Thursday, July 31, 2008

Was "Vote Marriage, Canada!" only astroturf, then?

The last election saw a final, last-ditch effort from social conservatives to overturn the introduction of same-sex marriage in Canada, part of which involved an organization effort on the part of socially conservative activists.

One part of this effort was Vote Marriage, Canada!, headed by retiring MPs Pat O'Brien (a Liberal) and Grant Hill (a Conservative).

Not all went smoothly. There was a delay in settling on a final name for their effort and getting their website up (see here). (The website itself can be seen at Once they were operational, however, they made a good bit of noise, endorsing over 100 candidates in the election.

Vote Marriage made some grand claims during that election, including the announcement that 20,000 had signed into his site as volunteers. Some observed that Vote Marriage only supported Conservatives. Others mused darkly that there may have been financial support coming from American religious figures.

It was, apparently, smoke and mirrors: part astroturf and part Potemkin village.

As a third-party participant, Vote Marriage was compelled to file an account of their advertising expenses at Elections Canada. You can go there now (here) to see what Vote Marriage actually accomplished. There you will see what I've copied in the screen-capture to the right: no contributors, no contributions, and no advertising. Nada. Zilch. Gar nichts. Niente. Rien.

This is, however, too often the case with social conservative causes in Canada, whose supporters seem too ready to repeat what is untrue, half-true, exaggerated, or misleadingly selective. There are the diploma-mill doctorates of McVety and Rushfeldt, the fake polling of KLRVU, exaggerations about opposition to the Morgentaler award, inflated attendance at their demonstrations (400 or 1000?), endless and open freeping, etc. A seemingly endless stream of righteous lies and pious exaggeration.

Why is this noteworthy? One should expect activists to be active and to do what is necessary to advance their cause. But surely one expects those whose self-styled motivations are religious to show a passing interest in truth. Or maybe not. They claim to believe that knowing the truth will set them free. Telling it, apparently, brings them no advantage.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Vandalism caught on film

First, vandalism's aftermath:

Next, vandalism caught on film

More about the vandalism:

Grant Bristow and the Canadian Hate Groups

There is interesting piece by Grant Bristow in the National Post, here (h/t BCL).

Update.  In reaction to the Walrus piece on Grant Bristow cited above, see Kevin Steel's reaction (here) and Bill Dunphy's corrective (here).

Witty caption contest 2

You know what to do: tell me what the dog's thinking for a prize.

Not much ground in that swell

It has now been a month since Henry Morgentaler was awarded the Order of Canada. It was long delayed, one assumes, by the controversy that everyone knew it would would bring. In the end, however, the expected outrage fizzled. A handful of editorials, a tiny demonstration, and so few emails and letters to the prime minister's office that even pro-life commentators could not disguise their disappointment.

Three awardees have returned their awards in protest: Lucien Larre, a Roman Catholic priest (July 4), Gilbert Finn, a Former Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick (July 9), and Frank Chauvin, a retired police detective and philanthropist (July 11). That is all, apart from three anonymous holders whom claims about to return their medals, and a handful of medals of the deceased. Of three thousand living awardees and a couple thousand more among the departed, that must be disappointing — all the more so given that the search engine at the Order of Canada page lists 90 Canadians have given the reward for their contributions to religion (here), and the awardees are well-populated with some figures such as Preston Manning and Deb Grey, both of whom are people of faith with long-standing social-conservative credentials.

Not that it is for lack of effort. A website was created to harass urge awardees to resign. But no one has resigned since that page was registered on July 12.

Then there's the list of MPs who disapprove of the award, a list kept at at (here). It amounts to 32 so far, out of 308 MPs. One in ten?

Even more disappointing surely must be the turn-out of Catholic Bishops. There are 88 Bishops in Canada. According to LifeSite, 12 have publicly condemned the Morgentaler award. That is roughly one in seven. This is better than the MP-turnout, but — come on, guys! — you're supposed to get all of the Catholic Bishops.

There were of course the petitions, one demanding that Morgentaler's award be revoked. It was immediately trumpeted as a success when on the first day (July 4), 2000 had signed it. But its progress is easily followed by the attention bloggers paid to it: by July 7, it had reached 5000; by July 10, 8828; by July 14, it had reached 11,468, and 13,744 by July 22. Today it stands at 15,036.

