Sunday, August 31, 2008

Next Meet Up and Other Stuff

First, before the meet up information.... a friend of mine is moving to the US to do a PHD and is getting rid of all sorts of stuff -- books, clothing, videos, and so on. I have placed the list she gave me on my backup site. Her full explanation and contact information are there. Buy it up!

The next meet up is Saturday, and Jerome has the full information:


Speaker: John Tkacik A Senior Research Fellow in Asian Studies at the Heritage Foundation in Wash. DC; John is a retired diplomat and well-versed in US policy to China, Taiwan, and Mongolia.

Venue: Same place we have used in past couple of months. The meeting location is the restaurant 婷婷翠玉 at 174 AnHe Road, Section Two. (rough translation of name is Tender, Pretty Green Jade.) You will be able to tell the restaurant by the lace curtains on the window--it was used in a TV commercial a while back. (We will have the downstairs room--breakfast cost will range between NT$100 and NT$150. Phone if lost 2736-8510.

Restaurant is between Far Eastern Plaza Mall/Hotel and HePing East Road--about a half a block north of the corner of HePing East Road Sec. 3 and AnHe Road. or a half a block south of Far Eastern Plaza on the AnHe Road side.

Take the MRT Mucha Line to the Liuchangli Station exit there, and walk west on HePing East Road 3/4 of a block till you reach where AnHe Road dead-ends into it.Then go north on AnHe Road; it is a half a block up on the west side of that street.

Or take any bus down HePing East Road and get off at the first stop that is east of Tun Hua South Road. That will put you at the corner of HePing and AnHe.

You can also take a bus down Tun Hua South Road to the stop right across from Far Eastern Plaza and walk over to AnHe Road.

Or if you take the 235 bus east, it turns off of HePing onto AnHe Road and the first stop is right across from the restaurant.

TIME: 9:30 am

Jerome says he'd like an RSVP (


How many were at the rally?

I've decided to discuss the numbers again because the topic is so interesting and to help think about how many really were there.

First, a Taipei Times report from two years ago discusses a simple methodology for calculating crowd size.

Lin Ming-hua (林明華), director of the city police's Public Relations Department, said that they stopped giving out estimates of crowd sizes or marches two years ago when a march organized by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party was staged in front of the Presidential Office.

The demonstration was orchestrated to demand the "truth" about the election-eve assassination attempt, which many pan-blue supporters believe was staged by Chen despite any solid evidence to back up their theories.

Lin said that the city police originally refused to publicize the number of participants in Satur-day's rally on Ketagalan Boulevard, but they were told by the police chief at around 10:45pm to make it public.

Lin said that the official numbers were reliable because they were calculated using a formula.

Taking Friday's "siege" march as an example, Lin said that police estimated 40,000 people could fill 1km of the road that protesters walked down. As the march stretched more than 5.5km, the police estimated that about 220,000 people were on the street. On top of that number, city authorities figured that about 140,000 more were scattered along Ketagalan Boulevard and elsewhere, making the total number 360,000.
Two key points from this. First, the police say it is 40K to a kilometer on a street. I'm not sure about the size of the street, but that's comparable to my count from the other day, so I am greatly cheered.

Second, this article notes that the police stopped giving crowd estimates four years ago. So how did AP obtain a "police said" estimate of 40,000? It is possible that someone gave out information they were not supposed to, or that policy was contravened in this instance, both of which have happened before. But that estimate is so laughably low it stinks of a deliberate plant. It should be noted that the Taipei Times reported that the police would not give out an estimate. Even the KMT-supporting China Post had 50,000 people, a number not referenced and suspiciously, exactly half the DPP prediction -- almost a concession that in fact more than 100,000 turned out.

So AP, you got some 'splaining to do.

The pro-KMT side might deflate the numbers, but the pan-Greens are no better. The Liberty Times today dramatically reported that 300,000 people showed up. Check out the photo there. It is highly suspicious -- showing only the crowds from the south gate to the stage -- but on the ground, my photos show that the area to the south and east of the gate was precisely where the crowd thinned out -- and is the area not shown in the photos. Very suspicious. Note that it is still light when this photo is taken.

What would three hundred thousand or more look like? Here's a Taipei Times photo from the truly stupendous anti-secession law rally. See how jam-packed the area is? Google image search will give you more but they will all show that it was an unbelievable sea of humanity that day.

Now compare the dense ranks in the photo above to this CNA photo printed in today's Taipei Times:

If you look carefully, the density starts to peter out once you get past the south gate. It's far denser on the other side. It is easy to see that 300K is an inflated overestimate.

I'm not going to beat this dead horse any longer, but it should also be noted that the CNA photos don't have times attached. The marchers seemed to have already arrived in both the Liberty Times and the Taipei Times pics, and thus spread out near the old gate. In my photos the bulk of the marchers are still arriving, in my opinion. I should also like to add that there is no need to embellish the numbers. Leave that to the other side.

