Patterico's Pontifications

3/23/2006

Post Blogger Domenech: Plagiarist?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:18 pm

[UPDATE: Domenech has resigned. As I explain below, especially in the updates, I think this is for the best.]

I have learned that Washington Post blogger Ben Domenech has some ‘splainin to do.

A guy at Kos noticed some similarities between this Domenech column from when he was a student in 1999, and this P.J. O’Rourke book (start reading here).

And when I say “similarities,” I mean Domenech appears to have directly lifted entire pages from the O’Rourke book.

And just to show it was deliberate, Domenech did a bit of adaptation. As this fellow notes:

How do we know this wasn’t some misunderstanding? Because BenDom adapted his column to include particular William & Mary references such as the fraternity Psu-U, former President of the College Tim Sullivan, and Sam Sadler, vice president for student affairs.

Ouch.

Now, the plagiarism in question appears to be seven years old, which raises the question: should it matter now?

This reminds me of a story I don’t think I ever told here before. In law school, Mrs. P. was writing a note for her criminal law journal about the topic of medicating convicted murderers to render them competent for their execution. She used many different sources, including a student law review note and a book on the subject.

She discovered at some point that the law review note had lifted several pages from the book. I remember sitting there with Mrs. P. (who was not yet Mrs. P.), me with the book in hand, and her with the law review note. We read out loud, in unison, for pages — both of us shaking our heads.

It was no mistake. The note didn’t even cite the book.

We wondered what to do about it, if anything. If I recall correctly, the culprit was a female at a California law school. She is probably still practicing law today. We thought about writing her an anonymous note: We know what you did.

In the end, we did nothing.

Does that person’s law school plagiarism mean that she is a bad person? a bad lawyer? I don’t know.

Does Domenech’s apparent plagiarism from 7 years ago disqualify him from blogging for The Post?

I don’t know. But it makes him an embarrassment. That much I do know.

UPDATE: Atrios has more examples.

P.S. We gotta talk about this, guys. We all talked up the fact that this guy was getting a blog on the WaPo. This is a genuine issue, and it should be discussed on conservative blogs.

P.P.S. RedState is defending Domenech and suggesting that he had permission to lift the various writings:

And now those opposed to Ben have googled prior writings that on the surface appear suspicious, but only because permissions obtained and judgments made offline were not reflected online by an out dated and out of business campus newspaper.

Color me suspicious.

UPDATE x2: More evidence at Kos.

UPDATE x3: Some of the alleged plagiarism is from 2001, and was published in National Review Online.

Given that this guy appears to be a serial plagiarizer, there is a very good argument that he can’t be trusted and should be canned. I certainly have no desire to see him held up as a representative of the conservative viewpoint.

UPDATE x4: Michelle Malkin has come to the same conclusion, which will no doubt surprise her critics, but doesn’t surprise me at all.

Kevin Drum Praises False Dichotomies Regarding Abortion

Filed under: Abortion,General — Patterico @ 9:35 pm

The often sensible Kevin Drum had this silly post the other day:

OPPOSING ABORTION….Are hardcore abortion opponents genuinely motivated by a belief that abortion is murder? Or are they driven more by a simple desire to punish women who have sex?

I’d say the latter, but since this is a matter of divining underlying motivations it’s a hard case to prove. Still, you can produce a lot of evidence in its favor, and today Ampersand does exactly that using the table format so characteristic of my own blogging habits.

You can probably argue with a couple of items in Amp’s list, but not with his overall conclusion. The fact is that the behavior of hardcore abortion opponents just doesn’t correspond very well with a genuine belief that fetuses are babies. But punishing women who have sex? Oh yeah.

If you follow the link, you’ll see that the post Kevin links is arrant nonsense. The poster claims, “I really like to assume the best of everyone, even people I disagree with.” But, he says,

A lot of people who favor forced childbirth for pregnant women say that they believe that an abortion, even early in pregnancy, is identical to child murder. Have an abortion, shoot a four-year-old in the head; morally, it’s the same. Or, anyhow, that’s what they claim to believe.

In contrast, pro-choicers tend to think that the abortion criminalization movement is motivated by a desire – perhaps an unconscious desire – to punish women for having sex.

The guy then analyzes numerous policies supported by pro-lifers and purports to show how these policies are inconsistent with a belief that abortion is murder, but consistent with wanting to punish women for having sex.

The rest of the post is devoted to pursuing this false dichotomy. Any policy that does not treat all abortions as the absolute equivalent of murder of a live human being is ridiculed as hypocrisy, and then shown to be (supposedly) a mere effort to punish women.

Even when the policy is expressly designed to accomplish the exact opposite of punishing women, this guy employs sophistry to make the policy appear to be designed to punish women. For example, in his very first example, he argues that abortion bans which protect the mother from any legal consequences are designed to punish women, even though they are expressly designed to protect women from punishment. Meanwhile, they are inconsistent with equating abortion with murder, because you wouldn’t punish a contract killer and not the person who hired them.

Of course, the guy misses the fact that sensible people would rather not haul women into court and prosecute them for abortions. Morally blameworthy or not, these women are often more pathetic and desperate than the doctors who kill dozens or hundreds of babies a year. Given that juries may well nullify if forced to judge the guilt of such women, it makes perfect practical sense to pass a law targeting the doctors but not the women.

The more you look at this guy’s arguments, the more you see that they are claptrap.

(more…)

What’s Wrong with “The Shuffle”?

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Public Policy — Patterico @ 6:14 pm

Funny, this L.A. Times story is obviously supposed to get me angry at downtown skid row hotels, but it just leaves me feeling sympathetic towards the people who run them:

It’s known as the “28-day shuffle” — the long-standing yet illegal practice by skid row hotels of forcing residents out of their rooms before the one-month point to avoid them becoming legal “tenants” and receiving certain rights under state law.

