A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for September 2008

[LINK] “Tory campaigner resigns over plagiarized speech”

Posted without comment.

Stephen Harper’s 2003 speech urging Canada to join the U.S. assault on Iraq was plagiarized from one given by the Australian prime minister two days previously, and the man who wrote it resigned Tuesday as a researcher for the Conservative election campaign.

Owen Lippert said he was working in Mr. Harper’s office when he was asked to write the speech for the then-opposition-leader to deliver in the House of Commons the day the United States began bombing Baghdad. Large chunks were taken from a speech given by then-prime-minister John Howard in the Australian Parliament two days earlier.

“Pressed for time, I was overzealous in copying segments of another world leader’s speech,” Mr. Lippert said in a statement issued by the Conservative Party, five hours after the Tories accused the Liberals of “desperation” and “gotcha journalism” in revealing the plagiarism.

“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,” Mr. Lippert said. “I apologize to all involved and have resigned my position from the Conservative campaign.”

The similarities in the two speeches, delivered on March 18 and 20, 2003, were made public Tuesday during a speech in Toronto by Liberal MP Bob Rae. A Liberal strategist said the party discovered them almost by accident while doing research on the Internet two months ago.

The strategist said a junior staffer, who asked not to be identified, was doing a Google search on Mr. Harper, George W. Bush and the war in Iraq and came across a link to Mr. Howard’s speech.

“A little bell went off — ‘I have heard that language before’ — and the rest, as they say, is history,” the strategist said. The Liberals did not release the information until Tuesday because they were waiting to receive a videotape of Mr. Howard’s speech from Australia, the strategist said.

“Initially, when all we had was the paper copies of the speeches, we would place them side by side, and sometimes you would actually not be able to tell whose speech was whose,” the strategist said.

Mr. Howard’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

Mr. Rae said the copied speech is evidence that Canada is losing its own voice in foreign policy under the Conservatives. He said the country has become a parrot of right-wing interests from the United States and other foreign countries.

“How does a leader in Canada’s Parliament, on such a crucial issue, end up giving almost the exact same speech as any other country’s leader, let alone a leader who was a key member of George W. Bush’s coalition of the willing?” Mr. Rae said.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion also condemned the copied speech, saying Mr. Harper should be “expelled” from his party.

“He’s unable to choose his own words,” Mr. Dion said. “Canadians want their country [to] speak with its own voice on the world stage.”

Mr. Harper’s friend, Ken Boessenkool, was a senior policy adviser in charge of his speechwriting in 2003. Tuesday he denied any suggestion that the similarities in the speeches were the result of orders from Mr. Bush to keep his allies on the same page.

“We had a speech to give on the subject. We asked our researchers to prepare some materials. Some draft materials were presented to me,” said Mr. Boessenkool, who is now senior vice-president at Hill and Knowlton Canada. “The speech was what it was.”

He said the opposition leader’s office had a very busy week when the plagiarism occurred, and that there was nothing more to it than Mr. Lippert’s error in judgment.

“My recollection was it was a very busy week for speeches,” Mr. Boessenkool said. “I’m not excusing what happened, but these things do happen.”

Hansard, the official record of the House of Commons, shows Mr. Harper made only one speech in the House of Commons that week in addition to attending Question Period.

[. . .]

Earlier Tuesday, Conservative spokesman Yaroslav Baran told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Rae’s “attack” was evidence of Liberal desperation. A senior Conservative strategist dismissed the allegations of plagiarism as not being relevant.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2008 at 11:04 pm

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[MUSIC] One to One, “There Was a Time”

Internationally, the 1980s Canadian pop music group might be most notable as the group that included Leslie Howe, a producer who collaborated with Alanis Morissette on her dance-pop albums of the early 1980s. Inside Canada, they’re notable as a group that had a series of Top 40 hits from 1986 to 1992, starting with the below catchy song.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 27, 2008 at 7:08 pm

[LINK] The first Chinese spacewalk, successful

36 years after China’s aborted 1972 Shuguang manned spaceflight program, the Chinese space program can claim another landmark achievement.

A Chinese astronaut Saturday became the first in his country’s history to complete a space walk, a feat President Hu Jintao hailed as a “major breakthrough” for the emerging space power.

Mission commander Zhai Zhigang left the Shenzhou VII spacecraft at 4:43 pm Beijing time (0843 GMT) to float in orbit for just under 15 minutes, making China the third country to complete a space walk after the United States and the former Soviet Union.

“I feel well,” said Zhai, the leader of the Shenzhou VII’s three-man crew, waving to a camera outside the spacecraft. “I am greeting the Chinese people and the people of the world.”

The space walk, broadcast live on television, was the highlight of the 68-hour voyage — China’s third manned foray into space — and considered an important step towards building a space station, China’s next major ambition in space.

“Your spacewalk was a complete success. It’s a major breakthrough in the development of our manned space programme,” Hu, standing inside the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre, told the astronaut by radio.

“The motherland and the people thank you,” Hu said in the televised conversation.

The spacecraft was now due to return to Earth on Sunday at 5:00pm (0900GMT), Wang Zhaoyao, spokesman for China’s manned space programme, told reporters.

The space walk was likely to stir up patriotic emotions ahead of China’s October 1 National Day, which will mark the 59th anniversary of the founding of the people’s republic.

Coming just days before the 50th anniversary of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, also on October 1, it also marked a potent symbol of the Asian giant’s emergence as a space power.

Zhai waved a small Chinese flag shortly after climbing out of the spacecraft 343 kilometres (215 miles) over the Earth, a highly symbolic move.