On to the videos. I shot two that were worth anything (yes, video is an art and I suck at it; be patient, it is going to be a long time).

This video I shot after we had started to line up to march but before we started moving. You can see that it was noisy and energetic, that there were thousands of people here, covering the sidewalks, the metro station plaza, etc.

This second video I shot right after we had arrived at the stage. You can see where we are. At this point the area between the stage and the old gate is absolutely packed but starts to thin out as the crowd reaches the old gate. You can get some glimpses of the massive crowd behind me. Plenty of good energy here.

Why is it so hard to get good estimates? Take this photo to the left. How wide is the crowd? How many to a rank? What constitutes a rank? Ok, let's say we're 40K to the kilometer in the street.....

...then what about these marchers -- four and five across on the sidewalks? If you only count the street, as you would certainly do in an photo from the sky, you'd have a 20% undercount, at least. I tried to include them, and that's how I came up with 50K with me. Depending on how you count, a rank had anywhere between 16 and 25 people, so conservatively 7 ranks was 100 souls, but in reality it was sometimes a lot less and sometimes a lot more. And then....

...what about these blackshirted fellows and the hundreds of others participating by yelling and waving flags from the sidelines, but not marching? Do we count them?

Here was another problem we encountered, though I don't really have a good picture of it. I started near the front of the march, but by the time we were halfway through, the march had elongated considerably and I was someone in the middle. People started to join from the front. You can see that it extends for a considerable distance in front of me.

As we walked down this large street, we look a little thinner in this photo, but actually, there are even more of us. Why?

As this important historical photo shows, large numbers of marchers "taking to the streets" are actually taking to the expansive sidewalks.

Another issue is resting marchers. You can see that in the park beyond many marchers are taking a break, as they did all along the way. Again, any count of "marchers" underestimates the crowd.

When you look at the photos by the old gate, you see the fantastic crowds, but you don't see these guys -- the ones sitting on the walls, standing on the sidewalks, and sitting in the park under the trees.

Finally, what is the correct time to sample the size? I can tell you how many I think marched with me (50K give or take) and you can look at the photos to see how many were there when I arrived. Is that the right time? Do we count only those who stayed the whole time to hear the speakers?

You tell me. But not all the crowd estimates are off by large percentages because the police are nefarious and controlled by the Dark Side. It's because counting the crowd is no simple task.

UPDATE: A commenter left this link to another discussion of the crowd numbers. It goes into great detail on the area that the crowd occupied and concludes:

就算一平方公尺以 4 人計算,新公園內的也不算、信義路與仁愛路上頭的也都不算。也不必以一平方 6人來高估。至少也都有 13 萬人了。
真不知官方的 4 萬多人是怎麼算的。

We calculate the one square meter contains 4 people, and we don't count the New Park, Hsinyi Rd, Aiguo Rd. We don't need to use the highest figure of 6 people per square meter. There were at least 130,000 people there.
I really don't know how the authorities arrived at a figure of 40,000.
That's similar to the number I arrived at. 50,000 with me, a like number in the other group, and 30-40K already present when I arrived. Then I factored in all the people in the park and elsewhere. Nevertheless, 130K is a nice conservative figure.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Aug 30 Rally blows away expectations

I just got back from the Aug 30th rally marking Ma Ying-jeou's first 100 days as President, where I walked with thousands of Taiwanese dissatisfied with the direction of the nation.

First, the media distortion. The Green media is reporting as many as 300,000, though some are reporting a more reasonable 150,000. The pan-Blue media hilariously is reporting 40,000. On this planet, there were 150,000 or so (more on that later).

Let's put that in perspective: the DPP thought 100,000 might turn out, if things went well, I didn't expect more than 20,000.

We got 150,000.

150,000 raucous, energized, Taiwan-loving, I'm-mad-as-hell-and-I-won't-take-it-anymore, economically suffering, politically marginalized, ornery, sweaty, crowded, salt-of-the-earth Taiwanese with the power of righteousness like a lightning strike in every line and crack of their sun-baked faces. They were trading names and butting heads. They were rowdy. They were screaming and yelling and singing and shouting and the walls of Jericho would have melted before them like sea-foam in sunlight. They were the people of Taiwan.

Folks, I got religion. I went to the election rallies in January and in March, and felt like they were going through the motions. I didn't get religion; I returned home empty and afraid. I went today and I was with people who believed. Who spent the hours saying Ma Ying-jeou's name like a swear word. Who made sardonic jokes and jogged each other in the ribs and shoved each other out of the way. Who left Chen Shui-bian behind and looked to the present and especially, the future. Who hadn't given up on Taiwan even though the mighty in their halls of power had given up on them, repeatedly.

