Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Horton on Madison

An excellent essay (PDF) by Scott Horton on what James Madison might think of the current US political system today, with this sad conclusion:

... our hope against a police state rests more on the good will of those who make up the Executive Branch, and less on the checks and balances that James Madison crafted...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Plagiarism V - the swarm strikes again

POTSDAM, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 20:  Silvana Koch...Koch-Mehrin, who once said she was "to pretty not to take advantage" of her looks. Image by Getty Images via @daylifeAs I mentioned in my previous post on this matter, the wiki that took down Dr. Mr. Guttenberg has gone after some other politicians – and has not come up empty-handed.

Here, just under 19 percent of the pages in Dr. Silvana Koch-Mehrin's dissertation have been found to contain plagiarized passages – up from 14 percent yesterday. A member of the libertarian FDP (whose matra once was Leistung muss sich lohnen – "performance has to pay") is one of 14 vice presidents in the European Parliament.

She made headlines in 2009 for not showing up to parliamentary sessions; her attendance rate was apparently near the bottom. She sicced her lawyers on the newspaper – the FAZ, arguably Germany's most respected daily newspaper – that reported her attendance rate of around 40 percent, claimed that irregular record-keeping was the problem, and raised the figure to 75 percent (a figure doubted by the press), which apparently still puts her below the average for EU parliamentarians. She then stated that the rest of the time she had been in committee meetings where decisions are actually made, but a CDU EU-MP stated that she had only been to around 10-20 percent of the committee meetings.

Anyone who wants proof that plagiarism matters can take KM as a case in point. There have been signs all along – in addition to her terrible work ethic – that she is also not exactly well informed and must have gotten by (like Guttenberg) on impressive looks. On this TV show (video), she famously estimated that Germany's debt had increased by 6,000 euros during the 75-minute show. The other experts guessed between 15 and 25 million, and indeed the figure was just under 20 million.


A popular, very talented German comedy talk show host makes her density quite clear (he also quotes her "I'm too pretty to waste" statement). There are some pretty funny points, but I'll focus on one that's not – she states:

Everyone who's at least 18 can vote, and it is our job as politicians to explain things so that everyone can understand them regardless of their level of education.

Actually, no. That might be the job of journalists, but not politicians. Politicians are supposed to understand what's going on and come up with solutions to problems. But she is especially good at acting as though she understands things. We now at least know why she probably doesn't actually understand complex things like German debt – she faked it throughout her studies.

Another person who obviously felt that a doctorate was owed to her is Dr. Veronica Saß, the daughter of Edmund Stoiber of the CSU. At the moment, 45 percent of the pages in her dissertation have been found to contain plagiarism. And the CDU's Dr. Matthias Pröfrock (any association with Eliot's laughable character of a similar name is purely fortuitous) has apparently also used copy & paste throughout nearly half of his dissertation.

So we have one person from the CDU, two people from the CSU, and one person from the FDP – why has no one from the SPD or the Greens been caught? Could it be that the people in the swarm looking into plagiarism are only of one political camp? Or do leftists commit plagiarism less often?

Incidentally, Guttenberg himself was back in the news recently for siccing his lawyers on his old university to prevent their conclusions about plagiarism in his dissertation (the reviewers apparently conclude it was intentional) from being made public. The move obviously backfired, so now Guttenberg says he was misunderstood – he didn't want anything published before it was official.

  “That is not it at all,
  That is not what I meant, at all.”

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