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Dem Congressman Got Alito Spin From Blogger

You know the Dems have a dearth of people with brains when Dem a Congressmen plagiarizes a blogger and assumes he will not get caught.

Brown's Alito letter lifted from blogger

-- Rep. Sherrod Brown wrote to Sen. Mike DeWine last Friday, voicing concern about Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's labor record.

Brown's language was crisp -- and was plagiarized.

Roughly 90 percent of what Brown, an Avon Democrat, wrote in his letter was lifted from an Internet posting by a blogger, as Brown's office acknowledged Monday when The Plain Dealer presented the similarities.

Brown had not credited the blogger, Nathan Newman of NathanNewman.org, or any other source.

For instance, Newman, an attorney and labor and community activist, posted this on his blog Nov. 1: "What is striking about Alito is that he is so hostile even to the basic rights of workers to have a day in court, much less interpreting the law in their favor."

Brown's letter merely changed the last clause so the sentence read, "What is striking about Alito is that he is so hostile even to the basic rights of workers to have a day in court, not to mention interpreting the law against them."

Brown's letter cited details of 13 rulings by Alito, who in early 2006 will face confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The problem is, Brown's descriptions in 12 of the cases were almost verbatim what Newman wrote on his blog.

Of course staffers will take the fall and somebody really should be fired. Not for plagiarism but for being so completely stupid as to plagiarize a blogger and assuming it would go unnoticed. Where have these people been?

But somewhere, even as I type this, someone is posting on DU that Nathan Newman is really Karl Rove's pen name, because this is "too convenient."


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Comments (30)

<a href="http://www.nathann... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Newman's response:

So a Sherrod Brown staffer used some lines from one of my blog posts. Who frigging cares? This is a ridiculous story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:...

Did the Plain Dealer do an indepth analysis of Alito's labor record in response? No, they created a bullshit meta-story that was of such supposed breaking news value that they couldn't wait for me to get back from my mini-honeymoon to get my reaction. If the crime is plagiarism, then you think they'd want to talk to the victim before running it....

Who the hell cares if a Brown staffer copied a factual listing of legal cases into a letter? This was hardly a literary blog post using deathless prose for the ages. It was the facts that made this post interesting, not it's literary value.

But in typical manner, the response of the media is to ignore the substance and focus on some stupid "he said, she said" story.

Further (from same post) ..... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Further (from same post) ...

It's also worth noting that he blog post was also posted at DailyKos, which has
this disclaimer on every page:

"Site content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified."

See at the bottom of this page:
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/11/1/91136/3637

So the reporter saying that Brown's letter "was plagiarized" is flatly inaccurate. The reality is that politicians used public domain sources in a whole host of ways and using my blog post was no different.

the gop is so corrupt and o... (Below threshold)
billy:

the gop is so corrupt and out of ideas that this is all they have to talk about? go to fucking iraq you america hating pieces of shit, you love to give our money to those fucking terrorists, get out of my country losers.

Somehow, mantis, I doubt th... (Below threshold)

Somehow, mantis, I doubt the liberal bloggers would be so nonchalant if a Republican Congressman "cut-and-pasted" a post from Captain's Quarters (or any of several other notable conservative blogs) without giving any credit to the passage's original author.

It's one thing to borrow an idea, it's entirely another to present someone else's words as one's own.

I guess it's true -- you ca... (Below threshold)

I guess it's true -- you can't rape the willing.

Unlike Mr. Newman, apparently, I take a certain amount of pride in my work. Anyone who plagiarizes ME will be thoroughly excoriated.

I demand at least a modicum of common courtesy; if you want to use my words, you ask me first. And if you try to pass them off as your own, apologies will not begin to suffice.

J.

It's one thing to borrow... (Below threshold)
mantis:

It's one thing to borrow an idea, it's entirely another to present someone else's words as one's own.

Some might disagree with that, saying it's one thing to borrow someone else's words, it's entirely another to present someone else's ideas as one's own.

In any case, in this context it doesn't really matter how liberal bloggers would react if a conservative pol borrowed language from Captain's Quarters. It only matters what Captain's Quarters would think of it.

I guess it's true -- you... (Below threshold)
mantis:

I guess it's true -- you can't rape the willing.

Heh, Voltaire. Nice. ;)

Some might disagre... (Below threshold)
Some might disagree with that, saying it's one thing to borrow someone else's words, it's entirely another to present someone else's ideas as one's own.

And how, exactly, is "borrowing someone else's words" without credit different from "present[ing] someone else's ideas as one's own"?

In any case, in this context it doesn't really matter how liberal bloggers would react if a conservative pol borrowed language from Captain's Quarters. It only matters what Captain's Quarters would think of it.

