Bob's Basement

Just a short, simple blog for Bob to share his thoughts.

Politics, Plagiarism and the Press

To be honest, I could care less about the Trumps, or the Clintons for that matter. From my perspective, this is going to be a lousy election year. But that being said, the amount of attention that a single, stupid, and seemingly-insignificant speechwriter gaffe is generating in the press and social media these days is enough to make me want to hurl. (Although I will admit to finding #FamousMelianaTrumpQuotes pretty amusing; almost as much fun as #BrianWilliamsMisremembers.)

In case you've been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, the following article should catch you up on what happened at the Republican National Convention (RNC) yesterday; Melania Trump's speechwriter lifted a handful of phrases from a speech by Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) eight years ago:

The Melania Trump Plagiarism Scandal
https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2016/07/19/melania-trump-plagiarism-scandal/

The above article does a good job of pointing out just how much was copied, which amounts to around two paragraphs in which Melania Trump's speech was either substantially copied or paraphrased from Michelle Obama's speech. In my college days, if I had used the same level of copying or paraphrasing in a term paper without proper citation, the best-case scenario is that the entire paper would have been rejected, and the worst-case scenario is that I would have justifiably received an "F" in the class. However, as the above article points out, Melania Trump is not alone in the recent history of presidential campaign plagiarism.

To begin with, and what is most amusing to me, is that the same speech by Michelle Obama at the 2008 DNC leveraged a few phrases from Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" book without proper attribution, although to be honest I think those few phrases were probably added by Michelle's husband since he was a big fan of Alinsky's work. (However, if someone wanted to be as obnoxious as everyone in the press is being today, one could make the argument that Melania Trump's plagiarism is simply carrying on a tradition of campaign speech misappropriation by potential First Ladies which was first established by Michelle Obama.)

Nevertheless, if the gaffe in Michelle Obama's speech was indeed the fault of her husband's, that would not be too surprising, as Barack Obama has often quoted other authors' works in the past without proper attribution. Here are just a few examples:

Obama by the Numbers: Twice-Told Tales, and Nine in a Row
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/19/AR2008021902342.html

Obama's State of the Union Was Tantamount to Plagiarism
http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/alvin-felzenberg/2011/01/26/obamas-state-of-the-union-was-tantamount-to-plagiarism

The Obama Plagiarism Scandal
https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2008/02/20/the-obama-plagiarism-scandal/

Bush speechwriter accuses Obama of plagiarism in State of the Union
https://www.yahoo.com/news/blogs/sideshow/bush-speechwriter-accuses-obama-of-plagiarism-in-state-of-the-union-143818874.html

You might be tempted to take the following video with a grain of salt based on its origin, but it does do a good job of showing the levels to which Barack Obama (or his speechwriters) will go when leveraging other people's speeches:

When Obama Plagiarized Speeches from Deval Patrick and John Edwards
http://youtu.be/H6pDCvXNVTE

And of course, I could go on about John McCain, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, and a host of others, but let us not forget Joe Biden, who seems to have made a career out of plagiarism. I love how Joe Biden not only stole material from other people - he actually stole other people's life stories and substituted them for his own. He also fabricated his academic records, and eventually his web of intentional deceit forced him to drop out of the 1988 presidential race. Of course, Biden went on to become the Vice President later, proving to future generations of politicians that outright plagiarism will not necessarily be the end of your career. Nevertheless, here are just a few articles about Biden's many transgressions:

The Write Stuff? Why Biden's plagiarism shouldn't be forgotten.
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history_lesson/2008/08/the_write_stuff.html

Biden Admits Errors and Criticizes Latest Report
http://www.nytimes.com/1987/09/22/us/biden-admits-errors-and-criticizes-latest-report.html

Biden Admits Plagiarism in School But Says It Was Not 'Malevolent'
http://www.nytimes.com/1987/09/18/us/biden-admits-plagiarism-in-school-but-says-it-was-not-malevolent.html

The Biden Plagiarism Scandal
https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2008/08/26/the-biden-plagiarism-scandal/

All of this is just to say, a lot of people in politics have plagiarized other people, and the frequency with which it occurs does not make it right. However, from where I am standing it seems as though the way in which today's press has latched onto this single incident with such venom while essentially giving a multitude of other offenders a free pass is more than a little lop-sided. I guess we can see which candidate the mainstream media has chosen, as they have done in the past.

To be honest, nothing in this mini-scandal is going to do anything to sway me any more against either candidate; at the moment, the following image seems like my best option. And just to make sure that I give credit where it is due, I am pointing out - for the record - that I plagiarized it from someone else.

