path, without threats of missile attacks, invasion

From the New York Times:

President Chen Shuibian resigned as chairman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party immediately after the extent of the defeat became clear.

''I should shoulder all responsibilities,'' Chen said. ''I feel really apologetic and shamed.''

Trudi loves Teddy!

Trudi loves the Teddy Bear that Vanessa and I gave her for Christmas.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

China's "peace" is sugar-coated poison (Chicago Tribune)

I saw the link to this article from Michael Turton's blog, The View from Taiwan. Thanks, Michael!

By Dennis V. Hickey
January 6, 2008

Taiwan and mainland China have been separated since Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT) government retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Taiwan is now a multiparty democracy led by President Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), a party that favors "self-determination" for the island.

On Oct. 15, Hu Jintao, China's president, opened the 17th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress by calling for a "peace agreement" with Taiwan. That move represents the latest in a series of "soft measures" intended to court key constituencies within Taiwanese society. Some suspect these changes are superficial, given that China has accelerated the campaign to isolate Taiwan in the global community and has deployed almost 1,000 ballistic missiles directly opposite the island. But others disagree.

In a recent interview, excerpted below, President Chen discussed China's policy toward Taiwan.

Q Some say China's policies toward Taiwan are changing. What is your interpretation?

A The nature of the CCP and its basic policy toward Taiwan never changes. It has one objective -- to annex Taiwan. The strategies have one goal -- to downgrade, localize, marginalize, undermine and delegitimize Taiwan's government and sovereignty.

Some say China's "soft policies" are getting "softer," while its "hard policies" are getting "harder." The real point is that "the hard is getting harder." We see the soft policies as sugar-coated poison. Many are deceived by this superficial change. China wants to annex Taiwan no matter which party is in power in Taipei. The only difference is that some Chinese leaders are more straightforward, while others know how to disguise their ambitions.

Q Why is China deploying missiles opposite Taiwan and squeezing Taiwan internationally while calling for a peace treaty?

A If you look at Hu Jintao, he is a formidable and sharp person. We need to be very careful and vigilant. Hu has called for a peace treaty with Taiwan, so people ... overlook the preconditions set for this treaty, which is "one China." They want to annex Taiwan and turn it into a province.

After China passed its ... "anti-secession law" in 2005 to lay a legal foundation for an invasion of Taiwan, the international community reacted negatively. So they came up with a strategy to invite Taiwan opposition party leaders to visit China. These politicians have accepted the "one-China principle." They are helping China.

Q Why wouldn't a return to the "one-China principle" lead to peace with China?

A Past presidents of Taiwan supported the idea of eventual unification with China. Did this lead to peace? In the 1950s, [Chinese leaders] threatened to "wash Taiwan with blood." In the 1990s, they fired missiles at Taiwan. China's threats and diplomatic oppression of Taiwan did not stop because the KMT accepted the one-China principle and the goal of ultimate unification.

Q Taiwan's opposition Chinese Nationalist Party, known as the KMT, is reaching out to the Chinese Communist Party, and leaders of the two parties have met. Any comment?

A This is just part of China's "united front" tactics and divide-and-conquer strategy. The KMT has not learned any lessons from the past. When they are of no use or value anymore, the CCP will throw them away like rubbish.

Q Were you surprised by President Hu's call for peace?

A No, it's just a strategy to deceive our people and foreign countries. Taiwan and China are two independent countries. Neither exercises jurisdiction over the other. Taiwan is Taiwan. China is China. There are two countries, one on each side of the Taiwan Strait. No matter how fierce China's united-front tactics may become, we will not accept the one-China principle or that unification is the only option for Taiwan. If Hu Jintao abandons the one-China principle, I will be surprised. If China gives up its one-party dictatorship, renounces the use of force against Taiwan and removes the 988 missiles deployed opposite Taiwan, then I will be truly surprised.

Q Are chances for peace between Taiwan and China increasing or decreasing?

A During my two terms as president, we've maintained peace in the Taiwan Strait, although my political opponents predicted war if I was elected. We have been vigilant, cautious and careful. We are proud of this. China's threats will increase in the future. Our next president must have great political wisdom and place our national interests first.

Q How should the U.S. promote peace and stability between China and Taiwan?

A Washington should support Taiwan's democratic development, promote official talks between the governments of China and Taiwan, review the outdated one-China policy and abide by the Taiwan Relations Act -- the law that governs relations between our countries. It should sell Taiwan defensive weapons and otherwise help this country defend itself.

When we hold our referendum on Taiwan's participation in the UN [in March], we hope the U.S. will have a positive attitude toward it. The reason Taiwan enjoys its democracy today is because of the encouragement and support of the U.S. government and American people. We want to make the voice of the Taiwanese people heard throughout the world and to become a formal member of international organizations.


Dennis Hickey is director of the graduate program in international affairs at Missouri State University.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Taipei 101 - 12/31/07, originally uploaded by toddintaipei.