Which the hypothetical plagiarist wouldn't know at the time unless he contacted Capt. Ed and asked him.

Thank you Billy and ... (Below threshold)
macofromoc:


Thank you Billy and now run along and finish you homework..

And how, exactly, is "bo... (Below threshold)
mantis:

And how, exactly, is "borrowing someone else's words" without credit different from "present[ing] someone else's ideas as one's own"?

Well, in this case you can refer to the author's comments, where he explains that what was "plagiarized" was a list detailing Alito's rulings, not original ideas. If I list the fifty states by order of which ones I like best, and you use the list to tell people what states compose the U.S., are you plagiarizing me? You're using my words, aren't you?

Anyway I was just trying to point out that there is a difference between original ideas and simply "words". However all of this is irrelevant because:

Which the hypothetical plagiarist wouldn't know at the time unless he contacted Capt. Ed and asked him.

True, but you're ignoring this:

"Site content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified."

You can't steal what is freely given away. So the question really is, if I post a piece on a site that explicitly states the material can be used without permission, is it plagiarism to use it? Even if the answer is yes, does it matter? Is this freshman English?

How would they know they ha... (Below threshold)
Nathan Newman:

How would they know they had the right to use my post as they saw fit:

"Site content may be used for ANY PURPOSE without explicit permission unless otherwise specified."

Maybe this is the difference between conservatives and leftists-- leftists are more communal and are willing to give their content to the commons without personal payback, whether monetary or ego-stroking.

If a staffer is paid to write Bush's speech, Bush isn't a plagiarist in a conservative's mind.

But if Sherrod Brown uses my words without me receiving payment, even if they have explicit permission to use those words, then plagiarism must have happened.

mantis, have you considered... (Below threshold)

mantis, have you considered the fact that very few ideas are genuinely original? We're not talking scientific or technological theories, here, nothing so specific as to eradicate the potential for two people to come to the same conclusion from the same set of facts. While it's less than honest to claim to have personally come up with an idea that someone else has expressed, for someone to not even go to the trouble of putting that idea into his own words is dishonest, lazy, and an indefensible practice for someone in the public eye.


As to your "what Captain's quarters would think of it" line, Captain Ed's blessing after the fact doesn't serve to justify the act; his perspective only addresses whether retaliatory action will be taken. Your statement is actually indicitave of how completely moral relativism has permeated many people's thought processes.

Legally speaking, the disclaimer on Kos's website shelters the offending party, but the phenomenon to which I alluded is the backlash from the left upon discovering that the right's leaders can't even come up with their own arguments.

Oh get real mantis and even... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Oh get real mantis and even you Newman.

Newman is defending the plagiarism because it was a Dem. End of Story.

Had a conservative done it they would be in a tither.

It is what it is. I didn't make a big deal over it even though plagiarism is one of my soapboxes. (check the archives)

And get real Newman... "Maybe this is the difference between conservatives and leftists-- leftists are more communal and are willing to give their content to the commons without personal payback, whether monetary or ego-stroking."

Just admit that you want to minimize it because it was a guy on your team... There's no harm in that Newman, but spare us the 'holier than thou' hypocrisy huh?

Joe Biden, call your office... (Below threshold)
arb:

Joe Biden, call your office.

BoDiddly,Your s... (Below threshold)
mantis:

BoDiddly,

Your statement is actually indicitave of how completely moral relativism has permeated many people's thought processes.

My statement suggested that it should matter less (or not at all) what other bloggers feel about the use of someone's work than how the person whose work was actually used feels about it. Is it moral relativism to actually consider the originator's opinion to be more valid than that of bloggers who get their panties in a twist about use of his work?

Paul,

Newman is defending the plagiarism because it was a Dem.

And aren't you condemning it because he's a Dem? Would you be all in a tither if a conservative pol plagiarized from a conservative blog?

In any case what this boils down to, it seems, is blogger ethics. To quote someone else's work without attribution is considered bad form. Maybe Brown's staffers weren't aware of this, or didn't care. They obviously should have attributed the content to Newman, out of courtesy, since the letter was being released to reporters. But let me pose a hypothetical. If this list of Alito's rulings had come from some law website (like Findlaw), with no clear author, and had been copied verbatim with no attribution, would the objection be the same? Just curious.

Anyway, from the Plain Dealer article

Brown's office acknowledged that it should not have used Newman's words without giving him credit. Spokeswoman Joanna Kuebler said she found Newman's work when researching labor issues. Brown's legislative staff confirmed its accuracy, and Brown then signed the staff-prepared letter, Kuebler said.

I'm curious why you think anyone will "take the fall" for this. Who will compel Brown to fire anyone? You?

