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”.

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.

govtweets update

Both govtweets.com and govtweets.ca are humming along nicely as the websites track the real-time online conversation via twitter on the POTUS race and the Canadian federal election. Here are some stats I just compiled from the levels of activity on the both govtweets.ca and govtweets.com:

In the past 8 days on govtweets.ca, there have been 303 tweets about Stephen Harper, and 120 about Jack Layton and 92 about Stephane Dion.

Comparatively, in the last 8 days at govtweets.com, there have been 24838 tweets about “Palin”, 22869 tweets about “Obama”, 20671 tweets about “McCain” and 4051 about “Biden”.

Conclusions that we can draw from this are that McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin for VP has generated much more chatter than Obama’s pick Joe Biden. Further, we can see that American politics is much more discussed globally than Canadian politics. But, I think we can also conclude that Canadians are still in the early stages of posting tweets.

And… for those of you who are wondering, I’ll be adding Elizabeth May to govtweets.ca soon.

Facebook statistics

Everybody and their brother knows about Facebook these days. Whether finding old high school classmates, building one’s professional network, or sharing photos among friends, Facebook has many uses to millions of users. There’s a new feature on the website for advertisers that allows the ad buyer the ability of progressively narrowing down a target audience by selecting and excluding demographic data. The side benefit of this is that we can parse Facebook’s user data and get a better understanding of its audience and reach.

Here are the top countries represented on Facebook (users):
1. United States 19,951,900
2. Canada 7,361,720
3. United Kingdom 6,407,580
4. Australia 1,498,320
5. South Africa 605,820
6. France 429,540
7. Norway 891,480
8. Sweden 827,940
9. Mexico 393,940
10. Egypt 376,480
11. Columbia 359,220
12. Turkey 327,760
13. India 287,500
14. Germany 259,760
15. New Zealand 208,000
16. United Arab Emirates 188,600
17. Singapore 180,660
18. Spain 178,900
19. Lebanon 163,720
20. Ireland 131,660
21. Italy 121,000
22. Saudi Arabia 115,980
23. Pakistan 115,240
24. Netherlands 109,840
25. Switzerland 99,600
26. Malaysia 98,060
27. Japan 95,340
28. Israel 94,180
29. China 83,640
30. South Korea 51,080
31. Dominican Republic 33,060

In Canada, the male/female breakdown is:
2,507,620 male
3,431,280 female

The top cities in Canada are:
1,326,280 Toronto
549,600 Montreal
346,020 Vancouver
317,700 Halifax
275,820 Ottawa
186,620 Winnipeg
432,060 Calgary
365,120 Edmonton

In Canada, the political breakdown is:
618,240 Liberal
236,540 Moderate
281,840 Conservative

The male/female breakdown of these figures are (m/f)
282,220/291,300 Liberal
126,360/94,480 Moderate
158,020/104,460 Conservative

As one goes through college/university in Canada, does one become more or less Liberal or Conservative?
Freshmen 3,420
Sophomores 4,300
Juniors 4,440
Seniors 4,760

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9,740 Fresmen
13,160 Sophomores
14,500 Juniors
16,840 Seniors


Note the slopes on both graphs. The Conservative graph has a slope of y=416x meaning that as each year goes by, with all else being equal, we can infer that the university experience produces 416 more Conservatives each year of school. Likewise, the slope of the Liberal graph is y=2264x meaning that if our assumptions are the same, we can infer that the university experience produces 2264 more Liberals per year of the undergraduate experience. It would be beneficial to measure the data over four years, but we can hypothesize from this data that universities are having the effect of producing Liberals over Conservatives at 4:1 per year.

(Note that these figures are taken for individuals at the current time, a changing trend is only inferred. All we know for sure is there are more partisans/idelogues in both camps in later years of undergraduate.)

Let’s take a look at how politics breaks down at each Canadian university
University Liberal/Moderate/Conservative
Acadia 360/80/60

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Bishop’s 180/40/60

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Brock 1,040/320/420

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Carleton 2,340/740/800

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Concordia 1,060/240/120

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Dalhousie 1,280/260/280

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Lakehead 360/120/120

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Laurentian 440/100/100

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McGill 3,360/720/300

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McMaster 2,000/660/760

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Mount Allison 440/60/60

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Nipissing 220/80/80

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Queen’s University 2,220/500/600

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Royal Military College 60/60/180

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Ryerson 2,020/560/360

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St. Francis Xavier 480/100/180

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Simon Fraser University 1,400/440/340

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Trent 800/160/180

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University of Alberta 2,340/900/1,340

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University of British Columbia 3,120/920/620

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University of Calgary 1,220/540/840

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University of Guelph 2,060/460/500

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University of Lethbridge 480/200/440

