Two Words does not Plagiarism Make

I continue to be amazed at the bizarre and absurd twists and turns that the Clinton presidential campaign takes. The latest involves an accusation of plagiarism against Barack Obama. Apparently, one refrain from a recent Obama speech in Wisconsin closely resembles that of a speech made by Obama supporter Deval Patrick several years ago.

Let’s look at this case of “plagiarism”. Much like Obama, Patrick was attacked for being an empty suit spouting rhetoric without substance (i.e. just words, nothing more). His response was to cite several profound historic quotes (e.g. “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”) followed by the phrase “just words!” In Wisconsin this past weekend, Obama used the same approach. He chose an historic quote or two different from Patrick, but he ended each quote with the phrase “just words!”

So, let me get this straight. Repeating the same TWO WORDS in the refrain of a speech that someone else used, now qualifies as plagiarism? If we’re gonna count “stolen words”, surely Hillary saying she is “fired up and ready to go” (six words lifted right from Obama) smacks much more of plagiarism than Obama’s supposed offense.

But more to the point, if Obama is guilty of anything, he is guilty of using Patrick’s rhetorical construct to make his point. But loads of orators borrow constructs from other orators. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in the rhythmic patterns of many preachers before him. Did that make him a plagiarist? A good motivational speech employs rhythm, imagery, repetition of certain phrases and a certain vocal tone. Every great speaker from FDR, to the Kennedys, to King, to Obama employs these methods.

One would have hoped that after Hillary “accused” Obama of being an ambitious kindergartner back in the day (yes, she actually did that), that she would have abandoned the lightweight foolish diversions and focused on the substantive issues Americans face today.

The fact is, Hillary’s accusation of plagiarism against Barack is “just words”, signifying absolutely nothing.


Sorry, but some Americans Ain’t Very Bright

A recent poll revealed that 8% of those polled believed that Barack Obama is a practicing Muslim. Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball suggested that Barack should be concerned about this.

Ehhh, no. Barack should ignore this poll and not even address it. You know why? Because at least 8% of Americans are just plain stupid. I’m often amused by many of the poll results that the media shares with us because no one ever says, “there is a margin of error to this poll because at least x% of those polled don’t have the foggiest idea what they are talking about.” How many times do you think the average American gets polled and says to the inquisitor “sorry, I can’t participate in this poll because I really don’t know the issues.” On the contrary, everyone, no matter how ignorant, loves to have an opinion. I guess that is part of the beauty of the United States of America that everyone gets to speak his mind even when he doesn’t have one.

So I implore you. The next time you hear the results of any poll, please make an arithmetic adjustment in your head for “the stupid factor.” It’ll give you a better idea of what is really going on.


Religious Tolerance Gone Berserk

One of the recent headlines that has gotten much attention is that of the British school teacher in Sudan who allowed her class to name a teddy bear Muhammed. She was arrested and there were demonstrations calling for her death. Does religious tolerance call for us to “understand” this kind of total lunacy? The religiously skeptical among us consider many of the doctrines of ALL the religions to be awfully hard to swallow but there is no doubt that organized religion brings great comfort to many of its believers.

So I propose the following solution. I suggest that appointed representatives from all the world’s religions have a summit perhaps hosted in the United States, in which religious tolerance is a longstanding tradition. The purpose of this summit would be construction of a Theocratic Bill of Human Rights whereby all of these religious leaders would discuss in detail their individual doctrines and publicly pledge to not allow the “rules” of any religion to violate the human rights of any human being. In the case of the Sudanese elementary school teacher, common sense prevailed and she was released but wouldn’t it be a bold step for the religions of the world to come together and agree that we don’t kill people (or give them 40 lashes) for naming a teddy bear Muhammed? We don’t issue a fatwa on an author for freely expressing his views in a fictional book (i.e. Salman Rushdie). We don’t teach impressionable youngsters that if they fly planes into buildings, they will be greeted with ready and willing virgins in the hereafter.

Religious tolerance is the admirable and decent road to take for a civilized society but that tolerance must hit a limit when the religion itself calls for uncivilized behavior.