But realistically, this isn't much for a country of 30 million. The petition started out receiving only 7 or 8 signatures per riding per day and soon dropping from there to less than 1 signature per riding per day (see the chart to the left). And this assumes that all those signatures were legitimate, which is probably not the case (here).

Of course, this isn't a surprise if you look at Canadian opinion as a whole? Polls by the Ipsos Reid and Angus Reid suggest that Canadians support the award by a 2-to-1 margin.

Which brings us to another reason to be sceptical the phone-spam poll commissioned by Campaign Life and conducted by KLRVU. Can anyone really believe that 55% of Canadians disapprove of this award when only one-in-a-thousand award-holders care enough to renounce their own awards and only one in seven Catholic Bishops will bother to issue a press-release about it?

Update. A few more award holders have returned their reward are. The total list
  1. Lucien Larre (July 4),
  2. Gilbert Finn (July 9),
  3. Frank Chauvin (July 11),
  4. Cardinal J.-C. Turcotte (Sept. 11: Lifesite)
  5. Jacqueline Richard (cbc)
  6. Fr. Anthony Sylla (cbc)
  7. Fr. Michael Smith (cbc)
In addition to these, the medals of several other inductees have been returned:
  • the family of Alphonse Gerwing, who died in 2007, has returned his medal (July 21: Lifesite)
  • the medal of Catherine Doherty, who died in 1985, was returned by Madonna House, which she founded (July 7: Lifesite)
  • the medal of Monsignor A.J. Goski, who died 1987 (link) , was returned by his nephew (July 8: link)
Finally, according to Lifesite, three award-holders have informed them of their intention to return the award anonymously. (Possibly Richard, Sylla, and Smith?)

A suggestion for right-wing commentariat

Just because the voices in your head are screaming "kill them, kill them all" doesn't mean that you have to write it.  Someone else might actually do it.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

War may be unwinnable, says general


h/t the Onion

KLRVU explains why you shouldn't believe their poll

The cleanup continues at KLRVU. We have already seen how Campaign Life's pollster KLRVU plagiarized a page explaining "why you should participate" in its polls (and here). I have already commented on the frightful mess that Allan Bruinooge's first rewrite of that page on July 25.

In the last days, Mr. Bruinooge has returned to the page and reworked it. Most of the plagiarism is gone and his text improved, which is a good thing. Many errors remain, which do not speak well for this pollster's eye for detail, but let that go.

We now have at least the three versions of KLRVU's page describing why you should participate in their polls. As you can see here, each version has gotten shorter.

One thing that has remained through all three versions of the document is this:
    If Klrv calls (July 24)
The shorter version of this: "Don't decline to participate, because if you decline, someone else's opinion will hold a greater sway in the poll". An earlier version of the page offered an illustration:
    Premier (July 25)
The point is that the result of a poll might be skewed if people don't participate. But this is precisely the problem with KLRVU's notorious Morgentaler poll. KLRVU claims to have called 157,115 Canadian households with the question

"Do you believe abortionist Henry Morgentaler deserves the Order of Canada?"

Of these 157,115, only 13,324 answered. But even if we accept KLRVU's numbers (which seem inflated), 144,000 must feel like the hypothetical premier-hater in KLRVU's example -- they have not had their opinion recorded.

But the question has to be asked. If non-participation removes from citizens their voice and thereby undermines the validity of a poll, shouldn't the 144,000 non-participants in KLRVU's Mortengaler poll also discredit its results?

A graphical history of KLRVU's page "why participate"

A short history of

Version 1
(July 24)
Version 2
(July 25)
Version 3
(July 28)
KLRVU Why participate (July 24)
KLRVU Why participate? (20080725)
Why participate? (July 28)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

KLRVU's mystery customer changes his mind


Another interesting change is on KLRVU's front page. Consider the screen cap to the right, where a testimonial as been added to the front page praising KLRVU's polling prowess. A satisfied customer boasts that because of KLRVU "only we knew the win was going to be that close".

Or at least that is what it used to say. If you go to the page now, the satisfied customer has changed his mind.

SatisfiedAfterNow, as you can see in the screen shot to the left, the satisfied customer does not any longer assure us how good KLRVU is at polling, but instead that "touch tone technology" (a.k.a. phone spamming) is the future.