The United States, Russia, and now China have space agencies capable of launching (and returning!) people to low Earth orbit. Who will be next, do you think? (My money’s on either the ESA or India’s program.)

Written by Randy McDonald

September 27, 2008 at 7:00 pm

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[LINK] Pop goes the world(s)

I got this news item from james_nicoll.

Two terrestrial planets orbiting a mature sun-like star [of BD +20°307] some 300 light-years from Earth recently suffered a violent collision, astronomers at UCLA, Tennessee State University and the California Institute of Technology will report in a December issue of the Astrophysical Journal, the premier journal of astronomy and astrophysics.

“It’s as if Earth and Venus collided with each other,” said Benjamin Zuckerman, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and a co-author on the paper. “Astronomers have never seen anything like this before. Apparently, major catastrophic collisions can take place in a fully mature planetary system.”

“If any life was present on either planet, the massive collision would have wiped out everything in a matter of minutes — the ultimate extinction event,” said co-author Gregory Henry, an astronomer at Tennessee State University (TSU). “A massive disk of infrared-emitting dust circling the star provides silent testimony to this sad fate.”

[. . .]

“The patterns of element abundances in the stars show that they are much older than a few hundred million years, as originally thought,” Fekel said. “Instead, the binary system appears to have an age of several billion years, comparable to our solar system.”

“The planetary collision in BD+20 307 was not observed directly but rather was inferred from the extraordinary quantity of dust particles that orbit the binary pair at about the same distance as Earth and Venus are from our sun,” Henry said. “If this dust does indeed point to the presence of terrestrial planets, then this represents the first known example of planets of any mass in orbit around a close binary star.”

Written by Randy McDonald

September 27, 2008 at 6:53 pm

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[LINK] “‘We Want to Finish It'”

Stewart Bell’s “‘We Want to Finish It'” is the latest in a series of articles chronicling the Sri Lankan civil war. Here, the central featuer is an interview with Lieutannt-General Sarath Fonseka, who speaks at length about his view on Sri Lanka’s national question.

In an interview, Lt.-Gen. Fonseka talks candidly about the war, which he believes will be over in less than a year, and his views on the militant Tamil nationalism that has spilled from Sri Lanka into countries with ethnic Tamil diasporas, Canada included.

“The national leadership basically is determined to solve this problem,” he says. “The task given to us is to eradicate terrorism … If we have the same commitment one more year, the LTTE’s destination is, I think, decided.”

In the general’s view, the war is driven by Tamils who want a homeland and have chosen Sri Lanka as the place. But he says the country’s ethnic Sinhalese majority will never allow the ethnic Tamil minority to break the island apart.

[. . .]

“I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people,” he says.

“We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country.

“We are also a strong nation. They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.”

Fonseka and his government may well be able to crush the Tamil Tigers, but will they be able to do a good job of managing the aftermath?

Written by Randy McDonald

September 25, 2008 at 5:44 pm

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[LINK] “Bad News For The Bailout”

Several people on my friends list, includibg kristine_smith, have linked to this Forbes.com article’s frightfulness.

In fact, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.

“It’s not based on any particular data point,” a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. “We just wanted to choose a really large number.”


Guess how far Toronto is from the United States border?

Being part of this this will be, um, wow.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 25, 2008 at 5:16 pm

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[PHOTO] Roses in the night

Roses in the night
Originally uploaded by rfmcdpei

I took a photo of these full roses earlier this month and late in the evening, around 10 o’clock, while I was walking around the Annex with my friend John. I’m glad that the flash caught the flowers, and unsurprised that it failed to capture the house just a few metres beyond.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 23, 2008 at 11:52 pm

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[BRIEF NOTE] “Ontario may face future as have-not province: McGuinty”

The CBC has the news.

Ontario could soon become a have-not province, requiring equalization payments, Premier Dalton McGuinty told the Economic Club of Toronto in a Monday morning speech.

With the decline of Ontario’s manufacturing industry, combined with higher oil prices, McGuinty said the province may qualify for equalization payments within two years.

Equalization payments are the federal government’s way of offsetting differences between the provinces.

None of the four federal parties has included the cost of equalization payments for Ontario in their financial forecasts, but they should, he said.

McGuinty said he has written to party leaders asking for a commitment they won’t make any changes that would exclude Ontario from receiving equalization payments.

McGuinty made the speech before going to the legislature where the fall session kicked off Monday. The economy is expected to dominate debate.

While it’s worth noting that an Ontario that has traditionally been at the heart of a the Canadian economy is completely without precedent, it’s also worth noting that with the exception of an ascendant Alberta, the GDP per capita of the other federal units have been converging towards the Canadian average. Ontario was probably bound to follow the national trend.

Now, if Ontario’s relative position continues to deteriorate, I’ll be concerned. If it doesn’t, and in the meantime, if the equalization payments are needed so what? Silly pride is silly.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 22, 2008 at 6:58 pm

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[TOR] Spacing on Toronto’s campuses

Over at Spacing, Matthew Hague took a look at the five different higher education campuses in Toronto. Pictures are included, and a brief summary lies below.

York University’s still missing in all this. Here’s to hoping that Hague completes his survey.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 22, 2008 at 6:46 pm

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[PHOTO] The new kitten

Originally uploaded by rfmcdpei

This is a picture of me holding my new kitten for the first time, taken on 21 September 2008.

What name would you give him? Serious suggestions will be entertained.

My thanks to Jerry for taking the photo. I have to think him for suggesting the idea of cat adoption, for that matter.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 22, 2008 at 2:17 pm

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