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A commenter recently suggested that my diaries should "provide references supporting [my] presentation." I responded that I've given a great deal of thought to tracking the sources of ideas in my essays, articles, and books. However, if one chooses to follow this series of diaries, it will become evident that I usually present the material as my own experience and opinion.

The recent kerfangle over plagiarism in Rand Paul's shop really brings this issue to light. I agree with the pundits that say he should have given an attribution for many of his large copy-and-paste incidents. For myself, I am a non-academic searcher-for-understanding. Everything I have ever heard, read, watched, or dreamed becomes grist in my mental mill so that my thoughts become my own source.

Yes, I sometimes work with a book or web page open in front of me. I will sometimes lift a particularly apt and irresistible phrase and put it in quote marks without attribution. I might briefly quote a few sentences from a source and name the author or work in the text. I have occasionally taken the liberty to produce a digest summary (condensing to about one tenth of the original work) but taken great care to indicate the specific source and the nature of that writing.

Nope, I have decided to not try to find a supporting authority for every thought that I decide to put down. Like those authorities, I expect to have sufficiently-assimilated what I have consciously consumed that I can be responsible for the content of my own poop. If a few unchewed peas come through as still-recognizable, I will just have to stand up and apologize.

While I'm on the topic, have you ever thought about the ethics of writing about history that occurred before your own experience? It becomes patently obvious that every writer must, necessarily, derive all of their material from other writers, who probably derived their material from other writers, with no possible way of untangling the networks of thought sources.

We regularly use lines of reasoning, aphorisms, phrases, and even individual words that were once original thoughts of someone else. Once they are recognized as sufficiently-apt, they are assimilated into our culture and everyday speech with no expectation of attribution.

Yes, in school, I was taught to cite my sources in research papers. I understood and appreciated the requirements for rigor in academic and scientific communications. I accepted the need, as an ignorant and dependent pup, to acknowledge the wisdom and primacy of my masters.

Now, as an old curmudgeon in my own right, I reserve the right to pretend that my thoughts are my own. Please feel free to quote me on that.

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