Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tempest in a borrowed teapot, but it's the borrowing...

This needed a late-day update, skip to the bottom if you're in a rush.

So. It appears that Prime Minister Harper lifted some text from a John Howard speech back in 200. An easy mistake to make if you're not familiar with the potentially unpleasant consequences of such an act. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines it as:

1. The act or practice of plagiarizing.
2. That which plagiarized.

Seems direct to me, but Prime Minister Harper isn't a voracious reader (being busy and all), so maybe the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition definition will help him:

Literary theft. Plagiarism occurs when a writer duplicates another writer's language or ideas and then calls the work his or her own. Copyright laws protect writers' words as their legal property. To avoid the charge of plagiarism, writers take care to credit those from whom they borrow and quote.

The Liberals are delighted. The Conservative Spokesman Yaroslav Baran says "This is exactly why the Liberals are in the trouble they're in, as a party and as a campaign...They want to focus on a speech from five years, two elections, three Parliaments ago, from a party that no longer exists." And the National Post points out that Bob Rae's claiming the plagiarized speech was "...also duplicated in guest editorials that Mr. Harper submitted to the Toronto Star, National Post and Ottawa Citizen which were published under his byline on March 21, 2003, and in a guest editorial published on March 29, 2003, in the Wall Street Journal under the byline of Mr. Harper and then-foreign affairs critic Stockwell Day.”

Harper hasn't said anything yet. Wise man.

Reduce, reuse, recycle hasn't been a Conservative mantra, but apparently they're at least a third of the way there. This isn't an election changing issue. But it is low-level unpleasant. Harper has to admit to doing it and shrug it off, or admit to doing it and apologize. It's the equivalent of being caught cribbing lyrics from your favourite album for a long-ago poetry class. And if you try the old "I was paying homage to a universal truth" routine, it'll go badly. T'aint the crime, it's the coverup.

Another reason to look at Stephen Harper and ask: is this as good as it gets?

Update, around 5:15pm - “In 2003, I worked in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. I was tasked with – and wrote – a speech for the then Leader of the Opposition. Pressed for time, I was overzealous in copying segments of another world leader’s speech. Neither my superiors in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition nor the Leader of the Opposition was aware that I had done so."

So says Owen Lippert, a former foreign policy adviser and (quite recently) former campaign worker on Team Harper. 'Oops' says a lot. And the matter, I guess, is closed.

Right. Any ideas?

"When President Bush took office, he inherited President Clinton’s surpluses — four years in a row, budget surpluses, on a trajectory of $5.6 trillion in surplus. And with his reckless economic policies, within two years, he had turned that around.

And now eight years later, the foundation of that fiscal irresponsibility, combined with an anything goes economic policy, has taken us to where we are today. They claim to be free market advocates, when it’s really an anything goes mentality. No regulation, no supervision, no discipline. And if you fail, you will have a golden parachute, and the taxpayer will bail you out.

Those days are over. The party is over in that respect. Democrats believe in a free market. We know that it can create jobs, it can create wealth, it can create many good things in our economy. But in this case, in its unbridled form, as encouraged, supported, by the Republicans — some in the Republican Party, not all — it has created not jobs, not capital, it has created chaos."

And the meltdown is official. I know I'm in the wrong country and all, but it's fascinating. McCain's whiplash response to what he calls a partisan attack by Pelosi is both telling and outright terrifying. You can read Pelosi's entire address here, decide for yourself whether it was grandstanding or if it was her "Have you no decency, sir, at long last?" moment in the best Joseph Welch tradition with Bush standing in for McCarthy.

To be fair, one should spread the blame around. In the late 80's, Bobcat Goldthwait said that "Blaming Ronald Reagan for the state of the country is like blaming Ronald McDonald when you eat a bad cheeseburger. Neither of them runs the company." He was not without a point, then or now.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

RIP Mr. Newman

From the oft-cited Wikipedia: Paul Leonard Newman was an American actor, film director, entrepreneur, race car driver, racing team owner and humanitarian. He won numerous awards, including an Academy Award, two Golden Globe Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award, and an Emmy award, along with many honorary awards. He was also the founder of Newman's Own, a food company from which Newman donated all profits and royalties to charity. As of May 2007, these donations have exceeded US$220 million.

