August 25, 2008

Biden’s Time: 1988 Plagiarism Goes Well Beyond What Wiki Reveals

Joe Biden’s 1987 stump-speech plagiarism of Neil Kinnock likely occurred more than once. Additionally, according to contemporaneous New York Times reports, including an editorial, Biden’s orations featured unattributed speech-lifting from John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Hubert Humphrey.

That’s a lot more than Joe Biden’s defenders and two of his Wikipedia entries have thus far revealed.

Previous posts (here and here at NewsBusters; here and here at BizzyBlog) noted “interesting” modifications to the main Wikipedia entry of Biden, who Barack Obama selected as his vice-presidential running mate this past weekend.

The first post reported that the detail of Biden’s undergraduate grades (generally C’s and D’s, with two A’s in phys ed and an F in ROTC) “strangely” disappeared between Friday and Saturday. The second ultimately noted that a section relating to Biden’s involvement in the presidential campaign of 2004 had been deleted, but that its text had inexplicably been moved to before 1988. It was as if the idea that Biden had “campaigned” in 2004 was true before Barack Obama selected him, but no longer true after that.

But to get to the next example of Wiki whitewashing by Obama-Biden’s busy bees — the worst found thus far — we need to go back 21 years to the New York Times.

The first relevant article is from September 12, 1987 (“Biden’s Debate Finale: An Echo From Abroad”), and comes from Maureen Dowd, who wrote (bold is mine):

At various campaign appearances last month, the Senator talked admiringly about Mr. Kinnock’s themes and incorporated phrases and concepts after first crediting the Briton. But, in his closing remarks at the Iowa State Fair forum, he did not mention the Labor leader, nor did he some days later in an interview when he recounted the positive response.

Then, on September 17 (“Biden Was Accused of Plagiarism in Law School”), E.J. Dionne expanded the scope of the stump-speech plagiarism beyond Kinnock (bolds are mine):

This week politicians from both parties – some of them partisans of other candidates in the Democvratic Presidential race – told members of the press of additional instances in which Mr. Biden had used the language and syntax of others, including John F. and Robert F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey.

….. Some of the similarities in speeches were noted by The San Jose Mercury News and by The Des Moines Register in their Tuesday editions, and by The New York Times today. CBS News and ABC News broadcast reports on the subject this evening.

Mr. Biden and his aides have argued that the charges concerning his speeches are unfair, saying he used Mr. Kinnock’s remarks often and usually attributed them to the British leader. The instance in which he did not, his aides said, was a lapse. Mr. Biden’s campaign also argues that public officials frequently use material from the speeches of politicians of earlier generations.

At that point, the Dionne seemed to be casting doubt on the alleged non-Kinnock lifting. But a caustic Times editorial that same day was a lot less skeptical about at least one such specific example, and about one other person named by Dionne (bolds are mine):

As generations of teachers keep saying, plagiarism is theft. Considering their content, the Biden speeches sound like grand larceny. For instance, in a California speech last February, Senator Biden adopted almost word for word what Robert Kennedy said in 1968 about the gross national product: ”It doesn’t measure the beauty of our poetry, the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debates, the integrity of our public officials.” ….. Lifting that language trashes the very values he was urging.

What makes Senator Biden’s behavior mystifying is recklessness. It’s one thing to misappropriate someone else’s words. It’s another to take passages so clearly someone else’s that you’re likely to get caught. That’s true of the Kennedy quotes and even more so of the Senator’s abundant lifts of highly personal thoughts about ancestry from Neil Kinnock, the British Labor Party leader. It’s a bit like Gary Hart inviting reporters to follow him even as he was seeing women other than his wife – a bit like daring people to catch you.

The misappropriations are troubling for another reason. Hackneyed political oratory gives voters one measure. But Mr. Biden claims to be a candidate with something to say and asks to be measured by that standard. By passing off the words of Neil Kinnock or Robert Kennedy or Hubert Humphrey as his own he deprives voters of his thoughts and his words. His message, counterfeit, clanks.

With that context, let’s wheel on over to Wiki:

Here is what the main Wiki entry about Biden had about the 1987 speech plagiarizing as of Friday (with two relevant footnotes included), followed by what was there as of 9:00 a.m. this morning, followed by what the Wiki entry devoted solely to Biden’s 1988 campaign had as of 9:00 a.m.:

BidenWikiMainEntryKinnock082208.jpg

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BidenWikiMainEntry0825at9am.jpg

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BidenWiki1988PrezEntry0825at9am

Now it’s time to call out the relevant Wiki wackiness:

Wiki washout #1 — Supposedly, the “in all speeches but one” reference (#24) originally had footnoted support. As you can see, Footnote #24 does not deal with how often Biden failed to credit Kinnock. Though others have found evidence that Biden indeed credited Kinnock at other times, I have found no evidence proving, as Wiki breezily claims (but now only in its 1988 Biden presidential campaign entry, in the first red-underlined sentence), that the videotaped speech was the only such example. And where’s the footnote in the new location of the “in all speeches but one” claim?