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University of New Brunswick 800/180/220

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University of Ottawa 2,440/640/620

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U Regina 220/40/80

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University of Saskatchewan 620/200/380

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University of Sherbrooke 80/100/20* (* fewer than 20)

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University of Toronto 5,560/1,740/1,140

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University of Victoria 1,300/400/280

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University of Waterloo 2,380/840/680

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University of Western Ontario 2,820/760/980

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University of Windsor 1,140/280/340

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Wilfrid Laurier University 1,540/420/480

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York University 3,520/980/700

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As for the ratio of Liberal students:Conservative students?
Here are the top five (the most Liberal schools in the country by this measure):
McGill 11.2:1
Concordia 8.8:1
Mount Allison 7.3:1
Acadia 6:1
Ryerson 5.6:1

And the bottom five (the most Conservative schools in the country by this measure):
Royal Military College 0.33:1
University of Lethbridge 1.1:1
University of Calgary 1.5:1
University of Saskatchewan 1.6:1
University of Alberta 1.7:1

A bit more about the methodology:
This data was taken from this Facebook page on October 17th, 2007. All data is self-declared by individuals with Facebook profiles.

UPDATE: It appears that Facebook has disabled the feature.

Is Garth Turner stretching the truth?

Monday’s Hill Times features an article about Bruce Sutherland, the videographer for Conservative-turned-Independent-turned-Green-teaser-turned-Liberal MP Garth Turner. It’s an interesting piece that describes the work of the man behind the MPtv production that Turner features on his website.

However, the subtitle of the piece caught my attention:

Garth Turner says his webcast is downloaded by about 30,000 to 40,000 viewers every night.

30,000 to 40,000 viewers every night? That would be incredible, if true. Garth would start to rival some of George Stroumboulopoulos’ numbers for The Hour (and George is on the TV dial of every Canadian television).

Let’s take a closer look at Garth’s numbers (accurate at time of this post):
Garth’s latest videos:

Title Number of views
MPtv interviews Catherine Bell NDP MP on Bulk water exports 18 June 2007 6
MPtv interview with Derek Lee on National Security- 18 June 2007 22
MPtv Interviews Gary Merasty on funding Aboriginal Languages 15 June 2007 56
MPtv- interview with Ken Boshcoff discussing gas prices 13 June 2007 79
MPtv- Hon. Garth Turner poses a question during Question Period 12 June 2007 165
MPtv- Interviews Omar Alghabra Critic Citizenship/Immigration 13 June 2007 38
MPtv- Interview with Mark Holland Liberal Critic Natural Resources 11 June 2007 88
MPtv-Interview with Hon. Hedy Fry Critic Sport and Vancouver Olympics 11 June 07 104
MPtv – Stories about Parliament Hill-The Laurier Tower 11 June 2007 34
MPtv-interviews Glen Pearson MP from London North Center 8 June 2007 145
MPtv- Interview Nancy Karetak-Lindell MP for Nunavut 7 June 2007 92
MPtv Stories about Parliament Hill- Lester Pearson statue 4 June 2007 28
MPtv- Interview with Bill Casey Independent M.P. 6 June 2007 453
MPtv- Interview with Hon.Robert Thibault 6 May 2007 73
MPtv-Question Period- Hon. Garth Turner poses a question 5 June 2007 197
MPtv- Questions from the House Hon. 5 June 2007 57
MPtv -Interview with Hon. John McCallum Liberal Finance Critic 4 June 2007 142
MPtv- Interview-Paul Szabo on Bill C-251 Alcohol warning labels 30 May 2007 138
MPtv – Stories about Parliament Hill with Don Nixon 31 May 2007 24
MPtv Stories about Parliament hill- Cat Sanctuary 31 May 2007 182

These are the most current videos (the ones featured “above the fold” on Garth’s MPtv website).

Here are Garth’s top 10 videos by number of views:

Title Number of views
MPtv – Garth Turner’s address to residents in Halton – October 18, 2006 7,264
MPtv – Interview with Green Party of Canada Leader, Elizabeth May – October 17, 2006 3,170
MPtv – Income Trust Press Conference 29 January 2007 2,945
MPtv – Garth Turner joins Liberal caucus – February 6, 2007 2,593
MPtv – Question Period in the House of Commons of Canada – October 25, 2006 2,465
MPtv – Garth Turner reflects on his options after dismissal from the Conservative Party 1,865
MPtv – Freedom Of Speech In Canada – November 12, 2006 1,554
MPtv- Mike Duffy On Parlimentary Preparations 26 January 2007 1,549
MPtv – Garth Turner commentary before press conference – November 14, 2006 1,392
MPtv – Pierre Paquette discussion Quebec as a Nation- December 12, 2006 1,344

The numbers for the top 10 videos aren’t bad, but consider that Garth boasts 30,000-40,000 views of MPtv per night. The numbers above represent the number of views since the date included in the title. It is closer to the truth to say that Garth’s videos have been viewed 30,000 times (in total) rather than per day.

