Sleezy standards by Rand Paul: What does responsibility mean?

The gist of this story about Rand Paul (Though Defiant, Senator Accused of Plagiarism Admits Errors) is that it was ““mistakes” in his office had caused unattributed writing by others to appear in his own work”. He has been accused this week (buried under other news, though) of multiple incidents of plagerism.

His initial responses were to deny it all:

“I take it as an insult,” Paul continued. “And I will not lie down and say people can call me dishonest, misleading or misrepresenting, and if dueling were legal in Kentucky, if they keep it up, you know it’d be a duel challenge.”

Aside from the childish impulse to settle battles through guns or swords or something that has nothing to do with the content of the issue, this seems notable to me because it’s a story we’ve seen before – just like Moses, he’s in Da Nile.

Then, after the denial stage comes the “its other peoples fault” and while “I take full responsibility” for what goes on in my office or lab, it really wasn’t my fault.

From the NYT:

“What we are going to do from here forward, if it will make people leave me the hell alone, is we’re going to do them like college papers,” he [Rand] said. “We’re going to try to put out footnotes.” He said that “we have made mistakes,” but that they had “never been intentional.”

I find the reference to college papers amusing – is that where he learned to crib? What makes me laugh the most is that the accusations were the he plagiarized from Wikipedia. So much for the intellectuals of the Republican Party. Didn’t he read anything more profound in school?

[and to be fair, its not just a Republican problem. The NYT reminds us that these mistakes:

They were of a sort that caused Joseph R. Biden Jr. to drop his Democratic primary campaign in 1988, when, as a young senator, he used words from a speech by Neil Kinnock, then the Labour Party leader in Britain, without attribution. (He also admitted plagiarizing a law review article for a law school paper.)

Needless to say,  no matter how amusing the wheres and whats of the plagiarizing are, what disturbs me is the “I take full blame, but it was someone else’s fault”.  I have heard or read:  ‘It was my study group, it was my tech, it was my grad student’.

For big labs in research, this is a signal that labs are too big. If you are not on top of the field, and the work in your lab to be able to stop that kind of plagiarism before its submitted, then you don’t have the pulse of your lab. You don’t have control of whats going on. Responsibility doesn’t mean you get to blame others, it means you need to know whats going on.

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