Awesome. They are the future of Taiwan. Maybe they will acquiesce to the coming sell out, sullen, inarticulate, and impotent. But maybe they will rise and smash the pillars of the mighty with a grunt and a heave like Samson at his last banquet.

Enough preaching already. On to the pics!

The first hint that today was going to explode my pessimistic expectations was in the metro. We got there early but it was already packed.

It was obvious as we walked out of the metro into the light what today was going to be like.

An absolute sea of people.

Banners everywhere.

Lots of parents with children.

And the Taiwan media was there, children without parents.

My children, citizens of Taiwan, were there too.

The crowds lined all the nearby streets and filled the temple and the metro area.

We tried to find paraphenalia but it had all been given away or sold. I got the last hat from one of the vendors in the crowd.

Sound trucks everywhere.

The crowd lines up to march.

Hoping for a better future?

One of the banner carriers.

Always a bright Taiwan smile for visitors.

Exhorting the crowd.

Pretty faces with welcoming smiles.

At last we got moving. The sea of banners contained numerous economic complaints, an important advance. The DPP has never focused on economic issues like this.

A vendor watches the crowd.

Ok, so not everyone had a welcoming smile.

The crowd filled the street. I carefully sectioned it off based on what I learned in the TVBS protest last year, counted, then extrapolated. I got off to side where I could see the crowd stretching back and ahead for several blocks. I figure at least 50,000 people must have been in the actual march with me in that area.

Colorful signs everywhere.

Marchers not only filled the street but marched along by the stores on both sides as well.

The police did their usual excellent crowd control work. Here the crowd is halted to permit the traffic to go by.

A leftover political ad from the legislative election.

Observers bang pots and pans to encourage the crowd.

People were screaming at us everywhere along the route.

Carrying the banners.

At this point we've been walking for about 45 minutes but the crowd has only thinned a little, and stretched out for a long way along either side of me (I started out within 20 meters of the lead truck).

A sticker distributed to marchers complains of economic pain.

Lots of people stopped to watch and take photographs.

This picture is here for historical purposes only.

A lovely politician from Pingtung Tainan leads cheers.

Greeting the sound trucks.

In between the concrete canyons.

A sign holder smiles for a picture.

Thankfully, the police were bored stiff.

Hu and his boy, Ma Ying-jeou.

As we reached the stretch of road in front of the Presidential Palace, the crowd reached a crescendo of density. It was absolutely packed from the Presidential Palace to the South gate.

A large banner.

The crowd waits for the speakers.

This shot and the previous shot were taken by a kind fellow to whom I passed my camera.

A sea of signs and banners.

I walked around the crowd and headed over to the Dead Dictator Memorial Hall.

As you can see, the crowds have arrived, but the roads around the Memorial were empty. Plenty of people here resting but they don't fill the road. Since it would take about 200,000 at least to fill this area, I figure somewhere around 150,000 showed, enough to pack the stretch of Aiguo and Chungshan Road by the ministries and then splinter off down these roads.

Jerome Keating and his wife Monica were waiting for us.

This photo is here purely as a historical and cultural datum. I would never ever put a picture here merely because it contained several cute young women.

The great gate of Nameinflux hall.

The vendors were making hay while the sun shone.

Green babes: my friend Joyce, my wife, and Avril Lavigne my daughter.

Me in front of Nameinflux Hall. As you can see, there are no more people than would be expected on such a Saturday. The crowd never reached here, clearly indicating it did not come anywhere near 300,000. At the same time, the idea that 40,000 people were there as pan-Blue media organs were claiming is laughable and easily refuted from the photos here.

At evening, herds of buses return south. The DPP apparently chartered 500 buses for the event and I heard that one group even rented a train. But clearly most of the marchers arrived on their own buck.

Lots of marchers complaining about the economy and Ma's cooperation with China. Lots of marchers blowing away the DPP's wildest expectations. It was good to see the DPP use Ma's economic claims against him. Let's hope that DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen can find a way to translate this energy into momentum for the future...

UPDATE: Spoke to a longtime radio personality here and single mother after the rally. She had marched, her first ever in all the long years of protests. She added that she was not the only one for which this was a first march. Maddog has a long piece with pics of some of the many excellent banners focusing on sunshine laws, the stock market, and other issues, as well as a rip on the media for reporting the falsehood that only 40,000 attended. When I arrived at the gathering point there were thirty or forty thousand at my back, and a like number already there, and more streaming in from the other march. We were well over 100,000 and more were coming. It sucks the way the media uncritically accepts such numbers.

UPDATE: A local photographer caught my kids. This guy rode on one of the trucks and got some excellent pics of the signs and the crowd. Another tale of the rally is here. Reuters has quality video here. The Only Redhead here. Island Republic has a great set of pictures here.

UPDATE (SEPT 5): Paul Lin in the Taipei Times observes what an electrifying effect the rally had on DPP morale.