It seems that Garth’s typical video gets about 50-200 hits (total) while his top video received 7,264 views since October 18th, 2006. A far cry from 30,000 to 40,000 video views every night that Garth claims.

NOTE (6/20): Anyone who wishes to verify the numbers that I state above can click on the title links in the table to go to each movie hosted on Google Video. The “All time views” are listed in the right hand column of those pages. The numbers are accurate to the time of this post yesterday. All of Garth’s video are hosted on Google Video and he embeds the player on his site. Every view from the embeddable player on Garth’s website registers as a “view” on Google Video, since the player is hosted on Google’s site and plays the same Google-hosted video. Whether a Garth video is viewed on Google, on Garth’s site or my site via embeddable player, Google registers a “view” on the video’s homepage hosted on Google. I see that Garth has chosen to respond to this post in a way that attacks me as a person, rather than challenge my claims with any valid counter-argument. This is unfortunate.

Of course, I’ve written about Garth’s poor choices before:
I took the Garth Challenge
Garth the Grit

Harpers and Dions contrasted

In Chatelaine’s July magazine, the home lives of the Harpers and Krieber-Dions are both featured.

It is interesting to see the differences between the two families and what it those differences may mean to the much sought-after “ordinary” Canadian voter.

Of course, a key element of the Conservative message is family. Targeted tax relief for families that have kids in sports and a child-care tax credit are among the policies emphasized by the party to capture this key demographic. The Harpers are the First Family of Canada, and every time you check in with them, they become more and more like the family down the street (or even your own).

Conversely, the key message from the Dion camp has been the environment. The issue, with greenhouse gases, climate change, and radiative forcing seems a bit more abstract than the very tangential concept of family. The magazine even captures the extent to which no opportunity is lost to push the environmental message to the ordinary Canadian. Here’s Dion’s wife: Janine Krieber from the Chateleine article,

It was during these teenage years that Krieber took up acting, piano (she still plays) and painting. “With acrylics today – they’re environmentally friendly,” she quips.

The Conservatives will likely try and contrast the Harpers and Dions in the role of Canada’s first family and will portray the Harpers (genuinely) as traditional, nuclear and ordinary.

Consider this excerpt from the same issue:

“I’m happy with my life,” says Laureen of being Canada’s first wife … “but I don’t have the urge to see myself on the cover of a magazine. It’s just not my thing.” And she insists that she’s not the power behind the man. “That’s the story people want,” she says. “No, not true.”

Contrast this with the Dion article found a few pages over:

Dion may be the leader of the opposition, but Krieber is the CEO of Krieber-Dion Inc. She does the banking, writes the cheques, keeps the books, files the taxes and buys all of his clothes – even his underwear. … “He’s colour-blind. You don’t leave him in a house alone.” … It’s comments like this that have backroom Liberals shaking their heads. Says one, “Many suspect she controls him. She reads his briefing notes. He takes her advice and brings it back to staffers. She’s the one people need to go to in order to get to him. Who are people reporting to?” There’s even a suggestion circulating in Ottawa that Dion is saving a riding for his wife in the next election.

Ordinary seems to be the operating strategy of the Harpers; Ben and Rachel are the ordinary kids in hockey and gymnastics, Stephen and Laureen are such an ordinary couple that one or the other may forget an anniversary, similar to the story of any other ordinary Canadian couple. They’re just so darn ordinary those Harpers! Indeed, their ordinary nature has helped shirk their “scary/hidden agenda” characterization. However, accounts of Dion – such as the one above – simply plays into the Conservative narrative that “Stéphane Dion is not a leader”.

Mrs. Krieber is, to her credit, quite accomplished with complex sociological and academic views on terrorism and how it is driven by ideological radicals. However, with respect to “ordinary” Canadians, voters may find it more difficult to see themselves in the Dion-Kriebers than in the Harpers. Perhaps the last names of the two women are indicative as well to mainstream Canadian appeal. Mrs. Harper used to be Laureen Teskey before she famously stated “call me Mrs. Harper” after moving into 24 Sussex. However, Mrs. (Ms.?) Krieber remains Mrs. Krieber. Does the maiden name play with ordinary Canadians? The Harpers are banking that it doesn’t.

Conservatives will have a lot of success portraying Mr. and Mrs. Harper as the ordinary Canadian family. Mr. Harper is an ordinary guy, with ordinary hobbies (hockey) with ordinary kids and some ordinary cats. The party will likely be successful because, by definition, the “typical” person is “ordinary” and can therefore relate.