That is an odd change.

Why remove a specific testimonial about how good you are at polling in favour of a glib statement of the value of phone spam? The first might bring customers to your business; the second only attracts them to your industry.

Might it be that the claims to polling-wizardry were false or exaggerated to begin with? and that this is merely yet another falsehood that is now quietly removed?

Campaign Life: we used KLRVU because they were cheap

Not long after radio host and Campaign Life Coalition supporter John Counsell criticized the choice of KLRVU as a pollster (which you heard here), Wanda, a spokesperson from Campaign Life, called him:

Money quotes:
J. Counsell (CFRA): "Campaign Life Coalition has to do some damage control in telling people who KLRVU is, what other polls they've done in the past. … The stats mean nothing if this is not a legitimate polling company. "
Campaign Life Coalition: "I think that they were a company that did it at a reasonable cost ... and (laughing) that's why they went with them."

That's gotta hurt

You know that you've blown it when even your allies and friends criticize a move as stupid.

If you click on the link below, you can hear John Counsell of 580 CFRA News Talk Radio discussing the KLRVU controversy (July 24, at about 10:20 pm).

Money quote:
    "Why even do a poll and publish the stats if the polling company is questionable? It does more damage than good. And [I am] a supporter of campaign Life Coalition!"

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Witty caption contest

OK, sports fans. A little bit of levity. Provide the wittiest caption for a prize! (The prize is the admiration of the blogging world.) Enter early, enter often.

Allan Bruinooge begins to fix the KLRVU page

To resume. A clumsy automated-poll about the Morgentaler Order of Canada led an Unrepentant Old Hippy to KLRVU Research, and KLRVU turned out to be a phone-spam company run by Allan Bruinooge, brother of a Conservative MP, who seems well-connected to the Conservative establishment in Manitoba.

KLRVU Why participate(20080725morning)KLRVU Why participate? (20080725) In an effort to make his company seem more substantial, and the poll (one assumes) more trustworthy, Mr. Bruinooge put together a webpage, but in haste.  The url was only registered a few days before the poll was released, and the webpage itself appeared only after bloggers began to ask questions about KLRVU.   

Some of the claims in the webpage were exaggerated, such as the concerning his membership in a professional organization. And one of KLRVU's pages was plagiarized from an American company.

There's a lot to be embarassed about here. To his credit, however, Mr. Bruinooge has spent today trying to clean up the mess he created. Unfortunately, he hasn't done a very good job of it. He has rewritten some of the text to remove the plagiarism. But he has not got it all, and what is left is a frightful mess: ungrammatical, incoherent, and unfocused. (You can see its current state by clicking the image on the right; its earlier state is to the left.)

One paragraph is especially problematic -- one that we looked at earlier.
I don't want to seem harsh, but this is appallingly bad. The sentence underlined in red is ungrammatical and nonsensical. The sentences in blue are still verbatim from the SurveyUSA page, but their context is changed enough that they 'dangle'. The sentence underlined in green has a comma splice and contradicts the red sentence, according to which phone-numbers come from database companies, not Info Canada.

Info Canada (pink arrows) is new. In the original plagiarized version (above and to the right) called the company "Infolist Canada" (which doesn't seem to exist); in the SurveyUSA page (above and to the left) from which this page was plagiarized the American company SSI was mentioned here. InfoCanada, however, is a real company (see here), a subsidiary of InfoUSA, and (like its parent company) seems to be a spam-supply company. (The description of InfoCanada as "the largest and most respectable provider…" is still verbatim from the InfoUSA site.)

Finally, turning to the final sentence. Does any of this make any sense? The original sentence in the SurveyUSA page praised SSI for its skill is here:
And, of course, you can see that there is still some plagiarism here.

You might ask, however, why this matters. So let me get straight to the point. If Mr. Bruinooge cannot present his company in a clear way without error, should we trust him to gather, analyze, and report public opinion accurately? The fact that the results of his Mortgentaler poll resulted in almost the exact opposite of the results of two other polls on this question, both done by polling companies with proven track records, raises the question whether he didn't make errors in it like he's done in this web-page: simple errors of transcription that completely foul up the text.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Jesus saves

… but Gretsky scores on the rebound.

