Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The significance of Joe Biden's plagiarism?

A piece in Inside Higher Ed by Jonathan Beecher Field ends with the text:

Biden’s dishonesty matters to me in two ways. It suggests something of Biden’s character, indeed, in a realm more relevant to doing his job than was John Edwards’s philandering to his. The other reason is selfish. Now that Barack Obama has deemed a plagiarist worthy of the vice-presidency, it becomes more difficult for me to make the case in the classroom that plagiarism matters. More broadly speaking, Obama’s choice has made it harder for me, and for my colleagues across the United States, to defend the principles that form the foundation of scholarship.

see also

IPBiz is waiting for someone to discuss some of the interplay (favoritism) between Biden and Amtrak.

The 271blog noted that patent reform came up at the DNC:

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., told a crowd in Denver on Tuesday that it is crucial for Congress to pass legislation to update the U.S. patent system next year -- even if the measure is a scaled back version of the broad, controversial language that was in play during the 110th Congress. [HR 1908/S 1145]

Of course, with Barack Obama picking a known plagiarist as his VEEPmate, one knows exactly where the Democrats stand on intellectual property. As they say at the Harvard Business Review: plagiarize with pride!

At Chronicle:

Of —The other irony is that when faced with these situations the students either plead ignorant or plead that the negative impact on their lives is not worth the sentence. I wonder where they learn that attitude?— , one might look to Joe Biden’s defense after being caught copying several pages of a law review into a paper he did as a 1L at Syracuse Law. Unlike Allison, Joe didn’t walk the plank, and he might soon be our first plagiarist Vice-President. Or Glen Poshard, who copied someone else’s summary in his own summary at page 54 of his Ph.D. thesis, and is an “inadvertent” plagiarist university president. And then there is Laurence Tribe.


In an inaptly titled post Biden Plagiarism Accusation: What's The Real Story?, the Huffington Post states

But they did not note that Biden reportedly had credited Kinnock, as The Washington Post reported at the time: "John Quinlan, a reporter for the Sioux City Journal, said his notes showed Biden said he was quoting Kinnock when he used the same passage in a speech Aug. 14.

and links to another post at mediamatters.

mediamatters obliquely referred to the FALSITY of the facts in Biden's copying:

Biden did appear to drop his own family something of a notch downward on the economic and social scale to appear more like Kinnock.

Biden's father and grandfather were not coalminers, so there was nothing truthful in Biden's substituting himself into Kinnock's life story. Other members of Biden's family had gone to college, so there was nothing truthful in that aspect. One can only infer mediamatters doesn't really care about truth.

Separately, mediamatters, and the huffingtonpost, did NOT mention the plagiarism incident of Biden at Syracuse Law, wherein Biden got caught copying from a law review, and got an F on the paper. That was cut-and-dried plagiarism, but mediamatters didn't mention that.

In terms of a similar "omission", one "Iowa Hawks" at the Fix at the Washington Post stated this about plagiarism:

Steve, You've got to be kidding. In the 15+ town hall meetings a saw Biden speak at in Iowa not one person asked him about the alleged plagiarism incident. I heard people ask about the Thomas hearings, bankruptcy bill,and ever imaginable topic. Why did no one ask about the incident at the Iowa State Fair in the summer of 87, because people in Iowa, about as far away (socially, etc, obviously much of the country is west of Iowa) from the belt way as you get, knew the facts about the incident.

What Iowa Hawks omits is what happened when "Frank" in New Hampshire asked Biden about the more troubling law school plagiarism incident, and Biden's initial comeback was about Biden's IQ, followed by an untrue statement about Biden's class rank in law school. One surmises that "people in Iowa" didn't know the facts OR didn't want to be insulted.

Also on the Fix is a post from another source:

During the 2006 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, the Post's Dana Milbank wrote this of Biden's performance:

"Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., in his first 12 minutes of questioning the nominee, managed to get off only one question. Instead, during his 30-minute round of questioning, Biden spoke about his own Irish American roots, his "Grandfather Finnegan," his son's application to Princeton (he attended the University of Pennsylvania instead, Biden said), a speech the senator gave on the Princeton campus, the fact that Biden is "not a Princeton fan," and his views on the eyeglasses of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)."


One might also ask Clarence Thomas his opinion of how Joe Biden handles hearings.


On the contrasts between Biden and Palin-->

Choice of Palin Is Bold Move by McCain, With Risks: Her personal narrative as a working mother raising five children, including an infant with Down syndrome, with a husband who belongs to a union, might prove attractive to working-class voters in swing states who have been suspicious of Mr. Obama.

Husband of veep choice is snowmobile racer: Todd Palin is a veteran oil-field worker and commercial fisherman affectionately dubbed Alaska's "first dude."

On the plagiarism front, it's hard to imagine either Palin force-fitting their life history to conform to that of someone else, as Joe Biden did with Neil Kinnock; they are too busy originating their own. Comparing Biden and Palin informs one of a subtle undertone on Obama v. McCain about intellectual property and about which individual is more attuned to people who invent new things, as opposed to copying old things. Forget about whether what Biden did with Kinnock was truly "plagiarism" (Biden clearly plagiarized in law school), Biden looked to someone else's life to define his own, and copied the other person's life facts, even when the copied facts didn't fit his own facts. Is this a person you want anywhere near intellectual property policy? Obama's IP policy copies from Lemley's proposals. Do you want that either? As they say at the Harvard Business Review: plagiarize with pride!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lawrence,

Thanks I liked your contribution more than others on this topic because it points out the main problem: that Joe Biden lied about his history, not just that he plagiarized some speech. This I'd like to mention on Wikipedia, which currently underplays the former and focuses on the latter. So two questions please:

1. You said "other members of Biden's family had gone to college", which seems to me to point to the most blatant lie in his speech. But, which members, at which colleges?

2. You said "Biden's father and grandfather were not coalminers", another good point. But can we prove that his great-grandfathers weren't coalminers? Coal mining began in Pennsylvania c. 1900, so conceivably, Biden's great-grandfathers might have been involved. I know they probably weren't, but we'll still need references otherwise the charge won't last on Wikipedia.



6:14 AM  

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