“I am determined not to go myself until I see Mr Madison safe…”

Today’s Angry History Show episode is about the burning of the White House during the War of 1812. I was privileged to play the voice of indomitable First Lady Dolley Madison. (I kept a tall mug of Throat Coat tea nearby to regain my voice as I recovered from an obnoxious cough. We’ll say it adds character.) Read Mrs. Madison’s letter here.

I did Mary Hunter’s voice for this episode too. Eyewitness accounts are the best!

Dolley Madison saves Washington portrait

A Writer’s Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism

Accusations of plagiarism find their way onto political candidates, academicians, students, journalists, and authors of all sorts routinely these days. Perhaps this is because now, plagiarism has never been easier – and never more easily found out.

A Writer's Guide to Avoiding PlagiarismMany lines of work now intersect with new media, so whether you are copy editing the New York Times or typing an e-newsletter for your small business, it is important to be skilled in properly attributing words and ideas.

Here are some trustworthy habits I developed out of a decade of published writing experience and a combined 8 1/2 years of online college, online column writing, and archiving.

  1. Save a “Cutting Room” document.

    Whenever researching for and writing an article or chapter, it is helpful to have a separate document where you can copy and paste your outtakes, alternative wording, full-length quotes in context, and print or web resources that you might reference. This way you create an almanac of your writing in which you can search out your references and remember where exactly you found each piece of information.

  2. Hyperlink!

    Digital links are something writers in the past could only dream! The purpose of citing sources is not only to rightfully reward the original author, but to help the reader in their research. Somebody out there will thank you for taking that extra step to hyperlink to a deeper source.

  3. Back up your sources.

    Since pages on the internet sometimes expire, one way to guarantee a backup of the source is to generate a PDF of the web page to be saved on your hard drive. At the top of your browser, click “File,” and then “Print,” and select the option to preview and save the web page into a PDF. You can then upload this file to your website and link to it. This is a must when dealing with controversial material that may be pulled.

  4. Plagiarism DefinitionPut quotation marks around everything not your own, even in the rough draft.

    As Carl Theodor von Unlanski and K.F.W. Fleischer wrote in 1816, “great minds think alike,” so if you’re not careful you might confuse someone else’s thoughts with your own (at least as far as your readers can interpret). Renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson (and his editor) made the mistake of not placing quote marks around an excerpt he was referencing in his book, which resulted in accusations of plagiarism throughout the press.

    Even when sharing links on social media outlets, it’s a good idea to keep quote marks around the excerpts so people know when sharing the link that they are not quoting you.

  5. Scope primary sources.

    Searching the keywords or relevant names of the quote or concept in question at outlets like Project Gutenberg, Google Books, and Google Scholar is effective in finding and saving the original source. My own research database, Luke Historians, is being developed to help with this as well. If you still have access to your college’s research databases, use those too. They can be more helpful at work than at school!

    To identify the original source of photographs and memes, go to www.images.google.com, click the camera icon, and upload the image or image link. Another reverse image search tool is www.TinEye.com.

  6. When lacking exact knowledge, cite common knowledge.

    If you find a quote that everybody says so-and-so said, but you are not quite sure and do not want to dishonor the speaker or mislead your readers, telling the truth with as much brevity possible is the way to go. If you do not have time to spare in verifying a quote (or have already used up that time in a fruitless search), make the “generally attributed to” note:

    C.S. Lewis is often quoted as saying…

    Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has been credited with the quote…

    This way you are not claiming it as your own and you are not officially ascribing it to someone else, but you are honestly acknowledging that quote or paraphrase is generally (or in some circles) thought to have been first said by whomever. The readers thus know that they must research this for themselves if they want to know for certain from where it came. They cannot claim to have been misled by you.

  7.  Cite yourself.

    Yeah, it’s stupid at first blush, but you can actually fail the plagiarism test if you copy and paste part of your own blog post or column into a new piece of work and do not properly attribute it to yourself. Professors want your writing to be generated under their tutelage and news outlets usually want your writing to be exclusive to their patronage. Think up ways to cleverly segue into your aforementioned point (i.e. “As I have written previously…”).