How is it “illegal”? The story never explains this.

For years, homeless advocates have complained that the shuffle is a huge barrier blocking transients and poor families from establishing permanent routines and gaining even tenuous roots in the community.

But on Wednesday, for the first time, the Los Angeles city attorney filed suit against two of downtown’s biggest single-room occupancy hotels, accusing operators of regularly shuffling transients in and out of their properties to prevent them from becoming tenants.

Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo targeted the Frontier and Rosslyn, two landmark hotels in the heart of skid row.

“The 28-day shuffle is illegal and immoral,” Delgadillo said in an interview. “I won’t stand by while the most vulnerable residents are being exploited.”

“Exploited”? The hotels are simply trying to prevent them from gaining the rights of long-term tenants without paying the freight:

Robert Frontiera, who along with his brother operates Zuma [Corp., which operates two hotels named in the suit], denied any wrongdoing. He said that both hotels make a distinction between hotel guests and tenants.

“We have a policy: You can check in as a hotel guest, but if you want to be a monthly tenant you have to qualify,” he said. Long-term tenants and anyone wanting to become tenants can apply, but it requires security deposits and a background check.

Of course. That’s how long-term tenancy works.

Just what are these hotels supposed to do?? Gain dozens or hundreds of long-term “tenants” who don’t qualify as such?

You know what happens when you get a tenant who can’t pay the first and last months’ rent, can’t pay a security deposit, and doesn’t qualify financially?

I’ll tell you what happens: you get screwed. The tenant stays rent-free, you struggle to evict them, and you lose money.

This is a recipe for bankruptcy.

The city alleges that hotel operators used a computer system to ensure that occupants did not exceed the four-week mark. Occupants wishing to stay a single day longer had to deposit three months’ rent, authorities allege.

So they have to behave like long-term tenants do: pay the first and last months’ rent, plus another as a security deposit.

Shocking!

(Of course, if state law weren’t so skewed towards tenants to begin with, such measures wouldn’t be necessary. But let’s not even get into that.)

I don’t know anything about the legalities involved; maybe somebody can fill me in. But I know that, morally and common-sensically, this lawsuit stinks. And, save what is reported from the hotel owners themselves, nothing of this perspective is reflected in the article.

Great Roberts Dissent in Search Case

Filed under: Constitutional Law,Court Decisions,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 7:30 am

The L.A. Times reports:

A homeowner has the right to bar the police from entering without a warrant to look for evidence of a crime even if the spouse agrees to the search, the Supreme Court ruled today.

The opinion presents an interesting question: if you and I live in the same house, and you consent to a police search and I expessly refuse consent, can the police conduct the search and use the results against me?

Before reading Chief Justice’s Roberts’s brilliant dissent, my instinctive reaction might have been to say “no.” But he makes a very convincing argument.

For example, as today’s article notes, in the majority opinion written by David Souter,

. . . Souter said “no sensible person” would think he was free to enter a house if one of its two occupants stood in the doorway and said, “Stay out.” That, in sum, is what happened in the case of Scott and Janet Randolph, an estranged couple from Americus, Ga.

Roberts responds:

The Court observes that “no sensible person would go inside under those conditions,” ante, at 8-9, and concludes from this that the inviting co-occupant has no “authority” to insist on getting her way over the wishes of her co-occupant, ante, at 10. But it seems equally accurate to say — based on the majority’s conclusion that one does not have a right to prevail over the express wishes of his co-occupant — that the objector has no “authority” to insist on getting his way over his co-occupant’s wish that her guest be admitted.

The fact is that a wide variety of differing social situations can readily be imagined, giving rise to quite different social expectations. A relative or good friend of one of two feuding roommates might well enter the apartment over the objection of the other roommate. The reason the invitee appeared at the door also affects expectations: A guest who came to celebrate an occupant’s birthday, or one who had traveled some distance for a particular reason, might not readily turn away simply because of a roommate’s objection. The nature of the place itself is also pertinent: Invitees may react one way if the feuding roommates share one room, differently if there are common areas from which the objecting roommate could readily be expected to absent himself. Altering the numbers might well change the social expectations: Invitees might enter if two of three co-occupants encourage them to do so, over one dissenter.

The possible scenarios are limitless, and slight variations in the fact pattern yield vastly different expectations about whether the invitee might be expected to enter or to go away. Such shifting expectations are not a promising foundation on which to ground a constitutional rule, particularly because the majority has no support for its basic assumption — that an invited guest encountering two disagreeing co-occupants would flee — beyond a hunch about how people would typically act in an atypical situation.

Well said.

The Times‘s David Savage characterizes Roberts’s argument in a cartoonish way designed to make it look unreasonable:

The ruling, the first major criminal law decision of this term, came over a strong dissent from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. He said people who share a dwelling give up most of their privacy rights.

That is an unfair reading of the dissent, which explains:

The majority also mischaracterizes this dissent as assuming that privacy shared with another individual is privacy waived for all purposes including warrantless searches by the police. Ante, at 11, n.4. The point, of course, is not that a person waives his privacy by sharing space with others such that police may enter at will, but that sharing space necessarily entails a limited yielding of privacy to the person with whom the space is shared, such that the other person shares authority to consent to a search of the shared space.

That is not the same as giving up most of your privacy rights.

A great performance by Roberts, and a typically poor one by The Times.

P.S. Those criticizing Roberts for analogizing police to houseguests are unwittingly bolstering his point. That analogy was made by the majority, folks, not by Roberts. He simply criticizes the analogy (devastatingly so) by pointing how how inapt it is.

It’s always a good idea to read the opinion before you opine.


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