Wiki washout #2 — Contemporaneous articles at the Times cast significant doubt on the “in all speeches but one” claim. Dowd noted an interview where Biden also failed to credit Kinnock (though it’s not a “speech,” it is definitely a second example), making it appear that Biden’s failures to credit Kinnock may have been repeated and not a mere one-off (Footnote #23 links to Dowd’s report). Additionally, Dionne’s reference above is to “usually” crediting Kinnock, not doing it “all but once.”

Wiki washout #3 — The second red underlined sentence in the current 1988 presidential campaign entry would appear to contradict, or at least not to support, the idea that Biden failed to properly credit Kinnock only once.

Wiki washout #4 — Worst of all, there is no indication at either Wiki entry that Biden was accused, and from all appearances accurately, of engaging in additional stump-speech plagiarizing of the Kennedys and Humphrey. Clearly the New York Times of 1987 would agree that it belongs.

The effects of all of this Wiki wackiness are not insignificant:

  • Current entries lead readers to believe that Biden only plagiarized Kinnock one time. This is highly unlikely at best, and known by Team Biden to be untrue at worst.
  • Current entries lead readers to believe that Kinnock was the only politician whose speeches were plagiarized. Given the evidence presented, that’s virtually impossible.
  • Current entries give credence to Biden’s specious claim at the time he withdrew from the 1988 presidential race that he was undone by “the exaggerated shadow” of his mistakes. The Wiki-driven context supports the presumption of exaggeration.
  • Ultimately, many readers will likely infer that all should be forgiven, because even at the time the whole thing seems to have been overblown. That’s ridiculous: It’s very clear from reading the New York Times articles during the period that once Biden was caught, repeated examples of stump-speech plagiarism cascaded forth, accompanied by demonstrated resume exaggeration and other dishonesty. Biden had to quit to stop the bleeding.

A NewsBusters commenter yesterday regaled me with the notion that what is happening to Biden’s Wiki information represents “clean-up, reorganization, and general improvements.” I would suggest that this commenter, who unlike me appears to have the time and detailed knowledge and experience to engage in such activities, get to work.

So when will we learn from traditional media beat reporters that at least two of their predecessors called out Joe Biden for serial and far from isolated plagiarism in 1987? Or will MoDo and EJ come clean on their own?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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Postscript: Let’s give thanks to the New York Times. Really.

You see, the Times appeared to be on the verge of dumbing down their search function to the point where deep-archive diving would have been very difficult. But thanks to reader complaints, the Times, though it initially forces readers to use the new feature-poor search, still provides access to the old one.

That old search function enabled me to very easily find the items above showing that Joe Biden’s plagiarism went well beyond Neil Kinnock.

Thanks, NYT.

Positivity: Despite doctors’ doubts, St. Augustine man walks again

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

From St. Augustine, Florida:

Posted on Sun. Aug. 24, 2008

A young man left paralyzed by a mysterious sudden illness was able to regain his ability to walk despite doctors’ doubts.

His smile is makeup for his story. Covering his past, the laughter sticks to his face like flies to a broken windshield.

It’s this type of optimism that has helped Dennis Fortner III go from near death and walk into his future.

So he smiles.

Don’t let him fool you, though. It’s been a struggle. To this day, it’s still something his family tries to cope with. But for Fortner, he talks about his injury as if it were some road trip he took with friends.

”The cool part was I couldn’t feel my legs,” Fortner, 23, said smiling.

Although it’s far from perfect, the fact that he walks at all is a small miracle. Just four years ago, a doctor told him he would die. He didn’t listen.

Fortner was paralyzed from the waist down Aug. 29, 2004. By Christmas, he was walking.

On that August day, Fortner was just catching a wave, or at least trying. The former St. Augustine High School football player was at the local beach attempting to surf.

”They [waves] were pretty small,” he said. ”Nothing out of the ordinary”

Fortner, a backup defensive lineman, was joined by then-St. Augustine defensive coach Mike Milillo, a family friend, who was sitting back and watching. On this day he would have a front row seat to an enormous change in Fortner’s life.

Fortner took a relatively average spill. He thought he had a stinger, a minor neurological injury suffered by athletes that usually fades, and went to take a seat on the beach.

