Monday, April 30, 2007

Why read Tim Shipman when you can read Wikipedia?

The Sunday Telegraph ran an interesting piece yesterday on Fred Thompson, the former Senator and current Law and Order actor who is quite likely to contest for the Republican presidential nomination. After reading the piece, written by Tim Shipman, I looked up Thompson on Wikipedia to get a little more background on him. Then I wondered if I was reading the same article again.

Of Thompson's first foray into acting, Shipman writes:

"He was then asked to play himself in a 1985 film about a real-life judicial corruption scandal in Tennessee, supposedly because the producers could not find a professional actor who could portray him plausibly."

The wiki say:

"The 1977 Ray Blanton-Tennessee Parole Board scandal later became the subject of a book and a movie titled Marie (1985) in which Thompson played himself, supposedly because the producers were unable to find a professional actor who could play him plausibly."

That's a very close crib.

The next paragraph is an even more intentional lifting. While Shipman leaves the quotes in context, he does nothing to indicate that the preceding sentence is basically directly from Wikipedia. Thompson writes:

"He has been a popular choice for on-screen authority figures, playing variously a White House chief of staff, a CIA boss, a highly placed FBI agent, and a senator. As one New York Times critic noted: "When Hollywood directors need someone who can personify governmental power, they often turn to him.""

The wiki is:

Thompson would go on to appear as the amoral demagogue "Dr. Knox Pooley" in a five episode story arc of the TV series Wiseguy (1988), and has also been in subsequent feature films, including No Way Out (1987), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Cape Fear (1991), and In the Line of Fire (1993). A 1994 New York Times profile described his authoritative character roles as such: "The glowering, hulking Mr. Thompson has played a White House chief of staff, a director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a highly placed F.B.I. agent, a rear admiral, even a senator. When Hollywood directors need someone who can personify governmental power, they often turn to him."

I've checked the history on the wiki, and there is nothing indicating that it was rewritten to reflect the Shipman article. So it seems pretty clear that Shipman used Wikipedia, which is great. The problem is that he plagiarized it, which isn't great.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Advance voting in Ontario

The Ontario government is proposing extending voting hours and doubling the number of days for advance voting in the October election. They think this will stem declining turnout. It won't and it comes at the risk of making election outcomes less coherent. I have a paper which tries to show why, but you'd be even better to read this paper.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

On the Greens and the Liberals...

Having just returned from a great day of academic meetings in Chicago, here are my quick two-cents on the May-Dion deal:

i) May has just torpedoed the chances of every other Green candidate save her. Suppose a voter wants to support environmental action. Why in the world would they waste their vote on the Green candidate when they can vote for a Liberal candidate who comes with Ms May's seal of approval.
ii) There is nothing unseemly or untoward about this. At worst, it is awkward. The logic of a plurality system is that the number of parties is always being winnowed. This is why the Progressive Conservatives and the Alliance merged (and, by the way Monte, that happened in a backroom as well). That May has recognized that she cannot win and achieve her objectives on her own and has essentially merged with the Liberals is to her credit. As for Dion, not running a candidate in Central Nova is a small price to pay.
iii) It will be extremely hard to estimate and demonstrate after the election, but I think this is worth 2 points for the Liberals.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

On Belinda...

What exactly do you call someone who entered politics with so much promise but then left after just three years as an MP with a reputation for speaking out against their party's leadership, doing their own thing, and generally finding the role of an MP unstimulating? A dilletante? A flake? A self-serving ambition-driven shell? Well, today you call him the Prime Minister.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Thanks, Barry.

Haven't the Bee Gees done enough to wreck music already? Now, this?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

On private schools and "tax breaks"

Today, the Sun has a fairly good article by Joan Bryden under a ridiculous headline. You can find it here. Here's the jist of the story: in the past when parents receive scholarships to reduce the private school tuition of their children they also had to count that scholarship as income. So, despite also paying property taxes and provincial taxes, these parents also had to pay taxes on money which never actually passed through their wallet. The federal government decided to stop taxing these scholarships in this year's budget (just as they decided to stop taxing my university scholarships in last year's, though the subject of Mr. Flaherty buying me a motorcycle is for another post).

Now, the Liberals think this is unfair. Gerard Kennedy is calling it the subsidy of private schools or something like that. And Ted over at Cerberus, who in my mind is the best Liberal blogger, is also all over this. Is this really a battle the Liberals want to fight? They want to stand for taking more money from parents who want the best education for their kids and are willing to pay for it in addition to paying taxes for schools they don't use? Oh, did I forget to mention that Kennedy also informed us that this measure is meant to appeal to the party's "social conservative base"? What say the experts? I'll leave it to Alex Usher: ""If it's speaking to their base, it's speaking in semaphore with postage-sized flags."

I just don't understand some of the battles this party is trying to fight.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Une petite question, version 112

I agree with Wells, Coyne, Cherniak, the lot. Calling Stephane Dion a vendu is really cheap. It's an insult that some folks here in Quebec like to use for those who stand up for Canada and for the reality that Quebecers are better off in the federation. In the case of Mr. Dion, it's usually been deployed against him after he has exhausted separatist/sovereignist logic. It's been used against him often, so I can't imagine he gets too hurt by it now. His skin is pretty thick. But still, he certainly doesn't deserve it.

But let's run with the argument that it is an unforgivable insult. What say backers of former Prime Minister Paul Martin, whose campaign deployed it against Chretien in 1990? If he can be forgiven for it, why not Harper?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A good question.

The Globe and Mail's Jeff Shallot raised a great question on CTV's Question Period this morning. Why, when the government has made so much of greater citizen input on judicial appointment committees do they not have a single civilian on the search committee to find a new RCMP commissioner? (The committee, if I recall, is composed of a former RCMP commissioner, the PM's security advisor, and two former Supreme Court Justices. All qualifed people, I should like to say).

I, for one, do not have strong objections to the Conservatives' method for judicial appointments. Especially when judicial appointments have hardly been non-partisan in the past. But, why not extend the principal of greater citizen involvement to the RCMP? Especially when the top brass of the RCMP are bringing themselves into such disrepute? And especially when the RCMP has no civilian oversight as it now stands. This seems like a great beachhead to take in the reform of the organization.