24 October 2008

Osama Bin Laden vs. Taliban vs. IED vs. Al-Qaeda vs. Suicide Bomber

Today, I investigated to what extent Googlers in the US were interested in some of the lethal enemies of the country since 2004:

Bin Laden was no. 1, nothing surprising there. Then came the Taliban who harbored him and is now resurgent in Afghanistan. Next I found the infamous Improvised Explosive Devices (IED; US Army-speak for road bombs) and Al-Qaeda—I'd expected the latter to score higher. Last but not least was the suicide bomber, the scourge of everyone in Iraq. Notice the peaks: Al-Qaeda in May 2004 and July 2005; Bin Laden in September-November 2004, September 2006 and September 2007 (9/11 remembrances; I don't know why 2005 is missing). The overall ranking order was the same as the current one. I also made a stacked graph using the Google Insights for Search data:

I'm not sure if this is better. What do you think? It's probably a little too granular because it was based on daily numbers. One thing was more clear in this graph than in the regular one: IED increased over time.

22 October 2008

Three-day average interest in Obama and McCain by state and top cities

Yesterday, I was conducting an experiment that took a while to complete. That's why I skipped a day. I was looking into Google searches for Obama and McCain over the last three days available (10-16 through 10-18) on Google Insights for Search, and well split up by US state plus the District of Columbia. I experimented with different analyses and this is what I came up with:

The states are displayed alphabetically. Let's give them ranked according to Obama share too:

The interest in Obama was the highest in Missouri, then came Nevada, Wyoming, and so on. The lowest Google-popularity for Obama or highest one for McCain in this three-day time span was in Delaware, then North Dakota and Massachusetts. So did this mean that Obama was ahead in Missouri but behind in Delaware, opinion-poll-wise? Of course not. I think these graphs show a snapshot of the attention being paid to the two main presidential candidates, e.g., on October 18, Obama held a 100,000-people rally in St. Louis, MO. What is measured is more something like the "buzz," how much the candidates are being talked about. You might say that it reflected the cumulative effect of campaigning: TV, radio, robocalls, appearances, mail, etc.

The analysis also yielded the top cities where people were looking for information on the candidates during the sam time span:

This confirmed my theory that the huge St. Louis Obama rally spiked Missouri: St. Louis was no. 1 for Obama. Second came Houston and then Tampa. McCain had the highest score in Boston, then San Francisco and Seattle. It seemed to me that these had more to do with Obama being so far ahead that people weren't thinking about the candidates much anymore.

20 October 2008

2009 NEA Jazz Masters

Last Friday, the US National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) celebrated its 2009 Jazz Masters: George Benson, Toots Thielemans, Lee Konitz, Jimmy Cobb, Snooky Young and Rudy Van Gelder. The latter is actually a recording engineer so that left me with five musicians to face off:

Benson totally outranked the other four but this was because he is also or even more so a mainstay of pop/rock music. Thielemans was second, closely followed by Konitz. Cobb and Young barely registered among the Googling crowd. I tried to enhance the discriminating power by leaving out Benson:

This graph basically confirmed the first one. The trend lines didn't cross. So I went back to my first analysis and looked at the regional interest information, first for Benson:

Surprisingly, he scored the highest by far in Georgia (the country, not the US state!), followed by Indonesia and South Africa. I am at a loss how to explain this. Maybe a Benson fan can enlighten me? The US wasn't even in the top 10! Next, Thielemans:

Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor "Toots" Thielemans is my personal favorite—I'm Belgian after all ;-) —and naturally got the highest Google-popularity in Belgium, his native country where he even received the title of baron in 2001, a rare honor for an artist. I include a great picture of him playing his harmonica. He expanded its range and versatility as nobody else before him. In that he reminds me of another jazz late great of Belgian extraction, Django Reinhardt, who also played an instrument not normally associated with jazz at that time, viz. the guitar. Thielemans' second country was The Netherlands, then came Hungary. Again, the US didn't get in the top 10. Let's see what I found for Konitz:

Konitz was the second American to be more Google-popular abroad than in the US, this time Italy took the honors. The US did come in eighth. Then I checked on Cobb:

There was very little data for this musician but for what it's worth this was the top 3: the US, South Africa, Vietnam. Finally, how about Young?

He had the same paucity of data as well as the same top 3.

19 October 2008

The "Social Sins": Anti-War vs. Anti-Abortion vs. Anti-Racism vs. Anti-Poverty vs. Anti-Torture

Denver Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput recently shattered the wall supposedly separating Church and State in the US ("Obama the 'most committed' abortion-rights major-party presidential candidate since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion in 1973."). He was of course not the first prelate to do so, his companions were among others former St. Louis, now Vatican Archbishop Raymond L. Burke (Democratic Party = "party of death"), St. Louis Bishop Robert J. Herman (coming election = "Judgement Day"), Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell and Fort Worth Bishop Kevin Vann ("The reading of the letter during Mass on Sunday at Holy Trinity Church in downtown Dallas prompted about two dozen parishioners to walk out."), etc. Progressive Catholics are pushing back against these prelates' myopic obsession with abortion, e.g., Lisa Sowle Cahill (Professor of Theology at Boston College), Douglas Kmiec (Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University, former head of the Office of Legal Counsel for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush), Cathleen Kaveny (Professor of Law and Theology at the University of Notre Dame), Nicholas P. Cafardi (former dean of the Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh; recently de facto forced to resign as trustee of Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio), etc.

In light of all this, I thought it useful to face off the attention some of the most commonly cited "social sins" had been getting from Googlers.

I widened the search to include the "against ..." phrases so as to try to account for all the Google-popularity. Worldwide, anti-war was very dominant, even more so in the early years when the Iraq War was still more in the news. Anti-abortion was a steady second and just this month overtook anti-war. Note the anti-racism high peak in February 2005. Let's have a closer look at each "social sin" now, starting with anti-war:

Interest was the highest by far in the US and from the top searches we learnt that the Iraq War indeed was mostly the context. How about anti-abortion?

Abortion was a major concern in the US and the Philippines. Supposedly hyper-Catholic Ireland didn't even show up in the top 10. Among the top and rising searches, I counted six that were looking for arguments against abortion, only three were "pro-life," i.e., interested in the opposite, and the majority (5) were neutral. Next, anti-racism:

Ireland was the clear leader, followed by the UK and Canada. The large interest in racism in Ireland might have had something to do with the aftermath of the "2004 Citizenship Referendum, in which, at a majority of four to one, the Irish electorate voted for the removal of birth-right citizenship to children of migrants." The US only came in at no. 7. I guess we've solved all our problems in that area ;-) What about the context of the searches? Soccer leagues organized campaigns, the music world got involved, Nike jumped on board, etc. The anti-poverty platform showed the following geographical pattern:

The Philippines was again no. 1, followed by Canada and Ireland. The US lagged far behind at no. 8. Finally, I reproduce the geography and context of anti-torture:

Hong Kong, Switzerland and Australia were most interested in the problem of torture. The US came out seventh but was actually not that far behind in absolute interest numbers. The UN Convention Against Torture, human rights, refugees and even cat torture formed the context.