`I’M DYING’

‘I’m almost in tears from the pain, and he’s [Milillo] yelling, ‘Let’s ride up and down the beach looking for chippies [girls],’ ” Fortner said.

‘I told him, ‘I need to go home, take some Tylenol or something because I’m dying.’ It didn’t kick in right away.”

The two headed back to Milillo’s house. Fortner went immediately to the hot tub, trying to soak his muscles. He began to relax. Then it all went away.

”The funny thing is, I get in there and it’s scorching hot,” Fortner said. ”Then suddenly I’m wondering if it got freezing or something, because I can’t feel anything. I tried to get out and I couldn’t move. I can’t even describe it, it was the craziest feeling.”

He yelled to Milillo, telling him to come drag him out of the water. His coach just did as he was told. Milillo called his mother, then took him to the hospital.

”I guess it was confusing,” Milillo said. ”I just didn’t think he was that hurt. Then suddenly the kid can’t feel anything.”

By the time his mother arrived, Fortner was paralyzed.

At Flagler hospital, the panic came first.

The doctor said it was Guillain-Barre, a type of paralysis of the respiratory system and sure to kill him.

”In the most serious tone,” Fortner said. ‘The doctors looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to die.’ I can’t explain how that feels.”

Next, the confusion.

”It’s weird to go from surfing one minute to sitting in a hospital bed and you can’t move or feel your legs,” Fortner said. ”I wasn’t sure what to think, let alone say.”

Then, the denial.

”That’s not acceptable,” said Dennis Fortner II, his father. ”I’ve got 29 years in the military. I know how to solve problems. You don’t just accept defeat.

”It was like somebody reached into my chest and ripped my heart out. You want to yell at someone, but there’s no one to blame.”

The family headed to Shands in Gainesville for a second opinion, hoping to find answers.

It just happened they arrived during a medical conference, where some of the world’s best neurologists had gathered. Quickly they dismissed the first diagnoses. Good news. Then after a multitude of tests, they all concluded the same thing: They had no clue.

”So many doctors and nobody can figure it out,” Fortner said. ”They said I would never walk again, but they didn’t know why. I was a medical mystery.”

Then a medical miracle.

A DREAM OF RUNNING

Three weeks later, while Fortner was sleeping, he had an unusually vivid dream. In his mind he was running again, free of his hospital bed. It was so real it broke his consciousness, and he woke up gasping like he had a terrible nightmare. Moments later, he realized he had moved.

”I yelled at my parents, who were sleeping in the room,” Fortner said. ‘I told them, ‘I moved my leg, I moved my leg.’ ”

Fortner suddenly could move again from the waist down. There was no explanation. None was necessary.

”I thought I was having a bad dream, and just like that, it’s over,” Fortner’s father said.

The slight gain of feeling was only the beginning. But he was happy to start somewhere in a race that had before seemed endless.

Fortner was elated, but if you didn’t know any better, you would think he saw it coming.

”No way did I ever think I was gonna be in this wheelchair my whole life,” Fortner said. ”I had different plans.”

The next morning, the celebration was over. Everyone knew this wasn’t magic, just a small taste of luck on the road to recovery.

Rehab began slowly, and Fortner struggled. Yet he remained upbeat, sticking to his strictly optimistic attitude. To him, that was the key.

It rubbed off on his parents, his friends and all those around him.

”I couldn’t understand his attitude,” said Micah Clukey, a former St. Augustine kicker and Fortner’s best friend. ”Personally, I just admire him. He made me live for today.”

Fortner kept trying. He had to complete a list of activities before doctors would let him try to stand including lifting himself in and out of his wheelchair 50 times.

”I couldn’t do that before,” Fortner joked.

The rehab was brutal, and, according to the doctors, unnecessary. They told him his condition was likely to remain.

One day, the doctors strapped him to a machine that stood him upright. The nurse hoped if they let him feel what it was like to stand, he might give up his struggle and accept his condition.

”I had to convince the nurse to let me stay for another 30 minutes,” Fortner said. ”It was just the best feeling in the world.”

It only made things worse. After the experience, Fortner told the doctors to step up the process. For the nurse, it backfired.

‘I told them `hurry up,’ ” he said. ”Clearly, I don’t have all day.”

Soon after, they gave Fortner leg braces, ”like Forrest Gump,” and then a cane a few weeks later. He was making progress, all the time under the doctor’s belief he was heading toward a dead end. It got to the point where he just began to ignore them. This was his battle.

”I was going to walk,” he said. “I didn’t care what they had to say.” …..

Go here for the rest of the story.