Giant Meteor 2016

 

 

 


POSTSCRIPT: The following information was interesting, albeit somewhat outside the original scope of the blog, so I intentionally omitted it from my main narrative. However, I thought that it was worth adding to the end of this post. In an odd turn of events, Barack Obama has also been accused in the past of plagiarizing from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who in turn was guilty of plagiarizing other people:

Boston U. Panel Finds Plagiarism by Dr. King
http://www.nytimes.com/1991/10/11/us/boston-u-panel-finds-plagiarism-by-dr-king.html

So the saga of Melania Trump quoting Michelle Obama who quoted Saul Alinsky has a rich tradition in politics. Perhaps nothing is original anymore?

Open-mouthed smile

Posted: Jul 20 2016, 23:38 by bob | Comments (0)
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Blast from the Past

So I'm driving through Tucson today and channel-surfing on the radio trying to find a station which actually plays music instead of back-to-back advertisements, when I stumbled across 96 Rock playing "The Spirit of Radio" by Rush, and I think to myself, "Wow, how many times has this exact scenario played out over the past thirty-some-odd-years?"

Rush-The-Spirit-Of-Radio-Single

Seriously -  hearing the same band, playing the same song, on the same radio station, and even driving down the same street in the same town. This has happened way too many times to count... but trust me, it's a good thing every time it happens.

Winking smile

Posted: Jul 13 2016, 23:14 by bob | Comments (0)
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A Hot Time in the Park Today

So, today's ride through Saguaro National Park was a little warm... Surprised smile

2016-07-13_21-12-34

Of course, the highest temperatures were when I was climbing Riparian Ridge... That was no fun at all, believe me.

Posted: Jul 13 2016, 21:16 by bob | Comments (0)
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Some of the Best Names in the Army

During my time in the Army I knew some people with very interesting names for their chosen profession, and here are just a few of my favorite examples.

When I was at DLI our unit had someone named SGT Kill. Considering the fact that the Army's unofficial job description is to "kill people and blow things up," her name was amazingly apropos.

At Fort Devens I knew a German Linguist named SPC Lauscher, whose last name means "eavesdropper" in German; it's like he was born for the job.

There was also a SGT Major at one of my units. He was actually a Sergeant by rank, and his last name just happened to be "Major," so for obvious reasons his name sounded downright powerful, didn't it? I never followed up to see how long he stayed in the Army, because his name could have been a lot more fun as he went through the ranks: Staff Sergeant Major, First Sergeant Major, Sergeant Major Major, Command Sergeant Major Major, etc.

But the following true story is the best:

When I reported to Fort Huachuca, I had already been in the Army over 4 years, so I had seen lots of instances of practical jokes played on new arrivals at each duty station. For example, a lot of pranksters employ "supply lists for newbies" to poke fun at their victims. (Everyone remembers new recruits asking for "Squelch Grease," "Chemlight Batteries," and "Grid Squares," right?) However, on one occasion when I actually needed something specific for one of our trucks, one of my coworkers said, "Go see Private Parts in the Supply Room." I laughed and replied, "Look, I didn't enlist yesterday; who really works in supply?" My colleague quickly responded, "No really - that's his name."

Feeling that I had been duped but still needing repair parts for my vehicle, I headed to supply, where I actually met with a guy named Private Parts. I'm not sure who had the bright idea of assigning a guy with that name to the supply room; that was either a cruel practical joke or a job that he was destined to do. In either case, I took one look at him and said, "Dude, the drill sergeants at Basic Training must have unleashed hell on you." He winced slightly and replied, "You don't know the half of it..."

Posted: Jun 29 2016, 01:33 by bob | Comments (0)
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An Open Letter to LIVESTRONG

I have recently been unable to read any articles on the www.livestrong.com website, and as a result I sent their customer support staff the following letter:

Despite having been on your mailing list for years and thoroughly enjoying your articles, I am no longer able to use your website because of your poor website design and engineering decisions. Look, I get it - LIVESTRONG needs to make money, and to do so you charge for advertising. And I realize that in order to increase your advertising revenue, most of your "articles" are now "click-bait slideshows" which require your readers to click through multiple pages in order to read a single article.

The problem is, your website designers have built an extremely-fragile house of cards, so more often than not I can only get one or two pages into a "slideshow" before your website ceases to work; e.g. pages hang, display timeout errors, etc. Because I actually WANT to read your content, I will try other browsers and other computers, but the results are the always the same; after a couple of pages I get nothing else.

In some cases I think this is because your website is trying to popup a modal dialog to ask me to sign up for your newsletter, which I already receive, so this is annoying for multiple reasons; I hate being asked to sign up for something to which I am already subscribed, and I hate your website crashing while asking me to do something which I have already done.