Paul Newman dies at 83.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A scarier situation

"...it was soon apparent that Mr. Harper's politics were the old politics. Power was hoarded in the Prime Minister's Office to an extent seldom, if ever, seen. Despite bringing in new accountability legislation, the government was run with secrecy and mistrust and strong-armed control. Everything had the look of being done for political reasons alone."

-Lawrence Martin, The Globe and Mail

There's gotta be a better option than this.

Monday, September 01, 2008

High road, everybody

Okay. Brand-spanking-new VP candidate Sarah Palin's daughter is seventeen and pregnant. The jokes just write themselves, don't they?

Me, I don't care. Really I don't. I'm a new parent. Handling a baby isn't easy and if I were seventeen and had to face it, things would not have been pretty. I don't even think it's any reflection on Palin's parenting skills. Teenagers do dumb things. I did several. Nobody got pregnant (especially not me) but maybe I just went to the wrong parties. Teenagers do dumb things. So please - please - don't fall into the trap of making this an issue.

Let's call it a crapshoot. It happens. And when a right-to-lifer stands behind her agenda rather than taking care of things quietly in a private clinic with a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do sermon in waiting in case the story breaks, hey. Good on her. It's a family matter, I'll buy that line. Anybody who throws mud is going to be wearing it as well. McCain's people have already drawn first blood (onto themselves) with a cute little comment along these lines:

"The despicable rumors that have been spread by liberal blogs, some even with Barak Obama's name in them, is a real anchor around the Democratic ticket, pulling them down in the mud in a way that certainly juxtaposes themselves against their 'campaign of change.'"

You could harp on the point that if the rumour turns out to be true ("Psst...her daughter's pregnant, pass it on"), it's not exactly despicable. Were there rumours that I missed over the last 96hrs or so? This is what happens when I leave town. McCain's spokesperson has a point, however. I can't think of a bigger fish in a barrel than Palin's sooner-than-scheduled grandchild. And every time it gets kicked at, it's that much more ammunition for the soft-Republican ticket ("They beat-up on a mom, man! A mom with a kid! Who's a mom!"). It's a weird variation on the bullet-proof vest; come up with a VP candidate where the potential scandal will show up early, and then accuse anyone who brings it up as being mean-spirited. McCain's campaign can pre-emptively whine and talk down the Democrats without any party-approved communication in the matter. "They started it" is going to come up a lot in the next few weeks, get ready.

It's Labour Day. This story will kick into full gear tomorrow. If Palin takes care of her daughter, helps her to be a teenage mom, raises a healthy kid, that's great. Keep out of the process. Ms. Palin and family, from this point on, are sacrosanct. Let them deal with a family matter as they wish. For the rest of the world, however, some questions are in order:

To the media celebrity (shudder) of your choice: Check out their transcripts and check out their previous opinions about unwed teens and their parentage. If said commentators come to Palin's defense, remind them politely of their previous positions and see if there's a switch. I'm sure they'll be delighted to discuss it.

To McCain's people: You've said he knew about this. Get a direct on-the-record quote about how it influenced his decision.

To Obama's: He's got daughters, he's going to steer clear of this as far as humanly possible. Perhaps let him drop a few words to the faithful suggesting the same. Update: As of around 2:30pm on Sept. 1st, Obama made a statement. Read the comments. Some are pretty venal. From both sides.

To all those who believed the Clinton/Lewinsky unpleasantness was best dealt with outside of the political sphere: Ms. Palin's just given you a chance to practice your 'it ain't my family' position. Yeah, it isn't the same thing. But just make an informed decision, okay?

To the producers of Juno: ...okay. That was cheap. Let's move on.

To the Alaskan State Government: What (if any) state programs are in place to address teen pregnancy? Birth control clinics? And if your abstinence program consists saying "Don't do it" and heading out for a coffee, it doesn't count as counselling. And what have Ms. Palin's past positions been on the issue? As stated previously, let the woman alone, let's just peek at the record. It'll be interesting if there's a disconnect that's not addressed.

To the spiritual leader of your choice: Get their take on it. Why not? Might be a good time to either reaffirm your beliefts or agree to disagree. Either way, it's always a good excuse for coffee. Maybe cake, even.

For the rest of us: Ignore it and focus on issues that actually matter.

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