    But it is also good exercise for the writer’s mind to think of completely original, simpler ways of explaining or illustrating a previous point, and it helps check and solidify your reasoning. Perhaps there is an underlying fallacy you have not noticed, or maybe new data has been uncovered to verify your observation. It is still a good idea to hyperlink to or footnote your original piece(s) to provide readers with further information. Never re-publish an entire article without explicit approval from editors (and in so doing, always cite where your article was originally published).

Here’s to more trustworthy writing ahead!
Special thanks to Bob Clary of Webucator for suggesting I write a blog post for recent graduates, which reminded me of this topic I had abandoned on the shelf.

Of Satire and Slander: A Statement on My COS Informative Video

The informative video that I wrote and hosted as a member of the Convention of States Project Alabama a year ago has finally received criticism that I anticipated at the beginning. Specifically, I am referring to criticism of the brief political cartoon segment that satirizes the robotic, knee-jerk term used to oppose an Article V Convention of States: CON-CON.

The video was excellently filmed and edited by Matthew Perdie, with some camera assistance from Abigail Read.

The video was excellently filmed and edited by Matthew Perdie, with some camera assistance from Abigail Read.

The moment at which the image of John Birch Society CEO Art Thompson pops up on the screen like a puppet and mechanically interjects (in his own voice) “CON-CON” satirizes the absurd “Con-Con” (Constitutional Convention) label that opponents copy and paste onto the COS Project’s reputation.

It is not a personal attack or slanderous attack. It is multimedia political cartooning. (See Mean or Meaningful: Rush Limbaugh, Sandra Fluke, and the Use of Satire)

Those who question the tastefulness of my (not COS Project’s) creative license ought to consider the fact that JBS opponents of the Convention of States Project regularly make baseless claims that Mark Meckler and Michael Farris receive the shady financial backing of globalist billionaire George Soros.

Never mind the fact that utilizing Article V for exercising state sovereignty is completely antithetical to everything Soros represents.

That, my friends, is slander.

Conservatives and liberals alike have the right to run in and vote in elections; conservatives and liberals alike have the right to exercise the first and second amendments; conservatives and liberals alike have the right to utilize Article V for whatever purpose they choose. The completely Constitutional option of a Convention of States is not inherently corrupt just because somebody we disagree with might try to use it.

If one truly wants to know the difference between a Constitutional Convention and an Article V Convention of the States, James Madison’s letter to G.L. Turberville, Esq. and Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist No. 85 are a good place to start. A Constitutional Convention would be, as Madison defines it, a convention in which “first principles are to be recurred to,” whereas a Convention of the States is when the already established “forms of the Constitution are to be pursued” – that is, amending it while keeping “valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution,” as the Constitution says so itself. Hamilton confirms this, asserting that while rewriting the Constitution as completed requires infeasible unanimous action, anytime the States decide an amendment to the Constitution as it stands would be beneficial, only 2/3 of them are needed to call a convention on the subject.

To summarize it in one sentence, a Constitutional Convention requires a unanimous summons and ratification by all 50 of the United States, whereas a Convention of States requires a call from only two-thirds of the States, and ratification by three-fourths of them.

If you have any further questions, feel free to comment.

Special thanks to State Director Ken Quinn of Convention of States Project Maine for bringing my attention to James Madison’s letter to G.L. Turberville.

When Art Predicts Life: “Lumbersexual” vs. “Metrosexual” in Romans XIII

Strange things arise from idiosyncrasies displayed on the internet. The latest is a term for the raw manly man rebound against the metrosexual prototype – “lumbersexual,” a term that unfortunately sounds like something unnatural happening with trees. It actually refers to the renaissance of the wild at heart spirit of the pioneer…and rough rider.

The above clip features a scene I wrote a year ago for the upcoming series Romans XIII intended to satirize the very culture that pundits are catching onto today: two extremes that engage in frequent battles of wit, particularly through social media…each one esteeming themselves to be more astutely above-the-fray than the other. You didn’t expect to find that subplot buried amidst political intrigue and discussion of Alinsky tactics and Biblical epistles, did you?

It is a meager effort to meet the public where it’s at. Laughing at ourselves is a good thing.