Lots of luck with that, but I'm sure Rove has it taken care of, since he's behind all this anyway. ;)

Mantis missed the mark when... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Mantis missed the mark when he said:

And aren't you condemning it because he's a Dem? Would you be all in a tither if a conservative pol plagiarized from a conservative blog?

Where did I condemn it?

As I said, "It is what it is."

I specifically said:

------
"...somebody really should be fired. Not for plagiarism but for being so completely stupid as to plagiarize a blogger and assuming it would go unnoticed. Where have these people been?"
------

But don't let the facts get in your way mantis. ;-)


mantis, thanks for reinforc... (Below threshold)

mantis, thanks for reinforcing my position on this being evidence of a culture of moral relativism.

You would argue that if the original plagiarized source doesn't mind the act of plagiarism then it's "no harm, no foul," and everything's a-ok.

I argue that the act itself, that of presenting the work of another as if it was one's own work, is wrong, regardless of circumstance.

Would you be all in a tither if a conservative pol plagiarized from a conservative blog?

Yes. And if you'll be honest about it, you'd admit that you and Newman would be, as well.

Maybe this is the differ... (Below threshold)

Maybe this is the difference between conservatives and leftists-- leftists are more communal and are willing to give their content to the commons without personal payback, whether monetary or ego-stroking.


That statement is ridiculous. Plagiarism is defined as "a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work." (from dictionary.com) You were plagiarized. Whether or not you care is another story.

You don't take something someone else wrote or said, verbatim, and not quote them - this is something you should have learned as a kid in school. It's unethical. Or perhaps that is the difference between conservatives and liberals?

Is this plagiarism? I gues... (Below threshold)

Is this plagiarism? I guess it all depends on what your definition of "is" is.

To a conservative, "is" means "is."

To a liberal, "is" (and any other word) means whatever they need it to mean at the moment - usually to defend their own immoral and even criminal actions.

ROFLMAO!!! Look at these c... (Below threshold)

ROFLMAO!!! Look at these comments from Nathan's blog:

Link

A professor is quoted on NRO: "The problem is that by publishing or signing a letter, Brown is claiming that the work is his own." Do people really think this? I have always believed that signing one's name to a letter is an endorsement of the views therein, not a claim of authorship.

Link

It's not plagiarism, if you give them permission.

Yeah, the dictionary doesn't agree with that argument, twit.

Too, too funny!

Paul,You're right,... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Paul,

You're right, you didn't condemn anything, but it does seem like you take it as given that some staffers will be dismissed/resign due to this, only you think it should be because they're stupid (maybe so).

BoDiddly,

You would argue that if the original plagiarized source doesn't mind the act of plagiarism then it's "no harm, no foul," and everything's a-ok.

Well, yes I would argue that everything's a-ok, sure. Why not? Who is harmed? Anyway, ok, fine it's plagiarism. My point is so what? The author doesn't care, he wrote it for it to be used by others. Further, how often do you think parts of politicians' speeches and press releases are taken from other sources (such as reports compiled by think tanks and the like) without attribution? My guess is it's fairly often. The only difference here is the text came from a blog and someone noticed. Even further, this was a letter. Must I cite my sources when writing letters to people? That's not really in keeping with the customary style and flow of epistolary writing, now is it?

And if you'll be honest about it, you'd admit that you and Newman would be, as well.

No, and I am being honest, if a conservative took freely given text from a blog and put it in a letter I would not care. It's a damn letter! If you copy a Yeats poem onto a napkin, sign your name and send it to your congressman I won't give a shit either.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
-by mantis ;)

mantis, so if Neal Kinnock ... (Below threshold)

mantis, so if Neal Kinnock had said he was fine with Joe Biden using the same juxtaposition of words in his "first-to-go-to-college" speech, then Joe wouldn't have been drummed out of the race, right?

It is just nonsense to say that, if the original author says it's okay after the fact, then it's not plagiarism.

And Newman's state of mind is obvious from his statements -- calling the letter merely a repetition of objective facts -- the letter uses his words verbatim, facts and figures of speech.

mantis, just because you do... (Below threshold)

mantis, just because you don't care doesn't make it right. Copying someone else's work and calling it your own is unethical.

An English lit major can copy Shakespeare until the sun comes home. If he doesn't reference his quotes, professors and the college are going to have problems with it. Shakespeare won't - he's dead. Doesn't mean it's ethical to STEAL from him. That's what it comes down to - stealing someone's words.

I reiterate my earlier question: Are ethics the real difference between liberals and conservatives? This whole argument is screaming YES!

The progression of moral re... (Below threshold)

The progression of moral relativism:

It's ok.

Everybody does it.

It doesn't hurt anybody.

Maybe it's wrong, but who cares?