Can the Liberals make Dion an ordinary guy? Or is “ordinary” an inherent trait possessed by people like the Harpers (and a large number of Canadians).

UPDATE: Some people have expressed dismay that I would label the Harper family as more “ordinary” than the Dion-Kriebers. I do not attach these labels as a means of passing moral judgment on any familial arrangement, but rather note “ordinary” as the meaty part of a normal population distribution. This is a commentary on political strategy without endorsement (it is rather a deconstruction). In real terms, I do not consider the maiden name to be an issue for me personally (this was never a post about my own preferences), however, I merely note that it may have some effect on “ordinary” in an electoral sense since since a large proportion abandons the maiden name upon getting married. Also, when deeming a person as “ordinary”, this is by no means a compliment. Having a PhD for example would do much to disqualify somebody as “ordinary”. Such an accomplishment is rather “extraordinary” (ie. rare). The same praise could be given to a modern woman that keeps her maiden name. HOWEVER, in a statistical sense, women that keep their maiden names and anyone that has a PhD are somewhat extraordinary and ordinary people may not see much of themselves within these types of people. As I have noted above, it may indeed be the strategy of the Conservatives to portray Harper to be as ordinary as possible in order to appeal to the majority of the population that is “ordinary” (by statistical definition). This sort of analysis is nothing new in politics and the same argument has been applied to politicians from John Kerry to Andre Boisclair. Both men did not reside within the “ordinary” range in many respects and this was likely a detriment to their electoral success because they couldn’t connect (ie. voters may not have been able to relate). Again, this is not a commentary on whether or not the electorate is at fault for behaving this way, this is merely an observation and dispassionate analysis of strategy as it relates to demographics.

Here’s such a normal population distribution.


It can represent a variety of population characteristics that are normally distributed from IQ to marks of a particular English class to average weight in kg.

Since, as illustrated by the distribution, most people are in the ordinary range for a variety of traits that can be represented this way, Harper may do well to appeal to these people by being like them in as many ways as possible (and to find himself within the same range). In many ways, he already is. In other population distributions that are not normally distributed, it is arguably advantageous for Harper to find himself in the most heavily populated proportion of the distribution.

UPDATE: Due to the overwhelming opinion generated concerning this post (some supportive, a lot of it angry) I wanted to measure the opinion and determine what went wrong. Most people seem to still seem to be hung up on “ordinary” (ie. “how can you say I’m not ordinary, I feel pretty damn ordinary thank you very much”). Perhaps I will try one last time to explain: in a purely statistical sense, “John” is a more ordinary name than “Tim” because a larger proportion of the population is named John. It’s not to say that Tim isn’t “ordinary” per se, just that there are more Johns than Tims and thus Johns are more common/ordinary. Perhaps there should have been less emphasis on the dichotomy ordinary/not ordinary and more of a focus on degrees of more and less. And that’s as far as I can break that down. Harper is a more ordinary character than Dion because his traits are common to more of the population than Dion. Again, no moral judgment there… sometimes it’s advantageous to be less ordinary, sometimes it’s not. My thesis is that at some level people will elect leaders that reflect them. This thesis is actually supported by this political science research article.

Moving on…

I think that this post actually went south when I referenced maiden names and the propensity of a woman keeping them/losing them as a measure of more ordinary or less ordinary. Of course, this was meant to be a short reference to another example to support the overall thesis, but I’ve found that more people have become concerned by the issue than any other I’ve raised in this post. After I published this post, I ran it by a left-wing feminist friend of mine who works for the MSM (yes, they do exist) in Ottawa. While she disagreed with the thesis (see above), she did not find the post to be offensive to her in any way. In fact, she agreed that it was a dispassionate academic argument on a perfectly legitimate debate that has been going on in the “image” field of politics for quite some time. After hanging out with some of my other women friends tonight (all right-wing), I polled them. Half (2) thought that the writing was straight forward and well-explained, the other two thought that the post might be problematic. One explained that an issue such as retention of one’s maiden name after marriage is viewed as empowering to some women and that it’s generally a domain that men ought to tread lightly (if at all). Point taken and understood! So, I’d like to apologize to anyone that I’ve offended with respect to discussing the degree of “ordinary” in keeping one’s maiden name. I found myself out of my depth (and league!) In fact, I’ve learned a couple of facts including the fact that most women in Quebec keep their maiden name. I tried to weave the maiden name topic into my overall thesis but it fell flat. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have included it. From a few personal communications via email, I know that I have significantly offended a couple of people. My post was never meant to stir such emotion. For that I am so very sorry. For the record though, I should state that as a vocal promoter of other aspects of liberty, I fully support a woman’s choice with respect to choosing her last name in marriage.