Truth in advertising and the KLRVU affair: this is a phone spam company

There has been a lot discovered quickly about Alan Bruinooge's company, KLRVU, in very short order over at Unrepentant Old Hippy, none of it confidence inspiring.

Many have questioned KLRVU's expertise as a polling company, and honesty and competence in their self-presentation. One point that has not been made so far that should be made is that KLRVU is not primarily a polling company. Yes, their name is KLRVU Research; and, yes, their webpage claims membership in the Marketing Research & Intelligence Association (MRIA); and, yes, the subtitle on their webpage lays claim to "Market and Opinion"; If you look at the services that their web-page actually offers, however, it is all market and no opinion. And the MRIA seems not to have heard of them.

KLRVUproducts(20080725)On the main page you'll find a link about Products information (sic!). If you follow it, you find a description of "voice broadcasting" (the image to the right provides a link to a screen capture of that page -- just in case it, um, changes soon.)

And, what do you find there? A detailed description of "Voice Broadcasting". What's that, you ask?
    Voice Broadcasting is a message delivery service that plays a pre-recorded message on a customer's answering machine, voicemail service, or even to a "live" person. …
Further down the page we learn
    KLRVU specializes is supporting High Volume Voice Broadcasting customers. With an aggregate voice broadcasting capacity of more than a million minutes per hour KLRVU can provide you with that rare combination of unbounded capacity, low prices and exceptional service.
KLRVU key points (20080725)What about polling and opinion research? Not a word, here. Nor is anything about polling to be found at their link Key Points for Successful Campaigns, which again only discusses "Voice Broadcasting" campaigns (screen capture can again be accessed through the image to the right).

There is, of course, a polling page, but as we have seen (here and here), the words are all copied from another website.

Much has been said over at JJ's about KLRVU's honesty, transparency, and competence in polling — or rather, the lack of these things. This should not be especially surprising, since KLRVU is first and foremost an automated phone spam company.

Now, in case you don't recognize this phenomenon, these are the jerks that phone at suppertime to congratulate you on the free holiday you've won (provided, of course, you sit through a presentation by their friendly sales rep!) 

This is not a field in which honesty or integrity are to be expected.

More Plagiarism at KLRVU

We have already pointed out that KLRVU has plagiarized a page of SurveyUSA and compared the two pages, with images of the opening paragraphs. The rest of the page is much the same--a rip-off of the SurveyUSA page, with minor changes.

But copying-and-pasting material and revising it for a new location is often trickier than one would assume, as can be seen in the section where KLRVu explains how it got your number.

What they found at SurveyUSA was this:
Here they found a problem, because their phone list did not come from SSI.

Here again, we see a few more changes. Most importantly, SSI is replaced by a Canadian company, Infolist Canada. Like SSI, Infolist Canada is described as the largest and most respected provider of data. But this is surely incorrect, since (as SurveyUSA tells us, SSI is the largest). Indeed, Infolist seems literally to have no public profile: no webpage, no phone number, no nothing.

It is hard to say exactly what is going on here. Is this incompentence, laziness, or dishonesty? Probably a little of all three.

Plagiarism at KLRVU

Over at Unrepentant old hippy, JJ has noticed some very odd things going on with the Morgentaler poll done by KLRVU. It was sponsored by Lifesite, and seems to have been designed to show Canadian opposition to the recent award of the Order of Canada to Henry Mortgentaler.

The problem is that the poll was done by a firm that no one has ever heard of.  Indeed, even google seemed to have no listing. As soon as questions were asked, a web-site was discovered at

But that page seems to have been only created yesterday, after questions began to be raised, and unsurprisingly, there are signs of haste in its construction. Note, for example, one of its pages explaining why you should particpate in its polls (the spelling error in the original). Here is a screen shot:
A quick google search, however, shows that this is a rip-off from a page at Survey-USA, an American company that provides the similar services:
This is merely a copy and paste job with every American reference is replaced by a Canadian one, and every reference to SurveyUSA is replaced by one to KLRVU.

This reeks not only of dishonesty, but also of incompetence.  It seems that the only part of this page that is not plagiarized is the two words of the title: "why particpate", one of which is mispelled.

More to come, probably.