As a result, I'll probably stop trying to read your content. Oh sure, I'm just one guy so it's no big deal to you, but here's food for thought: I'm willing to bet that other website users are facing these same frustrations, so you're really losing ALL OUR BUSINESS and not just my business. So please, for my sake and yours, FIX YOUR @#$% WEBSITE.


07/16/2016 - Update: LiveStrong appears to have fixed their problems. Yay! I can read articles again!

Posted: Jun 20 2016, 12:51 by bob | Comments (0)
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Obama at Hiroshima

I have seen a great deal of Internet chatter over the past 24 hours regarding President Obama's speech at Hiroshima, with the central theme for most of the comments being a condemnation for any attempt by a United States President to apologize for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Before I continue, let me make two facts perfectly clear: 1) I am no fan of President Obama, and 2) I fully support President Truman's decision to end World War II as expeditiously as possible. Let me address those two points out of order.

The second point in my introduction is difficult for many people of this generation to understand. Years of revisionist historians have deluded the weak-minded into a semi-apologetic state with regard to the decisions which were made in the latter years of the Second World War in order to quickly bring that conflict to a definitive end. By the summer of 1945, WWII had been raging for six years. Over 70 million people had perished as a result, and Japan's personal contributions to those death tolls were in the millions. However, the Empire of Japan impudently refused to surrender despite all indications of its imminent defeat. As a result, the U.S. would have had no choice but to invade Japan as it had done for Europe, and the war would have continued for several years. The expected number of military and civilian Japanese casualties which would have occurred as a result of such an invasion varies greatly depending on the source, but the numbers are generally in the millions; with the most-conservative estimates of at least one million per side of the conflict. So if we were to hypothetically assume a 'lower' number of just one-half million Japanese casualties as a result of an invasion of Japan, (and that number is excessively low by almost all estimations), then hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives were spared by bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki instead of invading. While I agree that arguing in favor of mass destruction seems counter-intuitive, the fact remains that a lower number of deaths is a preferable outcome - even if you are comparing a quarter-million to a million.

That being said, the first point in my introduction should be self-evident. To put it mildly, President Obama has been a bad president; he has managed to consistently bungle both domestic and foreign policy. All of the goodwill from countries around the world who celebrated with the United States upon the election of our first African-American president has evaporated as President Obama's misguided policies have continued to erode world-wide opinions of our once-great nation. When regions of our country erupted with racial violence, President Obama is the one man who could have stepped in and asked all sides to lay down their arms and restore peace. This was President Obama's single-greatest opportunity to behave like the President of the United States, and having done so he could have created a lasting legacy. Yet he did nothing. In short, President Obama has consistently failed in his duties and responsibilities to this country.

All of this brings us to President Obama's actions during this last year of his presidency; he is desperately searching for what will become his "Legacy." Like most presidents, he wants to be remembered for the good that he has done, and he needs something monumental to overcome his many shortcomings as president. His recent overtures to the Communist dictators still in power in Cuba are a perfect example of the levels to which his political distress have plummeted; attempting to normalize relations with an out-spoken Communist-ruled country which possesses Cuba's horrific human rights record is unconscionable. (In past years I have spoken with political refugees who have fled that corrupt and inhuman regime; the sufferings of Cuba's people have been abominable, and to recognize the Castro dynasty as legitimate nullifies its victims' anguish.)

So it hardly came as a surprise to hear that President Obama intended to become the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima. As I mentioned earlier, he needs something significant by which to make himself remembered. And yet, I was immediately suspicious as to what he would say. Neither common sense nor the presence of facts to the contrary have ever stopped 'Great Liberal Minds' from apologizing for things about which they should not feel remorse. As such, it was with a small sense of trepidation that I watched President Obama's speech at Hiroshima earlier today.

Despite my admitted dislike for President Obama, I listened to his entire speech - and not just the sound bites which opposing Talking Heads have been posting. In addition, I vowed to keep an open mind as I listened. As a result, I did not see any part of President Obama's discourse where he "apologized" outright, nor did I necessarily consider any of his statements vague enough to be misconstrued as an apology. That being said, his speech was often redundant, naive, and simplistically idealist in nature.

Yes, war is evil.
Yes, many lives were lost in WWII.
Yes, peace is a good thing.
Yes, no one should ever use another atomic weapon.

I think everyone understands those ideas without having them drowned in waves of political rhetoric. But to be fair, some might argue that even though these these concepts are a given within civilized societies, they still need to be expressed. Perhaps that is so. However, those thoughts would have been considerably more palatable had they not been voiced in such a long-winded fashion. It took President Obama 17 minutes to convey a series of ideas which should have been whittled down to a five-minute speech at the most.

