Announcing IggyFacts.ca

Today, I launched a new political mini-site at IggyFacts.ca.

The site is meant to be a humourous take on the definition campaign of the Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal Party, Michael Ignatieff.

The site is meant to be integrated with, but does not require, Twitter.  Random facts about Michael Ignatieff are presented and with a single click of a button, they can be “re-tweeted” (repeated) via a person’s twitter account.  You can even submit your own facts.

Twitter + Politics + Crowdsourcing = IggyFacts.ca

For those that aren’t familiar with Twitter, the service is like building your own mailing list.  People sign up to receive information from you at your discretion.  For example, at the time of this writing, I have 3,846 people “following” me on Twitter.  This means that several times a day, almost 4,000 people read my updates on a variety of topics from politics, what I’m thinking or even doing (or whatever else I’d like to write).  The political implications of this are large because each one of these people have their own “following” (or list) and this presents the opportunity to spread a message.  Some people that follow me are web designers, some are Democrats, some Republican, some Conservative, some Liberal, some Calgarian, some Australian, among others.  A police officer that follows me on Twitter may find a message that I write interesting enough to re-tweet (or repeat) it along to his list of his police officer friends, his Vancouver motocycle club twitterers and even his fellow jetskiers on Twitter.  In turn they may pass the message along too.  This bridges groups and it can find a message going out beyond one particular community.  Blogs are often read by die-hard partisans and not often by swing voters.  Since Twitter allows you to read beyond the highly integrated political blog community, it is a powerful tool for politics.

Seen on Parliament Hill – despite Michael Ignatieff’s best wishes

This fellow was just off of Parliament Hill today showing passers-by a portable video playing the video clip of Michael Ignatieff saying “You have to decide what kind of America you want. Right? You have to decide. It’s your country [the US] just as much as it is mine.” The clip can be seen in the Conservative Party’s “definition” ads on the Leader of the Opposition.

Aparently, the man dressed as Uncle Sam was protesting Michael Ignatieff’s attempts to goad C-SPAN into ordering a cease-and-decist against the Conservatives for using video from their network.

Glen MacGregor of the Ottawa Citizen reports from an interview with C-SPAN’s Bruce Collins,

“He wanted to know if we were aware if our video was being used in this way,” Collins said. “If our rights were being violated, he wanted us to enforce them.”

Collins goes on to say,

“There’s nothing legal to do with it, Collins said. “Given the way video is used throughout the world, with YouTube, it would be fruitless.”

Collins says he watched the ad and believes it falls within the fair-use provisions in copyright law because of the short length and subject matter.

“It’s the highest form of speech — political speech,” he said, adding there would be no economic loss to C-SPAN resulting from the ad.

One might have thought that Michael Ignatieff would have read the first amendment to the US Constitution protecting speech during the decades he was abroad. For someone who claims ownership of the United States as Ignatieff does, he should believe in political free speech, even if such rights are generally not afforded Canadians when it comes to using CBC and CPAC footage.

If the Canadian media were a focus group…

…the Conservatives would never run negative ads. Heck, we’d just surrender to a few more decades of Liberal rule.

On Macleans Capital Read blog, journalist Aaron Wherry breathlessly tells us what our betters think of the latest round of Conservative ads. Wherry headlines the article “Schoolyard tripe! Poisonous! Demeaning! Anti-American!” and proceeds to list criticism from non-partisan voices such as Jim Travers, Angelo Persichilli, the Edmonton Journal, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star! Who are these voices of reason? Reading them makes it so clear that to armchair political analysts, the Conservatives have made a disastrous misstep in running negative advertising, because nobody likes negative ads, and of course, such ads don’t work.

Thousands of dollars worth of focus groups studying the reactions of average, everyday Canadians would seem to indicate otherwise. The decisions that go into these sorts of adverts are not made on a whim. Political calculations are much more involved than started from one’s prejudices against conservatism and then spewing under-informed analysis in 750 paid words or less. There is a method to the Machiavellian madness. From the gender of the narrating voice, to its tone, to the imagery of the ads and the theme, it would seem that the Conservatives have concluded through some expensive research that Canadians seem to have a problem with Michael Ignatieff’s seeming self-serving interest in returning to Canada. “The ads will backfire”, “Canadians are turned off by negative ads”, “This isn’t the United States (oops)” are the sounds coming from the Parliamentary Press Gallery and other members of the media elite in this country. They claim to tell us what we think when it’s clear that they’re out of touch with the effect that those ads will have on us as Canadians.

The other elites — those that reside in the Liberal Party — tell us who should raise our kids, what kind of cars we should drive and whose feelings we should not offend, are of course the producers of these ads:

This may only be the first government that Mr. Wherry’s has covered, but some perspective please. The difference between these two ads and the latest round of Conservative advertising? The Grit ads were baldfaced lies; how’s your healthcare, your “scrapped Kyoto accord”, your right to choose and who was it that was prepared to work with the Bloc Quebecois? Where are the soldiers with guns in our streets?. In contrast, the Conservative ads are true. Michael Ignatieff was out of the country for 34 years, has mused that taxes will go up and the video wherein he says “you have to decide what kind of America you want, right? You have to decide. It’s your country just as much as it is mine” is undoctored. These are Michael Ignatieff’s own words. In fact, they’re so true that the only line of defense is to attack the process.

Funny that the Liberals are silent on this and it is the media who comes to their defense.

Fact-checking Canwest’s Don Martin

Yesterday in the National Post, Don Martin wrote a column condemning the Conservative’s “definition” ads on Michael Ignatieff trying to find scandal where there is none.