You have to decide what's right for you.

mantis:It does not... (Below threshold)
Inquiring:

mantis:

It does not matter on what medium the plagiarism was committed, be it napkin, toilet paper, Egyptian Papyrus, or a series of 1s and 0s; the medium does not change the act, its acceptability or lack thereof.

Yes, I know you might be (partially) joking with your plagiarism of Yeats, but that does not matter in the slightest. You have now claimed Yeats work as your own. A lack of attribution would have been tolerable —though still principally unacceptable— if you had not added "-by mantis" at the end, that not only crosses the line it pisses on it.

Nathan Newman:

You are a lawyer?! How, in good conscience, on any level, can you accept without qualm plagiarism?

I know the old jokes about lawyers and ethics, but seriously, don't you have any ethical standards at all?

On just a legal level alone plagiarism has the potential to violate copyright laws, trademark laws, or be constituted as fraud, and yet you have no issues —at all— with someone plagiarizing because of a disclaimer that does not relieve the responsibility of attribution?

It is just nonsense to s... (Below threshold)
mantis:

It is just nonsense to say that, if the original author says it's okay after the fact, then it's not plagiarism.

Good thing no one said that, and that it was before the fact, not after.

It is plagiarism, and no one cares, because it's political speech and that is widely and constantly plagiarized (it's just rarely noticed). Virtually no politicians write their own speeches, letters, or press releases. They are written for them, culled from various sources by staffers, almost never with attribution. Are you all going to start scouring speeches and press releases for signs of plagiarism? Get ready for a lot of work, if so.

The way I see it, and call it moral relativism if you like, plagiarism is only an issue if people gain something from claiming credit for someone else's work. By reproducing someone else's (copyrighted) work and selling it someone is profiting monetarily from the plagiarism. By turning in someone else's work a student gains school credit undeservedly. By passing someone else's work off as their own a journalist advances his/her career by stealing from someone else, who presumably could make money or advance in their profession with the stolen work. If you can explain how Brown gains from this plagiarism, especially at the expense of someone else, then I'll agree that it's wrong and there should be consequences. Otherwise, who cares? If this were the most unethical thing a politician does, he/she would be the most ethical politician in town.

You have to decide what's right for you.

No, I consider who is harmed, who benefits, and how. If no one is harmed or benefits in any way, I say who cares. Life is too short to get all worked up over nothing all of the time.

Inquiring,I was ab... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Inquiring,

I was absolutely joking, not partially, with the poem, and I find it quite humorous that you are offended. I will ask, though, since no one benefits or is harmed in any way from me stealing Yeats work right there, why do you care? Just on principle? Do you stop jaywalkers from crossing the street too? What if you find a quarter on the sidewalk, do you seek out the rightful owner?

As a side note, I also purposely chose a poem that is in the public domain, incidentally one of the most recent (1921) thanks to our Congress' insistence on repeatedly and unconstitutionally extending copyright (and all of those wonderful constructionists on SCOTUS who uphold it), but that is another discussion entirely.

Just because no one is harm... (Below threshold)

Just because no one is harmed, as you put it, doesn't make it right.

Also, way to go way off subject with your references to jaywalking and finding a quarter on the street. Apples and oranges.

Just because Yeats is in the public domain, doesn't mean that if you use any of his works for anything that you shouldn't give attribution. People do things like this all the time - using public domain works or those with a creative commons license - but I can't think of any self-respecting person that would just publish Yeats' (or any other public domain author's) work, leaving off his name and putting on theirs. But I guess you would. Because, after all, nobody gets hurt, and that's all that matters.

Maureen, you really need to... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Maureen, you really need to work on your reading comprehension.

I did not say it was right, I said who cares. Why is it worth it? The only possible reason, as I see it, is on principle. In that case I was curious what other principles people choose to call others on. How about rule of law and personal property ownership (i.e. jaywalking and quarters in the street)? Not apples or oranges, friend, but principles.

I can't think of any self-respecting person that would just publish Yeats' (or any other public domain author's) work, leaving off his name and putting on theirs. But I guess you would.

Actually I wouldn't, because I think its wrong. I will take credit for Yeats as a joke in the commments section on a blog where everyone clearly knows whose poem it really is (because I told you in the same post). Anyway we're not talking about publishing, now are we? We're talking about a letter written by a politician. As we all know, politicians don't write the speeches they read or the letters they sign, their staffers do (unattributed, mind you). My point is not that this wasn't wrong to do, but that all politicians probably use unattributed text in some fashion or another. Shall we start poring through all of their speeches and letters to identify whom they plagiarized (like past presidents)? What would be the point? In essence, why do you care?

Way to show you're losing a... (Below threshold)

Way to show you're losing an argument by making no sense and starting in on the personal attacks.

I'm simply stating what I think is and isn't ethical.




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