But the one thing which I heard that was truly deplorable was President Obama's continuous pontification about the need for peace in the world, yet his personal track record on the subject is atrocious and hypocritical. President Obama ascended to his office built on the empty promises that he would end U.S. participation in the wars throughout the Middle East, and yet he has continued to escalate the various conflicts, and through his mismanagement of declining situations he has made matters arguably worse in most areas of that region. I could go into detail about ISIS, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Israel, Syria, etc., but those subjects are really outside the scope of this blog.

However, what is within the scope of this blog is the president's continuous escalation of drone-based bombing campaigns. Personally, as a veteran I am openly in favor of killing terrorists with minimal risk to U.S. personnel, and unmanned drones fill that role quite nicely. That being said, President Obama cannot wax poetic about the necessity for peace and the end of bombing campaigns while simultaneously sanctioning innumerable bombing campaigns throughout the world. Such behavior is deceitful and duplicitous.

In the end, perhaps this is where President Obama may ultimately find his legacy. When several decades have passed and the dust of history has settled on his presidency, Obama may be remembered simply as 'The Great Hypocrite.'

Posted: May 28 2016, 23:42 by bob | Comments (0)
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Snakes in the Lane

I saw a four-foot rattlesnake in the bicycle lane during one of my cycling laps around Saguaro National Park today, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about that.

12683003861047454020rattlesnake-hi

On the one hand, he's not riding a bicycle; but on the other hand, he's not in a motorized vehicle.

I think he gets by on a technicality.

Posted: May 26 2016, 21:45 by bob | Comments (0)
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Cycling Perspectives

I was watching a video about last year's 104-mile El Tour de Tucson cycling event, when they interviewed the guy in this photo...

ElTourParticipant

This cyclist is 86 years old, and he was riding the full 104 miles as he has done every year for the past 33 years.

Surprised smile

I have officially lost every opportunity for whining about how hard that ride was for me...

PS - Bonus points for this guy's cycling jersey from the 160-mile Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day.

Posted: May 03 2016, 22:59 by bob | Comments (0)
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The Importance of an Apology

A friend of mine recently shared the following article on Facebook about a study that was just published by Dr. Roy Lewicki and others at the University of Ohio on the subject of what constitutes an effective apology:

The Six elements of an Effective Apology, According to Science

While the information contained in Dr. Lewicki's study is certainly relevant, it is more or less a rehash of the material which Dr. Gary Chapman presented in his book The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships, which was published ten years ago.

The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships

Five of the six points in the OSU study's "new research" are directly lifted from Dr. Chapman's points - and they are almost verbatim quotes. To show just how closely Dr. Lewicki's points are to Dr. Chapman's, I will present the OSU study's list in the first column below, and then I will present the matching points from Dr. Chapman's book in the second column:

OSU Study Dr. Chapman's Book
1. Expression of Regret 1. Expressing Regret
2. Explanation of What Went Wrong n/a
3. Acknowledgment of Responsibility 2. Accepting Responsibility
4. Declaration of Repentance 4. Genuinely Repenting
5. Offer of Repair 3. Making Restitution
6. Request for Forgiveness 5. Requesting Forgiveness

That being said, the OSU study ultimately draws the wrong conclusions; the OSU study suggests that there is one formula for apologies which works in all situations, whereas Dr. Chapman's book demonstrates that what is most-important in an apology for one person may not be for another.

For example, taking responsibility is of paramount importance to me, but not so much for my spouse. However, requesting forgiveness is extremely important for her, and yet Dr. Lewicki suggested that you could leave out the request for forgiveness entirely. If my wife and I were to follow the OSU study's recommendations, she and I would be apologizing to each other in ways that do not align with the other's communication needs, which will undoubtedly result in additional strife at a time when effective communication is most critical.

In contrast to the OSU study's conclusions, Dr. Chapman's recommendation is that each partner in a relationship learn their partner's expected form of apology and strive to address their partner's needs when expressing their apologies. Attempting to pigeon-hole the communication requirements for every relationship based on a single formula as the OSU study suggests is ludicrous.

So ultimately the OSU study is heavily plagiarized from Dr. Chapman's pre-existing research, and yet that study still manages to arrive at an incorrect outcome.

Posted: Apr 23 2016, 21:39 by bob | Comments (0)
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Election 2016

I've decided that I'm voting for this guy this year...

Geddy for President

Don't put him down as arrogant. (Unlike some other candidates,)

 

PS - Yeah, sure he's Canadian, but since when has a lack of citizenship slowed down anyone's chances for candidacy? Smile

Posted: Feb 29 2016, 21:35 by Bob | Comments (0)
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