The Conservative Web site attacking the new Liberal leader is www.Ignatieff. me. Here endeth the federal party’s free publicity.

The .me Internet domain name is registered to the tiny European country of Montenegro, incidentally governed by a coalition, and its Web administrator is based in Arizona. It is, I’m told by experienced Web surfers, often used to showcase pornography.

Columnists and (more unfortunately) reporters often use terms such as “critics say”, “experts agree”, “some suggest” in place of “in my opinion”, “I think”, and “according to me”. Perhaps “I’m told by experienced Web surfers” could be “the Liberal party told me that” but “questions surround” Don’s true source on top level domains and pornography.

I decided that I’d get to the bottom of this. I decided to check Google for the number of sites that came up when one searches for the term “porn”. If Mr. Martin is correct, we’ll see the Montenegro top level domain (TLD) populated with teh porn results. However, I wanted to take a look to be sure.

There are 251 top level domains that I checked (including the 180 or so countries recognized at the UN), the semi-autonomous regions and the other TLDs including .com, .org, .net.

Don’t worry, I didn’t do these searches one at a time, one browser-based Google search after another; I wrote a script that used the Google AJAX API to get the results and crunch them.

For a quick tutorial on google searches, a search for

site:.fr fromage

will return all sites with the keyword “fromage” in the French top level domain.

Using the Google AJAX API, I decided to check every country code for the number of results with the keyword “porn”.

http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/services/search/web?v=1.0&q=site:.me%20porn
where “%20″ is the URL encoded character for a space

I wrote a PHP script that checks each TLD for “porn” and then parses the results to extract the number of search results from the output of the Google AJAX API call.

Here are the results (you’ll want to click each graph to enlarge them)

If you click on the image to enlarge it, you’ll see that the most populated TLD for the word “porn” (as indexed by Google) is .com. In fact, Montenegro ranks at 61 for propensity of porn. In fact, if you’d be more likely to find porn on the (.cx) domain for… yes, Christmas Island. If we want to measure the proportion of porn sites in a TLD, .me is 15th behind the “porn-showcasing” countries of the Bahamas, Norfolk Island, Azerbaijan, Grenada, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Western Samoa, Bhutan, Congo, Togo, Tokelau, Georgia, Seychelles Islands, and the Virgin Islands. Just over 1% of .com domain names contain the keyword “porn”. Montenegro clocks in at just half a percent more. So, I think we can put Don Martin’s irresponsible words to rest. In terms of “showcased porn”, you’re much more likely to see it on German, Polish and Russian servers. Further, the term “showcase” is deceiving as well since most domains are open to registration to all local residents (if not all global residents) and there is generally no stipulation that states that a registrant must feature pornography.

But where did Don Martin’s assumption come from? Given the Liberal Party’s embarrassment and lack of foresight in launching a campaign at onprobation.ca when onprobation.com turned out to be a hardcore pornographic website, perhaps the Liberals were floating some bogus talking points over to Martin to get them published as fact.

Now that we’ve resolved the Montenegro issue, and now that we have a great program that sorts TLDs by search terms, let’s make sure that we’re still #1 for what matters (even though all Canadian team have been eliminated).

Take that, Sweden.

If you’re interested in the PHP program, here’s the source code.

Ignatieff.me

Jane Taber wrote last weekend,

For all those Canadians who think Michael Ignatieff, the newly-installed Liberal Leader, is an intellectual snob, read on: He enjoys keeping up on all the celebrity news and gossip in tabloid magazines, including Star Magazine and HELLO! Canada. As a result, he says he knows all about the ravages of cellulite, the dimply-skin problem that affects mostly women. Indeed, his knowledge of that issue is as rich as it is of the carbon cap and trade system. However, he is just enough of a snob that he refuses to be seen buying the magazines; his wife, Zsuszanna Zsohar, does that.

Dr. Ignatieff will be spending a lot of time on this mag. It’s Ignatieff.me!

UDPATE: Here are some of the videos from the site

Conservative Party ad: “Michael Ignatieff: Just Visiting”

Within the last few minutes, the Conservative Party of Canada finally rolled out an ad defining a message track about Michael Ignatieff. Take a look:

The main message from the Tories here is that Michael Ignatieff has been out of the country and is only back in the country for his own ambition. The “Just Visiting” line is a good one because it will ring true to many Canadians and their perceived sense of commitment to country. In fact, Michael Ignatieff has already tried to pre-emptively blunt this form of attack by writing a book titled True Patriot Love wherein he outlines his mother’s family’s commitment to this country.

Narrator: Why is Michael Ignatieff back in Canada after being away for 34 years? Does he have a plan for the economy? No, instead he’s running attack ads hiding the fact that he hasn’t offered any economic ideas… just attack ads. With no long term plan for the economy, he’s not in it for Canada… just in it for himself. It’s the only reason he’s back. Michael Ignatieff: Just Visiting.

It’s interesting to note that the Conservative Party has framed “Grit Girl” Youtube vidoes as Liberal attack ads. Most observers note that the professionally produced though anonymously released ads are most likely being churned out by the Liberal Research Bureau or by Liberal HQ. Usually the videos first see wide distribution on the blog of Ignatieff’s war room captain Warren Kinsella.

The image is strong and cynical. It show an image of the Liberal leader simply drifting by and transitory. The Conservatives are also accusing the Liberals of running attack ads. The ad touches upon the #1 issue in the economy successfully underscores Igntieff’s main negative. Some observers will remember that Ignatieff once mused that if he didn’t ascend to the Prime Minister’s Office that Harvard would likely take him back.